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  1. Junior Member Mercfh's Avatar
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    #1

    Cool Complete Newb, Setting up a home lab (CCNA)

    SO I am an utter newb when it comes to networking, however I have taken a great interest in it. Incoming wall of text.....

    Anyways I have a pretty extensive programming/hardware background (just graduated literally 5 days ago with my B.S. in Computer Science)

    Programming however....isn't really where my passion lies.....Hardware was my main love. ANYWAYS thats why im here since im going to start preparing for my CCNA in the next couple of months (Im giving myself a 3 month study time frame) Im also taking it in the 2 exam section (CCENT first(ICND1)---->CCNA(ICND2) later, so ideally the hardware will need to be A-OK for both

    My materials are:
    CBT Nuggets (for ICND1 and 2)
    Wendells ICND1 Study Guide
    Sybex CCENT (ICND1)
    and Sybex's CCNA (640-802)
    and Both Press books from Cisco (for both exams)

    So I feel my "reading/watching" material is sufficient, however Being a complete nub at this stuff, having a home lab will be important. (Also I DO want the experience, not just the certification)

    So I've read alot of different sites, but Im still fairly confused at what I really need.

    I have 2 computers (a REALLY nice desktop with Windows 7/Unix) and a Laptop (With Windows Server 2008/Unix/Vista)

    Both have Serial Ports, but as far as routers/switches what do I need....I'd like to keep it under 400$ IF possible....
    I've heard 2 routers and 3 switches....But I also have no clue about Cisco's ISO.....or w/e.....Like do you have to pay for that......or how do I know which one to use. Also keep in mind when your talking about stuff like Flash Memory/and ISO's I really dont know what that is so you'll have to explain a little bit. And what I need to watch out for if i decide to look on ebay/craigslist.

    Also I will need to know what/how many cables etc as well.

    Btw is 2 computers enough to test this stuff for CCNA? I can always borrow another laptop if needed.

    ANY help is appreciated
    Thanks!
    Last edited by Mercfh; 12-24-2010 at 12:24 AM.
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    #2
    You can run your routers virtually in GNS3, but not your switches. I bought two Cisco 1721 routers for $25 each and a Cisco Catalyst 2950 (switch) off of ebay. I could have done without the routers, but I wanted to understand how the routers work physically.

    GNS3 has a slight learning curve, but you can use your computers to virtually run an entire lab. The lab (in the form of hypervisors on different computers) can even span across all computers that you choose to use.

    You can add a 16 port switch module to some routers virtually in GNS3, but you also have the option to connecting your switch to the computer running GNS3. There are tutorials for this out there if you google it. This is a start: blindhog.net GNS3 – How to build a switching lab

    And the video tutorials on Documentation | GNS3 are an excellent resource.

    Also worth mentioning to guide you in your labs: Free CCNA Workbook
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  4. Senior Member Netwurk's Avatar
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    #3
    A router like this would be a good start (around $159)

    Cisco 2600XM Multiservice Platform Router, Model 2611XM

    If you're not sure about trying out the Cisco track, try one of these ($25 plus shipping)

    Cisco 2500 SERIES 2516 14 PORT ETHERNET Router - eBay (item 110490788938 end time Jan-01-11 15:52:48 PST)

    These are just examples, please don't impulse buy. Do some educated searches and good luck with your lab.

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  5. Senior Member
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    #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Netwurk View Post
    A router like this would be a good start (around $159)

    Cisco 2600XM Multiservice Platform Router, Model 2611XM

    If you're not sure about trying out the Cisco track, try one of these ($25 plus shipping)

    Cisco 2500 SERIES 2516 14 PORT ETHERNET Router - eBay (item 110490788938 end time Jan-01-11 15:52:48 PST)

    These are just examples, please don't impulse buy. Do some educated searches and good luck with your lab.

    That 2516 your linked is only $24. Is that normal? I thought these were pricier....but then again everyone has been recommending the 2600 series.
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  6. Junior Member Mercfh's Avatar
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    #5
    If I choose to get routers/switches physically. Do I have to pay to run the IOS........like Im not sure I understand the whole IOS thing.
    Also Im not sure what to research/look for. Much less how many of each I need...

    What about something like this:
    http://www.certificationkits.com/cis...itch-ccna-kit/

    I could afford that, btw is that site like.."legit"?

