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Prepping for Black Friday: steps for smooth sailing





Black Friday is upon us. Halloween has passed, and while its spirit lives on for the rest of the year in our leftover candy and TPd house, attention is turning towards Black Friday. Walmart is already discounting their stuff to get ahead of the craziness that’s to come, but not everyone is eyeing Walmart discounts this year. For the savvy shopper, Black Friday can be a good opportunity to stock up on everything. And I do mean everything. Here’s a quick guide about how to prepare for Black Friday and make the most of the money that you’ve designated to shopping funds this year. Note that everyone approaches Black Friday differently and this is just an example of how I have been doing it for the past few years. I wanted to share my methods because I found that they work rather well and have brought in good deals for me.

Before we get to the tips, you should be aware of the fact that the massive discounts on Black Friday aren’t entirely real. Don’t go out and shop everything that has a larger than 50% discount on it. Most of the items that are discounted for the shopping season are refurbished items. Whether sellers let you know that or not is another discussion – most of them don’t and I have proof, if you’re curious. A lot of the bigger tech items like TVs are refurbished for the Black Friday sale and are actually units that have been used in showrooms. Not to say they’re not going to be good devices in good conditions, but don’t be surprised if you see scratches on the back or missing parts. It’s just how things go. Refurbished smartphones, tablets, wearables and many many other types of devices are the ones you’ll find cheapest on Black Friday, so if you’re out to save, be aware that you’re not always going to get the best of it. Now, let’s start on the tips that I have.

  1. Online shopping first

Black Friday in the U.S. is an event that spans from the physical world to the online one. Although I’m all in for the craziness that goes on on the date, it’s truly better to avoid going to the store, for safety reasons. Once you stand in line for an entire night waiting for the store to open, there’s no denying that by morning, you’re going to be groggy, impatient, angry and most likely sick of that sh*t. It’s not worth it, getting trampled, pushed around and losing your temper multiple times, not to mention losing your shopping buddies in the meantime.

The best way to approach online shopping on Black Friday, in my experience, is picking the shops that you are interested in and creating a wishlist on each. Last year on Black Friday, I started planning for the event a couple of days ahead, because that was enough for the things that I wanted to invest in. I sifted through my newsletter to see which shops were going to have Black Friday offers and which carry the brands and products that I am interested in. If possible, I added all the items I was interested in to my cart before Black Friday and just placed the order as soon as the discounts kicked off. This saved me a lot of time – and money.

By creating your online shopping wishlist a few days ahead of Black Friday, you can stay on top of your shopping list and buy only the things that you need. Splurging on discounted stuff is common on this “holiday”, seeing as everything seems so cheap. Before stocking up however, always think about product shelf life. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale because you might end up regretting the purchase. Wishlists will keep your goals in front of you and will prevent you from browsing through tens of pages of discounted items, picking at random.

Having your shopping list ready for Black Friday when it comes to online shopping not only benefits your own state of mind, but also helps with shipping times. Last year, this worked very well for me. I placed the orders that I had waiting early on Friday morning and by Saturday 80% of the items I had wanted to buy were at my doorstep. Shipping times also depend on warehouse locations and store locations, as well as shipping address, so your next delivery might not be as speedy. Make sure to check delivery and shipping estimates on the websites you’re ordering from, so you can pick the ones that will get the products to you in the window of your choice.

At the same time, doing your Black Friday shopping online will be a breezier experience because you can ponder, think and compare the products as long as you want. Not having the pressure of getting all the stocks and discounts as fast as possible, like in stores, will make your shopping experience much nicer. Not risking getting trampled in Walmart is also a big benefit of online shopping, if we are to be blunt. People have actually died during Black Friday shopping, so it’s not a joke. I would always recommend online shopping on days with such massive discounts as Black Friday, because people forget their values when it comes to saving money.

Moreover, some online shops start their Black Friday sweeps ahead of the actual date, so you can do both: physical and online shopping. Always do your online shopping first, because this way you weed out items and you might not even have to participate in the sales going on in stores. While I always do my Black Friday shopping online, there are things out there that you won’t find online – those are the ones you should focus on when going to the store.

