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      Newsletter: SMS Routes, RCS, and more!

      Stephen Paul Weber · Tuesday, 21 May - 19:30 edit · 3 minutes · 5 visibility

    Hi everyone!

    Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

    In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client.  Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

    SMS Censorship, New Routes

    We have written before about the increasing levels of censorship across the SMS network. When we published that article, we had no idea just how bad things were about to get. Our main SMS route decided at the beginning of April to begin censoring all messages both ways containing many common profanities. There was quite some back and forth about this, but in the end this carrier has declared that the SMS network is not meant for person-to-person communication and they don’t believe in allowing any profanity to cross their network.

    This obviously caused us to dramatically step up the priority of integration with other SMS routes, work which is now nearing completion. We expect very soon to be offering long-term customers with new options which will not only dramatically reduce the censorship issue, but also in some cases remove the max-10 group text limit, dramatically improve acceptance by online services, and more.

    RCS

    We often receive requests asking when JMP will add support for RCS, to complement our existing SMS and MMS offerings. We are happy to announce that we have RCS access in internal testing now. The currently-possible access is better suited to business use than personal use, though a mix of both is certainly possible. We are assured that better access is coming later in the year, and will keep you all posted on how that progresses. For now if you are interested in testing this, especially if you are a business user, please do let us know and we’ll let you know when we are ready to start some testing.

    One thing to note is that “RCS” means different things to different people. The main RCS features we currently have access to are typing notifications, displayed/read notifications, and higher-quality media transmission.

    Cheogram Android

    Cheogram Android 2.15.3-1 was released this month, with bug fixes and new features including:

    • Major visual refresh, including optional Material You
    • Better audio routing for calls
    • More customizable custom colour theme
    • Conversation read-status sync with other supporting apps
    • Don’t compress animated images
    • Do not default to the network country when there is no SIM (for phone number format)
    • Delayed-send messages
    • Message loading performance improvements

    New GeoApp Experiment

    We love OpenStreetMap, but some of us have found existing geocoder/search options lacking when it comes to searching by business name, street address, etc. As an experimental way to temporarily bridge that gap, we have produced a prototype Android app (source code) that searches Google Maps and allows you to open search results in any mapping app you have installed. If people like this, we may also extend it with a server-side component that hides all PII, including IP addresses, from Google, for a small monthly fee. For now, the prototype is free to test and will install as “Maps+” in your launcher until we come up with a better name (suggestions welcome!).

    To learn what’s happening with JMP between newsletters, here are some ways you can find out:

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!

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      Newsletter: eSIM Adapter (and Google Play Fun)

      Stephen Paul Weber · Tuesday, 12 March - 20:30 edit · 4 minutes · 6 visibility

    Hi everyone!

    Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

    In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client.  Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

    eSIM Adapter

    This month we’re pleased to announce the existence of the JMP eSIM Adapter. This is a device that acts exactly like a SIM card and will work in any device that accepts a SIM card (phone, tablet, hotspot, Rocket Stick), but the credentials it offers come from eSIMs provided by the user. With the adapter, you can use eSIMs from any provider in any device, regardless of whether the device or OS support eSIM. It also means you can move all your eSIMs between devices easily and conveniently. It’s the best of both worlds: the convenience of downloading eSIMs along with the flexibility of moving them between devices and using them on any device.

    So how are eSIMs downloaded and written to the device in order to use them? The easiest and most convenient way will be the official Android app, which will of course be freedomware and available in F-droid soon. The app is developed by PeterCxy of OpenEUICC fame. If you have an OS that bundles OpenEUICC, it will also work for writing eSIMs to the adapter. The app is not required to use the adapter, and swapping the adapter into another device will work fine. What if you want to switch eSIMs without putting the card back into an Android device? No problem; as long as your other device supports the standard SIM Toolkit menus, you will be able to switch eSIMs on the fly.

    What if you don’t have an Android device at all? No problem, there are a few other options for writing eSIMs to the adapter. You can get a PC/SC reader device (about $20 on Amazon for example) and then use a tool such as lpac to download and write eSIMs to the adapter from your PC. Some other cell modems may also be supported by lpac directly. Finally, there is work in progress on an optional tool that will be able to use a server (optionally self-hosted) to facilitate downloading eSIMs with just the SIM Toolkit menus.

    There is a very limited supply of these devices available for testing now, so if you’re interested, or just have questions, swing by the chatroom (below) and let us know. We expect full retail roll-out to happen in Q2.

