Computers in Whitehall will largely continue to run Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6, which will make web coders spit out their cheese‘n’pickle sarnies this lunchtime. “It is not straightforward for HMG departments to upgrade IE versions on their systems. Upgrading these systems to IE 8 can be a very large operation, taking weeks …
Perhaps they should have bought less crap apps
Just an idea...
What choice does a small local authority have?
Come on A.C. ... do you think we really have a choice?
Anonymous 'cause I work in this sector and I'm about to tell it like it is.
The problem we face is this ...
Firstly, Government relies on a considerable amount of bespoke software. That's the stuff which handles issuing of bus passes and all the other stuff like that which authorities have to do but you can't get off the shelf.
This ends up being the domain of the small software houses.
Programmers have been basing their systems around Microsoft components for years now, because it makes their turn around quicker. I mean, personally I think it is a ton of s**t that you have to load an entire office suite on a SERVER, damn it, for the software to work.
However, when those components change, everything goes for a ball of chalk.
If we upgraded from IE6 to IE8, several of our programs fail to work.
While the big boys like Capita have the resource to re-work all their software, the small guys haven't and if we upgrade then lo and behold, we're no longer supported. They've got the cheek to think that they can dictate the tide. The problem is that without them, all the departments that use voting system software and the like ... hit the buffers.
The problem now is that we're riddled with all sorts of bits and pieces that all rely on specific versions of Microsoft software to support it.
For crying out loud, we can't even upgrade our OFFICE installation because stuff breaks.
I hear managers and Microsoft supporters tot up and trumpet the cost of going open source ... well, there is one cost that would be saved ... and that is the cost we're facing right now of hitting a brick wall. There's only so much Microsoft that can be gaffer taped by putting applications on discrete servers running in VM environments that are tailor made for whatever the application needs.
Well, the time has come, 'cause we can't do that on the client!
We stayed on IE 6 because IE 7 broke stuff. We stayed on IE 6 because IE 8 broke stuff. Heck we don't even get a choice of IE 9. If Microsoft jettison XP, then we're in deep trouble.
Those perpetuating the nice, easy Windows platforms because their too damn scared to grow a pair and get real, need to be hung by their calculators.
And most of all ... central government need to get a voice and roar at these damn software houses to get their crap in order 'cause while the local authorities can only squeak, we're at the mercy of s**t programs churned out by crap programmers who are being pressured by the all mighty dollar in to getting the product out the door as soon as possible. For crying out loud HOW MANY UPDATES have Capita issued this last twelve months, on their Academy system?
I mean, if you load Info@Work before you load Academy and then try and open a Word document through Academy, you get a Virtual Memory error. I mean, who's going to take responsibility for this crappy situation? Each software house points at the other and in the mean time, we're stuck. All we can do is make sure the users load them in the correct order. (or was it the other way around? Gah!)
And we're riddled with this stuff all over the place, 'cause no one seems to be able to program properly any more.
Thanks ... Central Government ... for wanting to devolve decisions to local areas. This means we've got no voice because our lack of buying power means we've got a weak negotiating position; and have to struggle in the mire wasting time and money to try and make stuff play nice.
Well, we're about to run out of duct tape. Win 7 is going to have to happen and if the small software houses stuff doesn't run under XP compatibility mode, we've got problems.
Goodnight ... it's been nice knowing ya'll.
(I struggle, sometimes, to determine who is to blame ... the programmers for taking advantage of such component libraries, or Microsoft for not building the damn libraries correctly and making sure that stuff is properly backwards compatible ... but then, thinking back to the 90's, backwards compatibility was never Microsoft's strong point.)
...this reads like a manifesto for having all government systems based on open-source; don't you?
not the same everywhere
Back when Firefox was still Mozilla I was working in an IT department in one of Defra's executive agencies. We adopted Moz as the browser of choice and as much as possible got rid of IE.
A slight fly in the ointment...
... is that various manufacturers, like Nortel (Now Avaya), Sun (now Oracle) and many, many others, have web based management systems ... and because either they can't program to standards, or else succumb to using the fancy non-standard stuff that Microsoft packaged with IE ... none of the stuff will work under Firefox.
Somebody give me a gun and a bullet ... I cant take much more.
And the longer they delay...
...the more it will cost and the higher the ongoing risk.
There is an upside to all this
The crappier the software HMG is using, the less likely they are to be able to get their act together and oppress us properly with all that data they've been gathering.
No just government....
A whole lot of companies are not upgrading their browsers from IE6. My company isn't and it aint nothin' to do with time to roll out (or cost of IE8), it is to do with how integrated it is with the software that has been developed for it. The software cannot be tested on IEanything else and approved for use without paying the original developers or licensers a WHOLE HEAP of money. If you run the software on any browser than IE6 you lose the support you have paid £300m for (that isn't a typo).
