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Tech Alerts 50 best Freeware Utilities Ever

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unedited list by ian gizmo richards,

list by Spager

Tech Alerts choice of the Best Free Utilities. There are over 50 but its a nice round figure Smile


Link removed by thatman.

Best Free Anti-Virus Software Updated
I normally recommend the Norton Anti-virus suite but I'm fully aware that some folks simply can't afford to buy it. If you fall into this category then you should check out AVG Antivirus 6.0 Free Edition. This product has been continuously refined since it was first released in 1991 and now offers very impressive protection capabilities. Additionally, it's relatively small, light on resources, has regular automatic updates and handles email scanning. There is a free and a pro version, the only difference being that the free version has a few non-critical features disabled and has no technical support. Even so, it's an impressive package and a offers the financially challenged a real alternative to the major anti-virus suites. NOTE: AVG are currently upgrading all users to the more advanced version 7 engine. This will include users of the free version of V6.. (5MB)

Best Free Adware/Spyware/Scumware Remover Updated
Spybot Search and Destroy quickly hunts down all those odious applications that are secretly bundled in with many "advertiser-supported" utilities. It also provides active protection against the current plague of browser hijackers, auto-dialers and other surreptitiously downloaded scumware products. My second choice in this category is Ad-aware SE. It's free too and has a simpler user interface though the free version lacks the active protection offered by Spybot. I use both Spybot and Ad-aware as they tend to find slightly different things. I recommend that you use both as well.
( 2.5MB)

Best Free Malware Prevention New
These days all users face a real risk of malicious programs secretly installing themselves on your computer. Anti-virus and anti-spyware products help reduce the chance of infection but you can really enhance your protection by installing WinPatrol, which provides a vital "last ditch" defense layer by telling you when a product is trying to change any of the critical settings on your PC such as the registry and auto-start areas. WinPatrol simply throws up a dialog asking whether you want to allow the change or not. It's simple but highly effective. The only downside is the messages can confuse some inexperienced users. That reservation aside, this is a product that should be on every PC. (785KB)

Best Free Browser New
Internet Explorer is a great browser but it has become such a target for malicious exploit that it now has become a security risk. There are several excellent alternatives but my top pick goes to Mozilla FireFox. It's faster and leaner than Internet Explorer and since the release of version 1PR, it's stable and reliable. It loads a little slower than IE but once running, it zips along at lightning speed. With tabbed browsing and more free extensions than you could ever want, it offers a major upgrade in your browsing experience. Unlike IE, it's also standards compliant. FireFox is now my everyday browser though occasionally I have to fire up IE to browse a site designed around IE's non standard features. (4.7MB)

<= Free migration guide

Best Free Browser Accelerator
There are dozens of products that claim to speed up your surfing
but most have little effect. NaviScope is different - it actually works! Not only does it speed up your surfing it also offers optional ad, pop-up, cookie and JavaScript blocking, an extensive set of diagnostic tools and more bells and whistles than you can imagine. My only beef is that the tool bar is very obtrusive so once you set up NaviScope, you should select the option to turn off the toolbar. If you need it, you can always bring it up again though the taskbar icon. (614KB)

Best Free File Manager Updated
Windows Explorer is fine for simple file management activities but when you have some serious work to do, you need a two pane file manager. I use Directory Opus which is excellent but costs $59. Recently I discovered xplorer². It offers most of the functionality of Directory Opus and is totally free. As a bonus, its user interface is very similar to Windows Explorer, so most users will find this tool easy to learn and use.(575KB)

Best Free Anonymous Surfing Service
There are lots of reasons folks have for wanting to surf anonymously, ranging from simple paranoia to possibly being murdered by a malevolent foreign government. Whatever the reasons, commercial services that offer anonymity are doing real well. However one of the best services, JAP, is totally free and its level of secrecy is better than many commercial systems. However expect your surfing to slow down as you'll be relayed through a chain of servers. You'll also need to change your browser settings to work through a proxy.

