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Ask Slashdot: Why Won't Companies Upgrade Old Software? 614

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-site-is-only-viewable-on-lynx dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IE6. Several governments and big companies I know use software dependent on IE6. They won't upgrade, citing the expensive cost. Do you know what's more expensive than upgrading? Downgrading to the old system they had before they upgraded! You see, before computers, companies used to have room full of people manually calculating and processing stuff. It wasn't until the computer came that they could fire all those people and save a ton of money on their collective salaries. Now, my question is: what happened to that money they saved? Even a small portion of the money saved over the years could be used to upgrade ancient systems to modern standards. However, big organizations keep citing million-dollar upgrade costs as why they won't do it. Aren't they also losing money by working with inefficient, outdated systems?"
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Ask Slashdot: Why Won't Companies Upgrade Old Software?

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  • Yes, (Score:5, Funny)

    by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:06PM (#43661057)

    But,OTOH, let's put it off until next quarter and let them worry about it.

    • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:43PM (#43661373) Journal

      But,OTOH, let's put it off until next quarter and let them worry about it.

      Also, keeping the existing system has a 100% chance of being a nagging pain in the ass; but a pretty minimal chance of failing catastrophically in some novel way that the IT minions aren't already familiar with.

      If we start development on a new system, it has a decent chance of being better; but a nonzero chance of going down in a firestorm of project-management failure, buck-passing, and overpriced Accenture code monkeys, which will make us look like total fuckups...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Also, keeping the existing system has a 100% chance of being a nagging pain in the ass; but a pretty minimal chance of failing catastrophically in some novel way that the IT minions aren't already familiar with.

        You mean like some of our software, written in the 80s, running only on an old version of VMS, which runs only on certain old DEC hardware (of which there are almost no spares) and can only be supported by a rapidly dwindling generation of staff, none of whom work at our company? Have you ever seen what happens when a piece of hardware fails on one of these machines?!

        • Oh, that's brutal. Definitely run away screaming from something that old...

          • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Interesting)

            by afidel (530433) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:38PM (#43661747)

            Had a coworker who in the late 90's had to procure a HDD for an original IBM PC XT and a version of Ghost old enough to read it. The reason, there was a custom program on that computer that interfaced with the PDP11 that ran the steel mill where it was installed and the drive had died but he managed to bring it back to life by snap starting it. He was able to make it work but he very loudly told the company management that they had to do something because that was literally the last new drive he could find anywhere in the vast international parts lookup system we had access to.

            • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Interesting)

              by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:55PM (#43661843) Journal

              I ran into an admittedly more banal example somewhere in the 2005-2006ish range: for reasons that predated my employment, the PBX was an OS2 warp system with a bunch of custom ISA cards running on an AT whitebox in the early pentium range. When(after years of giving us absolutely no trouble) the PSU died horribly, we ended up raiding my boxed-for-storage-high-school-nerd basement junk pile for a replacement because the entire outfit didn't have a single compatible replacement.

              Alas, the Oh-so-shiny NEC Turnkey Solution that replaced it has been a gigantic pain in the ass ever since, but with the added bonus of being sophisticated enough to be inextricably hooked into an obsolete version of Exchange. Hooray!

              • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:03AM (#43662865)

                I used to work for a large cement company (#2 worldwide at the time, iirc) and there was a particular model of IBM PC that the company depended on because, besides having a good deal for discounts from IBM, it was the only PC that had enough internal space for a custom-made PCI card that held the relays that were used to control the mixing of the different compounds that were needed for each of the different specs of concrete and other products.

                Also, from experience, these PCs had proved the most reliable in all the nationwide concrete plants that had a lot of cement and other kinds of dust, humidity, vibrations, high temperatures and so on. And I don't have to explain what happens when cement dust and a humid environment come together inside a PC.

                Newer PCs had different form factors, internal arrangement of components, or were generally more compact than this particular model of PS/1 (iirc) way back then. It took years to refit the cards, and move off these old PCs.... so much of the business relied on them.

                • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:10PM (#43667071)

                  Newer PCs had different form factors, internal arrangement of components, or were generally more compact than this particular model of PS/1 (iirc) way back then. It took years to refit the cards, and move off these old PCs.... so much of the business relied on them.

                  This goes to show why you should never rely on PCs this way. When you're going to design custom hardware for PCs, you have to assume the PC itself will become obsolete in 5 years or so, and you should keep things modular. So instead of making some custom PCI card with a bunch of relays on it, you make a custom PCI card that fits into a standard chassis, and have a cable that goes from this card to an external box that has all your custom circuitry in it. You can make this external box as robust and environment-proof as you like: there's lots of industrial-grade cabinets and boxes available out there that are fully sealed against dust, humidity, etc. Then, years down the road, if you need to upgrade the PC (because the power supply failed and you can't find a replacement, for instance), you can just stick the standard-size PCI card in a new PC, or in the worst case, design a new card for the latest interface (PCI-X, PCIe, USB2/3, FireWire, etc.) that makes sense, and reuse your existing box of custom circuitry.

                  This isn't unique to PCs: you should never rely on an external vendor to that degree, because products and product lines come and go, and you may not be able to get spare parts later on. If you keep everything as modular as possible, you minimize your risk. Use off-the-shelf stuff as much as possible (to minimize cost, and make it easy to get spare parts: ATX power supplies for instance haven't changed in ages so it's better to go with a whitebox solution than some proprietary chassis and PS if you want longevity), and keep your custom-built stuff separate from it, and connected to it through standard interfaces.

            • by symbolset (646467) *
              Ebay.
        • That smells suspiciously of a specialized process/factory automation system that required a custom interface card, the driver of which was written in "clever" MACRO-32 (the VAX/VMS assembly language).

          • by tengu1sd (797240) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:12AM (#43662219)

            OpenVMS

            Cool and Unhackable [pointsecure.com], with documented uptimes over a decade on single servers. If the business really cares about uptime it's probably still using VMS. Of course the support staff was laid off because no one ever need to work on that system and it hasn't been rebooted since the big power outage 6 or 7 years ago.

      • Here's a recent real world example: http://www.google.co.nz/search?q=novopay [google.co.nz]
        Over budget, riddled with bugs, costing millions to fix, costing millions to run...

        • New York's "CityTime" timeclock/payroll system was a similar problem child. Never hand SAIC a blank check and a chance to self-supervise...

      • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Informative)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:05AM (#43661907)

        It costs money to redevelop a system with 10 years of development. Not 10 years worth- but easily 5 years worth and that's after 3 years of having a smaller staff analyze the problem.

        And the new system will lack features.

