Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–a continuing series


The Minute Maid Antenna

Post #193

While I was doing some research into apartment and limited space antennas, I came across an intriguing article by Tony, I0JX, called the “Minute Maid Antenna.”  Apparently, this Italian ham who enjoys vacationing in the mountainous regions of Northern Italy had a problem of erecting a small portable antenna in the upper floor apartment he was using during a vacation.  Tony came up with an idea that may prove useful in your situation.

Tony secured a two-section, collapseable television mast approximately 3.8 meters long (about 12.45 feet), drilled a hole in the top of the mast, strung a long rope through the hole, and secured the rope guys to two heavy nails on the window frame.  He then extended the pole out the window at an angle of approximately 30 degrees and abutted the end of the antenna against the window frame.  The antenna end came to rest on a marble outcropping.  He steadied the antenna with the two guy wires and attached a 1 meter (about 40 inches or so) heavy gauge wire between the telescoping mast and his Daiwa automatic tuner.  He completed the project by running a counterpoise wire from the tuner into the apartment.

You can find his article and several photographs of the project by visiting http://www.qsl.net/i0jx/minute maid.html.  According to Tony, the antenna performs well from 7 MHz through 28 MHz.  Tony says the antenna is easy to assemble, becomes operational in seconds, is easily stored, costs little, and is suitable for portable operations.

I’ve used similar antennas is the past, with bamboo or fiberglass fishing rods substituting for the telescoping tv mast.  These antennas work well if a suitable counterpoise is used.  If you prefer a simpler arrangement that is easier to use, I recommend the MFJ 1622 apartment antenna, which uses a 5 1/2 foot rod, a simple air coil, a “wander” lead to find a good match, a “c”clamp to attach the antenna to a window sill, and a counterpoise wire.  The MFJ 1622 is similar to an apartment antenna marketed by B&W  in the 1980s.  I have one of these B&W units and it works well with a decent counterpoise.  This apartment antenna is excellent for portable or emergency use.  I have one stashed in my van as a backup antenna or for days I feel like operating in a park or at the beach.

You probably can design a system similar to that of Tony’s by buying a collapseable rod antenna from MFJ, a coil, and sufficient wire for a counterpoise.  By tapping the air coil in the right place, you should be able to get a respectable signal into the F layer.  After you play with this type of antenna a few times, adjustments become easier.

I salute Tony for his ingenuity and for  his refusal to let restricted space get him down.  There are all kinds of ways to get on the air if you give your imagination free reign.

Another good source of antenna ideas resides in the archieves of QST Magazine.  If you are an ARRL member, you can access these historical files and find many ways to homebrew an antenna that fits your situation.  And if all else fails, treat your home station as a static “mobile” station.  As suggested in the last post, a mobile antenna modified for home use may be the ticket to getting on the air.  Besides, there is a certain pride in building a piece of equipment that actually works!  So, grab some wire, do a little research, build that new “skyhook”, and escape the limits of the housing police.

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Thanks for joining us today!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15 (along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island)

Russ Roberts

 

 

 

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series


Treating your home station as a mobile operation

Post #192

For amateur radio operators facing severe antenna restrictions, getting on the air can be quite a challenge.  I have several ham friends who live in CC&R and HOA situations and they tell me that putting a useful signal on the air without encountering the rath of housing committees is a major accomplishment.  Although my situation is not as serious as theirs, my small backyard, the proximity to neighbors, and noisy powerlines create another dimension of roadblocks to overcome.  Over the course of several years, I’ve been able to design and build simple verticals and loops that are easily concealable on my limited real estate.  Occasionally, I’ve used my mobile antenna system in my van (a low efficiency and low-q spirally-wound Hamstick used with a few radials) and my transceiver in the qth to grab signals on a busy afternoon.  I can use this hybrid mobile-home antenna system to get on the air quickly.  What if I installed one of my old mobile antennas on my metal roof, ran some radials, and attached the system to my old Swan 100-MX with some spare RG-8 or RG-6 ( with suitable connectors )?  I’d have a system that would work with a minimum of fuss and expense.  Why not treat your home station as a mobile station?  Thanks to Alan Applegate’s mobile amateur radio site (http://www.k0bg.com), I’ve been able to assemble a useful mobile station in my van using an old Yaesu FT-7 qrp rig and some Hamsticks .  I plan to get a more efficient Scorpion or Tarheel antenna system later, but, for now, the old Hamsticks will do until my finances improve.

