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Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix 377

Posted by timothy
from the please-test-for-crazy-conspiracy dept.
RCTrucker7 writes with a link to a Maximum PC story, which begins: "Details of Dell's surreptitious collusion with RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) have emerged. Apparently, the computer manufacturer disabled the Stereo Mix/Mono Mix/Wave Out sound recording function on certain notebooks to assuage RIAA. The hardware functionality is being disabled without any prior notice and one blogger has even alleged that he was asked by Dell's customer support staff to [shell] out $99 if he desired the stereo mix option. Gateway and Pac Bell are the other two manufacturers to have bowed to RIAA at the expense of their customers' satisfaction and disabled stereo mix without warning." (There are some workarounds posted in the comments of the linked article.)
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Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix

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  • by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:54PM (#24146765)
    I know it's fun to use hearsay and draw wild conclusions which make a boogeyman out of various unpopular (some rightly so) parties, but is there anything here besides a bunch of conjecture and reporting of anecdote as fact?
    • by minerat (678240) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:57PM (#24146805)
      Nope. If you trace back the trail of links, the link for appeasing the riaa goes to a forum post that only mentions the details of the registry workaround. This was already determined to be hearsay on days ago when the story broke. Congratulations to the /. editors for their diligence.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Get off the internets!!!
    • by LO0G (606364) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:15PM (#24147535)

      What's really funny is that I bet those machines run Vista.

      And Vista has the Stereo Mix functionality built into the OS [microsoft.com]!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pla (258480)
        What's really funny is that I bet those machines run Vista. And Vista has the Stereo Mix functionality built into the OS!

        Because, y'know, why should we actually let dedicated hardware do its thing when we can put the load on the CPU instead?
    • The article was posted by Timothy, who is the same idiot who posted the article above this one on claiming but not claiming "criminal negligence".

      The articles are pure flamebait, utterly stupid, typical of Timothy, and are simply sensationalistic crap designed to raise hit counts on slashdot.

    • Allegedly...? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tanveer1979 (530624) on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:14AM (#24150019) Homepage Journal
      The Ariticle:
      Dell Allegedly Colludes with RIAA, Stereo Mix Disabled without Forewarning

      Slashdot:
      Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix

  • Next Story: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deltaspectre (796409) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:55PM (#24146787)

    The MPAA has decided that asking large computer manufacturers to disable any Video Out options, so pirates are thwarted.

    • Re:Next Story: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by edalytical (671270) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:13PM (#24146955)

      Oddly enough the screenshot feature of Mac OS X is disabled when you are playing a DVD. I'd take a screenshot of the error message, but I obviously can't.

      This seems to be the current trend. You can't print bank notes from Photoshop, you can't record audio on your computer, you can't take screenshots. I'm sure this is just scratching the surface of treacherous computing...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) *

        You can't print bank notes from Photoshop

        Bet you can print 'em up in GIMP. Don't let the Government find out about that though, bad things might #$*&(*@&*(*!)(*)!*)(#*)@CARRIER LOST

        Actually, in all seriousness I'm not advocating the forgery of banknotes. Just pointing out the rather obvious fact that open source software isn't going to come crippled for my "protection". Wonder how long hardware will remain the same? Was this crippling of the notebooks done in software or hardware?

        Either way, why are people still giving Dell money?

        • Re:Next Story: (Score:5, Informative)

          by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:33PM (#24147213) Homepage

          I seriously doubt Photoshop would stop you, but that's just me. It seems a little pointless to have photo-editing software try to do that.

          That said, for years scanners, copiers, and I believe laser prints have been designed to try to detect people copying currency and refuse to print. It may happen in ink jets and other printers too. I believe it is only the high end models though.

          There is also the "invisible" yellow dot tracking that so many printers do today (you can Google it, or I know it's been discussed here years ago).

          • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Informative)

            by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:38PM (#24147257) Journal

            I seriously doubt Photoshop would stop you, but that's just me. It seems a little pointless to have photo-editing software try to do that.

            Are you sure [slashdot.org] about that?

            There is also the "invisible" yellow dot tracking that so many printers do today (you can Google it, or I know it's been discussed here years ago).

            I'm well aware of it. I guess the anonymous "printing press" was just too much for the Government to contemplate leaving around.

