Printing History: Invention of the Printing Press

30. March 2013 08:00 by Calvin Yu in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

While technologies we rely most dearly on today such as cell phones, the internet, and GPS systems may have only been invented in recent years, there are still technologies created hundreds of years ago we still use today. A technology that we see every day in life that was invented over 550 years ago is printing with ink. We see this technology from the newspaper you read in the morning, to the lined notebook you write on at work, to the magazine you read after a work day. Well, even 500 years ago, you were able to purchase a book printed with ink in very similar style as to what you would see today.

How was the printing press invented?

In 1450, a goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in his hometown of Mainz Germany. As a handyman by profession, Gutenberg was able to construct the first mass printing machine from both the existing technology of the wine press, and new technologies he created.

 Wine Press

The wine press depicted above was able to provide Gutenberg with the model he needed to build his own printing machine. His earliest version of the printing press was a wooden contraption that allowed him to slide paper in and out and squeeze water from the paper after printing. The first books he ever printed in mass were bibles written in Latin. With his process, he was able to print 3,600 pages per workday, compared to 2,000 pages with block printing. However, block printing also required a heavy amount of labor, while the printing press required significantly less.

How it Works?

Wood Printing Press

The original printing press was constructed from wood. The model depicted above was commonly used from 1650 to 1850 and allowed for books to be mass produced and not exclusively for the wealthy. The original structure ranged from 5 to 7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 7 feet tall. The press used the moveable-type system for printing which was originally developed in China around 1040. This works by having small metal pieces with a raised letter on each piece that were stamped with ink, and pressed onto damp paper to withhold the ink better.

What kind of ink was used?

Traditionally, before Gutenberg’s invention, ink that was used for printing was water-based, which was mostly used for block printing (the earlier form of printing developed in Asia). However, when tested with the printing press, the water-based ink would run off the letters, and Gutenberg quickly found out he would need to create a thicker style ink that would stick to the metal. In order to turn the printing press into a success, Gutenberg created a formula for an oil-based ink that led to a higher quality of printing with his metal-type letters.

The ink that Gutenberg developed in his workshop was made of many elements including copper, lead, titanium and sulfur. Many of his original prints had a glittering surface which was due to the high level of metal content in his ingredients. Today, printer ink cartridges are made in factories in mass by combining a color pigment with a varnish to create each colored ink. These days ink making includes far less elements from the periodic table, but is still a continually improved upon product and increasingly important.

How Did the Printing Press Affect the World?

Before the printing press, the creation of books, newspapers, or religious documents would need to be done by hand or by block printing. After more than 10 years of perfecting his printing press, by 1450 Gutenberg released it to the world. By 1480, there were printers active in 110 different places throughout Europe. By the end of the 15th century, the printing press could be found in approximately 270 cities. In those quick 50 years, the printing press produced an estimated 150 to 200 million copies. This invention opened new opportunities for authors to have their work widely read and the invention of the phrase “bestseller”.

Despite the popularization of the printing press, it took over 100 years before the first newspaper was created and released. The newspaper industry would quickly change the face of the printing press as it would cause this invention to be popularized worldwide. Until the early 1800s, Gutenberg’s invention remained almost untouched in advancement. However by the 17th century it would become steam powered for more widespread and efficient production.

Getting Instagrammed Moments on Paper


In a previous blog post, we featured a mobile app that would allow you to print directly from your phone to your Canon printer. But what if you don't have a Canon device and you want to get photos from the popular smartphone app Instagram printed? Thankfully, in the increasingly mobile-centric world, you don't have to look too hard to find the perfect option-- Printstagram. Offered on both your smartphone and your web browser, the service allows you to transform any Instagrammed moment into a fully realized physical object.  With mobile cameras becoming increasingly better at taking high resolution photos, this is a perfect option for amateurs and pros alike to capture the moments traditional photography cannot.

How does Printstagram work?

If you're accessing Printstagram though your web browser, simply go to the main page and click the desired type of printing you want. When you click 'Buy Now', it will prompt you to log-in to Instagram with your username and password. After that, you're free to select the photos you want and within 14 business days, Prinstagram will ship the products to you.

For those with a smartphone running Apple iOS, you can download Printsagram's "Print Studio" app for free. By downloading the app, you'll be able to automatically synch your Instagram photos through your camera and order prints on the go.

