Monday, July 09, 2007

Politics of a terror flop.

No doubt you will be aware of the big news from last week. I don't mean the launch of the Apple iPhone (Had to mention that on here somehow!). I am refering to the car bombs that didn't go off in London and the Jeep that was driven into an entrance at Glasgow airport.

Obviously had these been properly undertaken they could have caused serious injuries and would not be a joking matter. As it is the only injury was to one of the perpetrators.

Patient: "Doctor, doctor it feels like my ar*e is on fire"
Iraqi Doctor: "Shut up and drive the Jeep."

My writing on this subject has been inspired by this two-page article in The Register by an ex-police army bomb disposal officer 2001-2004 (Honestly. The Register is reputable). He analyses how incompetent and insignificant these incidents actually were. His article concludes if this is the worst that Al-Quaeda can do we are winning the war on terror.

As part of the following precautions to protect the public Liverpool's John Lennon airport was closed due to discovery of a suspicious vehicle. Let me guess - it was taxed, insured and still had the radio in the dashboard!

Next it is announced that our wonderful new Prime Minister declares he will be spending his summer holidaying in the UK. And his reason is because any traitorous English people trying to holiday in a foreign country will be seriously inconvenienced by security arrangements at UK airports. He even says in the article that 'I'll make sure it's difficult for people'! As chancellor he did his best with all the supposed 'green taxes' on airlines. Now he has even more powers.......

You really think by now airport operators would have upscaled security facilities - alas no - travellers have to get to the airports even earlier and have more time to kill in on-site shops. After all, passenger convenience has no commercial benefit to them.

So my friend Gordon Brown, who I have already criticised very heavily on here a few times took up the office of prime minister on 27th June. Three days later on 1st July the 'threat level' to the UK was upgraded from severe to the highest possible level of critical. Are we sure the factors determining the increase in threat to the UK are just the bungled bomb attempts that couldn't have detonated under any circumstances? I reckon MI5 did it to warn us about Gordon Brown!

I can't believe this man can stand up in the commons and make a speech about restoring british trust in politicians. He was the worst for deceiving the public during his 10+ years as chancellor. I mean he described his last budget as 'a tax cutting budget'. How stupid does he think we are? He cut the basic (middle) rate of tax, but at the same time abolished the 10p rate (lowest) that helped the lowest paid. What's more most of the increases he made took effect immediately yet the cuts did not take effect until 2008 or 2009. If this isn't bare faced deceit, what is? All the experts that analysed everything concluded eventually it will be a neutral budget.

Since taking power lets have a look at what has changed?

1. A whole cabinet of newbies, doing away with the vast experience of the ministers that were in the posts and replacing them with completely inexperienced alternatives.

2. Every promise from his cabinet has been to 'try' and achieve a target, or to do his 'utmost'. How's that for a non-commitment? At least when they fail they can't be accused of failing to keep a promise.

I'm sorry but we voted Tony into office, for his policies etc. Now he has gone what gives Gordon any right or mandate to roll through any changes and reforms?


Friday, July 06, 2007

Vista Security Configuration

In the last few weeks Sony Ericsson have realeased Vista software for their mobile phone range. Philips webcam drivers are now available. I believe also that Apple iTunes is at long last Vista compatible. So now more hardware is supported is it time to upgrade yet?

If you are a computer guru and can still do what you need to on your PC under Windows XP then I don't see much need to upgrade, other than curiousity. It is no more stable than XP. I had to pull the power plug out to reset mine which has now caused serious damage to my user environment. All I was doing was watching a video full screen while running a slow installer in the background. The installer asked a question meaning I couldn't minimise my video or bring the installer to the front to allow it to continue. I should be able to multi-task perfectly in windows by now, but it is still not right. Also why Mr Gates have you taken out the ability for me to choose the colour of my taskbar?? XP Blue is nicer than Vista Grey - Grrr

If you have young kids who's internet usage needs monitoring or controlling, or you struggle with the multimedia interfaces of XP then maybe Vista would help you. Parental controls and digital photo handling are much enhanced in Vista. It is also true that it is harder for viruses to propagate through the internet under Vista - so long as you keep UAC (User Account Control) enabled.