      • Re:Next Story: (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:53PM (#24147371)

        Actually you can still take screenshots. There are three easy ways. One is to use Grab.app. Another is to use the 'screencapture' command line tool in Terminal. And lastly you can use any third-party screen capture program. Apple half-assedly only disables the standard keyboard shortcuts. This is typical of their compliance with required terms for media playback. For example, the standard DVD player contract also requires making a reasonable effort to disable debuggers. Apple does this by calling ptrace(PT_DENY_ATTACH, 0, 0, 0) during application startup. This causes the application to crash if it's being run in the debugger, and causes any debugger attached to the application later to crash. It's laughably easy to work around, though; just set a breakpoint on the ptrace function, then tell the debugger to return immediately when it's hit. Presto!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Oddly enough the screenshot feature of Mac OS X is disabled when you are playing a DVD. I'd take a screenshot of the error message, but I obviously can't.

        This limitation in OS X has been there for a long, long time; it's nothing new. I don't think it's part of any trend. The blocks in place for Grab.app, etc. aren't terribly hard to circumvent, targeting casual users who will give up before querying Google for workarounds. Last time I checked, you don't need anything that doesn't ship with OS X itself t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by billcopc (196330)

        Since when has any Mac software let you do what you wanted ? It goes against the philosophy of the platform. They simplify everything, leave with you a single way to do stuff, and it just so happens that one way usually works pretty well. In a sense, Macs are kind of like game consoles.

        Your DVDs play well, and have been doing so for longer than the PC players - you don't need to download your DVD playing software from some idiotic Chinese software company that couldn't even write a goddamned Solitaire cl

    • by LordRPI (583454) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:29PM (#24147163)
      In other news, the RIAA is pushing OB/GYNs to disable the hearing component of newborn babies brain's at birth. A special chip will be implanted and used to re-enable hearing at a cost of $99. As an easter egg, this chip will automatically deduct $0.99 from the parent's bank account anytime the baby has a tune stuck in their head.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      The MPAA has decided that asking large computer manufacturers to disable any Video Out options, so pirates are thwarted.

      It's called Protected Media Path. [wikipedia.org]

  • by BabbageTuring (1227694) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:57PM (#24146807)
    Is this to prevent home grown artists from recording their own high quality material?
    • by fishbowl (7759) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:59PM (#24146825)

      >Is this to prevent home grown artists from recording their own high quality material?

      As a musician, I would want to challenge this as abridgement of my rights, and I'd want to make a (worth $Billions$) anti-trust case out of it.

      • by Lumenary7204 (706407) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:09PM (#24146931)

        Parent modded as "Funny", but you know, the "Independent musician invoking antitrust against the RIAA" thing might just have something going for it.

        Too bad you'd need a huge chunk of capital just to get the legal ball rolling...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by batura (651273)
        As a musician, you should simply buy a computer from a different manufacturer.
      • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:59PM (#24147419)

        Dismissed at the pleading stage for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. There is no legal theory on this planet that would make a third party (even a disreputable one like the RIAA) responsible for the Dell's choice to include or exclude some features from a driver. Perhaps you could proceed in a fraud case against Dell IF somewhere they claimed stereo-mix as a feature or, and this is a huge stretch, general merchantability.

        More broadly, I suggest you stop thinking of the legal system is a cure-all for every practice you don't like. The law is not meant to be an all-encompassing tool for redressing every wrong but rather a minimal standard of civilized decency. While I'm no fan of the RIAA, and many of their tactics are indeed illegal (I'll let NYCL flesh those out), this particular odious act is still well within the law.

      • I hope you'd buy a soundcard that doesn't blow to record your stuff. Internal laptop cards are noisy as hell. Get yourself a nice firewire card. Much, much, much better converters, and their drivers suffer from no limitations.

        Seriously, while this is a dumb move by Dell, any righteous indignation by musicians tells me that either:

        1) They don't know much about recording.

        2) They are just generating false rage for the purpose of hating on the RIAA.

        If I find that the RIAA has managed to outlaw soundcards with h

    • by afidel (530433)
      If they want high quality they would use an XLR input box connected to firewire (or at least USB2 with a buffer). Trying to record using an unbalanced stereo input in a noisy RF environment just doesn't work well, I've tried.
      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:20PM (#24147063)

        correct - any musician wanting decent sound quality will use an spdif (or similar) interface and do the analog/digital conversion outside the computer.

        these days, if you need only 2 channel stereo you can use a usb-audio input device and there are ones that have spdif toslink (opto) inputs. then you front-end that with an a/d converter, maybe a small mixer and you're all set. can be done for $100 or so and you'll get bit-perfect recording. usb-audio (asynch) drivers are driverless! so there's nothing 'they' can disable on you.

        same with usb-audio style spdif out devices. those run in synch mode and they are also driverless (mac, win, linux, bsd, you name it). you can find usb audio dongles that support 2496 samplerates and even DD5.1/DTS via raw mode.

        no one that would be 'serious' would use the analog i/o ports on a notebook for recording.

