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Microsoft

UK Government Locks Out Non-MS Browsers 268 268

Joel Rowbottom writes: "The UK government's new gateway.gov.uk site, which is being trumpeted in advance of the forthcoming General Election, has been revealed to only work on Microsoft browsers under Windows - meaning you must use IE5.01 or above to be able to access government content, or do your tax returns online: no MacOS, no Netscape, and certainly no Linux. Who can have developed this site for the government? It's Microsoft of course, on their .NET platform! There's a Register article about it, but for a more extensive look LinuxUser magazine in the UK have written a article on it which is available as PDF here."
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UK Government Locks Out Non-MS Browsers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's the official government site. It's paid for with taxpayers' money. Linux users pay taxes too. Do the people who "just don't use the site" get a tax refund?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You are thinking of the US. In the UK there are no votes, the Queen Mum just appoints people to government posts so they can avoid debacles similar to the recent US presedential election.

    We also don't bother ourselves with trivialities such as Nike shoes and Tommy shirts. We wear proper attire: tight fitting vests over pressed white dress shirts and polished leather shoes, brown of course. Step into a knee length pair of knickers and the day can begin!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is Labour the Party of Business or the Party in the pocket of Business?

    Following a little research of my own:

    Says it all to me...

  • I don't understand why mozilla doesn't have such a feature.

    There is a bug filed [mozilla.org] for that functionality. Feel free to vote for it [mozilla.org] as well (of course, you need a free Bugzilla account [mozilla.org] to vote).

    Alex Bischoff
  • I learn new ways to conjugate verbs every day on slashdot.

    --
    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • Quoth the article [theregister.co.uk]:

    According to Register sources, there's a sorry tale behind all of this. About a year ago the Blair government was determined to embark on a love affair with Bill and his merry men, and it began to be made clear to the techies (many of them Linux lovers) on government staff that further mention of the L-word would likely be career-threatening. Many of the sites produced prior to the great Government Gateway project were indeed Linux-based, but this would cease.

  • Microsoft may not be very responsive to public opinion, but the British Government sure is.

    Heh.. the Blair government's share of the vote in the last election was almost as high as Microsoft's share of the desktop OS market. They could piss of 10 million Slashbots and still win the next election.

  • I went in with Konqueror, after setting the User Agent for .gateway.gov.uk to "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 98)" and it seems to work fine, except that when I bring up the security dialog, the certificate authority is unknown.

    They probably don't want to try to explain to the average user how to update their browser to recognize their CA.

  • My tests with Mac OS 9.1 on my PowerBook G4...

    iCab, with browser id set to Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; iCab 2.5.1; Macintosh; I; PPC) and javascript off: Failed

    iCab, with browser id set to Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 95) and javascript off: Failed

    iCab, with browser id set to Mozilla/4.75C-CCK-MCD {C-UDP; EBM-APPLE} (Macintosh; U; PPC) and javascript off: Failed

    MS IE 5 for Mac, (browser id: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Mac_PowerPC)) javascript off: Failed

    Netscape 4.7 for Mac, (browser id: Mozilla/4.75C-CCK-MCD {C-UDP; EBM-APPLE} (Macintosh; U; PPC)) javascript off: Failed

    MS IE 5 for Mac, (browser id: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Mac_PowerPC)) javascript on: Worked!

    Netscape 4.7 for Mac, (browser id: Mozilla/4.75C-CCK-MCD {C-UDP; EBM-APPLE} (Macintosh; U; PPC)) javascript on: Worked!

    iCab, with browser id set to Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; iCab 2.5.1; Macintosh; I; PPC) and javascript on: Failed

    iCab, with browser id set to Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 95) and javascript on: Worked!

    iCab, with browser id set to Mozilla/4.75C-CCK-MCD {C-UDP; EBM-APPLE} (Macintosh; U; PPC) and javascript on: Failed (strange...)

    Opera for Mac v5.0 tp3.298, set to "Identify as MSIE 5.0", which gives a browser id of: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Mac_PowerPC) Opera 5.0 [en]: Failed (beta version, probably does not support javascript...)

    --
  • JavaScript needs to be supported, and turned on as well. I found this out with iCab on the mac, which must be set to say it is IE5 for Windows, and have JavaScript on for it to work. The mac version of Opera not only does not support JavaScript, it does not have iCab's flexability in terms of what you want it to have for the browser id. In iCab, you can set it to anything arbitrary string of characters. In Opera, you can choose "Identify as MSIE 5.0", and it will use the following string: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Mac_PowerPC) Opera 5.0 [en].

    --
  • by ntk (974)
    We covered this back in Febuary: Jason Kitcat applied under the Freedom of Information Act for more details. The government's e-envoy has also funded a research project into providing Free Software support for their PKI. If you've got some expertise, I'm sure the project leaders would appreciate your assistance.

    I don't actually think that the IE exclusion is the most damaging part of this story. The tacit support by the government for a handful of commercial authentication services (at least one of which, Chambersign, appears to involve private key escrow) looks to be more pernicious.

    d.

    Kitcat's FOIA report [free-project.org]
    Original report [ntk.net]
    Follow-up, including mention of the Open Source project, with details of how you can help. [ntk.net]
  • Jeez. Read the damn article. The Register pointed out most of the things that people are comlaining about in the /. story. But since nobody bothers to read the Reg article, everyone seems to assume that THEY were the ones that left all the important info out.

