back to article Whitehall and Microsoft negotiate NHS Windows XP hacker survival plan

Whitehall is negotiating a deal with Microsoft to prevent thousands of NHS computers from falling victim to hackers targeting Windows XP from April. The government and Microsoft are in talks to offer extended security support to NHS PCs running Windows XP that miss an 8 April deadline to ditch the OS. The Department of Health …

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  1. MJI Silver badge

    How about

    Any Microsoft employees in the UK now have to pay £200 for every visit to the doctor, to hospital, to A&E.

    This would look really bad for MS if the TV news broadcasted it.

    If it is the full amount that means that every person in the UK is paying £10 to £15 EACH this year to MS JUST to support XP.

    1. g e

      Re: How about

      Note to self: Add another 35 miles to expenses claim this month.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about

      How about NHS IT management employees have to foot the support bill personally? This date has been known about for a number of years - and they have simply ignored it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about

        Personally I think it's a fairly safe bet this is not an IT problem. It will have been on the table for a long time but unless someone commits funding there's nothing IT can do about it.

    3. returnmyjedi

      Re: How about

      I am outraged that MS aren't supporting a thirteen year old operating system that hasn't been available for purchase for five years. I've only just got over the shock of my Star dot matrix printer not having any drivers released for Windows Me.

      1. HollyHopDrive

        Re: How about

        This is a ****ing outrage that such a large amount of money will be essentially pissed into the wind because the uk gov were not rid of XP in time. In a time when we are supposed to be saving money, giving what will probably work out to be measurable in billions (by the time all the other periphery bollox has been added in). I wouldn't mind, but I'd put money on MS not paying tax on the profits from that lot!

        I'm not blaming microsoft here (though to be fair they've got their clients by the short and curlies) but our incompetent overlords. And they claim they aren't paid enough.

        Now, getting these chaps of XP is going to be nothing short of expensive (ignoring the XP support costs). Because, Microsoft of course are going to recommend Windows 8. Which means new hardware. Which means more cost. Then of course, none of the jeffin software will probably work on it, not to mention the ridiculous re-training to be able to use office 2013 and windows 8. To people who's full time job doesn't revolve around technology.

        The only acceptable answer to sorting out this mess is

        All software products that don't have to be physically connected to a PC should only be browser accessible. If you can't use it through a browser it shouldn't be allowed. This then separates your client products from your server products and maximises future choice

        All software should have to work 100% with ANY two browsers (Chrome / Firefox / IE / Safari) on any platform. If it doesn't it will fail the 'refresh test'. This stops vendor lock in to software (I'm looking at you microsoft)

        Office applications should be browser based - Office 365 / Google / whatever as long as it meets the browser test.

        Desktops should be refreshed based on need - Old XP machines recycled with Linux for kit that is passable (anything HP/Dell etc less than 4 years old should be fine) - remember - we are only going to be running a browser if done correctly!

        Windows 7 kit for everything else (minimal re-training)

        And last but least - Don't just give Microsoft the cash - they are charging premium money here - If they cock it up and there is any kind of mess / data breach they are responsible for ALL costs multiplied by 3. Loss of patients records should be deemed to be £10k per patient (times 3 - 50% payable directly to each patient concerned) - Risk vs reward. (rather than just reward which looks to be the chosen model)

        Christ....maybe we should just go back to paper - at least it never stopped being supported by biros.

        1. Steve Todd Silver badge

          Re: How about @HollyHopDrive

          There speaks either a web developer or someone very webcentric in their view of the world.

          The problem that the NHS has is that they have a shedload of Windows binary apps, you know, code that works from the desktop like a browser does. The article even talks about one trust cutting the number of apps from 1300 to 100.

          The mistake here is in trying to do two things at once, migrating to Win7 and upgrading their apps at the same time. They should have migrated as much of the old code as they could have got to work onto the new platform, and either binned or rewritten what was left. Once they are on a stable platform with everyone migrated then they can think about re engineering.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: How about @HollyHopDrive

            Well I do know about a couple of systems.

            One was last time I saw it a MS Dos application, the other a Win32 application.

            Both would work on XP but one on anything newer.

            Now since the second system was written by some of the staff (after they escaped) of the first I expect they will offer an escape route to their competitors customers. But moving data around systems is a huge task.

            But a lot of software is written by small companies and the owners are nearing retirement, the code has worked for years (20+) without huge modifications, Noone is supporting those industries so people keep hold of their small systems.

            Now they have OSes which cannot run them.

            It can take years to migrate systems.

          2. HollyHopDrive

            Re: How about @HollyHopDrive

            @Steve Todd - no not at all - I'm not a developer (miss the days though!) migrated up the tree a bit. [better money, shittier work :-) ] but the stuff is obviously so out of date you need to sort the problem properly, not a half arsed fix.

            The "web" has matured enough to allow browser based applications to be good enough as fat client. I'm not naive enough to suggest this is a quick 6 month project and all will be well, but a 5-10 year plan to sort things out properly. And one of the things that has to go is legacy crap.[it may be functionally ok but if it isn't a strategic solution built for the future it needs to go] You wouldn't keep an 15 year old ambulance with 15 year old equipment in would you? But likewise, you can't just throw them away and expect nothing to fill the gap. So, you just have to say, we are going to refresh everything but anything that we buy or put in from this point forward must be new and conform to the following criteria. No exceptions.

            The NHS are a massive customer, if you tell the vendor it must be modern browser compatible or it will be replaced with one from your competitor. I'll tell you now, those companies will rally round and fix the problem. Open standards too so you can get your data out!!

            If the software isn't modern, its probably riddled with security nightmares anyway, so likewise it probably needs to go sooner rather than later.

            @afflicated_john

            I'm very aware of the NHS. In fact I've worked on many a government project. And they always strike me as very political, big divides and the wheels that turn so slowly you wonder if they do actually move at all.

            I'm just saying it needs somebody with some big balls to come in and shake this shit up. Not just throw some money at it and hope the problem goes away. It won't, but if you don't make some strategic plans to get out of this cyclic mess you will be doing the same thing again in 5 years time having blown a couple of billion we can little do with wasting a second time!

            I for one as a taxpayer in the "shouldering the burden" tax bracket don't like this current bunch of fuckwits wasting my hard earned pennies. No commercial business would last with the same attitude to blowing money on failed projects and half fixes without going bust, so why does the public sector think its ok? Is it because they can just tax us all a little harder rather than addressing the real issue of just trying to spend less in the long term?

            1. tom dial Silver badge

              Re: How about @HollyHopDrive

              At a party in 1999 I was told by the deputy CIO of a regional (but growing) bank that their plans were to implement only browser based applications going forward and tp replace existing workstation based clients as quickly as possible. As he put it: "I don't want to be maintaining 3,000 desktops." I believe banks are not among the most adventuresome in deploying IT. Remote management software has been much improved since 1999 but the point remains valid. It sounds as if the UK NHS and its various components had no long-term plan for managing the application software that supports the medical staff and patients, and their plan, such as it is, is to continue to have no plan but to default to Microsoft.

              One wonders whether the Linux path taken by Munich and by the larger French Gendarmerie might have been both possible and advantageous if initiated at the time the XP EOL was announced.

            2. Not That Andrew

              Re: How about @HollyHopDrive

              I suggest you readup on the clusterfuck that was the NHS National Programme For IT. Part of the reason they have all those legacy applications and XP desktops floating about was because that was going to replace them all (and bring about the Second Coming of Christ as a happy side effect).

        2. Afflicted.John

          Re: How about

          Your comment is incredibly naive - you have no idea just how archaic the NHS really is.

          I am dealing with systems that throw a hissy fit if you are not using IE6, some systems with extensive locked in contracts that do not include support of more than one browser or OS without punitive charges being levied. Should it be this way? Of course not, but it is. And when system administrators are saying a system needs to be Win 7 certified, and the vendor say "no" what do you do? Stop treating patients?

        3. John Sanders
          Stop

          Re: How about

          Office 365 is not browser based!

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How about

          "This is a ****ing outrage that such a large amount of money will be essentially pissed into the wind because the uk gov were not rid of XP in time. "

          I'm sorry, are you saying the government are in charge of the computers at your local hospital? I think you'll find your local hospital are in charge of the computers in your local hospital. If you're outraged, drive down there and ask for IT. When you meet the IT people, slap the incompetence out of them personally. This has nothing to do with the government, budget is always made available in public services for well thought out and planned projects. Unfortunately well thought out and planned rarely happen in the NHS IT world and so they all think they have no budget.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How about

            @ AC, You're welcome to come and try to speak to my team but we will politely sit you down and explain that yes, we've been aware of this issue for years. We told the board four years ago and we've been begging our finance department for funding for the last three years. The IT representative at board level has been begging for us as well. Unfortunately we have a finance director who can't see past the end of her nose (usually because it's buried in the anus of the chief exec), is totally dis-interested in general IT issues aside from "When am I due a new laptop?" or "do you have a spare laptop? My son needs one for a school project" (Yes really)

            Most of our PC estate is only just able to run XP so upgrade to Win 7 or 8 will also incur a huge hardware cost as well (at last count £2.7 million in hardware alone nevermind the cost of licensing which will probably add the same sort of figure). We are a relatively small trust with around 4000 PCs covering a relatively small geographical area. Multiply this by all the NHS trusts and you start to see the problem .

