Android Studio Tuning Up

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Android Studio Tuning Up

Android Q has been the buzz of April, but without a physical device to see it on most developers are out of the loop.  Sure we can read things online or watch videos, but it just isn’t the same as seeing it in person.  Fortunately, this (among other things) is now a reality thanks to Android Studio’s newest version!

Android Studio 3.4:

Android’s developer blog just posted about Android Studio 3.4.  After six months of development, it’s now available on the stable release channel. There’s not a crazy amount of change from the previous version of the Integrated Development Environment (IDE), but the changes available are certainly welcome.

The first wave of these changes are for actual development.  We all use import intentions when coding to save time.  It’s what happens automatically if you hit enter halfway through typing a class or method from elsewhere.  Android Studio automatically adds the import statement at the top of your file so that you don’t have to worry about these.

And if you don’t hit enter, after seeing an error in the code you can click Alt + Enter to bring up a list of hot options such as this import.  Of course, these only work if you already have that 3rdparty library added to your Gradle file.  At least it used to work that way! Now Android Studio will recognize common classes and suggest adding these dependencies to your Gradle project files.

Visual Changes:

If you’ve ever worked in a project that uses a lot of drawable images, you know it can get very messy very fast.  A huge downside of Android Studio’s organization of images is that there is only one layer. This means you can’t nest images in folders, thus it’s very easy to see a wall of file names and have to scroll endlessly unless you remember the name of the image your looking for.

There’s actually a toggle you can use to display images so that your scrolling can take place a little easier, but overall resource management in Android Studio has always been a little clunky.  3.4. aims to bring a new tool to visualize drawables, colors, and layouts across your project in an easier way to manage.  No more scrolling indefinitely!

Android Q:

And finally with Android Q gaining popularity, it was only a matter of time before the beta build made its way onto an Emulator.  So if you’ve been itching to get your hands on a device to test the new features this version brings, now is your chance!

Android 3.4 is officially on the stable release channel, so feel free to download it right now.  After you do let us know what you think about it in the comments below.

 

 

Introducing Android Q

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Introducing Android Q

 

Pie is still on its way out to most of the world, but today we’re going one step further.  Android Q’s first beta has officially launched!  As Android’s developer blog puts it so perfectly: “…mobile innovation is stronger than ever, with new technologies from 5G to edge to edge displays and even foldable screens.  Android is right at the center of this innovation cycle”.

The bug tracker for Q first opened on Monday, and since then we’ve all been waiting expectantly to see its release.  Now that it’s here let’s take a look at some of the things it has to offer.

Privacy and Security: 

Whenever we’re discussing privacy, one of the first things that comes to mind is location.  We don’t all like the idea of being tracked everywhere we go by 3rdparties.  Currently on Android no app is able to track your location unless you explicitly allow it. Q takes this to the next level by allowing users to grant location based on app usage.  So if you want, no more being tracked when an app isn’t open.  This could be useful for things such as food delivery apps that really have no business monitoring you during other parts of your day.  

Another improvement for user security that revolves around runtime permissions is access to files and media. The Photos and Videos and Audio collections will be featured in a new set of runtime permissions.  And downloads must use the system file picker, allowing the user to decide which download files an app has access to.  This is just another step to help silo information and enhance a user’s experience without having to give an app everything.

Innovative Screens and Experiences:

You’ve undoubtedly seen some of the new foldable phones that have been revealed recently.  They look incredibly fun (unfortunately also incredibly expensive), but it should be no surprise that Q will be accounting for these.  To help users make use of an unfolded device with lots of screen space, changes have been made to onResume and onPause to support multi-resume (we wrote about this in one of our Q hypothesis posts a while back).

In addition, some changes have been made with sharing and setting to speed up a user’s navigation. The process of moving from one app to another to share content has been streamlined with Sharing Shortcuts.  You can also show key system settings insideof your app using a new Settings Panel API.  This uses the Slices feature from Pie and lets you present a modal to users where they can directly access things such as what Wi-Fi they are connected to. No more redirecting users into the Settings app to mess with things!

