Computers in Whitehall will largely continue to run Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6, which will make web coders spit out their cheese‘n’pickle sarnies this lunchtime. “It is not straightforward for HMG departments to upgrade IE versions on their systems. Upgrading these systems to IE 8 can be a very large operation, taking …
Come on A.C. ... do you think we really have a choice?
Anonymous 'cause I work in this sector and I'm about to tell it like it is.
The problem we face is this ...
Firstly, Government relies on a considerable amount of bespoke software. That's the stuff which handles issuing of bus passes and all the other stuff like that which authorities have to do but you can't get off the shelf.
This ends up being the domain of the small software houses.
Programmers have been basing their systems around Microsoft components for years now, because it makes their turn around quicker. I mean, personally I think it is a ton of s**t that you have to load an entire office suite on a SERVER, damn it, for the software to work.
However, when those components change, everything goes for a ball of chalk.
If we upgraded from IE6 to IE8, several of our programs fail to work.
While the big boys like Capita have the resource to re-work all their software, the small guys haven't and if we upgrade then lo and behold, we're no longer supported. They've got the cheek to think that they can dictate the tide. The problem is that without them, all the departments that use voting system software and the like ... hit the buffers.
The problem now is that we're riddled with all sorts of bits and pieces that all rely on specific versions of Microsoft software to support it.
For crying out loud, we can't even upgrade our OFFICE installation because stuff breaks.
I hear managers and Microsoft supporters tot up and trumpet the cost of going open source ... well, there is one cost that would be saved ... and that is the cost we're facing right now of hitting a brick wall. There's only so much Microsoft that can be gaffer taped by putting applications on discrete servers running in VM environments that are tailor made for whatever the application needs.
Well, the time has come, 'cause we can't do that on the client!
We stayed on IE 6 because IE 7 broke stuff. We stayed on IE 6 because IE 8 broke stuff. Heck we don't even get a choice of IE 9. If Microsoft jettison XP, then we're in deep trouble.
Those perpetuating the nice, easy Windows platforms because their too damn scared to grow a pair and get real, need to be hung by their calculators.
And most of all ... central government need to get a voice and roar at these damn software houses to get their crap in order 'cause while the local authorities can only squeak, we're at the mercy of s**t programs churned out by crap programmers who are being pressured by the all mighty dollar in to getting the product out the door as soon as possible. For crying out loud HOW MANY UPDATES have Capita issued this last twelve months, on their Academy system?
I mean, if you load Info@Work before you load Academy and then try and open a Word document through Academy, you get a Virtual Memory error. I mean, who's going to take responsibility for this crappy situation? Each software house points at the other and in the mean time, we're stuck. All we can do is make sure the users load them in the correct order. (or was it the other way around? Gah!)
And we're riddled with this stuff all over the place, 'cause no one seems to be able to program properly any more.
Thanks ... Central Government ... for wanting to devolve decisions to local areas. This means we've got no voice because our lack of buying power means we've got a weak negotiating position; and have to struggle in the mire wasting time and money to try and make stuff play nice.
Well, we're about to run out of duct tape. Win 7 is going to have to happen and if the small software houses stuff doesn't run under XP compatibility mode, we've got problems.
Goodnight ... it's been nice knowing ya'll.
(I struggle, sometimes, to determine who is to blame ... the programmers for taking advantage of such component libraries, or Microsoft for not building the damn libraries correctly and making sure that stuff is properly backwards compatible ... but then, thinking back to the 90's, backwards compatibility was never Microsoft's strong point.)
A whole lot of companies are not upgrading their browsers from IE6. My company isn't and it aint nothin' to do with time to roll out (or cost of IE8), it is to do with how integrated it is with the software that has been developed for it. The software cannot be tested on IEanything else and approved for use without paying the original developers or licensers a WHOLE HEAP of money. If you run the software on any browser than IE6 you lose the support you have paid £300m for (that isn't a typo).
So one wonders why everybody thinks the lack of IE8 in the workplace is so amazing. These people have clearly never suffered from appalling legacy systems with ridiculously one-sided licences. They also still think that "no-one ever got fired for choosing IBM", which i can state right now is not true. Think IBM and IE6 are not related? That's how bad some of the previous decisions were.
Still, the government eh? what are they like!
When IE6 was being adopted, there were already well developed browser standards. The fact IE6 studiously avoided implementing them was a deliberate piece of MS 'design' intended to get just this sort of result - lock-in to their own proprietary ways of doing things. That HMG were happy to pay for or build software which relied upon those lock-in features to operate shows a complete lack of both foresight and savvy. But then, we are talking about HMG, aren't we?
It costs 1% less for crap software than good software. Ergo, crap software wins.
Try and keep up, it isn't rocket science, it's accountancy.
We can't let coders rule the world because nothing would ever be finished, but then we can't really let accountants rule the world because we would never pay extra for quality.
