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back to article Orange UK exiles Firefox from call centres

Yes, the corporate world is taking its sweet time upgrading from Microsoft's eight-year-old Internet Explorer 6, a patently insecure web browser that lacks even a tabbed interface. Take, for example, the mobile and broadband giant Orange UK. According to a support technician working in the company's Bristol call centre - who …

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Anonymous Coward

Fair enough

Workers not allowed to install apps will-nilly. SHOCK! HORROR!

Why are the allowed to access the Mozilla site?

Why do they have rights to install anything?

My guess....all the call centre operatives are running as Administrator on their local PC (in typical Windows fashion).

As for moving away from IE6...won't happen for at least another 5-10 years. Think of all the legacy apps that exist and would need to be re-written. Only when they EOL and get updated will they potentially support more modern browser. And that's *IF* the company requests it (at probably extra expense).

C'mon, these people still use COBOL! But at least COBOL is good at what it does, IE6 is just an abomination.

I am currently doing an intranet app that is targeted at IE6 as that is all the client can use due to their legacy systems. But I am making sure is will run happily on FireFox et al. Although I don't expect them to move to this any time soon.

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@Charging for Y2K

I'd dispute that, actually. The major OS vendors released patches for free. Plenty of enterprise software was fixed under maintenance. Whilst it won't comprise the entirety of the problem what remained was really old software/hardware, cheap consumer level shit and companies that didn't tie down their contracts properly.

The major cost was manpower, and that's never free.

There were some shysters trying to sell all manner of crap, but generally the industry buckled down and fixed the problem, even if it shouldn't have been necessary. Apart from a few people that didn't, and a number of systems that failed on February 29th 2000. Roll on 2038; not enough is being done to fix that.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

I think much of the problem lies with PC Helpdesk staff not being trained or possibly even capable of trying much more than a power reset or a 'reformat and rebuild'. Gone are the days when someone knowledgeable turned up at your desk and had your PC singing & dancing again in half an hour. Figuring out what a problem actually is and fixing it takes too long and is too expensive, so all non-technical staff are forced into using the stuff that's worked for years, and which the company can't justify taking the risk/costs of changing. It eases the situation with the service contract company, which presumably proved cheaper than company's own staff. Meanwhile technical staff are expected to sort their own non-standard kit out by themselves regardless whether PCs are their speciality or not; even when the problems are caused by company making changes outside of the tech group's area. Never mind the problems, just so long as the budget looks as if it's as low as it can be.

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WTF?

Read between the lines...

You have two issues.

1) Code written to work on IE6 browser may not work on another browser or version of IE.

2) Reworking the code costs money. Money that Orange doesn't have to spend if they don't migrate to another browser.

3) Large companies want to lock down what software is loaded and supported in a way to a) control their environment. b) control the costs of development and c) keep support simple.

Is this daft? Maybe, depending on which side of the coin you are on. Are you the user who has to take longer to respond, or are you the manager or senior executive that has to either ask or approve the IT costs of maintaining and upgrading the software to make the workers marginally more efficient. An act, which btw puts that manager's or the executive's job on the line...

Its not so simple when you put things in to perspective.

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Silver badge

Software installation

Software installation... while the ideal is that the users cannot have admin rights to install their own software, this is often impossible due to fucktard developers who manage to write (aka blindly cobble together) applications that "require" administration rights just to run.

On this front, I can feel for the admins at Orange - the useless so-called web apps aren't, they're IE6 botched apps instead. As a result, they have to keep using IE6 as IE7 (and IE8) are so bloated that the hardware, that should be quite adequate for the job, cannot sensibly cope. They can't use any other browsers either, as these don't work with the IE6-app's that are in use.

Next, they can't even lock down the systems because some crud applications won't work if they can't write to wherever they damn well please in the file system / registry (registry use = fail, every time - dumbest idea for a long time from MS).

As a result, users start installing crud on the systems they use (company property, not personal) - custom browsers, plug-ins, junk-mail apps, trojans, viruses, etc. This can take a long time to fix - often through the hassle of having to re-image systems and re-configure them - imaging is all very well but if the hardware pool varies, can be a lot of hassle.

