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My autonomous lawn mower thread/blog

  • #2
    Registered Users Posts: 4,794 ✭✭✭ prospect


    Preface:
    • I do not sell these machines, nor am I in any way related or affiliated with anyone who does.
    • Also, I am not trying to convince anyone that they should/should not purchase one, or that these are a better/worse alternative to the other lawn mowing machines available on the market.
    • I have contacted a moderator of the gardening forum in relation to this thread and received their permission to go ahead.

    So, what is this thread about?

    I have spent a good while researching autonomous (robotic) lawn mowers and this week I have purchased one (awaiting delivery). I am pretty satisfied that there is an element of gambling with this investment and am fully prepared to accept the consequences, i.e. whether it proves to be a successful purchase or an unsuccessful one.

    I will try to be as impartial and honest as I can, detailing all the positive, neutral and negative experiences I have. Hopefully, anyone considering purchasing a robot lawnmower in the future will find information posted by an actual user/owner to be a useful aid.


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Comments

  • #2


    Deciding to purchase a robot mower.

    Truth be told, I actually first considered a robot mower in 2003, the year we designed our home & garden. I say this because I deliberately planned our lawn as one single area that wrapped around two sides of the house. Also, when landscaping I resisted the temptation to have lots of trees, shrubs and beds within the lawn. At that time, my initial research suggested that robot mowers were more suited to large single lawns and the fewer ‘obstacles’ the better.

    More recent investigation suggests that modern robot mowers can handle multiple lawns (zones) and obstacles. But this is according to the manufactures sales literature.

    So, now I have a lawn which is circa 1000sqm. There is one large-ish shrub bed within it and one tree. I also have a ride-on mower.

    During peak growing season I would spend a minimum of 45 minutes twice a week cutting the lawn. If I missed a cut or two (working late, holidays etc) then the cutting time increased accordingly. To some people that is not a lot of time, but to me it is. I have no interest in getting into a debate about laziness etc, but different people have differing amounts of free time and value it accordingly. So in my case, time is the single most significant driver behind this purchase.

    As I mentioned, I have a ride-on mower, and I am keeping this. I have the ride-on since 2006 and it owes me nothing. I also find it useful for other tasks like scarifying and towing. Also, there is a strip of grass outside our fence and some grass paths through some ‘woodland’ areas of the garden which will not be cut by the robot mower, so I need a second mower of some description.


  • #2


    Interesting idea, can you give some sort of ball-park figure of what one of these robotic mowers costs? Also does it roll around randomly or how does it work? Presumably the grass is left on the lawn?


  • #2


    Prospect,

    For my point of view, you couldn't have timed this better. Many thanks!

    I have an old "garden" which hasn't been cared for in over 20 years. It's completely overgrown and even if cleared back it's full of paths and walls which made sense when a full time gardener was employed but are completely impractical now.

    I just this morning spoke with a landscaper who is bringing a guy with a digger at the weekend to see about clearing the whole lot. He reckons, with a machine, it'll take a few days to do it.

    When all is done I intend to have one main lawn of approximately one acre. I've looked into the various robotic mowers available and one seems to be streets ahead of the others, but I think it still might struggle with the size. I'm told by the dealer that while it's rated for 3,000 sq metres, it'll do more if its intensity level is adjusted.

    Which make are you looking at?

    Have you seen any in action?

    Anything (bar the obvious keep the number of obstacles down) that you'd recommend in designing the space?

    Thank again. Looking forward to this.


  • #2


    Choosing my mower

    So I had a good look around, and was originally thinking of going with a premium or recognised brand like Honda or similar. However, I ended up going with a 'Robomow' for a couple of reasons.

    This particular brand have been manufacturing these machines for a good few years and as such they have evolved over that time with improvements in several areas which I'll mention shortly.
    Secondly, there is a distributor and service/warranty agent for these machines not far from where I live, so I figured that this would be beneficial for aftercare.
    Having seen the Robomow in operation I was happy with its features, build quality and low noise level.

    I had been advised, (internet forums & articles) that it would be best to buy a machine rated to cover areas larger than required (under-work it rather than over-work it) (this may be of interest to you Cee View). I opted for a RL2000 (circa 2000sqm machine, double my lawn size) which is costing me €1700. This is not a recent model, developed around 2010 i think, and as such it has not got some of the advantages of the newest models.