There are also changes to the camera, media, and graphics utilizing Dynamic Depth.  Using Q users can request a Dynamic Depth image which consists of a JPEG, XMP metadata, and a depth and confidence map all embedded in the same file. The result of this is the possibility to offer specialized blurs and bokeh options in your app.  Or if you want you can create 3D images/photograph things in AR much more accurately.

Getting Q On Your Phone:

As with many of Google’s recent technologies, you can get your hands on it first if you own a Pixel. Beta 1 is available all the way back to the original Pixel/Pixel XL.  Click here to enroll in the Android Q Beta and start playing around with it.  And if you don’t own a Pixel, you can always use the Android Emulator and download a system image via the SDK Manager.

There is a ton to explore for Android Q still since it’s just day 1.  Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!

Backing Away From The Back Button

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Backing Away From The Back Button

If you ever have a conversation between an Android user and an iPhone user, each will have their arguments for why one phone is superior.  While many of the differences are in the software, one is glaringly different between the two: the back button.  At least is used to be, but we may be seeing the end of days for this feature.

Q Follows P:

The back button is one of the most prominent features on Android phones.  At least it was, but there has been discussion recently about moving deeper into the world of gesture recognition.  The idea is to move closer to a buttonless screen, and thus create more screen real estate for users on smaller devices.  Android Pie took a step in this direction with some of its changes in navigation between apps, and Q will likely continue the trend.

If you own a phone that operates on Pie, then it likely took you a few days to adjust.  The whole process of navigating between apps is different from Oreo.  Instead of swiping left or right to kill apps you swipe them up (much like iOS).  And while Pie still has a back button on the left side of Pixel devices, there are some unique interactions you can use with the bottom nav bar.

What’s New With Q?

On Pie phones today if you swipe from the left side of the nav bar over to the right, your phone will exit the current app and open whatever app you were using just before it.  What’s more, if you swipe to the right and don’t release, you’ll be able to scroll between all of your apps to select one quickly. It’s not too different from checking all the paused apps and selecting one, but one swipe actions put a grin on your face.

Q is looking to do just this by removing the back button entirely and replacing it with a swipe to the left.  The exact motion discussed above, just in reverse.  So when users want to back out of an application or go back in an app, they will swipe instead of pressing the back button.  Whether you like it or not, this is a pretty drastic change from years of tradition on a feature that has separated Android from iOS.

Swiping: The Good, Bad, and Ugly:

My initial reaction to this was not a good one.  It seemed rather counter intuitive to have users swipe in one direction to go back in an app, and swipe in the opposite direction to go “back” to other apps.  Change is scary.  But if you can get past that, then this could make for an interesting user experience.  If we take it one step further and swipe up in place of the home button, then the entire bottom drawer could cease to exist.  A marginal change, but every centimeter counts when we only have a few to deal with.

These changes have not been confirmed, and I’m still undecided on how I feel.  But I think it’s important to not jump on the bandwagon of “Change is bad”.  Q could bring some really cool things to the Android world, and for all we know in a few years we’ll be looking back at the old ways of navigation and shaking our heads!

What are your thoughts on Q’s possible removal of the back button?  How about the other changes we’ve talked about with Q?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

I/O 2019 Is Upon Us

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I/O 2019 Is Upon Us

Mark your calendars, Google 1/0 2019 has been announced!  The company’s annual developer conference will be kicking off May 7th and run though the 9th.  Google tweeted about the event yesterday, and as usual it looks like there are some exciting things on the agenda.

Flash Back To 2018:

Last year’s I/O was a particularly exciting one, and there were a few core themes behind it.  While buzz-wordy, the event revolved around the ideas of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.  We got to see demonstrations of Google’s Duplex making a phone call, as well as learning about what Android P brought to the table.  It offered improved battery life, brightness, and app suggestions to refine the mobile experience for users.

Up This Year:

Last year had a lot of interesting concepts, and this year is sure to be even more impressive.  It’s far too early to say everything that will be taking place in this year’s reveals, but there are a few things we can be certain are on the agenda.  The first of these is of course a new version of Android.  Following it’s alphabetical trend, Q is next on the roster.

