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United Kingdom Government Internet Explorer Your Rights Online

UK Benefits Claimants Must Use Windows XP, IE6 230

Posted by timothy
from the hot-commodity-on-craiglist-london dept.
First time accepted submitter carlypage3 writes "Benefits claimants in the UK are being forced to use Microsoft's now obsolete Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 software. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) states that its online forms are not compatible with Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9 and 10, Safari, Google Chrome or Firefox. As if that wasn't unnerving enough, the Gov.UK website says that users cannot submit claims using Mac OS X or Linux operating systems, either." (Note: as we noted not long ago, it's not just the DWP that's stuck using IE6.)
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UK Benefits Claimants Must Use Windows XP, IE6

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  • by Ash Vince (602485) * on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:52AM (#43628119) Journal

    This actually makes perfect sense. On a modern PC it will involve the user learning about virtualisation (to run XP) and then also learning how to configure windows (to not run updates). This is great way of preparing dole claimants for an IT job so by the time you have gained enough skills to claim any dole money you have enough skills to go straight into a job as and IT support worker for the dole office and their crappy old IT systems.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      This actually makes perfect sense. On a modern PC it will involve the user learning about virtualisation (to run XP) and then also learning how to configure windows (to not run updates). This is great way of preparing dole claimants for an IT job so by the time you have gained enough skills to claim any dole money you have enough skills to go straight into a job as and IT support worker for the dole office and their crappy old IT systems.

      Or, if they just need XP and IE6 they could just like, you know, go to

      • by mspohr (589790) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @10:11AM (#43628891)

        All the grandmas I know have switched to tablets

        • That's probably supposed to be funny, but it's insightfull...

          • That's probably supposed to be funny, but it's insightfull...

            If the set of grandmas he knows happens to be empty, his statement can be irrelevant while not being incorrect at the same time.

        • I don't care if she's got pillz, I'll just settle for the beer. Hopefully she still has some.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          All the grandmas I know have switched to tablets

          Really? Suppositories didn't work out?

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Let's go to the Old Folk's home!
        We can get doped up and then all get stoned.
        Let's go to the Old Folk's home!
        I'd have been there more if only I'd known!

    • by amiga3D (567632) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:50AM (#43628797)

      I don't know how their system works but years ago when sites demanded xp and ie for use I would tell my browser to lie to them. I set my user agent string to XP and IE although I was actually running linux with konqueror and 8 times out of 10 the site worked fine. Some I had to do from work since they actually used something specific to the systems they demanded.

      • by tibit (1762298) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @10:34AM (#43629027)

        Where it doesn't work, some greasemonkey magic is all you need. Sometimes that magic is substantial (1000s of lines), but I've got sites that are IE-only by design and rely on IE APIs to work on both Safari and Firefox. I've even re-implemented some ActiveX controls using plain old javascript. Given the amount of effort (a couple weeks in the evenings) by someone who doesn't do such a thing very often, I think that the site developers should be publicly shamed. As in rotten tomatoes or eggs thrown at them in the middle of the city square, or something like that.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        This actually makes perfect sense. On a modern PC it will involve the user learning about virtualisation (to run XP) and then also learning how to configure windows (to not run updates). This is great way of preparing dole claimants for an IT job so by the time you have gained enough skills to claim any dole money you have enough skills to go straight into a job as and IT support worker for the dole office and their crappy old IT systems.

        What to configure? Microsoft provides you with Windows XP Mode which i

    • Either that, or it's a clever way of forcing the claimants to prove that they can't afford a more modern system.
    • Which is not going to stand you in good stead.

      What if you only have an iPhone or an Android phone?

    • by EEPROMS (889169)
      also it will teach budding unemployed IT people who cant afford windows how to use Linux and run IE 6 under wine totally free
  • No they aren't (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:54AM (#43628125)

    This is just something they have put online, the old method of claiming by post or going to the office like always is still there.

