back to article Manchester plod still running 1,500 Windows XP machines

Cops in Manchester, England, have 1,518 PCs running on Microsoft's dusty operating system Windows XP, according to a Freedom of Information response. This equates 20.3 per cent of the total PC fleet that GMP has in use, despite Microsoft ending support for the much loved operating systems back in April 2014. A spokesman for …

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"The remaining XP machines are still in place due to complex technical requirements from a small number of externally provided highly specialised applications"

My best guess is some dismal web app that is heavily dependent on some of the non standard idiosyncrasies of IE6 (less likely would be driver issues as number of machines way too high for any hardware related driver, and for most other issues compatibility mode on Win 7 would fix teh issue)

Though I have sympathy with GMP, I do not like planned obsolescence by stopping security patches (which is what we get from all the Software vendors, be it Apple or MS on desktop or Apple and Google on mobile, and in between makers of software e.g. Firefox that only support more recent Mac OS versions) and thus ensuring a costly purchase of new hardware and software when the old system "did the job"

I run plenty of archaic low spec hardware - it just ends up having its original OS replaced by a lightweight Linux so I can choose to add key security patches

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Anonymous Coward

There's a chance they may also be native apps coded by people who believed nothing has changed since they learned Windows programming with VB on Windows 3.0.... old installers that don't work on newer operating systems, and so on...

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I've have had a web cam from 2000. The installer refused to work on any thing newer then XP. Once I modify the ini I got it to work on windows 7. No problem. It kills me that people created installers like that.

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"native apps coded by people who believed nothing has changed"

Wait, what? When did we stop using FoxPro under DOS...?!?

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"The remaining XP machines are still in place due to complex technical requirements from a small number of externally provided highly specialised applications,"

Freecell?

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Happy

As in, "Sarge, do we have a FreeCell I can lock this scrote up in?"

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RE: Freecell

Is that what the custody staff look for when they want to put someone in solitaire confinement?

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Anonymous Coward

Vital applications

Pinball.

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Re: RE: Freecell

Is that what the custody staff look for when they want to put someone in solitaire confinement?

"You're trying my Patience, sunshine" said the duty sergeant, as the suspect gazed whist-fully at the open door...

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Headmaster

'abandonware' with no comparable equivalent available

Ah, yes, those mission critical apps that haven't seen a developer in many a moon.

Who is responsible for apps that fall in this category? The entity who bought it, or the developer who kicked it loose like a red-headed step-child?

Pedant as he is wondering too...

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Anonymous Coward

Windows XP

I'm still running Windows XP, although I keep meaning to upgrade from SP2 to SP3. Maybe I'll get to it in a year or two. Hey, it still does what I need, and does it quite well, without all of the bloat that Vista/7/8/10 imposes. If it ain't broke, then don't fix it.

Anon Y. Mous

P.S. I've never been hit with a virus on that machine, mainly due to two layers of firewall protection, NAT, and careful operation of the machine (e.g., Flash is disabled.). But, I still back it up regularly, just because disks can crash unexpectedly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows XP

You described my situation almost perfectly.

At least, that was my situation until a little while ago. As well as your observation about disks failing, I'll add my own observation that surge protectors don't remain as effective as you think they are.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows XP

I admit: I still run XP behind NAT and a firewall and I've cloned it between PC new builds since 2004. It damned well works with all my old software and it's damned useful - I have Windows 7 on another partition but I never use it.

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Anonymous Coward

Thank heavens for Trump and May.

They will do the right thing in difficult circumstances.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thank heavens for Trump and May.

Thanks I needed a laugh!

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Anonymous Coward

XP? That's nothing, here, hold my motherboard ...

Two years ago there was a Major Govt. Dept. keeping a WinNT4 machine limping along because the software only run under WinNT4 and nothing else. They needed the data for compliance reasons and the least risk and cost option was to keep it ticking over for as long as possible until the compliance window closed. If it died then I am sure that someone could reverse engineer the database, but that was ldeemd to be "too expensive until absolutely necessary".

It's probably still there.

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Re: XP? That's nothing, here, hold my motherboard ...

i worked at a school with a boiler system running on NT4. it would have needed a full boiler refit. due to needing a parallel port dongle it wasnt VMd. there were 3 cold clones of the system when i left just in case 1 failed....

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Re: XP? That's nothing, here, hold my motherboard ...

A boiler that needed a full windows computer to make it go? Sheesh. Somebody got sold a bills of goods on that one.

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Interesting that Police Scotland didn't respond to the FoI request that the BBC submitted, wonder why that was..