        And the old system will continue to change during development despite promises to freeze it.

        At my old company they had a main frame that they have declared three times now since 2000 that they would be "Off the mainframe in 12 months". I hear the latest effort just failed.

        Because they do NOT want to hire the 30 programmers and pay them for 3 years to rewrite all the software. And the software is mostly ALL required and irreplaceable with packages.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fredgiblet (1063752)
          At this point they've probably spent more money on the failed attempts than it would have cost to do it right the first time haven't they?
          • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Interesting)

            by SuperDre (982372) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:48AM (#43662833) Homepage
            Oh, that just the biggest fail.. do it right the first time What is right? So everything you write NOW will be looked at upon in a couple of years just the same why didn't he do it right the first time?
            Specifications and technologies change over time.
        • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:28AM (#43663617) Homepage

          It costs money to redevelop a system with 10 years of development. Not 10 years worth- but easily 5 years worth and that's after 3 years of having a smaller staff analyze the problem...Because they do NOT want to hire the 30 programmers and pay them for 3 years to rewrite all the software.

          Why not? Obviously they paid programmers to develop their current system, so why is it so outrageous to expect them to continue to pay programmers to upgrade and fix the system? In my opinion, the problem is that people look at these things all wrong. They think, "we'll pay some cheap programmers to write some software for us, and then we'll have this system that will operate forever for free!"

          Funny how factory owners don't go, "we'll pay someone to build custom machinery and build out this factory, and then the factory will operate forever for free!" In a factory, people have the sense to realize you're going to have to maintain the machinery. You're going to need access to replacement parts when something breaks. You'll need to pay some mechanics to keep things running smoothly and tune things. The more custom it is, the more you'll need mechanics and engineers to build replacement parts as you go, and address design problems as they come up. You're going to have to plan to be able to replace the whole thing one piece at a time, even if not replacing the whole system at once.

          Custom built software solutions are the same way. If you're going to build your business around one, you should prepare to have adequate programming resources to maintain the system and keep it up to date. You should have a plan to replace and upgrade the whole thing one piece at a time, even if not replacing the whole system at once. The more custom it is, the more resources you'll need to keep it up.

          So these businesses shouldn't look at this as an expensive one-time project to be put off as long as possible. It should be an ongoing process that goes on for as long as their business goes on. Basing your business on custom-built software without the programming resources to maintain it is about as stupid and operating a factory with custom machinery without mechanics or replacement parts. That is, it may work for a while, but sooner or later you're going to have a catastrophic failure.

          • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Insightful)

            by bws111 (1216812) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:42AM (#43664461)

            Yes, but factory owners will continue repairing that old machinery (even fabricating new parts themselves if needed) as long as the machine suits the needs of the business, no matter how old the machinery gets. Some factories are running with machines more than 100 years old. Factory owners do not just replace functional machinery just because they hired some new mechanic that thinks that any machinery not put together with metric screws is magically obsolete.

            Custom software IS treated like machinery in that sense. As long as it suits the needs of the business (and not the whims of the IT staff) it will continue to be used and there is no need to spend more money on it. By far, most of the expensive, failed 'upgrade' projects you see are not driven by business changes or requirements, they are attempts to replace a fully functional system for no reason other than 'it is old'. And that is where the problem is - OK, so I spend a bunch of money to replace the existing functional system with one that (hopefully) performs at least the same functions, but in just a few years THAT system will be 'old', and I get to start all over again. And if all of that money spent does not result in lower costs or increase revenue it is just money down the drain.

      • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Informative)

        by peragrin (659227) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:21AM (#43663405)

        This is exactly true.

        and remember it isn't just the software that needs upgrading when installing new software. It isn't just training. it is the new business methods, the new organizational work flow that also must be upgraded.

        2 months ago we upgraded the ERP software. however since it doesn't work exactly like the old software(thank the deities) people are complaining. People take a long time to understand things. little things nag and nag until they become bigger points. With an company of 20 people it has been a headache not because the software and data transfer which itself going about 97% successful(the old software stored some historical data stupidly). The Headaches came from the people who couldn't grasp their way into understanding a new process. From those who had to change how they interacted with the new software.

        Lastly when a business saves money today, it gets spent on something else. it doesn't actually get saved.

    • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Informative)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:02PM (#43661509) Journal

      Uhhh...you ever actually TRY to switch over a large firm with a shitload of one off and small company software to a new OS? that shit AIN'T fun, hell I'd rather get kicked in the nuts with steel toed boots, the pain won't last as long.

      It never fails, you end up with software made by companies that aren't around anymore, or those real asshole companies whose answer to everything is "shell out several thou for new licenses" (Quickbooks I'm looking at YOU) and that is IF you can buy new licenses and get the damned thing to work, you'd be surprised how many SMBs end up with "some program written by Chuck who don't work here anymore" that was only supposed to be a quick and dirty "hold us over until next quarter" but ends up becoming this mission critical house of cards that you are afraid to look at funny or it'll fall down. Then of course there is the hardware, there is nothing like having to tell middle management that all those personal printers they got for the managers have to be shitcanned because there isn't drivers for the new OS, and again that is if you are lucky and its just something like a printer,not some multi thousand dollar piece of hardware that the company doesn't support on the latest and greatest..

      Now I can see giving them a browser and using GP to keep IE 6 strictly on the Intranet, that makes sense and won't give middle management a coronary when they get the bill, but all those"oh you should just upgrade" are obviously people that have never actually done a large rollout because if they had they'd know that there is NO "just" when it comes to a large business, you are talking weeks to months of slow, tedious, headache inducing work and it is NOT a pleasant experience for anybody involved. That is why I don't do corp no more, got tired of the ulcers and the headaches, not for all the tea in China would I want to do another upgrade rollout, no chance in hell.

      • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by StuartHankins (1020819) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:11PM (#43661559)
        Gotta agree with you... you go through the process and somebody forgets to test some "little thing" that is no longer supported in the new version. If it's commercial software, that can leave you scrambling to work around the issue.

        With custom software it's still a pain but you seldom run into something that absolutely can't be done, usually it's something takes awhile to program around and you impact business in the meantime. No matter how carefully you examine the requirements you will always miss something, it's the nature of the beast. If you rely on third party tools to plug into your IDE you may find the licensing has changed drastically and it may no longer be acceptable to use that widget or tool.

