Ball Machine Recommendation

Discussion in 'Other Equipment' started by arun_mrk, May 6, 2013.

  1. arun_mrk

    arun_mrk New User

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    I'm looking for a ball machine with these criteria

    1. Less than $1000
    2. Should be able to fit in mid size car
    3. Battery Operated
    4. Has spin feature
    5. Good Durability

    Guide me please
     
    #1
  2. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

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    Silent Partner......
     
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  3. retrograde

    retrograde Rookie

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    I'm using a Lobster Elite 1. For a basic machine that offers spin and oscillation, I like it and have no complaints. I've taken it apart and it is well built. However, if I had to replace it tomorrow, I'd also consider Silent Partner because I think they offer a bit more value (make yourself a spreadsheet of features to compare the brands).

    I've also seen recommendations for Tennis Tutor. They might be OK too, but I don't like the tiny suitcase wheels. One of the courts I play at has a gravel path for which bigger wheels are better suited.

    One thing I don't like is my Elite is an older model with fixed-height removable handle. I'm almost 6-ft and the handle is too low for me. Newer models have a telescoping handle that might be taller.

    For older folks or those who have bad backs, seriously consider the weight of the machine. 46-lbs doesn't sound like a lot, but if you've played a few hours of tennis and need to dead-lift into a car trunk with a lip, some folks might have a problem. Lighter-weight models with lower capacity batteries are available from most of the brands - but they don't always have the features you want. Swapping out the standard battery with a lighter and lower-capacity is an option that can shave ~10-lbs off.

    Your Youtube videos suggest you're in Belgium (.be domain) so be aware pricing and brands will be different in Europe. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
    #3
  4. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    Sports Tutor the best value in the long run, read all the positive feedback in these forums.
     
    #4
  5. arun_mrk

    arun_mrk New User

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    I have been reading & comparing different ones, I have narrowed to these two

    1. Tennis Tutor ProLite Plus ($850)
    2. Silent Partner Lite w/ Remote ($849)

    I'm not sure if Tennis Tutor ProLite Plus can fit in middle size car(either trunk or back seat). Also, in another posting i found that either SP Lite cannot fit in mid size car trunk however can fit in car back seat
     
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  6. retrograde

    retrograde Rookie

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    You'll have to make that decision yourself. Get yourself a tape measurer and make some measurements on your car. Or find an old cardbox box and cut it down to size to make a mockup if you need to visualize it.


    SP Lite: Dimensions (carrying): 20"L X 16"W X 24"H

    http://www.sptennis.com/ballmachines.asp#LITE

    ProLite Plus: 20"H x 22"L x 14"W

    http://www.sportstutor.com/tennis/prolite/


    Note the SP-Lite can vary the amount of spin and give you either topspin or backspin. The ProLite Plus only gives you a fixed amount of topspin.

    Also, both these machines have the smaller capacity batteries which allow them to be lighter weight. But the SP-Lite has a remote control (feed and sweep) which will help conserve power a little and is convenient in my opinion.

    The ball capacity is a little larger on the SP-Lite too. I've grown accustomed to hitting with 150 balls at a time.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
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  7. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I have an SP Star which is the same dimensions as the Lite. It will fit in the trunk of a Honda Accord (2001 4 door FWIW) sideways but not upright. However, since I was concerned about traveling with it sideways I put it on top of folded blankets in the back seat instead of in the trunk.

    If I'm driving it anywhere however I usually use our SUV but I did use my daughter's Accord one time. Most of the time I push it on a cart to our neighborhood courts.

    It has been a great machine. I try to estimate how long I use it each time and log that. Since I bought it in February 2010 I've put conservatively about 125 hours of use on it and it still runs and throws fine.
     
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  8. retrograde

    retrograde Rookie

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    I'm trying not to sound like a SP fanboy (I use a Lobster Elite) but since the SP Lite/Lite-R/Sport/Star all use the same chassis, if you get an SP Lite/Lite-R, you may have the opportunity to use the larger battery that comes with the Sport and Star. This might help in the future if you decide you want more battery life, or if you decide to sell it.

    You'll have to check with SP to confirm the Lite/Lite-R can use the larger battery. I don't know if you can upgrade the battery on the Tennis Tutor Prolite.

    Replacement batteries are inexpensive. I bought a nice one for my Lobster for $45 from http://www.atbatt.com/.
     
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  9. John55

    John55 New User

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    I would do with a lobster if you can spend the extra. Otherwise silent partner will do the trick if you don't need the extra features.

    Which lobster model do you have and do you a specific battery you recommend? I have an Elite IV
     
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  10. retrograde

    retrograde Rookie

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    Elite 1 purchased about 6 years ago.

    My Elite uses a standard 12V-18AH (12 volt, 18 amp-hours) size/shape sealed lead-acid battery with "F2" style connectors.