  • Depends on what sorts of bells and whistles they are gonna build into the site. Microsoft should certainly be able to throw a ton of manpower at a high-visibility project like this though. 3 weeks should be more than enough to put together a pretty good site.

  • by Masem (1171) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @02:09PM (#190330)
    At least, if it is happening from US gov't sites after June 25, 2001, you can sue them. Thanks to Section 508, any federal web site that is publically accessible must meet many guidelines, including access for disabled people; the divisions whose sites are not compliant by this point without sufficient reason to not be compliant can be sued by the public or have displinary action taken by other parts of the gov't. This includes not locking out browsers (including text-based ones).

  • Nobody seems to have noted (at least not in the modded-up posts) that this is largely a matter of the server checking browser strings.

    Netscape 4.7 works on Mac and Windows, and since all versions of Netscape 4.7 on all platforms can do all the PKI/crypto stuff, there shouldn't be any technical reason why Netscape won't work under Linux/NetBSD/Solaris/AIX/whatever.

    If I knew a URL beyond the browser-checking first page, I'd be surprised if I couldn't go on to use the site perfectly happily. It's a shame the authors of this site couldn't be a little more intelligent with their checking.
    --
  • There is a hidden pref in mozilla (I don't since when) called useragent.

    Just edit your preferences and set:
    user_pref("browser.useragent", "MSIE ...")

    Hugs, Cyke
  • First of all the website is WWW.gateway.gov.uk. If you try to go to gateway.gov.uk you will not get any content.

    But other than that, it seems like a number of wild complaints with no coesion to the story.

    Something about the PKI technology used. Well if other browsers don't support this, uhh what can be done about it?

    PKI is here to stay, and it would be wise for other browser makers to come up with support for this would it not?

    Ohwell the Register is the National Enquirer of the IT world for a reason, I guess.
  • That message is from this page:
    http://www.gateway.gov.uk/html/bad_browser.asp

    I know it's called if you don't have Javascript. According to that same article it also doesn't work if you have cookies and Java turned off.

    It's been a long time since I tried to use browsers other than IE. I know last year Opera had problems with Java and Javascript. I don't know what the current state of Mozilla is.

    It just seems to me that this UK website is on the bleeding edge of technology, especially with it's use of PKI. To expect luddite browsers to work might be a bit much.
  • Your positive of that?

    None of the other reasons described in the web page apply?

    If you want, I can verify on my Solaris box.
  • You could always change it to a bogus version number, after all who would believe someone logged in using MSIE9?

    Yeah, but remember that Microsoft started this trend by saying they're a bogus "compatible" version of Netscape... (I think MS still says their browser is "Mozilla/x.xx (compatible...)")

    I just wish people would use real user agent information and not try using really silly stuff like some people seem to do ("Lynx on ENIAC" and "Commodore 64 with 32 megs of RAM" seem to be popular - as a side note, I would like to get a SuperCPU and RAM expansion for my C64 so I could browse web better on that... =)

    (...or, at least, if they're using silly bogus User-Agents, they should at least be creative. That "Bond/007 (James Bond; 007; UK; Licence To Kill)" was pretty cool =)

  • The poster missed the fact that you can still use Opera for that website, as long as you set it to identify itself as MSIE5.

    ...or use things like Junkbuster to mess with the User-Agent header.

    I don't like this behavior, personally, because this skewers statistics. Now, webmasters think 90% of web users use MSIE, so they start "optimizing" their pages for MSIE.

    But do all people really use MSIE? I think not. Especially when many "small" browsers lie that they're MSIE...

    "nn percent of web surfers use MSIE. The rest lie they do." =)

  • Unless by "This is WASHINGTON" you mean the USA?
  • You claim they stole code from someone (unnamed), changed the citation of authorship, and then gave it away (presumably under the GPL). Do you have any published references for this, AC? A link, please... --M
  • Why not? If it's legal, convenient and you are aware of the stance on important issues each candidate has then there is nothing wrong with it per se.


  • The biggest problem with IE dominance is this:
    If the day ever comes that [someone like] MS controls [almost] 100% of the browser market, that puts them effectively also in control of the web server market, the content authoring market, the browser plugin market, etc.


    No offense, but this didn't strike me as all that "(Score:5, Insightful)". Not that you're wrong or anything -- actually, I'd say it's dead on target, as far as it goes. It's just that you didn't really shed any new light on the issue with respect to what we've all been discussing for years now. As in, pretty much everyone knew, back when the "Browser Wars" were first starting, that this was what made the issue so strategically important. Or at least the geeks knew, which is what made it so frustrating trying to answer less-technical users who asked, "So what makes Netscape so much better, that I should muck around trying to replace [the pre-installed] IE [on my new Win95 box]?"

    By the way, there is something that I think is an important piece of the "control of the browser gives control of the server" argument, which I don't see stated very often, though maybe it's just because people consider it obvious and don't bother saying it explicitly. Anyway:

    The core of it is, to summarize what you said, They decide to implement [some new feature] in their browsers that only accept data from [their] servers, effectively putting [other] server authors out of business. Here's what I'd like to add: the key is that they wouldn't do it all at once. People sometimes respond that, even if you control one side or the other, the existence of diversity on the other side would prevent acceptance of your proprietary extensions -- your failure to play well on the other side might even endanger your dominance on the first side.

