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Intel Cellphones Hardware

Why Intel Needs Smartphones More Than They Need Intel 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-the-only-game-in-town dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from ZDNet: "The launch of the Orange San Diego, the first handset using an Intel Atom processor, marks a big milestone for the chipmaker: it's finally in the smartphone market. But does the market need Intel at all? ... Intel's scale and the reach of its other divisions gives [Mike] Bell's smartphone unit a boost; for example, it can reuse code optimizations for Atom done by the desktop team. ... Even so, the smartphone team has got a tough job on its hands — but it's one Intel has to tackle, according to Carolina Milanesi, mobile analyst at Gartner. 'This is certainly an attack strategy for Intel. The smartphone market is so large now that they need a piece of the pie,' she said. But will consumers care whether their handset runs on an Intel chip? Bell conceded that aside from the tech-savvy, most people probably don't know which chip is inside their phone. It's likely, given the lack of advertising on this, that most probably don't care — making Intel's job even harder."
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Why Intel Needs Smartphones More Than They Need Intel

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  • Games? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JanneM (7445) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:39AM (#40334319) Homepage

    There is games, though; some Android game engines are written in part in native code for the speed boost, and I can't imagine that an Intel phone will shine when forced to emulate an ARM CPU on the fly for those occasions.

    And for most applications, the CPU really does not matter. They'll run nicely on anything able to host the Dalvik VM. At best, an Intel phone will be no different than a ARM one, and at worst it will just add an extra bit of frustration.

    • Re:Games? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arbiterxero (952505) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:43AM (#40334351)
      Unless intel is able to bring radical power efficiency. Then, having an intel chip would be sought after. With Cell phones, the battery currently rules the roost.
      • Re:Games? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AvitarX (172628) <me AT brandywinehundred DOT org> on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:19AM (#40334673) Journal

        Yeah, but that's generally dominated by screen (though I guess the fact that I use the web a good bit, and my last two high-end phones were OLED could be to blame).

        even if the CPU used 0 power, I would gain very little.

        I've had a G1, Nexus1, Comet (it was temporary), and HTC One S for context.

        • by Geeky (90998)

          Yeah, but that's generally dominated by screen (though I guess the fact that I use the web a good bit, and my last two high-end phones were OLED could be to blame)

          Is it, though? My Android lasts a couple of days if I don't use it much. Looking at the stats, it's 50/50 between cell standby and phone idle, with a few percent for screen and system. My old dumbphones would last at least ten days on the same use. It seems smartphones aren't good at regressing to being dumbphones when the smart features aren't in use.

          Even when I'm using it heavily, the screen is always lower on the battery stats than the system and cell standby

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            How big is your screen and what tech does it use?
            On my Galaxy Nexus the screen is always the top power user, after that comes the phone idle and cell standby.

            What do you consider using it heavily? My bet is even that use might be a lot lower than some.

            • by Geeky (90998)

              Screen's not huge, it's an HTC Desire. I wouldn't actually mind the screen being heavier use. It's the idle/standby that annoys me - the level of drain when the phone really isn't being asked to do much more than an old dumbphone. I only have one email account syncing, and that's not a busy one as I've deliberately set filters to minimise how much reaches my inbox.

              At the moment it's literally 50% each for idle and cell standby, and that's despite having checked emails on and off, browsed a bit of Facebook

              • by scot4875 (542869)

                I only have one email account syncing

                That's one more than your dumbphone had.

                and that's not a busy one as I've deliberately set filters to minimise how much reaches my inbox.

                Really doesn't matter. Your phone has to periodically wake up, establish connections with the server, and retrieve and parse some data. It takes CPU and battery.

                I'd love for there to be more emphasis on smartphone battery life than on more cores/higher speed at this point, but it just doesn't seem to be a high priority to any manufacturer. The simple reality is, though, smartphones have much more complex innards than your old dumbphone and consequently take more po

                • by AvitarX (172628)

                  If you want battery life, go for a blackberry.