    So what can improve in terms of evolution of these machines:

    1. Batteries - Newer models have Lithium Ion batteries (as opposed to Nickle Cadmium I think). Lithium Ion batteries have longer life expectancy (4-6 years instead 2-3 years). The charge faster, last longer and are lighter.
    2. Weight - Newer machines are developed to be lighter, meaning the batteries last longer
    3. Sensors - These are improving all the time to increase the safety features of the mowers.
    4. Other technical stuff which I won't pretend to understand.


    - I expect to have to replace the battery, at a cost of approx €200, every 2 or three seasons.
    - I would expect to replace the blades every 4 seasons (approx €50 - but I'm not 100% on that figure).
    - I believe that the annual running cost of electricity is less than the cost of 1 jerry can of petrol.


    (so far this is all information gleaned from conversations with the distributor, viewing demo machines and reading up web forums, not much in personal experience just yet)


  • #2


    Hi Prospect,

    My research has led me the same way as you.

    I'm looking at the Robomow RS630 which seems to be the biggest one that they do. They've been making these for years and others seem to have only come to this lately

    I suspect that the guy I was on to is the same guy you were dealing with. He said by email:

    "The RS630 is rated at 3000sq mtrs. It will maintain 4000 sq mtrs but will be on the lawn cutting more often by adjusting the cutting Intensity . There is an intensity adjustment on the RS630 and people increase the intensity to reach up to the larger area.

    These machines are rated for tough grass such as USA and Spain and thus they are rated by the manufacturer very conservatively however our type of grass is soft and easier maintain."

    In fairness, what he's saying about grass toughness seems to be true. I hadn't realised, but US grass seems to be much tougher than ours. Must be something to do with the heat it has to stand.

    It'll likely be next year when I take the plunge, when the new lawn has established itself. I will most likely buy from the fellow who mailed me. Very interested to hear of how you get on.


  • #2


    Getting ready for its arrival

    Okay, so I suppose the first disadvantage of these machines is that there is some infrastructure required for them to operate. You will have to peg (at a minimum, I will be burying mine slightly below the surface) a perimeter cable (to define the outer edges of your lawn area) and also provide a power supply.

    In my case I do not have a power source close to any point of the lawn (poor foresight I know). I suppose the advantage for me, having to retrofit an outdoor socket, is that I can pick the area where I want the charging dock to be located, rather then putting it near an existing outdoor socket.

    Each robot mower comes with a charging dock and a cable that runs from the dock around the perimeter of the area to be mown and back to the dock. I am trying to choose a location that is discreet (from an aesthetic, security and weather protection point of view) and I will most likely place some kind of cover over it (maybe a dog kennel). I have been told that a cover is not necessary, but I don't think it will do any harm. I was also advised that it is probably best to bring the charging dock indoors over the winter, to protect its rubber seals and more vulnerable parts from frost. No harm to do this is suppose.

    In my case:

    1. Install an outdoor socket
    2. Run perimeter cable
    3. Provide a cover for the charging dock


  • #2


    So, how it supposedly works:

    Well first of all the machine (and dock) are brought out of winter storage at the start of the growing season, early March I suppose. It remains outside until the end of the growing season, around mid to late October. There is not meant to be any requirement to cut the grass with a traditional mower at the start of the year, as the cutting height of the robot mower can be increased to accommodate early growth.

    You can set days and times that the mower will operate, i.e. never before 8am, or never after a certain time. You can also ensure it does not operate on Saturdays, if that is the day that the lawn is most likely being used by kids etc (if the kids want to play when it is scheduled to cut, you can just pause its operation using a button on the machine itself).

    Once the schedule allows it, the robot mower will start up, leave its dock and begin cutting the lawn. For the first cuts it will follow the perimeter cable and then began randomly traversing the lawn until it completes the full area. The blades cut the grass up fine like a mulcher, (as it cuts regularly it should only be cutting minimum growth), so there are no clippings to collect.

    The machines have rain and frost sensors, so it will not begin cutting in either of these conditions. There are also bump sensors that cause the machine to immediately change direction if it hits a solid object (e.g. a bike left on the lawn). Finally the lift sensor switches off the machine and blades if it is lifted off the ground during operation. Another potential disadvantage I have read about is the inability to detect low objects, so a hurley or a jumper left lying on the lawn could cause issues, this is one thing I'll be keeping an eye on.

