The vice president should not be using Bluetooth headphones

Yesterday, Politico opened its newsletter with an article on Vice President Kamala Harris’ aversion to using Bluetooth headphones. The VP was “Bluetooth-phobic,” the story claimed, “wary” of her AirPods and cautious with her technology use to an extent former aides described as “a bit paranoid.” Proof could be seen in her televised appearances: wires dangling from her ears in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid or clutched in her hand during the famous “We did it, Joe” call.

But for a high-profile public official, this is a lot more reasonable than you might think. As security researchers were quick to point out, Bluetooth has a number of well-documented vulnerabilities that could be exploited if a bad actor wanted to hack, say, the second most powerful person in the US government.

Some of these attacks come down to the basic mechanics of how the Bluetooth protocol works. With Bluetooth switched on, a phone, laptop or other smart device is constantly broadcasting a signal that can be detected by other devices in range — which provides an unnecessary vector for attack that can easily be eliminated by simply keeping Bluetooth off. Assuming Bluetooth is enabled, a smartphone user generally gets a prompt from any unknown device trying to connect. But in certain cases this can be skirted, as with one exploit that impersonates a trusted Bluetooth device already known to the user in order to connect to the phone, at which point the attacker can request or send data via Bluetooth.

(The complexity of this attack makes it unlikely to affect regular people, but for a figure like the VP — who is undeniably a high-value target for foreign surveillance attempts — there’s a non-zero chance of falling victim. It also affects both Android and Apple devices, the latter of which Harris appears to use.)

Other less severe Bluetooth attacks would let an attacker crash devices through denial of service, essentially overwhelming a phone with connection requests until the processor is unable to respond. Again, such attacks have previously affected both Android and Apple devices, although iPhones are considered to have a more secure implementation of Bluetooth.

In total, the CVE Program, which tracks cybersecurity vulnerabilities, lists 459 current and historic vulnerabilities that mention Bluetooth, suggesting that Kamala Harris is right to be wary. There’s a simple way to mitigate all of these attacks — disabling Bluetooth, sticking to wired headphones — but doing so means swimming against the technological current, and maybe looking like you can’t afford AirPods.

Still, Harris’ justified distaste for Bluetooth is a win for anyone who’s been met with skepticism for suggesting that hey, perhaps they want to carry around a ball of tangled headphone wires instead of connecting wirelessly via a decades-old protocol. If anyone should be shunning the latest technology in favor of the secure option, it’s the vice president.

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Razer Kaira headphones for PlayStation go pro with wired and wireless PS5 audio

Razer just revealed their top-tier headphone line for the Sony PlayStation 5, equipped with high-end audio and matching aesthetics. The Razer Kaira is a name you might’ve heard in the past, if you’re looking for high quality gaming-aimed headphones. Here the company has a few versions of the headphones/headsets with some key PlayStation features.

The company revealed two headsets this week, one Kaira Headset for PlayStation, one Kaira Pro for PlayStation. They also revealed a Razer Quick Charging Stand for PlayStation for DualSense controllers. If you’re looking for the least expensive Razer headphones made specifically for the PS5, you’ll want the previously released Razer Kaira X for PlayStation – that will give you just the basics!

The Razer Kaira Headset for PlayStation works with TriForce 50mm Drivers, while the Pro version works with TriForce Titanium Drivers. The Kaira works with a Razer HyperClear Cardiod Mic, while the Pro works with a similar mic that’s also detachable. Both headsets work with Razer SmartSwitch, enabling quick switching between 2.4GHz wireless connectivity and Bluetooth.

You might want to switch between devices – especially if you’re the sort of gamer who uses a PlayStation 5 some of the time, but switches to a cloud gaming or mobile gaming platform whilst on-the-go. Low-latency Bluetooth in the headset works with Quick Connect functionality for easy flipping between devices.

Both versions of the headset work with wireless connectivity as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Both also have FlowKnit Memory Foam Cushions around each ear, and a set of external colors that match the colors of the PlayStation 5 – blue and white.

