Alleged Windows 9 Screenshots Leaked

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 07:38 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, windows, threshold, microsoft, leaked build, leak

Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT

A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.

Can you read German? Yes. No.

Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.

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Image Credit: Computerbase.de

There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).

Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.

Mojang AB Is Subject of Microsoft Purchase Rumors

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: mojang ab, Minecraft, microsoft, consolitis

First and foremost, I would like to remind everyone of the Twitch.tv and Google acquisition rumors. Things are not done until they are done and it could be significantly more complicated than it appears on the surface. And yes, I am speaking from the position of someone who was bitten and wrote a news post on the subject.

Regardless, discussion has been circulating that Mojang AB, creators of Minecraft, were in talks to sell their company to Microsoft for $2 billion dollars. First, this tells us that randomly generated diamond and gold is worth a fortune; second, it tells us that Mojang, like Oculus, is twice the company that Instagram was. I guess all it took was those OpenGL filter effects.

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Joking aside, two billion dollars is a significant chunk of money, about a third of Computing and Gaming Hardware's annual revenue. Minecraft is definitely a valuable asset, especially with the licensed media and merchandise, and would be a good addition to a publisher's portfolio (along with their employees if convinced to stay on). It is not entirely without basis, either. Competing publisher, Activision-Blizzard, allegedly planned to spend $500 million on Destiny, although Bungie denies that, which Activision claims is the cost of launching a new franchise nowadays.

The most interesting part of the rumor, to me, is the Bloomberg report which claims that Notch initiated the discussions. He was quite outspoken against Microsoft for a while, especially with the licensing requirements for Windows Store. Apparently, current head of Microsoft's Computing and Gaming Hardware division, Phil Spencer, is friends with Notch and has been visiting him and Mojang AB.

But until something official is announced, this is all speculation. That said, Notch has been particularly quiet about the topic on Twitter. To me, that strongly suggests that something is up.

Source: Bloomberg

Scratching the Surface 2 (in the Price Tag). $100 Off.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 26, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, Surface 2

While the Surface Pro 3 has just been released, the latest Windows RT version is still the Surface 2. It is powered by Tegra 4 and contains 2GB of RAM. It also cannot run anything, unless it comes from Windows Store, it is a Windows Update, or it is a website that runs in Internet Explorer 11. If what you are looking for is Microsoft Office 2013 RT (included), Netflix, Halo: Spartan Assault, and so forth, then all Surface 2 models are currently reduced in price by $100 at the Microsoft Store.

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Of course, the launch of the Surface Pro 3 without a corresponding Surface 3 suggests that this sale is a way to clear up-to year-old stock for a product refresh. In January, there were rumors circulating that a Surface 3 would appear with a Tegra K1 processor. Of course, with the first two RT-based Surface tablets containing Tegra SoCs, that could just be pattern recognition (rather than concrete information). Other rumors claim that Microsoft is interested in Qualcomm's chips, if only for a "mini" variant.

Either way, you can get a Tegra 4-powered tablet for $349 USD (32 GB), $449 USD (64 GB), or $579 USD (64 GB with LTE from AT&T). Previously, they were $449, $549, and $679, respectively.

The mysterious September Windows release

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2014 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, threshold, win9

Something new will be announced by Microsoft in September but no one seems to know exactly what Threshold is.  It could be a work in progress version of Windows 9: The Button's Return, but then again it could be something completely different.  The rumours and speculation are rampant, as the current 982X build carries the name "Windows Technical Preview", similar to what Win8 was labelled before release but not specific enough to discourage enthusiasts from theorizing that it could be something else.  Also adding to the fuel is a new feature in Windows Update which will allow in place upgrades of your build of Windows, perhaps similar to the Windows Vista to 7 upgrade which caused much confusion.  You can follow the links from Slashdot to get your fill of the current guesses or wait until September 30th when Microsoft finally spills the beans.

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"Nobody seems to know for sure whether 'Threshold' and 'Windows 9' will be one and the same or separate operating systems, reports Woody Leonhard in his roundup of insights on Microsoft's forthcoming OS plans, expected September 30. 'Many people think the terms are synonymous, but longtime Chinese leaker Faikee continues to maintain that they are two separate products, possibly headed in different directions.