What sizes of prints do they offer?

Printstagram is thankfully able to offer a wide variety of sizes. The smallest are the mini stickers, which measure less than 1 square inch and cost $10 for 252 total stickers. Individual prints can range considerably, including more expensive options like the 8x8 inch framed print for $60. For those who want high gloss options, Printstagram also offers posters up to 28x30 inches, which can be comprised of up to 512 different Instagram photos.

What occasions is Printstagram good for?

Every occasion. Really! You can use Prinstagram to get photos or posters to decorate your desk, an empty wall, or a refrigerator. But the prints also make great gifts! For instance, you can create a calendar that includes 365 different prints, making it a great way to show a loved one the photos that matter most to you. You can also create mini prints, which measure approximately 8.5x5.5 centimeters, making them perfect to slip into your cards during the next holiday season.

How long do the prints last?

Though it might depend on the type of print and exposure to light, all of the prints are produced with premium photo paper or card stock with glossy or matte finishes that help preserve shelf life. The posters are also printed on a special thick Fuji Crystal Archive paper, preventing the wear and tear that might easily come with posters. Needless to say, you want to go back to Printstagram to get new prints made every month.

If you use your phone primarily to take pictures, or want to be able to capture those on-the-go moments without having to worry about lugging around a bulky camera, Printstagram is the perfect option for getting mobile photos from Instagram available in physical form. Whether you're keeping them to yourself, or sharing them with others, no moment is a bad moment to hand out these printed memories. However, if you are too impatient to wait 14 days to get prints, now's the time to stock up on ink cartridges to do it yourself.

No matter how you plan on printing life's special moments, please share some of your favorite photographed moments below!


How I became more productive with Getting Things Done (GTD) and Evernote

27. March 2013 03:00 by Calvin Yu in Productivity  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

One of my secrets of running a successful business is staying organized. When I started my printer supply business,, I quickly realized that I needed a process and set of tools to help me stay organized; otherwise, I would have been completely overwhelmed. Being a technology geek, the solution that worked best for me was the Getting Things Done ® (GTD®) methodology by David Allen integrated with the cloud service Evernote®. Using this system, I was able to keep my inbox clean; capture all my actionable and non-actionable items into a one centralized bucket; file away important reference documents such as receipts; and systematically get all my daily tasks done.

In this blog post, I’ll share with you what this system is and I’ll offer some ways that I personally use GTD and Evernote to increase my productivity as a business owner. However, if you want to cut to the chase, you can learn the system that I use over at The Secret Weapon website.

GTD plus Evernote

What is GTD?

GTD is a task management methodology developed by productivity expert and best-selling author David Allen. It’s designed to reduce stress and improve clarity on actionable outcomes. One of the benefits of GTD is that it’s not dependent on any particular type of day planner or software program, but instead focuses on the workflow model of capturing and processing tasks in a systematic way. GTD can be equally effectively whether you prefer low-tech or hi-tech planning tools. As I said before, I’m a technology geek, so I prefer high-tech paperless planning tools. For this reason, I’ve found Evernote to be a match made in heaven for implementing GTD.

GTD Concepts In A Nutshell

I’ll only cover the essential concepts of GTD here in this blog post. If you want to fully understand the GTD system, then I highly recommend reading David Allen’s book. The GTD system follows a set of core principles:

Purge your brain and get all your “stuff” captured into a trusted system.

The brain is a wonderful machine, but unfortunately, it’s not the best tool for keeping track of all the tasks, projects, due dates and other bits of “stuff” that flow into your mind throughout the day. Trying to manage all this stuff in our mental RAM is a key cause of stress because your brain is not a trusted system for capturing and managing all of your incoming information. I use Evernote as my capturing tool because I’m comfortable with technology and Evernote enables me to capture my thoughts, email, website clippings, audio and pretty much anything else wherever I am.

Putting your stuff in the right buckets.

