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Author Topic: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound  (Read 7695 times)

Jerry Turnbow

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Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« on: August 21, 2013, 02:35:03 pm »

I'm finally going to bite the bullet and purchase a "me-Pad" and Wi-Fi router  in order to utilize the remote control capabilities of my GLD-80.

I've used handheld devices in the past working with other sound techs on their systems, and have learned a couple of things, such as using the 5 GHz band and disabling 2.4 GHz capabilities in the router.

Doing a site search on this topic, I also learned about the inSider app from Metageek, which looks like a good tool to help troubleshoot channel conflicts, etc., but I'm curious if anyone has any recommendations for best practices for using wireless routers to control their Yammy's, Presonuses (Presoni?), GLDs/Ilives, etc.

For example:
  • Recommended Router type/makes/models  (What has worked for you?)
  • External antenna (Some of these have the capability of an external antenna - anybody doing this?)
  • Repeater or Bridge needed or useful on larger outdoor events?
  • Router placement (I considered mounting the router on a high stand, for example, and run long ethernet and power cables from the rack)
  • Programming tips in addition to disabling 2.4 GHz?
  • Tools or other tricks for troubleshooting problems

As always, thanks for any help you can provide!
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Jerry Turnbow
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Josh Hana

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 04:31:55 pm »

I'm finally going to bite the bullet and purchase a "me-Pad" and Wi-Fi router  in order to utilize the remote control capabilities of my GLD-80.

I've used handheld devices in the past working with other sound techs on their systems, and have learned a couple of things, such as using the 5 GHz band and disabling 2.4 GHz capabilities in the router.

Doing a site search on this topic, I also learned about the inSider app from Metageek, which looks like a good tool to help troubleshoot channel conflicts, etc., but I'm curious if anyone has any recommendations for best practices for using wireless routers to control their Yammy's, Presonuses (Presoni?), GLDs/Ilives, etc.

For example:
  • Recommended Router type/makes/models  (What has worked for you?)
  • External antenna (Some of these have the capability of an external antenna - anybody doing this?)
  • Repeater or Bridge needed or useful on larger outdoor events?
  • Router placement (I considered mounting the router on a high stand, for example, and run long ethernet and power cables from the rack)
  • Programming tips in addition to disabling 2.4 GHz?
  • Tools or other tricks for troubleshooting problems

As always, thanks for any help you can provide!

Should go without saying, but make sure you're not using any 2.4ghz wireless mics or transmitters. Even with your router's 2.4ghz band disabled, I'm fairly certain you can still run into problems.
Beyond that, you'll want to name the SSID something fairly easy to type and remember (Ours is simply 'FOH'), but make sure you're using WPA2 encryption, and TURN OFF SSID BROADCAST. That is the most important part. That will stop punters from trying to connect to your router all night long. Even with just a password, you run the risk of hundreds of people trying to connect over and over, guessing the password all night. That can actually bog down your network and cause a lot of un-needed wifi traffic in the venue.

As for placement, ours runs just fine inside the back of the amp rack on SL, we run a hardline across the stage to the SR amprack, and then for large shows, we loop out to a repeater on SR. For outdoor shows we usually run a hardwire to FOH just to be safe. For small venues, most consumer routers should be fine if you can get it over the crowd. Line of sight will always give the best connection.

As for what models, pretty much anything consumer level is going to be roughly the same. Most consumer external antennas don't do much of anything. If you need more coverage, get a wifi repeater. You should hardwire from your router to the repeater, and you'll still have only 1 wireless network, but with ~twice the coverage. There are tons of custom options and modifications for antennas, but those are really only helpful for large outdoor shows and for use with specific production oriented routers (think the Cisco UFO-looking thing with 6 antennas or the Droid heads)

If you're at a permanent venue, I highly suggest a hardline or two from stage to FOH. If your snake is under 300' and you can spare 2 channels, you can wire up a pair of XLR to plug in each end and terminate to cat5. That was my solution before we got our reels.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2013, 09:40:01 pm »

Should go without saying, but make sure you're not using any 2.4ghz wireless mics or transmitters. Even with your router's 2.4ghz band disabled, I'm fairly certain you can still run into problems.
If the 2.4ghz radio is off on the router, it shouldn't matter if your wireless mics are on that band.  The router isn't listening or transmitting on those frequencies when it is off, unless the router for some reason keeps that frequency on, but blocks traffic.  ie, poor design of the router!

