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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know you guys have got to be sick to death of newbies looking for an easy answer to the HTPC riddle. I've done my best to read around and it seems like the options are endless.


What my bottom line question would be, especially to the hardware nuts (or the JEDI's as I like to refer to them, and I hope to someday know half as much as them)...

I have $1100 left over from selling my CRT. I have a LT 150, and I'm either going to buy a IScan Pro to mate with my RV-80, or I'm gonna take the HTPC plunge. Is it worth it for $1100?


A basic detail is:

1) I will use it exclusively for DVD playback and Dscaling outboard sources (Svideo input). Want region free with asimply software interface.

2) No gaming, no ********, maybe MP3 playback at most.

3) Would really like a slot load DVD drive, like a car CD player, but that is just a tech feature, not absolute. Really like a quiet drive, and region free.

4) I'm partial to Athlon processors.

5) Would like to find a rack mountable case (not an insane expensive server case, just a standard atx with the ability to add rack rails)!


Can anyone tell me if the plunge is worth it with a $1100 skinny wallet? And if so, anyone wanna throw out some recommended gear based upon the Price tag?


Figured I'd get the KBK modded input card, but beyond that have no clue on what is the hot AGP card, which MOBO (or if an Athlon is the way to go for this type of thing).


So does anyone wanna feed a newbie a tip or two on what the best options are for Case, Processor, Mobo, Ram, HD, Video Card?


What would you get with $1100? IS HTPC a good idea with the LT-150- I know it limits some features to use the RBGHV data input. Or should I just stick with my RV-80 and Iscan pro?


Help me Obi-wan, you're my only hope.


Vince
 

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If you can build it yourself, the money is fine. The case would probably be the most expensive part (for rackmount) but if you search around you could get a good price. I also found a superquiet PC fan for athlons up to 1.5 gig. its the antec jet Cool. I switched out my old fan and now the PC can sit anywhere without that noise.
 

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Sorry, forgot to give suggestions.

For the mobo I have a ECS K7S5A with 1.3 Athlon. the cpu fan is antec jet cool. I have 256 MB PC133 ram (or you can get 2 sticks of DDR with this motherboard). Any ATI radeon card for DVD playback (ATI is best for picture quality). For a sound card I am still not sure what is best. For just music and movies probably the m-audio audiophile 24/96 card. I have a Lite_On DVD drive that is really quiet and so far plays every movie I put in it (I had a toshiba that wouldn't play all movies). Get a hard drive that has 7200 RPM and has the udma 100. definitely get a case with at least a 300 watt power supply ( Antec brand works with this Mobo well). As for the case, go to www.pricewatch.com and find a case that suits your needs.

I hope this helps.
 

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IMO you seem to have too many more important uses for your money. Unless you can build a cpu yourself. Thread poster I have 351 DVDs at $29.99 a piece which equals $10,526 and that is just in DVD software alone. With only $1100 IMHO your out of your league as you must upgrade every so often. You have set your goals too high, for the money you want to spend. All you can buy is inferior to what you really want IMO.
 

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You can build an HTPC for that price. I'm not sure what the previous poster was talking about. Based upon your question, I get that you have 1100 dollars to spend on an HTPC, his response seems like he thinks you have an 1100 dollar yearly income.

:confused:


As Paul_Seng said if you can build it yourself, your fine. Plus you really don't HAVE to upgrade as often as you might think. Once you get stable DVD playback that you are happy with, then just stay there (hardware wise.)


One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that an HTPC/LT-150 combo will easily beat the LT-150/iscan combo in picture quality. I had both, it's NO contest. Dscaler has now surpassed the iscan (at least the v2 and below-thats what I had) for cable/dss, etc. And a properly configured HTPC's DVD playback is heaven (for those without the big bucks Dilas and CRTs.)


As for components here are some tips.


You don't need the most powerful CPU available. I have a 650 intel overclocked to 800.


