Posts Tagged Windows Live Writer

Sourcing photos from SkyDrive is now easy

For some time there was no straightforward way to get the URLs of photos in Windows Live SkyDrive albums. With the recent update (November 2011) there is now easy access to the original photos stored in SkyDrive.

imageThe information pane for a photo now contains a “View original” link. So with just one click the browser goes to and displays the original. The URL can be easily copied from the browser address bar.

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SkyDrive web addresses, URLs, are incredibly long, typically more than 140 characters. No way can you write those done, so just copy the URL with Ctrl+C and then paste it to the destination with Ctrl+V. This works just fine with the Live Writer InsertPicture tool. imageimageClick From the web… to open the Insert Web Image dialog.

The photo is previewed in the dialog window. Click Insert to place it into your post.

The image will be inserted in full size and most likely overflow the blog margins and the Live Writer window. In the Size group of the Picture Tools ribbon click Lock aspect ratio, then you can resize the image to fit as you like. Remember you can replace the size value to obtain a custom size, you are not limited to the presets of Small, Medium, or Large.

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If you forget to click Lock aspect ratio the resized image will be stretched or squashed, just redo the operation.

By default, for an imported web image, the Link to: setting will be None. If you wish to link to the actual image in SkyDrive or to another web address, click the down arrowhead next to the option, then select Web address… the Insert Hyperlink dialog opens. imageYou will need to paste the URL of the image or whatever you want to link to. Be sure to fill in the Title: field. If you don’t see the field, click Advanced. The text in the Title: field will be shown in a text balloon when a viewer hovers the pointer on the image in your post.

If you wish to link to the image in your album as shown in SkyDrive, use the image address for this photo, do not get and insert the Embed code (offered in the information pane). The embed code is an “iframe” set that is stripped out by WordPress for wordpress.com blogs. imageIt can be used on webpages and self-hosted blogs. But that is really another topic.

One note of caution: The SkyDrive sharing system has been extensively revised. The prior settings have been “grand-fathered” in. I urge you to carefully learn the new approach to sharing. Files and photos take the share setting of the containing folder (or album), they can also be shared individually. For sharing images in a public blog, be sure that the image sharing is set to Everyone, either for the photo or for the containing folder.

As you can see in the illustration at the right, the new, simpler system is anything but. Sharing is sure to cause a lot of confusion and there are bound to be changes soon.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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Using myPicturetown to store blog images

Nikon myPicturetown is a photo sharing site that offers a convenient way of storing images and obtaining their URLs for sourcing to blogs and websites. What gives this service additional appeal is the ability to share a photo album without the viewer being provided access to your other albums on the site. Although aimed at users of Nikon cameras, anyone can register a free account with 2 GB of storage. Setting up an account is straight-forward: Just go to myPicturetown and click “New Registration (Free)”.

Sign-up has the usual onerous “Terms and Conditions” but does not ask for much besides name and email address. You do need Adobe Flash Player installed to use the site and Adobe AIR is required for the upload tool, a desktop app.

Uploading images to myPicturetown

The upload process is simple but a bit unusual. Double-clicking the desktop shortcut brings up the Japanese language version of the upload window then quickly launches your browser and goes to your MyPicturetown account. If you selected to stay signed in on your prior visit you will not need to sign in. The account home page shows a collage of some of your photos – nice – and a small Nikon ad which can be closed – a small price to pay for the service.

Click Upload (lower left of collage) and the desktop app opens – this time for me in English. This is a drag and drop procedure and works very smoothly. The album to upload to can be selected or a new one created. Click Upload and the process starts. For each file there is a progress bar showing the portion already uploaded. Even during this upload process additional images can be added to the window and will be uploaded.

Note of caution: Not all file types are accepted. You can upload JPG files but not PNG files.

Note of caution: You can upload photos in their original size, however, you cannot use or link to the full size images if they are larger than 1024 pixels horizontally, for vertical images the max size is even smaller. This is similar to the way Flickr works. However, the full size images are available to you for downloading. 

