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This is a question DIY Techno-hacks

Old hard drive platters make wonderfully good drinks coasters - they look dead smart and expensive and you've stopped people reading your old data into the bargain.

Have you taped all your remotes together, peep-show-style? Have you wired your doorbell to the toilet? What enterprising DIY have you done with technology?

Extra points for using sellotape rather than solder.

(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 12:30)
Pages: Popular, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This question is now closed.

DIY "surround" sound
When I was about 15 I decided that what would really enhance my life was adding surround sound to the TV in my room. The principle seemed straightforward enough, simply open the beast and stick the relevant speaker wires onto the internal speaker (remembering of course that TVs still hold their charge so being careful not to electrocute myself). Not so good. This just made a slightly tinny noise from the speakers.

Undeterred, I soldered on the male headphone jack from and old pair of headphones, and attached this into my stereo. Stereo acts as an amp and connect as many speakers as possible from the stereo surrounding my bed!
Brilliant, except for the lack of insulating tape meaning that a couple of days later I was lying in bed enjoying my pseudo-surround sound and got an electric shock off of the radiator by my bed and fused the lot!
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 15:15, 1 reply)
Am I the only one..
That thinks Homer Simpson's invention of the make up gun was pure genius. Once tried to recreate it with my ex's make up she left and a nerf gun from eBay. It was epic.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 15:06, 2 replies)
Improvised Etch-a-sketch

- several GPS satellites in geo-synchronos orbit
- one GPS unit that displays where you have been
- an 8 metre Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB)
- twin 50hp Mariner outboard motors
- three bored blokes

and, most importantly,

- Plymouth Sound on a calm day.

With all this kit, you too can draw a rudimentary cock and balls on the GPS screen at 35 knots.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 15:01, 3 replies)
Personal Alarm System
Managed to do this when I was still about 11 or 12.

Take a couple of bits of cardboard about 60cm x 30, some foil, selotape, thin wire, some foam (but not from your mums sofa) a battery and a buzzer.

Wrap the foil round the cardboard and selotape down.
Trim the foil to size and make the thickness about 1cm. Cut holes in the foam, leaving just the edges and a bar across the middle (ie should look like a filled in H). Lay the foam between the two sheets on cardboard foil making sure the foil does not touch the other 'plate'.

Attach one wire to one plate and one to the other, attach buzzer and battery in series.

After making this bit of kit in my beadroom I sneaked downstairs equiped with trusty screwdriver and stanley knife, undid the carpet holder by the hall door, lifted said carpet and cut out the right size of underlay and replaced with foil plate. Reattach the carpet and hide the wires up the side of the stairs.

When all fixed up I could tell when anyone was about to come up the stairs and disturb my next cunning mission of world domination.ie they stepped on the plate, completing the circuit which made the buzzer go off.

Later additions included lights and further plates so I could tell exactly where other people were. I even rigged up the catflap so I knew when the vicious bastard was in.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 15:00, 2 replies)
Top Tip
Screwdrivers make great fuses. Unless youre fussy about the whole 'fuse' thing. I can guarantee, barring several direct lightning strikes, these fuckers never blow. I used to use those normal fuses with fucking wire in them. They never lasted that long.

Also, fuse boxes make excellent screwdriver holders.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 14:41, Reply)
Screw you
I currently work as a hardware support engineer doing various piss abouts with laptops and systems. I always have this uncanny ability when opening up laptops for various solder and replacement jobs to have left over screws. It does not matter how hard i try to remember where they all come from it just seems to not fit. I made a newbie sort them all out once in categories of size and length. Must have about 3000 of the buggers lying in various tubs. He earned his 2 pints and a packet of crisp that day.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 14:05, Reply)
Having seen a documentary about this once on TV and not being particularly technical minded
Could someone clear this up for me?

Do you, in point of fact, have to wear a bra on your head when you're making a fit woman out of an old Barbie doll in your bedroom, or is this just a bit of a gimmick for show?
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 13:58, 8 replies)
As per Squiggy's post:
This is, ahem, used to be, our dining room:

free image host
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 13:55, 8 replies)
Here is my geek lab!