... is that various manufacturers, like Nortel (Now Avaya), Sun (now Oracle) and many, many others, have web based management systems ... and because either they can't program to standards, or else succumb to using the fancy non-standard stuff that Microsoft packaged with IE ... none of the stuff will work under Firefox.
Somebody give me a gun and a bullet ... I cant take much more.
the simple answer is for all web developers to start charging more for developing for IE6 so that suddenly it's not quite so cost-effective to stick with it!
so this is basically their answer - they are NEVER going to upgrade away from IE6? How's that going to work, they'll have to do so sometime surely??
Now I'd better get back to writing an IE6 workround for the aforemention incompatibilities....
Anon because of obvious reasons.
Was *******g web developers writing to IE6 instead of open standards in the first place... I lost quite a number of arguments where I wanted a fat client rather than web enabled because a fat client means you can understand it and can manage it, whereas too many "web enabled" apps where fully IE proprietary with all sorts of downloaded applets and stuff, which meant you still had a fat client, but one you coyuldn't understand and couldn't manage...
"Proper" web enabled, meaning all the nonsense on the server side and pure html to/from browser I never objected to, and virtually never saw either... And was I allowed to reject such and such a package because it was going to be a support nightmare? Not a chance...
If they upgrade, some of that free russian software they installed years ago wont work any more! How will they survive without KremBackup to backup all their documents off to a secure site in easten europe, or Bejing-k-loggr to remember all their passwords?
Governenment will cease to work! not entirely dissimilar to how someone's brains seem to have siezed up while developing this lack of a policy.
And they think this will *save* them money?
...is if Microsoft stop issuing security patches.
Someone should make some kind of virtualised IE6 container which only connects to a predetermined list of websites (thus supporting legacy business webapps). Then the organisation would be free to upgrade to a proper browser.
It wouldn't stop anyone keeping IE6, it would just encourage other vendors to tout a security system that also costs a fortune, and the head of strategic IT decisions would get his abacus out and figure it would save 2% to go down that road.
Don't underestimate the power of the tech unsavvy accountant when it comes to money.
Don't be naive. If they haven't switched yet, they're not going to switch. Saying that they'll switch if MS stop issuing security patches is just misguided - the statement from the government says that they'll use firewalls and malware protection to 'further protect' users running IE6, so they'll just carry on doing that.
You should all realise by now that gov departments aren't interested in proactive upgrade strategies - spend to save and all that jazz. They're much happier being reactive - waiting til something bites them on the arse before being vaguely productive.
Oh, and the virtualised IE6 container that only connects to certain websites is called Citrix / Terminal Services. And they're crap too.
Yay! No more patches means no more paying the service provider to roll out updates! That's a taxpayer economy, right there.
More seriously, I post this from a "Whitehall" machine  running XP SP2 (out of support) and IE6 SP 2. There is no scheduled upgrade to OS or browser. We're lucky, though. Some seriously important national infrastructure in this part of the forest is still running on NT4.
 What's with the 'Whitehall' thing? Most of us are hundreds of miles away from there, and there's very little consistency across Departments.
When will those donkeys who do "IT Strategy" for the government realise that sticking to IE6 isn't an option.
It is not just a browser, it's the delivery mechanism for all applications. With ever-increasing applications being written that are web-based, e.g. nobody builds thick clients these days, it's getting nigh-on impossible to develop for IE6.
The root cause is Microsoft's pathetic attempt to integrate the browser into the operating system as their response to the browser wars of the nineties. This means that any attempt to co-exist browser versions isn't supported.
Government's best bet is to install an alternative browser; Firefox or Chrome. Both will be better for security. Whilst they're at it, dump Microsoft Office and sanction Google Docs (run on secure private servers).
Nothing wrong with Google Docs. It's an excellent collaborative tool and, run on the correct browser, can be extremely stable and capable. Comes with Wave too, which is where collaboration gets slicker 'n deer guts on a pump handle...
Ah. The correct browser... Probably best forget all of that, right? If they can't even choose the correct browser* with world+dog screaming the obvious in their ear, what chance their getting anything else right?
* Where, for the sake of argument, "the correct browser" is ANYTHING except IE6
IE6 is the defacto standard. Just like Office is the defacto document format. Both are lockins. It's just that theIE6 one is noticeable because it stops people doing what they want. Lockins are like that some times.
Way back when everything suddenly went web app, all the developers of the corporate world were delighted to not have to do custom front end applications. Now they all pay for the saving. And will continue to do so for as long as as it takes.
Even better.. Microsoft's lockin strategy is now biting them on the bottom by stopping companies upgrading to newer versions because the software is incompatible... Which means either they re write IE6 to run on 7, or they can't stop supporting XP.
Sad thing is.. A large number of people will just do the same damn thing again, and in years to come, will be unable to move from Office when the next big thing comes along.
