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Zeiss Ikon

Game slows to a crawl with a 30-part vessel?

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Okay, I asked this once in Tech Support, and got no response over several days.  I then concluded that the issue was probably a performance setting on my computer, but it turned out I'm already optimized on that front.  So I'll try again here.

I'm running KSP 1.3.0 on Ubuntu MATE 16.04.3 LTS on my Thinkpad T430, with Core i7 (dual core, 2.9 GHz nominal, turbo up to 3.5 GHz), 8 GB RAM, platter hard disk, and on-board Intel graphics.  I have more than 100 GB free space in the Ubuntu partition on the hard disk.  I'm playing on AC power, and have the system's clock management set to "performance" (the only other alternative is "power saving", and changing this seems to have little effect, since both do on-demand clock management; "power saving" is just more aggressive in slowing down the cores when demand drops).

What I've read says this computer should nicely outperform my desktop machine, Kubuntu 14.04.5 LTS (with alternative XFCE desktop installed), Core2Quad 2.7 GHz, 8 GB RAM, and SSD with ~50 GB free.  My experience since installing KSP on the laptop contradicts this; overall performance is about the same.  I'll get a yellow clock when flying any vessel with more than 20 or so parts.

I've had the laptop since October.  Over the past couple weeks, however, I've been running into serious lag.  What used to be an intermittent yellow clock with a 20 part vessel is now a solid yellow clock, proceeding at close to half actual time rate, with the same vessel size.  Worse, when flying an aerospace vessel (glide reentry orbiter or HOTOL spaceplane) I'll get near-freezes, where engine sounds continue to play and altimeter and velocity displays update, but there's no response to control inputs for several seconds.  If this occurs at low altitude when attempting to land, it's prone to cause a crash, and if at high altitude, it can lead to overcontrol.

I'm running essentially stock: the only mod I have is Better Burn Time, which ought to be completely quiescent unless I have a maneuver node set, or am close to entering or leaving atmosphere, to a rendezvous with a set target, or to impact with a body like the Mun.  Even when active, it's not demanding; it does calculations I could have done in real time in BASIC on a 1986 Tandy Color Computer.  I have one other flight in progress, a Kerbal day or so from a maneuver, but that vessel ought to be on rails when I'm not flying it, so shouldn't take machine time comparable to a vessel in focus.

I'd welcome any suggestions how I could improve performance, short of buying a faster computer.  I regularly see my cores stepping up to as high as 3.4 GHz, and given modern Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge architecture, this ought to handle more than twenty parts, and reasonably should do so without the long "almost freeze" effect.

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4 hours ago, Zeiss Ikon said:

and on-board Intel graphics

While it is true that KSP is mostly CPU bound, an Intel HD integrated GPU has to run very hard to do the graphics, and heats up the CPU at the same time - which already gets taxed with all the physics calculations. On top of that, it uses shared system RAM for video and textures, warming that up as well, and having to share the same bus.  The additional heat, in a laptop, will quite quickly force the CPU/GPU to start throttling cores down to manage it.

Try to find the detailed settings for power management - the high level default 'performance' setting is no guarantee that you're really getting the best speed out of the system, often in the detailed settings there is still considerable limiting going on. Just be aware that it will lead to higher temps and may thus not really help in the end - you can't completely stop CPU/GPU from throttling. I haven't seen it on Linux, but on Windows the Intel HD graphics driver itself has a set of performance settings as well; see what you can tweak there.

Mostly though, I think you'll have to lower your graphics settings considerably, especially the graphic detail and effects. A big gain could come from using whatever tool you can find to force-limit the FPS for this game at a fixed, low value (KSP does not honour its own setting and will race frames at max speed at regular moments in the game); I've found 30 fps to keep fans quiet on some lower spec laptops I've installed KSP on. As said above, use a cooling pad - they do have some effect,but don't expect magic. Make sure there's no dust obstructing fans and air vents.

