So Vista has this "great" new feature called UAC which allows a user to run as a standard user until he or she needs elevated permissions at which point the system will prompt either for an administrator's password or for your consent if you are already an administrator. Everyone seems to generally hate it but we seem to be stuck with it. In any case, that's not what this post is about.
Those of you who are software developers know that we often need to set environment variables for ourselves. We use BitKeeper for source control so I need a BK_USER environment variable. I also often need to add things to my path. So what could be wrong with this? Oh, let me count the ways.
First, environment variables for the currently logged on user are not properties of the computer. Computer properties would be computer name, description, performance settings, etc. However, the first way you get to the place where you can set environment variables is by right clicking on the computer icon and selecting properties. You can also get to it by going to your control panel and choosing the System and Maintenance area and then the System area.
Second, getting to the area where I can set my environment variables requires no less than 4 mouse clicks (assuming UAC is active) and one screen flash due to UAC. Nasty.
Third, because the area where we set environment settings is tucked inside a dialog that is also full of system wide settings, we must suffer through UAC just to set our own environment settings. Let me say that again. Your account must be elevated to administrator level to set your own environment settings. Keep It Simply Stupid.