Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 at 1:49 pm - - Vero 5 Comments »

The press release says Vero Software Acquires Sescoi International, but that ain’t the truth. It would be more accurate to say that BV Acquisitions S.à.r.l. (a Luxembourg shell company that probably exists for tax reasons) acquired the company that makes WorkNC, because then people won’t be mislead as to the actual forces behind it. I don’t have any experience in tracking down company data in France, but there are some details of the business here.

I’ve got a lot of historical interest in WorkNC, because in many ways it was the software which started me off. It was sometime in about 1994 where two of us programmers in NCGraphics were driven over to Depo, a factory making these new tungsten carbide insert tools in an industrial estate in northern Germany, and sat in front of a copy of WorkNC and told to make something at least as good as that, but which was designed for running their toroidal depo tools. We travelled to Germany a few more times to closely inspect the software on the strategies it was outperforming ours on (according to the Depo engineers), as well as to learn more about machining strategies. And that’s how we got Machining Strategist off the ground.

Battery Ventures have updated their website to explain their strategy:

From years steeped in Software, the Battery team knew that mature and fragmented markets offered great opportunities for consolidation, and Europe was no exception.

Working from a successful playbook of midmarket software buyouts in the US and Canada, the team set its sites on key European markets, looking for the right situation in which to build a platform

After 9 months of intense research, team focused on the $1B CAM Software market and the universe of companies in that sector, until the one with the right fundamentals was in sight: Vero Software – a market-leading CAD/CAM company with great products, a recurring revenue base and happy customers.

The team recruited Richard Smith as an Executive in Residence, believing his 20 years of experience in the European software markets would help them to successfully diligence the opportunity and ultimately create a powerful platform to consolidate the fragmented market. Richard worked alongside the Battery team to evaluate the company and market opportunity, and build the right strategic plan for a dominant CAD/CAM vendor.

After 15 months of hard work, Battery finalized the take-private of Vero Software and appointed Richard as CEO of the newly private company.

Vero subsequently acquired Planit Software, another UK-based CAM software vendor, roughly tripling the size of the business with very little product overlap [really? --JT], creating the largest independent vendor in the market.

Executive in Residence, eh? Is that like an Artist in residence? What the heck is that all about?

Who knows what it’s like in there day-to-day. The point is to take advantage of the opportunities that flow from a set of businesses that are now under a single management where the workers are allowed to cooperate, and no longer have to interact inefficiently on the open market.

As far as I can tell, there are three strands of consolidation:

A) Consolidation of customers. By reducing competition the customers can no longer shop around and drive better prices and services.

B) Consolidation of financial engineering. While a company like Starbucks has the skills and resources to afford the costs of arranging to pay no tax while obtaining corporate welfare, most smaller companies don’t have this knowhow (they are too busy running their business). It is without doubt that Battery Ventures, whose core competency is finance, has the skills to avoid taxes that the rest of us pay to maintain the quality of civilization their associates have come to depend on. Freeloaders.

C) Consolidation of software technology. This is by identifying the best technologies across all the products and porting them from one to another so that all of the products are improved with very little cost. If Intel took over AMD in 1994 then they would explain how we would get better floating point units burnt into the CPU silicon of the Pentiums.

Clearly, only consolidation of type (C) is beneficial to the customers. So why don’t they demand it? We don’t even get much lip service in that area. In another world where people actually knew what the best software was in the same way that they know what the best whisky is, the press release would go like this:

For many years, Machining Strategist has been seen as having the best offset area clearing algorithms in the world. However its rest area detection scores six points below the quality of WorkNC’s routine on the bug index. We propose to move these functions across to the relevant products for a release to customers by Easter and have put our chief programmer Mr Gnu in charge of the operation. He will be supported by a team of temporary consultants Software Merge Services who are proven experts in the field of algorithm salvage and code quality assessments, with their focus on test driven re-development.

SMS was founded by Hewlett Packard in 2013 with the specific task of finding the one line of source code developed by Autonomy that had any positive end-user value. Here it is:

sys.exit(1)

Instead, we get this computer generated abstract waffle:

“We are extremely pleased to be joining the Vero Group. Since originally founding the company in 1987, Sescoi has become one of the world’s key CAD/CAM providers with WorkNC. However, with Vero’s global distribution, additional development resources and proven technology sharing concept, I am certain the products will advance at an even faster pace and continue to provide innovative solutions that boost productivity, bolster competitiveness, reduce costs and improve quality.”

