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24 Hours with a Windows 8 Smartphone

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Anyone who follows me knows that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool iOS user. But as I was looking around for an inexpensive smartphone to serve as a backup, I couldn't help but to notice that the Nokia Lumia 520 with Windows 8.1. It's an amazing deal at $29 with the "pay as you go" AT&T GoPhone Plan. So I decided to give it a try.

Now if you're thinking that this is going to be a "bash Windows" article, you're wrong. After just a day of use, I like what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone 8.1. And to be honest, I prefer it over my Android device.

Overall Impression

The latest OS from Microsoft is attractive and easy to learn. The Home screen displays tiles that represent your favorite apps. You can "pin" new apps to the screen and remove those you don't use often. There are three sizes to choose from, allowing you to design your Home screen to your liking.

Tap and hold on a tile and it pops forward allowing you to resize or remove it. At the bottom of your Home screen is an arrow icon that you can tap to see all of your apps in list form. You can add any of these to the Home screen by tapping and holding on it, then selecting "pin to start."

As for global navigation, at the bottom of the display is an arrow icon pointing left; that's the go back key. The Windows icon in the center is the home key. And the magnifying glass icon on the right takes you directly to Bing on Windows 8, and to Cortana if your have Windows 8.1 installed. The Nokia 520 can easily be updated to 8.1 over the air, and it's worth doing. Cortana is excellent, by the way.

Overall, I like the typography, design, and intuitive operation of Windows 8.1. It looks great.

Picture Taking and Editing

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Given that I have a very inexpensive smartphone, I tempered my expectations for the 5MP camera on the Nokia 520. And to be honest, it's about what I expected. It takes serviceable images with a minimum of fuss. The side button located near the bottom of the right edge of the phone activates the camera, whether the phone is on or off. Press it again and it takes a picture once the image is in focus.

Dibs the cat captured with the Nokia Lumina 520 smartphone..

This works great for quick snapshots. Otherwise, I'm using the Lumina Camera app that provides more options, such as settings for white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. You can download the app for free from the Windows Store. The store is easy to use and has a surprising amount of software available.

Either way, the resulting file was 1456 × 2592 pixels and around 1.5 MBs in size. Since the Nokia 520 only has 8GBs on onboard memory, I added a 2GB micro SD card to store my pictures. If needed, I can swap that out anytime for a larger card. It's a good option to have.

As you would imagine, there are a host of image editing apps in the Windows Store. At the moment I'm using Adobe Photoshop Express. It works well and it's free. There are lots of adjustment sliders, auto fix, a before/after button, cropping, and even a handful of filters called "looks." If you have an Adobe ID, you can connect to your cloud storage too.

For those who want to take screenshots with a Windows 8.1 device, press the Volume Up and Power buttons at the same time, and the screen image will be saved to your Camera Roll.

Photographer Stuff

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I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of my favorite photographer apps in the Windows Store.

Instagram is there now as a beta. After a day of use, this early release seems just fine. I had no problems browsing images or adding new ones.

Dropbox hasn't release a native app yet (to my knowledge), but there's a handy third party program called CloudSix that connected easily to my Dropbox account. All the folders show up on the Nokia, and more importantly, I can send images from the device to my account.

Olympus released OI Wireless for Windows 8. It's not as full-featured as the iOS version. But it does allow you to download images from the camera to the phone. I tested it, and the images were transferred smoothly. Now all we need is the nifty camera control function.

Western Digital released WD 2go for Windows 8, that in theory allows me to connect to my wireless WD hard drive. The app can see the drive online, but gives me an error during the connection process. Maybe a fix is in the works?

Bottom Line

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The Nokia Lumia 520 is a great little device for the price. AT&T GoPhone options start at $25 a month. I haven't activated my SIM card, in part, because I haven't needed too. I'm using the Nokia on WiFi with no hiccups. In the field, I've turned on Personal Hotspot from the iPhone 5S, then shared that connection. If I ever need cellular with the Nokia 520, the SIM card is inserted, and I can activate it directly from the phone. I have the SIM information card in my wallet just in case.