Best Free Software Suite
GNUWin II is a free software compilation for Windows. This huge suite features dozens of programs including free alternatives to many expensive commercial products. There is Abi Word as an alternative for MS Word, OpenOffice for MS Office XP, The Gimp for Adobe Photoshop, Gzip for WinZIP are dozens more. Taken collectively this suite provides more than enough software to completely set up a PC without spending a cent on applications or utilities. The suite is available or CD or you download the CD image and cut your own.

Best Free Notepad Replacement
There are lots of text editors and Notepad replacements. Some of these aspire to be programming editors while others try to be word processors. What I love about EditPad is that, unlike the others, it concentrates on simply being a better plain text editor and it succeeds brilliantly. It has a Notepad like interface combined with tabbed document windows and the ability to open as many documents as you like with no file size limitations. I use it every day for tasks as diverse as writing Support Alert Newsletter to examining my web log files. Some of the latter can be up to 100MB, yet EditPad handles these huge files with ease. (849KB).

Best Free Hotkey Utility
Hotkeycontrol XP is a free utility that allows you to define your own hotkeys so that a single key press can launch an application, insert commonly used text, change your volume, or just about anything else. Hotkeycontrol works with all versions of Windows from 98 onwards, though some features will only work with Win2K or XP. (0.91KB)

Best Free Registry Cleaner
To keep the registries on my PCs in top running order I use Fix-It utilities This is a commercial product but I must admit that Toni Helenius' Easy Cleaner performs almost as well and is totally free. As a bonus, it will also detect duplicate files and help you clean up temp files to make more disk space. Remember though, as with every Registry cleaner, to back up your Windows Registry before use. (2.64MB)

The Best Bookmark Cleaner
AM-DeadLink scans your bookmark file for dead links or duplicate links. When I tried it on my huge favorites file I discovered 17% of my links were dead. I've now got a much leaner set of favorites and the comfort of knowing that the links actually work. (546KB)

Best Free Route Tracer
3D Traceroute graphically displays Internet route information. You can use it for technical tasks such as diagnosing slow connections or for general purpose snooping like determining the location and owner of a web site or tracing spammers. (996KB)

The Best Free Screen Capture Utility
I've used over half a dozen screen-capture utilities and none of them has really satisfied. Until now. Gadwin screen capture does exactly what I want in the way I want. Further, it avoids the trap of providing lots of useless and confusing features. It's the little things that count like making the hot key PrtSc so I don't have to remember it, and automatically sequentially naming the output files for multiple screen shots. Gadwin will stay on my PC permanently. (976KB)

The Best Free Search Bar Updated
Dave’s Quick Search Bar is a free utility that gives you the same easy access to Google searches as Google's own search bar but wait, there’s more. It also provides access to the excellent Teoma, FAST and other search engines. Because it resides in your task bar, it's accessible from any application. Comes with a host of other features such as dictionary/thesaurus access and even a calculator. If that's not enough for you, it's totally customizable. A serious second choice is the new Google DeskBar which shares many of the features of Dave's Search Bar but is geared exclusively to Google searches.

Best Free Download Accelerator Updated
Star Downloader 1.43 is not only free of charge, it's free of ads, spyware and other undesirable extras packed into most free download accelerators. On top of that, it is blindingly fast and has a raft of features including automatic mirror site detection, automatic resumption of failed downloads, download scheduling, anti-virus integration and more. If you are not yet using a download accelerator, go get this product and start counting the time you save. The faster your internet connection, the more you will gain. Users with slow modem connections will, unfortunately, benefit least. (1.4MB)

Best Free Trojan Scanner/Trojan Remover New
Ewido the best of a new crop of anti-Trojan programs. On my recent tests over at w*w.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com it emerged as was one of the few products that could reliably detect polymorphic and process injecting Trojans that were totally missed by anti-virus products like Norton and AVG. No, it's not as good as TDS-3 or Trojan Hunter but you get what you pay for. You see, the free version of Ewido doesn’t have a memory monitor but the on-demand scanner is so good you'll have no complaints. The free version download is actually the same as the paid version but after 14 days the memory monitor becomes non-functional. I recommend all readers download the product and scan their PCs weekly. I suspect you may be surprised at what you will find. I've also included a link to my full Ewido review for those who want to know more about the product prior to downloading.