    I was maybe thinking something like this:
    Cisco 3x 2501 Routers 2x 2924 Switches
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Cisco-3x-2501-Ro...item255ba11168
    Last edited by Mercfh; 12-24-2010 at 06:10 AM.
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  7. Cisco Moderator mikej412's Avatar
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    #6
    When you buy your hardware you want to make sure you get (at least) one router with max memory and flash for that model -- and that it comes with the latest and greatest and biggest and baddest IOS feature set available for that device. The IOS images that come with used hardware are not licensed -- but the software police will only care if you start placing the hardware in production environments (and get caught). For lab use, think the "Vegas Rule" -- what happens in your lab, stays in your lab (until you give it away or resell it eBay later).

    Here's a recent thread: Need lab help for CCNA

    I personally like these following two posts from that thread:

    I mention 4 routers and 3 switches in this post, but you can adjust that if you decided to give Dynamips (with the Dynagen or GNS3 front ends). Just remember the time you spend figuring out Dynamips doesn't count as CCNA study time.

    Building your lab is a learning experience. This post links to some resources like the Cisco Partner Central web page with PDF files about router memory, router/switch performance, router modules, IOS images, etc., the Cisco IOS Feature Navigator, and then the recent Catalyst Switch and Router Guides -- in case you win the lottery and build a lab using current hardware.


    You may also find the Physical Lab needed for CCNA? thread useful -- but this link jumps you to one of my posts in the middle, so scroll back and read the entire thread. Then make your decision.

    But ultimately you're going to follow the exercises and hands on labs in your books -- so page through those to see what those authors are suggesting (and try and figure out if and how to do it with cheaper routers). The two books recommended (since using multiple sources is always best) are Odom Certification Library AND Todd's Sybex book (6th Edition). The ICND1 book you mentioned could be Odom's since the Library set includes the ICND1 and ICND2 books. Todd's CCENT book may just be the cut down material from his CCNA book -- though maybe it is "beefed up" more. Todd doesn't have an ICND2 only Sybex book -- so you may have overlap with his Sybex CCENT book.


    Then hit up some of the CCNA Lab books available if you're a glutton for lab punshiment:
    There's a bunch listed here: **CCNA FAQ** - Please read before posting.

    This one is a sticky post in the CCNA forum: CCNA - Lab workbook

    And if you're looking for some FREE rack time on REAL hardware to do the labs, check out The Packet Life Community Lab. And grab the Packet Life "cheat sheets" for reference & review while you're there. You're limited to one session scheduled at a time, but it is nice to get a comparison between your cheaper home lab and a real lab with more expensive modern hardware (especially when it doesn't cost you anything).

    Who has the link to Wendell's CCNA Lab blog post? Unless he updates it, the prices mentioned probably have changed -- so again, its something worth reading, but make your own choices.

    Last edited by mikej412; 12-24-2010 at 08:04 AM. Reason: forgot to use the xmas smilies
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  8. Junior Member Mercfh's Avatar
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    #7
    Ah Thanks, keep in mind Im mainly going for CCENT first, so the lab equipment will need to mainly just be for that first and formost. THEN i will upgrade

    Also 4 routers 3 switches ......will that go over my budget? Im trying to keep it around 3-4 hundred if possible. Any specific types if I decide to go that route? Im guessing you dont approve of Certificationkits.com lol?

    So maybe something like:
    3 2501's + 1 1721 (with max Ram)
    and for switches maybe 3 2950's?
    Last edited by Mercfh; 12-24-2010 at 08:08 AM.
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  9. Cisco Moderator mikej412's Avatar
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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Mercfh View Post
    Im trying to keep it around 3-4 hundred if possible. Any specific types if I decide to go that route? Im guessing you dont approve of Certificationkits.com lol?
    Certificationkits is fine -- but you pay for the convenience of someone else doing the shopping (and storage, and any upgrades) and you lose out on the learning experience.

    I thought 2501 routers were only worth $25 back when I built my lab -- and now I think they are worth only $10 and should come with MAX memory and flash (and preferably the $5 transceiver without paying for it). Of course other people were always bidding them up over $50 so I didn't get one for a long time -- but I survived with $9 maxed out 2513s and paid $1 for an 8 port IBM Token Ring switch and $5 for a transceiver (since a 2513 is just a 2501 with an ADDED Token Ring port).

    The 2500 series still has some life, but is losing steam for lab use with the rise of IPv6. But even today they can still be used as backbone routers in a CCIE Lab.

    Oh -- if you can't find a cheap $10 2501 switch, you can hunt for a $15-$20 steal on an old PRE-XM 2600 series router. They support more DRAM than the 2501s but still have only 16Meg flash. There may have been a BIO update that let you upgrade a 2620 series to 32Meg..... but it's been a while so I could be wrong.

    A 2610 or 2611 could do "Router on a Stick" (ROAS) with it's 10Mb Ethernet Interface if you had the the 12.2( 8 ) IP Plus IOS image. But with the last CCNA exam upgrade you also need at least one router to support SDM.

