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Intel Intros 660p Series M.2 NVMe SSDs with QLC NAND Flash

Intel Tuesday introduced the new SSD 660p series M.2 NVMe solid state drives. At the heart of these drives is the new 64-layer 3D QLC (quadruple level cell, or 4 bits per cell) NAND flash memory by IMFlash Technology (an Intel and Micron joint-venture). This memory is mated with a SIlicon Motion SMI 2263 controller. This chip is a derivative of the popular SMI2262EN, built on a newer process, with support for QLC NAND flash, compacted to have a smaller PCB footprint, and is driven by a custom firmware by Intel. The drives use over 10% of the QLC NAND flash area as SLC cache. The 660p series comes in three variants based on size - 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB. The prices are the biggest dividend of QLC: the 512 GB variant goes for USD $99.99, the 1 TB variant at $199.99, and the 2 TB variant for $399.99.

Built in the M.2-2280 form-factor, the SSD 660p series drives feature PCI-Express 3.0 x4 interface. Intel's pricing puts these drives close to competing drives with PCIe x2 interface, but offering higher transfer rates thanks to the wider bus. It's also interesting to note here that the controller is cushioned by a DRAM cache (something PCIe x2 drives tend to lack, to keep costs down). Performance numbers differ by variant, and the 512 GB drive is the slowest, sequentially reading at speeds of up to 1500 MB/s, with up to 1000 MB/s sequential writes; up to 90,000 4K random reads, and up to 220,000 IOPS 4K random writes. The 1 TB and 2 TB variants both sequentially read and write at up to 1800 MB/s. The 1 TB variant offers 150,000 IOPS 4K random reads, and up to 220,000 IOPS random writes; while the 2 TB variant has 4K random reads/writes numbers of 220,000 IOPS.

GIGABYTE Optimizes Z370, H370, B360, H310 Motherboards Ahead Of Intel 9000 CPUs' Debut

GIGABYTE has announced via a news post on its official website that it will be offering BIOS updates for its motherboards which bring support for Intel's upcoming 9000-series CPUs. Much like MSI did, GIGABYTE's engineering teams have developed BIOS updates for the Z370, H370, B360, H310 motherboards to provide the best support for Intel's next-gen CPUs - again, with no information on core-count support at all.

The newest BIOS updates are now available on the official GIGABYTE website for users to download and upgrade their systems. GIGABYTE has pledged to continue to release new BIOS updates for the best system performance and stability.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX Cinebench Numbers Out

AMD France blurted out the Cinebench R15 score of the upcoming Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX 32-core/64-thread HEDT processor. The web-design team of AMD's French website inadvertently posted Cinebench R15 numbers of the 2990WX, along with their own tested numbers of Intel's current flagship, the Core i9-7980XE. Cinebench is AMD's favorite multi-threaded benchmark, and it should come as no surprise that its new 32-core/64-thread 2990WX absolutely smashes the 18-core/36-thread i9-7980XE.

The Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX has an nT (multi-threaded) score of 5,099 points, compared to 3,355 points scored by the i9-7980XE. The comparison saw memory (4x 8 GB DDR4-3200), graphics (NVIDIA GTX 1080), and storage (Samsung 850 Pro) constant between the two machines. The Intel machine featured a GIGABYTE X299 Aorus Gaming 9 motherboard, while the AMD machine used an unnamed socket TR4 motherboard. CPU cooling was not mentioned. AMD was, of course, quick to redact the web-page, but the Internet never forgets.

Intel to Paper-launch 9th Gen Core on August 14, Availability in Q4-2018

Intel's client desktop processor lineup is under tremendous pressure owing to competition from AMD, with the company having to roll out entire processor generations over mere 2-3 quarters. You'll recount that Intel was merrily trotting around with its barely-innovative 7th Gen "Kaby Lake" family in early 2017, when AMD stunned the industry with an outperforming product lineup. The 7th generation barely lasted its planned product cycle, before Intel rushed in a pathetic sub-$500 Core X lineup, and the 8th generation "Coffee Lake" with 50-100% core-count increases. Even that is proving insufficient in the wake of 2nd generation AMD Ryzen "Pinnacle Ridge," and Intel is cutting short its product cycle with the 9th generation Core "Whiskey Lake" (or "Coffee Lake" Refresh) series, that further increase core-counts.