        And let's not forget about bugs... you may run into something that is documented, works in testing, and when it hits production it just doesn't work when you have hundreds of people hitting it at once. Good design solves a lot of that but you can always have scenarios that can't be adequately tested before you roll it out. Parallel systems help with that but at some point you spend so much time and effort keeping everything in sync while you prepare for full deployment that it's easier to cut off the old system and just deal with the issues as quickly as you can.
        • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Interesting)

          by bfandreas (603438) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:58PM (#43661861)
          Yep, thecost isn't only in the buying and the rollout. You need a lot of planning.
          The larger organisations have a lot of custom software that won't even run on anything but XP. Even an Office upgrade is risky since a lot of applications are a series of linked Excel sheets that will break in the next version. Not to mention all those ActiveX controls that had been put into place since some long gone consultant used them to build "rich" web applications. Then there is of the problem that vendors always switch stuff around between versions so you will need to adjust your maintenance/admin processes and tools.

          Over the years software landscape has become so entangled that if you pull a string you will get the whole hairball. The companies are of course to blame themselves. If somebody gives me money to build an IE6 web app in 2012 and doesn't add IE8/9 budget on top of that then IE6 it is. It depends on if you run a business or a charity. And even if I ran a charity I wouldn't help out a multinational megacorp.
          • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Interesting)

            by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:39AM (#43662377)

            If somebody gives me money to build an IE6 web app in 2012 and doesn't add IE8/9 budget on top of that then IE6 it is. It depends on if you run a business or a charity. And even if I ran a charity I wouldn't help out a multinational megacorp.

            And that's how it happens.

            Purchasing Officer: We use IE6, can you make a kitten app for that?
            Web Developer: Yes, we can write an application for IE 6 through 9 and 10 beta.
            Purchasing Officer: How much would that cost?
            Web Developer: something-something thousand dollars.
            Purchasing Officer: Well that's quite a bit, write it for IE 6 only as that's all we use.

            The purchasing officer doesn't give a crap about future upgrades, they only want it to work now and most web developers don't give a crap as they still get paid.

        • Re:Yes, (Score:4, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @05:23AM (#43663217) Journal

          Preach brother! Its ALWAYS those"little somethings" you never have cross your mind that bite you right in the ass, hell even sticking to strictly SMBs and consumers there were several times switching everybody over to Win 7 had me reaching for the BC powder, the only thing that made it bearable was "Hey at least you aren't working corporate and having to do a Win98 SE to WinXP migration again"...groan.

          And you are right, of all the headaches the custom software is usually the least painful. Oh its not pleasant by ANY means, but at least one can usually get the data out or if worse comes to worse hire somebody to come clean up the code and fix the damned thing. I had this one company who had this mess of software bought from little company that did inventory management and payroll and I ended up having to isolate a single winNT 4 Server and a couple of Win98 boxes because it turned out that since they had bought the stuff the company had been bought by a company that didn't give a rat's ass about either of those programs so their answer was basically "Don't look at us, we don't support that, tough luck" so it would have required paying a group to sit there and take 5 fricking years worth of data BY HAND out of this thing because naturally this crap didn't have something simple and logical like data export, nope that would make sense!...groan.

          Anybody who says "just upgrade" has NO fucking idea what that JUST entails, not even close. The Win9X to WinXP rollouts took so damned much out of me my boys actually staged an intervention on me, they set me down and said "You never smile anymore, you are white as a corpse, you have constant headaches and you hardly even eat anymore because your stomach is always upset. Our dad is gone, our mom is dying of cancer, and grandma is old and in bad health, we can't afford to lose you, you are all we have" which of course was like a bucket of icewater being poured on my head. I gave my 2 weeks the next day and just to show you how fucking ungrateful those bastards were they were like "Or you're leaving, don't bother with a 2 week then, just clean out your desk and pick up your check" well fuck you too assholes.

          I may not make as much now working PC shop but fuck it, at least I'm happy, my color is back, and I spend my days helping people that actually listen and are grateful. I feel sorry for ANY guy having to do a major rollout like that, I frankly wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy!

      • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RJFerret (1279530) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:31AM (#43662043) Homepage

        Plenty have answered the horrible practical aspects of upgrades.

        And have answered the lack of business sense in upgrading.

        But the question also asked what happened to all the money saved on eliminating staff?

        Businesses are asking that very same question. They had to pay to train staff to use computer systems. They had to buy new equipment. They had to hire people more trained than ever before, at a higher cost. They replaced filing cabinets with servers, the former requiring little energy, the latter requiring lotsa' energy costs plus specialized (read: expensive) staff to maintain. They were sold this bill of goods on the premise there'd be savings, but they were sold the concept by companies whose goal was to earn money from other companies spending. There are entire new departments dedicated solely to various aspects of this equipment.

        Do you know how long the software lasts for a typewriter? Forever.

        The problem is your business can't interact with any other without adopting an appropriate level of technology, which spawns requirements for additional tech, and other tech, and next thing you know you have a complete system, which is nothing more than a massive money drain required just to be in business. The real question is how can you stem the tide and cut the bleeding?

        The company that reduces costs, lowers operating costs, while still providing an acceptable level of service to clients succeeds long term (assuming good marketing).

        So tell me, exactly how will upgrading that newfangled "typewriter" help clients?

        • Re:Yes, (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:24AM (#43662279) Homepage Journal

          But the question also asked what happened to all the money saved on eliminating staff?

          1. Owners of the company in increased profit
          2. Customers of the company in lowered costs prices due to competition that's also upgraded forcing the price of goods down.
          3. Staff in the form of higher pay at least partially due to higher skillsets required.
          4. More services are provided.

          So tell me, exactly how will upgrading that newfangled "typewriter" help clients?

          'Typewriter' is the least of the replacement concerns. We're looking at stuff like:
          1. Payroll. My Grandmother used to do payroll by hand. If I remember right, her maximum as an individual was less than a hundred people, at which point it would be her full time job. Why only a hundred? Well, consider that she had to gather up the timecards, figure out how much each worker worked, figure out their overtime(if any), look up the appropriate amounts of tax withholding, FICA, and such, deduct set amounts for things like healthcare, debts and such. Double check the amounts, and log it all up for the business, then cut and distribute the checks. Mom uses electronic systems and can do the same for thousands of employees.
          2. Inventory management. It used to be that you'd need a small army of stockers to transfer items to and from the warehouse, not to mention more clerks to constantly monitor the flow in and out of the warehouse(and inventorying what's inside of it) in order to anticipate the need for ordering more parts. Today? The computer can track all that, automatically generate order requests, and makes analysis of parts need much simpler. Did we go through 6 of part y29840, or only 1, meaning that we only need to keep 2 on the shelf, not 12? Are we going through so much of it that we need to order more, do we need to investigate why the part is breaking more often than anticipated, etc...?

