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Loc8tor Lite Review

After finding what appears to be the ideal lost model locator device, Arron Bates devises a plan and tests it in "worst case scenario" style.

Splash

INTRODUCTION


Weight:5g (tag)
20g (handset)
Dimensions:30x20x9mm (tag)
86x54x6mm (handset)
Manufacturer:Loc8tor Ltd
Available From:Loc8tor Ltd
Retail Price:$79.99

Unless you fly on the salt flats of Utah, the chances are that you've had to go looking for a plane at some point. May have been the plane of a friend or your own pride and joy, but typically there are many hours devoted to searching for gear throughout oneís flying career. What continues to surprise me is just how easy it is to lose these things. Even in large, treeless fields where the grass was 2-3 feet high we've spent hours looking for 60 sized planes and half hours looking for micro park fliers in grass only a foot high in small fields.

My father is now flying at a club site that has a truly notorious out-field area, so I've been keeping my eye out for the ideal product for some time. Most lost model locators are noise generators in various forms, but the "ideal" locator brings up images of a Geiger counter-like device where you can get the direction and some sense as to how far away it is. There are GPS based units that can point out things on a map, however their price point is quite prohibitive.

Enter the line of products from Loc8tor Ltd. They've developed a few options that are ideal for our sport. They have a fancy version with an LCD screen, but it's price point is above what I feel as reasonable for something passive and along for the ride. However, the "Loc8tor Lite" features and price looked just right. So away we go...

FEATURES

  • Tags only weigh 5g each including battery
  • Range up to 400 feet / 122 meters (clear line of sight)
  • Audio and visual direction alerts
  • Actively guides you to within an inch of the tag
  • Two tags to attach to valuable things like model planes
  • Handset
    • 86 mm x 54 mm x 6 mm (3.4" x 2.13" x 0.24")
    • Weight 20 grams (0.7 oz)
  • Tags
    • 30.5mm x 19.5mm x 8.5mm (1.2" x 0.8" x 0.3")
    • Weight: 5 grams (0.175 oz)

PACK CONTENTS

  • 1 x Loc8tor Lite handset
  • 2 x Mini Homing Tags
  • Key ring loop and adhesive strips
  • Wall mount bracket
  • Multi language user guide
  • All batteries included
  • Supplied with Locate mode

The Handset

Itís a very simple looking device with a few features; most prominent is the row of LEDs running up the center, four buttons that correspond to finding up to four tags, a button on the left that cycles volume level (off, medium and full), a button on the right for on/off, and finally a very small LED on the top for status.

The Tags

The best part of this setup is how small and light the tags are: light enough that a Cox Micro Warbird (a very small plane indeed) would have no issue carting one around inside the fuselage. They are diminutive little things the size your thumb tip with an led on the front. Of all the locating systems that I've looked at over the years, none have come this close to such a small tag for use in model planes. The closest I've seen was a noise maker that required connection to your flight pack, and as we all know, flight packs enjoy departing the plane in strange ways on impact.

Extras

There's a few extras in the package include a wall mount and wrist straps so you can keep the handset wherever it's most handy. They certainly look rugged enough for their purpose; maybe even putting the wall mount inside your flight box would work for you.

Operation

Getting Started

The first thing to do after removing the tags and the handset is to activate them. Itís great to have the batteries included and already installed. To prevent them going flat before being sold, each of these have a small cardboard tag preventing battery connection. Pull the tags out and the devices are ready to go, they'll make a small beep to let you know they're alive.

The next step is to register the tags to the handset in a similar fashion to the DSM Spektrum sets pairing up to the receivers. Have the tag you want to register close to the handset, and the other tag(s) not so close (the instructions say at least an arm length), turn on the handset by pressing the power button on the right hand side for two seconds, and it will beep and light up the status light, hold down one of the four buttons you want to register the tag to for three seconds until the handset beeps and release. The handset will now complete the registration process, flashing the status led. When complete, the handset and tag will beep and flash once. The tag is now ready to be located (and feel free to repeat the process for other tags on the other buttons).

Locating a tag

The locating procedure is straightforward and logical. Simply turn on the handset by holding the power button on the right for 2 seconds until it beeps and lights up, and then press the button assigned to the tag you want to find. The handset will then start the search during which time the status LED will flash.