Memory is dirt cheap right now. Get at least 128MB.


Find a stable motherboard. Read some reviews on http://www.bxboards.com/


While the M-audio's are really liked, they are expensive. Get a cheap soundblaster live, to start and then upgrade latter if you want. Make sure it has optical out.


You don't need the biggest Hard drive available either. Use the extra dollars (even if it's only a few) elsewhere.


Definetly get a ATI Radeon card. You can get them cheap, and they work extremely well for DVD/Video playback.


Hope that helps,
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by zed3
IMO you seem to have too many more important uses for your money. Unless you can build a cpu yourself. Thread poster I have 351 DVDs at $29.99 a piece which equals $10,526 and that is just in DVD software alone. With only $1100 IMHO your out of your league as you must upgrade every so often. You have set your goals too high, for the money you want to spend. All you can buy is inferior to what you really want IMO.
Vince's mentioned $1100 was his budget for an HTPC. I don't think he's got a whole lot of worries about other upgrades. As he said in his post, he sold his CRT FP for this, and is going to use his LT-150, that should be an indicator there ;) You might take a look at HT Forum if you need convincing. :D


Vince:

$1100 will probably do it if you shop smart, but that's gonna be right at the line if you want the Best in Class. A lot of people here would steer you toward Intel based systems, but I just upgraded my HTPC to an Athlon 1400 w/512MB DDR on an Abit KG7-RAID motherboard. That should run a little over $400 and it's a beast of a machine. Go for the Audiophile 24/96 Sound card, it's great! I'm not familiar with the Radeon VE, but it can be had for under $50 if you don't need the video functions of an AIW or a VIVO model, it might be a great low-cost solution. Pioneer makes slot-feed drives, and supposedly with the A106 model they have a quiet one too.

Here's a brief breakdown, sure I'm missing some stuff:
  • $100 AMD 1.4GHz CPU
  • $120 Abit KG7 (non-RAID) Motherboard
  • $090 256MB DDR-RAM
  • $050 Radeon VE video card
  • $170 (?) KBK modified tuner card
  • $150 Audiophile 24/96 w/PwrDVD3 from Digital Connection
  • $050 Airboard IR keyboard/mouse (eraser style)
  • $035 IRMan
  • $100 DVD-ROM drive.
  • $080 20GB IBM Hard drive
  • $050 Good CPU cooler (added in Edit)

Don't know what to suggest for a case, but you should still have a decend amount left for a good case that's rack-mountable.


Granted, I'm a techno-geek, but I think you should definitely go the HTPC route. It has so much more to offer for versatility and expansion than getting dedicated hardware.


-will


EDIT: Doh! Forgot a CPU cooler! I've got this one on order, should be here any day *looks at watch again*.
 

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Members it's your perogative to say what you think. But poster that said 128 MB ram

memory should be saying minimum 256 MB. This guy only has 1100 bucks total to spend and that incudes taxes on what your telling him to buy, possible shipping cost maybe how far are you going to tell him that kind of small amount will go when you figure all the costs involved, I didn't even mention yearly income. Don't think up words that I said either be specific or hold your tongue. Thinking thai assume the man has only $1,100 per year income is assinine in year 2001.
 

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Wow ZED3, Who took a leak in your wheaties this morning? :D


I don't think anyone else here including myself really understood what you meant by

"IMO you seem to have too many more important uses for your money. Unless you can build a cpu yourself. Thread poster I have 351 DVDs at $29.99 a piece which equals $10,526 and that is just in DVD software alone. With only $1100 IMHO your out of your league as you must upgrade every so often. You have set your goals too high, for the money you want to spend. All you can buy is inferior to what you really want IMO. "


One can easily build an HTPC for $1,100.00. I built mine for about $800.00 and it runs flawlessly now.