A quick read of Alan’s site will give you all sorts of ideas that can be applied to your home situation.  Most of his antenna suggestions can be blended into your local environment because of their small size and easy of set up and break down.  Alan offers several useful paths to running your home as a mobile station:

1.  Use screwdriver  antennas from reputable manufacturers such as GS, Scorpion, and Tarheel.  You can mount these mobile antennas on a tripod and stick them into your backyard and control the raising and lowering of the antenna element from your shack.

2.  Spirally wound antennas such as the Hamstick can be used either as a single element monopole with radials or as a dipole with two Hamsticks and a dipole connector available from MFJ Enterprises.  I use a 40 and 20 meter Hamstick in my mobile operations.  Alan says this type of antenna, while useful, exhibits high losses and is inefficient.  But, if that’s all you have, make the most of the situation by using as many radials as you can.

3. Monoband antennas such as the Hustler, by New-Tronics Antenna Corporation, can be pressed into service if you weatherize the coils and strengthen the mast that comes with the antenna.  Again, like the Hamsticks, this type of mobile antenna is a bit inefficient and lossy.  However, I’ve had good results from an old Hustler mast with a 40 meter coil mounted on my garage roof.  I’ve attached two, 32-foot radial wires to the antenna, which improve performance over the conventional bumper mount.  Real metal bumpers are hard to find these days, so rather than tear up my van with a bumper mount and more metal bonding, I decided to reconfigure the metal roof of my garage as part of the antenna system.  As a stationary “mobile” antenna, the old Hustler system seems to work well.  As an added bonus, I can swivel the antenna down flat so it can’t be seen from the street.

4.  Bug-Cacther antennas from a variety of manufacturers offer another possibility for a backyard antenna intallation.  Alan’s article on this type of antenna is an enjoyable read with many useful tips.

Armed with this information, you may want to try an “in place” mobile antenna system.  The one I have on my garage roof does a good job for what it is.  Alan’s website is not only “dedicated to mobile amateur radio operators”, but is a useful research tool for those of us operating under often severe restrictions.  Just think of your amateur radio station as a mobile system without wheels.

You can be a part of this blogging community by signing up for our free e-mail subscription service or by tapping into the blog RSS feed.

Thank you for being part of our day!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15  (Russ Roberts)

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series


A simple multi-band loop antenna for 40 through 10 meters

Post #191

Every once in a while, I stop by eham.net (http://www.eham.net) to collect a few antenna ideas and check out the classified ads for used rigs, connectors, and other useful stuff for my junk box.  Eham also has an interesting forum section, which discusses everything from antennas and homebrewing to CC&Rs and TVI.  I’ve picked up many ideas from this useful site.

Today was no exception.  When I brought up the website, the first article I saw was “Getting on the Air”–the making of a multi-band loop by Lane Zeller, KU7I (JH1JCM).  Lane is serving with the U.S. Navy in Japan and was looking for a way to get on the air from his government housing on the base.  He had a 23-foot by 38-foot open backyard that he was able to squeeze in a 12-foot high, 118-foot loop.  For supports he used pvc poles pushed into some scrap steel pipe he found nearby.  He feed the loop with 300-ohm tv twin lead, which led into an outboard MFJ tuner and then into his Yaesu FT-890.  Despite the antenna’s low elevation, he was able to work a variety of stations from 40 to  10 meters, including Russia, VK, ZL, and Washington State.   Lane has included several excellent photographs of his project.  From what I gather from his article, the financial outlay for this project was minimal.  He seems to enjoy the flexibility and good performance of this loop, which is just a bit short for 40-meters.  His outboard tuner apparently can handle the mismatch without any problem.  Another triumph of creativity over space restrictions.  The article is well-written and may give you some new ideas when it comes to restricted space antennas.