When the locator finds the tag, audio will start, and the row of LEDs will light relative to how close the tag is. If the tag is nearby, the audio will be a continuation of beeps and the full row of LEDs from red to green will light. If you're at the end of the range, only one red LED will light and will only sound a single beep intermittently. Holding the handset, rotate around to find the strongest signal: the most amount of lights and the more continual the beeping will indicate which direction is best. I found that at the very edge of the range there will be silence and nothing on the LEDs as you rotate and one beep/LED when you're in the right direction. One rotation will be typically all it takes, with just a recheck or two if you're at the edge of range. Once the direction is found, start walking.

As you get closer, the beeps will get more frequent and higher in pitch, and the row of lights will also increase. If you're in difficult terrain you can save battery by turning it off while walking, and turn it back on periodically to confirm direction and distance. It means you are quite close if it's lighting up all the way into the green. Within a few feet it turns into a "zooming in" mode that will have you locate the device down to an inch (not all that needed for planes, but I found it handy as described in my testing). When close by you can also mute the handset (by pressing the volume button on the left) so you can listen for the beeps from the tag itself.

Turning it off

The tags are always on, but the handset will turn itself off after 45 seconds of being dormant. You can also hold the power button on the right for a couple of seconds until it powers down (audio confirmation will sound).

Range guidelines

Model aircraft get a specific mention in the instructions. When they're stuck in a tree you get the maximum range of 180m / 600ft. Down at ground level, the example of a tortoise gets 30m / 100ft. Cats and dogs get 30-100m / 100-300ft. Even with the tag on the ground, I've found the range to be more than this and certainly enough for typical out-landed model aircraft.

Testing

Wanting to test this puppy out in the worst case scenario I came up with this plan:

  1. attach tag to an RC plane
  2. fly said plane out over dense woodland
  3. drop just the locator tag randomly into wilderness
  4. land the plane and go find the tag

Testing Setup

My method for the drop was an old and simple technique people have used to setup fun-fly bomb-drop contests: use a cup. Simply affix cup to the plane, put payload in the cup, roll over to drop the payload. For this I used my trusty Twinkle; it has nice tip-floats just the right size of the locator tags. With a hole added to the top of the wing tips the little cup was formed with a piece of paper and tape. The tags sit in there nice and loose making it easy to perform the drop.

Running The Test

As it turned out, it was too easy to drop the tag. In hand launching there was apparently just enough negative G to evict the tag from the plane several times, and each time I had to use the locator to go find the tag. The grass was only 8 inches high, but the tag is so very small. This is where that "zooming in" feature came into play; many times I was standing right over the tag and couldn't see it in the grass (black is very slimming).

tried taking off from the grass, and even then it took another few attempts to get airborne with the tag in place. Long story short, I eventually got the plane up, and even though I put the tag on the very wing tip, flying wasn't an issue, and no shift in trim change was noticed. When over the woodland and the intended drop zone I started some inverted flight, loops and generally ambiguous flying to lose the tag. To ensure it got lost I made an extended inverted run before landing. Sure enough, after landing, the tag wasn't on the plane. The itty-bitty tag was now very lost.

Finding the tag

It's recommended when you lose a model to start walking in a straight line from where you were when you lost it. Pick out a fixed point on the horizon (or wherever you saw the plane last) and start walking. To make the test of the locator even harder, I walked up a road along side the trees and came in from the other side.

A short distance into the scrub I turned on the handset and attempted to locate the tag. It took a short while to locate, but find the tag it did at the very edge of its range with one LED and a single beep. The LED light and the beep sounded only when holding in one direction when rotating, so off I went. The woods were pretty thick so I turned it off to concentrate on getting through the scrub. At this point I regretted doing this test right after some rainfall as every tree was happy to unload its water for me.

After a few pauses to confirm direction, the beeping steadily increased with a few more lights. By the time I was thoroughly wet, the audio was quite steady, and I could hear the little beeps from the tag, I was close! A dozen or so feet more, and I was looking around the leaves for the tag. Sure enough, the tag was found under a leaf and not in plain sight. What I also found interesting was that I was just a dozen feet from the clearing I was flying from originally! Had I not had the bright idea of "find it from a different origin", I would have found the tag in just a couple of minutes and feeling a heck of a lot less like I had just fallen into a pool.

A map of the test:

  • point I originally took off and flew the plane from
  • after walking up the path (the red line) I started the locator to search from here
  • where the tag was found

How to get one

It seems like the Loc8tor range of products are a fairly recent innovation and not available everywhere through a common retailer chain. Loc8tor is based in the UK so if you order from their website your card will be billed in the UK. This triggered my card company to call and verify that I actioned the transaction, which is fine by me. Once ordered it took only a week for it to arrive. From their site you can order for the UK, USA, Spain and France with no other country options. However, I did try eBay australia and they seem to have a presence there with shipping options to down under. So if you're in the market for one outside their normal territories (or if you just like eBay) it may be easier to use eBay as the intermediary to get it done.

