Windows Vista is Not Linux and Not XP…

While avoided Windows Vista for as long as I could, the time had finally come. The laptop I wanted to order for one of my co-workers only shipped with Vista.

Even before I booted it for the first time, I knew the added visuals of Aero were going to do nothing but slow the system down and the new User Account Control security was just going to get in the way. I couldn’t imagine the other horrors that were waiting.

Maybe I started out with the wrong attitude. My first day with Vista, I used it for about 1/2 the day and gave up. I couldn’t install the ActiveX components I needed and I couldn’t map a drive to my Novell server.

User Account Control is the right idea, it’s the implementation that Microsoft got wrong. Ubuntu Linux and Fedora Linux both have a similar security measure, which requires you to act as Administrator to change certain items or install software. If you are using a GUI program, Linux prompts for your password, then allows the changes. When you close the program, you go back to being a regular user.

With Vista, UAC doesn’t allow you to become “Administrator” to make the changes you need, then become a regular user again. While trying to configure the system, you are constantly prompted, “do you want to Allow?”.

At work we use Lotus Notes for e-mail, which according to IBM, does not work with User Account Control. You have to disable it. Once you disable UAC, Vista keeps prompting you that it is off and should be turned on. Fortunately, I read about Vista4Experts on Lifehacker.com. Vista4Experts allows you to disable the alert from Vista that UAC is disabled, along with a host of other Vista tweaks.

Vista4Experts is one of those rare treats which does NOT have an installation utility. You just unzip it and run it. I wanted to copy it to the \Program Files folder so I could add it to the Start Menu. It turns out that another security enhancement of Vista is to make that \program Files folder writeable to only, you guessed it, Administrator. There are ways to get around this, but since this is something I would do frequently, I wanted an elegant, easy to use solution. This is what I found. The website Windows Insight has this post, which essentially describes how to make an Explorer Icon that is set to “Run as Administrator”. This trick works on folders other than \Program Files and makes it almost painless to configure the system just the way I want.

We have an in-house web-based applications which uses Crystal Reports for output. To display the reports in the Internet Explorer, Crystal Reports needs to install an ActiveX component. With Windows 2000, XP and 2003, I was able to add the database server to “Trusted Sites” then run a report. The report would cause the IE to prompt me to download and install the ActiveX control, which I would do and then I would be all set. Vista wasn’t that easy. I ran the report but IE kept telling me that my “security settings didn’t allow ActiveX to be installed”.

It took me a little while to remember to “Right Click, run as Administrator”. I did this on Internet Explorer and it did the trick. While running Internet Explorer as Administrator I was able to Install the Crystal Reports ActiveX and Adobe Flash.

We have two Novell servers. Novell has always had their own software which you load on each client to access the server. There is even a version for Vista; however, I want to move away from using it. The Novell Client is a big program and gets weird when used on laptops when they are out of the office. On both of my Novell servers, I have NFAP (Native File Access Package) which lets the Novell servers act as Windows servers (CIFS). I have used NFAP successfully with Macs and Windows XP machines and expected it to work with Vista (what was I thinking). It turns out that Microsoft has made enough changes to the way Vista logs into a network, that it doesn’t connect to the Novell servers without a Registry hack. According to this article, Vista needs to be configured to use a lower version of LANMan authentication. Now I’m sure that Novell really is at fault here and should update NFAP because some versions of LANMan authentication send passwords over the wire “clear text”, but for now, it’s working.

Here is the Registry Edit:

  • Go to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE” –> “SYSTEM” –> “CurrentControlSet” –> “Control” –> “Lsa”
  • In the pane on the right change “LmCompatibiltyLevel” to “1”

So, my take on Microsoft’s new operating system? From what I read, Windows XP (with service pack 3) will be faster than Vista, on the same hardware. I had to disable many of the security features and edit the registry just to use network resources that I am already using with Windows 2000 and Windows XP. This is a step forward?

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