This is just not good enough!

Monday, December 17th, 2012 at 4:54 pm - - Adaptive, Vero 4 Comments »

Does this look familiar?

This one from EdgeCam got under the radar.

It seems it was released last month, or maybe earlier in the year.

It does not appear to have implemented retract steps yet — a feature we had from the start in our original 2004 Adaptive Clearing development — but the pitch of the initial clearing spiral is variable, which shows it’s on the right track.

At some point we’ll have enough of these “unique” “revolutionary” cutting strategies for an independent agency to really help us out by properly benchmarking them against one another and publishing the results. That way everyone would know where their weaknesses lay and what to focus development on.

As it is now, with all the different software companies building their own implementations of this fluke cutting technique, and falsely marketing them as though nothing like it exists anywhere else in the world, we are experiencing an extraordinary amount of wasted energy.

The waste is in the form of machinists waiting for unnecessarily inefficient and buggy implementations to complete the calculations, because the developers don’t get the crucial feedback they need to make cheap and substantial improvements in the software, and in the form of developers unwittingly working on areas of the code that are have no benefit to the end user.

That’s quite aside to the unbelievable waste by certain companies sinking their finite resources into pointless patents rather than improving their code.

The Adaptive Clearing is on my mind because we have been spending what feels like months working on toolpath reordering and the multicore version of the algorithm.

The reordering algorithm was worked out on the long train back from Copenhagen, and it’s quite simple. I’ll write it up at some point. And the multicore is something that Anthony wants. He’s promised to make one of his nifty videos where he demonstrates the algorithm using a sit-on lawnmower if we ever get it finished. That’s what’s keeping me motivated when I am losing the will to push on after one too many of these queues of queuing threads hangs and everything is completely broken for a couple of days. What a great idea: take an algorithm that’s already too complicated and make it four times more complex. I’m sure it will work out. Maybe.

Friday, October 7th, 2011 at 11:10 am - - Vero 1 Comment »

Corporations are people, my friend - Mitt Romney

In January 2006 the ownership of Edgecam and its 3-axis kernel passed to Planit with its acquisition of Pathtrace Limited (02485210). (Pathtrace is now a “dormant company”, according to its listings at Companies House [the accounts]).

Here is its extraordinary chain of ownership, worthy of Enron or Tony Blair, pieced together from around 20 documents purchased from Companies House.

Planit Software Limited (02093062)
Directors: Bryan Pryce and Jonathan Lee, Employees: 130
Planit Holdings Limited (01731539)
Directors: Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce, Employees: 30
Velocity Acquisitions Limited (05943914)
Directors: Ian Grant, Richard Green, Richard Moon, Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce
Velocity Investco Limited (05943898)
Directors: Ian Grant, Richard Green, Richard Moon, Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce
Velocity Holdings Limited (05943865)
Directors: Ian Grant, Richard Green, Richard Moon, Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce

It also says that August Equity Partners 1 GP Limited holds 1,825,000 ‘A’ Ordinary shares which leaves 400,000 shares unaccounted for after subtracting the 250,000 directly held by 3 of the directors — until correct this by doing the calculations in the Annual Return
August Equity Partners 1 GP Limited (04141155)
Directors: T J Clarke and R J Green

But there’s more:

That is to say this company is simultaneously a member of the following two partnerships:
August Equity Partners 1 (LP007896)
Type: Limited Partnership, Previous name: August Equity Partners IV
No other membership information disclosed
August Equity Co-Investment Fund 1 (LP012301)
Type: Limited Partnership, Registered: July 2007
No other membership information disclosed
August Equity LLP (OC313101)
Members: R J Green, T J Clarke, I D Grant, P M Rattle, A Hassan, August Equity Management Limited

One of those partners isn’t a human being…
August Equity Management Limited (4261261)
Directors: T J Clarke and August Equity LLP

So, August Equity Management Limited is owned by, is directed by and is a partner in August Equity LLP.