Beyond that, you'll want to name the SSID something fairly easy to type and remember (Ours is simply 'FOH'), but make sure you're using WPA2 encryption, and TURN OFF SSID BROADCAST. That is the most important part. That will stop punters from trying to connect to your router all night long. Even with just a password, you run the risk of hundreds of people trying to connect over and over, guessing the password all night. That can actually bog down your network and cause a lot of un-needed wifi traffic in the venue.
Good advice to hide the SSID.  Lower powered routers will freak out when 100's of devices ask it if they can connect.  The WPA2 encryption is less important, and can actually cause problems.  On the Yamaha boards, I've found that the slight latency added with WPA2 can make the system completely unstable.  A hidden SSID and MAC address filtering is generally enough security to keep people off of your network.  Yes, it can be hacked, but what are the odds of someone doing that at a show?

As for what models, pretty much anything consumer level is going to be roughly the same. Most consumer external antennas don't do much of anything. If you need more coverage, get a wifi repeater. You should hardwire from your router to the repeater, and you'll still have only 1 wireless network, but with ~twice the coverage. There are tons of custom options and modifications for antennas, but those are really only helpful for large outdoor shows and for use with specific production oriented routers (think the Cisco UFO-looking thing with 6 antennas or the Droid heads)

There are pros and cons to this approach.  When your pad connects to a wifi network, it looks only at the network name.  If it sees two access points with the same name, it will connect to the one with the strongest signal. (actually, best signal to noise ratio, but that's that's another topic)  Anyway, if there happens to be some interference between the pad and the closer router at time of connecting, it will connect to the further router.  If you're at the edge of range, the signal could drop and the device will then re-establish connection, again to whichever it sees as the strongest signal.  Under most cases, this is pretty seamless, but the transition can cause interruption in the network connection for enough time to cause lag or disconnection from the desk.

A single access point wouldn't have this problem, but if for whatever reason, your device couldn't see that access point, there's NO fallback, which means no connection. That's worse than no connection during the switch for sure.


If you're at a permanent venue, I highly suggest a hardline or two from stage to FOH. If your snake is under 300' and you can spare 2 channels, you can wire up a pair of XLR to plug in each end and terminate to cat5. That was my solution before we got our reels.

What?  Using 2 snake channels for cat 5?  Yeah, it MIGHT work, but I could only imagine how unreliable that would be.  Any noise or interference and you'll have dropped packets all over the place.  Definitely not good advice.
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Bob Charest

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2013, 10:32:42 pm »

...
  • Recommended Router type/makes/models  (What has worked for you?)
Netgear R6300
  • External antenna (Some of these have the capability of an external antenna - anybody doing this?)
Ubiquiti Bullet AP connect to router via Cat5. Screws into a Qualcom Antenna - This antenna gives outstanding performance for us
  • Repeater or Bridge needed or useful on larger outdoor events?
Not needed due to Qualcom antenna
  • Router placement (I considered mounting the router on a high stand, for example, and run long ethernet and power cables from the rack)
The Ubiquiti/Qualcom  setup connects to the router via Cat5 (AP is run by Power over Ethernet, POE with a little power supply) so the router can stay in the case with the mixer and other IP addressable components. We've tested this at a fair and were still connected at 600 yards...
  • Programming tips in addition to disabling 2.4 GHz?
Hide the SSID for your wireless, secure that connection even though it is hidden.
  • Tools or other tricks for troubleshooting problems
Wifi Analyzer running on an android device will show other competing sources of RF and allow for changes to router config for best results. Android device I'm using is Nexus 7 as it has 802.11 a/b/g/n.