I hate Mickeysoft as much as the next man, but that's just crap. So long as Word exports to .DOC ('Word 97-2003 format') or .RTF or even to .TXT you can get the data out of it and virtually anything out there will read it. There are simply too damn many copies of too damn many different word processing and layout apps (Word from early versions of Office, Open Office, Symphony, Pages, Quark XPress, Adobe InDesign, et bloody cetera) which read .DOC to let even Mickeysoft kill it without feeling considerable pain at the checkout-counter. Same for .RTF. (Though Mickeysoft is trying hard to hide it.) In a similar fashion, so long as Excel can export to XLS or CSV I can always get data out and move it to something else. And CSV is _never_ going away. Mickeysoft might manage to restrict PowerPoint, but it's not as though anyone really cares about last month's sales presentation, so who bloody cares? Access, well, if you're heavy into Access you're locked in tight... and some of your stuff will break on impact with any new version, so you're used to rebuilding your stuff or to just keeping ancient unsupported systems running for years anyway. (I know for absolutely _certain_ that some chunks of Access-generated code made with Access 97 will _not_ work with Access 2003, much less with 2007. Guess how. And, no, the boy who wrote the thing back in 1999 ain't around the company no more, having caught a slight case of dead two years ago, and no-one else has a clue what the hell he did, so the whole thing is being re-written... but not using anything from Mickeysoft.) MSIE is actually _banned_ for official purposes around here; individuals can use it, if they provide their own support and their own security, with the clear notice that if IT (that is, me'n'myboyz'n'grrlz) finds any problems traceable to MSIE security problems said problems can be a termination offence....
Personally, I have already departed Office, part way; I use Pages for my word processing, exporting to .DOC or .RTF or .PDF if necessary. I still use Excel, because it's the best spreadsheet out there, but if a better one shows up I'll dump it and move. I'd have to export all my old macros, but that won't take long. (A 'better spreadsheet' had damn well better support macros with at least the Excel feature set or I'll not be moving. That's why I didn't move to Excel 2007 or 2008 and probably won't move to Excel 2010 or 2011, Mickeysoft screwed with the macros.) As it is the box i use for serious work at the office is on a network which has no Internet connection and which has serious access restrictions, making it fairly secure, so I'll still have it available even if Mickeysoft kills support for Win 7 tomorrow... which they're not going to do. I usually use a Mac on the Internet precisely because it's harder for a Mac to be affected by malware, and that Mac is on a separate net, and the only point of connection is _my_ thumb drive, which is scanned for malware on a regular basis. Yes, it's still possible for something to get past, but I can live with the possibility. (No, Tuxers, I'm really not interested in Open Office. I've tried it. It's too clunky. Free is nice, usability and capability are better, and Excel is both more usable and more capable than Open Office's spreadsheet, while Pages is superior to its word processor... at least in _my_ opinion, and as I'm the one who has to use them, _my_ opinion is what matters. Perhaps in the future this may change, but right now there's no contest.)
So, when they buy a new computer, how do they get IE6 on it? I mean, I'm fairly sure I would have a hard time getting IE6 from a legitimate source. Perhaps there is a simple answer to this, but for how long?
Say Cameron sets up a new quango (can you say "Office of Budget Responsibility") and they want some computers, just where do they get IE6 from?
Like most big corporations they don't just use whatever OS is on a machine when it's delivered, they have an OS image that they load.
And they don't just buy any old machine from PC World, they test the image with specific hardware from specific vendor(s) and have a contract for that vendor to supply that configuration (perhaps with minor changes to disk space and memory) for a period of time.
This means that you have 100,000 desktop machines that are essentially identical, which makes support a little bit easier because it allows you to utilise central software management tools to deploy patches, upgrades and application installations.
Someone needs (say) Project? They call a central number, who sort out a license, add it to the user's profile and next time they log in the software is downloaded and installed.
Yeah, that's overkill if you're in the same building, but if the support guys are 200 miles away it's much more cost effective.
50-60 technical staff can support 100,000 desktops on 3,000 sites.
Unless everything goes pear-shaped all at once, they'll just keep repairing the existing ones. As far as I know, so long as you don't switch out the motherboard (and that won't be necessary unless you run out of spare mobos, CPUs, and/or memory modules), you can bodge a computer back to life 90% of the time.
Good point, my guess would be they install Window's XP on their but this would also involve extra licencing costs which throws their money saving argument out the window. I wonder which accounting principles their finance department ran to work out wether switching would be cost effective or not because they have obviously missed out a few variables.
"Upgrading these systems to IE 8 can be a very large operation, taking weeks to test and roll out to all users.”
Weeks is not "a very large operation", especially in Government I.T. projects.
For goodness sake stop making excuses and just get on with it. You've had long enough. Sticking with an unsupported 9 year old browser that is open to exploits is simply negligent. How long before we get another data theft scandal?
If it's for public web browsing then IE6 is not the best choice these days. But if it is an integrated front end to an application, or suite of applications, then does it really matter.