Is this normal?

No wonder these financial management types don’t have any time to get to know anything about the stuff which they actually own!

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 1:15 pm - - Vero 2 Comments »

As it says:

Vero Software and Planit Holdings Merge, form Third-Largest CADCAM Vendor

The Planit Group offers its software products globally under the Edgecam, Alphacam, Cabinet Vision, CabnetWare, Javelin and Radan brands.

Vero focuses on plastic injection moulds, sheet metal stamping dies, multi-axis milling, laser cutting and wire EDM, offering its software products globally under the VISI, PEPS, Machining Strategist and SMIRT brands.

The combination of Vero and Planit creates the third largest CADCAM vendor — only behind Dassault Systèmes and Siemens PLM, according to the companies. The merger of the two organisations will provide the platform to build stronger products through significantly enhanced development capabilities and further extend a growing influence on the global market, according to the company.

The merger has been funded by Battery Ventures (Boston, USA) who have been investing for more than 25 years in technology-driven companies and work hard with management to build their presence into global market leaders.

Never mind the branding, what will become of the software? I believe that Edgecam still has its own home-grown 3-axis kernal, as does Vero (from the NCGraphics Machining Strategist kernel).

Will one of them be discontinued and replaced by the other, or will there be an effort to merge the code (impossible) or at least salvage something by linking one on to the other as a library?

Like everyone else, Edgecam buys its 5-axis kernel from moduleworks, so no change there.

All that’s left is the user interface and other gubbins (eg post-processors). Very difficult to discontinue them and force users onto the other one.

It’s expensive and pointless (except in the very long term) to merge software products that have never been together. The expense was lost in duplicating the effort in the first place.

So, although what you can do with the software is all that should matter, this is going to be ruled by the finance guys, who work to a completely different model where one programmer is interchangeable with another.

Hopefully lots of financial statements will be disclosed in the process which may illustrate the curious extent of disconnect between the software development and the management that is usually present in these sort of businesses.

Planit Holdings Company No. 01731539
Previous Names:
Date of change Previous Name
01/12/2006 PLANIT HOLDINGS PLC
08/03/1989 MEMCOM INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS PLC
04/03/1991 TELFORD GROUP PLC
30/10/1998 BRITISH THORNTON HOLDINGS PLC

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 1:55 pm - - Vero

I appeared to have made a fundamental error in mistaking a document published in March 2009 by Capital for Enterprise Limited entitled “guidance for Enterprise Capital Funds” as having anything to do with the Capital for Enterprise Fund (which bailed out Vero Software in December 2009).

Oh well.

Nevertheless, following my FOI request about the information they received, they supplied me with what appears to be a close approximation of an Investee Summary Sheet for that particular transaction, and disclosed that there were 38 of them in total.

These funds tend to keep their operations as secret as possible, and provided the following explanation for this confidentiality in my last Decision Notice

33. BIS has also provided the Commissioner with evidence of similar prejudice occurring in a comparable situation. BIS explained that a named Capital for Enterprise Fund portfolio company, suffered adverse publicity as a result of voluntary disclosure of information that related to the company by a Fund Manager. This is another fund similar to the ECF programme which receives some investment from the government. It explained that the disclosure resulted in damage to the fund and the investee company. In the aftermath of the press coverage, it stated that there was significant disruption to the business and diversion of management resources to reassure customers and other stakeholders as to the businesses viability. In addition following press scrutiny surrounding this investment there was a noticeable aversion by investee companies for it to be a matter of public record that they had received funding from the Capital for Enterprise Fund as they wanted to avoid similar scrutiny of their business and because there was clear reputational risk of undergoing such scrutiny. The Commissioner considers that whilst this relates to a different funding programme and different information was disclosed, this example provides some evidence as to the nature of the prejudice claimed occuring in this case. This is because the SMEs which apply for ECF investment are private companies which may not wish to come under public scrutiny and therefore may be detracted from applying for such funding programmes.

And what was the “named Capital for Enterprise Fund portfolio company” I had to ask? It was KeTech.

Creditors to Mandelson-backed KeTech face losses
A private company that received £2.75m from a Government-funded scheme set up by Lord Mandelson less than a year ago is to file for protection from its creditors.

