Skipping the receiver -- Am I going to regret this?

FoxFlame

Limp Gawd
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*******************Begin Edits*************
The short answer is 'Yes'.
Buy a receiver; it's less hassle.
*******************End Edits***************

It's Cyber Monday. I'm rebuilding my entire home theater setup. I have to make a quick decision:

In building the new HTPC do I bother using the existing receiver as nothing more than an amp, or buy a new receiver with HDMI inputs?

If I buy a new receiver the configuration is traditional, and I'll be forced to use the receiver to select inputs any time I want to change them.

My goal is to bypass the receiver entirely. I'm trying to build a PC that can accept all the video inputs the receiver would typically handle, as well as outputs to both the monitor and projector.
The benefit here is that ALL INPUT SELECTION is controlled by a single device: The PC. Thus, only one remote is required. The receiver stays on the PC input. The PC selects the audio-video source.
This is a challenge as my girlfriend has nearly every console in existence so it needs to accept a great deal of inputs and input types. (Or use selection devices, as only one console will be used at a time)

Tuning isn't a problem because the primary digital TV recording server is downstairs. This system will access recorded video across the network.

All this means I need to find some kind of technology that permits a great deal of inputs for display on the PC. Capturing the video is not a requirement; just playback.

I'm concerned that if I use HDMI splitters, combined with the capture cards, by the time it makes it to the projector the delay will be such that gaming will be affected by the lag.

I'm looking at using HDMI input with this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815100049

And HDMI selection with this device here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1KT0FT9431

Any thoughts, feedback, criticism is greatly appreciated on this very crucial day.
Is this possible? Or am I stupid for trying and should simply use the PC to stream TV, and use the receiver when I need to switch to another of the many devices in the home theater system?

Thank you all very much.

Edit: PC will handle playback of Blu-ray, TV, music, streaming movies, etc. The inputs are only for consoles. Output should be simple enough for the PC as the TV accepts DVI, and the projector would accept the HDMI. (Cloned display; projector would need to be powered on manually [learned by PC remote])
 
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I use a reciver with 2 hdmi out puts. One goes up stairs to my wall mounted 50 inch and the other goes to my theater room with projector. Makes it really easy to switch inputs once you program them all. This way I only need one cable box, htpc, and so on to run each room. There never used at the same time so it works out perfect for me. My reciver has 7 hdmi inputs so I can hook up alot to it. Plus with the reciver I can bit stream to it from my htpc for lossless audio. Its a pain to try and use a pc as a pre amp. Been there before
 

morgwon

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why not just get a universal remote? Also in your solution what is going to drive the speakers a receiver would normally take care of? I think you will find that the using your pc as a the hub will not give you the performance you want.
 

FoxFlame

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So maybe I should look at saving up and getting a more intelligent receiver for all this stuff rather, deal with having to switch inputs at the receiver level and skip trying to use the PC as the primary device.

I just wasn't looking forward to buying another receiver when they seem so overkill and overpriced for what I'm looking to do. I feel like I should be able to get an amp that handles a single digital sound output from my PC and have it hook up to my speaker system, but I'm having difficulty finding those. Fortunately the old receiver is more than capable of doing that.
 

FoxFlame

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why not just get a universal remote? Also in your solution what is going to drive the speakers a receiver would normally take care of? I think you will find that the using your pc as a the hub will not give you the performance you want.

The old receiver I have now is powering the speakers. No issues, it just can't handle HDMI in any form. I'm outputting audio from the STB to the receiver via RCA. Was going to switch to SPDIF when I got the PC completed.

I've considered the universal remote, but even the logitech ones that are programmable and use macros are still a hassle as they cycle through different devices, and can get confused. It seemed much easier to have a single 'switchboard' at the PC, but I'm sensing I may be incorrect about that.

How will performance be affected? Lag? Honestly I'm a network guy. I don't do audio. I've run HTPCs for years, but I'm out of the loop regarding HDMI these days. With what I've used it to do it's always been great, but receivers have always seemed a double-edged sword to me.
 

XenIneX

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So, you're avoiding AV receivers -- which are quite literally made for doing what you're trying to do -- in favor of some hacktastic Rube Goldberg setup using the most dubious PC hardware you can find. What reviews of that HDMI-in card I can find say that it can't do 1080p, is incapable of HDCP, and -- like a depressing number of consumer capture cards -- has absolutely crap software. In short, it's a bag of hurt.