Once you’ve captured all the stuff that has come your way, it becomes necessary to clearly identify what each item actually is, and more importantly, where it should go. There are six “buckets” that your collected stuff can go:

  • The next action bucket: These are the tasks that can be acted on and that have concrete outcomes once completed. Next actions are what drives productivity and are at the heart of the GTD system.
  • The project bucket: These are a series of multiple next actions that, when completed, achieve an intended outcome. Projects themselves are not actionable until they are broken down to their granular level of next actions.
  • The reminder bucket: These are items that may or may not be actionable, but they do have concrete edges defined by solid dates and/or times. Appointments, birthdays and plane flights would fall in this bucket. These items get placed on a calendar and/or a tickler file.
  • The reference bucket: These are items that are not actionable, but are used as support material for a next action or project.
  • The waiting bucket: These are tasks that have been delegated to other people to complete and that need to be checked-up on so that they don’t fall victim to the delegation “black hole.”
  • The trash bucket: These are items that are neither actionable, nor worth saving as future reference and can be thrown away.

Productivity hinges on focusing and clarifying “next actions.”

One of the core concepts of the GTD method is distilling all your tasks into next actions. A next action is basically the indivisible unit of activity that can be completed in one session and that has a concrete outcome once completed. Next actions can either be stand alone, or they can be the building blocks to a larger project. GTD stresses clarifying next actions with specific action verbs and context on the basis that specificity breeds productivity. There should not be any confusion on what to do when reading a next action. Typically when there’s confusion about how to perform a next action, it’s because that next action either wasn’t properly clarified, or it’s actually a project and needs to be broken down into even more granular action steps.

Contextualize your next actions.

In a typical to-do list, you combine all your tasks onto one master list and work your way down the list. The problem with this approach is that you may not have the adequate resources available or be in the proper location to effectively complete that particular task. Having a list of tasks that you can’t complete is neither productive nor helpful on reducing stress. One defining characteristic of the GTD system is the concept of contextual task lists in which you have multiple tasks lists based on physical location and/or resources available. Common contexts include: @Home, @Office, @Town, @Grocery Store, etc. Placing your next actions into a context makes your task lists more efficient and effective by allowing you to focus in on only the tasks where the present resources and the ability to actually complete those tasks are available.

Reviewing your agenda.

GTD recommends a daily and weekly review to make sure all your actions and projects are moving forward towards completion. Daily reviews are intended to give you a top-down view on your daily work load and projects, while weekly reviews are intended to ensure that your projects are moving forward towards your higher goals and long-term objectives. Since GTD is a bottom-up approach to task management, the daily and weekly reviews are an important part of the methodology to ensure that all those daily actions have a higher purpose.

So What Is Evernote?

Evernote is a popular note-taking software and service that allows you to capture email, notes, pictures, webpages, audio and pretty much everything into its system. Once it's captured, you can tag, annotate and categorize your notes for easy finding and retrieval later on. Evernote has a very powerful search engine that allows your notes to be found very quickly. It also has OCR technology built into it so that you can search for text within PDF and image files.

Since GTD focuses on the premise that ideas flow into your mind organically no matter where you might be, it’s important to have a trusted capturing tool that is able to follow you everywhere as well. That’s one of the benefits of using Evernote with GTD. The software can be accessed by your computer desktop, on the web and on your smartphone, providing you with a very powerful capturing system to be used with GTD.

Another great benefit about using Evernote is that the company gives you a healthy portion of free service to use for as long as you want. I know plenty of people who have all their GTD needs met using the free version of Evernote’s service. Of course, if you really get into using Evernote as your GTD system, eventually you’ll want to get their $5 per month premium service to access more storage space and greater search capabilities. Trust me, the small investment is worth it.

Achieving Inbox Zero

Like most business owners, I get more emails flooding into my inbox than I know what to do with. A major contributor to the problem of email clutter is the tendency to use the inbox as a catch-all list for all of our to-dos, follow-ups, reminders and reference materials. Managing our activities through our email inbox inhibits productivity, causes added stress and slowly spirals out of control. It’s not uncommon for some people to have a 1,000 or more emails sitting in their inbox.

Evernote helps me achieve an "inbox zero" status daily. I set up my Evernote system so that I can forward all my incoming emails to Evernote for archiving and I use subject line tagging to contextually tag actionable and important reference emails appropriately so that I can find them later on. The beauty of this system is that all my emails are archived on Evernote, so I don’t have to keep them sitting in my inbox and any emails that are actionable or that are reminders can be tagged in Evernote so that I can take action on them later. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to leave work with a completely empty email inbox every day.

