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Open Source Study Included In US Stimulus Package 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sure-that-makes-us-socialists-somehow dept.
gclef writes "Buried deep in the details of the US stimulus package is an interesting provision that might go a long way toward helping Open Source software break into the medical area. It says that the Secretary of Health and Human Services should study the availability of open source health technology systems (PDF, page 488), compare their TCO against proprietary systems and report on what they find no later than Oct 1, 2010. Slashdotters may also be interested in the language that starts on page 553 of that PDF to see just what the final package says about broadband." The stimulus plan was approved by the Senate on Friday and is expected to be signed by President Obama by Monday.
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Open Source Study Included In US Stimulus Package

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    you mean the 800 billion (larger than any US budget prior to 1983) in miscellaneous pork? They're already planning on a second stimulus since this one is expected to be a total failure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you mean the 800 billion (larger than any US budget prior to 1983) in miscellaneous pork?

      One definition of pork is spending designed to stimulate the economy in a particular congress person's district. In that sense, as long the pork is evenly distributed throughout all the congressional districts then that's exactly what the US economy needs.

      Another definition of pork is spending that doesn't have long term economic benefits. For example, if you spend money on a road, at the end of the day you have a road to use whereas, if you spend money on exotic dancers, at the end of the day you don't hav

      • I'm a bit taken aback that tax cuts are considered "Republican pork." I always sorta thought that tax cuts let me decide what to spend my money on instead of being forced to spend it how the government would like me to. Sure, I could blow it on exotic dancers, and then I'd have nothing to show for it, but isn't that my call? Personally, I'd use it to pay for a new furnace, because the one in my house is gonna blow within a year or two, but I guess the roads in Arkansas or this bullshit open source study

        • by xenocide2 (231786) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @05:28PM (#26858639) Homepage

          The tax cuts that satisfy Republicans are always income tax, and their favorite is the upper bracket. Recall trickle down economics, where the theory goes that rich people will invest money in the economy, providing jobs and rah rah rah. It just doesn't hold though; investors this year have plenty of write offs to work through before they even care about taxes. Many are sitting in treasury bonds rather than corporate equities or bonds.

          In contrast, payroll taxes rarely get touched. In part that's because they fund things like Medicare and Social Security, the golden cows of the AARP. But there's a worry that the working poor won't contribute to the economic recovery either; there's a lot of consumer debt out there and it's unlikely the top tax bracket has most of that. Paying off credit cards might slightly alleviate the banking crisis via balance sheet improvement, but it's not going to directly create new demand. Especially in a downward economy, a lot of them will be saving more and spending less. Can you remember what happened in 2002 with the early Tax Refund insanity?

          Everyone, rich or poor, thinks the banks are bankrupt on paper, while Washington is hoping America can spend its way back to higher real estate prices and avoid a severe reckoning with those agents of failure that brought us to the brink. Republicans simply think private investment can restore it, while Democrats argue that the government is the only body that can raise enough capital to take the necessary action (I'll note that it can also do it very cheaply).

          It's worth noting that the free market suffered from a widespread principle-agent failure. Management approved risky transactions like Credit Default swaps because they didn't fully understand the risk they exposed shareholders to, but liked the profit they were earning in the short term. Credit rating agencies also failed to solve the information asymmetry problem. Mortgage brokers made loans they'd never consider holding, and quickly fell apart when their market for shitty debtors dried up. What's going to solve this isn't more jobs or more demand for housing, but a significant rewriting of the social contract between management and investors. I wish Republicans had the balls to bring that up instead of asking for tax cuts for the companies and businessmen that fill their campaign coffers. It'd be far more interesting than people demanding executives dispense with their private jets and fly coach.

      • Very well put. The Republicans have been saying things like "the stimulus bill has too much spending in it." What do they think stimulus is?!

        This is basic economics, and it's not hard to understand. If the government gives someone a tax cut, they might spend the money and stimulate the economy, or they might just put it into savings. If, on the other hand, the government spends that money directly, they are guaranteed to stimulate the economy.

