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SharePoint MindsharpBlogs > Mike Walsh's WSS and more

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Jul 26
Let's start with my listing of webcasts at

It's been quite frustrating looking for new webcasts to add to this list as virtually all the ones I can find on YouTube belong to one of five categories

- they are adverts for training companies

- they are adverts for SharePoint products

- they are yet another simple webcast of something that has been done many times before (as in "How to add a document to a document library")

- they are from a conference (*)

(*) Yes they may contain useful information but why don't they edit them before posting to get rid of all the stuff which is no longer of any interest outside the event? Add to that the typically bad sound; often poor quality of the screen shots etc. and the fact that by this phase of the product release most of the info is already out there in a much clearer form and thus there no longer seems much reason to list them.

- they are done by people with very strong accents and while this may not bother some people listening to people with very strong (often) Indian accents does bother me and I'm who decides what is added to those listing and what not. (So there ...)

[As befitting a time period when Monty Python have just done their final stage shows, please note that I started off by writing that there were three categories; changed that to four and then finally to five. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.]

Finally on this (number 6!?) the number of foreign language webcasts seems to have dried up, or is it just that You Tube is no longer offering me anything but those done in English? This seems to be part of a trend as Google for instance - and for reasons beyond my ken - has started taking me to their German language site and only this morning on my iPad Opera decided I was Spanish.


Anyway enough of housekeeping, how about that announcement of the unification of all (?) Microsoft's tech conferences. Reading between the lines my guess is that Microsoft has sent out a three-line whip (look it up!) telling all their bloggers that this is something they must blog about. When you see a very good technical MS blogger having a post that only quotes an official Office Blog in its entirity you have to feel that this is his own personal protest at being told t blog about this and certainly when you see lots and lots of blogs about the same thing (and all within days of each other) it can't be a coincidence.

What do I think of it? It's probably well overdue. Well I would feel that if we knew exactly what was being merged as they are not too clear on this. However let's assume that the new unified conference is Tech Ed and the SharePoint conference and the Exchange+ conference (whatever it is called this year) and a couple of others and all that is really happening is we are back to having a single conference (then TechEd) before in ca 1999 they thought up the enterprise conference once known as MEC (Microsoft Exchange Conference if I remember right and later expanded with among others SharePoint).

So all that is happening is that we are back to the state before the end of the nineties which given the present state of most economies probably isn't such a bad thing.

However there is one consolidation that Microsoft should not do. They should not decide that there should no longer be a European TechEd conference (there was no clear word on that in their official blog). When I worked in Germany it was impossible to attend any conference that was held outside Germany and while most companies in most other European countries are more flexible there is a major difference between getting permission to go on company time (and money) to, say, Barcelona and on getting permission to go to the US.

Jun 11
My adding data to the various SharePoint "FAQ" sites has been on and off for quite a while because I sometimes can't log in to the three (2013/2010/2007) main sites. I can then usually go to another PC and there I can login [However if I start at that second PC you can be sure that a login doesn't work there either.] but not always.

My assumption has been that this may have something to do with the software on almost all my machines [5 licence copy!] I am using to persuade various German or UK sites that I in Germany or the UK, but I'm not sure.

Today after checking my RSS feeds on my iPad and finding several SP 2010 updates there I (a couple of hours later) decided to try on the nearest PC to see if I could today login to the Mindsharp sites *and I could*!

Great except for one little thing.

My RSS feeds are in Feedly and Feedly has for the past almost 2 hours been down as it has been facing severe DDoS attacks couple with ransom demands.

It's clearly not my day - or their's either.

May 30
Published: May 30, 2014 07:05 AM by  Mike Walsh
I was listening as I do every week to the (UK) PCPro podcast which is for me a welcome contrast to the mainly US-based technical podcasts I listen to (Windows Weekly; MacWorld; etc. although I also throw in the Swedish AppSnack for a further contrast).

Once again there was a snide comment about Windows 8 disguised (but not too heavily) as a positive comment on Windows 7. It was "Windows 7, that's the good operating system between two bad ones".

Now when Windows 8 first came out I would have agreed with that reasoning. It had lots of improvements (better drivers etc.) but those were less obvious than that welcome screen with its massive sized icons and the need to search for applications instead of just finding them easily via the Start menu (and of course the difficulty in even finding the shut down button).