For example, is a 10 year old 3720 terminal emulator the wrong tool for accessing a 10 year old application that is still the cornerstone of a company? Not everyone wants or needs to upgrade working systems every couple of years.
Possibly the most sensible post so far.
It is true to say that many other browsers work fine with .gov.uk sites (such as HMRC); it's also true to say many other browsers don't. But I comment as a 'customer' not an internal user.
I am totally in favour of the ConLib Govt making as many savings that make sense, and if the implication is that keeping IE6 is for internal intranet usage only, carry on.
Developing 'simple' intranet sites using IE6 is fine. However, the world has moved on and we're now developing 'applications' as opposed to static web pages. Getting these kind of pages to work with IE6 is difficult bordering on impossible -- pushing costs up massively.
There's a cost to developing with IE6. I'd argue that cost is far greater than the cost of upgrading.
As long as there are significant numbers of users with IE6, IE7 and IE8 browsers out there, HTML5 will not be able to become a widely used standard nor will it be able to replace Flash. I think we've got at least another 5 years before IE is fully flushed out of the internets.
government bureaucrats will do anything, anything, anything - to avoid mere "weeks" worth of work.
Yeah that's it you bastards. If something is difficult it's not worth doing, right? Heck you're going to get paid anyway, you might as well do the crappiest job possible. I'm surprised any of you bother showing up for work. Oh wait, most of the time you don't.
But it's okay because (get ready for the crocodile tears) "I didn't get my yearly raise" awww.
The simple fact is that Windows XP was the best operating system that Microsoft ever produced, or will likely ever produce. It’s been all downhill since then.
Vista, as everyone knows, is completely and utterly awful. Windows 7 is better, but it’s still dreadful compared to XP. People realise this.
So I have radical suggestion. Microsoft should abandon Vista and Windows 7 completely. They should acknowledge them for the mistakes they were. They should re-establish XP as their ‘current’ operating system, and concentrate on shoring up its defences through additional service packs.
In addition, they should make XP free of charge. This is the only way Microsoft can counter the threat from Linux and Google’s Chrome OS, which will only gain momentum over time. Sure it will affect Microsoft’s bottom line, but they have plenty of revenue coming in from their non-OS divisions.
If Microsoft don’t take radical action to make good on their disastrously faltering desktop OSs, I think the Windows platform will be doomed.
You do know that a lot of those licenses are going to be "bought" by companies who immediately exercise downgrade rights yes? Which I seem to remember, have recently been extended to 2020.
So they pay for a new computer, which comes with a licensed copy of the current Windows, and they delete it and put on their own corporate or government image.
Stop reading Microsoft PR releases. The big numbers are sales of licenses. Not usage figures, which would be far less appealing. And as every off the shelf PC comes pre installed with a copy of the latest OS, hardly difficult to achieve.
The not so good truth is they buy the 7 license with a new computer, but the customer is still using XP. And will continue to do so for many years to come.
I don't know what planet you are on, but from where I sit, the 64-bit version of Win 7 is a far, far better OS than XP ever was - and I've used and owned PCs from the days BEFORE PC-DOS ever existed. Yes, it demands more resources, but that's because it does more, and has more security, and has a better UI. XP was a great OS, but it's days are well and truly behind it...
Windows 7 "has a better UI"
I haven't talked to anyone who actually believes that. Most people I know just want the classic Windows style they know and love. The only way to get any configuration done in Windows 7 is to know the exact file you need to open and use the run command. The interface is completely broken.
Oh and I briefly used Office 2010 the other day. Worse than 2007 if that's even possible. It's starting to look more like the interior of a children's play pen than a productivity suite.
In many respects I find Win7 much better than XP, but the control panel is abomination!
They took the worst configuration panel on the market (from WinXP) and seemingly did everything they could to decrease the usability.
I've done a usability study on a limited part of the old XP control panel (apart from having been a computer repair monkey for a while) and can tell you that a regular user can't use it. I've informally recreated a small part of that study on Win7 and the results were hopeless. Relatively easy on MacOsX, mostly doable on Ubuntu. But the most widespread OS is also the least usable when changing very basic settings.
How does this happen?
"Windows 7 is better, but it’s still dreadful compared to XP. People realise this."
No, they do not believe that. "People" are buying Win 7 in large numbers. Personally, I do not believe it is the Second Coming as far as OS dev goes but your comment is arrant rubbish.
Actually, there is some truth in this, but I expect you can see the flaws in it.
Yes, XP was a good operating system by the time it reached SP2 but, just as with its predecessors, it suffered in the beginning with outrageous bugs, driver flaws and such, not to mention the imposition of Windows Activation technology and, later on, that well known bit of malware known as Windows Genuine (dis)Advantage. SP3 caused some systems to break and the whole thing was bloated in comparison with its direct predecessor, Windows 2000 Professional, which I would contend was the real success here (having seen Neptune for myself, I think that it was a pity that this wasn't finished as was rather than merged into Whistler).