So one wonders why everybody thinks the lack of IE8 in the workplace is so amazing. These people have clearly never suffered from appalling legacy systems with ridiculously one-sided licences. They also still think that "no-one ever got fired for choosing IBM", which i can state right now is not true. Think IBM and IE6 are not related? That's how bad some of the previous decisions were.
Still, the government eh? what are they like!
This is what standards are for
How many times will we need to repeat this; people getting locked in to some bit of software because it implements something non standard and they end up relying on it?
Come on guys: it is hardly rocket science!
Problem is that standards develop years after people need things doing. Few have the luxury to wait 10 years for a standard to arise, nor can they just throw everything away and start afresh every couple of years or so. HTML5 is a decade away from being a recommended standard.
It costs 1% less for crap software than good software. Ergo, crap software wins.
Try and keep up, it isn't rocket science, it's accountancy.
We can't let coders rule the world because nothing would ever be finished, but then we can't really let accountants rule the world because we would never pay extra for quality.
You're telling the wrong people.
The people who need(ed) to know are those who developed the apps tied into IE6 a few years ago.
Go tell them. See if they care.
Oh dear! Doesn't apply
When IE6 was being adopted, there were already well developed browser standards. The fact IE6 studiously avoided implementing them was a deliberate piece of MS 'design' intended to get just this sort of result - lock-in to their own proprietary ways of doing things. That HMG were happy to pay for or build software which relied upon those lock-in features to operate shows a complete lack of both foresight and savvy. But then, we are talking about HMG, aren't we?
I've been going through the UK visa process since I'm apparently scum
And I have to say, with no malice, that this doesn't surprise me in the least.
Where I work you can't pay your travel expenses without using IE. I have a special virtualbox app set up just for this nightmare.
If they upgrade, some of that free russian software they installed years ago wont work any more! How will they survive without KremBackup to backup all their documents off to a secure site in easten europe, or Bejing-k-loggr to remember all their passwords?
Governenment will cease to work! not entirely dissimilar to how someone's brains seem to have siezed up while developing this lack of a policy.
And they think this will *save* them money?
the simple answer
the simple answer is for all web developers to start charging more for developing for IE6 so that suddenly it's not quite so cost-effective to stick with it!
so this is basically their answer - they are NEVER going to upgrade away from IE6? How's that going to work, they'll have to do so sometime surely??
Now I'd better get back to writing an IE6 workround for the aforemention incompatibilities....
Anon because of obvious reasons.
the simple problem ... was the developers
Was *******g web developers writing to IE6 instead of open standards in the first place... I lost quite a number of arguments where I wanted a fat client rather than web enabled because a fat client means you can understand it and can manage it, whereas too many "web enabled" apps where fully IE proprietary with all sorts of downloaded applets and stuff, which meant you still had a fat client, but one you coyuldn't understand and couldn't manage...
"Proper" web enabled, meaning all the nonsense on the server side and pure html to/from browser I never objected to, and virtually never saw either... And was I allowed to reject such and such a package because it was going to be a support nightmare? Not a chance...
It's your government - you're paying the bills.
Its called 'the legacy', welcome to it.....
@ Matt 75
It's called incompetence.
Simply refusing to do it on ethical grounds.
It's companies like yours that is the primary cause of the problem. Don't. Design. Out. Of. Standard.
It should be simple enough, but you'll take money to do it huh?
I shouldn't be surpirsed
but I would have hoped they'd be using testing automation tools so a test should be completed in hours not months.
Oh well, at least it's Friday.
Jesus Christ on a bike made of fire
Moronic ****ing ****s...
The only way they'll switch...
...is if Microsoft stop issuing security patches.
Someone should make some kind of virtualised IE6 container which only connects to a predetermined list of websites (thus supporting legacy business webapps). Then the organisation would be free to upgrade to a proper browser.
erm....no it won't
It wouldn't stop anyone keeping IE6, it would just encourage other vendors to tout a security system that also costs a fortune, and the head of strategic IT decisions would get his abacus out and figure it would save 2% to go down that road.
Don't underestimate the power of the tech unsavvy accountant when it comes to money.
Oh, no they won't
"No new security patches for this software" = "It is safe to continue using this bug-laden pile of c**p"
Besides, IE8 won't run on Win9x, WinME, NT4 or (IIRC) on Win2000
Don't be naive. If they haven't switched yet, they're not going to switch. Saying that they'll switch if MS stop issuing security patches is just misguided - the statement from the government says that they'll use firewalls and malware protection to 'further protect' users running IE6, so they'll just carry on doing that.
