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Halo 5’s Windows 10 debut to include 4K support, free online multiplayer

5/19/2016 3:20pm

This Halo 5 combatant looks like he's praying. If he's praying for some actual Halo 5 on PC, then he's in for some good news.

Microsoft's play to bridge the gap between Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs got a lot more interesting on Thursday thanks to a pretty major Halo 5 announcement. Microsoft and its Halo development house, 343 Industries, have taken the wraps off the awkwardly named Forge–Halo 5: Guardians Edition, which they say will launch for free across Windows 10 "later this year."

This limited free version of Halo 5 won't include the game's single-player campaign, nor will it include multiplayer matchmaking with random opponents. However, Microsoft representatives have confirmed to Ars that the free Windows 10 game will support unfettered online play with anyone on a player's friends list. That means players can create or download a Forge map and invite anyone else playing the Windows 10 version to join in and play to whatever "kill count," time limit, or other win condition they've set. Even better, Microsoft says that this friends-only multiplayer mode in Windows 10 will fully support mouse-and-keyboard game controls.

As series fans know, Halo's Forge mode allows players to build content-filled maps and lay down a litany of custom rules and modifiers for the game. This Windows 10 version, as its lengthy title suggests, will allow people to do the same thing on their PCs, complete with mouse and keyboard support that 343 Industries says will be "easier/faster" to use than an Xbox controller (though we have yet to see how keyboard shortcuts and other features will work on a PC version).

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Small, insect-like robot can now latch on to overhangs

5/19/2016 3:10pm

(credit: Carla Schaffer / AAAS)

In 2013, a group at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering brought miniaturization to the world of drones, creating a tiny robot that could fly using rapidly beating wings. Now, after adding a handful of team members from other institutions, Robert Woods' team is back with a paper that gives an update to the group's little flying machines—one that lets the robots hang upside down like bats.

This might at first seem like a frivolous addition (although doing something because it's pretty cool can be a major motivator for cutting-edge engineering). But the researchers have some pretty solid reasons for adding the feature. One of the main reasons you'd build a drone, tiny or otherwise, is to be able to look down on an area from a high vantage point. A big limitation of this approach is that getting to and staying in that high vantage point takes energy.

If there's a way to latch on to something and sit there, it could provide big energy savings, which could allow the drone to monitor an area for much longer than it would otherwise be able to. In the case of a miniature drones, the authors have latch points like "trees, buildings, or powerlines."

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Net neutrality complaints have flooded into FCC since rules took effect

5/19/2016 2:07pm

The big gavel that enforces net neutrality. (credit: Getty Images | Kagenmi)

Internet service customers have filed 20,991 net neutrality complaints since the rules went into effect on June 12 of last year, according to new data released by the Federal Communications Commission.

The data includes 86,114 Internet service complaints filed since October 31, 2014 against home Internet and cellular ISPs. Net neutrality has been the most common type of complaint since the rules went into effect and is near the top of the list even when counting the first seven months of the data set in which net neutrality complaints weren't yet being accepted. In the full data set, billing complaints led the way at 22,989—with 16,393 since June 12. The other top categories for the entire period since late 2014 were service availability with 14,251 complaints, speed with 11,200 complaints, and privacy with 7,968 privacy complaints.

Despite the large numbers, this data doesn't show that there were any net neutrality violations. The FCC's website notes that the agency doesn't verify the facts in each complaint; these are just raw numbers based on the categories selected by customers when they file complaints. As we've written before, complaints filed under the net neutrality category are often unrelated to the core net neutrality rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Consumers often complain about slow speeds, high prices, and data caps under the net neutrality category.

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The Play Store comes to Chrome OS, but not the way we were expecting

5/19/2016 2:00pm

The Android game Galaxy On Fire running on the Chromebook Pixel. (credit: Google)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—It's really happening. Android apps are coming to Chrome OS. And it's not just a small subset of apps; the entire Google Play Store is coming to Chrome OS. More than 1.5 million apps will come to a platform that before today was "just a browser," and Android and Chrome OS take yet another step closer together.

In advance of the show, we were able to sit down with members of the Chrome OS team and get a better idea of exactly what Chrome OS users are in for. The goal is an "It just works" solution, with zero effort from developers required to get their Android app up and running. Notifications and in-line replies should all work. Android apps live in native Chrome OS windows, making them look like part of the OS. Chrome OS has picked up some Android tricks too—sharing and intent systems should work fine, even from one type of app or website to another. Google is aiming for a unified, seamless user experience.