Threatening the users with a, possibly illegal, £250 fine isn't an especially smart move though.

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FAIL

They interfere with Firefox though

The call centre might not be able to use it, but if you install an Orange Livebox, it will hijack the default search and branding on Firefox without asking.

I've finally worked out how to put the address bar search back to normal, but am going to have to live with the fact that every time Firefox upgrades, it tells me that two Orange plugins aren't compatible. You can turn them off, but God knows how you permanently get rid of the things (they're locked and the advice for removing locked plugins won't do it.) After a few hours trawling forums and Google, I give up.

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Gates Halo

The real problem is

that a lot of the web based apps will be 3rd party, so in-house development has to work around their shortcomings.

This is why it's understandable (though still not forgivable) that they've not yet upgraded.

But Firefox? not a sodding chance!

That software has no place on a large corporate network. The Mozilla developers simply don't have a clue as to how a modern (or even vaguely modern) windows network operates.

It stores all its configuration settings in files under each user - a whopping great no-no.

It also stores its temporary internet cache in the wrong application data folder, so if your network uses roaming profiles, your users end up carting vast swathes of useless data around between machines, and clogs up your servers.

As some previous commenters have touched on, group policy management allows extremely granular configuration of every aspect of IE. Because Firefox doesn't use the registry correctly, it's impossible to control or manage in any meaningful way.

The true irony is that IE, no matter which version, is actually vastly more secure than any other browser because of these GP configuration options.

You can define by zone, precisely what is and isn't allowed to run - javascript, flash, activex etc. You can define what it can and can't download, restriced websites, add-on installs, the list goes on.

There are literally hundreds of configuration options that you can mix and match depending on what user logs onto what computer.

This means that you can shut IE down into 'read-only' mode for all external websites, and open up every possible 3rd party plugin for your own intranet systems. Combine that with a decent corporate firewall and overall windows lockdown, and nothing malicious is getting through, no matter what vulnerabilities are discovered in the browser.

It's this functionality that makes IE the defacto, and still the only choice for any sysadmin that's got more than a hundred machines to look after.

By comparison, Firefox looks like a tedious and time consuming back door into your systems, so it is of no suprise that they came down so hard on the phone monkeys. (I'm allowed to call them that, I used to be one once upon a time.)

Although, the fact that these guys have enough local user rights to install something, highlights that it's the administrator that should be fined £250 for each machine that goes down because he's too incompetant to secure the machines properly.

I chose Bill as a saint, simply because group policy management has literally saved me thousands of man-hours work! (That's no exageration!)

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WTF?

I feel the pain

You'd be surprised how many places employ front end web designers but don't allow them to install any browser other than one (usually IE6 for the big boys).

In one of the places I used to work I would bring in a netbook and EMAIL (no USB allowed) the files between the two so I could cross-browser check my work. That is shear madness!

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ie

our users don't have rights to install anything.

we insist on ie simply for centralised and managed patch management. don't give a hoot what the users think, we need to be able to apply patches across the board quickly and reliably. hence we stipulate (and force) ie.

we use wsus to standardise on ie7 - contemplating the ie8 rollout, we've been using it in IT since its release and has caused no issues with our internal web apps or anything else. so guess will be rolling that out soon.

if mozilla release some sort of centralised updating mechanism that corporates can use to reliably and quickly update all firefox installations across our wan, then we might take it a bit more seriouly as a corporate tool.

personal opinions and preferences aside, my employer employs me to keep things as secure and manageable as possible.. rightly or wrongly, at the moment, that is ie simply due to manageability (gpo\ieak) and patch management (wsus).

bye!

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@Orange SUCK

Oh boo-frickety-hoo, a company with whom you have no corporate interest uses an application that isn't your preferred internet browser.

Do any of the "OMG Orange sucks, IE6 sucks, use FireFox!" fanboys have any experience in corporate IT? I don't mean fixing your mate's computer when he got a trojan off some pr0n torrent, I mean actual IT.