            Please do tell where this mythical budget is available from as I've yet to see any of it. Speaking with collegues from other trusts it is a similar situation there. We are being told "There is no budget". We can't magic hardware or software out of thin air. What in your infinite wisdom do you suggest we do? Oh and I will laugh at you if you suggest open source. I'm not against open source but when you have as many standards, interdependancies etc that we have, open source just doesn't work, no matter how much I wish it would.

            I assure you, this issue is generally not the local IT department's fault but a fault of senior managment/board members.

            Additionally you're welcome to try to "slap the incompetence" out of me but I assure you it won't end well for you.

            AC for obvious reasons.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How about

              2.7 million over the last three years would have stopped you having to spend 2.7 million PLUS the 4.8 million extra support fees. You still need to pay the 2.7 million for new hardware, that hasn't gone away. Had someone in your department produced a proper report including the business risks and costs of inaction compared directly to costs of action you wouldn't be in this mess. Plenty of NHS trusts have taken action so I assure you that the money has been available for those who didn't just whine at the FD asking for shiny new computers because "we need to upgrade innit". Your perception of the situation is based on your trust, mine is based on many trusts across two countries. Your perception is based on your submissions to finance which were turned down, mine were accepted every time.

              1. NeilMc

                Re: How about

                To my esteemed peers and contributors HollyHopDrive, AC's Various, Akeane, JP19, MJI, Malagabay, Grease Monkey and others.

                Some simple failings of the public sector (including the NHS) which are possibly the most significant contributory factors in this monumental cockup.

                No one is accountable

                No one is responsible

                There are no consequence when things go wrong. (except for the taxpayer that is £120bn of waste per year was the figure reported this week = £4.5k per year per household).

                Public Sector are chronically poor at accurately scoping contracts and negotiating fair value.

                Once contracts are agreed they cannot help tinkering with the solution ultimately creating a frankenstien solution that cannot be economically or technically implemented.

                There is no F in Strategy - that is the NHS has no effing IT Strategy at all.

                Therefore NHS Trusts are able to unilterally invest in IT on a sporadic basis depending on the Trusts view of the value of IT and how its supports patient health or not.

                Often these decisions are made by crusty "consultant types" straight out of a 1950's movie who appear to weald power beyond their value to patient care.

                I personally experienced that on NCRS project which became Connecting for Health which after over selling on the Supplier side, chronically poor NHS sponsorship at the executive level resulting in divisive relationships between NHS trusts and suppliers. To wich the NHS Ivory Tower response was JFDI to both suppliers and trusts.

                However there are other factors which need taking into consideration:

                Microsoft sold a duff product and we should not pay for failure.

                NHS IT and Trust and Central levels should have acted faster inline with product retirement warning which were given in plenty of time.

                NHS central IT strategy should be looking over the horizon and defining standards for new systems that Trusts must comply with before budgets are invested.

                Bottom line private sector corporate accountability and governance is required in the NHS. NHS top brass want the private sector level remuneration but wringle out of the consequences that come with such high rewards.

                We should not standard for this attitude.

                1. dogged

                  wat

                  > Microsoft sold a duff product and we should not pay for failure.

                  13 years is a duff product? Since when? Is OSX from 13 years ago supported? (Was it even OSX 13 years ago? I honestly can't remember but I know damn well the answer is "no").

                  What about the open source side of the fence - is RHEL from 2001 supported now? No, and it hasn't been for at least six years.

                  If supporting an OS for 13 years is a failure to you, then MS are your only choice because everyone else has way, way shorter product lifespans.

                  1. jonathanb Silver badge

                    Re: wat

                    The original version of OSX was released in March 2001, XP was released in August 2001.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How about

              Well said, we are in a similar position.

              People seem to think that local NHS IT teams don't know what they are doing around the migration away from XP. We do!! and wanted to start this 3 years ago but our boards don't and more importantly never released the required funds until very late in the day. ( if at all )

              also the AC who heading over to you can afterwards then head over to us, and attempt to "slap the incompetance" out of us.

              AC for obvious reasons.

          2. Adrian Midgley 1

            Re: How about

            No actually. Centralised.

        5. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: How about

          I believe a lot of the software is browser based, but only works on ie6, which of course is not available on Windows 7.

      2. Malagabay
        IT Angle

        Outrage...

        Many people would be outraged if VW didn't service [or supply spares] for the Golf Mk5 [2004–2008].

        If you are investing in "infrastructure" you are looking for a long term return on your investment.

        If you are investing in "durable goods" you are looking for a medium term return on your investment.

        If you are spending on "nondurable goods" then you are just consuming goods with a lifespan of less than three years.

        Vista - 2006, W7 - 2009, W8 - 2012.

        Microsoft Windows is [therefore] a "nondurable good".

        This makes Windows a "nondurable bad" in the context of IT infrastructure and as an IT durable.

        Therefore, there is only a negative "Return on Capital" when you "upgrade" from XP to W7/W8.

        It appears [within the context of Microsoft Windows] that the phase "IT Professional" is an oxymoron [and should be replaced with the handle of "IT Consumer"].

        Replacing one set of [unknown] XP vulnerabilities with another set of [unknown] W7/W8 vulnerabilities doesn't make you more secure... the chances are it will make you less secure in the short term... and it will definitely make you poorer in the short term.

        The maturing IT market seems to be moving towards free software with affordable support costs... the big money is being made via the volume licensing of patents...

        The real world is slowly changing... unless [of course] you are one of those "IT Professionals".

        1. Slawek

          Re: Outrage...

          You seem to live in a strange place where a fix to (extremely unlikely of course :-) ) bug in FOS never introduces another one, and generally new releases never introduce new bugs. I am afraid it is not planet I live on.

      3. JP19

        Re: How about

        "I've only just got over the shock of my Star dot matrix printer not having any drivers released for Windows Me."

        You don't quite seem to have grasped that there is a difference between adding new features to a product you bought and fixing defects.

        A vulnerability in XP which leaves it open to attack is a defect which should be fixed free of charge regardless of how long it took to discover. That the NHS is even considering paying Microsoft $1200 per machine to do this for 3 years is ridiculous.

        1. akeane

          Re: How about

          Exactment mon generale, if MS had not sold a defective product in the first place it wouldn't need to keep updating it every 5 minutes, at least certain nefarious charcters give you the first hit for free...

          They should go back to MSDOS 6.22, at least Quake and Doom run properly :-)

  2. Red Bren
    Windows

    As a UK taxpayer...

    As I'm helping to pay for this, I'd like a copy of the patches for my XP box.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a UK taxpayer...

      as a uk taxpayer you should be more worried about the costs that HMRC might expose you to, given their xp kit hasn't got an arrangement like this.

  3. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Or maybe the NHS should have replaced a 12 year old OS by now?

    @MJI it's no good blaming MS. They told the NHS and everybody else years ago when support for XP would end, they've had plenty of time to plan for it. Instead in typical public sector style they stuck their heads up their collective arse and hoped the problem would go away. Now they are panicking. Do Apple still support OS X Cheetah? Nope. If you want continued support you have to pay to upgrade to a later version of OS X. Is anybody complaining that Cheetah isn't supported? No? Strange.

    1. returnmyjedi

      One large NHS teaching trust near me is running XP via Bootcamp on OSX Tiger, with no signs of upgrades to either anytime soon.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      This crap with OSes

      If they work they work, new ones stop supporting your software, to be honest it is just a money making machine.

      And I also blame MS for the following though.

      1) Pushing people to use web apps using IE6 exclusive features. Then not supporting it with newer OS.

      2) MS for dropping MSDOS application support from Vista and newer.

      Since XP could run

      1) Web apps written for IE6

      2) MSDOS apps

      3) Windows apps

      It has stuck around longer than it should.

      I cannot think of anything MS removed say from Win 95 to Win 98 OSR2, nor from NT4 to Win 2000 to Win XP.

      I work as a developer in IT and I am now counting the years to retirement and it cannot come quick enough!

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: This crap with OSes

        "If they work they work, new ones stop supporting your software, to be honest it is just a money making machine."

        I hope you're being humourous. If they work, they work. Right up until somebody finds a security hole.

        The grim reality is that the bad guys are already at 100% trying to find new flaws in XP, but if they find any they are not going to exploit them until after the april deadline. They don't want to give MS chance to fix them before that massive installed user base loses it's security fixes.

        You're right XP won't suddenly stop working in april, but it will become increasingly vulnerable after that date which could be just as bad as it stopping working.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: This crap with OSes

          No it isn't.

          MS do remove features, this does stop legacy software from running.

          What are operating systems for?

          Enabling the user to run their programs. So if MS disable features it is their fault!