    However, this misses the possibility that you might phase in the proprietary extensions on both sides while also maintaining standards-compliance, meaning that your products on both sides would become not just as good, but actually the best, since they would be the only ones to support both the standard and proprietary features. Only later, once you become dominant on both sides, would you gradually begin to "accidentally" break the standards-compliance on one, the other, or both sides (not necessarily with anything so blatant as real incompatibility; a performance or stability hit would serve just as well) -- it wouldn't hurt anyone, you see, because by then providers could cheerfully switch their servers over to using the proprietary features, confident that everyone (well, almost -- everyone that matters, anyway) would be using the supported browser as well.

    David Gould
  • Unsupported Browser

    You cannot access the Government Gateway at the moment. This is because you are either using an old version of a browser, or the browser you are using does not have the correct settings. Read this page to find out which browsers are supported and which settings to use.

    Supported Browsers
    We have made the Government Gateway compatible with as many browsers as possible, on both PCs and Macintoshes. However, because we need to maintain maximum security on this web site, we cannot support older versions of browsers. To use the Government Gateway, you must have:

    a PC, with Windows 95 or later, or Windows NT 4.0 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.01 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.08 or later

    OR an Apple Macintosh with Mac OS version 7.5 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.xx or later
    a working Internet connection
    the 128-bit security add-in, for your version of the browser

    Please note that you cannot currently use Netscape 6 to access the Government Gateway, due to issues with the support for digital certificates in this new version.

    You can find out which version of the browser version you are currently using, by clicking on Help, then About..., in the menu bar of your browser. The name and version number of your browser is displayed.

    Browser Settings

    To use the Government Gateway, you must also have the following options enabled in your browser:

    Your browser must be set to accept cookies
    Java must be enabled
    Javascript must be enabled
    To check your settings:
    Internet Explorer

    1. From the menu bar, click on Tools, then Internet Options.
    2. In the window that appears, click on the Security tab. Click on the Internet zone and check that the security level is set to Medium

    Netscape Navigator

    1. From the menu bar, click on Edit, then Preferences.
    2. In the window that appears, click on Advanced in the left-hand pane. The settings are displayed.
  • The interesting thing is that the error message is passed back as
    http://www.gateway.gov.uk
    This isn't inside a hidden frame because in general iCab gives you all sorts of neat tools to see those icky little in line frames.

    But loading the site with IE5.1.1 tech preview for Mac OS X does give in the code:

    NOSCRIPT
    META HTTP-EQUIV=REFRESH CONTENT="0; URL=/html/bad_browser.asp"

    You are using an unsupported browser. For further information, please click a href="/html/bad_browser.asp"here/a.
    /NOSCRIPT
    *of course cleaned up without html brackets for slashdot*

    So I'm assuming some erstwhile interested party might go find out what actually is programmed in to bad_browser.asp to find the truth about what the detection method really is....
  • The page states that a MAC is fine also you just need to have MSIE, but I think it is more an encryption thing than anything else. This is another Half Baked /. story
  • simple, don't use front page..it is crap anyway...
    try homesite or dreamweaver
  • by Archfeld (6757)
    and since we are NEVER gonna get a M$IE for LINUX (pause to wait for laughter and choking to stop)
    I would have to agree with Stevo. It is well with M$'s PAST behavior to attempt to 'lock' out a competitor. The question is can 'we' make a Linux browser that meets the encryption standards that are required ? If that can be done and IT still is refused then there is a possible sherman act violation.
  • ...that most of the other denizens of Slashdot suffer under. Namely, that slashdot is a news organization. Really, slashdot is just a clearinghouse for various news and pseudo-news organizations. They just say, "This is what foo has to say about bar. Discuss." They don't attempt to report or fact-check. They're not a news gathering organization.
  • by Apuleius (6901) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:42PM (#190348) Journal

    Slashdot used to be a place where a sufficiently egregious screwup in a story would result in a prompt update and mea culpa from the responsible editor.

    This no longer seems to be the case.

    I have my sortings set to "highest rated first" because a red herring story will usually have a prompt comment correcting the issue and getting moderated up to 5. When discussion closes on a story, however, it gets served as static HTML, and unsorted, and such comments no longer show up at the top. This is why updates are necessary, but /.'s editors are getting increasingly lax about getting these done, some editors more than others (coughMichaelcough).

    This needs to change. Editors, please, start updating your stories, even when it means wearing a paper bag for a few days. If you don't, the "new journalism" will no longer have any advantage over the old.

  • Was Young's comment, not about predatory monolopolies, but instead:
    "...our governmental infrastructures should be permanently open to competitive bid..."

    Yes, Microsoft is the standard, and I'll even give (Linux zealot that I am) that IE is a better browser than Netscape4.x/6, and there's some good tools there on IIS (wealth of MCSE's, etc).

    BUT, the truth in that statement - there should be a bid - is beyond petty squabbles about the better OS. If MS really does present the better solution, it should be given the chance to prove it, rather than being implemented because its the "default".

    It makes me mad as a Linux advocate. I'd like to "lose" fair and square. If I can't write a good response to an RFP, if I can't get the people and the code running, then I deserve to lose. But I doubt anyone really put any thought into it. We need [foo], let's put it on IIS. Call MS and get a nice site license.
  • I just browsed around the site, in and out of the secure registration parts, and the tax part with no problem. And I was using Netscape 4.77 128bit security version. More FUD I suppose.
  • Slashdot did *not* get it wrong.

    You cannot access that site from a non-microsoft operating system. Period.

    Even faking the user agents doesn't work as they seem to have some extra checking to make sure you don't do that.