We’ve talked a little about Q here before but very little has been revealed thus far.  Rumors have it that the new version will be featuring an expansive Dark Theme for battery saving and, well because dark themes are all the rage right now.  There is also discussion about a change to the android activity life cycle to include a multi-resume.  This could allow for easier interaction with multiple apps at the same time when using split screen on your phone.

Watch and Learn:

Many believe we are about to see the reveal of a Pixel Watch.  iOS has definitely been the dominant culture when it comes to accessories for your primary device, but that’s all the more reason for Google to try and match it.  No leaks have come yet regarding what it will look like but news that Google bought $40 million of smartwatch technology and researchers from Fossil is a definite hint that big things are coming.

There are also bound to be Google Assistant improvements this year, an we could see these play a big role in how the watch functions for things like speech-to-text. Duplex was demoed last year but we haven’t seen to much of it in the real world up until the last few months either.  I would predict the artificial intelligence of the Assistant opens up a few new doors this year.

Fuchsia is the Future:

And of course there is the ever prevalent mystery that is Fuchsia in development.  Said to be Android’s replacement, Fuchsia is on the rise and will likely be utilized in some demos this year.  It’s a ways off from being the new OS for smartphones, but it’s been development for a few years now and it is starting to make it’s way into the limelight.

For the fourth consecutive year the event will be held at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.  What are you most excited about for Google I/O 2019?  Do you have any predictions about what we may see this year?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Pie Is On The Roll

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Pie Is On The Roll

Pie made its debut earlier this year on Pixel devices, and since then other users have been waiting patiently for it to expand.  Now Christmas presents have been delivered and Android has begun rolling out Pie to a number of other devices.  So read on and see if Google got you anything for the holidays.

Android Is SLOW:

Android’s OS offers some incredible experiences, but there’s no denying that rollouts take forever.  Roughly a year after Oreo’s release it made it onto 12% of Android phones.  Five months after its release it was only at 1%!  While these statistics aren’t perfect due to factors such as the Play Store’s unavailability in China, it still paints a good picture.  Things move slow.

With rollouts taking so long, every new wave of devices is big news when it’s yours.  Today rollouts have begun to a number of new phones.  These include the Galaxy S9/S9+, the OnePlus 5/5T, and the Infinix Smart 2 (a very popular phone in India).  Older phones will be receiving this update as the year goes on, but Christmas came just in time for these parties. 

Times Are Changing:

The Android circle of life must continue.  As new versions like Pie come out, they replace the older ones.  With a shrinking number of phones running earlier versions of Android support for them becomes difficult in an efficient manner.  Earlier this month Google Play Services ceased support for Ice Cream Sandwich.  The version came out seven years ago, and it’s userbase has dwindled below the 1% mark for a while. 

And along with this new Android apps must target at least Oreo when they are released to the Play Store.  It may seem tough to leave users behind, but it really just makes sense.  At a certain point upgrades need to take place so that companies/developers can make new features available in their apps without having to worry too much about ancient versions. 

There is still a span of versions that run any app on the Play Store, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.  The good news with this is that deprecating versions simply means that new and improved versions are being released.

Pie Is Hot

And for the most part Pie has been just that; new and improved.  Having played around with a Pixel 3XL running Pie for some time I have to say that its user interface has been very pleasant.  Pixel users have experienced a some bugs over the past months, but nothing has come close to outweighing the pro’s the new version has offered.  My personal favorite has been Google Call Screen to identify unknown numbers.  I’ve taken 0 calls from telemarketers since upgrading to this phone!

There are certainly things users wish Pie could do that it doesn’t.  One of these being multi-resume.  The software allows users to have two different apps open simultaneously, but as the Android Activity Lifecycle is currently implemented only one can be in the resumed state at a time.  This can lead to funky behavior if you’re trying to play two videos as the same time, but there are already rumors that this is in the works. 

The bottom line is Pie rolling out is good news, and it’s sure to continue doing so as time goes on.  Hopefully Pie proves to roll out faster than previous Android versions, but only time will tell.  And if you want to run your phone on a different version flashing is always an option.  What are your thoughts on the Pie rollout?  Let us know in the comments below!