Getting the image URL

Once your images are stored in an album on your myPicturetown site, getting URLs to the images is a very simple matter. If your uploaded images are larger than 1024 pixels (max horizontal dimension) only down-sized images will be available as links. Navigate to your MyPicturetown album and click the thumbnail of interest. Click the “i”, , in the tool bar to open an information pane on the left. Scroll down to see a section labeled Blog Links: – see Nikon provided for your needs. For most images three sizes are offered and the pixel dimensions are shown. For images larger than 1024 px scaled down images are offered. For very small images only one or two sizes might be shown. For example, for the “i” image here only the actual 42×44 pixels size is offered.

The illustration on the right shows what I am talking about.

Click the size you want, the URL is shown in the Link URL: box. Click it to select it then press Ctrl+C to copy the address to your clip board.

Using the image URL

In Live Writer click the Picture command (in the Insert group on the Home ribbon, or in the Media group on the Insert ribbon).

Select From the web …, in the Insert Web Image dialog paste (Ctrl+V) the address into the Picture web address: field. The main area will show a thumbnail of the image. Note my clever illustration here of the dialog window showing a screen clip of the insert operation.

All the images in this article are sourced from my myPicturetown site. In fact, I kept the upload app open as I prepared this post and uploaded the illustrations as I needed them. One of the illustrations links to a larger image, move the pointer over the images to see the one (all right, it is the one showing the blog links). 

Getting a link to a slide show is more complicated, you need to “share” the album (click the icon in the tool bar). Sharing is done by sending an email which contains the link, a very long URL. See this illustrated in my Café Ludwig post Sharing Photos with myPicturetown

Nikon myPicturetown is a very blog friendly site. You will likely be as impressed with as I am.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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Using SkyDrive Photos in Your Blog Post

UPDATE 10 December 2011: SkyDrive has been updated, URLs are again easily accessible. See Sourcing photos from SkyDrive is now easy.

Windows Live SkyDrive offers a good amount of storage – 25 Gigabytes – and has nice photo albums. Unfortunately, at present there is not an easy way to determine the web address, URL, of images in SkyDrive. One work-around is explained over at This ‘n That: Getting the real URL of a Photo on SkyDrive. If you need to get the URLs of several photos this becomes a real pain. There is an interesting way to get the web address of all the photos in a root level SkyDrive album that has sixteen or fewer images.  Still not easy or straightforward, but it works.

Getting the URLs for up to 16 photos in a SkyDrive album

imageWindows Live Writer has a neat tool for including a SkyDrive album. On the Insert tab in the Media group click on Photo album and select Add online album… This opens a dialog that allows you to log into your SkyDrive and then shows icons of your albums. imageNote that you cannot reach an album inside an album, this works only for root level albums. Click the album you want and then click Insert. Windows Live Writer downloads the photos from the album. Only sixteen will be downloaded if the album is larger than that.

The default album presentation shows a large thumbnail and a group of smaller ones. You can leave that nice grouping as part of your post, but for this discussion we are after the URLs of the photos. Click the Source tab (lower left) to view the HTML code of the post. For the album Live Writer will have generated a large block of code that includes the actual web addresses, URLs, of the photos in the thumbnails.

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The Live Writer Find command does not allow copying the found text with the search box showing, so it is not of much use for this task. imageI copy the block of code and paste it into Notepad. Searching for the the URLs and copying them is much easier there. There are a number of URLs that are not of interest (the “VIEW SLIDE SHOW” and “DOWNLOAD ALL” links) so I like to search for “livefilestore”. Be sure to copy the address from “https:” all the way to the next quote mark. imageActually the last part after the image file name is not needed, the text “?psid=1” can be safely removed from the address. Copy those URLs and save them in a document so you will not need to go through this exercise again. Also make sure that the addresses work. I always paste the first one into my browser address field and take a look. The address should take you to the image all by itself. The image on the right links to the full size photo on SkyDrive, click on it to view it large.