          It gets much more complicated from there, and one thing to remember is that IBM, "International Business Machines" predates computers was already producing whole lines of complicated machines that saved labor. Computers were just the next step.

          The problem, I think, is that when many of these businesses deployed the new computerized systems they were still in the IBM mindset - the machines were durable equipment, so they were willing to pay the industrial price tag to get a *good* system that was expected to work decades(and they mostly have), and have subsequently evolved to work even better with that system. Then they got complacent, out of the mindset that software is a tool/machine as well, and you need to upgrade it occasionally. Then you get into that it's become critical and changing at this point will cost lots even though it would ultimately save them more money there's also a lot of risk. So it's very much a 'bite the bullet' time for such companies.

          • by phoenix_V (16542)

            This actually shows that in a way *we* in the IT field have the wrong idea. At least some of the time.

            Computers *are* just equipment to the end users in say a warehousing operation. Why are we not designing systems with this in mind?

            In the warehousing example much used above if you avoid the latest gee whiz features and give them exactly what is needed there is no reason why the VAX of yesteryear cannot keep doing it's job other than it can't be maintained anymore. That's a failing on IT's part though, why

  • Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fredgiblet (1063752) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:07PM (#43661065)
    "Aren't they also losing money by working with inefficient, outdated systems?" Yes. But that's long-term, in the long-term it's someone else's problem. In the short-term they need to cut costs to make the stock look good.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ferzerp (83619) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:12PM (#43661119)

      This is an easy assumption to make, but it isn't always the truism you're making it out to be. Many software packages are highly specialized. There may only be a handful of options available that perform their function. Many of them may be difficult and far more expensive than you realize to upgrade, may have been abandoned, may have been ruined by "improvements" during upgrades, etc. When a piece of software is integral to a business, and there is no simple upgrade path, sometimes the cheapest (and *correct*) option is to stay on an "outdated" platform. Often, mitigating the issues with the old systems are cheaper than upgrading the software (if that is even possible).

      • Re: Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AudioEfex (637163) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:31PM (#43661267)
        Exactly. Many companies of a decent size have their own internal apps, tools, etc. that are not commercial products. They can range from simple tools (say an internal web page that runs a query over several unrelated systems to show a data set) to entire systems (many large companies may start with a commercial product then "Frankenstein" them internally to tailor them to the individual companies needs.

        Often, the people who may have made these tools are long gone (and if a tool is used for years, then the person was probably promoted out because it was a success). And very often they are either built in a short period of time for a specific task and don't scale well to newer systems, or they were built over a long period of time by many different people and there is little if any documentation as the goal was just to make it function and work.

        It's not about laziness, it's about resources. Simply upgrading a web browser can render something non-functional. Basically when you make a major change like that, every inch of system, tools, and code needs to be tested, rewritten, and/or replaced. Since the company cannot just multiply it's IT budget by a factor of ten, or just close up shop for the time it takes to do all this so customers/clients are unaffected, it takes time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That is until you get hit by an exploit that Microsoft refuses to fix due to being EOL. Once said exploit hits and ravages your network, then what?

        That's a pretty sorry excuse.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rudy_wayne (414635) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:43PM (#43661367)

        Contrary to what some people try to claim, businesses aren't sticking with XP because they are lazy or stupid. Many people really don't understand the business aspect of this. It's not the same as a person upgrading one or two computers in their home.

        Businesses have a very legitimate problem -- changing thousands (or tens of thousands) of computers to a new operating system is very expensive -- not just the cost of the OS itself but you have to pay people to do all the upgrading and deal with all the problems that come up. And after you spend all that money, what do you have? You have thousands of computers that look slightly different but work exactly the same as they did before. So what benefit did your company gain from spending all that money? This is a legitimate business concern.

        Then there is the problem of software, and this is something that affects many companies both large and small. Many businesses run specialized software that is very expensive and, unfortunately, in many cases, very poorly written, meaning that it runs on Windows XP but often won't work on never versions of Windows. And so, in addition to all the expense involved in changing the OS, there is the additional expense of buying new versions of other software. And once again, once you've spend all that time, effort and money, what do you have? Computers that function exactly the same as they did before. There may be improvements "under the hood" but there is no obvious improvement in functionality.

        What you really have here is an inherent conflict between the software companies and the companies use use the software. Software has matured to the point that 12 year old Windows XP, 10 year old Office 2003 and 8 year old Photoshop CS2 are still perfectly fine and able to do everything that most people need. But the software companies need to keep selling software, so they keep making changes to create "new" versions.

        But businesses don't want "new". They want stability. They don't want to be constantly changing things because that disrupts their business and costs them a lot of money, with little or no benefit.

        • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:54PM (#43661835)

          An excellent post. Thank you.

          Software has matured to the point that 12 year old Windows XP, 10 year old Office 2003 and 8 year old Photoshop CS2 are still perfectly fine and able to do everything that most people need.

          I'd like to emphasize this point too, since it seems to be at the center of the problem with the question posed here. Why exactly would businesses even want to upgrade? What does it get them?

          I'd push the dates back even further and say that a lot of business software reached maturity -- as measured by the functionality that more than 99% of employees need and use on a regular basis -- roughly 25 years ago. (Web browsers would obviously be a little later, since the modern "web" didn't exist yet.)

          What exactly do most office employees do today that couldn't have been done with a late 1980s copy of WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 on DOS? Even the first version of Photoshop in 1989 was an instant hit and was perfectly adequate for most user's needs in terms of functionality (though you'd need a Mac).

          Now, I'll grant you that the DOS interfaces seem a little clunky compared to today, but 99% of the functionality that most people need was already there. I know at least one person who continued using his 386 until a couple years ago for all of his business needs other than modern internet browsing, with his old DOS-based WordPerfect churning out new documents every week and some ancient version of Excel for Windows 3.1 for his business spreadsheets.

          I think the reason software appears to have "matured" in the early 2000s is because we finally hit some magical threshold of computer literacy in the workforce. It's not that the old DOS or Windows 3.x systems couldn't do what businesses needed; it's just that it was still possible in 1990 to be an office worker and not really "do computers," particularly if you were over 35-40 years old and/or in a small business.

          By 2000, that just wasn't acceptable anymore. Everyone was expected to be relatively fluent with computers -- including even those older people who were "excused" in 1990, but now had been trained and forced to adopt the ways of the new "machine." Young people entering the workforce had grown up with PCs, so they knew how to use them intuitively. Computer illiteracy was no longer an option.