     2. Plan your shopping list

This is a bit of an obvious suggestions, but it’s a very important one. If you want to make the most of Black Friday discounts without too much effort, make a comprehensive shopping list. If you’re going out to malls and shops in the city you live in, make sure to be clear on which stores are participating to Black Friday sweeps and what kind of items will be part of their sale. You can find this information out from clerks or information centers within stores, but your best bet would be taking to employees who work in the aisles of the stores or at serving counters. That’s because, if they’re nice, they’re going to be truthful about Black Friday sales in the store. Management will usually lead people on with ambiguous information to draw them to the store on discount days – and keep them there. Clerks are your best bet, especially if they’re unhappy with their job. It’s a bit of an exploit, this one, but it really works if you are lucky and find friendly clerks.

Once you know the stores that you’re going to be visiting, you can create your shopping list. Most stores have catalogs online, so you can use those to make a list. You can use screenshots of products that you want to buy and save them on your phone, so that you can easily spot them when in a rush. Dividing your list into multiple categories is another good idea that has worked for me in the past. The items that you “need” should be first on the list. These items should also have a backup list featuring similar items from other brands  or from other stores, in case you can’t get the specific item you’re looking for.

If there are items on your Black Friday shopping list that you know everyone is going to be after, like consoles, tablets and TVs, make sure to jot down at least three alternatives to the item on your list – from different brands, different shops or from online shops. This way, you can easily see what you have to buy and what you can buy if you don’t find your original picks. This will save you time on Black Friday because you won’t be taking your phone out to search for similar items. It will also save you time and money because you will have a sense of purpose and you will know exactly what you’re looking for. This way, it will be harder to distract you with other offers and products that you pass by.

It’s a good idea to put estimated prices on your shopping list, too, to prevent you from spending too much. For example, if you have a hand mixer in your “need” category and you’ve picked one that costs $200 before Black Friday, expecting the price to drop to $100, make sure to note down the maximum amount you would be willing to pay for that item. In our scenario, let’s say our max price for this particular hand mixer is $120. If the price on the gadget is higher than the one you’re willing to pay, go to your alternative on the shopping list. The alternative should be a hand mixer that’s cheaper, but you can find in the same place. This way, you won’t grab the hand mixer that is not as cheap as you expected it to be and thus end up saving a couple of bucks on Black Friday shopping.

For shared shopping lists and even for your own list, it’s best to use paper in store. While I do advise you to keep your list on a smartphone because it’s easier to edit and stay on top of, when it comes to following a list in store, that’s about the worst idea. Use a paper shopping list because in the madness that is Black Friday, your phone is bound to get knocked out of your hands in the store. Although smartphones are a good investment during Black Friday, you don’t have to create need to buy them. Shared shopping lists are also better off on paper, even though apps do help groups keep on top of their shopping lists. It’s just not worth the risk of losing or damaging your phone in the crowd, in my opinion.

 3. Plan your route

Many shoppers in the U.S. go through malls or a couple of big markets on Black Friday and many times they get sidetracked or lost and end up forgetting to buy the items that they actually came shopping for. To avoid confusion and to save gas, it’s good to plan your route ahead of time. If you’re going to the mall and you’re familiar with its crowd, you’re going to have an easier time doing this. First, identify the stores that you want to visit and write them all down or mark them on a small map of your city. Then, map your route out based on how many items you need to pick up from each store. The stores from which you want the most items should be the first ones you visit, but take into account the crowd of the store, if you’re familiar with it. If your local Mall has a lot of gamers who crowd tech stores quickly, keep in mind that the game shop will be packed and you would be better off ordering online. If you prefer to go to the store, your best strategy is to pick out the items you need before going into the shop and targeting them only.

If you are planning to visit multiple stores in a mall, start at the top floor. You might miss out on products that are discounted on the bottom floor, but you’ll be first on the top floor of the building, avoiding the crowds. Map your mall out and mark each shop that you want to visit before starting your expedition so you don’t get lost. Teamwork is very important when shopping on Black Friday, so if at all possible, don’t go alone. Split the shopping lists you have created with members of your shopping party to save time and money. You could also use the assault tactic, if you’re on a team: half your team starts on the first floor of the mall while the other half starts at the top. This way, you can cover more ground in less time and take advantage of all the Black Friday discounts.