The Karia Pro for PlayStation also comes equipped with Razer Hypersense. Razer’s “Smart Haptic Technology” allows sound from the PlayStation 5 console to be paired with physical rumbling in the headphones.

The Razer Kaira for PlayStation will be released for a price of approximately $100 USD. The Razer Kaira Pro for PlayStation will cost around $200. There’ll also be a Razer Quick Charging Stand for PlayStation available in White, Black, and Red colors for approximately $40 USD. Each of these peripherals should be available this week (mid-November, 2021) from Razer’s online store and at retailers across the United States.

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Why Haptic Feedback Headphones Could Be Great If Done Right

I never thought vibrating headphones would be a good idea until I tried the recently-released Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense headset. It’s a jarring concept at first — why would I want my headset to vibrate? But after spending some time with Razer’s HyperSense technology, I’m a believer that haptic feedback will show up in the best gaming headsets in the future.

But, the concept requires belief. Although haptics have a chance to elevate gaming, watching movies, and listening to music, the options available today aren’t great — Kraken V3 HyperSense included. Here’s why haptics feedback headphones are a great idea and what companies need to do to make the tech better.

Why haptic feedback headphones make perfect sense

Vibrating headphones might seem like a gimmick, but they make perfect sense. Sound is vibration, physical vibration is just sound that you don’t hear, and all the places where you’d want haptic feedback are the same places you’d hear low frequencies — in particular low bass parts. If you’ve ever used a pair of headphones with a “bass boost” feature, you already know this. Boosting the bass also vibrates the headphones.

If our headphone reviews are a mainstay for you, you can skip past this first section. For everyone else, allow me to indulge myself. HyperSense operates within a range of frequencies — based on a Razer chart, somewhere around 20Hz to 180Hz. It’s no secret that humans hear sound in the range of 20Hz to 20kHz, with the high frequencies generally slipping from overexposure to loud noise or age.

High frequencies are clear; either you hear a high pitch or you don’t. Low frequencies are vague. As the frequency goes lower, the sound starts to morph from sound into feeling. Sound is just vibration, and after a certain point, you stop hearing, and you start feeling.

HyperSense makes the low-end sound bigger. You don’t add a subwoofer to an audio system to hear low frequencies — you add one to feel low frequencies. HyperSense does the same thing in headphones. The problem is that, unlike a subwoofer, HyperSense isn’t producing a range of frequencies. It’s reacting to them, which can ultimately lead to a disjointed experience. That’s exactly how haptic feedback headphones feel today.

Expectation versus reality

The Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense headset sells you on expectations. Immediately after hearing about haptic feedback headphones, I conjured up images of bombastic bass blasts in blockbuster trailers, sounds of scraping shrapnel in AAA war video games, and the thump of a thick bass guitar grooving heavy on a beat.

For brief moments while using the headset, I experienced all of those scenarios — just not consistently. There’s an inherent flaw with the design of HyperSense. It works based on a threshold. Think about haptic feedback in a controller; developers choose when to trigger the haptics, what sounds or images it’s reacting to and what vibration it’s trying to mimic.

Massive bass blasts send a ripple throughout the headset, but so does a deep voice.

That’s not what HyperSense does. It’s taking the audio that it’s fed and spitting out feedback based on, from my testing, a narrow range of low-end frequencies. Massive bass blasts send a ripple throughout the headset, but so does a deep voice. That leads to a strange disconnect where HyperSense draws you into an experience before pulling you immediately out of it.

After watching the Dune trailer and a compilation of the trailers from the latest PlayStation showcase, I was ready to shout from the rooftops that HyperSense is the way to experience media with headphones. After playing through some of Guardians of the Galaxy and hearing Star Lord’s voice reverberate through what sounded like broken bass port, though, I have a different impression.

There’s a strange balancing act with HyperSense between what is and what could be. Although it would take an army, individual game and movie support could elevate HyperSense from an amusing shoo-in to an essential feature on any pair of over-ear headphones.

Preparing for a headache

 A man's cheeks vibrating with a headset on.

One of the problems with HyperSense is the intensity. Razer thankfully included a button on the Kraken V3 HyperSense that allows you to adjust the intensity on the fly, but it has four settings: low, medium, high, or off. Even in the Synapse software, you can’t adjust the intensity manually.

