# Microsoft in 1-year Windows XP survival deal with UK govt

Whitehall and Microsoft have struck a deal providing emergency cover to tens of thousands of government PCs still running Windows XP after next week’s support cutoff for the ageing OS. A one-year deal, revealed first by The Register, will see Microsoft release security patches to Windows XP users in the public sector until …

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1. #### Are you gonna try an' make this work <-- your sub-heading

You don't have to take this cr*p

You don't have to sit back and relax

[...]

Lights go out - walls come tumbling down!

...

2. #### Wasting taxpayer's money again

So their inability to plan ahead has cost us £5.5mill. Nice.

Hire the guy from Munich and just get the job done. Get off the MS bullshit as much as possible and allow the benefits to flow back to the public.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

My thoughts exactly.

This has nothing to do with "Linux vs Windows" fanboyism (I'm a Windows user, don't start on me). It's about being in a cycle of wasting public money just to provide office workers with an under-used word processor.

How many times must this happen until someone puts an end to this nonsense?

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

As I've said before. Loads of banks I work with are running versions of XP which are several years out of date and they aren't having problems related to that. They rely on their firewalls and anti-virus software to keep them safe and the evidence is that it is working. I think even a bank would notice if it had been compromised over a number of years and as I say we're not talking about one bank here.

So, it seems to me that the government has wasted money by believing this hype. The money would have been better spent on any number of other projects.......

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Banks usually run higky skilled security teams to cover all the risks they have to face (IT and non IT ones), because money matters. They are also able to enforce their internal policies far better than other businness (but they are compromised anyway). When it comes to different type of businness, you can't rely on such level of competence and resources. You have to protect your businness in a different way. AV and FW won't protect you enough if you're a good target which can attract skilled attackers with ad-hoc techniques.

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"I think even a bank would notice if it had been compromised over a number of years and as I say we're not talking about one bank here."

Recent evidence suggests that a bank wouldn't notice anything wrong with its IT systems until there was a total breakdown.

3. #### @Anon "loads of banks I work with are running versions of XP"

So since they haven't had problems related to that so far, one should conclude they are safe to go on doing so for years?

It only takes one exploit into a bank's internal network to make that seem like a really foolish decision, and end up bankrupting the bank and causing the government to have to bail out depositors.

In a normal business the "firewall plus AV" might be a reasonable solution to go on using XP for a few more years without MS updates. But in something as heavily regulated as a bank? Given the PCI requirements for my business just to process credit cards I can't imagine I'd be allowed to run XP no matter how much firewall or AV was put up, and worst case I've got a few customer card numbers escaping and their banks having to issue them new cards/numbers. Nothing like the possible damage at a bank.

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

5.5 million is easy money to carry on supplying patches to XP and one year of support is not enough time to get off the Microsoft drug and MS know it, it's just putting off the inevitable.

Meanwhile in Spain they've decided to migrate straight from XP to 8.1 which is going to be a white-knuckle ride. http://hispalinux.es/node/767 (Spanish)

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

You may not believe it, but there are some workers who spend their whole working life producing documents.

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

How much would wholesale upgrades to W7 and Office 2010 (or newer) cost? Far more than £5m.

For all we know, delaying this long also allowed greater negotiation over a wholesale migration license agreement.

£5m is nothing for the number of computers involved.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"How much would wholesale upgrades to W7 and Office 2010 (or newer) cost? Far more than £5m."

Exactly! This £5m cost just covers the next year. Then what about the next year?

Then they'll still have to pay for the upgrade sooner or later. And then what happens when the upgrade is end of life?

They need to get off the hamster wheel!

And stop being so dependant on a single foreign company!!

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

@AC "Then they'll still have to pay for the upgrade sooner or later. And then what happens when the upgrade is end of life?"

You plan in advance. They have (or should have) a contract with MS, where they always get the latest and greatest, but can use older versions if they want to / have to.

The problem with upgrading isn't the MS licensing costs, if they have done it right, there are no licensing costs. It is physically upgrading those PCs, training and more importantly, it is the legacy software which needs to be rewritten or replaced that is the real problem.

A lot of the legacy systems were written for intranets at a time when IE6 with its idiosyncrasies was state of the art. Since then the world has moved on, IE6 is dead and most of its oddities have been ironed out. That means that those intranets, which cost millions of taxpayers' pounds to produce need to be re-written, before you can even think about upgrading.

The cost of the OS and the Office suite licences are the smallest part of the equation.

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

W7 and Office 2010 are the least of the problems, it is that Intranet which only works with IE6 and legacy software which no one can support, which won't work on newer versions of Windows.

That is where the real investment has to go.

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Yup, the old "Wasting Taxpayers' Money" cry, without looking at the bigger picture.

It's a lot more complicated than just upgrading every time Redmond shunts out a new OS. Replacing kit and migrating itself costs "Taxpayers' Money". I work in the Education sector (a UK university) and the migration to Windows 7 has cost us an absolute fortune, because regardless of what MS say, a lot of our old PCs would run slower if we installed 7 on them, so we have to buy new.

Whether the public sector pays for extended support or buys in tons of new kit, it still costs "Taxpayers' Money". OK so you've spent £5.5M on support in this fiscal year, but that's £5.5M you haven't spent on new kit, which arguably will be better spec when you buy it next year.

We have a few XP machines left over, not because we didn't plan, but because they run specialised software that the developers refuse to port over to Windows 7. We therefore have a choice - keep them and disconnect them from the Internet (which we have done), or fork out more "Taxpayers' Money" to buy alternative software, train users up, and port our data over from the old application.

