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Thread: Archival concern and future of raw file support

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    Default Archival concern and future of raw file support

    I am a bit worried about the future support of the actual orf files in few years. Having been accustomed to drastic changes in the word of computers and seeing companies such as Microsoft producing software unable to read from older versions, I am wondering about what would be the best solution or lobby to keep the older orf files readable in several years without having to keep an equally old computer just in case of.

    Just for comparison, older B/W emulsion when stored in proper conditions would last over 150 years. Color pics is much less and depending on medium, far less than 50 years. CDs are good for 25 years while magnetic 1/4' tape sare able to sustain far over 50 years. Our information society may produce a lot of data but keeping them readable is another matter.

    What do you think about that ? Are there any archivists on the forum ?

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilles View Post
    I am a bit worried about the future support of the actual orf files in few years. Having been accustomed to drastic changes in the word of computers and seeing companies such as Microsoft producing software unable to read from older versions, I am wondering about what would be the best solution or lobby to keep the older orf files readable in several years without having to keep an equally old computer just in case of.
    This is one of the reasons why I use ufraw/dcraw (and free/open source software in general). There's no vendor deciding whether supporting this or that makes more money. After 20 years, the computers and operating systems may not be able to run the executables compiled for today's computers. However, since I have the source code, I can always compile dcraw myself and it being standard C, I'm 99% sure I'll manage to get it to compile, run and convert my raw files on whatever computer I'll have then.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilles View Post
    Just for comparison, older B/W emulsion when stored in proper conditions would last over 150 years. Color pics is much less and depending on medium, far less than 50 years. CDs are good for 25 years while magnetic 1/4' tape sare able to sustain far over 50 years. Our information society may produce a lot of data but keeping them readable is another matter.

    What do you think about that ? Are there any archivists on the forum ?
    This is a tougher one.. I guess I'll just keep my photos on hard disks and DVDs, "refreshing" them once in a while. I hope better solutions will emerge...

    - Sampo

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Hi Gilles,

    As far as I'm aware, there is no good archival solution for decades of storage. You've described the two components:
    1. hardware longevity
    2. file longevity
    I've probably got hundreds of thousands of digital photos that I'm archiving and I've chosen to archive primarily raw files in their native format on hard drives that are periodically replaced. I also archive Photoshop PSD files for edited images---especially those with multiple layers.

    If you want to store photo files for decades without touching them, then you could convert your ORF files to uncompressed 16-bit TIFF files. TIFF is a relatively stable file format that has been around a long time and will probably be around for a long time in the future. TIFF allows lossless compression but if you are worried about longevity, I'd create them without compression.

    One last thing to consider: The Microsoft analogy does not hold up with photo files. I think that image files are a somewhat special case. They have not undergone the same kind of obsolence that Microsoft files have. They have been relatively stable so far. For example, I believe that Adobe Photoshop CS3 can still open every file that has ever been created with a previous version of the program. This stretches back for over a decade. And I don't expect Adobe to remove any raw file compatibility from ACR. Nor do I expect Olympus to remove raw file compatibility from its software just because a camera is no longer in production. But time will tell...
    Best regards, FL

    Pursuing excellence...

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    I agree with FirstLight that MS is not a point of reference on this issue. Adobe has been a lot better in this regard. I am still using some type one postscript fonts with a 1986 time stamp on them. I think the best way to play it safe is to keep your raw files and store your edited work as TIFFs.

    As far as the storage media is concerned, they best plan is to be redundant. Store all your stuff in at least three different places and use different media as well. Don't rely exclusively on your CD/DVD archives. Hard disks are dirt cheap and you should use them for keeping all your stuff and you should have several of them. For those who want max protection you should have offsite archives as well.

    Clay

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    Cool Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by First Light View Post
    Hi Gilles,

    As far as I'm aware, there is no good archival solution for decades of storage. You've described the two components:
    1. hardware longevity
    2. file longevity
    I've probably got hundreds of thousands of digital photos that I'm archiving and I've chosen to archive primarily raw files in their native format on hard drives that are periodically replaced. I also archive Photoshop PSD files for edited images---especially those with multiple layers.

    If you want to store photo files for decades without touching them, then you could convert your ORF files to uncompressed 16-bit TIFF files. TIFF is a relatively stable file format that has been around a long time and will probably be around for a long time in the future. TIFF allows lossless compression but if you are worried about longevity, I'd create them without compression.