Not sure what else to offer. I would really suggest upgrading to a discrete graphics card, but most laptops don't allow that option.

 

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Are you using the 32 bit KSP?  I only ran into a problem when running mods with the 32 bit, but there might be some weird issue with yours.  If you are not already, use the 64 bit version of KSP (you can find the application in your program folder).  Hope this helps.

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The only things I can think of are:

Lots of background processes taking up CPU time.

Put the laptop on top of a laptop cooling pad to help remove heat.

If it's not a new laptop, consider dusting it out.

Graphics driver issue.

20 parts should be quite easy for any relatively recent CPU to handle, and even max KSP graphics are generally pretty easy, so it's unlikely to be a performance issue.

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Is there a heat issue?  The only thing I can think of is something using up too much CPU time (mining virus, try running "top" in a terminal) or a clogged fan.  A clogged fan is a more likely bet as it wouldn't show up until the CPU is working hard enough to get hot, then the CPU throttles itself down to less powerful than your old CPU.  You could try blasting the fan ports with compressed air to clear out the dust.

And of course, try checking your other processes while running KSP to make sure nothing is using significant amounts of CPU time.  An i7 should be able to handle things (I don't think it is a GPU issue, but that is possible.  But even an intel i7 GPU shouldn't be that bad).

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21 hours ago, Zeiss Ikon said:

on-board Intel graphics

^ Yah, my guess is that this is your problem right there.  That's not very powerful graphics hardware.

In general, any time you're wondering "why does X perform poorly?", the first thing you need to do is to identify the bottleneck.  For most computer games, the bottleneck is graphics, so "get a better video card" generally makes things better.

However, KSP's a bit different.  Yes, it does depend on graphics, and a crappy graphics card can slow it down.  However, it also has a computation-intensive physics model, and that uses the CPU, not your graphics card.  Either one of these two things (the CPU, or the graphics) could be slowing you down.  So before you can try to make things better, first you have to locate where the pain point is.

Here's how you can tell the difference, generally speaking:  The graphics card has problems with rendering big pretty things (e.g. looking at Kerbin from low orbit), but doesn't care all that much about part count on your ship.  The CPU has problems with ships with lots and lots of parts, but it doesn't care at all which way the camera's pointing.

So, here's a simple test:

  • Put a ship in low Kerbin orbit.  Then pan the camera around.  Try looking at the ship from below (so all you see in the background is the sky).  Then try looking at it from above (so you're looking down at Kerbin).
  • Indication that your graphics card is struggling:  Does the direction the camera's pointing make a big difference in your frame rate?   For example, does it seem fast and smooth when you're looking at the sky, but slow and choppy when you're looking down at Kerbin?
  • If the direction your camera's looking makes a big difference in frame rate, then graphics are likely the problem.
  • Another indication that CPU isn't the problem would be if it doesn't make a lot of difference between a 10-part ship and a 200-part ship.

CPU, on the other hand, is more likely to be your problem if it doesn't matter much which direction your camera is pointed (e.g. it doesn't matter much "is Kerbin filling the screen or not")... but you have problems with ships that have a lot of part count.

Another potential bottleneck is RAM, if you've got a system that doesn't have much of it.  You only have 8GB, which may or may not be a problem depending on how much RAM KSP is occupying and what else may be running on your system.  A symptom of RAM bottlenecking is if things run at pretty smooth framerate, but every few seconds it seems to lock up for a bit before continuing.

 

...So, anyway, the thing to do here is to figure out where the problem is.

If the problem is graphics:  either put in a better graphics card, or else go into your game settings and turn your graphics options way way down (low terrain detail, low-res textures, etc.)

If the problem is CPU:  well, you're basically just hosed unless you switch to a machine with a faster CPU.  Try to fly ships with lower part counts.  There may be some game settings to adjust the fidelity of the physics model, but I've never needed to tinker with that (and am not in front of a KSP computer at the moment), so I can't really help with that.

