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Old 16-09-2012, 11:01   #16
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

We have traveled with an Iridium Sat Phone for the last two years while coastal cruising along the Pacific side Mexico and Central America....

When we traveled the Sea of Cortez, we lost pretty much all cell phone service north of Santa Rosalia. My wife needed to keep in touch with family so she used the Sat Phone on a regular basis.

While at anchor, the phone repeatedly dropped calls or would not connect. When underway we experienced the same problems, especially in rough seas. Other cruisers using Iridium reported the same problems.

In fairness, my assumption is that as the boat moves, so does the portable antenna on the phone, causing you to lose signal. So maybe a fixed, gimbled Sat Antenna would improve service, but that requires significant money and a place to put it.

Based on our experience, a portable Sat Phone is nice to have and a wonderful way to stay in touch, but I would never consider it for a primary safety device, especially crossing oceans.

You say you don't need to reach across the world, but in fact there may come a day that you have too... Not just becasue your boat is sinking, but mabe a medical emergency...

Like somebody said earlier, these are tools and each one has its use. None can be replaced by the other....

I would strongly suggest you think about installing a used ICOM 700 or 710, which as previous stated can be found for cheap....
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Old 16-09-2012, 11:27   #17
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

I saw no use for a ssb radio either. That was before I had one. That was before I sailed off shore. Now I feel different.

Single sideband is as useful and versatile as a leatherman multitool. DSC features alone justify its expense as an essential safety device. There is no alternative for this feature when you are out of VHF range. It is particularly suited to catamarans by virtue of their limited roll in following seas. It is the common party-line for off shore cruisers, a reassuring presence. A comfort to know a call for assistance can be answered by someone relatively close by.

In hindsight, I think my objections to ssb had more to do with money, and the need to learn an older technology that had no crossover to my background in computer. I now know that the price, which includes purchase, installation, care and feeding, and a lot of learning is negligible. I easily spent more of a life raft which is far less useful on an unsinkable cat, but required by host authorities in numberless rallyes and cruise organizations.

Save money somewhere else.
Invest the time to learn how to use ALL of ssb's features.
Live longer and tell more tales!
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Old 16-09-2012, 11:45   #18
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

I always think it is sort of funny when folks describe SSB as "Old technology" Ok so this type of radio transmission goes back a long time in history that does not mean the technology is old. I have both a Icom 718 and 710 along with a pactor modem and would not go to sea without them but looking at and using this equipment i hardly feel like they are old technology. I remember the old tube radios my dad had with tuners with big coils and such, now that was "old technology" lol Just because something is not the latest greatest new toy does not make it obsolete!
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Old 16-09-2012, 12:22   #19
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremiason View Post
We have traveled with an Iridium Sat Phone for the last two years while coastal cruising along the Pacific side Mexico and Central America....
[...]
While at anchor, the phone repeatedly dropped calls or would not connect. When underway we experienced the same problems, especially in rough seas. Other cruisers using Iridium reported the same problems.

In fairness, my assumption is that as the boat moves, so does the portable antenna on the phone, causing you to lose signal. So maybe a fixed, gimbled Sat Antenna would improve service, but that requires significant money and a place to put it.

Based on our experience, a portable Sat Phone is nice to have and a wonderful way to stay in touch, but I would never consider it for a primary safety device, especially crossing oceans.
[...]
The dropouts you mention are fairly common, and usually have nothing to do with the antenna. The Iridium satellites are in low earth orbit and they whiz by pretty quickly. Sometimes one satellite moves out of range and it's a few minutes before another moves into range. Usually you will have more than one satellite in view, but there are the occasional gaps.

If you are in a narrow bay with obstructions on the horizon it's even worse. A good antenna, usually a rail-mounted one, will give better performance than the built-in one.

That said, I like my Iridium and use it more often than my SSB for weather and general communications. SSB is definitely better for radio net operation (VALIS was the communications vessel for the recent Pacific Cup race, and during the return as well). In spite of the occasional dropouts, I think Iridium is probably more reliable than SSB for emergency communications -- as long as you have the emergency phone numbers at hand. Program these into the phone before you need them!