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The Met are also refusing to fess up to how many of the 35,640 XP boxes they had 2 years ago are still being used. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41306321

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"The remaining XP machines are still in place due to complex technical requirements from a small number of externally provided highly specialised applications," a spokeswoman told the BBC."

i read as:

"The remaining XP machines are still in place due to an incredible lack of foresight and standards on the part of the teenager who wrote the system as his 6th form project"

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Anonymous Coward

I read that as being code for: we have a number of highly secure systems (ie. rated at Secret and/or higher) that are also used to access the services of other agencies.

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Anonymous Coward

Still using XP

The machine I am writing this on is running Windows 7, but my other work machine still runs XP. With that said, it's also on a completely air-gapped network with very strict data ingress rules.

There are plans for that network to be updated to W7 at some point, but there are also good reasons for keeping the state of that network consistent until the current work being done on it is completed.

Somewhere buried in one of the HW labs is an Archimedes - also stand-alone, the worry there is that it is the only machine capable of running bespoke software to perform hardware testing for refurbished components we work with. If it were to fail...

Point is, there is still a valid reason for some legacy H/W and S/W, as long as the correct protection is in place.

Anything connected to the internet however? I'd be wary.

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Re: Still using XP

There are replacements for your Arc,

Titanium/RapidO Ti - http://www.rcomp.co.uk/ http://www.cjemicros.co.uk/ http://www.elesar.co.uk/

ARMX6/RapidO Ig - http://www.rcomp.co.uk/ http://www.cjemicros.co.uk/

RasberryPi - As above + https://www.raspberrypi.org/

And a good few others, just (google) RISCOS hardware.

Apologies for not mentioning all the others by name.

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Ahhh...

The old "security concerns" defence. Anyone fancy raising an FOI to find out what these concerns actually relate to?

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RE: complex technical requirements

"complex technical requirements from a small number of externally provided highly specialised applications"

So I guess they are talking about stuff made with VB6 that does not work nicely past XP. Or would it be one of Pascal or COBOL? Let me guess, they "acquired" the license to use that software, but the provider ceased to exist ages ago.

Listen, in France, they developed GendBuntu to get the police to move from XP to Linux. How about they get in touch???

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Re: RE: complex technical requirements

VB6 works fine in w7 and w10 you register the OCX manually.

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Re: RE: complex technical requirements

NHS are trying NHSbuntu is comming along slowly

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Just hire someone to outfit the entire thing with Linux and port over the applications. It may cost but in the long run it'll be cheaper since no MS licenses anymore.

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RE:

And I'm sure that they will be keen to rewrite things heavily grounded in proprietary technologies like .NET, just to enforce a stronger enslavement.

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Just hire someone to outfit the entire thing with Linux and port over the applications. It may cost but in the long run it'll be cheaper since no MS licenses anymore.

Noble sentiments, but have you given any thought to how much that would cost? Have you any idea how many machines would need to be swapped from one OS to another, how many applications would need to be ported, how many of those applications are proprietary/closed-source? The obstacles and costs for "just" doing that would be eye-watering, and way beyond the budget of any cash-strapped public sector organisation.

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Noble sentiments, but have you given any thought to how much that would cost?

But, but, Boris says post-March 2019, we will have £350m a week to play with...

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Oh, the arrogance of vendors

>> lead malware man at Malwarebytes, said Manchester Police seem to be suffering from a common

>> problem - reliance on custom applications which don't work with other versions of Windows.

Users must realise that they should only be using their PCs for the convenience and enrichment of vendors and should take every opportunity to buy new versions of wares that the vendors are peddling as soon as they become available.

The real fault lies with the vendors, whose strategy in respect of application / device / format compatibility seems to place users, their organisations and the purposes for which they, THE USERS, want to use PCs at the end of their list of priorities. After all, if a user's application / device becomes (or, is made) obsolete, why hey! they'll have to buy a new one. All good for vendor profits.

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Happy

GMP. Is anyone wondering?

How you can get an "i" in between the G and M?

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It old bastards

How many of these folks saying they still run XP are the same as slag off Facebook (I don't have an account, how self righteous am I!)

Stay in the dark ages if you want but its nearly 20 years into the new century. Idiots!

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Re: It old bastards

err, could I point out XP IS a 21st century operating system.

As for Manchester, give them SOME slack, they only invented the wheel up there a couple of years ago, and were still burning witches at the stake the last time I looked.

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They don't give details of whether the PCs are standalone or networked, but if they are connected to the PNC and running XP they would be a gold mine if hackers could get access to them.

