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back to article Westminster politicos told to grasp Vista nettle

MPs hoping to have their House of Commons' computers upgraded to Microsoft's Windows 7 OS were hit with a nasty Vista setback last week. Westminster's IT support team, AKA the Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology (PICT) service, has decided to go completely against the trend of businesses and organisations that …

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong question

Strike out

and for what reason Windows Vista is being installed on such computers?

Insert

and for what reason Windows is being installed on such computers?

There, fixed it for you.

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There is no viable alternative

That's an easy question to answer: it's because there is no viable alternative to Windows. OS X is tied to Apple machines and thus too expensive and Linux is only of use to die-hard command-line using geeks, not technically clueless MPs.

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Thumb Down

YAWN

How boringly unoriginal.

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@David Arno

1996 called, they want their opinions back.

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Grenade

Since when was expense...

... a reason for not taking a particular route for our lords and masters?

Actually it sounds like an artificial deadline of the next election has been set. Wouldn't it be cheaper to pay Microsoft to extend support for another six months while a Windows 7 build is finalised?

Of course that would stop Microsoft double-dipping into the Government coffers - maybe herein lies the answer: the (soon to be ex) minster that approves the Vista-then-7 upgrade path gets a directorship at Microsoft for Christmas...

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Rob
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Tell 1996...

... we need to hang onto them a little while longer.

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Still the wrong question

Surely the question should be "Why install computers?"

Baaaaah. Interweb? that's porn isn't it? young ladies, I mean baaaaaah"

=====

I'd put a wobbly jowels icon here but there isn't one.

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Windows

It's not "forced" on anyone at all, my local MP used *our* money (taxes) to purchase a Mac, £1,500 on an underpowered laptop of our money being spent when £500 could have been spent instead.

MP's have their own expenses (as we're all aware) and spend them as they deem fit (as long as they don't get caught). This would most likely be for computers which are in Westminster and already run Windows so switching them to Mac's would cost an inordinate amount of money (and cause a major issue with the Taxpayer Alliance) and switching to Linux would also not go down well, most MP's are not in their 20's/30's so getting the old folks to learn a brand new operating system would knock up the TCO to unacceptable levels.

So the question should be "why not install Windows?"

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Learning new Operating Systems

As someone who has 'upgraded' from XP to Windows 7 on the little ladies laptop and XP to Ubuntu on our desktop I can tell you that it was much easier moving to Ubuntu than to W7. I can't find a damned thing in W7 whereas I found things pretty easy to get to in XP.

After a couple of weeks of W7 frustration, I was asked to put Ubuntu on the laptop too - and she is much happier now. I think that getting the old fogies to learn Linux would be cheaper than trying to teach them W7. Just my personal opinion...

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Stop

Not that old chestnut, again

@ David Arno

When was the last time you looked at Linux, if ever?

I gave a Mandriva box to my computer illiterate sister a couple of months ago, apart from saying "Where's the start button?" she took to it like a duck to water. Another thing, I don't suppose that MPs will be installing Linux themselves, although that is now much easier than it was and even easier than MS Windows. Also why should we be wasting OUR money propping up a convicted monopolist?

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Wintard Relief for the Reps of the Britards

"most MP's are not in their 20's/30's so getting the old folks to learn a brand new operating system would knock up the TCO to unacceptable levels"

Yet more myths about alternative operating systems being too different, too difficult, that they require everyone to go through "extensive retraining", and this would be too costly and time-consuming. And of course as soon as Microsoft Office 2013 comes out with a shiny new interface, it's all "yes please for that training course (at the public's expense)", which is somehow a different matter.

Really, the stuff I've heard about with people using Microsoft's "productivity tools", if you switched them out with something else tomorrow, it would only bother people doing the usual locked-in tinkering with Visual Basic and the like. Those people could easily stump up for a VMware licence or something and get with it.