Android Q for Quick Release

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Android Q for Quick Release

You may think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but Android Q is already on the horizon.  Yes, we just finished covering the release of Pie a few months ago.  But it looks as though rollouts are starting to pick up more speed in the Android community.  Android Q’s full scale release is slated for 2019, and last week it was hinted that it will be available on a wider scale than we’ve seen before.

Android’s History:

Unless you own a pixel device chances are there’s been a time where you were waiting for your phone to have the newest software.  While Android is an amazing operating system, it’s notorious for rolling out very slowly.  Many phones just updated to Oreo as Pie was already being released.  In July Oreo was only active on 12.1% of devices.  This is somewhat understandable since Google is not the only player in the Android user experience But people still want what’s new, and that’s never going to change.

Last week at Android Dev Summit Hung-Ying Tyan, an engineer for Google’s Project Treble team, hinted that Q may be coming out on a trial basis sooner than we thought.  He said “We are also exploring ways to make future GSI available earlier than the release of next Android version.  So you will be able to try out next Android version earlier over GSI, and at the same time, we can get early feedback from you, so the benefit is mutual.”  GSI stands for Generic System Image and is a version of Android based on the Android Open Source Project.

What will Q have to offer?

Things are of course mostly speculation at this point, but predictions exist for a reason.  One such prediction is that the software is going to develop to match the ever-expanding tablets and foldable smartphones.  With increased screen size and split screen functionality users are bound to want to use multiple apps at the same time.  Enter Multi-resume.  I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly frustrating when I’m trying to use split screen but one app pauses once I interact with the other.  Depending on the app, this could render the whole feature pointless.  Split screen is an amazing tool, but it needs to be perfected still.

In the Android activity lifecycle there are different states an app can be in.  Currently when an app is no longer the forefront of attention in split screen it goes into a paused state.  Then when a user interacts with it again it enters the resumed state.  In Q we may see a multi-resume where two apps can both be “resumed” at the same time.  It’s also speculated that Q will have features like multi-monitor support, but only time will tell what all is on the table.

Coming Soon to a Phone Near You:

Android Q source code will be shared with users and app developers for testing before the version officially launches.  The long term goal of this is to make users and developers more acquainted with the upcoming version.  Increased comfort equals an increased adoption rate.  I’m currently enjoying and exploring Pie, but as with the rest of you I’m looking towards the future!  What are your thoughts on Android Q?  Is there a feature it desperately needs?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Android Isn’t Going Anywhere

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Android Isn’t Going Anywhere

There’s been a buzz going around this week that Android is dead.  Well dying actually, but everyone is claiming that Android’s reign is coming to an end and Google is moving forward.  If we take a few moments to look at the bigger picture then we’ll see Android has a long way to go before it’s no more.  The most popular operating system in the world is here to stay for a long time.

The Rumor:

The rumors pertain to the Made by Google 2018 keynote that just took place in New York City.  During this keynote the word “Android” was not said, and many have taken this as a subtle sign that Google is looking to replace the brand.  This coupled with the fact that “Android Messages” was recently renamed to “Messages” on the Play Store, and bloggers everywhere ate it up. 

Many believe that Chrome OS is set to take over Android’s claim as king since that was front and center at the keynote.  Google told a whole story about Chrome OS’s history and why it belongs on tablets. They also marketed it as a great alternative for your desktop instead of Windows and macOS.

Do the rumors stand?

While it may be true that we didn’t hear the word “Android” explicitly said, let’s not forget that there is still Android related tech coming out.  Android Auto is rolling out to a ton of new cars this year, Android Pie was released at the start of this fall, and Google just adopted Kotlin as a new official Android programming language.

Along with all these new developments we have the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL that have just come out running Android Pie.  Sure they would have to run it since that’s the newest version to come out and it’s Google’s flagship phone.  But let’s remember that that’s the newest version to come out and it’s Google’s flagship phone.  People are discussing the death of Android less than a week after a new huge phone dropped running that same software.