Dan

It's a HOBBY have fun.:)
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by zed3
Members it's your perogative to say what you think. But poster that said 128 MB ram

memory should be saying minimum 256 MB. This guy only has 1100 bucks total to spend and that incudes taxes on what your telling him to buy, possible shipping cost maybe how far are you going to tell him that kind of small amount will go when you figure all the costs involved, I didn't even mention yearly income. Don't think up words that I said either be specific or hold your tongue. Thinking thai assume the man has only $1,100 per year income is assinine in year 2001.
This guy? We've got names you know, all you have to do is look at the post to get the name instead of calling us Poster or This Guy, etc. It's more concise AND more polite. I find it ironic that you've been complaining about the tone of the board but keep making ascerbic posts. :rolleyes: At least that's how your posts been coming across to me. Your first in this thread sounded particularly elitist. "Out of your league" indeed.


-will
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
First off, I'd like to thank everyone who has replied so far- suggestions have been most helpful, especially to me since I didn't really know where to start.

Quote:
ATI radeon card for DVD playback (ATI is best for picture quality).
Are there different models of this type of board- or just one? The reason ask is that I recall looking in a catalog (like Tiger or something) and I think they had like 20 different models of videocards in the ATI line... Radeon SDRS, Radeon VE, DDR 32meg, DDR 64meg, all in wonder, etc. I think these were all Radeon cards, just curious if there is one specifically that gets the HTPC thumbs up moreso than another.


Quote:
For just music and movies probably the m-audio audiophile 24/96 card.
I'm assuming this passes through all the digital signals- DD/DTS/PCM? Or does it pass mulichannel analog? I currently have a GINA from Echo in my project studio- and it can pass either- but at $500 it seems like overkill for this type of project.

Quote:
I have a Lite_On DVD drive that is really quiet and so far plays every movie I put in it (I had a toshiba that wouldn't play all movies).
Can the Lite_On drive be made to play all regions? I know some of the newer drivs are no longer "reworkable". I currently have a Toshiba drive in my desktop (Toshiba SD-M1502 that I got dirt cheap repackaged as a "Hi-val" drive.) the toshiba has been pretty stable- although at times can be fickle.


Anyone know how the 1502 is on the hiarchy of DVD drives? Is it decent? I think I payed like $34 for it at office max, after rebate.

Quote:
IMO you seem to have too many more important uses for your money. Unless you can build a cpu yourself. Thread poster I have 351 DVDs at $29.99 a piece which equals $10,526 and that is just in DVD software alone. With only $1100 IMHO your out of your league as you must upgrade every so often. You have set your goals too high, for the money you want to spend. All you can buy is inferior to what you really want IMO.
Interesting- I'm not sure what one has to do with the other. I think I'm currently around 600 dvds (guessing $18,000 by your math), just sold off a CRT projector in exchange for the $2200 LT150, have Paradigm studio all around, dual SVS subs-- and a rack full of gear, the whole shebang.


So?


I'm not sure - are you suggesting I would better spend my $1100 on more DVDs? I would certainly be building the PC myself (I don't know if anyone here could actually build a "cpu", I'll leave that up to Intel or Athlon.)- I've built the last 4 desktops I've had. I just didn't know specifically if you could get the decent accessories (as it make a stable HTPC) for the $1100 price tag.


I don't have any other areas I'm looking to upgrade right now- and so I can either spend $500 on an Iscan pro, or drop the $1100 into a HTPC. Figured I'd ask to see what could be done with $1100


Again- I'm just confused at what your alternate suggestion would be. You seem to suggest, and maybe I read wrong, that I have other things that I should be upgrading first (and I found that odd since I didn't mention what else I had).

Quote:
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that an HTPC/LT-150 combo will easily beat the LT-150/iscan combo in picture quality. I had both, it's NO contest. Dscaler has now surpassed the iscan (at least the v2 and below-thats what I had) for cable/dss, etc. And a properly configured HTPC's DVD playback is heaven (for those without the big bucks Dilas and CRTs.)
Interesting- I wondered about the mating because if I recall, I read somewhere that the unit disabled a ton of features when coming in via the Data input. I assume you just feed it a, what, 1280x1024? I will have it projecting to a 16x9 screen, so I guess I just mask off the top and bottom empty areas. Tell me anything- everything, I'd love to hear any info about pros/cons of that combo.