    The cheap routers above DO NOT support SDM. The routers below do support SDM. In the old days you needed at least one router that supported ROAS. Today you need one router that supports ROAS and SDM.

    The 1721 is a good little $50 desk mount router -- but some people sell the older version that only comes with 16Meg flash. You want the version with 32 Meg Flash -- since the flash CAN'T be upgraded. And you want the POWER BRICK. No Power Brick -- no Sale. And you want either the big and bad 12.4 Enterprise IOS (and the DRAM to run it) or the 12.4T Advanced IP Services (still good for CCNA) for the Zone Based Firewall support for the CCNA:Security Certification.

    The funny thing is the rack mount 1760 routers are great little (slow booting) routers that can be upgraded for voice. I've actually seen them sell for less than the 1721 -- but you may need to upgrade the memory. Look for the models with the "32F in white letters within the black square" above the Fast Ethernet port. That means 32Meg Flash that's fixed on the motherboard -- but these do have slot for a Flash upgrade, its just that the 32Meg onboard and the max upgrade give you all the room you need to load Cisco Call Manager Express software if you do some Cisco Voice studies later. You want 32Megs of flash, so the older model with 16Megs of onboard flash is still fine as long as it has been upgraded and has the biggest and baddest and latest and greatest IOS image.

    The 2600XM series prices vary depending on the supply and who is cleaning out their warehouse (and which company has recently upgraded all their routers and flooded the market with tons of used 2600XMs).

    I got my 2650XM and 2651XM routers (0 is single lan port, 1 is dual lan ports) for less than the slower 2610XM and 2611XM routers were selling for at the time. A lot of people trying to save money chose the cheaper and slower 261xXM routers over the faster 262xXM routers -- and don't even look for the "more expensive and faster" 265xXM routers.

    The 265xXM series has models that shipped with 256Meg DRAM and 48Meg Flash -- so look for those (but the 128 DRAM 32Meg FLASH models are fine).

    If you can find a 2610XM for $40 -- it's a good deal. But most of the time they'll start around $60 each. Someone may value a 2611XM router more than a a 2620XM routers because of the dual LAN ports versus the single LAN port on the 2620XM.

    I paid between $125-$140 for my 2651XM routers and got some of the 2650XM routers for between $60-80 -- but for a while it seems prices shot back up (because the company dumping pallets of them on the market finally ran out). I think I actually saw the 2651XM selling under $100 for a bit. But again -- prices change with time (up and down) so if you do your own research and bid patiently (and only buy from sellers who list the output of a show version command and have a good return policy and fair shipping -- and are recommended by members here with more than 1 or 2 posts ) then you'll score some good deals.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    The 4 routers are basically a router you can use as a frame relay switch, 1 hub router and 2 spoke routers.

    A 2600XM series with an NM-4A/S is a good frame relay switch option. The NM-8A/S gives you a bigger frame relay switch if you plan to build a bigger (CCIE) lab later. A 2610 router with an NM-4A/S is a CHEAP option. There are 252x models with 4 or 10 serial ports that are nice frame relay switches.

    I've used my first 252x series router as a frame relay switch and still used it as a "another router" in my lab via the AUI Ethernet -- but I never tried hooking up one serial port to another serial port and using it as both the frame relay switch and one of the hub or spoke routers at the same time.... but I don't see a reason you can't do it. You can try having one router pull double duty and save the cost of the 4th router -- but since I've always had a dedicated router to use as a frame switch you'd want someone else to confirm they've done this.

    Chose your frame relay switch solution, make sure you have a router that does SDM and ROAS, and make sure you have 1 hub router and 3 spoke routers for frame relay.

    Toss in 2 $25-50 2950 switches, and a 3rd if you can't find a cheaper $10 2924XL-EN switch.

    Then don't forget to figure in the shipping. I've had 5 routers show up in one box for $20 shipping -- so now I'll usually avoid any auction where the shipping cost is greater than $20 (unless it's a really big router) or factor in if I think I can "steal the auction." But I tend not to trust eBay seller who overcharge on shipping. I've bought a $185 3745 router with FREE Shipping.

    While you're watching the bidding and vendors on eBay, make sure you check out the Buy-It-Now deals -- and look for free shipping. It's funny when people bid up auction prices beyond what's available Buy-It-Now.

    Everyone here has there favorite vendors on eBay -- and some of us will agree on the ones you can trust for reasonable deals (and sometimes great deals) -- so at some point you might want to ask about favorite eBay vendors.

    That covers the CCNA.