        The best way for the government to stimulate the economy during a

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      $800 billion is ~$420 billion in 1982 dollars (using the GDP deflator; the other metrics give much smaller numbers). You have to account for inflation whenever you're talking about very large amounts of money since even a few years can make a 5-10% difference. Measuring Worth [measuringworth.com] has a good calculator.

    • Feature Not Bug (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iluvcapra (782887)

      The concept of the thing was to get as many paychecks printed as physically possible in the next 18 months. I guess you could call that "pork," but I think your problem is with Keynesian theory and not waste-fraud-abuse.

      Here's the current job losses, in absolute numbers and percentages [calculatedriskblog.com]. These people can work, but aren't being asked to essentially because banks aren't lending. Banks aren't lending because they're D-Bags who spent the last 5 years defrauding each other and calling shitpiles gold. Even if

      • My problem with Keynesian theory is that it doesn't work in reality. Part of the theory says that in good times you raise taxes and CUT government spending. Problem is that once you get a government program going it will never be cut. That right there means Keynesian theory is a useless way to manage our economy.

        This all assumes you agree with Keynesian theory to being with. It's not something I'm completely sold on.

  • by Calindae (1256922) <travis@treddell.com> on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:25PM (#26857235) Homepage Journal
    The only down side is medical professionals are going to have a difficult time implementing either closed or open source technology by 2010, let alone doing *both* and comparing. Don't get me wrong, I love the use of technology in the medical field and I fully support our new overlord (much better than old Bushy), but that seems a but rushed, IMHO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ostracus (1354233)

      I have the link somewhere but it appears the issue with medical systems isn't so much lack of technology, but uniform standards. Also the only open source health technology system that comes to mind is the one the VA is using.

      • by Calindae (1256922) <travis@treddell.com> on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:38PM (#26857353) Homepage Journal
        Yes, uniform standards would go a long way in helping streamline and cut costs. I'm pharmacy technician and if every doctor used the same tech to submit scripts to us we could probably increas our workload by at least %10. Include insurance companies in standardization of their information and we could up our output by another %10. But insurance companies aren't in the business of paying for things, so they like it when you can't submit claims...
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          At face value it doesn't seem like such a bad idea. But if you think about the long-term costs of running the system (administrators, maintenance, hardware upgrades, software upgrades) it's not a job that the government is going to be able to perform efficiently.

          Then you have the privacy concern. As it stands, if somebody wants access to my medical records then I need to explicitly authorize their release. In my opinion, this is the way it should be. I'm against anything that makes it easier for a th
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ostracus (1354233)

            "That's right folks! They're using this bill as a means to regulate the treatment your doctor provides. "

            Three words. Medicare, Medicaid, HMO. As long as someone else is footing the majority of the bill (employer, government) then you'll have someone else calling the shots. The only system where you're calling the shots (within reason and legality) is all the money comes from your pocket.

            • Yes and no. My grandfather is old and is on medicare and VA benefits. His doctors clearly call the shots (keeping him extra nights in the hospital just for observation, etc...).

              Daschels own book talks about limiting care to old people to save money and he was the first choice to fill the position that is over the NCHIT.

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              Then amend the bill to have the effects only on Medicare and Medicade. The HMO is a contract between you and your provider and if they want to allow non-standard treatments or if they allow you to visit a clinical trial for a condition, then that's up to them and not the government to claim is wasteful or whatnot. I would also argue for a standard of care in Medicare and medicade seeing how I/We are paying the bills.

              Now I didn't mean amend the bill as if you supported it or anything. I meant it as if the bi

        • The problem is that the FDA needs someone to fuck over in the case that a medical device glitches out.

          The device we were working back when I had a job was only a class 2, and still the restrictions were insane.

          http://www.fda.gov/CDRH/devadvice/3132.html [fda.gov]

          Even beyond code version control, we needed to have every aspect of the design and even testing under version control, which was constantly monitored, along with email communications, by FDA auditors. I even had to get FDA approval for tools I was using like

  • What and how (Score:4, Interesting)

    by binkless (131541) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:26PM (#26857243)

    Just what is this supposed to stimulate and how?