On a side note, is it possible to make sure that the HTPC passes 4x3 material windowboxed? Since I'm going to use a 16x9 screen, figured I should probably get into the nitty gritty of multi aspects and how to make them work with the HTPC route. Also, can I shift the picture area up/down using most software DVD players? I have a copy of PowerDVD and couldn't find a command to move the image.


Quote:
I just upgraded my HTPC to an Athlon 1400 w/512MB DDR on an Abit KG7-RAID motherboard. That should run a little over $400 and it's a beast of a machine.
I've actually got the older KA7-100 Raid board in my desktop PC with a 900mhz Athlon. Even with running this Echo Gina audio system outboard, it's been mega stable! I've got like 5 drives hookup up to the thing, no issues. I would imagine the KG7 is just the next gen of this board to handle the faster Athlon processor available.


Is there a cutoff for processor speed to do DVD and Dscale? I mean, if I ended up around 1 gig would that be enough, or should I shoot higher?


Could I use the Ka7-100 board and a 900mhz processor for HTPC? Cause I could probably just setup a new mobo/processor for the desktop and bump this KA& and 900 into HTPC duty. I've got three 512 RAM chips in this puppy now, and it's more than I need- so I could just bump one to HTPC duty.

Quote:
Pioneer makes slot-feed drives, and supposedly with the A106 model they have a quiet one too.
Anyone have any feedback on these- can they be region free, are they reliable? I don't know what has drawn me to the slot load- maybe seeing robocop as a kid (with Clarence going to Bobby's house and slipping the disc into the slot load- always struck me as cool... dunno). I'm happy to give up the slot load idea if there are better drives- I'm all about function over form... but if I could have both, of course that's cool too!


As far as cooling goes, has anyone ever bought from PCpowercooling.com? I know a friend of mine SWEARS by their CPU coolers, but their power supplies are a bit pricey.


Thanks for all the advice guys- any other know-it-alls are free to post! I'm always looking for suggestions, especially ones that include WHY you chose what you chose!


-vince
 

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I believe you would be fine with a Radeon 32 DDR or SDR or whatever. But, the Radeon 64MB DDR VIVO models are cheap right now. If there are any Radeons out there without a fan, you would want one of those if you need something that won't annoy your ears. If the newer All-in-Winder Radeon or Radeon 8500 is more to your liking than go for it.


You have other systems that can play games I'm assuming so your use of this machine would be quite simple. If you can, go ahead and use one of your existing machines. I am not sure if your motherboards are really old and won't be able to keep up with bandwidth demands for DVD and Hard drive recording, etc, so that would probably be the only concern for not using one of those.


Your 900 MHZ Athlon has plenty of power for CURRENTLY available software. But the more the better right? CPUs are cheap right now. The one thing to remember is that everything above your 900MHZ Athlon will produce more heat too. That means louder fans.


Hope this helps.


I'm clueless about the NEC LT-150 but I don't think it can go above XGA (1024x768) can it? Or I guess whatever you input will be scaled by the projector anyways?
 

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Vince,

I have a 900Mhz Duron system with 256Mb of Ram and running Dscaler (using ATI TV Wonder) with no problem as well as WinDVD and PowerDVD. I also use the same Toshiba DVD Rom drive as you and I have applied a firmware patch to make it region free. Once I got the system tweaked I have had no hiccups. I also use the Radeon LE 32 DDR video card which cost me only $70.00 and it provides a beautiful image. The Audiophile 24/96 is a great card and will pass thru DTS and DD through the S/PDIF connection (Digital COAX). I spent about $800.00 total on my system. I also have the airboard and IRMan infra-red receiver. The only problem I would see busting your budget is if you bought a HiPix HD Tuner card. I think you will be very pleased with this config as compared to the Iscan. I have seen that and higher end scalers that do not compete with the HTPC.