In my experience FireFox is no better than IE6 for stability, but is worse for compatibility because of the whole crusade for being standards-compliant rather than "actual real-life Internet"-compliant.

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FAIL

Corporate Ignorance

Yep, I work for a large Scottish branded bank in the UK which is now mostly publicly owned.

IE6 is still on all of the desktops here, and recent requests to the architecture committee to allow Firefox on the desktop stating all the obvious and sensible reasons was declined. Nice one guys.

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Pint

IE6 here too.

We only just got XP a few months ago, and it is locked down to the garish Luna theme.

I'd have thought that such a task as updating the OS on 500+ PC's would mean that a simple browser upgrade rolled in would be a doddle.

I have 16 windows open at the moment, the majority different browser windows and it's a right pain in the arse. Gimme tabs!

A pint because it's the only tab I'll be opening today.

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Megaphone

Pipped off

Whilst I commend Orange for employing people with learning difficulties, I'm still trying to get them to restore access to my email which they broke when 'upgrading' my mobile account at the beginning of May.

Could we fix the important stuff first, please?

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Stop

Not suprising.

Both Firefox AND IE are security nightmare, with more holes than swiss cheese.

The difference is, it's easier to ensure any holes are patched in IE quickly (via SUS or WU), firefox you have to rely on the users to do it, as there is no central management.

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FAIL

But

As a former IT security and current Business continuity bloke.

They sound like they have no kind of forward planning. The IT dept would have insisted the brower and web apps followed international standards anyway to ensure future compatiblity.

Their DR and Business continuity staff should be sacked as this is a fundamental flaw in their plans. Recovery at a third party external site. Compatibility issues should be one of the reasons to upgrade.

Their IT security dept should be ashamed as they are responsible for a secure method of browsing and IE 6 just isn't. Regardless of who you favour, IE 6 is riddled full of flaws and coding errors.

And having the ability to download software is a no no in a call centre environment.

Then again I used to work in an insurance company with a manager who was running the IT dept's olympic themed team events and had to ask where canada was. (Amongst other things)

And I now work for the NHS who allow all their staff full admin rights to their local machines.

Orange are not alone and there is no accounting for the stupid morons that somehow manage to get to senior management and IT director roles.

Anon because my boss might read this. :)

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Pint

Re: Corporate Ignorance

>>Do any of the "OMG Orange sucks, IE6 sucks, use FireFox!" fanboys have any experience in corporate IT? I don't mean fixing your mate's computer when he got a trojan off some pr0n torrent, I mean actual IT.

Probably more than you mate. 15 years good enough?

>>In my experience FireFox is no better than IE6 for stability, but is worse for compatibility because of the whole crusade for being standards-compliant rather than "actual real-life Internet"-compliant.

You really should get out more and not only use the Intralan.

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laws

if someone was peev'd off enough they could try to have the call centers done for failure to comply with securing customer data in accordance with the data protection act, for using IE6 since the security holes are abundant in it.

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Thumb Down

Going backwards to go forwards

i work for Virgin Media and were still using IE6. thankfully they did finally upgrade us to win xp last year in our office, but we are not allowed to use firefox at all

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FAIL

I feel that

I also work for one of the big four mobile networks and its is same situation... stuck with IE6.

I started using Firefox because of IE6, it sucks. But allowing staff admin rights to install software on networked computers, computers that can access millions of peoples personal details is just stupid.

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Coat

IT policy

Policy should be enforced with restrictions not 'suggested' as a user guideline.

What the heck are call centre agents doing being allowed to download and install applications?

Heck I wouldn't even give them internet access from their primary workstation.

No wonder my phone bills are so high.

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Unhappy

meh

I work for Orange Broadband in an outsourced callcentre and we have been threatened with disciplinary action for having the audacity to use Firefox - a browser that works and actually improves our performance.

We have full access to the internet which is slightly unnerving considering some of the outdated software we have installed on our PCs, mainly IE6 and a version of Adobe Reader from the time of the dinosaurs.

Our CRM (a horrid Oracle PeopleSoft creation) and most of the technical systems are web based and accessed over the internet so depending on which department you work in, you can have anything up to 10 individual IE6 windows open taking up all the machine's resources and forcing you to click all over the damn place to find the application you need.