Looking Forwards

Sure there are things in the works to improve the user’s experience like Fuschia, but that doesn’t mean that Android is on its way out.  The fact of the matter is Android is going nowhere.  An operating system that covers 75% of smartphones worldwide is too nested into Google’s overarching architecture to instantly remove, and there are too many new Android advancements coming out to argue that Google wants to remove it.

What do you think about the recent talk against Android?  Let us know your predictions in the comments below!

 

Android Pie is Fresh Out Of The Oven

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Android Pie is Fresh Out Of The Oven

Today Google officially dubbed the newest version of the Android operating system as Pie!  Along with this naming they’ve also released the first official version of it to Pixel phones.  Android users around the world are debating whether this was the right dessert name or not, but either way we know that Pie has some great things in store for us.

The Build Up:

Over the past few months we’ve seen a few beta version of Pie released on a series of smartphones, but this official release is only available on Pixel phones.  People who signed up for the Android Beta program will receive the update by the end of this fall though.  Google also said it’s working to launch/upgrade other devices sometime this year.

Those details are pretty vague, and if Pie behaves anything like other Android versions, it could be over a year before it’s adoption rate breaks double digit percentages.  All the same it’s officially available to Pixel users and it has a name.  That’s plenty for now, but let’s also not forget that Pie is available in its beta format on a number of different devices.

A review of Pie:

We’ve talked about Pie and its cool new features a few times here at RootJunky.com.  The new software is designed with predictive analytics and AI for battery power as some of the main features.  The idea is to improve things behind the scene for users.  Pie monitors and adjusts screen brightness as well as what apps are in the background during different times of the day.  It gets used to user’s habits, and then preps itself in advance to recreate that behavior.  AI is definitely a buzz-word, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have some perks.

It also features an official dark mode option in settings, something Android user’s have been asking for for years.  Notifications also offer features such as smart replies for texting and a new feel to them, so the changes in this version are both front and back end.

Aaand the Notch:

Of course when we’re talking about new looks we have to mention the notch.  It’s taken a hold of both the iOS and Android markets so much that Google has actually come out and banned phones with more than 3 notches from getting Google support.  Somewhat crazy to even think more than 3 notches could exist on a phone right now, but you never know!

One more feature that I have to mention that I’m very excited for is the change to rotation.  Instead of just locking your rotation or having it rotate every time you accidentally turn your screen, you now have optional re-orientation.  Android Pie will display a small button when it detects a screen rotation, and if you select this then the phone knows to readjust, and if not then you can continue doing things as you were, undisturbed.

The Pixel 3 will be coming out on October 4th just a few months from now, and it will likely be the first phone to be released with Pie as it’s initial operating system, but Pie is now available to those who are willing to take the steps to get it.  I’m excited to see it grow this year, and I’m also very interested to see what Q is going to be named.

What are your thoughts on Pie’s name?  Could Google have done better?  And if so, do you think it’s new features will make up for it? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Google I/O Is In!

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Google I/O Is In!

We’ve talked about Google I/O being on the horizon here before, but we can do that no longer.  It’s here! (Actually once it’s over we’ll probably immediately start writing about 2019’s event).

Yes, today marks the kickoff of Google’s 11th annual conference.  And as such the entire Android population has a lot of stuff to talk about.  Google I/O started off strong with its keynote mapping out some of the things to be discussed this year.  Here are some of the highlights of day one:

Artificial Intelligence:

As with most other places these days, AI was one of the most used buzzwords at day one.  It’s somewhat become an all encompassing term for any technological advancement that helps us.  Despite this, Google separates itself from the pack by bringing some pretty cool new features to the table.  Whether it’s self-writing emails or auto adjusting screen brightness to your preference, Google is working on slipping AI into every part of our days.

Actually it’s so much cooler than that.  In the video above at 3:10 you can watch the Google Assistant play as your personal secretary.  It makes a call to a local hair salon and books an appointment without the person on the other end ever realizing they’re talking to AI.  Scary cool.