The feedback would bob back and forth between being too much and not enough. At its best, the vibration was a nice reassurance that immersed me in a game or movie. At its worst, HyperSense would rock the headset halfway off my ears, produce no feedback at all, or give me a massive headache.

For haptic feedback headphones to work, you need to be able to adjust the vibration and the sound independently on the fly. It’s a balancing act, and even after dozens of hours of using the Kraken V3 HyperSense, I would reach for a feedback intensity dial that wasn’t there.

This technology needs a way to filter out the junk frequencies.

Independent, granular controls are essential because everything reacts a little differently to the haptic feedback. Most well-produced music with a consistent low-end worked well with the Kraken V3 HyperSense, but video games and movies were all over the place. HyperSense makes a bad audio mix apparent immediately.

Beyond fine control over the intensity of the vibration, this technology needs a way to filter out the junk. As mentioned, HyperSense operates within a range of frequencies, topping out somewhere around 200Hz.

There are a lot of junk frequencies between 100Hz and 200Hz, and I suspect the disjointed feeling of HyperSense is largely due to this range. Here, bass starts to sound like cardboard. It’s not low enough to feel like a sub frequency, but not high enough to venture into the midrange. Filtering would not only lead to more consistent haptics but also allow users to tune the headset for fewer headaches.

Not quite there yet

Razer Kraken V3 sitting on a desk.

HyperSense is just a concept. Although Razer now sells two headsets with the feature, it’s not ready for prime time yet. If anything, it’s a proof of concept. It still needs independent, granular controls, as well as dedicated integrations in games and movies.

Still, it’s more than a gimmick. Razer hasn’t been shy about gimmick-y concepts — just look at the ridiculous Zephyr face mask — but HyperSense is different. After using it, I’m convinced that haptic feedback headphones are a concept that not nearly enough companies are exploring. Corsair has the HS60S with haptic feedback, but that’s it.

Hopefully, more companies will recognize it as a legit feature and not just a gimmick. Maybe then the technology will get some of the improvements it desperately needs.

Editors’ Choice

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How To Connect Bluetooth Headphones To PC

Wireless headphones are becoming increasingly common today. While it is very simple to connect wired headphones to PCs via Bluetooth, learning how to connect Bluetooth headphones to your PC can seem a little more tricky; But it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s how to do it in just a few quick steps.

Step 1: Turn Bluetooth on

Click on the Action Center on the bottom-right of your display, then right-click on the icon that says Bluetooth and select Go to Settings. Alternatively, you can search for Bluetooth in the Start menu. Click on the option that says Bluetooth and other devices.

Either way, once you’re at the Bluetooth & other devices settings page, use the on-screen toggle to turn Bluetooth On.

Step 2: Turn your headphone’s pairing mode on

Put your headphones in pairing mode. Different companies do this in different ways. Usually, there is a pairing button that you need to press. There might be other ways to do it, though. If you are unsure, refer to the instruction manual for your device, or check the manufacturer’s website.

Step 3: Select the Bluetooth option on your PC

Add Bluetooth device list in the Settings.

Click on Add Bluetooth or other device and then on the option that says Bluetooth.

Step 4: Select your device

List of available devices in the Bluetooth menu.

You should see the device in the list of available Bluetooth devices that shows up. Click on your device and then select Connect.

What makes the connection process so much better is that you only need to do it once. Once you have successfully paired your device once, the headphones will automatically connect to your PC the next time provided they are close to your PC, are in pairing mode, and your PC’s Bluetooth is on.

If it doesn’t work, check compatibility

If you can’t find the Bluetooth option, then it might be that your PC is not compatible. Here’s how to check.

On Windows 10, click on the Action Center on the bottom right of your screen. It’s located right where you see the time and the date. You will see a Bluetooth option. If you see it, hurray, you are just a few steps away from being able to enjoy wireless audio!

