Windows Vista has made a year into its life and Microsoft tauts it as the most secure windows released till date. That may very well be the case but the inane and sometimes inscrutable User Account Control (UAC) prompts make it also the most irksome of all Windows releases.
Microsoft says UAC has been an effective adjuvant in the battle against malware despite statements from Redmond insisting that UAC is not a security boundary. I never understood the whole play on words but it is really hard to miss the security benefits of filtered tokens. However UAC continues to be a loss of operating system usability for regular and power windows users, the turning off facility in control panel notwithstanding.
What I wonder about is, how could UAC have passed any external feedback in design or preimplementation stage, presuming that Microsoft sought such feedback ? Or was it all hush-hush and implement-and-tell users who complained thereafter only to hear a sorry-we-are-done ? All of us have heard tons of people hating Vista for UAC, yet nothing seems to have changed and UAC is here to stay.
We all need to understand that Run as Administrator in the context menu really does not mean the Administrator or someone who is a member of Administrators group but actually run as good old pre-vista pre-UAC me. I still have to copy files from network share to my Desktop and then from there to Program Files directory because I connect to the share using a different account and UAC cannot handle a direct copy from network mapped drive to Program Files directory.
The core issue that UAC attempts to address, is without a doubt a hard problem. It is not easy to establish relationship between any action in the OS to a particular action from user. Knowing how Windows ticks, any alternative to UAC would perhaps be problematic and disruptive. Too bad we do not know what choices were considered before UAC was chosen to be implemented.
Vista Service Pack 1 promises to have eliminated some of the UAC prompts, but one wonders if it would address other annoyances such as missing progress information during disk defrag. Windows XP shows before and after graphical view in addition to a percentage completion during defragmentation.
Vista may be a manifestation of Microsoft's frustration with developers and users bent on taking Windows to places not palatable to Redmond. Some of which is perhaps justfiable. But truth be told, Vista challenges long time loyalists that have traditionally taken the OS to be "theirs" to start taking it as it comes from Redmond. In many aspects of negotiating a switch from previous versions of Windows, it feels like it would have to be Vista way or the highway.
So does Vista have any love to lose still ? [Literally speaking the answer is yes. The only 2 places where the base operating system has "love" as a verb are in AcGenral.dll which ironically is a part of Vista's application compatibility infrastructure.]
I would take an answer to that question from anyone who has tried figuring win32 incantation for doing administrative access check in Vista.