Mozilla Security Software

Windows Vista

Foreword: This is somewhat of an informal rant, it’s pretty much my notes tinkering in Windows Vista.

Am I the only one who is not very impressed with Windows Vista? Several things so far have just shown to be a complete turnoff:

  • It warns me about everything. Warnings stink, people just ignore them if they happen to often. This will prove to be effective security for about 2 weeks. After that, people will click OK without reading a thing. I got a security warning trying to show processes from all users in the task manager. Why? How can a Microsoft App not trust another Microsoft App? I’m guessing the next step is a CAPTCHA on each dialog.
  • Learning Curves are evil. The new Save dialog isn’t totally evil, but it’s quasi evil. It took me a few seconds to figure out how it works, and still feels really really awkward no matter what method I use to navigate. On a somewhat related note, took a while to find the familiar command prompt (it’s nested deep in the start menu now). Is there a “classic view” for the control panel like there was in XP? This “intuitive” stuff is just extra clicks and a waste of my time.
  • Despite my best effort, I’m still not sure why I’m denied permission to my own Application Data directory. It’s my data!
  • Start menu with scroll bars? Maximizing a folder caused scrollbars! Oh come on, that’s awkward, as if the old design wasn’t bad, now I have to scroll as well? What I’d really like is programs get sorted by category in the Start Menu (tagging) rather than how the publisher thinks they should be. That way you don’t get programs all over the place.
  • Killer feature? This is my biggest complaint. Other than shiny menu’s (which I’m not to fond of) and some new icons (which I do like), I don’t really see much in here that says “this is worth money”… not to mention in many cases you’ll want “Vista Ultimate” (or Vista ‘Take a Loan From The Bank’ Ultimate) if you want some of the features from various different editions they will be offering. If they include them all on 1 media anyway, why not let me pay per extra feature? Rather than these bundles? Perhaps I want some of the mobile and some of the business stuff, but don’t need the kitchen sink, dishwasher, and knit toaster cover.

But is there anything cool besides the icons? Well I tried out the new Parental Controls on a profile, and to my surprise, they don’t just effect IE, but everything including Firefox (because it’s likely sniffing the TCP/IP stack like it should). Of course a very fitting screenshot:

Firefox with Parental Controls

And for those wondering, it does give what seem to be pretty nice HTTP Headers, so it would be possible to sniff and serve up our own pretty error pages to keep a consistent UI if desired. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the filter, since I haven’t tested it for what it filters, only how it interacts.

So will I upgrade? I’m really not sure to be honest. I see a few things that make me hesitant:

  1. Will my Thinkpad T43 handle it well? Or will it be sluggish and annoying (I’m running it virtualized right now, hence I said nothing about performance). I know the minimum specs are pretty low, but typically the minimum specs are nothing but a pipe dream, nothing you could use on a daily basis.
  2. I don’t want to pay extra to keep the features I have with XP Pro.
  3. Annoyances fixed… the above is really annoying stuff. Really annoying. I don’t think I’d be able to tolerate warnings all over the place. It’s just to distracting if even simple tasks involve signing wavers and sacrificing your first born child.

Perhaps I’m just fussy, or maybe I’m selfish for wanting an easy to use OS, that doesn’t have an abrasive security policy, is secure without locking me out of my own files or nagging me with warnings, and doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg to upgrade my somewhat new (less than a year old) hardware.

As far as next-generation OS’s go, my initial impression says Mac OS X, and Ubuntu still have a lead over Vista. If Apple can get Windows binaries running from within OS X (virtualized as rumored), that could be a crushing blow to Microsoft.

Hopefully someone at Microsoft is listening.