Like Lane, I’m a firm believer in loops.  They are quiet, unobstrusive if they are mounted properly, and multi-band if you use 300-ohm tv twin lead or 450-ohm ladder line.  My under-the-house 40 meter loop and the 20-meter loop under my garage roof are fed wtih 450-ohm ladder line and perform well with the Drake MN-4 tuner and a 4:1 balun.  Although I use these loops primarily for interisland contacts and afternoon nets, I find them useful on the higher HF bands as well.  My loops are made to be emergency NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) antennas designed for a range of 200 to 300 miles, which covers all the major Hawaiian Islands.  Sometimes propagation is favorable and I can get a good 599 signal into the U.S. mainland from my Hawaii Island qth (a distance of 2,100 miles or so to Southern California).  I was glad to read that Lane is getting some good DX out of his homebrew loop in Japan.

Perhaps Lane’s horizontal loop can give you a push in the right direction.  Even at a low height, loops can cover quite a bit of territory, especially if you’re into local or statewide nets.  In my neighborhood, loops and short verticals seem to work best.  As mentioned previously, my backyard is small and there are several homes within a stone’s throw of my qth.  Add to this mix a marginal area for television and radio reception and nearby power lines and you have the recipe for antennas which blend into the background and don’t add to the already high noise level along the Hamakua Coast.  The salt air from the nearby ocean creates havoc with utility lines–you can see the corona discharge coming off some of the huge insulators that support the high voltage lines.  The Hawaii Electric Light Company tries its best to wash the salt deposits off the lines, but nature rules in the end, and the noise soon returns. Although I get better DX with my various vertical and inverted vee antennas, they tend to be susceptible to powerline noise generated by the corona discharge from salt-laden insulators on the utility poles.  So, my low level horizontal loops have the edge when it comes to noise.

If you have the time, may I recommend the antenna forum in eham.net?  The forum contains useful tips on how to improve the antenna you do have and suggests a variety of approaches to antenna problems.

Take care as we enter a new week. As always, thank you for dropping by.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–a continuing series


A Simple 40, 20, 15, and 10 meter vertical for your backyard.

Post #190

 

How would you like to build a simple multiband vertical in your backyard that will give you hours of fun at minimal cost?  You may already have most of the materials around your house.  Or you can buy the materials at a modest cost from your nearest home improvement or hardware store.

Here is a list of materials I used to build this vertical for the Hawaii QSO Party:

A 33-foot mast, either fabricated from schedule 40 pvc pipe or bought from MFJ Enterprises or Jackite.  I had an old MFJ fiberglass mast stored in the garage, so I used it to support the vertical elements of the antenna.

Approximately 150-feet of #22 gauge hookup wire.  You can use whatever wire you have in your junk box.  You can buy wire in various gauges from Radio Shack, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or from your neighborhood hardware store.  The wire will be used for radiating elements as well as a counterpoise wire for 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters.

Fifty feet of RG-8 coaxial cable.  For this low power project, any coax you have stored in your shack can be used.  I’ve used RG-6, RG-8X, and even RG-58, depending on what I could find in my collection of spare parts.  Fortunately, the coax in my supply has UHF connectors which will make things a lot easier when it comes to connecting your equipment.

A dipole connector such as the HI-QUE connector (available from Fair Radio Sales in Lima, Ohia).

A 1:1 balun to keep rf off the shield of the coax.  Also, you could make a choke balun out of several turns of your coax feed.

An antenna tuner to minimize swr.

A low pass filter to reduce any TVI.

Procedure:

Lay your pvc pole or fiberglass mast on the ground.  Attach 33-feet of wire to the mast and secure with electrical tape.  This will be your 40 meter element.  Attach 16 feet, 6 inches of wire to the mast, beginning at the bottom and stretching to about mid-way up the mast.  This will be your 20 meter element.  Secure wire with tape.  Attach 11 feet of wire to the mast, beginning at the bottom and stretching up the pole.  This will be your 15 meter element.  Secure wire with tape.  You could eliminate this step, since the 40-meter element will be useable on its third harmonic for 15 meters.  However, I’ve found it best to attach a separate 15 meter wire to the mast.  Finally, add 8-feet, 3 inches of wire, beginning at the bottom of the mast and stretching it out along the pole.  This will be your 10 meter element. Secure with tape.