          1. Not That Andrew
            Joke

            Re: This crap with OSes

            Yeah, damn those barstewards at MS for removing Rosetta and Carbon from OSX!

  4. Crisp

    With all the managers at the NHS now

    There is really no excuse for them not maintaining their IT systems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With all the managers at the NHS now

      Where I work we have approximately 80% of the IT department with manager in their job title.

      I'm not sure how most of them manage to get out of bed in the morning though, never mind somebody having the organisational skills to upgrade an operating system across 6000 PC's.

      I can't defend this, but the fact of the situation is that the XP upgrade is simply not a priority at the moment. IT within the NHS reacts to situations, and are rarely proactive in my experience. When security is breached, then it'll be all hands to the pumps .

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: With all the managers at the NHS now

        "I can't defend this, but the fact of the situation is that the XP upgrade is simply not a priority at the moment. "

        At the moment? What about several years ago?

        The problem with the style of management prevalent in the NHS is that things are never priorities until after they become emergencies.

  5. JonW

    "We spoke to an IT operations manager at one major NHS trust who struggled to recall being contacted by central government on the end of Windows XP."

    There's a man who earns his salary....

    1. Steven Raith

      There's a man who wants instant dismissal on the grounds of incompetence, causing massive financial loss for the organisation.

      But that won't happen. He'll get an RPI busting pay rise and probably a fucking promotion.

      This is how national and local government works once you get beyond 'shop floor' management.

      Steven R

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        He's an IT Operations Manager and he doesn't think it's his job to know about the end of support for an operating system widely installed within his organization? That tells us an awful lot about the standard of IT "management" in the NHS.

        1. Mark 65

          No shit. I want onto this gravy train. Sounds like you can make good money showing even the slightest hint of competence.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crazy, but with those figures, adding in the US and other countries that still use XP and will pay for extended support, can Microsoft actually make more money on supporting XP than windows 8? Is there a way to compare in a year?

    1. cambsukguy

      @taylor 1

      Obviously getting £200 per unit for a year of support when huge numbers of units will get the same support/fix is better than getting (say) $50 for a Win7/8 licence and then having to support that for free for ages.

      They already have infrastructure to deploy the general fixes, they will just vastly reduce the number of servers needed to accomplish it, probably allowing them to avoid adding servers to their system for ages.

      And, if they get the next year as well, easily possible, they get £400 per unit, which is a huge sum per machine.

      MS are almost certainly hoping that many don't upgrade since they won't upgrade to MS hardware like a Surface.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      This is almost certainly true. Microsoft will develop all the patches anyway (because XP embedded and Server 2003 are both still in support) and merely have to make them available. Whatever they charge is pure profit.

      But like the other million guys said, this situation isn't exactly a surprise and someone in the NHS has either failed to make the cash available or failed to spend it on avoiding this problem. My guess is that the people responsible will stay in their do-nothing jobs for a few more years, pick up some gongs and then retire on a final salary pension.

  7. Uffish

    Balmer for the win!

    Microsoft can make good some software but its real talent is in business. They are going to make a fortune, worldwide, out of closing down an old, obsolete product. Sheer genius.

    1. NogginTheNog

      Re: Balmer for the win!

      To be fair, you can't say Microsoft hasn't been trying to get people to buy the subsequent THREE operating systems it's released since XP for a long time. The fact that two of them were pants might be a factor, but they have been trying really hard to get people on to them all the same!

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Balmer for the win!

        Now if these new operating systems were not losing features there would be a point, but the problem is that XP was an Apex in MS OSes.

        1. dogged

          Re: Balmer for the win!

          What features? Exactly what features?

          Itemized list, or one might be justified in assuming that all your obections are similarly yanked out of your arse.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Balmer for the win!

            Here goes, these two have caused us along with many other people issues.

            1) Full screen DOS mode in Vista also followed with 7, some DOS executables run in various VGA graphics mode to provide more lines per page. Fixed by using XP instead.

            Why MS are bumholes

            2) Removal of NETBIOS, this stops a lot of applications which rely on it for inter program communication.

            This is an example

            There you go two pretty serious issues, and we still have a couple of customers unwilling to update so they HAVE to stay on XP or earlier.

            1. David Barrett

              Re: Balmer for the win!

              Not sure that including no dos support will help in an argument which is focused on the issues from being tied to.old software....

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: Balmer for the win! DB

                If old software works, does the job, why should it be forced out of use.

                I remember that the latest versions of multiuser DOS could run CPM stuff right to the end.

            2. The Original Steve

              Re: Balmer for the win!

              1) Use it windowed... what's the problem? (Other than expecting 16-bit applications to run on platforms in 2014)

              2) WINS. Look it up.

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: Balmer for the win! TOS

                1) Doesn't work with VGA graphics modes

                2) Does this fix the linked issue?

                1. localzuk

                  Re: Balmer for the win! TOS

                  Full screen DOS and NETBIOS in 2014? Really?!

                  Sorry, but those technologies were out of date in XP let alone now. Anyone who needs them is failing to modernise their business.

                  Ok, some say "if it works, why change" but the point is this - things change. Technology changes. What if the next generation of CPUs stop supporting 16 bit commands, as well as the OS? (Yes, I know this is unlikely).

                  As an organisation, you have to work with what is available - and that includes the OS. If you don't like Microsoft releasing new editions with modern features and with legacy features removed, you don't have to use them. Plenty of alternatives.

                  1. MJI Silver badge

                    Re: Balmer for the win! TOS

                    Actually there is loads of legacy code out there, some of the bank systems are based on 1970s code.

                    As to some of these legacy programs, they are connected to machines which are pretty old but work well.

                    Those PCs also have to be networked for data to be sent to these PCs.

                    Why replace a £250,000 machine which works?

      2. Uffish

        Re: Microsoft has been trying

        Sure they have been trying to sell new products, and they put the new products out as soon as they can because each and every new customer pays them good money; it's called business, and Microsoft is very good at it. They are managing the closing of XP with reasonable care and attention to their (corporate) customers - and making money on it! They are very, very good at business. Personally I favour organisations which are overridingly passionate about their product rather than their bottom line but that isn't good business.

  8. auburnman

    I'd be willing to bet that there will still be organisations paying the $800 in year 3. It will be interesting to see if anyone tries to stop Microsoft from charging fees that are deliberately punitive. Not that I think they'd succeed, but it could be interesting to watch.

  9. John70

    "We spoke to an IT operations manager at one major NHS trust who struggled to recall being contacted by central government on the end of Windows XP."

    Does the IT Operations Manager know anything about IT?

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Were they called Jen?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He didn't say he didn't know anything about the end of XP. He said he hadn't been contact by anyone from central government on the subject.

      No-one at our trust has been contacted by anyone from central government about the end of XP - but we do know all about it and are doing something about it (now that we've almost finished supporting the No-top-down-reorganisation-of-the-NHS reorganisation that the government have imposed on us - not just shuffling managers between organisations but major infrastructure changes to support new rules about separation of duties and access to data, our suppliers have got the clinical systems software upgraded and managers have finally realised this is more important than some fatuous vanity project involving i-devices ). Certainly this Register article is the first time I've heard any mention of extended support for the NHS - no-one has asked us how many PCs we have still running XP, so how they can negotiate I've no idea.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In my experience, they often have about as much IT knowledge as bob down at your local community centre who got his first PC at 65... yet they are paid staggering salaries.

  10. Tim 11

    What will they actually get for the $200m?

    If the windows team won't be releasing any updates or security patches, what do you actually get for your $200-per-pc extended support? a shoulder to cry on and some help to fix your newly infected PCs?

    1. Sartori

      Re: What will they actually get for the $200m?

      It tells you that in the article "Under extended support Microsoft will deploy dedicated engineers to paying customers, who keep releasing fresh security patches after the April cut off."

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the trust I work for I am about to start testing for the migration from XP.

    To be clear - Thats not starting the migration, thats just the testing before the migration is planned out.

    We have a lot of PHB's who are still talking about "the way forward".

    BTW - We don't actually have any money for the migration but we have just spent north of 100k on ithingies which won't actually run most of the trust software. They do look nice though.

    Anon because I still love my job despite the manglement.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Upgrade o Linux

    Ubuntu + Wine

    Give the new MS money to Open Source instead

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Upgrade o Linux

      Chuckle... there speaks someone who CLEARLY hasn't a clue of the scale and complexity of the IT estate of an organisation the size of the NHS!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Upgrade o Linux

        Before you "chuckle", consider that perhaps the OP was not saying "use Wine in its current state" Now think about this: Wine is in a pretty good shape today, able to run out of the box a lot of Windows applications, not just Office. So there is a good chance that most older applications run without issues.

        I heard that someone did something similar to this with Photoshop: they hired the Wine developers and asked them to change Wine until Photoshop was working with Wine. So with all the money being paid to MS, what about using it to improve Wine to the point of being able to run all these weird applications.

        Once that is done, switch to Linux and forget entirely about MS....

        1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

          Re: Upgrade o Linux

          "I heard that someone did something similar to this with Photoshop: they hired the Wine developers and asked them to change Wine until Photoshop was working with Wine. So with all the money being paid to MS, what about using it to improve Wine to the point of being able to run all these weird applications.