          It should be expected that soon after that moment when computers became entrenched that people would start to realize that "new" isn't always better, if no significant new functionality is added. Early adopters of computers could get excited about the next new version of Word or Excel -- "Wow, did you see what WordPerfect 6.0 can do? Did you see the cool new graph options in Excel 95?" But by the early 2000s those people were outnumbered by loads of older people in their late 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s who didn't really grow up using computers heavily and had just barely caught on to the systems they were supposed to be fluent in.

          Why the heck would these older people -- the bulk of the workforce a decade ago -- want to keep adopting a new UI every other year? Why would businesses want to try to get them to? They finally got all these older office workers literate on the systems they had. And what new functionality does any of this new crap give anyone, in terms of basic everyday business needs for the average office worker?

          Here we are, 25 years later, with computers that have 10,000 times as much RAM and hard drives 10,000 times as big, and many people still have a clunky word processor that's bloated with too many functions and a spreadsheet that seems to run slow sometimes. The UI is the only major thing that keeps changing. Businesses only care about the core functionality... and once they hit a critical mass of workers who were fluent on a particular UI, why the heck would they ever want to change?

          • Bad UI's (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:44AM (#43662397) Homepage Journal

            The UI is the only major thing that keeps changing.

            Worse, once you got the worker over the hump of learning all the hot keys, the old dos versions of various software packages actually worked BETTER than the modern 'web based' implementations of what the old green screens did.

            I remember seeing somebody using a terminal program to log some part maintenance. It's a maintenance tracking system for aircraft - it tracks all work done not only on the aircraft, but on sub components, and will do things like spit out a report on how many flight hours part X has left before it needs to be rebuilt, and on Y before it needs to be replaced, etc... It can also handle you pulling X from plane 1 to put into plane 2 in order to get 2 in flying shape because there's two other problems with 1 at the moment keeping it from flying because we don't have any spare X's and we really need to get 2 into the air *NOW*.

            It took seconds in the old system, but over 10 in the web based version. Obviously all the old hands were resisting going to the 'new improved' system. I believe they eventually got the system fixed, but it ended up being a lot more complicated than the project leads anticipated.

          • Re:Yes (Score:4, Informative)

            by Altrag (195300) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:59AM (#43662677)

            What exactly do most office employees do today that couldn't have been done with a late 1980s copy of WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 on DOS?

            Off the top of my head:
            - WYSIWYG. Sure it might not be theoretically as powerful as something like LaTeX, but all the theory in the world doesn't help people who aren't versed in the arcane -- and that's most of the people. Of course this only brings us to Windows 3.1 -- past DOS/WordPerfect but not quite up to XP.

            - Staying stable for more than a day or two. Or an hour or two in a lot of cases. Windows XP was the first introduction the consumer and small business user had to a (mostly) stable operating system. Its not perfect sure, but its an enormous step forward from 98 or ME in terms of stability.

            Sure Mac already did WYSIWYG a few years earlier and they've always been (comparatively) stable, but this is still a bit before the iPod made Apple a household name -- they were mostly only used by a few niche markets at the time and the significantly higher price tag over a comparable PC (and then not being able to use most software to boot) would have turned a lot of people away long before they had to worry about stability -- assuming they could find a local store that sold Macs in the first place.

            For that matter, the rise of Apple probably didn't hurt the whole situation either -- it would mark the first time that average people would realize that "computer" != "Windows" and start considering possibilities and alternatives rather than just taking whatever gets shoveled at them.

      • I am sure there are plenty of specialized functions that are hard to replace, but many are just applications that "do things the way they have always been done".

        Never mind they can can now be outsourced better and cheaper. How many times have you heard of government agencies spending millions on upgrading systems that are essentially CRM systems, or even worse, payroll systems and the like?

        I've also seen private companies go through great pains to "upgrade" systems, to replicate arcane "business logic
    • by adamchou (993073)
      I've worked with certain government organizations that have used really outdated systems and I can say that one of the reasons is exactly this...

      in the long-term it's someone else's problem

      The employees of the organization I worked with were only obligated to work there a year or two and then they'd go move to another location. If they just pushed off the task as much as they could citing lack of manpower, funds, or other resources, it'd eventually become someone else's problem.

  • What a relief. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLimecat (1103839) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:08PM (#43661073)

    Downgrading to the old system they had before they upgraded!

    Oh ok, Im glad you cleared that up. Say, can you write a proposal for how this will save oodles of money upgrading IE8 on 10000 machines to IE10, even tho it will brake the internal apps of about 15 different departments? Maybe you can also write 15 separate proposals for them to renew their contracts with the people who originally wrote the apps, and proposals for the cases where the original dev is long gone and we'll need to do a full replacement.

    Boy, Im glad you cleared all that up.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      If the software is that badly broken, you've got other very serious problems to deal with. At some point the upgrade is going to have to be made. Either MS stops releasing patches for it next year or the hardware that's available doesn't have drivers for XP.

      The point is that IE 6 is ancient. It's 12 years old with the most recent stable release being about 5 years ago. This isn't something that just happened, there has been years for them to deal with that.

      • For many of these systems the problem is untangling the business logic and reproducing it without error. It's like starting from scratch except worse, the spec wasn't fully documented and rarely ever treated as a living document. Not to mention that the folks that defined and implemented the systems are probably long gone.

        Unwinding is not a trivial task and can take an extremely long time. Whether IE6 is 10 or 30 years old doesn't matter, working systems matter. Old technology usually isn't the thing ho

      • Re:What a relief. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:18PM (#43661597) Journal

        At some point the upgrade is going to have to be made.

        The longer it can be delayed, the less money it will cost them.

        Think of it from the point of view of an executive: they have no way to guarantee that the team who writes the next iteration of their software will do a good job, which means they'll be trapped into the same situation a few years from now.

        So basically they're stuck in a cycle where they're stuck on the platform every 5 or 7 years. If they can extend that as long as possible, make it 10, or 12, or even 15 years, then they save money. So it's in their interest to delay it as long as possible.

      • Re:What a relief. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:27PM (#43661667)

        You don't understand the word "broken", obviously. Or you misapply it.

        The current software works, and as such is not broken. Changing parts to incompatible parts breaks it - but that doesn't mean the software itself is broken. It just means the parts are incompatible. You can't always just swap out parts for different parts, they don't always work nicely together.

        If the company has a system that works on IE6 but not on IE10, then they should not try to change IE6 for IE10 for that system. They should stick to that. It works, it will continue to work.

