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Debian Cellphones Communications

Debian On the Openmoko Neo FreeRunner Phone 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-with-extra-open dept.
BrianWCarver writes "It was inevitable. One can now run the entire Debian distribution (ARM port) on the Openmoko Neo Freerunner. We previously discussed the July 4th launch of this GNU/Linux-based smartphone, which is open down to its core, with the company providing CAD files and schematics for the phone. Openmoko released an update to their software stack earlier this month, called Om2008.8, which is still a work in progress. But now one can use these instructions on the Debian wiki to open up the possibility of using apt-get to access Debian's more than 20,000 applications on your phone, which, due to integration with freesmartphone.org efforts, can also actually be used as a phone. There were previous efforts to run Debian on the predecessor product to the Neo FreeRunner, the Neo 1973, but with the wider adoption of the Neo FreeRunner and the hard work of many Debian developers at the ongoing DebConf 8, carrying Debian in your pocket has just gotten a lot easier."
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Debian On the Openmoko Neo FreeRunner Phone

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  • Great (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 16, 2008 @12:14AM (#24624151)

    Debian's more than 20,000 applications on your phone, which, due to integration with freesmartphone.org efforts, can also actually be used as a phone...

    You're saying that I can install debian on my computer and use it as a phone? The computer weighs about 15kg already. I just need to add a truck battery (another 20kg I guess) and a small array of solar cells (another 180kg). I will then have an utra-portable cell phone! And, it weighs in at only 215kg!

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday August 16, 2008 @12:21AM (#24624175)

    Last I checked, the dialer and address book applications weren't done yet. While it's great that it can do shit like compiling code and whatnot, it's not gonna do me -- as a person who, although a fan of Free Software, doesn't plan on doing OpenMoko development -- any good until it can make phone calls!

  • but (Score:2, Funny)

    but does it run.. oh, wait, yes it does.

  • Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @12:24AM (#24624185)
    Now you too can have a phone with the most hilarious startup sequence ever:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c0eVdj4E7w [youtube.com]

    ...and run Debian on it too! "Hold on honey, just one more minute...or so...and we'll be running XTerm. It'll be cool!"

    On a more serious note, I do happen to love this. You can't expect a geek to know how to do a debian install *and* grasp things like interface design or usability, but nothing's stopping somebody with the skills from building on that foundation.
  • by schnell (163007) <<me> <at> <schnell.net>> on Saturday August 16, 2008 @12:27AM (#24624197) Homepage

    Somebody help me out here. I get that the OpenMoko has great potential as a learning tool - that's unquestionable, and I applaud their efforts. But I'm really struggling to understand whether there is any use for this outside of the learning context.

    In terms of platform, Symbian is on its way to being open-sourced, and Android is supposed to be F/OSS as well. I don't think LiMo is going anywhere, but it has the same virtues of openness. And if you care more about open development environments than license types, Windows Mobile already has a huge and growing smartphone applications ecosystem. On top of that, there are also easy ways into developing for the RIM, Palm and iPhone platforms.

    In terms of hardware, this device seems to be lacking even a workable data connection - GPRS is tunneled packet data over channelized voice so you're looking at best case speeds of a 1994 modem (9.6 kbps or so). So broadband apps are out, as is useful e-mail/calendar syncing - at least over the GSM networks. It's also more expensive than the carrier-subsidized devices that everyone likes to complain about how overpriced they are with subsidies ...

    So this isn't a rhetorical question, it's a serious one. Other than for folks who just want to learn about the guts of GSM and mobile devices, who would get a practical benefit from buying this phone vs. a Nokia/Symbian, HTC/Android or any other devices from the WinMo, Palm or iPhone families?

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday August 16, 2008 @12:30AM (#24624215)

      I'm really struggling to understand whether there is any use for this outside of the learning context.

      In terms of platform, Symbian is on its way to being open-sourced, and Android is supposed to be F/OSS as well. I don't think LiMo is going anywhere, but it has the same virtues of openness.

      The answer is that OpenMoko predates all those things.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The answer is that OpenMoko predates all those things.