Mandelson faces embarrassment over KeTech’s pension black hole
The Government’s investment arm has begun investigating how a taxpayer-funded scheme rescued a company without noticing that one of its subsidiaries had failed to pass on thousands of pounds of its employees’ pension contributions.

Oh, so the Capital for Enterprise Fund managers or related government operatives apparently failed in their diligence, which was only found out when the company entered into a sort of bankruptcy process in which creditors lost money.

…And that is your cited example to justify zero disclosure about these venture capital funds?

Come on.

I mean, the press scrutiny was primarily about the shortcomings in the official scrutiny by the financial professionals hired to oversee this case.

And that press scrutiny is then described to the Information Commissioner as a case of unwelcome outside disruption and reputational risk — which he accepted as reasonable!

Only in the financial sector can an administrative failure get converted into an intangible asset with such ease.

Why do these cock-ups keep morphing into successful conspiracies?

Monday, June 21st, 2010 at 7:23 pm - - Vero 4 Comments »

Further to the Vero Sellout, I have been trying to make the figures add up.

According to the 30 page document:

The value [of £7.19million] attributed to the existing issued and to be issued share capital of Vero is based upon the 37,261,166 Vero Shares in issue on 17 May 2010, the 2,600,000 Vero Shares which are the subject of options granted under the Vero Share Option Schemes and the 1,232,820 Vero Shares which are the subject of the Warrant [all at 17.5 pence].

This adds up, because (37261166+2600000+1232820)*0.175 = 7191447.55

But what’s this Warrant?

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Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 9:14 pm - - Vero 2 Comments »

I’m unlikely to do justice to the published machinations and financial jiggery-pokery going on with the fictional entity known as Vero Software Plc.

Let’s be clear, I am not referring to the their software, history, products, officework, and daily commutes and screen computer work that a number of human beings do to earn a living, which undoubtedly do exist.

This is a question of the impenetrable corporate legal incantations and gameplay done among absentee owners and fincancial wizards that merely determins who sits in the boss’s seat and directs the workers in the coming months and years.

As they say on 17 May 2010 in a 30 page document:

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Saturday, January 30th, 2010 at 11:09 pm - - Machining, Vero, Whipping 2 Comments »

The week began with a few days getting ScraperWiki more into shape, and then I had to go to Cheltenham on Wednesday morning (following a business breakfast) to help my old programming pals in Vero with their desperate constant scallop stepover bug that had been in the code since I left them with it in NC Graphics back in 2002 (eight years ago) in a set of undocumented functions nobody understood, that just worked — except when it didn’t.

It really did take two days of the three of us (me and the two fellows in Vero) of hard going at it to finally identify the problem, helped by various recollections of the way the algorithm worked that came to my mind during the hours of grind. The code was nowhere near as rough as I thought I’d left it, which was interesting. It was very educational because we chased the bug back through almost every stage of the algorithm from the point of the crash to the source where it joined a six-way cell in an invalid manner that was almost impossible to notice due the encoding of vertical segments using duplicate coordinates. Now they know everything about the algorithm they can extend it properly to various N-way cells to get rid of many of the remaining glitches caused by a design that originally intended only to handle 4-way cells because I mistakenly guessed that every case could be simplified by subdividing it tighter.

Now, according to the rules of corporate capitalism, I should never have been there in the first place, because it is in my interests for a competitor’s software to be unnecessarily buggy, with their programmers frustrated and unproductive, in order that their customers suffer enough costly consequences to consider switching to a rival system like the one I now work on. But this is just another of those specific bitter consequences ingrained into the system of institutionalized selfishness that seems to go unrecognized by our ideologically bent scholars. In actual fact I wasn’t losing anything because, (a) I know that CADCAM systems don’t actually compete on toolpath quality and innovation (because if they did I’d now be rich and in demand), and (b) I am trying to set an example that programmers should be on good terms with programmers in competitive companies because that’s where the jobs are.

Anyways, on Thursday night I caught the train back to Birmingham — using part of my Liverpool to Cheltenham return ticket — and bought another return ticket from Birmingham to London for the Hacks & Hackers Hack Day (sponsored by ScraperWiki). Francis joined me on Friday, and we spent the night with Earl, another friend in London, getting back to Euston station at around 13:30 on Saturday. Francis required a dosa, and I humoured him with a curry buffet, and we got back at 14:15 whereupon he bought a train ticket to Liverpool because he had no return ticket.