Android P:

There’s been lots of hype about Android P in the past few months, and we got to see more today.  With it’s 3 key themes of Intelligence, Simplicity, and Digital wellbeing, Android P seeks to one up everything else already in your hand and provide a predictive, pleasant experience.  We’ve talked before about some of the new features coming with Android P, and today that list only gets longer.

Adaptive Battery is a feature aimed to conserving battery life by using (you guessed it) AI.  It studies your app usage patterns and then can dedicate more battery power to conserving the things that you will likely be using in the near future.  Along with this comes the Adaptive Brightness feature I mentioned above where your screen will auto-adjust given your preferences.

Not only does P look to alleviate your battery strain under the hood, but it uses its predictive analytics to bring apps you’re about to use to the forefront.  P is currently available on a select few devices (9 total), and if you’re interested in downloading it click here.  If you’re unsure what you’re doing and want support with flashing your phone, then check out our Smartphone Tech Course over at Phonlab.  Otherwise stay tuned and we’ll post a guide in the near future.

Augmented Reality:

As for the other big buzzword topic, Augmented Reality had some cool new features to display.  Maps have been souped up with the newest computer vision features to recognize where you’re looking in the real world and flash both directional arrows for guidance as well as information about local places.  If you’re walking down the street and a restaurant catches your eye, say goodbye to opening up yelp and searching for its reviews.

The camera has also become greatly enhanced with its new capability to recognize where things are in the real world in terms of depth perceptions.  Moving your phone around your room, office, or down the street you’re able to get live estimates of how far away things are.  This is sure to be crucial in a lot of coming apps.

There’s a lot more to come in this year’s Google I/O, and we’ll keep you updated here.  Is there anything in particular you want us to go more in depth on?  Comment below and we’ll give you all the info you could dream of!

 

 

 

 

Android P In Action

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Android P In Action

Last month we wrote about Android P and how it’s become the talk of the town despite Oreo’s youth.  We’re still some ways off from P (currently known as Pistachio) making its way into the hands of everyday consumers, but earlier this week Google released their first preview of P to developers.  Here’s a quick highlight of some of the cool features it has to offer. Spoiler: some of them are pretty cool.

Android P Highlights:

Wifi RTT – The new API for Wi-Fi Round Trip Time lets you take advantage of indoor positioning in your apps.  RTT measures the distance to nearby Wifi access points that support RTT.  By doing this with 3 access points RTT calculates a triangulated position accurate within about a meter.  There are ton’s of creative opportunities here, and don’t worry about privacy.  Only the user’s phone is able to determine the distance, so no one else will know who you are in a crowded room.

Notifications – In Android 7.0 users gained the capability to reply to messages directly from notifications. Then in 8.0 notification channels were introduced to give users more control over what types of notifications they want to receive from an app.  P takes these features one step further.  Now in the notification bar you can see image messages, and utilize the auto-replies available in your messaging app.  So forget ever using your messaging app, everything can be done from your home screen now.

Animations – The new class AnimatedImageDrawable allows for simple drawing and displaying of GIFs and WebP animated images.  This class lets apps show animated images without having to manage updates or burden the UI thread.

Display Cutout Support – While this feature isn’t going to be in the hands of users, developers are able to modify their phone’s looks in settings under Device theme.  This allows developers to emulate different kinds of screen displays such as including the notch that’s been growing in popularity. Thanks a lot Apple BOOOOOOO.

How to get Android P:

Right now we may as well say P is for Pixel.  The current release is only available on pixel and pixel2 devices (or an Android emulator running one of these).  And once again, this initial release is for developers only not commercial use.  As such Google has made it only available by manual download in Flash.  Click here to download the Android P beta and see what changes it has in store. If you want to install it on your pixel device then check out this video of installing a developer preview on a Nexus 6p as the process will be the same.

You can read more about each of these features and more at developer.android.com.  There are also some brilliant Easter eggs such as allowing users to rotate their phone to landscape mode even when they have auto-rotate turned off, and improving features for one-handed use.  After you download the Preview let us know what you think the biggest changes are and what still needs to be done.

Comment below on what you think the official name of Android P will be.

 

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