    When the machine is low on charge, or it's scheduled to finish, it will return to the charging dock, activate the power (the charging points on the dock are disabled when the robot mower is cutting the lawn to prevent an electrical hazard), and begin its charging sequence.


    Thats the principle of the machine in a nutshell, if it operates as described I'll be very happy, but that remains to be seen. I hope to get delivery before this weekend, at that time I will take some photos and post up something about the actual set-up process. I'm happy to answer any questions. I think I have answered the ones posted so far.


  • #2


    This is an excellent thread. good to have some detailed feedback from a user. When people say a jerry can of petrol do they mean 20 litres of petrol ie €30 - €32


  • #2


    Prospect,

    When are you expecting delivery?


  • #2


    Just posting to subscribe to this thread, thanks Prospect please keep us posted.


  • #2


    I collected the machine yesterday afternoon, but I was busy yesterday so it is still in its box. I'll unpack and get some photos up this evening hopefully.

    My first piece of advise as an owner is, don't attempt to collect one in a small car or a saloon car. It is packed in two boxes (Charging Dock & Mower itself). Both boxes are quite large and the mower is pretty heavy. I have a large MPV and it just about fit in the boot.


  • #2


    prospect wrote: »

    My first piece of advise as an owner is, don't attempt to collect one in a small car or a saloon car. It is packed in two boxes (Charging Dock & Mower itself). Both boxes are quite large and the mower is pretty heavy. I have a large MPV and it just about fit in the boot.

    That's the first thing I have to thank you for. I'd have gone halfway across the country fully confident it would fit in my little three door yoke!


  • #2


    ?Cee?view wrote: »
    That's the first thing I have to thank you for. I'd have gone halfway across the country fully confident it would fit in my little three door yoke!

    I'd say a hatchback would be grand, as long as the back seats fold down.


  • #2


    Setting up:

    Well folks, I spent Saturday afternoon getting the Robomow set-up. Right here is another disadvantage over a conventional mower. You bring a ride-on or push mower home, lash in some petrol and off you go. Not with a robot mower I'm afraid.

    My lawn is fairly basic, but it still took a good few hours to get everything up and going, I'll detail the process here and post up some images later). The manual that ships with the mower is Dutch, (not sure why, made in Israel and sold in Ireland!!), so I had an english one sent to me by the dealer. The mower ships with a DVD which was pretty good to give an overview of setting up.

    Step 1: Choosing where to locate the charging dock. The manufacturer advises a discreet location, and as sheltered as possible (not necessary, but the more sheltered the better). The manual provides two location options, a. in-line, and b. off the lawn. Basically, one is along the lawn boundary, the second is up a recess or path off the lawn. To be honest, I made a bit of a bags of setting up mine (it needs to be 1 meter from the nearest corner, and there must be 2 meters of a straight run up to it, etc, I took a shortcut :( ) and I'll be re-doing it soon.

    Step 2: Run the wire around the perimeter (or perry-meter as the American lady on the DVD calls it :D ). This sounds easy. My calves are still sore from this. You run the wire counter-clockwise from the charging dock all around the edge. A ruler is provided to position the wire the correct distance from the lawn edge, and from walls or solid objects. I ran the wire and pegged it at 2 meter intervals, pulling tight as I went along.

    -- A bit about the wire & pegs. The wire is an insulated single strand of copper wire, it is pretty heavy duty and feels like good quality. The pegs (I got 6 bags I think, probably 30 or 40 a bag) are thick plastic. They seem okay, however some did break where I had to pull them back up to re-position the cable (more on this later). The wire does not need to be buried, the pegs are hammered just below the surface and the grass grows up around the wire over time --

    Step 3: I had to join the roll of wire to a second roll (two rolls provided in box, I used about 5% of the second roll) using a provided connector, then the two wires are terminated in the charging dock. This whole process was technically easy, but physically challenging and time consuming.

    -- Tools required are hammer/mallet, slot head screwdriver, philips head screwdriver and a snips --

    Step 4: Plug in the charging dock. Insert the fuse into the mower battery pack and drop this into the mower (no tools or clips required). The mower powers on and its set-up begins.

