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Vista: are you ready for the pain

UAC: User Annoyance Central

8:07 pm on Jun 27, 2007 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I looked back as far as Feb and didn't see any posts on personal experiences with Vista. Probably missed some, but here's one (or another).

Okay, so I swore Win2K would be my last MS OS, but it was not to be. In a nutshell, I need Adobe InDesign for work. It was, essentially, a similar issue that got me to get Win2K by the way.

So I have a nice, fast computer, having finally shelved the 2000 vintage, and I installed Win2K, which suits me fine and I have never thought to upgrade my desktop to XP, having had it on two laptops with no advantage that I could see for my uses. Unfortunately, Adobe CS3 will not install or run on Win2K and because of various issues, Vista upgrade is available through work, but XP is not, even though the IT people officially recommend against Vista. BTW, CS3 requires Home Premium or higher.

Well, you have to do a clean install, not install from Win2K, but you can't do that with an upgrade disk.

Solution: So you have to install once like it's a trial, not putting in your key or registering, then boot into the OS you just installed, and then install Vista again from the autorun, this time putting in your license key and activating. So by the time you're running, you've done two full installs and spent the better part of your morning at it. Then you still have to install all your apps. There is no upgrade path from Win2K that lets you avoid that.

This is perhaps not a Vista issue, but I have dual-booted this computer before and done similar things with no problem. Basically, the easiest way for me to get data from one computer to another is to plug the old IDE drive in as a second drive and away you go. Set the boot order, of course, to boot first from the SATA with Vista on it. Works fine for a while, but eventually, the Vista boot manager or something or other gets confused, sees that you still have a boot.ini on the old drive and decides that's your boot drive, so it kills the boot info on the SATA drive. Unfortunately, the motherboard still believes it should boot first from the SATA and so it hangs and dies. Get in there with your repair tools and sure enough, most of the files that Vista uses to boot from are gone. Poof.

Not just me either. The net is full of similar stories. Not many solutions. Don't bother with Vista's repair tools (BCDEdit, etc. No help).

Solution: No clue, but it seems like if you get Vista installed and updated and get your key drivers (chipset, video, basic onboard hardware) installed before you plug in a second drive, things more or less work. Fingers crossed.

So between getting the "upgrade" disk to upgrade and getting Vista to stop blowing away its own boot manager, I've been through the install process EIGHT times. An entire day and then some.

User Account Control, which would be better named User Annoyance Central, pops up with "are you sure you want to do that?" messages for the most amazing things and it's a two-stop process (click, then click again) to proceed. . Seemed like a good idea at first (warns you when your run an executable off the internet), but it warns you for everything and when you're configuring a computer, that's literally every couple of minutes. Change a setting. Two popups. Install an app. Two popups. Make a new directory anywhere Vista thinks you should be. Two popups. Open the control panel. Two popups. Open the "Program Files" directory just to look. Two popups

I tried everything I could to unzip a file inside the Program Files directory (this just runs as an executable and then you make your own shortcut). No dice.

I created a directory in the Program Files directory via another application. Invisible. Some apps show it, but not Windows Exploder, which is more unstable than ever.

Solution: Turn it off. They touted Vista as the first version of Windows that you could reasonably run as a non-admin, which might be true, once the admin has set it up for you entirely and... taken away your mouse and keyboard. Use those and you're going to have annoying popups.

Of course, there will be glitches with some of your old apps. Hey, they can't make it backwards compatible with software from the 20th century, whether they wrote it or not. But couldn't they make the parts of the OS work? I couldn't figure out how to unzip a file (this is built into XP and certainly into Vista, but I can only figure out how to unzip with my inzip app). So I go to the famous Program Files folder with the zip archive and click on the archive. A simple left or right click. I take no action. It should highlight it or give a context menu. No chance. It crashes Windows Explorer 100%. I eventually had to use the sidebar to delete the entire directory. Haven't tried unzipping elsehwere and moving over yet.

Or how about this? I create a directory in Program Files using right click -> new -> new folder and it creates one. Read only! Why in the world would I manually create a read only folder? This I'm sure is User Annoyance Central at work again.

You want Java with that browser? Actually, I don't, but there was a site I had to visit where ALL navigation was Java driven (yep, you read that right - not Javascript, 100% Java navigation, plugin required). I could not get through the permissions thing and get Java installed on either IE or FF. Had to switch to my wife's computer with XP. I just look at that and think that if I, who run 4 versions of IE, Opera, FF with a dozen extension, Konqueror, and testbed servers on my site, give up in frustration before getting the JVM to install for a browser, is this going to be a problem for others.

