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Shared contacts in Outlook and Alternatives

Is there a good way to share contacts in Outlook. Currently we use 2 .PST files. It is a pain to update them.  I have considered LDAP, which I am trying to learn. We are using Outlook 2003.  I am concerned of reports that Outlook 2007 doesn't even support standard LDAP.  It's ridiculous that something as simple as a shared list of contacts is so elusive. I guess M$ wants us all to buy Exchange.  We don't want to mess with it.

Secondly, I have found no really great alternatives to Outlook--on Windows.  I know there is Evolution, but it seems a little cludgy.  Basically we need a POP3/SMTP email client, shared contacts as well as personal contacts, shared calendars would be nice, but could be outside of Outlook--we at least need calendars for individuals that do reminders.
If anyone has any other suggestions that aren't ridiculously expensive, then I'd love to hear about them also.
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SStory
Asked:
SStory
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3 Solutions
 
TonyStCommented:
I know of two reasonably easy ways to share contact lists in outlook. One is to setup a public folder and put some contact lists in it.  Then you have to make sure that everyone that is to use it has the correct permissions set.  The second aquire and install MicroSoft's Business Contact Manager.  With BCM you select a workstation to install the Database on it and then share it with the others.
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tomdlgnsCommented:
doesn't public folders only work with MS Exchange?

he said they don't want to go that route.  i am not certain, but i have only seen public folders with exchange.

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TonyStCommented:
You are right, public folders only work with exchange.  You can however use Business Contact Manager.  The Manager is installed to one of the workstations and then "shared" with everyone else.
When I purchased it it cost about $300
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David LeeCommented:
Hi, SStory.

There are a few 3rd-party products that will do this without having to purchase Exchange.  Here's an example: http://www.3stepshare.com/slipstick.aspx
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tomdlgnsCommented:
@ BlueDevilFan

that is a neat program.  that looks like it will come in handy for small companies that cant afford/dont want an exchange server.

good post!  it should help out SStory.
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David LeeCommented:
"good post!"
Thank you!
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war1Commented:
Hello SStory,

As to your request for alternate email client, you can use Thunderbird with Lightning addon for calendar.  Both are free.

Thunderbird
http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/

Lightning
http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/lightning/

Here are some ways to share contacts with Thunderbird.  Plaxo works the best
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Sharing_address_books

Hope this helps!
war1
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tomdlgnsCommented:
i would assume that he doesn't want to leave the MS Platform.

but i could be wrong...i don't know.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
I am not at all opposed to  something other than Microsoft---however we are still on Windows as a platform. Step 1 to anything else would have to be getting off of Outlook and then eventually Office.

Has anyone tried the OpenLDAP approach?  Does it just not work well?

Thanks for the input so far. I will have to check it out (maybe tomorrow) Monday's are really busy.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
3stepshare might help me out if we stay with Outlook

Does anyone have any alternatives that work well and provide what I specified -- running on a Windows platform and hopefully capable of also running on a Linux platform (separate apps are acceptable)
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
war1, forgive my ignorance. is plaxo a social networking site?  If so we are cracking down on those. Something on this side of the firewall would be desirable.
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war1Commented:
Plaxo is a contacts sync program.  Plaxo has a Thunderbird toolbar (an extension) that can synchronize a single address book with your Plaxo address book.
http://www.plaxo.com/

Thunderbird runs on Windows as well as other platforms.
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darrickhartmanCommented:
I've been using Google's sync with Thunderbird to sync my calendar and contacts.  In a small environment, that may be a good fit.  With a larger company probably not.  The biggest benefit for me is the ability to then sync with my Blackberry without requiring any additional tools on a server.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
Well, I use Thunderbird at home.  I let my number of messages get high (1400) and there is no archival system yet.  I read about Lightening, but people are saying that the Lightening add-in for Thunderbird is buggy at best.  While I can use Thunderbird fine, under my wife's account, she can no longer click links and have it go anywhere--so that is another bug.  I can't afford to introduce that instability to 70 people that I must support.