What was that about not needing a wind indicator because it's on a catamaran? What's that got to do with it? (I think this came up because of potential interference to the wind sensor from the SSB).
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Old 16-09-2012, 12:48   #20
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Dan,

Two things seem to be driving your hesitation:

1. cost; and
2. (with respect) your lack of familiarity with HF/SSB and its many uses aboard.

As SandyDougherty said, you'll not appreciate the value of SSB aboard until you actually have one, become familiar with it, and use it. If you're like most folks, you'll come to use it more and more.

As to cost, you can get good used SSB gear, including marine SSB transceivers which are legal to use on the marine frequencies, for $500-600 including an automatic tuner. By using such techniques as an "alternate backstay", you can get one fully installed for about $700. This will be a fully functional SSB setup which will allow you to communicated with other boats which are out of VHF range, with the Coast Guard and with other entities. It will allow you also to receive voice WX broadcasts, WX/FAX transmissions, etc.

I have several such radios/tuners at the moment. If interested, drop me a line: bill at wdsg dot com

Bill
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Old 16-09-2012, 14:38   #21
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Dan,
1) Here, I think you have a clear understanding of what's what..
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
Clearly if I want SSB, then a "proper" install is the only option.
...and I think an Icom M-801E, if you have a 24vdc boat (or Icom M-802, if you have a 12vdc boat), is the least expensive option that would allow you to signal other vessels beyond VHF range (you will need MF/HF-DSC to signal those other vessels), and engage in "ship-to-ship" communications with other vessels, whether a few dozen miles away, or a few thousand miles away...

IC-M801E : MF/HF Marine SSB Transceiver - HF/SSB Marine Radio : Icom UK - two way radio transceivers, receivers and navigation products
Icom M801e Marine SSB transceivers - SailCom Marine
Icom M801E marine SSB transceiver


Icom SSB Radio Kits & Components





And, since it appears that you're not a "radio nut" like me...
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
It would be nice to chat with people on an SSB, but I don't see it as part of a regular watch workflow.

I appreciate that there are different answers to these questions, but I've talked to enough offshore sailors without an SSB, to think I don't *have* to have one.
I would further recommend that you DO spend the time to fully understand the operations of an SSB, including MF/HF-DSC signaling, before making your final decision.....(even if you decide against installing one, you will be making an informed decision!!!)







2) Here, we are drifting a bit away from your thread subject of "Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?".... But, what the heck....
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
I wasn't necessarily trying to start an SSB vs Not type of debate but perhaps that was implicit in my question. I don't see SSB as a *required* emergency solution for me. I will have VHF with DSC and AIS to be able to hail ships locally within VHF range.


If I have a scenario that really requires me to leave the vessel for a liferaft, I'm not going to be fiddlng with the SSB I'll be triggering the EPIRB and grabbing the iridium. I have consulted quite a few people who have way more off shore time than me and the only one that was a big advocate for SSB is a radio ham - hence my "nice to have" type of approach and question.
Friendly and intelligent people can respectfully disagree, without being disagreeable...

Dan, while I understand your reasoning, I personally disagree with your conclusions....as it appears these are based on "SSB radios" being thought of as "voice communications" vs. their actual use in the GMDSS as MF/HF-DSC signaling devices AND then being used for voice comms to coordinate assistance....
The advantage to the MF/HF-DSC Distress Signaling is that you "push-the-button" and the radio does the work (similar to how an EPIRB works), but it gets your distress signaled directly to vessels in your area (and to shore receiving stations), as well as provides an additional distress alert that many RCC's in remote areas (third world areas) require in order to take distress signals seriously....

Perhaps if you read over more on the hours it takes (2-6 hours) for other vessels in your area to be notified of your distress (after you've activated your EPIRB), and fully understand the GMDSS (and MF/HF-DSC signaling), you may find that those you "consulted with" didn't fully underestand the issues....

Reading a bit between the lines can be a effort fraught with peril, but here I assume that when you've consulted with these other "offshore sailors" they've made no mention of GMDSS and the fact that MF/HF-DSC signaling (or INMARSAT-C) has been required to signal other vessels (beyond VHF range) for more than 13 years!!!
This does NOT surprise me in the slightest....as many will change smartphones each year, change computers every-other year, etc....but will think that using the same SSB (voice comm only) for 10 - 20 years is okay....even when significant international regulation changes reduce/eliminate much of the usefulness of such equipment....


