back to article Windows XP? Pfff! Parts of the Royal Navy are running Win ME

The Royal Navy is running Windows ME – and XP, and even an early version of Apple Macintosh. But all is not as alarmingly obsolete as it may appear. Your correspondent, during a few days embedded aboard seabed survey ship HMS Enterprise, asked the crew what systems were in operation aboard the ship’s networks. The answer was a …

  1. morgz84

    Last time I worked for the post office, about 10 years ago, the PCs were Pentium 2!

  2. Alan Brown Silver badge

    " I thought it was CE..."

    There's a reason it was called "Wince"

  3. Oh Matron!

    I look forward to...

    The deep blue sea of death

  4. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    The Royal Navy--when we say "blue screen of death"...

    We mean it!!

  5. James O'Shea Silver badge

    Re: The Royal Navy--when we say "blue screen of death"...

    Only if they have Harpoon installed. Many is the hour I spent playing Harpoon, usually sending Backfire regiments and Oscar subs out into the North Atlantic to hunt down imperialist carrier battle groups. Long live the glorious Red Banner Northern Fleet!

    Soyuz nerushimy respublik svobodnykh

    Splotila naveki velikaya Rus'!

    Da zdravstvuyet sozdanny voley narodov

    Yediny, moguchy Sovetsky Soyuz!

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Re: The Royal Navy--when we say "blue screen of death"...

    No Harpoons there, but in spite of the Bootnotes implication, the ship is armed. see side bar on the right. At the bottom.

  7. John Savard Silver badge

    One Benefit

    That's one way to protect your systems from Sasser and Blaster! And no doubt before this article was published, they enjoyed a great deal of "security by obscurity". But now that this vital national secret has been spilled by The Register, obviously they'll have to switch operating systems. OS/2, anyone?

  8. defiler Silver badge

    Re: One Benefit

    I'll fetch my (boxed) Warp installation CDs :D

  9. Sam Haine

    "With that said, all the IT kit aboard, regardless of age, is there because it works reliably when required"

    But how can it work reliably without a load of IT people tinkering with it all the time?

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    bleedin obvious aint it


    But how can it work reliably without a load of IT people tinkering with it all the time?

    BECAUSE it doesn't have a bunch of IT people tinkering with as directed by a PHB who doesn't know any better.

    Its as bad as the bright spark who decided to make us save all our data on the backup server in order to make his life easier when it comes to doing off site backups.

    Only thing is.... the server has gone dead and needs a reboot.... and hes the only one with a key to the server room and hes on holiday until Tuesday......

  11. mark l 2 Silver badge

    "I tried to use an old but bought and paid for XP key to set up a VM to run an old game (also paid for, Sid Meier's Pirates). I couldn't get the XP install to authnticate because MS had turned off the servers. The easiest fix appeared to be to get a cracked copy of the OS."

    The is an easy way to activate OEM versions of XP without requiring the MS activation servers in a VM by adding a line to the config files to make it believe it is being installed on a royalty OEM PC such as ones by HP, Dell, Lenovo etc. As these don't require an internet connection to activate. Done it myself in Virtualbox, not tried it with any other VM software though.

    I would have kicked ME off the machine back in the day when it was new in favour of Windows 2000 or even 98SE.

  12. David Roberts Silver badge

    Millenial/Gen X

    As I understand it, these days Millenial starts with born in 1980.

    However I know of those born in the early '80s who firmly self identify as Generation X.

    So sympathy to the 1st Leftenant (Lieutenant?).

  13. Glen 1 Bronze badge

    Re: Millenial/Gen X

    I think part of the handwaving definitions include internet in the house as you were growing up. That seems to be a defining part of the shared culture. (All your base etc) That will vary from household to household.

    If you are old enough to think the internet is newfangled, you're probably not a millenial.