    One last thing to consider: The Microsoft analogy does not hold up with photo files. I think that image files are a somewhat special case. They have not undergone the same kind of obsolence that Microsoft files have. They have been relatively stable so far. For example, I believe that Adobe Photoshop CS3 can still open every file that has ever been created with a previous version of the program. This stretches back for over a decade. And I don't expect Adobe to remove any raw file compatibility from ACR. Nor do I expect Olympus to remove raw file compatibility from its software just because a camera is no longer in production. But time will tell...
    Bear in mind that while Olympus calls their RAW files ORF, that underneath the covers, the RAW files have evolved over time. Taking a quick glance at the open source RAW converter dcraw, shows that there have been at least 3 versions: the version used in the C-* cameras (and I think the E-1), the format that was introduced with the E-300, and the current format introduced with the E-410. I wouldn't necessarily count on this working without a hitch over time. For example, the latest version of Bibble added E-410/E-510 support, but evidently broke the E-1 RAW support.

    I do have a question though -- of the RAW files that are preserved, how often do you go back and re-edit a file over a year old? Sure for very special photos I can imagine doing this, but I don't see this happening on a general basis. I can see re-printing older images, just not re-editing pictures. I would imagine storing the JPG or TIFF of the final edited result as well as the originals will give you the ability to edit the JPG file if needed.

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    Default DNG

    I vote for DNG. Well documented open format which can encapsulate other proprietary raw formats. And lossles. In the future, I think, there will be more cameras with DNG as native raw format and if raw convertor needs some additional info about interpretation of DNG from current camera, it is posible to make very simple external property files for fine tuning, but it does not mean we are unable to read these new raw files at all - like new ORF variations in every new generation of Olympus. Who can wait to new camera support in his acquitted SW. Proprietary formats (if maker has < 50% of market) is road to hell

    I can hardly imagine, professionals will spend their money in new cameras, if it is also needs to buy new software. New camera + new software = very slope learning curve + uncertain result. This will hold professionals back with old tools.

    It is necessary to have more constants than variables

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    Cool Re: DNG

    Quote Originally Posted by SALAM View Post
    I vote for DNG. Well documented open format which can encapsulate other proprietary raw formats. And lossles. In the future, I think, there will be more cameras with DNG as native raw format and if raw convertor needs some additional info about interpretation of DNG from current camera, it is posible to make very simple external property files for fine tuning, but it does not mean we are unable to read these new raw files at all - like new ORF variations in every new generation of Olympus. Who can wait to new camera support in his acquitted SW. Proprietary formats (if maker has < 50% of market) is road to hell
    While in general DNG fits the need, as I understand it, they still have the MakerNotes problem in that the converters just copy the MakerNotes from the RAW file without interpretation (and blows it with generations 1/2 of Olympus RAW files given the nature of ORF without using a tool like exiftool to recreate the EXIF information). Future versions of software might drop support for this information on older models. Whether your RAW converter needs to understand each vendors MakerNotes, I dunno.

    Quote Originally Posted by SALAM View Post
    I can hardly imagine, professionals will spend their money in new cameras, if it is also needs to buy new software. New camera + new software = very slope learning curve + uncertain result. This will hold professionals back with old tools.

    It is necessary to have more constants than variables
    It is like the woodsman's axe, where he claimed it was the best axe ever made, and it had gone through 5 handles and 3 heads, where you can update the software and hardware independently. Sometimes the choice is forced on you, for instance if you liked Raw Shooters Essentials you are out of luck using it to edit the E-510 files (RSE got bought out by Adobe and no longer exists).

    Even if you stay with Photoshop, nothing says that say CS4 will continue to support for the E-1, since it is no longer a production model.

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Meissner View Post
    ...I do have a question though -- of the RAW files that are preserved, how often do you go back and re-edit a file over a year old? Sure for very special photos I can imagine doing this, but I don't see this happening on a general basis. I can see re-printing older images, just not re-editing pictures. I would imagine storing the JPG or TIFF of the final edited result as well as the originals will give you the ability to edit the JPG file if needed.
    Hi Michael,

    Yeah, I also archive the edited file that I give to my client. It is usually a JPEG saved with the lowest compression. The reason I didn't mention this is because the original poster asked specifically about raw files.

    Quote Originally Posted by SALAM
    I vote for DNG. Well documented open format which can encapsulate other proprietary raw formats. ...
    Hi SALAM,

    I'm against DNG and believe it is an ill-conceived idea. Here's why: The camera manufacturers are not divulging the details of the proprietary components of their raw files. All third-party raw developers are forced to reverse engineer the raw files and this is why, with few exceptions, the raw developers from the camera makers produce the best results.