    Step 5: This is where I ran into an issue. The mower goes through some set-up prompts, country of use etc (this is on the controller located on top of the mower itself). It then tries to find N, S, E & W using its internal compass. All this time it drives around in circles, scanning I suppose! Mine failed and asked me to move it elsewhere on the lawn and retry (there is a wired controller which allows you to drive the mower like a remote control car). This failed several times. I called the distributor and he talked me through disabling the compass. This means my mower will now mow purely on a random pattern. (apparently underground cables or water pipes can mess up the compass).

    -- The remote control, this could be handy mowing hard to reach areas that I was going to continue using my ride-on to cut. Basically, if you have a narrow path, you can chose to drive the mower over that area using the remote controller --

    Step 6: The mower then scanned the perimeter cable. This means it drives along the perimeter, (without the blades spinning) so you can check how close to the edge it goes and ensure it strikes nothing. You can now adjust the location of the cable to get the perimeter exactly as you want it (just be careful pulling up the pegs). Once I was happy with the perimeter I hammered in lots more pegs, basically one every meter, or even closer along bends/curves.

    -- Where you have a flowerbed, tree or other obstacle, you run the perimeter cable out to it, around it and then back along the same cable (and pegs) to your main perimeter circle. Where the cable doubles over itself cancels out its signal meaning that the mower passes over that "bridge" but still avoids the bed/obstacle. TYhis is clearer on a lawn plan image I will post later --

    Step 7: Set up the schedule. Here you choose what days you want the mower to work. You set a start time for each day, and a running time. You can choose from Edge & Mow, Mow only or Nothing.

    Set-up is now complete. It does take a while, and learn from my mistake, don;t try to take a shortcut (no pun intended). Once this is all completed you should not have to worry about it again.

    Later I will post on its operation.


  • #2


    First Runs:

    Okay, so I set-up up the program to run on Mondays (Edge and Mow), Wednesdays (Mow Only) & Fridays (Edge and Mow), starting at 1 pm and running for 2 hours. I figure that 3 x 2-hour runs a week will be plenty to keep the lawn cut.

    ** The program allows you set the operating time at 20 minute intervals (20min, 40min, 60 min, etc) up to 2 hours. After that you can set it to MAX, which means the machine runs until it needs a charge. **

    So on Monday evening I arrived home and discovered that the mower had not run as scheduled. After a bit of cursing and head scratching I discovered that I had incorrectly set the machines clock (12 hours behind). I corrected the clock and decided to leave everything else as it was.

    All day yesterday (Tuesday, a lovely bright dry day) I sat looking out my window in work cursing the fact I had not reschedule the mower to run. When I got home yesterday evening at approx 5:45pm, I went straight to the mower and hit the 'Go' button (this button can be pin locked to prevent children activating the machine) and let the mower set off on a 'Max' runtime. I'm not sure exactly what time it stopped, but sometime between 9:15 and 9:45 the machine headed back to its charging dock after over 3 hours of mowing.
    The lawn has now been mowed twice since Saturdays installation and there are only a handful of small patches (less than 200mm sq) that have not yet been mowed. (I was told by the distributor that it could take 2 weeks to cover everything first time).

    So far so good. It was a bit more effort than I anticipated getting the machine set-up, and there is still room for improving the perimeter wire location to get better edging. But the lawn looks perfectly acceptable so far. I am guessing that by Friday evening there will be no missed patches.


    EDIT: Sorry about the lack of photos, I took them on my phone but there is 'gps information' in the images which I'm not keen on broadcasting. When I figure a way around that I'll get them online.


  • #2


    Images uploaded to Imgur automatically have all that info stripped out when you upload, or you could just turn off your phones GPS when you take the pics:

    https://imgur.userecho.com/topic/60879-exif/

    Imgur is the best host by a mile anyway:

    http://imgur.com/


  • #2


    Some Photos, thanks for the uploading tip Thargor:

    The two boxes, one for the Charging Dock and the other for the Mower itself.
    Nay4aGi.jpg


    The mower is well packed and is strikingly big when you see it first. Also in this pack (beneath the mower) is the two rolls of perimeter cable.
    The grey part of the mower is the battery. This lifts out without the need for screws and clips, handy for safety when working on or near the blades.
    jytSjxn.jpg