        So? Just because it's first doesn't mean it's any good.

        I guess maybe that Openmoko is great for leading the whole Open Source Smartphone movement, but Android actually has backing and is usable out of the box. Once you unleash Android, there's no turning back and Openmoko will be a useless anachronism, that is, unless they have a plan to compete with Android (step 1: Make it so that you can actually use it as a phone without a bunch of complex incantations and rituals).

      • by ajlitt (19055)

        Symbian goes back to the late nineties.

    • openmoko is the only one that is not currently vaporware.
      There is a sdk called android, and a promise to open source symbian (anyone know the licence?).
      The only phone and software stack where you can actually make any changes is openmoko, we need to wait till the first devices come out and for google to decide before android is open source and who knows how many months/years till simbian is open.

      It does have 2.5g (edge) so it should be fast enough for some internet even if it isn't as fast as 3g.
      The extra s

      • by tolan-b (230077)

        Are you sure it has EDGE? I can't see any reference to it on their wiki:

        http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Neo_FreeRunner_GTA02_Hardware [openmoko.org]

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @07:30AM (#24625393) Journal
        EDGE is not 2.5G, it's 2.75G. OpenMoko has 2.5G (GPRS), which is painfully slow - I got an average of around 2.5Kb/s with 2 second latencies back when I used to use GPRS (four years ago, before UMTS phones became cheap).

        I have high hopes for OpenMoko - if they can release a HSPDA phone in a year or two with a bigger screen then I'll definitely buy one.

        • by TRS-80 (15569)

          It's better these days - I have a friend who roams onto GPRS occasionally and gets 10-15 kB/s. Not sure about the latency. And yes, I have a FreeRunner, but GPRS setup isn't automated yet (you have to turn off the phone/sms daemon) so I haven't tested it yet.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @01:09AM (#24624365) Journal
      Pretty simple: The Openmoko is the closest thing to a "PC" of the phone world that you can get. Nothing else is as open as it is. Symbian isn't OSS yet, and there is no assurance the most of the handsets running it will ever be freed of carrier or manufacturer lockdown. Android doesn't yet exist in the wild, and carries the same risk. LiMo may be open as a stack(save for the DRM bits and bobs); but LiMo handsets in the wild are the usual lockdown stuff. The iPhone is markedly more competent than usual; but nothing happens on that platform without Steve's approval. WinCE might actually be the best of the heap. Closed base; but fairly encouraging for 3rd party work on top of that. Only the OpenMoko is a free implementation of a free stack.

      If that doesn't matter to you, it probably isn't the phone for you. Others are more mature, and offer greater economies of scale. If you do want Freedom on the handset, the OpenMoko is it.
      • by schnell (163007)

        If that doesn't matter to you, it probably isn't the phone for you. Others are more mature, and offer greater economies of scale. If you do want Freedom on the handset, the OpenMoko is it.

        Fair enough, that is a reasonable rationale.

        The reason that I asked the GGP question is that I don't see what the value is to "Joe Mobile Phone User." My personal belief is that mobile devices are one area where simplicity trumps openness/configurability for the everyday user.

        My personal $.02 is that mobile devices (potentially excluding the iPhone) have been Exhibit A in the case against software developers understanding the value of usability. Nearly everyone - from RIM and Palm to WinMo and LiMo - develo

        • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @01:51AM (#24624515) Homepage Journal
          My laptop is a pretty poor stereo system but that is one of the things I use it for. Yes, the moko is not a great phone if all you want is a phone (I have a motorola C139). But as a multipurpose computing device it may turn out to be quite good.
        • I think you are, largely, correct is saying that the Openmoko is a dubious phone choice for Joe User. Niche device, so somewhat expensive, and the software isn't all there yet.

          However, I would argue that Joe(and everybody else) benefits from the availability of an open phone, and would benefit from having one themselves, once an adequate interface is finished. On the PC side, most people aren't devs, or even geeks, and need their software nice and simple. The fact that devs and geeks can build whatever th
      • Honestly, I just bypass the phone and go directly to my Nokia N810.