Francis’s ticket from London to Liverpool cost £65 if it was a single, and £66 if it was a return. So he bought the return and will once again wind up out-of-phase back in London without a ticket to Liverpool sometime in the next month.

This pricing has always pissed me off. All I can find to acknowledge it is this note in the Delivering a Sustainable Railway – 2007 White Paper CM 7176:

10.32 The Government has also reviewed the case for changing the regulation of ‘Saver’ return fares. These fares were regulated at privatisation, even though there was no particular justification on grounds of competition. The consequence is that passengers can be faced with a ‘Saver’ single fare of £69 and a ‘Saver’ return of £70, neither of which is actually the ideal fare for the journey they want to make. Focus groups show that most long-distance passengers would prefer an approach more in line with airlines’ practice of quoting ‘single-leg’ fares for the outward and return legs of a journey.

So that explains it: The rail monopoly prices on unregulated tickets are the highest they logically can be, which means that single tickets are basically the same price as regulated return tickets.

If, instead, they had chosen to regulate the cost of a single ticket, then return tickets would be exactly double the price of a single ticket, and the system would function as part of an integrated service where people who were able to take the opportunity of a lift on another form of transport one way could do the other way on the train without getting totally screwed for a price that was the same as having used the train both ways.

And that’s why I was attempting to optimize my ticketing by buying a return train ticket from Liverpool to Cheltenham (via Birmingham) for £60.50, going back to Birmingham, and then taking a return ticket from Birmingham to London for £41.90, which meant that I would have to return to Liverpool via Birmingham rather than take the direct train and use fewer train resources overall.

Francis didn’t believe me, and we parted company so we could both get some work done.

I got busted by the ticket inspector on the Birmingham to London train because the stamp on my ticket from the Cheltenham to Birmingham part of the journey was two days old.

I had been told in an earlier incident that while I could not break the outward train journey, I could break the return journey, and this was what I did. The ticket inspector said, Not for longer than 24 hours. I said, How am I supposed to know that limitation when all I was told was that I could break the journey? He said it’s perfectly clear in the rules, and you have to enforce a line to stop people using the same ticket over and over again for the whole month. I said, Do you have a copy of these rules? No he didn’t, but it says on every ticket:

Travel is subject to National Rail Conditions of Carriage (NRCoc) and to the conditions of carriage of other operators on whose services this ticket is valid. Copies of the NRCoC can be obtained from any staffed national rail station of from website: www.nationalrail.co.uk

As a consequence, he would now have to sell me a single ticket from Birmingham to Liverpool. This is always the policy gleefully announced on all train services because they know that single tickets are such an awesome rip-off they don’t need to complicate the situation with a further penalty fine.

I refused and bailed out onto the platform in Wolverhampton. I tried to get a bus, but they were all local. Eventually I had to go back into the train station to buy a single ticket from Wolverhampton to Liverpool. It was the only way home. “Are you sure you want a single? You are not coming coming back?” the lady asked. “No,” I said calmly as I handed over £25.50. She didn’t have a copy of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, and it didn’t exist among all the crappy leaflets and fliers dotted around the station where it could have served to warn anyone attempting to optimize their triangular journeys in the way that I had.

Now… can anyone guess what document is not linked from the front page of the www.nationalrail.co.uk website in spite of being mentioned on every single one of billions of tickets, when they could have made it accessible on a domain such as www.nrcoc.co.uk?

On the front page there is one link to something known as Terms and conditions, which begins:

Terms and Conditions for using the National Rail Enquiries website (the “Web Site”) . For the purposes of these Terms & Conditions the term Web Site also includes the web services, XML and any other data source supplying the Web Site

The Conditions of Carriage page is number 3 when you search for conditions of carriage.