Now, measure out counterpoise wires of 33-feet, 16 feet, 6 inches, 11-feet, and 8-feet, 3 inches.  Attach the vertical elements to the postive extension of the HI-QUE dipole connector and attach the counterpoise wires to the negative extension of the HI-QUE connector.

Attach a set of three guy ropes or wires at the 15-foot level of the mast.

Next, drive a 5-foot wooden or steel fence post approximately 3-feet into the ground.  Slip the mast over the extended 2-foot stub and secure the guy wires or ropes to tie off points.  Run the counterpoise wires away from the vertical mast, so the antenna resembles a “L”.  Connect your coax and run the feedline to your rig.  This process can be made more secure against the elements by making a swivel arrangement at the mast stake.  DX Engineering sells a mast swivel device that is sturdy and can raise and lower your mast with little effort.

An even simpler arrangement would be to use one 33-foot vertical element and one 33-foot counterpoise wire fed with 300-ohm twinlead or 450-ohm ladder line.  This type of feedline, along with a 4:1 balun, and a short run of coax to your tuner will give you 40 to 10 meter coverage without the use of separate vertical elements.  I’ve used both arrangements with good results.  Of course, when I added more radials, antenna performance improved.  But, in my situation, the lack of adequate space in my backyard makes an extensive radial field nearlly impossible.  While performance of this antenna can not match that of a beam or a vertical with many radials, it does allow me to get on the air and grab contacts.  And when I’m done bouncing signals off the ionosphere, I can lower the antenna to ground level where neighbors can’t see it and where storms or lightning can damage it.

Have a good weekend!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series


Going “stealth” full time.

Post #189

Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been converting my amateur radio antenna system to full stealth mode.  Although my antennas have always been painted and disguised to blend in with the local environment, the proliferation of both rental and owner-built housing affected by HOAs and CC&Rs in Hawaii is making it difficult for many hams to erect effective antennas for their amateur radio activities.  Most of my neighbors tolerate my amateur radio activities and I try to return the favor by not interferring with their televisions or by blocking their views of Mauna Kea (the 13,000-foot mountain rising in my back yard).  I ususally run qrp and use simple easy-up and easy-down antennas to reduce possible complaints.  During the CB craze in the 1970s, I got blamed for all kinds of tvi and other electronic problems caused by a minority of people who abused the old Class D guidelines.  Yes, I still have a CB transceiver for neighborhood watch activities and for monitoring  openings on the adjacent 10-meter band.  That being said, I continue my efforts to be “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to my ham radio activities.

While I was researching some stealth antenna articles, I ran across an essay writen by David Hassell, N5IW for the Radio Survivalist website (http://www.radiosurvivalist.com/antennas/Successful-Stealth operator.asp).  Hassell, who has lived “with a plethora of CC&R and HOA restrictions,” has assumed the postion of total stealth when it comes to antennas, because “in many cases, it’s your only way…in others it’s just keeps the peace.”  Hassell who enjoys both qrp and qro operations outlines several approaches to using stealth antenna systems, including attic antennas, flagpole antennas, using trees and vegetation to disguise antennas, poles with bird feeders, and low lying loops strung along wooden fences that divide property.  Hassell acknowledges that most of these antennas will radiate mostly high-angle radiation, but, as he says, “every situation has its opportunities.”  If you want to get on the air unobtrusively, you can.  Occasionally, event these NVIS antennas can get out hundreds of miles and provide hours of enjoyment without your neighbors or housing boards finding out.  I’ve used a few of Hassell’s ideas to good advantage at my qth, especially those antennas that blend into the vegetation or hug the ground (such as loops).  Hassell is spot on when he says: “If they can’t see it, they won’t complain.”

I’ve been following Hassell’s advice for years based on my own personal experience in space-restricted neighborhoods.  I tend to follow these steps:

Keep the antenna simple.  Dipoles, verticals, and simple loops are easy to build and easy to disguise.  Besides, you can build effective antennas with material available from the nearest hardware store.