Good Luck,

Dan
 

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Hey Vince,


Where to start? Well first the main advantage of using an HTPC for DVD playing is the ability to overcome the limited/crappy scalers that come built into projectors. The HTPC simply does a better job of scaling a DVD from it's native resolution, up to the 1024x768 that the LT-150 is capable of.


It also bests the Iscan, which is not a scaler, but simply a line doubler. The iscan would provide you with a progressive output, but still at a much lower resolution (640x480?) and you would be relying on the scaler of the LT-150 again to get to 1024x768.


1024 x 768 is the max resolution of the LT-150, so sending it anything higher, invokes the 150's scaler again.


On the 16x9 issue. Dscaler can do 4x3 "windowboxed", in it's sleep. :) You simply tell it you have a widescreen DISPLAY, and then tell it to output 4x3. Confusing sounding, easy to do. If I had it infront of me, I'd tell you exactly what the options are. And if you set it up and need help, just e-mail or post.


As for the ton of features that are disabled. I think the only big thing you lose is this "cinema mode." I have never used anything but a HTPC so I don't know. I think the cinema mode is for creating a 16x9 aspect ratio. To do this with a HPTC use Powerstrip to create a 1024x576 resolution for 16x9 (I do.)


You can also use a YXY (a program) to move the DVD image around the screen, top bottom left right, in pixel increments.


HTPCs have tons of flexablity on top of putting out a great picture.


Hope that helps poster,
 

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IMHO, one who spends $29.95 on each of 351 DVDs may not be the person you would want to consult on how to spend your $1100.


Sort the wheat from the chaff and build yourself an HTPC!


..Doyle
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quote:
On the 16x9 issue. Dscaler can do 4x3 "windowboxed", in it's sleep. You simply tell it you have a widescreen DISPLAY, and then tell it to output 4x3. Confusing sounding, easy to do. If I had it infront of me, I'd tell you exactly what the options are. And if you set it up and need help, just e-mail or post.
Gotcha- is there a similar option with Software DVD players? I know mine in the desktop (Powerdvd), it makes 4x3 take up the fullscreen, puts anamorphic in a rectangle, and makes 4x3 lbx take up "fullscreen".


Just wondered if there is a way to cycle through aspect ratio options with Software based DVD players like you can with projectors/rptv.


Or better yet, is there any program yet that can read flags and auto format itself like the RP-91?


I'd just love to see 4x3 material windowbox itself, and 4x3 letterbox zoom itself, etc.


Does anyone have an overview of software DVD playback with regard to aspect ratios, and how that is handled projecting onto a 16x9 screen with a native 4x3 projector.

Quote:
I think the cinema mode is for creating a 16x9 aspect ratio. To do this with a HPTC use Powerstrip to create a 1024x576 resolution for 16x9 (I do.)
What exactly does powerstrip do? I would assume the software DVD player knows the material is anamorphic (it's flagged) and would display max possible resolution in intended aspect ratio already. Am I way off?


I know on my desktop machine, it recognized anamorphic and "auto-squashes" it into a rectangle shape. When set to 1024x768, I would assume this image (maximized to fullscreen) is taking up 1024x576 already.


So what does Powerstrip do specificially? I would figure if Powerdvd could already format the image properly, it would simply leave dead space above and below (the remaining 200 pixels of the 4:3 image)- that's what it seems to do on the desktop.


Any tips you could give are greatly appreciated!


-Vince
 

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Powerstrip is a program that, among other things, allows you to create custom resolutions.