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Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Now Available for $200

Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2014 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: tablet, Surface Pro 3, peripherals, microsoft, docking station, dock

Earlier this year, Microsoft took the wraps off of its latest Surface tablet: the Surface Pro 3. The new tablet comes with several peripherals including a keyboard, stylus, and a docking station that was recently made available for purchase from the Microsoft Store for $199.99.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station.jpg

The docking station measures 12.9" x 3.8" x 4.4" and weighs 1.43 pounds. It acts as a stand for the Surface tablet and adds a number of full sized ports. Specifically, the dock includes the following I/O options.

  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Mini DisplayPort
  • 1 x 3.5mm audio jack

The docking station also has a security lock slot and power input port. Speaking of power, it is driven by a 48W power supply which Microsoft says provides ample power for charging the Surface Pro 3 and any USB attached devices.

With the dock in play, the Surface Pro 3 becomes much more business and productivity focused and may well replace desktops in some shops as supporting one device per worker should be bother easier and cheaper than supplying and supporting a desktop and laptop (and possibly a tablet). Users can attach up to two external displays by utilizing the daisy chaining feature and the single mini DisplayPort output. In total, users will have access to six USB ports (five on the dock and one available on the tablet itself).

The Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is available now from the Microsoft Store and retailers with a MSRP of $199.99.

The price does seem a bit steep, but is in line with other Surface accessories and is not likely to get much cheaper any time soon. Will you be picking up a dock for your Surface?

Source: Microsoft

A Windows 9 teaser for the end of September

Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2014 - 10:07 AM |
Tagged: win9, microsoft

Windows 8.1 has not quite been kicked to the curb yet but it has been told to start packing its bags and to look for a job.  On September 30th the rumour is that we will see a teaser of a work in progress version of the new OS.  The build is nowhere near complete and The Register expects changes from the reveal at the BUILD Conference and even more changes before the RTM version arrives.  We can be fairly certain of a less charming desktop which should have something resembling the familiar Start button, although it is quite likely to be somewhat different from the previous incarnations.  Win 8.1 will continue to receive small updates as opposed to a Service Pack, hopefully with less BSoD's than the last batch produced.

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"MICROSOFT WILL REPORTEDLY REVEAL the successor to its Windows 8 operating system on 30 September."

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Source: The Inquirer

The third incarnation of Microsoft's Pro Tablet Surfaces

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2014 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

With a 12" 2160x1440 resolution screen, a 4th generation Core i3, i5 or i7 and a full version of Win 8.1 the new Surface Pro 3 is the best tablet offered by Microsoft so far.  Overall it is thinner but 1.5" larger than the Pro 3 with better resolution with a battery that should last about 8 hours while you are working, slightly longer when just browsing.  The Surface Pen is a nice addition to the dock and stand we have become familiar with.  Overall The Inquirer was fairly impressed with Microsoft's new offering, apart from the pricing which is rather prohibitive even before accessorizing.

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"THE SURFACE PRO 3 tablet brings some of the biggest and most welcome changes seen in the Surface tablet line yet, with a bigger and better 12in HD screen, a much thinner case and an improved keyboard and kickstand, meaning its never lived more up to its motto of "the tablet that can replace your laptop."

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Source: The Inquirer

Intel and Microsoft Show DirectX 12 Demo and Benchmark

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 13, 2014 - 06:55 PM |
Tagged: siggraph 2014, Siggraph, microsoft, Intel, DirectX 12, directx 11, DirectX

Along with GDC Europe and Gamescom, Siggraph 2014 is going on in Vancouver, BC. At it, Intel had a DirectX 12 demo at their booth. This scene, containing 50,000 asteroids, each in its own draw call, was developed on both Direct3D 11 and Direct3D 12 code paths and could apparently be switched while the demo is running. Intel claims to have measured both power as well as frame rate.

intel-dx12-LockedFPS.png

Variable power to hit a desired frame rate, DX11 and DX12.