If your Black Friday shopping plan includes multiple stores in different locations, make sure to have a detailed map of your route on hand at all times. Part near the exits of mall and store parking lots, so that you can easily navigate your way out of the madness. Those fortunate enough to have multiple cars in their family or in the shopping group can split up stores and share shopping lists to make the most of Black Friday. Plan your route based on importance of stores to your shopping list. If your “need” list is filled with cookware, the first store you should visit is going to be a cookware store. Items on your shopping list that are in the “want” category (like upgrades to existing gadgets in your home, games, gifts, etc) should come after you’ve completed your “need’ category.

   4. Set a budget

Black Friday shopping can be hectic and overwhelming, and the excitement can easily bring you to spend a lot of money without even realizing it. The problem with Black Friday discounts is that they make products seem like they are super-cheap and make customers forget that even smaller sums add up. This way, a lot of people end up spending thousands and thousands of dollars on Black Friday only to find themselves regretting the most of their purchases. One sneaky way to avoid this is to set a budget well ahead of time for Black Friday shopping.

Setting a budget isn’t the easiest of all on Black Friday since you can’t anticipate the prices you will be paying. Nonetheless, you can set yourself a max amount you’re willing to spend, for example $1000. If you’re doing your shopping in stores, it’s best if you carry cash in the max amount that you’re willing to spend. Credit cards, especially contactless credit cards, are a no-no when Black Friday shopping, especially since contactless cards tend to pay for more than just your shopping – it depends on the card you have, but be wary. Also, credit cards during shopping are an incentive to spend more and more because you don’t have a physical limit like with cash. It’s best if you just take the cash you’re willing to spend, secure it in the inside of your clothes grouped in hundreds, fifties or some such even sums, so it doesn’t get stolen or lost.

When calculating a Black Friday budget, it’s good to have current price estimates inside. For example, if you’re after a PC that would cost you about $1000 now, your target price on Black Friday – and the max price you are willing to pay for it would be at around $700. It’s better to set lower max values, such as $500 in our case, but it’s safer to set higher ones for the items that are in your “need” category of your shopping list. If a PC is incremental to you and the most important on your list, it should have the top priority and the most funds allocated to it, so as to prevent you from spending additional money on things you don’t need. Calculate the max value you are willing to pay for a product and add everything up to find your total budget.

If that goes over what you’re willing to spend, you can start either eliminating products from your list or setting lower max price values for each. This is how that works: you set a $300 max price for all the tech accessories like speakers, mics, camera lenses, smartphone cases, laptop covers and so on. If your total budget for Black Friday is above the one you would like to pay, bring down the sum you’re willing to allocate to accessories to $200 or $150 – half. This way, you can even out your shopping list and invest where you need to, not where you want to. Prioritize the items on your list and estimate less for those that are not as important. This way, if you find an item for the lower price that you set, you can buy it, but if you can find it for a higher price only, you can easily let go of that item because it doesn’t fit in with your plans.

Although it will be hard to concentrate on these financial aspects of Black Friday shopping while in stores, they are a must, unless you want to spend a fortune on discounted stuff you’ll never use. Setting goals, max values, budgets and lists is a good way to prevent you and your family from spending too much and from getting items that your household doesn’t really need. Splitting your list up into categories and setting and adjusting price goals is the easiest way to make the most of Black Friday discounts. Even if it will take up some time to plan ahead, it’s totally worth it.

 5. Stay on top of the paperwork

Shopping on Black Friday has a few caveats. Many times, you won’t have the chance to get a warranty or insurance because of the crowded stores and occupied employees. Warranty and insurance is very important if you’re buying larger items that are meant to last for a couple of years. You must not buy anything like this on Black Friday if you can’t get a solid warranty or insurance plan to go with it. As I said before, many items that are cheapest on Black Friday are refurbished items or slightly used items that are in good working condition. These are prone to getting early malfunctions because of the way in which they were handled or put back together. That’s why warranty or insurance is a must on Black Friday, otherwise you might end up with a bunch of useless junk you can’t even resell.

