I provide honest ratings and reviews on tech, toys, and consumer home goods that I've purchased and used. Reviews are based on hands-on testing and personal observations. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam Review

DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam Review

Buy it at Amazon: DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact, clear HD video and audio, wide angle view; easy to set up and download footage w/ plenty of basic dashcam features.EXCLUSIVE 40% off code below!

DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam [Affiliate Link]
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You'll receive the camera, a suction cup mount, miniUSB cigarette lighter plug with 11' cable and right-angle jack, and a quick start guide. The camera is made from a lightweight plastic and has a 1080p 170° wide angle lens as well as an external speaker on its front. It measures 3.5"W x 2"L x 1.25"D. The LCD screen has a large 3" diagonal though is not a touch screen. On top of the camera you have a miniHDMI output port, hanging bracket, and miniUSB port for power and data transfers. Along the left hand side are the microSD card slot, menu, and menu navigation keys. Note that there is no built-in memory and a microSD card up to 64GB is required for use but not included. On the right-hand-side are the menu 'ok' button, mode key, lock button, and power button. On the bottom you'll find the pinhole microphone and reset pin.

The length of the charging cable gives you ample length to run the wire around your windshield to your cigarette lighter. However, because it's a dedicated cigarette later plug if you only have one cigarette port in your car you won't be able to charging your other devices while this is operating. The camera does have a small internal battery that can run the camera for a short period of time when unplugged (10-15 mins), however, for continuous use, the unit must be plugged into a power source. Don't forget to remove the plastic film on the lens that's protecting it from scratches otherwise you'll have blurry images.

When selecting an SD card, use a Class 10 microSD card up to 64 GB. After you turn the camera on, it'll start recording immediately, indicated by the flashing blue light. Short pressing the power button, turns off the LCD screen, though it will continue to record. To start or stop recording at any time, press the 'OK' key. Then you can access the menus by pressing the center button on the left hand side. In the menu you can change settings like, resolution, recording loop length, etc. There are also three modes on the camera: video, photo, and playback. Pressing the mode key, when not recording, switches modes. In playback mode, pressing the menu key allows you to lock or unlock files or delete them. Each 1 minute video clips takes up 80 MB and a 32 GB memory card can store up to 6.5 hrs of footage. When the card runs out of space, the camera is automatically writes over the oldest unlocked video file. During recording, if you want to quickly lock a file so that it will not be recorded over, press the lock key and a lock icon will appear on the screen. A file may also be 'auto-locked' if you have the motion detection, parking monitor, or g-sensor settings activated.

The image captured by the camera is pretty wide-angle, so it has a slight fish eye effect to it, distorting the image in towards the edges, but you'll see plenty of the road in the image when driving. I found the video to be clear and bright, though I felt the tint was more blue that what you see by eye. The camera resolution is good enough them within a few car lengths you can definitely read the license plate of the car in front of you. The video is also pretty clear at night, with enhanced light filters, though lacks true night vision.

Another useful feature is that with this plugged into the cigarette lighter port, when your car is started the camera boots up right away and starts recording video; then when the car it turned off, the video recording stops as well and the camera powers down automatically. However, if you add a continuous power supply kit to power the camera when your car is off, this feature would be disabled. There are two ways to get the videos and images off of this unit. You can remove the memory card and use a memory card reader or you can plug the unit into your computer using the USB cable and retrieve the files that way.

Overall this camera gets you a bunch of really nice features at this price point and has decent video and audio clarity. The mount attaches easily to the windshield and stays put even in hot and cold weather. There's a generous viewing screen for you to review videos and photos that have been recorded onto this device and the videos are easily downloaded to your computer for archiving and review.

Buy it at Amazon: DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, January 25, 2019

Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector Review

Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Space saving tower outlet expander with surge protection and a lot of sockets and room for power bricks.

You'll receive the tower strip plug unit and a brief instruction manual. The tower housing is made of a lightweight plastic and measures 13" tall, including the handle on top, with a 6" diameter base. There are 4 separate tiers on this unit, the top 3 having 4 grounded three prong US outlets each and the bottom tier with 3 outlets and 2 USB output ports. Each tier is controlled individually, with this red power switch and when a tier is on and receiving power, the red LED above the corresponding power switch will be on.