Vista was a marketing mistake, just as Windows ME was a decade ago. It was far too resource hungry and needed too much work to really be a viable product, something even Microsoft realised considering what they did to produce Windows 7, but I feel that they didn't quite go far enough. Failures so far? Well, the usual lack of adequate driver support due to changes which broke previous standards for drivers is the big one in my opinion, but that is hardly new to W7 or Vista given that every new version of Windows since the start of the shift off 16-bit has run into this particular foible for one reason or another.
On one side, a lack of backwards compatibility stops folks such as HM Gubmint from perpetuating old software (see the article on HMG and the refusal to upgrade from IE6 right here on your very own Register) but it does also mean that investment in software can also be lost (I'm currently trying to resolve a problem with one user that is trying to run a lump of code written for W3 on WXP, for example! WoW can only go so far, you know!)
As for making XP free, especially having abandoned later OSs... :) Well, can't blame you for asking, but M$ isn't in this business to give stuff away. They are in it to claw every last penny out of you!
Can I be in charge of setting up the pits ?
We will need a separate pit for each group.
The mimes pit needs a sign that says "learn the words"
The Scientologist pit needs a sign saying "learn when you are being scammed"
Katie Price's pit needs a sign saying "scorpions contain 50% alcohol"
The IE pit needs to contain Ballmer, a screen showing Google and Apple's share price increasing, and chairs that are bolted to the ground.
...as The Laundry management has heard that Her Majesty's gummint is holding on to outdated and quite possibly spiritually infected technology with suspicious alacrity and has decided that serious headbanging and a few exorcisms might be in order.
We've only just managed to kill off IE6 and drag IE8 onto the LAN at our 'defence establishment'.
Many apps broke (local and upstream), and much fiddling was required to make everything work properly.
However, at least our management understood that it *HAD* to be done. Other similar sites have not been so lucky.
Anon for obvious reasons.
Sounds to me like the government is up the proverbial creek. They CAN'T upgrade because it'll either break the critical government systems or result in huge fees that Timmy Taxpayer will have to foot, and they MUST upgrade because one big government stink about compromised data and the egg (and perhaps no-confidence votes) will be in their faces. Perhaps the government has concluded that if they're "damned if they do, damned if they don't" then the most logical conclusion would be to do nothing.
Forget malware and so forth, sooner or later some critical web app (Google?) will simply stop working on IE6. Then, and only then, will people learn the real cost of sticking with outdated browser technology.
It's not like the old NT4 days, where it didn't matter so much that your OS was out of date because so were all the apps you were using. In a browser-centric world, you don't have the luxury of holding off forever.
Upgrade to a browser which is not intricately tied to the operating system such as Firefox, Chrome or Opera. Leave shitty old IE6 for the legacy websites and start putting users onto a modern browser. Who knows, after a few years of such enlightened thinking it might actually encourage government and its vendors to start coding applications that run in a browser agnostic fashion.
MY local auhtority empoyers need to use a complex web based dta system.
It falls over with IE8 because the commercial developers didn't see IE8 coming. (Despite the fact that they were both in beta at the same time).
OK, the LA shouldn't have been caught out, but they have to rely on the "experts".
After all, if I buy a product I expect it to work under everyday conditions, and upgrades to Web browsers aren't exactly unexpected.
(BTW my wife's web enabled step counter falls over in Win 7, which it's supposed to support, so you can't just tut at government) ,
Cut some slack here. A big organisation is not like upgrading your home PC. I've had enough fun with unexpected circular dependencies to understand why they might be so cautious. HM Customs? You can expect a cock-up there to have potentially serious real world impacts; "Sorry, but your consignment of live lobsters was overlooked because a CSS bug meant it appeared under the HM Customs crest in our workflow system".
Of course, the longer you leave it between versions, the bigger the wrench is eventually. It's also a royal PITA that you have to engage in all sorts of hacks to run more than one version of IE on a PC as it's grafted onto the OS at the hip. It all becomes a bit like treading water actually
Grenade? Genuine MS replacement parts.
..You're absolutely right.
On the other hand, NOT upgrading will just make the problem worse. These agencies have to access each other's stuff, as well as work with outside vendors and agencies. They need to add capabilities all the time. Are new systems being installed and money being wasted on making them compatible with last centuries standards/equipment?
Or even worse equipment being selected because nothing of decent quality works with the old custom apps being used? In your Customs/lobster case this might also be a huge issue. Is your shipment taking a few days extra because the new scanning equipment can't work with the old database. Or even worse, because a known issue with a ***king webbrowser stops officials from accessing the records through the custom made web interface. Crash boom bang...
It's usually less expensive to have a sensible upgrade policy and avoid vendor lock-in as much as possible. I am by no means a freetard, but open standards seem to be a better bet in most cases. Supporting correctly formed html would be a good start.