Best Free Web Site Ripper New
HTTrack is one impressive product: it's easy to use, has an excellent user interface, offers every feature you could want, is blindingly fast and free of any adware as well. If you like to download web sites so that you can "browse them offline", this is the product to get. ( 3.23MB)

Best Free DLL Cleaner Updated
Over time most PCs become cluttered up with the unwanted remainders of long deleted programs. DLL Archive is a free utility that will scan your PC for DLLs that are no longer referenced. You can then archive the unwanted programs away or delete them entirely. Archived items can easily be restored to their original location if any problems arise. (227KB)

Best Free File Cleaner
I've tried quite a few commercial products designed to clean unneeded temporary files off your hard disk but must say that the free utility "Empty Temp Folders" ranks with the best. It takes a few minutes to set up but after that, just press a button to recover many megabytes of disk space. (667KB)

Best Free Resource Meter
This is cute. TinyResMeter is an itsy-bitsy system monitor. Unlike many other monitors, it doesn't consume a lot of CPU utilization in order to tell you your CPU utilization. In addition to CPU usage, you can optionally monitor cache, RAM, page file and swap file usage, running processes and threads, disk space utilization and a number of other parameters as well. Also built-in, is a screen grabber that saves the current screen to disk when you press PrintScreen. How they fit all this into 96KB beats me.

Best Free Spam Filter for the Average User Updated
Mailwasher is for most folk, the easiest way of dealing with Spam. It's a free email preview utility that allows you to check your email on your mail server before you download it to your PC. The advantage of this approach is that you can kill unwanted messages including spam, viruses and large attachments before they get anywhere near your computer. Mailwasher automatically flags for you any messages containing viruses and possible spam which makes for quick and easy identification. It also will send a message back to the spam mail sender saying that their message could not be delivered. Hopefully this will encourage some spammers to take your name off their mailing list. The free version only handles only one POP email account but that's sufficient for most users. If you need multiple account try XTerminator which provides many of the same features of Mailwasher though with a less elegant interface.
( 1.35MB)

Best Free Spam Filter for Experienced Users Updated
When it comes to effectiveness, POPFile beats the pants off most other spam filters I've tried. But this effectiveness takes a little time to develop. POPFile is a statistical filter so it has to be trained to recognize your spam from your normal mail. It takes a week or so before it starts becoming accurate and best results may take a month or more. POPFile works as a proxy mail server so that means that it can be used with any POP email client. Setup is reasonably straightforward for experienced users but beginners should stick with Mailwasher. Outlook users should check out SpamBayes, another open source statistical filter that offers an Outlook plug-in that makes it more more convenient to use.

Best Free PopUp Stopper Updated Updated
The Proxomitron is not like your average popup stopper. It operates by filtering and transforming all your Web pages on the fly. As a result you can not only stop pop-ups but pop-unders, ads, flash animations, status bar scrollers and just about anything else. Besides, next time you are asked what pop-up stopper you use, you can answer; "why, I use The Proxomitron" and how cool is that. The first link below is to version 4.5, the last and final version of this superb utility. The following two links offer useful setup and usage tips. Note: For Novice PC users I suggest you try the news Google tool bar rather than The Proxomitron. It's free as well and has an excellent popup filter built in. It's not as flexible as as The Proxomitron, but it requires no setup. As a bonus it also makes Google searches easier.

Best Free Sticky Notes Utility New
Some people hate these programs others swear they can't work effectively without them. I used to be in the first category but with so many things on my plate these days, I'm slowly being converted. The function that I find really useful is the reminder that pops up at a designated time and date. I use it for simple things like "put up the latest issue on the web site." ATnotes is a neat implementation that features configurable alarms, resizable windows, variable fonts and a host of other useful features. The product is remarkably similar to the commercial sticky notes utility called, TurboNotes. Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Maybe not. (723KB)

Best Free Secure Erase Utility
Eraser is a free, GNU license utility that will securely erase files, folders or even whole disks from any Windows or DOS PC. Eraser overwrites data area with selectable random data patterns and also wipes data in the paging file, Internet cache, temporary files, Internet cookies, unused disk space and a number of other places where data can secretly lurk. It handles FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS partitions as well. Erasing files with high security will always be a difficult and time consuming task and can never offer absolute 100% safety. However Eraser makes the task about as easy as it be, with a security level beyond most conceivable requirements. An impressive package. (2.6MB)