    The problem is further complicated by a disagreement in the industry about how to handle white balance. This is evident by the different color temperatures used by different cameras for the same scene and the mismatch between third party developer values (like ACR) and the original camera values.

    The DNG converter allows you to imbed a full copy of the original raw file inside a DNG file so it can be extracted in the future. In that way you could extract the original ORF file for an Olympus camera so it could be "developed" by an Olympus interpreter. But then you have to question, why use DNG to begin with.

    If you have a camera model that produces good results with a third-party interpreter (like ACR), then DNG would be a good choice. Plus a few cameras output DNG raw files. In the case of the ACR interpreter, it has some of the best features of any raw interpreter (although it doesn't seem to produce the best results in side-by-side comparisons with other third-party interpreters).

    But some of our 4/3rds cameras, like the E-1, do not produce their best results with a third-party developer. It needs an Olympus interpreter and I use the Olympus raw plug-in for Photoshop so I can develop my raw images within Photoshop and still use an Olympus interpreter.

    If you're concerned about universality, I would strongly recommend that you not archive raw files at all. Instead, develop them into 16-bit/channel TIFF files. You'll have a stable, nearly universal, file format that preserves the dynamic range of the original raw data with no loss.

    Why would anyone want to archive raw files at all? Answer: Because many believe that future raw developers will be able to extract even better pictures from their "old" raw files.
    Best regards, FL

    Pursuing excellence...

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    I agree and disagree, ofcourse

    Maybe there are different needs for You (proffesionals) and other people. For me (snapshotter) - posibility to OPEN it and EDIT in future top-class smart tool (e.g. with new denoise or color-shift algorithms) is much more important, than store one specific instance of photo I yet sold to one specific customer. In time, I ussualy correct my opinion about specific photos and can have possibility to change them from scratch.

    By my opinion, the best solution is: Olympus make theit own ORF=>DNG cenversion tool. Their know-how + standard format. That's it. DNG is good by idea and design and time will show, how good is by implementation.

    No reverse engineering, no patents or rights violation.

    I don't want to use Olympus software anymore. It is slow, user unfriendly, Olympus-camera-only, huge, generally obsolete in time of issue... No, thanks. I'm not pixel peeper, I'm software engineer.

    This is matter of taste, You have your own truth and I have another. More opinions, more chance to find the best general compromise.

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    I am a DNG fan from a overall idea standpoint myself. I don't think anybody else in the industry is trying to make a "standard". Adobe may not make this go all the way to where it should, but I don't see why some camera manufacturers do no adopt it.

    I wanted Olympus to adopt it on their latest line, and don't see why they didn't. Instead, they put money and time into re-engineering their "new" compressed ORF format, and trying to make their software better. I think they failed miserably on the software portion. Viewer, Master, Studio whatever is just not the software package it should be. If you aren't going to "release" how your RAW file is coded, then you ought to at least have some decent software that people can use. They lag way behind Canon on the software side, and a bit behind Nikon too.

    I think the idea of not archiving ORF is interesting. Archiving a 16-bit TIFF is interesting, but it is a huge file size increase, especially with the new compressed ORF's coming out. If we are scared of ORF's being usable later in life, then we should also be scared of Olympus being around later in life, if you ask me.

    TIFF is a nice format and is certainly universal, so that makes sense. DNG is being pushed by the same people who created TIFF and pushed it to universal acceptance, so I for one hope they do the same for DNG someday.

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    fyi: interesting reads on http://www.openraw.org

    personally I feel DNG is not the solution, as long as the inherent limitations with the format are still there. not to mention the "lock in" with Adobe.
    I think a good way is to open up the current formats for developers, but that may be wishful thinking.

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    I think the premise that manafactures will not abandon old raw formats is misplaced, Canon had already abandoned supporting the D30 last year in there then latest raw converter and may for all I know done the same with the D60 at the last recent raw converter upgrade and just a matter of time before the 300D dissapears from the list.

    And I'm sure even Adobe will reach a point when it abandons supporting some of the older cameras native formats simply because of the bloat.

    So for me DNG is also the safest bet at the moment for backward and foreward compatability. If I had to place money it would be on Oly abandoning a raw format before Adobe abandoned DNG..but that just my personel veiw.
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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by marcof View Post
    personally I feel DNG is not the solution, as long as the inherent limitations with the format are still there. not to mention the "lock in" with Adobe.
    I think a good way is to open up the current formats for developers, but that may be wishful thinking.
    I don't know if you are using the openraw site in conjunction to your dislike for Adobe. Are you?