As far as the public are concerned the MPs need just the tools to do their jobs, not to have every whim pandered to. If that meant everyone in parliament getting kiosk-style access to the Internet, then so be it. Given the current reputation of the average MP drinking milk from the teats of unicorns while reclining on their golden divan and being rubbed down by specially bred silk-covered puppies, it's a surprise that they haven't been handed VT100s or Amstrad E-m@ilers and had their other toys taken away completely.

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WTF?

good grief

Why not the IT folk do their jobs, and support computing equipment in a vendor-agnostic way?

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User Skill

So install Linux. I'm all for keeping politicians struggling to do anything.

Seriously, the command line stuff, in a centrally-managed environment, is irrelevant to the users. It's all the other stuff that they'd have to re-learn. No MS Office for one.

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Linux

There is a viable alternative...

And the alternative is Linux. As a late 60s-something Ubuntu user, for about three years now, (I choked on Vista too) I am not a "die hard command line geek". I don't need to be, and neither should any user with decent IT support (I don't have any at all). Many forward looking, not to say financially strapped, organisations and Government departments have already "gone Linux", because TCO is lower and security is better. That said, you could well be right about "clueless", though.....

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Grenade

maybe back in 1990's

the posters comments were maybe more correct back in the 1990's and when the hairy bearded computer admin used lynx or gopher when they werent busy in a telnet session on another vty but times have changed. Take any recent Linux distro - Ubuntu or Fedora Core , for example, and you have a GUI thats as feature rich - or even more so - then a standard Windows (and thats not just XP but also 7) or OSX install. multiple desktops, OpenGL and accelerated 3D interfaces, transparency effects etc etc. granted...features may vary based on gfx card ability but a scarily LARGE number of Linux users have no idea of the command line these days - just like OSX users really.

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FAIL

Ignorance or shill?

You decide.

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Since when was expense a deterrent to politicians?

And here I was thinking that Windows was the system of "professionals" so what's up with the Linux is only for geeks mantra? It would seem that either Linux or OS X would have been far more obvious choices for the wizards of Westminster...

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@David Arno

"Linux is only of use to die-hard command-line using geeks, not technically clueless MPs."

Tell that to my technically illiterate Great Aunt (mid 90's) or my techno-phobe Mom (early '70s), both of whom use a variation of Slackware that I put together specifically for them, and they will spit in your eye. Linux works just fine for the average user-base ... IF it is set up by a competent tech, for that user-base.

The only reason Linux isn't more mainstream is fear of the unknown.

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@nematoad

I have both solaris and ubuntu VMs on my WIndows 7 machine that I regularly use. Command line use is essential for both solaris and ubuntu. It is very rarely required for WIndows 7. Whilst VMWare Workstation does an excellent job of configuring the initial install of ubuntu, I got as far as needing to install the Java SDK before I had to resort to the command line for example.

As a developer with experience of both unix and windows, I have no beef with the former. My OS of choice is governed primarily by the investment in tools that I've made, rather than any silly claims of one being better than the other. However Linux remains years off of being a suitable OS for non-technical folk that don't have a pet geek at their support beck and call. To claim that Linux is a viable alternative to Windows for the average user is ridiculous.

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@David Arno

"However Linux remains years off of being a suitable OS for non-technical folk that don't have a pet geek at their support beck and call. To claim that Linux is a viable alternative to Windows for the average user is ridiculous."

Your opinion is based on outdated data. Or a false sense of superiority.

After setting up Mom & the Great Aunt with their versions of Slackware, support calls from them dropped from 4 or 6 a month to none[1]. Likewise, my Wife never asks me for help when she boots into the Slackware partition on her PC. In fact, the Wife can't remember the last time she booted into XP. The kids in the observation/break room in the barn happily use one of the Slackware machines to update their Facetube junk. I didn't even have to teach them how, beyond let 'em know what the guest login account name+password were. Seems Firefox is Firefox ...