Conclusion

The tag was found! I certainly came away from the test feeling like It does it's job, and you could probably even use it to find other things besides model aircraft! (I've even put one in the wife's purse so after I browse the LHS there's much less time looking through the mall.)

Pluses:

  • worked as advertised in the worst case test situation I could put it in
  • priced well for great value considering the advanced direction/distance abilities
  • remarkably light tags mean you can put them in any outdoors rated plane

Minuses:

  • the tags are so small you could probably lose them very easily...

Last edited by Angela H; Aug 14, 2008 at 08:31 PM..

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Old Aug 15, 2008, 05:24 AM
Recovering nitro addict
papa38's Avatar
Everett,Washington
Joined May 2005
831 Posts
hehe, that's funny, lose the tags, LOL!!!
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Old Aug 15, 2008, 06:04 AM
Need more time....
MarkFitzgerald's Avatar
Stuttgart, Germany
Joined May 2003
245 Posts
Loca8tor Recieved!

Outstanding Review! I think I'll get the more expensive one as the range is a little bit better (600' vs. 400' LOS). I fly over corn fields a lot and this could come in handy!


Mark

Update: I've already received my Loc8tor Plus! That was fast service. Less than 12 days to get from the UK to the US and over here to me in Germany. Stuff I ordered from Cabelas four weeks ago has yet to appear. Of course I opened the box right away. Instructions...pfffft...who needs those? I put the batteries in the seeker & pulled the strip out of one of the tags.

Registering the tag was easy thanks to the easy to follow menu on the LCD screen. I threw the tag into the living room and then used the seeker to find it (I know that it wasn't exactly a great test, but I live on the fifth floor and didn't want to chuck the tag off of the balcony). Both cats found the tag before I did as I was TRYING to be scientific by walking in different directions to see how the seeker reacted. Ignoring my cats "It's over here, Stupid!" meows, I listened to the sounds and watched the graphic lines on the display react as I went closer or further away from where I threw the tag. The sounds led me over to within easy sight of the tag.

Now I'm not hoping for a chance to find out how well this works by losing a plane, but I'll feel a little better about if I do.

I think that idea about adding a length of antenna wire is an outstanding idea! Someone who hasn't just bought a new set should really look into that!


Mark
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Old Aug 15, 2008, 01:54 PM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by papa38
hehe, that's funny, lose the tags, LOL!!!
While I think the sarcasm is fairly thin on that line, I put the review past my father, and he thought I was being serious


Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkFitzgerald
Outstanding Review! I think I'll get the more expensive one as the range is a little bit better (600' vs. 400' LOS). I fly over corn fields a lot and this could come in handy!

Mark
Thanks man. As soon as I got it I was thinking "ok, I really gotta try and lose this thing in as interesting a way possible". Was even considering launching a c-cell model rocket without a recovery parachute (which still sounds like fun)

The non-Lite version looks interesting, either way I don't think you can go wrong. The LCD of the other one will tell you which direction to turn to start walking saving the "turn around and see which side seems stronger" sequence... which I should add would remove ambiguity at the edge of the range (at the edge of the range it'll just beep once and blip the one LED when pointing in a certain direction). When I started the search, at the edge of the range, it took a little time to remove the doubt that I was in the right direction... as soon as you get that extra beep or LED showing on the Lite you're locked in though.


.
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Old Aug 15, 2008, 09:00 PM
BD Flyer's Avatar
United States, NJ, Monroe Township
Joined Aug 2006
7,093 Posts
Great review... I enjoyed reading it.
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Old Aug 16, 2008, 08:00 PM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BD Flyer
Great review... I enjoyed reading it.
well, that's a pity. I'll try and correct that with the next one
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Old Aug 16, 2008, 08:26 PM
What arbre?? oh tree!
Puffer Ghoti's Avatar
Canada, QC
Joined Apr 2006
255 Posts
after 2 planes lost in a month in corn fields at my club I decided to get a Loc8tor and tested it today. .... I fly small electic 30-40 inch. lost a Lynx pusher which I spent all winter preparing and glassing (120mph..) on it maiden.. too much elevator on a high speed turn..snapped it down vertical... d'oh. Last week end lost a MS composit Swift II when It lost all power and circled in slowly inverted into middle of a huge cornfield about 600m away....dry joint? not pilot error...