    I know a lot of people find a fault with "inherent limitations" in the DNG format, but pretty much 100% of the 3rd party folks have some limitations in some piece of their overall solution.

    DNG is new and has come a long way. Still too new to count it as a defacto standard, but there isn't one that is better at the moment. Some camera manufacturers like Hasselblad, Leica, Ricoh, and Samsung have actually introduced cameras that provide direct DNG support, which is something to note.

    It at least is an up and coming readable format, with several software packages reading it now, like Breezebrowser, Photo Mechanic, Thumbs Plus, Sillypix, Irfanview, IMatch, IView, etc. The fact that if you're a developer and want it, they have an SDK that you can download and use for reading and writing is another point to make.

    And to say that you can't like it because of an "adobe lock in" is to also say that you don't like or use TIFF either since Adobe owns the copyright to it.

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by SALAM View Post
    ... Maybe there are different needs for You (proffesionals) and other people. For me (snapshotter) - posibility to OPEN it and EDIT in future top-class smart tool (e.g. with new denoise or color-shift algorithms) is much more important, than store one specific instance of photo I yet sold to one specific customer. In time, I ussualy correct my opinion about specific photos and can have possibility to change them from scratch. ...
    If you are a "snapshotter" as you wrote, then I'm surprised that you're shooting raw images. Are you?

    Most photographers who shoot raw pictures have a desire to obtain the hightest quality and this is not a "professional" verses "amateur" situation. You'll find many amateurs who are concerned about the issues we are discussing here. The fact remains: The highest image fidelity is obtained when using a raw interpreter from the camera maker. Cameras that produce DNG files in-camera are one exception but this does not include any Olympus cameras so it doesn't help our discussion.

    ... By my opinion, the best solution is: Olympus make theit own ORF=>DNG cenversion tool. Their know-how + standard format. That's it. DNG is good by idea and design and time will show, how good is by implementation. ...
    That would be nice. But it doesn't exist today and there's no indication that it will. So it is just wishful thinking that doesn't help the original poster, Gilles, or the rest of us with the raw files we archive today.

    ...This is matter of taste, You have your own truth and I have another. More opinions, more chance to find the best general compromise.
    Such relativistic statements about "truth" seem out of place here. It is not under discussion. What we are expressing are opinions.
    Best regards, FL

    Pursuing excellence...

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    At first I thought DNG was the clear answer to every problem but then I tested half a dozen PP applications which didn't read DNG files and that alone changed my mind. I don't even bother to covert to DNG now just save the ORF files and the SHQ-JPGs.

    Clay

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Sorry for OT, my last in this thread, i swear

    Quote Originally Posted by First Light View Post
    If you are a "snapshotter" as you wrote, then I'm surprised that you're shooting raw images. Are you?
    Yes, i shoot raw because my camera not limited me at that point (is fast, and memory cards are big and relative cheap), raw is much more flexible than JPEG in many cases and compressed DNG is just twice as big as best JPG (not 4x in case of E-500 ORF). You professionals can bought and use many accesories (like expensive fast lenses, softboxes, wireles flashes, tools for exact exposition and white balance setting, ...) but i have just little camera bag with body, 2 lenses and low end flash (and computer).

    But i also like to make "nice" photos (even with no income and budget) and also want to store the good ones for future. And ofcourse family members wants to get "good " photos from family events - even from low-light places. JPEG engine multilplies any imperfection or lack of knowledge, experience or time at the moment.
    Is it this forum just for professionals?

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by SALAM View Post
    ...Is it this forum just for professionals?
    Where do you get this? Why characterize this discussion or forum in terms of professional verses non-professional?

    This thread is about archiving raw photos. It isn't about professional verses amateur anything. There are very few professionals here. The vast majority of our members are amateurs. Think about it: You wouldn't be posting here if this forum were for pros only.
    Best regards, FL

    Pursuing excellence...

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by SALAM View Post
    Is it this forum just for professionals?
    Professionals are in the minority here!

    Now, back to the topic.. I also wonder about having the ability to view/process my E300 RAW's in the future. My favourite RAW software - RSP has already gone by the by - I have several copies of it on many different media types in many locations as a backup.

    Storage and access of any digital asset is a problem not only for our ORF's but many many other formats as well. It is just that a lot of us here have a vested interest in it that we even think about it.