Coming off the back on the unit is a 5.5 ft 18 gauge power cord which winds and stores in the base. That said, the tower is rotatable, but only while extending or retracting the power cord. The four rubber feet on the bottom help keep the tower stable and prevent sliding. The total power rating for this unit is 2500W and 10A, and it has a built-in overload breaker; so even though you have a 15 outlets, you won't be able to plug in a lot of high powered devices for use at the same time, for example, multiple space heaters, as the power draw would trip the circuit. The 2 USB ports output 5V and up to 2.1A per port for charging and powering mobile and USB devices.

The spacing and orientation of the plugs allows you plenty of space at each block to use with standard US 2 or 3 prong plugs and a variety of A/C adapter bricks without crowding issues. Each outlet is equipped with a safety door that minimizes accidental contact with the electrical components inside, for safety. The plugs feel snug, without having too much or too little resistance and the power delivered is as expected for any strip plug or outlet expander.

Overall, this tower surge protector is a great space saver, providing a lot of outlets in a tight space and convenient outlet spacing for plugging in a number of differently shaped and sized plugs.

Buy it at Amazon: Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer Review

Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install, clean, and maintain. Catches nearly all hair while allowing water to flow freely.

The Tubshroom is a silicone drain protector that catches hair while allowing water to flow through it. It is made of a soft flexible silicone and fits most standard tub drains with a width of about 1.5" to 1.75" and sits about 2" tall. The top of the plug looks like a shirt button while the center column and bottom have holes throughout to allow water to pass through. The previous tub drain strainer we were using is made of metal and gets tangled up with hair often; it also never really caught all of the hair before going down the drain because about every 6 months we would have to unclog the pipes with a drain snake, each time pulling out a huge hair ball. When clearing the old strainer itself, we have to pull and rip the hair mass off through the grill about once a week.

For the Tubshroom to work properly, it needs to sit in the drain pipe but above the floor of your tub about an inch. What I noticed with our drain pipe is that it gets wider about an inch down, which unfortunately allows the Tubshroom to fall into the drain if pushed in too deep. So for our tub, iwe have to make sure that the Tubshroom doesn't get pushed down too far in the drain. For the most part, this isn't a big deal and if it falls in we just have to lift it back out an inch. When installed properly, the Tubshroom allows the water in the ub/shower to flow freely down the drain without reducing the flow enough to let water backup and stand in the tub. Now, each week, there's plenty of hair on the Tubshroom to clear out, which is a good thing because that means less down the drain! To clean the strainer, its flexibility makes it easy to unroll the hair mass. Afterward, the plug is pretty clean, though after several months we did notice some permanent black spotting along the bottom, which could possibly be embedded mold/mildew. We'll have to try bleaching/soaking it in bleach/vinegar/peroxide and see if it comes out. Otherwise, we've been pretty happy with its performance over the past 6 months. Because it catches more hair, we do end up cleaning it more often, but that's better than having to fish/snake the pipes a couple times a year!

Buy it at Amazon: Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer [Affiliate Link]
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Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station Review

Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A basic alarm clock with surge protected power sockets and USB ports for your nightstand.

You'll receive the alarm clock and a brief instruction manual. The clock measures 4.5" square with a height of about 1.5". The finish on the outside of the clock is a glossy black with a stainless steel metal inlay on the top. On top of the clock are two grounded outlets, three 5V 2.4A output USB ports, and the clock controls: time/alarm setting key, daylight savings time toggle, dimmer/snooze button, and up and down keys for changing the settings. On the back of the clock is the power switch and heavy duty 18 gauge 6.5' power cord. This charging station has built-in surge protection to protect your devices, however, there is no stated Joules rating for the product. On the bottom of the clock is a battery bay where you can install 2 AAA batteries for backup power to keep the clock's time in case the power goes out. Note, however, that the backup batteries won't keep the outlets or USB ports running, and the batteries are not included. There is also the alarm speaker on the bottom and 4 rubber feet to keep the clock from sliding.

When plugged in and switched on, the 2.5" diagonal LCD on the front of the clock will light up. The large numbers are the current time and the small numbers show the alarm setting time. To set the clock, press and hold the 'clock' key for 2 seconds. Then use the up and down keys to change the values; you can long press the up and down keys to make the adjustments faster. You'll first enter the year, month, day. These are used only to calculate the daylight savings time adjustment and do not display anywhere else on the LCD. When 'DST' mode is activated while daylight savings is in effect, the time will move forward 1 hr and DST will appear on the LCD. If activated outside of these dates, the time will remain unchanged. This clock is displayed in 12-hr format only and does not have the option to change to 24-hr or military time.