And then there are the things that have always bothered you about Windows that nobody at MS seems to care about. Carefully CTRL-click and select 30 out of 100 files to copy, but it fails on #2. Well, it doesn't even try on 3-30. Just stops. Just like DOS, Win 3.1, Win95, Win98, etc etc.

Oh well, at least they have academic volume pricing and site licenses at work, so they didn't give two much money away for any one copy.


It really is true. Upgrading to Vista is a BAD idea. I think when the history of MS is written, Win2K will be seen as the best, and perhaps only decent, stable OS they ever turned out.

Anyway, blowing off steam as much as anything else. I should have stayed smart and just ponied up the money for XP Pro, which my wife has on *her* new computer, with no issue whatsoever.

The only thing I can say is that CS3 is nice. All in all though, like Vista, not worth the upgrade if you're already on CS2 and XP.

8:35 pm on June 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I am of the camp....don't use new M$ OS's until it has been at least 18 months. I still have feelings of hatred for having spent real money on Windows ME... Arg... lost so many files re-installing the OS several times after fatal error after fatal error.

I have heard many nightmare stories about Vista... your description of it 'protecting' system directories such as Program Files is to me the dumbest thing ever.

M$ has this attitude that you need a high level of hand-holding for use of your computer. It looks like it has gotten even more out of hand. I was hoping they would back off it a little. For new users I can see having that level of control but once you become familiar with your system it should back off a little.

For the uncompressing of files I would try right click -> send to -> uncompressed folder

Or some other unintuitive action....

I am still not even over the fact that you have to click "start" to stop your computer... pre-vista... I see now the "start" button is now just a windows logo.

I listened to a very non-technical friend of mine rant about Vista.... he isn't able to articulate his frustrations other then to spit and foam at the mouth with some muttering about it shouldn't be so hard to.... all his rants seem to end with the same sad statement about how he was warned from others not to get it but didn't listen.

Rather then having 8 different levels of Vista they should have just 2.... Vista hand holder... and ... Vista free-range longhorn (for advanced users)

I don't understand why they want to continue to treat people like they are dumb and need to be helped along.... I know that is how it was but they should be advancing with their users.... once all the kids who grew up using computers get older they aren't going to want crappy OS's that limits their use of their computer.... I want my computer working for me not fighting me on every action that I take.

10:45 pm on June 27, 2007 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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For new users I can see having that level of control but once you become familiar with your system it should back off a little.

Actually, it's probably worse for them than anyone. Like I say, it is literally a minute by minute occurrence as you set up your computer. I am fully trained to click without looking (actually, turning it off is better).

I assume that with it off, I'll still get really critical messages: "Are you sure you want to reformat drive C:?" What if I were trained to be a popup killer, clicking every one out of frustration. Ooops. That one actually was dangerous. I guess my system's gone. It's just a totally broken system.

Like I say, if not for the CS3 thing, I was planning to never upgrade from Win2K, free or otherwise. I was actually thinking I would install a different OS and then just run Win2K on a virtual machine when I really needed it. Not so.

I am still not even over the fact that you have to click "start" to stop your computer.

Frankly, this is not even in the same league, in terms of UI insanity, as the Apple convention of dragging your preciously saved files on your CD or floppy to the trash to eject the media. I have never been able to do that without trepidation.

It all begs the question: don't these people have user testing budgets? If so, who exactly do they ask to test things? They seem so often to be tested by the guys who design them.

11:10 pm on June 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member kaled is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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A few clues as to bizarre behaviour under Vista...

1) Vista-aware apps are compiled with a manifest that identifies them as such. This manifest can request admin rights so that a UAC prompt is always displayed e.g. regedit.
2) Non-vista apps (unless run with admin rights) suffer the indignity of file and registry virtualization. Briefly, if a non-vista program attempts to write to protected areas, these actions will appear to work but the data is stored elsewhere. Of course, if read and write operations are attempted, maybe it will work or maybe not - it's a monstrous logic problem.

Protecting areas of the registry is fair enough - its annoying but understandable. However, preventing programs from storing data in their own program-files-subdirectory is somewhat more questionable.

I have been wrestling with the problems of User Account Control as a programmer, so I know better than most just how big a pain it is, however, on balance, it hurts me to say it, but it is a good idea. Certainly, they got some basic things wrong, for instance, it is not possible to change the user level of a process after creation (boy, that's annoying) and it is not possible to launch a process with standard rights from a process with admin rights (totally barking mad) however the concept is sound.