    The original battery was a LICH Power DJW12-18 made by the LEOCH Battery Company in China.

    The new battery is a Powersonic PS-12180 F2. It has the exact same dimensions as the old battery.

    Note that Lobster updated the chassis of the Elite models sometime between now and 6 years ago. In the older models like mine, the battery is tipped sideways and slides under the lip of a metal bracket for a tight fit.

    I have not seen the newer models, but Lobster has photos in their battery replacement instructions:

    http://www.lobstersports.com/img/replacing-and-installing-a-battery.pdf

    You can see in the photos the battery now sits upright and is strapped down. Notice the battery in the photos is also a Powersonic. I suspect its the same as what I'm using in my older Elite but have not confirmed. If you have the newer style Elite with the upright battery, just pull out your old battery and confirm its a 12V-18A with F2 tabs. The industry-standard dimensions for this size battery in inches/mm are:

    L: 7.13 (181) W: 3.00 (76) H: 6.59 (167) HT: 6.59 (167)

    Also note that the exact amp-hour rating of the battery doesn't matter, it's the dimensions of the battery body and the terminal type that determines whether the battery will fit. Some batteries this size are rated 12V-20AH and would be a fine replacement as well.

    Folks can also order from Lobster directly if you have doubts (nice guys) but this is really pretty simple.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2013
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  11. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    That was my case as well as I believe my Star originally came with a 21 mAh SLA battery but I replaced it with a 22 mAh of exactly the same dimensions to get a little extra run time.
     
    #11
  12. mctennis

    mctennis Hall of Fame

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    Ditto this recommendation. I've had mine for 20+ years. Best investment I ever made.
     
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  13. retrograde

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    I did some comparison shopping of current models for value. This isn't exactly what the OP listed, but these are commonly asked-for features (I wouldn't want anything less):

    - Variable spin and spin direction
    - Fast charger
    - Simple remote to control feed/sweep

    As far as I can tell, the most basic models that have all the above features are:

    Silent Partner Lite-R, $849
    Tennis Tutor Plus, $1,499
    Lobster Elite 1, $1357

    Note 1: The SP Lite-R's elevation adjust is non-motorized whereas the TT and Lobster models use a motor, so this might account for some of the price difference.

    Note 2: Lobster charges $268 extra for the remote and fast charger (which I've included above).

    Note 3: The SP Lite-R comes with lower-capacity but lighter weight battery. You might be able to swap in a larger capacity battery if you need it (check with SP). The cost of a new SLA battery is about $50 from 3rd-parties, a little more when buying direct.

    Note 4: All three suppliers provide 2-year warranties.

    My conclusion is ... if you're looking for a basic machine and can live with a non-motorized elevation, then the SP Lite-R looks like a better value on paper than Lobster or Tennis Tutor.

    Tennis Tutor fans often comment about free replacement parts. Assuming you can count on that policy in the future, only you can decide whether that's worth the price premium compared to Silent Partner.

    As I've mentioned, I'm happy with my Elite 1 but am trying to do an objective analysis for others who want a machine. I'd welcome any refinements to my quick comparison.
     
    #13
  14. arun_mrk

    arun_mrk New User

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    #14
  15. arun_mrk

    arun_mrk New User

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    looks like my e b a y link got stripped
     
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  16. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    http://www.yabe.com/itm/WORLDWIDE-S...271?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item51acc298f7

    Reverse engineer the domain.

    Their controls look similar to what is on my Silent Partner Star placed in a Tennis Tutor polite style case. I'd be a little worried about getting service since they are coming straight from Singapore and I've never heard of that brand.
     
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  17. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    That looks a lot like SP's old design. I have seen that line of machines distributed in Australia. Coincidentally, Top Serve Tennis' stringing machines (Australia) are either identical or similar to SP's former stringing machines (depending on the model) and, per Steve at SP, use the same OEM in Taiwan. I would not be surprised if Spinshot has the same relationship to the supplier of SP's old line of ball machine parts. I have had a SP Star for 4 years and am extremely satisfied with both the machine and the service. Value is tops IMO. The differences in prices and features between models are clear and there is no nickel and diming for add-ons.

    I recently received a brochure from a company named Spinfire. The brochure indicates USA distribution by Mamba Tennis (you probably know them for their strings). In any event, this machine looks like a contender. Here's a video that highlights pluses and minuses compared to Lobster.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiD5fSjscv8
     
    #17
  18. ga tennis

    ga tennis Hall of Fame

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    Do Not Waste Your Money!!!!! Get A Playmate And You Will Love It!!!!!!!!!!! I Just Got My Playmate Genie With The Iplaymate And The Mat And It Is Incredible!!!!!
     
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  19. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Playmates are great machines -- let us know when they make a machine for <$1,000, which is what the OP is looking for.
     