        Oh but IE6 is so insecure, you will say. Yes it's insecure when you're using it for web browsing. That is just not a good idea (plus that it can't render most modern sites properly). Of course you don't use it for general web browsing, but that doesn't mean you can't use it for your internal applications any more. How old it is, is irrelevant. That it works, is relevant. That it works well, reliably, and predictably, that's relevant too: and I'm sure a 10 year old platform is more predictable than a 10 month old platform, simply thanks to the long term experience.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      You are saying that most IT departments are incompetent. Why are there 15 different apps that are coded to a specific web browser version? A decent IT department would stop that. There would be one or two apps, and they would be more genericized, and maintained by a trained IT staff, not built by a secretary who knows some macros, or an engineer who built an app because "how hard can it be?". The 15 apps generally come about because the IT department sucks. Then the IT department blames the users or bu
      • Translation: If your IT department were staffed with CS grads, then you'd be doing swell... However, "IT" basically means the guy who fixes his family's PCs, and you're lucky if any of 'em actually program as a hobby.

        IMO, teach programming in high school. Fuck, you really can't actually USE a computer these days unless you can make it do whatever you want. IMO, if you can't design scalable web applications in a cross platform manner and haven't PUNCHED IN THE FACE any idiot that wouldn't let you virtu

      • Re:What a relief. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ZeroPly (881915) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:27PM (#43661663)
        You seem to have absolutely no clue as to how real companies operate. We might have acquired 4 different apps through acquisition in a single year. And you are incredibly naive if you think an "app" just means some legacy accounting package. An "app" can be the driver package and software that runs a $120,000 electron microscope. If you really think IT is going to tell R&D to chuck their electron microscope because Microsoft isn't making enough money on the patches for the $500 PC that runs it, you might want to think of a career outside IT. Crap, we have $12,000 embossing machines that only run with DOS software.

        Your attitude is what we see from recent grads with absolutely no experience. Yes, all this makes sense in a classroom, but the real world is quite messy...
      • Re:What a relief. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:24AM (#43662009)

        You are saying that most IT departments are incompetent.

        No, he's saying the budget for IT is very limited, and they don't want to invest in re-development, testing, and deployment. IT is viewed by most companies as a cost center. It's a "necessary evil" in the business process, and this is what managers are taught in schools across the country.

        Why are there 15 different apps that are coded to a specific web browser version? A decent IT department would stop that.

        You make it sound like the 'IT department' is somehow all-encompassing and all-knowing, and everyone is on the same page. Anyone who's worked more than a few months in this field knows that there's no such thing as an 'IT department'. There are many departments, many teams, all doing 'IT' things. Those departments sometimes work at cross-purposes, there's politics, communication barriers, etc. It's called bureauacracy and you quickly learn overcoming it takes more time than actually working with the technology. A single change to a server can take months of meetings, change requests, and may eventually be shot down by someone who's overworked and has more important things to do (to them anyway!), and so it gets rejected.

        here would be one or two apps, and they would be more genericized, and maintained by a trained IT staff, not built by a secretary who knows some macros, or an engineer who built an app because "how hard can it be?".

        Remember what I just said about bureauacracy? Sometimes it's just too damn hard to overcome interdepartmental politics and red tape and people roll their own solutions to get the job done. Is this the mythical 'IT Department's' job to smooth over every ruffled feather, fix every political tug of war? No. You work with the tools you're given, and you support what's handed to you; Because bitching will get you fired, and silently suffering will get you a glowing reference to move to another department or company where you'll get to suffer over a brand new set of design screwups and political crap. That's the difference between business reality and the business fiction you learn about in CSci and are trying to apply here.

        The 15 apps generally come about because the IT department sucks. Then the IT department blames the users or budget makers for why the technology is broken.

        In my experience, IT doesn't cast blame about, they're the ones being blamed because of this magical thinking that IT can just sprinkle magic fairy dust over complex and intractable political and business problems. Most of what I do in IT has nothing to do with computers; It is about the people.

        The technology is stupid easy for me. Getting people to get the hell out of my way so I can do something with it, well... that's the rub.

    • by nametaken (610866)

      Say, can you write a proposal for how this will save oodles of money upgrading IE8 on 10000 machines to IE10, even tho it will brake the internal apps of about 15 different departments? Maybe you can also write 15 separate proposals for them to renew their contracts with the people who originally wrote the apps, and proposals for the cases where the original dev is long gone and we'll need to do a full replacement.

      So the excuse is, "But maintaining an important app involves work."? What someone really ought to write is a termination notice.

      Anyone that has a large businesses' critical applications tied to decade+ old technology has grossly underperformed in their position. And if they inherited that mess, it was their first priority to clean up after former, horribly inept individual, with the explicit goal of dealing with the elephant in the room. If they still don't have a plan to extricate the business from a miser

      • by Altrag (195300)

        it was their first priority to clean up after former, horribly inept individual

        No, a business' first priority is to make a profit. That is income minus costs. Upgrading software is a pure cost with zero income, so all you can argue is whether upgrading now will cost less than upgrading later.

        Sometimes you'll convince the check-writers that "now" will eventually justify the up-front cost, but I can guarantee you that your argument will need to have more depth than just "old is bad because I say so!" You will need to include things like mean time to failure estimates of hard-to-repla

  • It's not that simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:10PM (#43661091) Homepage Journal

    When companies talk about multi-million dollar costs, it's because they've got a number of systems tied together with data feeds, batch processing, and other interactions between their systems. You can't typically upgrade one piece of the pie without upgrading the whole pie.

    Regardless of how much of the pie gets upgraded, all the interaction points have to be regression tested, and sometimes recoded or reworked to work with the new software.

    That's not an excuse for failing to continually invest in those upgrades, but many companies have put it off for so long that they're now facing an insurmountably complex (and thereby expensive) task.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      In other words, it's an engineering failure from top to bottom. Being dependent on one particular version of one particular application is just the tip of a very large iceberg that also happens to be a big frozen turd.

      They built a rube goldberg machine without any thought to how they would maintain it or upgrade it.

      • by BooRadley (3956)

        They built a rube goldberg machine without any thought to how they would maintain it or upgrade it.

        Which describes every large software project implemented by a non-software company, ever.

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:51PM (#43661415)

          Which describes every large software project implemented by a non-software company, ever.

          It describes plenty of large software projects written by software companies, too.

          Software maintenance is hard. Very few people actually know how to design and build a software system that is maintainable over the long-term, and since even the people who can can't also see the future, we'll never be able to build idealised, perfectly maintainable systems.

          The logical conclusion is that we may wind up with critical systems that are working and stable but prohibitively expensive to develop. The best solution to that situation is often to leave the existing system alone but try to isolate it via some controlled interface so you can still build your new systems with a degree of separation and better maintainability.

      • by plover (150551)

        Put an MBA in charge of an engineering division, and this is exactly what you get.

