Even Before it Begins the Vista Honeymoon is Over

By Steven Warren

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Reality has set in since I wrote my glowing review of Windows Vista last month; the jubilation I first felt running Windows Vista has gradually come to a frustrating halt.

Why, you ask? Vendors.

Yes, third party Vendors are ruining my Vista experience. I can’t even begin to tell you how many beta drivers I am currently running and the vast number of vendors that are not ready for Windows Vista; even though the release to manufacturing (RTM) launch happened last month.

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Windows Vista has had multiple betas and release candidates; it is unacceptable for vendors not to have drivers when they have had five years to prepare.

Let me give you an example of my travails: I have a Sprint Wireless card that allows me to connect to the Internet anywhere in the United States. These plans are pricey but well worth the money if you need constant access to the Internet as a road warrior.

After loading Vista last month, I went to Sprint’s website to download their driver and their connection manager software that allows you to dial access to the Internet. There is no driver on the website for Vista (and the Windows XP software absolutely doesn’t work) so I called support. When I finally got to a manager after 35 minutes, I was told they do not have compatible software for Windows Vista nor do they plan to for three months.

I politely reminded the manager that Windows Vista was released in November, the general release is slated for the end of January (today, in fact), and it is totally unacceptable to not provide a driver. Five years in the making and no beta driver. Mind boggling.

A Little Finagling

Well, I did get this to work without the proper driver. I had to create a virtual machine of Windows XP and that allowed me to have Sprint Internet access. If you are determined to run Windows Vista as I am, then you will have to become quite creative to have the operating system meet your needs.

Is Windows Vista cool? Absolutely. But unless vendors either supply drivers in a reasonable time or inform consumers of delays in providing drivers, upgrading to it is a waste of time (unless you are a glutton for punishment like myself).

Many vendors just aren’t ready for Vista and I believe it has something to do with the tight security Microsoft has implemented. Prior to Vista, the default in Windows was to run as administrator. So vendors just programmed their software to work as a computer administrator with full user rights.

The door was open; Microsoft’s lax security made writing code relatively simple for vendors. In fact, if you try to run as a limited user in Windows XP, for example, a lot of software will not work properly as Windows XP wasn’t truly designed to work this way.

But the most talked about, under-the-hood change with the release of Vista is its incredible improvement in security. And this has caused a challenge for vendors; they now have to rewrite their software to work as a user as opposed to an administrator.

The feature causing so much trouble for vendors is called User Account control (UAC). UAC’s main function is to protect users. In previous versions of the windows operating system, all users were administrators by default. And an administrator could make any change to system files they wanted.

With UAC, administrators will see an approval dialog. This dialog requires the user to click a "Continue" button in order to resume the task at hand. Standard users, meanwhile, will receive a credentials dialog that forces them to enter the administrator password.

Standard Windows users are so used to the administrator level of control that most of them don't even understand it is unsafe. UAC is intended to secure the user. Unfortunately, vendors were snared in the same loophole as users in that they wrote their software with the administrator level of control and it is now biting them.

In all fairness, though, it is not just the vendors’ fault they are unprepared. Microsoft also had five years to campaign to get vendors to get in line with the security changes in Windows Vista, and had opportunity to offer incentives to vendors to be ready when Vista came out of the chute.

Regardless of who should have reached out to whom, the alignment between Vista and the vendors is not there. And I can’t imagine that I’m the only user out there who’s frustrated by it.

So, the question you need to ask is Vista ready for business? I have to say no and I do not see it being ready until vendors are ready with drivers and the kinks are worked out.

Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group and a freelance technical writer who has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic, TechProGuild, CNET, ZDNET, DatabaseJournal.com and CIO Update. He is the author of "The VMware Workstation 5.0 Handbook" (Charles River Media, 2005) and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.