    To start the CCENT -- if you're trying for cheap -- pick up a 1721 router and 2950 switch to get you started on the CCENT. Then page ahead in the books and try to figure out when you'll need more routers (or GNS3) and the rest of the switches.

    When I did the CCNA, the INTRO exam portion of the CCNA topics didn't even touch a switch. If trunking (and ROAS) is in ICND2, then you may only need the one switch for the CCENT. You do create a small network in ICND1, so you may need at least 2 routers and some WAN interfaces (or GNS3).

    Remember the cheap 2501s have the 2 serial WAN interfaces built in (DB60 connectors). The 1721 router would need a WIC-1T (DB60 connector) or WIC-2T or WIC-2A/S. I think both of those may be Smart Serial Connectors. For each WAN connection, for lab use, it's just easiest a back-to-back cable. There are various combinations of DB60-DB60 and DB60-SmartSerial cables. The DTE/DCE ends don't matter for the DB60-DB60 cable since the connectors are the same -- and probably don't for the DB60-SmartSerial cables in a CCNA lab. But you will have to pick which connector you want to be the DCE end -- and that's the router you set the clock rate on in your lab because you're using a back-to-back cable.
    Last edited by mikej412; 12-24-2010 at 10:05 AM.
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  10. Junior Member Mercfh's Avatar
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    #9
    Ah thanks for the information.
    It seems none of the "certification" kits list what you recommend.
    However I did see this
    MODERATED

    for a good deal, and maybe I could add another router to the mix (or switch?)
    But the IOS's are like.......ancient....so thats not really worth it.


    Im somewhat worried about getting the proper IOS's....for the CCENT or CCNA do I HAVE to have 12.4 .....or will 12.3 work just fine?
    the certkits.com have 12.3.24 (I guess for the router) on CD
    and 12.0.05 for the switches?

    If I got the 2 router/2 switch kit. I could maybe throw in another 2501+ one that supports SDM (like a 1721)?

    Do the 2501's and 2924's even support 12.4?
    Last edited by mikej412; 12-25-2010 at 05:24 AM. Reason: eBay Seller in link provides illegal access to IOS image downloads, and possibly copyrighted books and dumps used to cheat
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  11. Cisco Moderator mikej412's Avatar
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    #10
    The routers and switches are on different version numbers.

    As I said, when it comes to routers, you want the biggest and baddest and latest and greatest IOS image that's available for that router. Same with the switches. That's where the links to the Cisco IOS Feature Navigator and the IOS Packaging PDF on the Portable Product Sheets - Partner Central web page come in handy.

    Off the top of my head:

    The 2500 series tops out at a 12.2 Advanced Enterprise or a 12.3 IP Plus. I think the 12.3 may be more useful for the CCNP since they took something out to make room for more IPv6 stuff. Either should work for the current CCNA. Make sure you get the IOS with Crypto support -- it's only SSH v1 but it still lets you do the SSH labs.

    In the old IOS Feature Set naming convention:
    i is IP Routing
    j is Enterprise (kitchen sink routing)
    s is Plus
    56i is DES Encryption
    k2 or k8 or k9 is Encryption at various strengths
    o is firewall
    o3 is firewall/IDS
    etc... check that IOS Packaging PDF for the complete list and sample decodes of the old IOS naming convention.

    I might have already mentioned that for the Zone Based Firewall (ZBF) support for the CCNA:Security you want a 12.4T image. More specifically a 12.4(9)T or 12.4(11)T or greater version. Any of the feature sets starting with the Advanced Security feature set is fine for the CCNA:Security. The Advanced IP Services IOS feature set includes the Advanced Security and the SP Services features. The Advanced Enterprise is the whole big ball of IOS string rolled into one Feature Set.

    Other than ZBF for the CCNA:Security, the biggest/baddest latest/greatest for the individual routers mentioned will get you through the CCNA. Your ROAS/SDM router will have biggest/baddest 12.4 IOS version in case Cisco Marketing managed to get some 12.4 features into the regular CCNA exam to help drive Smartnet upgrade sales.

    The 2600XM series tops out at 12.4T Advanced Enterprise

    The 1700 Series (1721 or 1760)
    12.4 Advanced Enterprise or 12.4T Advanced IP Services

    I'll leave the 2600 series routers as a homework assignment for anyone who wants to do the IOS Feature Navigator lookup. One popular lab trick is to TFTP boot one of the smaller 2600XM 12.4 IOS images with a MAX DRAM 2600 router. The router would be unstable in production, but for a lab you can usually survive any unexpected reboot.