        MBAs are toxic in any position other than CEO. CPAs should run Finance divisions, engineers should run Engineering divisions, salesmen should run Marketing. MBAs should push mail carts, or mops, until they get it.

        • by dkf (304284)

          MBAs are toxic in any position other than CEO. CPAs should run Finance divisions, engineers should run Engineering divisions, salesmen should run Marketing. MBAs should push mail carts, or mops, until they get it.

          The problem isn't people with an MBA. The problem is that there are specialist MBAs; they only know being an MBA, an abstraction of being a manager. The people who have real experience (sales, finance, engineering, whatever) and also an MBA are usually OK as they know when the management theory is full of shit.

          All theory isn't exactly correct in all details, that's what makes it theory. (OTOH, a theory also helps you stop getting bogged down in all the details, so it's still valuable to have. The theory/pra

    • by lucm (889690)

      When companies talk about multi-million dollar costs, it's because they've got a number of systems tied together with data feeds, batch processing, and other interactions between their systems. You can't typically upgrade one piece of the pie without upgrading the whole pie.

      The two big evils that prevents simple and effective systems integration are:
      1) Using point-to-point integration (instead of something more flexible like SOA) to "save time"
      2) Using custom shared libraries and/or a in-house framework to "save time"

      The second one is counter-intuitive for a lot of developers who worship libraries. But the reality is that the economics of building internal frameworks are usually weak because most languages and platforms evolve before the alleged productivity gains for develope

  • by BenBoy (615230)

    Now, my question is: what happened to that money they saved? Even a small portion of the money saved over the years could be used to upgrade ancient systems to modern standards.

    Yeah, or you could use it to hire a second pool-boy, no?

    Now my question: What does upgrading IE have to do with enhancing shareholder value this quarter?

  • There is no kinder way to put it that drives the meaning home. The executive level - especially in large corporation type environments - have only one thing pressuring their job performance: meeting/beating budgets. Not division excellence. Not Technological prowess. Only x amount of $$$ = meeting forecast targets = $$BONUS$$ cha-ching!! Personally I think this executive cultural behavior stems from the short term thinking of our entire "free" market system in play these days. No company hardly cares
  • The problem is giving the folks that hold the money a *reason* to upgrade. See, you can explain to a tech guy about all of the holes and bugs and he can agree that an update to ________ would be fucking awesome!

    But the folks holding the cash hear about all of the same bugs and holes and they nod and they think, "The software we've got has been getting the job done. Also, I remember the last time we replaced the software it was three months of people learning, and technological failures, and people maki
  • Wall Street. Large companies only care about the next quarter, because that's what shareholders care about and what executive bonuses are based upon. Much easier to kick the can down the road, put off upgrades until tomorrow. And tomorrow never comes.

  • by MrEricSir (398214)

    If your idea of a company running outdated software is IE6, let me say this: welcome to the industry! You're obviously new here.

  • Changing the OS on 100 machines is a task that a group of professionals can do relatively quickly.

    Changing the OS that 100 users use on a daily basis, without getting 100 angry phone calls (per day), is much more difficult.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      This sounds like another "too big to fail" problem and yet another reason to never let any corporation get so big. If you can't upgrade your IT infastructure or anything else of a similar nature, then the company in question probably needs to be dissolved into a number of smaller ones.

  • In theory, the savings went to the shareholders as profits the first year they fired those people. After that, it wasn't in the budget and wasn't a savings any more (in the most BASIC form of accounting).

    It's very, very hard to justify spending money on something that will take a decade to pay for itself. There is almost always something else you can spend it on that will have a better return. And the computer systems are largely "soft" dollars -- ask yourself "what check did I not have to write" -- so unle

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@[ ]cast.net ['com' in gap]> on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:18PM (#43661167)

    In order to upgrade the systems they also have to upgrade the back end applications that were hard coded to require IE6. These applications were often merely the front ends to legacy financial, database, purchasing, ERP and so on. You have to upgrade all of the middleware systems as well as the back end systems fed by the middle ware systems. IE 6 often required custom hacks in order to get it to work at all, and once you got it working it was your head if you messed with it.

    You also had things like right management through Internet Explorer for Windows based systems that only worked in version 6. In short you could easily spend millions of dollars upgrading back end systems in order to get them to work with something newer than Internet Explorer 6. The larger the enterprise / agency the more systems that were dependent on it that very version and the worse the problem was.

    All of which discounts traditional migration costs of migrating computers, licenses, testing software, hardware, implementing a hardware independent image, creating packages, testing with new versions, testing new versions with old versions etc, etc, etc. For most IT departments a migration is the largest project that they will do every few years. The consultants that work migration and that know what their doing are few and far between. You could probably fit every single qualified consultant from every agency in the country in a single conference room with room to spare. Needless to say you can generally count on paying over $10,000 a week per consultant to get someone that knows what their doing.

    Migrations are very complex work that involve a lot of details, project management, hardware expertise, vendor relationships, management consultation, software license issues, SQL database work, OS work, infrastructure work and so on. Point being it's a bit more involved than rolling out the newest version of Internet Explorer from the Microsoft update site and you sound like you desperately need a consulting company before you cost your company far more money than you would pay in their fees.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      In cases like this, IE6 should be treated as a legacy application platform and run in a VM. Actual browsing should be done in an up-to-date version of IE (or in an alternate browser, but most corps prefer IE because of group policies). This is not difficult to set up with Windows 7 Professional, which even has an XP mode for this specific purpose.

  • by bhcompy (1877290)

    Several governments and big companies I know use software dependent on IE6.

    Aren't they also losing money by working with inefficient, outdated systems?

    Err, government doesn't give a shit about efficiency. That's not the point of government.

  • by phasmal (783681) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:20PM (#43661191)

    It's part of a wider attitude to technology. The problem is that the costs of sticking to the old technology (missed opportunities, inefficient developers etc) are hidden inside the day to day running of projects, whereas the cost of upgrading is painfully visible.

    I once worked in one of those IE6 organisations, and their projects were around 3x slower than they needed to be, but they didn't know it, so they kept on with the old technology. (they were still actively developing COBOL, so really ie6 was the least of their woes).

  • What's the benefit to upgrading your web browser before the current one isn't supported?

