Living With Vista: First 30 Days

Painful Access

One almost universally reviled Vista feature is its User Account Controls. In XP, it was much easier for users to install software and make other system changes; under Vista's default settings, you must verify every system change. That makes it harder for rogue software to install itself but puts an additional burden on users. Many, like Eirik Lundmark, simply turned off UAC (the only thing you can do; it's not a configurable option) and are taking their chances.

"I'm an experienced user, but UAC wouldn't allow me to create a new folder in Program Files," says Lundmark, a 22-year-old student living in Norway. So he shut it off, though he's uncertain where that leaves his security.

Ironically, Vista's added security measures also makes it harder for some legitimate software--particularly security software--to work correctly. Half of the survey respondents had trouble getting applications to work with Vista; virus scanners, firewalls, and media players presented the most problems.

For example, after he upgraded to Vista, John Ohannessian, a 59-year-old computer consultant in Louisville, Colorado, couldn't reinstall his old copy of ZoneAlarm Security Suite because it wasn't compatible with the new OS. He blames software firms for not having products ready when Vista shipped.

ZoneAlarm plans to release a Vista-friendly version of its 7.0 security suite in the spring, says Laura Yecies, general manager of the company's consumer and small business division. Consumers who buy ZoneAlarm for XP today will receive free upgrades when the Vista version is available, the company says.

Yecies says late changes to key APIs (protocols used by applications to talk to the OS), the need to integrate with Windows Security Center, and the relative complexity of security software all contributed to delays.

Other security software vendors such as McAfee and Symantec also failed to make Microsoft's Vista-certified software list, which was released in February. Representatives from both companies say that their software is compatible with the 32-bit version of Vista, and that 64-bit security software will be available later this year. Security vendor Trend Micro, on the other hand, managed to produce a Vista-certified suite in time for the launch.

At press time, more than 30 days after Windows Vista shipped, Apple released a free upgrade to iTunes that should work with most 32-bit editions of Vista, but the company warned that some users may still encounter problems with data corruption.

Other users may have to pay for the privilege of running their favorite apps. For example, QuickBooks 2006 and earlier versions won't work because of changes in the way Vista handles administrative rights. Intuit spokesperson Rachel Euretig says it wasn't practical to update older products because of the large changes Microsoft has introduced. QuickBooks users with Vista machines must upgrade to QuickBooks 2007, which is fully compatible with the new OS.

Ed Bott, author of Windows Vista Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2007), says software vendors who didn't follow best programming practices with XP are paying the price with Vista--and so are consumers.

"Intuit has become the poster child for companies that have been writing software for Windows XP that violates the rules," says Bott. "Up till now they've been able to get away with it. Now their customers must either forget about upgrading to Vista or pay Intuit a significant fee, even if they didn't need or want to upgrade QuickBooks."

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