    • I was already wondering... because it sure sounded like a catch 22, where you need a computer with internet access to apply for money 'cause you can't afford your living expenses, let alone a computer with internet access...

  • by Red_Chaos1 (95148) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:55AM (#43628129)

    ...we even still have this problem. Seriously, stop being short sighted fuckwits. Stop using vendor specific code. Start using shit that passes the W3C validator. Problem fucking solved. Imagine that! There is absolutely no excuse for any webpage out there to require a specific browser or browser version, short of being able to meet current web standards.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:16AM (#43628359) Homepage

      Actually according to TFA it works with a few other browsers from the 2004 era, but only on Windows. The real summary here is "We haven't done anything to upgrade this system in the last 10 years" and the world moved on, which will happen from time to time. If it was 1990 it would be totally reasonable to ask for documents to be submitted in WordPerfect format, in 2013 it's not. If your maintenance budget is $0, this is eventually going to happen regardless.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KiloByte (825081)

        If your maintenance budget is $0, this is eventually going to happen regardless.

        They do have a maintenance budget, but any penny spent doing actual maintenance is a penny your cronies can't pocket.

        • But do not worry, all of their problems will be solved with a move to the cloud. Yes, with the cloud, the websites will upgrade themselves, so they will continue to save money. The magical cloud which becomes whatever your local sales team tell you it is.

          On a more serious note, I'd love to know who these people are that have nuked their own maintenance / internal upgrade paths. The costs for writing new stuff (inevitable?) might be rather..punitive, compared to just paying the bill.

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            You have a budget one year to buy new fangled computer systems. Then you go 20 years without any more extras in the budget.

            It's like getting a tattoo when you're a kid, then not being rich enough to have it removed when it's time to go job hunting.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MrL0G1C (867445)

        If it was 1990 it would be totally reasonable to ask for documents to be submitted in WordPerfect format

        Eh? No, it wouldn't.

        • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Saturday May 04, 2013 @03:00PM (#43630637)

          Actually, in 1990 it would be reasonable. There weren't any acceptable open standards. (On Linux I ended up doing my word processing in HTML with a text editor. Truely lousy.) These days there are several reasonable choices, but rtf is probably the most widely available. Most end users don't like to use markup languages, and few documents are worth the effort of Tex.

          I suppose you could say that in 1990 it would be better to just ask for text documents...but that wasn't very good either, if you needed special characters. And formatting text documents can be a real drag.

            (FWIW, I'm still not satisfied with OpenOffice indexing. I haven't checked the LibreOffice indexing recently, but from a glance it looked about the same. From my point of view the best word processor, except for a few major flaws, was MSWord 5.1a for the Macintosh. Everything since then has been inferior. This is largely because I really liked the markup I could use for indexing in that system, and it fixed a huge number of problems from earlier versions. Probably, of course, I've forgotten numerous bad features, but I really like being able to turn-on visible markup chars and add them in or edit them by hand, and then turn them off to see how it will appear.)

      • If your maintenance budget is $0, this is eventually going to happen regardless.

        If the site had been programmed to published standards instead of vendor-specific kluges, it would still work fine today.

        This is solely a consequence of poor vendor selection or project definition.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:58AM (#43628561)

      Simple. It's because of how things run in public services.

      They decided they need that kind of software. So someone, most likely someone with limited IT knowledge but a lot of knowledge of the process involved, sat down and wrote the specs. You may rest assured that it included everything this bureaucratic process needed, but lacked everything from the IT point of view, like compatibility with different browsers or the ability to upgrade and update to keep current with technical development.

      The whole mess got into a public bidding and unless something important stood in the way (like, say, the nephew of someone important needing a job), the cheapest offer got called.

      Now, these specs come with a catch: You can't simply amend them when you realize "Oh, gee, we should have...", no such luck. You open yourself to lawsuits from those that didn't get the contract, and since changes later invariably will increase the bill, their claim would be that they could have delivered for that price (especially if their offer was lower/better in some way). So even if you notice that something is missing, you DO NOT change those specs. EVER.