    I haven't mentioned the 3620, 3640, or 3660 routers -- or the 3725 or 3745 routers (except to mention the great $185 3745 I got with FREE Shipping). Back when the 2600XM routers were over $500 I scored some $150 3640s and a couple $125-$150 NM-1FE2W modules for my lab -- and a bunch of $25 NM-1E2W or NM-1E1R2W modules and $60 NM-4A/S modules. Only the 3660 has a built in FastEthernet -- the 3640 (4 NM Slots) and 3620 (2 NM Slots) have no built in interfaces or ports (other than Console and AUX). Now I've seen the 3660 routers listed for $65 Buy-It-Now with Free Shipping.

    If you can score some cheap 3640s with modules and MAX Memory (128/32) they may be worth considering since they can run an okay 12.4 Enterprise IOS. If they are empty chassis or don't have MAX memory, then a 2600XM may work out to a better deal.

    The 3620 routers topped out at a 12.3 version (don't remember the feature set) -- but could still be a good dedicated frame-relay switch (I have one in my R&S CCIE Lab with an NM-8A/S) or CCIE Lab Backbone Router (I got 2 more in my R&S CCIE Lab for this).

    The 2600XM and 3725/3745 have AIM slots which are good for Security or Voice. I've got VPN AIMs installed in most of mine -- and an AIM CUE in a 2650XM for Cisco Unity Express Voice Mail.
    Last edited by mikej412; 12-25-2010 at 05:28 AM.
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    #11
    if you do go with the 26xxXM routers like mike suggested its worth a few extra $$$'s to get the 2651xms as i believe these still support MPLS (not something you need on CCNA but thinking ahead) i bought a stack of 2611XM's that were supposed to support it but no longer do.
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  13. Cisco Moderator mikej412's Avatar
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    #12
    Quote Originally Posted by aldous View Post
    if you do go with the 26xxXM routers like mike suggested its worth a few extra $$$'s to get the 2651xms as i believe these still support MPLS (not something you need on CCNA but thinking ahead) i bought a stack of 2611XM's that were supposed to support it but no longer do.
    12.3 AdvancedEnterprise9 and some earlier IOS versions do support MPLS and should fit on the 261xXM and 262xXM routers. There may even be versions that "require" 96k that would run (for Lab use only) on a MAXed 2600 via TFTP boot. You need to "shop" the Cisco Feature Navigator to find the specific IOS Versions/Feature Sets.
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    #13
    is it feasible to just get 4 1721 routers instead of 3 2501 and 1 1721? and would they have any use for a CCNP lab?
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  15. Cisco Moderator mikej412's Avatar
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    #14
    Quote Originally Posted by impz View Post
    is it feasible to just get 4 1721 routers
    Sure, upgrading your routers is always an option and makes sense when you're planning ahead to more advanced Cisco certifications.

    The 2500s are the bargain basement for people trying to spend the least to accomplish the CCNA (and who will worry about the CCNP later). The 1721s are probably the bargain routers for the CCNP -- without being bargain basement models.

    The 1721 router's 12.4 Advanced Enterprise IOS or 12.4T Advanced IP Services IOS should work fine for the CCNP (or Dynamips with Dynagen/GNS3). Just remember the key thing is to buy the 1721s with 32Meg of Flash since it's fixed and not upgradable -- and make sure they come with one of the latest versions of the "good IOS images" I mentioned.
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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by mikej412 View Post
    Sure, upgrading your routers is always an option and makes sense when you're planning ahead to more advanced Cisco certifications.

    The 2500s are the bargain basement for people trying to spend the least to accomplish the CCNA (and who will worry about the CCNP later). The 1721s are probably the bargain routers for the CCNP -- without being bargain basement models.

    The 1721 router's 12.4 Advanced Enterprise IOS or 12.4T Advanced IP Services IOS should work fine for the CCNP (or Dynamips with Dynagen/GNS3). Just remember the key thing is to buy the 1721s with 32Meg of Flash since it's fixed and not upgradable -- and make sure they come with one of the latest versions of the "good IOS images" I mentioned.
    lol, actually the reason im looking at the cisco 1721 is bcuz they are small,light and the ppl at ebay sells it with the required accesories(console cable / WIC-1T /DTE cable) so the shipping wont kill me. the cost to get the routers/switches shipped so far, totals to about 1.5x-3x the price the router/switch itself and thats without the needed accesories ....well except for the 1721's (just 1x). Its hard to get a ccna lab setup without breaking your wallet (well atleast my mom's own) where i live. I was actually planning to buy one of those all in one kits for bout 200-300 USD but they didnt fill the criteria that you spoke about.
    Last edited by impz; 01-03-2011 at 11:59 PM. Reason: fixed some wording errors
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