        Since it does basically everything except calls, just tether it to the network of your choice and use it for everything except making calls. You could even install the Skype or sign up or Gizmo and then it actually does makes calls! As long as there is Wifi around, or you've got set up a connection to the faster gsm/cdma networks.

        These are the people that bought up Trolltech, after all. And just about any OSS app that can run on the thing

        • The even nicer thing is that the N800 is even cheaper than an EeePC. I was thinking of getting an N800 since the N810 is somewhat expensive, but I don't know whether I'd use it much and I have a smallish tablet PC so I feel like it might be redundant. How's the battery life on that? And would it fit in a (somewhat large) pocket?
          • It will fit in almost any pocket in mens jeans and chinos (from my experience), but you should probably use a case to protect it. Just like all devices with big open screens, it is vulnerable.

            Battery life is about 6 hours when you're using it. Much, much longer when you're not (but you leave it on)

            Those are the questions I can answer, I don't know whether you'll use it much. Depends on your situation.

            They have ported a couple different VPN & VNC implementations, so it works for eveything I need it t

            • It should be mentioned that the battery life is very shaky if you mess with a lot of 3rd party software. Because the system is not really the type for 6 hours straight of active use, it is not unheard of for a stupid process to stay running, preventing the OS from entering sleep.
              Where it really shines is idle battery life; it's a great device for quick use on occasion, meaning that it can last a few days with maximum usefulness.

              Speaking of Debian, there is a project to get Debian running well on the Nokia t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dangitman (862676)

        Pretty simple: The Openmoko is the closest thing to a "PC" of the phone world that you can get.

        That doesn't actually sound like a good thing. It sounds like something to avoid.

        • by aj50 (789101) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @04:24AM (#24624911)

          Then you're missing his point.

          The great thing about PCs is that they're open, you have full control over what software you run on it and you can do whatever you like with it.

          Traditionally, phones have been excessively locked down.

          • by dangitman (862676)
            But they're also well known for being a pain in the ass to use, and overcomplicated. Being able to do whatever you want is great, but not if it comes at the expense of usability.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by toxygen01 (901511)
          I can't agree. I would like to have absolute control over what my mobile phone is doing. E.g. whether it is connecting to any bluetooth device or not. I would love to be able to log in to it over ssh to send sms to my friends. I would love to run nginx on it to be able to share my data with my friends over webdav even if there is no internet available. And many more things. For me, I'ts good thing. Btw.: have you ever seen an PC with ARM processor in it?
          • by dangitman (862676)
            But what if it was full of bugs, and caused dropped phone calls and whatnot? People expect a lot more reliability from phones than they do from computers.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by toxygen01 (901511)
              Right, how comes I have new sony-ericcson and it keeps turning off anytime it wants. My friend experience the same problem, so it's not a bad luck. Another friend of mine bought pricey new nokia N90. And it crashes just similarly like my s-e. If they cannot provide stable softwar, they should let community try. Rather try and fail than not try at all.
              • by dangitman (862676)

                Sounds like you have a shit phone. I'm don't see how that makes the Openmoko any good. From what it looks like, it barely works at all. Most people wouldn't accept the experience you are having with your Sony-Ericcson, let alone something worse.

                Why the hell are you putting up with a dud phone, anyway?

          • Btw.: have you ever seen an PC with ARM processor in it?

            I have. They were called RISC-PCs, and they were great.

      • by reiisi (1211052)

        Supposedly, my phone is LiMo. But I have yet to find out how to confirm it.

        Supposedly, some people can develop new apps for it. (Like a decent calculator or stopwatch?) But I haven't even been able to find a place to download apps someone else built. And if I could, would I trust the apps, when I can't compile the code?

        I can't even use the stupid phone as a modem. It can be plugged into a MSWindows PC through USB, but the USB doesn't, from what all the sales crew tell me, even pass the expansion flash card

        • Ouch. Sounds like you fell headfirst into exhibit A for the value of anti-tivoization clauses. That really sucks.