"Whiskey Lake" was originally planned for Q1-2019 alongside the 14 nm original Z390 chipset. Intel wasn't expecting AMD to rebound with Ryzen 2000 series (particularly the tangible IPC increases and improved multi-core boosting). And so, it decided to rush through with a new product generation yet again. The Z370 is being re-branded to Z390 (with an improved CPU VRM reference design), and what was originally meant to come out in Q1-2019, could come out by Q4-2018, at the very earliest by October. Intel reportedly planned availability sooner, but realized that distributors have heaps of unsold 8th generation Core inventory, and motherboard vendors aren't fully ready for the chip. Since getting a 9th gen Core chip doesn't warrant a new motherboard, customers would be inclined to pick up 9th generation chip with their existing boards, or any new 300-series board. This would kill the prospects of selling 8th generation Core CPUs.

Chances of Intel Going Fabless Higher Than Ever

Intel is one of the few semiconductor companies that manufactures a majority of its products on its own silicon fabrication foundries. The breadwinner for the company continues to be CPUs, and a majority of its revenues continue to come from its client-computing group (CCG). CPUs, like GPUs, are required to be built on the latest silicon fabrication process to keep up (or catch up) with Moore's Law. Intel is plagued with severe technological roadblocks toward advancing its foundry process from 14 nanometer (nm) to its next step, 10 nm. In its latest Q2-2018 earnings call, the company confirmed that the 10 nm node won't put out before Q4-2019, even as rival AMD's CEO announced that its first 7 nm processors will be up for purchase by the end of 2018 (a year ahead with a more advanced process, on paper). Analysts are beginning to paint a very grim future for Intel's foundry business.

The prospects for Intel going fabless, at least for its cutting-edge products, is higher than ever. Analysts, speaking with Taiwan-based industry observer DigiTimes, mentioned that there is speculation of Intel scaling down its foundry business. Something like this, if true, could hint at the company looking for foundry partners with newer silicon-fabrication nodes at a more advanced stage of development (eg: GlobalFoundries 7 nm) to manufacture its processors, while relegating its own foundries to manufacture less complex products such as chipset, NAND flash, 3D XPoint memory, 5G PHYs, etc. Fancy a Core processor made by GloFo in the great state of New York?

MSI to Release BIOS Updates that Bring 9000 Series Compatibility to Z370 Motherboards

MSI has put up a news item announcing support for Intel's 9000 series CPUs on their Z370 motherboards. The announcement has, in the meantime, been promptly pulled, for whatever reason. Alongside the announcement for MSI's Z370 motherboards being "Optimized for Intel 9000 processors", the company released a list of 15 motherboard models in its lineup that sport the Z370 chipset which will receive BIOS updates to bring them up to speed, support-wise, with Intel's 9000 series.

Of course, there's a small hitch here: the wording in the promotional image isn't quite clear-cut in regards to exactly up to which core counts will actually be supported. The promo image speaks of "next-gen six-core CPU support", which may mean that only up to six-core, i5-tier Intel 9000 series CPUs will be supported, with the 8-core, 16-thread i9 lineup being a premium, Z390-only product. That would certainly play into Intel's usual way of doing things - they do have to justify the introduction of a new chipset, anyway. We'll have to wait and see - likely for some time, if the latest Intel roadmaps are any indication.

Origin PC Announces Two New Thin and Light Intel Core i9 Gaming Laptops

ORIGIN PC announced today the launch of two new custom thin and light gaming laptops: the all-new EON15-S and the new EVO17-S for gamers, streamers, and content creators all over the world.

Sporting an all-new thin bezel design, the new EON15-S is less than 1 inch thin and weighs only 3.4 pounds. The EON15-S flaunts a hybrid mechanical RGB keyboard featuring individual key lighting and supports an Intel Core i9-8950HK 6-core processor making it ORIGIN PC's thinnest and lightest Intel Core i9 laptop. The EON15-S also features an all-new, intuitive battery-saving toggle that offers up to 8 hours of casual, everyday use at the touch of a button. As for graphics and VR, the EON15-S doesn't hold back with a VR Ready NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5) desktop-class graphics card paving the way for smooth 1080p gameplay on the 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1920x1080) display. Other customization options for the EON15-S include up to 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 RAM 2666MHz, up to 2 x m.2 PCIe SSDs, and ORIGIN PC's custom HD UV printing.