From the front page, this important document is available by clicking on Train times & tickets, followed by Tickets & fares, followed by the 16th link in the column of links where it is positioned as though it is a subset of “Traveling around London”, from where you can download the 30 page 450kB NRCOC pdf document in handy clear-as-mud legalese, where it explains:

16. Starting, breaking or ending a journey at intermediate stations

You may start, or break and resume, a journey (in either direction in the case of a return ticket) at any intermediate station, as long as the ticket you hold is valid for the trains you want to use. You may also end your journey (in either direction in the case of a return ticket) before the destination shown on the ticket. However, these rights may not apply to some types of tickets for which a break of journey is prohibited, in which case the relevant Train Companies will make this clear in their notices and other publications.

For the purposes of this Condition and Condition 11, you will be treated as breaking your journey if you leave a Train Company’s or Rail Service Company’s stations after you start your journey other than:
(i) to join a train at another station, or
(ii) to stay in overnight accommodation when you cannot reasonably complete your journey within one day, or
(iii) to follow any instructions given by a member of a Train Company’s staff.

So what gives? There are absolutely no further “notices and publications” available on the London Midland train website.

To London Midlands
Dear sir,

This week I used the train to travel Liverpool->Cheltenham, and Cheltenham->London (where I stayed for two nights), and then London->Liverpool.

Unfortunately, it is evidently the policy to price (unregulated) single fares at around the same cost as a (regulated) return fare, so I chose to purchase a Liverpool->Cheltenham return, and a Birmingham->London return, which required me to travel back from London via Birmingham.

However, this broke the rules and I was put off from the Birmingham->Liverpool train by the inspector due to my ticket having a stamp from two days before (when I used it to travel from Cheltenham->Birmingham on my way to London). He told me that the limit was 24 hours.

Having obtained a copy of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, I note that Condition 16 says:

“You may start, or break and resume, a journey (in either direction in the case of a return ticket) at any intermediate station, as long as the ticket you hold is valid for the trains you want to use.”

There is no reference to any time limit in these Conditions, and my return ticket was valid on both trains. Nor can I find any statement of any further rules on the London Midlands website.

Can you point me to a clear statement of the rules for which I was put off the train, so that I (and others) can ensure that I do not again get caught out by them when attempting to complete a non-standard journey at a reasonable price?

To National Rail feedback:

This is a question about website design. Every single ticket issued states that “Copies of the NRCoC can be obtained… from the website www.nationalrail.co.uk”

In view of this, do you think it would be reasonable to have a link to it from the front page, rather than buried four deep among the navigation toolbars?

Is it possible I have found something the millions of train nerds in this country have failed to scrutinize?

PS For all you guys using the NCG source code what I wrote, but which made some other people millionaires:

The error is in PSsubcell.cpp, line 869:
bool SetLinksAsBestLinkData(const PSCpairboundparams& pscparams, PSsubcell& scell)
where near the bottom in the loop following the comment
// Set the pointers to make the connections.
setting the back-pointers across the cell according to the best connection, we found that it was able in a 6-way cell to connect 0->3, 2->5, 4->1 because the function (using this Link Data) didn’t take account of whether the connections crossed one another.

The function is irreparable. The quick fix is to detect when there is a crossing condition, and return false if there is so it drops back into the less sophisticated PSsubcell::SetLinksAsBest() function which will give you a result that doesn’t have self-crossing. Then in the medium term you need to code the 4-way and 6-way cells independently and properly considering all the alternatives. It’s not possible to get the right answer by picking the single “best” connection first, because it’s the the gaps between the connecting passes that make it good or bad.

Drop me a line of this helped.

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 7:48 pm - - Vero

Vero reported the conclusion of its 2 November 2009 General Meeting thus:

The The[sic] Board of Vero Software plc (AIM: VERO) announces that following a General Meeting of the Company held today at 10:00 a.m. at the Company’s offices, the Resolution set out in the Circular sent to Shareholders on 15 October 2009, has been duly passed.

What? They don’t even say how many people showed up? Did they have a debate? Was the vote unanimous? How about the minutes of the previous meeting? Were they read and agreed to?

What was their last General Meeting?
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Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 12:43 pm - - Vero

More entertaining financial farting going on at Vero which, in my opinion, is socially and productively useless — as is practically everything that is currently part of our godforsaken corporate financial structure.

Let’s start with some tedious biased history gleaned from 5 years of company annual reports…

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