In my opinion tabbed browsing is a must in this type of environment as it improves the performance of the agent dealing with the customer's query and makes things more efficient all round.

One of our legacy systems is Java based and runs slower than molasses. I'm sure the customers must get pissed off sometimes when I'm continually asking them to "bear with me" while their account details trickle down the wire and eventually appear in this dilapidated system.

Not that our lack of adequate IT resources matters anymore, seeing as all our jobs are moving to India to save money. Which incidently pisses off the customers and causes them to cancel their contract, making Orange lose money anyway. Nevermind.

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Orange- always a follower, never a leader.

Orange will never be a leader, never a world class company, innovation, bleeding edge and first principles are not anywhere to be found in the current Customer services division. They are most happy staying 3rd placed in the Network league table, why work harder when you can coast along. The CEO has plans right now on his desk to outsource the support division, better known as IT&N. Whose opening debut to the freedom of information was to have arm twisting exercises thrust upon them to admit to every project being 19 mths behind on schedule, true they have improved since but remain silent as to any success. And furthermore, it is alleged that the wonderful Single Network Queue for call routing has been a roaring success, yes if it is classified in the failure listings. (Remember a Which Report on broadband) Ever have calls not being answered ? Found yourself suddenly talking to empty space? You cannot be transferred? Being told that ''no notes'' found on your account ? Agents apologizing for the delay in accessing information - welcome to the modern world. At base computing levels of conflicting software at the application level, called Merlin ('cos it needs magik to run without mishap) clashes with SNQ and both hoq what little processor power the desktop has.

The run to change the Browser was the 'intelligent' immediate solution to make the very limited desktops render enough power to run without crashing repeatedly. The call centre staff have to keep daily logs of outages, crashes, exceptions, strangeness and charm episodes to qualify that it was a system fuck up and not the staff member. But guess what readers? Orange management refuse to admit that any systems have problems, and that since every pc fails differently at different times with different errors, then it clearly is the member of staff failing to operate the provided equipment properly and therefore that individual deviates from rigid service provision. If raised with any gumption and challenge, management standard answers yield, ''that cannot be true'' or ''that should not happen'' And the kicker in the soft region, squash the employee bonus. Brilliant service, never - Brilliant 1970s management attitudes still prevailing, yes - deserves a Nobel prize for that ability. It is only public exposure that will force Orange to wake up and actually stop meetings in dreamscape and get into reality of what is required to do a job well done.

A senior member of staff from France (nameless of course), says that perhaps with newer management and stronger ideals, such as zest, get up and go, hot dynamics - maybe 5 years hence will render the necessary core overhaul. In the meantime, the current Orange reality is rather like a tangerine dream. Now you can cry.

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Gates Horns

STOP

122 responses and no, NOT ONE, noticed the following --

"we asked Microsoft if firefox was safe and they said "no way, firefox is not safe under any circumstances"

Lies, damned lies and Corporate Stances.

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yawn

My company insists on giving the peasant ranks low-end machines - you know, the kind that were low-end even when the OS they were initially installed on was new.

Yep, we're on w2k clunkers that take a good 10+ minutes to boot up, with locked down profiles that (try) to block most decent clickage. Essentially, we're forced to use ie6 - not for security or compatibility, but because of the machines running the software.

Not a single machine is ghostable either, its a hybrid mixture of mobos, drives, cpus and ram amounts. So yay for us.

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FAIL

Win 2000 + IE6 here :D

Here at Sainsbury's we have Windows 2000 on all the office computers, the checkouts, everything. And of course IE6. And naturally, an appalling stock control app which runs through IE6. And lovely stock control handsets running some ancient version of WinCE with some awful software running on top of that that crashes and needs a full reinstallation several times a day. Wastes about an hour of my/their time every single day. Nevermind..

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@dave hands RE: STOP

Yeah, I didn't think it was a very funny joke either.

Regarding tabbed browsing, why don't they ask if they can use something like Avant Browser? I hate it, but at least it won't break most apps written for IE 6.