    Cheogram Android

    Cheogram Android saw a major new release this month, 2.13.4-1 includes a visual refresh, many fixes, and some features including:

    • Allow locally muting channel participants
    • Allow setting subject on messages and threads
    • Display list of recent threads in channel details
    • Support full channel configuration form for owners
    • Register with channel when joining, deregister when leaving (where supported)
    • Expert setting to choose voice message codec

    Is My Contact List Uploaded?

    Cheogram Android has always included optional features for integrating with your local Android contacts (if you give permission). If you add a Jabber ID to an Android contact, their name and image are displayed in the app. Additionally, if you use a PSTN gateway (such as cheogram.com, which JMP acts as a plugin for) all your contacts with phone numbers are displayed in the app, making it easy to message or call them via the gateway. This is all done locally and no information is uploaded anywhere as part of this feature.

    Unfortunately, Google does not believe us. From speaking with developers of similar apps, it seems Google no longer believe anyone who has access to the device contacts is not uploading them somewhere. So, starting with this release, Cheogram Android from the Play Store says when asking for contact permission that contacts are uploaded. Not because they are, but because Google requires that we say so. The app’s privacy policy also says contacts are uploaded; again, only because Google requires that it say this without regard for whether it is true.

    Can any of your contacts be exposed to your server? Of course. If you choose to send a message or make a call, part of the message or call’s metadata will transit your server, so the server could become aware of that one contact. Similarly, if you view the contact’s details, the server may be asked whether it knows anything about this contact. And finally, if you tap the “Add Contact” button in the app to save this contact to your server-side list, that one contact is saved server-side. Unfortunately, spelling out all these different cases did not appease Google, who insisted we must say that we “upload the contact list to the server” in exactly those words. So, those words now appear.

    Thanks for Reading

    The team is growing! This month we welcome SavagePeanut to the team to help out with development.

    To learn what’s happening with JMP between newsletters, here are some ways you can find out:

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!

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      Mobile-friendly Gateway to any SIP Provider

      Stephen Paul Weber · Thursday, 22 February - 13:15 edit · 2 minutes · 11 visibility

    We have for a long time supported the public Cheogram SIP instance, which allows easy interaction between the federated Jabber network and the federated SIP network. When it comes to connecting to the phone network via a SIP provider, however, very few of these providers choose to interact with the federated SIP network at all. It has always been possible to work around this with a self-hosted PBX, but documentation on the best way to do this is scant. We have also heard from some that they would like hosting the gateway themselves to be easier, as increasingly people are familiar with Docker and not with other packaging formats. So, we have sponsored the development of a Docker packaging solution for the full Cheogram SIP solution, including an easy ability to connect to an unfederated SIP server

    XMPP Server

    First of all, in order to self-host a gateway speaking the XMPP protocol on one side, you’ll need an XMPP server. We suggest Prosody, which is already available from many operating systems. While a full Prosody self-hosting tutorial is out of scope here, the relevant configuration to add looks like this:

    Component "asterisk"
        component_secret = "some random secret 1"
        modules_disabled = { "s2s" }
    Component "sip"
        component_secret = "some random secret 2"
        modules_disabled = { "s2s" }

    Note that, especially if you are going to set the gateway up with access to your private SIP account at some provider, you almost certaintly do not want either of these federated. So no DNS setup is needed, nor do the component names need to be real hostnames. The rest of this guide will assume you’ve used the names here.

    If you don’t use Prosody, configuration for most other XMPP servers should be similar.

    Run Docker Image

    You’ll need to pull the Docker image:

    docker pull singpolyma/cheogram-sip:latest

    Then run it like this:

    docker run -d \
        --network=host \
        -e COMPONENT_DOMAIN=sip \
        -e COMPONENT_SECRET="some random secret 2" \
        -e ASTERISK_COMPONENT_DOMAIN=asterisk \
        -e ASTERISK_COMPONENT_SECRET="some random secret 1" \
        -e SIP_HOST=sip.yourprovider.example.com \
        -e SIP_USER=your_sip_username \
        -e SIP_PASSWORD=your_sip_password \
        -e SIP_JID=your-jabber-id@yourdomain.example.com \
        singpolyma/cheogram-sip:latest

    If you just want to connect with the federated SIP network, you can leave off the SIP_HOST, SIP_USER, SIP_PASSWORD, and SIP_JID. If you are using a private SIP provider for connecting to the phone network, then fill in those values with the connection information for your provider, and also your own Jabber ID so it knows where to send calls that come in to that SIP address.

    Make a Call

    You can now make a call to any federated SIP address at them\40theirdomain.example.com@sip and to any phone number at +15551234567@sip which wil route via your configured SIP provider.