Best Free Outlook Express Backup
This free utility allows you to do a full or selective backup of OE's critical files including mail folders, newsgroups, address book and identity settings. Simple, effective ... neat. (2.1MB)

Best Free Process Viewer New New
PrcView has long been my personal choice but Process Explorer has pushed it aside. The reason? A better display setup coupled with more features and even more information. Process Explorer uses two vertical panes. The top contains all active processes while the second shows either all the handles opened by a selected process or, optimally, a list of DLLs and memory mapped files. A very handy search feature allows you to work backwards from named DLLs or handles to the owning process. A gem. Freeware, 230KB.

Best Free Inventory Tool
AIDA32 is arguably the best system inventorying tools I've used regardless of price. It will document just about every aspect of your hardware and software configuration. Throw in the fact that it checks out networks, gives memory benchmarks and that it is totally free, and you end up with a product that should be in everyone's toolkit. Download from the link below but remember to download the documentation as well. Corporate users need to register - but there's still no charge. The developer announced in March 2004 that the product has been frozen and there will be no more development. However, as of today, it is still the best in its class.

Best Free Anti-Scumware Utility New
There's a scumware plague at the moment. All it takes is a visit to a pushy web site or a loaded shareware install and next minute your Internet Explorer homepage has been changed, your default search setting altered, unwanted ads pop up on your screen and worse. SpywareBlaster is not a scanner like SpyBot but rather a stand-alone inoculation program that prevents the initial infection. It provides active protection against more than 1500 products that use ActiveX based exploits and offers defenses against unwanted cookies as well. A companion program to SpywareBlaster is SpywareGuard. Again, this is not a scanner like SpyBot. It is a protective program that works like an anti-virus suite by checking programs before they are executed. Both products are well executed, regularly updated and work well with each other and SpyBot.

Best Free Search and Replace Utility Updated
I've been a long time user of Funduc Software's excellent Search and Replace utility, now in version 4. However, I have to admit that after using HandyFile's free Find and Replace program, my loyalties are torn. Granted, it does pretty much the same thing, but it's faster as changes are made in memory rather than by writing to disk. This feature also provides a degree of safety. If you need to do text file replacements over multiple files, I suggest you give this tiny free utility a spin.(361KB)

Best Free Outliner
I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you, then you should check out Keynote, an Open Source freeware program that has a dedicated band of followers. Its major design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and "seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with it? Well to quote the web site “KeyNote is used by screenwriters to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of information that have no particular structure of relationship to other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets.” (1.7MB)

Best Free Rename Utility Updated
Lupas Rename 2000 is a small Windows utility that globally renames all the files in a directory and its subdirectories. It can convert names to upper/lower case, change the case of the first letter, add text, left crop,
right crop and just about anything else you can think of. And unlike DOS based utilities, it will work on hidden files as well. Add in a nice GUI interface, an undo feature, full preview of changes and the fact that it's free and you have a utility that should be in every toolkit.

Best Free Windows Driver Backup New
I used to recommend WinDriversBackup for this task but it has now, unfortunately, morphed into shareware. However, I can suggest you try WinRet as a replacement. It will not only back up your drivers but also your system registry, program settings and preferences, shortcuts, Favorites, Outlook Express folders, accounts and message filters as well. As a bonus, it allows you to tweak some of your system settings. I didn't try the latter but can report that the driver backup and restore worked well. It's not quite as simple to use as WindriversBackup but, then again, it has much more functionality. (227KB)

Best Free Digital Image Utility
Irfanview is a free multimedia viewer and editor that supports a huge range of file formats. Each new version seems to add more capabilities but to me, its most powerful features are its speed and its batch processing capability. If you want to resize sets of digital images for the web or for transmission by email, Irfanview is the best free solution available. It's also a mighty fine image viewer as well. I just can't believe something this good is free.

