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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > My New Intel Macs seem RAM-Starved!

My New Intel Macs seem RAM-Starved!
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l008com
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Oct 30, 2006, 09:35 AM
 
The old systems I replaced were an iBook 1.33GHz with 512MB of RAM and a PowreMac G5 Dual 1.8 with 2GB of RAM. But for a long time, the G5 only had 1.25 GB of RAM.

Now my new machines are a Mac Pro with 1GB of RAM and a Mac Book with 512MB of RAM. These intel macs seem significantly starved for ram. Much more than the macs they were replacing. I was told that rosetta uses extra memory when running apps like photoshop. But even using no 3rd party apps at all, just switching around for mail to safari etc makes me feel like I only have 256 MB. Do intel apps use more ram or something? I know the mac pro has 256MB less than my G5 did and I know the mac book has 64MB less that is used as VRAM, but that doesn't seem like its significant enough to cause whats going on now. I'm talking about having to STOP what I'm doing to wait for the paging to be done. Its horrible. And whats worse, RAM prices are still so high, that I'll have to stick with these low levels for some time to come :-(
     
pcguy1
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Oct 30, 2006, 11:05 AM
 
1. The amount of ram use is based on os and sw, it have nothing to do with the type of cpu.
2. With the amount of money u spend on your computer system(macpro/macbook) well over 3k, I really don't think you should skip $170(2x1G atFrys) for MacBook, and put another set of 2x512 for your MacPro.
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l008com  (op)
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Oct 30, 2006, 11:10 AM
 
1) yes and the new cpu uses a whole new slew of software. Do my normal apple apps that are universal binary require way more ram when they are running on intel macs? They are executing a whole different chunk of code?

2) $2600 not well over $3000. Crucial puts extra ram for both at about $450. So I have to wait for the price to come down.
     
Big Mac
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Oct 30, 2006, 11:27 AM
 
1) I don't know what you mean by "the new cpu uses a whole new slew of software," but Universal Binaries only execute the native binary required by the processor. I don't know what's making your systems feel slow.

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Millennium
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Oct 30, 2006, 11:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by pcguy1 View Post
1. The amount of ram use is based on os and sw, it have nothing to do with the type of cpu.
That's how things should work, at least. However, it's been measured many times by several different reporters: for some reason, Intel-optimized apps on OSX use much more memory than PowerPC-optimized apps.

No one has yet been able to explain this phenomenon. Indeed, all other things being equal, the opposite should actually be true: PPC code is less dense than Intel code and so PPC code should use somewhat more memory, yet this isn't what happens. The most likely cause of this is probably a difference in the way the apps are compiled; it's well-known that Apple sets its PPC compiler to optimize for size over speed, but I haven't seen any reports on whether or not they do the same thing for Intel. Perhaps they optimize on Intel for speed over size.
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Oct 30, 2006, 12:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by Millennium View Post
That's how things should work, at least. However, it's been measured many times by several different reporters: for some reason, Intel-optimized apps on OSX use much more memory than PowerPC-optimized apps.

No one has yet been able to explain this phenomenon. Indeed, all other things being equal, the opposite should actually be true: PPC code is less dense than Intel code and so PPC code should use somewhat more memory, yet this isn't what happens. The most likely cause of this is probably a difference in the way the apps are compiled; it's well-known that Apple sets its PPC compiler to optimize for size over speed, but I haven't seen any reports on whether or not they do the same thing for Intel. Perhaps they optimize on Intel for speed over size.
I second that observation. 1 GB was enough on a 1.25 GHz PowerBook G4 and nowhere near enough of my 2 GHz ProBook.
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HungrySeacow
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Oct 30, 2006, 12:11 PM
 
Universal apps are actually two different binaries stored into one app. The intel binaries do use more ram, so yes, the intel mac generally need more ram.
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l008com  (op)
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Oct 30, 2006, 12:19 PM
 
Hmmm I never heard about this before. I wish I had heard about it before I committed in such a big way. Is this something that might be optimized in 10.5, or is it something thats going to HAVE to be fixed in xCode, which will show itself in newer versions of the apps? This is kind of a big deal as its going to cost me some serious $$$ to make my machines useable again. I thought I'd be able to eek by as is for a while without significant issues but after two days, its clear I won't be able to.
     
harrisjamieh
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Oct 30, 2006, 01:34 PM
 
Perhaps, especially with the notebook senarios, it is because the Intel chips offer much faster operating speeds.

