Sure, reading through the feature set of Windows Vista is one way to get a taste of what an upgrade will do for your life, and reading "expert" reviews of the operating system and its minutiae certainly add an additional bit of insight not conveyed on the box alone, but one aspect of Vista is facing some serious criticism from a skeptical reviewer. In Microsoft's latest OS, the "Windows Firewall" boasts about offering up two-way protection -- that is, blocking both incoming and outgoing data -- but after careful analysis, it's apparently not that cut and dry. CNET's Robert Vamosi has noticed that the system does a fair job of blocking malicious content from reaching your PC, but when inspecting the outgoing blocker a bit more carefully, it appears that you're covered from moment one, as it's turned on by default -- or not. Interestingly, having this section of the firewall enabled does absolutely nothing for your protection, as in the default configuration "there are no block rules, only allow rules," which essentially means that it's capable of blocking, but until you specifically enable blocking rules for specific programs, you're exposed. Microsoft's reasoning is that maximum protection would cause new users to see a warning with every single application they launched on their PC, causing both frustration and a desensitized view of the firewall itself, and while we can certainly sympathize with how annoying those pop-ups would be, CNET feels that this excuse stems more from Microsoft's handiwork in crafting the OS more for enterprise use and less for novice "home" users. Nevertheless, knowing that your outbound firewall is likely wide open should help more than a few of you close any potential holes in your fortress, and be sure to hit the read link if you secretly enjoy hearing Vista take a severe tongue-lashing.

[Thanks, Randall]