Yesterday, Windows Vista beta 2 (build 5384.4) was released to reviewers at the Vista Reviewer's preview gathering in Seattle Washington near Microsoft's corporate headquarters in Redmond. The event was attended by at least a hundred journalists from all over the world -- the vast majority of them were international visitors . The event came one day before the WinHEC 2006 conference in Seattle which is today. With the second beta release of Windows Vista, Microsoft made some substantial improvements over the first Vista beta. One of the most obvious changes and improvements was the streamlining of UAC (User Account Control - formerly UAP).
UAC is a key part of a larger defense in depth strategy for Windows Vista, but there will be some growing pains anytime restrictions are implemented. With Windows XP, it was almost impossible to consistently and realistically run users in non-administrative mode. UAC is an attempt to make running Vista in non-administrative mode more practical but the initial attempts at UAC have been under some intense scrutiny within the media and the analyst world, but I've defended the need for it. But in order for UAC to gain wider acceptance and not be rendered useless if people turn it off, Microsoft is working hard at streamlining the UAC process. With Vista beta 2, the key improvements that have been made or still need to be made are:
- With older versions Vista beta, the task manager was completely off limits for standard users until they escalated their privileges. The new task manager will now run as a standard user in the limited scope of that user which means they can see and manage their own user processes. If a standard user wants to be able to look at system processes or processes from other users, they would have to escalate task manager privileges to administrator.
- Developed fixes for 100 applications so that they will run without prompting for administrative privileges.
- Find and develop additional fixes for applications based on beta feedback.
- Help ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) diagnose their UAC issues.
The ultimate goal of UAC is that an ordinary user running in standard mode should never have to see a UAC security warning prompt under normal circumstances. We were even given a glimpse of Windows Vista RC1 where we were shown how even shared icons that are visible to all users could be deleted by a standard user without a UAC prompt. From what I understand the icon wasn't actually deleted because that would have been a violation in security privileges, what was deleted was just that user's view of a shared icon. Of course UAC was only a small part of what was covered at the reviewer's preview. As the week progresses, I'll be covering more aspects of Windows Vista beta 2.