QLC NAND Flash Based Intel SSD 660p Could Lower Prices of PCIe x4 NVMe SSDs

Intel debuted its 3D QLC NAND flash memory on new SSD DC series 2.5-inch U.2 PCIe drives. Its technology partner Micron, too gave its 3D QLC an enterprise debut with the 5120 ION. The first client-segment debut from the IMFlash combine could be the Intel SSD 660p series of M.2 NVMe SSDs. Slotted between the 700p and the 600p, the new 660p implements homebrew 64-layer QLC NAND flash memory, and a new controller. It comes in sizes of 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB.

The best part about the 660p is its performance numbers. The drive takes advantage of PCI-Express 3.0 x4, and offers (at least on paper), performance numbers identical to those of the pricier 700p. The drives read at speeds of up to 1800 MB/s, with up to 1100 MB/s writes. The 600p, in comparison, capped out at 560 MB/s sequential writes, while the 700p is only slightly higher, at 1200 MB/s. Random access speeds are up to 150,000 IOPS (both reads and writes). QLC pays off rich dividends to consumers by way of price/GB. The 660p 512 GB is expected to be priced at 113.90€ (0.22€/GB), the 1 TB variant at 197.75€ (0.20€/GB), and the 2 TB variant at 391.43€ (0.20€/GB). Not bad for launch prices, considering these are PCIe NVMe drives priced competitively with SATA SSDs.

Ryzen DRAM Calculator 1.3.1 by 1usmus Released

User 1usmus is the programmer of Ryzen DRAM Calculator, a must-have tool for any PC enthusiast with AMD Ryzen-powered machines. The tool simplifies the process of finding the right memory clock, timing, and voltage combination by adjusting other settings to match the setting you key in. For example, if you're looking for a memory clock of DDR4-3200 and CAS latency of 14T, the tool will put out "safe" and "stable" combinations of other timings and voltages. You can also make the app read Intel XMP and other fast SPD profiles from your modules, and translate them to Ryzen-friendly settings that run stable. In short, this is the app that clears that last bit of hesitation you had to embrace Ryzen. Get it from the link below.
DOWNLOAD: Ryzen DRAM Calculator by 1usmus v1.3.1

The change-log follows.

Intel Core i9-9900K 3DMark Numbers Emerge: Beats Ryzen 7 2700X

Some of the first benchmark numbers of Intel's upcoming 8-core/16-thread socket LGA1151 processor, the Core i9-9900K, surfaced, from Thai professional overclocker TUM APISAK. A 3DMark database submission sees the processor score 10,719 points in the CPU tests, with an overall score of 9,862 points, when paired with a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card. According to WCCFTech, the CPU score is about 2,500 points higher than the 6-core/12-thread Core i7-8700K, and about 1,500 points higher than the 8-core/16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 2700X. The tested processor features 8 cores, 16 threads, a nominal clock of 3.10 GHz, and boost frequency of 5.00 GHz, as measured by 3DMark's internal SysInfo module. Intel is expected to launch the Core i9-9900K on 1st August, 2018.

ASRock Offers Confirmation for 8-core CPU Support on Intel's H310-based Motherboards

If there's something we hardware enthusiasts know is this: there's a lot of information - and confirmation - on a single sticker, in a single product. Fresh out of a leak from Videocardz, ASRock have seemingly confirmed two expectations (we can't really call them rumours by now). First, that there are actually 8-core Intel CPUs incoming, looking to hold the fort against AMD's Ryzen 2000 series and Zen 2 CPUs when they launch. Second, that these 8-core CPUs won't be exclusive to the Z370... ehrm... Z390 chipset Intel will launch alongside its 9th Gen processors. So, users will (apparently; be mindful of your sodium chloride, people) be able to pair a cheap H310 motherboard and an expensive Intel 8-core CPU - seems like loads of system configuration war fun from now on, doesn't it?