You should all realise by now that gov departments aren't interested in proactive upgrade strategies - spend to save and all that jazz. They're much happier being reactive - waiting til something bites them on the arse before being vaguely productive.
Oh, and the virtualised IE6 container that only connects to certain websites is called Citrix / Terminal Services. And they're crap too.
"Someone should make some kind of virtualised IE6 container which only connects to a predetermined list of websites"
Somebody has done, they were showing it at Infosec: http://blogs.gartner.com/bob-walder/2010/04/30/infosec-2010-london/
No more patches
Yay! No more patches means no more paying the service provider to roll out updates! That's a taxpayer economy, right there.
More seriously, I post this from a "Whitehall" machine  running XP SP2 (out of support) and IE6 SP 2. There is no scheduled upgrade to OS or browser. We're lucky, though. Some seriously important national infrastructure in this part of the forest is still running on NT4.
 What's with the 'Whitehall' thing? Most of us are hundreds of miles away from there, and there's very little consistency across Departments.
Are you being sarcastic?
Saw a demo of this very thing at an MDOP conference using App V - different IE versions launching based on URL. Seemed to work fine. In the demo.
Why does it "cost" for them to do their jobs?
Wait - if they do nothing, then do I get a rebate on my taxes?
When will those donkeys who do "IT Strategy" for the government realise that sticking to IE6 isn't an option.
It is not just a browser, it's the delivery mechanism for all applications. With ever-increasing applications being written that are web-based, e.g. nobody builds thick clients these days, it's getting nigh-on impossible to develop for IE6.
The root cause is Microsoft's pathetic attempt to integrate the browser into the operating system as their response to the browser wars of the nineties. This means that any attempt to co-exist browser versions isn't supported.
Government's best bet is to install an alternative browser; Firefox or Chrome. Both will be better for security. Whilst they're at it, dump Microsoft Office and sanction Google Docs (run on secure private servers).
You were winning in the first 3 paras. Then you went with Google docs.
IE6 is the defacto standard. Just like Office is the defacto document format. Both are lockins. It's just that theIE6 one is noticeable because it stops people doing what they want. Lockins are like that some times.
Way back when everything suddenly went web app, all the developers of the corporate world were delighted to not have to do custom front end applications. Now they all pay for the saving. And will continue to do so for as long as as it takes.
Even better.. Microsoft's lockin strategy is now biting them on the bottom by stopping companies upgrading to newer versions because the software is incompatible... Which means either they re write IE6 to run on 7, or they can't stop supporting XP.
Sad thing is.. A large number of people will just do the same damn thing again, and in years to come, will be unable to move from Office when the next big thing comes along.
@John Smith 19
Nothing wrong with Google Docs. It's an excellent collaborative tool and, run on the correct browser, can be extremely stable and capable. Comes with Wave too, which is where collaboration gets slicker 'n deer guts on a pump handle...
Ah. The correct browser... Probably best forget all of that, right? If they can't even choose the correct browser* with world+dog screaming the obvious in their ear, what chance their getting anything else right?
* Where, for the sake of argument, "the correct browser" is ANYTHING except IE6
'unable to move from Office'
I hate Mickeysoft as much as the next man, but that's just crap. So long as Word exports to .DOC ('Word 97-2003 format') or .RTF or even to .TXT you can get the data out of it and virtually anything out there will read it. There are simply too damn many copies of too damn many different word processing and layout apps (Word from early versions of Office, Open Office, Symphony, Pages, Quark XPress, Adobe InDesign, et bloody cetera) which read .DOC to let even Mickeysoft kill it without feeling considerable pain at the checkout-counter. Same for .RTF. (Though Mickeysoft is trying hard to hide it.) In a similar fashion, so long as Excel can export to XLS or CSV I can always get data out and move it to something else. And CSV is _never_ going away. Mickeysoft might manage to restrict PowerPoint, but it's not as though anyone really cares about last month's sales presentation, so who bloody cares? Access, well, if you're heavy into Access you're locked in tight... and some of your stuff will break on impact with any new version, so you're used to rebuilding your stuff or to just keeping ancient unsupported systems running for years anyway. (I know for absolutely _certain_ that some chunks of Access-generated code made with Access 97 will _not_ work with Access 2003, much less with 2007. Guess how. And, no, the boy who wrote the thing back in 1999 ain't around the company no more, having caught a slight case of dead two years ago, and no-one else has a clue what the hell he did, so the whole thing is being re-written... but not using anything from Mickeysoft.) MSIE is actually _banned_ for official purposes around here; individuals can use it, if they provide their own support and their own security, with the clear notice that if IT (that is, me'n'myboyz'n'grrlz) finds any problems traceable to MSIE security problems said problems can be a termination offence....