It was in fact a good (or should that be bad?!) example of a company telling you that they knew what was good for you and not allowing you (by, for instance, offering a Classic look) to say "Thanks, but no thanks".

In fact judging by later events it seems likely that it wasn't an example of a *company* telling you but of a single man called Sinofsky ignoring all the warning signs and inside (and, while in beta, outside) comments before the thing was shipped.

But that was then and Sinofsky is long gone and (coincidentally?) with his disappearance there has been a new willingness in the air to respond to (mainly justified) criticism and to gradually (and perhaps too slowly) improve the product so it matches more users' expectations.

In other words the PCPro knocker of Windows 8 might have been right when it came out but he is no longer right if he is talking about the current version. In fact if the current version had been renamed Windows 9 he would probably be putting it on the same pedestal that he continues to put Windows 7 on. It's a pity when expert pundits don't move on until a product is given a new name.

My own experience is that on what used to be a standard set-up (and one that no doubt many users of Windows 7 have) of a desktop machine and one or two large monitors, I live in the desktop and see no difference in my "experience" as far as the operating system is concerned compared to a portable I have that is running Windows 7.

It's a simple and very inexpensive step to install a couple of products from Stardock for a few dollars each and they give me both the Start menu with its list of often-used applications and direct access to the shut down button (the latter is now included in the latest official Microsoft update).

In other words for me on that set-up (and with hindsight given the way XP support ended before Vista support) spending less that 10 dollars means I can run Windows 8 as if it were Windows 7 yet still have the security of a longer time period before support is withdrawn and the benefits provided by the up-to-date drivers.

Given that, why run through hoops to find and buy a Windows 7 machine (or Windows 7 software) when you can easily get a Windows 8 machine; do a simple few dollars upgrade and have the same thing but better.

On that set-up there is hardly any good reason other than curiosity to go to the "Modern" screen and its icons.

My other Windows 8 machine is different in that it's a touch-screen portable. There again it's mainly used in desktop mode but because it is a very small portable (with an equally small screen) the touch screen turns out to be massively useful when trying to read documents (or web pages) on that small screen.

So running that PC on Windows 8 offers more than running it on Windows 7 would offer. (Also it's not important that a list of applications can be obtained via the Start Menu because a small machine almost by definition is used only for a small number of applications and so I know all that is on it and invariably have attached them all to the task bar. Hence there's no need for any add-ons from Stardock.

So in conclusion.

Whereas Windows 8 as it came out was not a great operating system for users it no longer is anything like as bad as people continue to make out that it is. In fact I'd go further and say that on most machines it is as good as or better than Windows 7. You just have to free your mind of your pre-conceptions and give it a fair chance.

May 23
Published: May 23, 2014 05:05 AM by  Mike Walsh
Once Microsoft made available the various major Office products for iPad, I took this as a good reason for finally making the plunge and moving the Excel files I use all the time to the cloud.

[Although this sounds very plausible, it's completely untrue. As I was writing the above I suddenly remembered that I was getting grief from the main user of the new desktop because I was continually interupting her in order to update some Excel files that I had moved to that machine from the portable they were on before. So my first idea was to simply move them back to the portable (which only I use) but then - and here finally the iPad version of Excel comes in - I decided that I might as well make them available to ALL my machines.]

As a first step to moving them to the cloud I decided to both make my "Microsoft" password (used for logging in to my Windows 8 machines as well as to OneDrive) longer and generally more secure; and also to make it a two-level password.

Needless to say I managed to forget the new password several times and it also took a while before all my machines were known to the two-level system (so I didn't need to write in a code - sent to my e-mail account - all the time), but finally it was over and things were back to normal except that I was using a more secure password system.

[and also it should be said I was no longer using a password that it turned out hadn't been changed since 2009 - ooopppps]

So there I was with two PCs running Windows 8.1; one running Windows 7 (and a second one running Windows 7 but not for the moment in use) and an iPad running iOS7.

What's perhaps more important is that I had one copy of Excel 2013 in use; two copies of Excel 2010 and Excel for iPad **without an Office 365 subscription** (so restricted to read only) and thus on that machine if I wanted to update anything I needed to go to the browser version of OneDrive.

