* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16426 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

So this Saudi Prince calls and asks why he can't watch movies ...

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Re: Computer stupidities... @ h4rm0ny

Not really. Just a run of the mill report. And a manglement who decided that what they really needed was an empty desk. He certainly wasn't running anywhere as he turned up in the entrance to the local supermarket flogging double glazing a short while after.

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Re: Computer stupidities...

"Clear out your desk, you don't work here anymore"

One of the client's sales execs (desk at the other end of an open plan office) asked for some sales data to be extracted from the database. About an hour later I had a nicely formatted report printed off for him and took it down to his desk. I asked someone nearby "where's xxxx". "He doesn't work here anymore."

How HAPPY am I on a scale of 1 to 10? Where do I click PISSED OFF?

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Re: OK

"If you feel airport security is too much hassle, take the bus"

I take it you're a USian. Other people have a knowledge of geography which tells them that there are places that buses don't go. They're called oceans.

Plusnet customers SWAMPED by spam but BT-owned ISP dismisses data breach claims

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I use PlusNet but I just gave them a Hotmail address which I tend to give to anyone I've no experience of dealing with in case they turn out to be a spammer. So if any of it comes in my direction the Hotmail spam filters will have dealt with it. Mostly the spam that the filters let through is that pretending to come from Hotmail/Live/Outlook/Have-they-rebranded-again-this-week? You'd think that not only would that be pretty easy to trap but that they'd be particularly keen to do so.

But one very odd thing does sometimes turn up in that mailbox. It's mail addressed elsewhere being sent by other Hotmail users. There's no mention of my address anywhere in the headers so no indication of how it got there. The contents are quite innocuous - it genuinely looks like other people's mail gone astray. So far there have been 3 instances of that.

Which country has 2nd largest social welfare system in the world?

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Re: Sorta

"Stalinist central planning like the NHS"

NHS central planning?

At one level there are English, Welsh, Scottish & N Ireland health services. Below that, at least in England and Wales there are then various local trusts plus trusts running hospitals. And then there are also local organisations such as http://locala-homecare.org.uk/ whose exact status is a mystery to me. There are also local organisations in Scotland but I can't remember whether they were also trusts or called something else.

N Ireland I'm not so sure about as it's nearly 30 years since I lived there & I haven't had to deal with them from a business point of view. In fact it's now a few years since I had to deal with the trusts in the rest of the UK level so it might have been all change there but unlikely to have been simplified.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: But the elephant in the room...

"But sure, not going to find me defending the insane US medical system."

In your analysis you're treating the benefits of various US health insurance schemes as a social benefit. But looking at taxes you're comparing US taxes which don't include the health care costs with those countries where the health care budget comes from taxes. To make a fairer comparison you should be adding insurance payments to the taxes*. How does this affect the comparison as regards progressiveness and overall levels?

*There is a precedent for this in that in the UK there is what is nominally an insurance payment, National Insurance, but which is really part of the taxation system.

'We're having panic attacks' ... Sony staff and families now threatened in emails

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Whoever was actually responsible, weak security and massive cuts don't sound like a good combination.

Oi, UK.gov. WHERE'S THE DETAIL on your Google Tax?

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Re: Announce first, act later

I think this one's been getting plenty of public comment for long enough for HMRC to have something drafted by now.

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Re: Tax on profits...

" I think the idea is more to get companies to declare them in the UK at 21%, rather than have an expensive court battle followed by a rate of 25% on those profits."

I'm sure you're right. Plus a bit of negotiation with HMRC on what to declare as profits. No doubt Google, Starbucks & the rest will still end up transferring a good deal of their profits but not as much as before.

The objective is £5b. If HMRC have a BigCorp down for 10% of that go in asking for 15% & let them wrangle it down. HMRC gets their £5b overall, the lawyers get their new cars, the BigCorps get the rest & everyone's happy. Next year the target gets set a bit higher...

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'George Bull, senior tax partner at accountancy firm Baker Tilly, said: "The government now has to produce a new tax law in the next four months and get it up and running - that is something I have serious doubts about."'

Does he really think they'd not have started work on this before announcing it, maybe several months before?

Snowden files show NSA's AURORAGOLD pwned 70% of world's mobe networks

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Re: Ben Bonkers The lunatics are in the hall.