          Once that is done, switch to Linux and forget entirely about MS...."

          And you really think that could be achieved in two months?

    2. Chika

      Re: Upgrade o Linux

      To an extent I agree. However we need to be realistic here in that Wine does not provide a complete solution to this problem as not everything is supported.

      Some parts of Windows may possibly never see complete support from Wine. Either way, porting from Windows XP to Linux/Wine is not a quick process. It may even take longer in some cases than Windows XP to Windows 7/8, though I have noticed a few advantages to both routes.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Upgrade o Linux

        To be perfectly frank, porting entire apps to native Linux (as noted above, web apps aren't practical for everything) would probably be easier than trying to hobble them into WINE once you take licensing into account - if you use any Windows binaries in WINE, you are supposed to have a valid license for that OS.

        Then you'd have to get the device vendors to provide drivers and software for Linux too, etc.

        It's a doozie alright. Especially as the end-of-life for MS has been extended once already back in the Netbook days - they should have been all over this, kicking suppliers arses to get NT6 software and drivers, etc.

        I'm willing to bet breach of contract charges for a CAT scanner etc and it's requisite control software cost less than XP extended support accross the entire NHS estate...

        Just FYI...

    3. Keep Refrigerated

      Re: Upgrade o Linux

      Or just run XP in virtualisation, on an internal LAN firewalled off from the outside world entirely. Have users remotely connect from Linux based desktops for the applications that need XP - then plan a migration route for those remaining apps, somewhat at leisure.

  13. 080

    Shove your Win8 where the sun don't shine

    I may be an old cynic but..... Will XP turn out to be another millennium bug? I know that if Microsoft tried to screw me like this I would be determined to move to someone else, it might seem an impossible task at the moment but throw the same money at some decent IT bods and it will happen.

    1. Sartori

      Re: Shove your Win8 where the sun don't shine

      Quote "if Microsoft tried to screw me like this" - I suppose the years of telling people they needed to upgrade from an ancient OS to get continued support and even extending the support cover so people had even more time than was originally published.......yep, must be MS fault

  14. Bladeforce

    Such a shame we dont have

    the forward thinking of Germany and changed our infrastructure away from Microsoft which would lead to less cuts required. I am beginning to wonder if austerity could just have been sorted by backing away from Microsoft entirely and sorting the UK government without hitting Mr Joe Average at all

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Such a shame we dont have

      "I am beginning to wonder if austerity could just have been sorted by backing away from Microsoft entirely "

      It would likely have cost more. Look at Munich - over 1/3 of users still have to use Windows after 10 years of migration, and estimates are that the cost to date (including developing the Limux OS) are over €30 milllion more than it would have cost to most to an updated Windows stack...

      1. Chemist

        Re: Such a shame we dont have

        "It would likely have cost more. Look at Munich - over 1/3 of users still have to use Windows after 10 years of migration blah, blah....."

        Do you know someone has already spouted that cr*p earlier - do you know them ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Such a shame we dont have

          Maybe they read the same third party report that assesses the true Munich project costs to date @ €60 million - http://www.scribd.com/doc/122167337/Studie-OSS-Strategie-der-Stadt-Munchen-v1-0-Zusammenfassung

          To spend ten years on such a project (that had a team of 25 just to build and maintain the Limux OS!) and then still have 1/3 your users still using the old world, of course that is going to cost bundles extra.

          1. Chemist

            Re: Such a shame we dont have

            "Maybe they read the same third party report that assesses the true Munich project costs to date"

            I'm sure they did but they seem to be the only ones to believe this 'unbiased' offering.

            This is the third time you've raised the same nonsense in this one topic as well as countless times before.

  15. Gordon 11
    FAIL

    Planning, what planning?

    “As long as there’s a plan in place, then one year of custom support is a good idea,” Foxall said

    Wrong, Foxall: totally wrong!

    If there were a plan in place then one year of custom support would never have been needed.

  16. Rogue Jedi

    have they not heard of MDT?

    assuming (as the article suggests) the testing has been done and the NHS is ready to start the migration, many areas of hospitles and doctors surgeries are closed overnignt so just get an IT team in to convert premises using an MDT image, presumably they buy PCs in bulk meaning there would be a limited number of models to prepair for and assuming a reasionable network connection (100Mb+) an MDT deployment will easily complete overnignt.

    Offer NHS IT staff/contractors additional payments of e.g. £10 for each NHS PC they persionally upgrade from XP to Windows 7/8 outside their usual working hours before the deadline and I suspect the vast majority PCs would be converted on time, saving about £190,000,000 (assuming £200 each for a million PCs requireing extended support, and £10 paid per PC)

    1. Big_Ted

      Re: have they not heard of MDT?

      @ Rogue Jedi

      Are you serious ?

      You want an untrained receptionist to upgrade all the IT at a doctors surgury ?

      You sir are an idiot if you think this is a good idea. Many an IT pro would concider this themslves as long as they have seen the tests work without problems, No this is kit with private medical data that needs to be working the next day so out of hours any old bod doing it is a disaster waiting to happen.

      1. Rogue Jedi

        Re: have they not heard of MDT?

        I was suggersting trained compitant IT staff do the work(I understand how IT staff could be misunderstood to mean first line who do not know much), if things are setup correctly it would work, I have done this at several schools, hundreds of PCs can be imaged overnight sucessfully.

        Yes I understand there are diferances between schools and GP Surgeries/hospitles however the basic infrostructure remains the same.

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: have they not heard of MDT?

      "assuming (as the article suggests) the testing has been done and the NHS is ready to start the migration, many areas of hospitles and doctors surgeries are closed overnignt so just get an IT team in to convert premises using an MDT image, presumably they buy PCs in bulk meaning there would be a limited number of models to prepair for and assuming a reasionable network connection (100Mb+) an MDT deployment will easily complete overnignt."

      If you really think the NHS as a whole buys it's PCs in bulk then you are living in cloud cuckoo land. There are how many trusts with how many different purchasing agreements with how many suppliers? And that's before you consider the surgeries and the like with who've bought a few PCs from Currys when they needed them. Then there's the fact that there will be PCs in use in parts of the NHS that haven't been refreshed for years. How many different permutations of PC hardware do you think that covers.

      Oh and lets not even discuss the fact that you think anything other than the general office of a hospital (or indeed hospitle) could be shut down overnight.

      No matter how you do it the whole thing is a PM's worst nightmare, which is probably why they've shied away from migrating until now. Doesn't excuse it for a minute of course, but it's still the most likely reason.

  17. Alan Ferris
    FAIL

    Typical

    Actually, the NHS owns and pays for every PC in every GP practice, and has done since the contract changed in 2004. If they don't know how many PCs they own and support, well.... I'm not surprised.

    And I've been asking about an upgrade from XP since August 2013 - 36 PCs in my practice. That's only £4,500 that the taxpayer is wasting on my practice in this year because the NHS didn't get their fingers out.

    1783 days until I can retire

  18. gerryg

    public sector and software decisions

    Since whenever we've been told by various government officials and politicians that FOSS isn't necessarily(1) cheaper. For some excellent waffle recall this Parliamentary select committee hearing or this "guidance" but I suspect part of the negotiation here was the threat to dump Microsoft Office there

    End result? More Microsoft in the public sector - immediate symptoms cured, long chronic problem remains.

    (1) arse covering qualification, fingers crossed behind back

  19. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I did not just read that, surely a typo

    "The Department of Health has exclusively told The Register it’s in talks with Microsoft to develop a migration plan to move PCs off of Windows XP"

    I'm going with the I can't believe this PR tosh, just developing a plan now what is he on?

  20. wikkity

    Risks of using proprietry software

    I hope this serves as learning exercise to people about the risks of using proprietary software and I hope that it is remembered . You are then dependent on a single company, personally I can not understand why anyone, let alone a government organisation can ever allow themselves to be potentially affected by the whims of a single company, regardless of who that company is.

    This mess must surely send some loud signals that maybe open source and (real) standards are something that really needs to be considered when buying in new systems. I personally am seeing a lot of desire for large organisations to migrate to more open solutions but budget constraints are preventing this, not just this country but government depts/enterpise customers in other countries.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Risks of using proprietry software

      not too sure how being open source and ignoring eol dates until 5 minutes before is going to be any better than having a propriety solution and doing the same?

      surely its not MS to blame for this, its not like they decided last week and you have till next week to find an alternative (logmein) there have been years of advance notice given

      1. Anonymous Bullard
        Facepalm

        Re: Risks of using proprietry software

        No one's blaming Microsoft for wanting to make more money. It's up to them if they don't want to support old code.

        If non-proprietary was used in the first place then they wouldn't be in the situation of being dependant on a single entity. MS has everyone by the balls - forcing everyone to upgrade.. or else!

        So what will the solution be to all this? Upgrade to Win7/8?? Guess what will happen in 5 years?!

        There are viable alternatives to Microsoft. Let go of your Windows comfort-blanket!