    This has nothing to do with the capablilties of browsers and everything to do with a monopoly trying to force people to use their products. I hear that the makers of Opera are considering legal action - the actions of the government are a breach of european law (product tying, for one.. possibly others).
  • From the Register article:

    But where will it all lead? It's possibly worth remembering at this juncture that Mr Tony himself is a complete, self-confessed and unabashed technoklutz. He is, furthermore, total jail-bait when it comes to photo-opps with the rich and famous. Which is a disastrous and expensive combination when it runs up against Bill Gates at the head of Microsoft's government sales Spetsnaz.

    Translation: The country is being run by a PHB.

  • So what exactly doesn't work when trying to go to this site? It's working just great on OmniPage 4 on MacOS X. It seems like if you read the damn page it tells you what you need in order to use the fucking page. You need a relatively modern browser with support for 128bit SSL and the ability to use cookies. Goddamn jackasses got their panties in a tiff because they're illiterate fuckos. The part that doesn't work with some browsers is if you want to use ChamberSign or Equifax certificates to log onto the website. Anyone with a working browser can register and enter their name and PIN to log on. God damn it how did this get posted unmodified? Did nobody go and check if this was even true? At least one guy did (I don't remember the CID) and he even found spoofing iCab to report itself as IE got the site to work just fine. I bet 99% of the posts didn't even try going to the site.
  • You dont have to have a Windows or Mac machine, you need a browser that supports the shit the site uses. If your browser doesn't support Equifax you can't use Equifax dipshit. The site worked fine for me with several browsers.
  • by sharkey (16670) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:45PM (#190363)
    Since we're referring to a Reg article on this, here is another dealing with the reactions of Opera Software [theregister.co.uk]

    Basically, they are going to take issue with this, directly with Andrew Pinder, the UK "e-envoy."

    --
  • Jeez! Almost read that as "Blair uses Dope" and sent the link off to Matt Drudge :)
  • "in order to meet the British government's target date... Dell and Microsoft worked feverishly to meet a blistering three-week rollout schedule for the first phase."

    If they got the first draft to work in three weeks, they're doing a lot better than anybody I've ever worked with. Our stuff doesn't work with ANY browser that fast.
  • Just as a case-in-point...

    I'm running Mozilla 0.9 w/PSM on Win2k and it allowed me to enter the registration process without a problem. Seems like this whole article is a bit over-blown.
  • by blowdart (31458) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:03PM (#190379) Homepage
    OK lets take a look at quotes from theregister article "we checked it with Netscape 6 on Windows, and got in without trouble". And it's not the web site, it's the digital certificates that cause problems "Please note that if you wish to enrol for services that require a digital certificate, you may not be able to use the full range of browsers listed above. For example, Equifax certificates can currently only be used with Internet Explorer 5.01 or later (they do not work on any version of the Netscape browser); ChamberSign certificates can be used with both Nestcape Navigator and Internet Explorer, except they are not currently supported on version 6 of the Netscape browser. Please check your certificate provider's web site for more information about which browsers they support." As for saying you can't do your tax return on-line in Netscape? Bollocks. It uses straight HTTPS. I've just completed mine. Did any of you think to check for yourselves? I doubt it, you just saw "it was written by Microsoft" and your knees starting jerking.
  • When I tried with Netscape 4.7x on Linux:

    We have made the Government Gateway compatible with as many browsers as possible, on both PCs and Macintoshes. However, because we need to maintain maximum security on this web site, we cannot support older versions of browsers. To use the Government Gateway, you must have:

    a PC, with Windows 95 or later, or Windows NT 4.0 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.01 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.08 or later


    So, in the interest of security, you must use Windows on your PC.

    HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa Ha HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa
  • funny how M$ will claim other browsers improperly implement SSL and certificates, given that they're Netscape inventions. this is a pretty clearcut instance of "nono, all your standards are belong to us, pay no attention to who made them..."
  • "When you vote someone in, it is majority rules. When you hold a referendum, majority rules..."

    When you hold a lynching majority rules too. 10 while people for killing this nigger and one nigger against too bad for the nigger huh?

    Fortunately for us modern republics have recognized such a thing as tyranny of the majority. We uphold the rights of everybody and recognize that the govt is here to serve all of it's citizens.

    "If you ask me those other browsers should be more up to standards"

    I would have no complaints if the system was written to standards. But it's not. If they just stuck to the W3C standards of HTML and CSS nobody would be complaining about anything. Here MS deliberately wrote the app to reject operating systems and browsers they didn't like. Lots of people demonstrated that by changing the user agent on their browser they were able to use the site. It's not that the browsers were not capable of displaying the page it's that the browsers were rejected by the site because the writers of the site did not like their operating system and name. This is discrimination plain and simple. I think it's outregaous that govt web sites don't comply with W3C standards and force people to pay for software they may not want just to participate in the process of governing themselves.

  • by Malcontent (40834) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @10:22PM (#190387)
    "Most people use IE anyway (let's face it...there aren't too many options)"

    Most people in the UK are also white. Maybe the the govt should prevent the east indians from some things too. Maybe it should prevent them using convenient services and instead make them wait in lines instead. Sorry only white people can use this web site the rest of you can haul your assess off to the courthouse.

    The Govt is there to serve everybody not just the majority. The rest of the people are citizens too arent they? Why didn't they insist on using cross platform browsers on the contract?
  • "You cannot access the Government Gateway at the moment. This is because you are either using an old version of a browser, or the browser you are using does not have the correct settings. Read this page to find out which browsers are supported and which settings to use."