To avoid getting trapped in stores signing warranties and insurance papers, it’s good to have all the documentation necessary on hand. IDs and other documents you might need, depending on your country and store that you’re shopping in, should be somewhere easy to reach. Front pockets with zippers are the best ways to keep your documents safe and on hand, just make sure not to forget the zipper open and lose your documents in the chaos within stores. If you have documents on hand, employees will get through your papers faster and you’re going to be done earlier.

For online Black Friday shopping, make sure to have all your documents on hand when the delivery comes and don’t pay the man or don’t take over the product until you test it and verify that documentation is in order and you received all the care packages and accessories that you bargained for. Online stores usually offer a 15 or 30 day return period so jot down these specifics of stores in your email or in a note, so that you know what to expect when the product comes around.

At the same time, if the things you ordered on Black Friday are late or take some time to get shipped to you, make sure to jot down all the information about products that you ordered, because you might forget. When the product arrives, make sure to know what to expect, so as you don’t take over products you didn’t order, defective products or products that are missing warranty or insurance information. Paperwork can be a hassle, but it’s very important to keep on top of it so as not to regret it later on. It would be a bummer if you bought a PS4 but didn’t pay attention to its warranty and end up with a faulty device after a couple of months which you can’t replace. Happy Black Friday shopping guys! Enjoy your discounted items.

As part of the editorial team here at Geekreply, John spends a lot of his time making sure each article is up to snuff. That said, he also occasionally pens articles on the latest in Geek culture. From Gaming to Science, expect the latest news fast from John and team.


China’s $47 billion semiconductor fund prioritizes chip sovereignty as a key focus





China has just shut down a third government-supported investment fund in order to strengthen its semiconductor industry and decrease dependence on other countries for the production and use of wafers. This move is aimed at emphasizing what is known as chip sovereignty.

The National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund of China, commonly referred to as ‘the Big Fund,’ has had two previous iterations: Big Fund I (2014–2019) and Big Fund II (2019–2024). The latter was considerably more substantial than the earlier, but Big Fund III surpasses both with a total of 344 billion yuan, equivalent to around $47.5 billion, as disclosed in official filings.

The size of Big Fund III, which surpasses expectations, further demonstrates Huawei’s growing dependence on Chinese suppliers and reflects the country’s determination to attain self-reliance in semiconductor manufacture. It serves as a reminder that the ongoing competition in semiconductor technology between China and Western countries is reciprocal.

Both the United States and Europe share the desire to decrease their reliance on their long-standing technological competitors. China also has concerns regarding its supply, which extend beyond the potential impact on shipments from the U.S. and its allies.

Taiwan is the primary focus when it comes to chip manufacturing. If China were to take control of its production capabilities, it would greatly disadvantage the United States and its allies. Currently, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) produces approximately 90% of the world’s most advanced chips.

However, according to sources, Bloomberg has learned that ASML, a company located in the Netherlands, and TSMC have methods to render chip-making machinery inoperable in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

China now manufactures over 60% of legacy chips, which are often used in automobiles and household appliances, according to a statement made by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

The competition between legacy and modern chips has expanded, yielding varying outcomes.

The Chinese official stance is that the policies of the United States is having a negative effect, resulting in a decline in exports from prominent American chip manufacturers. This viewpoint is shared by others as well.

According to Hebe Chen, a market analyst at IG, Nvidia is faced with the challenge of balancing its presence in the Chinese market while also managing the tensions between the United States and China. Due to U.S. sanctions, the company developed three customized chips specifically for the Chinese market. However, in order to remain competitive, the company had to cut the price of these chips, compromising its desired pricing strategy.

Nevertheless, it might be contended that the financial challenges faced by Western chip manufacturers may be justified if it hinders China’s rapid development and acquisition of more sophisticated semiconductors compared to its rivals.

Indications suggest that China may face significant consequences if limitations are imposed, such as the potential loss of access to Nvidia’s advanced chips for its AI companies or increased difficulties for its leading company, SMIC, in manufacturing its own chips.

The existence of Big Fund III indicates that China is experiencing significant pressure. As per reports, the cash will be allocated for both large-scale wafer fabrication, similar to past investments, as well as for the production of high-bandwidth memory chips. HBM chips, often referred to as high-bandwidth memory chips, are utilized in many applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

However, the most significant indicator is its size.

