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back to article Met plod will use 1980s software to police Olympics

The Metropolitan Police Service will use software from the 1980s to coordinate the command and communications of its policing operations during the London Olympic Games. The software, known as MetOps, is installed in the force's special operations room (SOR), the central control room providing communications support during more …

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Could be worse

They could have to use 1990s software which requires, for example Office 95 and won't work on NT. Or perhaps software written by web-design companies.

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Facepalm

Re: Could be worse

Yes - they could base their entire cloud service on some comedy system thrown together by a bunch of newbies yet to encounter the concept of a leap year.

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Trollface

Re: Could be worse. Indeed, they could be intending to use 1980s hardware........

..........though the sight of the plods equipped with mobile phones the size and weight of the average building brick with about 45 min standby time would have a certain comedy value.

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Re: Could be worse. Indeed, they could be intending to use 1980s hardware........

Actually, German police radios are often from the 1970s. The main problems are contacts and bad batteries, it seems.

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Coat

Re: Could be worse. Indeed, they could be intending to use 1980s hardware........

"Raymondo, fire up the Quattro"

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JDX
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Re: Could be worse

FFS Bob, change the record.

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Tsk.

Last summer's riots were coordinated with Twitter and BBM. The police could move to either with minimal financial outlay. Why, just thinking about this makes me feel safer.

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Re: Tsk.

That suggestion would require some planning which, given the timing of this news, the British public sector has once again proven is crap at doing.

Looking forward to the calls for a public inquiry after the Olympics.

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usual incompetence from a government organisation, BAU then

Given the ineptness of the Met. Police last summer, I'm kinda not suprised that such a useless bunch of idiots are still using software from 30 years ago, I'd love to know what they're running it on, Vax PDP11's? I bet they've kept them nice, not unplugged any cards for a few years, and probably just about kept them running (but I'm baffled by the disk packs, they'd never still be working today)

I can't see how anyone today can be running 80's hardware opertionally!! Must be also impossible to get spares.

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WTF?

Re: usual incompetence from a government organisation, BAU then

Inept may be due to circumstance and (quite likely) financial constraints. Calling them a useless bunch of idiots is neither accurate nor is it constructive. It's name calling and makes you look like - wait for it - an idiot.

Their software is old. Replacing it costs money. When someone announces a public sector project that costs millions the public throws its toys out the cot. Often justifiably so, because mostly because the big SIs (CapG, IBM, Oracle, C&W, HP Services and so on) see public projects as cash-cows that can be milked.

Solve that problem and I'll solve the tech problem for the Met. Whom I've worked with before, and they're VERY capable, committed and mostly do the best they can.

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Unhappy

Re: usual incompetence from a government organisation, BAU then

My other half worked as a civilian for the Police a few years ago. She was given the job of a Project Co-Ordinator. Basically monitoring the many projects going on.

She would turn up to see the usual middle aged fat bloke running said project for progress and they would be very surprised to see her. The following conversation would ensue -

Her: Hello I've just come to see you re. Project XYZ

Him: Err why? The results and report aren't due till November!

Her: Yes but it's my job to keep an eye on things and report progress.

Him: (rolls eyes) Listen luv, it's not needed. It's a government project isn't it. All we do is write up a report telling them what they want to hear and it's all done!

Her: Right so you haven't really done much the past 12 months then?

Him: Well no, like I said it's a government project, whether it happens or not doesn't matter does it? After all it's only taxpayers money!"

This happened time after time. The phrase "it's only taxpayers money!" was almost their catchphrase. She left after a few weeks. A combination of the above and her creepy boss feeling the need to touch female staff.

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Re: usual incompetence from a government organisation, BAU then

Was the "usual middle-aged fat bloke" a Met/government employee, or a project manager for the contractor company? Because I've encountered both, and I was wondering which variety you were describing here ...

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Re: usual incompetence from a government organisation, BAU then

They certainly exist, but so do the highly competant and dedicated ones, who value public service and believe in delivering tax payer value. The proportions are about the same as the private sector funilly enough.

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I'd worry more...

there was a story saying that they had a brand new system which was just being made ready in time for the Olympics.

At least you can be sure they know what the bugs with the current system are.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'd worry more...

I totally agree and was about to lost the same thing...

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Re: I'd worry more...

Much was my thoughts...

Legacy software that 'just pretty much sorta works'

or some monster gumberment IT spend that pretty much works mostly as well, but has just cost half the national debt and is delivered late and broken....

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Re: I'd worry more...

Well I was also expecting a paragraph announcing some new Big Government IT Project, and was astounded to see this instead:

"The Met is also considering adopting software currently used..."

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Anonymous Coward

Blatant attempt to grab more pork.

Police - Oooh, look, the Olympics are, like, next week and OMG we have equipment from the 1980's. OMG We're all gonna die.

Solution - more money and power.