Using the SkyDrive Photo URLs

Once you have the URLs to your photos you can use those addresses to link to the SkyDrive image. Of course, the primary use will be to show the photos in blog posts. imageThere is some bad news I have to share. If the photos are large, Live Writer cannot handle them. Let me explain. To insert a photo you select From the web… on the insert Picture command (on the Home or Insert tab). The URL is entered in the Insert Web Image dialog. If Live Writer is unhappy with the image you get an error message “Preview is currently unavailable.” imageYou can click OK and then Insert. This may or may not succeed.

For photos in posts the image size need not be screen-filling, and Live Writer handles smaller images just as you would expect. The photo below is just 640 pixels in the larger dimension. This also has the advantage that it loads quite rapidly.

The photo below comes from the album collection inserted farther down, but it links to a larger photo in another album.

When you include the album feature, a viewer has access to your public albums (and documents!). Using the URLs by themselves provides no such exposure, and allows you to lay out your post just the way you want.

One other downside: Microsoft is constantly “improving” SkyDrive and Windows Live applications. The procedures given here worked as described in October 2011. They might not work by the time you read this.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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Selecting fonts in Live Writer

When setting up a blog connection Windows Live Writer downloads the blog template. This specifies the fonts along with many other features. This does not mean that you have no choice of fonts, indeed, the Font group on the Home tab offers all the fonts installed on your computer.

imageYou can apply any font to the normal text and to the headings, but you cannot set the defaults. Live Writer reverts back to the blog template defaults – as it should. After all, you selected the design and appearance of your blog carefully and you want it to stay that way.

There are times when a different font is called for. As in other applications, like Word, for example, the font can be selected before text is typed or later by selecting the text and applying the new font. There is a problem with that. Your readers may have different machines and may not have the font installed that you have chosen. Their browser will make a font selection that might not fit with the image or mood you are trying to create.

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Here is an illustration of that problem. The four snippets are from the same blog post as seen on different machines. The first shows the text as intended by the writer in a font called “Curlz”. This font is not common on computers and the browsers on two machines substituted common fonts. In one case a sans-serif (Arial style) in in the other a serif font (like Georgia). The fourth snippet is from an RSS feed in which the background color was dropped. I have seen unreadable text in RSS feeds because the original text was white or yellow on a dark background. With the background rendered white, white font disappears completely.

There are some fonts that are pretty well common to all computers. Or at least there are font families that are very similar and the stylistic differences are small. “Helvetica”, “Arial”, “Verdana”, “Calibri”, “sans-serif” will render close enough to each other that a substitution might not even be noticed. Same goes for “Times New Roman”, “Georgia”, and other “serif” fonts. The problem really comes in when you use very decorative fonts. If you are using a special font only for headings or very short text portions, the work-around I like is to insert that part as an image.

Let me illustrate:

Decorative Headings

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Here the heading text is just a screen capture set with no frame. The image does not link to anything. As an image, it will appear the same in all browsers and even in RSS feeds.

When I do that, I also like to repeat the heading in normal text and style – just so the search engines will find the term.

Font sizes

You may notice that all the fonts on your computer are available in the font selection box, the same is not true for the font size selection. Only seven sizes are offered. Let me illustrate why. Here is a line with seven words each set in one of the offered sizes:

one two three four five six seven

Here is the HTML code produced by Live Writer for this line and on the right the font size choices.image

<p><font size=”1″>one</font>
<font size=”2″>two</font>
<font size=”3″>three</font>
<font size=”4″>four</font>
<font size=”5″>five</font>
<font size=”6″>six</font>
<font size=”7″>seven</font></p>

You can see that Live Writer uses font size numbers rather than the point or pixel size. What’s more, when no size is specified the font size is rendered in the design template default, in this example the size for this blog – Arial at 9.8 points.

Keep these peculiarities in mind and your blogging will be easier.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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Sourcing images from Flickr

To show a photo in a post it has to be located somewhere on the Internet. You can use Windows Live Writer to upload images to your blog service image store, or you can do it manually. You can also insert the address of a photo stored on another service on the web. Flickr makes it particularly easy to source photos for a blog.