Intel Stuck with 14nm Processors Till Holiday 2019

Wrap your head around this: at some point in 2019, AMD will be selling 7 nm processors while Intel sells 14 nm processors. That how grim Intel's 10 nanometer silicon fabrication process development is looking. In the Q&A session of its Q2-2018 Earnings Call, Intel stated that the first products based on its 10 nm process will arrive only by Holiday 2019, making 14 nm micro-architectures hold the fort for not just the rest of 2018, but also most of 2019. In the client-segment, Intel is on the verge of launching its 9th generation Core "Whiskey Lake" processor family, its 5th micro-architecture on the 14 nm node after "Broadwell," "Skylake," "Kaby Lake," and "Coffee Lake."

It's likely that "Whiskey Lake" will take Intel into 2019 after the company establishes performance leadership over 12 nm AMD "Pinnacle Ridge" with a new round of core-count increases. Intel is also squeezing out competitiveness in its HEDT segment by launching new 20-core and 22-core LGA2066 processors; and a new platform with up to 28 cores and broader memory interface. AMD, meanwhile, hopes to have the first 7 nm EPYC processors out by late-2018. Client-segment products based on its architecture, however, will follow the roll-out of these enterprise parts. We could see a point in 2019 when AMD launches its 7 nm 3rd generation Ryzen processors in the absence of competing 10 nm Core processors from Intel. Posted below is an Intel slide from 2013, when the company was expecting 10 nm rollout by 2015. That's how much its plans have derailed.

Insidious New "NetSpectre" Vulnerability Can Be Exploited Over Network

The "Spectre" family of vulnerability, an exploitation of the speculative execution features of modern processors (mostly Intel), was scary enough. Up until now, running malware that implements Spectre needed one to run the program on a local machine. Running it remotely was limited to well-crafted JavaScript executed on the victim's machine, or cloud hosts made to process infected files. This is about to change. Security researchers from Graz University of Technology, including one of the discoverers of the "Meltdown" vulnerability, Daniel Gruss; have discovered NetSpectre, a fully network-based exploit that can let attackers read the memory of a remote machine without executing any program on that machine.

NetSpectre works by deriving bits and bytes from the memory based on measurements of the time the processor to succeed or recover from failure in speculative execution. As a processor is executing code, it speculates what the next instruction or data is, and stores their outcomes beforehand. A successful "guess" is rewarded with tangible performance benefits, while an unsuccessful guess is penalized with having to repeat the step. By measuring the precise time it takes for the processor to perform either (respond to success or failure in speculative execution), the contents of the memory can be inferred.

Intel Reports Second-Quarter 2018 Financial Results

Intel Corporation today reported second-quarter 2018 financial results. Record second quarter revenue of $17.0 billion was up 15 percent YoY driven by strength across the business and customer demand for performance-leading Intel platforms. Collectively, data-centric businesses grew 26 percent, approaching 50 percent of total revenue. PC-centric revenue was up 6 percent on strength in the commercial and enthusiast segments. Operating margin leverage and lower tax rate drove excellent EPS growth.

"After five decades in tech, Intel is poised to deliver our third record year in a row. We are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the need to process, store and move data, which has never been more pervasive or more valuable," said Bob Swan, Intel CFO and Interim CEO. "Intel is now competing for a $260 billion market opportunity, and our second quarter results show that we're winning. As a result of the continued strength we are seeing across the business, we are raising our full year revenue and earnings outlook."

Rumor: AMD's Zen 2, 7 nm Chips to Feature 10-15% IPC Uplift, Revised 8-core per CCX Design

A post via Chiphell makes some substantial claims on AMD's upcoming Zen 2 microarchitecture, built on the 7 nm process. AMD has definitely won the core-count war once again (albeit with a much more decisive blow to Intel's dominance than with Bulldozer), but the IPC battle has been an uphill one against Intel's slow, but sure, improvement in that area over the years. AMD did say, at the time they introduced the Zen architecture, that they had a solid understanding on Zen's choke points and its improveable bits and pieces - and took it to heart to deliver just that.