Here's what you want:

Get an AV receiver -- preferably with as many inputs as needed, and decent hardware upscaling on the inputs. If you can't afford one with that number of inputs, get one with at least one of each type of input you need, and then get IR-controlled switches to flesh out the input count. (Keep in mind, though, that s-video appears to be pretty much dead, outside of the ridiculously expensive. No idea what generations of consoles you're dealing with, but it may be a factor.)

Then get a Harmony remote to control them -- its state awareness only gets screwed up if the battery goes flat, or if the devices being controlled don't see the IR signal. Consider one of the RF Harmony remotes if you can't get a good line of sight for IR. Look into whether the projector supports HDMI-CEC -- it might save you a lot of trouble on the remote control front. If you really want absolute control, look for a receiver which allow control via serial port or ethernet -- but realize that you will pay for that feature.
 

FoxFlame

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I looked over some receiver options, but honestly a single $100 input card that only seems to have issues when capturing, something I wasn't doing, don't have a PS3 so didn't mind the HDCP (Which I thought someone said they got working anyway) and didn't mind gaming in 1080i vs 1080p was far preferable to several hundred dollars for a receiver that provided a lot of functions I don't want and required a great deal of research and could wind up with just as bad a review:

http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-VSX-1...dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
(Crappy video output/grainy; maybe just defective units?)

Do you have suggestions on receivers? There are so many aspects of them now that attempting to ensure every single bit of the functionality is superior to that of a complete PC system seems dubious. I'm hesitant as I can't tweak the hardware or settings in a receiver if something doesn't work. I could always just try a Shuttle BlackMagic card if the Aver capture card doesn't work out. :/

I do appreciate the suggestions, it's just hard for me to justify several hundred dollars on a device that seems redundant.

I suppose, since it's Cyber Monday, I could buy ALL THE THINGS(tm) and just return those I don't need / don't work out in the system. Could be a fun experiment!
 

FoxFlame

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Ya'll are right.

I posed the question to my girl, and thought about it this morning. Even if the PC and an amp can do all the things the receiver can, and is more flexible, I simply don't have the free time I used to. While it's redundant, if something goes wrong with the PC the receiver will let us flip back to using it for AV switching.

Now I need to quickly decide the "Best Bang For Buck" receiver out there.
 

FoxFlame

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Talked with the significant other again and have agreed to setup a retro gaming station downstairs with projector for anything that isn't HDMI or can't easily upscale. Old receiver will move there methinks.

That said, since the consoles will only ever be on one at a time...I only need...two HDMI inputs? 3 if I use a STB?

1. Have all the gaming consoles use an HDMI switching "Many Input to 1 output" box (Dunno what those are typically called)
2. The PC
3. Maybe a cable STB as a backup if the HTPC server downstairs goes whacko?

The PC itself handles what would normally be used for other HDMI inputs. (BD, DVD, etc)

I was only going to get the Pioneer 1022 because it's got the IronEgg from Newegg so if something goes really nutzy (Or I just /hate/ it) I can just send it back up to January 31st with no questions asked. Denon excellent quality? I saw their products before, but the price tags were always staggering.
 

qbanb8582

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I would say get a HDMI switch they're like $25 for a four port one. Most of them do auto switching and come with a remote.

If you all you want is multiple HDMI inputs a switch is most cost effective option.

You can also use a Harmony remote that will control the HDMI switch if you want an all in one solution.
 

FoxFlame

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Edit: And trying to find an HDMI splitter that splits out the audio into a digital format isn't going so easily...still working on it.

*laughs* I was just in my co-workers office lamenting over this decision and we start going back and forth for about half an hour about Google TVs and amplifiers, and he says something that makes me think, "Well then I'd....well then I could just get something like...whatever the opposite of a splitter is, for HDMI, make the PC one of the inputs, and get a splitter for the TV and projector. Do those exist? Those have to exist. That'd be a lot cheaper too I bet and wouldn't make the consoles dependent upon the PC."

I come in here to search for it, see qban's post and wish I'd come back sooner.

My only concern is that the HDMI would be switched, but I'd need to split the audio out to the amp (old receiver) before taking it to the TV or projector. This would work even better as it'd mean I could shut off the display if I was only listening to music.

