HEX-NET Firmware Update: Just how is this task accomplished?

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PanEuropean

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Hello All:

This evening, my computer suggested I update my version 14 beta software, so, I did that. As usual, I 'tested' the connection to the interface, and it appeared to pass the test. By 'appeared', I mean the first line in the dialog that showed up after pressing the TEST button had an 'OK' in it, and who the heck reads all the subsequent lines once they see the word 'OK'?

Anyway - after launching the newest version of the beta application, I was presented with another message that told me to go read the fine print of the options page after pushing the TEST button a second time. So, I repeated the test, and this time I read all the lines that appeared in the post-test dialog box, and discovered that one of the lines of text (buried in the middle of the message) stated that a firmware update was required, and that I should go to VCDS Mobile to carry out this update.

This got me scratching my head... I use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet, and also Wi-Fi to connect to the HEX-NET device, and my computer only has one Wi-FI adapter on it, which means it is an 'either-or' choice between internet connectivity and connectivity to the HEX-NET device. After pondering this dilemma for a while, I thought I could perhaps work around this problem by connecting the HEX-NET device to my computer using the USB A to B cable that came with the HEX-NET device. So, I connected the device... and now I don't know what to do next. Would someone please step me through how to do a firmware update on the HEX-NET device?

I have a suggestion to improve this whole process, to make it simpler for the users:

1) When a VCDS software release mandates a firmware update for the HEX-NET device, could you folks simplify the process of carrying out the firmware update by perhaps burying a little executable somewhere in the Ross-Tech folder that automates the firmware update process the next time the HEX-NET device is connected to the computer? Historically, the process of carrying out firmware updates on the Ross-Tech cable devices (HEX+CAN, etc.) has been drop-dead simple - as soon as the user connects the device to the computer, the firmware update begins. The end user doesn't have to do anything except agree to let the update be carried out.

2) If the above cannot be done, I suggest you modify the dialog that appears after the initial TEST of the device following an update of the VCDS software that mandates a firmware update. Instead of presenting the usual 'test passed' dialog box, present a large, very different looking dialog box that says "You successfully connected to your HEX-NET, but a firmware update is essential before you can use the device. Click on the following link to go to the Ross-Tech website and obtain step-by-step directions to enable you to carry out the firmware update". Then present a URL that goes to an instruction page.

3) I do suggest you only permit firmware updates to be carried out when the HEX-NET device is connected to the computer by USB cable (the supplied A to B cable). Not only will this eliminate the problem that users face when they use their Wi-Fi connection to connect to both the internet and the HEX-NET, it will likely avoid a whole bunch of bricked HEX-NETs as a result of data transmission failures while attempting to update firmware by Wi-Fi. I note that almost all the wireless router manufacturers (LinkSys, D-Link, Cisco, etc.) absolutely forbid users from updating router firmware over a Wi-FI connection - they insist that a cable connection (Ethernet or USB) be used to carry out firmware updates.

Hope these suggestions are useful to you folks. I await your instructions about how to carry out the firmware update of the HEX-NET.

Michael
 
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solomon

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Use the HEX-NET configuration utility on your computer to configure Profile 2 on your HEX-NET to connect to your home WiFi network. (There's a wizard button which makes this pretty easy - you do need to know your home WiFi network password.)

Once this is done, you will no longer need to "either-or" your home computer - it will find HEX-NET on your home network. Connect to the HEX-NET via web browser and you'll find a firmware update (under Options IIRC) which will work great now that your HEX-NET has internet connectivity.

Sounds like you're using HEX-NET in AP mode which is great when there's no network around, but it'll work better if you have it on your home network when possible.
 
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I concur with Michael, at least in part.

I understand the process of getting HEX-NET up on infrastructure WiFi at the house, or up via tethering on my Android device. I myself don't have too much trouble with it, but I may not be your average VCDS user. I work in the networking industry. Something that I find to be a minor speed-bump will be more than that to others less IT-oriented. My HEX-NET has spent most of its short life either linked up with USB or in AP-mode wireless because my garage and driveway are in fringe coverage at best.