Getting your photos to Flickr

Flickr, the popular photo-sharing service from Yahoo!, is widely used by bloggers for their photo storage. To use it, you need an account, of course. Flickr offers a free account and a Pro account, for many bloggers the free account is quite sufficient. imageWindows Live Photo Gallery can upload photos directly to your Flickr account. To upload, select the thumbnails then click the Flickr symbol in the Share group of the Home ribbon.

If this is the first time you are uploading to Flicker, you will see a dialog telling you that “Windows Live requires your authorization before you can publish on Flickr”. The Authorize button opens the browser and takes you to your Flickr account. Sign in and step through the authorization process. Close the browser when finished. Back in the Live Gallery dialog, click Authorize again and the upload process starts. You need to go through this only once. After that, Live Gallery will remember the settings and the upload proceeds smoothly.

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The upload dialog allows you to choose the account and the “set”, Flickr-speak for album, for the uploads (ignore this, it doesn’t work), you can also specify the “Photo size”. Live Gallery will resize your photo to this size before uploading. I suggest you choose 1024 pixels. More on this shortly. The last option is “Public” or “Private” (several settings). Leave this on public. Then click Publish. After the upload the browser opens and you can view your uploads in Flickr and select the set and add other details.

If you use the free Flickr account, your original uploaded photos will be inaccessible. Flickr makes JPG copies, the largest being 1024 pixels on the largest side, plus several smaller ones. These will be accessible to you. For use in a blog, you do not even need the 1024 px size, however it might be nice to link to the large size so your readers can see it in good detail. More on this below.

Getting the URL for Flickr photos

imageOnce you have photos on Flickr, you will need the web address, URL, of a photo to insert into a blog post. Go to your Flicker photos and select the one of interest. Click on Actions (above photo on left) and select View all sizes. Select the size that you wish to insert into your post, or the next larger size if what you want is not there.image

Right-click on the image. In the menu select the web address. If you are using Internet Explorer, click Properties to get to the address. Copy the address (Ctrl+C). Paste the URL in the Live Writer InsertPictureFrom the web… dialog.

imageThe URL you got is the address for the actual image. There is one other address you will want. Back in the Flickr page for the photo, click on Share (see illustration here). Click in the text box under Grab the link and copy this address. This address is actually the address of the Flickr page for this photo.

You can use this as the hyperlink assigned to the image in your post. Maybe this is getting ahead of the story just a bit, so let’s go over the details for inserting a photo into a blog post.

Inserting a picture in Windows Live Writer

Above I explained how to get two web addresses, one to the image itself, the other to the Flickr page that shows the photo. Here is how to insert the photo into the text of a blog post in Live Writer.

imagePick the place for the image. In the Insert group (Home tab), or Media group (Insert tab), click Picture. imageClick From the web… in the dropdown menu. This opens an “Insert web image” dialog. Paste the URL of the image into the the address field. A view of the photo will be shown in the main area. If you do not see this small image, then the address you entered is not valid. The Flickr page address will not work here. This must be the URL of an actual image. Click Insert and the picture will be placed into your post text. I have done this here with the barn photo.

Note that when you click on this picture, the “Picture Tools” ribbon will be available. There will be just two “Picture styles” offered. A frame (shown in blue) or no frame. This is true for all images sourced from a web location. The Size options will be available. The best size to use is Original, that is as it is stored in Flickr. You can choose a smaller size, even specify the number of pixels for width or height. When a reader views your post, the stored size is downloaded to the browser and resized as specified. If you chose Original then that resizing will not be needed. You can select a larger size than original and the browser will scale the image up. It will, of course, loose resolution, so this is not recommended.

You will want to offer your reader a larger view of your photo, so send your fan back to your Flickr photo. You can use a hyperlink to the largest image that was shown in the Flickr “View all sizes” page. Such a link will show the photo bare of any other details in the browser. It may not be centered or set in an appealing way.