[/list]

As always, thanks for any help you can provide!

Hope that's of use!

Best regards,
Bob Charest
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Daniel Ravald

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2013, 06:27:48 am »

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Josh Hana

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2013, 09:35:10 am »


What?  Using 2 snake channels for cat 5?  Yeah, it MIGHT work, but I could only imagine how unreliable that would be.  Any noise or interference and you'll have dropped packets all over the place.  Definitely not good advice.

I've done it on quite a few outdoor shows to avoid running a separate cat5, or mostly back when we didn't have our reels of cat5 yet. I didn't use it for a snake, it was set up mainly to connect to the processing/amps to monitor during the show because wifi wouldn't reach the 125'+ to FOH reliably. 2 cat 5 cables, 1 terminated with two XLR males, the other with 2 xlr females, each taking a pair to pins 2+3 (in a standard cat5, only green and orange pairs are used) It looks ghetto but this was only a temp solution for a few shows, and it worked fine:


Also, for the 2.4ghz mic systems, IMO it won't matter if YOUR router is broadcasting in that range, chances are in any venue, there are several routers that will be. I appreciate companies are trying to come up with different solutions to the wireless conundrum, but I feel like heading into the 2.4ghz range is totally backwards. Yes, it's bad that TV stations and a lot of pro audio RF gear works in the 400-700 range, but is that really worse than every single punter in a room who has a phone with wifi? I have a feeling 2.4ghz band is, and will continue to become far more crowded (and unpredictable) than our UHF systems.
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Jerry Turnbow

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2013, 11:44:45 pm »

Thanks, folks!  Hiding the SSID makes perfect sense - probably explains those instances when everything works great until the audience shows up, and we have line-of-site between the remote and the router.

Good suggestions everyone - I appreciate your help.

- Jerry
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Jerry Turnbow
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Jerome Malsack

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2013, 08:19:13 am »

With the apps out, a hidden ssid is still visible and with a ssid of FOH some people would think it fun if they get in and try playing with the mix. 
Keep ssid and password from being easy to ID and guess.  We rotate the password from time to time because we will allow some bands to run their monitor mix and when we do the next band show we will rotate to keep the first band from changing the monitor mix on the next band. 

Policy might be easier to provide the band the monitor pad to avoid the password rotations, or have the FOH B person to run the monitor mix around stage. 

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Mark McFarlane

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2013, 11:55:11 am »

Thanks, folks!  Hiding the SSID makes perfect sense - probably explains those instances when everything works great until the audience shows up, and we have line-of-site between the remote and the router....

FWIW, although intuitively a hidden SSID makes sense, in reality hiding the SSID is not really very effective as a security measure and can actually cause connection problems. The SSID is easily discoverable with most any network analysis tool.  Devices that know bout the hidden SSID will broadcast its existence when they try to connect,...

A hidden SSID would keep my wife from finding it, but probably not a high percentage of 20-somethings who already have tools on their phones to search for wireless networks cause they use them all the time.

I'm not recommending that you don't hide your SSID, but just wanted to mention that the value probably isn't s high as most people think and it can actually cause various compatibility problems (apparently particularly with Windows XP).  Google "hidden SSID security' and you'll find many articles debunking the myth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_cloaking
http://blogs.technet.com/b/steriley/archive/2007/10/16/myth-vs-reality-wireless-ssids.aspx
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/28653/debunking-myths-is-hiding-your-wireless-ssid-really-more-secure/

...

In full disclosure, I don't hide my SSIDs for concerts, but I also seldom use wireless after the show starts, I only use wifi during setup and soundcheck


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Scott Wagner

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2013, 01:33:30 pm »

FWIW, although intuitively a hidden SSID makes sense, in reality hiding the SSID is not really very effective as a security measure and can actually cause connection problems. The SSID is easily discoverable with most any network analysis tool.  Devices that know bout the hidden SSID will broadcast its existence when they try to connect,...