Best Free File Comparison Utility
WinMerge is a free Windows utility that compares two files and identifies the differences. The differences can then be merged from one file into the other. This is the sort of product that is ideal when you have several different versions of a file and are not sure of how they differ. The product is geared to text files so it won't be much use to you with Word Processing or other complex formatted documents But for text reports or computer programs, WinMerge is ideal. (514KB)

Best Free Email Accessory
As well as my normal POP email account, I have multiple Yahoo webmail accounts. Managing the latter used to be easy until Yahoo started charging to forward webmail to my POP account. To overcome the problem, I now use a nifty free product called YahooPOPS! that allows you to collect your Yahoo webmail from within your POP email client such as Outlook or Eudora. I use Outlook and must say YahooPOPS! works seamlessly from within the program. I just press "Send/Receive" and collect all my email at the one time. One of those rare programs where you offer a silent "thanks" to the developer every time you use it. ( 3.7MB)

Best Free Outlook Accessory
I hate opening HTML email. Despite multiple layers of protection I just know that one day some cunning new exploit is going to get me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic about PocketKnife Peek, a small free Outlook add-in that allows you to preview your HTML email as text.

The Best Free Encryption Utility New
This is what the web site says: "dsCrypt is AES/Rijndael file encryption software with simple, multi-file, drag-and-drop operations. It features optimal implementation, performance and safety measures. dsCrypt uses an advanced encryption algorithm and offers unique options for enhanced security." To that I'll add the fact that it's tiny, easy to use, has open code, employs proven techniques that are essentially unbreakable and comes from a highly reputable source. In summary, dsCrypt offers the average user everything they want in a secure encryption program and it's free. That's why I use it myself. (25KB)

Best Free Time Correction Utility New
A lot of folks have difficulty getting time correction software to work on their PC. If that's you then you should try Dimension 4, a free utility that gives you the choice of connecting to a time server either by standard TCP protocol or by the more common (and more problem-prone) SNTP protocol. If you haven't yet got a time correction utility, this is the one. It's free, it’s easy to use, and it has every function that you could conceivably want. Because it works from both the command line and Windows, it's ideal for batch files, too. (292KB)

Best Free Startup Manager New
Everyone needs a startup program utility so they can exercise control over what third party programs start automatically with Windows. My long time choice has been PC Magazine's Startup Cop but alas, this is no longer freeware - it's now only available if you subscribe to the magazine's software service. My new choice is Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel. It’s small, capable and has powerful features not found in Startup Cop including the ability to edit or add entries. Unfortunately these same features make it potentially dangerous in the hands of newbies. That caveat aside, it's a great product. Thanks Mike. (59KB)

Best Free File Backup Program New
Karen's Replicator v1.8.10 is a straight-forward backup utility that copies individual files, folders and even entire drives to another location. The backup can be on another partition, local drive or network drive. Its key feature is the ability to schedule automatic backups. No, it doesn't support removable media - that kind of feature is for a different class of backup product. The intended use of this product is to make regular automatic backups of critical files. I use it to make hourly backups of the file containing my notes for future issues of my newsletter. Simple, effective and free. (1.4MB)

Best Free Data Recovery Utility New
PC Inspector File Recovery 3 is a free utility that does an impressive job recovering accidentally deleted files or files lost through corruption of the file system. It has some nice features, like the ability to recover files with lost headers, and to recover partitions even when the boot sector has been lost or damaged. It works with the FAT16/FAT32 and NTFS file systems. This is no home written utility - it is a serious product from a reputable German company with a long history in commercial data recovery. PCI is the ideal product for those who want the security of a data recovery program but are not prepared to fork our big bucks for the extra features of high end products. (2.8MB)

Best Free Remote Control Software New
Ultr@VNC is a client/server package that allows remote control of another PC using a TCP/IP connection. It works with Windows W9x/NT/2K/XP and offers all the features you need including auto-configuration, easy user interface, extensive hotkeys and embedded file transfer. Apart from the fact that it's free, its strong suite is its speed. Ultr@VNC must be the fastest remote control package I've ever used. Just the thing for accessing your home PC while traveling, off-site troubleshooting or general network administration.


These specialist free utilities don't fit into any particular product category but are great products that fill a real need:

Restore Missing Toolbars
Inexperienced PC users just always seem to be losing their Windows and Internet Explorer toolbars. I've never quite worked out exactly how they do it but they sure manage it somehow. Luckily, this free utility makes recovery a snack.

