Microsoft security in Windows Vista is more than User Account Control (UAC), which those “I’m a Mac. I’m a PC” ads so cleverly parody. (Are you tired of hearing about UAC yet?) I recently talked with Microsoft’s Stephen Toulouse, a senior product manager in the security group because I wanted to dive into some of Windows Vista’s less famous security functionality. (If you want to listen to a podcast of that conversation, it’s available at http://www.windowsitpro.com/podcast.)

            One topic that I found particularly interesting in part one of our conversation was Vista’s integrity levels, which are different from Windows NT permissions. Vista has six integrity levels, and of those, level 3 is standard, 4 is admin, 5 is system, and 6 (the highest level) is installer. The reason why installer is at the highest integrity level is for application compatibility.

Stephen told me that integrity levels are meant to be more fixed than the NT permissions, but that doesn’t mean integrity levels are “walls.” He told me that in Microsoft’s Application Compatibility Toolkit, there’s a Run-as-Invoker “shim” for very technical users if you want to lower the level. I’m curious to hear from you if you’ve used the shim and what you think of it.

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Wanna Be a Developer?

Here’s a fun one: If you’ve been secretly yearning to become a developer, or if you have a friend or family member who keeps asking you to write little applications, Microsoft has a new place for acquiring coding skills. The Beginner Developer Learning Center (http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/beginner/) is a site designed to introduce absolute beginners to the world of programming with the Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions products. There’s even a “Kid’s Corner” that “makes learning to program fun for kids”! (Hmmm… Your child might be the next Bill Gates!)

The site offers two tracks: Web development and Windows development, so you can follow the step-by-step “interactive, easy and fun” tutorials and learn how to do things like build a Web site, create a music or movie catalog, and design a screensaver. Right now, there are 45 lessons and 31 short how-to videos, and a lesson takes 20 to 40 minutes.

For more advanced developers, Microsoft announced the launch of Version 4 of the Visual Studio 2005 Software Development Kit (SDK). This SDK is aimed at developers creating custom tools, editors, designers, languages, etc., for Visual Studio. To download the free SDK visit http://www.microsoft.com/extendvs/.