                  I like good internet, but based on browsing battery usage, Apple appears to have locked the good screen thing down tight.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            Right now, with heavy use (ie text/web, white backgrounds OLED, HTC one S)

            screen 61%
            standby 11%
            wifi:7%
            maps:6%
            OS: 6%

            I'm at 71% left on 2.5 hours since unplug. My standby times easily break 24 hours. I'm in an area with terrible reception, which typically increases the standby part significantly.

            Unless I use the phone essentially none, my screen is well over 40%, and I've had it well past 80%.

            the first thing that starts to use CPU is 6% usage. of my over-all usage 21% is applications/OS, the phone would still

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Everybody seems to be forgetting something though, people are pushing the ever loving crap out of these devices and IPC has been Intel's ball park for quite the long time. People want bigger games, higher def, better sound, the mobile is quickly becoming like the PC where it'll do damned near any job you can think of and that comes down to IPC. Don't get me wrong, ARM is a nice chip design, but if you've looked at the benches Intel is ALREADY getting 30% more out of their chip for the same watts as the ARM

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            Now imagine what they are gonna be able to do with a couple of tick tocks and a couple of shrinks. It'll be like having a Core2 in your pocket, really cool to think about all you'll be able to do.

            So in a few years they'll be able to put ten year old hardware into your pocket?

            • Come to think of it, that's where we are now.

            • Re:Games? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:41PM (#40339133) Journal

              Compare the highest performing ARM and its IPC to a C2D, much less a C2Q, and you'll see its no contest, the smartphones are really much farther than a decade behind.

              The same thing that has made X86 slow down in sales of laptops and desktops, the fact that X86 went past good enough into ludicrous speed, could give Intel a hell of a chunk of the market. lets face it, folks have gotten spoiled. They are so used to having laptops and desktops that do amazing things, that play HD video without a stutter, run a dozen programs at a time without skipping a beat, hell even the bottom o' the line Intel and AMD chips of today are so insanely overpowered that most users simply can't keep them fed with enough work to max them out.

              The simple fact is that the best ARM chips can't get anywhere near the IPC of a 7 year old C2 or Athlon X2 and on Intel's FIRST TRY they got 30% higher performance while getting right in the middle of the pack when it comes to ARM power usage. Considering that isn't even on the latest process that is pretty damned impressive for a first try. You mark my words the way Intel is going it won't be but a couple of tick tocks until they have the Atom at 12nm, with probably equal or better than C2D or even C2Q performance and with equal or better battery life than the ARM. I don't care where you sit on the argument that's pretty damned exciting in MY book.

          • people are pushing the ever loving crap out of these devices and IPC has been Intel's ball park for quite the long time

            But do you really want a 450 watt power supply in your phone?

          • by JanneM (7445)

            "people are pushing the ever loving crap out of these devices[...]"

            Well... are we, though? I use my cellphone (a Galaxy Nexus) all the time and I'm a heavy computer user otherwise, but I don't have a single phone app that actually pushes the CPU. Every single thing I use now ran on my previous, now almost three year old, Android phone before, with no visible difference in performance. The differences I do see are all attributable to having more memory and better OS support for accellerated graphics in the U

        • by guruevi (827432)

          Although the display is one of the large suckers with high-res displays like the Apple products have and most oversized Androids to make up for lack of resolution (really, a 6" display on a cell phone?) the CPU (and integrated GPU) is still a big sucker (besides also antenna's). ARM development boards (like Raspberry Pi) have similar or in some cases identical chipsets and the same number of peripherals without a display and still manage to take up almost 3-5W. On a small size battery this is still signific

      • I think Intel's power numbers have been posted, and were neither excessively good nor bad.

        • Re:Games? (Score:5, Informative)

          by poetmatt (793785) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:23AM (#40334721) Journal

          It's been documented on anandtech before - http://www.anandtech.com/show/5770/lava-xolo-x900-review-the-first-intel-medfield-phone [anandtech.com] - results were simply middle of the pack and down to "if the hardware is updated then whatever it is will do better".