    Just thought I'd ask

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Calindae (1256922)
      Most likely it is used to stimulate the decreasing of costs in regards to the health care. Lowering costs=increase profits=strong economy=you, happy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot

      If you make health care more affordable by increasing its efficiency, fewer Americans will be spending money on health-care overhead and bureaucracy, which means they'll have more money to spend on other things.

      • by n6kuy (172098)

        But then the people who work in the health care system will have less money to spend....

        The only way to get more (real) money into the economy now is to borrow it from the future.

      • by jcnnghm (538570)

        I thought Democrats didn't believe in trickle down economics.

    • Don't be obtuse (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:46PM (#26857425) Homepage Journal

      That's kind of a dumb question. (I might be excused from inferring your agenda from your question, but I'll refrain — we already have too much of that.) Anything that causes money to be spent stimulates the economy. The issue with the stimulus bill (including this part) is not whether it will stimulate the economy, but whether it will stimulate it enough to justify adding most of a terabuck to the national debt.

      As for this particular question, have you been following the news at all? Part of the stimulus is building up our technical infrastructure. Do I have to explain how software fits into that? You may not agree that this will work, but how it's supposed to work should be obvious.

      • "That's kind of a dumb question. (I might be excused from inferring your agenda from your question, but I'll refrain -- we already have too much of that.) Anything that causes money to be spent stimulates the economy. The issue with the stimulus bill (including this part) is not whether it will stimulate the economy, but whether it will stimulate it enough to justify adding most of a terabuck to the national debt."

        Here's a question: If you take money from person A and give it to person B, have you stimulate

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by amorsen (7485)

          Person B will have more to spend, admittedly, but person A will have less. The net effect on the economy is null.

          I guess economy isn't your strongest subject?

          If you e.g. take money from the poor and give it to the rich, you will be slowing the economy down. The poor person would have spent that money almost immediately on essential things like food, whereas the rich person would have put a substantial amount into savings. (This kind of reverse Robin-Hood is often good for the economy overall). The same thing works in reverse, and therefore when unemployment is high or the industry has unused capacity, it is often a go

          • "I guess economy isn't your strongest subject?"

            Funny. After reading your post I could ask you the same thing.

            When a wealthy individual puts his/her money into savings they either put it into a savings account in a bank or they invest it. The 3rd option is that they could literally hoard it in a mattress or a safe in their home, which is the only scenario that gives your argument a leg to stand on. But only an extremely small fraction of misers do that.

            The money goes into a savings account and the banks keep

            • by iluvcapra (782887)

              The money goes into a savings account and the banks keep a small percentage for reserves and lend out the rest.

              The problem at this moment is that the banks aren't lending, because they're insolvent and are unwilling to cop to that fact. When a rich person puts their money in the bank today, the bank is turning around and buying Treasuries with it. They aren't lending it out because the assets they were using to back up their reserve, loans and derivatives of loans, are, in fact, worthless.

              This theory yo

              • That's a good point, if it's true [mises.org].

                Also, if the banks are buying treasury bonds then the government could use that money to pay off it's debts to the fed, which would deflate the pool of money thus causing prices to come down. Heck, they could liquidate any of the national debt with the money from those bonds which would help matters greatly.

                You're pointing the finger at the banks, and they definitely do deserve a share of the blame, but so should the government and so should people who chose to take out loa

                • by iluvcapra (782887)

                  I don't know if I can accept the total balance of commercial debt outstanding as a suitable proxy for amount lending. I'm also not very likely to take my econ information from a website that photoshops people's faces onto cereal boxes; this would tend to indicate they're in need of a distraction.

                  Your argument, essentially, is that there is no credit crisis, and that it's a conspiracy of government, bank, and media types. Yet for some bizarre reason, we had four bank failures [fdic.gov] yesterday, putting us at 13 f

                  • You mentioned mortgage backed securities and their value. My question is: SHOULD they have any value left ? There are those who believe that the securities created the housing bubble to begin with. And it makes perfect sense because governments securing loans only exists to encourage sub-prime lending in the first place.