Michael isn't your average VCDS user either. He wrote > 80% of the Phaeton label files for VCDS. If the process isn't immediately obvious to him, that says something about how many support phone calls you're going to get once you leave Beta.

I don't know what OS you run on these little devices. Is there a way you could offer up part of your storage under the USB Mass Storage profile? In other words, pretend to be a thumb drive in addition to its other functionality. That's become popular for some devices to offer up utilities and drivers that go with the device. In your case, you could host a VCDS Desktop install there as well. It would also offer another way to copy off log files. And of course, it would also let us (or a desktop utility) drop firmware update files on the device itself without direct net access.

Not complaining, just giving honest feedback.

Jason
 
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I suspect this is why they only want people testing the Beta devices who have some networking experience. The basic problem is that in order to update the firmware, the HEX-NET device itself needs to have internet access, it can't be done in AP mode. That means you need to use the wireless configuration utility to get it hooked up to a wireless network. The easiest way I've found is to just plug it into the computer with the USB cable and run the update from there, although in theory you could also do it with the HEX-NET plugged into the car port (assuming it's also connected to your network). I'm not sure how easy the average user is going to find this, one solution might be to build in the configuration functionality to VCDS using the cable connection.
 
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jyoung8607

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I suspect this is why they only want people testing the Beta devices who have some networking experience.
Certainly... this is just for future consideration by the Ross-Tech team.

Michael, if you haven't already seen it, check out the wireless configuration utility video. It helps get wireless set up and working without the HEX-NET web UI.

http://forums.ross-tech.com/showthread.php?23-HEX-NET-Introductory-Videos&p=126&viewfull=1#post126

The basic problem is that in order to update the firmware, the HEX-NET device itself needs to have internet access, it can't be done in AP mode.
That and other things. On newer vehicles, ASAM/ROD data -- what seems to be the equivalent of label files for older vehicles -- has to be downloaded on-the-fly from the Ross-Tech cloud website in order to really use VCDS Mobile at all. It seems to be cached thereafter, but I don't know of a way to pre-populate the cache.

On one hand I respect this, because I think I know the reason: China. It has to be a shitty feeling seeing your hard work on EBay for $20.

On the other hand, I wonder if simple working WiFi is something to take for granted in all environments. At my own home, my garage coverage is iffy. Burying the device inside half a Faraday cage doesn't help. And, my home AP is currently the one provided by my internet/IPTV provider. It seems to aggressively filter certain types of multicast and broadcast on the wireless side to avoid leaking multicast IPTV over WiFi, and it stops HEX-NET auto-discovery from working.

Jason
 
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Uwe

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Michael,

You need to put the HEX-NET in infrastructure mode, where it's talking to your WiFi router and has access to the internet. Then access it via a browser and click [Options] -> [Check for updates].

Remember too that once you've configured your HEX-NET to talk to your router, you can toggle it between Infrastructure and AP mode with a single press of the button (while it's powered up, of course).

1) When a VCDS software release mandates a firmware update for the HEX-NET device, could you folks simplify the process of carrying out the firmware update by perhaps burying a little executable somewhere in the Ross-Tech folder that automates the firmware update process the next time the HEX-NET device is connected to the computer?
In that case we would have to include the firmware with VCDS, as we have done in the past with the firmware for our older wired interface, and then having the computer initiate the update. However, there are certain security-related drawbacks to that approach. ;)

2) If the above cannot be done, I suggest you modify the dialog that appears after the initial TEST of the device following an update of the VCDS software that mandates a firmware update. Instead of presenting the usual 'test passed' dialog box, present a large, very different looking dialog box that says "You successfully connected to your HEX-NET, but a firmware update is essential before you can use the device. Click on the following link to go to the Ross-Tech website and obtain step-by-step directions to enable you to carry out the firmware update". Then present a URL that goes to an instruction page.
That's an excellent suggestion.

