back to article 'The writing is TOO SMALL': MPs row over Parliamentary move to Office 365

The migration of Parliamentary mailboxes to Office 365 has left some ministers in a muddle, and caused others to question why the Houses did not decide to use the "free" alternative from Google. The Office 365 migration began in January but was delayed due to an unrelated network upgrade cockup that led to web outages and …

  1. Anonymous Coward


    "He didn't expand on this, and was interrupted by Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP for Harlow, questioning why PICT did not migrate to Gmail "which is completely free" and Google Docs."

    The icon says it all.

    1. M7S

      Re: Really?

      What do you expect? One MP (read: standard user) informing another MP (ditto) about an IT system.

      For most of us, whilst it is hardly the way we'd wish IT decisions to be made, it reflects reality in many workplaces. I frequently get "I've read you can get software to do this for free on the internet" either from a user with a new pet idea or as a rebuttal from finance/the MD when I want to do something properly. It's depressing.

      It is a shame there wasn't an IT bod there who could have clued them up on the legal and technical aspects around this idea, let alone the security risks of running the government on a system where the data governance is openly overseas. Perhaps they're thinking that as the system will be hacked to death by people (those we pay, or those we share everyting with) with really good skills in that field, what's the point in spending on ineffective security. They might actually have a point......

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Really?

        It's not free anyway. Google Apps is £33 per user per year, Office 365 is £39.60 per user per year. Both are of course the list price, and government discounts will be available.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      lol, that's the kind of shit we went through long ago. "Free" you mean a starting price that's about the same (higher if we're just talking kiosk for mail senders) for the enterprise then ramping up once you start adding things like backup and sane management tools, and don't dare say you think that googles limited selection of font types and font sizes are limiting, you'll get marched off the premises.

      Fun times. Luckily not my project, still found it all rather funny though.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Gmail and Google Docs?

      And send every document and email straight to the NSA?

      Office is bad enough but the Cloud is not the answer to everything.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a PICT

      Funny, how Pink Floyd have foreseen that more than 3 decades ago. Just, wondering which model of Blackberry is called Claymore...

  2. Irongut

    "Surely we believe that women can do this kind of task in a way that is equal to, if not better than, men"

    Where can I report this sexist MP for being anti-men?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Women can do everthing better.

      Except pee while standing up.

      1. Hollerith 1

        Can't pee standing up?

        Remove their right to vote immediately!!

        1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

          Re: Can't pee standing up?

          They can vote!!!? They'll be letting immigrants stand for parliment next!

      2. Aqua Marina

        @Except pee while standing up.

        Go download "The Full Monty" off Bit Torrent, then come back and say that!!!!!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Except pee while standing up."

        One of the feminist writers, probably Nancy Friday, said her New Orleans cousins taught her how to do that to use their communal night piss pail. No drips either.

  3. John G Imrie Silver badge

    The NSA must be happy

    as they only have to ask Micosoft for all the emails instead of paying some disgruntled UK IT bod.

    1. Fuzz

      Re: The NSA must be happy

      I doubt there was any need, I'm sure GCHQ happily hand over all government communications to the NSA without question

  4. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

    "What's going on in recruitment here?"

    Maybe women just aren't willing to put up with the shit involved with the job?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "What's going on in recruitment here?"

      That's always the thing "Maybe women just don't want to do it and why are you all so insistent on forcing them to do so if they don't want to?" There are lots of different jobs I don't want to do, sales, marketing, first line support, bin man, though I am thinking I like the idea of the guy that uses the buffer machine to make floors nice and shiny.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Office 365 seems to require people to have 20:20 vision"

    Then go to fucking specsavers...I don't have 20:20 vision either, but I am smart enough to realise that glasses provide me with near perfect vision.

    It's not Rocket Surgery.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      That's the least of the complaints our users have had with the web interface to it.

      Thank God it still works with a client program.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "That's the least of the complaints our users have had with the web interface to it."

        ctrl + scroll...there, problem solved.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          And what does "ctrl + scroll" do?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            You're making out that you are supporting IT users yet you don't know a basic command for zooming in a, no wonder you chose to migrate to office 365.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              And did I not say that the size of the typeface was the least of the complaints my users had with it? You should learn to read before you get all smart arsey.

              And I can't seem to find a "scroll" key on my keyboard... Hmm... I suspected what you might hinting at, but I thought I'd let you clarify anyway.

              Also, it wasn't my choice to migrate to Office 365. I just have to put up with the fall-out.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "You should learn to read before you get all smart arsey."