    If you are young enough to think smartphones and tablets *aren't* newfangled, then you're too young to be a millenial. <- my personal addition

    (age range as of 2018 covers approximately 25-37)


  14. dmacleo

    man had 15 pcs running ME, mix of ide, eide and some sata cards. none of them worked reliably even with no network or usb connections.

    seems like the systems self degraded after 60 days or so.

    can understand xp, can even support decision to keep it depending on situation.

    but ME....jeez.

    I downgraded some to 98SE and move others to 2K just to get OFF ME

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Keep an eye out for The Register's Boatnotes stories over the coming week. Our man spent four days aboard HMS Enterprise, at the kind invitation of the Royal Navy

    Does that mean that there is a chance of Gareth being invited on to Big Lizzie when she sails into the South China Sea with her deck heaving with F-35Bs?

  16. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    The Enterprise runs Windows ME?

    Does that mean Captain Kirk & the others were talking to Clippy?

  17. JimboSmith Silver badge

    Re: The Enterprise runs Windows ME?

  18. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Re: The Enterprise runs Windows ME?

    "Does that mean Captain Kirk & the others were talking to Clippy?"

    "I see you are trying to remove Klingons. Would you like more paper?"

  19. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Surely this should be filed under "Shipnotes", as a Boat in Navy parlance is a Submarine?

  20. onefang

    Re: Boatnotes?

    I think it's a pun on Bootnotes, so Shipnotes wont work.

  21. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Re: Boatnotes?

    "Surely this should be filed under "Shipnotes", as a Boat in Navy parlance is a Submarine?"

    A submarine is a type of boat, not all boats are submarines.

  22. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    How do you back these up? ZIP drives?

  23. I&I

    What? Boats?

  24. Glen 1 Bronze badge

    apply reverse thrust

  25. HWwiz

    And even older.

    There is also a part of the MoD in the UK that still has a Honeywell DPS 6 mainframe in service. And for very good reason.

    It has no connections to the outside world, just internal 10base-T coax. And apparently there is no one left alive in the world that could even de-compile the databases.

    They even had 2 spares in storage that were shipped over from the US.

  26. Down not across

    Re: And even older.

    Could've sworn DPS6 was mini-computer (even if it may have taken a rack or two), and DPS8 was a mainframe.

  27. Crisp Silver badge

    When the Cylons attack

    It's going to hold up their invasion for days while they scour the internet for old drivers.

  28. adam payne Silver badge

    “Because it works"

    ME work?!?!? surely you jest?

    I've only ever encountered one ME machine on my many travels and that was quite enough for me.

  29. John Doe 6

    I don't think you understand the concept "work" in this specific situation...

    It is not a desktop environment but a very much specialized environment where the PC just run one or two applications and there may be some extra hardware involved.

    Upgrading the OS may require millions in new hardware.

    No, I do not like the situation - someone should have said "STOP, this will not work, a ship is not a place for a desktop operating systems!"

  30. TwistedPsycho

    Planes, Trains and automobiles!

    Even as recently as 2008, a German train manufacturer was supplying UK train operators with a train running Windows 95.

    ...and that had connections to the outside world; investigatory quality data downloads were pulled using flash drives that then connected to a standard laptop.

    I am suspicious that it will have changed as they now have remote access.

  31. Wzrd1

    Is that all?

    The venerated NASA kept NT4 for quite a few years after its drop dead date, even paying to have service pack 7 created and heavens knows what else after.

    Some things work only under specific environments. One then protects those vulnerable environments from the evils of the intertubes or other potential external threats.

    And I'm the guy who was BOFH mkII, who navigated successfully through the 2007 cyberattack against USCENTCOM, which nailed the majority of servers in the entire extended domain. Because, we followed both US DoD standards on configuration *and* industry best practices, trivially defeating the blasted USB crapware.

    Precisely zero infections on my network that I was responsible for, although I treated systems that alerted as infected and were purged and reimaged, just to teach the end user a lesson on proper caution.

  32. ashm

    Its complicated

    As Gaz suggests, they don't tend to change things just coz they're old. There's little enough money to replace the obsolete and unsupportable without ditching kit that works just fine.