You can enter 1 alarm on this clock and it has only a single choice for alarm tone, a standard beeping. By default the alarm is set to 6 AM. Short press the alarm key to switch the alarm off. Then short press it again to turn the alarm on and enter the setting mode and adjust with the up and down keys; press alarm to accept the value. When the alarm time is showing and the bell icon is present on the LCD, the alarm is on. Each time you turn off and on the alarm, it will enter setup mode, but if you don't change the value of the alarm within 10 seconds, it will remember the previous alarm that was set, so you don't have to re-enter your alarm each time.

The alarm tone is pretty loud, though there's no way to adjust its volume. To temporarily silence the alarm when it goes off, press the snooze button. In snooze mode, the bell icon will be flashing, and the alarm will ring again after 9 minutes. Snooze can be activated twice in a row, after which the alarm will exit until it is time to go off the next day. To shut off the alarm while it is ringing the first time, or to exit snooze mode, short press the alarm button. This will not turn the alarm setting to off, but it will silence the alarm until it goes off the next day. If neither the snooze nor alarm button are pressed, the alarm will continue to ring for 1 hour, after which it will shut off until the following day.

By default, the LCD brightness is set at 100%, but you can dim the LCD by pressing the dimmer key to these increments: 66% brightness, 33% brightness, and off. Subsequent presses of the dimmer key will ramp the brightness back up in the same increments. Overall, this alarm clock charger is easy to use and functional as a basic alarm clock and power station. The grounded outlets on the top mean I don't have to go searching behind the nightstand for an outlet and the USB ports allow me to conveniently charge my devices all in one place without taking up any wall outlets. The alarm is loud but not excessively so and the LCD is bright enough to see from across the room, and can be dimmed or shut off if need be.

Buy it at Amazon: Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags Review

Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags Review

Buy it at Amazon: Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Large capacity, boil, freezer, and dishwasher safe; environmentally conscious, easy to clean.

You'll receive 4 reusable silicone bags: red, green, blue, and white. Each bag measures 7" tall and 7.75" inches wide. On the front of the bag are measurement lines in cups, milliliters, and fluid ounces printed on the clear window with a max capacity of 1 liter or about 1 quart. In the top right hand corner is a hanging ring and on the top left hand corner is an arrow pointing to the right which shows you the direction to slide the plastic closure tab on the top to close the bag. It's important to note too, that the tab itself, has a plastic arrow printed on it showing which direction to slide the bar to close the bag. The bar only slides on one way because it is only open on one side. To open the bag, slide the bar to the left, away from the hanging tab. When opening or closing the bag, don't hold onto the hanging ring, as this may cause it to tear off; I just grasp the bag firmly under the plastic tab, where the logo is.

When you first receive the bags, they may be somewhat stuck together on the inside. The sliding tab can also feel like it's dragging or really hard to slide on and off and the warm water will help to loosen it. When opening or closing, make sure the bag is not overly stretch or twisted which make may getting the plastic tab on and off more difficult. Using too much force could result in the bag ripping or tearing. In order to open the bags without tearing them, soak them in a little bit of warm soapy water and open them slowly, while submerged. Then wash and rinse with the soap water before first use. I had noticed a slight rubbery smell when I first opened these bags, but that dissipates after a few washes. What's nice about these bags is that they are quite sturdy and can even stand up on their own when filled with liquid. They are also water tight once you close the plastic tab fully and don't leak or spill. When drying the bags after washing, I like to turn them inside out and stand them up to dry, then, once the interior is dry, I flip them back right side out to dry the outside.

These bags are great for packing leftovers, raw ingredients like meat fruit or veggies, liquids, sauces, and even soups. They are non-porous and food safe, however, strongly colored foods like tomato sauce or turmeric may stain them. They are also boil, freezer, dishwasher, heat safe up to 445°F, however, the plastic tabs are not heatproof and must be removed when heating or boiling. I found that these bags performed well in all these scenarios.

Buy it at Amazon: Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags [Affiliate Link]
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Beisiwo USB Desktop Microphone Review

Beisowo USB Desktop Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Beisowo USB Desktop Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Affordable, clear and focused sound w/ slight background hum; cardioid/shotgun pickup pattern

You'll receive the microphone and an instruction manual. The mic is made from lightweight plastic and sits on a 3" diameter base. It features a 4" flexible gooseneck that bends and swivels 360° and 3" shotgun style mic which comes with a foam windscreen. The permanently attached USB cable is 44" long and there is a single on/off button towards the front with a green LED that lights up when the mic is on and is off when the mic is muted. On the bottom are four textured rubber feet that help the mic grip your desk, though I found that it doesn't really prevent the mic from sliding.