As for Windows 8.1, it's delightful. I like it much better on the phone than I do on a computer. The operating system is attractive, intuitive, and snappy. The Home screen is great. I enjoy the interactive tiles a lot.

Will I ditch my iPhone for a Windows device? Nope. iOS 8 is still my top choice. But I would buy a Windows phone before an Android device... easily. I think it's the second best mobile OS available.

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.


More Help on Managing Your Mobile Photos

In my lynda.com title, Managing Your Mobile Photos, I cover a variety of backup solutions for both iOS and Android users. These tutorials will help you build the perfect backup solution for you, so that you never lose a single memory.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: - Top Stories of 2014, Lighting Q&A with Leah, Lens Technology, Instagram Cleans House - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Snapshot - Instagram Cleans House - My Instagram audience is organic. In other words, I haven't advertised or participated in any promotions to gain new followers. So I was a bit surprised when I lost close to 100 followers during the latest housecleaning. Here's a bit about that.

Weekly Update - Lens Technologies: Fluorine vs. Fluorite - Fluorine is a special coating that's applied to the surface of a lens that helps to repel things like dust, water, grease, and dirt. Fluorite refers to the mineral used to create the lens elements inside the lens. It's a monocrystal that has low chromatic aberration while being much lighter than traditional optical glass. Source: PetaPixel.

Also this week... The Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Gets an Official Price Tag and It's Lower Than We Thought - Tamron Japan has just released the official price tag for the lens, which will be $1,178. It is set to release just five days from now, on December 25. Source: FStoppers.com.

And finally: Apple Adds 7 Cameras with RAW Compatibility 6.02 Update - Canon PowerShot G7 X, Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, Fujifilm X100T, Nikon 1 J4, Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7, Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM5, and the Sony Alpha ILCE-5100. Source: The Digital Story.

Story #1 - Top Stories for 2014 - What were the topics that caught the eye of TDS readers? Here's the top story for each month of this past year.

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  • January 2014 - 5 Tips for Shooting Sports with the Olympus OM-D E-M1
  • February 2014 - DIY Slide Digitizer with Olympus OM-D and Leica Projector
  • March 2014 - How to Restore Old Photos in Aperture
  • April 2014 - There's More to Lightroom 5pt4 than Mobile Sync
  • May 2014 - Dust Off Your Old Glass
  • June 2014 - Can't Decide Between Aperture and Lightroom? Use Both
  • July 2014 - How Does the Olympus 75-300mm Stack Up?
  • August 2014 - New Uses for Old Camera Bags
  • September 2014 - What Not to Shoot with a Typical Zoom at Sporting Events
  • October 2014 - Long Telephoto for Landscape Work
  • November 2014 - Yosemite Compatibility with Google Nik Collection
  • December 2014 - Panasonic 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 Field Test

Story #2 - Photo Q&A #3 with Leah - "Side Lighting vs Front" - Leah was admiring a photo that had lots of texture, and she was wondering how the photographer achieved the effect. An interesting conversation ensues. 

Story #3 - New SizzlPix Winners! Congratulations to the follow virtual camera club members who participated in recent Photo Assignments and have been selected as SizzlPix Pick of the Month.

  • October 2014 - "Water" - Carl Shortt
  • September 2014 - "Shot From Behind" - Shelle Singer
  • August 2014 - "My Favorite Close Up" - Gary Legere

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for December 2014 is "Frozen".

News from SizzlPix: Have your SizzlPix now, and with BillMeLater, make no payment until June. Great for selling SizzlPix of your photography and collecting your profit even before you pay. Also helpful for any photographer with an opportunity for gallery showings.

Red River Paper - Save 10 percent off your next order of inkjet paper and greeting cards. Good one per customer. Use discount code STORY10X - Ends 1/15/15.