        BUT that does not let dell off the hook for hobling their own goddamn hardware. no excuse for that kind of behavior. shame on dell. I will remember this stunt for the next time an IT manager type asks me which brand of hardware we should go with.

        vote with your dollars. avoid dell and when asked, TELL them why.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by XanC (644172)

        We're not talking about recording from input; we're talking about making a copy of the output as it goes to the speakers. I don't think there's any D to A involved in recording this way, although you do lose a generation, and of course if the source was compressed you're in extra trouble.

    • by Lehk228 (705449) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:14PM (#24146977) Journal
      if you are trying to record anything in high quality using the sterio plugs on your laptop, you are doing it very, very, wrong
    • by rts008 (812749)

      Not at all, If you sign up with the Riaa, then you can sign over all rights and record to your hearts desire.

    • by Em Ellel (523581) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:58PM (#24147403)

      Is this to prevent home grown artists from recording their own high quality material?

      Basically we are talking about Dell screwing up one driver to which people are ascribing various conspiracy theories. If you are actually read any of the blogs they are all just speculating and pointing to each other. Some of the more serious blogs outright say it is just random speculation, but that does not stop them from spreading the FUD. Something tells me if Dell made some secret deal, this would affect ALL of their computers, not just ones based on specific chipset. They wouldn't be selling alternative audiocards, and they would not be posting workarounds all over the place.I think that old variation of Occam's razor applies - "don't attribute to malice what can easily be explained by stupidity." Its not the first driver Dell screwed up - its not going to be the last. This one just happened to somewhat fit into a conspiracy theory.

      -Em

  • by jcr (53032)

    I see this as a symptom of Dell's decline. There was a time when Dell would have told anyone other than microsoft to get lost if they tried to dictate how they should do business.

    -jcr

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)

      This was posted on Slashdot. Needless to say, the story is total bunk.

      Try to relax before knee-jerking to something you see here. Probably half of the damned stories here are blatantly false.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Doctor_Jest (688315)

        Well, that may be... but certainly Dell's "cred" for anything but a Windows lapdog and a mod-unfriendly assembler of Chinese parts has been thoroughly trashed over the years.

        I have a P2-400 from Dell that is _STILL_ running DSL 4.1. I can't vouch for the current lot of Dell's computers, but if the web (and my company's) comments on Dell's QC of their boxes are even 10% true, they've fallen FLAT.

        It's rather a sad state of things when the margins got so razor thin (mostly by Dell's own making), they simply b

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:00PM (#24146837) Homepage Journal
    From the summary:

    Gateway and Pac Bell are the other two manufacturers to have bowed to RIAA at the expense of their customers' satisfaction and disabled stereo mix without warning."

    Is that the Packard Bell that so many of us loved to hate? Really, did they even reach the technological prowess of having stereo recording in their systems?

    I really thought their systems pretty well disappeared back in the mid to late 90s, and were buried in a junkyard with rusted-out Yugos somewhere.

  • I hate the idea of giving companies like this any more business, at least until they become very repentant and remember their one and only source of revenue.

    That said, I frequently get asked by relatives to recommend a computer they should buy. I've been in the habit of recommending Dell because they seem to be well built and inexpensive. I build all of my own because they are generally gaming machines, but it's just not worth it to build (and support to some degree) a PC for everyone that asks. And besides

    • "one and only source of revenue."

      Other than advertisers and crapware?

      "Anyway, does anyone have suggestions of good places to get pre-built PCs without supporting this kind of anti-consumer behavior?"

      I hate to be "that guy" but, maybe Apple? I haven't ever tried on my Mini so I don't know if there is a way to record the mixer output.

  • Other options... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Well how very stupid. What exactly are they preventing people from recording? I mean, if it's internet radio (like pandora.com, aol radio, et al) you can just get something like Stationripper [stationripper.com] to record it. Or is this just to prevent people from recording their OWN CD's to a computer? Ummm.... isn't that a ok fair-use thing to be doing? Don't they have something BETTER to do then hassling legit uses of their music???
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by megaditto (982598)

      Just guessing here, but one could rip iTunes Store recordings, or plays-for-sure (whatever the MS store is) tracks, or audible audio books just by playing them and capturing the high-quality PCM streams while it plays. Then convert into mp3 or whatever.