3:12 am on June 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Re User account control and turning it off.

I just went to a technet seminar on vista and longhorn. The presenter was showing the UAC feature. It might have been my imagination but I think I heard the whole theater snicker.

End users are going to be programmed to simply click the "OK" button whenever the dialog comes up. After a couple of hundred like "Do you really want to install excel" they will be programmed to click OK even if the dialog says "Do you want to allow some creepy hacker sitting in his parent's basement to have complete control of your PC to the point where the feds will probably come and arrest you for the content he puts on your machine?"

{user clicks OK} and goes merrily along.


7:30 am on June 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Win2K will be seen as the best, and perhaps only decent, stable OS they ever turned out.

No..., that would be NT4 SP6a

Right now I am struggling to find good reasons to move from WIN2K/IIS5 to WIN2K3/IIS6. So far it is not looking good. There are a lot of gotchas.

The WIN2K boxes stay up for several hundred days at a crack. The record being 524 days until someone unplugged it accidentally. So, reliability is not a problem. The only reason would be to be for performance and that does not seem to be forthcoming in real world usage. Too many gotchas and workarounds needed.

There seem to be major problems in real world usage of the os based on their effort to reduce the attack surface of a default install. As I put it to someone today, why would I need a door every three feet in the hallway if I've got a three inch steel door at the entry?

Oh, and don't get me started on the takeover of Compaq by HP! Download a device driver sitting in a self extracting cab and watch it fail to extract on a NT4 box. The freakin' junior programmer put in charge of that little project decided to use some whizbang api that required at least WIN2K. #*$!? zip works better on WIN2K?

4:36 pm on June 28, 2007 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Actually Kaled,

I agree. The concept is sound. Even excellent. Somehow the implementation is an utter failure, though. By the concept, I mean these elements

- every user has defined privileges and, unlike previous Windows, can function pretty well without invoking the superuser account (does anyone really *run* Win2K on anything but an Administrator account?)

- differentiation between a superuser (THE Administrator) and accounts with admin privileges (new to Windows and good).

- attempt to identify and respond to actions that could be harmful, but which only a human user can really decide on (in theory a good idea, but needs better heuristics).

I think some of the problems are the very nature of a Windows desktop. In other words, on say a *nix server with multiple accounts, I have my account. In general, I can install whatever I damn well please, and have it do whatever it wants, short of accessing certain system functions, low-level stuff and, of course, parts of the disk I have no access to. In general, though, I can completely hose my account. I just can't hose *your* account while I'm at it. Well, on a typical Windows install, there is really only one user anyway, and the admin and the lowly user are the same person, so hosing "my" account is pretty much the same thing as hosing the whole system. So it presents a challenge that is not an easy nut to crack for the OS designers. I'll grant that.

There are some minor things that I *do* like about Vista

*shorter paths with fewer spaces makes some things easier.
-Old: C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\My Documents\My Pictures\pic.jpg
-New: C:\Users\Tom\Pictures

It makes Vista almost seem like it's using grownup words.

*Little tool tips, like when I drag and drop, it tells me not just with highlighting (which often makes it hard to read the name of the dir your dropping to) but also with text "Move to Dir1".

*search tool on the Notstart button.

*thumbnails on the task bar so I can see which browser window I want to reopen.

Most of these are certainly not the sort of thing you would go install a new OS to get though.

6:19 pm on July 1, 2007 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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One more tip

- Turning off UAC is essential to being able to function with sanity in Vista.

- Explorer crashes constantly. This is also because of poorly implemented security. You'll notice that very often if you simply try to look at the contents of a folder that has executables in it, Vista will crash. It seems like this is because of DEP (Data Execution Protection). If I had more time, I would try to set this to OFF just for Explorer, but since I'm just tired of this, I'm just turning it off.

- open a command prompt using "run as administrator"
- enter:

bcdedit.exe /set {current} nx AlwaysOff

Ahh... insecure bliss. Yep, Vista's secure all right. You just can't run it that way. Once you back the security settings back to where it's as secure as XP on a good day, it seems to work pretty well though.

I wish that when MS thought in terms of safety, they would think in terms of air bags, not four-point seatbelts. Or is it the other way around?

Further reading on DEP:
Turn off DEP [tech-recipes.com]
In-Depth Tutorial on DEP [blogs.technet.com]

When all was said and done, though, it turns out that it was the application associated with zip files that was crashing Explorer - whenever I viewed a dirctory with a zip file in it, Explorer would die. The application, not Vista, was at fault.