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Monday, May 12, 2008

Vista UAC

Since I got my new work computer a while ago I have been using Vista. I have to say that so far (touch wood) I have had few problems with it.

I think the fancy 'Aero' display stuff is a little bit laughable - does anyone really have to shuffle through 3D style windows to determine which one to select? Though the real time previews of minimized windows on the task bar is kind of cool.

The one thing that has been irritating is the fact that whenever I try to do something a little bit different, like open non-microsoft software the computer locks and asks me whether I am sure I want to perform this action. This is the UAC - User Account Control.

Ryan wrote a good post on this which also led me to this Mac vs. PC advert:

I really like the last line.

It is frustrating but the worst thing about it is this:

"The reason we put UAC into the (Vista) platform was to annoy users--I'm serious," said Cross, speaking at the RSA Conference here Thursday. "Most users had administrator privileges on previous Windows systems and most applications needed administrator privileges to install or run."

So according to Microsoft Product Unit Manager David Cross, it was a deliberate attempt to annoy users.

Cross claimed that annoying users had been part of a Microsoft strategy to force independent software vendors (ISVs) to make their code more secure, as insecure code would trigger a prompt, discouraging users from executing the code.
This strikes me as a highly dumb policy. Cross claims that 88% of users have not turned UAC off and 7% of users don't just click 'yes' showing that they are considering their actions in light of the warning. My analysis of these figures would run a little differently.

How often have you initiated something only to cancel it shortly afterwards, be it a download or and install of just opening some software? It doesn't happen all that often to me but it does happen enough for me to remember doing it. I suspect that 7% represents something similar; if anything UAC is a handy moment to reconsider. Of course for 93% of teh time it is a royal pain in the arse.

As for the 88% of users still running it? Well I suggest that a lot of those users are those who don't have more than a basic understanding of how to run windows to do what they need to do. They use the internet, read emails, maybe play some games and use word processors. They might have tried to turn the annoying feature off but that takes a bit more effort than unselecting a feature in a simple control window. From Ryan:

Turning off this “feature” walks you through the depraved sadism that must exist in the minds of Microsoft Developers. I could really feel their contempt for me as a user when I first went to the Windows Security Center and found User Account Control listed there, set to “ON,” with no way to modify it.
I imagine that many would fall at this first hurdle. I certainly know users who would. Ryan found no clues in the “How does User Account Control help protect my computer?” help topic. You can do it though, be enlisting outside expertise:
So, of course, I consulted that great oracle of how to’s for usurping Microsoft’s bureaucracy, Google, and found this article, which directed me to “User Accounts and Family Safety.” Where I was able to disable the feature, after, of course, being informed that something was trying to disable User Account Control and clicking OK.
Not really straightforward. Plus after turning it off you get a warning at boot-up. I suspect that many folks worried about security might then turn it back on again as it is akin to being warned that your firewall is disabled or Norton is not working.

So after all that, it should be clear that the 'annoyance policy' is successful.

UAC is annoying.

However, it is only 50% successful because I will bet that most users get annoyed with Microsoft rather than third parties. It is microsoft vista that throws up the irritation and are conspicuous in this, not the 3rd party software manufacturers.

This is an example of backward thinking at its worth. Especially since I only recently learned of their rational for doing it. And even with this knowledge I am still irritated at them.

It's nannying of the worst kind. They should rename it the User Account Lack-of-Control.

Microsoft and Labour should pool resources; then they could come up with really bad policies in an efficient manner.

One has to wonder if the bright Microsoft spark that came up with UAC has Steve Job's number on his iPhone.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I've been in Finland for 3 weeks now and I have been fortunate enough to be here as winter turns into spring. The snow is melting, days alternate between hot and cold and the ice in the river has melted. Here let me show you.

This is a view along the river taken on the 24th April 2008. As you can see the river is totally frozen over. A couple of days later we were drilling ice-fishing holes further downstream and digging a swimming hole for a colleague. I can tell you that the ice was good and thick.

Now this was taken on May Day. You can see that there is a lot more running water. Now it is not totally clear whether all the ice was melted or whether I was seeing surface water that had flown over the ice. I suspect it was a bit of both. The ice was still hanging tight to the shoreline though there is a beautiful fault line indicating a fracture in the ice.

And just a few minutes ago I went and had a stroll to the river. It's beautiful here in the evenings. It has been raining, just a short while ago and the forest smells like, well, like wet dog actually, for some reason. However, the birds are singing and the sunset was marvellous.

I took another shot looking down stream and you can see that the ice is gone (I was stood a few metres further upstream for this one). The snow is also mostly gone except in those places where it was piled high by snowploughs.

Of course now the mosquitoes have begun to arrive. So far I have seen a couple and they seem big and sluggish. I have been told there is a smaller variety and when they arrive I will know about it!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Great tits cope well with warming


There you have it.

How they must have laughed in the BBC News offices.

I note it was one of those Science and Nature stories that even made the front page.

I hope that you are all proud of the way that I have managed (and only just, dammit) not to tap this rich vein of comedy gold.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I don't know which hurts the most...

From the BBC:

Stoke clinched promotion to the Premier League as Leicester went down to the third tier of English football for the first time in their 124-year history.

Oh who am I kidding, I know exactly which one hurts the most.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Now I could be wrong. but...

somehow I feel that science funding woes are going to be low on the priority list for the government today.

And so the news cycle turns...

Perhaps Michael Merrifield has a point:

I would therefore suggest that we forget all about CSRs, and start working on Tory science policy.