Keeping Receipts In Order

Running a business means that I need to keep track of all my business receipts. Evernote helps me organize all my receipts digitally, without the hassle of trying to organize bits and pieces of paper everywhere. All my email receipts get forwarded to Evernote and tagged twice with the tag labels: “receipts” and “to enter.” Paper receipts get scanned and uploaded to Evernote with the same tags. This allows me to instantly retrieve all my business receipts and my bookkeeper knows exactly which ones to enter into QuickBooks. Having everything in one place in my Evernote account makes maintaining the books a breeze.

Keeping Track of Follow-Ups

As many of us can attest to, one of the many black holes when it comes to delegated tasks is following up with people and holding them accountable for completing those assigned tasks. Typically, most people use their email inboxes as their reminder system by keeping their latest correspondence as a marker for them to remember to follow up with the person on a future date. Over time though, this system breaks down as more and more emails get piled on top of it. Evernote helps me know which tasks I’m waiting on others for while keeping my inbox squeaky clean. I created a “waiting on” tag for items that I’m waiting on others to complete and I simply apply this tag to emails and notes that reference delegated tasks. When I perform my daily review, I simply review what items under this tag category are pending and when I expect them to be completed. What used to be a black hole for unfinished business is now an air-tight system for me.


I’ve only briefly touched on how I stay productive as a business owner using GTD and Evernote. If you want to learn how to implement this system for yourself, I recommend reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done and then educate yourself on how to integrate it with Evernote by visiting this gem of a website called The Secret Weapon.

Spring Cleaning For Your Electronics

spring cleaningMarch 20th marked the beginning of spring and, for many, the annual spring cleaning ritual. While most focus on cleaning out the car, tossing excess clutter, and carefully scrubbing every surface free of dust and dirt, most neglect one of the most important electronic devices-- the printer. Though it's difficult to tell just how dirty a printer might have gotten during the winter months, it's important to remove any excess grime and test how the printer is working to ensure the highest quality experience. Failing to clean out your printer can result in poor printing quality, especially for photographs or color printing.

Before printing, check your printer manual or contact your manufacturer for best cleaning practices.

Every printer, like every floor or counter, is designed differently and thus requires specific care. Whether you have an inkjet, laser or solid ink printer, your manufacturer knows the best ways to avoid damaging the delicate (and essential) components of your printer.

Always make sure your printer is off and fully unplugged.

Ensuring your printer is not connected to any power source eliminates the risk of electrical shock. At the same time, by allowing the machine's internal components to power down, you prevent potential burns to yourself, as components in laser printers can get especially hot.

Never directly spray any type of cleaning solution onto your printer.

Though you should check with your printer to see if there are particular solvents you can use to clean the exterior (body) of the printer, it's never a good idea to spray anything onto your printer. Moisture accumulating in any component of the printer can cause irreparable damage. A dry, lint-free cloth is recommended, though many companies now make electronics wipes for your printer's body.

Avoid cleaning internal components unless you have experience.

You can, and should, examine ink cartridges to ensure there is no spilled ink, leaks, or other debris that has collected. However, avoid unscrewing components or touchings parts (including the feed rollers) as these can be permanently damaged. Certain models have self-cleaning mechanisms that can save you the hassle of wondering which components to touch (or not).

Don't forget to print a test page at the end of the process.

When you've finished your cleaning process, be sure to print a test page. If it's been several months since you've last used your printer, inks can settle, adversely affecting print quality. If the ink isn't moving properly through your printer, these inconsistencies will show up, especially during color printing. If you are satisfied with the results, you've successfully cleaned your printer! If you are experiencing ghosting you may have a part that is defective; otherwise consult your manufacturer's website or contact an electronics specialist.

You might be ready for a printer change, so don't forget to recycle.

You might be feeling like it's time to get an upgraded printer or find one best designed for your needs. If that's the case, don't forget to recycle your electronics. Adding them to a landfill only increases the risk of environmental contamination from ink and other printer components. Best Buy is one of the retailers that offers a national recycling program and if you have 8+ empty cartridges that need to be recycled, we have a free recycling program that includes a prepaid return shipping label.