Got a GWS BE-found also some superior equivalents on the way to me. Did some tests. can find using loc8tor if you are around 200ft of the plane in a cornfield. ( no.. I put the plane next to the edge and walking through the field to lost signal and then used the signal to find it using the loca8tor set).. I now put 1 tag on the plane.. 1 on the battery and attach the BE-found to cover the bases.. to be sure.. to be sure. to be sure..

Its a good product but range was more limiting than expected in real life situation alternative are much more expensive...
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Old Aug 16, 2008, 11:06 PM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puffer Ghoti
after 2 planes lost in a month in corn fields at my club I decided to get a Loc8tor and tested it today. .... I fly small electic 30-40 inch. lost a Lynx pusher which I spent all winter preparing and glassing (120mph..) on it maiden.. too much elevator on a high speed turn..snapped it down vertical... d'oh. Last week end lost a MS composit Swift II when It lost all power and circled in slowly inverted into middle of a huge cornfield about 600m away....dry joint? not pilot error...

Got a GWS BE-found also some superior equivalents on the way to me. Did some tests. can find using loc8tor if you are around 200ft of the plane in a cornfield. ( no.. I put the plane next to the edge and walking through the field to lost signal and then used the signal to find it using the loca8tor set).. I now put 1 tag on the plane.. 1 on the battery and attach the BE-found to cover the bases.. to be sure.. to be sure. to be sure..

Its a good product but range was more limiting than expected in real life situation alternative are much more expensive...
Good info, thanks for sharing! It's always handy to get more experiences into the hands of the people.


There are cases where a 200ft net wont be quite enough (free flight fly-aways in thermals, etc), but in most cases it's more than enough. Reasoning being that you're operating the locator as you're walking towards the "last known" position, making the search area 200ft either side of the path you're walking... 400ft wide column is a heck of an area. Although corn fields may be one of those close-quarters situations where you may find it hard to stay in a straight line... may want to take a compass along and get a bearing toward the last-known before setting off (always knew that compass I had in scouts would come in handy again! ).

In my testing of other devices, you don't need much range to beat a noise maker in terms of a preferable device... I also tend to rule out devices that need a flight battery for power as they love to depart and disconnect themselves in accidents.


To beat the loc8tor will take some $$$ to beat, and please feel free to post into this thread with any new info so that people can assess their needs against what's out there!
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Old Aug 16, 2008, 11:19 PM
What arbre?? oh tree!
Puffer Ghoti's Avatar
Canada, QC
Joined Apr 2006
255 Posts
I basically agree, with a coherent search strategy, you will find her... Unless the tag is in deepfreeze as my middle child hid it last night in a free for all test.., I got close but the batteries do not perform well below freezing.. recucing the sinal as I searched...

200ft+ is good, Both planes I lost, the be-found would have been inoperative as there was a battery disconnected. I do not see a downside as belts and braces protection approach but adds 15g of extra weight...
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Old Aug 18, 2008, 01:35 AM
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France, Aquitaine, Duras
Joined Jan 2006
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Loc8tor tags

[QUOTE=MarkFitzgerald]Outstanding Review! I think I'll get the more expensive one as the range is a little bit better (600' vs. 400' LOS). I fly over corn fields a lot and this could come in handy!


I have used the more expensive version since it was introduced maybe 3 years ago. The Loc8tor system has the advantage over other systems developed specifically for model aircraft use in that it does not swamp at close range. The big downside that should not be underestimated, is how easily the range is lost if there is anything between the handset and the tag. In the air we certainly get 600ft, measured by flying an electric r/c model high above fitted with a RAM altimeter. But get the model in a slight depression or on the ground out of sight in long or wet grass, and your range could be down to less than 50ft. Don't get me wrong, these tags are brilliant as a cheap solution but do not expect miracles. I have 4 tags and since loosing 2 radio models[!] I never ever fly without a tag in the model.
As an aside, if you are in the UK, keep a lookout in the shops after Christmas is over. 18 months ago Marks and Spencer kept the expensive set in their Christmas gifts section, but after Christmas they sold them off at £15 a set. That is how I come to have 2 complete sets! And for models in cornfields Mark, absolutely essential.
cheers
krafty
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Old Aug 18, 2008, 01:54 AM
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theKM's Avatar
central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krafty
I have used the more expensive version since it was introduced maybe 3 years ago. The Loc8tor system has the advantage over other systems developed specifically for model aircraft use in that it does not swamp at close range. The big downside that should not be underestimated, is how easily the range is lost if there is anything between the handset and the tag. In the air we certainly get 600ft, measured by flying an electric r/c model high above fitted with a RAM altimeter. But get the model in a slight depression or on the ground out of sight in long or wet grass, and your range could be down to less than 50ft. Don't get me wrong, these tags are brilliant as a cheap solution but do not expect miracles. I have 4 tags and since loosing 2 radio models[!] I never ever fly without a tag in the model.
As an aside, if you are in the UK, keep a lookout in the shops after Christmas is over. 18 months ago Marks and Spencer kept the expensive set in their Christmas gifts section, but after Christmas they sold them off at £15 a set. That is how I come to have 2 complete sets! And for models in cornfields Mark, absolutely essential.
cheers
krafty
How old were the batteries in the tag that had the range reduced to 50ft?... I only ask as my test was right after rain, and the tag was sitting on the ground and I had to beat through a couple of hundred feet of bush to get to it. Would be good to know the different factors that accounted for the deterioration in distance, and my tags had less than 24 hours of "on" time for my testing. Maybe their tech has gotten better over time as well maybe?...