Although we are pretty much forced to keep up with the latest OS (what student would come to our Uni if we only ran XP on the desktop?), many Government departments don't have the same pressures we have, and they simply can't afford the migration costs without an increase in their budgets (which of course come from..."Taxpayers' Money"). The NHS in particular is running old software on old PCs with an old OS for this very reason.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"I work in the Education sector (a UK university) and the migration to Windows 7 has cost us an absolute fortune..."

More fool you then.

Use your brains and look at switching to an alternative OS.

Still it's not your money, so why bother?

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Switch to an alternative OS? Students come to our university to learn IT skills they are most likely to need when they go looking for a job with their qualification. That sadly means Microsoft.

After 3 years on a Degree course they will enter the job market knowing how to use Microsoft Windows 7, Office 2013 (next year Office 365), Internet Explorer, Adobe Photoshop, etc - the same software they use on their home laptops and the same software that most of the companies they apply to for jobs will use.

Assuming we take your point and switch our student desktops to Linux, running Firefox and (say) Apache Office and Gimp. What would happen?

1. Our student intake for next academic year would be pitiful and we would lose money hand over fist (our funding is directly proportional to the number of students we have)

2. Existing students would be severely hampered in transitioning to the new OS and software to do their work

3. When those same students graduate and enter the job market without the Microsoft IT skills that every other Graduate will have, they will be disadvantaged in getting a job

4. The feedback from these students would be devastating to our reputation, resulting in even fewer admissions. We would go bust

So pardon me if I don't use my brains like you suggest.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

What 3 year degree course are you referring to?

I guess if your teaching a business course or similar then I could see the justification for it but I wouldn't call it IT skills

I don't want to get into a slanging match here but if you are only teaching students vendor specific base level products such as Office etc then I would suggest you are not teaching them IT skills.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

@NinjasFTW IT is probably a very small part of all of the courses being run, but most courses require the use of IT. Therefore they need to provide what the students are used to - which will be, generally Windows + Office, with a smattering of Macs thrown in.

It could be reasonably argued that the real IT students should be exposed to Linux - in my project seminar, we had the students developing solutions running on Linux + Apache Tomcat.

But for the majority of students, the IT is there to aid them in doing their work, they shouldn't need to relearn everything in something which is not their core competency.

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

I don't know what kind of university you're running but when I went to University over 10 years ago for a course with computing modules - they had labs offering a choices of Windows, Unix and Linux - some of our modules were taught on Nix, and some with Windows - but for our coursework we had the option of whichever platform we wanted to use.

If a university is only teaching Microsoft Windows and Office as part of their computing curriculum, then they deserve to lose student intake and money.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

The days of the unix mainframe in UK universities are long gone. I started here in 97 and it was already primarily a Windows environment. As I recall the old mail system still ran on unix but that was already being phased out and ported to Microsoft Exchange when I started.

The majority of our courses don't have Computing modules. They don't even have basic IT modules now, since the assumption is (and it's correct) that any students starting will already be familiar with the Windows OS from home. Only specific computing courses offer alternate OSes to Windows.

This isn't just us, every university in the UK is like this now.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"The days of the unix mainframe in UK universities are long gone."

Err....have you heard of "cloud"? That is not running on Windows.

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

If your Uni's presumption is that most students only want to use Microsoft at uni because they've only used/familiar with Microsoft products at home - then you've got about 10 years before my (currently) seven year old gets to Uni because she has no interest in PC/Microsoft at all - she's happy to do everything on her Android Tablet - which includes basic word processing using either the touch screen virtual keyboard, or, a Bluetooth keyboard.

I know several of my 12yo daughter's peers who only use Microsoft at school because they have to - but live in an App filled world of smart devices, be they, Android or iOS based. The slim glimmer of hope for Microsoft is that my 12yo has asked for a Nokia Lumia after her HTC Desire S expires as her best friend as one and loves it (apparently).

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"I know several of my 12yo daughter's peers who only use Microsoft at school because they have to - but live in an App filled world of smart devices, be they, Android or iOS based."

Same with my teenage kids. They have no concept of OS wars, vendor lock-in, or anything like that. And they haven't even had the years of MS pain!

Even though I'm a long-time Windows user, I put Linux Mint on my daughter's laptop (mostly so I can check it out). She thought it was great!

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"If your Uni's presumption is that most students only want to use Microsoft at uni because they've only used/familiar with Microsoft products at home - then you've got about 10 years before my (currently) seven year old gets to Uni because she has no interest in PC/Microsoft at all - she's happy to do everything on her Android Tablet - which includes basic word processing using either the touch screen virtual keyboard, or, a Bluetooth keyboard."

It's not my Uni's presumption. It's every Uni's decision, based on what employers and graduates and prospective students tell us they want us to provide. If in 10 years time MS is obsolete and tablets are the way to go, then we'll provide a tablet-based environment. In fact we already do. Students on certain courses in the Computing & Infomatics School exclusively work on Samsung tablets provided by us (and have done for the past 2-3 years as I recall).

In 1997 when I started, we had just opened up the first of our many Resource Rooms with Windows NT 4, because that was what students and industry back then told us they wanted to see. Prior to that we had Windows 3.11, because that was what our customers wanted. All universities react to the current state of the industry.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Working at Cranfield I/we react to the MODs needs and that wheel turns incredibly slowly (compared to industry - which is why we still teach FORTRAN on some of our courses...)

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"After 3 years on a Degree course they will enter the job market knowing how to use Microsoft Windows 7, Office 2013 (next year Office 365), Internet Explorer, Adobe Photoshop, etc - the same software they use on their home laptops and the same software that most of the companies they apply to for jobs will use."

Wow, you need to go to uni to learn that??