    You should even be able to use the dialler in Cheogram Android:

    Cheogram Android DiallerCheogram Android Dialler

    Inbound calls will route to your Jabber ID automatically as well.

    What About SMS?

    Cheogram SIP does have some basic support for SIP MESSAGE protocol, so if your provider has that it may work, but more testing and polish is needed since this is not a very common feature at providers we have tested with.

    Where to Learn More

    If you have any questions or feedback of any kind, don’t hesistate to stop by the project channel which you can get on the web or using your Jabber ID.

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      Newsletter: JMP is 7 years old — thanks to our awesome community!

      denver · Thursday, 15 February - 23:00 edit · 2 minutes · 5 visibility

    Hi everyone!

    Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

    In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client. Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

    Today JMP is 7 years old! We launched on this day in 2017 and a lot has changed since then. In addition to what we talked about in past years (see https://blog.jmp.chat/b/february-newsletter-2022 and https://blog.jmp.chat/b/february-newsletter-2023 for example), in the last year we’ve brought JMP out of beta, launched a data plan, and have continued to grow our huge community of people (channel participants, JMP customers, and many more) excited about communication freedom. So, in light of some vibes from yesterday’s “celebration” in some countries, we’d like to take this opportunity to say: Thank you to everyone involved in JMP, however that may be! You are part of something big and getting bigger! Communication freedom knows no bounds, technically, socially, or geographically. And you make that happen!

    Along with this huge community growing, we’ve been growing JMP’s staff as well — we’re now up to 5 employees working hard to build and maintain the foundations of communication freedom every day. We look forward to continuing this growth, in a strong and sustainable way, for years to come.

    Lastly, while dates have not been announced yet, we’re excited to say we’ll be back at FOSSY in Portland, Oregon, this year! FOSSY is expected to happen in July and, if last year is any indication, it will be a blast. We’d love to see some of you there!

    Thanks again to everyone for helping us get to where we are today. We’re super grateful for all your support!

    As always, we’re very open to feedback and would love to hear from you if you have any comments, questions, or otherwise. Feel free to reply (if you got this by email), comment, or find us on any of the following:

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!

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      Newsletter: JMP Data Plan

      Stephen Paul Weber · Tuesday, 9 January - 22:00 edit · 2 minutes · 14 visibility

    Hi everyone!

    Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

    In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client. Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

    The biggest announcement this month is that the JMP Data Plan is, for customers anyway, no longer behind a waiting list! For those not yet familiar with the plan, this is USA+Canada only (for now) and also data only (no phone number, since if you want one of those you can use JMP!) It works like other pre-paid data plans you might be used to, except greatly simplified. Data never expires (there is a nominal annual fee to keep a plan active) and by default auto-refills whenever it gets low (up to a user-configurable limit every month). Data is purchased in blocks of 5GB and works on most major carriers in the USA and Canada.

    Any JMP customer can go now to their account settings and use a command to buy one or more data plans, delivered using either a Physical SIM in postal mail, or eSIM download. People who want a data plan but don’t want a JMP number will need to wait a little longer, and can still add themselves to the waiting list for now, as we work out the billing system changes needed to support this seamlessly.

    Speaking of eSIMs, we have heard from a lot of you since we first launched the data plan in the testing phase about gaps in the current eSIM ecosystem. Many people are still using devices that do not support eSIM, or operating systems that do not support downloading an eSIM with freedomware. Others just have trouble getting an eSIM moved from an old device to a new device, or prefer the flexibility to move their plans between multiple devices on a regular basis. All of this is why we have, since the beginning, offered the option to get our data plan shipped on a physical SIM card. However, we are currently investigating some options to do more, and bring the flexibility of a physical SIM (and software freedom and broad device compatibility) to eSIMs from any provider. It’s early days yet, but if this interests you, come by the chatroom and talk to us about what you’d love to see in the future.

    To learn what’s happening with JMP between newsletters, here are some ways you can find out:

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!

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      SMS Censorship

      Stephen Paul Weber · Wednesday, 3 January - 20:15 edit · 2 minutes · 10 visibility

    Since almost the very beginning of JMP there have been occasional SMS and MMS delivery failures with an error message like “Rejected for SPAM”. By itself this is not too surprising, since every communications system has a SPAM problem and every SPAM blocking technique has some false positives. Over the past few years, however, the incidence of this error has gone up and up. But whenever we investigate, we find no SPAM being sent, just regular humans having regular conversations. So what is happening here? Are the SPAM filters getting worse?

    In a word: yes.