Intel Core i9 8-core LGA1151 Processor Could Get Soldered IHS, Launch Date Revealed

The fluid thermal interface material between the processor die and the IHS (integrated heatspreader) has been a particularly big complaint of PC enthusiasts in recent times, especially given that AMD has soldered IHS (believed to be more effective in heat-transfer), across its Ryzen processor line. We're getting reports of Intel planning to give at least its top-dog Core i9 "Whiskey Lake" 8-core socket LGA1151 processor a soldered IHS. The top three parts of this family have been detailed in our older article.

The first Core i9 "Whiskey Lake" SKU is the i9-9900K, an 8-core/16-thread chip clocked between 3.60~5.00 GHz, armed with 16 MB of L3 cache. The introduction of the Core i9 extension to the mainstream desktop segment could mean Intel is carving out a new price point for this platform that could be above the $300-350 price traditionally held by top Core i7 "K" SKUs from the previous generations. In related news, we are also hearing that the i9-9900K could be launched as early as 1st August, 2018. This explains why motherboard manufacturers are in such hurry to release BIOS updates for their current 300-series chipset motherboards.

Intel Promotes Three Corporate Officers

Intel Corporation today announced that its board of directors has promoted three corporate officers. "These promotions recognize the expanded scope and significance of the organizations for each of these proven Intel leaders," said Intel CFO and interim CEO Bob Swan. "These leaders are helping us achieve our transformation from a PC-centric to a data-centric company, and I look forward to their continued contributions."

Michelle Johnston Holthaus was promoted from corporate vice president to senior vice president. Holthaus is the general manager of Intel's Sales and Marketing Group and the interim chief marketing officer. She is responsible for global sales and revenue at Intel and leads the company's efforts to foster innovative sales and marketing approaches that broaden Intel's business opportunities and enhance customer relationships worldwide. Holthaus joined Intel in 1996 and is based in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Intel is Giving up on Xeon Phi - Eight More Models Declared End-Of-Life

Intel's Xeon Phi lineup, which started as Larrabee. has never seen any commercial success in the market despite big promises from the big blue giant that its programming model would be more productive for developers coming from x86. In the meantime, NVIDIA GPUs have taken over the world of supercomputing, with the latest generation Volta decimating Intel Xeon Phi offerings.

Intel's plan was to release a new generation of Xeon Phi called "Knights Hill", on a 10 nanometer process. However, constant delays ramping up 10 nm, paired with generally low demand for Xeon Phi, forced the company to abandon this project. Now the company announces that they are stopping production for eight currently shipping Xeon Phi models.

Intel "Coffee Lake" Based NUCs Pictured

Intel is ready with pre-built NUC desktops based on its 8th generation "Coffee Lake" SoCs. The cases of these NUCs are mosty similar to those the company debuted its low-power "Gemini Lake" based NUCs with, this March. The NUC8i3BEH, NUC8i5BEH and NUC8i7BEH, differentiated by Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 chips, respectively; come in larger cases to cope with the 28-Watt TDP. In addition to a bigger heatsink, these three serve up a 2.5-inch drive bay with SATA 6 Gbps back-plane, in addition to an M.2-2280 slot that has both SATA and PCIe 3.0 x4 wiring. The slimmer NUC8i3BEK and NUC8i5BEK, differentiated by lower TDP (15 W) SoCs, lack 2.5-inch drive bays. You still get a full-featured M.2-2280 slot. Retailers hint at availability from the first week of August.

Top Three Intel 9th Generation Core Parts Detailed

Intel is giving finishing touches to its 9th generation Core processor family, which will see the introduction of an 8-core part to the company's LGA115x mainstream desktop (MSDT) platform. The company is also making certain branding changes. The Core i9 brand, which is being introduced to MSDT, symbolizes 8-core/16-thread processors. The Core i7 brand is relegated to 8-core/8-thread (more cores but fewer threads than the current Core i7 parts). The Core i5 brand is unchanged at 6-core/6-thread. The three will be based on the new 14 nm+++ "Whiskey Lake" silicon, which is yet another "Skylake" refinement, and hence one can't expect per-core IPC improvements.