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WTF?

Orange Desktop support

The reason Orange's PC support and lock-down is so poor is because it is outsourced to HP, formerly EDS. They do not do any diagnosis at all. I used to use a laptop and it suddenly decided it wasn't part of the domain any more (because I didn't use it on the LAN for about 3 months - fair enough). The remedy? Pay £250 quid for a new laptop to be swapped with the one I had, the new one being part of the domain. That's the problem - any issues are simply erased with every support call by rebuilding the PC at £250 a time. Money for old rope for HP.

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FAIL

Just as expected.......

I'm glad to hear that Orange is an asshole all throughout the world and not bullying only people of the post-communist parts of EU :P

If there were an avatar condemning major corps. in general I would've used that one istead....

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It's stories like this...

... which explain why companies should never, EVER code against the features found in just one browser. I bet IE6 is insisted upon because some crappy 5 or 6 year old apps expect certain HTML to be honored, or worse embeded ActiveX components or similar. Worse, it's probably some app that is used for timesheets or similar, hardly critical to day to day operation. The impact of those decisions isn't just annoying, it's hurting Orange in a very real way. If people are hobbled by the antiquated browser, theyre costing the company in time and money. Every day they're stuck on IE6, is a day when they're losing money.

Let's hope these issues serve as a warning to others, or at least as a lesson to future IT managers. Do not code to the browser. Code to the standards and work around if necessary. Browsers are not immutable and if you design an app to one you are inviting yourself to a world of hurt. Code will not be maintainable and will most likely fail without major modification in each and every other browser you port it to. In fact, I'd say that any IT professional who doesn't get this fact by now really shouldn't be in a position to design internet apps. CODE TO THE STANDARDS AND WORKAROUND IF NECESSARY. NEVER CODE TO A BROWSER.

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Coffee/keyboard

intranet and internet

The main problem is that there is two environments and both (wither we like it or not) have completely different requirements:

intranet: line of business applications, fixed cost, upgraded once every 3-4 years (if that) with maintenance releases about every other month. The client (however hard I try) will not pay for cross browser support, or pay to trace down a bug in firefox, opera or safari as it is not there operating environment....even ie8...the fact is its v tough to sell cross browser support to a customer with his eye on the bottom line figures and who has no focus on technology.

The internet: way easier to sell cross browser support as latest greatest tech is used in the wild, the customer has no option..its not an only ie universe out there...but still find it hard to sell firefox, opera and safari/chrome support...but i avoid developing ie only products for this...and i find it easier to dig my heals in.

I use fedora 11 and firefox at home (debian lenny and iceweasel on my netbook) but mozilla, google and opera really need to start pushing themselves into the intranet space...i cant sell there products into that space for them...no profit in doing that...i just get looked at for being unrealistic and not focusing on the 'needs of the customer' (a line that has been used to justify untold sin and folly) :)

anyways thats my perspective on why ie6 isnt dead yet (oh how i wish it was dead) and why companies now are crapping themselves about the eventual death of ie6 no matter how hard they hang onto it...

also

Im a developer and yes im guilty of writing ie6 websites for intranet apps, im now starting to find it easier to sell the idea that they should now target ie8 aswell as ie6 as it is slowly 'going to be replaced with service packs and security updates'...

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Anonymous Coward

Speaking as a naive non techie......

Why can't you have both so users can get used to the upgrade at their own pace, those services that do work can migrate, new development can take place on the new technologies so that eventually the old technology fades away.

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@10th July 2009 14:15

What? Takes ten seconds to reset the computer account and rejoin the domain. Useless lot.

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Pirate

Cool...!!

Call centre employees with Internet access. Let me fire up my keyloggers and bot net pay loads.

Unbelieveable that a company that has access to personal data on a scale such as Orange allows call centre employees access to the internet fromt he machines they use to call up customer accounts.

Lookee here; bank account details, DOB's and home address ... how fun is this...

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Anonymous Coward

I used to work in that call center...

Thank god I left and got a proper job though!