"it's much more likely you are just chaff, more noise to be discarded to get at the really interesting signal."

At one time our phone number was a fat finger away from a local travel agents' with the resulting crop of wrong number calls.

Now suppose one of them was from someone, rightly or wrongly suspected by TPTB of being a terrorist phoning to book a trip to see his granny in Pakistan/join a terrorist training camp/take his kids to Disney. All this meta-data harvesting then means that I'd then be a terrorist suspect. Given that at the time I was working on a gig that required security clearance that could then have led to a sudden cut in the household income.

OK, that's one negative outcome with a low probability. But once you ramp up the volume by mass surveillance the probability of someone being wrongly suspected becomes non-negligible. And the outcomes could be considerably worse than losing security clearance. We've had at least one example of what the Met can do when they wrongly suspected someone. They killed them.

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Re: @chris lively

"The fact that most FISC proceedings have been kept secret may or may not mean they are not doing the job the Congess intended."

One thing it does mean is that there is something very wrong with US concepts of democracy. Very occasionally there may be a case for holding court proceedings in camera (and no, that doesn't mean putting them on TV) but a secret court to quasi-legalise actions which appear to be non-constitutional cannot be justified in an open society.


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Re: Don't loose your head

"Whether Jeremy's head was ever stolen by King's is uncertain"

It would be surprising if it wasn't. The Godless of Gower Street have always been the number one enemy.

4.2 is the answer to life, the universe and the Internet of Everything

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Internet of Stuff

Good name. That's what they can do with it.

'Identity skills shortage' will be problematic for Verify ID. (So not the TECH FAILS, then?)

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What's identity?

ISTM that theyre dealing with a very slippery concept.

Someone presents himself at a web site or office claiming to be John Smith.

Under UK law anyone can change their name to anything they want providing they're not doing so for nefarious purposes. One individual has variously adopted the names Jake Mangelwurzle & The Occupier. So providing that the person calling himself John Smith isn't up to some trickery he is a John Smith.

But is he the John Smith on the birth certificate he's carrying (small print on the bottom of a BC says that it isn't proof of identity)? Is he the John Smith whose NIN is XY123456Z? Is he the John Smith who passed his driving test at Much Binding in the Marsh in 1972? Is he the John Smith convicted of GBH at the Old Bailey in 2001? Is he the John Smith who owns the credit cards he's holding with that name on them? His employers and neighbours may confirm he is John Smith but they only know that because he told them.

From as data analysis perspective "John Smith" is simply a non-unique character string linked to a number of different attributes. The scope for mis-linking some of the attributes is considerable.

What does the particular department's requirements in identifying him, not just as John Smith but as some particular John Smith out of many - which are the attributes which matter to them? Do other departments have the same requirements?

Feds dig up law from 1789 to demand Apple, Google decrypt smartphones, slabs

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the usages and principles of law

That should impose some constraints, or a good basis for legal wrangling.

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Re: Marketing Hack

"A warrant requires that law enforcement say what violations the person be investigated is guilty of"

is suspected of being guilty of

But I'm sure that's what you meant.

I'd also like to think that they have to give some reason as to why they suspect the person. "Because he looks shifty" isn't good enough.

systemd row ends with Debian getting forked

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Re: thowing out the baby with the bathwater

"> Firstly, fixing the existing broken one, if the existing maintainers are unwilling to do it themselves, is accomplished by forking. It's the traditional Linus/FOSS way.

Uhm. no, it's not. The Linux/FOSS way is

1- you fix it yourself

2- you post binaries and source of the fixed stuff so that others can try and see for themselves if the new version is indeed better than the old one."

Quite so. It's called a fork.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: What is systemd

"Why would they do that rather than running Debian Jessie (without systemd)"

Good idea. What's needed is a version of Debian Jessie in which without systemd as the default. Why doesn't someone make one? They'd need a name for it. Maybe Devuan.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

My take on all this

Systemd looks set to bring me problems I don't need to solve problems I don't have.

It intends to replace all manner of things that have been working well for a long time for no more apparent reason that its authors want to. What's more, when I read things such as the claim that the new udevd can be installed without systemd, it just can't be built on its own I realise that, whether by conspiracy or cock-up, the source code is clearly a hairball. That's one black mark. The fact that at least one of their developers have been on the receiving and of a bawling out by Linus on code quality underlines that. (And really Linus's bawlings out don't seem to be all that frequent, just highly publicised.)

