In my view, UAC on Vista is a useless waste of space. It is annoying, can be compromised
and the only sensible option for a developer using it, is to turn it off.
Enter Windows 7, with its promise of an improved UAC. From my perspective, it is still as broken as ever. I created a folder in Program Files and suffered a barrage of UAC dialogues as it created and renamed the folder. So I promptly turned it off again. However it has left me wondering whether I was hasty. How were others faring with it? If Peter Bright’s analysis is anything to go by, it looks like the claims of improvements are less than honest.
Microsoft made a huge mistake with UAC. It was the wrong solution to a very real problem. They should just have admitted they got it wrong, scrapped it and tried a new a approach with Windows 7. Instead, they seem to feel that they can turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse by sowing an ass’ ear to the side of it. UAC seems to stand for Unwanted Assinine Cludge these days. It’s a great shame, as they seem to have addressed most of the other annoyances of Vista with WIndows 7. So why couldn’t they have fixed UAC properly too?
Here in Britain, we have largely escaped the insanity of software patents that afflicts the USA. We used to have a clear and unambiguous law that software-only inventions could not be patented. Those laws are – through design – open to interpretation by judges. Judges are undoubtedly clever people when it comes to understanding the law, but in the case of Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury and his cohorts Lord Justic Jacob and Lord Justice Maurice Kay, grasping simple technology concepts appears way too complex for them.
Nokia applied for a patent for a piece of software which makes other software run faster on a computer. The European Patent Office – which is also staffed by technological incompetents – duly awarded the patent, even though they should not have done so under EU patent law (not least do to prior art considerations). Thankfully our UK patent office applies the rules far better and threw the application out. So Nokia took the case to court. The appeal court has now ruled that a piece of software that makes a computer perform better is not just a software invention because “…it has the knock-on effect of the computer working better as a matter of practical reality.” So apparently “better” is now a technical term and any piece of software that makes a computer work better is patentable. In other words, any piece of software could be patented under this rule.
Software patents benefit no one but giant companies that can throw money at bamboozling patent offices into accepting their patent applications. It is far too costly in most situations for SMEs or individuals to apply for such patents. Europe – and especially Britain – has long fought to prevent US-style software patents becoming a reality here. Sadly all that effort may have been undone through the actions of one idiot judge. This is a good day for giant corporations; it is though a very bad day for SMEs and consumers. Hopefully the UK patent office will not give up and will take this to the House of Lords, who might finally see sense and throw the case out. I won’t hold my breath though…
One of the more annoying features of Vista is User Access/ Account Control (UAC). In theory, it’s a great idea: make the user aware of changes to the system to prevent malware taking hold. In practice it’s hideous. Even if your user account has local machine administrator rights, you still get the prompts and must select “Run as Administrator” (despite being so already) when you want want to do things like change the desktop font size (I kid you not!)
As a consequence of being so annoying and difficult to work with, I – like many Vista users – just turn it off in frustration. This leaves us open to the charge of being irresponsible, due to making our machines insecure. A little utility – iReboot – looks set to rebuff that charge by showing that bypassing UAC is a very easy and so any protection it claims to offer is likely just smoke and mirrors. The makers of iReboot state that
…Windows Vista’s newly-implemented security limitations are artificial at best, easy to code around, and only there to give the impression of security. Any program that UAC blocks from starting up “for good security reasons” can be coded to work around these limitations with (relative) ease. The “architectural redesign” of Vista’s security framework isn’t so much a rebuilt system as much as it is a makeover, intended to give the false impression of a more secure OS…
They split their application in half. One half runs as a service (with full admin privileges), the other as a GUI with normal user privileges. The GUI talks to the service – bypassing UAC – and does what it wants with full, unrestricted access to the machine. And the whole lot installs and runs at start-up without a single UAC prompt (just the same request for an admin password as XP had). Nice one Microsoft!
Read the full details of how NeoSmart bypassed UCA to get their iRebbot product working with Vista.