Starting in early June, developer channel builds of Chrome OS will see a pop-up message allowing them to opt-in to Google Play and Android app compatibility. This will roll out to touch-enabled Chromebooks first in the "M53 Dev" version, with support for non-touch devices coming soon after. We were told a full-scale rollout to the Chrome OS stable channel should happen sometime in September or October.

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Ars climbs aboard the Stiletto, DOD’s stealthy, high-speed lab at sea

5/19/2016 1:53pm

The Stiletto crouches pierside at National Harbor. Forty feet wide and 80 feet long, the Stiletto is nearly three times the size of a World War II PT boat yet less than a third of the weight. Its pentamaran design makes it capable of handling (and plowing through) pretty much anything short of a gale—though turning head-on into the waves can be brutal.

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—At this week's Navy League Sea-Air-Space exposition (an annual seapower conference and trade show for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard) Ars got a chance to board and tour a craft called the Stiletto. The Stilleto is prototype boat built for the Navy in 2006 that has become the military's on-call floating laboratory for rapid research and development of new sensors, weapons systems, and communications. With a carbon fiber hull, the Stiletto is light enough (45 tons, unloaded) to be craned onto a cargo ship for transport—but it can also carry 20 tons of cargo and tear through most sea states at high speeds.

Now operating from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek near Norfolk, Virginia, the Stiletto was originally intended to be part of a new Navy combat concept—groups of small, highly networked boats carrying sensors and weapons and working as a group to take on enemies in coastal, river, and shallow ocean waters. Built with special operations in mind, the Stiletto has a stealthy profile and a unique pentamaran hull that essentially acts as a surface effect hull at high speeds, allowing the craft to rise out of the water and reach speeds of 60 knots (69 miles an hour, or 110 kilometers per hour).

After being used in several exercises in the mid-2000s, the Stiletto was deployed to the Caribbean for counter-narcotics operations in 2008 with a joint Navy-Coast Guard team. Since then, it has served as a "maritime demonstration craft" operated by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, Combatant Craft Division. But it is funded directly by the Department of Defense's Office of Research, Test, Development and Evaluation (RDT&E). (Full disclosure: my last tour of service in the Navy was with "special boats," so the Stiletto is my 1990 self's technological dream.)

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Senators put forward new bill to halt expansion of gov’t hacking powers

5/19/2016 1:28pm

(credit: Eric Constantineau)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and other like-minded senators have come out forcefully against the pending change to federal judicial rules that would expand judges’ ability to authorize remote access hacking of criminal suspects’ devices.

On Thursday, Wyden submitted a bill that aims to stop the proposed amendments to Rule 41 dead in its tracks. The entire bill is one sentence long: “The proposed amendments to rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which are set forth in the order entered by the Supreme Court of the United States on April 28, 2016, shall not take effect.”

For now, the bill is co-sponsored by two other Democrats, and two Republicans, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). A companion bill is expected in the House of Representatives.

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Apple says game about Palestinian child isn’t a game

5/19/2016 1:04pm

I dunno, looks like a game to me...

The creator of a game about a Palestinian child struggling to survive with her family in the 2014 Gaza strip says the title has been rejected from the games section of the iOS App Store because, as he puts it, "it has a political statement."

Liyla and the Shadows of War is currently listed on Google Play as an Adventure game, and it includes "challenging decision, events and puzzles awaiting for you [sic]" according to its online press kit. But Palestinian creator Rasheed Abueideh tweeted a rejection message in which Apple said the game was "not appropriate in the games category" and that it would be "more appropriate to categorize your app in News or Reference for example."

The rejection didn't go into detail about where Apple draws the line between "Games" and "News," but Apple's App Store Review guidelines have laid out the company's thinking since 2010: "We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app." Those same guidelines also lay out a vague "I'll know it when I see it" standard for when content goes "over the line" in ways not specifically prohibited by the guidelines (Apple has yet to respond to a request for comment from Ars).

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CEO Larry Page defends Google on the stand: “Declaring code is not code”

5/19/2016 12:45pm

Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO—Alphabet CEO Larry Page testified in federal court this morning, saying that he never considered getting permission to use Java APIs, because they were "free and open."

The CEO of Alphabet, Google's parent company, spoke in a soft staccato and was hard to understand at times. (Page suffers from a condition that affects his vocal chords.) Page testified for about a half-hour, answering a lightning-fast round of accusatory questions from Oracle attorney Peter Bicks.