I'd have had to buy one of these originally anyway if I didn't get a new receiver, I just hadn't considered making the PC one of the several inputs!

morgwon: Not sure I understand what you mean by location.
The ideal budget is basically cost-efficiency. I'm willing to spend what is necessary to accomplish the task with the correct level of flexibility and scalability. E.g. A new receiver would not hinder the operation of the equipment, and would add redundancy in the event of a failure, but is not necessary for a functional solution and adds two or three hundred additional dollars to the cost of the project. However, if a solution via the PC route would cost more than that (TV capture cards can get expensive quickly) then the receiver would make more sense, despite the added inflexibility to upgrades, inconvenience of manual input switching and inability to accept all inputs. (Capture cards tend to have more input availability)

What will undoubtedly happen at this point is a two-pronged upgrade where I make her happy by hooking everything up in a system that she can use and experiment with another PC to get the functionality I want. If this switching system works it means the system need not be nearly as powerful as I initially intended to properly operate all the capture devices and will likely cost less as well.
 
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Mabu

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Not having a clue about your significant other's level of tech-saviness, I will say that I was forced to get a Harmony remote for my fairly basic system (Denon AVR with XBOX, PS3, Wii, PC, and Cable box into it with a single HDMI output to TV for video) in order for my GF to use it. That was 3 years ago, and it was probably one of the best decisions of my adult life. :)
 

TESLA

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Using a PC as an input switch sounds like a horror show to me. Input switching delay and complexity are certainly going to play a major role, and I can't imagine that adding that much hardware is going to be cost effective versus a dedicated input switching device.

HDMI and standalone splitters and switches can be finicky and slow as it is, why complicate the matter further?

While I can certainly understand your desire to keep the budget as low as possible, at a certain point the frustration and time investment are going to exceed the cost of having purchased a receiver in the first place.

Personally, my suggestion to you is to decide on a budget figure based not only on the dollar amount to spend, but also on what your time is worth to you. Then you will likely find that you have quite a few options at your disposal.

Edit: I will also second the suggestions guiding you to a universal remote. If programmed correctly, they should abstract away any complexity in your system.
 

FoxFlame

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Wait...I'm misunderstanding how HDMI works. If I took 4 HDMI devices into a single switch, then took the output and split it 2 ways, one to an audio device (an amplifier for example) and one to a video device (a projector) they'd both get twice as much information as they could process, but they'd only use the information they could process, right?

Man, I really need to go do a lot more research on the HDMI standard. I should be looking for adapters instead of switches with the adapter built into the system.
 
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FoxFlame

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My concern with universal remotes (Among the complexity of them getting out of sync) is that the projector is behind all the other equipment and uses IR.

But the reoccurring theme here is "Buy another receiver, even if it's only going to switch between two HDMI input devices" :-/
 

Mabu

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Modern AV receivers handle both the audio and video signal from each HDMI input. They are capable of processing the audio from an HDMI input and using the amp(s) within the receiver to output the sound to the speakers connected to the receiver or another amp, at the same time processing the video and sending it out to 1 or more display sources. They can also send the entire audio/video stream out to the display source if you would rather have sound coming from say your TV. Most of them are also capable of mix/matching any of those combinations.

While you certainly CAN split a single HDMI single and have it sent to multiple components for separate processing of audio and video (you'd need something called a matrix), it would be rather unnecessary to do so, since modern AV receivers are built to handle BOTH audio and video.
 

TESLA

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HDMI works using a handshake protocol, and most content sent via HDMI is encoded.

When you connect two devices via HDMI, quite a lot is happening behind the scenes.

E.g. A asks B if it is secure; B says yes. A forms a secure connection with B. Then B tells A what format(s) it supports. A then outputs to a format supported by B, etc., etc.. The important part to remember is that HDMI is a (generally secure) two-way connection.

This (secure) bidirectional nature makes splitting and switching quite a bit more complicated when compared to past connectors, and this nature introduces a lot of potential for issues to surface.

For an HDMI switch, every time you switch devices a new handshake must be created. Similarly, only one device connected to an HDMI splitter may act as the handshake device, and generally the device with the most stringent requirements wins out. So if you have two screens, one 720p and one 1080p, the HDMI handshake will be formed using 720p as the maximum resolution, etc..

Edit: A note on universal remotes: There are RF remotes with RF extenders that can blast to IR out of sight. You also have IR extenders which may blast to a remote location.
 
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FoxFlame

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So basically nothing I'm trying to do here to make the entire home theater system more flexible and easier to upgrade in the future is worth the hassle, and will probably cost more in both time and money, and work worse.

I'm getting really close to just ordering one of these: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882117410
Anyone know of anything about it I'd regret? I made sure it could upconvert.