As always, spring is the best time to replenish those depleted ink cartridges! Feel free to share some of your favorite cleaning tips for electronics below or ask any questions if you're looking for that perfect new printer this spring.

5 Awesome and Easy Crafts Made with Printer Paper

19. March 2013 07:00 by Calvin Yu in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

Decorating a home or apartment is no easy feat. If you’re just moving in, it takes a long time before you fill the empty spaces on the wall, top every table with a centerpiece, or decorate each room with its own unique flair. If you’re starting from scratch with a bare home, there’s a few ways you can go about livening it up:

  1. Hire an interior designer. If you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to decorate your own home, you can have a professional create the perfect ambiance in almost no time. While you can give the designer a budget to work within, this is a pricey option.
  2. Decorate yourself. A majority of people decide to decorate their homes themselves. Usually this entails hitting the most popular home décor stores (Target, Pier 1 Imports, Pottery Barn) and picking out the best selections that work together.
  3. Create it yourself. An option many people never even think of is making home decorations themselves. If you’ve ever been shopping and seen an awesome home décor piece and thought to yourself “I could make that” – the chances are you can!

Creating your own home accents is an extremely cost effective way of decorating your home, and once people find out you’re the designer you can expect the compliments to begin rolling in. A lot of people get stuck on the idea that maybe they’re not artistic enough to create their own home décor. The truth is, it can be pretty challenging and you do need an artistic knack to get started on your own unique decorations. However, if you know where to look, you can find thousands of incredible step-by-step tutorials online.

Below are our top five extremely cost-effective décor picks (from blogs throughout the web) that you can make at home with printer paper!

1) Paper Flowers

Paper FlowersThis super simple project uses the very bare bone minimum of tools. All you will need to make this project is the following:

  • Regular printer paper
  • A color printer stocked with color ink
  • Scissors
  • A hot glue gun

With the easy to follow guide, you can create as many flowers as you’d like in almost no time. Your friends will definitely be impressed that these flowers were made only with paper. Whether you put a few flowers in a shallow bowl as a centerpiece or add stems and put them in a vase, these simple decorations are worth trying out.

For the full article and tutorial, visit:

2) Paper Garland

Paper GarlandPaper garland is an easy way to add a colorful decoration to your walls. The geometric cutouts pictured were created with a template, so all you need to do is print, cut, fold, and glue. If you’re going to hang the garland, you’ll also need sewing thread to connect the different ornaments. You can hang a few strands in a group, or create a few long strands and hang them to span overhead across two walls.

For the template and full article, visit:

3) Paper Lanterns

Paper LanternsYou may not be able to use regular printer paper to create this stunning lamp, but because the steps are so easy, buying the thicker parchment paper will be worth it. For this project, you won’t even need a color printer - you can simply use plain old black ink. After you print and cut out the lantern, roll it up and use a glue stick to keep it together. With the addition of a battery-powered tea light, you can place these lanterns around your home for a chic atmosphere.

For the cutout and full article, visit:

4) Paper Tree

Paper TreeIf you have a youngster at home, they will love helping you build this paper tree to paste along a wall. Trees symbolize life and growth, and are frequently associated with family as we all know the significance of family trees. This printable art piece is 62” tall and 28” wide. You can print out the different size leaves and make the tree as bushy or as bare as you’d like. This would be a great addition to a child’s room or playroom.

For the printable tree and full article, visit:

5) Photo Collage

Photo Collage

A home isn’t really complete without photographs of friends and family hung around the house. Frequently, you’ll find photo collages going up alongside staircases with wedding photos, baby photos, travel photos, and more. In order to really feel that homey feeling, surround yourself with the people you love most. If you love creating photo albums and collages, purchasing a photo printer might be beneficial in the long run.

To view more photos of this collage, visit:

Quest For the Beginner's 3D Printer

3d printerIf you've been keeping up to date on the news, you've probably heard of 3D printing. Chances are also likely that you may be unsure exactly what the technology does! Though 3D printing is not a new technology, for the first time in its history, it has received attention for producing everything from artificial skulls to Star Wars figurines.

Companies have finally released prototypes of smaller, more cost efficient 3D printers designed for everyday customer use, with MakerBot displaying their model during this year's South by Southwest Festival, one of the country's largest film, music, and technology festivals.