This is where the other address comes in. It takes your reader to the photo page with all the additional info around it. Your reader can click the photo to see it in the slide view mode. You can take her or him directly to that view. Remember the address you got for the page, it looks like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ludwigkeck/5711283156/ If you append the word “lightbox” to it, like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ludwigkeck/5711283156/lightbox then it takes your reader directly to the photo in slide view mode. Much more appealing.

imageTo attach a hyperlink, click on the picture, then click the Hyperlink icon in the ribbon. Paste the Flickr page address into the address field, and click OK. I have done this on the little barn photo above, click on it to see how it works.

There is more. You can take your reader directly to a running slide show of one of your sets on Flickr. Here is how:

Link to a Flickr slide show

imageBack on your Flickr page, select the set you wish to show. In the upper right above the thumbnails, click Slideshow.image

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Once the slide show starts, move the pointer to the upper right corner and click Share. In the dialog you can copy the address to the slide show. Click in the field to select it, then press Ctrl+C to copy it. It will look like this: http://www.flickr.com//photos/ludwigkeck/sets/72157626699391108/show/

imageYou can attach that hyperlink to an image, like I have done here, or just show it in your post, like just above.

When your reader clicks on such a link, the Flickr slide show will start. Try it here on the picture on the left.

So you see, Flickr makes sourcing photos for your blog quite easy. There are some rules that Flickr has set up concerning such use. I will quote from the Flickr Community Guidelines:

Flickr Community Guidelines – excerpts:

  • Do link back to Flickr when you post your Flickr content elsewhere.
    Flickr makes it possible to post content hosted on Flickr to other web sites. However, pages on other web sites that display content hosted on flickr.com must provide a link from each photo or video back to its page on Flickr. This provides a way to get more information about the content and the photographer.
  • Don’t use your account to host web graphics, like logos and banners.
    If we find you using your account to host graphic elements of web page designs, logos, icons, and other non-photographic elements on other web sites, we will warn you or delete your account.
  • Do upload content that you’ve created.
    Respect the copyright of others. This means don’t steal photos or videos that other people have shared and pass them off as your own. (That’s what favorites are for.)
  • Don’t upload anything that isn’t yours.
    This includes other people’s photos, video, and/or stuff you’ve copied or collected from around the Internet. Accounts that consist primarily of such collections may be deleted at any time.

These rules help us all, so be observant of them.

Other articles you might like to view:

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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“Insert Picture” in Live Writer – a look behind the curtain

Windows Live Writer makes inserting pictures so easy that many bloggers never need to know what happens behind the “curtain”. Here is a quick look and review of the process.

imageThere are two methods shown in the InsertPicture  menu: “From your computer…” and “From the web…”. A third method is simply to paste an image from the clipboard. The first image here was inserted by the paste, Ctrl+V, method.

Moth BallsJust so I can demonstrate what happens, here is a picture inserted by the “From your computer…” route.

In Live Writer the images can be positioned, scaled, framed, even artistically modified and a watermark can be added. It all looks just as it will appear in the published post.

LWB-110813-02

When you click the Source tab (near bottom left of the Live Writer window) you see something like this:

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There are no images there, just text. Actually HTML code. The references to the pictures, excerpted from the code, are like this:

  • … href=”$image[5].png” … src=”$image_thumb[3].png” …
  • … href=”$mothA15[3].jpg” … src=”$mothA15_thumb.jpg” …
  • … href=”$LWB-110813-02[5].png” … src=”$LWB-110813-02_thumb[3].png” …

No such files exist on my computer, I do have a “mothA15.jpg” and a “LWB-110813-02.jpg” but these designations in the code are strange, there is the extra dollar-sign, $, and the bracketed numbers, as well as the “_thumb” entries, what is that all about? Well, this is how Live Writer keeps track of the images – these actually are saved on the computer.