Make your antennas easy to raise and lower.  I keep my verticals and inverted vees nested  to the ground when they are not in use. DX Engineering sells a selection of swivel mounts that make raising and lowering of  verticals  very easy.  I raise the antennas when I want to operate (usually in the evening) and lower them at night or during periods of bad weather.

Use natural surroundings or even your home to hide your antennas.  Place dipoles in your attic, run a loop around your house, or attach a dipole under the eaves.  My 40-meter vertical helix dipole stands in a group of trees and tropical vegetation and is invisible from the street in front of my qth.  The location for the vertical is not ideal and the trees probably distort the signal somewhat, but I do have a working antenna that goes unnoticed to the casual passerby.

Run low power.  Although my working rigs (Swan 100-MX and Kenwood TS-520) can pump out 100 watts or more, I choose to  run around 10 watts or so to keep rfi at a minimum.  My neighborhood is in a fringe reception area for television and radio reception…and not everyone has cable. So, keeping the signal below 10 watts solves several problems.  My venerable Yaesu FT-7 is unaffected by all this, since it can at most produce 20 watts.

Use a good antenna tuning unit (ATU).  My old Drake MN-4 does a good job of reducing swr and keeping the signal clean with the aid of a low-pass filter.

Use digital modes whenever possible.  I prefer cw with an old J-38 military key.  I can also use PSK 31 if I need to.  About the only time I resort to SSB is when I join an interisland 40-meter net in the afternoons.

I only cite my example as a possible way to enjoy the amateur radio hobby without causing undue distress to your neighbors and yourself.  Your mileage may vary.  Yes, I would prefer a 50-foot tower and a 4-element 20-meter beam pointed over the north pole, but, in my current situation, that path is closed.  My grandiose antenna project will have to wait until my xyl and I move to our lot in the Orchidland Estates just south of Hilo.  There, we will have plenty of space for gardening and tower raising–and most of all, no CC&Rs or HOAs to put a crimp in my hobby.  All of that will have to wait until someother time.  For now, like many of you, I must deal with the situation at hand.  I’m committed to the stealth mode of operation.

Have an excellent day and get on the air.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series


Subsurface Antennas

Post 188

Most of us affected by restrictive antenna environments (space, HOAs, CC&Rs) somehow manage to get on the air, whether it be only in a mobile environment or with some sort of homebrew, disguised wire that will go unnoticed (hopefully).  What if you can’t put any wires around your property and there are no structures  or vegetation to hide your “skyhook”?  Why not go “underground” and remove the entire antenna to the “sight unseen” category?

A few days ago, I ran into a few articles that may help you decide the merits of installing your dipole or loop just below the surface of your yard.  While this sort of antenna is definitely a compromise, it has worked for the military and other hams pressed by circumstances they can’t control.

From the more theoretical side of things, you may want to examine an article called “Surface deployable Antenna Array” by James H. Clarke and Norbert E Yankielum.  You can find the article here:  http://www.patentgenius.com/patent/8179327.html.  Basically, these two men developed a towed subsurface “helical shapped fiber optical and metallic signal path” for surface ships and submarines.  The antenna can be easily deployed and compacted into a small storage space.  The inventors claim that signals from VLF through VHF can be used with this antenna without the slow baud rates found in VLF antennas.  This is a good read…but probably too expensive for most of us.

A more practical, down to earth design by Robert Felix is found here:  http://www.borderlands.com/newstuff/research/FelixRadio/Felix.  Felix first examines the experimental work of a scientist named Rogers, who pioneered subsurface antennas during World War I, and the work of a fellow who built what is called a “Hawkes” antenna, consisting of two large coils fed as a dipole.  In the first case, Felix reviewed Roger’s work in “Electrical Experimenter“, June 1919, p. 136 and built an antenna connected directly to the earth using  a 1/2-inch copper pipe driven 4-feet into the ground.  He used both buried coils in the ground and a wire placed just below the surface.  Felix did transmission and reception reports from an old National NCX-200 tube transceiver and a late model Radio Shack HTX-100 transceiver.  Felix found a marked decrease in qrm and ambient noise with these antenna.  While performance was less that that of a dipole, he was able to make good medium range contacts on most amateur bands from 40 to 10 meters.  I imagine that most of the radiation was straight up, something which would be useful for local or regional emergency nets.  Felix also cited several articles in the archieves of the “Antennex” journal.