Don't want to 'deal' with IE migration? Then install another modern browser *alongside*, like Firefox or Chrome.
And... that will put paid to continuing use of IE for anything but those old apps requiring it, which Microsoft will really appreciate, as they have agreed IE6 is a pile.
(Unless of course the gov's hidden agenda is to actively disable gov'rkers from accessing modern apps, like Facebook, etc. Hmmmm?)
Testing IE6 has already been paid for. You use it with the old apps.
Switch to Firefox, and require new apps to work with Firefox. Stop programming for the obsolete browser. Program and test new software for the new browser.
One problem: making sure that the new software gets run with the new browser, and old with old. It's no longer just a case of setting the browser default at OS level.
So, yeah, I guess there's an extra cost. But twice the cost?
And use IETab or something to make it seamless for the end user.
Of course using FF will have central IT spitting bullets as it can't be easily deployed on a large scale, ignores group policies etc and can't be centrally administered easily.
So it they switch to FF, they just fail in a whole new way.
Facebook and most social networking tools are blocked on goverment systems.
Which makes a complete mockery of our holy PM, talking to Mark Zucherburg whilst being praised for initiatives of the previous government. At the same time not even noticing the content being created on the governments on systems.
Mmmm, lovely JS XSS attacks that come in as Trojans ... that the firewall waves through happily as can be. The problem we have is really that the security teams aren't that good at IT and don't understand the threat landscape.
Plus, do those of you that work for government realise that the same firewalls are breaking your end-to-end SSL and decrypting your traffic so they can have a looksee inside? They are basically performing a MitM attack on your connection. These days I recommend that colleagues do not use work machines for anything other than business critical Internet stuff because they are so insecure.
I've never encountered a Firewall with that capability. Must be a proxy based Firewall which means it probably breaks a fair number of web apps. Proxy based Firewalls wont allow protocols to do anything they are unfamiliar with so no HTML5 or such without an upgrade.
Considering how poorly malware scanners are doing these days, I suspect they are opening themselves up to a targeted attack. Spearphishing emails at the ready.
I am a web designer/developer and I got an e-mail from a company do some work for the other day. It said that they were 'considering' upgrading to IE7 but not until at least September. They're quite a large company and have some, but not a great deal, of in-house systems. If they can't do it, there's no way the government can. I'd love to stop designing for it but I'm not in a position to do so. Business to business sales, you see.
Will it ever die?
First things first: I've never designed a website specifically for IE6, or any browser for that matter. I design using standards compliant markup and then ensure it works in all browsers by testing the website in various versions of various browsers, adding hacks and filters as I go for the various foibles of each browser and version. I never aim for pixel perfection, browsers all have their own way of doing things (button styles in safari etc) and who am I to say they're wrong ? However, it should all work by following W3C standards, but as we all know, it doesn't.
To answer about not designing for it: Why would I choose to make around 15-20% of my company's prospective or current customers unable use our offerings properly? They'll just go somewhere who will cater for their requirements.
It's no fun designing for IE6, I know that very well, and I'd love to drop support for it entirely but it's not fair on users who are tied to systems they can't change. The amount of "Chrome at home" I hear on the phone shows that people are aware of other browsers and would prefer to use them.
Simply put, designers can't stop designing for IE6 until the share is at a significantly low enough level to not adversely affect enquiries and sales., especially in a B2B environment.
Users of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and IE9 can benefit from our brand new interactive Web 2.0 online word-processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database management, messaging, calendaring, accounting, charting and training application for free!!!
Users of IE7 and below can still see a basic version with limited functionality, but may wish to purchase a fully licensed copy of the equivalent desktop software for just £400.
How about migrating all HM Govt machines to some linux-based thin client and then for IE6-only apps using a Virtual Machine running on the server via a remote desktop. Most Websites built over the last five years will run fine on modern browsers... That way maintenance is limited to the VM.
Better still, with a XP VM for IE6 use you can have it firewalled to only talk to the local IP range, so the gov numpties (of which there are obviously a lot to consider here) can't use IE6 for outside access, so they are forced to use a modern and better secured browser for the web.
The can only IE6 for decrepit internal systems that were badly planned/designed/tested early on when people believed MS' view that IE6 was the only browser you would ever need.
So what is the business case for spending millions upgrading the browser? Its just a frigging browser after all. Of course it costs millions - have you never heard of testing? Why should I waste more taxpayers money just to support microsoft's business model.? The instant experts posting here need to understand that replacing the browser in any large organisation is going to be an expensive and time consuming operation. I would happily see the govt stick with XP and IE6 indefinitely if it keeps my taxes out of microsoft's coffers.
Not that I expected any different from our wonderful Government, but the response is misleading, incorrect and just plain stupid.
Having had experience of working on several government websites I've seen crazy amounts of resources spent making sites which work in IE6. Even when less than 2% of the target audience uses IE6 we've seen up-to 50% of development work going in to support it, so the governments prehistoric IT systems can view it.
