Tech Shakedown #6: Could Kodak site's Vista incompatibilities be a sign of something else?

Right now, it's safe to say that, for some unknown reason, the Internet-Explorer-based batch photo upload feature of Kodak's online photo gallery is incompatible with Microsoft's Windows Vista (uploading photos one at a time works fine). It's a killer problem because of how much time can be saved by uploading pictures in batches.

Right now, it's safe to say that, for some unknown reason, the Internet-Explorer-based batch photo upload feature of Kodak's online photo gallery is incompatible with Microsoft's Windows Vista (uploading photos one at a time works fine). It's a killer problem because of how much time can be saved by uploading pictures in batches. It's also a killer problem because, if you've been using Kodak's online photo gallery (formerly ophoto.com) for a long time and have a lot of pictures up there, it's not like you can easily switch to another service (lock-in is just bigger problem with using online photo services).

Originally, in working with the folks at Kodak, I thought I this incompatibility was restricted to standard users of Vista (and that, so long as you were logged into Vista an administrative user, Kodak's Web site worked swimmingly). But as it turns out, despite a 15-step workaround that was e-mailed to me by a Kodak spokesperson, even being logged in to Vista as an administrator is problematic (although less so than if you're logged in as a standard user). In this Tech Shakedown video, you can see how, when attempting to use the plug-in as Vista standard user, it simply doesn't work.

<sidebar>Since first covering this problem, Kodak has made a batch upload feature available to Firefox users. I can't get it to work in standard mode either. I haven't tried under an administrative ID, but the ability of a standard user to install Firefox plug-ins without Vista's User Access Control prompt seems worth of discussion.</sidebar>

The plug-in appears to install (after I supplied the necessary administrative credentials), but nothing happens after that. The user interface just dies and attempts to get to Kodak's batch upload feature simply don't work. If I try to install the plug-in while logged in as an administrator and then try to use that plug-in as a standard user, the standard user account doesn't see the plug-in and attempts to download and install it again (a process that, as I just said, ultimately fails).

In contrast, when you install the plug-in as an administrator and then attempt to use while logged in under that administrative ID, it works. However, subsequent attempts to use the plug-in when logged-in under an administrative ID result in prompts to download and install the software again.

Perhaps more frustrating is the fact that, despite Kodak knowing about the problems (they confirmed them weeks ago), the gallery's user interface offers no prominent warnings that the IE-plug-in doesn't work with Windows Vista. Additionally, one of the instruction screens that shows a step-by-step of how to respond to the download and installation prompts shows prompts that you'll never see in Windows Vista (they're based on what happens in Windows XP).

One question in my mind is whether or not this and other snags in behavior between standard and administrative users of Windows Vista is a sign of a larger problem that could put Vista users right back where they were with Windows XP: with no choice but to run the OS as an administrator. That's what my wife and I are doing now since taking pictures and uploading them is becoming a daily occurrence in the Berlind household (and we're just putting up with the constant re-installation of the plug-in). In addition to the problems with Kodak's site, I've written about the odd behavior of McAfee's Security Suite where it was working correctly for administrative users, but not for standard users. A recent software update by McAfee appears to have corrected the problem. But in the bigger picture, it felt as though there was some wrench in the works that makes you just want to run your system under an administrative account.

Also in the last few weeks, some of Internet Explorer 7's features were inaccessible to a standard user account on my wife's system. With the explanation being that the standard user account had some how been corrupted (how, I have no idea), the fix from Microsoft was to eliminate the account and start a new one. Not to mention that Microsoft is standing firm on a Vista feature that prevents standard users from delaying Windows Update-inspired reboots. Such reboots happen when Vista decides, regardless of what you're doing at the time.

In the comments from ZDNet users to my posts about issues with Windows Vista, some users have wrongly assumed that my goal is constantly bash it which is not the case. Today, when asked, I still recommend Windows Vista over XP, despite problems such as the one I've documented above. The fact that Vista's security model makes it a lot harder for malware to install itself without the end user's permission (even if the user is logged in with administrative privileges) is one of the most compelling reasons to pick Vista over XP. That said,I do believe that issues like the one above with Kodak's online photo gallery, the reboot issue, mysterious account corruptions, and other problems are worthy of attention.

Finally, Kodak shoulders some of the blame too. Vista has been out long enough for its plug-ins and Web sites to have been updated.