    This is a view of a lot of the lawn, there is some more to the right and left of the image and some behind the bed of trees and shrubs in the top center of the photo.
    I8uLv6T.jpg


    There are a few paths in the lawn, some through this area which will eventually be a wildflower meadow. I have just let the grass grow long so I can experiment with shapes and path positions/routes.
    dgXVElu.jpg


    An example of another path area through an established 'woodland' part of the lawn. I will cut these paths either with my ride-on mower, or using the Robomow in manual mode (i.e. using the remote control).
    The paths are not part of the area on the mowers automatic cutting schedule.
    cPPL6xt.jpg


    This is the mower on its first trip out.
    KBZ7wxK.jpg


  • #2


    The robowmow rl2000 is currently being reviewed on gadget geeks, sky one.

    Along with two other autonomous mowers.

    Edit: pretty poor review but the robowmow won out. Very interested in this thread.


  • #2


    Thats interesting the lips. I don't have Sky, I wonder will it pop up on youtube at any stage?


    Anyway, the Mower has been working away on its schedule for a week and a half now, and it is two and a half weeks since the lawn was last cut by a conventional mower.

    So far, it just does its thing. The lawn is all cut pretty much perfectly, no more patches of uncut grass. I still need to fine tune the edging to get it to cut as close as possible.

    -- I suppose that is a good argument against burying the cable at the beginning, it will take a bit of tweaking to get the cable exactly the way you want it --

    I am not sure if I mentioned noise level before. Our garden is quite large, (I suppose anyone considering a robot mower will have above average size gardens), and in most places the mower either cannot be heard, or at worst it sounds like someone far off in the distance is mowing their lawn. In order to conserve battery power, and reduce noise I presume, the blades run at a low speed. When the mower hits longer or thick growth the blades speed up, increasing the noise a bit (still a lot quieter than a petrol mower). Now that the mower is on a regular schedule and has 'caught up' with the mowing, this rarely happens because the grass does not get a chance to grow any significant length.


    I will post some photos soon, before I fix the cable, because that will show how long the uncut grass has grown.

    I will keep posting updates for the rest of the season, just to report any faults or issues that may occur. For me, reliability of the machine is pretty key to whether it is a success or not.


  • #2


    Okay, I didn't expect to be back so soon reporting the first issue...

    I arrived home from work yesterday and asked my little fella if he had seen the mower working, he said no. So I went out to check it out. When I walked out around to the back of the house, where the charging dock is located, I could hear a repeating beep, and the mower was stopped about 5 feet away from the dock.

    I checked the screen of the mower and it was blank, and the beeping was coming from the dock. So, pressing the green button on the mower gave a message saying 'Signal Cable Fault' (or similar, I can't recall the exact term).

    -- The perimeter cable runs in a loop and is terminated in the charging dock, which is permanently plugged into an electrical outlet. The dock sends a small charge around the cable, and this is what the mower 'senses' when it is operating. However, in the event of a loss of power the mower will stop operating (otherwise it would keep on truckin' beyond the perimeter). --

    We had been doing some work in the house the evening before, which involved turning off the main fuse for the sockets. I investigated if that was the issue. But that was all okay. I checked the join in the perimeter cable (where I had to start the second roll of cable during installation), but that was also okay. Then, I decided to check the point where the perimeter cable terminates in the dock. While unscrewing this I happened to notice that the mower had stopped almost directly over the perimeter cable. I moved the mower and there was the problem. It had cut the cable. The area in question is a bit bumpy and I must not have secured the wire well enough. I am guessing that one of the rear wheels ran over the wire and pushed up the slack and the blades sliced it.

    Thankfully, the mower shut itself off and no harm done. Also, there was 3 cable connectors included, so five minutes later we were up and running.

    Some pics to follow.


  • #2


    The lips wrote: »
    The robowmow rl2000 is currently being reviewed on gadget geeks, sky one.

    Along with two other autonomous mowers.

    Edit: pretty poor review but the robowmow won out. Very interested in this thread.

    What other mowers did they review? Another one I'm thinking of as an alternative to the Robomow is Husqvarna.


  • #2


    Two more photos for now, apologies for the quality:


    The edging needs to be adjusted, however this shows the amount of growth since the robot mower has been installed:
    vz2YaJH.jpg


    And here is a photo of the mower working away, it gives an idea of the scale of the mower size to the lawn size:
    s9sskuD.jpg?1


  • #2


    Looking good!