          LiMo is "open" in the sense that whoever made the phone saved some money on OS licensing. Doesn't it just make you feel warm and fuzzy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jmcnaught (915264)

      I have a Freerunner with the hope that I'll be able to use it as a learning device. Right now I've got the Om2008.8 installed and it's barely usable.

      I'm hoping Openmoko will be able to keep up a quick development pace. Since switching away from GTK and moving to Qtopia over X11 and Englightenment they've really come a long way. I have doubts that the Openmoko software will be stable and reliable any time soon, but hopefully a developer community will grow out of all the new Freerunner customers.

      Another p

    • And if you care more about open development environments than license types, Windows Mobile already has a huge and growing smartphone applications ecosystem.

      But can I develop apps for PDAs and phones running Windows Mobile without having to buy a copy of Visual Studio? Microsoft leaves the Windows Mobile SDK out of the Express version.

      • There's a GCC based cross compiler that compiles for Windows CE targets, see http://cegcc.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. I've never used it, but I would assume that it could be used for Windows Mobile development without having to pay for VS.
  • Right, but...? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JohnnyBigodes (609498)
    So, OpenMoko is a great tool for learning, that much is proven. However... what is it really good for? A phone? Because it really looks like the typical "you can run Linux on it" thingie: you spend 95% of your time tinkering with it and the remaining 5% using it... if you're lucky.
    • Re:Right, but...? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hal_Porter (817932) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @01:40AM (#24624475)

      http://www.joachim-breitner.de/blog/archives/297-guid.html [joachim-breitner.de]

      The hardware

      It was smaller than I thought, and is quite light. My girlfriend says it's ugly, but I'm fine with the look of it. Besides being a GSM-phone, it comes with some nice gimmics: GPS, accelerometer, WLAN. The touchscreen works fine, although I don't have anything to compare it with.

      The software

      The system it comes with, even after upgrading, is still very rough. It mostly works for doing phone calls and SMSs, but there are a number of unsolved quirks that prevent me from using the Freerunner as my sole phone for now. The suspend mode is left too often, resulting in a battery life of about eight hours, and there are issues with the audio for the conversation partners, who will hear static and echoes. But, as this is free software, there is hope that this will be fixed eventually

      It's ok if you bring a Lauterbach and a laptop with you when you carry it. And TALK LOUDLY to make sure people can here you over the static and echoes. Echoes. echoes. ec...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      ``However... what is it really good for? A phone? Because it really looks like the typical "you can run Linux on it" thingie: you spend 95% of your time tinkering with it and the remaining 5% using it... if you're lucky.''

      Not the way I see it. To be completely honest, that used to be the way I used Linux on my PC. Perhaps it used to be the way anyone used Linux on their PC. But it's not like that anymore. Nowadays, I use Debian, because:

      1. It costs me less time in maintenance than any other operating system

  • I just checked openmoko.com [openmoko.com] and I can't find the option to buy directly from the web site. Previously you were able to get a list of dealers and also choose to order a phone on line. Has this gone? Or am I seeing things?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 16, 2008 @02:10AM (#24624563)

    Everything starts this way.

    > Symbian is on its way to being open-sourced

    So is Java. Has been for ten years now. Wake me when it happens.
    (To be fair, Java *has* made real progress in this area, but it was not as smooth or fast as anyone thought it would be - to the point that it got to the very brink or obsolescence a couple of times)

    > Android is supposed to be F/OSS as well

    Except, compiled against non-standard libraries. Which, in practice, is the only thing that stops it being used, as a software platform, by the OpenMoko itself, right now (and in principal, even this could be overcome, depending on exactly what form the Android codebase ultimately takes)

    > Windows Mobile already has a huge and growing smartphone applications ecosystem. On top of that, there are also easy ways into developing for the RIM, Palm and iPhone platforms.

    Yeah, if you want apps specifically for a phone. If you want to compile a current desktop application and use it on your phone, or even the other way around (maybe you really like your calendar/contacts application), well, none of those platforms really allow for that. It's not an Achillie's Heel (yet), but it is a weakness (from the point of view of a developer, mostly, but still).

