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back to article Browsium rescues HMRC from IE6 – and multimillion-pound bill

A browser startup has undercut some of government's biggest IT suppliers to win its largest deal: shifting HM Revenue & Customs from Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP to IE8 and Windows 7. Browsium has moved 85,000 PC users from Microsoft’s hated browser and dated Windows XP, out-bidding computing stalwarts Capgemini and …

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JDX
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Smart Fellows

Find a niche and sell it for all it's worth. Well done to them, I say.

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Happy

Re: Smart Fellows

Get them to explain the concept of a leap year to microsoft while they're at it and that's the cloud sorted too!

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JDX
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Re: Smart Fellows

Talk about stuck records. Yes we know, find something new.

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Re: Smart Fellows

+1 for the startups, and another for the outbreak of common sense/practicality at a government department.

Lets have more please.

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Really a fix?

I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that these things are essentially still using IE6, but hiding it round the back. What happens when XP support goes? You're still stuck using components that MS aren't supporting, so you'll be stuffed in just the same way as soon as a bug comes up.

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Happy

Re: Really a fix?

I would expect that Browsium are now the ones providing support for the "IE6 Frame" and all the associated components that aren't part of Windows 7, as that would all need to be rolled into their plugin for this to work under Windows 7.

It sounds like a very good way to escape from IE6 - that was always a tricky problem as most large corporates dare not go for a "Big Bang" approach to that migration, even if they could afford it.

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Re: Really a fix?

Their previous product UniBrows used IE6 behind the scenes. Ion doesn't if their website is to be believed: http://www.browsium.com/ion/

End of the first paragraph: "...it does not include the IE6 engine used in our prior solution UniBrows."

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Re: Really a fix?

The point is that it allows HMRC to get the hideousness of IE6 out of their systems.

Once they've got rid of IE6 they can start to use new applications developed for standards-compliant browsers, whilst still retaining support for their old IE6 applications. They will still have a couple of years to migrate any legacy IE6 apps to newer browsers. Admittedly that's a blink of an eye in government IT terms, but it's a start.

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Re: Really a fix?

Considering many of them were envolved in developing IE6 I don't think they need to worry about MS supporting it.

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Re: Really a fix?

Erm, yes and no. So long as Browsium works in the current OS, you don't need XP, so that gets you out of that problem. But because it is still rendering in what is effectively a Native IE6 environment, yes it still is and doesn't really get you out of IE6. It just lets you NOT have to rewrite your hideously old VB6 web apps to support current standards.

As I see it, the real risk is whether or not Browsium provides potential IE6 malware infection vectors even though you think you are safe because you are running if from a Windows 8 PC running IE11. And since it is HMRC, that sounds like a good targeted (although not quite spear) attack environment for me.

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Extended support

I was under the impression that XP SP3 extended support ends in 2014, not 2012:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/products/lifecycle

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Re: Extended support

Yes, it does. It was due to end in 2012 previously but they extended it further.

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Re: Extended support

Yep, and that means if HRMC starts RFN, they should only be about 3 years late getting it implemented.

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Paris Hilton

I DONT GET IT

WHATS WRONG WITH INTERNET EXPLORER 6 I STILL USE 4

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Re: I DONT GET IT

Oh yeah well I am posting this using Netscape Navigator 2 (lol really am). It throws lots of javascript errors but I think it will work and not crash this time. The message box typing in right now, lmao doesn't even wrap. Probably about the oldest browser can get this to work with.

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Re: I DONT GET IT

Well enough wasting on the morning setting up a vm to actually run 15 year old browsers. And by the way posting with lynx or some other text only browser is not sporting. El Reg as expected looks like crap on Net Nav 2 but degrades itself remarkable well where it still actually possible to read the articles (lol looks like the WAP version though).

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Boffin

Re: I DONT GET IT

It's not all VM users tho.

Up until recently I was still maintaining a old Pentium II that boots into DR-DOS and Windows for Workgroups 3.11.

Reason: Retrogaming.

It suffered a PSU blowout that took out the mobo tho, and now I'm scouring for replacement parts.

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Facepalm

Re: I DONT GET IT

WHATS WRONG WITH INTERNET EXPLORER 6 I STILL USE 4

For one, it doesn't require CAPS LOCK to be enabled...