Here it's important to note the differences in how the various things I was using store the files you have just updated.

- all the Windows-based full versions of Excel (2010 or 2013) open and store to a drive on that Windows PC that is synchronised with OneDrive. In other words you need to be careful to give OneDrive the time needed to update the files in the cloud before - after making a Save on the Windows device - you turn off the Windows device.

[You do this by going to the little OneDrive icon you can see by clicking on the small upwards-pointing arrow you see to the right of the task bar and making sure it is not flickering with a text saying updating or similar.]

- the browser-based version of Excel doesn't have a Save button [true: it does have a Saved As button if you are feeling nervous about the whole thing.]. Instead it saves your amendments on the fly.

[The problem here is that you have no means of knowing that it has finished saving your changes. So to be safe you should probably make your changes and then go to browse the web for a while before turning the iPad off.]

- the Excel for the iPad version - because I haven't paid for Office 365 - is read-only. There are thus no problems with needing to wait for saves to be synced as you can neither make amendments to your files or save them.

Which brings us to the strange message I mentioned in the title. Whenever I open Excel for the iPad it tells me that it was previously closed with my files not having been fully saved. This message naturally (until I'd seen it several times) put me in a panic as I had no idea which file I would need to check to see whether my changes had been saved or not. In time of course I realised that as my Excel for the iPad version was read-only NONE of my files hadn't been saved correctly or at least there was no way that Excel for the iPad could be aware of that.

Could it be that this message is a deliberate attempt by MS to irritate people so much that they go out and buy an Office 365 license or could it be - as seems much more likely - that MS when writing the software assumed that people would be buying Office 365 licences and would therefore no longer have read-only Excel.

Very Interesting but (60's Laugh-In reference) stupid.

P.S. Why use Excel for the iPad at all if I can use the browser-based version of OneDrive on the iPad and thus upgrade stuff even when on the iPad?

- using the browser based version for updating Excel files while possible is very messy (for instance several attempts before you can copy several blocks), so I tend to update files on a Windows machine.

- for read-only usage, Excel for the iPad is far better than the browser version. In fact I quite often just want to check something in one of my Excel files on OneDrive and then Excel for the iPad is my program of choice even ahead of the full Excel programs on Windows. Of course I first have to get past the "your files might not have been saved correctly" message .....

Apr 20
Although the title is positive, note that I will be talking about my experiences with a very small portable (10 inch) with consequently a very small keyboard and most importantly with a very small gap between having your finger on the TouchPad and having it on the screen.

I remain convinced that it would feel uncomfortable to use a touch screen on my massive 17 inch portable, let alone with a normal desktop keyboard and large screen combination.

So for me the question is where to draw the line and say up to here but no further. Apart from the cost question - the premium for touch screens for midrange portables is often far too high, and while high-end (Win 8) portables tend to include touch as a matter of course, these are in any case very pricey - there's also the question of whether you need some of the useful functionality of touch if your screen is already quite large; and, yes, finally that gap between you and the screen.

At a guess I'd say that touch may well be still very useful at 13 inch but no longer at 15.6 inch. But that's just me guessing wildly.

On a ten inch, it's turning out to be extremely useful to have touch.

First there are the situations where it is very useful to resize things in a controlled way impossible without the touch screen. This includes the more mundane examples such as Zinio magazines and "replicated" web versions of newspapers and magazines but also such things as Excel spreadsheets which unlike on my iPad I can actually modify and save thanks to the included Office 2013, yet modify requires you being able to clearly read the cells, something a controlled (and easy) zooming makes quickly possible without having to guess how much percentage to go for.

Secondly, once you have got used to using the touch screen for the above zoom actions you quickly find yourself using it for other things. For instance this is a slow machine and I've noticed on some web pages that the cursor isn't responsive until the entire page has been rendered. However you can touch a link on the screen (and it works) long before the screen is fully rendered.

In other words *without thinking* once I was used to using the screen with touch for magazines it became almost normal to sometimes use it for other things (and note that I've not mentioned clicking the large icons on the Modern home page because I tend to be always in desktop mode - this is after all a PC with a real keyboard and Windows 8.1 doesn't recognize the touch screen and thus puts me in the desktop when I start up.).