I have even considered some sort of Calendar that is web based and using an intranet, but then how would it "remind" people and it would need personal and public calendars. Using Google and cloud services doesn't seem wise to me.  
#1) I don't fully trust Google with corporate data of any kind
#2) if they go down it would be out of our control.
For the option of separating these functions and having the calendar/task reminders on an in house server--even if its Apache and PHP or whatever-- doesn't anyone have something that they are using for this that works really well and allows calendaring/both private and organization wide calendars--with reminders?

I am trying to look at all aspects, including breaking up Outlook into the multiple functions that it entails.
Free is always better if it functions well.
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darrickhartmanCommented:
I wouldn't use it (google apps) with 70 people either.  If you were looking for 1-5 people, that would be different.  For that many, I don't think you'll find a great alternative that will 'just work' without using Exchange.  How are you backing up 70 people's emails without using a central server?

At the very least for email get yourself on a good IMAP setup to store messages in one central place and back it up properly.  Using a web based calendar in an environment like that is going to be a pain unless it's something that integrates email and other contact info (such as Zimbra).  Look at the big picture and how much time it will take to maintain a patched together system and what costs are involved when there is a failure on a local workstation with no backup in place.  While the software may be free, the maintenance certainly isn't.  Downtime and loss of data are very expensive.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
I am backing them up just fine.  I can't believe there isn't another solution besides Exchange.  We are doing everything we need to with Outlook. Why would we want to spend over $30,000 and add untold headaches just to have exchange?  I'm sure it isn't maintenance free either.  I think I have heard of Zimbra.  I will check it out.

I am definitely looking for people who think outside the box, though.
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TonyStCommented:
Have you taken a look at MicroSoft's Business Contact Manager ??  
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war1Commented:
You can use a hosted Exchange.  Here a sample of company that provide such service.
http://www.intermedia.net/ 
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
TonyST:
>Have you taken a look at MicroSoft's Business Contact Manager
I haven't taken a look yet.  Thanks for the idea.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
MS Bus Contact Manager
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HA011505241033.aspx

There is a paragraph that says,
"BCM is designed as a single-user product.  You can't directly share a single BCM database between multiple users. However, you can export the data from a database, and other users can use that database as the starting point for their own BCM setup. Look for multiple-user support to be added in a future version of BCM."

Sounds like it won't do what I am after.
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war1Commented:
SStory, have you look at hosted Exchange, as I posted above?
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TonyStCommented:
I'm Confused, I'm running BCM on my workstation and sharing it effectively with 9 other users.  I have in fact directly shared the database with 9 other users. We share contacts, mailing lists.  I have even created a calendar under my personal folders and told outlook to share it.  I renamed the calendar to "Community Calendar" and set permissions so that the others could see and modify it.  Seems to work for us.  Please see attached screenshot from workstation that is sharing the BCM database
BCM.doc
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
war1. Thanks, but must have email internal so that it functions even if the internet connection doesn't--for in house email.  

I'm perfectly happy with PostFix, but would just like to be able to easily share contacts (just the organizational ones -- not everyone's private contacts).  Shared Calendars might be nice, but it also might just be a totally different application.  The corporate Address Book being shared and thus easy to update is the only thing we are really missing that we'd like to have.

thanks for the idea...at one time we were doing mail in a hosted way, but have been much happier with it in house.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
TonySt,

That is odd. Do you think it is something they weren't limiting, but have started to? What do you make of what I sent you.  I can't imagine MS providing anything to help you not need Exchange...even if just for that one "feature"
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TonyStCommented:
Perhaps,  I am Running an Exchange Server with my Workstations running Office Outlook 2003.  We needed more features of shared contacts than the outlook/exchange team offered. So I did some research and got BCM. I installed it on my workstation and shared it with everyone, It works very well and is not dependant on exchange at all.  On the same workstation I created an additional personal calendar and called it "Community Calendar" I also shared that with the other users and gave them "permissions" to access/read/write to it.  That seems to work well also.  These work independantly of exchange because these both work when the exchange server is not running.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the info TonySt.
Personally I'd love to have an alternative.  I really like what we have--I wouldn't be opposed to getting off of Outlook, but really haven't found anything that works consistently well. I have Thunderbird at home, but have eventually had problems with it, and can't seem to solve them. I sure don't want that here.  The only thing I am currently not satisfied with is the need for a corporate directory of addresses/emails, etc. (contacts)
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tomdlgnsCommented:
i dont mean to beat a dead horse here, but how are you backing up 70 users email profiles w/o having a centralized server?