To be clear, there is NOTHING wrong with a voice-only SSB radio (such as an M-710 or M-700, etc.) on a cruising boat....
BUT...
But, when making outfitting / purchasing decisions for an offshore / ocean crossing vessels, not understanding the limitations of such a radio is unfortunately all too common!!!
And, my intention here is to simply give you a few tidbits that will point you to some more research, and a more informed decision process (NOT trying to chnage you mind...)

Whew...I suppose that's enougn thread drift!!!






3) I assume that you will have a fixed-mount external antenna for the Iridium (and a below decks "docking station", as well...)
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
I forsee other emergencies - mechanical or medical issues for example, using the phone not a radio to seek advice.
...as trying to use a handheld phone at sea is NOT as easy as the "salemen" tell you....(have a read of some real world users!!!)

And, perhaps reading over a thread on the SSCA Disc Board might be useful.....even if not directly on-point, there is plenty of info there for you, regarding various sat comm and hf systems....
SSCA Forum • View topic - Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts








4) Since the money isn't the issue....
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
You're right that with the other gear, the money isn't the issue necessarily, but I don't want to just throw cash into things I won't really use.
....Install the M-801E / AT-141 (or M-802/AT-140), and you'' be pleased with them...
Understand that you WILL use the SSB radio, IF you learn its capabilities and make the effort to practice at least a little....(a couple hours, some lazy afternnon is all it takes!)
IF you think of it as a "mystery", and/or refuse to learn about it (unfortunately, as many newer sailors do), then you won't use it much, and it's doubtful to do you much good!!!!

Read Sandy's posting....and I think you'll see what I'm talking about!!!


I hope this helps...

Fair winds...

John
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Old 16-09-2012, 14:57   #22
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Bill,
Although we usually agree on things radio...and I like to reinforce your comments about Sandy's post!!!
But, I disagree with your point #1 here....
Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Dan,

Two things seem to be driving your hesitation:

1. cost; and
2. (with respect) your lack of familiarity with HF/SSB and its many uses aboard.

As SandyDougherty said, you'll not appreciate the value of SSB aboard until you actually have one, become familiar with it, and use it. If you're like most folks, you'll come to use it more and more.
As Dan is equipping his boat with > $25,000 of sat com gear, and he has stated:
Quote:
"You're right that with the other gear, the money isn't the issue necessarily, but I don't want to just throw cash into things I won't really use."
In my opinion, it is your point #2 here, comdined with "consulting with" other offshore sailors who themselves are not familiar with HF Radio / Marine SSB / MF/HF-DSC / GMDSS / etc....

I could be wrong....but that's my take...

Fair winds..

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Old 16-09-2012, 15:11   #23
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

I know personaly a great many blue water sailors. Of the many I know only one has no SSB and he has a BIG Ham set and is a Ham nut ! LOL to us it's like going to sea with no back up navigation tools! or forgeting to bring ALL the food !theres no such thing as to much Comm equipment on board. The fancy new Sat phones are great but there are some areas they don't work well or don't work at all !! We have had our whole family with there own SSBs, our son and 2 of our daughters have them at home so we can talk as much as we want most any time ! at no extra costs. And the info from cruisers nets is Very Very useful !! Just our 2 cents
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Old 16-09-2012, 15:12   #24
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I would suggest that an SSB receiver would be sufficient.

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Old 16-09-2012, 19:30   #25
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
I would suggest that an SSB receiver would be sufficient.
Sufficient for what? Perhaps for getting weather information, but certainly not for two-way communications.

I'm a ham, and a radio nut. Still, I believe that carrying a satphone plus a VHF and a SSB receiver is not an unreasonable approach for most sailors. I personally carry and use satphone and SSB (and VHF), but this is by choice.

When sailing we carry a number of redundant items, from anchors, to emergency water, to spare parts, to multiple types of communications equipment. At some point, space, weight, expense, and degree of interest compel us to stop getting stuff and just go sailing. Some things are mandatory, others a good idea, others merely useful, and others just plain silly. The satphone vs SSB issue is definitely in the grey area. How and where you sail are factors.
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Old 16-09-2012, 21:08   #26
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Having both SSB and iridium one thing I have found is when the weather was good the Sat phone was great and the SSB was OK but when the weather was bad the sat phone was useless but the SSB was excellent.
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Old 17-09-2012, 15:52   #27
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Dan,
The advantage to the MF/HF-DSC Distress Signaling is that you "push-the-button" and the radio does the work (similar to how an EPIRB works), but it gets your distress signaled directly to vessels in your area (and to shore receiving stations), as well as provides an additional distress alert that many RCC's in remote areas (third world areas) require in order to take distress signals seriously....