13 replies on “Windows Vista”

It does not warn about everything. It warns when you do something requiring an elevated privelidge. Many linux distributions do the same thing. You might think things like changing the time shouldn’t require special privelidges, but when security technologies such as Kerberos (used as part of Windows domain technology) and SSL rely on times being correct (or technically synchronized), then there are attack vectors there. Larry Osterman wrote in a blog entry that Windows XP actually has a security flaw because the Time/Date control panel requests time change priveledge when opening the dialog instead of when actually changing the time so there is more room for a buffer overrun or other exploit to change the system time. I do agree that the user experience of user account protection is not as polished as necessary and does prompt often, there is a valid reason for having it. In Vista Beta 2, I belive there is still a way to turn it off. Many applications still do stupid things like write data into their programming files instead of the appropriate Application Data directory withing either a specific user’s or the common user profile. Once Windows applications are coded in a more sound fashion, things will be better as far as the user experience goes. That is why Microsoft has the Windows logo programs for software and hardware.
I cannot speak on Microsoft reading your blog. I don’t work for them this year, but they do have feedback channels, so be sure to use them. However, don’t expect architectural changes to Vista at this point, though input will be considered for future versions of Windows.

Brant I dont think rob is talking about that, he is talking about stuff like deleting desktop shortcut, clearly in the user’s domain of control no need to escalate privelages for that. I am sure there are many more similar examples of UI stupidity.

poningru, I’m testing it out now and no the UAC does not appear if you delete a shortcut from the local desktop only if it’s resides in all users desktop. I think this is fair enough because if a parent has placed a shortcut on the desktop for all users they don’t really want their kids under their own login deleting it randomly.

The only difficulty I’ve experienced with it so far was when I was trying to move all my music from my XP partition to Vista. There were several files (I think ones with the system attribute) that it would, for each one, prompt me for before moving. It also seemed to stop the move operation part way through after some of the prompts meaning I had to manually restart the move operation several times before it finished.

Apart from that I’ve found the prompts to be reasonable and not too annoying. From what I’ve read though this was not the case pre Beta 2 and that it has been much improved since the Beta release with Microsoft saying they will improve it even more before RTM.

I had similar feelings that Vista’s going to be a pain in the *** to use with its default security model. When I installed my company’s software product, I was prompted *three times* before it would let me do the installation. Later, I needed to edit my config file and couldn’t. I’m still not sure how to do this.

The security change is so far past the point of usefulness people will likely try to circumvent it. In contrast, Linux rarely asks for extra access when deleting files or checking system things like IP address. And when it does need root access, there’s provisions like the “sudo” command — prompting once. Similarly, YaST prompts once then runs its updates. But more to the point, I can use the system without having to repeatedly request privileged access.

The one thing I really liked about Vista was the revamped start menu that let me find a program without hunting around for which group it was in.

The look and feel is a nice improvement over the bling-feel of XP (which I usually revert to “classic mode”), but dang does it take so much of my system’s resources.

Oh, and I agree with you about Ubuntu. I’m waiting for my 6.x discs…

Just wanted to make a note that you can get into your Application Data directory, only the name and format were changed.

The folder:
is split up into 3 subfolders that should house what was in the Application Data folder.

For example, my Firefox cache was in the ‘Local’ directory and my profiles in the ‘Roaming’ directory.

I assume the ‘Application Data’ folder is only there for backwards compatability.

Wulf: same way the newspapers keep the columns full, spacing is relative to the amount of text in the line. Can be odd at some times ;-).

I too am beta testing Vista. I am both a Mac user and Windows user. I think windows has given up trying to patch all the holes in its system. Frankly I dont think that is possible in any OS.So Microsoft has gone the direction of trying to warn users of impending doom if they allow certain changes. Of course this can be anoying! But so can viruses and malware.
IM sure OS X would be doing similar prompts if they had more targets aimed at that OS. My only complaint about Vista is that it is a HD hog.
Talk about a huge OS!! Can we not just build ONE OS Microsoft?? Why do we need choices? Does this not only create problems for Microsoft but for the consumer? People had enough trouble choosing between XP home and Pro. Yes, they later added Media center, but that really only added media type applications which could have been offered as a separate upgrade.
Consumers will only be confused and will probably delay any new OS until they can understand what they really need.

Brain, I still cannot access my Application Data Folder. If anyone could help, that’d be nice :]

This folder is the now the AppData. Click Start, Run, enter AppData and there you will find it, in three subfolders local, locallow and roaming. Good luck!

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