Lets see, in this picture you can see:

An Oscilloscope,
Bench Power Supply,
Multimeter (with PC interface)
PIC Programmer.

Here is a selection of some stuff I have built:

I also have a soldering iron, and a cupboard full of electrical components.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 13:40, 12 replies)
The application of SCIENCE
Whilst in halls at Uni it became pretty evident that most students could set fire to their kitchen while making a bowl of corn flakes. The fire alarm went off all the fucking time. During the first term the diminutive red siren stuck on the wall in the communal corridor of our little block sounded like an elephant that's just had its knackers stamped on.


Something you really didn't need when your brain feels like its dribbling out your ears after you've spent all day in the Student Union getting well and truly wasted on cheap lager and chasers. So a mate of mine, Mad Lee from Kettering, a bloke who was doing some kind of engineering degree which involved making and fixing technical, complicated stuff with the amazing and technical application of this strange thing named SCIENCE, said he'd pop round and fix the siren so it would purr like a contented kitten the next time the foreign exchange student from Hong Kong decided to make noodles at three o'clock in the morning.

Lee came round with his toolbox, a rollup sticking out the corner of his gob. He placed the toolbox on the ground, examined the siren, which strangely resembled a perfect pert red tit stuck on the wall. "Have this sorted in a jiffy," said Lee, as he stooped, opened the toolbox, and searched round for something. Intrigued - SCIENCE has always terrified me on account of being a bit of a technophobe gimp boy - I hung round to see how my mate, the engineering wizkid, was going to sort out this annoying problem.

Lee returned to an upright position, a massive screwdriver in hand, he held it like the bloke from pshyco would hold a knife as he approached a nudie girlie taking a shower. Lee then proceeded to stab the fuck out of the siren. He stood back. Examined his handywork, then returned and gave it another good stabbing.

"Shouldn't have anymore problems with that," Lee said, as he packed up his toolbox and fucked off. And he was right. We didn't have anymore problems. Well, not until the end of year when it came to the thorny issue of getting back our security deposits...
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 13:30, 3 replies)
the technology - washing machine and kettle

the hack - a small weird timer unit, looked a bit like a tachometer from a lorry.

i was asked to help fix my mates washing machine as she said "its a bit cranky, needs a bit of a kick if it goes off mid cycle but is now sparking a bit in the socket". I thought that this was probably a minor hack to do with this weird timer unit (looked like it could be from a vehicle) used to get the economy 7 deal overnight. So i have a little look. First question, wheres the fusebox?. Now my friend is a pretty girl, and although we should assume nothing from that she has zero electrical knowledge - so i assumed she was wrong. Every house has a fusebox!

she was right. her nightmare ex husband had obviously hooked in next door, 10 years before, and was stealing leccy.

This left a problem - how do i turn off the supply to check the socket? Well i didn't. I kicked the machine back and call a pro.

The pro was an ex contractor earning a few quid in his retirement and knows his stuff. He worked on it as live, unhappily but taking the required precautions. At this point he asks for a cuppa. The kettle was moved into the front room, and when the kettle reached near boiling point, the lights all went pop. He had decided it was too much trouble to fix the sockets to the socket circuit, so put it on the lighting circuit. It had popped next doors supply off on their RCD to protect it.

It looked like a minor techno timer addition, it saved 20p per night leccy on the washing and heating. And they had no leccy bill. It nearly killed loads of people though. Well worthwhile.

We never found the full scale of this, and she moved just before the seller packs came in. Phew. Caveat Emptor.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 13:16, Reply)
Naughty electricity
I'm very good friends with the entertainments manager at a Students' Union. Whilst I was doing my undergrad degree I used to quite often get roped into helping with some of the special projects his technical crew could not cover on their own. This included things like the summer ball, large tours, and in this particular instance - the annual hiring out of our entire PA and lighting grid to a local college for a one day festival.

This festival was always a bit of a bind; we were always shorthanded (usually only about 4 of us) moving a 20 cab Turbosound (and associated amps, desks, multicore etc) alongside a venues worth of lighting, dimmers and cabling in the morning, being set up by 11am, hang around for the day, then strike it at 10pm.