Bluetooth feature on the action center.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Amazon Prime Day 2021: The headphones & earbuds deals I’d buy

It’s Amazon Prime Day 2021 and there’s no shortage of wireless headphones and earbuds deals right now. You’re basically spoiled for choice, regardless of your budget. However my three picks are based on the models I use myself every day – I’m recommending them because they’re legitimately the best I’ve tried, and I think you’ll like them too.

For travelers, Sony WH-1000XM4

I’m honestly surprised to see such an aggressive Prime Day deal on Sony’s WH-1000XM4 so soon: the active noise-cancelling headphones remain at the top of their game. The design may not have changed much since the previous generation, but what’s going on inside has had a significant upgrade. The result is impressive sound quality for music, and incredible ANC.

If you spend any time on a plane, you owe your ears a set of decent noise-cancelling headphones. Usually, you’d pay $349.99 for the WH-1000XM4, but for Prime Day 2021 they’re down to $248. That’s a saving of 29-percent on what are still my go-to headphones when I want peak ANC performance.

For Apple ecosystem fans, AirPods Pro

There’s a good reason that AirPods Pro have become among the best-selling earbuds in the world. Apple’s combination of long battery life and convenience, together with great active noise cancellation, makes them a superb pick for anyone looking for a good all-rounder.

For Amazon Prime Day 2021, AirPods Pro are down from their usual $249, to just $189.99. That’s a 24-percent saving, on an accessory that rarely sees discounts.

The reason I like AirPods Pro so much is the tight integration between different Apple devices. If you’re an iOS, iPadOS, and macOS user, the ability to seamlessly – even automatically – switch between different audio sources, without having to dig into the Bluetooth settings each time, is a real productivity-boon.

For earbuds with better ANC, Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony’s WF-1000XM3 may have just been succeeded with the company’s new WF-1000XM4, but that doesn’t mean the original earbuds are lacking. They’re a little chunkier than AirPods Pro in your ears, but the upside is incredible active noise cancellation and significantly longer battery life.

For Amazon Prime Day 2021, meanwhile, they’re down from their usual $249.99 to just $148. That’s a 41-percent saving, which is huge. However, Amazon is also throwing in a $20 gift card too, basically taking the WF-1000XM3 to $128.

For everyday use, Apple AirPods

Most affordable of my recommendations, the Apple AirPods don’t have active noise cancellation or some of the fancier features that the others offer. However, along with their lower price, they’re also incredibly convenient. A compact charging case means it’s easy to carry them around in your pocket, and they’re easy to slip into your ears when a call comes in.

Usually, Apple AirPods with wireless charging case are $199. For Amazon Prime Day 2021, though, they’re down to $149.99. That’s a 25-percent saving.

You can go even cheaper, if you prefer, with the regular wired charging case. Then it’s just $119. However I do like the convenience of being able to pick between Qi wireless and a Lightning cable, so I’d say the extra spend is worth it here.

You can find my reviews of all four of these products in the list below:

Disclosure: SlashGear uses affiliate links, If you click on a link in this article and buy something we’ll get a small cut of the sale.

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Tech News

These wireless Treblab Z2 headphones deliver premium sound for under $75

TLDR: From premium sound, top flight noise cancelling, and solid ergonomics, the Treblab Z2s are a quality headphone option for those not looking to break the bank on their audio needs.

You’ll never hear us say anything derogatory about elite headphone brands like Sennheiser or Bose or HiFiMan. For the most part, their headphones belong on the Mount Olympus of quality audio equipment. But seriously…are you really going to spend $3,000 or more on a pair of headphones?

Unless you’re Elon Musk or Bill Gates, probably not. But the truth is, for every high end brand crafting headphones selling for four figures, there are plenty of amazing manufacturers also producing brilliant headphones at a fraction of that price. Like Treblab.

Right now, you can not only pick up a fantastic set of cans like the Treblab Z2 Bluetooth 5.0 Noise-Cancelling Headphones, you can get them with an extra TNW Deals Memorial Day Sale discount, dropping their price all the way down to just $71.97.

There’s a reason the wireless Z2s were named an Amazon’s Choice pick, with their sterling sound quality high on that list. These headphones are powered by top-grade, high-performance neodymium-backed 40mm drivers, delivering the high-end listening experience true audiophiles chase. Meanwhile, the aptX codec transfers audio from the source with the lowest decompression and highest possible delivery for CD-quality reproduction. 