Maybe things are being executed so fast that it uses more RAM more quickly...

Someone please kindly point out if this is a load of bull--- or not... Much appreciated
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l008com  (op)
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Oct 30, 2006, 01:39 PM
 
Yeah thats a load of bull. What you seem to be saying is that the processor is so fast that the ram can't keep up. But if this was true, you'd still be going just as fast, possibly a little faster than you were before. My new faster machines with almost the same amount of ram are painfully slower than their PPC counterparts.
     
chris v
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Oct 30, 2006, 02:57 PM
 
I've seen the Window Server on Intel Macs taking up 300 mb of RAM & more. If you really want performance out of a tower, I've get it over 3 gig.

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mduell
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Oct 30, 2006, 10:21 PM
 
Were your PPC Macs running Panther or Tiger?

I'd guess that Apple just hasn't achieved the same level of optimization with the Intel binaries, or they're optimizing for a different parameter (size over speed).
     
l008com  (op)
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Oct 30, 2006, 10:28 PM
 
All 4 machines were/are 10.4.8.
I have an older machine that has 448 MB of RAM. It doesn't page nearly as much as even my 1GB Mac Pro here. If they are optimizing differently for intel, I'd have to say they really are optimizing WRONG now. My Mac Book can't do more than email and web surf. Even that is slow. Anything else and I return to the dark beige days of computing, where I tell my computer to do something, then walk away and come back when its done. I'm not talking about encoding a video, I'm talking about quitting an application etc.
     
pcguy1
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Oct 31, 2006, 01:10 AM
 
My bro with his Macbook/1G and my own mbp 2ghz also with 1G never have that kind of slow down, 1008com, why don't u drop by a local Apple Store/Compusa and play around with one of their setup, open a few program and see if u can duplicate your own home experience.
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Todd Madson
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Oct 31, 2006, 10:54 AM
 
If you buy ram from a source other than Apple you should be able to do just fine.

I've got two Macs in the house with 2+ gigs of ram but my wife's has 768 megs
and it does just fine.

Face it, it really depends on what you're using the machine for. If it's just basic
e-mail and surfing the web no problem but if you're doing heavy intensive video/
audio stuff or graphical rendering you might need more memory.
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 4, 2006, 02:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
The old systems I replaced were an iBook 1.33GHz with 512MB of RAM and a PowreMac G5 Dual 1.8 with 2GB of RAM. But for a long time, the G5 only had 1.25 GB of RAM.

Now my new machines are a Mac Pro with 1GB of RAM and a Mac Book with 512MB of RAM. These intel macs seem significantly starved for ram...
They are starved. You have under-RAMMED boxes, each of which has half of what should be considered minimal.

The days of looking at computing capability by just looking at the GPU clock are over.

IMO it has been clear for years now that OS/hardware has been moving in the direction of heavier reliance on RAM and heavier reliance on graphics processor(s). Folks buying MacIntel boxes should consider that, and also consider that a new box will serve for the coming 2-5 years, and plan accordingly. RAM needs will grow over the years of life of each new box.

By "plan accordingly" I mean plan for needing RAM capacity for the future. Inate capacity for RAM is important, meaning 3 GB max boxes are limiting; filling slots with small DIMMs may mean wasting slots; additional necessary RAM will cost money; some boxes (e.g. Macbooks) come stock with small DIMMs filling slots, making the creation of really useful RAM expensive; etc.