The other problem was a distinct lack of available power. It was an outdoor gig, and we basically had one 32A three phase supply and a bunch of outdoor 13A sockets to play with. This would be fine except we rarely had all the jumpers you'd need, and there's a certain amount of naughtyness about jumping up from low current sockets to larger currents in case you start blowing things up, setting fire to under-rated cables and so forth.

On one memorable occaision we had to Macguyver something together which, 10 years later, remains in my friends office; locked away in a 'break in case of emergencies' case, although he swears he will never be that depserate again; using it only as a cautionary tale for each generation of student crew that come through.

Amps and dimmers all run on 32A supplies. The dimmers (which control all the lights) will easily get up to this draw. For that reason, they were allowed to use the 3 phase supply. Unfortunately, that then left us with the sound kit and no remaining sensible power. Four amplifier racks, each looking for nice big 32A of love. Unless you're driving them particularly hard, however, they don't actually draw too much power. So we set around looking for jumpers so we could feed them from the 13A sockets.

The first work of genius was realising that we had a pair of Y splits which went from a single 63A supply to a pair of 32A sockets. Brilliant. Our only remaining problem now is we needed to get from 13A socket up to two 63A plugs...

The reasoning went something along the lines of one nasty bit of cable is better than two. So as a result we connected our two 63A jumpers to a single length of 63A three phase cable, ran it to the socket then spliced the ends into 13A plugs. Yes ladies and gentlemen, a 3 phase 63A cable with three 13A plugs dangling off the end.

Length? About 20m with strategic sand buckets at either end.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 12:30, 8 replies)
Arcade Foot Fire
I remain blissfully inept at anything approaching practicality, so this involves a friend of the family. He used to have an original space invaders arcade jobbie, but he dismantled it and built with it an accelerator, brake and clutch combo, which could be used on Formula One Grand Prix 2 on the Amiga 500. The technical achievement is far more impressive than the actual use of the thing though- those buttons are small, and trying to press them with my toes meant you could never win a race as cramp was an inevitability...
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 12:12, 2 replies)
Many many hotels
In my life, I think I've stayed in 1000+ hotels, mainly when I travelled with work. I hate hotels with a passion and now never stay in them if there is an self catering apartment alternative. Anyway, my colleagues and I used to know a few techie tricks to make the weeks away slightly more bareable. Being networky types, we always had cables and toolkits etc and an infinite number of engineers sitting in a infinite number of hotel bedrooms for an infinite number of days will figure out most problems.

1. How to watch TV in the bath.

Never not accomplished this. Often, a simple realignment of the TV angle so that it can be seen from the bath - possibly via the bathroom mirror.

Advanced tip: Dismantle the wardrobe mirror and place in bathroom. 2 mirrors are always better because you invert the inverted image and then you can read the text.

BONUS TIP - the remote works generally if you bounce it off the mirrors.

EXTRA DOUBLE BONUS TIP - placement can be tricky. Dont sit in the bath and work out how to adjust the mirrors. Go to the TV, look from the point of view of the screen back through the mirrors until you can see the bath.

Advanced tip 2: Always take a decent length mains extension, and importantly - co-ax, with various male and female adapters. Move the TV into the bathroom and place on the bog, extending the cables as needed. Always works, but semi-dangerous.

Advanced tip 3: Flat mirrors halve the size of whatever youre looking at. Dont believe me? Its true, next time youre looking in a steamy mirror, trace round your face, then look at what you've drawn. Youre so used to looking at a mirror, you've forgotten that everything is halved. So two mirrors, and the image gets very small. Buy a magnifiying mirror - like the ones girls have for makeup, and improvise.

2. Watching pay movies for free.

In most hotels, to get the clunge movies, or just the regular pay movies, quite often they are there already on your telly, you just cant get to them.

The trick is that they are on channels you cant choose with the supplied remote control. ie the remote goes to 99, but the fanny starts at 100. Buy a universal remote and go crazy. Just takes some brute force to find what you want. Alternatively, google for IR senders and use your laptop's IR port if you have one.