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Re: Blatant attempt to grab more pork.

One should note that software from 1980 often runs flawlessly on modern systems. At least if it was written for Unix. VMS is harder to stil run, but a 1990s VAX could still do it.

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Re: Blatant attempt to grab more pork.

More power, more money.

Unlikely me thinks that ship has sailed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "VMS is harder to stil run"

There a surprising number of VAX's still out there, and they were still being manufactured up until about 2001 (2002?).

Also porting from VAX to Alpha was easy, even the most incompetent developers could manage it, as long you had the source.

Porting to Itanic was a dog, but that was mainly due to crap compilers and for about ~5 years after the death of the Alpha, inferior performance. If they (Compaq) had gone AMD64 after Alpha or just not listened to the lies from Intel/Gartner, there's a chance I would still be using it for real work today.

There are even emulators around that on modern PC hardware run much faster than the best VAX hardware ever did.

From a personal view: I would also say most any VMS software is likely to be vastly more resilient (ie: real clusters), feature rich and stable than any *nix code I've ever seen. Simply because VMS was (and still is) a better OS.

PS: If I could make a decent living at it, I'd much rather develop software on VMS than any other OS, using Win-Doh!s and such is just tedious.

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Re: Blatant attempt to grab more pork.

VMS is portable. Something written in the 1960s will run on modern hardware. Not a vax in sight on on our VMS boxes.

VMS is supported - for at least 30 more years under existing US military contracts with substantial penalties for failure.

I wish they were using a VMS backend, that way they don't have to worry about porting to new OS flavours every 5 years,

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Flame

we can only imagine

not a lot of meat in the story regarding exactly what this system is , how it works or what it runs on, or dosent run on.

Just a list of "it cant do x" , "its slow at Y"

You can tell by its name a piece of crap.

I shudder to think how crap it could actually be if its genuine 80's . A 16 bit msdos program?

God the hoops the IT people must have to jump through to make it work in any meaningful way in 2012. By now they proble have to emulate 80's hardware .

And of course the original developers are long gone , probly dead so there is no support from the bastards who created the system... just big bosses saying " It worked before , why do you need any help? just make it like it was when we commisioned it."

This is depressingly familiar ... "why cant you make the network work?". "Cos of this albatross you dragged along with you "

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Coat

Re: we can only imagine

Emulate 80s hardware, you say?

There's mainframe software still in revenue service that was developed on kit that had its architecture laid down in the 1970s that is being run in an emulation of that hardware running in an antique UNIX that in turn is running in an LPAR on an AIX box. This makes perfect commerical sense. As long as there's someone kicking around who can keep the original system ticking over its little emulated corner of the data centre, it can be much less risky and less expensive to keep it wrapped up in all those emulations and virtualisations than reimplementing something that cost many millions of 1980-s GBPs to develop and that, given that it's still running, is probably a cornerstone of the business.

Mine's the one with the VME manual in the pocket.

This page has been left intentionally blank.

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Holmes

It will work fine, providing...

the DI in charge is Gene Hunt.

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"GIS system"

Gaaaaaah!

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Holmes

Of course it's 80s software...

...that's when a govt IT project with a 2012 deadline needs to be started.

<-- Sherlock icon because he knew what he was doing.

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Anonymous Coward

1980s expert system

10 Is subject of a generally guilty ethnicity?

20 IF YES

30 Brandish night stick

40 Is subject running away?

50 IF YES

60 IF Rand==0

70 Beat subject

80 ELSE

90 Arrest subject

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Re: 1980s expert system

Oh nooooo, no terroist sub-routine - were doomed. Oh wait, I see what you did there :|.

Actiualy isn't the old police system some old COBOL setup that used honeywell bull kit, least one of them did, but surely moved welll on from that. Me hopes it's a old system on NCR tower unix servers or some old OS/2 system or netware, actualy thinking about it kit/old systems are pretty dam stable when think about it.

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FAIL

And it has just occured to the MPS *now* that this *might* be a problem.

Because who knew the Olympics was going to start in a few months?

Oh, everybody?

So even if they *could* get a new system designed and built how could you *test* it vigorously enough to be confident it will work? I'll bet there's a fair bit of data to transfer as well.

On the hardware side I'd guess its a mini computer app (*could* be a Siemens mainframe, which was IIRC what PNC was originally run on) driving what are now dumb terminal emulators running on normal PC's.

I'd go with WTF but as anyone who's seen the Italian Job will know massive sporting events offer massive opportunity for criminal activity. So something tells me the SOR *will* get a workout. We can only hope the FAIL will *not* be epic.

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Re: And it has just occured to the MPS *now* that this *might* be a problem.

Ohh as a German I'd definitely go for the new system if the old one was designed by Siemens. Siemens isn't really a company you can trust. "Wollen Sie was, das funktioniert, oder darf es auch ein Siemens sein." is a common joke here.