        An integral part of any government (let alone 1000s of businesses) should not be dependant on One Single Company!

        When will these people learn??? What will it take??

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Risks of using proprietry software @Anonymous Bullard

          >So what will the solution be to all this? Upgrade to Win7/8?? Guess what will happen in 5 years?!

          Five years more like 10!

          However, the issues with open source upgrades would be largely the same. If XP and Office 2003 were open source, what would be different?

          About the only thing that would be different is that the NHS (and government) would retain 'ownership' and control of the source they use, so the only real need would be to go out to the market every 5~7 years and renew the support agreements - if a supplier say Microsoft didn't want to support relevant parts of the NHS open source then the NHS would be free to contract with a supplier who would.

          The catch to this scenario is where is the pressure to update going to come from? If the systems work fine on 2002~2004 source code that has been maintained over the years - like XP and Office 2003, what is it that 2014 open source gives (in business terms) that would require a similar level of change as Microsoft are currently attempting to force their XP users to go through? [Aside: yes we know that Linux and Open Office et al have greatly evolved since 2002, but if the business systems are working and delivering, unless there is an identifiable business need to use these new features and capabilities the business is highly likely not to sign off an update.]

          Obviously we can debate whether it is desirable and hence need to regularly update IT systems in the way we have been doing with Microsoft's products. But what is clear the IT industry that has developed since the mid 80's has grown on the back of regular largescale systems refresh - fewer refreshes would seem to indicate a smaller IT industry.

      2. wikkity

        Re: Risks of using proprietry software

        > ignoring eol dates until 5 minutes

        The date was not ignored, they have failed to migrate in time, I have seen evidence first hand of genuine attempts to get ready, not just the NHS but other depts and LEAs. If their infrastructure was based on open solutions you can be certain that they would be able to get someone to provide support the software and the OS for as long as they want without having to pay a crazy amount.

        It's not just a case of hoping around a bunch of machines installing a new OS. They have an infrastructure where many things that are tightly coupled and critical applications are preventing movement and that can take significant time to fix/replace/test. I don't know most of the details, but the people I have spoken to cite issues with software not working correctly on windows 7/8, mainly due to sloppy/rushed development, say for example those requiring IE 6 or 7 or propriety software that needs fixing or replacing.

        If they used open standards moving to a new platform or replacing bits would be much simpler.

        They should never have got into this situation in the first place and as I said I hope that this will help raise the importance of open solutions (open source or standards), and maybe mean choosing propriety product from a large multinational will not continue to be considered a low risk option. Not saying that it is a magic bullet but gives you _options_, and when things go bad you need options and things going bad needs to be considered up front and constantly reviewed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Risks of using proprietry software

      Bear in mind that in 2002 or 2003 when all of this stuff was being planned that IE was massively dominant in the browser scene.

      Why on earth would you target Firefox or Mozilla with 5% market share?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Risks of using proprietry software, less than no official support OS software!

      1)This mess must surely send some loud signals that maybe open source and (real) standards are something that really needs to be considered when buying in new systems. I personally am seeing a lot of desire for large organisations to migrate to more open solutions but budget constraints are preventing this, not just this country but government depts/enterpise customers in other countries.

      - If open source offered SLA/support to mission critical services, then perhaps open source would be taken seriously. As it is open source is seen as geeks doing their thing. The cost of MS licensing is cheaper than losing critical services which could cost lives.

      2) I hope this serves as learning exercise to people about the risks of using proprietary software and I hope that it is remembered . You are then dependent on a single company, personally I can not understand why anyone, let alone a government organisation can ever allow themselves to be potentially affected by the whims of a single company, regardless of who that company is.

      - This is not the issue, a migration plan should have been kicked off when MS announced XP is dead! If migration had occurred, your point would be moot.

      1. wikkity

        Re: Risks of using proprietry software, less than no official support OS software!

        > If open source offered SLA/support to mission critical services, then perhaps open source would be taken seriously

        It does, presumably you don't think that people who say rely on linux for don't pay for support and hope stuff just works? If you and others are willing to pay for something someone will fill that gap. Open source is rarely a bunch of geeks in their bedroom, well maybe at the start of a project or yet another ego massaging attempt to implement another best ever UML editor. But the stuff used in enterprise and government the developers earn their living working on, it's not amateur stuff. There is a lot of money in developing and supporting OS.

        > The cost of MS licensing is cheaper than losing critical services which could cost lives.

        Open source in anything non critical or even inconvenient to lose is not free, and in likelyhood not cheaper on a like for like basis. It is the fact that the ONE supplier can change things. How many people on here would allow a single point of failure in something important?

        Having to fork out an extra $200 for each pc to the only people who can provide support is a huge extra cost.

        > This is not the issue, a migration plan should have been kicked off when MS announced XP is dead! If migration had occurred, your point would be moot.

        Yes it should but they didn't get it done in time, thats the situation. If they had have made it they are only delaying the problem, you think switch to windows 9 next time is going to be any easier, how many technologies will MS have decided to ditch by then how much broken software will they have to fix then? Unless lessons are learnt they will be in the same boat.

        How much has been spent in migration costs across the entire government, the UK, the world? True, upgrading is always going to be an expense, but having to migrate from something you are happy with and works to something you don't want to move to, and at great cost is simply a side affect of being dependant on a company who's business model needs you to buy the new version (I'm not saying MS are evil for not supporting this indefinitely, they are a business that sells products).

  21. tfewster Silver badge
    FAIL

    You're looking at it wrong...

    If the XP machines don't have internet access, that reduces the risk. They may be sitting ducks, but ducks behind a (fire)wall are hard to hit. I would have thought the Cabinet Office could have issued a policy enforcement order backed by the ICO - Any XP machines not covered by some risk mitigation strategy will be regarded as a violation of the DPA and evidence of gross mismanagement.

    The last section of the articles raises other questions:

    What's the "Windows XP browser"? IE6? How about paying Microsoft a million bucks to release a standalone version of IE6, with all its own libraries so it can coexist with later versions of IE on later versions of Windows? (Yeah, I know it won't work, but the question should have been asked).

    Does "Choose & Book" still only support Internet Explorer? What versions? Does it work in Compatibility Mode? Does it support mobiles? All key features for a patient accessible system.

    I understand that upgrading hundreds of apps takes time, but any organisation only just now starting to think about it deserves a severe kicking.

  22. gloucester
    Meh

    Wide open?

    "The Reg found that PCs at hospitals, GPs and trusts across Great Britain will miss the early April deadline and therefore be wide open to attack."

    If all million plus boxes are fully patched and security fixed currently then come April they will become increasingly open to attack by new exploits. If some significant number aren't currently fully patched anyway, then the increased level of opening could be arguable.

    Suddenly going in April from safe to "wide open", no.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Wide open?

      I also question this, because surely the NHS aren't using vanilla Windows on an unsecured network (like many commercial enterprises) but have taken on-board all the good stuff that has been developed for government and locked their systems and networks down. So suspect that there is much FUD being spread around by people who have zero knowledge of enterprise IT.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work at an NHS board (in Scotland) we started migrating a few months ago after a year in planning and testing the 160 applications we needed to deliver services. I'm slightly mystified as to why any any trust or board is being caught out here.

    This is incompetence, boards and trusts should be asked to foot the bill and those who held the migration or failed to financially plan appropriately sacked.

    1. wikkity

      > testing the 160 applications we needed to deliver services

      How many failed? How many are preventing this migration from being rolled out? I have no idea and can't see any information about that.

  24. Smoking Gun

    In a lot of cases NHS IT budgets have been stripped to the bone while IT managers have lost staff and are being asked to do more with less. Just wait until post Windows 7 and Office 2010, you know when all those CfH allocations of Windows 7, Office & Client Access Licenses are no use.

    I don't loathe Microsoft but the NHS is approaching a crisis of epic proportions and Microsoft licensing will hit them hard in the face after years of it being perceived as 'free' (aka centrally paid for).

    If I were in the NHS I would be looking at ways to break my Microsoft addiction. The issue for IT managers is most NHS applications have been written for Windows. You'd be amazed how many still only work correctly in IE6.

  25. Anonymous Bullard

    Why are we paying for this?

    This is why governments should be using open source!

    Then this crap would not have happened!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why are we paying for this?

      "This is why governments should be using open source!

      Then this crap would not have happened!"

      Uhm - yes it would probably have happened only twice in the same period. Good luck finding an Open Source suite that has been supported for 13 years.....Not to mention the higher TCO, higher migration costs, impossibility of migrating lots of stuff, etc, etc. Look at the Munich farce - It cost them ~ €30 million more to migrate to Open Source than to update Windows and after 10 years of 'migration', 40% of their users still run Windows....

      1. Chemist

        Re: Why are we paying for this?

        " Look at the Munich farce - It cost them ~ €30 million more to migrate to Open Source than to update Windows"

        You have mentioned this before (again & again) , no evidence other than MS supplied 'evidence' whereas Munich ave been quite open about it. No-one believed you then and no-one does now.