3. Not so much a hack, more of a theft. Find an empty room in your corridor ( knock on with an excuse if necessary) and phone the hotel with your mobile. Call reception and asked to be put through to room service. Order, using the empty room number, and ask for it to be left outside the door. Generally, they dont tally the orders with the room until later, by which time you've grabbed it. Risky, and many hotels now are wise to this, but many arent. Its mostly foolproof, just dont display your mobile number. Its unlikely they'll call the pigs or anything.

Got loads more, just cant really be arsed to type anymore.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 12:04, 2 replies)
My attic
Having just reboarded the fucker, in the summer, when temperatures reach the high 120's in my loft, I think its possible that my entire roof is attached to the house by just three nails. As far as i can see, all the rafters sit on the walls, and I've been round the edges quite closely, and there are 3 nails - all in one corner I hasten to add. If the wind picks up, I think my girlfriend's fears (previously related here - posting as Geoff Leppard then -: www.b3ta.com/questions/evilpranks/post107413) may possibly come true.

I need a word with my dad, as it was his house. Its the sort of thing he would do.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 11:48, Reply)
Coronation Street With No TV
I was once between homes, and my TV had been stored away (or lost, I forget). By chance though, I still had my video player, a coathanger and some headphones.

I managed, over the course of about an hour, to stick a coathanger in the back of the video player and used the remote control to tune the channels (without any picture, of course). By plugging the headphones into the back of the video, it was possible to 'watch' TV and spare my utter boredom for those couple of weeks.

It was almost a shame when my TV returned, as I'd learnt to develop my own mind's eye images of the characters. Betty Turpin in particular was worth one, for me.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 11:42, 1 reply)
JCVD v1.5
After watching Universal Soldier when I was a nipper, I decided that I'd like to be a kick ass experiment gone wrong, with a cool head piece. So I got an old Polaroid camera eye piece, sellotaped my Mag Lite to it (coloured in the lens  with red marker pen) and used an old alice band from somewhere to fix the whole thing to my head. I thought it looked the nuts, but in hindsight I must have looked like a cross dressing borg wannabe. 
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 11:40, Reply)
A Brilliant Buy..
off ebay. I decided to buy an old game for the Game Boy "Color" [as the morons spell it]
Perfect working order he said! He obviously didn't want anybody to know that the old CR2032 battery that was inside the game cart had run out of juice.
So when the time came to write his feedback I decided to be the bigger man and keep it positive and crack on with fixing it.
I had to scrape the plastic away from around the wierd screw that the manufacturers use so I could pinch it with the wire cutters and unscrew it. Then I find out that the original battery is welded to the circuitry.

*Start here for less boredom*
Anyway I ended up snapping off a battery contact and so I just jammed a load of tin foil around the battery, closed the cart and lo and behold it worked.
Well chuffed!

Other things I've fixed include
Cassette walkman
Guitar Amp
GameBoy mono speaker
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 11:07, Reply)
I scared a forum
Many years ago I did model airoplanes; I invested in an airbrush, but couldn't afford a compressor and was finding the cans of air difficult to obtain. One day I was in a DIY shop and noticed cans of propane with a screw top (similar to the air cans I used). "Aha" thinks I "I wonder if I could use these cheap propane cans to propel my paint" and asked that question on a modelling website.

The responses were generally panicky; "Dont you'll fill your room with explosive gas". One person asked if the sky was green on my planet.

It turns out the thread runs the "other" way, to stop idiots like me blowing themselves up.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 11:07, Reply)
Shit music
Not at my house, but at my girlfriend's brother. He wired up a radio to the light switch wire and also included a magnetic strip switch, like for burgurlar alarms, on the door frame. Result; whenever you go in the toilet, turn on the light and close the door the radio would come on! Only tuned to 1 station as it was hidden in the ceiling, but still, music while you crap... theres some fancy living!
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 10:59, Reply)
String is the answer.
Anyone remember that TV sketch (made by the Goodies, I think) which used the actual presenters off Tomorrow's World to show how string is the future?