      It's also near certain that they neither have the source code nor an agreement that the company doing the job agrees to hand over the details if someone else should get to update the system.

      • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:48AM (#43628775) Homepage

        > Simple. It's because of how things run in public services.

        Yes and no. Some of it is just that old Demon Money(tm) and the fact that we were in a protracted recession.

        We were using a certain company for ad insertion on our Web streams. (Three radio stations total.) We were having trouble getting the software to work, so we contacted their help/support team. They used VNC to look at our system and said, "we only support Windows XP."

        I sent them a rather nastily-worded letter. They claimed to be cutting edge, with the ability to sort and insert commercial content intelligently, and all other sorts of bells and whistles. And yet, I said, "you will only support a 10-year old operating system?"

        They replied and allowed (as someone granting a great concession) that they would work with us, but could make no guarantees. We canceled the contract and went with another company.

        In this case, it's simple: they hired someone to write the package several years ago, and wanted to re-sell the same package again and again. They didn't want to pay to update the software. So, they lost a lot of business. Assuming they're not bankrupt now, I hope they learned an important lesson. :)

        • by Solandri (704621)

          In this case, it's simple: they hired someone to write the package several years ago, and wanted to re-sell the same package again and again. They didn't want to pay to update the software. So, they lost a lot of business. Assuming they're not bankrupt now, I hope they learned an important lesson. :)

          That's partly OP's point.

          With private businesses, you have to accommodate the customer or you go out of business.
          With public services, your customers have to accommodate you or they won't get the service yo

    • by silviuc (676999)
      Governments are subordinate agencies are and have always been fuckwits. Not because they are dumb but because bribe money goes a long way. They also don't employ IT techs, everything is out-sorced and every time they want some done they pay up more than it actually costs because it's a good way to make some money for themselves. Works in my shitty EU member country why wouldn't it work for the brits too.
      • by jeremyp (130771) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @06:14AM (#43633541) Homepage Journal

        Works in my shitty EU member country why wouldn't it work for the brits too.

        Because, in British government, corruption of this type is pretty rare. I have worked with the UK government as a supplier on many IT contracts and I have never seen corruption like that. What I have seen is gross incompetence leading to wastage of tax payers' money on an almost unimaginable scale.

        My guess is (it is only a guess, I wasn't involved) that, in this case, the supplier told them it would cost more money to support the other browser (back in 2000 there was mostly IE and some Netscape and then just a tiny handful of weirdos running stuff like Mozilla) and it would have been pointed out that even the people with other browsers could fire up IE if they needed to, so I'm sure they just went with IE for cost reasons.

        having narrowed the supported platform down to IE, the chosen supplier would not have felt constrained to use only standards compliant features and that would have locked the DWP in to the one technology.

        Then there would be no money available to fix the UI because "everybody uses IE 6" until the point where the falsehood of that statement could not be denied and then the DWP would already be thinking about the shiny new system that ail be replacing that old system, so there would still be no money available. But the shiny new system was probably slated to arrive about now but has slipped by a couple of years due to incompetent management and so on.

    • ...we even still have this problem. Seriously, stop being short sighted fuckwits. Stop using vendor specific code.

      Fine. Who's paying to rewrite it all? You?

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:56AM (#43628135) Journal
    Not many years ago in Denmark, they had that issue as well.

    Even with the banks you had to use IE(some version), otherwise you just couldn't pay your bills.
    I'd say they did us a favor, because it taught a lot of people to get "off the system" instead of being dependent on it.

    The narrower your choice as a citizen becomes, the more need for freedom you'll have (Geez, I might want to hold back on the booze, starting to sound like Yoda here)...;)

  • by lxs (131946) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:59AM (#43628145)

    Clearly if you can afford a new computer or have the skills to run Linux, you should be able to fend for yourself.