    Fuckers.
  • Doesnt work under Linux though.

    Now that its a requirement to be a client of Microsoft to be able to access information from the government - does this mean that MS client licenses will be tax deductible ? It should - considering your rights as a citizen appears to be hinging on if you are a customer of MS.
  • by Uri (51845) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:51PM (#190393)

    This development is particularly frustrating, since up to now UK .gov sites have generally been very standards compliant. In fact the open.gov.uk [open.gov.uk] initiative even has a W3C standards statement [open.gov.uk]. I quote:

    "The most important aspect of publishing information on the internet is to ensure that it is available to all, not just a select few who happen to have the newest browser, all the latest plugins and a top of the range, superfast PC.

    UK public sector information must be accessible, legible and fast to download."

    And indeed, the vast majority of .gov sites are very well designed, browsable by anyone, and (shock horror!) contain lots of interesting information about what the government is up to: e.g. the Foreign Office [fco.gov.uk] and the Home Office [homeoffice.gov.uk] sites.
  • http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=01/05/25/18162 30&cid=117 [slashdot.org]

    I often use Netscape 4.7 on Windows. Not to be elitist, but in a mostly-vain effort to curb IE dominance. I use Mozilla at home. Anyway.. read above for my thoughts on IE dominance. This is a prime example of why it's bad. It's not necessarily the browser, but the certs and the OS in this case, but it's pretty much the same situation.
  • Fine. It still dosen't work with Linux. I tried it using Mozilla 0.9 and Netscape 4.77 (the SAME BROWSER they say you need), and it came back with a message that I was "using an old version of a browser", or that my browser "does not have the correct settings".

    There's no reason whatsoever to support Netscape on Windows and not on Linux.
  • According to the linked page [gateway.gov.uk], it dosen't work at all using Netscape 4.77 and Linux. It comes back and says my browser is "old" or "does not have the correct settings". I get the same using mozilla 0.9.
  • Well, i got in with mozila 0.9 (albeit running under w98) when i enabled javascript and cookies. So i guess (if the story is not totally bogus) that someone reacted very fast and disabled that IE-Hurdle at the entrance (that's a cheap one). I even got into the secure site (https://secure. ...) and for people who couldn't use the certificate to log in there seemed to be a possibility to get a userid and password via mail. I also got to the inlandrevenue-site from there.

    Maybe some other people should check their "browsing experience" there. The page explaining that i had to use netscape or ie 4+ only popped up once, when i had disabled Javascript.
  • From http://www.gateway.gov.uk/html/bad_browser.asp [gateway.gov.uk]:
    Supported Browsers

    We have made the Government Gateway compatible with as many browsers as possible, on both PCs and Macintoshes. However, because we need to maintain maximum security on this web site, we cannot support older versions of browsers. To use the Government Gateway, you must have:
    • a PC, with Windows 95 or later, or Windows NT 4.0 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.01 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.08 or later
    • OR an Apple Macintosh with Mac OS version 7.5 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.xx or later a working Internet connection the 128-bit security add-in, for your version of the browser
    Do some research. Jesus.

    ---
  • by outlier (64928)
    you must use IE5.01 or above to be able to access government content, or do your tax returns online

    This is so cool. Linux users don't have to pay taxes!

  • "But why the rush? Again, it's ever-helpful Dell that tells us that although work on the project had started last June, "the original vendor withdrew from the project four months later." Coyness does set in now, but The Register is able to tell you that the original vendor was Compaq. The precise kit, reason for 'withdrawal' and projected OS we don't know, but somebody'll tell us, and the timing does seem to match the banning of Linux and the onset of the Redmond love affair. "

    A recent turnaround for no real reason, and the vendor is hurrying to get away with the money before maintenance costs sink in.


    --
  • by EyesOfNostradamus (75825) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @09:34PM (#190410) Homepage
    > they basically discriminate (even unintentionally) against computer users who choose not to use M$ products.

    Actually, while most of us chose not to use Microsoft products, for some less fortunate people it is not just a question of choice. Blind people often surf with "braille lines" or text-to-speech software. Neither of these devices can represent images; they only work with text-based browsers (such as lynx). Those people will effectively be locked out of the new site, just like wheelchair bound people are effectively locked out of building which can only be accessed through stairs.

  • by AugstWest (79042) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:06PM (#190412)
    This may however have been an early design feature that has now been edited out; we checked it with Netscape 6 on Windows, and got in without trouble. But we've also heard from people who couldn't get in with 6, and earlier versions of Netscape, Opera (even 5.11 pretending to be IE) don't work. We've got one Mac user saying he got in with IE 5 - we don't know how either.

    It's not a big, public launch, and like any launch of a web-based product, you're going to see browser incompatibilities. If my company could get back every dime spent on dealing with the differences between IE and Netscape, we'd be in a hell of a lot better market position.

    If MS somehow tries to maintain that it will always require Windows/IE, then you've got a problem. But this, this is nothing yet.
  • From a quick look, some of the problem is the handling of certificates, and an HTML validator won't help that, but it will help a lot of other problems with standards compliance that make your page not show up in one of the many browsers that are available.

    Using a validator during daily development of your website, whether static or dynamically generated pages, in the long run just makes it a lot easier because you catch a lot of careless errors. Imagine how hard it would be to write syntactically correct C code without using a compiler!