The notion that the standard logging is binary is another black mark. It's akin to shipping binaries without source; I'm amazed the whole FOSS community hasn't descended on them for that. Maybe they've escaped on the basis that they allow additional text logging. I'd have to trust them that if, one day, that should happen to break, they'll fix it but I'd have to check their history of responding to bugs.

Then there's the position on start-up scripts. I know there seems to be a fashionable aversion for scripting languages invented longer ago than the day before yesterday. Nevertheless anyone who is administering serious Unix-type systems should have some familiarity with shell scripting. It allows arbitrarily complex operations to be performed, .ini style languages not so much. Again, we are allowed, at present, to use scripts in addition to the default .ini approach. For how long? Until there's no going back?

With Debian falling in line I fear there will be little to inhibit devs for all manner of stuff simply assuming that systemd will be there and including it or one of its relatives as a dependency. It will gradually become more and more work to maintain a non-systemd fork. In short, I think the Devuan fork is built on optimism and will become unsustainable on a voluntary basis within a Linux ecosystem within a few years.

Red Hat may be able to sustain their pre-systemd distro for a good while on a commercial basis. Alternatively, having seen off the last major non-systemd competitor in the server world, they'll be able to discontinue it any time they like once their contractual obligations expire.

In the meantime, it looks like many of us will be switching to BSD.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: thowing out the baby with the bathwater

"Why not solve this in the traditional Linux/FOSS way? Meaning: you want a better alternative for component XYZ, because you believe XYZ is broken? Then you write one. Or you fix the existing broken one. Forking because you don't like the init subsystem or its replacement systemd is quite the unnecessary leap. I don't know if it will really lead anywhere."

Firstly, fixing the existing broken one, if the existing maintainers are unwilling to do it themselves, is accomplished by forking. It's the traditional Linus/FOSS way.

Well, it's not just one component, it's a whole inter-related heap of them. In fact, apart from the kernal & libc, it's the core of the OS. So just replacing a single component won't cut it. The term fork is reasonably well merited although you could also call it a respin or a derivative.

Of course the twist in the tail here is that in fact the underlying rationale is that the original wasn't broken but it's being fixed anyway. Conventional wisdom has something to say about that,

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Hasn't this happened already with Upstart?

Yes it has.

One of the things sysv is accused of is handling race conditions. The only race condition I've encountered is on my MythTV box. A second disk which goes into the volume group providing /srv sometimes isn't ready when the system tries to mount it. It requires plugging in a keyboard to recover which isn't very useful if the box is starting up for an unattended recording. The init system being used? Upstart.

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Re: Hurried reporting?

"Debian Jessie provides a choice of init systems, and provides systemd-shim for those who wish to use a rich desktop without systemd running as PID 1"

At present Jessie can be installed without systemd but if tasksel is used will put it back in there. Maybe between now & release tasksel will be modified to avoid this, but maybe not.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: @John Hughes

"Who says "Gnome" is ignorant. Systemd is set to take over many parts of Linux, no exaggeration: udev, mount, PAM, syslog, cron, tcpwrappers, xinetd ..."

Ah yes, udev. A couple of times I've read the statement that although systemd has taken over udev you can still run udevd without systemd, it's just that you can't build it without systemd because of all the shared code.


Has it not occurred to these folks that all that needs to be done is separate the shared code out into one or more libraries that udevd and systemd can be individually built against? The fact that they haven't tells me that either the entanglement is deliberate, that the code it too much of a hairball to refactor or that it requires a degree of planning of proper interfaces that they can't be arsed to do.

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Re: This is gold

" One of the problems with sysvinit is that it is very poor at handling things that happen while the system is running, plugging in drives and so on."

Really? Isn't udev supposed to handle that, not init? Certainly, running current and past Debians on a laptop I haven't noticed a problem in that respect.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: What is systemd

"things will start getting interesting depending on the policy on init system,"

AIUI after the various votes the policy is now that its up to Debian package maintainers whether they support multiple inits. The likely consequence is that if more upstream package maintainers assume the presence of systemd and friends the Debian packagers are just not going to be able to keep up working round the dependencies. As has been said, there's no DebianCorp to finance such working around. And I fear Devuan and the alternative tack, making the current Debian an LTS release, will have the same problem.