  • by lga (172042) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:01AM (#43628155) Homepage Journal

    Yes, it's crap that applying for these benefits requires ancient browser tech, but note that this is for three specific benefits which will affect hardly anyone. The most common of these benefits, Disability Living Allowance, is closed to new applicants because it has been replaced by Personal Independence Payments. And Attendance Allowance was long ago replaced by DLA, now replaced by PIP except for those over 65.

    • by cardpuncher (713057) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:29AM (#43628401)

      Attendance Allowance has not been replaced by DLA. AA is available to over 65's who need support in their daily living owing to illness or disability. It's a key benefit for elderly care. That said, the application process is lengthy and often requires supporting medical evidence so people tend to rely on charities such as Age UK to do it for them - I can't really believe that anyone would *want* to do this online.

      • by lga (172042)

        Yes, that is what the "except for those over 65" bit at the end of my sentence was about.

    • Also note that if you're blind, you may be applying for DLA via a website that, yes you guessed it, isn't accessible...

  • That way your payments you dole out will really drop fast.

  • Can I claim the license for MS OS for me to be able to submit my claims ? I sure as hell wouldn't be able to afford to buy a new OS if I were visiting the benefits claim site ...!

  • Use Firefox 1.0.3 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Quick Reply (688867)

    From the article, these are the following supported browsers:
    Microsoft Windows XP: Internet Explorer 6.0, Netscape 7.2, Firefox 1.0.3, Mozilla 1.7.7."
    Firefox is still available (Windows link [oldversion.com]) and is fairly independent from the underlying OS, so it would probably work on Vista+/Mac/Linux too (If you can find Mac/Linux links).

    Still a pain to have to pick and choose browsers. It is easier for the average person to use the offline version.

    Even easier for the hacker to compromise such an outdated website and inp

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:52AM (#43628295)
    I went to the website using the Safari browser on MacOS X, and without any problems opened the PDF form (which supposedly cannot be opened), started filling it in, and printed it (to a PDF file to avoid wasting paper, but that's the same thing). So this works absolutely fine if you have a modern Mac running MacOS X 10.8 (I didn't try older versions), and you either have a printer, or you have the e-mail address of a friend who has a printer (on a Mac, the "Print" function lets you print to your own printer, to a PDF file, to a PDF file stored in "Web receipts" which is quite handy, or to a PDF file that is mailed somewhere). You put the paper into an envelope and mail it in. That's it. So if you want to get these benefits, there is absolutely no need to use Windows, Windows XP, or Internet Explorer 6.
  • Antique website (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sesostris III (730910) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:04AM (#43628337)
    Being in the UK and working in IT, I actually for once RTFA and visited the site. To start with I must admit I was flabbergasted. However, looking at it more closely, it is clear that what we are looking at here is a web-site that was created when the latest OSes and web browsers just didn't exist. Clearly someone has thought to insert the statement that you may have problems with these later OSes and web-browsers, so the site content can be tweaked, but the actual site itself (and the underlying architecture) was probably written years ago and left unchanged.

    One give-away is that the site uses ASP (rather than ASP.NET). I doubt any new site has been written using ASP for over ten years! (ASP.NET came out in 2002).

    So there we have it, an antique, a living fossil. Enjoy it while it is still up.
  • forced to use Microsoft's now obsolete Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 is only just now obsolete? No, it has been obsolete since sometime around 2003 when Microsoft let it stagnate.

    This is what happens when you put something "on the web" that doesn't need to be on it. It sounds like the user base for this is now small enough the people who need this should just contact them in person, or by telephone, or perhaps just good old pencil and paper.

    But no, it has got to be "on the

  • by skine (1524819) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:38AM (#43628435)

    There is still the option to send the forms by mail.

  • Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 purposefully comes with IE6 so you can use it for situations just like this if you need to. You can of course upgrade it to IE7/8 if you want to.