If the problem is RAM ... put in some more.  :)

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Well, of course, the other KSP problem is having time to play.  I'll try to remember to run a couple tests (for CPU vs. GPU vs. RAM vs. heat bottlenecks) next time I can play.  Based on the (perceived) periodic nature of the slowdowns, I'm suspecting RAM, via garbage collection.  Why is it that every time you upgrade to "this should be enough RAM" it turns into "oh, you have *only* X GB?"  OTOH, my conky reports I usually have multiple GB of RAM free, even when running KSP (and my only mod is Better Burn Time, which ought not to require much of the system).

The computer was bought refurbished, but was very clean when it arrived a few weeks ago.  Also, I have both temperature and clock speed monitor widgets running, so I can see core and MB temps in real time, and see when the system throttles the CPU.  I also run MilkyWay@Home, which uses priority to stay out of the way of foreground tasks and uses little RAM, but it does run the CPU at 100%, which likely contributes to keeping the machine hot.  BOINC (@Home manager) does have a setting to not run when particular other apps are in use, or when there's high demand, I may have to explore those settings.

Unfortunately, the detailed CPU performance settings apparently no longer exist since introduction of the "p-state" drivers; reasonably current Core processor drivers have only two settings: "Performance" and "Power Saving", the latter is effectively "On Demand".  I've set my preference to "Performance" (I very seldom play on battery, and my battery life has been excellent since upgrading batteries).  Ubuntu MATE doesn't appear to have any detailed performance settings for the Intel GPU, but I recall this issue occurring more or less equally whether I'm looking out into space or at Kerbin from low orbit (or in atmosphere), so I doubt GPU is the bottleneck.  I do run pretty modest graphics settings, out of long habit (seems I always have a computer that can just barely run whatever game I'm trying to play).

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On 12/4/2017 at 5:32 PM, Zeiss Ikon said:

I'm running essentially stock: the only mod I have is Better Burn Time, which ought to be completely quiescent unless I have a maneuver node set, or am close to entering or leaving atmosphere, to a rendezvous with a set target, or to impact with a body like the Mun.  Even when active, it's not demanding; it does calculations I could have done in real time in BASIC on a 1986 Tandy Color Computer.

I'm not so sure if that's entirely true, but the casual namedrop of my first computer brought a smile. And talk of upgrading RAM really brought back some memories. My Tandy 1000 SX was a beast. With dual 5 1/4" floppy drives and 128k of RAM (yes, kids, I said k). I spent an unGodly amount of hours playing "Pirates" and the like (before Sid was famous enough to have his name in the title). It was a game called Camelot, though, that brought need of an upgrade. Bought a memory stick and installed it with my dad. Bumped us up to a whopping 256k. I was really rockin' then. Even installed a modem for it later. However, it never did have a hard-drive.

Anyway, sorry for that off-topic bit of nostalgia. Your problem had me thinking about when I bought my current laptop 2 Christmases ago. I was spending a small fortune, so I did my homework as I saved over the months. The gaming mantra was always GPU, CPU, RAM, SSD. With KSP, that seems to get rearranged a bit. Going CPU, RAM, GPU, SSD. I've heard plenty of guys say they run 8gb just fine. With zero visual mods and graphics turned way down, that would lead me to believe that your CPU is to blame. The Intel HD graphics really are horrible, though. That's pretty much the entire reason I spent so much. For years I would see messages saying graphics were turned down, and some games wouldn't play at all and would just say "upgrade your graphics card".

So, not that it's much help, but I'd say CPU or GPU. If you'd like, I could run a quick experiment tonight. My MSI has a button that shuts off the 980 and runs strictly off the onboard graphics. All my ships have hundreds of parts (and some over 1,000), so I would find out pretty fast how much effect the GPU has. It actually sounds like an interesting experiment, so I think I might try it anyway.