3) I do suggest you only permit firmware updates to be carried out when the HEX-NET device is connected to the computer by USB cable (the supplied A to B cable).
That would require a computer in order to update the HEX-NET. One of the design objectives of the HEX-NET was that it would be diagnostic system that never requires a computer; only WiFi connection to the internet and some/any device with a browser.

-Uwe-
 
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Uwe

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Is there a way you could offer up part of your storage under the USB Mass Storage profile? In other words, pretend to be a thumb drive in addition to its other functionality.
Yep, that's something that we'd like to make happen as it would be useful in a number of ways...

-Uwe-
 
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Uwe

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That and other things. On newer vehicles, ASAM/ROD data -- what seems to be the equivalent of label files for older vehicles -- has to be downloaded on-the-fly from the Ross-Tech cloud website in order to really use VCDS Mobile at all. It seems to be cached thereafter, but I don't know of a way to pre-populate the cache.
At present, there isn't one.

On one hand I respect this, because I think I know the reason: China. It has to be a shitty feeling seeing your hard work on EBay for $20.
Indeed it is. I think I liked the Chinese better when they were communists. :D

On the other hand, I wonder if simple working WiFi is something to take for granted in all environments. At my own home, my garage coverage is iffy. Burying the device inside half a Faraday cage doesn't help. And, my home AP is currently the one provided by my internet/IPTV provider. It seems to aggressively filter certain types of multicast and broadcast on the wireless side to avoid leaking multicast IPTV over WiFi, and it stops HEX-NET auto-discovery from working.
Interesting. May I ask who your provider is and what router they're using?

-Uwe-
 
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And, my home AP is currently the one provided by my internet/IPTV provider. It seems to aggressively filter certain types of multicast and broadcast on the wireless side to avoid leaking multicast IPTV over WiFi, and it stops HEX-NET auto-discovery from working.

Jason

Have you tried this again with the latest firmware? VCDS had a hard time finding mine, until the last couple of firmware releases I was having to enter the ip address. I find it hard to believe that your router is blocking auto-discovery, if it is you should get it changed! Pretty much every home device relies on this now, Google Now on my phone constantly reminds me that it's found a Panasonic tv on my network, as well as telling the score of football matches I haven't watched yet!!!
 
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Interesting. May I ask who your provider is and what router they're using?
Cincinnati Bell FiOptics, using a ZTE-branded router, model ZXHN H368C. It runs Linux under the hood like most other home routers these days. The operations model is much like AT&T U-verse. It uses VDSL2/VDSL2+ to a node up the street, delivering both Internet access and TV via IP multicast. It has wired ports, a wireless AP, and a MOCA modem for the IPTV STBs. It's not a very impressive piece of gear but it's functional for the moment. I would be using a Cisco router and a pair of Cisco Aironet APs, but doing so properly while not breaking the IPTV STBs is a non-trivial exercise and I haven't gotten around to making it work yet.

I know for a fact it's interfering with WiFi traffic at some level. In the past I've been able to IGMP subscribe to IPTV streams just fine with VLC on a LAN port but I can't make it happen on WiFi. However, obviously ARP and friends work and I believe I've seen Bonjour-style MDNS discovery traffic, so it must be selective. Sometime in the next couple days I'll break out Wireshark and see what VCDS and HEX-NET are doing to discover each other in AP mode, and where that breaks down in infrastructure mode on my home AP.

You might run into something similar when using commercial hotspots or home APs with a guest mode. I think a lot of them are set up to isolate each client, like private VLANs in the wired world. That would break everything, not just discovery.

Jason
 
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Have you tried this again with the latest firmware? ...
I believe I tried it on Beta 14.5.0/CB 4102 the other day, but I can't swear to it. To be clear, it works in HEX-NET AP mode. Infrastructure mode at my home is where it has trouble. I haven't yet gone digging around to see whose fault it is. As I wrote above, I'm fully willing to believe my home AP is doing something bad. I'll have a deeper look at it tonight.