Personally, I have already departed Office, part way; I use Pages for my word processing, exporting to .DOC or .RTF or .PDF if necessary. I still use Excel, because it's the best spreadsheet out there, but if a better one shows up I'll dump it and move. I'd have to export all my old macros, but that won't take long. (A 'better spreadsheet' had damn well better support macros with at least the Excel feature set or I'll not be moving. That's why I didn't move to Excel 2007 or 2008 and probably won't move to Excel 2010 or 2011, Mickeysoft screwed with the macros.) As it is the box i use for serious work at the office is on a network which has no Internet connection and which has serious access restrictions, making it fairly secure, so I'll still have it available even if Mickeysoft kills support for Win 7 tomorrow... which they're not going to do. I usually use a Mac on the Internet precisely because it's harder for a Mac to be affected by malware, and that Mac is on a separate net, and the only point of connection is _my_ thumb drive, which is scanned for malware on a regular basis. Yes, it's still possible for something to get past, but I can live with the possibility. (No, Tuxers, I'm really not interested in Open Office. I've tried it. It's too clunky. Free is nice, usability and capability are better, and Excel is both more usable and more capable than Open Office's spreadsheet, while Pages is superior to its word processor... at least in _my_ opinion, and as I'm the one who has to use them, _my_ opinion is what matters. Perhaps in the future this may change, but right now there's no contest.)
"Upgrading these systems to IE 8 can be a very large operation, taking weeks to test and roll out to all users.”
Weeks is not "a very large operation", especially in Government I.T. projects.
For goodness sake stop making excuses and just get on with it. You've had long enough. Sticking with an unsupported 9 year old browser that is open to exploits is simply negligent. How long before we get another data theft scandal?
Depends what they are using it for.
If it's for public web browsing then IE6 is not the best choice these days. But if it is an integrated front end to an application, or suite of applications, then does it really matter.
For example, is a 10 year old 3720 terminal emulator the wrong tool for accessing a 10 year old application that is still the cornerstone of a company? Not everyone wants or needs to upgrade working systems every couple of years.
@ bitmat animal
Possibly the most sensible post so far.
It is true to say that many other browsers work fine with .gov.uk sites (such as HMRC); it's also true to say many other browsers don't. But I comment as a 'customer' not an internal user.
I am totally in favour of the ConLib Govt making as many savings that make sense, and if the implication is that keeping IE6 is for internal intranet usage only, carry on.
IE6 should die
Developing 'simple' intranet sites using IE6 is fine. However, the world has moved on and we're now developing 'applications' as opposed to static web pages. Getting these kind of pages to work with IE6 is difficult bordering on impossible -- pushing costs up massively.
There's a cost to developing with IE6. I'd argue that cost is far greater than the cost of upgrading.
An this is why Steve Jobs will never replace Flash with HTML5
As long as there are significant numbers of users with IE6, IE7 and IE8 browsers out there, HTML5 will not be able to become a widely used standard nor will it be able to replace Flash. I think we've got at least another 5 years before IE is fully flushed out of the internets.
Surely that's why Steve Jobs won't replace Flash with HTML5 for 5 years?
And can't we just replace Flash as a mandated plugin with Google Chrome Frame in the meantime?
I'm probably being naive.
What about the new computers
So, when they buy a new computer, how do they get IE6 on it? I mean, I'm fairly sure I would have a hard time getting IE6 from a legitimate source. Perhaps there is a simple answer to this, but for how long?
Say Cameron sets up a new quango (can you say "Office of Budget Responsibility") and they want some computers, just where do they get IE6 from?
They already have it
Like most big corporations they don't just use whatever OS is on a machine when it's delivered, they have an OS image that they load.
And they don't just buy any old machine from PC World, they test the image with specific hardware from specific vendor(s) and have a contract for that vendor to supply that configuration (perhaps with minor changes to disk space and memory) for a period of time.
This means that you have 100,000 desktop machines that are essentially identical, which makes support a little bit easier because it allows you to utilise central software management tools to deploy patches, upgrades and application installations.
Someone needs (say) Project? They call a central number, who sort out a license, add it to the user's profile and next time they log in the software is downloaded and installed.
Yeah, that's overkill if you're in the same building, but if the support guys are 200 miles away it's much more cost effective.
50-60 technical staff can support 100,000 desktops on 3,000 sites.
Simple: they don't.
Unless everything goes pear-shaped all at once, they'll just keep repairing the existing ones. As far as I know, so long as you don't switch out the motherboard (and that won't be necessary unless you run out of spare mobos, CPUs, and/or memory modules), you can bodge a computer back to life 90% of the time.