Scott Hanselman

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite SECOND GENERATION Review - plus new Kindle Software Update

April 10, '14 Comments [22] Posted in Reviews
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I'm a longtime Kindle fan. Love it. It's not a tablet, not a computer, my Paperwhite Kindle represents books for me.

I have a first-generation Kindle Paperwhite and use it almost every day. It's my go-to reading device. I originally gave it a mixed review but the game-changer was the addition of the magnetic cover, specifically the Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover in Black. The Kindle turns on and off when it opens and closes, which is lovely, but the important point is the thickness it adds to the bezel. For my hands, a Paperwhite is an insubstantial thing that's too small to hold comfortably. This cover adds just a fraction of an inch all around the Kindle and effectively the cover subsumes the Kindle. The cover melds with the Kindle in a firm and crisp way and you'll never take it off. It's perfectly sized, plus protected enough that I throw it in my bag without worry.

I recently came into possession of a second-generation Kindle Paperwhite and didn't know what to make of it. It's "one better" right? It's the new version. It looks the same.

The main improvement they say is a clearer and higher-contrast display. Here are my 1st and 2nd gen Kindles next to each other, which is the Second Generation Paperwhite?

amazon kindle paperwhite comparison

There's a little glare here but the second gen has a whiter background and darker blacks.

The first gen has a fantastic screen...

photo 4

But the second gen has darker blacks and crisper text.

photo 5

The second generation is definitely faster, they say 25% faster. Turning pages is quicker and the screen updates faster. The new updated software also includes a fast "skim" ability so you can move WAY faster around a book to find your place.

They also added GoodReads (a social network for readers) integration directly into the Kindle. This is a fun way to discover new books and see what your friends are reading.

It also includes "Kindle Freetime," a special mode for kids where you can limit the books they see and tracks their reading time, as well as set goals for the number of minutes they read each day.

Upgrade your Kindle Software

Speed and clarity is nice but the most dramatic difference was the software. This new 2nd gen Kindle had a bunch of new software features that my 1st didn't have. Unacceptable! ;) I checked, and I can get many of these new features by manually upgrading my Kindle's software.

If you have a Kindle, head over to https://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates and get updated. Most Kindles update themselves, but more and more I'm seeing that these updates roll out either slowly, or not at all. My first-gen was many versions behind.

It's a basic process, just connect a USB cable and drag the update file into the ROOT (top) of the Kindle Directory. Disconnect and reboot and wait.

Now both my 1st and 2nd gen Kindle Paperwhite's share the same software features!

Conclusion

It's not a "must upgrade" but it's a nice generational step. If you don't have a Kindle reader, this is a great Kindle. If you're a fan (as I am) and your partner needs a Kindle, get a new 2nd gen and pass the 1st gen along with updated software. Everyone wins.

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* FYI: I use Amazon affiliate links


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Review: A tale of three Lenovo Laptops - X1 Carbon Touch, ThinkPad Yoga, IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro

March 6, '14 Comments [53] Posted in Reviews
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ThinkPad Yoga, X1 Carbon Touch, and Yoga 2 Pro all together

I'm a big Lenovo fan and have used Thinkpads nearly exclusively since my first T60p. I'm using an first-gen X1 Carbon Touch as my main on the go machine these days. I've also tried using a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro but had a little trouble with its extremely high-dpi display, although the build quality of the hardware is amazing.

I'm also trying out a loaner of a ThinkPad Yoga. What's the difference between the ThinkPad Yoga and the regular Yoga or Yoga 2 Pro? I think of the ThinkPad line, and this Yoga, as a business laptop. It has a TPM which is essential for Bitlocker encryption and VPN/DirectAccess without a Smartcard. Both very similar specs otherwise aside from the Yoga 2 Pro's super-high-res 3200x1800 screen.

Battery life on all these is reasonable, but not truly all-day long epic. You can get 6 hours on any of them, you just need to be thoughtful about what you are doing. Turn down brightness, use power plans smartly, and you're cool.

Frankly, the battery life Haswell brought us hasn't been as life-changing as has been the "RapidCharge" feature on the X1 Carbon Touch. A 30 min layover at an airport can get me almost 80% of my battery back. THAT is a feature that has changed how I work.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga

Yoga means the laptop is also a convertible and bends into a tent or a tablet. This is the consumer Yoga. My Mom and my wife both chose and use this model, coincidentally.