    If you'd like to try validating a couple pages real quick then click here to validate:
    Mike [goingware.com]
  • I tried the same thing with the User-Agent setting in Konqueror and it worked as well. I don't understand why mozilla doesn't have such a feature.
  • by B1ood (89212) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:27PM (#190420) Homepage
    Meanwhile Bob Yount, CEO of Red Hat, laments: "Here's Britain, the foundation of democracy and freedom, building its governmental infrastructure on proprietary binary-only technology from a known predatory monopolist..."
    I still can't stop laughing over that.

    B1ood

  • Tested Konquerer 2.1.1, Netscape 4.77, and Mozilla nightly (20010528 or somesuch), all on Linux; all failed.

    So, they want you to be running either MacOS or M$FT stuff........ it's not so much the browser as the OS.
    -----
  • But to access their secure areas of the web site:
    http://www.gateway.gov.uk/help/0/help_template.asp ?content=help_what_do_i_need_to_register.htm [gateway.gov.uk]

    Looks like they are not consistent with stating what browsers you require.
  • by shagoth (100818) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:04PM (#190428) Homepage
    Running Explorer 5.1 preview for OSX seems to let you in quite nicely. No sense of not working at all. I could test more, but fact checking isn't the readers job...
  • According to their help [gateway.gov.uk] you only need:

    What do I need before I can register?

    Before you register with the Government Gateway, check the requirements below to make sure you have everything you need:

    Hardware

    * PC or Macintosh

    * A working Internet connection

    Software

    PC Users

    * Microsoft Windows (Windows 95 and above or Windows NT 4 and above)

    * Internet browser. Either Microsoft Internet Explorer (v4.01 or later) or Netscape Navigator (v4.08 or later).

    Your browser must have Javascript and Cookies enabled, and be capable of supporting 128bit SSL.

    Apple Macintosh Users

    * Mac OS version 7.5 or later

    * Internet browser. Either Microsoft Internet Explorer (v5.0 or later) or Netscape Navigator (v4.08 or later).

    Your browser must have Javascript and Cookies enabled, and be capable of supporting 128bit SSL.

    But it looks like Netscape or Mozilla should work just fine.
  • I think (and I'm not being sarcastic) that fact checking *is* the user's job in this kind of forum. It may even be its distinguishing characteristic. You are not reading a newspaper. This is a different medium with different rules. You may view it as irritating and unprofessional, and I understand that. I, however, enjoy blundering towards some sort of half-assed consensus. It is addictive, involving, alive. Reading /. is not a passive act.

  • by small_dick (127697) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:46PM (#190443)
    ...even worse, Blair let an MS shop in the gov make the decisions and axe all the free software shops.

    oh well, it might be a freebie now, but man will MS bend them over in the coming years once they're hooked.

    very annoying to see all the posts that say "read the article! it works for me!" obviously, you didn't read the article, cuz it states that SOME parts work with SOME certs on SOME versions of netscape on SOME platforms.

    sheesh.


    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • Before anyone jumps on Microsoft and Mr. Gates, remember that the real blame lies with the government officials that approved a Microsoft-only solution.

    If someone offered me a monopoly on citizen-to-government interactions, I'd take it.

    -- Kris

  • If you actually go to the site [gateway.gov.uk] and click on the "What do I need before I can register? [gateway.gov.uk]" link, you'll see that they support both Netscape and IE on PC and Mac platforms. Only certain services require IE 5.01 or later, and that's due to differences in certificate support, not anything having to do with .NET.
  • I was watching the BBC news earlier today, and they had live coverage of Tony Blair and his wife Cherie being shown around the Microsoft UK headquarters in Reading, surrounded by smarmy M$ sales drones.

    When they started the demo of Office XP, I was sitting there waiting for a BSOD, but unfortunately they cut the broadcast after a couple of minutes.

    Even the news presenter said "Well that just looks like an advertisement for Microsoft."

  • by startled (144833) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:11PM (#190452)
    Whoah there. If you're implying that I can't count on The Register for accurate, unbiased, rumor-free reporting, I'm just not going to believe you.
  • Now what does that mean? Aren't most Macintoshes personal computers as well? Some of us have Linux or another unix running on an x86 PC. Saying "PC == x86/windows" is not far from "computers and IT == x86/windows".

    Think different, man.
  • Wow. Typed in the address, or read one of the other 109 posts saying the same thing. Insightful work, that.

    (No personal offense intended, of course ... no problem with the comment. Just wondering at the lack of intelligence shown by the moderators at times, when they're in 'moderate up my side' mode. Insightful?)

  • by WillRobinson (159226) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:14PM (#190463) Journal
    I will never pay taxes in the UK.

    Course, I live the the sovern country of Texas!
    Man im in a good mood...
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @02:33PM (#190466) Homepage Journal
    ..after an European Parliament report on Echelon which "recommends all Europeans use encryption and open source software." Here [newscientist.com] is the article.

    --
    I hit the karma cap, now do I gain enlightenment?
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:29PM (#190467) Homepage Journal
    If you're building an app, it's just so hard to decide whether to build for 95% of the population or 2%...

    The web is about standards. Those things can be built for 99% or even more of the netizens, if so wanted.

    --
    I hit the karma cap, now do I gain enlightenment?

  • by Golias (176380) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @02:16PM (#190471)
    It's paid for with taxpayers' money. Linux users pay taxes too. Do the people who "just don't use the site" get a tax refund?

    People without computers also helped pay for the site. If Linux support is added, will you demand a tax refund for those who choose not to buy computers?