    It seems that in an effort to self-regulate and reduce certain kinds of “undesirable content” most carriers have resorted to wholesale keyword blocking of words not commonly found in SPAM, but referring to items and concepts the carriers find undesirable. For example, at least one major USA carrier blocks every SMS message containing the word “morphine”. How any hospital staff or family with hospitalized members are meant to know they must avoid this word is anyone’s guess, hopefully after being told their messages are “SPAM” they can guess to say “they upped Mom’s M dose” instead?

    What We Are Doing

    To preserve our reputation with these carriers we have begun to build an internal list of the keywords being blocked by different major carriers, and blocking all messages with those keywords ourselves rather than attempt to deliver them. While this seems like a suboptimal solution, the messages would never have been delivered anyways and this reduces the amount of “SPAM” that the carriers see coming from us. We have also insituted a cooldown such that if your account triggers a “SPAM” error from a major carrier, further messages are blocked for a short time to avoid repeated attempts to send the same message.

    So what are the kinds of “undesirable content” the carriers are attempting to avoid here?

    • Obviously please do not use JMP for anything illegal. This has never been allowed and we continue to not tolerate this in any way.
    • Additionally, please avoid sexually explicit or graphically violent discussions, or discussions about drugs illegal in any part of the USA.

    This is not really our policy so much as it is that of the carriers we must work with in order to continue delivering your messages to friends and family.

    What You Can Do

    Every JMP account comes with, as an option, a Snikket instance of your very own. As always, we highly recommend inviting friends and family you have many discussions with (especially discussions about sex, firearms, or drugs) to your Snikket instance and continuing all conversations there in private instead of broadcasting them over the phone network. Sending an invite link to your Snikket instance is easy, and anyone who uses the link will get an account on your instance, with yourself and others as a contact, set up automatically, so it is a great way to speak more securely with family and friend groups. Snikket will also enable higher quality media sharing, video calls, and many other benefits for your regular contacts.

    Of course we know you will continue to need SMS and MMS for many of your contacts now and in the future, and JMP is dedicated to continuing to provide best-in-class service for person to person communication in this way as well.

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      Newsletter: Holidays

      Stephen Paul Weber · Wednesday, 13 December, 2023 - 12:30 edit · 2 minutes · 12 visibility

    Hi everyone!

    Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

    In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client. Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

    Automatic refill for users of the data plan was rolled out to everyone this fall. This has been going well and we fully expect to enable new SIM and eSIM orders for all JMP customers (with no waitlist) in January, after the holidays.

    Speaking of holidays, MBOA staff, including JMP support staff, will be taking an end of year break just like we always do. Expect support response times to be longer than usual from December 18 until January 2.

    This fall also saw the silent launch of new inventory features for JMP. Historically, JMP has never held inventory of phone numbers, buying them directly from our carrier partners when a customer places an order. Unfortunately, this leaves us at the mercy of which regions our partners choose to keep in stock, and this year saw several occasions where there was no stock at all for all of Canada. So we now have a limited amount of local inventory to improve coverage of important regions, and may eventually be adding a function for “premium numbers” for very rare area codes or similar which cost more to stock.

    We have also been working in partnership with Snikket on a cross-platform SDK which we hope will make it easier for developers to build applications that integrate with the Jabber network without needing to be protocol or standards experts. Watch the chatroom and the Snikket blog for more information and demos.

    There have also been several releases of the Cheogram Android app (latest is 2.13.0-1) with new features including:

    • Improved call connection stability
    • Verify DNSSEC and DANE and show status in UI
    • Show command UI on channels when there are commands to show
    • Show thread selector when starting a mention
    • Circle around thread selector
    • Several Android 14 specific fixes, including for dialler integration
    • Opening WebXDC from home screen even from a very old message

    To learn what’s happening with JMP between newsletters, here are some ways you can find out:

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!

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      CertWatch

      Stephen Paul Weber · Tuesday, 24 October, 2023 - 20:00 edit · 3 minutes · 12 visibility

    As you may have already seen, on October 21st, it was reported that a long-running, successful MITM (Machine-In-The-Middle) attack against jabber.ru had been detected. The nature of this attack was not specific to the XMPP protocol in any way, but it was of special interest to us as members of the XMPP community. This kind of attack relies on being able to present a TLS certificate which anyone trying to connect will accept as valid. In this case, it was done by getting a valid certificate from Let’s Encrypt.

    When it comes to mitigation strategies for client-to-server connections, luckily there is already an excellent option called channel binding. Most XMPP clients and servers already have some amount of support for this technique, and in the wake of this attack, most are scrambling to make sure their implementations are complete. Many service providers have also added CAA DNS records which can prevent the very specific way this attack was executed from succeeding.