And Finally...

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (34 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until June!

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

My Top 7 Instagram Photos of 2014

This was my favorite Instagram year to date. Now that I have a couple seasons under my belt, I'm feeling more at home in this square wonderland. To celebrate, here are the Top 7 photos from this year, based on likes... starting with #1.

#1 - Top Dog

What do you do with a brand new lens? Go out and take pictures. What began as a test for the new Olympus MSC ED-M 75 to 300mm II zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds ended up as my top Instagram image of the year.

Backlit Dog, Early Morning.

A photo posted by Derrick Story (@derrickstory) on

#2 - Passion Flower and Butterfly

I keep a camera by my desk when I'm working at the studio. One afternoon, I noticed this butterfly was attracted to the Passion Flower by the sliding door. Once again I used my new Olympus75 to 300mm II zoom lens to capture this year's second most popular photo.

Butterfly on passionflower, captured with Olympus 75-300mm zoom on the OMD-EM 10.

A photo posted by Derrick Story (@derrickstory) on

#3 - Fisheye Trees

While scouting in the Eastern Sierra for my Bodie Workshop in June 2015, I used the super affordable and fun $89 Olympus 9mm f8.0 fisheye body cap lens to photograph this Aspen grove.

#4 - Bay Bridge at Night

I was on assignment to cover the DJI Inspire-1 launch event on Treasure Island, San Francisco. But after the gathering broke up, I parked the car along the water's edge and photographed this night scene with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO 12-35mm/F2.8 zoom.

San Francisco skyline with Bay Bridge.

A photo posted by Derrick Story (@derrickstory) on

#5 - Eastern Sierra Plain

Outside of Bridgeport, CA is a beautiful open space that I captured with a Pentax K-5 and Cokin graduated filter. I was just having fun...

Oh, how I love open spaces and big skies.

A photo posted by Derrick Story (@derrickstory) on

#6 - Moon Shot

I've been admiring this rusty exhaust pipe for years when I came to work in the morning. It's right in my field of view as I walk along the path to the front door of the studio. This particular day, the moon was lined up perfectly for a fun composition. I pulled the OM-D out of my backpack and snapped this image before brewing my first cup of coffee.

Moon Shot.

A photo posted by Derrick Story (@derrickstory) on

#7 Boy in Tall Grass

It's incredible to me how many of my popular shots were captured with the Olympus75 to 300mm II zoom lens, but here we are again. This time I was having my morning coffee while camping at Sugarloaf Ridge in Northern California, and I spotted this boy in the tall grass illuminated by the morning sun.

Boy in Tall Grass, Morning Light

A photo posted by Derrick Story (@derrickstory) on

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Final Thoughts

I never really know what's going to catch someone's eye. And it's not something I think about while composing the picture. But as I look at this group of shots, I do seen some common themes. They tend to be simple compositions without too many elements. The longer lens certainly had its lion's share of winners. And even though I shoot many, many Instagram pictures with my iPhone 5S, not one them were big favorites this year.

Bottom line is this: I had a blast with Instagram in 2014. And I'm looking forward to a fun, creative 2015.

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

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I had fun writing an article for lynda.com titled Drool-Worthy Gifts for Lucky Photographers. The idea was, if you had up to a $1,000 to spend on a gift for a photographer, what are some good choices? You know... items that you would not normally consider.

For example, how about this ONA Union Street messenger bag designed with naturally milled Italian leather for $489?

"The Leather Union Street is designed to carry a 15-inch laptop, a camera, up to three lenses and small personal items. A zippered front organizer pocket provides additional space for small accessories."

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Or how about this Hasselblad Stellar Special Edition digital camera, normally $3,299.99, on sale for $999? "A true objet d'art, the champagne-colored aluminum body features a carbon grip with black accents, along with hand and neck straps crafted of vegetable-tanned Italian leather.