    #19
  20. magnut

    magnut Hall of Fame

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    I bought my tennis tutor in 1995 and have spent countless hours on it. It still works great. I had to replace the batteries twice as I uaed them to death. I think I replace the transport wheels and the little nubs on the bottom. All parts were gotten through the company free of charge and free shipping. Their customer service is exceptional and the machines are tough as nails. If this machine ever dies on me I will be ordering another one the next week. Its a permanent fixture in out house and I even built a custom cabinet for storage.

    Get one with a remote. Thats the only mistake I made. I may pick up another one in the next five years as the kids get older. Tennis tutors are a cinch to take apart, clean, do maintinance though I have never had an issue. The first time I cleaned it was 10 years after buying and it was still working great.
     
    #20
  21. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    on a related note....can anyone recommend a machine under $600 that is portable and fits in the trunk of a midsize car?

    thanks
     
    #21
  22. retrograde

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    Spinshot-Lite ($699 USD) has no spin control. Spinshot-Pro ($1399 USD) does.

    The Spinshots have that old style design which is very inefficient ... a fixed hopper. The Lobster and SP have removable hoppers which store on top of the machine ... this allows them to hold lots of balls yet still be compact/portable. The Tennis Tutors achieve this using folding doors.

    Also notice the Spinshots appear to be made from thin steel. That's going to dent and it has sharp corners.

    Of course, if you like green ... :)
     
    #22
  23. retrograde

    retrograde Rookie

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    The SP Lite ($699) is one of the few economical models that lets you control both the amount of spin and direction of spin (topspin/backspin):

    http://www.sptennis.com/ballmachines.asp#LITE

    Dimensions are listed in the link.

    In the Lobster lineup, base model is the Elite Freedom ($799) but it has no spin control.

    In the Tennis Tutor lineup, they have the Cube and ProLites $799 and below, but again, no spin control. They are among the more compact models however.

    http://www.sportstutor.com/tennis/prolite/
     
    #23
  24. retrograde

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    I've been buying Discho Microfibre from Mamba, nice folks. I like how the SpinFire's exterior housing doesn't rotate during horizontal sweep (makes the body a little wider). A nice looking design.

    More info here:

    http://www.mambatennis.com/tennis-ball-machines/
     
    #24
  25. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    The lack of physical rotation during oscillation is one of several features the Spin Fire has going for it. It looks like a very well thought out design. Too bad the price isn't lower -- there is an awful lot of competition at that price point. The same money gets you into a Playmate Full Volley, which would probably be all the machine I would need for the rest of my life.
     
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  26. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Getting something besides a Playmate is not a waste of money. I like Playmates but I probably paid less than two-thirds of what it would cost to buy one and I've been extremely happy with my machine.
     
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  27. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    :) Aside from the sheer idiocy of his post, the exclamation points are a nice finishing touch. The village is clearly missing an idiot.
     
    #27
  28. arun_mrk

    arun_mrk New User

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    I checked the price for spinshot in e bay, it show spinshot lite price as $599 and for spinshot pro it is $999
    http://www.yabe.com/sch/dtkkjj/m.html?item=350768152573&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562
     
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  29. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I counted 21 of them with a curious 5, 11, and 5 distribution. :)
     
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  30. retrograde

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    The price I listed was what came up on Spinshot's website:

    http://www.spinshot-sports.com/Pricelist.html

    I don't know if it includes shipping. E--bay says the shipping charge is $100 to the U.S. for the Lite model.

    Spinshot wouldn't be my first choice, but if you're going to get one, especially with spin control, check the ball capacity. The throwing wheels have to be stacked vertically on a machine that can do top/back spin ... but that eats into the space where the hopper is. With fixed hoppers like Spinshot has, that could be an issue. And that trades off against height of the machine too.
     
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  31. retrograde

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    It's interesting to see that in Australia, the Spinfire 1 and Lobster Elite 1 are about the same price ... $2200 AUD. You can see the pricing at Tennis Warehouse Australia's site (***.com.au)

    But in the U.S. the Spinfire is considerably more than the Elite 1. Given the exchange rate between the USD and AUD is almost 1:1, I don't understand the price differentials.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2013
    #31
  32. mmk

    mmk Professional

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    You can't compare prices between the two countries based on the exchange rate. A can of 3 Wilson Championship balls is $8 in Australia, although that does include tax. Oz is expensive.
     
    #32
  33. schenkelini

    schenkelini Semi-Pro

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    Look on Sports Tutor's web site for their used machines. That is what I got and I am very happy. Comes with a full warranty too.
     
    #33
  34. guitarplayer

    guitarplayer Guest

    I've had my Silent Partner for a year now. Best tennis investment I've ever made! I was hesitant to get it, now I can't live without it. It's the Silent Partner Edge Star. Get the heavy duty battery.