What is User Account Control (UAC) you ask?

If you have installed Vista you will know - even if you didn't know it's name! By default this is enabled. It prevents any major changes to your computer without your permission. Whenever you use the control panel, or run an installation program you will be bombarded with windows telling you that you are about to change the system or install the program. After an hour you will be so fed up with all these prompts you will just be clicking Yes and Accept to them all without reading them or thinking about them. If you have searched help about how to turn the problems off the only option listed is to disable UAC completely. Don't do this!

This problem, technically called 'User Fatigue' makes the new protection virtually useless. In fact I will go one step further and call it damned annoying. The level of user it is meant to protect is the level of user that will become most vulnerable.

There is a very little publicised way of fixing this, while still making use of all the advantages of it. That is the purpose of this post. The instructions below will allow you to create one account that will be able to alter anything without receiving the new security warning windows.


In Windows XP each account was either a standard user that could not change the system configuration, or an administrator that could change anything. Because everyone needs to tweak things at some point everyone used the administrator setting for all their work under XP. Hence the terrible situation with viruses, malware and configuration problems.

In Vista this has been modified. An administrator level account is a normal user that must say yes to a security warning before it can change the system. Perfect you shout! Except when setting up a new system you will be constantly changing things and will get so many of these security prompts you will be pulling your hair out. Standard user accounts now have to supply the password to an administrator account before they can change things. Isn't that pretty similar to a new-type administrator account?? In a domestic situation yes!

Follow the steps below and you can have a proper administrator account that can do anything without being prompted. I recommend for normal use you use a new-type administrator account (created by default when you install your computer). If you have people using your computer who should never be able to install or change your computer create a non-administrator account for them.

Configuring UAC in Vista

Please note these changes are made at your own risk. If you change anything else make notes so you can repeat the process to reverse the changes.

1. Click on the Windows icon to open what would be the old start menu.
2. In the search box type 'mmc'
3. It should be found and listed as a program.
4. Click on it or press enter to run it.
5. You will be prompted with one of the security warnings asking for permission to run the Microsoft Management Console (now you know what mmc stands for).
6. Click Continue. The console will load.
7. Open the File menu and select Add/Remove Snap In.
8. From the list of available snap-ins, double-click on Group Policy Object Editor.
9. Simply click Finish in the Group Policy Wizard.
10. Click OK to dismiss the Add/Remove Snap In window.
11. Navigate the tree in the left hand pane of MMC to the following item.
"Local Computer Policy" ->
"Computer Configuration" ->
"Windows Settings" ->
"Security Settings" ->
"Local Policies".
12. Click on the policy titled "Security Options".

In the right pane are about 50 different policies that can be configured.

I recommend you change the following:

  • "Accounts: Administrator Account Status" = Enabled
  • Optionally edit "Accounts: Rename administrator account" to set the name of the super administrator account we are setting up.
  • "User Account Control: Admin Approval Mode for the Built-in Administrator account" = Disable.
  • "User Account Control: Behaviour of the elevation prompt for standard users" = "Automatically Deny Requests"

To exit the management console choose Exit from File menu. Say no when asked if you want to save. Your changes were saved instantly.

To login to the new administrator account open the start menu. Point at the arrow to the right of the padlock. In the menu that pops up select either "Log off" or "Switch User". I recommend the latter.

You should now be able to login to the new account. First thing to do is press (alt) - (ctrl) & (delete) and use the Change Password option.

For completeness, you can create, change or delete user accounts in the Windows Control Panel. The option you will require is in the "User Accounts and Family Safety" section and is called "Add or remove user accounts".

The more I use Vista the more I cringe at how it has such serious shortcomings in user friendliness. If a company of mine launched software this bad as a Beta I would be very concerned. I think a few people at Microsoft have been sitting on their arse eating donuts! (Picture homer simpson!). According to this report 10,000 people have been working for 5 years on this!


Update: This option is not available on the basic versions of Vista