after reading your first post, for some reason, i was under the impression that you were supporting 10 users or less.

the company i support has about 35 office employees and email/contacts/calendars are very important for us.

are you the IT admin for the company?  or are you just taking that task/responsibility as an extra job?

the 30k number you came up with is not very accurate.  
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TonyStCommented:
Somehow I missed that one also.  I was under the notion that we were talking 10 or so users here.  A company that has 70 users doing something as important to business as email and calendars really shouldnt balk at making an investment in there infrastructure for something to suite thier needs.  Also, without some central backup of that data a catastropy is waiting to happen.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
>the 30k number you came up with is not very accurate.  
Really?
We'd have to buy the big hardware, then we'd have to buy Windows Server with CALs, and then Exchange. We could probably buy the Small Business Edition which is a lot cheaper and would get me by until 75 users. We are growing company and we will probably pass that number in the next few years.
As far as email backups there are many programs to do that.

I currently use Retrospect to backup individual PST files and profiles and have no problem doing so.  It was this way when I got here. We have considered going to a domain, but the truth is that what we have is working just fine.. Why add the headache?  It is true centralization may be easier in some ways, but decentralization means no single point of failure--at least not complete failure.  
Our really critical stuff isn't even running on Windows so that also isn't a big deal.

There was life before Windows.  Life and progress would probably be far better and more advanced without it. Because the "Where do you want to go today?" That Microsoft has often ask, was just marketing. They don't really care. They are determined to take you where they want you to go. I don't really appreciate that and am sure I am not alone. However, I don't want to start a flame session here on that.  I am looking for alternatives.

Given the above situation and given that I might go past the 75 users that SBS supports what would it cost me?

 hardware, software for win server, cals, exchange, exchange cals, etc?
$20,000?

Oh and I'd have to upgrade that every few years whether there was any real need to or not...just to help support Uncle Bill. (sorry to be sarcastic, but really...and seriously don't you sometimes feel the same way?)  How much do you think it would cost me.  Oh yeah, wouldn't I have to also have a domain controller and Active Directory and CALS and hardware for that? If so wouldn't I also need backup domain controller in case that one failed?  If I am wrong, and please don't take me as being angry or yelling or anything unkind (I'm a bit blunt and don't mean to come off in an unkind way), then please tell me.

What would be the big picture in terms of costs to go that way. What would I gain? Shared contacts and shared calendars? That is a LOT of money, and headache just to get 2 features.
The calendars I am sure can be solved without Outlook or Exchange.  The contacts I have seen some things, but was wondering what everyone else thought and maybe that there was something better than what I had considered.

LDAP seemed a possibility. OpenLDAP is free. I've also seen some LDAP that runs on Java. Outlook 2003 will talk to any LDAP client apparently. I've heard that 2007 has problems talking to non-Microsoft LDAP. I don't know if that is true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me.  Things like that are what made me want to look elsewhere to start with.
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
TonySt,
>Also, without some central backup of that data a catastropy is waiting to happen.
I have all of the data backed up.  I have multiple mechanisms for backup.  I have had machines die, and resurrected all of their data--so no disaster...no problems.
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tomdlgnsCommented:
hmmmm, this location doesnt have a domain?

so there is no way for you to run group policy w/o going to each individual computer.

i really have a hard time with this becuase there are applications/standards that you should be following in a business environment.

how do you manage AV?  do you go to each pc and install software?

also, you can purchase server 2008 for ~$700.  CALs are $15-20 per user.  I am assuming you have legal copy of outlook 2003, since you are using it now, however, i guess i shouldn't assume that either.

ideally, you are doing the perfect thing for a business with ~15 employees by trying to find other ways around spending big money on servers and licensing, but at 75 people, i have to step out (not that i was much help anyway...)

as i said in my previous post, i admin about 35 users and if these PCs were not on a domain i would have to quit or tell my boss it was time for some changes on the network.