After three whole years they'll be able to use software that's already out of date? No wonder the government don't want to suppliment uni fees!

4. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"When those same students graduate and enter the job market without the Microsoft IT skills that every other Graduate will have, they will be disadvantaged in getting a job"

Actually, they will have skills that the rest of them do not have.

I'm a Linux developer, and I'm paid considerably more than the Windows developers that I went to uni with.

I'm glad I used my brain.

[edit: it turns out that the original comment was for uni courses in general... not computing ones]

5. This post has been deleted by its author

6. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"After 3 years on a Degree course they will enter the job market knowing how to use Microsoft Windows 7, Office 2013 (next year Office 365), Internet Explorer, Adobe Photoshop, etc"

1. It doesn't require a university education to learn these apps. A person with a university education should easily be able to adapt to whatever apps are required in the marketplace. If you UNDERSTAND how to do it in the GIMP, you can do it in Photoshop. If you're only TRAINED in the GIMP, Photoshop will be more difficult. University is supposed to be about education, not job training. The two are not the same.

2. With the speed that the market is currently moving, any app used in a three year course will be obsolete by the time the graduate gets a job.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

@ plrndl

That's not the feedback we get from employers and students. For example our Art & Design courses run Macs, not because Macs are better or worse than PCs, but because those are the computing tools that many Art & Design companies use, so if the Student comes out with a Degree and 3 years experience on Macs, they're going to have a much better chance of getting into a company that also uses Macs...and most of the companies they apply to will be.

Yes you can adapt to different packages, and if you know your way round Gimp you can adapt to Photoshop and vice versa. But if you go for a job and all they use is Windows, and you did 3 years on Unix then you're going to be at a disadvantage in that job interview.

"Any app used in a three year course will be obsolete by the time the graduate gets a job"? Really? Apart from the fact that your earlier point states it's irrelevant what app they use as they can easily adapt, we don't keep the same app for 3 years, we upgrade. That's the point of having site licences.

For example, any student graduating this year will have done their final work on Adobe Creative Suite 6, which is the current product on Adobe's site, but not the one they used when they started here 3 years ago.

The only products we keep around for longer are the core OS (Windows 7) and core Office Suite (currently 2010 for staff and 2013 for students). But in that we are no different to the business marketplace, who will also mostly be running Windows 7 and Office 2013 when our students graduate. We mirror what's currently out there to minimise our Graduates' learning curve when they enter the job market.

7. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Uh, I wasn't aware that in the UK, University meant technical training school. Back in Italy you're taught general principles of maths, logic, physics, programming and design, not just dragging a mouse around a screenful of buttons... I guess that's why people think I'm a brainless chimp when I say I have an MSc in engineering...

8. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

With regards to your point 3.

Ability to 'use' Microsoft != IT 'skills'.

My 12yo daughter uses Windows 8.1 and LibreOffice at home, Windows 7 and MS Office at school, she has a Raspberry Pi for tinkering with and is learning to use Scratch and program in Python (got to start somewhere) as they work equally well under Windows and Linux. At school (Year 7) they're teaching HTML now and Javascript next year - I'm hoping she'll be genuinely IT 'skilled' and not just 'I don't know how to use this because it's not a Microsoft product.'

The 'skill' in IT is being adaptable to changes in platform and/or taking your programming abilities in one language and developing them to fit the syntax of another...

What uni do you work at? Perhaps in 6 years time my daughter can look elsewhere...

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Kudos to you and your daughter for learning the Pi! If she does end up going down the IT route then the skills she is picking up from you and her school will stand her in good stead. And whatever University she goes to will provide all the IT tools she needs to further her IT career, be that MS, Linux, GPL, whatever. Or if she wants to do Art, Design, Philosophy, Physics, Business Studies, Economics, Politics, whatever, she will find rooms and rooms full of WIndows PCs running Microsoft Office.

I work at Nottingham Trent University, but any other UK university will be the same. As has been pointed out before in this thread, the majority of students use IT as a means to an end, mainly to write up their work and ultimately their thesis. They don't use Linux and they don't program, because they don't need to. Those that do need access to Unix or Linux will get it. Just as those that need access to a Mac will get it. But we don't provide them with rooms full of Linux desktops because their course subjects take up enough time without them having to learn a new OS.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Thank-you. This sadly sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy though - students use MS at home so uni's rely on this fact and so use MS at uni because their future employers do, employers use MS because they always have and all the students leaving uni only know how to use MS products...

My 12yo despite her dyslexia seems to be pretty good at everything but wants to drama (mainly) - the school drama dept seems to be a good mix of PCs and Macs because they're taught the technical side too - lighting, music, choreography and the useful apps in this area seem to fall equally into both camps.

I guess I should also 'fess that I also work at a Uni - Cranfield - but being post-grad only most of our students have worked in the real world first and so, oddly (by your definition of a student), reasonably comfortable when presented with Linux or Android Virtual Machines that run some of our non-PC/MS based applications.

(And the big job for this summer is upgrading the last 60 PCs of my 120 PC lab from XP to Windows 7 - and then installing lots of Virtual Machines on them to run the apps we have that will only run under Linux/XP!)

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"I work at Nottingham Trent University, but any other UK university will be the same. As has been pointed out before in this thread, the majority of students use IT as a means to an end, mainly to write up their work and ultimately their thesis."

I'm rather surprised that everyone isn't just expected to bring their own device for such purposes. Back in the day we wrote up work with pen and paper and we were expected to buy our own. Students at secondary school are now expected to have access to a computer at home. (I don't know what the kids from deprived backgrounds do. I expect it isn't good for their education.) If you are paying several thousand in tuition fees, a cheap laptop is the least of your worries.