There is a good reason for them to have internet access, it's the emerging technologies side of the business, which means new tech only just going live to the public (3G, mobile broadband etc.) being able to get online means they have access to be able to answer customers questions (I'll leave it up to the Orange customers to tell you about how useful that one is!). Most of the technical information needed is found on the web rather than locally and and instruction manuals don't seem to exist within the Orange intranet.

They used to deal with Broadband but that got moved to India, now it's all crackberries and 'mobile broadband', including the laptops they give away. So people there need the net and they've generally got a good level of IT know how as well, not admin level know how by any stretch of the imagination but a majority of them could probably hold down a first level helpdesk job reasonably well.

When I was running Firefox there (I was a naughty boy) it sped up the machine no end. the desktops have either 256 or 128 MB of ram in them on a P3 chip, at least 7 applications are needed to do your basic job, up to 10 extra for any individual task. Most of them run on the browser requiring a new instance of IE for each, although one notable application seemed to try and load a massive amount of data into RAM. The old 'Virtual Memory' warnings were a constant companion.

So, naughty little call centre workers try to upgrade their systems in order to be able to do their jobs. You might wonder how they dare to do it. The more important question though is how they do it. The IT support for Orange got outsourced to Hungary last year rendering it all but impossible to get a resolution to anything and seemingly the domain administration was outsourced to a monkey. The upshot being that many call centre users have a lot more access to their machines than they should have through poor domain management and frankly, if I'm given access to do something useful on my machine, I'm going to do it.

The 250 quid fine threat sounds just like that place though, I'm willing to bet I know the name of the person who emailed el reg and the name of the person who the fine email came from, some things never change!

Bearing in mind that there is a proxy server in use there and that it was one of the few bits of IT which worked well, I wonder if Orange should be fining their call center staff or the company they outsourced their IT to...

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Anonymous Coward

blame

If an agent's desktop with Firefox gets hacked, management will blame IT. If an agent's desktop with IE gets hacked, management will blame Microsoft. If there's 100 percent agent attrition because the desktop sucks, management will blame HR. So that's that.

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Another perspective

Orange are a large organisation, probably struggling to reduce support costs at the same time as stuggling to secure investment to redevelop core web-based apps. They would probably love to embrace the new technology but it is rarely that simple. That said, the fact that staff can modify their machines undermines any effort to reduce support costs.

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FAIL

on learning about this i'd like to say

big fat fail SMORANGE! I will never buy, endorse, or have anything to do with your products or services EVER again. I will recommend to all my friends to AVOID your products too.

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Gates Horns

@dave hands..

"we asked Microsoft if firefox was safe and they said "no way, firefox is not safe under any circumstances"

I noticed. chum, I just didn't say owt.

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IT Angle

Misses the point

Since the suite of custom software Orange is using is built with IE6 in mind, it's perfectly understandable that there's a policy in place not to replace IE6 with any other browser. It's saying that users shouldn't replace what is essentially a critical component of a very large system with one they feel is better.

What's messed up is that Orange, being an IT company, failed to pick up on the fact that the web-based internal software they were having done failed to comply with web standards. Now they're stuck with it and probably can't fit an upgrade in the budget (the price of turning a large suite of crappy software standards-compliant could end up in the eight-figure range).

Good software is incredibly scarce in the corporate world, mind you, primarily because decisions like "what developer do we go with" are executive decisions, and corporate executives are almost always deluded, arrogant, clueless idiots. No really, it's the truest stereotype in the world. And because executives and managers are so full of it (even in some cases literally senile), companies that get it right are few and far between. Even in those places where you'd expect to find exemplary software, like say the military, or banks or hospitals, what you do find is mostly shockingly bad (on many, many levels).

So to pick on Orange for being exactly like almost every other business is a little misguided. Sure, I wouldn't ever sign a contract with them but that's because I'm a conscious consumer and Orange have horrific T's & C's. And after all there are those few business who make a sincere effort to get it right, who actually promote people to management based on good assessments of expertise and management skill (instead of favouritism etc.). Those are the ones we need to hear about. Help us find out where we *could* put our money in good conscience.

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