  • The ThinkPad Yoga has your choice of processor from a 4th Gen Intel i3 up to a to an i7-4600U at 3.3GHz.
  • You can get the rather low-res touch-enabled 1366x768 screen or the near-deal touch and pen (with a pen you can store in the device!) 1920x1080 screen. Get the 1080p one, I say.
  • This one uses mini-HDMI for its video out.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro

The Yoga 2 Pro has more options to build out but does top out on the processor side earlier.

  • The Yoga 2 Pro can also clock to up to an i7-4500U at 1.8Ghz.
    • Update: the clock speed for the 4500U is 1.8 and it's Max Turbo Frequency is 3.0.
  • It has a fantastic 13.3" QHD+ 32001800 screen.
  • Micro HDMI video output.
    • This was and remains the one totally unacceptable spec for me. As I present a lot, this connector is useless. It's too small, too weak, too unreliable, and too wonky. It only took three presentations before it broke. I don't blame Lenovo, I blame the connector and its spec. If you aren't going to use video out, don't sweat it at all. But if you are presenting daily, NEVER buy a laptop with micro HDMI. It will let you down.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch

I own and love the first generation X1. I'd really like to get my hands on the new one and its controversial keyboard and compare the two.

The X1 isn't a Yoga and while it does bend to flat and it does have a great touch-screen, it is NOT a tablet.

  • The X1 has goes from 4th Gen Intel i3 up to a to an i7-4600U at 2.1GHz.
    • Update: the clock speed for the 4600U is 2.1 and it's Max Turbo Frequency is 3.3.
  • Mine has a 1600x900 screen but you can now get up to QHD 2560x1440. This isn't as high as the Yoga 2 but when setting Windows at 150% it works nicely. If you have decent eyes you can avoid any high-dpi issues and just run at 100%.
  • The Mini DP Connector is great. I've never had an issue connecting to a projector with this laptop.

Things you need to consider if you travel

We can talk specs all day and you can dig into them if you like. Needless to say, they are fast, they have SSDs and you can get up to 8gig of RAM. Here's some things you may not have thought about when looking at an Ultrabook.

All Lenovo laptops are thin and light

These are all small and all around 3lbs. The Yoga 2 Pro is the sleekest and the most outwardly attractive. The X1 is a close second with its tapered nose. The ThinkPad Yoga is boxy and reliable looking.

  • What kind of Video Output does it have?
    • You won't get full-sized VGA on 90% of Ultrabooks. It'll be either HDMI, Micro-HDMI (a nightmare), or MiniDP (Mini Display Port.) When in doubt, go MiniDP all the way.
  • USB3 vs. USB2
    • Most Ultrabooks have one USB3 connector and one that's USB2. The USB3 one is almost always blue, that's how you can tell. Think about what your requirements are what if you'll need a nice USB adapter. I recommend combination USB3 hubs with included Ethernet. I own one and love it.
  • Will you dock your laptop a lot?
    • If so, consider the new OneLink Pro dock from Lenovo. It's in the ThinkPad line of laptops, so that's the ThinkPad Yoga or the 2nd Gen X1 Carbon Touch. That means one connector gets you power, USB along with 6 (!) ports, 4 of which are USB3. You'll also get DisplayPort up to 2560x1600 and a DVI-I connector.
    • I own the original USB3 dock which uses USB3 and DisplayLink technology to run up to two additional monitors. The video is compressed and you have to plug in both a USB3 connector and the power. It works, and I'm happy with it, but OneLink is a clear improvement.

Keyboards

I have always loved ThinkPad keyboards. The W520 workhorse has the best laptop keyboard ever, to this day, IMHO. The first generation X1 Carbon Touch is a close second.

X1 Carbon Touch Keyboard

The ThinkPad Yoga's keyboard is good, but a few changes like the removal of the insert button from the top row as well as the de-emphasis of the function keys did slow me down for a few days.

The Yoga also changes the TrackPad a little by making in larger, clickier, and removes the physical buttons for folks who like "The Nub" for their mousing. Note that the buttons are still there, they are just integrated into the top of the TrackPad so your muscle memory doesn't need to change.

ThinkPad Yoga Keyboard

The Yoga 2 Pro keyboard keys don't have the subtle concave shape that the ThinkPad line is known for. The keyboard is nearly flat. It also seemed to show hand grease a little more, although clearly a cloth solves that problem quickly. As a fast touch-typist I'm a little slower on this keyboard but it's certainly reasonable and only took me a few days to adapt. I do prefer the X1, though.

Yoga 2 Pro Keyboard

Resolutions

I just love 1080p on a 13.3" screen. It's just large enough that it feels roomy but not so big that it's squinty. This collection of three laptops straddles that ideal, though. My wife doesn't see the difference and works on the 768 or 900 machines with no complaint. My wife has a retina one and doesn't appreciate it (or notice its screen). I prefer 1080 or 1800 if I'm doing multiple window website debugging. At 1800p the pixels just disappear.