The manual states that this is an omni-directional microphone which would mean that it should sound the same no matter what direction you're speaking from. However, I found that the pickup pattern is more like a cardioid or shotgun pattern, meaning that it captures sound from the front of the mic most clearly, and the volume from other directions, especially from the back, drop off. When compared with other microphones that I've used, the USB desktop mic was a great improvement to the onboard mic of my tablet. It did, however, have some background electronic humming, no matter what device I was recording on (e.g. computer, laptop, etc.) The sound was not as clean and clear as my Yeti microphone, but at only a fraction of the price, the quality was decent. The most useful feature of the microphone is its ability to pick up sound from a distance in a very focused area. This makes it great for video where you don't want a mic blocking your face, or if you have to place the mic far away and simply point it in the direction you need it to pick up sound.

If you're on a budget and you don't need a professional grade mic, this mic would work well for you if you are making solo videos, but if you have more than one speaker and need to capture sound from a couple locations around the mi (like in a conference room) or need to capture other ambient sounds, this mic might not be the best choice. The manual has some pretty good descriptions of proper use and applications that are useful and easy to understand. It works great for things like Skype, gaming, and home recording.

Buy it at Amazon: Beisowo USB Desktop Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils Review

Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Versatile, lightweight, easy to clean; durable and scratch-free on non-stick cookware.

You'll receive 6 different bamboo wood utensils: a spatula, a spoon with tines, a slotted spoon, a sauce spoon, a slotted spatula, and a risotto spoon. You also get an open-top bamboo wood storage container. The utensils are all the same length at around 12" with a paddle size of 2.25"W x 3.5"L. At the end of the handle on each is a hole for hanging them. The utensils are really lightweight yet feel sturdy and durable. The bamboo wood doesn't have a lot of flexibility but feels strong nonetheless. The wood container has a 5" height and 3.75" square base. The exterior is glossy and polished, unlike the untreated and finish-free cooking utensils. The utensils sit upright, loosely arranged in the box for easy storage and access.

One thing I noticed is that out of the box they feel a bit dry and powdery, probably just sawdust. On the inside cut edges, you may notice a few stray wood fibers, though for the most part the cuts are smooth and clean. I did notice a tiny bit of tear out here on the back of the slotted spoon, but nothing that would interfere with the functionality of the utensil. Along the edges, while smooth and splinter free, some tended to be sanded unevenly, for example there's a bit more edge grain on the left of the flat spatula than on the right side.

The other thing is that the spoons are quite dry when you receive them and haven't been treated with any oils or other waterproofing. So the first thing I did was get out my mineral oil, with is pharmaceutical grade and food safe. Before washing the spoons, I made sure to give them a good coat of the oil by gently rubbing it into the surface with a paper towel and allowing the wood to absorb it overnight. This process not only protects the spoons from dry rot, it also helps the repel water making them less likely to buildup or harbor harmful bacteria. It gives the utensils a darker richer color too, bringing out the natural beauty of the wood. Afterward, I gave them a quick rinse to remove any residue of the oil and saw dust. As these spoons are natural wood, hand washing is recommended over washing them in the dishwasher, which can dry out and reduce the life of the utensils.

What's great about these bamboo utensils is that you can use them in your non-stick cookware and not have to worry about damaging the coating. Even with plenty of pressure applied, it's just too soft to make scratches on the cookware. The risotto spoon is great for fluffing rice and grains, as well as stirring sauces and jams, like this homemade cranberry sauce. However, with strongly colored foods, just be aware that they may stain your spoons, as the wood is quite porous. Here you can see a little pink leftover from the red sauce. The sauce spoon was perfect for stirring, scooping, and spreading tomato sauce on my homemade pizza. Again, the sauce mildly stained the wood of this spoon a different color. The two spatulas work well to lift and flip different foods while cooking.
Overall, these wooden utensils worked great in my kitchen. They're versatile, durable, and can be used on non-stick cookware. They're also sustainable and easy to clean and care for.

Buy it at Amazon: Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights Review

Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install, bright, low-profile; convenient no drilling or wiring needed.