With the support of six prominent state-owned banks, Big Fund III has surpassed the $39 billion in direct incentives allocated by the U.S. government for chip manufacture under the CHIPS Act. Nevertheless, the total amount of federal assistance is $280 billion.

The EU Chips Act, valued at €43 billion, appears relatively modest compared to South Korea’s $19 billion support package. It is likely that the markets have taken note of this.

The announcement of Big Fund III triggered a surge in the stock prices of Chinese semiconductor businesses that are poised to gain from this fresh infusion of funding. Nevertheless, Bloomberg observed that Beijing’s previous investments have not consistently yielded positive results.

Specifically, China’s highest-ranking officials were dissatisfied with the prolonged inability to create semiconductors capable of replacing American circuitry. Furthermore, the media outlet highlighted that the previous leader of the Big Fund was dismissed and subjected to an investigation due to allegations of corruption.

Even in the absence of corruption, implementing significant modifications to semiconductor manufacturing is a time-consuming endeavor. In both Europe and the United States, the process takes a considerable amount of time. However, there are noteworthy and innovative advancements occurring.

Diamfab, a French deep-tech startup, is currently developing diamond semiconductors that have the potential to facilitate the green transition, specifically in the automobile sector. Although it is still a few years in the future, these Western ideas have the potential to be just as intriguing to monitor as the actions of established Chinese companies.

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Supercapacitors Reach New Heights with 19 Times Greater Capacitance





Based on papers published at the same time by unrelated teams, two methods for improving capacitors’ ability to store charge appear to be effective. Each has the potential to make supercapacitors better at storing energy and maybe even put them in the running for large-scale energy storage.

For a long time, supercapacitors have been better than batteries because they can quickly release the charge they have stored. But not even the best supercapacitors have been able to store enough power to meet the most important needs of society. Sometimes, big steps forward have made supercapacitors look like they could compete in that market. But since lithium-ion battery prices have dropped so much, there isn’t much room for other batteries. That could change soon.

Two papers that came out last month in the same issue of Science both look at big improvements in capacitance. It remains to be seen if either of them can be scaled up, though.

The basic idea behind all capacitors is the same. There is material between the positive and negative charges to keep them from jumping across the gap. When a switch is closed, the negative charges can move around to meet the positive charges. This makes an electric current, which can be used for many things.

Laptops and phones now have hundreds of capacitors inside them. When you look at a phone, you can tell how small it is. Because of this, the amount of power they can store is many times too small to power a car, let alone a city all night.

As you might guess from their name, supercapacitors have a lot more capacitance. Even though they’ve made regenerative braking possible, batteries are still the best choice for long-distance driving. To make that happen, the capacitance has to go up, which means finding cheap materials that stop very large amounts of charge from recombining.

Many capacitors use ferroelectric materials like BaTiO3, but they have a problem called “remnant polarization,” which means that some charge stays behind instead of being released. Their crystals also break down over time.

A team from Korean and American institutions reduced remnant polarization by putting a 3D structure between 2D crystals. They were then able to store 191.7 joules per cubic centimeter of capacitor and release it with more than 90% efficiency. Similar products on the market today can store around 10 joules per cubic centimeter.

Dr. Sang-Hoon Bae of Washington University in St. Louis said in a statement, “We made a new structure based on the innovations we’ve already made in my lab involving 2D materials.” “At first, we weren’t interested in energy storage, but while we were studying the properties of materials, we came across a new physical phenomenon that we thought could be used for energy storage. It was very interesting and could be much more useful.”

The work report by Bae and his co-authors only talks about testing the capacitor over 10 cycles, which shows that there is still a long way to go before it can be used in real life. “We’re not quite at our best yet, but we’re already doing better than other labs,” Bae said. For capacitors to be able to charge and discharge very quickly and hold a lot of energy, our next step is to improve the structure of this material even more. To see this material used widely in big electronics like electric cars and other new green technologies, we need to be able to do that without losing storage space over time.

In the same issue of Science, scientists from Cambridge University talk about results that change how people think about making supercapacitors with carbon electrodes store more power. They say, “Pore size has long been thought to be the main way to improve capacitance.” But when commercial carbons with pores measuring nanometers were compared, there wasn’t much of a link between size and capacitance. With nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we can see that what matters is the level of structural disorder in the capacitors’ domains.