Now if there's some expensive software package that they need access to, that's different, but you didn't say that.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

@Ken Hagan

"Students at secondary school are now expected to have access to a computer at home. (I don't know what the kids from deprived backgrounds do. I expect it isn't good for their education.) If you are paying several thousand in tuition fees, a cheap laptop is the least of your worries."

Since they are now paying thousands of pounds in fees, contrary to secondary schools we don't expect our students to have computers at home, and in fact we ensure that they have free 24/7 access to state of the art hardware and over 500 commercial and freeware apps. May of the commercial apps are, as you mention, very expensive and do not exist in cheap personal versions.

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"As has been pointed out before in this thread, the majority of students use IT as a means to an end, mainly to write up their work and ultimately their thesis."

Agreed.

"They don't use Linux and they don't program, because they don't need to. Those that do need access to Unix or Linux will get it."

I get where you are coming from, and I imagine believe it to be a pragmatic approach, but surely there are occasions where students really don't need to use a Windows box. Unix isn't just for programmers, and I know from first hand experience that a lot of 'ordinary' folks can get on just fine using a UNIX box and in some cases they actually prefer it...

To my way of thinking Universities should equip students with the tools they need to adapt and thrive in the real world, locking them into the world of Microsoft through ignorance of alternatives for the next 10 years of their working lives isn't helping anyone but Microsoft. :(

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"More fool you then.

Use your brains and look at switching to an alternative OS.

Still it's not your money, so why bother?"

Yeah right! As if life was that easy.

Try to imagine how many people have heard about Linux let alone are resourceful enough to install it themselves.

Try to imagine the amount of legacy software required to run on a big organisations IT system which has also been ported to Linux.

Both numbers are vanishingly small.

It is indeed deplorable that big organisations are still running XP. However if you want to do business in the real world there is no room for being a shrill purist.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Yup, Practically all of the software we provide to our staff and students (we are talking easily 500+ apps) will only run on the MS platform, because the software companies and developers have never ported it to Linux. We provide that software not because we want to, but because most of the Private Sector (where our students expect to work and where we recruit a lot of our staff from) also run the same MS platform.

If the Linux platform made large inroads into the Private Sector we would provide Linux, in the same way as our Art & Design School runs largely Macs because the Art & Design industry runs Macs.

@NinjasFTW

By "IT Skills" I mean the background skills like knowing how to use Office or Windows, which is what the majority of our students need. They are business analysts, artists, designers, psychologists, engineers, managers, chemists, and biologists. IT to them is a tool. They don't need to know how to run a command line or diagnose their way round a faulty network. That's what the IT department in the company they end up getting a job with is for.

On the other hand we do teach IT courses, and those system analysts, technical architects, and programmers do need specialist IT skills, which they get by running linux and unix.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

" chemists, and biologists."

They'd be probably using Linux at work then

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"They'd be probably using Linux at work then"

No, mostly Microsoft. They need Office and the likes of Endnote to get the papers written. There is no F/OSS alternative that is 100% compatible with defacto MS Office standard.

Some of the equipment might be Linux, but not much. Most stand-alone stuff will be XP (probably with a floppy drive).

No matter how you try slice it, people simply do not use *nix any more for clients. Servers, maybe.

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"No, mostly Microsoft"

Allow me to know my trade - Linux is heavily used in the sciences as much heavy-duty software that ran on Unix, Sun and SGI migrated to Linux. That's protein modeling, hardware 3D visualization quantum mechanics in my case - and that's on the desktop. Compute servers and farms are also Linux

I think you esp. might have noticed the large number of Linux desktops Munich are using

.

2. #### @AC

They need Office and the likes of Endnote to get the papers written. There is no F/OSS alternative that is 100% compatible with defacto MS Office standard.

Are you saying this out of actual knowledge or someone told you?

I mean, a Math, Physics and even Chemistry article be better written in (La)TeX. Binary PDF's are also accepted sourced from Office sometimes, yet those are looked down upon by the editors. It is usually because Office (and MSO in particular) are poorly designed for a layout with a lot of formulas.

A few formulas are OK, however, things get really complicated when you need lots of them or/and something complex, like a (commutative) diagram that is used in a lot of general or algebraic Math papers, or some exquisite graphics, like pstricks (or even like this) It would be a mess doing it in MSO or any other Office suite. Chemists (our respected commenter Chemist can correct if I am wrong) also need a lot of diagrams to lay out, so for them too. Egyptologists, cuneiform scientists, musicians would also find their life much easier with LaTeX.

Another problem is portability, yes here we go again. When your mark-up is done in (La)TeX the the style can be changed as every particular journal wants, you just need to download their cls file and add a corresponding directive in the header of the source file. No manual work is ever required. Unless you know the journal that would publish your manuscript and follow it's style, it's a big deal.

Well, the most important still is the efficiency and speed with which you progress (even if you have solved your Fields Medal problem and rush for the publication) . When you got lots of these, believe me , it is much easier and faster to type, like, for this Fubini identity:

$$\iint\limits_{D}\sqrt{1+x^4}\ dA=\int\limits_{0}^1\int\limits_{0}^{x^3}\sqrt{1+x^4}\:dy\:dx$$

than do a couple dozen clicks with a considerably poorer output. You gotta learn it first which is hard... not from the technical standpoint though, but a purely psychological one.

Finally, installing Texlive suite is much easier to do on a GNU/Linux distro, than on Windows. Been there and done both.

1. #### Re: @AC

There are a number of misunderstandings in your comments on Microsoft word's math capabilities. I'll just correct one, and give you a few links for the rest.