  • Everyone should have a look at K-Meleon [kmeleon.org] it is the Windows 'Galeon'; a light browser built around the gecko rendering engine from mozilla.

    I use it on all my Windows systems - its quite capable. And you can config it to report MSIE5 to this UK Gov. site.... but it dosnt work with "MSIE5". Does anyone know the *exact string* that IE reports as 'browser type'?

  • Nor I. I think that people need to start specifying OSes as well as browsers to avoid confusion here. I certainly can't view it using any browser under linux, and I've tried Opera 5 final (identifying as everything), Mozilla 0.9, Netscape 4.76, Amaya and (as if I need to mention it) links.
  • by grammar nazi (197303) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:10PM (#190481) Journal
    I tried to register and here's what it said...
    To protect taxpayers' information whilst it is being sent to us, we are using the strongest available level of security. This is known as 128-bit encryption.

    The browser that you are using does not appear to support this level of security. If you are sure that your browser supports 128-bit encryption, click here to enter the service.

    If you are not sure whether your browser supports 128-bit encryption, could you please upgrade it by visiting the Netscape or Microsoft web site and downloading the necessary software.

    Both of the browsers are links to the respective websites. The URL is http://www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/e-tax/checkbrw.htm [inlandrevenue.gov.uk] if you don't believe me. This is one of the UK government sites.
  • Funny thing is, this locks out a lot of MS browsers too... there are a lot of people still using IE 4 or even earlier versions.

    Of course, this assumes that The Register even tried IE 4 on the site. :-P

  • Yeah, but tell that to some non-technical person that is in charge of getting a web site (inexpensively) done for their office. You are preaching to the choir here... Most Slashdot readers know that M$ FrontPage may not be worth much, but most office personnel don't read (nor heard of, for that matter) Slashdot. If all someone has to do is point and click to create a (cheap) web site with a bunch of links that glow when you move the mouse over them, then that's what they will do, regardless of the quality of the site. Like many non-technical people, they want it done *now*, they want it done *cheap*, and they want it by any means possible.
  • It's not just the UK. The Microsoft way seems to be becoming the government way more and more. The American president now comes with a $300 mail in rebate. It kind of makes you wonder if the the Democrat choice for 2004 will come with 3 years free MSN access.
  • I'll do my gratuitous Bush-bashing at the ballot box in 2004, thanks. I'm very interested in how the new DoJ handles the Microsoft vs. Netscape antitrust case. It's been quiet for far too long, IMHO.

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • If MS somehow tries to maintain that it will always require Windows/IE,

    A year ago they probably considered it, now it's probably on the back burner, although, I haven't followed the Ashcroft Dept. to see how friendly W's administration will be to M$. My guess is they'll quietly sweep it under the rug. Once the furor settles I wouldn't be surprised to see M$ adopt such a strategy, with consoling words from Bill, "Because with only one product to chose from it makes everyone's life so much easier, and, Gosh, we only want to do what's best for people!"

    More disturbing, ATM is the slugging match shaping up between AOL and M$. I don't view either as the lesser of two evils. Other ISP's have fallen by the wayside, been consolidated, or really aren't in this league to begin with. Both want access to your TV and home connection to external communication and media. AOL/TW is in a terrific position to dictate inflexible standards, and M$ knows it.

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • I'm surfing in Opera, identifying as IE 5.0, and I couldn't get into the site when I clicked the link.

  • by Kiro (220724) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:05PM (#190508)
    The poster missed the fact that you can still use Opera for that website, as long as you set it to identify itself as MSIE5.

    --
    Kiro
  • by The Monster (227884) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:44PM (#190514) Homepage
    I didn't have a problem accessing it with Netscape 6.
    I just tried it with Opera 5.11, and got a message saying
    We have made the Government Gateway compatible with as many browsers as possible, on both PCs and Macintoshes. However, because we need to maintain maximum security on this web site, we cannot support older versions of browsers. To use the Government Gateway, you must have:

    • a PC, with Windows 95 or later, or Windows NT 4.0 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.01 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.08 or later
    • OR an Apple Macintosh with Mac OS version 7.5 or later with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later or Netscape Navigator version 4.xx or later
    • a working Internet connection
    • the 128-bit security add-in, for your version of the browser

    Please note that you cannot currently use Netscape 6 to access the Government Gateway, due to issues with the support for digital certificates in this new version.

    Then I told Opera to identify itself as MSIE 5.0, and still got the message. Still no luck. I've got all the scripting turned on they ask for. Dammit. Somebody vote these guys out!
  • Do some research. Jesus.

    I don't think that Jesus posted this story.

  • To all those people who say,"It supports Netscape, read the article!" You are missing the point:

    I have been following this for sometime and knew awhile ago that they intended to the .NET initiative. Basically, they do not see the dangers of putting sensitive Government information in the hands of Microsoft (back door anyone?).

    This is what is going to happen:

    1.A virus is going to sweep across all MSFT .NET networks, bringing them to a grinding halt. The UK government has already been shut down on previous e-mail clogging system issues.

    2.Someone from a foreign country will crack the site and steal some information and post it, or threaten to.

    3. UK Taxpayer will pay the bills for these licenses when they need to keep up the subscription.

    Sorry to say, but this is an outrageous waste of taxpayers money.

    Another offending site that uses MSFT only crap is www.classicfm.co.uk which is a shame 'cause I liked to listen to their broadcasts, but its not worth the boot into Windows for.