The fact that the government still standardises on IE6 (which is nearly a decade out of date) is indicative of a government which simply doesn’t understand or correctly harness the internet and new or social media.
Forget about the forces of democracy, its over.
No really this is impressive.
You did such a good job of locking stupid developers in and created so *much* FUD that they are p£$$ing themselves with fear about "compatibility" testing and "breaking the user experience" that they won't change from Internet Explorer.
Not even to another *version* of IE.
Good job guys.
So what was the IE8 dev teams motto again? "The job ain't done, till .gov won't run"
Two suggestions for helping to banish ie6:
1. Web developers should cost work to fully cover dealing with ie6 (and really, ie7), but offer a good discount for NOT supporting it. This will make the ongoing cost of sticking with ie6 much more visible, and gives businesses an incentive to do something about it.
2. People should start suing organizations for knowingly using bug ridden and insecure software. There is a real risk and it's irresponsible. They should pay for their negligence.
The Government never ceases to amaze me. If we break the rules or certain standards, they jump all over us, but when the Government does it, we all suffer and they get away with it.
No only is Internet Explorer 6 old, its not supported by Microsoft. So this means like many Government (and some major banks) still using Windows 2000 are running software that will not have any security holes patched. Would you trust your information stored on insecure servers?
Now, today the DWP have announced a reform of the Benefits section. This includes a new IT system and software ( info here: http://www.kable.co.uk/dwp-benefits-integrated-system-claims-payments-30jul10 ) So does this mean that the will not be using IE6?
Either way, the government needs to spend money on IT and fix the broken, slow and out of date systems. Hardly any department can communicate with each other via PC. This causes problems, errors, miscommunication and delays and data loss/breaches.
On the other hand, The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
@AC re: "Two browsers - twice as much testing, twice the cost of change. Next bright idea?"
What are you, thick? One browser is ALREADY THERE, and they are using it now. No testing at all, since presumably existing apps have already been tested with it, they can keep using it with existing apps. I suppose the same way a lot of places still have some 1970s-era 3270 apps they use, they surely wouldn't write up new ones but iit's painless to keep the ones they have compared to replacing them. Similarly, they can just keep using IE6 for those apps that require it.. However, it is unsuitable as an actual web browser, so they should have something from this century like Firefox to use on the actual web, and new and updated web apps should be specified to be *web* apps and not IE6 apps, and tested against the new browser only. No duplicate testing, and by attrition they may eventually reduce the IE6-using dreck to the point they could test to see what really needs it.
Anyway, I for one will never worry about IE6 compatibility. When I have done web sites, I try to take the "KISS" approach, so they might work with it. But I'm surely not going to test for it.
...too "cheap" to look to fix something that isn't visibly broken.
Let them carry on this way if that like, so long as it is quite clear that should it go wrong on an Epic Scale, the populous will stamp its collective feet and say "HELL NO are we letting you fix this and the damage caused with tax money", those in charge at HMG can take the maintenance/recovery fees out of their own damn salaries.
People saying it should be easy to change IE6 to something else are labouring under the misapprehension that government departments are in control of the systems they use. In our department we have outsourced the provision for our IT to a company, and because we are so good at writing contracts, they charge us tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds to change even the simplest thing.
I wonder what happened to the civil servant responsible for signing that outsourcing contract. In the real world they'd be out on their ear. My guess is that they got promoted to a slightly less damaging position and are now troughing away at even more public money.
Go on. Tell me I'm wrong...
What most people fail to understand that HMG is probably using and controlling their systems with AD, and as other browsers don't tie themselves into AD, the admins would not have control, unless the browser update is to a more recent version of IE.
Also, what do you think they would do when they realised that all these 'In porn' modes made logging what people were doing impossible to follow?
My impression is that HMG is using IE6 specific ActiveX controls, like a lot of big corporations of the early XP generation and that they would have to rewrite those or all those applications that they use that use them to be able to move away from IE6. Personally, I think that they should never have been allowed to go the OS specific integrated route as it's a lock in to a specific platform. All their apps, both front end and backend, should be fully portable to other OS and browser platforms.
It is a good argument for public oversight of governmental IT projects, so that we the tax payers don't get screwed over, and over, and over.
I also think it's outrageous that the government would publish a statement that insinuates a lie, that they don't need to do anything because there's no evidence that that the latest fully patched browser from MS is any less secure than alternative browsers. All well and good, if they were using IE8, but they aren't using the LATEST fully patched browser from MS, they're using IE6. And probably systems that are not fully patched either, so two lies?
Also CanSecWest has had IE8 crumble during its competitions every year that it has been out. Only one desktop browser remains uncompromised at that event, and that's Google's Chrome browser. So there is the evidence that there are alternative browsers that are less insecure than IE8.
All those depts, all those apps.
Others have suggested test new apps with new browser *only*. Deliberatley starve apps off IE6.
I go further.