Indeed, these are items that you would not normally consider. But what if? You can see the entire list at Drool-Worthy Gifts for Lucky Photographers on lynda.com Article Center.

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Highway 101 After the Storm

The storm parted about halfway through my trip south to Santa Barbara. I was traveling on Highway 101 near Santa Maria when the light and landscape came together presenting me this irresistible image.

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I shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the super-compact Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ zoom lens. No polarizer or other filers.

I did, however, process the RAW file in DxO OpticsPro 10, with a few finishing touches in Aperture.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

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Photographers using Mac OS X Yosemite and Aperture, iPhoto, or Preview have seven new RAW formats available in the latest 6.02 update:

  • Canon PowerShot G7 X
  • Canon PowerShot SX60 HS
  • Fujifilm X100T
  • Nikon 1 J4
  • Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM5
  • Sony Alpha ILCE-5100

Chances are, your Mac has already applied the update. You can check by going to the Updates tab in the Mac App Store. You can also download it here.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Canon Takes Aim at Mirrorless (again!), Holiday Photo Tips, New Polaroid Socialmatic Camera, SizzlPix Winners, BPG?- All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Snapshot - Specifications Aren't Always the Most Important Feature - Sometimes I opt for love. You know those decisions that don't seem logical, yet you know it's the right thing to do. I'm that way with cameras sometimes. I explain in today's Snapshot.

Weekly Update - Canon to Target the GH4 With New DSLR Type? We're told that Canon will be directly targeting the Panansonic GH4 at NAB 2015 in Las Vegas this spring. The new camera will  have a 1″ sensor, shoot 4K and will be very portable. Source: Canon Rumors.

Also this week... New Image Format BPG Looks To Replace The Popular JPEG - BPG (Better Portable Graphics) is based on the H.265 video codec by utilizing the open source x265. This means BPG offers the ability to render 14 bits per color channel as opposed to 8 with JPEG. Source: FStoppers.com.

Story #1 - 5 Holiday Photo Tips - If you're lucky enough to be able to spend time with family and friends during the holidays, here are a few photo tips to keep in mind.

  • Think portraits as well as activities. Yes, it's fun to photograph Uncle Bill opening his present, but get a portrait too. In the coming years, those informal, environmental candids will become more valuable.
  • Reduce flash exposure. Most cameras emit too much flash indoors. Go to Flash Exposure Compensation and set it to -2/3 or even -1. Then increase your ISO to 400 or 800 to reduce dependency on the flash.
  • Get a group shot. Yes, everyone will moan and groan. But group shots tell a big story in just a single frame.It's worth your while to set one up.
  • Photograph food and decorations. Be sure to capture the food table before everyone digs in. Keep an eye out for decorations and place settings.
  • Share your images. The more people in the family that you share pictures with, the better the chances they will survive the decades. Believe it or not, sending email attachments are often the most effective because the recipients don't have to do anything to receive them.

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Story #2 - The Polaroid Socialmatic 14MP Wi-Fi Digital Instant Print & Share Camera ($299) - Has Polaroid found a sweet spot?

  • 14 MP sensor
  • Instant Uploading Provides a Whole New World of Social Sharing Possibilities
  • Instant Printing Provides Immediate Gratification in 'Inkless' Photo Format
  • Full-Fledged Android OS: Browser, Email, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apps, Etc.
  • Camera Can Embed Unique QR Code Into Images for Online Photo Tracking
  • 4.5-Inch Full Color LCD Touchscreen; 4GB Memory, Expandable to 32GB

It is, however, about 5" x 5" and over an inch thick. So you would have to find a place for it in your camera bag.

Story #3 - New SizzlPix Winners! Congratulations to the follow virtual camera club members who participated in recent Photo Assignments and have been selected as SizzlPix Pick of the Month.

  • October 2014 - "Water" - Carl Shortt
  • September 2014 - "Shot From Behind" - Shelle Singer
  • August 2014 - "My Favorite Close Up" - Gary Legere

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for December 2014 is "Frozen".