Red Hat (with one exception, see below) have already captured the .rpm side of Linux. With Debian, Ubuntu & derivatives also captured they had the whole server business condemned to run systemd.

AFAIK Slackware is the major remaining holdout - Gentoo seems to wish to be agnostic. There is now little incentive for upstream devs to assume systemd etc will not be there. So running a traditional init as an alternative becomes less possible as applications a user might need depend on systemd.

There is an exception, of course: RHEL releases < 7. If Debian sysadmins want to keep running unbloated systems they may have to buy RHEL 6. What I'm wondering is whether that's just irony or a case of cui bono?

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Re: Off to a bad start

If you don't understand shell scripting you have no business running a Unix type server.

Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet

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Re: Iron is not enough

"a creature being fossilised is a rare event...Most of the world's carbon exists as CO2 in chalk cliffs, seashells, etc."

Those chalk cliffs (and limestone wolds etc): you do know what they're made out of don't you?

Eat FATTY FOODS to stay THIN. They might even help your heart

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"the waist sizes shrink more with the low carb diet than the low fat diet – though not to a statistically significant extent."

So do they shrink or don't they?

Docker: Sorry, you're just going to have to learn about it. Today we begin

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Re: FreeBSD for servers

I've had a brief look at the FreeBSD derivative PC-BSD. My initial reaction was that something needs to be done about the Byzantine software management. There are packages and PBIs (push button installers) and a stack of stuff that just sits in the ports tree and isn't visible to the local system's software management. Clearly that stuff needs to be compiled up into PBIs and made accessible via a single management tool that will list the whole of what's available irrespective of whether it's a package or a PBI.

As Debian on BSD kernels seems to have been one of the casualties of systemd maybe some of the folk who were working on that will turn their attention to either PC-BSD or an alternative derivative. After all, they should have the aptitude for it.

Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then

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Re: How are they bundled?

" some people seem to think that this utterly trivial issue of search & advertising company promotes its own search & advertising is somehow important"

s/issue of search & advertising company promotes its own search & advertising/MEP/

Hacker dodges FOUR HUNDRED YEARS in cooler for SCANNING sites

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"I do find it mind-boggling that the US justice system manages to find 44 different names for basically a single offence."

It doesn't say they did. There were 18 counts of one thing & 15 of another. That's 3/4 of them under just two headings.

Presumably you've no great experience of how courts work.

Turnbull should spare us all airline-magazine-grade cloud hype

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Re: Why not "the" cloud?

"t's all just marketing guff for 'offsite server'"

Or someone else's computer rented out at a rate sufficient to make someone else's profit.

Our system handles £130bn and it's BUST. Want the job of fixing it? Apply to UK.gov

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And another..

The Certes site has a second ad. for a public sector Technical/Solution Architect in the public sector in Newcastle or Leeds to "develop a deep understanding of the department's digital service user needs". Who do we know in Newcastle in the public sector?

What should America turn to for web advice? That's right: GOV.UK – says ex-Obama IT guru

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"They are written in plain English and ask only the most pertinent questions. By contrast, the US system contains dozens of mind-boggling questions designed to cover every eventuality."

Plain English & simplicity are good goals. But as they probably can't cover every eventuality there needs to be a good escalation procedure to get a human into the loop quickly to deal with the corner cases. And that needs to be a knowledgeable and empowered human, not a script-driven hell-desk worker who can do no more than web-site does. And escalation needs to be built into the system by design not added on when everything starts to fall apart.

I think most customer service failures result from a lack of this; if at first you don't succeed try and fail again.

Bang! You're dead. Who gets your email, iTunes and Facebook?

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Re: Solve this the same way companies do

"it brings a new dimension to a Ghost Writer producing content for a Blog."

Or do it yourself using GhostBSD.

Mine's the shroud.

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Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

"so far lawyers and the law seems to still have some respect for Wills & the contents therof"

That's not surprising given that they make money from them.

OTOH they are likely to point out that there is good reason for the company to be told about the death; the deceased would have been one party to whatever contracts were in place so the other party would, I've thought, have reasonable expectations of being informed as part of the executors' duties.

