Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fighting Windows

Dear God but Windows Vista is a steaming pile of crap.

Our Internet access is finally on at home, so naturally I set about decking out the computer with all the essentials I've come to expect (well, except for a Linux OS, but Nick's stood firm in the face of my nagging about it). Firefox downloaded no problem at all, and then I tried to install Flash...

Automatic install: fail. Okay, switch to manual. Download, run, get told I need to quit Firefox before it can run. Quit Firefox, run installer, try to run Firefox. The ever-helpful Windows system tells me "there is a problem with the program", and it doesn't load. Windows helpfully tells me that it will find out what's wrong for me "if possible". Naturally, enough, it doesn't. No "sorry, couldn't help" either, it just does nothing. Firefox, she is broken.

I switch to the omnipresent Internet Explorer browser to find the problem. Don't get me wrong, the latest version of IE is much better than the earlier ones, but still, I want my Firefox extensions. Anyway, I find the fix. It's fiddly, and wouldn't be necessary if Windows Vista didn't have a seriously brained attitude to security.

For anyone else who faces this here is the link I used. I had to uninstall Firefox (completely uninstall, including user data and settings), disable User Account Control (UAC), re-install Firefox, and then install Flash (which now worked fine as an automatic install).

Now, I'm wondering: UAC is that godawful part of Vista that insists on asking "do you want to allow this operation?" whenever you install a program, uninstall a program, run an executable from any disk at all for crying out loud, and generally get in the way. I swear, some MS would-be software engineer heard someone say "security tends to come with a trade-off in usability" and heard "the more usability you lose, the better your security". What, besides, nag the user incessantly and unnecessarily, does this thing actually do? The help file says it's supposed to prevent malware from being installed by "ensuring that the program being run is the actual program you want to run", but, honestly, that seems an awful lot of trouble for a very weak form of protection. It's one that's totally dependent on the user not just clicking through regardless, I'll note.

So, do I actually need UAC activated in Windows Vista? I'm thinking no.

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