    They also don't often update sw on ships equipments without a very good reason, because its difficult and expensive to prove the system as safe following such a change.

    Safety is the #1 consideration, and its taken very seriously since misbehaving kit has the potential to affect nav, weapons, etc.

  33. rg287

    Re: Its complicated

    There's little enough money to replace the obsolete and unsupportable without ditching kit that works just fine.

    They also don't often update sw on ships equipments without a very good reason, because its difficult and expensive to prove the system as safe following such a change.

    This. It's not just the computers that might need updating. Depending on whether the civvie company who provided the surveying equipment still exists, there may or may not be W7/10-compatible software to collect the data for your £££ towed sonar array. Or for the esoteric interface cards they use. It's just a floating version of the six-figure CNC lathe made by an obsolete company.

    So if you were to upgrade the hardware, you could end up virtualising stuff anyway, which has some advantages (if it works and is stable), but eh, why overcomplicate what works.

    At some stage Enterprise will go in for deep maintenance/refit and it will all come out and be replaced with the latest-greatest. Then the new cycle of bolting bits on for the next couple of decades starts again!

  34. Andy3

    It all sounded super-secure until we got to the 'internet access via the satellite terminal'.

  35. avidal

    why not

    It is the same s hite in different packaging up to today

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Front Line Opinion

    DII is an absolute heap of shite... I've spent years of my life keeping it working. It runs upwards of 30 VMs on about 3 HP hosts for the benefit of about 15 people who can log in at once. Not enough terminals to log more people it. It uses an early version of SharePoint with non of the useful features and all the down sides. It's predecessor NavyStar V4, while outdated was pretty solid and 1000 x simpler. Even it's predecessor NavyStar V3 was ok for it's time. People do have CD rights, they just have to be impex group members. Everyone can read and most people can burn CDs. USB does work, it's controlled by Sanctuary and it's pretty simple to add a USB device. This article just reeks of RN propaganda... Sounds like it was a very directed tour... Anon Ex-RN IT administrator.

  37. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Re: Front Line Opinion

    "Anon Ex-RN IT administrator"

    There's a horribly high probability that I trained you :-)

    Even Sanctuary is outdated since it's now HEAT.

  38. N2 Silver badge

    It works

    And its not connected to the tinterwebs

    That is all

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Upgrade pain

    I like 'it's not broken don't muck about with it' when it comes to PC to hardware interfaces. We still have an analytical machine running OS/2 - because that's what the software that controls the piece of kit runs on. I am sure we could virtualise the OS and run it on some fancy new machine, but there's a proprietary interface card that's 8 bit ISA, and you won't find many motherboards with those on down PC World. Again I'm sure that it's not beyond the wit of man to emulate the interface but why bother? It just works! It still has its 'Tested for Y2K - Not compliant' sticker on it - but we just provided a paper calendar and a biro.

    One day we will get the money to buy a fancy updated version of the kit (or have it built - we are talking about a world market of maybe 1 every two years). No doubt it will have a fancy cloudy interface. Bet it won't still be running in 2050. Won't bet we aren't still running the existing toy in 2050.

  40. OldCoderDude

    No excuse

    Please tell me precisely how you lock down CD/USB access on [the not NT-based] Win ME? No SAM, no DAC, no GPO... so what then, HPFM (hocus pocus f--king magic)? The weak attempt at user security on Win 95-based O/S' is easily subverted, if they can store anything to hard drive on those boxes, they can also copy to removable media. (Replacing device drivers is also not a challenge.) ME was obsolete in 2003, there's no excuse for them to be running it, other than laziness and ill-conceived complacency.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: No excuse

    I think it's as simple as pulling the drive out of the housing and pulling the interface cables at the motherboard level, then locking the case so that it's de-certified the moment someone tries to put them back in.

  42. IainWR

    Re: No excuse


  43. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Re: No excuse

    Acetone dissolves cyanoacrylate.


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