Note that lower end and lower RAM boxes will "work" for low end uses, but as application needs increase RAM and graphics support become important. E.g. 2 GB of RAM or even more RAM is limiting for many graphics apps. Photoshop, for instance, shows performance increases up to 8 GB of RAM running natively on legacy G5 towers.

Plan for RAM. (I have a similar argument about the need to plan for graphics hardware needs.)

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( Last edited by SierraDragon; Nov 4, 2006 at 02:43 PM. )
     
l008com  (op)
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Nov 4, 2006, 02:39 PM
 
My main issue here is not that computers need RAM. The problem is that the same software running on intel seems to need twice as much ram as it does running under the same version of OS on a PPC mac. And I've never heard anyone mention this so I had no idea this was coming. I did plan for ram, and by my 10.4.7 PPC standards, I had enough to get buy. But then I turned them on and had the most unpleasant surprise.
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 4, 2006, 03:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
My main issue here is not that computers need RAM. The problem is that the same software running on intel seems to need twice as much ram as it does running under the same version of OS on a PPC mac. And I've never heard anyone mention this so I had no idea this was coming. I did plan for ram, and by my 10.4.7 PPC standards, I had enough to get buy. But then I turned them on and had the most unpleasant surprise.
Sorry you did not see the evolution, but it is true. A 2006/7 box will take and need more RAM than a 2004 box did; just like G5s take and need more RAM than G4s did. It has been evolving that way since 1984, and plan on the trend accelerating now that engineers can design for true 64 bit capability.
Allen's Law: Apps and OSs will evolve to take advantage of available hardware capability.

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l008com  (op)
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Nov 4, 2006, 06:01 PM
 
Yeah but you keep skipping over one main point. The apps and the OS haven't changed. Just the platform and ram requirements.
     
mduell
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Nov 4, 2006, 06:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
All 4 machines were/are 10.4.8.
I have an older machine that has 448 MB of RAM. It doesn't page nearly as much as even my 1GB Mac Pro here. If they are optimizing differently for intel, I'd have to say they really are optimizing WRONG now. My Mac Book can't do more than email and web surf. Even that is slow. Anything else and I return to the dark beige days of computing, where I tell my computer to do something, then walk away and come back when its done. I'm not talking about encoding a video, I'm talking about quitting an application etc.
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
My main issue here is not that computers need RAM. The problem is that the same software running on intel seems to need twice as much ram as it does running under the same version of OS on a PPC mac. And I've never heard anyone mention this so I had no idea this was coming. I did plan for ram, and by my 10.4.7 PPC standards, I had enough to get buy. But then I turned them on and had the most unpleasant surprise.
The effective change in optimization is to target the high-end rather than the low-end. Optimizing for size helps low-end RAM-constrained boxes do their best, but holds back the high end boxes with lots of RAM. Optimizing for speed gives the high-end boxes maximum performance, while suffering somewhat on low-end boxes due to swapping.

That said, the performance you're seeing is well below average. Did you use the Migration Assistant to move from the PPC box to an Intel box? I've heard that causes severe slowdowns. Try reinstalling from scratch and moving your data over manually.
Are you running any PPC apps? They do use twice as much memory.
     
ChrisB
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Nov 4, 2006, 09:58 PM
 
I would agree. You need at least 1-2GB in a Mac laptop today, and 2-3GB in a Mac Tower today. A mini runs quite well with 1-2GB.

Makes me glad that I have a quad G5 with 4GB of RAM - if it were a MacPro, I might need 5-6GB.

I have to admit, the quad is screaming fast. It was one of the best purchases I ever made.
( Last edited by ChrisB; Nov 5, 2006 at 12:38 AM. )
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l008com  (op)
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Nov 4, 2006, 10:05 PM
 
Assuming you mean Quad G5 ;-) Apple is still selling quad G5s for much more than quad mac pros of greater mhz. I wish I could have gotten the quad G5 instead, oh well.
     
mduell
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Nov 5, 2006, 07:39 PM
 
I think Apple's base system configurations are skewed... putting 50% of the cost in CPU and 10% of the cost in memory isn't a very well balanced system for general usage.
     