Locate Required DLLs
This free utility can be a lifesaver. It identifies all the DLL and OCX support files required to operate any Windows 32 bit executable file.

Free NFO Viewer
Many freeware files are distributed with descriptive NFO and DIZ files as part of the distribution package. These are just plain text files so you can view them with Notepad or other text editor but often the formatting is lost. Try this tiny little viewer that's built for the job. It's free and once associated with the NFO and DIZ file types, works seamlessly, a true "install and forget" product.

Lock Down Your Icons
Sick of Windows moving your icons around on the desktop? Lock them down with this nifty free utility. (400KB)

Monitor Your User's Backup Needs
BackupWatcher is a free tool that allows LAN administrators to measure the backup requirements of network users. It does this by monitoring the file churn rate on each PC since last backup. Full reporting facilities are provided that allow problem areas to be easily identified. Quite a neat way of reducing unnecessary backups and ensuring necessary ones are actually carried out. (2.57MB)

Free Utility Kills Instant Messaging Viruses
If you use IRC or instant messaging then you should check out SOFTWIN, a company that provides a number of totally free anti-virus utilities than scan all data transfers associated with IM products. All the utilities make use of the virus signature databases from the BitDefender Professional anti-virus product so signature file updating is simple. There are versions for MSN Messenger, NetMeeting, ICQ, mIRC, and Yahoo! Messenger.

Photoshop Replacement for Nix Updated
Oriens Enhancer is a graphics processing program similar in function to Photoshop and Paintshop. The big difference is that it's free, the others cost big bucks. But don't think free means limited. On the contrary this product can read more than 40 file formats, has filters, textures and color effects to burn and can even handle layers. On my XP PC it was both fast and reliable though I have known folks with other PC configurations that have had stability problems. (4.05MB) If you have problems with Oriens, then try the open source program called "The Gimp." The latest version is excellent.
http://www.oriens-so...ownloads/oe.htm  (4.05MB)

Free Utility Stops Browser Hijacking
There's a browser hijacking plague at the moment. All it takes is a visit to a pushy web site or a loaded shareware install and next minute your Internet Explorer homepage has been changed, your default search setting altered or phantom bookmarks added to your favorites. This free monitor will let you know when something's trying to change your settings and pass control back to you. (394KB)

Hides Personal Files from the Boss
Camouflage is a free utility that will hide your personal or confidential files within another file. The neat thing is that the container file looks and works like a normal file of that format. So, by way of example, you could embed a secret message in a Word file which could be opened by anyone and appear to be just a normal Word file. The intended recipient could use their copy of Camouflage to open the file, enter the password and extract the embedded information. This free program is not intended to provide military strength protection but rather a convenient way to sneak information past unnecessarily prying eyes. Note: It looks like the author's web site is down, however you can download Camouflage from the other links below. (2.65MB)

Outlook Add-in Gives Email Account Flexibility
RealAccount is a freeware plug-in for MS Outlook 2002 that allows you to designate a default email account and signature for any Outlook Folder. The program is a late beta but has proved totally stable on my Windows XP Pro PC. Yet another free utility that provides functionality that should have been included in the original product. (338K)

Share Bookmarks between Browsers
BookMarkBridge is a free open source utility that allows you to share and synchronize your bookmarks between several browsers. I've got 3 browsers installed at the moment: IE 6, Mozilla-FireFox and Netscape 4.7. BookMarkBridge correctly identified and synchronized the first two but it couldn't cope with the old version of Netscape.(2.69MB)

Protect Your Defenses
Most users are not aware that their anti-virus scanner, firewall, spyware monitor and other defenses can easily be pulled and/or destroyed by trojan horses and other hostile programs. Process Guard is a unique program that prevents this from happening by protecting each individual defensive program. Process Guard itself cannot be pulled down because it runs as a kernel level service not a normal application. Process Guard is a commercial product but the demo version rather handily allows you to protect one process (such as your firewall) without time limit. It's not the simplest program to install but the extra layer of protection makes the effort definitely worthwhile.

list by Spager

Edited by thatman, 22 August 2005 - 05:34 AM.

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