3) I assume that you will have a fixed-mount external antenna for the Iridium (and a below decks "docking station", as well...)
...as trying to use a handheld phone at sea is NOT as easy as the "salemen" tell you....(have a read of some real world users!!!)
Lots more information to digest, I have not yet read the SSCA thread in detail. A couple of comments on the above.

Notwithstanding the debate on reception quality - Iridium does have a push the button emergency connection to GEOS in texas, who presumably have a high power SSB to talk to anyone nearby to my GPS co-ordinates :-)

Yes we do have a docking station and external antenna for it.

To put people minds at rest, I am talking to experienced trans-ocean sailors and professional mariners including the captain of a 125ft mono-hull who has an SSB, but never uses it I will also have professionals with me for my first trans-atlantic.
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Old 17-09-2012, 19:14   #28
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Dan,
I'm glad we are being of some help...(and I hope you don't mind more..


I'm sorry that this has drifted so far afield from your original query (SSB for ship-to-ship comms)...but it appears that there is some misinformation out there, that could casuse someone serious hardship if it isn't corrected....




To be clear, I LOVE Iridium and am a big fan!!!
But, just so nobody gets the wrong idea (for those lurking about), an Iridium system is NOT a substitute for an EPIRB....and it is NOT designed nor marketed as such!!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
Notwithstanding the debate on reception quality - Iridium does have a push the button emergency connection to GEOS in texas, who presumably have a high power SSB to talk to anyone nearby to my GPS co-ordinates :-)
GEOS does not have "an SSB".....Actually GEOS simply notifies the RCC....similarly as when an EPIRB is activated.....(assuming that GEOS doesn't have any technical or personel issues that confound or delay things...)


And, PLEASE understand that while the radio signals to the satellites (either SARSAT/COPAS, or Iridium), travel at the speed of light, even in the best case scenario, it DOES take a couple hours for the RCC to confirm distress signals, communicate with those on your EPIRB conatct list (Everyone DID register their EPIRB, yes???), check the AMVER listings, etc. and then decide who/what assests to notify and then plan/start a SAR (search and rescue) operation.....
(This usually takes at least 2 - 3 hours, and in some cases as much as 6 hours or more...)

[For real world data / reference here, written MUCH better than my ramblings, have a read over of Beth Leonard's article in Cruising World (from last November, I think)...as well as other references here and on the SSCA boards....]


Only after the above has been completed, does the RCC contact other vessels in your area (using INMARSAT C as primary contact, and/or whatever primary contact each AMVER vessel has specified)....
{And this is assuming we are talking about "first-world" seafaring nations....if we're talking about areas of the world where "third-world" nations have the SAR responsibilities, chances are actually slim that an EPIRB activation will ever get a SAR reponse, or AMVER notification, at all!!!}

And, while positions of these vessels are reported regularly (usually every 6 - 12 hours), the RCC does not have instantaneous / precise positions available....


So, when sailing well offshore / across oceans, signaling a distress using a EPIRB (the primary way to do so), even in the BEST CASE SCENARIO, it can stiil take 3 - 6 hours before any vessel in your area is notified of your distress....and even then, those vessels may have been steaming away from you for the past few hours....
{Adding any time/complexity to this, by using an Iridium "distress" relayed by GEOS, seems like a bad idea to me....but it is a nice "back-up plan"!!!}


Now, I know I've rambled on about MF/HF-DSC more than most here appreciate....but I hope you see that there is a reason that the GMDSS is called a "System", as EPIRB, INMARSAT-C, MF/HF-DSC signaling. VHF-DSC signaling, NAVTEX, and SART Beacons, all make up a "system".....
And, while pleasure boats are not required to be GMDSS compliant, it makes sense to use as much of the system as we can, at least those parts that are affordable and make sense for the areas of the world that we sail in....