    We’ve been hard at work on a different tool that can also help with defense-in-depth for this kind of situation. Ultimately, a MITM will use a different public key from the one the server uses, even if it is wrapped in a signed certificate declared as valid by a trustworthy authority (like Let’s Encrypt). If we know what key is seen when trying to connect, and we know what key the server administrator expects us to see, we can detect an ongoing MITM of this variety even when the certificate presented is valid. The tool we have developed is in early testing now. We call it CertWatch.

    The premise is simple. The server administrator knows exactly what public/private keypair they are using (or can easily find out) and publishes this in DNSSEC-signed DNS records for our tool to find. The tool then periodically polls the XMPP server over Tor to see what certificate is presented. If the key in the certificate matches the key in the DNS zone, we know the session is not MITM’d (some caveats below). CertWatch checks the current setup of any domain entered, and if not yet declaring any keys, it displays setup instructions. It will either tell you to enable DNSSEC or it will tell you which DNS records to add. Note that these records are additive, so it is safe to add multiple sets when serving multiple domains from one host through SRV records. Once everything looks good, running a domain through CertWatch will display a success message and instructions for getting notified of any issues. It will then poll the domain periodically, and if any key mismatches are found, those subscribing to notifications will receive an alert.

    Some tools change your key on every certificate renewal, which means you would have to update your zone setup every time your certificates renew. Other tools allow you to reuse existing keys and save some hassle, such as certbot with the --reuse-key option.

    Caveats

    If we did our polls from our main server IPs, it would be easy for any attacker to detect our probes and selectively disable the MITM attack for us, making themselves invisible. Probing over Tor gives CertWatch a different IP for every request and a traffic profile almost certainly consistent with the sort that many MITM attackers are going to want to inspect. This is not perfect, however, and it may be possible to fingerprint our probes in other ways to selectively MITM some traffic and ignore others. Just because our tool’s sessions were not MITM’d does not prove that no sessions are.

    Anyone with physical access to the server may also scrape the actual certificates and keys off the disk, or use similar techniques in order to execute a MITM with exactly the same key the server operator expects and would use. The particular mitigation technique CertWatch helps administrators implement is ineffective against this. Rotating the key occasionally may help, but it really depends on the sophistication of the attacker and how much access they have.

    Check it Out

    So head over to CertWatch, enter your service domain, and let us know what you think.

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      Newsletter: Summer in Review

      Stephen Paul Weber · Wednesday, 13 September, 2023 - 20:30 edit · 2 minutes · 7 visibility

    Hi everyone!

    Welcome to the latest edition of your pseudo-monthly JMP update!

    In case it’s been a while since you checked out JMP, here’s a refresher: JMP lets you send and receive text and picture messages (and calls) through a real phone number right from your computer, tablet, phone, or anything else that has a Jabber client.  Among other things, JMP has these features: Your phone number on every device; Multiple phone numbers, one app; Free as in Freedom; Share one number with multiple people.

    Since our launch at the beginning of the summer, we’ve kept busy.  We saw some of you at the first FOSSY, which took place in July.  For those of you who missed it, the videos are out now.

    Automatic refill for users of the data plan is in testing now.  That should be fully automated a bit later this month and will pave the way for the end of the waiting list, at least for existing JMP customers.

    This summer also saw the addition of two new team members: welcome to Gnafu the Great who will be helping out with support, and Amolith, who will be helping out on the technical side.

    There have also been several releases of the Cheogram Android app (latest is 2.12.8-2) with new features including:

    • Support for animated avatars
    • Show “hats” in the list of channel participants
    • An option to show related channels from the channel details area
    • Emoji and sticker autocomplete by typing ‘:’ (allows sending custom emoji)
    • Tweaks to thread UI, including no more auto-follow by default in channels
    • Optionally allow notifications for replies to your messages in channels
    • Allow selecting text and quoting the selection
    • Allow requesting voice when you are muted in a channel
    • Send link previews
    • Support for SVG images, avatars, etc.
    • Long press send button for media options
    • WebXDC importFiles and sendToChat support, allowing, for example, import and export of calendars from the calendar app
    • Fix Command UI in tablet mode
    • Manage permissions for channel participants with a dialog instead of a submenu
    • Ask if you want to moderate all recent messages by a user when banning them from a channel
    • Show a long streak of moderated messages as just one indicator

    To learn what’s happening with JMP between newsletters, here are some ways you can find out:

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of your week!