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TonyStCommented:
Wow.  Ok.  In retrospect you say you arent angry but you really are, at least at Microsoft.  I apologize for the fact the entire free world runs on a MicroSoft platform, but if you plan on being in IT a little while longer you have to adapt.  Also even though your method has worked in the past, and probably will in the short term future, it is really expensive to do business that way. I'm willing to bet that if some bean counter analyzed the costs involved in managing and mantaining your environment versus a centralized solution they would find they could have already paid for one a few times over.  Come to think of it, maybe I like your installation better, more job security.
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tomdlgnsCommented:
there are pros and cons to having servers.

yes, you have to get new hardware every 4-5 years.

you dont need a backup server to get going, but i would highly recommend getting a backup server to help with AD and DNS incase the main server goes down.

yes, there are licensing issues.  however, i don't think you need CALs for AD, windows and exchange.  if your AD has 100 users but only 10 of them connect via exchange for email you only need 10 CALs, not 100. (i spent an hour on the phone with MS last week about CALs and this is what i was told)
also, if you have 100 users cycling between 10 PCs, then you would get 10 device CALs, not 100 user CALs.

licensing is tricky and expensive, but in the long run, i think it will help.

if the company is going to grow as you say it is...then it is only a matter of time before you reach 100 PCs.

please let me know how you are doing your anti virus and network/desktop restrictions?

also, i am not trying to sound angry or mean, just trying to help out and give advice based on the situations that i have been in.  

i think it is time to get your company going in the right direction and for starters, if i were you i would setup a domain.  dont your managers/boss have problems with employees installing their own software and changing the computer settings?

my job is to keep our network up and running.  if i ha no control over what the users did, each computer would be filled with all sorts of junk which would slow it down and possibly spread a virus.

keep in mind i am giving you worst case scenario here.


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tomdlgnsCommented:
Quoted

Wow.  Ok.  In retrospect you say you arent angry but you really are, at least at Microsoft.  I apologize for the fact the entire free world runs on a MicroSoft platform, but if you plan on being in IT a little while longer you have to adapt.  Also even though your method has worked in the past, and probably will in the short term future, it is really expensive to do business that way. I'm willing to bet that if some bean counter analyzed the costs involved in managing and mantaining your environment versus a centralized solution they would find they could have already paid for one a few times over.  Come to think of it, maybe I like your installation better, more job security.

Quoted

i agree with this 100%.  minus the job security sentence in the end.  it is a true statement, since his company needs him to recover PST files and anything else that he setup.

again, his setup is perfect for a very small company that doesn't have much money to spend on IT.

maybe he needs to see a centralized environment to compare it to what he is doing right now.

i think every company, even if it is a small company needs to have the following

hardware firewall
server with domain, AD, and DNS


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TonyStCommented:
I'm the IT Manager for a small-sized company, and I cant imagine running and maintaining s 70pc "peer to peer" ?? network.  Does your company not want to spend the money on IT ??   If thats the case, then just ask the marketing/sales department how would they feel if they lost all their contact info. ??
Hey, I just thought of something.  Are all of your workstations configured to send and receive email by pop/smtp using port 25/110 ??   If so then if one (just one) system picks up a trojan that spamms the planet, then your entire organization runs the risk of being BlackListed.  Thats a real problem.  And it can cost real money in down time and sales.  A centralized solution when configured correctly guards against this kind of stuff.  
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tomdlgnsCommented:
@ TonySt

that was where i was going with this...

small company owners/managers almost NEVER seem to understand the IT concept.  they all want the same thing....

a network, that runs efficient, and is secure for little or no money.

there were times where i had to go to the owner and just really open his eyes about IT.  

i am really surprised that with 70+ employees he hast had a need for remote access, virus/spyware, and group policy.

not to mention, what happens when someone gets hired?  do they just get their own pc with their own windows logon?

how would they logon to another computer to access their files?

lemme guess, they all carry usb thumb drives?

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TonyStCommented:
@ tomdlgns
I have to assume from gleaning these posts, that he is running a very very large peer to peer invironment.  One of three things usually open the eyes of owners/managers with regard to IT

1. A lawsuit instigated by the MicroSoft (or other providers) for software license violations.
   (the IRS sometimes asks for this stuff during an audit)
2. A lawsuit instigated by a group of customers whose personal information was comprised because
    the network lacks centralized and documented security controls.
3. A system or network failure (or virus)  that shuts down his network and interrupts business and
    costs him money.  More than just fixing it the first time. Because he's lost sales/productivity and he
   still will ultimately pay for doing it the right way.