Using MF/HF-DSC signaling allows you to contact other vessels at sea directly and instantly....
Whether for "routine" comms, or "Distress"....
And, since "Distress" signaling has come up here so prominently, I hope some will see the advantage of being able to contact vessels in your area directly and instantly, using MF/HF-DSC...


Again, Dan, I'm NOT tying to make you buy an SSB!!

But, I am trying to inform you of the facts....and unfortunately one of the sad facts is, that many sailors and mariners (professional or amateur), even those with "years of experience" and "10's of thousands of offshore miles under their keels", are NOT well informed....
Sad to say but true!!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
To put people minds at rest, I am talking to experienced trans-ocean sailors and professional mariners including the captain of a 125ft mono-hull who has an SSB, but never uses it I will also have professionals with me for my first trans-atlantic.
As an example, my brother is a licensed 100-ton master and has years experience as mate on large comm ships, and dozens of years experience as master on yachts, sail and power.....but he admits to me that he has no real working knowledge of GMDSS (even though he passed the tests on it, etc.), nor has any clue how to use any comm gear except VHF radio, and only basic knowledge of EPIRB's...and that's it!!!
And, he's better than most!!!

And, unfortunately most of us "offshore sailors" are just as bad...
But, don't give up hope.....the truth will set you free!!!


[FYI, YES, I'm a "radio nut".....I've taught seminars in radio propagation, antenna design and choice, majored in physicsin college, made my living in the electronics industry for the past 30 years....I started sailing/voyaging offshore as a kid in the 1960's, learned to plot course and stand my own watch years before I could get a drivers license, made my first Atlantic crossing > 30 years ago, well before GPS and GMDSS, and my most recent crossings in 2007.....and I have a knack for understanding and explaining all of this "stuff".....But, I'm a fanatic!!!
So, PLEASE do NOT feel intimidated by all of this....
It is easy for me....but i understand that others find it all to be "Greek"...

Just to give you some idea of what I have fun with (aside from ocean sailing), here are some shots of my Nav Station on my current boat....and info on my "radio history"...
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47003.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47148.htm
http://www.qrz.com/db/KA4WJA ...}





Whew....I guess I got carried away, again....


I do hope this has helped some....


Fair winds...


John
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Old 17-09-2012, 20:09   #29
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

We had friends that did not have an SSB aboard, bought the boat in Guatemala and were headed through the canal to the south seas. In the Bay Islands, another friend convinced them they should NOT go offshore without an SSB and knowing how to use it. They bought used, tested it, it worked, they practiced and participated in the NW Caribbean Net and off they went.

500 miles west (southwest) of some island in the south pacific, their dolphin striker (is that the right name for the steel rod between the bowsprit and the bow?) came loose and punched a big hole in the bow in rough weather. Their pumps weren't keeping up and they panicked.

Couldn't reach anyone via sat phone --don't know why, but I do know ours isn't always the easiest to make calls when in a panic - as in when David's mom passed away, but it was not a "real emergency", we were not sinking.

Anyway, they were able to get on the SSB and actually reach someone on the Northwest Caribbean Net who coordinated contacting the coast guard and a rescue. Another sailboat in the somewhat vicinity stood by because it was days, not hours, before anyone could reach them. Meanwhile the boat was still taking on water but floating - they were scared to death, but managed to conserve battery power and continue to use their SSB to coordinate the rescue effort.

Finally a cargo ship was diverted and picked up the crew. They were instructed to leave the engine running to run out all the diesel and point the boat on a compass heading to nowhere.

They swear by their SSB. Personally we'd never leave without one.
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Old 17-09-2012, 20:23   #30
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Dan,
GEOS does not have "an SSB".....Actually GEOS simply notifies the RCC....similarly as when an EPIRB is activated.....(assuming that GEOS doesn't have any technical or personel issues that confound or delay things...)
Agreed. Anyone thinking of using iridium, in-reach or SPOT as an emergency signal device should study GEO's response (or lack of it) in the Ensenada s/v Aegean incident. Essentially they do NOT contact the SAR authorities whenever the specific SOS message comes in without a lat/log, and while they don't publish any data on how often that happens there are some third party studies which suggest it is anywhere from 3% to 86% of the time depending on how the unit is mounted and how clear its view of the sky is. So, while a GEOS monitored device is acceptable as a backup, an epirb or dsc signal is much preferred as the primary emergency signal (as they go right to the SAR authorities every time).
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