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Nov 6, 2006, 02:20 AM
 
I concur as well. The Mac Pro seems to gobble up a lot more RAM for it's "feel and responsiveness" than the "lowly" G5.

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SierraDragon
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Nov 6, 2006, 03:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
Yeah but you keep skipping over one main point. The apps and the OS haven't changed. Just the platform and ram requirements.
Sorry, but one of us is not reaading the words. What I said was:
"IMO it has been clear for years now that OS/hardware has been moving in the direction of heavier reliance on RAM and heavier reliance on graphics processor(s). Folks buying MacIntel boxes should consider that, and also consider that a new box will serve for the coming 2-5 years, and plan accordingly. RAM needs will grow over the years of life of each new box."

What part of "...OS/hardware... is unclear? Apps, OS and hardware have been constantly evolving, and yes, needing more RAM. You express surprise at a 20-year trend.

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l008com  (op)
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Nov 6, 2006, 03:35 AM
 
You choose to ignore what people are saying. Whatever.
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 6, 2006, 03:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
Assuming you mean Quad G5 ;-) Apple is still selling quad G5s for much more than quad mac pros of greater mhz...
Mhz is not relevant; worse than dumb in terms of evaluating different platforms. Mac Pros are far more overall powerful than G5s. Certainly apps and to a lesser extent the OS as of today are not yet taking full benefit of the full power of the new chips (especially if a user fails to provide adequate RAM), but the superiority of the MacIntel platform over the life of any new box is unquestionable.

Originally Posted by l008com View Post
...I wish I could have gotten the quad G5 instead, oh well.
If you prefer a legacy G5, just buy one. Your Mac Pro will sell easily.

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Olorin
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Nov 7, 2006, 02:24 AM
 
I have a 1.83Ghz MacBook with 1GB of RAM and the thing is slow as molasses. My 2Ghz G5 PowerMac is at least 500% faster at just about everything. I had assumed the Macbook's HD was at fault, yet after reading this forum I'm not so sure. Maybe the intel Mac OS just isn't ready for prime time yet despite what apple claims. My Macbook is slower than my friend's 1.5Ghz G4 PowerBook!!!!!!!

I may try a clean install when I have time or just sell it and buy a used PowerBook that's just as fast for a lot less money.
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l008com  (op)
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Nov 7, 2006, 02:32 AM
 
Originally Posted by Olorin View Post
I have a 1.83Ghz MacBook with 1GB of RAM and the thing is slow as molasses. My 2Ghz G5 PowerMac is at least 500% faster at just about everything. I had assumed the Macbook's HD was at fault, yet after reading this forum I'm not so sure. Maybe the intel Mac OS just isn't ready for prime time yet despite what apple claims. My Macbook is slower than my friend's 1.5Ghz G4 PowerBook!!!!!!!

I may try a clean install when I have time or just sell it and buy a used PowerBook that's just as fast for a lot less money.
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Nov 7, 2006, 09:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by Olorin View Post
I have a 1.83Ghz MacBook with 1GB of RAM and the thing is slow as molasses.
1GB is not a lot. I'd get 2GB as soon as you do more than browse the web or write an email.

I may try a clean install when I have time
Do that. The MB shouldn't be as slow as you describe. Wanna bet it's a goofed up system?
     
jamil5454
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Nov 7, 2006, 10:05 AM
 
I'd have to agree with mduel and Millenium that the default binaries for Intel are now optimized for speed over size. This would probably include most of the kernel and windowing system. The gcc compiler is very well matured for the x86 ISA, so I don't think things will be changing drastically any time soon.

But, it seems that no one is asking the important questions here...
To the OP, what apps are you running on a daily basis and how did you perform your OS X install? I didn't notice any sort of paging problems on my Intel iMac when it had 1GB of RAM, so I think there's something running amok in your installation(s).
     
Olorin
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Nov 7, 2006, 04:09 PM
 
Well I figure it has to be either a.) bad installation, b.) crappy HD, C.) bad intel optimization.