    I certainly don't have a solution - I am just watching closely from the sidelines. I keep several copies of RAW files on different media types and regularly backup all software that I use to process images as well. We cannot tell when the next company take-over leaves us without our favourite software - so you should be prepared in whatever way you can.
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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Of all that has been said on raw file perennity, I think the best course to take is to lobby for Olympus to release its coding for older variants while they still have it. Even if this company is relatively big, there has been many lost source codes on the single assumption they were no longer useful because they were declared obsolete.

    This may not be as worthy as the OpenRaw standard proposed by Juergen Specht but if we could come up persuading that Olympus won't lose anything in term of profit but may instead gain greater loyalty because people would opt for compatibility and longevity a little like Leica owners.

    Four thirds is a new standard and people built from ground up their kits either as a bet on this technology or as a leap of faith. It would be a nice gesture to put, as a statement, that raw files, at least older ones, would be supported "indefinitely" by the manufacturer such as Nikon mount on hardware.

    Otherwise, I think there will be a certain break in DSLR development. To me, it looks like domestic computer war in the 80s. (or electric car in the 1900s versus gasoline models) Many companies but no standard and as long as the systems were not modular, most of them did not evolve, letting the whole field to IBM and Apple joined by the software counterpart of Microsoft. Until this nonsensical approach ends up, we are condemned to
    endure marketing approach of trust-us-and-throw-it-to-the-garbage-bin-because-the-newer-version-will-make-you -forget-this-stone-aged-technology.

    I calculated that at the rate I take pictures with my E-1, if it is only reliable for 150 000 exposures, I would have it for the next 15 years, at least. It does the job perfectly for my needs. Why should I get a "better one" ? Because it won't be compatible ? How many people are in the same case ?

    End of my ranting...

    Could we sign a petition aimed at Olympus to explain that kind of need ?

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Assuming you have useable copies of your ORF files, one other solution for still being able to open and process them in the future may be virtualization.

    I expect there will be virtualization tools similar to Parallells and VMware well into the future, so I expect to always be able to have a virtual Windows 2000 machine (still my favorite version of Windows) available for firing up and running Bibble 4.9.5 (or whatever version is most appropriate for the files I'm dealing with).

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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    As far as how the thread has shifted to the 'orf vs dng' debate, I vote for dng. I see no reason not to use it. Most file formats are 'owned' by someone who has the right to hold the industry up for more money. Common sense and self interest usually prevents this since it isn't that difficult to convert an image to another file format. But even if I preferred ORF, I suspect the debate is moot anyway.

    Image formats are never fully abandoned, what usually occurs is that use just sort of whithers away over time. Look at all the image formats that the typical graphics program supports? How many of them do you use? How many of them do even a "lot" of people use?

    In my opinion, any photographer who expects to archive his or her photos onto some sort of media for 30 or 40 years without ever reviewing them for stability and format viability every 6 to10 years or so is a fool.
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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Interesting point... I use VMWare at the office quite a bit for testing field software. The Intel x86 architecture has become so pervasive that a way to emulate it will most likely still be around. The older PC platforms (Z80, etc...) weren't distributed in nearly the volume, nor were the OS's.

    I'm more concerned with the storage media. Current dye based CD/DVD recordable media has a limited lifespan, though there is some debate on just how long it will last. I have found that exposing the media to sunlight really hurts. Left a stack of CDR's sitting on a windowsill. Found them nine months later, ruined. Couldn't write to them. As of today, hard drives are cheap enough that they can be used for photo storage, but capacitors on the circuit boards will dry out over a 10-15 year time span. The media will be intact, but the drive won't function. The new one time use CF cards might be a better solution.

    Sort of makes you long for negatives, doesn't it? Hmmm... there's an idea - transfer your images to film negatives. Retro, but it would probably work.
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    Default Re: Archival concern and future of raw file support

    Quote Originally Posted by TrapperJohn View Post
    ...Sort of makes you long for negatives, doesn't it? Hmmm... there's an idea - transfer your images to film negatives. Retro, but it would probably work.
    Noooooo! Film negatives would be a horrible idea! They are much more difficult to archive and they degrade. I have thousands of negatives that I need to digitize but haven't had the time. It pains me to think of the degradation that they've already suffered. Some are over a decade old.

    We may find it difficult today to arrive at a good long-term storage solution for digital images. But one aspect that we can be very happy about: as long as we can "open" the files, they will look as good as the day they were shot.
    Best regards, FL

    Pursuing excellence...

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