This is necessary for me because I use the ATI dvd Player 4.1. This dvd player gets every last ounce of beauty out of the previously reccomended Radeon video cards. The down side, is that it doesn't handle aspect ratios well. If you want to set the aspect ratio to widescreen, you need a 16x9 pixel resolution. Not 1024x768. So I use powerstrip to create this. Power DVD probably doesn't have this limitation, so you won't need it if you use that. BUT, then you lose the ability to adjust the gamma of the radeon output.


If you setup a 1024x576 desktop, and use the ATI dvd player (set to widescreen mode) then you just sit back and watch. I only have two pan and scan (4x3) dvd's in my library, which is MUCH smaller than the rest of you guys, I'm jelous ;) I'll try one tonight and see how it is displayed. My guess is that it will be 4x3 in a 16x9.


Hope I got most of your questions, if I missed one just let me know.
 

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Hi Vince:


___By your questions so far, might I suggest that you use the search function and/or read back through a few weeks of posts directly. Believe me, you can read through a few hundred posts/threads with a few hours of your time and the knowledge you gain will help you make your decisions on HW decision immensely. Do not forget to read the various HTPC FAQ’s as well.


___Paul: Might I suggest that you help the thousands of posters over in the OCWorkbench ECS forum with the problems they are having with the ECS K7S5A? Its fast, its cheap but configurable and HQ, it is not even close.


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]
 

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You're lucky that you found this forum before you bought your hardware. I didn't discover it until after the fact. Anyway, I just happened to finish building a system with the same budget, and so far it has worked flawlessly and has been absolutely stable. It is a bit noisy, but this doesn't concern me too much since it is in an isolated area. In case it helps in your choices, the list is:


ECS K7S5A MOBO with Athlon 1.4 / 266FSB, 256M 266DDR - $230 (pkg. price)

CompuCase 7106 Black case with 400W PS upgrade - $107

Liteon Airboard - $50

IBM 60G UDMA 100 7200RPM drive - $160

Pioneer DVD105SB - $90

All in Wonder Radeon - $200

SB Audigy Platinum EX (for games and daughter's MIDI) - $250


This all came out slightly under $1100, so I blew the budget and added a TEAC CD recorder too.

As I said, so far this combo has been absolutely stable and has played everything I have thrown at it. Maybe I'm lucky, but so far I recommend it highly. The ABIT KT7A Raid board I tried in my first attempt was a real headache with incompatibilities due to the VIA chipset. The SIS735 equipped ECS board has worked great. I don't bother with overclocking, the Athlon runs hot enough as it is.

The Audigy is new, I started with a Delta DIO 24/96, but decided that driving virtual race cars on the big screen with surround sound were too much fun to pass up. If you don't care about high quality CD audio and want to save a few bucks, you could skip the sound card and use the onboard sound. This is good enough for MP3. The ATI AIW outputs the AC3 directly to the receiver, so the PC doesn't need to play a role if you don't want it to.


Go for the HTPC. You'll be glad you did.


Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Bob (and everyone),


Just curious if you could post some tips on where you bought your gear?

Quote:
ECS K7S5A MOBO with Athlon 1.4 / 266FSB, 256M 266DDR - $230 (pkg. price)
This sounds great- where did you get the package price from? I'd actually order this today if I knew where you got it!


Quote:
It is a bit noisy, but this doesn't concern me too much since it is in an isolated area.
Could you wage a guess as to exactly where the noise is from in this setup? I think I could splurge and buy super quiet powersupply and Processor fans if that's where the noise is coming from. Or maybe is it the drive spin that is noisy? Just wondering


Again- any tips as to where you guys are shopping would be helpful!


-Vince


PS: I have looked a round a little, with no luck- does anyone know if there is an affordable ATX style desktop case with rack ears? Everywhere I look they are like $200+, when it seems that making a rack mount version of a desktop case should add $15 to the price.


Has anyone taken one of the popular HTPC desktop cases and added rack ears?
 

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Newegg.com is a reliable source for parts. Pricewatch.com will show the best prices for the parts you are looking for and direct you to the site to order from.

Good Luck,

Dan
 
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