A hidden SSID would keep my wife from finding it, but probably not a high percentage of 20-somethings who already have tools on their phones to search for wireless networks cause they use them all the time.

I'm not recommending that you don't hide your SSID, but just wanted to mention that the value probably isn't s high as most people think and it can actually cause various compatibility problems (apparently particularly with Windows XP).  Google "hidden SSID security' and you'll find many articles debunking the myth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_cloaking
http://blogs.technet.com/b/steriley/archive/2007/10/16/myth-vs-reality-wireless-ssids.aspx
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/28653/debunking-myths-is-hiding-your-wireless-ssid-really-more-secure/

...

In full disclosure, I don't hide my SSIDs for concerts, but I also seldom use wireless after the show starts, I only use wifi during setup and soundcheck
Security Through Obscurity (ie: hiding the SSID) is not exactly a robust security measure, but it is none-the-less worth doing.  Anything you can do to reduce the number of connection attempts is a good thing.  MAC Address filtering is another good (and highly recommended) tool.  This is exactly the reason most (including me) suggest using the 5GHz band instead of 2.4GHz.  Keep in mind that it is only a (short) matter of time before the 5GHz is equally congested.  Also, higher frequencies come with their own limitations and challenges.  Generally speaking, for critical applications lower frequencies are the better choice (if you can't have a wire/fiber).
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David Sturzenbecher

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Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2013, 03:47:02 pm »

How does hiding the SSID reduce connection attempts?. Every device still tries to connect and asks "do I know you? Have I connected to you before?"

You don't have to type in the SSID every time because the answer to the above asked question is "yes"
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Scott Wagner

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2013, 05:44:03 pm »

How does hiding the SSID reduce connection attempts?. Every device still tries to connect and asks "do I know you? Have I connected to you before?"

You don't have to type in the SSID every time because the answer to the above asked question is "yes"
Every device tries to connect to SSIDs that it knows about (think client side).  Hidden SSIDs have to be specifically entered.  A hidden SSID will not show up in any normal (special apps excluded) lists of available networks; therefore, a hidden SSID will reduce connection attempts.
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Jelmer de Jong

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2013, 07:36:07 pm »

Every device tries to connect to SSIDs that it knows about (think client side).  Hidden SSIDs have to be specifically entered.  A hidden SSID will not show up in any normal (special apps excluded) lists of available networks; therefore, a hidden SSID will reduce connection attempts.
My device searches for a wireless network, the wireless network says 'hi, i'm a network and my name is John'. My device checks a list and finds John, gets the corresponding password from that list and does the secret handshake with John. If the found networks are not on the list my device will not attempt to connect with a network.
 Or:
My device searches for a wireless network, the wireless network says 'hi, what's my name?'. My device checks a list and asks 'are you dave?' 'Are you Scott?' hmmm, still nothing. 'Are you John?' '-Yes, i'm John!' then the secret handshake occurs and everyone is happy.
The standard setting for most wireless devices is to not connect with wireless network if the ssid isn't found in the air. The solution to connect anyway is normaly a setting like "Connect anyway if the network is not broadcasting its name". Most people have at least one network on their phone or tablet where this setting is applied. Invite 5000 of them into a arena and your accespoint is having a bad day.

Removing the ssid does not give you any added safety, but it does make the rejection process for wireless devices extra complicated.
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Scott Wagner

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2013, 09:54:57 am »

My device searches for a wireless network, the wireless network says 'hi, i'm a network and my name is John'. My device checks a list and finds John, gets the corresponding password from that list and does the secret handshake with John. If the found networks are not on the list my device will not attempt to connect with a network.
 Or:
My device searches for a wireless network, the wireless network says 'hi, what's my name?'. My device checks a list and asks 'are you dave?' 'Are you Scott?' hmmm, still nothing. 'Are you John?' '-Yes, i'm John!' then the secret handshake occurs and everyone is happy.
The standard setting for most wireless devices is to not connect with wireless network if the ssid isn't found in the air. The solution to connect anyway is normaly a setting like "Connect anyway if the network is not broadcasting its name". Most people have at least one network on their phone or tablet where this setting is applied. Invite 5000 of them into a arena and your accespoint is having a bad day.