  • by NineNine (235196) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:14PM (#190521)
    According to register, you CAN use Chambersign certificates and use Netscape 4.x. Please read the article.

    Also, it's a step in the right direction. Having access to gov't services online is fantastic. And yes, not everybody can get to them, but with, what, 90% of people able to get to them online, that's a hell of a lot better than 100% of people standing in line.

  • by tulare (244053) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @02:50PM (#190526) Journal
    I first went to the following site, as referenced below in the comments:
    http://www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/e-tax/checkbrw.h tm
    From there, it was clear that everything worked. I was only able to browse the subnet regarding the Self-Assesment Tax Return, which I am hardly eligible for (Living as I do in the US), but if I were British, I could almost certainly do what I needed to do.

    From this I can only draw the following conclusion: M$ has set up a series of gateway sites which have no legitimate purpose whatsoever; instead, they appear to be clearly trying to force people to use their garbage. If only Tony Blair knew what a horrible mistake he has made...
  • by megaduck (250895) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {levravd}> on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:31PM (#190530) Journal

    Microsoft may not be very responsive to public opinion, but the British Government sure is. Democratic governments have to provide equal access to government services or they risk having a large group of pissed off voters on election day. Blair wants 100% of all government services online by 2005. As a Mac user (IE for Mac doesn't work either), I know I'd be pretty angry if I got left out in the cold.

    Not only that, but the standard browser on the upcoming Symbian 3G cell phones will be Opera, not IE [theregister.co.uk]. Symbian looks to be a leader in that arena, so the majority of wireless users wouldn't be able to access government sites if this continued. Microsoft is going to have to buckle on this one and use open standards, guaranteed.

  • from The Register:
    But where will it all lead? It's possibly worth remembering at this juncture that Mr Tony himself is a complete, self-confessed and unabashed technoklutz. He is, furthermore, total jail-bait when it comes to photo-opps with the rich and famous. Which is a disastrous and expensive combination when it runs up against Bill Gates at the head of Microsoft's government sales Spetsnaz.
    Bill Gates wooing those with little technical knowledge, but at the top of the power chain, isn't at all a new thing [brillscontent.com]. Here's a quote about a similar phenomenon on the article I linked to over at Brill's Content by Nicholas Petreley [InfoWorld]:
    Microsoft "bend[s] the ear of those people at the top of the press chain, the people who have the least amount of technical knowledge," says Petreley, now an InfoWorld contributing editor. The company "presents its case as strongly as possible at that level, and works its way down, and [tries] to get its results that way. It's very clever."
    Well, it's a good strategy, albeit a bit on the evil side...

  • I don't know what they were smoking, but Equifax certs work just fine with non MS browsers. I've used Equifax certs on numerous servers and haven't had any troubles with NS 4, 6, IE, Mozilla, Opera, you name it. Besides - how can an SSL certificate block your access to the site - worst case is you get prompted to accept an unvalidated cert.

    --

  • ...is if they mandated that all their users used Linux+Netscape to access the site. What a slashdot fiasco that would be...

    Oh, wait, no it wouldn't be.

    I agree, though. If you're building an app, it's just so hard to decide whether to build for 95% of the population or 2%...
  • by Migelikor1 (308578) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @01:18PM (#190546) Homepage
    Right now, we're looking at an early roll-out of a sophisticated service that has incompatibility problems with some of the enormous range of computers out there. Of course Microsoft made sure it was most compatible with their software first. Nobody should be surprised that the M$ programmers did a better job with their own product. Despite the usual sentiment that they're forcing conversion, there really hasn't been any reason to call foul yet. There should be wider support with time, and let's keep in mind that the Government isn't forcing citizens to use the service. Most people use IE anyway (let's face it...there aren't too many options) and the government, with Microsoft's help, and a minimum of expense, has just begun to offer an extremely nice service to those people. Maybe they should have written their own client, which was non-platform reliant, but they managed to release the service earlier and cheaper by using preexisting technology and cutting out a fairly small (though vocal) segment of computer users.
  • Yeah, but tell that to some non-technical person that is in charge of getting a web site (inexpensively) done for their office. You are preaching to the choir here... Most Slashdot readers know that M$ FrontPage may not be worth much, but most office personnel don't read (nor heard of, for that matter) Slashdot. If all someone has to do is point and click to create a (cheap) web site with a bunch of links that glow when you move the mouse over them, then that's what they will do, regardless of the quality of the site. Like many non-technical people, they want it done *now*, they want it done *cheap*, and they want it by any means possible.

    Exactly. And while some may view this as the fault of the clueless non-technical person for whom the Linux community has such contempt, I view it as a failing of the Linux community.

    I mean, come on - Linux should have half a dozen easy-to-use graphical web page builders that generate decent code. It's shameful.

  • by m08593 (455349) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @06:50PM (#190582)
    And it's not the web site, it's the digital certificates that cause problems

    The web site seems to just refuse to talk to people if they don't come from a Windows or MacOS machine. They could simply check for the certificates when they are needed, but they actually seem to check for the browser id string. What if Opera or Konqueror get the necessary certificates tomorrow? What if they already have them?

    As for saying you can't do your tax return on-line in Netscape? Bollocks. It uses straight HTTPS. I've just completed mine. Did any of you think to check for yourselves? I doubt it, you just saw "it was written by Microsoft" and your knees starting jerking.

    Maybe you just have a knee-jerk reaction when people criticize your favorite monopolist? You seem so far in the Windows world that you don't even notice the inconveniences Microsoft causes to competitors.

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