Perhaps the only worse German company is Deutsche Bahn. They are regularly fail to grasp that "Winter" is a regularly occurring event.

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Re: And it has just occured to the MPS *now* that this *might* be a problem.

Haven't we just ordered a bunch of trains off them?

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Will it be running on a ZX spectrum?

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Hope it's that and not a ZX81.

Imagine the terror across everyone's face as the details being entered are lost to rampack wobble.

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"rampack wobble"

It fell down the stairs, honest.

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Holmes

ZX81

No, they aren't using a ram pack precisely because of that problem. It's an ideal platform for the system as the keyboard is wipe clean and it produces wonderful statistics. When asked to calculate the proportion of unsolved crimes it gave the answer 4/10000.

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Re: "rampack wobble"

Repeatedly.

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Anonymous Coward

"significant challenges because of the sheer volume of footage, an estimated 200,000 hours, that had to be examined"

Well, if you had arrested people _in the progress of a crime_, you wouldn't need to view the all the footage and I doubt that the 200,000 hours quoted includes the time to work out who the people are. I can hear it now, 'great news sarge, we've got 5000 mugshots from the tapes' 'good PC Dimbleby, who are they then', 'oh.... dunno sarge'

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Not that easy

>Well, if you had arrested people _in the progress of a crime_, you wouldn't need to view t

In todays society you need proof to get a conviction - just arresting someone and then expecting 'I saw him do it' to hold up in court just doesn't happen.

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Devil

Dang

I know some people involved with the police and emergency services here in Indianapolis. Knowing I'm an IT geek, they let me see the op center they had for the Super Bowl.

Congratulations, London. You are now at least three decades less sophisticated than Indianapolis. No wonder so many British drivers try to come over here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dang

I think you'l find british/other national who go to drive in Indianapolis do that after they retired from real racing.

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Devil

Re: British Drivers

Just the ones who can only steer to the left

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Brilliant counter-terrorism tactic

This is clearly a cunning anti-terrorist tactic - none of your modern trojans or other security flim-flaroos* will run on the 16kb ZX-81 they have to run the 80's messaging software. Especially not if someone nudges the memory expansion thingy and means that the officer in charge has to re-load the whole thing off his cassette deck.

*Highly technical term, similar to a doober-twitchit but less hardware based.

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Dont forget that BRITISH police have very special requirements not known to the police forces of any other country, just as our firemen, amberlunces, local councils and every other public sector organisation have unique needs not known to any other county, let alone country.

As Jack Ryan's CIA analyst said in Clear and Present Danger " “I'm going to have to write a special program here".

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close but no.....

Actually, our gallent boys in blue have just the same requirements as any other copper anywhere in the world. Its the politicians who have the different requirements.

Primary requirement for a copper - Drink Coffee, eat donuts, do as little as possible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: not even close but still no.....

Actually, so far as I can see, the British police has the same set of wishlist as every other copper.

1. Find the criminals,

2. Bash them up, or dig them out and bash them up,

3. Ensure they're no trouble to anyone we care about.

Alas, they've all but given up, because at one time, all murderers were hanged, leaving the coppers free time to find other murderers etc. but they are now released after a sufficiently short time to retaliate against the witnesses, thus being able to reproduce, and pass on their criminal DNA. Hey presto, collapse of society.

They do this, so far as I reckon, because judges are pussy whipped and want to create work for their children (also in "law",) and politicians would rather have the criminal's vote and pretend you are safe, than make you safe and lose their vote, doncha lov'em.

I for one would vote for anyone who would pass a law allowing police to shoot from a covert vehicle, anyone who they'd just bought drugs from.

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Anonymous Coward

You forgot the unique requirements of our businesses, especially supermarkets.

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Re: close but no.....

Our police do have special requirements - they drink Tea not coffee!

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Wahey!

Oh, Ah, People running amok with the SCAMlympics torch will be like last August in London all over again....!

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Anonymous Coward

80's software maybe, but 21st century attitudes

The police have moved on from they 80's, when it was just ethnic minorities, the Irish or 'faces' they picked on. These days anyone can get fingered for something that either isn't actually a crime or that shouldn't be in a country that seems to delight in overusing the word "modern" to describe itself.

Middle aged middle class photographer with an SLR (fnah fnah) bigger than a coppers codpiece? That'll be an uncomfortable round of questions in a very public place by a dozen of our finest for you my lad. Feeling all angsty about student cuts? A pleasant afternoons kettling and the chance to wet your pants without guilt (no toilets provided) should disabuse you of that little bit of extremism. Overfilled your bins? We know all about your sort, and it all adds to the bigger intelligence picture till we find what you're really hiding, deviant. Brazillian electrician? Watch it matey.

Ahh, Mr Murdoch, lovely to see you. Well we did try so hard to look the other way, but they 'ad us bang to rights.... Next time Sir, I promise. About that lunch...

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