I also already have an HDMI splitter enroute from Monoprice to split the output between the TV and projector. I think that's everything.

Really kinda bummed a PC solution doesn't exist to all of this. I feel there should be an open source project that handles all of this, and easily found 7.1 amps that accept HDMI or optical in for coming from such a device.
 

FoxFlame

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HDMI works using a handshake protocol, and most content sent via HDMI is encoded.

When you connect two devices via HDMI, quite a lot is happening behind the scenes.

E.g. A asks B if it is secure; B says yes. A forms a secure connection with B. Then B tells A what format(s) it supports. A then outputs to a format supported by B, etc., etc.. The important part to remember is that HDMI is a (generally secure) two-way connection.

This (secure) bidirectional nature makes splitting and switching quite a bit more complicated when compared to past connectors, and this nature introduces a lot of potential for issues to surface.

For an HDMI switch, every time you switch devices a new handshake must be created. Similarly, only one device connected to an HDMI splitter may act as the handshake device, and generally the device with the most stringent requirements wins out. So if you have two screens, one 720p and one 1080p, the HDMI handshake will be formed using 720p as the maximum resolution, etc..

Edit: A note on universal remotes: There are RF remotes with RF extenders that can blast to IR out of sight. You also have IR extenders which may blast to a remote location.

So then: How do I go from the receiver to the TV and projector? Do I have to buy a receiver that supports two HDMI outputs? Or I just have to have it selected before I turn it on? Or just make sure the other is turned off?
 

TESLA

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There likely will never be anything open source to accomplish what you require as the HDMI specification and subsequent decryption are not open sourced (and never will be due to DRM).

The option you linked above looks good, but I am not really up to date on receivers in that range so I'll leave it up to others to chime in on that particular unit.

Also, are your TV and projector the same native resolution? See my prior comment regarding mixed resolutions and HDMI splitters.

I posted my edit too late as well, but on the universal remote front, there are RF universal remotes. These will usually come with RF to IR blasters for remote IR locations. There are also IR to IR extenders as well with similar blasters.
 

TESLA

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Hah, you beat me to it again.

If both your TV and projector are 1080p, you should not have a problem with a quality splitter. (The Monoprice ones seem to work well.)

Otherwise, receivers with dual HDMI outputs will be your best option as these will usually have two chips, one for each output, to keep the outputs independent. The only problem here is that this feature is usually found on more expensive units, though you may be able to find something.

Turning off a device to remove it from handshake consideration will usually work, but not always. It depends on the device.

As for output selection, it depends on the splitter/switch; some will support what you need, some will not.
 

FoxFlame

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Ah, IR blasters. Suppose that'll work.

The TV and projector can both display 1080p, so I guess they'll be alright. Or I suppose I'll be returning a lot of items as I find out what works and what doesn't. (Or ebaying. This seems more like art than science)

Guess we'll just relabel stuff like "BD" and "DVD" to "XBOX" and "WII" or something on both the receiver and its remote, or just chuck it and program the Harmony to read that.

I was kind of hoping to control a lot of this from our Android phones, hence the reliance on the PC, but if I'm going receiver I suppose I can play around with different options on the PC side and see what other options are available. The ONKYO receivers all seem to come with Android controllable apps, while Pioneer needs the highest tier to get that. But I hear a lot of issues with Onyko recently with their TX-NR models. Frankly a lot of the horror stories about receivers (and the lack of ability to do anything to fix one if it breaks, unlike a PC) was what steered me away from them in the first place. :-/ At least there's Newegg's IronEgg.


I'm getting too stressed out about this. I should just say to hell with Cyber Monday and wait for offers to show up on woot after I've done all the necessary research I clearly haven't done.

Thanks for all the help with everything thus far, everyone. Any recommendations on receivers that aren't horrific are appreciated. (Especially ones that don't have so many reports about dodgy HDMI ports, or ones that fail slowly over time. But I suppose those are the several hundred dollar DENONs?)
 
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TESLA

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It is getting more difficult to fix just about anything in electronics these days, but that should not deter you from getting a receiver.

Most of the problems revolving around receivers lately are actually due to HDMI, which has become a necessary (or forced, depending upon how you look at it) evil.

For the budget space, I actually recommend people look into Onkyo as a brand. I wouldn't buy these just for their Android apps though, and Pioneer has had some diamonds in the rough for budget contenders. But again, I am probably not the best person to look to in the sub-$300 etc. range.