How about this ... Instead of continuing your ridiculously ignorant screed, why not use your ever-so superior technical ability and ask yourself "How would I go about setting up a Linux box for me DearOldMum, so she never had to call for help?". Would make her life easier. Yours, too.

Here's a hint, to get you started: Don't just throw a shovelware *buntu distro on a machine and hand it to her. Instead, pick any more modular distribution. Then actually take the time to see what she does on her existing system. Then duplicate that functionality with Linux. It's really not all that hard, once you get started. And you might actually learn something along the way.

Four (and a bit) more things:

1) No, she does NOT run any software that is Windows specific.

1a) Office doesn't count ... she can use any old WP to send a letter to Auntie Flo.

2) Make her a one page cheat-sheet for keyboard shortcut translation Win-Lin.

3) Put icons for all the software she uses on her desktop. That's how she uses Windows.

4) Make her a user account and don't tell her the root password.

4a) Don't even tell her there IS a root password. It'll just confuse her.

[1] Actually, Mom has called me in once in the last year, to install a new printer. But I would have had to do that for her under any OS (she is afraid of plugging in hardware).

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Stop

While we all know Parliament isn't Government

It's good to see they are reading the Cabinet Office's strategy on considering Open Source Software, then using it to scribble Microsoft's phone number doewn somewhere.

I would have thought, despite the potential technical difficulties, that Parliament IT should be a hetrogenous environment rather than being a flagship advertisement for a single company's products.

Moreover, in the light of the desire of some to exclude convicted criminals from e.g., the House of Lords, I would have thought there would be a simialr enthusiasm to exclude convicts from other areas of Parliamentary life too.

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Oh dear

Luckily these folk only run the country.

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Grenade

And now they have an ironclad excuse

for their next series of cockups, even if what is being cocked up has nothing whatsoever to do with this:

- We're in the middle of a major IT project.

- People haven't yet been properly trained to use this new software

- It's turned out that not all systems are fully compatible

- It's turned out that some pieces of vital application software are not fully compatible

(for the previous two) - We're now trying to rectify the problems caused by the incompatibilities, but for this we need to appropriate extra funds.

Etcetera, and in proper politico-speak of course.

With only a little effort they should be able to get three years worth of cockup coverage out of this. Then they'll concede that switching to Vista wasn't the best idea after all, and with a new switch to W7 the whole circus will start anew.

(you can probably tell I've worked for government departments)

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RE: Oh dear

You said:

Luckily these folk only run the country.

You made a slight mistake, it should read:

Luckily these folk only RUIN the country.

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Happy

@Fatman

You are of course correct. Thanks for the typo fix :)

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Anonymous Coward

caught out, but no "lessons learnt"

So they have fallen into the crack between windows 2000 and windows 7 in support, which is why they went with a commercial product; support. So, as with @TooMuchCoffee, why is windows the choice here when they have already been burned with support that is not as supporting as they might have expected for their money!!!!

Also why does it take IT depts somewhere close to a year to 'test' a new version of an OS, most of them have MSDN versions which they are mostly running.

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Just upgrade the browser

Just upgrade the browser. Problem solved, pay me my 30,000 in consultancy fees.

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Anonymous Coward

One major reason

I reckon the major reasoning behind not migrating to 7 just yet is that it's not been approved by the common criteria group, so thus unsuitable for handling sensitive data.

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FAIL

Win 7 and the users both :-

unsuitable for handling sensitive data

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Pirate

Save my tax money!

Put Linux on them. Get it sorted. Gravy train chumps. Who's getting the back hander?

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Unhappy

@ One majore reason

I'm trying to detect the irony.

If I understood correctly, Vista is proposed for existing computers running Win 2000 and Win XP. So the hardware and memory will be inadequate for running Vista/Office 2003/2007/2008. Judging from my own experience of Win7 Ultimate on a netbook, Win7 might be feasible on the older hardware with enough extra memory.