When the post is published these images are uploaded to the blog site folder for storing images. To demonstrate where they go, I did a “Post draft to blog” command (HomePublish group) of this post. This being a WordPress blog, I then opened my WordPress Dashboard and opened Posts. The draft was listed on top, of course. I opened it in Edit mode and clicked the HTML tab. There was the code, except now the references to the images were like this:

imageNotice that in the upload process the “funny” references from before now are full web addresses, URLs, to the WordPress location.

WordPress makes it a bit easier to see and understand because the images can now be found in your Media Library.

Why are there two of each? There is the image that is shown in the post (the “_thumb”) and also the larger image that the reader sees when clicking on a picture in an article.

So this was a little peek behind the curtain of Live Writer showing what happens when you insert images from your computer into a post.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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When Live Writer is WYSInotquiteWYG

Windows Live Writer has justifiably been listed among the best blogging tools available, and often at the top of the heap. It is easy to use and allows you to prepare your blog in the font, style, and colors of your blog. You see exactly what the post will look like in your blog. Well – mostly. There are some “gotchas” and some situations when WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get – becomes WYSInotquiteWYG – what you see is not quite what you get.

Live Writer downloads the design properties from your blog site, your template if you use Blogger, your theme if you use WordPress.

This topic started quite a while back when I selected the “Fusion” theme for this blog and added my own header graphic. Windows Live Writer does not seem to be able to handle this theme as nicely as it does others. It also downloaded the graphic and overlays it on the text with the result shown in the left illustration.LW-110612-01LW-110612-02

In “Preview” the layout and text is properly rendered. This bothered me, but I liked the theme, so I just started a new post in another theme by selecting one of my other blogs in the Publish group (Home tab). This worked well enough until I overlooked a serious typo in a post – it was hidden by the graphic, and I did not notice it until after I published. Yes, I should have checked it in Preview. Of course, it stood out like a sore thumb once published. I corrected the mistake and republished. This feature works very well, corrections are quickly made. There is a big “gotcha”, however: The feeds and notifications to Twitter, Facebook, etc. are made on the first publication, so they go out with all the errors.

Layout problems

I like to include a lot of illustrations, some I set to the left, some to the right, and often I have illustrations side-by-side. It is easy to leave a bit of room and hit the Return key to move text to below a couple if pictures. It may look “pixel perfect” in the Edit window, and even the Preview often is correct, but in the published post a layout error might creep in.

The default margin settings around pictures do not always correspond to the published settings. This also can be a source of positioning errors of illustrations.

Unanticipated layout problems in RSS readers and emails

There is one area where WYSIWYG just can’t work: In RSS feed and email subscriptions. imageIf you offer your readers the option of getting RSS or email feeds of your post, and indeed you should, you need to anticipate what can go wrong when your post is displayed in an RSS reader or in an email. There is, of course, no way for Live Writer to help you with that.

Here is an illustration of such a problem. The small image was correctly positioned to the right of the larger one. It looks fine in the blog post, but in Google Reader the picture slipped and there was a large blank area. Sure, all the text is there and no one complained. One suggestion: Always place image anchor positions (you can see them best in Source view) at the beginning or end of a sentence. When an image slips, at least the text is not split in mid-sentence.  Here is a problem a bit more troublesome:image

Here the illustration did not have proper margin settings for the top and it overlaps text. In this case the text is still readable, but that might not always be the case. My advise: Always set top and bottom margins (I use mostly 5 pixels).

Also keep in mind that RSS readers will not render your background color or image, and will likely show the text in black and not necessarily in the color you or your theme specify. I have seen one post where the author switched to white text on a gray background. Google Reader showed it as white text on a white background – totally unreadable. Another text color that is difficult to read when shown on white is yellow.

Emails – another problem

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When a reader receives your post as an email all bets are off. Email text is wrapped to fit the window. The display window is totally under the control of your reader. You can see in these illustrations how the appearance of a post is totally at the mercy of the email window. There is nothing you can do about that except to keep this situation in mind.

No doubt you will find some discrepancies of your own. Just take WYSIWYG with a grain of salt, or a “not quite” in mind.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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