In Support of Poor Ol' Windows Vista
We just released the October issue of the CSI Alert to CSI members, and this month we focus on Windows 7. This issue is, in some ways, a follow-up to last year's issue, "The Fate of the Secure OS," in which I said some nice things about Windows Vista, and advised it would be imprudent to completely ignore Windows Vista -- eyes-closed, fingers-in-ears, chanting I'm-not-listening-I'm-not-listening.
We just released the October issue of the CSI Alert to CSI members, and this month we focus on Windows 7. This issue is, in some ways, a follow-up to last year's issue, "The Fate of the Secure OS," in which I said some nice things about Windows Vista, and advised it would be imprudent to completely ignore Windows Vista -- eyes-closed, fingers-in-ears, chanting I'm-not-listening-I'm-not-listening.For supporting Vista I received some abuse. My thoughts were described as "rubbish" by one person and "poppycock" by another. So apparently I'm not popular with Victorian-era gentlemen, which is unfortunate because I like the smoking jackets. However, I'm not counting those lost friendships as much of a loss because it isn't as though they would have allowed me into their gentlemen's clubs to drink brandy and play billiards anyway.
So I stand by my earlier comments in support of poor Vista. Vista was a trailblazer, harangued and maligned by a world that wasn't ready for it. Blamed for the failings of application and device driver developers and for the limitations of aging hardware. Criticized for being too heavy-handed with the security warnings given to protect reckless security-unsavvy users from themselves.
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And now, to top it all off, starting Oct. 22 Vista will have to share store shelves with its more easy-going, better-behaved, better-loved little sister, Windows 7 -- Microsoft's new client operating system that has been receiving a steady stream of positive reviews from reviewers seemingly surprised to be writing them.
Windows 7's most charming feature isn't really a feature at all, but rather its knack for just working without making a nuisance of itself. At its core, Windows 7 is exactly the same operating system as Vista, but it has been slimmed down, cleaned up, and fine-tuned -- which is precisely what Vista needed -- so it does what Vista does, but more efficiently and by drawing less attention to itself.
True, Windows 7 is the first Microsoft operating system that doesn't require more processing power than its predecessor. And true User Account Control (UAC) in Windows 7 is a little more flexible, a little more relaxed so you won't be pestered by so many of UAC's notorious privilege escalation prompts. Plus it does have some new, exciting features that are uniquely "7" -- like DirectAccess, BranchCache, VPN Reconnect, and BitLocker To Go. (These tools might collectively be the most compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 7 because they might make it significantly simpler to provide remote/mobile workers with secure remote access to corporate resources...without VPNs, even.)
But it must nonetheless be said that the limelight will shine more kindly on Windows 7 because the world is now prepared to handle it. After making so many fundamental OS architecture changes to develop Vista -- changes, by the way, that would improve security by making app developers stop requiring admin access for even the simplest actions -- Microsoft had to drag third-party developers, kicking and screaming, to make their applications and device drivers Vista-compatible. Now, however, almost all Vista-compatible applications and drivers will also be compatible with 7. Most businesses and home users have upgraded their hardware since Vista was released in December 2006, or are due for an upgrade, which means more machines have the processing power to smoothly run these richer, heftier operating systems.
Maybe it's the big sister in me that's keen to defend Vista, but just as I joyously state that my little sister is far superior to me, I can state that Windows 7 is probably a better operating system than Vista -- and (when combined with Windows Server 2008 R2) might be the operating system for securely managing a mobile workforce.
Read on for more in the October CSI Alert.
Sara Peters is senior editor at Computer Security Institute. Special to Dark Reading.