However, Ubuntu Linux for example, can import most Windows data during installation and can run well on older computers, with a wealth of available software included.

So what are the future choices, assuming a Microsoft only choice, Win7 or Win8 and new machines, and more expenditure and more profit to Microsoft.

I must remember to write to Parliament from Office 2007/2008!

Of course, there's no email client in Win7, perhaps that's an issue, I know so many who prefer to use Windows inbuilt email client for it's simplicity and ease of use.

As David Arno said 'Luckily these folk only run the country.'

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

You can't beat up Linux vendors

One of the reasons companies and especially government agencies steer clear of Linux is the *perceived* notion that there is no actual product ownership behind it and therefore you cannot beat up the supplier when things go wrong. They can currently go to Microsoft and say "Look, we pay you good money and give you massive kudos for supplying the UK government and you sold us a pile of shite. Please fix it." But the procurement and policy making people forget that IBM and Novell are behind their respective distros, not forgetting Sun/Oracle, who are probably more inclined to listen to and fix your problems. Either that or back-handers somewhere.

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Probably something in that

But once you are in a position where you have someone to beat up you find the price advantage of OSS is lost and price is seen as the key driver for OSS.

It is possible to make secure Windows systems and difficult to move to a Linux desktop without having to abandon at least some applications at least some of which will be critical.

I've been through this sort of exercise and ditching Microsoft is neither easy nor cheap however desirable it may be for all the reasons people seem to think are too obvious to state here.

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WTF?

As if...

When did the gov't ever EVER go to any supplier/vendor/consultant and tell them "Look, it's crap and we want you to fix it."?

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Headmaster

Beating up Linux vendors

Good point about the 'fear' of non-ownership. Got to say that if they're genuinely welcoming change etc then what about Ubuntu? Last time I looked it was UK based (London I think) so surely would score highly on the UKIP flag waving "we're supporting British industry" stakes?

Interesting that the PICT rep seems to be saying that Windows 7 is only for new kit, so you can't get your sluggy old desktop upgraded if you wanted to. Presumably (cynic mode on) this'll result in a flood of 'broken' PC's so shiny replacements (with Windows 7 of course) will have to be purchased asap (cynic mode off)

I personally can't see a big deal with slapping in one of the major Linux distros in there as an alternative, (Ubuntu or Suse would be the one's I'd pick myself). The footprints of these are way less than Vista (pauses to spit) so would save on hardware upgrade costs, and they're much better at integrating into a Windows environment than they used to be.

Just as long as some cretinous brain-donor doesn't try and standardise on Office2007 and/or docx/xlsx etc...

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FAIL

gubment

Incompetence on the part of the IT folks leads to this cock up every time.

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Joke

Just goes to show...

that the Westminster techies hate MPs as much as the rest of us!

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WTF?

What a waste of money

Seriously, we are allegedly bankrupt and we're wasting money on nonsense like this? *sigh*

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Anonymous Coward

Linux isnt free

Consider for a moment why they are still using Windows 2000 - it is highly unlikely that this is because the Windows XP / Vista / 7 licence was too expensive when they came out - its all about support.

Most people seem to be under the impression that because Linux can be downloaded free it would be substantially cheaper if not free to use it in an environment like this. This however is sadly not the case as the majority of the money spend on a move like this is not on the actual OS but on the support etc. and a move to another OS architecture would also require quite a bit of retraining of staff.

I think it would be a great idea to hold a reasoned cost benefit review of Linux vs Wndows especially with the move to consider open source software in government but to simply say Linux is cheaper than Windows is as closed minded as those who consider Windows to be the only option.

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I smell a shill...

There is plenty of evidence that the end user cross-training costs are minimal for the majority of users. The government runs plenty of Unix systems already so admin training is not a big issue either.

If we accept that in the long run the local support costs remain more or less unchanged then the difference between running an OSS operating system and a Windows operating system is licencing cost.