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5 hours ago, Zeiss Ikon said:

Why is it that every time you upgrade to "this should be enough RAM" it turns into "oh, you have *only* X GB?"

It's not just how much it is but also how it is arranged. If your 8GB are only one stick then it will be a bit slower than a multi-channel setup with two sticks.

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3 hours ago, Harry Rhodan said:

It's not just how much it is but also how it is arranged. If your 8GB are only one stick then it will be a bit slower than a multi-channel setup with two sticks.

On a normal PC with a discrete GPU, the difference would be very small - under 5 percent, only time i really see a big difference is on level load times (more relevant to first person shooter games and the like) when the extra bandwidth copying textures for the level from main ram into video ram made a huge difference.    Especially in games where you die a lot.  However, once it's running there's not much in it. CPUs care more about latency more than bandwidth - how fast that stick is - rather than having two slots on separate circuits that it can communicate with simultaneously.    For CPU stuff,  99% of the time program data is in the CPU's own cache memory.  Occasionally, it needs to reference a byte or two that weren't brought into the cache ahead of time.   But it's only a byte or two, not bulk transfers.  The time taken to access that first byte is critical because the whole cpu is waiting, but not how quickly a 1mb block can be copied over.

IF you've got integrated graphics however,  dual channel ram (having each slot on its own circuit, and having a memory module in each slot) in some cases will double graphics performance.   That is because almost everything a graphics chip does involves copying from a texture into video memory, with multiple passes over every pixel on the screen as lighting, shadows and other effects are applied.   Discrete graphics chips have their own ram,  operating at very high speed, soldered directly onto the motherboard, but integrated graphics are bottlenecked by the capability of the system memory,

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I haven't even opened the RAM cover on my Thinkpad.  It's held with screws, of  course, and it's under the Slice battery, so I'll have to find a time when I can spend twenty minutes or so to open it up and check if a) there are any free slots, or b) the RAM is dual channel (most is, if it's fully populated).  Longer term, I'd like to switch out the HDD for an SSD -- it made a tremendous difference in overall system performance on my desktop machine -- but I don't see it affecting KSP much, because most of what the game is doing ought to be in RAM, except when I have to load something coming into view or physics range.

If it's a single DIMM, the obvious answer is to double up -- both for the video boost for integrated graphics, and just because more RAM is always worth having.  For whoever asked above somewhere, I've been running 64-bit for everything possible since I first installed MEPIS 11 six years ago.  Not very coincidentally, that was about the time the Linux kernel started providing really decent support for multiarch libraries.

@Cpt Kerbalkrunch Over the course of two years, I owned no less than six Color Computers, ranging from a 16k chiclet key gray-case unit to a CoCo3 that I upgraded to 512k RAM (though I never had OS9 to make real use of that RAM).  I used the original 64k chips out of that machine when I got my first DOS box (1987) to backfill the stock 512k to 640k.  That machine, a Laser XT, eventually maxed out at 4.5 MB EMS, SVGA (512K, 1024x768), and dual hard disks, 30 and 40 MB -- and ran Windows 3 for a while in that configuration.

Edit to add: Say, does anyone know of a GPU that can be mounted in a mini-PCIe slot?  This Thinkpad should have one where it doesn't have a cellular broadband card installed, and it should be the longer form factor...

Edited by Zeiss Ikon

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I am in a bit of a weird situation in that I am using what would be considered laptop hardware in a desktop box. Here is my real life experience. Over the last few moths I have done a series of up grades, one forced. After my hard dive started to crash I replaced it with a SSD. The only real difference I noticed was faster load times in KSP. Next I added a second 8 megs of ram stick to the single stick 8 megs I already had (still using the on board A6 graphics). I got about a 20% improvement in the GPU, but the CPU did not really appear to have been helped by the extra ram. Benchmarks leaded me to understand that the on board graphics was still my bottleneck. My KSP clock was always green so I was not dropping physics frames. My last update was a Nvidia GT 1030. It is a SFF case with a sub 200 watt proprietary power supply that is not easily upgraded, so it was the GT 1030, or nothing. I got another 20% increase in GPU performance. At this point, KSP is bottlenecked by the CPU. With something like a life support mod, KSP drops down to about 30 FPS. Self sustaining bases with all the bells and whistles tend to be high part counts, so I am not sure if it is the part count or the mods.