How does 3D printing work?

So how exactly does 3D printing work? A 3D printer is essentially a more complex version of your standard desktop printer, often with some sort of encasing or protective covering that enables a 3D object to be produced. Though inks are used to cover objects, 3D printers work by extracting liquids, powders or metals with incredible precision to create 0.05-0.1 millimeter thick sheets of material that form the basis for whatever object you are creating. These objects are modeled from visual blueprints that are created using imaging software. This image file varies depending on the type of object you are producing, but whatever the file is, the printer is able to interpret the file to make sure the objects have both the correct shape and correct dimensions.

For those without a background in graphic or industrial design, or a lot of money and space, 3D printing is impractical. Not only does creating 3D image blueprints require extensive knowledge, but many machines are large and typically cost well over $1000. However, as mentioned above, companies are are increasingly looking to downsize their models and streamline the process to let even those without the fundamentals of graphic design have fun.

Scan and print technology from MakerBot

MakerBot, a Brooklyn-based global leader in 3D printing since 2009, is among the first of these companies to invest in the beginner market. Their technology, dubbed the Digitizer Desktop 3D scanner, will enable you to scan objects up to 8 inches tall and 8 inches wide using lasers and a webcam. Once the image is scanned, a computer program automatically reads the data, producing the 3D image that the printer can then produce the object with. As a Digital Trends article on the launch comments, "It’s fantastic for recreating a broken link on your bracelet or making a replica of your favorite cup." Though there are no details yet on price or a release date, MakerBot has a sign up sheet so that users can be notified when these details are finalized.

When will 3D printing reach the masses?

Though we are many years away from 3D printing being accessible in much the same way highly quality photo printing used to be out of reach for most households, companies are taking the lead to ensure more people have access to this technology. Please let us know your thoughts on 3D printing. Do you think it's a waste of time or a tool you could see yourself using one day?

Maximizing Your Home Photography Printing

inkjet photo printerAs digital cameras are now the preferred method for taking photographs, the business of photographic printing at home has grown. Often times, however, many who get home printers aren't aware of which printers are best to buy, the cost involved with printing photographs at home, and other important information on the subject. We wanted to provide that information both for those amateur enthusiasts and devoted pros. 

An easy place to start looking for photo-based printers is by browsing through technology blogs' best-of lists. For instance, CNET has a list of the best inkjet printers for photography. Inkjet pinters are preferred because they tend to save ink over laser printers, are more compact, and use technology where tiny ink droplets create a higher quality image. When considering specific inkjet models, it's a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much do I want to spend? Inkjet models can range from $160 to almost $500 depending on the features and manufacturer.
  • How big are my photos going to be? For images larger than 8 x 10 inches, you'll need to consult a professional printer. For those smaller sized photos, home printing can save a few cents per photo, and a lot of added convenience. This review of printing 4 x 6 inch prints showed the reduction in cost at home.
  • What else do I need my printer to do? While this seems like a no brainer, many neglect to consider everything they use their printer for. If you're looking for copy or fax ability, and to be able to print higher volumes in black and white, a multi-purpose inkjet is your best bet.
  • How much does the ink itself cost? Many don't take into account the cost of color ink, which can run $20-$50 per cartridge, depending on the model. Visit our website to do cost comparisons, and to find potential deals by buying ink cartridge packages for multi-cartridge printing.

Once you have considered the right model, it's important to consider if you want to do photo-editing. While most computers have basic image editing capabilities (including cropping, changing saturation or sharpness, and resizing), for those who need more advanced image-editing capabilities, you'll need to consider additional software. The most popular software is Adobe Photoshop, which costs $699. However, if you're not familiar with this software, it may require books or online courses to become familiar with all of the features, so it is only recommended for those devoted pros.

It's also important to be aware of two things while using these home inkjet printers. When printing with a high-gloss photo paper, you will need to give your prints time to dry, otherwise your image will smudge. While the ink cartridges sometimes clog, especially after periods where they haven't been used for a long time, they can be fixed easily, and many resources are available online to guide you through that process.

Now that you know the many advantages, minor disadvantages, and other considerations when choosing photographic printing at home, you're ready to go out and record those special moments you want to remember forever! Feel free to share your favorite photos or other home printing tips below.

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