You obviously like entering your equations in linear format. In Word, just type Alt+=, and then type in a representation of your math in a linear form. It is somewhat Tex-like, but with the following differences: (1) It is more concise (and thus faster to type); (2) It is easier to learn; and (3) It is a lot more readable.

The linear format is defined in "Unicode Technical note 28". It's author, Murray Sargent III, has a blog on the Math capabilities of Office at http://blogs.msdn.com/murrays/rss.xml.

1. #### Re: @AC

No, it's you that seem to don't understand the difficulty.

0. older versions of Word were not capable of this text mark-up feature, so the formulas were kept as embedded graphics. No "good" way to convert this to LaTeX, I am sorry. LO/OO were always doing it in MathML-like XML, I don't know if they had ever done embedded at all though.

1. the capabilities of Office are very limited, those of (La)TeX are practically not. The quality of the output of the latter is much superior to that of the former.

What can be more concise, yet nicely legible and more intuitive than \int \iint or \Bigcup \Bigcap, \dot, dots etc

2. Did you try learning LaTeX?

3. See the above. To enhance readability you use the pdf/dvi output and also a good editor. If it helps you do use some of WYSIWYG elements, like LyX. For me it's GNU Emacs (that has a corresponding auc-tex mode, which I don't use persoanlly and am happy with the raw tex-mode). Sorry, MSO has no such tool.

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3. #### @latex

JFC, have you ever actually used latex?

In regards to journals, most of them accept latex, because the alternative is the old Word 6.0 .doc format. Compared to that, sure .tex files are easier to process.

Equations in latex are a nightmare though, as you aptly display at the bottom of your post. And those graphics look like something from last century. My advisor, who loves latex, recently got to compare a set of plots from several students. He was amazed that the quick Excel plots looked far better than the laborious plots generated by MATLab or Python. Diagrams are easy to layout in your favorite drawing package--be that Visio, Illustrator or some other package--then import into a Word file.

Latex documents are anything BUT portable. Every journal has their own standard and none of them can be translated between by a simple style change. If they could, then Word wouldn't be a problem either, since it's supported styles for ages. No, if you want to switch between journals, you have to change the style, then you have to redo most, if not all, of the figures and equations in the paper, because latex doesn't have anything resembling good equation line breaking or automatic graphic scaling.

Your equation there shows just how bad it is to write equations in latex. It might be fast once you've memorized every last command, but until then, you'll waste hours looking up "esoteric" commands on Google. And if you did memorize all of those commands, well Word's equation editor supports them too. Want an upright bold lowercase greek letter? Those are common for mathematical vectors. Be prepared to grab two obscure packages (boldsymbol & upgreek) and try to use them together... until you discover the journal's "style" doesn't support that combination.

How about all of those fancy symbols you mention? Real word processors have had strong Unicode support for years. All you have to do is open a symbol table, Word has one, Windows has another, and pick the glyph you want. Latex is terrible about supporting arbitrary fonts and so are most journals. They expect you to use the fixed latex fonts and not include glyphs from other high quality fonts. I wanted to add a degree symbol to a number a couple days ago. That was 15 minutes searching on Google to discover that latex doesn't have one. You have to use a superscript circle instead.

The biggest problem with latex is that it's code. Anyone that has to write a paper doesn't want to have to handle the additional cognitive load of translating their work into the word processor's language. We want to write in the language that the document will be read in. We want to see what we're getting without having to stop and recompile our document every 15 seconds to find out if we typed that equation correctly or got that reference inserted properly.

Yes, I'm pissed at latex because I just finished submitting a paper with 13 algorithms and 53 equations in it. And it took 10 times longer to convert the paper from Word to latex than it took to write it in Word to begin with. Because latex fails to do the one thing it was designed to: remove the task of formatting from the writer.

1. #### Re: @latex

I just finished submitting a paper with 13 algorithms and 53 equations in it.

And you try judging LaTeX and my points from it? Thanks, good for you. Just wanna clarify it for you, I got more than a 15-year experience of using LaTeX and a 25+ year experience of doing Math. I also tried MS Word before TeX, it was horrible.

Even with your 53 equations you didn't get the point.

Neither are you aware of the portability issue. There is no way you could change a custom style required by the journal in Word, you have to retype or reformat the document manually and entirely. You can do that easily using the provided class and style files supplied by the editors and point at it in the header \documentclass{} in (La)TeX.

You would never get graphics any close to pstricks, pst-euclide, commutative diagrams in or tikzpicture, presentation like in beamer or prosper. You can join various symbols to make a symbol if it's not available to you, define new symbols. There are tons of options and symbols. You don't need even google to google it, use this or this wiki .

He was amazed that the quick Excel plots looked far better than the laborious plots generated by MATLab or Python.

A Knowledge is talking yet again. Not sure about MatLab, but Python doesn't plot by itself, you might mean sage some other plugin. Crappy plot they must have been then. There is gnuplot, parigp, maxima and many more specialized tools. Many CAS would have a TeX mode output, you can edit. Is there an MS format mode? Never heard of that. There is pstricks with ps functions or generic curves with raw data, just like gnuplot, but your ignorance doesn't wanna hear that too, perhaps....

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Most Scientific papers are submitted in PDF format (so it doesn't stand that they're written in Word by default) and if there's lots of equations TexMaths (a LaTeX plug-in) in LibreOffice works well, irrespective of whether you're editing your report/paper on your Linux based number cruncher or Uni supplied MS Office based PC and most academics long ago fell out of love with MS Word over its rather sorry Equation Editor in its early history and have not returned.

Edit: What eulampios said far more eloquently!

1. #### @ DaddyHoggy

...its rather sorry Equation Editor in its early history and have not returned.