The point is that I am now using touch naturally and not as initially just to see if it worked. Once you start using something naturally (right-click, anyone) it becomes part of your working methods in a way that forcing yourself to go to the Modern home page doesn't.

Apr 14
I find it very useful that Chrome stores my Favorites in the cloud and gives me the same links in the same places when I load Chrome in different devices.

But I've just discovered that Microsoft are doing the same thing with at least some of the settings for Windows 8.1. (which I - as recommended - log in with my Microsoft password irrespective of which device I am using).

Now it so happens that on the desktop with two screens that I share with my wife, I had tried to give her a startup screen background of a black and white photograph of her father in a boat in the 1930's which I had found in her set of images in that machine. I'd failed in that whenever I had been the person using that PC before shutdown, that image appeared before an Enter gave the Password screen but if she had been the last user there was a more normal image on the screen.

I hadn't got round to fiddling with it so that was still the setting on that PC when I set around updating the new mini PC to Windows 8.1. which is probably a good thing otherwise I wouldn't have noticed that the mini PC was also showing that background image - a PC that you will remember didn't even have the file of that image in its hard disk!

This led to to wonder what else was copied across and then I noticed that the background I was using (orange) on the mini PC was the same as the one I had on the larger PC.

So next time I used the desktop I changed it (to a blue background) and at first I thought I'd cut the connection because when I opened the mini PC I had an orange background but after a few minutes my orange background had changed to the blue one. I wonder now how many other things are being used from that large PC and it's a pretty scary prospect because these are two completely different levels of PCs.

Even pushing the same desktop background used on a dual 24.inch screen setup used in perfect lighting conditions and driven by a good graphics card onto a ten inch screen of much less than 1920x1200 used in variable light seems overly optimistic to me. What is suitable for one is not necessarily suitable for the other.

Yet what other surprises are in store?

Microsoft, think again. What's good for browser favorites is not necessarily good for desktop settings.

P.S. This post was typed on a the Mini PC. The keyboard is actually quite good.

Apr 13
People who have read my recent posts will be wondering why - after having recently upgraded a newly bought desktop with Windows 8.1 already installed on it and then updating it to Windows 8.1 Update 1 - I can have the need to update from Windows 8 to 8.1.

The answer is regrettably simple and it goes back to a few points made in even earlier posts about Windows 8 / 8.1. portables.

1. Get a hybrid if the price difference isn't too much over a normal portable.

2. Get a portable with a touch screen if the price difference isn't too much over a portable with a non-touch screen.

3. At the low end, portables including Windows 8 can be had for not that much more than Windows 8 alone.

Add to those points the current prices in the Finnish Market v - Windows 8.1. Pro = EUR 269,90 (Non-OEM: Windows 7 Home Professional costs ca EUR 109 but is only available in an OEM version)

- Office 2013 Home and Student = EUR 129,90

and follow up with a Lenovo Flex 10 with a touch screen and running Windows 8 (upgradable of course for nothing to Windows 8.1 Pro) and including a full copy of Windows 2013 Home and Student and costing (including the hardware!) EUR 299 in the advert (and in fact EUR 279 when I bought it) and maybe you are no longer wondering why I spent all of Friday upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.

In fact it's amazing just how many reasons I can find for justifying that purchase. These include:

- it's at netbook price levels so I can leave it in places I wouldn't dream of leaving my rather too expensive (128GB!) iPad.

- it doesn't have any Stardock product installed so I can see exactly what Windows 8.1. post Upgrade 1 looks like

- it's a hybrid of sorts (only goes to 300 degrees turn so you can't use it as a fat, flat tablet - you can use it to watch videos without the keyboard being visible).

- it has a touch screen so I'm discovering that for instance Zinio magazines on a small screen (and even without the screen move from landscape to portrait that I get easily on the iPad) can be easily zoomed so that I can read the text.

OK. That's enough to be going on with, now what about the whole day and those 100%s?

One reason why the low price is justified is that the Lenovo Flex 10 has Windows 8. Now I know how to do this so it's not a problem that you need to install some fixes before you can upgrade to Windows 8.1. however with 73 (yes, seventy three) of them to install and a not over-powered machine (2GB, dual core Celeron) to process those upgrades, things took a long long time.