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Re: I DONT GET IT

Are you using a ZX81? You don't appear to have any lower case letters.

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WTF?

Re: I DONT GET IT

DOSBox.

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Meh

Browsium

So, it's like IETab for IE8/9?

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So crutches for IE6 then?

Kind of like what HP have done with Quality Center?

IE6 native or IE8/9 with a helper app type thing. Hopefully Ion is better than HPs method :)

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Unhappy

Now this *should* allow departments to *gracefully* upgrade their apps out of IE6

Will HMRC do that?

Will they f**k.

HMRC *should* view this as a *short* term migration tool to let them upgrade their apps in a *controlled* manner with a nice sustainably sized time working through the migration list. Here's an idea. Stop making them browser *specific*.

But instead they will probably continue to run their IE6 specific stuff (and let me guess make sure their *new* staff know how to write IE6 specific code as well, perpetuating this s**t).

Like a Heroin addict on Methadone. They're still an addict.

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Is it a saving?

Okay, nice idea - but the money they claim to have saved will need to be spent eventually in re-writing or replacing the apps. Sure, deferring the spend is a help, and might offset the extra cost of adding the translation functionality... or it might not!

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JDX
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Re: Is it a saving?

DO they need to rewrite the apps? Or can Browsium let them avoid doing so until the natural end of life for the app, when something new is needed regardless of browser upgrade issues?

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Re: Is it a saving?

Possibly and probably. All software comes to a point where it needs refactored or replaced because the world has moved beyond it. I'm not talking about the browser, hardware or related software, I'm talking about the human needs for the software in the first place. At the point where the underlying software needs rewritten the interface can be updated too. If 'patches' like this can extend a number of years before jumping in the code is necessary, then yes, I would say it saves money.

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Re: Is it a saving?

I believe a famous US President once remarked that the problem with government programs is they continue long past the time when the need for them has passed. While he was referring to the wetware, I expect the same is true of the software as well.

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Coat

Is it just me,

or does Browsium sound like a Discworld element like Narrativium?

Mine is the one with "Thud" in the pocket

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Impressive

Good stuff, and good to see that *someone* at HMRC had enough brains to go for this approach rather than flinging £35million of our money at Capgemini as would usually have happened.

Yes, John Smith 19 has a fair point, but this is a good start to weaning applications off IE6.

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Re: Impressive

Unfortunately the article doesn't go into details, but it does say that the money is for "Browsium", whereas the Cap/Fujitsu bid probably covered the re-write of all of the backend systems.

And that bit is probably the expensive bit.

And it still has to be done.

What this solution does give HMRC is the ability to move straight to W7 (and so presumably make legacy support savings) and migrate the old IE6 only stuff in a more piecemeal fashion.

I expect HMRC will still be giving £30m+ to Cap/Fujitsu to re-write those legacy systems over the next few years.

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Anonymous Coward

How I liked the simplicity of tables.

And Javascript that worked.

Sure, the escalation in browser variations has created jobs for a whole generation of people, but at least IE6 worked. What the hell they've done with IE9 I have no idea.

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FAIL

Re: How I liked the simplicity of tables.

Javascript that worked?

When was that around?

Oh, you mean when NN and IE had completely different DOMs so you ended up writing each script twice?

Yeah, none of this 'standardised library' nonsense that we get from jQuery.

Sheesh. Get yer facts right.

And tables.

Tables are for the display of tabular data. Not for layout/styling. That's what styesheets are for. Y'know, so you can reskin the site in 2 years time without having to edit every line of code on every page with <font color='green'> or somesuch rubbish.

The good old days? They were shit.

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Re: How I liked the simplicity of tables.

I would agree on tables but I'm not sure we're better off with jquery. Most problems with js can be solved with a couple helper functions. Jquery is a framework so there's over head which hits performance especially with things like each() vs a for loop or unwrap(). So you're either writing something small where it doesn't matter but probably don't really need jquery or you still need to know core JS and learn where jquery's weak spots are. That or you have a shitty experience that pisses people off.

Too often people throw tons of JS libs at a problem which is fine if you have awesome broband and are on your home pc but it's shit on 3g and smaller devices.