          The thing is, do we want/need intel on smartphones? I say please no. Let ARM compete and grow and remain a fairly new viable competitor.

          • by makomk (752139)

            Bear in mind that it's only middle of the pack for applications that don't have ARM-only native code, which apparently a lot of Android applications do these days. No review actually seems to test how fast the dynamic recompilation support is.

          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            With only ARM type chips on mobile, I wouldn't say that there is much competition. At least not for the ARM company itself (the designers).

            Adding Intel to the mix would add to competition in that market though. And ARM has enough of a head start in that market to survive.

      • No, not really. With everything else mostly being the same, battery life rules the roost. My Old nokia dumb phone kills everything else out there for battery life, but there is a reason why its stuck in the sock drawer instead of my pocket.

      • Power demand is a bit more involved then you think. Sure ARM offers a very low demand CPU but what about the rest of the system? Nth/Sth bridges, USB chip, audio, radio and gpu along with the screen. All of this affects the demand on the battery and from what I've seen, Intel has finally gotten down low enough on the SoC offering to meet/beat many of the ARM based solutions, thus Intel has met the basic need for smart phone. This doesn't mean they've gotten anywhere's near what's needed for a basic feature/

    • some Android game engines are written in part in native code for the speed boost

      Are they written in assembly language or something? Because if they're written in C++ (as I suspect), game developers can just recompile the C++ parts for x86, test on a netbook running Android for x86, and deploy the x86 edition through Google Play Store.

      • Re:Recompile (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:22AM (#40334695)

        Easier said than done. You have to test and support both versions, and recompiling C/C++ cross platform is not always straightforward. Given the already significant fragmentation in Android, I wonder when/if many places will get around to it. (The answer is when Intel gets enough market share)

        • by Tr3vin (1220548)
          As long as the compiler for x86 works similar to the ARM one, it won't be bad at all. I've never had an issue doing cross platform C/C++. Also, you are making a big deal about an insignificant fragmentation problem. It is pretty obvious you haven't done android dev work.
          • Given you complete dismissal of testing and support concerns, it's pretty obvious you've never run a serious business.

            • by scot4875 (542869)

              Good thing that the discussion isn't about 'running a serious business', it's about difficulty of porting between architectures.

              And given the plethora of different chips already on this "fragmented" (FUD Apple marketing word, btw) market and how well the system already works, I'm not too worried about having a couple #ifdefs to support Arm and x86 chips. Open source projects somehow manage to do it every fucking day and it works quite well.

              Also, you don't seem to have any problem dismissing things you don'

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        Are they written in assembly language or something?

        Pretty much. They use special intrinsics mapped to instructions specific to the floating-point units that ARM processors have (VFP, NEON).

    • Re:Games? (Score:5, Funny)

      by ThePhilips (752041) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:12AM (#40334595) Homepage Journal

      At best, an Intel phone will be no different than a ARM one, and at worst it will just add an extra bit of frustration.

      You forget the "Intel Inside" stickers.

      Promotional stickers is something mobile phones still sorely lacking.

      • I don't know; on my Droid X I have silk-screened logos for Motorola, Verizon (twice!) and Google(TM). Intel's "Intel Inside" logo would not be too out of place.
      • Here's a thought:

        The first phones with "Intel Inside" advertising do better because of the added brand recognition.

        Then people get these phones and realize they run hot, have shortened battery life, or need active cooling (fans).

        Intel Inside then becomes something to avoid in the phone market, weakening the brand.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Dude. What year are you in? Promotional stickers have now been computerized. They show up during boot.

        More seriously, every Android phone I have had has had 2 or 3 promotional labels. They just embed them into the case or print them on so that you can't peel them off.
      • I used to have a computer that said AMD kickass inside. No joke.

    • by oPless (63249)

      In another article that I read this morning, the Intel Android guy they interviewed mentioned that they had a native code translator for ARM -> x86 native code. He also dodged the question on "does that work for WP7/WinRT" ... might we also see intel WP7/8 phones?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      From what I've read, the Medfield CPU does binary translation. It is capable of running most Android applications, even ones that have native ARM code. I haven't seen any benchmarks, but Intel claims a performance hit of about 20%.