But surely the executors should have access to the account in order to clear up the deceased's affairs. Whilst the T&Cs may make it clear that music "bought" on iTunes is only leased other files such as those originated by the deceased and correspondence received are part of the estate. They may possibly of value as IP in themselves but they may also contain information which the executors need to finalize the deceased's estate.

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Nice subtitle.

Call the Commish! Ireland dragged into Microsoft dispute over alleged drug traffic data

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"So doubtless my bank (Barclays Plc) has US-based shareholders and therefore Uncle Sam has an absolute right to look at my bank statements?

I think not."

Uncle Sam probably thinks differently.

NOKIA - Not FINNished yet! BEHOLD the somewhat DULL MYSTERY DEVICE!

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Re: Maps

"I wonder if it will come bundled with whatever the old Nokia Sat Nav is now called"

I didn't notice any mention of GPS in the spec. If the hardware isn't there mapping apps seem a bit superfluous.

DEATH fails to end mobile contract: Widow forced to take HUBBY's ASHES into shop

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"This is why I don't do automatic bill payment. I pay my bills manually. Automatic billing systems just can't be trusted."

You may pay your bills manually but the billing system is still automatic. If the billing system hasn't been told you've cancelled it will just keep on billing.

HSBC Turkey WON'T reissue cards despite 2.7 MILLION account details going AWOL

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Why was this stuff laying around in plain text? Or did they steal the key as well?

Pharmacist caught spying on friends' med records fined £1,000

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Wrong court?

'The offence is punishable by way of “fine only” - up to £5,000 in a magistrates' court or an unlimited fine in Crown court. The ICO continues to call for more effective deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison in the most serious cases, to deter the unlawful use of personal information.'

What's the point of calling for more effective sentences & then failing to make use of the existing sentencing regime by not taking this to the Crown Court?

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Re: Conspiracy?

From the report it looks as if ye was doing this off his own bat. So no conspiracy. It takes two to conspire.

Could YOU identify these 10 cool vintage mobile phones?

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Re: Maybe I'm old

"Wow, that is old!"

No it isn't. It's GSM. Before GSM was TACS. And as the guy who had the (TACS) Steel pointed out in another post, before that was System 4 which ran in parallel with TACS for a while being shut down in the early '90s IIRC. I assume before that there must have been 3 previous generations. So much for 2G, 3G etc.

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Re: Your 9110 is a 9210

I don't know about the 9210 but the 9110 had a VT100 emulation mode - 80x24 in minuscule characters.

Back in the day I had the box I was minding email me reports from all the overnight runs so in the morning I'd normally check them through to make sure everything was running OK.

The IIUG (Informix user group) was organising a chapter in the UK. They called for interested parties to a meeting with a couple of US members to set up a local committee so I went along. After the meeting we somehow ended up sitting round a table in a pub's beer garden. I opened the phone dialled into the modem in the back of the server (you could get away with such things in those days), fired up elm & rather belatedly ran through the reports. One of the US guys was sitting next to me & could hardly believe it; shouted to the other "Look here. He's DBAing his box on his phone!". Nice to get one over on the Yanks.

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Re: Vintage?

Was that the Light Steel or Heavy Steel? There were 2 models with different battery sizes depending on whether you wanted a single or double hernia.

Adobe appoints former Reg man as open-source chief mobile lead

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"the subscription model only works if you can improve the software every year"

Surely it's the other way round. If you want to keep selling upgrades you have to have upgrades to sell. You can collect a yearly rent for the same old stuff on a subscription model.

Cold? Cuddle these HOT GERMAN RACKS, yours for only 12,000 euro – we swear there's an IT angle

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"Cloud&Heat believes it can save on data center facility and cooling costs."

Given that their rent is effectively negative and paid up front they're saving more than that.

" Once the installation fee is paid... for a period of fifteen years."

And what if C&H goes permanently titsup in significantly less than 15 years? That's €12,000 down the drain for their landlords - and maybe the German equivalent of the bailiffs knocking at the front door to demand the racks.

Yorkshire man NICKS 1,000 Orange customer records. Court issues TINY FINE

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Re: Blame the prosecutor: He could have been charged with fraud.

Agreed. Fraud, Computer Misuse Act, probably a few others. This didn't get passed far enough up the prosecution food chain. At the very least it should have got him a conviction that would result in him being blocked as a company director along with any other penalties.

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