All of these usually result in the current IT guy being fired, for not providing the type of network the company didnt know that they needed.
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tomdlgnsCommented:
@ TonySt

i agree 100%

i make sure to have everything in writing and i print emails and store them that go to the owner and/or department heads.  you are absolutely correct, it is the IT managers job to make sure all of the above are covered, however, we need funds to make that happen.  as long as i have it in writing that i requested it and it was denied...hey, i have my @#$ covered.  that is the way i see it.

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TonyStCommented:
@Sstory
Here is my opinion, There are 3rd party vendors that provide email solutions which may or may not fill all of your "wants", some of them were mentioned here.  Hopefully, your boss has the same hatred of Microsoft that you do, because I think someday, someone is going to tell him that a central exchange solution would have filled those needs long ago.  If you are lucky and some event doesnt make this happen sooner:

I predict: Sometime in the future some catastrophic problem is going to happen (maybe while you are on vacation)  and your boss is going to call in an "outside" IT expert consultant to help out.  (These guys are not your friend).  They will proceed to tell your boss that a huge peer-peer decentralized network is dangerous, costly, and unproductive.  And how "cobbled" together filesharing (and PST sharing)  is why the problem happened or why the data is lost.  And for this amount of money $$$ he and his organization can come in and fix it all the right way.  If it's a large consulting firm his bean counters will develop a proposal that will prove it costs less to operate than the current system.  And maybe he will even include great pricing on remote managed services thereby degreasing his overall IT manpower budget.  There are lots of ways to share data and files but you really do need to go about it the right way if you want it to work reliably and safely.  If your management buys in to the need for shared contacts and calendars then use that a reason to make them pay for a centralized solution.  You really need to do that,  at 70+ users and growing, you can't put that off too much longer.
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tomdlgnsCommented:
"at 70+ users and growing, you can't put that off too much longer"

that sums it up right there.

i was going to say the exact same thing about some type of "event" occurring in the future.

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SStoryAuthor Commented:
OK. Well, you guys obviously have your "in the box" opinion.  I do have a firewall. I am not an idiot. I do have servers. We do share files.  Users are limited.  There was life before Microsoft and AD.  There still is.
As for DNS, a large majority of spam would be eliminated if the majority of Exchange administrators knew how to do DNS correctly in terms of their mail server.  My users run with a very low user priviledge. They can do just what they need to.  Anyhow, it can be done and AD isn't the only solution. There are pros and cons to every solution.  I have administered a Novell Netware domain before. It worked great. I understand the pluses and minuses of centralized stuff.  That however, really isn't even the question.

We are perfectly happy with our current setup at this point.  I know there is virtualization and AD and and a lot of other things that we can get into if and when we choose to. BTW, I am angry/irritated with Microsoft for sure.. I just meant that I wasn't trying to sound angry with any of you guys. ;)

All I want to do if find a way to share contacts. Our mail server does everything I need it to. I don't need Exchange--or want it.  My mail server NEVER gives me any trouble and runs faithfully and cost me $0.  That is hard to beat.  I can upgrade it as I like when I like and still it costs me $0.

How do you guys think that having AD and a centralized server prevents viruses? Are you running dummy terminals with it?  If your one machine goes down...everyone is toast.  You still need backups.
If 10 of mine go down--if they happen to be the 10 that aren't "servers" then only 10 people are effected.  Again pros and cons.  Besides as I mentioned before, my important stuff doesn't even need Windows and is centralized--that is a point I think you've missed.

I guess I was mistaken in asking this question here as no one seems to think outside the box.  IBM once had the whole known world--so what.  Who says Microsoft will dominate forever?  

Thanks for all of your opinions, but they are not helping me solve a basic problem.  
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SStoryAuthor Commented:
While each might work, I'm not sure any is what I was hoping for.  I did give most points to BlueDevil. war1 got some points for some potential solutions although I don't think I'd want my email off site.  The rest was mainly unhelpful criticism...but no offense taken.
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