In service to that sound, the Z2s are also rocking some premium features, like the active T-Quiet noise cancelling technology that processes external noise and returns “anti-noise” for the highest quality noise reduction.

You’ve got to wear headphones for a while to drink in their power, so the Z2s make that easy with ultra-soft, swivel ear-cups that embrace your ears without applying pressure. While that’s great for quiet listening sessions at home, it’s even more important when these headphones are out in the world. So unlike lesser models, the Z2’s premium materials and IPX4 water-resistance rating allow them to withstand both intense sweating during workouts or running through raindrops out in the elements.  

With multipoint connection abilities, the Z2s can also connect via Bluetooth to two devices at once and they’ve got a 35-hour battery life that will keep the music playing for hours and hours.

Retailing for $259, the Treblab Z2 Bluetooth 5.0 Noise-Cancelling Headphones are also enjoying an extended TNW Deals Memorial Day Sale price, knocking them down to just $71.97 if you make your purchase by June 2.

Prices are subject to change.

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Tech News

These bone conduction headphones balance top quality audio and safety brilliantly

TLDR: The Zulu Exero Bone Conduction Headphones deliver excellent sound quality via bone conduction technology, so you never stop hearing the world around you.

Ever since their explosion into the mainstream in the 1980s, headphones have become an increasingly permanent part of mobile communication, not to mention in consuming your favorite music, podcasts, live streams, and more.

But while their size has continued to shrink over the years, there remained a constant headphone issue that few have been able to address. How do users stay connected to the world around them with a bud wedged into their ear blocking out all sound?

Noise cancellation has been one approach, but that still involved covered ear canals. That’s where bone conducting technology comes in, an almost sci-fi, yet strikingly simple answer to headphone safety for items like these Zulu Exero Bone Conducting Headphones ($34.99, 30 percent off, from NTW Deals).

Rather than blasting sound waves into your eardrum like normal headphones, bone conduction works by using little pads pressed right in front of each ear, surging vibrations directly into the skull and bypassing the eardrum right to the tiny amplifying inner ear bones. 

That produces a sensation of hearing music or other audio just like you would with normal headphones, but without the blockage of earbuds, allowing users to stay safe in the world around them. And they only weigh about an ounce, making it easy to forget you’re wearing them, even if you aren’t listening to anything. They’re also a lot more friendly for those who wear glasses than tradition headphones as well.

The Exero pairs easily with Bluetooth-enabled devices for clear wireless audio streaming at a range of up to more than 30 feet. IPX5-rated for water resistance, these headphones are also great for listening while on the go, whether that’s commuting, running errands, or even working out. 

The Exero comes with a built-in USB rechargeable lithium ion battery to supply up to six hours of playback time on a single charge. It’s also equipped with an on-board mic for making or receiving phone calls or engaging with a voice assistant.

Right now, you can check out the power of bone conduction for yourself with these Zulu Exero Bone Conduction Headphones, a $49 value now on sale at 30 percent off, dropping the final price down to only $34.99.

Prices subject to change.

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Tech News

Bowers & Wilkins P15 and P17 true wireless headphones are made for audiophiles

Bowers & Wilkins has introduced its new P15 and P17 true wireless earbuds featuring stunning designs and the promise of high-end audio performance. The models are targeted at audiophiles and include some notable features absent from more casual models, including Adaptive Noise Cancellation and wireless charging support.

The Bowers & Wilkins P17 is the leading model in this new lineup, boasting key features like Dual Hybrid Drive units and 24-bit audio processing for high-resolution audio experiences. The company claims these earbuds ‘work just like high-performance speakers,’ adding in things like Adaptive Noise Cancellation for maintaining the experience in different real-world settings.

The model features half a dozen microphones split between each earbud, enabling users to take calls using a touch interface in addition to the noise-cancellation function. The model is joined by a companion Smartcase that supports a wireless audio retransmission feature — meaning the case itself can be connected to a sound source and then transmit the audio to the earbuds.