                Yea that's some good advice for you.

                "And I can't seem to find a "scroll" key on my keyboard"

                I never said it was on a keyboard.

              3. Not That Andrew

                My keyboard has a Scroll key, although it's probably a Scroll Lock. I suspect AC means the scroll wheel on your mouse

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. TRT Silver badge

                  Not got one of those on my trackball or on my mouse. Same can be said for three quarters of my department. I've never advised anyone to use ctrl and scroll to change magnification on a web browser. Ctrl and + or - for zoom. But, as I said, least of the problems - most of which are to do with the Light version and incompatibilities with different browsers.

  6. petur


    Maybe England should put its pride aside and have a look at how they do things in Munich.

    I can't believe governments relying on foreign servers for their IT. If PICT can't setup a mailserver they're just a helpdesk

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Germans

      That would mean you should hire a competent syadmin and not your cousin....

  7. Vordicae

    RE: Germans

    Maybe we should follow the RUSSIANS ... and just migrate to an entirely self sufficient, in house system

    then NO-ONE can get access to anything ! .. least of all the NSA

  8. Spiff66


    Hmm office 365 for hosting mail isn't that bad to be honest. Is the problem office 365 or is the problem some twat deciding to try and customise (mangle) how they use it so it hasn't got a hope in hell of working. Wonder how much testing and validation they did on this?

  9. Aqua Marina

    Show me the data!

    And where geographically is the data belonging to our beloved electorate actually stored????

    1. John P

      Re: Show me the data!

      Dublin most likely.

      Not that that will stop the NSA giving MS a court order + gag order if they ever want anything. NSA think they can do what they want and they'll get away with it because, in their opinion, USA is the leader of the free** world.

      **Their ever changing definition of free.

    2. marcoose777

      Re: Show me the data!

      here perhaps

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Really

    "He didn't expand on this, and was interrupted by Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP for Harlow, questioning why PICT did not migrate to Gmail "which is completely free" and Google Docs."

    That is pretty funny, you have to admit.

    Office 365 for PICT might be in the cloud, but it will be a private cloud that sits on a network not directly connected to the internet.

    1. Zane

      Re: Really

      One thing where Microsoft is really successful,

      is that they were able to make people think that their data is more safe with Microsoft than with Google or Apple.

      A Microsoft "private" cloud? Just look how often your Windows likes to phone home.


  11. Opr_Sys

    Too Good

    This is almost too good for words - Westminister upgraded to Office 365...

    Do you mean the Office 365 sold for Home, Personal and University use?

    ie: For Students on a Budget

    Where is that Microsoft - Piracy Link?!

  12. Opr_Sys

    If they're refering to Office 365 E3 in this article, then I do wish they would stipulate office 365 E3 and it would be on an enterprise license scheme which your certified Microsoft Professional should have setup for you and the screen Font's should match the Fonts already available on the desktop, if the font size is too small, change your desktop resolution to get a more comfortable size, then you wont be squinting at it. But if your License says: Home - Personal or University in the License info then you should find out who it is in your PICT department that's given you a shoddy copy!

    1. buyone

      re: 'The writing is TOO SMALL': MPs row over Parliamentary move to Office 365

      " if the font size is too small, change your desktop resolution to get a more comfortable size, "

      Nothing wrong with that. What good advice, you can save lots of money that way, there must be lots of CGA screens available at the tip.

    2. mark 63 Silver badge

      changing desktop res "to make the letters bigger" is surely a last resort? If you're lucky enough to be using web based software you can zoom in the browser.

      Changing the res just means people go back to 800x600 , the apps dont fit on the screen , and its blurry cos its not native res. As another commenter said - go to effin specsavers , or plead for a huge monitor( which will have non native res on it)

  13. Opr_Sys

    Cool Desktop

    A awe inspiring choice of desktop BTW.. I've always marvelled at the fact MP's could have a desktop that looks like this:

    Complete with a free Office and a free everything else...

    But instead they always opt for something like this instead:

    1. Ross K

      Re: Cool Desktop

      I've always marvelled at the fact MP's could have a desktop that looks like this:

      Ok I'll play along...why would MPs need a desktop that looked like that?

    2. Jan Hargreaves

      Re: Cool Desktop

      Well... many reasons I can think of. It's not intuiative at all to get it to do anything. There is no start button, menu, or anything. Nor any explanation that you need to right click (I assume that is how that menu appears) to do anything. It's like when users first got to windows 8, it was almost impossible to do anything and users would sit perplexed and eventually give up.