    Also, All IEs after 6 can switch to 6's rendering engine using the IIE Dev Tools (IE7 requires them to be installed, IE8 and up bundles them) which may be sufficient to use the site.

  • Somebody should open an online virtualization service. It emulators XP/IE6 for you.

  • In the oubliette.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @01:15PM (#43629981) Homepage

    The whole site is built on Siebel E-Systems, an old CRM system, which generates the pages. Seibel is more or less defunct, having been acquired by Oracle.

    The code is spectacularly version-specific. The error messages in Javascript code on the site indicate how tightly coupled this code is to very specific quirks of older software:

    • "The script debugging feature is typically automatically enabled by Microsoft Visual Studio products. To improve performance of the Web browser for use with Siebel employee applications, it is recommended to disable script debugging in the Internet Explorer browser."
    • "To fix this manually, in Internet Explorer menu, choose Tools > Internet Options > Security. Then choose the %1 security zone and click on Custom Level. Change %2 to %3."
    • "To fix this manually, in Internet Explorer, choose Tools > Internet Options > Advanced Options. Clear the %1 check box."
    • "Failed to retrieve Internet Explorer version from this machine."
    • "There are some recommended settings not set correctly. You may experience functionality or performance problems. Are you sure you want to continue?"
    • "This is required for use of Message bar, CTI toolbar, Workflow designer, Personalization business rules designer, Smartscript designer, Org-chart designer, Sales Pipeline Charts and Marketing campaign designer and other features."
    • "Scripting is required in HI framework to manage data only interactions with the server and to interact with the browser DOM, ActiveX controls and Java Applets etc,. In addition, the HI framework also supports browser scripting for data validations etc,."
    • "One or more settings fixed requires the browser to be restarted. Please exit the Siebel application, launch a new browser and try to login to the Siebel application again."
    • "Please install Sun Java Runtime Environment version %s or higher. The correct Sun Java Runtime Environment can be downloaded from >. After the installation is completed, please configure Sun Java Runtime Environment version %s or higher as the default for your browser. This is performed in the Java Plug-in Control Panel. Please contact your administrator if you need assistance."
    • "Q314312 or above is required for environments using Input Method Editors for eastern languages only, (example: Japanese) on Internet Explorer 5.5. Microsoft makes this patch and related information available through their support organization and/or the following link: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;Q314312 [microsoft.com].";
    • "Internet Explorer 5.5 Service Pack 2 is a prerequisite for Siebel 7 HI applications running for Internet Explorer 5.5 Microsoft makes this software and related information available through their support organization for customers with extended support contracts and makes additional information available at the following download location: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;enus;Q303201&ID=303201 [microsoft.com].";
    • "Internet Explorer 6.0 Service Pack 1 or above is a prerequisite for Siebel 7 HI applications running on Internet Explorer 6.0.Microsoft makes this patch and related information available through their support organization or the following download location: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/critical/ie6sp1/default.asp [microsoft.com]. The "Windows Update" feature may provide this and other valuable updates to your browser environment."
    • "The registry entry workaround described in Q823099 is a prerequisite for Siebel 7 HI applications running against SunOne Web servers using Siebel Web Server compression on Internet Explorer. Microsoft makes the workaround instructions available through their support organization or the following location:
  • In the current stage of pushed cyberwar, to use and force to use such insecure systems (that even Microsoft recognizes it should give a hint) is so cute, just asking everyone to be part of something bigger ...like a botnet. That it be in a government site on which depends (and must visit) a lot of people makes it a nice target.

    Doing it in a country where you can be sued for running a proxy [slashdot.org] adds a little spice.

  • Seriously, the ability to make a web form that only works in ancient technology must take more effort than to do it correctly.
  • Seriously, I saw this last week, before the Inquirer got their mitts on it. It was debunked in the first comment [reddit.com].
  • This should cut down on claims payouts.

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