        BTW didn't you get your post bounced a week or so ago for repetitive trolling ?

      2. Anonymous Bullard

        Re: Why are we paying for this?

        Sorry Mr Microsoft, but the Munich "farce" was a success. Even El Reg couldn't put a negative spin on it! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/16/munich_signs_off_on_open_source_project/

        €30m extra for a 10 year government project?? That's a fucking saving! Not only that, it's peanuts when you imagine how much they'll save in the next 10 years.

        You really should stop using Bing! when researching.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why are we paying for this?

      Because open source really guarantees long term support for software?

      Where are the vendors supporting 13 year old Linux distros?

      Red Hat 9?

      1. Keep Refrigerated

        Re: Why are we paying for this?

        It's not about how long your OS can be supported, whether the NHS was using Windows or Linux or even BSD... it's the cost of upgrading and support for legacy applications.

        OS and applications built on free and open source means that, in the long term, costs are minimised due to the ability to migrate to alternative solutions or even fork your own (e.g. your data belongs to you and not locked in some proprietary closed-source solution).

        A great example of this is the applications that rely on IE6. If the applications had been coded to proper web standards back when they were designed and developed, then they would be portable to any OS and any browser, IE6 could have been ditched a long time ago.

        So, choosing to migrate to an open source solution now would not necessariy mean a short term cost saving, but a long term cost saving 5 or 10 years from now, when the open nature of the software makes it easier to migrate or fix.

        I wonder how much it will cost next time round when the NHS is stuck on an old Windows 7/Server 2012, with platform specific Sharepoint, Outlook and Office applications coming to EOL?

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Why are we paying for this?

        "Where are the vendors supporting 13 year old Linux distros?"

        Why is that relevant?

        The problem with XP is that you had to pay to get Vista or 7 and the monolithic nature of the MS offering meant that if those OSes turned out to be incompatible in some small way then the entire migration was blocked. Therefore, migration away from XP couldn't happen, and only got harder (technically) and more expensive (for the upgrade licences) as the years went by.

        With an open source product, you can upgrade the bits that you need to upgrade and maintain the bits that you don't. And the only cost is the labour cost of ensuring that stuff works, not a licence fee for each desktop.

      3. Red Bren
        Linux

        Re: Why are we paying for this?

        Where are the vendors supporting 13 year old Linux distros?

        If you have the budget to support one million machines at $200/year each, you might be surprised how quickly a vendor will show up with a crack team of coders and the source code on disk...

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why are we paying for this?

        "Red Hat 9?"

        Nope - went EOL about 9 years ago:

        http://www.redhat.com/archives/redhat-watch-list/2004-April/msg00000.html

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked for the NHS in IT support, spread across several hospitals, for about 2 years, they never did any patching on the machines bar the XP Service Packs, i.e. the last 'security update' was whatever was in SP3. (They didn't update any other software either, like Flash or Java)

    I believe the idea behind this was not wanting to risk breaking anything that was working.

    Any one else have this experience? Seems like this is money for nothing if this is normal practise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seems to be a trend

      But there are so many other high risk industries (think aviation, military hardware, automobiles, nuclear power, to name a few) that manage get through updates and migrations, so why can't the NHS? Why can't Fed Gov deliver a web service that allows people to buy health insurance on the first day?

      I do not work in the health industry and so cannot speak from experience, but I would love to know why FUD seems to so disproportionately paralyze and strike IT projects in this sector.

      Possible reasons:

      1) Fear of mega lawsuits if it all goes horribly wrong (not just an issue for health providers, BTW)

      2) The general mismanagement, sloth and corruption that seems to affect so many government driven IT initiatives.

      3) The need to protect patient data from prying eyes (also not an issue exclusive to health care providers).

      I am sure there are many more... but it still doesn't justify letting a major industry keep running end of life software at what will no doubt become a staggering cost. It's like refusing to replace unsafe, balding tires before a long road journey, on the basis that the money will be better spent on fuel and tolls.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Seems to be a trend

        >But there are so many other high risk industries (think aviation, military hardware, automobiles, nuclear power, to name a few) that manage get through updates and migrations

        I would double check your list. There was in the last year an article on El reg about the nuclear industry and the need to maintain systems, that those in mainstream IT would regard as obsolete, for decades to come - yes the dev's may now be using windows 7/8 as the basis for their workbench, but the application code they're maintaining still runs on a (proprietary) system that has had very limited support for some years now.

    2. Tyrion

      >> Any one else have this experience? Seems like this is money for nothing if this is normal practise.

      Yes I've seen this first hand. It's all about being able to report higher up the chain that you've covered your bases, or enough at least that it appears so. The truth is quite different, as evidenced by the recent malware infections in NHS systems.

      XP, and other M$ software are accidents waiting to happen. There's so many zero day exploits targeting Windows, IE etc, that no patching by M$ will make a ha'penny of a difference. And as you point out, every other piece of software on a Windows OS is a potential vector for attack because there's no centralised package management and no automatic updates.

      I wouldn't care if not for the fact that it's my money they're wasting on buying costly, proprietary, and non-standard software, from a company renown for milking the enterprise

      and governments.

    3. Smoking Gun

      Yes I have known NHS clients like this. I have also known some NHS clients not to patch their server OSE's for the exact same reasons.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Per-PC pricing for this is a scam.

    They only have to write each patch once and it'll work on all the XP machines with no further incremental cost for MS, so it's a total ripoff to charge per PC when they're not delivering an amount of work that varies with the number of PCs that it's applied to.

    Plus, since we (the British public) are the funders/owners of the NHS, we should all get these patches.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet it's not just the NHS

    I was working in the public sector two years ago (not the NHS) and we were still rolling out XP as management had made us stick with W2K for ages. We told senior managment about XP end of life date and advised that we needed to start on win7 upgrade as soon as XP upgrade was complete. They said no.

  29. MalPearce

    "All software products that don't have to be physically connected to a PC should only be browser accessible. If you can't use it through a browser it shouldn't be allowed."

    OK, so explain this to me. I am currently in a hospital looking at a Windows 8.1 x86 desktop AND a Windows Server 2012 (x64) R2 desktop with all the clinical apps running on it just fine... The only "fat" app that doesn't run at all on this platform happens to be a terminal emulator from the early 1990s but it's more or less defunct and newer TEs are available. Some clinical apps which are written by vendors who are still using VB6 and show no signs of ever migrating to something a bit more modern.

    The one app still giving us grief is a WEB app... PACS. Used for viewing X-rays. It has a version checking script in it that asserts if you're using a browser with a version number higher than 9, you can't run it. The vendor has "previous" for this - they had the same issue when IE8 came out, then IE9... We've worked round it by hacking it but the point is we shouldn't have to.

    In short- Move to web apps? You're having a giraffe.

    1. Tyrion

      >> In short- Move to web apps? You're having a giraffe.

      The idea is that if the apps are properly standardised in accordance with the WWC, it won't matter what platform the browser is running on. That would eliminate all headaches about rewriting apps for Linux or OS X etc. And even the client could be made thin and barebones. Unlike running Windows 7/8 which requires a beefy machine just to boot and run the OS.

      >> The one app still giving us grief is a WEB app... PACS. Used for viewing X-rays. It has a version checking script in it that asserts if you're using a browser with a version number higher than 9, you can't run it. The vendor has "previous" for this - they had the same issue when IE8 came out, then IE9... We've worked round it by hacking it but the point is we shouldn't have to.

      That's your problem right there. You're running IE. It's a non-standardised mess, and was designed that way by Micro$haft in order to make sure sites wouldn't work with competing browsers. You lose the benefit of using webapps, which is platform independence, if they're written against IE.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We've worked round it by hacking it but the point is we shouldn't have to."

    Just hit F12 (developer mode), and select the browser version you want....

    1. MalPearce

      F12 is not a sensible answer. The problem is the scripting engine as well as the browser version so pressing F12 on its own doesn't fix it. Like I said we've worked around it but we shouldn't have to. It's a total farce that one of the biggest PACS vendors in the market has been told when IE7 came out, IE8, IE9, IE10 AND NOW IE11 that they've got to bloody fix this issue.

      They're not the only ones, to be fair. About 6 years ago I reported a bug in the NHS Identity Agent to BT and you know what, it still hasn't been fixed.

      Brass tacks:Windows 8.1 / IE11 is a much bigger problem because Microsoft have changed things at the kernel level in 8.1 that they haven't told anyone about and that DOES break apps. But the SDKs have only been released since mid October so some vendors cannot be expected to support 8.1 yet.

      But I know of some hospitals that have been running Win7 x86 for a couple of years without any major problems; you can count on one hand the number of apps that can't cope with the switch. So as much as you can blame MS for 8.1 compliance being off the roadmap, it's the app vendors, and incompetent hospital IT departments, who haven't even finished preparing for Win7. Seriously: hardly any apps will break if you stick with Win7 x86 and IE8.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

    Point them to this. A perfect example why propriety technology is too risky.