      Secondly, I doubt they could care less what tasks are running or how much processor each are using. Nor how much they have downloaded. This technical information is useful at times but it's not needed all the time. It's just extra unneeded bloat.

      When you run apps how do you see what is running? There is no taskbar? Or is it transparent and nothing is running there? The thing is.. I shouldn't need to ask these questions; it needs to be obvious from the start.

      So really this desktop is fine for an experienced nerd but for most people it's useless.

      Finally... why are buttons, scrollbars and text so ugly in Linux?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Serious question: Are Parliament not bound by the same security standards as the rest of government? We've looked into every cloud service going for our current client (major national public sector) and they all got ditched due to lack of IL3+ certification (good luck even getting IL2...) and/or guarantees data would never leave blighty.

    I know (looking back at the article on the announcement) that they reckoned 80% or more data wasn't sufficiently sensitive to warrant high security - we found similar things in our appraisals - but the problem is getting civil servants and politicos to follow data protection/information assurance procedures is like herding cats (cf. 'How do i even log in?!?!' support calls). Could go terribly, terribly wrong.

    That said, done right, security improves substantially. A lot harder to misplace a file full of sensitive information when that file never leaves the server. Even if that server is in Dublin.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Security?

      "Are Parliament not bound by the same security standards as the rest of government"

      Parliament is not part of Government, Government is part of Parliament.

    2. Seanie Ryan

      Re: Security?

      where do they stand in relation to EU data protection laws?

      is it not against same to use servers owned by US companies , and have data covered by Patriot Act??


      1. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: Security?

        Giving the NSA all the UK government confidential information is part of its bid to become the 51st state of the USA.

  15. Arachnoid

    Minister for Security

    That statement sure defines how little thought goes on in the chamber in regard to securing data no wonder IT projects go over budget.

  16. John LS

    in addition, new security features have made it difficult to synchronise some Android devices with mailboxes,"

    Can almost hear the M$ salesman "Here try a nice new WIndows phone, that'll sync without issues"

  17. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Too small!

    Err.... View -> Zoom -> select a higher number. These people have been using their office PCs for at least four years for the few who are first-term MPs and how TF did they manage to not touch a PC before they were elected - and they can't even use an office application?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest issue I had with O365 when we first started using it was the lack of visual contrast. Using Outlook with a Word doc or two open in front of it plus a Powerpoint in there too - which set of icons belong to which window??? The fact O365 only comes in Light/Medium/Dark grey (and you'll be hard pressed to see the difference) means the desktop rapidly becomes a mash of grey windows. I think the 20-20 thing is more likely to be about identifying the toolbar than for reading the text which (as others have said) is zoomable.

    There was an elongated pilot/user test for O365 in this case, over many months, so it wasn't a decision made lightly. Gmail was looked at too but discarded.

    As for women - there are a surprising number in PICT - many more than my old job. But most work behind the scenes in management, or as BAs and PMs which of course the MPs won't be speaking to directly.

  19. John H Woods

    relative degrees of shamefulness ...

    Not knowing how to zoom -- a little bit shameful.

    Not even suspecting that zooming is possible -- a little bit more shameful.

    Speaking authoritatively as if zooming isn't possible -- breathtaking!

    1. yossarianuk

      Re: relative degrees of shamefulness ...

      Spending tax payers money with a company that uses patents to prevent fair competition - unforgivable.

  20. All names Taken

    Gender not important?

    MPs will let any support worker irrespective of gender sit on MPs knee?

  21. KirstarK

    Corrected for you

    and caused others to question why the Houses decided to use Office 365 anyway and pay by subscription.....

  22. proud2bgrumpy

    Why is it that so many men are employed in PICT? There are hardly any women at all.

    "Why is it that so many men are employed in PICT? There are hardly any women at all. What's going on in recruitment here? Surely we believe that women can do this kind of task in a way that is equal to, if not better than, men," said Barry Sheerman

    I don't know what the numbers are here, but from my time in education all through my professional career of over 20 years, it has been clear that very few women have engaged in IT as technical professionals. Of those that have done so (that I have met), some were very good, others very bad and the rest indifferent - much like the men I worked with and in similar proportions, it's just that there are so very few women in IT. So, Mr Sheerman you can navel gaze over the why's and wherefores of this, but I'd suggest that it's because they're busy doing something else.

    Of course we could set up a committee to investigate and produce a report, that should soak up a few £M of *spare* public funds.

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