    • Re:Games? (Score:5, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:43AM (#40335651) Journal
      I was wondering about that too. Intel claims they have some sort of compiler that will translate that stuff on the fly, and works really well. I'm a little skeptical, but if they can make it work, it would be interesting.

      Here's the article [extremetech.com] Here's the relevant quote:

      “There are two kinds of Android apps,” Bell says. “Those that use Dalvik, and ones that run natively.” Dalvik is Google’s Java-like virtual machine which many Android apps run inside. Theoretically, as long as Dalvik works on x86, then all of the apps will. “We have a large team working on making sure Dalvik apps work well.” I push the mobile chief on the topic of native apps, and he hums and haws a little. “We have developed some software that translates native apps to x86, and it seems to work well,” he says. Seizing this opening, I ask if it would be possible to build the same kind of translation layer for Windows 8 and Windows RT. In return, I get a shrug, a smile, and a non-answer.

      Actually, now reading that quote again, it doesn't give me much confidence in their capability. They might have to rely on going to a smaller size for it to work.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Actually, now reading that quote again, it doesn't give me much confidence in their capability. They might have to rely on going to a smaller size for it to work.

        When I was writing emulators years ago, the things that made it a right bastard were external hardware emulation (e.g. the interrupt controller), and weird software practices like self-modifying code or DRM code that ran in the interrupt vector table or modified the instruction that it was executing in order to confuse a debugger. Since you generally don't need to worry about those things on a modern OS, a straightforward binary translation shouldn't be too hard, and should be reasonably efficient.

      • Intel discovered GCJ, now they'll surely change the world.

    • by Glasswire (302197)

      Wake up. There is native x86 NDK [android.com] in the Android SDK. No need to emulate ARM native code. This has been true since last summer.

      • by JanneM (7445)

        Although that of course depends on app writers actually bothering to build special versions for a small number of phone models. Not sure how likely that is, especially when those phones can still run the ARM version.

    • Unless there's a legion of games written in assembly language, I think you're exaggerating the frustration.

      Developers eager to make a sale will recompile their C-based native code - no ARM emulation required.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:41AM (#40334341) Homepage Journal

    ... more than Earth needs humans and why Microsoft needs PCs more than PCs need Microsoft
    and even *gasp* why mammals need air more than air needs mammals

    Stay tuned for more insightful and thought provoking statements here on El Slashdotto!

  • by cvtan (752695) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:46AM (#40334371)
    Smartphones need Intel as much as photography needs Kodak!!
  • There was at least Fujitsu LOOX F-07C.
    Not widely available but certainly not vaporware either.
    Frankly the "XP Phone" (and I don't mean the vaporware with this name) is long overdue. But if they delay more and Android gets even more and more apps it might come way too late to do any good.

  • by alen (225700) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:51AM (#40334409)

    performance wise ARM is crap compared to Intel. Just like Intel was crap compared to SPARC and all the other architectures they killed off in the last 30 years

    one of the most important rules of business is to protect the low end of your market. if you don't then a competitor will establish a lower margin business and move up to take your high end. Just like Intel did.

    even apple knows this and has products just good enough to keep low end competitors at bay

    • The pre-release hype surrounding Itanic is what killed SPARC (and MIPS and Alpha, and PA-RISC). But I agree with your theory about the lower end. That's how AMD drove Intel out of the market ;).
      • by alen (225700)

        what killed SPARC and the others was the Pentium Pro which turned into the Xeon brand

        AMD had their chance but they always managed to screw things up

        • by afidel (530433)
          No, what really killed SPARC was x64, cheap machines capable of using large amounts of even cheaper RAM was when Sun stopped being relevant. I know because we ordered one of the first production Opterons to demo our chip routing software and knew instantly that the days of needing $50k workstations to do our work was at an end.
          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Head hurts... Only 2GB or 4GB depending on OS is not a large amount of ram....