    Here it is in my back seat.


    [​IMG]
     
    #34
  35. Tamiya

    Tamiya Semi-Pro

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    ^^^ do hope u seatbelt it before driving off
     
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  36. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Coinky-dink, I just noticed that not only do we have the exact same ball machine but we also use the exact same Coleman water jug.

    I also own and used to drive an Accord, which is what the car in your picture looks like, though it has now been handed down to my daughter.
     
    #36
  37. guitarplayer

    guitarplayer Guest

    Actually it's a Mercedes E320. But, we also have 3 Accords in our family. Great cars.

    [​IMG]
     
    #37
  38. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Close but no cigar I guess. Nice car that.
     
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  39. West Coast Ace

    West Coast Ace G.O.A.T.

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    And put it up front and drive in the Carpool Lane. When pulled over by The Law state "it's my tennis partner! See the seatbelt?"
     
    #39
  40. JPW

    JPW Rookie

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    Funny you posted a pic of your SP in your car. One of the things I've really enjoyed about my car (2006 BMW 750LI) is the fact that if fits my SP, my tennis bag, and a ball carrier with about 90 balls, no problem. Ironically, it was like this car's trunk was designed for the SP. The lining in the trunk has some curvature to it and it moves in almost the same exact pattern as the SP. Too bad BMW completely downsized their 7-series vehicles now. The trunk feels like it is about half the size of the 2006 - 2009 models.

    Regarding the poster's specific questions around ball machines, I bought mine about 2 years ago. I had some initial quality issues, but SP's customer service is responsive and excellent. They did what they had to until I had a good product. Since then I've had few issues, but with their guidance via e-mail I've been able to resolve them all. Mine is still going strong after two years and looks about as good as the day I bought it. These are only my personal observations, but let me share a few things I've learned after two years of owning the product:

    1. I have the version with the heavy duty battery. Trust me, on a full charge there is no way I could deplete this thing. I would collapse before it would. I initially had a version with the smaller battery and I really liked it because it was SO much lighter. There is a lot more weight with the heavy duty battery. I still couldn't outlast the standard battery so I'm not sure whether I really need the heavy duty battery or not, but as I get in better shape it is nice to know I have that kind of duration. Basically, I never have to worry about the battery losing power throughout the day, but again, I'm not sure I really need all that extra power.

    2. Personally, I feel the basket needs to be redesigned. There are numerous little slopes and angles where balls get caught in the basket and don't get to the feeder as the balls numbers get low. I've managed to put some weatherstripping at specific places inside the basket and it has improved considerably. Additionally, I put a wrist band underneath the handle so it sticks up in to the basket some so that balls don't get hung up there as well. It works just fine and it isn't a big deal. It is just something I feel could be improved upon.

    3. The internal ramp sits very close to the plastic outer housing of the ball machine. This isn't a problem unless the housing is concave just enough to touch the ramp. This will cause balls to get stuck on the ramp if the housing presses against it and it doesn't take much. With SP's guidance I took a heat gun to the outer housing and tried to mold the plastic away from the ramp. It took a number of tries, but eventually I got it right. I only get maybe 1 or 2 balls that get stuck on the ramp during each outing now.

    4. A small connector of the circuit board came off a few weeks ago. This is one of the only connected pieces to the actual circuit board and you can see where they used a glue gun to keep it in place. The glue must have worn off over time and it simply fell off. Initially, I didn't really know what the problem was because the feed and sweep just stopped. Again, with SP's assistance I was able to find the piece of the circuit board that came loose and put it back on. Problem solved.

    Someone reading this might think these are quite a few problems to have with a ball machine. Maybe, but I would buy from SP again. They have one of the lesser expensive products out there when it comes to ball machines and as long as their customer support is this helpful and responsive, I feel like my money was well spent. Also, I really like the fact that SP is something I can actually work on when a problem does arise. You have to keep in mind I'm not a tinkerer either. If it was too complicated I just wouldn't do it, but these fixes are relatively simple (even for me). I have a pretty strong feeling the other products out there are a little more complicated when it comes to their design and working on them. Just a guess though.

    I hope this helps and let us know what you end up with.

    [​IMG]
     
    #40
  41. jaytennis

    jaytennis New User

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    Our club was using the Spinshot Pro model for quite a long time. It was very durable and they have a company in UK providing local sale and service. The machine can adjust spin level and height quite easily. It is also with an oscillation feature directing balls across the court. There was a local guy using Lobster Elite model and we did not find much difference between our Spinshot Pro and their Elite-2 model, but obviously lobster's price is almost twice the price of our machine. We did not see any dent on machine. The pro model is also using a fold-able hopper, so it is still very portable to transfer. No problem to put in the trunk of midsize car.
     
    #41

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