Check *any* new browser against Acid3 or its replacement W3C compatibility test suite.
If the *browser* can't handle the standards, don't use it. *Most* of this seems to have come about due to MS *non* standard HTML keywords (or actually properties) and developers (or those who mange the development process) assuming they would be used by *everyone* forever.
Honestly what do *most* real government apps involve? Querying a database of numeric and alphanumeric fields (some of which seem to have trouble with lower case. YES, ALL THE NOTES READ LIKE THE LAST CIVIL SERVANT WHO FILLED THEM IN IS SHOUTING AT YOU).? Adding and updating same?
How fat a client, how complex a bespoke client will you *need* to access this? Most of this stuff really should have been screen scrapped from a dumb terminal emulation to begin with, *before* people had to start getting creative.
Dream on. I woder if a lot of you people have ever done anything other than intsall Microsoft Office...
In the real world you've got a choivce between three bug ridden sets of junk written by the so-wonderful private sector. No 1 has no standards compliance at all, IE6 only, a half decent user interface, and passes all the tests. No 2 sort of vaguely runs on something other than IE, has bugs visible before you, and the users tell you that the user interface is rather more hostile than Attila the Hun. Number three: well when you quietly cornered him with the vendor out of the room the guy at the *reference site* said "worst mistake we ever made: don't go near it".
Big companies also want to be sure that your apps comply with their "standards".
We have a huge custumer whose "standards" are 1024x768, IE6. No typo, and 2010.
So now they want them to work in ie8. No problem, you made those standards, I complied, if you want me to change the code, I will, but of course I will charge them money.
I work in a government organisation apprx 2000 staff members running the evil IE6 and office 2003, previously I worked in a school with apprx 1200 student and 200 members of staff (a very large school with a big sixth form) the school a had a range of bespoke software titles a range of users a load of networking standards and equipment etc.
Guess what the school migrated to IE8 and Office 2007 over the six week break all staff and student were up to speed with changes and all bugs ironed out by christmas and that was with a team of three technicians.
Government has a problem with IT beacuse they truly don't understand it and all the managers are over paid IT illiterate morons who had a bad experience with an IT project in the early ninties and are scared sh*tless of trying something new.
I guess the next step is to fire the entire IT management and development staff, on the grounds they are just plain utter 1d10t5 and start from scratch with cheaper and more knowledgeable staff who will replace the apps one by one.
IT Guyz who implemented closed platform apps are idiots, not worthy of the IT industry and there simply are no ifs, buts or maybes about it. Why big companies keep them in-place is a mystery to me ...
NHS has to use IE6
BT & Fujitsus NPfIT solution Cerner Millennium will only work with IE6
It also requires the outdated version 3.2 of flash and other ancient add-ins to function.
The clue is in the name of the software, Millennium.
Seems like we bought old crap for a high price, who'd have thought it?
Rio is also being bought for the South central Region - the latest version?
No, so a lot of the new mobile hardware just won't work.
It beggars belief - but trust me, insider knowledge from the coal face.
Let me start off by saying we have had zero issues with building modern applications that handle older browsers. We have a couple released in the past year that work in everything released since IE5.5... and they take advantage of later standards when the browser supports them.
However, what I've seen happen with other development companies is that they'll bid on a project. The sponsor will say, it MUST work in IE6. The dev company then says Not a problem. Then promptly takes advantage of all the broken crap in IE6 that isn't supported by anything else. Project is delivered and sponsor pays for it.
So, who's to blame here? I say it's the development company. They could have made it work in not just IE6, but others as well. Without a single issue. However, most web developers quite frankly don't know what they are doing. They use point and click tools and little code snippets they find out on the web.
How does this get fixed? First off, it has nothing to do with the price of the project and EVERYTHING to do with the quality of the people building the software. I'd like to say only use developers or companies in a particular country or price range... But even that isn't accurate.
The only real answer is that the people in charge of buying the software need to be smarter. They need to know how to really evaluate bids and the quality of the bidders. Good luck with that.
I think the sponsors paint themselves into the proverbial corner by not specifying their demands correctly. Instead of saying that their app MUST work with IE6, they could've just as easily asked that their app work with IE6 AND UP (meaning any browser released since IE6). That kind of specification would reduce the chance of lock-in by notice that other browsers exist and need to be accommodated also.
Here is a thought and a potential workaround solution.
Google Chrome Frame is a plug-in for IE, including IE6, which gets the Chrome browser to kick in for certain sites, and the Chrome Frame runs as a plug-in to IE so the user thinks they are still using IE.
Couldn't government use a solution like this, a plug in for IE6 where IE6 is used for the internal legacy websites, but the google chrome frame plug-in kicks in for more modern sites.
Alternatively, write a IE6 Frame plugin. Use a modern browser like Firefox (or Chrome), and write a plug-in which allows the IE6 web browser to kick in for certain legacy sites. Essentially Google Chrome frame in reverse.
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