            • by afidel (530433)
              What? Socket 940 boards supported 8GB with cheap 1GB DIMM's or 16GB with the much more expensive (but still cheaper than Sun) 2GB DIMM's. Eventually those same board supported 32GB but the 4GB DIMM's for them were never particularly cheap so I'm not sure how many ever got upgraded to that level.
        • AMD had their chance but they always managed to screw things up

          Or is it more like, AMD had their chance but Intel forstalled that in large part through illegal trustmaking activies.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      In case of Apple, the whole Wintel ecosystem is their lower-end competitor. And for some reason those Wintels don't manage to move up to the higher end, and really threaten Apple.

  • I think the Issue with mobile phone, is the new coding standards, means less fuss about hardware level coding.
    The Intel PC, had came from a long legacy where a lot of programs were programmed using a fare about of custom Assembly Coding. Mostly due to the fact that we didn't have a robust library set. So these legacy systems had passed from one generation to the next, keeping software locked on platforms. When mobile devices got popular, they put more effort into more platform independent coding. Using

    • by medcalf (68293)
      This is an excellent point. I would add that x86 chips are really hard to use, especially hard to boot into a usable mode. This is all done for backwards compatibility. But for a phone maker, why would they want to deal with that complexity (and thus cost) if they didn't have to?
      • Unless they were given the software by the chip vendor, and all they had to do was customize it.

      • by PReDiToR (687141)

        x86 chips are really hard to use, especially hard to boot into a usable mode

        I'd put that down to some kind of Industrial Disease.

    • by tepples (727027)

      Using systems that require more on pre-made libraries, and almost no Low Level coding, allowing applications and even large parts of the OS to be ported from one Platform to the next, with very little work.

      So if one platform runs only Java bytecode, a second platform runs only .NET bytecode, and a third platform runs only native code, in what language should an application for a device without an always-on high-speed Internet connection be written?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'm pretty sure jellomiser isn't a native speaker, and he did a lot better than I would have written it writing in Spanish. And a lot better than quite a few native English-speaking slashdotters. Here's the above comment translated into a form of English that doesn't take a literate person as long to parse as it does an aliterate:

      I think the Issue with mobile phones is that the new coding standards mean less fuss about hardware-level coding. The Intel PC had came from a long legacy where a lot of programs w

  • And, from the non-tech savvy pool... How many really know what processor is inside?

    Larger consumer markets go for usability. If Intel is doing performance optimizations for Android, this is a win for Google, that will soon probably see Android tablets running on Intel.

    So the question is, does Google need Intel?
    • How many really know what processor is inside?

      They can take a guess based on what applications do and do not show up in a search of Google Play Store. It doesn't list applications that it deems are incompatible with the user's device, such as applications that use native code but haven't been recompiled for a particular instruction set.

    • No, but, as the poster says below, competition is generally a good thing. Too much choice is a bad thing too, but, now ARM has to get it's ass in gear and improve multithreading and multicore. I don't think consumers will care one lick if it's a Medfield, Snapdragon, Tegra, OMAP or whatever.

      But they'll notice a year over year increase in battery life, speed, etc. That's certainly going to mean something to the average user.

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:58AM (#40334469) Journal

    YES. Competition is good and ARM has been able to be complacent without someone else challenging them. Medfield is a solid start for Intel, but obviously they need to improve on it and everyone will benefit by having more choices.

    Asking that loaded question is like saying that we already have Windows and Mac OS so the market doesn't need Linux...

    • ARM has had competition, MIPS. ARM has generally had a slight advantage in power utilization vs MIPS.

