[GLLUG] IT does cost

Marco van Beek mvanbeek at supporting-role.co.uk
Fri Aug 6 11:06:07 UTC 2021

Hi Chris,

I think this is a fairly poorly written article form a technical point 
of view, which is fine. It is just highlighting us to the costs, not the 

First of all, Microsoft agreed a pricing package to continue to support 
Windows XP for the likes of the NHS. If I remember correctly this had to 
be done due to their software only running on IE6, so moving all those 
computers to open source would not fix the problem. And the NHS has a 
dreadful history in regards to IT projects, and has wasted far more in 
failed projects that the costs of supporting the old systems.

Secondly, Government seem far happy outsourcing the whole problem to 
systems like Office 365, despite legal issues like the US CLOUD act that 
in theory would give US Federal agents the right to access HM Gov's data 
if they could persuade a US judge to sign a warrant.

Thirdly, open source software comes with no warranty, and that scares 
civil servants who want someone else to blame.

To be brutally honest, the problem is between keyboard and chair. At all 
levels. We are not just talking about contracts being handed to 
companies with a history of past failures, but also a complete lack of 
understanding at policy level of what could, and should be done. And 
there is an upside to that. If Government actually got their act 
together they could actually spot so many crimes financial simply by 
linking everybody's records together and looking at what doesn't add up 
and applying Unexplained Wealth Orders. Of course, my inner conspiracy 
theorist says that is why they haven't got their act together, but 
that's a rabbit hole for a different day...

Even just the simple rule that all government issued documents should be 
in ODF, and all software should be ODF compliant is ignored by pretty 
much everybody. I was on the Land Registry site the other day. Could not 
find a single ODF version of a form. Even one that dates form 21 June 
2021 is in Word format. It's either ignorance or incompetence.

Mr Wall, meet Head. Head, meet Brick Wall.

As someone who has clients who have to fill in IT audit forms to work 
with government bodies (and I include bodies like the NHS in that 
description) I am appalled at the level of incompetence, like emailing 
my a macro-filled Excel spreadsheet. Like I am really going to open 
that. And being asked how I check my tape backups. Yes, really. It is 
but a small window into those people's day to day lives, some of whom 
think tape backups are still a regular thing in the real world.

I once had a conversation with a major ministerial insider about CE 
marking and applying it to software That there should be the same sort 
of requirements to comply with standards as a fridge or washing machine. 
I was told it was a trading standards issue. They did not see the 
problem of software claiming to but not actually complying to well 
established and published standards. I mean I am talking about basic 
things like SMTP in network scanners missing whole chunks of the 
standard, and therefore having to hack your mail server to accept the 
botched headers.

Oh dear, this seems to have turned into a rant...

:-) Marco

On 06/08/2021 11:17, Chris Bell via GLLUG wrote:
> Hello,
> https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58085316
> is an article about the £2.3bn government spend on patching old computers and
> systems compared with the £4.7bn total government IT spend. There are also
> several comments below.
> I do not know how much is spent on desktop system replacement, but there is an
> argument raging about the security aspects and costs of writing replacement or
> upgraded software systems.
> There is one comment about existing specialised hardware such as an MRI
> scanner built by a company that no longer exists but would be extremely
> expensive to replaced, (although replacement FOSS may already exist).
> I am not a developer, but would be interested in the implications and costs of
> writing and maintaining government software systems using Free Open Source
> Software compared with Microsoft.
> I assume that high level languages could be used, and I know what I would
> prefer, but that does not always convince the decision makers who are probably
> not IT experts.

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