I don't really have to worry about heat concerns, so I am not sure how this translates to laptops.

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4 hours ago, Zeiss Ikon said:

I haven't even opened the RAM cover on my Thinkpad.

Specs for T430/430i:

Quote
Memory
  • PC3-12800 Non-Parity (NP) Double Data Rate Three (DDR3) Technology
  • Two SO-DIMM Slots
    • The use of 1600 MHz SO-DIMM memory is recommended for this system.
    • System automatically clocks down for processors with 1333MHz DDR3 memory controller
  • 2 GB, 4GB, or 8GB memory
  • Supports up to 16GB maximum memory
  • Intel Turbo Boost 2.0
    Note: Only 64-bit operating systems support more than 3GB of system memory (RAM).


https://support.lenovo.com/au/en/solutions/pd024705

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7 hours ago, James Kerman said:

Thanks.  Based on the turbo going up to 3.4 GHz, I presume the installed RAM is the correct spec 1600 MHz.  Still have to open the cover to see if it's a single 8 GB stick, or two 4 GB sticks.  Fortunately, even laptop RAM isn't all that expensive these days.

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13 hours ago, James Kerman said:

Depending on your budget your gaming might benefit more with an external graphics card/box.

I'm virtually certain my T430 doesn' t have Thunderbolt 3.  It does have USB 3.0, and an ExpressCard 34.

However, I was just looking at the specs, and the i7 version of the T430 is supposed to have nVidia graphics with Optimus.  :o  Now I have to go find out how to determine if that's actually the case -- as I understand it, if Optimus has the nVidia turned off, it looks like there isn't one (which is what I'm seeing with the commands I know to check hardware).

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I found some instructions on how to enable the nVidia GPU in my laptop, and it seems to make a big difference.  I opened my sandbox save, picked an Aeris A4 out of the prebuilt craft, and launched it to orbit with not much yellow clock and much less intrusive freezes (I'm now more sure those are garbage collection).  Still working on getting things optimized with either Prime or Bumblebee (Ubuntu 16.04 isn't fully up to speed with hybrid graphics, it seems), but this seems likely to help a great deal.

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Sigh.

Observer bias sucks.

In fact, there was never an improvement in the game performance, other than flying the Aeris A4 in an otherwise clean sandbox, with no flights in progress and no (or almost no) debris in orbit.

And after a seeming misstep on Friday evening, attempting to switch between hybrid graphics software (bumblebee to nVidia Prime and back), I managed to do something to my Ubuntu that killed both mouse and keyboard response at the login screen.  I spent most of the weekend reinstalling Ubuntu (took a half hour) and getting all my customization back in place (took most of two days).  No data lost; my /home folder was untouched and once I had all the applications reinstalled I was actually able to rename the old user home (which I'd renamed, so as to reuse the same login) back to my login name and get the last few details straight.

Unfortunately, it appears I have a relative rarity -- a Thinkpad T430 that was sold with an i7 processor, but only 320 GB hard disk and no dedicated GPU (someone needed CPU, but when cheap on graphics and HDD space).  So, whatever I'm getting for performance now is what I'm going to get.

It's not bad; in fact, even with only the Intel graphics, it's still similar, if not slightly better than what I get with my desktop machine, which has an nVidia GTx750 (and similar clock speed, but in a Core2Quad instead of i7).  A little bit of a letdown, though, after reading the page that showed the only i7 model as having the nVidia GPU.