    A migration to FOSS is a one time cost, using propriety is like running up a cost mountain, but never reaching the top.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

      Reading this thread, I'm find it amazing just how many people who seem to work in IT in some capacity or other and think that open source is some form of silver bullet; it isn't.

      If the NHS had adopted open source instead of XP, it like many very large enterprises still be using the same version of Linux and applications today, albeit with a few patches, as it installed back in 2004. Now try migration an estate as complex as that found in large enterprises such as the NHS to a recent release of Linux and applications. I bet you will encounter all the same problems...

      1. Tyrion

        Re: When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

        >> If the NHS had adopted open source instead of XP, it like many very large enterprises still be using the same version of Linux and applications today, albeit with a few patches, as it installed back in 2004.

        Then that would be the fault of their IT departments. Because unlike Microsoft platforms, GNU/Linux has a centralised package management, which means the whole system, including all the applications can be upgraded all at once.

        And if they adopted a rolling release policy like many Linux distros, all the software, including the OS would be the latest stable version instead of being decade old, exploit ridden, and malware infected like their installations of XP.

    2. TheVogon

      Re: When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

      "Point them to this. A perfect example why propriety technology is too risky."

      What is the example? This seems to me to show that proprietary software was a great choice as it is still working and being used and supported after 13 years! No similar aged enterprise Linux OS is still supported.

      1. Tyrion

        Re: When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

        >> What is the example? This seems to me to show that proprietary software was a great choice.

        It isn't being supported any more, that's the exact reason the british taxpayer is having to pay Micro$oft additional patch support charges. It's called proprietary lock in for a reason, and Micro$oft loves it.

        >>as it is still working and being used and supported after 13 years!

        And by working, you mean it's full of exploits, security holes, and malware, sure.

        >>No similar aged enterprise Linux OS is still supported.

        Any organisation with any sense wouldn't be running Windoze software to begin with. Nor would it be running a decade old XP. But that's probably down to the fact that upgrading Micro$haft software is so costly and time consuming. All those NHS PC's would have to be replaced for a start.

        If they were running GNU/Linux, those existing PC's wouldn't need to be replaced. And they should be upgraded to stable versions on a regular basis using a rolling release policy. And with a centralised package management, all the software is upgraded, unlike on Windows, where most of the software is outdated and acts as vectors for malware infection.

    3. Tyrion

      Re: When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

      >> Point them to this. A perfect example why propriety technology is too risky.

      And notice how the cost assessments of continuing to use Windoze and other Micro$haft software over switching to Linux never includes things like this or the recent malware infections.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When some knob tells you using Linux in an enterprise is too risky

        "And notice how the cost assessments of continuing to use Windoze and other Micro$haft software over switching to Linux never includes things like this or the recent malware infections."

        Because corporate deployments normally include antimalware software.

        The Microsoft management tools like SCCM are an order of magnitude better than anything included with Linux, and therefore the long term TCO is usually lower - even after you pay for the required licences! If Open Source were really cheaper then every CEO would be looking at it. In really it isn't and therefore pretty much zero are....

        If the world moved to Linux and the percentage ever climbed over 1% then the malware situation would likely be far worst - just look at the current Android malware fest. Linux has an inherently less secure design due to it's monolithic kernel, and has a much high number of security vulnerabilities that on average take longer to be patched than current versions of Windows...Proper security like real ACLS and proper access controls were also bolt on after thoughts that are not enabled by default on most Linux versions (NFS4 and SEL required). Not to mentioned no constrained delegation and you have to use risky kludges like SUDO (that always has to run as root) to give elevated access....

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Source of data

    Curious about the number of PCs reported for Scotland - the figure looks suspiciously like one board, not the whole country which I'm taking the English number to be.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another New Labour failure, suck up to Microsoft and specify everything must run via Internet Explorer.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Real life example

    I work in a large NHS trust, we have over 100 individual departments, 9000 staff and 8000+ PCs and laptops. When shouting about 'How dare they?' please bear in mind that there is no single vendor for everything.

    When working out how many discrete applications we were using we moved them into categories of 'want, need & site-wide' before testing. Of these, many of the site-wide applications had been brought up to date and were able to be moved without an issue. If an application was in the 'want' category and did not work on Win7 then the dept or individual was consulted and an alternative was worked out.

    The main problem is with the applications and drivers that are needed for individual departments, some of these areas are extremely specialised and may only have one or two suppliers. Hearing aid testing equipment is one example, blood gas analysers are another, some of these machines can cost £100,000+ so 'buy from another vendor' is not a valid possibility.

    Some web based applications will work using compatibility mode but others will not, there are problems with getting some NHS wide applications with Win7 64bit as well.

    So yes we are migrating but unless you can decide which departments we should close until the vendors bring all software and drivers up to date there will be areas that still rely on XP for a while longer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Real life example

      well said

    2. Tyrion

      Re: Real life example

      >> Some web based applications will work using compatibility mode but others will not, there are problems with getting some NHS wide applications with Win7 64bit as well.

      This is everything that's wrong with government right there. Designing webapps for IE negates the whole benefit of doing them in the first place, which is platform independence. Your webapps don't even work across different versions of IE. If the developers had written against the W3C standards, they could just use a different browser.

      The whole Micro$haft obsession in UK government makes my blood boil.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just like the bankers getting bonuses for failure, there are thousands of "big cheese" bods out there in other public sector orgs making very poorly informed decisions.

    Why are there still XP machines out there in public sector land? I thought these "big cheeses" were paid the high salary to ensure that a situation such as this does not occur? Their IT bods must have told them that XP is dead and that migration needs to occur. Why do the "big cheeses" always ignore the techies and insist they know better?

    I work in pubic sector and deal with the fall out of follies such as this on a daily basis!

    Each new "big cheese" wants to make their mark, costing us £M's each year! Sack them all!

    So much for private schooling, they can't see the wood for the trees.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      These are 10 or 11 year old computer systems that is why.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not just the NHS

    It's not just the NHS. MoD (and others) are entering into the same sort of agreement with the same sort of costs. Cost of support doubles year on year. 2 mil this year, 5 the year after, 10 the year after than etc.

    It's also not limited to windows XP. It also applies to Server 2003. And you need a support agreement for each affected piece of software. So if you're running Server 2003 with Windows XP on the desktop your costs just doubled.

    And the support doesn't cover all issues, only those that MS deems critical, and that is based on what is critical in Windows 7, not XP.

    Speaking from experience, this is not an IT issue, it is management issue in that management failed to listen or understand or just plain ignored what they have been told repeatedly for the last 5 years.

    1. yuhong

      Re: It's not just the NHS

      > It's also not limited to windows XP. It also applies to Server 2003

      However Server 2003 don't end support until July 2015, more than a year after XP support ends.

      > and that is based on what is critical in Windows 7, not XP.

      I don't believe this is true. And BTW I think you can pay extra for fixes for less severe security issues under Custom Support.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @yuhong Re: It's not just the NHS

        Typing too fast on the original post, should have read Exchange 2003, not server 2003.

        I know how the criticality assessment works because I've been sat in meetings with the MS reps as they described it. If it's a critical risk in Win 7 they will develop a fix for the same issue in XP (if it exists) . If it's not critical for Win 7 they won't.

        Lets's be clear. MS do *NOT* want customers hanging around on XP. The costs are deliberately punitive and the service provided deliberately restricted. They really don't want to be supporting XP anymore.

        MS OS revenues are in the billions. A few extra million here and there from recalcitrant users (in their view) is not going to have an impact on the bottom line. It's not about the money, it's about getting shot of XP.

        1. yuhong

          Re: @yuhong It's not just the NHS

          Fortunately I don't think there has been any security bulletins for Exchange Server 2003 in years.

        2. yuhong

          Re: @yuhong It's not just the NHS

          Not to mention that supporting WinXP is expensive too, which is probably why it costs more than even NT4/2000 CSAs.

  37. Paul 135

    Whatever happened to Win7's "XP mode"?

    And, providing the hardware can run win7, is there really a significant security risk in using "XP mode" only for specific apps in the interim?

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to Win7's "XP mode"?

      Have you actually tried running legacy apps in compatibility mode on any version of Windows? The success rate is not particularly high.

      1. Not That Andrew

        Re: Whatever happened to Win7's "XP mode"?

        He's talking about Win 7's Enterprise and Pro's XP mode which uses an XP VM, so should mostly work, but is of course subject to the same support cut-off date. Which is probably why Win 8.x doesn't include it.

        1. Paul 135

          Re: Whatever happened to Win7's "XP mode"?

          That is exactly what I'm talking about, yet no one wants to answer the question. Is there really such a security risk or need for "support" if you run specific apps sandboxed in the integrated VM and copy of

          XP included with Windows 7?

          1. Paul 135

            Re: Whatever happened to Win7's "XP mode"?

            ... especially when if an old app is so unmaintained that it won't run on a modern operating system, do you really think these old unmaintained apps have the best in modern security hardening in mind either? To me, I would have thought this Microsoft "support" tax which they seem to be foolishly going to pay would have made little difference as any solution for these old unmaintained apps is going to be an insecure interim solution anyway.