                    If banks are insolvent right now then it is because they made bad loans. And banks who make more bad loans than good SHOULD fail. I don't see how we ever got into this belief that capital is

                    • by iluvcapra (782887)

                      And it makes perfect sense because governments securing loans only exists to encourage sub-prime lending in the first place.

                      This I will not contest, there's this unfortunate moral thing in the US about buying a house, but I think you'd find that if the government incentives to home-owning were removed that'd be the last act of that government. It a very popular aspect of our law and people in this country regard home ownership as basically an American tradition. They do this regardless of the economic consequences.

                      My original point was that when a rich person (or any person, class is irrelevant at this point in the debate) puts their money into a savings account the bank uses part of it to make loans. OK, so banks are insolvent.

                      You're right, but putting money in an insolvent bank is throwing bad money after good. There's nothing structural

                    • "How does taxing people encourage banks to make bad loans?"

                      I could have worded that sentence much better, admittedly. It's the process of government securing loans, which it can only do if it has the money to make good on those securities. Although obviously there's lots else the government can do with tax revenue too.

                      You mentioned the prospect of total bank collapse and the resulting lack of confidence in the dollar. I think this speaks volumes to one of the other sources of our problems, that we've ignore

                  • by drinkypoo (153816)

                    I'm not saying that there's no credit crisis, whatever that means, but when a given bank folds has little to do with reality and more to do with "the powers that be". A bank is declared to be insolvent by the FDIC...

                • by iluvcapra (782887)
                  Also, dumb question, is that chart of Debt Outstanding marking-to-market the value of the debt outstanding, because a lot of that debt is probably defaulted but the MBS shell is obscuring that.
              • The problem at this moment is that the banks aren't lending,

                That's BS. Watch the bankers testimony that was on last week. One of the guys rattled off just how much money the lent last month alone.

                Anecdotally, I have numerous friends who recently bought houses and had zero problems getting loans. Others are refing because the banks are calling them. I spoke to a mortgage broker the other day and she said loans are not a problem at all, and haven't been for a long time.

                Oh wait, you must mean banks aren't

            • by amorsen (7485)

              When a wealthy individual puts his/her money into savings they either put it into a savings account in a bank or they invest it. The 3rd option is that they could literally hoard it in a mattress or a safe in their home, which is the only scenario that gives your argument a leg to stand on. But only an extremely small fraction of misers do that.

              There isn't much difference between whether the money is stuck in a mattress or put in a savings account; the national banks try to keep the money supply somewhat stable, and if people stick money in mattresses, the national bank will just print more. It's as if the money was lent to the national bank instead, at 0% interest.

              As to banks, some of what they lend goes towards investment, and some goes towards consumption. However, most rich people go for the investment option directly, not the banks or the mat

        • Here's a question: If you take money from person A and give it to person B, have you stimulated anything ? Person B will have more to spend, admittedly, but person A will have less. The net effect on the economy is null.

          Actually, the main cause of the great depression and a big factor in the current economic problem is not that we don't have enough wealth, but the disparity of distribution. 50% of the wealth is in the hands of a few percent of the populace. 50% of the populace has a net wealth of zero as a group. When half the population has no wealth and no realistic prospect of having wealth, who are banks supposed to be loaning money to? They have been loaning money to that 50% despite economists knowing there was littl

  • Props to Osirix... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jkrise (535370) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:36PM (#26857341) Journal

    An excellent PACS viewer solution; unfortunately runs only on Macs; but is amazing. Developed by a set of dcotors who got fed up with Direct X and the quicksand that is WDDM and DRM nonsense.

    Fully Open Source.

    http://www.osirix-viewer.com/ [osirix-viewer.com]

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      Developed by a set of dcotors who got fed up with Direct X and the quicksand that is WDDM and DRM nonsense.

      These had nothing to do with the creation of Osirix.

    • by rsborg (111459)
      Osirix also runs on the iPhone [macupdate.com].

      So you could say it's platform limitation is OSX.