Leading the pack is the Core i9-9900K. This chip is endowed with 8 cores, and HyperThreading enabling 16 threads. It features the full 16 MB of shared L3 cache available on the silicon. It also has some stellar clock speeds - 3.60 GHz nominal, with 5.00 GHz maximum Turbo Boost. You get the 5.00 GHz across 1 to 2 cores, 4.80 GHz across 4 cores, 4.70 GHz across 6 to 8 cores. Interestingly, the TDP of this chip remains unchanged from its predecessor, at 95 W. Next up, is the Core i7-9700K. This chip apparently succeeds the i7-8700K. It has 8 cores, but lacks HyperThreading.

AMD EPYC Airport Ads Punch Close to the Belt

Airports are the latest battleground for AMD and Intel as the two vie to catch the attention of IT managers in the midst of an AI and big-data inflection point that promises to trigger a gold rush for enterprise processors. AMD took to San Jose International Airport with its latest AMD EPYC static ads targeted at IT managers stuck with Intel Xeon for its historic market leadership. AMD EPYC processors offer "more performance, more security, and more value" than Intel Xeon processors, the ads claim, but not before landing a mean punch in the general area of Intel's belt.

ASUS Announces Intel Mehlow Platform Workstation Products

ASUS, the leading IT Company in server systems, server motherboards, workstations and workstation motherboards today announced new workstation products built upon the latest Intel Mehlow platform, including the WS C246 PRO and WS C246M PRO motherboards, and the E500 G5 and E500 G5 SFF workstations. The Intel Mehlow platform offers up to a 50% performance improvement on multi-threaded workloads, enhancing overall system performance compared to the previous platform. The Intel Mehlow platform also includes support for the latest Intel Xeon E processors (Coffee Lake-S), which are designed to provide small and medium-sized businesses high performance for professional workloads, combined with leading reliability and security. With the new Intel Mehlow platform, Intel Xeon E processors provide better support for features such as 4K UHD video rendering, suitable for content creators.

Intel Starts Producing 3D QLC NAND Flash Based PCIe SSDs for Data-Centers

Intel announced that it started mass-production of PCI-Express SSDs for data-centers that implement the latest-generation 3D QLC NAND flash memory. The new QLC (4 bits per cell) NAND flash memory enables 33% increases in densities over TLC NAND flash, and with 3D (stacks), the density per chip is further multiplied. Built in the 15 mm-thick 2.5-inch form-factor with U.2 interface, the drive is built for the rigors of "warm storage" (data that isn't hot, but isn't cold/archival, either). Such drives can be slower than "hot data" drives based on faster MLC or even SLC NAND flash, but almost always up; and faster than HDDs. The first 3D QLC NAND-based SSD, which probably uses the same chips as this drive, is the Micron 5210 ION, which was launched in May.

Intel Z370 Chipset Motherboards Get 8-core CPU Compatibility BIOS Updates

A variety of motherboards based on Intel Z370 Express chipset began receiving the first BIOS updates that add compatibility with upcoming Intel 8-core processors. The updates are flagged "beta" by the manufacturers. Given that only Z370 (and not other 300-series chipset models) have such updates, it's possible that Intel could restrict the first socket LGA1151 8-core processor SKUs (which could be unlocked "K" variants with higher TDP) to Z370 chipset, as the chipset has stronger VRM requirements than other chipset models that don't support CPU overclocking.

To support the upcoming processors, the BIOS needs to include the latest 06EC microcode revision. Various motherboard manufacturers, such as ASUS, ASRock, and MSI, have released beta BIOS updates with this microcode, as confirmed in AMI Aptio inspection tool screenshots. The 06EC microcode, detailed in this slide-deck from Intel, hardens the machine against newer variants of the "Spectre" vulnerability. Older revisions of this document also mentioned support for Intel Core "9000 series" processors, before Intel scampered to redact it.

Micron and Intel go Separate Ways for 3D XPoint Program After 2019

Micron and Intel today announced an update to their 3D XPoint joint development partnership, which has resulted in the development of an entirely new class of non-volatile memory with dramatically lower latency and exponentially greater endurance than NAND memory.

The companies have agreed to complete joint development for the second generation of 3D XPoint technology, which is expected to occur in the first half of 2019. Technology development beyond the second generation of 3D XPoint technology will be pursued independently by the two companies in order to optimize the technology for their respective product and business needs.

The two companies will continue to manufacture memory based on 3D XPoint technology at the Intel-Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT) facility in Lehi, Utah.
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