  38. busycoder99

    The ones to foot the bill

    should be the ones who wrote software that only works on IE6, needs ActiveX, or some other horse crap like that. But when you think about it, it is M$ who encouraged/arm twisted everyone into building software that only worked with their kit, so really, no one needs to pay for anything. If anyone is paying, it should be M$ paying the NHS to help port their wares to newer standard/open platforms.

  39. trafalgar

    Surely, the NHS /UK Gov are large enough to develop their own OS and software?

    Or even their own distro of Linux?

    Team of developers maintaining your own distro VS paying licences for Windows on all NHS/Gov machines?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Have you seen the track record of Govt. IT projects?

      1. Not That Andrew
        Joke

        Even the first UK government IT project was an unmitigated disaster. Read up on the Difference Engine

        1. Roland6 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Even the first UK government IT project was an unmitigated disaster

          But the subsequent 'skunk' projects worked just fine - read up on Bletchley Park!

    2. Tyrion

      >> Surely, the NHS /UK Gov are large enough to develop their own OS and software?

      They could with all the money they waste on M$ software. Not to mention all the new hardware they have to purchase to run M$' latest monstrosities, as well as having to deal with malware infections etc.

  40. AndyDoran

    We use a new, commercial software package, written in Java, designed from the ground-up in 2012. And it fails with the new hot-fixes & updates to Java 7. And we have to pay for fixes!

    Anyone claiming "make it work in a browser" is perhaps thinking of simple HTML. Add something slightly more complicated to the mix, like erm javascript, and start considering how long your application will work, without modification, in the javascript engines currently implemented in today's browsers

    Software needs updating - seems to be an unfortunate fact of IT life. Updating software costs money, even if the original software was FOSS (free and open source).

    Software written specifically for IE6 (probably involving ActiveX stuff) could be updated. Software written to work in browsers circa. 2005 could be updated. Both cost money. Which costs more? No idea.

    Walking through immigration at London Heathrow in January 2014, with their shiny new facial-scanning-pod-thingies, you can't help but notice a row of Microsoft XP machines :)

    Anyone working for IT in the NHS has my sincere sympathies.

  41. Tyrion
    FAIL

    ROI

    You'll never hear of these costs or that of malware included in ROI figures when it comes time to tender offers for replacement systems. These maladies are conveniently omitted in order to make maintaining the status quo more appealing. It's not just the extra support payments that's going to cost the taxpayer either. It's the upgrade cycle, which will require all new PC's to run the monstrosity that is Windows 8+.

    What they should do is replace all XP software with GNU/Linux. No new PC's required. No extra payments to extend XP's life, and no malware infections, which just recently caused a lot of downtime and expense. It will never happen though unfortunately because all UK IT procurement officials suckle at the teat of Micro$haft.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until recently, any new PC that we got from the Trust (which are as rare as hen's teeth) had to be re-imaged with XP to make them compatible with our medical equipment. A medical grade ECG machine costs thousands, we can't justify spreading thousands on new medical equipment just so we can upgrade our PCs to Windows 7. "Sorry Mr Smith, we can't treat you for your cancer because we've blown our budget on these sweet Windows 7 computers". We've still got some Windows 2000 PCs running on Pentium 4s. The NHS is haemorrhaging money and upgrading our PCs is last on the NHS's agenda when hospitals need new beds, clinicians, facilities, etc. Recently, through fundraising, we've been able to buy new medical equipment which is, thankfully, Windows 7 compatible. Patients would not be happy if we blew our budget on new computers, we have to focus on face-to-face patient care first and computers running XP have worked fine for years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and computers running XP have worked fine for years

      So why do these computers need to be accessible from the internet or outside of the Trust's LAN. If not, why is there any problem continuing to use XP? The PC should be firewalled off and locked down and no support costs paid to MS.

  43. gh4662

    Obviously a lot of people posting who have never worked in the NHS

    I work in an IT department of a large Acute Hospital Trust. We will not hit the deadline of April to migrate away from XP, but will finish migrating all 3700 machines by the end of May.

    We have over 300 applications, each department usually has its own piece of software specifically for its own modality and many of these are what has caused a delay.

    We have some software which will not work on Windows 7, the vendors have long since gone out of business or want to charge a lot of money to make it Win 7 compatible.

    The biggest issue we have faced is the difference in XP user profiles to Windows 7 and clinicians roaming across the site on different PC's.

    However we have the budget to upgrade all PC's so they are capable of running Win 7 and beyond, so are in a good place compared to other Trusts.

    One thing no one has mentioned is about replacing PC's when they die. As of April all the new HP PC's will not come with XP drivers, how do people get round this issue?

    Whoever mentioned NPfIT as a replacement for all these systems is wrong, it was only ever designed to deliver a PAS, it was never going to replace all the departmental systems.

    I had worked in previous NHS organisations where there was no regular patching of PC's or servers aside service packs as there was a worry about breaking something so they are going to be in no worse a position come April than they were before.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obviously a lot of people posting who have never worked in the NHS

      Yes, but surely IT professionals working for NHS (at management level if not lower down) should have realised that XP would not be supported forever. Since XP, we've had Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 has been out for quite some time now. Why were these systems even bought without thought being given to how long they would last and when they would become obsolete? I've met quite a lot of IT admins in the NHS, and while some were good, frankly a lot, like many of the other NHS management staff had been promoted well above their levels of expertise and were massively overpaid.

      1. JurassicPark

        Re: Obviously a lot of people posting who have never worked in the NHS

        "staff had been promoted well above their levels "

        ....Promoting incompetent staff is the only way, in may civil-service departments, of getting rid of the useless idiots at the coal face.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More NHS incompetence

    Typical, the NHS through it's breathtaking incompetence ends up paying more than the cost of a new desktop to patch decade old computers that should have been updated 7 years ago. The overpaid and under qualified NHS IT Admins or the incompetent NHS managers who let this happen should be fired. There have been 3 newer iterations of windows since XP... 3!!!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Firewalled NHSnet

    Have I missed something here? Does every one of these XP machines really need any internet access at all? It's been a few years since I worked at an NHS hospital, but when I did, the majority of PCs (and a few Macs) did not need access to the internet in order to allow the user to do their job. All their work was either hospital wide (ie. on the local LAN) or inter-agency (ie. within NHSnet WAN). Additionally most inter-agency comms were handled by central hospital servers which were not XP based.

    So why are we paying for support on every single machine? Surely the sane thing to do would be to lock down the majority of machines that don't need access and don't won't be replaced in time. Then just pay for the limited number of machines that do need internet access.

    All these machines should be behind the NHSnet firewall, plus behind a local hospital firewall and have machine based anti-virus / anti-malware software installed. So how are all these machines being attacked / infected?

  46. This post has been deleted by its author

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A compromise

    There seems to be a lot of blame flying around everywhere and not much suggestion as to solutions.

    It seems to me that a suitable short-term strategy is to 'throw money at the situation' to keep the flames at bay i.e. pay for Windows support and upgrades/ whatever.

    Alongside, a long-term strategy should be implemented where proprietary software is *very slowly* replaced with open source alternatives (by software I refer to both the operating systems and applications that run on top).

    For example, starting at the fringes of the NHS computing systems running non-essential applications, *very slowly* start to replace the applications with open source versions (eg LibreOffice) until they are all replaced throughout the network (within reason).

    During this time, spend money (that's just been saved on all the software you've just replaced) on training IT departments and key members of staff in how to use a particular Linux-based OS until everybody is ready for a transition to said OS.

    Finally, again, starting at the fringes of the NHS computing infrastructure, slooowly replace Windows OSes with this Linux distro.

    Throughout this time, obviously a huge number of compatibility issues will arise but if guidelines on how to ensure maximum compatibility between file formats is distributed and enforced and simultaneous transitions take place on the nodes either side of network paths of high traffic then I reckon it's all possible, over a period of a decade or so.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A compromise

    There seems to be a lot of blame flying around everywhere and not much suggestion as to solutions.

    It seems to me that a suitable short-term strategy is to 'throw money at the situation' to keep the flames at bay i.e. pay for Windows support and upgrades/ whatever.

    Alongside, a long-term strategy should be implemented where proprietary software is *very slowly* replaced with open source software (by software I refer to both the operating systems and applications that run on top).

    For example, starting at the fringes of the NHS computing systems running non-essential applications, *very slowly* start to replace the applications with open source versions (eg LibreOffice) until they are all replaced throughout the network (within reason).

    During this time, spend money (that's just been saved on all the software you've just replaced) on training IT departments and key members of staff in how to use a particular Linux-based OS until everybody is ready for a transition to said OS.

    Finally, again, starting at the fringes of the NHS computing infrastructure, slooowly replace Windows with this Linux distro.

    Throughout this time, obviously a huge number of compatibility issues will arise but if guidelines on how to ensure maximum compatibility between file formats is distributed and enforced and simultaneous transitions take place on the nodes between network paths of high traffic then I reckon a free software implementation could be achieved over a decade or so. Or, I could just be talking out of my arse again.

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