    Sure, you'll have to do it eventually, so why not do it now? Simple - time value of money. Suppose it costs $100k to upgrade your browser now, and $100k to upgrade it a year from now. If you spend the money now you get a fancy new web browser, and you don't make a dime more in revenue as a result. If you spend the money a year from now you can invest the money for a year at 6% interest and end up with $6k more than y

  • Companies that are using backend software that lacks support for modern clients can very well be an expensive thing to upgrade. If it's developed in-house, the people who wrote it are sometimes not even around anymore, or have moved into other positions, etc. If it was contracted out, the company may be out of business or simply can't upgrade the system on the cheap, due to having to basically start over from scratch. If it's packaged 3rd party industry software, like e-billing or medical records stuff,

  • Some people look at things quarter-by-quarter. These types will NEVER see the benefits of any long term projects.

    I worked at a company that had a compile process that would take a half an hour to complete. We were running on ancient computers.

    So, I made a spreadsheet. I showed the cost of a new computer. And through a study on my home computer, determined that it would cut compile times in half since my home computer wasn't bunk. Then used my salary as an average engineering rate for time. Showed

    • by Ken D (100098)

      Your problem is that you suggested spending money to save money. Sometimes there's NO MONEY.

      What you needed to do was show that they could FIRE an employee, and use the savings to upgrade the computer and get the same amount of work done with the remaining employees. Save money, then spend money.

  • Maybe is related with the language [ted.com] theirs managers use. If you see the future you/company/whatever hacked as another company, not the current one where you would be wasting time and money now, because your language just shows them as different things, and just push those pesky tasks to the other company, the future one, that anyway will be the one hacked, not the actual one.

    Is not trivial to escape from the trap we build around ourselves with our language.

  • The real problem is: these companies let themselves get vendor-locked by Microsoft.

    If they had used a browser that was less proprietary, and more standard; there would not be this problem.

    Once you go with a company like Microsoft, you get totally locked in.

  • The summary assumes that "upgrading" is intrinsically and self-evidently beneficial. Why? People in business usually are not teens who get excited by a point release of ubuntu or by the latest irony free announcement of "the most secure ever" version of Windows. While they might be using IE6 they are mostly not relying on Norton Pirate Bay Special Edition for security, or on their annoying college age offspring for opinions on IT infrastructure or purchasing. Why would anyone spend large amounts of mone

  • The old stuff was written by contractors, or employees who left a long time ago

    The original development was expensive, behind schedule and painful

    Management is terrified of software development as a result of the experience

    It won't be upgraded until it becomes an "extinction level" crisis

  • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:51PM (#43661421) Homepage Journal

    It's all a matter of perspective: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It: Ancient Computers in Use Today [pcworld.com]. Be glad they're running something written since the advent of the PC.

    BTW, I'm an old Unix hacker who has moved on to Linux but the command line still rules.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:54PM (#43661447) Homepage Journal
    Take a "small" woodworking shop. 20 people, a few trucks, huge cave like building packed with machines on the bad/cheap side of town.
    They contract to gov, firms, make a small simple kitchen somedays too. Shelves, desks, seats, computer desks fill the trucks at 6/7/8 am.
    The 3d tooling and software allows a team to visit any site and show a 3d vision and in rapid time get the trucks filled.
    The software works on XP pro, the machines understand XP and the creative types get upgrades for their software.
    Whats going to change with average woodwork? The exotic lamination?
    Only constant pressure from other small teams bidding on small gov contracts.
    A new school, lab, expansions..all very time and cost sensitive.
    So a bright person asks to swap XP to Win 8? Will the 3d software work? Supported like it is with XP? With the 15-10-5 yo machine that worked with XP?
    How many days down to test it all? New software needed? One the phone to Germany, Japan or Italy that night?
  • Wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:54PM (#43661455)

    You're asking the wrong question. The correct question is: Why should they upgrade?

    And if your answer doesn't involve making or saving money, you're going to get laughed out of your bosses office.

  • Went to CEOs (Score:3, Informative)

    by gerardrj (207690) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:22PM (#43661625) Journal

    "back in the day" CEOs made a few times what an average employee did. Now they make 150 times what an average employee does. The executives saw all that 'savings' and gave it to themselves.

  • Too complex? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meburke (736645) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:37PM (#43661737)

    First, there is the incremental cost of the software AND upgrading hardware to be compatible.

    Then there is the cost of being down; idled employees, non-income-producing tech work, training, and administration costs.

    Then there is the cost of not being able toservice your customers; missed orders, bad feelings, image problems, botched sales, etc.

    Then there is the inconvenience and complexity associated with the upheaval and new ways of doing things. The potential interactions accellerate according to I= E(E-1)/2, so, 3 elements have 3 potential transactional interactions, 5 elements have 10, 10 have 45 and so on. Mistakes and annoyances are inevitable.

    The complexity makes the process a lot more than trivial. Just in the last three months, I've seen three large companies (200+ employees) almost come to a standstill over upgrade problems.

  • by redkingca (610398) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:40AM (#43662087)
    Say you've got a small company with 200 employees. They all do their jobs well enough that everyone makes their quotas each year. Someone decides it's time to bite the bullet and upgrade. So the company buys the new hardware/software and the transition is planned.

    Now you have to find trainers($) to "update" 200 people's skills, you need to find room/equipment to teach them the new software($$). Create time away from paying work for the training($$$), pay employees to be trained($$$$). The company has to eat the lost productivity and disruptions due to training($$$$$). Pay out for learning materials($$$$$+), pay to have all those power point presentations with the company logo($$$$$++). So now everyone is finally trained to the new standard, but the company still has to deal with the lost productivity due using the "new" system. All the problems due to forced training, and the employees you had to fire or who quit/retired instead of being trained. And the costs go on and on for years, until the company adjusts.

    A good example of this is a major Canadian bank the I worked for in 2005; the bank was still using DOS applications running in a DOS Box under NT 4, because the apps worked. It was easier and cheaper to train new employees to use the DOS apps, then to write a "Windows pretty" front end that gave the same functionality. The bank did change to XP in 2007, but all those apps were still there and could be called up in a DOS Box.

    And one of the major reasons is that a teller that has been working in the same branch for 40 years; does not need to be retrained to do the job. The teller is doing their job just fine with the same software they always used, once that teller quits or retires a new person can be trained to use the XP front end.
  • Capitalism 101 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bentcd (690786) <bcd@pvv.org> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:18AM (#43662551) Homepage

    You see, before computers, companies used to have room full of people manually calculating and processing stuff. It wasn't until the computer came that they could fire all those people and save a ton of money on their collective salaries. Now, my question is: what happened to that money they saved?

    The invisible hand stole it.

    The money saved from firing newly redundant staff was funneled into undercutting the rivals' prices and those rivals that survived this did so because they did the exact same thing. This money can only be recovered by raising your prices back to the old level and if you do that no one will buy your product anymore and you will go out of business.

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