      Intel hasn't been a factor because up until a few months ago, they haven't produced a CPU that could compete on power utilization. Now it looks like they're finally competitive on power utilization, so their expertise in performance and manufacturing process technology makes them potentially a serious competitor. However, Intel has made many improvements to Android in order to be competitive with ARM based d

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The ARM platform is not one device. Since ARM is an IP house only there are many ARM platforms out there: Single core, multi core, we'll see 64-bit ARM soon. Then there are all the integrated peripherals around the CPU core: DSP, video CODECs, camera interface, etc. What will be interesting is that if you are bought into the Intel ecosystem then you'll only have Intel-based solutions, there will be no competition within that domain. ARM is amazingly exciting with all the offerings you can get. The designer

  • > The smartphone market is so large now that they need a piece of the pie

    Does this count for logic these days? By that same brilliant logic diaper manufacturers need a piece of the smart phone pie too!
    • by equex (747231)
      My diapers said "Intel Inside".
    • Angry Turds.
      Draw something brown.
      Beautiful wedgies.

    • For the mentally challenged: The smart phone market is HUGE. For Intel to remain profitable and grow they need to move into the smart phone market.

      As investors and analysts can see, the mobile market is where the growth is. Intel is a niche player in the mobile market. Tablets and smartphones rule the roost. desktops and even laptops are falling to the wayside.

      It would be stupid for Intel not to make a push because if they don't, they may find themselves out of business.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That dubious honour goes to the Lava Xolo x900. See http://www.anandtech.com/show/5770/lava-xolo-x900-review-the-first-intel-medfield-phone . It has been available in the market for at least the last 2 months

  • by kroyd (29866) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:14AM (#40334613)
    And, it used an Intel 386 cpu: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_9000_Communicator [wikipedia.org]. It was probably one of the most brick-like GSM phones ever.

    Later Nokia switched to AMD for their 9100, then to ARM for the 9210 series. I bought a 9201i in 2002, I believe I paid t something like 1500usd..

    There were also a few Japanese intel based phones, but those ran Windows XP.. Not really what I would call a smart phone. So, it might be correct to say that this is the "first Intel based smart-phone which might launch in the US".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At last I will be able to enjoy gifts to human mankind like the A20 gateway. How wonderful. Thank you intel.

  • The only reason 99% of consumers wanted intel in their desktops was because of intel's marketing. I see no reason why they can't launch a similar intel inside campaign for mobile.
  • Or does this phone look like a Galaxy S2 and an iPhone had a baby?
  • Intel will have to compete without its traditional legacy compatibility advantage?

    They'll hate it, but they'll probably suck it up, go do some real chip engineering, and at least catch up on the useful-cycles-per-watt front.

    After all, they did basically that to the PowerPC.

    • Intel will have to compete without its traditional legacy compatibility advantage?

      Also without help from Microsoft which is still way too busy doing its duck with a broken wing act in the phone market to be of any use to Intel.

  • But will consumers care whether their handset runs on an Intel chip? Bell conceded that aside from the tech-savvy, most people probably don't know which chip is inside their phone. It's likely, given the lack of advertising on this, that most probably don't care â" making Intel's job even harder."

    This doesn't make sense to me. Doesn't that make Intel's job easier, not harder?

    If people are buying on performance-per-Watt rather than brand names (which I don't actually believe), then I'd think that wo

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I think I can outline how many consumers choose their new phone.

      What processor is in it, is not an issue. Now many nm it uses, whatever that may mean, no-one cares about. Battery life may be an issue, as is internal storage. Screen size/resolution is important, as you see that. Case design is make or break. Brand is important, best brand is that what their friends use too, best model is at least one newer.

      They walk to some shops, play a bit with the phones, and then say "I like that shiny one". The choice h

  • Both the Atom - and the Fusion - would be great to use in tablets that run Windows RT w/ Metro. At least there, there should be some chance of running legacy Windows apps. But of the purpose of the Atom in Orange San Diego is to run Android, it's a waste - ARM, despite not being a great RISC processor, is a better platform.
    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Mildly pedantic, but...

      If you're running Windows NT 6.2 on x86, It's just called "Windows 8". Windows RT is specifically the ARM version of Win8, with support for third-party legacy apps removed. There are already x86-based tablets running NT (mine has a preview build of Win8 on it, even). Yes, it runs legacy apps just fine.

  • I parsed it: "Intel Needs Smartphones more than Intel needs Intel", which was completely nonsensical. Took me a couple tries to parse it the intended way.

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