Joining the P17 is the P15 model, which Bowers & Wilkins claims features “class-leading” quality when compared with other true wireless headphones. This model features Active Noise Cancellation and more than 24 hours of battery life, making them suitable for people who often keep their earbuds in all day. The companion case features rapid charging that offers another two hours of listening after 15 minutes of charging.

Both models can be used with the company’s companion app for user configuration, plus both support Google Assistant and Siri voice assistants. Likewise, both the P15 and P17 earbuds support pairing with multiple audio sources. Consumers can purchase the P15 and P17 true wireless earbuds now for $249 USD and $399 USD, respectively.

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Tech News

Urbanista Los Angeles headphones charge using any light source

There are plenty of noise-canceling headphones on the market today, and what they all have in common is an internal battery that has to be charged periodically. A company called Urbanista has revealed a new set of noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones called the Los Angeles, hailed as the first self-charging, wireless, active noise-canceling headphones. The company claims that headphones can charge themselves from sunlight or indoor lighting.

That should mean they never need to be plugged in unless you spend significant amounts of time listening in a dark room. The headphones will launch early this summer and will reportedly cost £169. It’s not entirely clear if they will come to the US at this time. Certainly, the big claim to fame is that the headphones convert all forms of light from the outdoors and indoors into energy to deliver what the manufacturer says is infinite playtime.

That means not only do you not have to charge the headphones to use the wireless Bluetooth connectivity, the active noise canceling features also don’t require time on the charger to work. Urbanista claims spending an hour outside on a sunny day will generate three hours of playtime. When outdoors in cloudy areas, an hour of use in the light means two hours of playtime. Any indoor lighting will also help keep the battery topped up.

While there is a chance the headphones could run out of power depending on how the user listens, Los Angeles headphones do have a claimed 50-hour run time per full charge using an integrated 750 mAh battery. Charging can be accomplished using an integrated USB-C port.

Specifications include 40mm neodymium drivers with 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response. The headphones also have an integrated microphone for making calls on your smartphone and an ambient sound mode to let outside sound in. Urbanista also integrates on-ear detection, Bluetooth 5.0, and support for Siri or Google Assistant.

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Tech News

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX ANC headphones undercut AirPods Max

Bang & Olufsen is back today with a new pair of Bluetooth headphones that it’s calling the Beoplay HX. Like many products we’ve seen introduced in recent months, the Beoplay HX are at least partially aimed at folks who are working at home during the pandemic, and perhaps may be permanently working from home after it’s over. If you’re looking for a competitor to Apple’s AirPods Max, these could very well be it.

That’s because the Beoplay HX are priced similarly to the AirPods Max, with Bang & Olufsen sticking a $499 price tag on these cans (the AirPods Max have a slightly higher MSRP at $550). Bang & Olufsen has outfitted the Beoplay HX with adaptive active noise cancellation and say that the headphones’ “premium materials and a close-fitting design” give them a degree of sound isolation that prevents others from hearing what you’re listening to.

While that adaptive ANC should compensate for background noises, these headphones also offer a transparency mode that should still allow for listening to the outside world. After all, active noise cancellation is useful until it becomes dangerous to shut out the noises around you entirely, and you wouldn’t necessarily want complete isolation in instances where you’re walking along a busy street or working at home while also trying to keep an eye on children.

Bang & Olufsen also says that the Beoplay HX have a frequency range of 20 – 22,000 Hz and are built with 40mm electro-dynamic drivers that use neodymium magnets. They connect via Bluetooth 5.1 but also come with a 3.5mm jack for corded connectivity, and they have Google Fast Pair, Made for iPhone, and Microsoft Swift Pair certifications. Battery life seems pretty impressive, with Bang & Olufsen quoting up to 35 hours with Bluetooth and active noise cancellation on and up to 40 hours when active noise cancellation is turned off.

So, that $500 price point could very well price these out of the affordable range for a lot of people, but it sounds like the Beoplay HX bring some solid features to the table nonetheless. They’re available today from Bang & Olufsen’s website in three colors: Black Anthracite, Sand, and Timber.

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