If you want Harmony control on your Android, Logitech does make a Harmony Link. Unfortunately, Logitech seems to be holding the device back with software so as to not cannibalize their universal remote sales. This has resulted in a device which is not quite ready for prime time.
 

XenIneX

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I was kind of hoping to control a lot of this from our Android phones, hence the reliance on the PC, but if I'm going receiver I suppose I can play around with different options on the PC side and see what other options are available. The ONKYO receivers all seem to come with Android controllable apps, while Pioneer needs the highest tier to get that. But I hear a lot of issues with Onyko recently with their TX-NR models. Frankly a lot of the horror stories about receivers (and the lack of ability to do anything to fix one if it breaks, unlike a PC) was what steered me away from them in the first place. :-/ At least there's Newegg's IronEgg.
If you're willing to lay out the money, you can combine a receiver with rs-232 or ethernet control with home automation software to get exactly what you want.

I'm getting too stressed out about this. I should just say to hell with Cyber Monday and wait for offers to show up on woot after I've done all the necessary research I clearly haven't done.

Thanks for all the help with everything thus far, everyone. Any recommendations on receivers that aren't horrific are appreciated. (Especially ones that don't have so many reports about dodgy HDMI ports, or ones that fail slowly over time. But I suppose those are the several hundred dollar DENONs?)
I don't know where you're getting all this "horror story" crap from. In my experience, receivers are vastly more reliable than computer hardware ever was. Any early issues with HDMI were because everybody was absolutely terrible with HDMI spec compliance. Now, if you buy from a reliable manufacturer, you should have little to no problems.
 
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http://www.logitech.com/en-us/remotes/universal-remotes/harmony-link

If you just want to use phones and not remotes.. Get this harmony link Turns your phone into the remote..(oh and it's on sale for 60 bucks usally 99) Lets you use the wireless in your home to transmit everything from your phone to this and it shoots it out IR to your equipment. I would have one but if a family memeber is watching my son there SOL lol. If you just want to split the out put from the reciver for video the spliters on monoprice will work fine They have one that sence signal. . I Just run 2 difrent IR blasters one for the theater and one for the living room there 15 bucks on mono price and work just fine. IF you need to make the cable longer Cat6 works just fine. I build theaters and all that stuff need any questions answered just ask.
 

FoxFlame

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I don't know where you're getting all this "horror story" crap from. In my experience, receivers are vastly more reliable than computer hardware ever was.

Maybe it's just because I'm trying to stay under $300 on this receiver, but I've seen issues with both Pioneer's VSX-1022 and all of Onyko's receivers for this year having issues. Some say the firmware fixes it, some say it doesn't help at all.

The difference is: If a part of a receiver goes bad, that's it. It's bad, and I have to screw around with their service department. I can't tell you the last time I've found good customer service that wasn't through Newegg.
If a part breaks on a PC, I can fiddle around with it or try new software. We all know all the options we have if a part of a PC goes bad. And I can just ship back that part. I don't have to pay $25 or more shipping to send an entire receiver back, or haul it to an "Authorized Service Center".

It's just why I do so much research on reliability of components upon which I can't work, and one of the many reasons I was trying to get this done without a receiver. *shrug* :(

Edit: Thanks for the link to Harmony Link (Pun intended) I'll check it out!
 
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FoxFlame

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The Onyko 400 series something'er'other was ordered. The $200 one. Milady said we don't need to upconvert a damn thing and if we do it can go downstairs.

I've decided to take an older system that isn't doing anything and make it the project PC to prove I can do everything I want with a PC without a receiver and set it up downstairs. Once it's working down there it can come upstairs.


Yes, I've been drinking.

Thanks again for all the input everyone!
 

morgwon

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Was asking about location to see what local options you have to purchase. Best Buy just had a whole bunch of receivers on clearance. You can see exactly what is in stock and on clearance at your local Best Buy by going to the stores info page and clicking on the clearance link on that page. They had some real quality stuff at a decent price.
 

CrimandEvil

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I think you will find that the using your pc as a the hub will not give you the performance you want.

This. PCs are designed for audio capture and not regular audio playback. You want to make this as easy as possible and running everything through the PC will require you to setup some kind of capture software each time for both audio and video depending on your source and that doesn't even take into account possible issues with lag (which will happen).

Best solution for old consoles is to go with emulators, a controller and a good receiver with something like a Harmony remote.
 
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