    > In terms of hardware, this device seems to be lacking even a workable data connection - GPRS is tunneled packet data over channelized voice so you're looking at best case speeds of a 1994 modem (9.6 kbps or so). So broadband apps are out, as is useful e-mail/calendar syncing - at least over the GSM networks.

    You have WiFi and Bluetooth if you can use it, GPRS as an emergency fallback. It's a phone, not a mobile contact manager. The distinction has been blurred, but primarily, it's a mini computer that can also make phone calls. It also has USB, so there's the possibility of a HSDPA adapter working if you want. If you *must have* built-in world-wide location-independent high-bandwidth wireless data communication... then yeah, this might not be for you. The next revision might be, but this is version 1.0. Don't you know what they say about 1.0 software? It's never as good, in quality terms, as the idea behind it. But it will be, if it makes it to a few versions beyond that.

    > It's also more expensive than the carrier-subsidized devices that everyone likes to complain about how overpriced they are with subsidies ...

    Carriers will never subsidize a truly open phone. They lose the ability to lock the phone to their network, to extract premiums from DRM'd software/music sales, etc. Any truly open phone will have to succeed on its own merits, because people will have to want to buy the phone at whatever price. One great way to do that is make it do non-phone things as well, so the phone portion of your purchase price is smaller (except, this only works if you *want* the non-phone portion of the phone - think cameras or mp3 players). Think of it more as a micro-form-factor sub-notebook, with a GSM module, making it a practical phone. Common folks don't want their phone to be a computer (heck, they often explicitly refuse to accept it), but that's okay - it's not for them. If, and only if, it is successful enough, then either economies of scale will bring it to the masses at a price they will accept, or clones/imitators will persuade them to embrace this kind of phone.

    > So this isn't a rhetorical question, it's a serious one. Other than for folks who just want to learn about the guts of GSM and mobile devices, who would get a practical benefit from buying this phone vs. a Nokia/Symbian, HTC/Android or any other devices from the WinMo, Palm or iPhone families?

    I want Open, no matter the cost. I want to be able to open it, dismantle it, reconfigure it, alter it, change it (not necessarily *do* and of those things; just be able to). That's why I got one.

    What other phone do you know of where you can buy a debug board for it from the same store that sells the phone - the same board that the phones' engineers used to develop it?

    • I want Open, no matter the cost. I want to be able to open it, dismantle it, reconfigure it, alter it, change it (not necessarily *do* and of those things; just be able to). That's why I got one.

      You know, I can understand and respect his attitude. I can also tell you that 99.9% of the population doesn't care. I realize that you don't care what the rest of the population thinks, but sadly what they think impacts the bottom line. The FOSS model works (where it does work, which is certainly not everywhere) because the cost of entry into software creation is essentially zero. It costs nothing but time, and hobbyist have time. It's what makes them hobbyists.

      This is a real physical device with real

  • by Sentry21 (8183) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @02:14AM (#24624587) Journal

    I've been saying this about my laptop for years, but I guess now it's time to say it about my phone as well.

    The phone I use is small, sleek, looks and works great, and does everythin I need it to. It makes phone calls, does SMS messaging great, and I can sync it with my laptop so all my contacts are updated, always. It also has the nice benefit of having a unix core, dpkg, apt, and a slew of unix utilities. It has a terminal with SSH and telnet, I can mount it as a volume over the network, and it plays music too. Even making ringtones for it is as simple as encoding them as AAC.

    So they have Debian on a phone. Great. But just like Debian on desktops, I have to ask myself why anyone but RF geeks would ever care.

    My phone, like my computers, are for getting things done. Call me when this thing is useful and usable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      With an attitude like that, why anyone would want call you about it is beyond me....
    • by bacchus612 (168559) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @05:52AM (#24625145)

      ...I've got one too. And until I jailbroke it, it couldn't ssh, it didn't sync very well, I couldn't install any unix apps...