Page's testimony comes in the final hours of the Oracle v. Google trial. The lawsuit began when Oracle sued Google in 2010 over its use of 37 Java APIs, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. In 2012, a judge ruled that APIs can't be copyrighted at all, but an appeals court disagreed. Now, unless a jury finds that Google's use of APIs was "fair use," Oracle may seek up to $9 billion in damages.

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Hands on with Android Wear 2.0: Better versions of the same basic ideas

5/19/2016 11:05am

Enlarge / The Huawei Watch running Android Wear 2.0. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Yesterday Google put out the first developer previews of Android Wear 2.0, the single biggest update that the software has gotten since it was originally released in 2014—two Google I/Os ago.

The developer preview builds, which only work on two more recent (and expensive) Wear watches and the Android emulator, won’t suddenly convince smartwatch haters that the devices have merit. But Wear 2.0 tweaks Google’s smartwatch platform in some intelligent ways while opening new doors for developers. Here’s what the preview is like running on the Huawei Watch.

New look and feel

The original release of Android Wear existed mostly as a wrist-bound notification delivery system. Notification cards would alert you to their presence by obscuring part of the watch face and hanging out there until you had dismissed them. Wear 2.0 is still notification-focused, but it delivers them in a way that’s less disruptive to your newly useful, complication-equipped watch face.

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Boot Camp support comes to aftermarket SSDs for MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

5/19/2016 10:40am

Enlarge / OWC's Aura drive for newer MacBook Airs and Pros. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

If you're looking for a capacity upgrade for a recent MacBook Pro or Air, you could do worse than OWC's Aura SSDs. The drives come in 480GB and 1TB capacities, and even though they aren't always as fast as original Apple drives, they're fast enough, and they offer capacities beyond what Apple offers on some models.

The major caveat that we discovered in our review of the products is that the drives didn't support Boot Camp, making it impossible to install Windows or other operating systems on the drives. Those disheartened by that news will be happy to know that OWC has just released a Boot Camp Enabler tool for the Aura drives and a few of its other aftermarket Mac SSDs that allows the Boot Camp Assistant tool to work just as it normally does. Once Windows is installed, the enabler tool can be uninstalled without affecting the Windows partition.

OWC will sell you a 480GB drive for $348 and a 1TB drive for $595. An upgrade kit that includes tools and an external USB enclosure for the original Apple drive costs around $50 extra. The drives are compatible with 2013, 2014, and 2015 MacBook Airs and Retina MacBook Pros.

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Teenagers force Massachusetts to act on greenhouse gases via lawsuit

5/19/2016 10:30am

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court prepares to hear oral arguments in the case on January 8.

Some teenagers successfully lobby for access to the family car on a Friday night. Others successfully sue governments about not doing enough about greenhouse gas emissions.

Aided by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, four teens won a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Tuesday that will force the state to follow through on its greenhouse gas emissions goals. The state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act pledged to reduce emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) never created any emissions regulations to make that happen.

The lawsuit argued that the 2008 legislation required the DEP to actually do something, while the state said it interpreted the law to mean it would merely need to define numbers that would be consistent with the goal. The Supreme Judicial Court overturned a lower court’s decision, telling the DEP that it is not free to interpret the law that way.

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Model of Earth’s interior explains why Hawaii isn’t someplace else

5/19/2016 10:24am

(credit: Google Earth)

The linear chains of islands running across the Pacific Ocean aren’t improbable coincidences of orderliness—they’re the product of hot towers of mantle rock punching volcanic holes through a tectonic plate sliding overhead. But if you follow the Hawaiian chain back to where the older seamounts no longer rise above the waves, you find a sharp dogleg, as you can see above.

We haven't had a satisfactory explanation for this sudden turn. One idea was that, given a stationary mantle hotspot, the tectonic plate must have changed direction at one point in time. This theory has never been entirely satisfactory, however—not least because the Louisville seamount chain in the South Pacific sports a gentler kink.

We still have a lot to figure out about how mantle hotspot plumes work, but we do know that the Hawaii and Louisville plumes go all the way down to the deepest part of the Earth’s mantle. Plumes like these are rooted near the edges of unusual, lumpy regions of rock at the base of the mantle beneath the Pacific (as well as Africa). These structures are known as large low-shear-velocity provinces—for lack of any reasonable alternative, we’ll grit our teeth and refer to them as LLSVPs.