      Essentially, this would let you exploid analog hole without requiring any cables for line in/line out loopback. And since the waveform never leaves your sound card, the quality of the recording is near perfect.

  • If this is true, what does the RIAA intend to gain from this? It won't stop or even discourage piracy. People recording streams or radio broadcasts do have easy access to simple tape recorders, and mass distribution pirates will simply use a different machine. All this does is annoy people and put a dent in Dell's sales. What is the point???
  • by davidwr (791652) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:16PM (#24147017) Homepage Journal

    If Dell advertises "ACME sound chipset ABC123" but doesn't deliver all the features of that chipset, are they guilty of false advertising?

    Just asking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by digitalunity (19107)

      Likely not. You would have to prove it was Dells intent to do this deliberately. From the sounds of it, Dell just kinda fucked up. That might entitle you to a rebate, refund or exchange but is unlikely to get you any punitive damages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rob1980 (941751)
      I dunno... the provider I bought my Motorola Razr phone from locked out the ability to load ringtones (or any other sound files) onto the phone through the microSD slot in their firmware, even though the phone is technically capable of that function. I can still use Motorola's software to copy the sound file directly to the phone's internal storage, which takes about as much work as the registry hack to restore the chipset's functionality detailed in the article. (That is, not much.)

      In both cases, techni
  • dear riaatards: (Score:3, Interesting)

    1. anyone committed to do music piracy will commit music piracy and any software or hardware hurdles you throw up cannot stop them

    2. anyone committed to not do music piracy will be irritated by the software and hardware hurdles you throw up to stop music pirates

    congratulations for punishing your paying customers and doing nothing to stop music piracy

    fucking retards

    your business model is dead

    just die already

  • Sometimes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nexuspal (720736) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:41PM (#24147279)
    I wish Slashdot had a mechanism to mod news stories into oblivion... Especially ones like this, with no real facts, and no basis in reality...
  • by Runefox (905204) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:18PM (#24147563) Homepage

    Just use the non-Dell drivers. If it's a Sigmatel, download a Sigmatel driver from somewhere else for the same chipset. Use Everest or something to report what chipset it actually is, and just go get someone else's driver. I've dived through the .INF files for some of these, and this kind of thing is something you can enable/disable directly within there, if you were so inclined and knew where to look (and had the time and patience to change it in about six different places in the same file). It's actually pretty easy to figure out if you're used to looking at config files, even if it really is a different beast.

  • by DrWinston0Boogie (1323735) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:39PM (#24147749)
    ... that I encountered this issue just yesterday for the first time on a new Dell laptop (with SigmaTel sound) when I needed to record from the stereo mix -- for lawful uses, mind you.

    I did some googling of my own and found other users who located a Dell driver (R171789) for XP that can be installed in Vista using the XP-SP2 compatibility mode option. I found this driver, installed it as prescribed, went into Vista's Recording Devices, told it to show and enable all disabled devices, and boom, there was my stereo mix. So far I have been recording without any issues.

    So yeah, without question it sucks that I even had to go through that, but it took me 10 minutes of research and even less than that to enable and configure.

    I hope this helps somebody.
  • They caught me! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cerelib (903469) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:44PM (#24147795)
    This looks like they are going after people like me. I don't like buying CDs because the markup is absurd and I don't feel like contributing to that industry. When I like an artist, I will typically checkout things like their MySpace( or PureVolume if that is still going ) and listen to their songs. If I wanted to load that on to my computer or portable player, I simply fired up Audacity [sourceforge.net], selected the Mix as a source and recorded it as it played. Yes, I know that this will produce the lowest fidelity recording short of recording over a phone line, but for most of these songs I simply don't care. It is clear enough for my casual listening enjoyment.

    Here is the kicker though; if I couldn't do that, I still would not buy the CD. On the contrary, being able to sample music like this brings me closer to caving in and buying a CD( but I typically only buy used CDs because I am more willing to pay the discounted, still marked up price when I know the profit goes to the small business, so suck on that secondary market RIAA ).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oDDmON oUT (231200)

      "( but I typically only buy used CDs because I am more willing to pay the discounted, still marked up price when I know the profit goes to the small business, so suck on that secondary market RIAA )"

      Never fear, that's next [techdirt.com] on the agenda

  • I just got a new T61p through the upgrade program at work, and spent literally hours a few nights ago trying to figure out how to re-enable this function.

    I use it for one reason only: I call into telecons from our VOIP client, and record them so I can post them online internally as MP3s (along with meeting minutes) for those that miss the discussion. I dial in from my phone, dial in again from the laptop, hit record in Audacity, and have the whole thing recorded and done.