  • by hackstraw (262471) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:46PM (#26857431)

    I'm all for the Open Source stuff and all, but every economist that I've read says that ironically, that massive layoffs are the beginning of the end of an economic downturn, and that it appears as though things will be back into shape around the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010, and none of their arguments are contingent upon a stimulus package. In fact, none mention it.

    I think that the spending on the infrastructure and unemployment benefits and the like are sufficient. Both will help in the short term and long term, but tax cuts are BS. Ever since I've been alive every politician has cut taxes, yet they always seem to go up. I'm not complaining. Our taxes are low in the US. I'm stating the facts. The only people that seem to benefit from tax breaks are those that are unaffected by their tax burden or any financial burden whatsoever.

    Yes, I voted for Obama, and I don't regret it, but I think the effectiveness of this bill does not warrant the cost.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      The key words in your post: "that I've read". The stimulus is classic Keynesian economics. Not all economists buy into this model, but many do.

      • What's funny is that when I was in college (90s) Keynesian was thought of to be crap. We learned it and saw many examples why it doesn't work. I was amused to see all the economists coming out of the woodwork to support it now.

        Regardless if Keynesian actually works or not, it will never work in OUR situation because of one fact. It requires that in the good times you raise taxes and CUT government spending. No way that the dems (or republicans for that matter) are going to cut government spending in the

    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @03:33PM (#26857755) Homepage Journal

      every economist that I've read says that ironically, that massive layoffs are the beginning of the end of an economic downturn, and that it appears as though things will be back into shape around the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010

      What were those same economists saying this time last year about the economy at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009?

    • Our taxes are low in the US.

      Check your facts [wikipedia.org]. US corporate taxes are the second-highest in the world behind Japan. Personal income tax is in the upper part of the bottom third right now compared to all other countries but that will be changing as the Dems do away with the Bush tax cuts and mess with payroll and capital gains tax in order to "spread the wealth around." Most state taxes are on the rise too in a desparate attempt to allow them to keep spending money (we have both a state and county incom

      • by KenSeymour (81018)

        Before I recently looked it up, I remember there being a 90% tax bracket in the US. But that was a long time ago.

        Then I looked it up. In the early 1960's, that was when the top tax bracket was slightly more than 90%. Now, the top tax bracket is 35%. So if you are on the top end of the US
        income distribution, your taxes have been going down for the last 50 years [taxpolicycenter.org].

        So if you are quite wealthy, your taxes have been going down down down for 50 years. When
        politicians say "were going to have tax cuts," guess wh

        • Now, the top tax bracket is 35%

          Again, you're conveniently leaving out state & local taxes, and another 7.65% in social security those of us pay who are self-employed. In NY and NJ, for example, someone who's self-employed and in the top federal and state brackets has a total tax burden of way over 60%. No wonder people are fleeing the tax-crazy Northeast states and California in droves.

          God forbid a politician say he is only going to raise taxes on people who make more than $200,000!

          But it's not $2

          • by KenSeymour (81018)

            The comparison I made 91% top federal tax rate to 35% top federal tax rate. You seem to be
            adding current local taxes and your double social security (aka self employment tax).
            They had state and local taxes in the 1960s too.

            Our government doesn't not cut spending because of politicians stranglehold on power.
            Government spending does not get cut because government spending is popular.

            Some voters say "don't cut education, we need to invest in our future."
            Some voters say "don't cut defense, we need to be strong

            • Your state is $41 billion in the hole. When people like you tell the rest of us to "man up" who choose not to live out there, it really pisses us off. We're sick of carrying your broke-ass state every five years because Ahh-nold and the rest of your retard politicians can't quit spending money they don't have and won't stop paying for people who aren't supposed to be in the country in the first place. Learn to balance your budget like the rest of us have to in reality land, and then you'll have a right t
      • by namespan (225296) <namespan@eli t e m a i l.org> on Saturday February 14, 2009 @05:37PM (#26858717) Journal

        US corporate taxes are the second-highest in the world behind Japan.

        Is that statutory rates, or effective rates [uhttp]?

        Also note that we're pretty solidly on the low end in personal income tax.