Jason
 
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Just tried this again at home. False alarm, sorry! Auto-discovery is working fine in my basement near my AP. I know I tried several times on 14.4.2/4100 and I believe at least once on 14.5.0/4102, so it may be an artifact of the range I was at before.

Jason
 
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TMAS. Too Many Acronyms Syndrome.:p
 
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PanEuropean

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Hello All:

I note that a new version of the 14.x beta (with a firmware update) was released recently, so, I headed down to the computer in the garage to update both the laptop and the interface. I was feeling a bit more confident about doing this thanks to all the good advice I was given on the first page of this discussion.

It wasn't quite as simple a process as I had expected it to be. I've documented what happened below so that the folks on the programming team might get a sense for what it is like for a novice user of the HEX-NET to try and do things that are likely 'second nature' to the application developers.

First thing I did was to launch my existing VCDS 14.5.2 beta, then go to the tab with the "Check for Updates - Releases and Betas" button on it. I pressed the "Check Now" button, and was advised that no update was available. This kind of perplexed me, because I did the 'Check for Updates' running version 14.5.2, and Uwe had posted in the Current Versions thread that 14.5.3 was now available. Could there be some kind of problem here?

Anyway, I went to the main Ross-Tech website and entered the word 'beta' in the search box, and eventually found the 14.5.3 installer, and downloaded it.

Before running the installer, I plugged my HEX-NET into my computer via the supplied USB cable and "tested" the interface (using the test command that is used the first time the VCDS application is installed) to make sure that the computer, installer, etc. could see the HEX-NET device.. I figured that if the HEX-NET was connected to the computer, then all the firmware updating could be done via the USB cable... I would not have to go to the trouble of plugging the interface into a car in order to update the firmware. Testing, with the interface connected to the computer (only) by USB, returned the following result:



I have a few suggestions to improve the presentation of information in that dialog box, this to make it more comprehensible to the user.

1) Now that it is possible to connect to the device by many different ways (USB, Access Point, Infrastructure, Ports, etc.), perhaps include in the box a description of exactly HOW the connection has been made.

2) Consider elaborating the 'Version' information on two lines, with clear labels explaining what the version numbers pertain to.

3) Consider setting a low-end voltage cut-off for the Terminal 15 and Terminal 30 power at the bottom, for example, anything reading less than 1 volt will be considered to be 'No Power'. The interface was just sitting on top of my toolbox when the above picture was taken, where the heck the 0.01 volts reported for Vehicle Ignition and Vehicle Battery came from I do not know. Static electricity in the air, maybe?

4) If possible, let the user know what profile is active on the interface (Access Point or the SSID name of the selected Infrastructure Mode profile. I'll explain why I suggest this later on in this post.

Here's an example of what I think would be more clearly understood by the average end user. The illustration below incorporates the suggestions made above.



After I ran the installer for the 14.5.3 Beta, I once again went to the 'test interface' page - I've learned to do that over the years following any software update. I pressed the TEST button, and the following message appeared:



I was encouraged to see that my interface was no longer "Questionable".

I reviewed the videos again, to refresh myself on the correct procedure for accessing the VCDS 'Cloud'. The video showed that the correct URL to use to connect to the cloud (presumably through the interface) was 192.168.0.1. So, I typed that IP address into my browser, and guess what appeared:



I recognized that screen - it is the page used to configure the router in my house that serves my garage computer. Looks like D-Link Corporation grabbed the IP address 192.168.0.1 long before the HEX-NET was even a twinkle in Uwe's eye. So, I logged into the router, and looked around in the records there to see what IP address the router had assigned to the HEX-NET. The router told me that the HEX-NET had been assigned 192.168.2.15. So, I went back to my browser and typed in that address, hoping to connect to the cloud, but still no luck. After a bit of pondering, it occurred to me that perhaps the HEX-NET was still in Access Point mode (this from when I was using it on my neighbor's car in their driveway, earlier in the day, far away from my own router). I then went digging around, found the HexNetConfig Java thing buried deep within the Ross-Tech Beta folder on my hard drive, and then switched the HEX-NET back to the interface mode profile that was associated with the same router as the computer that I had the HEX-NET connected to by USB. I then typed in the 192.168.2.15 address, and the 'cloud' magically appeared.