Ohh.. sir, Microsoft Equations, what a really painful experience it was, it makes me shiver even now to remember how back in the nineties a few pages long document typed in MS Word and MS Equations would get unresponsive when you just need to save it after correcting a couple of words. Indeed, GUI and embedded graphics that is used to store the formulas was an obvious blunder for Microsoft, at least back then. Whilst,Don Knuth's TeX, I presume, long predates MS Equations. So it was now my own turn for the raw stupidity of not knowing/using it at the time... I was not exposed to Unix or Linux yet ..."better late than never" though :)

4. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"Some of the equipment might be Linux, but not much"

NOT equipment - desktops !! - idiot

5. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"They need Office and the likes of Endnote to get the papers written."

That's not science - that's an output of science. I suggest you look at CERNs computing systems to see large-scale use of Linux - both desktops and servers

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again @AC

>"More fool you then."

You've obviously not done an enterprise desktop refresh: updating a few thousand 'Linux' desktops also costs money, although licensing costs are reduced...

2. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Yup, the old "Wasting Taxpayers' Money" cry, without looking at the bigger picture.

Surely the bigger picture here is that 1 year from now, the Government will be £5.5m worse off and still be in no better position than they are right now? As in, they are still going to have to migrate - whether they like it or not.

Unlike some others on here, I have no issue with the Government continuing to use Windows and Office (rather than attempt to migrate to Linux and Open/Libre Office) - but I do object to tax payers money being spent on a years worth of support that could have been easily avoided if they'd just planned better and started migrating earlier.

It's not like Microsoft haven't been giving plenty of notice.

3. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"Yup, the old "Wasting Taxpayers' Money" cry, without looking at the bigger picture."

I am looking at the bigger picture. If gov.uk were contributing to GPL code by using it (and thus funding development, patches etc) then those benefits flow back to the public.

The cost being £5mill, £50mill or £500mill is irrelevant. The money spent on GPL code is, by its very nature, simply a better invest. There is nothing stopping MS creating their own GPL offerings, so they can play if they want to.

4. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Yep. There's no excuse for this shite. The dates have been known for some time.

This is a totally preventable scandal.

5. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

"So their inability to plan ahead has cost us £5.5mill. Nice."

I wonder what the IT management was doing in the past 13 years. Didn't they see this coming a little earlier? Whatever the solution could be, finding and planning it before April 8th, 2014? No one fired for usch a blatant lack of proper management?

1. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

I wonder what the IT management was doing in the past 13 years

Reporting it to their superior.

6. #### Re: Wasting taxpayer's money again

Actually your government SAVED you money by not wasting it on upgrades to Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8.

By waiting this long they actually might get a decent product for a change.

3. XP embedded has long term support due to it being used in cash machines and self check out machines.

So I'm not sure why XP support has to end, it's surely the same code?

1. "So I'm not sure why XP support has to end"

Money. Also it becomes harder to maintain code as the number of branches increase.

Even in the F/OSS world where everyone has access to the source, older versions get dropped. Of course with F/OSS there is nothing to stop someone maintaining an older branch off their own bat.

2. Most cash machines don't use XP Embedded, it is mainly scientific equipment and other non-computer like devices that use it. Most cash machines use either XP Pro or XP for Embedded, a big difference, the latter has the same death sentence as XP Pro.

We switched from Windows XP for Embedded System (as opposed to Windows XP Embedded) to Windows 7 for Embedded 2.5 years ago.

4. #### Microsoft told The Register:

“Agreements such as these do not remove the need to move off Windows XP as soon as possible.”

Though they don't say where they should move to... Linux perhaps? (Other OSs are available).

1. #### Re: Microsoft told The Register:

From what we've seen of government, that would need much more than a year of planning, feasibility studies, pilot projects, budget reallocations, staff changeovers, consultancy swaps, re-specification, ............

5. #### Missing the point

The main reason why it is hard to move from XP is that all the software that people rely on for their business needs it. For government to move off of XP they don't just need to buy Win7 licences (or get some Linux knowhow), they need to buy, test, migrate, re-integrate ALL the software that runs on it. Sometimes that just isn't possible, whatever the cost because the vendor hasn't moved on. Even if they have, you can be sure that they want more money for the latest version.

6. Nice to see that our money is being spent wisely. Not

If anyone had shown this level of inertia, sloth and general incompetence in the private sector they would rightly be out on their ear.

What is it that insulates the civil servants of this country from the consequences of their (in)action?

Of course, the government is ultimately responsible, but these clowns are supposed to be there to give "expert" advice.

1. While I agree that the money has been wasted it's a bit daft to say "If anyone had shown this level of inertia, sloth and general incompetence in the private sector they would rightly be out on their ear.". I've seen several places I've recently worked who are in the same position and they are private financial institutions and nobody is "out on their ear" for it.

Having worked most of my life in the private sector I've seen the same level of waste as the public sector and I've seen people promoted or given bonuses for it.

2. "If anyone had shown this level of inertia, sloth and general incompetence in the private sector they would rightly be out on their ear."

The evidence is against that.

For example, one of the longest serving chaps at previous employer used to fall asleep and snore (loudly) for entire meetings and when awake at his desk he would while away the hours browsing the totally NSFW websites. He survived long after I left having managed his team, coded & delivered his project. ;)

7. “By combining demand, on behalf of Central Government departments and the wider public sector, Crown Commercial Service has demonstrated the benefits of government working as a single customer to achieve best value for the taxpayer, whilst continuing to build good working relationships with our technology suppliers.”

or in other words,

due to the inability of the civil service to make a decision we have had to deal a large deal with a big incumbent

8. #### Stallman was (is) right

Much as proprietary software apologists love to make it seem like lunacy, the free software idea that the user should have ultimate control over the software they rely upon just goes on making more and more sense.