        You can call US taxes a lot of things, but "low" is not one of them, especially considering the services what we get from the government in exchange for the taxes we pay.

        If you want to argue that we could potentially be getting a better return on our tax dollars, then I'll agree. If nothing else, the example of per-capita public health spending comes to mind -- for a smaller amount, many other countries pull off universal insurance coverage. And I'm sure that aside, there's always work to do -- I think it'll be a long time before either by active policy study or by the evolutionary algorithm of competitive markets we've discovered most of the easy efficiency gains.

        But if you want to argue that the U.S. isn't a pretty good place to live or do business, or if you want to argue that tax contributions to that are negligible, I'm off that boat.

        • But if you want to argue that the U.S. isn't a pretty good place to live or do business, or if you want to argue that tax contributions to that are negligible, I'm off that boat.

          It's not as good as it used to be, and the massive amount of debt we're undertaking is just going to make things worse. If I were stating a new business and weren't restricted on where I had to live by family commitments, Ireland, New Zealand, and several Southeast Asian countries would be at the top of my list.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I'm all for the Open Source stuff and all, but every economist that I've read says that ironically, that massive layoffs are the beginning of the end of an economic downturn,

      And if we're nowhere near the end, businesses would be... hiring? Just saying it's a lousy indicator, usually the economy recovers after a round of layoffs but if it doesn't you'd see exactly the same.

  • by basementman (1475159) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @03:04PM (#26857577) Homepage
    I'm all for open source software, but it seems like Slashdot is the great open source circle jerk. We spend all of our time going omg open source software might appear in Project XYZ. In the end it never does, but even that glimmer of hope is enough for us to reach climax. If the average slashdotter's spent half the time working to promote open source to the average consumer, instead of jacking off, propriety software might be in trouble. Instead we stay in this relatively obscure internet community patting one another on the back when in the real world open source is getting it's ass kicked. Not a comment on the article I guess, but just something that I had to say.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "If the average slashdotter's spent half the time working to promote open source to the average consumer,"

      The average consumer can afford Windows, learned on Windows, and does not need to invest the considerable time to learn anything different.

      When there are replacements for everything they use on Windows that run on both Windows and Linux Joe Sixpack _might_ give a shit.

      • by IANAAC (692242)

        When there are replacements for everything they use on Windows that run on both Windows and Linux Joe Sixpack _might_ give a shit.

        There pretty much is an equivalent to most things, excepting games and very specialized software. Joe Sixpack doesn't know about any of them (well, maybe a couple). But good office apps? Yes. Good browsers with plugins? Yes. Good email? Yes. Good multimedia? Yes. And they run on both platforms without any problem.

    • "We spend all of our time going omg open source software might appear in Project XYZ. In the end it never does"

      You mean like the industry wag about optical processors, holographic storage, cell phone competition, lowered broadband prices, higher connectivity, modular windows OS, fair competition, etc, etc. There is a lot of hot air on the commercial side that promises a lot of solutions but the problems just seem to remain.

    • Sounds like brain crack! [zefrank.com]

  • Could be. Check out page page 563:

    "The Assistant Secretary shall develop and maintain a comprehensive nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service capability and availability in the United States that depicts the geographic extent to which broadband service capability is deployed and available from a commercial provider or public provider throughout each State."
    • by GaryOlson (737642)
      Depends on where the data is obtained. If obtained from monopoly telcos, the data will show the monopoly telcos need more government funding to "build out their networks". If the data is obtained from local county and city halls (who we hope will obtain the data direct from the citizens), we could get a more accurate picture.
  • A bit of time with the Google reveals Red Hat Enterprise Healthcare Platform [redhat.com] which likely is the reason for this being included.

    A quick review of the literature shows that several hospital software vendors have been converting their offering to run on a RHL backend.

    That's likely where the main open source offerings will appear, replacing mainframes with cheap linux server solutions, and some database apps.

  • It'll never happen, but there will be tax credits for large banks that use open source.

  • If you cant smell the pork all over this package, you need to get your nose checked.

APL hackers do it in the quad.

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