1366x768 you can see the pixels

1600x900 is a nice compromise

3200x1800 is insane. No pixels to be seen.

My Wish List for the Ultimate Lenovo Ultrabook

This is simple.

  • Micro-HDMI is a failed connector. The industry needs to accept this and stop using it.
    • There is only full-sized HDMI or ideally, MiniDP.  Mini Display Port, in my experience, always works and works well. Adapters are many and plentiful and I always feel comfortable going to a conference with a MiniDP laptop as I know they can handle it.
  • I want more RAM. Always. Give me a 12 gig Ultrabook, please, Lenovo. That said, these machines have happily run VS, Outlook and two Virtual Machines without complaint.
  • Anything over 1080p at 13"+ is the sweet spot resolution for me. Retina is nice but Windows 8.1 isn't quite there yet on the desktop. Soon I hope.
  • A 256 gig SSD is the ideal size for me. 128 is a little cramped for a developer.
  • #MOARYOGA - The whole Yoga hinge is brilliant.

Give me an X1 Yoga with the fastest i7, 256G SSD, a Mini DP connector, and a screen that is anything over 1080p and we're cool. You can...

Shut up and take my money

Today, I'm happy using the X1 Carbon Touch until I see the new X1. But I really recommend any of these devices if the tech specs and connectors meet your requirements.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Human Computer Interaction Diversity - 7 Devices that AREN'T a mouse and keyboard

December 1, '13 Comments [20] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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Mix it up a little...try interacting with your computer with something OTHER than a Mouse and Keyboard
 

One of the most wonderful and least appreciated things about computers is diversity of devices. You're probably interacting with your computer with a keyboard and mouse. But in the last few years, you may have added touch and, to a limited extent, voice.

The photo above is of my desk. Yes, it's messy. On it are the things I use to work with my computer. I use these nearly every day and at least every week or they wouldn't last on my desk.

They are:

and not pictured

I think we all should consider our workflows and consider what devices that aren't a keyboard and mouse that might be better suited for the tasks we perform every day.

Leap Motion

I initially gave this product a 10 for concept and a 0 for execution. I'll give it a 3 now...but it's getting better. It's still not well suited for gross motions, but for browsing and scrolling it's at least becoming useful. I keep it on all the time and since I haven't got a touchscreen on my desktop machine (yet) I use it for scrolling while reading and leaning back. It has huge potential and I'm impressed with how often the software updates itself.

I'm using the Touchless for Windows app. The concept is so promising...wave your hands and your computer reacts. I still don't suggest that the Leap Motion is a consumer quality device, but I do use it weekly and turn to its promise often.

LeapMotion Visualizer

Wacom Tablet

Tablets are the gold standard for interacting with Adobe products like Illustrator and Photoshop. I learned Photoshop on a Tablet many years ago and I still prefer using one today. The Wacom Bamboo also has touch support which is a bonus, although I use my Logitech N650 Touchpad as a trackpad as it's more sensitive (to touch).

If you're trying to draw or paint without a stylus like a Wacom, you're truly missing out. They are surprisingly affordable, too.

Wacom Applet

ShuttlePRO v2

My buddy at Channel 9 Larry Larsen turned me on to the ShuttlePRO for video editing. I don't know what I did without it. It's got program-sensitive programmable keys. That means their function changes depending on what's running. I can mark a key as "Split" or "Play" but the ShuttlePro software will automatically use the right hotkey depending on if I'm using Audition or Premiere. Some nice gent even made settings for Camtasia Studio and the ShuttlePro v2. If you do screencasts or video editing like I do, a shuttle is a must.

ShuttlePro Config

Logitech TouchPad

You can get a Logitech T650 Touchpad for less then $35 if you look around. It's a large, gorgeous class touch area that's also wireless. If you have Logitech products already you can use the Unifying Receiver you may already have. I have as USB hub and it works just fine.

I use it to two-finger scroll, pinch to zoom, and all the things that MacBook touchpad folks take for granted. You can also use it with Windows 8 to "swipe in" and task switch. I move between my mouse and this touch pad to reduce repetition and wrist strain with the mouse, but also sometimes just because I'm in the mood. It's a great Trackpad/Touchpad that can ease the transition if you have trouble moving from a laptop and a desktop.