Take that a step further. There are multiple versions of Linux that run the same or very similar GUIs. There are multiple large companies offering support. So you've gone from a single supplier scenario to a multiple supplier scenario and you can actually request competing bids for the maintenance contract. You can't do that with a single supplier - nobody can bid against Microsoft to provide source code level support and, critically, bug fixes.

And once switched away from Windows of course you can switch between Linux variants with minimal to no training at all.

Open source is a realistic alternative - even if you have to provide some MS-only software through Citrix or VMWare - FUD like yours is standard Microsoft propaganda trotted out on a regular basis to those who are not in a position to judge the honesty of what they are being told.

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FUD?

I promise you I am not evangelising Microsoft products when I say that I do not accept that support costs remain more or less unchanged.

I have managed to get 1500 or so desktop machines running Linux into a area of UK govt. and it is not easy to justify costs. It is just not true to say "the difference between running an OSS operating system and a Windows operating system is licencing cost" - in a TCO model the OS licence cost is negligible and having a supported Linux desktop (or indeed server) OS is more or less the same in this respect as a Windows licence anyway.

As you say there will be MS only software in any non-tech organisation and so some form of windows will be running somewhere - with the attendant increased support costs from the loss of homogeny.

It is just about possible to make the numbers work if you place a stateless Linux OS into a setup that already has heavy investment in some form of application virtualisation - that gives you a reasonable reduction in the desktop system TCO which more than offsets the low extra support cost but anything more than what is effectively an embedded Linux in a thin client and it stops being something you can fit into a typical IT budget.

The reason this sort of thing doesn't happen is not some great conspiracy nor is it due to complete incompetence - good people who know their jobs and who often would enthusiastically welcome OSS cannot justify the switch in financial terms because there just isn't any great reduction in overall costs from dropping the OS licence fee.

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I assume...

I assume this short sited knee jerk has occurred because they notice Win2k support will stop in a couple of weeks... My question is why are they concerned about support being dropped by M$?

They insist on continuing to use IE6, which is a far bigger security risk than anything Win2k could reveal in the next few years.

Of course the next issue is going to be the hardware demands of Vista compared to XP... Stand by for loads of memory purchases to go winging their way to the original PC suppliers, and not to anywhere sensible (and far cheaper) like Crucial.

Actually, what am I thinking, they won't upgrade the memory, they'll just order a 1000 Vista update licences, find the machines don't have the guts, so order 1000 new machine (which come with Vista already), then hide the initial wasted Vista purchase under the bed.

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WTF?

Re: I assume

> My question is why are they concerned about support being dropped by M$?

The extent of your understanding of this term is quite odd.

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And these people run the country?

So, the guys who told us a few weeks ago that Internet Explorer is perfectly safe are now going against the opinion of almost everyone (including Bill Gates - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6qIETRCxbw) and installing Vista in favour of Windows 7, which is actually quite good?

I will start listening to the government on matters of technology when they stop losing people's personal data on trains, in the post, on stolen laptops, etc.

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FAIL

Gah!!!

Fail yourself. RTFA. This. Is. Not. Government.

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Megaphone

Idiot LibDem

Only a f****n tree hugging, Euro lovin LibDumb idiot would say that he had consulted Microsoft as to what was best.

LibDem=Shit Thick

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Unhappy

@Julian 1 It's all in the hardware upgrades

As you say Windows 7 would be a better fit for older hardware. But if you were the contracting company to sort out the IT I guess you'd push for a more hardware hungry OS so you could then get the extra cash and time to then have to rollout all new hardware to run the Vista OS on.

It's not about whats best or cheapest, it's about what makes the most revenue longterm for the IT company with the contract.

After all as they say "it's only taxpayers money..not real money!"

Sigh....

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WTF?

Aren't they missing something?

So... Windows 2000 support is nearly over and there's this debate over Vista and Windows 7. Excuse me while I look confused why they aren't choosing XP SP3...

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