The test system is a Surface Pro 3 with an Intel HD 4400 GPU. Doing a bit of digging, this would make it the i5-based Surface Pro 3. Removing another shovel-load of mystery, this would be the Intel Core i5-4300U with two cores, four threads, 1.9 GHz base clock, up-to 2.9 GHz turbo clock, 3MB of cache, and (of course) based on the Haswell architecture.

While not top-of-the-line, it is also not bottom-of-the-barrel. It is a respectable CPU.

Intel's demo on this processor shows a significant power reduction in the CPU, and even a slight decrease in GPU power, for the same target frame rate. If power was not throttled, Intel's demo goes from 19 FPS all the way up to a playable 33 FPS.

Intel will discuss more during a video interview, tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm EDT.

intel-dx12-unlockedFPS-1.jpg

Maximum power in DirectX 11 mode.

For my contribution to the story, I would like to address the first comment on the MSDN article. It claims that this is just an "ideal scenario" of a scene that is bottlenecked by draw calls. The thing is: that is the point. Sure, a game developer could optimize the scene to (maybe) instance objects together, and so forth, but that is unnecessary work. Why should programmers, or worse, artists, need to spend so much of their time developing art so that it could be batch together into fewer, bigger commands? Would it not be much easier, and all-around better, if the content could be developed as it most naturally comes together?

That, of course, depends on how much performance improvement we will see from DirectX 12, compared to theoretical max efficiency. If pushing two workloads through a DX12 GPU takes about the same time as pushing one, double-sized workload, then it allows developers to, literally, perform whatever solution is most direct.

intel-dx12-unlockedFPS-2.jpg

Maximum power when switching to DirectX 12 mode.

If, on the other hand, pushing two workloads is 1000x slower than pushing a single, double-sized one, but DirectX 11 was 10,000x slower, then it could be less relevant because developers will still need to do their tricks in those situations. The closer it gets, the fewer occasions that strict optimization is necessary.

If there are any DirectX 11 game developers, artists, and producers out there, we would like to hear from you. How much would a (let's say) 90% reduction in draw call latency (which is around what Mantle claims) give you, in terms of fewer required optimizations? Can you afford to solve problems "the naive way" now? Some of the time? Most of the time? Would it still be worth it to do things like object instancing and fewer, larger materials and shaders? How often?

If you build it, they still might not come

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2014 - 10:48 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows 8.1, market share

More bad news for Microsoft as their newest OS continues to lose market share to the previous version.  This month sees the total share drop slightly to 12.48% while Windows 7 grew a similar amount and now represents 51.22% of the market. The recently deceased WinXP holds a 24.82% share, also much to Microsoft's dismay.  As for Apple and Linux, they hold 6.64% and 1.68% respectively.  The numbers that The Inquirer posted came from Net Applications and are comprised of all unique visitors to our network sites; they track browser and OS shares as well as other data points via this methodology.

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"MICROSOFT HAS REASON to cringe again this month as the July figures from Net Applications reveal that there has been a further drop in the use of Windows 8.x"

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Source: The Inquirer

The new netbook?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 24, 2014 - 11:32 AM |
Tagged: Intel, microsoft, netbook, Bay Trail

According to DigiTimes we may see a resurgence of netbooks, this time powered by Bay Trail which will make them far more usable than the original generation.  There are three postulated tiers, the $200-250 range of 10.1-15.6" models and $250-400 or $400-600 in 11.6-17.3" which will make them larger in size than the original generation which failed to attract many consumers.  They are currently scheduled to ship with Bay Trail-M with future models likely to have Braswell inside in a mix of transformer style 2 in 1's with touchscreens and more traditional laptop designs.  You can expect to see a maximum thickness of 25mm and a mix of HDD and SSD storage on these and we can only hope that the estimated pricing is more accurate than the pricing on Ultrabooks turned out to be.

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"For the US$199-249 notebooks, Intel and Microsoft's specification preferences are 10.1- to 15.6-inch clamshell non-touchscreen models using Intel's Bay Trail-M series processors or upcoming Braswell-based processors, which are set to release in the second quarter of 2015."

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Source: DigiTimes