My experience, as described in the paragraph above, made clear two things: First, in order to carry out a firmware update on the HEX-NET, the user needs to "know the ropes", in much the same way that the user needs to "know the ropes" in order to set a readiness code on an engine. It's not particularly difficult to set a readiness code, but if someone has never done it before, it can be a very challenging task to not only remember all the steps to take, but to remember to do them in the correct order. Second, in order to get the HEX-NET device connected to the 'cloud', the user needs to know a little bit about wireless network configuration and IP addresses - something that I don't think we can take for granted that the average automotive technician knows. In my case, I have control over my own routers and my own home networks, but in a large dealership, someone else who is not necessarily available all the time might have set up the wireless networks, etc., and the technician might not have access to the router records to see what IP address was assigned to the HEX-NET the first time it was connected to the network.

Perhaps the dialog box advising the user that a firmware update is needed could be modified to provide a bit more guidance about exactly how to go about connecting everything. Here is a suggestion:



It would also be very helpful if you could somehow display the URL (the IP address of the HEX-NET) that the user needs to go to in order to access the cloud. It's not always going to be 192.168.0.1. I have since created a browser bookmark that points to the VCDS Cloud at 192.168.2.15, but, I had to go to my router records to find out that that was the IP address assigned to the HEX-NET. But, a tech working in a big dealership might not be able to easily access the router records in order to find out what address was assigned to the HEX-NET.

It would be absolute heaven, and greatly simplify the whole process, if it was possible to do the firmware and code block updates with the HEX-NET connected by USB cable to a computer that has an internet connection, without the HEX-NET itself needing to have a wireless connection to the internet. If it is technically possible to accomplish this whilst still maintaining the security and authentication that Ross-Tech rightfully needs to have in place, it would simplify the whole process by a full order of magnitude. All we users would have to do is simply download the VCDS installer, run the installer, and make sure that the HEX-NET was plugged into the computer by USB cable. No passwords, no need for the user to log into the cloud (that could happen in the background), no worries about IP addresses, no need to go bother the kid in the IT department of the dealership who maintains the network connections, etc.

Eventually, I got logged in, and the following window appeared. I don't know why my password was not remembered - I had checked the 'remember me' box last week. Where is the remembered password stored? Did it get tossed out when I updated the software? Is it a cookie that got tossed out when I cleared the cookies out of my browser? Perhaps it would be helpful to store that password in a few different places on the user's computer.



After re-entering my password, the following page appeared. I was a bit confused by the fact that the firmware version presently in the HEX-NET and the 'new' firmware version numbers were exactly the same. So, why did I need a firmware update? Then I noticed that it was the Code Block thing that was going to be updated, not the firmware.

The text in the box below states that it is possible to update firmware manually by going to the OPTIONS page and pressing 'Check for Updates', but that did not match my experience as described in the third paragraph of this post. I tried doing that, and was told that no update was available, even though both a beta application update and a Code Block update were available. Perhaps it is possible to check for firmware updates if one uses the 'Check for Updates' button from within the VCDS Cloud application... but, hey, for the last 10 years, I've been checking for updates from within the VCDS Desktop application, so that's where I went to check for updates, without any success. I think that there will be a significant number of HEX-NET users who, like me, use the VCDS desktop application with their HEX-NET, not the Cloud application. So, perhaps you need to be more exact in explaining which application to do the update checking from.



At the end of the update, the spurious 'update failed' message was presented.