In the six light kit, you'll receive 6 LED lights with 6.5' wires, a 6-to-1 power hub, an RF controller unit, AC adapter with 6.5' cord, a remote control, magnetic storage plate, double-sided adhesive for the plate, 12 total double sided round stickers, instruction manuals, and a set of mounting screws, if you don't want to use the sticky pads. The LED lights are small and have a slim profile, with only 1/4" of thickness and a diameter of 2.25". The casing is made from a shiny machined aluminum and the cable off the back of each measures 6.5' long. Assembly is pretty straight forward and you don't have to use all 6 lights if you don't need them.

You'll need to decide whether you want to use the adhesive pads to mount this lights or the included screws which require you to drill into your cabinets (or wherever you'll be mounting them). If using the screws, you'll need to unscrew the cap on each light housing, and remove the acrylic diffuser plate. Underneath you'll see the 9 individual LEDs of each light and 3 holes. You'll use the two outer holes with the screws when mounting.

Remember to remove the plastic battery saver tab from the remote control before use. The remote buttons are power, light mode, brightness up and down, brightness quick select for 100, 50, and 25%, flashing pattern selection keys, and flashing speed keys. Since these are plug-in lights, you don't need to add any wiring in the wall. Simply choose an outlet near where you'll be installing the lights. With the 6.5' cords, the lights have a 13' reach from one end to the other, which should be plenty of run length for most home installations. Note that this kit does not include any cable management clips, so during the installation, I temporarily taped up the wires until I was able to get adhesive wire clips, which I ordered separately. This also allowed me to move and adjust the light placement after they were all up.

Using only 4 of the warm white lights is plenty bright for my counter space under four 25" wide cabinets. The dimmer function has 20 brightness levels though the remote lets you quickly select 100, 50, or 25% brightness. At any brightness you can activate the flashing modes by pressing either of the mode keys to cycle forward or back through the various patterns. For each pattern you can adjust the speed of the flashing from fast to slow in about 10 increments. There are also a number of flashing and fading patterns from linear to hyperbolic. While I didn't find the flashing modes to be that useful, they're there if you want to use them. The remote is pretty responsive and doesn't need to point directly at the receiver nor does it need a direct line of sight. It'll even work through walls.

Overall, this plug-in LED under-cabinet puck lighting kit was very easy to install and works great. It has bright but dimmable lights that are low profile, plenty of extra cable, which I hid in the spaces between the cabinets. The easy-to-use wireless remote control makes the lights super convenient to use and I was able to store the remote on the inside panel of one of the cabinet doors using the magnetic mount and adhesive sticker. Best of all, I didn't have to drill any holes in my cabinets or get an electrician to do the wiring since it's a plug-in unit.

A side note, I used about 30 low-profile adhesive cable clips for my 4 light installation to manage and organize the wires (including the power cable). For more information about ow I arranged the wires, check out my review on the clips here. I also used some of the leftover sticker sheets to mount the IR controller box and the in-line power switch on the power cord to the bottom of my cabinets as well.

Buy it at Amazon: Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights [Affiliate Link]
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Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips Review

Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips Review

Buy it at Amazon: Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Simple installation, but not movable/re-usable after placed; low-profile, suitable for thin and small wires.cables.

In each pack you'll receive 100 plastic wire clips. On the front of the clip is a hook and on the back is a double sided foam sticker. The clip measures 3/8"L x 1/2"W x 1/4"H. The space in the middle is 3/8"W x 1/16"H. The backing paper on the adhesive peels off easily for quick application. I used these clips to manage the wires for my plug-in under cabinet LED lights in the kitchen which I had just installed.

Unfortunately the light kit didn't come with any cable clips, so I purchased these especially for this project. Installation was straight forward. Just peel the sticker and press the clip in place on a flat, smooth surface. The sticker may not stick properly to textured or rough surfaces. Press the clip for 1-3 seconds to promote good adhesion. For my lights, since the clip could only handle one to two widths of the wire per clip, I hid the excess wire in the gap between the cabinets, rather than clipping up the entire 6.5' of cable for each light. Because the wires were thin and lightweight, I was able to space the clips about every 8 inches, without any slack in the wire and then did not hang down as to be visible from in front of the cabinet. Once placed, it's be hard to remove the sticker intact, so if you mess up, it's better to remove the clip and any sticker residue and use a new one.

All in all I used about 30 clips to hold up all the wires from my 4 light setup, including the power cable. From the front you can't really see the wires under the cabinets, unless you're looking under them, so the clips did a nice job organizing and hiding the wires for my lights.

Buy it at Amazon: Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips [Affiliate Link]
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