Finally though they were through - annoyingly after the number of bytes downloaded / % done message were showing 0KB and 0% for ever. It seems the updates were automatically being downloaded at the same time hence the software is unable to give you the figures for a manual 73 fix download - and I could (after doing the usual dance of booting a few times before the Windows Store would deign to show me the update to Windows 8.1. option) look for and see the Upgrade to Windows 8.1 Option in the Windows Store.

Then we were on to the update to Windows 8.1. where it of course warns you about the need to re-boot several times. What it doesn't warn you about is that it will on several occasions count you up from 0% complete to 100% complete before (often re-booting and) starting you again at 0% complete before making yet another 100%.

To add insult to injury when you finally think it has finished it then starts on a very slow process to which it gives the snappy name of something like "just a few more changes for you" [+0% complete; 12% complete etc.]

Once that was over I went to the Windows Update page again to find I had no updates. "Odd, what about the latest Windows 8.1. Update from April 8th?". All was revealed when I checked the Modern startup page at the top right hand corner of the screen. There indeed was the new Power Button. It appears that by earlier setting the system to automatically install important (but not recommended) updates, these had been included as part of my Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 update. Nice.

Apr 10
Published: April 10, 2014 05:04 AM by  Mike Walsh
Having put the update from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 in the Windows Store, Microsoft naturally made the April 8th 2014 Windows 8.1 Update 1 available in Windows Update. Yet another case of the lack of standardisation that I have - to no avail - muttered about when it comes to KB Articles and (more recently) TechNet articles (where Published + date seems to have finished and even new articles get the 'Modified On' + date text.)

My problem was in finding Windows Update.

In my "normal" Windows systems (like Windows 7) it was accessible via Start / My Programs and then it was listed in an easily accessible place in the list you then get.

But in a Windows 8.1 system?

So I tried Bing - i.e. I made what was possibly the mistake of going into IE rather than Chrome (which would have given me by default a Google search) because I was thinking that if anyone would know where the Windows 8.1 Update was it would be a Microsoft system.

All the Bing answers (well those early on the list) led me eventually to the same two pages.

When searching for Windows 8.1. Update all I had was pages telling me about updating Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.

They were followed (after changing search criteria to just Windows Update) by every single site pointing me to the same Microsoft page which told me that I would find Windows Update by going to Start; My Programs and clicking on the name Windows Update.

A very useful piece of information for an operating system that no longer has Start ! (and although I did have a Stardock Start button, that too didn't after My Programs show Windows Update).

Eventually I finally found that Windows Update can be found via Control Panel and 'System and Security'. Once found it works as it should.

People already testing products from Stardock will be glad to hear that both already installed Stardock Start button and already installed Stardock ModernMix still continue working after Windows 8.1 Update has been installed.

As for how useful this new upgrade is, well first impressions are not very (useful) perhaps because I'm already running those two cheap (as a bundle $7.99 - individually $4.99) Stardock products.

In fact the only differences I've noticed so far are

1. The appearance of a Power Button at the top-right of the main "Modern" screen. (Not much use if you are working in the desktop and no use at all if you have installed Stardock's Start button.)

2. The addition of a link to the Microsoft Store to the taskbar. (Just annoying as it takes up space that could be more useful for something else. It should however be noted that a right-click to the icon in the task bar means you are another click away from getting rid of it from the taskbar - something Apple could learn from as the latest version of iOS doesn't let you get rid of some icons.)

Apr 05
I had an Osborne I when that company was ruined by its founder pre-announcing the Osborne II with (it seems laughable now) floppy disk drives with double the previous capacity - result: sales dried up and the new product when it came six months later was too little too late to save it.

I also had a Nokia phone when Elop joined Nokia and ruined it by in effect making the same blunder as Mr. Osborne - i.e. by announcing that the operating system used by them was useless when he had nothing ready to replace it (and then compounding that blunder by deciding on Windows Phone thus ensuring for Nokia a market share in the low single numbers - when that is *those* Nokia phones were ready).

So clearly pre-announcements are not a good idea (see too the Surface launch). What about post announcements?

With hardware devices these are fine - you have the hardware in stock and can supply immediately - but with services they become problematical.

So, finally, we move on to the latest "strategic" move from Amazon UK which seems pretty close to losing an entire large market of often long-term loyal customers for the sake of a minor (and probably temporary) increase in profits.