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House tells NASA to stop messing around, start planning two Europa missions

5/19/2016 10:12am

Concept art for NASA's flyby mission to Europa. (credit: NASA)

Planetary scientists have identified Jupiter's icy moon of Europa as one of their top targets for exploration, believing that its warm interior oceans may well harbor life. A new study published just this week, authored by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, found that conditions in the oceans on Europa may indeed be Earth-like and capable of harboring life.

Despite the wishes of the planetary science community to further investigate Europa, NASA has been wary of mounting such a mission because of the high cost—well above $1 billion. Additionally, planetary science hasn't been a priority in President Obama's NASA budgets, and the space agency has preferred to focus most of its robotic solar system exploration on Mars. The red planet is easier to reach, and NASA says it wants to explore Mars further to enable future human missions.

Congress has been more interested in planetary science, however. And in particular, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA's budget, John Culberson (R-Texas), has fancied Europa. Even when NASA wasn't asking for Europa funds, the congressman was funneling money to the scientists at the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Between the 2013 and 2016 fiscal years, NASA requested just $45 million in Europa funding, but Congress appropriated $395 million. For fiscal year 2017, NASA requested $49.6 million in Europa funding, but a House appropriations bill released this week by Culberson's committee proposes $260 million for mission planning and development.

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Judge says suspect has right to review code that FBI has right to keep secret

5/19/2016 9:15am

(credit: Eric Norris)

A US federal judge in Tacoma, Washington has put himself in a Catch 22: ruling a man charged with possessing child pornography has the right to review malware source code while also acknowledging that the government has a right to keep it secret.

"The resolution of Defendant’s Third Motion to Compel Discovery places this matter in an unusual position: the defendant has the right to review the full NIT code, but the government does not have to produce it," US District Judge Robert Bryan wrote on Wednesday. "Thus, we reach the question of sanctions: What should be done about it when, under these facts, the defense has a justifiable need for information in the hands of the government, but the government has a justifiable right not to turn the information over to the defense?"

In this case, the defense wants prosecutors to disclose the full source code of the NIT, or network investigative technique—a piece of government-created malware that compromised Tor and exposed users of a Tor-only child porn site. The Department of Justice did so in a related case in Nebraska, United States v. Cottom, but a DOJ spokesman now says this case, United States v. Michaud, and Cottom are entirely different cases and have no bearing on one another.

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Google shows off its car infotainment operating system, built into Android N

5/19/2016 9:04am

The interface of the main screen. That center portion is basically the Android Auto interface.

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, California—Google has a full car infotainment operating system on display at I/O. We've long heard rumors of such a project and have spotted references to "Android Automotive" in Google's compatibility documents, but a car-focused version of Android is now quietly sitting in the back corner of Google I/O.

Previous forms of Google automotive computing came in the form of Android Auto, which was a casted interface that was beamed from a phone to a car screen. The car still ran some kind of host operating system, but that OS would move out of the way and let the Android phone use the built-in display like an external monitor. In contrast, this is a full operating system that runs directly on the car hardware. The car version of Android doesn't really have a launch date, or even a special name—"cars" are now just a supported form factor in Android N.

Google is demoing the OS in a Maserati Quattroporte, which it says it loaded up with Android without involvement from the car manufacturer. Inside, the Maserati runs a Snapdragon 820 with a 4K display in the center console. There is also a gauge cluster display that Android can control.

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Star Ocean 5: An impenetrable RPG chasing mainstream success

5/19/2016 8:48am

To outsiders, the Star Ocean series can be impenetrable, even downright adverse. Without digging into optional content, Star Ocean can easily take 100 hours to complete, while its many cut scenes—sometimes as much as 10 hours in a single game—are as confusing as they are long. Fans love it. But for Shuichi Kobayashi, producer of the upcoming Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (known simply as Star Ocean 5), wildly sprawling narratives and content for content's sake just won't cut it any more.

Star Ocean 5 is on a different path, one where even RPG newcomers can give it a try—and Kobayashi, visiting London on his first trip outside of his native Japan, knows just how to make it happen.

"The audience for games these days is made up with a lot of people that don't have that kind of time to spend with a single game," Kobayashi explains, "and they are put off by a game that asks them to put in 100 hours to get to the end and see everything. Because of that we deliberately made the pacing a lot faster than Star Ocean has seen in the past and that can make the game seem shorter, but maybe that is not what some of the core fans wanted."