Logitech Touchpad

Great Webcam and Speaker Phone

I adore the Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam so much that I've written software to remotely control its motorized Pan-Tilt-Zoom functionality and use it as an Auto Answer Kiosk. Not only is it a great web cam that I use every day, but it's also a fantastic speaker phone for conferences. It shows up as just another audio device that you can set as the default for communication but not your default speaker. This means Lync and Skype calls come from this device, but your regular computer audio doesn't. Sound quality is killer, confirmed by everyone I've talked to with it.

image

Aside: There's so much untapped usefulness in just a webcam but most programs just don't use it. Have you seen the Windows 8 "Food and Drink" app? You likely already have this app. It has a Hands-Free mode for cooking. You know when you're using a tablet to show a recipe? It uses just the data from your webcam to see your hand wave to move to the next page. Very cool.

Kinect for Windows

The Kinect SDK was updated last year with support for "Near Mode" which is basically "sitting at your desk mode." This update made programming to the Kinect for Windows a LOT more useful for the desktop. Writing apps is fairly easy, like this example where you can control PowerPoint with your hands. With apps like KinEmote you can use the Kinect to control your XBMC media installation and lots more.

Another little known fact is that the Kinect on a PC has a very nice quality Array Microphone that can also be used for things like Windows Speech Recognition or Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Me on Kinect

There's such a huge diversity of ways to interact with computers and it's truly just starting. In my lifetime I'm sure computers will be able to detect (guess) if I'm sad or happy, notice my health status, great me when I walk up, and so much more.

What  devices do YOU have plugged into your computer right now?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Review: Nokia Purity Pro Wireless Headphones by Monster

October 9, '13 Comments [34] Posted in Reviews
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imageI like gadgets, but my tolerance for price is low. But a friend of mine showed me his Nokia Purity Pro headphones (made by Monster) and I tried them...and bought a pair.

I've been using the same Beats by Dre Tour In-Ear Headphones for over a year. I've taken them all over the world and they've worked great. However, on planes they hurt the insides of my ear, and once I got them stuck in my ear real good so I started re-thinking my aversion to over-the-ear headphones.

I used to have a pair of the original Bose noise-cancelling from years ago. Noise-cancelling technology has apparently improved a lot since then. When my friend showed me his Purity Pro's we were standing in a parking lot after lunch. I put them on and the street noise just stopped. Any low-level or repeated noise just disappeared. They work at least as well as my Bose did and are a joy to use on a plane.

The model I bought was the "Nokia 02734L7 BH-940 Purity Pro Wireless Stereo Headset by Monster" which is a mouthful, and I paid $300 for them, which was about $150 more than I wanted to pay. Sadly, I'm looking at Amazon today and seeing these headphones as low as $235. There's also wired versions for $79, although they lack the noise-cancelling and Bluetooth (of course) features.

I consider myself a power user and I don't put up with a lot of trouble from my devices. If it sucks or doesn't work in some way, it's going back.

The "oh gee" feature of the Purity Pro's is that it has NFC (Near Field Communication) to aid the initial paring process. The resulting pair is still Bluetooth. If your phone has NFC, more power to you, but after it's paired you'll never use this again.

The Bluetooth feature that I really appreciate is the ability to pair with multiple devices - up to 8. You can also be simultaneously connected to two devices which is REALLY convenient.

Note: Read the manual (PDF) and turn on "Bluetooth Multipoint" to use this feature.

For example, right now as I type this I'm connected to my laptop's audio (for Skype and Lync) and to my phone for music (Spotify and phone calls). I could certainly go along with connecting to just one, but when you're sitting in a café working, it's really nice to have "all electronic audio" from your devices routed into your headphones. I can listen to music, take Skype calls AND answer phone calls using the headphones.

I also have them paired with my tablet (so phone, laptop, tablet) and I must say, having no wires to worry about really IS a nice touch. I feel like just NOW, today, in 2013 the promise of Bluetooth is happening.

image

It's also a microphone (the mic is near the left ear) so I can take calls OR use it as a mic for Skype/Lync.

image

Of course, if I have a better mic or a laptop with an Array Mic I can tell the computer to NOT use the headphone's mic and use another. (You'd be surprised how often folks forget that they have full control over what mics are used for regular apps or communications apps.)

Purity Pro Headphones foldedThe headphones turn off when you close them up and reconnect when you open them. They have an internal battery and recharge using a mini-USB connector. They say they last for almost 24 hours of use, and if the battery runs out you can just switch to a standard 1/8" headphone plug. I have used them for a few months and have never needed to move to wired but it's nice to know they will keep working even with a dead battery. That said, they top off fast using mini-USB cables I have in my bag already. I did a 6 hour flight from New York watching movies last week and didn't give headphone battery life a thought.