Think that the best recommendation is still to do your best to track as close to your plane as possible, because you never know the extenuating circumstances. Certainly the guys can get stuck up trees will have an advantage


Thanks for posting your longer-term experience!
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Old Aug 18, 2008, 11:02 AM
Registered User
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Joined Feb 2004
27 Posts
Loc8tor range experience

I picked up a Loc8tor set at Toledo a few years ago, and started off using them to keep track of the dog and cat! It worked great on the dog, until she found a large puddle to roll around in. The tags are not particularly waterproof! The cat was a little less promising. Sometime I would go looking for her at night, and couldn't find her at all. Then she would suddenly pop up on the screen right beside the house. She must have some sort of shielded bunker that she hides in! She is also very good at losing collars, and sometimes I haven't been able to find the collars or the tags, despite searching with the Loc8tor for over a kilometre. At $45 per tag, I decided that I didn't really need to know where the cat was all the time!
I have tags in a couple of planes, but so far I haven't had to use them. They seem to work fine in testing though. I can say that if the tag ends up in a ditch or behind a hill, the range is greatly reduced.
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Old Aug 18, 2008, 10:20 PM
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Utah
Joined Aug 2001
1,938 Posts
Thinking outside the box or inside the plane.

Since I lost a model once in 3 foot high grass and had to borrow an ATV and spend 3 hours searching, I've flown with lost model locators (the beepers that you plug into a free channel on the RX), but they don't seem to work with my new JR and Spectrum radios. Why?

Anyway, I'm getting the Loc8tor, and if I lose a plane and can't locate it in the conventional way, then that 20gm Loc8tor receiver is going into a plane with a wireless video camera link (with the ground and the Loc8tor screen in view) and I'll fly a pattern until it is located. I kinda hope a lose a plane now.
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Old Aug 19, 2008, 06:38 AM
Electric only
rkopka's Avatar
Graz - Austria
Joined Nov 2002
287 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by theKM
The non-Lite version looks interesting, either way I don't think you can go wrong. The LCD of the other one will tell you which direction to turn to start walking saving the "turn around and see which side seems stronger" sequence... which I should add would remove ambiguity at the edge of the range
No, it just has a more fancy display, but there is no direction info. It's only a bar with finer resolution and a numeric info.

I was not so lucky with my unit. I didn't see the graphic shown for the distances before purchase (my fault). In my tests the tags were located 40cm above ground and the range was 50-90m (nothing between). That would have been acceptable. But even the thin glass of a VOODOO cost me about 20m in range and outside mounting was no option. The tags (new as far as I could tell) showed considerable differences in range.
The problem came with the maize surrounding our field (3m high, quite dense). With the Voodoo 5m outside the field, I lost contact only 5m inside the field ! As our models are in general lost in 50 to 200m range the advantage for a search would be marginal. Even a beeper could be heard farther.

If a model comes down nearly vertical a compass can be very useful. With a little training one can go straight for longer distances. But if it flys nearly horizontal when vanishing behind the maize the search area gets quite large. Not to mention sail planes that get lost in the distance. Therefor I will look inside avalanche search technology.

RK
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Old Aug 19, 2008, 08:19 AM
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central PA.
Joined Sep 2004
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what I'm also curious about is that if some electronics nut could extend the range significantly by adding a length of wire to the tags... the tags are kind of cosmetic as they're trying to sell them to people to find house keys and mobile phones, but a little wire coming out wouldn't effect our application.
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