It certainly was for me. Like many here, I too strung up the rotary on/off switch of an old telly in my bedroom so that I could switch it off without the sleepiness-breaking routine of actually having to get up to do it.

But my tour-de-force was its application in my Mini (named the Bruise for it was black and blue - the blue being Crown Gloss). The windscreen wipers would stick and the motor didn't have enough ergs to get past a certain point and so string was attached and brought in via the drain hole in the roof gutter and through the door. Should rain commence, a flick of the switch and a tug on the string to get past the lump was all that was needed to get them going. They'd run OK after that initial stall. Didn't pass it's MOT. Apparently pop-rivets are insufficient security for the structural floor pan (better than seeing the road rush by, though).

There are that many lash-ups in this house that I think I should write an owner's workshop manual for it before I sell it. The light switch in the bathroom looks like it shouldn't be there but it is actually only 12v - hooked up to a relay in the loft that then connects real mains to a hunking great big transformer that they were chucking from work. This sucker hums like sub-station so badly that I have had mount it on rubber washers.

Though not a very technical kludge, my brother did once fix a dent in a car he was about to sell, with mud. Painted over it looked sorta OK. He got a call a couple of weeks later from the bloke he'd sold it to. Apparently there had been some rain and the damm thing had sprouted a dandelion.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 9:31, 2 replies)
What’s the best way to say ‘I love you’? - Simple. Say it with sex aids.

Back when I started working as a travelling salesman I was living with my first serious girlfriend, a girl from Oldham named Gill. As I was going away for a fortnight and leaving her in our flat alone for the first time I thought I’d buy her something romantic, something to remember me by. So I got her a black mamba four-speed 12” vibrator (complete with realistic bulging veins and purple bell end). Gill opened the package, stared at it for a bit, then put it on her dresser.

I went off on my tour of duty, selling insurance policies to gimps, and rang Gill after I’d finished work everyday. On the fourth or fith day I remembered my spectacular gift of love and dedication (to Gill’s excellent and perfectly formed pudenda), and asked her if she’d got round to giving it a try. Gill, very matter-of-factly replied: “Ooh, yes, Spanky! I use it first thing in the morning and last thing at night! Its completely revolutionised my life!” I paused. I had the horrible feeling I was going to be dumped in favor of a 12” lump of plastic; lets face it, it probably had more of a personality than I had anyway.

Then, for the rest of my time away, Gill would explain how she’d been using the black mamba relegiously every morning and every fucking night. My wank bank was bursting at the seams at the thought of Gill laying back on our bed, ramming this prosphetic love dong up her scampy passage.

When I’d finished my sales bollocks I went home. I was horny as hell and Gill told me about what she’d been up to for the last two weeks, her job, how her mum was getting on. It took all my efforts not to say: “Fuck that, tell me about your AMAZING WANKS!!!” But I didn’t. After a few minutes I went off to the toilet for a piss. And there I found the offensive weapon, all black and glistening on the bathroom sink.

Gill had modified it.

It stood on its end, all 12” glorious penisy inches stretching into the sky like a pervy version of the Eiffel Tower – and Gill had sellotaped something to it. Wrapped loads and loads of tape round the length to secure something else to its length. Gill had sellotaped her toothbrush onto it.

Apparently she’d always wanted an electric toothbrush, one of those vibrating jobbies, but had never got round to buying one. And she told me later that since she’d been using this homemade bodge-job every morning and every night her teeth had never felt so clean, apparently. Gill asked if I wanted to see her use it. "No, not really," I said.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 9:23, 7 replies)
Let there be light?
My house has a cupboard built underneath the stairs to the basement, where I store various canned goods. Unfortunately, the door opening is rather small, and the nearest light source is rather high up, making it difficult to read labels inside the cupboard. To remedy this, I scavenged some small aimable light fixtures from an old display case at the grocery store where I used to work, mounted them to a bit of plywood, and wired them to a push button switch hidden just inside the cabinet door. Thus, when you open the door, the lights come on - much as they do in your refrigerator.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 9:14, 2 replies)
Having just taken part
in the 2009 Mongol Rally there are all kinds of stories I've heard, which I will recount in a couple of paragraphs. Do they count as techno-hacks though? Probably not... but I don't care.