They say that more disorganized carbons with smaller graphene-like domains have higher capacitances because their nanopores store ions more efficiently. “We think that for carbons with smaller domains, the charges are more concentrated, making the interactions between ions and carbon atoms stronger. This makes it easier for ions to be stored.”

The paper makes no mention of how much capacitance is possible when the carbon domains are sufficiently disorganized. This is because it goes against the norm to try to make electronic devices more disorganized than ordered.

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Emerging seabed batteries offer a more cost-effective solution for energy storage





BaroMar, an energy storage company, is getting ready to conduct tests on a unique form of grid-level energy storage that utilizes water as its primary component. If it proves effective, this method could offer a more cost-effective solution for maintaining stability in renewable energy sources over extended durations.

The world is making progress towards zero-carbon energy options, but the path ahead is far from simple. In order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the majority of the world’s electricity, approximately 80 percent, will need to be generated from sources such as solar and wind power.

Some countries, such as Portugal, Denmark, and Namibia, have already made significant progress towards achieving zero-carbon grids, which may seem impossible to some. Yet, in order to be universally useful, there is a need for advancements in energy storage and release methods to meet the growing demand caused by these emerging technologies. These demands will differ based on location. Some locations may require a consistent supply, even on overcast days, while others may have fluctuating demand throughout the day.

During the winter or other seasonal low points, it is important to store energy for times when wind power cannot compensate for the decrease in solar power.

This is where BaroMar’s innovative compressed air energy storage (CAES) alternative could prove to be extremely useful.

The technology for CAES has been available for approximately four decades and is widely recognized as a cost-effective method for energy storage, contributing to grid stability. In the conventional approach, the procedure entails the compression and storage of surrounding air in subterranean reservoirs, such as caves or abandoned salt mines. When energy is required, it can be harnessed by utilizing turbines that power a generator to reclaim it.

BaroMar is confident that their innovative approach can surpass the effectiveness of the traditional method and efficiently store energy for extended periods using simple equipment.

Water is the solution. The company intends to establish plants in coastal areas that have access to deep water. The pressure generated from this water will be utilized to replace the high-pressure tanks typically used in conventional CAES systems. This method is significantly more cost-effective.

Instead of envisioning sleek and advanced tanks of pressurized air, picture massive concrete and steel tanks anchored by cages filled with rocks. These would be placed underwater at depths ranging from 200 to 700 meters (650 to 2,300 feet).

Every tank is equipped with water-permeable valves that initially fill them with seawater. Then, during the storage process, the compressor and generator located on land transfer air into the tanks through a hose at varying pressures, typically ranging from 20 to 70 bar (290 to 1,015 psi), depending on the depth. As the air enters the tanks, it expels water.

Then, when energy needs to be extracted, the air is directed back up the hose to power a thermal recovery system and a turbo expander, which in turn drives a generator.

At the sea floor, the tanks are refilled with water and patiently await future utilization.

This system, particularly the tanks, is reported to be much more cost-effective to manufacture due to the stabilizing effect of the pressure from the seawater.

“The tanks are engineered to withstand the various forces exerted by the marine environment, including compressed air and hydrostatic water pressure, during installation and operation,” a representative from Jacobs, in collaboration with BaroMar, clarified to CleanTechnica.

Jacobs is working on a pilot project for the new system to be installed in Cyprus. The goal is to achieve a round-trip efficiency of approximately 70 percent, which refers to the combined loss of energy when adding and withdrawing from an energy store. If accomplished, this would be comparable in efficiency to the world’s largest conventional CAES station in China.

Unfortunately, this water-based pilot project will fall short of matching the energy storage capabilities of the Chinese plants. It will have an initial storage capacity of approximately 4 MWh, which is significantly smaller than the 100-MW, 400 MW/h capacity in Zhangjiakou, China.

Even though it has a lot of potential, there will be problems. These are for things that are meant to stay underwater for decades. To make sure the tanks can be built and work at great depths, they need to go through a lot of geophysical research, feasibility studies, and geotechnological and bathymetric surveys.

However, if BaroMar is right, this new system would be very appealing to many cities around the world. It could also be a much cheaper and easier-to-expand solution. Let us see how things go.

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