I may try one of these underground antennas just to see if the claims made are true.  As the old saying goes, “your mileage may vary.”  As a sidenote, I’ve used the “Grasstenna” by K3MT several times when I couldn’t erect a dipole on my small lot.  I just spread the dipole on the ground and proceeded to operate.  Performance was not up to the level  of my inverted vee or 20-meter vertical dipole, but it did work and I did get some good local and mainland U.S. (primarily California) contacts.  The one advantage of this antenna and the subsurface variety is its complete ability to disappear from view.

As to the “Hawkes” antenna, the article by Felix has some good illustrations and photographs of this two-coil surface and subsurface antenna.  I can’t vouch for the performance of this antenna, but it does look interesting.  Some of the ideas explored Felix, Rogers, Clarke, and Yankielun may prove useful in your situation.  I’d rather use one of these antennas and be on the air  than give up and store my equipment in a back room.

Till next time,

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator


KH6JRM’s  Amateur Radio Log, post #187

Emergency Antennas, home and portable

I always look forward to the annual Public Service/Emergency Preparedness Issue of “QST“, the journal of the Americal Radio Relay League. The September 2012 continues the fine traditon of exploring emergency antennas, portable rigs, and improving relationships with public service agencies.

In this edition, there are several articles that should be read and saved for future use. Among them:

“The Uncooperative Tree–How to put up a 75 meter NVIS antenna in a postage stamp yard” by Allen Pitts, W1AGP. Allen is the ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager and the author of several QST articles. When I worked at Pacific Radio Group on Hawaii Island, I used many of the radio PSAs produced by Allen’s crew at headquarters. Anyway, Allen describes the frustrations and eventual triumph in erecting a 40-foot high 75 meter NVIS antenna for regional EmComm work in Connecticut and the surrounding area. Since his yard dimensions approximate mine, I can sympathize with the problems encountered in a crowded neighborhood. The ariticle follows his NVIS journey step by step from design to final product and use. Allen supplies several good photos of the antenna, a design graphic showing how his inverted vee was placed in the tree, and and two swr graphs. He was able to squeeze the vee into a small space by a loading coil in each 22.5-foot leg of the antenna. Allen says the antenna does the job. My inverted vee is mounted atop a 32-foot pvc mast and is fed with 450-ohm ladder line. Rather than using coils, I was able to fit in elements of 33-feet each, just outside of my neighbor’s property. Allen’s vee works well on 75 meters, while mine is workable from 40 to 10 meters. I may have to rethink the coil issue if I want to use my vee on 75 or 80 meters. Nonetheless, Allen’s article is simple and well -illustrated. It’s worth a closer look for those of us hemmed in by small yards.

A second article that caught my attention is “Radio in a Bag” by Tim Factor, KT7F, on pages 41 and 43. Tim describes how he modified his copper J-pole VHF antenna to fit into a large tool bag. He was also able to squeeze in his Yaesu VX-6R 5-watt dual band transceiver (144 Mhz/222 Mhz), a 10 Ah range AGM/gel cell battery, and a trickle charger. Tim has included several helpful photographs to illustrate how he packed the bag in a way that carries all equipment without strain. Tim’s overall plan is a good one for those of use with modest means and a spare HT for such purposes. As for myself, the mobile emergency setup consists of an old Kenwood TH-21A, a spare alkaline battery box, extra coax with suitable connectors, and an old Larson 5/8 wave mobile mount for 2 meters. All of this equipment is already in the van, so I won’t have to go shopping for anything else.

Both of these two articles stress the importance of having a plan B” when it comes to emergency communications. This edition of “QST” also contains articles on a new four band cw qrp transceiver by Ten Tec (via China), a mini go-box with tiny trickle charger and a quick-whip antenna, and the N6BT Q-52 Portable HF Yagi.

Have a good, productive, and safe weekend!
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

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