By now, I was developing a bit of familiarity with the layout of the 'cloud' functions, so, I went to the 'Check for Updates' section of the Cloud application (only because the cloud application was up and running, not because of any wisdom on my part), and sure enough, found that the HEX-NET interface had successfully updated. Perhaps you might want to have the Cloud application automatically run a 'Check for Updates' immediately after any firmware or code block update is carried out. That would automatically present the user with the screen below (thus assuring them that they were totally up to date), or, if both a Firmware and a Code Block update were available, it would prompt the user to make a second pass through the update process, in order to get both of the updates (firmware and code block) applied to their device.



In the end, I got the VCDS Desktop application updated to beta 14.5.3, and I got the code block (whatever that is) inside the HEX-NET updated to the latest version. Next time I have to update firmware, I'll remember most of this stuff, including remembering to put the HEX-NET into infrastructure mode and associate it with the same router as the computer, remembering to use the cloud application and not the desktop application to check for updates, and so forth. By the third or fourth time I have to do a firmware update, it will be second nature to me, just like it probably is to you folks. But... the first couple of times a user tries to do a firmware update without any hand-holding is, at present, fraught with peril and pitfalls.

Regards,

Michael
 
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Uwe

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First thing I did was to launch my existing VCDS 14.5.2 beta, then go to the tab with the "Check for Updates - Releases and Betas" button on it. I pressed the "Check Now" button, and was advised that no update was available. This kind of perplexed me, because I did the 'Check for Updates' running version 14.5.2, and Uwe had posted in the Current Versions thread that 14.5.3 was now available. Could there be some kind of problem here?
I doubt it. There can be up to a 24 hour delay before VCDS itself "sees" that an update is available. We do this to prevent overloading the server. The work-around of course is to download it manually (as you did).

The interface was just sitting on top of my toolbox when the above picture was taken, where the heck the 0.01 volts reported for Vehicle Ignition and Vehicle Battery came from I do not know. Static electricity in the air, maybe?
It's kinda like a multimeter set on voltage without the leads connected together; especially when set to a relatively low range, the last digit will typically not be zero and may fluctuate some. My guess is that this is due to leakage current inside the various circuits. I've got a HEX-NET sitting in the car in the garage and I'm monitoring the state of the battery using browser window pointed at the Low Power Options screen in VCDS-Mobile. Vbat shows a steady 12.69 volts, but Vign fluctuates between 0.01 and 0.03 (the ignition on he car is off).

Eventually, I got logged in, and the following window appeared. I don't know why my password was not remembered - I had checked the 'remember me' box last week. Where is the remembered password stored? Did it get tossed out when I updated the software? Is it a cookie that got tossed out when I cleared the cookies out of my browser?
Good question. I'll be honest and tell you I can't give you a definitive answer. My guess is it's indeed a cookie and clearing them will cause that browser not to be remembered by VCDS-Mobile. However: One does not simply store passwords on a computer! Doing so would be very bad practice as it would allow the password itself to be compromised with ease.

After re-entering my password, the following page appeared. I was a bit confused by the fact that the firmware version presently in the HEX-NET and the 'new' firmware version numbers were exactly the same. So, why did I need a firmware update? Then I noticed that it was the Code Block thing that was going to be updated, not the firmware.
Yeah, we've still got a bunch of development terminology in there. VCDS regards the all of the software in the HEX-NET as firmware when in reality, that software is comprised of a number of modules, with the Code Block being the highest level; that's the "Application" that consists of VCDS-Mobile and the APIs that VCDS running on a PC use. Then there's the stuff that the HEX-NET calls the Firmware; that's lower-level stuff, somewhere between an OS and a BIOS. There's also a bootloader and one other module in the HEX-NET, plus the Data Set (which isn't software, but data like fault code texts, ROD files, Label Files, etc).

I think I've adressed everything that was explicitly a question.

We appreciate your suggestions and feedback!

-Uwe-
 
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