How hard can it be?

No, really, how hard can it be to update a single web page?

Recently we were tasked with updating a CMS website — this legacy site has a fairly old WYSIWIG editing front-end — no biggie you may think. The non-techie stakeholders could not understand the hold up, and frankly there shouldn’t have been any problems: at it’s best, IT is a form of ‘magic’ and make life easier for everyone, and the web editing front-end in question is simply a tool that should be easy for anyone to use.

However, this being a legacy system there were a few small but crucial issues. There was no direct access to the server or files, FTP or otherwise, no access to the host dashboard, only the rather flaky editing application.

Flaky? yes, indeed. After some investigation, we found that the web-application only supports IE8. The WYSIWIG feature plugged straight into MS Word v.Old. A good example of bad programming with inbuilt redundancy and over-reliance on a single technology. Hardly platform-independent, future-proof programming…but we all have to work within constraints.

So, the first step is to install a virtual machine, no problem (it transpires I didn’t give it enough RAM, but hey, we can change that later).

Next step is to install Windows XP (we need IE8 after all) — tedious but not such a problem, yes? No: XP is now in ‘extended life’ so quite difficult to get hold of. I could not find our copy in the ‘EKS software safe’, let alone a valid key…eventually the CD turned up in a sock drawer.

Booting up into XP is a nostalgic experience, reminding me of simpler, happier times. Then I removed the pinky specs.

Step 3: XP shipped with IE6 — a poor little browser that cannot render any useful sites. (At this point I am very grateful the CD included all the service packs, downloading all the security updates using IE6 would have been hideous). So although upgrading to IE8 is a high priority, FIRST we need to install an anti-virus…THEN IE8.

OK, all set, all secure — until April 2014, must uninstall the virtual box before then!

Now to install Office Very Old. Well, some of it — why is environment installation so tedious, and why do we all forget the endless babysitting an install needs?

Word 2007 is not entirely unfamiliar, but there aren’t the warm and fuzzy feelings associated with XP. Contrary to common perception, Microsoft products have improved vastly over the years…

Finally, we can boot up XP (on the virtual box), launch IE, log into the WYSIWIG web application and edit the page! Not quite. WYSIWIG is a very loose and forgiving description of the web application, and it seems to insert HTML tags randomly.

It seems I will mostly be using Expression Web to generate the HTML, and cross fingers it doesn’t confuse the CSS — to which we have no access, don’t forget.

We are very grateful the legacy website will be superseded in the not too distant future with a lovely new something in Drupal.