News from SizzlPix: Have your SizzlPix now, and with BillMeLater, make no payment until June. Great for selling SizzlPix of your photography and collecting your profit even before you pay. Also helpful for any photographer with an opportunity for gallery showings.

Red River Paper - Save 10 percent off your next order of inkjet paper and greeting cards. Good one per customer. Use discount code STORY10X - Ends 1/15/15.

And Finally...

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (29 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

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I just read an interesting field report on ShootTokyo titled, The Panasonic Lumix Smart Camera CM1, where the author field-tested Panasonic's Android smartphone that features a 1-inch 20MP sensor and 28mm equivalent Leica lens. Options include saving in RAW format. The device costs 1,000 Euros and is unlocked.

On one level, the CM1 reopens the conversation about needing a dedicated compact camera, especially if you already have a smartphone in your pocket. The practicality, I think, depends on what type of photographer you are.

I know many people who are perfectly happy using the iPhone or Samsung S4 as their primary camera. They are capturing the interesting moments in life with a device that's always with them. I also take a lot of photos with my iPhone 5S. But when I step out the door for an afternoon walk or to run errands, I put my Canon PowerShot S110 in my back pocket (which is currently on special for $179, BTW).

Why? Primarily because I need more camera than what my iPhone can provide. I want an optical zoom, mode dial, and yes, RAW format. The Panasonic CM1 does inch closer to bridging this gap, especially with the RAW option.

But then, what kind of phone is it? Wouldn't it be ironic I had to carry a second device to serve as my smartphone?

We dream of having everything we want in one package. But the fact of the matter is, it's tough to be a world class smartphone and camera in one tiny device. And how much are we willing to spend for such a convenience? That being said, it looks like the Panasonic CM1 has brought us one step closer.


More Help on Managing Your Mobile Photos

In my lynda.com title, Managing Your Mobile Photos, I cover a variety of backup solutions for both iOS and Android users. These tutorials will help you build the perfect backup solution for you, so that you never lose a single memory.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

For the next week only, the Urban Explorer Kit is on sale for $24.95 (reduced from $34.95.) Plus every order receives a free Walking Man Microfiber Cloth. Both offers expire, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014.

Urban Explorer Kit

The Urban Explorer Kit includes our classic Shoulder Bag designed by Lowepro and made of recycled material (it's planet friendly!), the Dual-Function Nimble Stylus Pen (perfect for iPad browsing in a restaurant or coffee shop), and the "I have a high nimbleosity rating" Microfiber cloth (for keeping your electronics and optics nice and shiny).

The kit comes packed with the Stylus Pen and Microfiber Cloth nestled in their dedicated pockets inside the Shoulder Bag. Plus, we include a holiday gift bag. So all you have to do is sign the card and present the gift.

Finish off your holiday shopping and let the celebrations begin!

Shipping to U.S. addresses only...

Photographers like me who run a variety of imaging applications can bring a little continuity to their life via plugins. I've been using DxO FilmPack 5 since its release. And with one purchase, the software works with Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop, DxO Optics Pro 10, and Photoshop Elements... plus, it's a standalone app too.

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If FilmPack 5 isn't on your radar, check out my post on lynda.com Article Center titled, Rediscover Analog Photography with DxO FilmPack 5 Elite.

The bottom line is, FilmPack 5 allows you to create versions of your images that look as if they were captured on film, such as Kodak Tri-X, Kodachrome 25, and Fujifilm Velvia 50. In the lynda.com article, I walk you through the ins and outs of the application, with lots of sample images. Plus, I talk about the difference between processing RAW files vs. roundtripping images in FilmPack.

Speaking or roundtripping, DxO FilmPack 5 works with just about any photo software that accepts plugins. Here are the options I was presented with when I installed the app.

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I recommend Elite for $99 over the Standard $49 version. Here's a comparison chart of features that show why. And the best part is... they have a 30-Day Free Trial.

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