Then there's the fact jquery is the new PHP and attracts every no talent 'developer' so trusting jquery add-ons is risky at best.

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Speaking as someone who can write a for loop

I thank God on my knees every night for jQuery, warts and all -- yeah, fine, it's less than perfect, what isn't? .find() by itself is an absolute godsend.

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JDX
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Re: How I liked the simplicity of tables.

"Tables are for the display of tabular data. Not for layout/styling. That's what styesheets are for."

Yes we're all aware of the mantra, which web developers must recite at every possible opportunity. After all, it justifies them getting a lot of work to create old sites.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How I liked the simplicity of tables.

"Oh, you mean when NN and IE had completely different DOMs so you ended up writing each script twice?"

Well, actually, you wrote a compatibility class that provided a consistent API so you only had to write each script one.

But, yes, I fondly remember IE6's document.getElementByIdOrNameSoBuggyPagesMysteriouslyDon'tWorkInMozillaBrowsers.

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Re: How I liked the simplicity of tables.

Simplicity? Tables? Are you on crack?

Javascript that worked? Are you talking about the IE implementation of javascript? Or the Netscape implementation?

I for one certainly wont lament the passing of generations of browsers that paid scant regard to W3 standards.

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Re: How I liked the simplicity of tables.

"I don't know how to write modern Javascript, and I never bothered to learn CSS, and I expect the whole world to conform itself to my requirements." Gotcha!

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Telford

Employees at Aspire might be happier and work better if they didn't have to work in Telford, thus saving costs?

Just a thought.

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Re: Telford

"Good news, everybody !

We're moving to Mansfield !"

Oh....

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Thumb Down

Um, fixing DNS does this for FREE

"Browsium's low-cost answer was to avoid rewrites. [...] When it receives a call to a URL for IE6, it reproduces IE6's security and configuration [...] to make sure things still work."

I did this three years ago by fixing DNS in networks, and making sure internal app servers were visited with short names. IE8 automatically placed these in the "Local Intranet" zone, doing all of that natively. For others that needed full names or IPs I made Group Policy objects that put those things in the same zone. Sites in this zone automatically use 'compatibility' mode and relaxed security, unless their HTML has headers that tell IE8 to do otherwise.

So Browsium wrote a hack that does what was built in already. And they got paid to do this? If they have a patent, I claim prior art.

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Coat

Did Browsium realise..

.. that by winning a UK Gov contract they are thereby obliged to give highly paid jobs for an unending stream of failed ministers and clueless senior civil servants.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Browsium rescues HMRC from IE6

That headline is a bit economical with the truth if you ask me. HMRC `upgrades' from Microsoft IE6 to Microsoft IE8 all under a Microsoft reseller staffed by former Microsoft employees.

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IT Angle

IE6 Compatibility

How did HMRC make its entire IT infrastructure totally reliant on Microsoft IE6?

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Re: IE6 Compatibility

If it's anything like some of the places I've worked, you start off with one little helper app with an activeX control, webapps have been the up and coming thing over the last decade or so. You then expand out as you add new apps and functionality, because the browser's alway's there, and why not just make this new java cms run on ie6 with activeX because the poor programmers can implement a HTML/JS/java based UI and not have to keep distributing program updates to everyone and and and ... you get the idea. It's the creep of taking the cheap way out once or twice, and then eventually finding out you have to stay that course, or everything breaks at once in an expensive fashion.

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Unhappy

Re: IE6 Compatibility

"How did HMRC make its entire IT infrastructure totally reliant on Microsoft IE6?"

The same way *other* UK govt departments did it.

1 outsourced application development contract at a time.

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Re: IE6 Compatibility

Are you sure? The IE6 legacy may be part of their in-house development legacy.

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Pirate

Re: totally reliant on Microsoft IE6?

MS made it easy, and the first hit was free.

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Windows

"HMRC `upgrades' from Microsoft IE6 to Microsoft IE8 "

OK, I must be being VERY stupid.

I thought that was what the "Windows Upgrade" thing was for.

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Holmes

Re: "HMRC `upgrades' from Microsoft IE6 to Microsoft IE8 "

Presumably there wasn't space in the headline field to add "...in such a way that their old IE6 apps all continue to work."

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