Removing the ssid does not give you any added safety, but it does make the rejection process for wireless devices extra complicated.
While it is a trivial task to find a hidden SSID with the right tools, you have to actually discover the name before your device will attempt a connection.  I contend that this will stop most connection attempts.  Any reduction in connection attempts is a good thing.  Then again, what do I know?  I only hold CCIE and CISSP certifications.
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Scott Wagner
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Jelmer de Jong

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2013, 05:02:54 pm »

While it is a trivial task to find a hidden SSID with the right tools, you have to actually discover the name before your device will attempt a connection.  I contend that this will stop most connection attempts.  Any reduction in connection attempts is a good thing.  Then again, what do I know?  I only hold CCIE and CISSP certifications.

A device with a hidden ssid in it's network configuration in constantly broadcasting it, hoping it will find a acces point that responds. If the accepoint is broadcasting its ssid there's no need for the device to connect if that specefic network isn't found in its network config. So 5000 phone's who's homenetwork is also without ssid will check if your FOH AP is the one they are looking for since they left home. If your FOH AP is broadcasting its ssid, those phones will quickly move on to the next victim. While I do not have a certiefied network background, I do think i'm on the right track. Prove me wrong!  :)
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Bob Charest

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2013, 09:50:11 pm »

A device with a hidden ssid in it's network configuration in constantly broadcasting it ... Prove me wrong!  :)
Hi Jelmer,

If a device with a stored AP encounters the SSID that matches that AP, the AP becomes eligible for connection. It seems very unlikely that everyone's phone will have an AP stored in them that matches an AP used for mixing at a venue.

An example is that when I hide our AP's SSID, the Nexus 7 tablets that we use to adjust individual IEM mixes can't connect to it (I'm working on a way to fix that) - this would seem to contradict your premise.

Also, I think that the statement that "A device with a hidden ssid in it's network configuration is constantly broadcasting it" is incorrect. If you've got your phone set up as an AP, then yes, but just as a client? I don't believe that's correct. It is the AP that is broadcasting (if configured) its information.

My previous background was in telecom and mainframe programming, with most of the networking spent with SNA and Bi-Sync networks. Interesting area of discussion, though!

Best regards,
Bob Charest
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Scott Wagner

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2013, 09:51:11 am »

A device with a hidden ssid in it's network configuration in constantly broadcasting it, hoping it will find a acces point that responds. If the accepoint is broadcasting its ssid there's no need for the device to connect if that specefic network isn't found in its network config. So 5000 phone's who's homenetwork is also without ssid will check if your FOH AP is the one they are looking for since they left home. If your FOH AP is broadcasting its ssid, those phones will quickly move on to the next victim. While I do not have a certiefied network background, I do think i'm on the right track. Prove me wrong!  :)
The key phrase here is, "a device with a hidden SSID in its network configuration is constantly broadcasting it, hoping it will find an access point that responds."  This statement is true if the device is set to "always connect".  The difference is that you are talking about a client device.  The AP is what we're concerned with, not the client device.

Hiding the SSID stops the vast majority of connection attempts.  It IS one of these "best practices".
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David Sturzenbecher

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2013, 10:37:22 am »

Is there a way to measure number of connection attempts?
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Scott Wagner

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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2013, 11:44:16 am »

Is there a way to measure number of connection attempts?
On Enterprise Class devices, absolutely.  I'm not so sure about consumer devices.  Perhaps you could enable logging to get that information..
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Scott Wagner
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Re: Wi-Fi Best Practices for Portable Sound
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2013, 11:44:16 am »


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