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Theranos corrects tens of thousands of blood tests, voids 2 years of Edison results

5/19/2016 8:47am

Theranos CEO and founder, Elizabeth Holmes (credit: NBC Today)

After federal regulators threatened to revoke Theranos’ license to perform blood tests and ban its CEO and COO from the industry altogether, the company reportedly issued tens of thousands of corrections to blood tests it performed. Theranos has also voided all of the 2014 and 2015 results reported from its once-famed Edison blood testing machines, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Edison machines, which were said to be able to perform more than 200 medical tests with just a few drops of blood, were key to the young biotech company earning a whopping $9 billion valuation in 2014. Yet, in the wake of reports that the machines were inaccurate and unreliable and that employees were unqualified and failing to follow proper protocols and fix problems, the company acknowledged that it had completely stopped using the devices in June 2015. Instead, the company performed its blood tests—890,000 blood tests a year, according to records—on standard lab equipment.

The corrections and voided results mean that clinics and doctor’s offices are receiving stacks of notifications. One such doctor’s office, a family practitioner in a suburb of Phoenix, told the WSJ that it received 20 corrected reports a few weeks ago. One of those corrected reports was for a patient who the doctor had sent straight to the emergency room upon receiving her Theranos results in late 2014. The corrected report shows the patient had normal results.

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Why Google’s monopoly abuse case in Europe will run and run

5/19/2016 7:00am

(credit: Joi Ito)

If you've ever wondered how Google defines the term "backrub," then look no further than its search engine for the answer, where we're told that it's "a brief massage of a person's back and shoulders." For many of the complainants in the long-running European Commission competition case against Google's alleged Web search monopoly abuse, that pithy definition goes a long way to explaining their experience of the multinational's vast online estate.

For those among you who don't know your Google history, the search engine started out with the curious name of BackRub at Stanford 20 years ago, until, that is, its servers greedily gobbled their way through the university's bandwidth, and it was time for the cofounders to shift up a gear. A year earlier, in 1995, the planets had aligned when Larry met Sergey at the famous Californian university for the first time.

The two men eventually created an algorithm—dubbed PageRank after Larry Page—that recognised links from important sources, while penalising links that were less relevant. Their BackRub search tool sorted results by relevance, and only looked for words in page titles. The end result was a search engine that appeared to be far superior to the competition of the time, such as Alta Vista.

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Star Trek teaser trailer for the new series promises “new crews”

5/18/2016 7:21pm

Here it is, the logo you've been waiting for.

Today at the Upfronts, where networks tease shows coming next season, CBS offered a shiny glimpse of the worlds where its new Star Trek series will take us in January 2017. All we see here is the new logo for the show—the first new Trek series in over a decade—and a few VFX shots of cool planets. It almost has the feel of the Doctor Who credits sequence, with its kinetic ride through spacetime.

So what do we know about this series? Basically, nothing. This trailer does confirm that we'll have "new crews," which was something many had suspected but had not yet been confirmed. So don't expect the Seven of Nine spinoff we were all hoping for. One of the items that's omitted in that list of new things is "ships," so it's possible we'll be getting another Enterprise crew from a previously unexplored time period. Though this trailer is kind of weak sauce, you have to be somewhat forgiving, since the show hasn't even started shooting yet.

The good news is that Nicholas Meyer (who wrote and directed Wrath of Khan) is in the writing room, and smartypants Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) is the showrunner. The bad news is that the show's pilot will air on CBS, but all subsequent episodes will only be available on CBS streaming.

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Oracle economist: Android stole Java’s “window of opportunity”

5/18/2016 6:46pm

Prof. Adam Jaffe's staff photo from Brandeis University. (credit: Brandeis University)

SAN FRANCISCO—An economist hired by Oracle was sworn in and took the stand in federal court today, opining that Google's use of Java APIs in Android shouldn't be considered "fair use."

The testimony by Adam Jaffe wrapped up day eight of the Oracle v. Google trial, a legal dispute that began in 2010 when Oracle sued Google's use of the 37 Java APIs, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. In 2012, a judge ruled that APIs can't be copyrighted at all, but an appeals court disagreed. Now Oracle may seek up to $9 billion in damages.

If Google hadn't copied the 37 Java APIs in question, Android "very likely would not have been as successful," Jaffe opined. He also believed that Java was "poised to enjoy continued success" in the mobile space, a point also made earlier today by former Sun licensing executives.

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