Now given that Amazon's strategy until now has been trying to get as many customers as possible even at low profit margins, you have to wonder whether Amazon UK's management are following a new company policy based on "OK, it's not working, let's try to cash in on the customers we have" or whether they have just lost their collective minds and in due course will be fired by Jeff Bezos.

If you are still with me, here's what has happened.

Amazon UK sent an e-mail to all its customers outside the UK that *one day earlier* (1) they had abandoned the Free Shipping option.

Now that doesn't seem to much of an issue even though they were only offering Free Shipping on orders over £25 which meant no doubt (and a long thread in their forum of angry users confirms this) that people were like me in that whenever they ordered something they looked around (= raided their Wish List) for something to add to the order to put them over (often well over) that limit. So Amazon UK sold more because of this policy than they otherwise would have done [and because they used slower postal services for these Free orders they didn't lose much money either].

(1) That thread confirmed that people were rightly mad that they had been told about the change one day after it was implemented. There were people who already had an order planned but just had not got round to going to the Amazon web site to order it and there were many more who said that if they had known even only a few days in advance of the chance they would have placed a large order while free delivery was still an option.

However Amazon UK then compounded this error by changing the rules for delivery charges to outside the UK.

Amazon sites (my experience is of US and several European sites) typically have delivery charges consisting of two things a) a charge per order plus b) a charge per item. Some have in the meantime gone over to a fixed delivery charge per order with no charge per item. [For many of them there is free delivery for inland orders but not for foreign orders]

Amazon UK used to have the above system too for foreign orders - for orders under the £25 limit or for orders you didn't want to wait so long for (split up into Standard or Express delivery). However in combination with the withdrawal of the Free Shipping option, Amazon UK changed their rules to make them more expensive and more difficult to work out than before.

Now Amazon UK has three different charges for each foreign order. (Add them all together)

1. A standard fee (£4).

2. A fee per delivery.

3. A charge per weight.

[Charges for 2) and 3) vary with what is in the parcel]

Clearly ordering a couple of DVD box sets for the previous £25 limit is no longer going to be worthwhile, let alone a couple of hardback books ...

As I wrote earlier, responses have in the thread started by one user have been piling up at rapid pace (from Portugal to Poland). No-one is happy with the change (to be expected) but worse is both the fact that we were told after the event and that the new charges are so high that it makes it not worthwhile to even think - except for extreme circumstances - of using Amazon UK's services ever again.

In fact - until those fees are raised in sympathy - the only silver lining here is that orders placed from Marketplace companies apart from typically being cheaper also as before have a reasonable per item postage cost. [Typically Marketplace prices are a couple of pounds less than the Amazon UK price and the postage charge per item is about that two pounds].

In other words if I in future want to order a book; CD; DVD or Blu-Ray I may well still go to the Amazon UK site but only to check out Marketplace offerings. Until such time that their new postage costs have been heavily revised downwards, Amazon UK is dead for me. Why even Amazon Germany with its controlled book prices and (relatively high) fixed postal charge per order is beginning to look good.

But - to close - the real question is, is this a major policy change from Amazon from increasing market share to gouging existing customers or is it local Amazon UK management thinking their jobs are on the line if they don't achieve quickly a major increase in profits? Mr Bezos, over to you.

Apr 03
When I found out that the April Update to Windows 8.1 (due out via Windows Upgrade on April 8th 2014) did not contain the major improvement to Windows 8.1. that I expected (normal windows around - otherwise full-screen - apps), I decided to install the $4.99 add-in "ModernMix from Stardock that is supposed to.

There's a trial 30-days installation so I went for that for now and because it was a trial version also installed their Start8 add-on that "brings back the (real) Start button + menu".

So far I'm not convinced that - once you've been using the normal Windows 8.1 for a week or so - you actually need the Start8 add-on. (An extra $3 if bought with ModernMix)

But so far ModernMix seems useful. However as it improves the use of "Modern" apps only (as normal desktop apps are already in normal windows), I'll have to find some that I actually want to use. So far I can only think of Zinio and the Modern-Side IE that I use (and in fact I use the desktop IE where there's no problem).

However even with limited use of "Modern" Apps, paying $4.95 for better functionality for the few being used is surely a good deal. Worth trying out the trial (30-day) version for.

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