I guess I'll have to wait until I can upgrade the MB/CPU/RAM in my desktop machine to really see improved performance.  I'm hoping I can afford an i5 or i7 with a clock speed above 3.5 GHz.  That and at least 16 GB RAM, with the GTx750 and my SSD, should help a good bit...

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Sorry to hear that, mate.  I believe you will get a heap more performance out of the upgraded desktop.

Edited by James Kerman
to make sense

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this is my guess on your computers....

the core 2 duo is the very bare minimum to run KSP so it doesnt matter if you had the best GPU in the world it wont help as the CPU just cant keep up with your GPU

for the laptop is more than likely the opposite, your onboard graphics are probably to blame.

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KSP barely makes use of more than one CPU core.   Performance is very dependent on the speed of your cores, not how many you have.   So, the I7's extra cores might be somewhat wasted, whilst the Core 2 Duo is simply too old to cut it.

For the desktop upgrade I'd be looking towards an I5 rather than I7 for that reason,  I'd also give the latest generation Coffee Lake chips (those whose model numbers start 8xxxx) a miss, since their only advantage is 2 extra cores over the previous models (i3 is now a quad, not a dual, i5 is a hex, not a quad).     16gb RAM is also unnecessary, KSP does fine with 8gb (and multiple web browser windows open in background),  and the sort of high speed DDR 4 that gets the best out of a fast chip won't be cheap.

My wish list -

£210     I5 7600K  "Kaby Lake"  Quad Core  3.8ghz Base 4.2ghz Turbo -    multiplier unlocked for overclocking 

£103     Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB kit (2 x 4GB modules)  DDR 4   PC2400 Cas 14

PC2400 is the fastest memory speed officially supported by the CPU,  and this Corsair LPX kit does that at CAS Latency 14,  most resort to CAS 16 timings at such speed

About £70 for the motherboard

If you don't want to spend that much :

£107   I3-8100    "Coffee Lake"   Quad Core, 3.6Ghz,  no Turbo

£107   I3-7100 "Kaby Lake"  Dual Core, 3.9Ghz,  no Turbo

You can pick up 8gb of slower ddr 3 memory for just £60.   

FWIW,  I have a 3rd generation i5-3570 quad, 3.5ghz base and 3.8 turbo,  haven't gone over 150 parts in any of my designs but copes ok.

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One thing that hasn't been mentioned that's worth checking: You can sometimes get errors which repeat every frame, writing to the log each time and making the game run very slowly. Hit Alt+F12 and check that you're not seeing a wall of red text.

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5 minutes ago, TheFlyingKerman said:

I am running KSP on a Thinkpad X260 with 2.3GHz i5 core without problem. I drive quite a lot on the ground. However my OS is Win 7.

i5-6200

It's a sixth generation I series processor, each generation gained about 5% at same clock speed (though there is no real diff between 7 and 8 other than extra cores).   Also, thanks to Turbo boost, when only one core is loaded (in a heavily single threaded game like KSP)  it revs the working core up to 2.8ghz

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12 minutes ago, AeroGav said:

i5-6200

It's a sixth generation I series processor, each generation gained about 5% at same clock speed (though there is no real diff between 7 and 8 other than extra cores).   Also, thanks to Turbo boost, when only one core is loaded (in a heavily single threaded game like KSP)  it revs the working core up to 2.8ghz

Yes. And my computer is an ultrabook. The OP's laptop should be better in every way.

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14 minutes ago, TheFlyingKerman said:

Yes. And my computer is an ultrabook. The OP's laptop should be better in every way.

Well,  your max turbo is 2.8ghz vs 3.6ghz on his,  but yours is a sixth gen chip vs 3rd gen (which will make up most of the difference).   But it does suggest his cpu should be slightly faster, unless the heatsink is clogged or something forcing the system to throttle down.    The 6th generation intel graphics though are absolutely streets ahead of that present on his chip, which went unimproved from 2nd generation

 

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