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they would be a gold mine if hackers could get access to them.

Cheaper than just paying a copper to copy the data for you ?

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Upgrade cycles aren't all they're cracked up to be

The IT department where I've been working completely bricked an entire laboratory by upgrading all their PCs to Windows 10. They're now secure. They just can't be used for anything.

This obsession with upgrading comes from a world where PCs just run Microsoft Office and are connected to the Internet. You can upgrade these without much of a problem. There are plenty of systems that have software and peripherals that are not compatible with the new software so upgrading causes a lot of extra expense. This is particularly the case with industrial systems -- you can't keep upgrading them every five minutes (or even every Tuesday) -- they've got work to do.

The moral is don't build mission critical systems on Windows. The user interface might be pretty but you need something that's upgradable without killing off your production software.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Upgrade cycles aren't all they're cracked up to be

"The moral is don't build mission critical systems on Windows. The user interface might be pretty but you need something that's upgradable without killing off your production software."

Your IT department clearly didn't talk to the people running the lab before pushing that out, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

as far as building business critical systems on a windows platform? As long as it's built using documented APIs and system calls, doesn't require bizzare and/or obscure drivers/hardware 'license' dongles/turns the parallel port into a high data rate serial bus/ interface with something custom-built (hardware AND software) by some oddball who retired into a coffin-shaped hole in the ground you should be moderately ok.

Also, as long as it's also still supported by the company who wrote it, and the place doesn't cheap out on keeping it up to date.

For the edge cases, then it's time to look at a work around for short term whilst planning/budgeting for an upgrade to something supported by the vendor.

(Case in point: my company has a large handful of tiny devices running XP embedded doing SCADA-esque system controls. I asked the vendor about upgrading the devices, and his reply was that it was pretty much a forklift upgrade. So we are going to further lock down the network they sit on as a work around, and start budgeting the 5 or 6 digit cost of upgrading the system to something that's better supported.)

Anon for patently obvious reasons.

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Re: Upgrade cycles aren't all they're cracked up to be

Beyond mission critical software, don't forget expensive add-ons such as large format printers whose vendor may not provide new drivers. I have several old PCs hanging about in poly bags against the day I need a replacement that will run XP or has an ISA slot for a bespoke card.

Some software doesn't need a 4x annual revision cycle to be capable of doing the job it was purchased for. An agency as large as the Manchester police may lack funds not only for new hardware which in turn will require all new software, but also there is the cost of training everybody on what will likely be a radically different UI. Lots of those people aren't going to be very tech savvy and changing what they are already competent on is problematic. I always have to lock myself in a small room and have a good scream when a new rev of engineering software has all new icons on the buttons.

The government (any one you care to choose) usually sucks when it comes to bringing things in-house, but the applications they need for various agencies are so specialized that it might be necessary to have an agency that publishes and maintains software for the police, fire and other services. Not only is there a small market for something like a suite for the police, each country will also have certain requirements regarding what information is recorded and how it needs to be presented. How does a private company code and support a comprehensive application that will only sell a couple of thousand seats without needing to charge stupid amounts of money for each license?

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Meh

Count VietNam, ATMs and Nuclear Subs In

VietNam's Cong An (Peoples Police), CGST (Traffic Cops) all run on XP, proudly standing next to low resolution 8-bit Epson dot-matrix printers.

Both some of the UK and US nuclear submarines also run on XP, as do older generations of ATMs.

But since most of these act simply as 'dumb' terminals, with the heavy lifting done by main frames, does it matter?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Count VietNam, ATMs and Nuclear Subs In

I still use a dot matrix printer! The ink is essentially free and they work for virtually forever, code is easy to read, it's utterly stress free to print.. aside from the din which one would suppose is undesirable in a sub...

I still use XP! I hated it because it ran slowly on pentiums when it first came out, but on a Core2Quad on a brand new motherboard, it flies! The OS shouldn't hog the majority of the resources available to the machine! The OS shouldn't be the reason people have to upgrade! The required computing task should prompt upgrades not the damned OS!

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Anonymous Coward

Everyone's waffling on about custom applications

Did anyone mention that most likely these are the ANPR ODUs and perhaps a few in each control room? Because they are.

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FOI Requests

And this is the nub of everything, the stupidity of the Freedom of Information Act that allows these sorts of pointless requests. The Act is so misused it is not true. There is an entire industry around extracting commercial information from public bodies to sell on.

Just Google this name to see how it is abused

Francios Charles freedom of information

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