      If you keep the iphone firmware intact, it is just frustrating to know that there is this awesome bsd-based smartphone that stores basically everything in little sqlite databases - THAT YOU CAN'T USE!

      I love the functionality of my hacked iPhone, but Apple's attitude with the appstore has really underscored the need for free software to me.
      I have decided to no longer purchase apple products or services as a result of my experience with the iPhone (been a Mac user ever since they rolled out OS X).

      An openmoko freerunner is definitely on "to buy" list - not because I expect it to be super-functional out of the box, but because I want to (financially) support the concept.

      I'm sick of being unreasonably prevented from using the full capability of products I purchase.

      If you're happy with one company being in charge of what software you can run on your phone, what network ports you can connect to, what access you have to backup your own personal information...then by all means, stick with the iphone. Good luck with that. I've been burned one too many times by vendor lock-in I guess.
      Just my $.02

  • Could you have put any more links in the summary?

  • We previously discussed the July 4th launch of this GNU/Linux-based smartphone, which is open down to its core, with the company providing CAD files and schematics for the phone.

    I don't think so. Provide all the CAD drawings you like, but companies still own the designs and patents for the processors and other chips used to assemble the phone. Providing a CAD drawing of the assembly doesn't give you the ability or legal right to reproduce those chips. So how can the hardware be considered open or "free" to the core? That's marketing bullshit, not truth.

    One would think the "core" of phone hardware would be you know, the actual units that do the work, not their arrangement on a circu

  • I use my phone a lot. It's a Motorola A1200 Linux (locked with DRM) smart phone and it is generations ahead of the OpenMoko.

    I take pictures and videos a lot, listen to music on the radio, web browse with the opera client, make calls over a bluetooth headset, use the voice recognition software to phone people in my address book using only the bluetooth headset, check my gmail account and I have even telnet'd into the nethack server and watched people play (because I can).

    I use almost all the features of my p

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      PS: Please don't respond with one liners and/or comments about how "free" this phone is, you're missing the point. It's a phone.

      Actually, I think you are missing the point. I don't see the Freerunner as a product, I see it as a proof-of-concept. The best outcome for the OpenMoko project is similar to that for OLPC - have other manufacturers take their designs and build improved versions. Right now, Apple, Nokia, and all of their competitors spend a lot of money developing their hardware and software. This is exactly the situation that the personal computer market was in in the early '80s. Then systems like CP/M and DOS started

    • The other thing you're missing is that no-one's claiming this thing is ready for any market beyond the highly technically skilled early adopter phone development geeks.
  • I currently run Debian on my Openmoko Neo1973. The summary implies that it doesn't work, but it absolutely does. I run xfce, with compositing turned on, and it works fine. The pkg-fso is the bit that gets the whole freesmartphone.org stack integrated with debian, so you can use it as a phone.

    FSO is the stack that I ran on my phone pre-debian, and it was plenty stable as a phone. The only issues the phone /really/ has are that the other party gets echo sometimes, and yeah GPRS is less great than 3G/EDGE.

    But I'll take a phone that's open source any day. Seriously, this is the wearable computer I've always wanted. Couple it with a bluetooth keyboard and just get happy already. I've run at least four different distributions on the phone so far, and it just feels like computers used to.

    -Josh

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @02:11PM (#24627691) Homepage Journal

    How do I get an account with a mobile carrier in the US, so this device can actually connect to a wireless phone network and actually make calls?

    Is every carrier going to charge me some ripoff fee for an account because I didn't buy my phone from them? Or maybe this unlocked phone will finally let me buy an account with multiple carriers, so I don't get ripped off when "roaming" that does the exact same thing.

    When will the US let me choose my mobile phone carrier the way I choose my PC's ISP?

    • I am using a prepaid T-Mobile account. I just walked into one of their retail stores, opened an account, and got a SIM. For some reason I was unable to activate the SIM card in the FreeRunner, but once I did in another phone it worked fine. I am able to use voice and SMS, but not data. For my purposes that's ok. I'm happy with wi-fi for data.

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.

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