One other cool feature is that the headphones talk to you. When you're pairing with Bluetooth or the battery is doing something it talks in your ear and says stuff like "Connected."

There's switches behind each ear for answering calls, changing volume, and going previous and next track. There's also some more subtle gestures, so RTFM. For example, double-press the Call button to decline a call, or hold the Call button to switch to phone from the headphones. Press and hold the call button when not in a call to use Siri or Voice Dial. You can even pair with more than one phone and use the < button to manage calls from both phones while on one call.

I got the black ones because I'm fly, but not that fly. There is also white, yellow, and red. I've seen those as cheap as $230 on Amazon, so search around.

They were somewhat expensive but I'm using them every day and I'm happy with the purchase. They are comfortable, light, fold up into my backpack easily and don't beg to be charged all day. Recommended if you're looking for a great pair of tech-savvy wireless Bluetooth headphones with noise-cancellation.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Trying a Nokia Lumia 1020 - A Camera with a Phone Inside

September 10, '13 Comments [50] Posted in Reviews | WinPhone
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My current Lumia 1010 tile layoutI've had an iPhone since the iPhone 3G. My main personal phone is an iPhone 4S. I'm always checking out new phones, however, most recently the Blackberry Z10. The last time I tried a Windows Phone was a Lumia 800, where I made a list of apps I would need before I would ever consider switching from iPhone. I also checked out one of the first Windows Phones in 2010.

My family is a mixed one, with two iPads, my wife's Lumia 920 phone, my iPhone 4S, the kids' iPod touches, a Surface RT, an Xbox and a PS3. I'm also spending a month testing a Samsung Galaxy S4.

However, last week a buddy loaned me a yellow Nokia Lumia 1020 running Windows Phone 8. A good friend recently switched to the 1020 solely for the camera. Let me repeat that. He has been #teamiphone since the beginning but he decided the camera was good enough to switch. That got my attention as my 4S camera kinda sucks. It's fine for Instagram but not for capturing two growing kids.

I swapped the SIM card from my iPhone and customized the crap out of my home screen. I can't stand defaults. Live Tiles really are the star of the Windows Phone.

I'll do a full review when I've spent time with this phone, but I can talk about the camera now. Insane.

Full sized images are 7712x4352 and about 10 megs. The deal, it seems, isn't that you necessarily want to  keep the 34 megapixel images, but rather that you can zoom and crop them and still see thing clearly. Phrased differently, rather than an optical zoom, you take a super super high res image then digitally zoom. It's amazing. You can zoom in on a license plate from 100 feet away.

Here's an example (I've blurred these people as I don't know them).

A picture at a cafe

Now, zooming in on the red car, digitally.

Zoomed way in on a license plate

That's just a silly example. A more significant one is taking a picture of a group, then wanting to crop a shot of just some of the people and having it NOT looking like a crappy crop. These kind of operations are trivial.

If you want to download the full 10 megabyte version of this image, I put it up on Azure Storage here and if you like, zoom around it on Zoom.It.

Here's the original file, copied straight off the Lumia 1020 via a USB Cable.

Lego Jabba

Let's zoom in - only by cropping.

Jabba's buddy close up

Seriously, I could do this all day.

LEGO Hobbit

And then cropping.

LEGO Hobbit close up

I also tried the Camera Grip for the Lumia 1020. It's an extended battery, grip and a button that makes the phone act more like a camera. You get the whole half-button press to focus" then "full press to snap" behavior. This also speeds up the shutter actuation feel to instantaneous, since the half-squeeze starts the focus. The continued full press is instant. It really feels like a Point and Shoot.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I do work for Microsoft, in the Azure division. However, I am not my job. I review lots of tech and gadgets and I stand on my record of impartiality. I use what I like. This review (and future and past) is my own, and done on my own, outside of work. No one reviews or edits these. Misspellings and errors are mine.

The Nokia Lumia 1012 Camera Grip

I'll keep trying it out and explore the actual phone features, but I am deeply impressed with the camera. In order to consider switching though (and I assume you'd feel the same way) I would need:

  • 95% of the apps (or equivalents) that I use in an average week.
  • Reliable Bluetooth phone and audio in the cars my wife and I have
    • Streaming audio works fine in my Prius. Having some trouble with the phone, but working on it.
  • Good battery life
    • It's OK, but the camera flash definitely hurts the battery if you spend all day taking pics.
  • Support for Google Mail and Calendar (personal) and Outlook (work)
    • Check.

More review and details to come as I explore. Your thoughts?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.