Going to try a reinstall first and then if that doesn't work I suppose see if apple will fix it or just sell it. I'm not really up to spending a lot of money on two 1GB RAM sticks or a faster HD.
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discotronic
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Nov 7, 2006, 04:28 PM
 
I went from a PowerMac G5 1.8GHz single processor with 1.25GB RAM to a Mac Pro with 1GB RAM. I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary in regards to the RAM or system slowness.

I could use more RAM because it is starved. The PowerMac needed more so I don't see why the Mac Pro wouldn't need more also. The extra processor/cores really doesn't make a difference when RAM is needed. I am using the same amount of RAM for the applications that are running on my Mac Pro as I was using on my G5. I am sure that this will change with I get another Gig in the next couple weeks.

1GB is just not enough for OSX and multiple applications. It doesn't matter if it is on the Intel or PPC platform.

Another thing to note is I did a clean install on a new 320GB drive as soon as I got it. I didn't do the transfer wizard and just rebuilt everything from the ground up.
     
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Nov 7, 2006, 04:50 PM
 
I have a 2.66GHz MacPro with 1GB of RAM and it seems very fast. Remember that universal apps do have PPC and Intel code within them and therefore may require more memory. Also, take a look at the Performance Monitor (forgot it's exact name) and you can see if there are any Rosetta (non-intel native) tasks running.
     
l008com  (op)
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Nov 7, 2006, 07:30 PM
 
Let me make one more comparison. My old iBook 1.33 with 512MB of RAM was significantly faster, and paged significantly less, than my Mac Pro with 1GB of RAM. I don't even use my MacBook. I'm thinking of seeing if I can swap my quad intel for someone's quad g5, and then shell out for 1GB of MacBook ram and just deal with it.
     
jamil5454
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Nov 8, 2006, 11:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
Let me make one more comparison. My old iBook 1.33 with 512MB of RAM was significantly faster, and paged significantly less, than my Mac Pro with 1GB of RAM. I don't even use my MacBook. I'm thinking of seeing if I can swap my quad intel for someone's quad g5, and then shell out for 1GB of MacBook ram and just deal with it.
Have you tried reinstalling OS X? Have you tried to locate the problem? You are experiencing a problem, after all. Something is definitely wrong with the software on your machine, and has nothing to do with the fact your machine has Intel inside. If you were to get a Quad G5 you may have the same problem you're having now.

Besides, getting a Quad G5 would really be going backwards, IMO, and I would never recommend that route to anyone making that kind of investment. Plenty of people, myself included, have experience no paging problems whatsoever on the new Intel Macs. Yes, they do use a little bit more RAM, but this doesn't mean all's gone to hell. For the price of an extra 512MB of RAM, which would balance out any extra RAM the new Intel machines use, I'd say the speed and features of any Intel Mac, especially the Mac Pro, are well worth it.

It almost seems like you don't want the problem to be fixed so you'll be justified in getting a PowerPC machine instead. Maybe you really wanted the Quad G5 in the first place, maybe not. All I'm saying is that the problem really isn't too complicated and can easily be fixed by locating the software that's taking up the massive amounts of RAM, or, taking your machine to an Apple Store for a faulty hard drive.

As you haven't posted any details on which apps are using the most RAM, or even a screenshot of Activity Monitor showing the total pageouts (this would be irrefutable proof), then no one here can even begin to help. We say that the Intel machines do use a little more RAM than their PowerPC counterparts, and you reply with a statement about how slow your Intel Macs are and how fast the iBook was. Until we have some further details on your system configuration, no one can help you.

If you really want a Quad G5 instead of a Mac Pro, just say that you like PowerPC machines more. You don't need any more justification than that.

I'll start with a screenshot of my Activity Monitor on my 20" Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM. I'm running Safari with one page open, Mail, 6 or so widgets in my Dashboard, Photoshop CS2 with a few small images open, TextWrangler with a couple files open and Keynote with a small 800x600 presentation open. And, of course Activity Monitor:

     
   
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