    I'm really quite annoyed because this simple function won't prevent pirates from pirating audio. Clever folks will always figure out a workaround.

    And yep, I'm an IBMer. I work in Power Systems development (Power 575, 595, etc., NOT at Lenovo). There's even one or two random posts on our intranet message boards mentioning that folks couldn't get this to work on the latest systems, but no one's posted a solution.

    This is a common problem on Analog Devices SoundMax Digital HD audio chips. I was able to modify the INF file for the SoundMax driver to give me the GUI option to record the audio, but when I select that device, it records nothing, so obviously something else isn't quite correct.

    At least I'm not the only one with these problems. Hopefully if enough people make a fuss, AD will re-enable this function.
    ~ Mike

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      Possible it's just an engineering decision. Maybe their new chips don't have the electrical links to feed output back to input. Or perhaps their chips now do, but they are cutting it out in the future and they don't want people bitching about new chips having less functionality. Now it might seem silly, why cut out a few small components? However, this kind of thing happens in mass production items that are designed for minimal costs. I've recorded talks (one of them from a guy at AD who is real good at thi

  • It's a VISTA thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin@nOSpam.pelicancoast.net> on Friday July 11, 2008 @04:51AM (#24149923)

    According to this thread http://www.dellcommunity.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=insp_audio&message.id=43688#M43688 [dellcommunity.com] the stereo mix drivers that Dell was supplied by SigmaTel (now Freescale Semiconductor) are being rejected by Vista on installation. The techs are working on it, but odds are SignaTel (not Dell) is being threatened by RIAA as not to supply the fix.

    http://www.ideastorm.com/article/show/66120/Correct_Sigmatel_audio_drivers_Stereo_Mix# [ideastorm.com]
    http://www.dellcommunity.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=insp_audio&thread.id=40127&jump=true [dellcommunity.com]

  • by Zorque (894011) on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:59AM (#24150207)

    n. A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose.

    That doesn't really sound like what's going on here. Maybe Dell relinquished a little more choice in the matter than they should have, but Michael Dell isn't sitting behind a curtain wringing his hands over this one. Try "cooperates", it's much less FUD-filled.

    • by argent (18001)

      If they removed an advertised capability without notice, that's deceitful and arguably fraudulent, though probably not illegal. :)

  • by Secret Agent Man (915574) on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:02AM (#24151075) Homepage

    Said options were disabled on my computer too. When I finally required its use, I got around to fixing it by going to SigmaTel's web site and acquiring updated drivers. The 'Stereo Mix' option then appeared and worked without issues.

  • Grumpy bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by swordgeek (112599) on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:14AM (#24151211) Journal

    OK, here is ALL of the evidence that the RIAA has been strongarming Dell into this behaviour:

    (from http://www.eggheadcafe.com/software/aspnet/32286847/vista-audio-solution--wh.aspx [eggheadcafe.com])

    "Many of you may have been as frustrated as myself by Micrsoft bowing to the RIAA
    and pressuring the soundcard manufacturers to remove the "What You Hear" feature
    from their drivers."

    Oh, yeah, and there's the other article which points to it, on http://www.ripten.com/2008/07/07/bend-over-dude-youre-getting-a-dell/ [ripten.com]:

    "Some believe that Dell, and several other computer manufacturers such as Gateway and Pac Bell, were pressured by the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) into disabling the stereo mix functionality." ...

    "So that we are all clear, the evidence points to Dell appeasing the RIAA by disabling hardware, only to have their customer service reps turn around and offer a solution to their consumers that reverses the alteration they made in the first place at a premium price."

    Yep, that's it. One guy claimed it with absolutely no evidence, and so it's apparently true. Another guy wilfully misinterpreted some random tech support guy's suggestion, and now we have a collusion between Dell and the RIAA. Wow, this is investigative reporting at its finest!

    My Dell laptop at work didn't have a way of turning off the damned 'tap to click' feature of the touchpad. I spent ages looking for a downloadable driver to make that feature work. Based on the rules of logic illustrated above, this is clearly a sign of collusion between Dell and Logitech.

    Honestly, aren't there enough examples of corporate bullshit that we don't have to invent false ones?

  • If they had, I would have sued dell in a heartbeat.

    This is an expected feature of modern sound cards and not to be fucked with.

    This is getting out of hand and Dell and the whole board who decided this are COWARDS!

    I guess no one has the integrity to stand up and say, enough is enough.

    The RIAA is overstepping their bounds by miles here.

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