    Three quick questions.

    1. The laburnum at the end; have you had to cut grass yourself at its base, or does the robomower leave it as tidy as it looks?

    2. The large bed; have you that set up with the perimeter cable going around it so it's excluded?

    3. The edge closest to the gravel; has the robomower cut that edge? Could it be neater is the perimeter wire were moved?

    Thanks again for taking the time to post these updates.


  • #2


    Two quick questions.

    How will you ever achieve the lovely striping effect you get with conventional mowers and secondly how will you ever experience the soothing satisfation of manual labour?.


  • #2


    I think the amount of manual labour that garden would take would not be very soothing!


  • #2


    ?Cee?view wrote: »
    Looking good!

    Three quick questions.

    1. The laburnum at the end; have you had to cut grass yourself at its base, or does the robomower leave it as tidy as it looks?

    2. The large bed; have you that set up with the perimeter cable going around it so it's excluded?

    3. The edge closest to the gravel; has the robomower cut that edge? Could it be neater is the perimeter wire were moved?

    Thanks again for taking the time to post these updates.

    Thanks ?Cee?view,

    1. Yes, the robot mower has cut the base of the Laburnum. All the mowing since it has been installed has been by the Robomow, nothing else.

    2. Same with the large bed. This had no really proper defined edge, so I made a new one with the perimeter wire. When it is exactly the shape I want, (with some minor adjustments), I'll just spray off the uncut area and make a clean edge.

    3. Yes, the edge closest to the gravel is cut by the robot mower. Because there is a 4" drop there, I was a bit overcautious with the position of the perimeter cable. I will slowly move it closer over time, until it is perfect.
    Two quick questions.

    How will you ever achieve the lovely striping effect you get with conventional mowers and secondly how will you ever experience the soothing satisfaction of manual labour?.

    Hi Norfolk Enchants.

    No, you cannot get the striping effect. It cuts on a random pattern and because it cuts so little off the lawn, it leaves no mark at all. (Well, the wheels do leave a small mark where they have pushed down the grass, but that is gone within a few hours).

    Great question about the "soothing satisfaction of manual labour", which is something I do enjoy, especially in the garden. However, I found that lawn mowing was monotonous and not at all soothing. Now I have several extra hours a week available to me to do manly stuff like lift rocks and hammer things, oh yeah! :pac:


  • #2


    redser7 wrote: »
    I think the amount of manual labour that garden would take would not be very soothing!

    That is only about 1/3 of the garden. There is no lawn anywhere else though. But I very much enjoy my outdoor time, and one of the drivers behind the robot mower was to be able to be more productive with that time.


  • #2


    Could you program it to cut in a spiral or circular pattern? I suppose that would need GPS onboard though.


  • #2


    Hi Prospect,

    Since you started this thread, you gave me the impetus to start my own project. The landscapers have been in and cleared the jungle. Now I'm left with what will be one large lawn (with some areas of trees). Using the Robomow app, the largest lawn will be approx 0.9 of an acre (3,554 metres). The biggest Robomow is rated for 3,000 metres and from what I've said in a post above, the Irish distributor tells me that it should manage my lawn.

    I'll let the landscaper cut for this year and all going well (for you particularly!), I'll buy next year.

    I've another lawn about a third of the size. I think I'll just get a separate smaller one for that.


  • #2


    Thargor wrote: »
    Could you program it to cut in a spiral or circular pattern? I suppose that would need GPS onboard though.

    Thargor,

    If you see my post above (#15 - Step 5), I mentioned that the internal compass would not pick up NSEW, the distributor mentioned underground cables etc, can meddle with it.
    I *think* that, assuming the mower can calibrate its compass, it will cut in a particular pattern, e.g. on the first run it will cut S-to-N-to-SE-to-N etc (like a 'Z' on its side). The following run will cut in the opposite pattern.

    I actually do not mind that it cuts in random directions. I remember hearing a long time ago that it is not a good habit to always cut your grass in the same direction. I'm not sure if that advice is in any way logical, but I have always endeavoured to alternate the direction of cutting on the lawn.

    But to answer your question, No, the mower I have cannot be programmed to run in a spiral.


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