My own tale is a fairly rubbish one. Having destroyed the air filter on our Fiat Punto by not screwing its holding bolts in hard enough and it working its way loose and burning on the exhaust, we bodged together a fix with those eternal favourites, duck tape and coathangers.

I cut off all the burned ridges of plastic using a Tesco multi-tool saw, then covered the hole with large strips of duck tape. I reattached the air filter then replaced the bolts with lengths of carefully-bent coathanger wire, wrapping them round helpfully-placed bits of engine. We then drove 150km on the worst roads in existence to the nearest town. And it worked!

It's not as good as some of the other stories though. One team snapped their back axle and drove the last 400km with it held on by belts, cloth and cable ties. Another team lost their oil filter, so replaced it with a tin of peaches and some elastic bands. The number of people who replaced their broken suspension with a pair of trainers is too large to count.

It was awesome.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 9:10, 4 replies)
hand-me down computing
I am an avid MUDder (Realms of Despair, for anyone interested) and have been for years. Back around 2003, though, this was a problem as we had 3 adults living in the house who all liked to play, but only 2 computers that worked...

Until my ex-wife gave me her old laptop.

This laptop's history was quite long, so give you the slim version. It was a Unisys 386sx, and rather clunky. The owner before my ex-wife was quite the tech geek. As the laptop ran rather hot, he decided to take an old CPU fan from a desktop, cut a hole in the laptop's case, and mount it there - result being that the laptop ran cooler, but you couldn't close it. When she decided to leave the UK and return to the States, he gave her the laptop so they could keep in touch. This of course required hacking in a new power supply to accommodate the difference in the plug, particularly because the battery would no longer hold a charge.

The ex used it for several months, but being the klutz that she was, knocked it around to the point where the screen no longer worked, and the hard drive died from physical damage. At that point, it passed into my hands.

Long story short, I took everything apart, and laid it out on the table. The battery, hard drive, CD-ROM drive, and PCMCIA slot all connected to the motherboard via rows of metal pins, rather than wires. So I pieced everything back together sans hard drive, plugged in an old 15" CRT monitor, got a PCMCIA ethernet card, and ran Knoppix in text-only mode. I was able to MUD again, at least until the table got bumped severing the connection between the battery and motherboard (which, having 2 small children running around, happened quite often).
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 9:05, Reply)
1: Take one 20-year-old BMW
2: Take one 8-year-old IBM laptop
3: Buy a shonky LCD off ebay
4: Recreate the i-BUS system all those posh new BMWs have, for a quarter of the price.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 8:23, 1 reply)
Ooh ooh also
Forgot this.
The pump on our washing machine would jam a lot, but I found that if you knocked it it would start up. Two years later the machine finally died, but only after having spent said two years with a rope attatched to the pump so you had to yank it when it was on spin cycle.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 7:42, Reply)
MMMM wires
I once had a lovely Atari stfm 520. I was rather into making music on it. My kids called it Dustbin music because of the heavy bass I used. (Surprisingly similar tunes to mine turned up about five years later as techno.) Anyway I thought it would be a good idea to wire it up to some speakers. At the same time I thought "Why not the telly too".
After stripping many bits of three core cable apart and joining all the wires using sticky paper labels, it worked. Except now that the computer came through the telly speakers, the telly through the stereo and the stereo through the telly. Then our pet rat ate the wires.
Eventually got it all the right way round. Sounded niiiice.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 7:31, Reply)
i used to work as a driver for a firm that did patios/driveways
My job was to drive the pickup truck, drop the materials off, pick the shit up etc.
One time i'd got a couple of tons of smashed up driveway on the back of the van. I opened the flap at the back to tip the rubbish and the bloody thing slipped out of my hands and smashed one of the tail lights.
i fixed it by taking the label off a bottle of dr pepper and lashing it on with some old electrical wire.
It worked surprisingly well. If you were following the van at night you wouldn't know anyway.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 3:51, Reply)

This question is now closed.

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