Proprietary software makers have consistently tried to use lock-in as a means to prevent users migrating to alternatives, and it has largely worked. Public sector and private sector alike, mostly chant the same mantra - 'we can't change to a different OS because our custom software and/or historic data is reliant upon features only found in the OS we already use'.

This mantra is repeated until the proprietary OS vendor pulls the rug from under their feet, but even then, rather than looking back at the problem they helped create and trying to avoid a repeat, they just start the same cycle of total subservience to a predatory vendor all over again.

It's inconceivable that the public sector could not wilfully break this cycle. It requires some effort, but enough large bodies have now done so to demonstrate that it is a realistic alternative, and one with a far better long-term outcome.

1. #### Re: Stallman was (is) right

Stallman is an idealist who hasn't had to earn a living in the world outside of academia!!! and yes I regard what he is doing at the GNU project as an extension of academia.

So I take whatever Stallman says with a large pinch of salt...

1. #### Re: Stallman was (is) right

"So I take whatever Stallman says with a large pinch of salt..."

His heart's in the right place.. but his head is in the clouds.

1. This post has been deleted by its author

2. #### Re: Stallman was (is) right

"His heart's in the right place.. but his head is in the clouds."

Agree, that's why you can't simply ignore and or dismiss him.

9. I want every one of these XP stories to come with a quote from Trevor Potts. :) Thnx.

10. XP? XP?

I am sure there are some applications that were designed for DOS that are still in use - maybe that is why XP is important?

1. #### dosemu

A lot of DOS software will run happily on dosemu on Linux, including MS' C 6.0 compiler.

Certainly more than will run on 64-bit Windows...

11. #### One-year deal...

We're also forgetting something rather fundamental that's happening in just over a year's time... A little something called a "General Election". By next April, the current mob of idiots in charge will be demob happy, and if they don't get back in, it's a problem for another mob of idiots anyway.

1. #### Re: One-year deal...

But the civil servants will still be there.

I am going to prescribe you a dose of Yes Minister, followed by Yes Primeminister

12. #### Upgrade cycle

Last time I looked the various Linux flavours have even faster upgrade cycles than Microsoft, so how would moving everything to one of them remove the problem that at some point you'll need to upgrade your estate? Even if you go for one of the LTS releases you'll still need to do it eventually.

The "underused word processor" comment shows an arrogant ignorance of the vast amount of bespoke/legacy software many of these government departments depend upon.

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

The vast majority of the bespoke software would be ActiveX on IE8 (or worse, 7 or 6). It needs to be replaced with Java or, better still, server-side, then it doesn't matter one jot about what the client is running. If it's server-side then the client can even be thin.

Everything needs to be as portable and standard and protocol-neutral as possible, so if any one supplier (not just MS) tries to do a trick like this they're not painted into this corner again and can change that piece of the system for something else. As an example, why do you think MS opposes the government announcing that they're going to save Word Documents in ODF even though Word more-or-less copes with ODF?

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

@Dan55 I agree with most of what you say, just the last sentence.

Why do Microsoft not want them to use ODF, even though Word more or less copes with ODF? The simple answer is that ODF can't cope with Word. Libre/Open/Apache Office don't have all of the features of MS Office and their file formats as well. For simple documents it isn't a problem, but if you have users generating complex documents and bits go missing when they save them and reopen them, they are going to get miffed very quickly.

That said, the MS formats are also an open standard...

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

> but if you have users generating complex documents

Could you elaborate that with an example?

Is there a feature that you, or 95% of users actually need Word for? (and before you say "compatibility", that's the whole point in ODF)

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

Table styles, picture styles and effects, comments in margin, diagonal borders, image roation (only 90° increments in OO), multi level lists/outline numbering goes squiffy, watermarks.

Move over to Excel and Pivots, for example don't go, PowerPoint import is diabolical, especially with complex animations, SmartArt etc.

Most of the documents I've thrown at OO and LO have been well and truly mangled.

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

OK, what about what 90% of users use?

[funny how your list is almost the same order as listed in wiki.documentfoundation.org]

I've worked on the same documents at home (MSOffice) and work (LO), and I hardly notice any problems. Usually it's just petty layout problems - and it occurs both ways.

What strikes me as odd, though, you obviously have a grudge towards OO and LO, yet you still try to open your super-hi-tech documents at them both.

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

I have no grudge against OO and LO, I used OO as my main office suite for years, when I was using a Linux workstation as my main PC. But then I had to start swapping documents with a large customer and at first I had an Windows machine in the corner with MS Office to proof the documents before they were sent out, but I was spending hours a week correcting the bodged formatting, especially as most of the documents had advanced table formatting, In the end I bit the bullet and worked on the Windows machine for those projects.

LO and OO are great products for many users, especially if they don't need the missing features and/or they don't need to swap documents with MS Office users on a regular, professional basis.

I put it on most of my relations PCs, because they need it to write the odd letter or for simple worksheets. But I am realistic, when it comes to work and I just don't see that LO and OO have caught up sufficiently to be a 100% replacement. They are darned good and improving all the time, but they aren't there yet, for the sorts of documents I have to generate on a daily basis.

2. #### Re: Upgrade cycle @AC

"[funny how your list is almost the same order as listed in wiki.documentfoundation.org]"

Interesting, I've never visited the site... They were just the first examples that came to mind when I started writing the post, as they are the features I use most often, which seem to cause problems.

2. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

If you saved the documents as ODFs from within Word, and the ODF spec says that feature is supported but OO/LO opens it wrong, then that's a problem with Word not being able to save ODFs right.

3. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

"Most of the documents I've thrown at OO and LO have been well and truly mangled."

And if you are on the bleeding edge of the feature set then you'll have similar troubles moving documents between Office 2003 and 2007. The morals of the story are that Office formats are not a safe place to put your work, you need to stop using them, and it's only going to get harder the longer you put it off.

2. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

Hmmm - if those bespoke/legacy softwares are incapable of supporting upgrades it sounds as if those bespoke/legacy sofwares are the cause and root of all upgrading issues.

Get the developers back and tell them to do the job right?

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

It's most lame developers who couldn't code a Windows application properly now moved to web development...

1. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

It's most lame developers who couldn't code a Windows application properly now moved to web development...

So that's why there's hardly any new Windows desktop development!

3. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

I don't know much about Linux, but I'm sure the govt could pay someone to maintain/upgrade their Linux systems at a much cheaper rate than they're now paying for XP + future upgrades. There would also be competition, and the money going to local business.

4. #### Re: Upgrade cycle

Upgrade cycles are a myth perpetrated by MS to get people buying the same software over and over again.

In a properly specified computer system, you buy a SYSTEM (hardware, software and maintenance) designed to run for a specific time, with essential updates included in the original cost. At end of life you scrap it, having already planned to the next iteration.

Attempting to run an IT system until it turns to dust is a moron's choice.

13. #### Migration...

Is all dependent on the custom set of security policies that are on government kit. They dont use standard GPOs. They use a set of policies created by Microsoft, Dell et al. By default everything is heavily locked down.

Those of you that have worked on any servers at Whitehall will know what I mean.

I implemented the custom GPO set on a few win2k3 DCs some years back and it was pretty hardcore.

I spent nearly 2 months with various sysinternals tools identifying dlls and reg keys to figure out what to allow and block. All made harder by the custom GPOs.

If they havent already started migrating it wont happen before the deadline. Tons of faffing needs to be done and tested.

Also, they were decommissioning NT4 kit when I was there in 2006...they're a long way off ditching XP.

I cant comment on other sectors but most of Whitehalls networks arent even on the internet. Those that are go through a hardened proxy that only allows surfing to very specific websites so security updates dont really mean that much.

14. #### Maths?

Obviously we've not got enough numbers here to make any sense, but I'd like to question the amount of "savings" they're claiming on this deal.

Let's assume highest number of computers possible given "tens of thousands" and call it 100,000. The full price of the deal is pitched at £25m (£5m paid plus £20m saved). That means that they were going to end up paying in excess of £250 per computer (which is ever so slightly higher than the $200 per computer that this deal "retails" at). Instead they've managed to get the "deal" for just over £5m. Note: Obviously the$200 only covers Windows, so it's possible that the extra cost is for Office and Exchange.

1. #### Re: Maths?

"£250 per computer (which is ever so slightly higher than the $200 "$200 = £120, so it'd be considerably more expensive. I'd guess they just swapped \$ for £ and then whacked an extra 50 on for Office/Exchange.

2. #### Re: Maths?

Read the article properly before quibbling over the maths! It mentions the Met's 85,268 and HMRC's 38,551, before going on to mention the NHS's one million PCs. So the £5.584m is for way, way more than 100,000 PCs.

15. #### What do you mean Standards Hub

“By combining demand, on behalf of Central Government departments and the wider public sector, Crown Commercial Service has demonstrated the benefits of government working as a single customer to achieve best value for the taxpayer, whilst continuing to build good working relationships with our technology suppliers.”

So it's a common agreement, involving a mandatory migration plan from XP to ??

The big question is, just what have they committed themselves to in the longer term on behalf of the taxpayer, in order to achieve this short term agreement.

What could possibly go wrong.

16. If Taxpayers are paying for the patches, the Govt should make them available to UK users through Windows update.

17. #### Microsoft say. "You WILL have to"

Should send alarm bells ringing in anybody's head.

Yet our government continues to plough public money into Redmond's coffers while stinging everybody else with stealth taxes.

Until the gocernment takes a pro active look on IT they have lost my vote!

18. The sad fact is, after the first company/government paid the ransom price to Microsoft, they made money. Every single company/government after that was just pure profit.

19. #### Breaking News, April 1st 2015

UK Govt moves to Linux after extended XP deal...

20. #### I'm happy!

XP was not broke and there was no need to fix it.

21. To be eligible, though, organizations must have in place plans to migrate off Windows XP.

Is there any sort of secret handshake in there that requires the migration to be to newer version of Windows, or is a planned migration to Linux considered OK?

22. #### Customer

And that's the problem, why on earth should a national government have to 'act as a single customer'

Surely a bit of old fashioned 'big government' could run its own IT .

you said it yourself Dave 'profit is not a dirty word' so what's wrong with PUBLIC enterprise.

after all were all in it together.

23. #### Having a go at "government" IT

I don't know why I bother reading the comments on these articles related to government departments' and NHS migration to XP. Everyone not involved in the sector seems to think that those of us in it have been wilfully sat here doing nothing about XP for the last x years, and completely fails to understand the issues involved. I'm completely fed-up with being rubbished by fellow professionals and told that I'm idle, incompetent and blinkered just because we haven't yet migrated to XP. How about you come and work in the public sector and fix all that's wrong if it's as simple as you make it sound?

24. #### The Replacement

I would gladly mix a distro of linux and call it "her majesties OS" or maybe "Majestic Linux"

@deddokatana

contact me to commision it!. :D

25. #### Easy Money for Microsoft

Microsoft are supporting Windows Server 2003, until July 2015, which is basically Windows XP with Server additions, so it's not as if there's much extra effort required from Microsoft. They must be laughing all the way to the bank.

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