No Longer the Media Center of Attention
Gabe Aul, of Microsoft's Windows Insiders program, has confirmed on Twitter that Windows 10 will drop support for Windows Media Center due to a decline in usage. This is not surprising news as Microsoft has been deprecating the Media Center application for a while now. In Windows 8.x, the application required both the “Pro” SKU of the operating system, and then users needed to install an optional add-on above and beyond that. The Media Center Pack cost $10 over the price of Windows 8.x Pro unless you claimed a free license in the promotional period surrounding Windows 8's launch.
While Media Center has been officially abandoned, its influence on the industry (and vice versa) is an interesting story. For a time, it looked like Microsoft had bigger plans that were killed by outside factors and other companies seem to be eying the money that Microsoft left on the table.
There will be some speculation here.
We could go back to the days of WebTV, but we won't. All you need to know is that Microsoft lusted over the living room for years. Windows owned the office and PC gaming was taking off with strong titles (and technologies) from Blizzard, Epic, iD, Valve, and others. DirectX was beloved by developers, which led to the original Xbox. Their console did not get a lot of traction, but they respected it as a first-generation product that was trying to acquire a foothold late in a console generation. Financially, the first Xbox would cost Microsoft almost four billion dollars more than it made.
At the same time, Microsoft was preparing Windows to enter the living room. This was the company's power house and it acquired significant marketshare wherever it went, due to its ease of development and its never-ending supply of OEMs, even if the interface itself was subpar. Their first attempt at bringing Windows to the living room was Windows XP Media Center Edition. This spin-off of Windows XP could only be acquired by OEMs to integrate into home theater PCs (HTPCs). The vision was interesting, using OEM competition to rapidly prototype what users actually want in a PC attached to a TV.
This leads us to Windows Vista, which is where Media Center came together while the OS fell apart.
Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 03:17 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fiji, hbm, microsoft, build 2015, DirectX 12, Intel, SSD 750, freesync, gsync, Oculus, rift
PC Perspective Podcast #348 - 05/07/2015
Join us this week as we discuss DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:27:38
Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2015 - 02:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: patch tuesday, microsoft, windows 10
Microsoft is showing off some of the new security features of Windows 10 and one of the announcements heralded the end of Patch Tuesday for everyone but Enterprise customers. For consumers any device running Windows 10 could receive a patch at any time Microsoft approves it and pushes it out, apparently a shot across the bows at Google and their less than regular update schedule for mobile devices. This could lead to some interesting and unexpected behaviour for devices if the patches cause problems on some systems as has happened in the past. The patches can be distributed via peer-to-peer which will help those with limited bandwidth and time constraints, which you can read about at The Register along with information on the new Advanced Threat Analytics.
The Inquirer touches briefly on Windows Update for Business which will replace current patch distribution for the Enterprise and allow far more control on what gets updated, with which patches and when the installations will occur.
"Ignite 2015 - Microsoft has shown off some of the new security mechanisms embedded in Windows 10, and revealed a change to its software updates."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
DirectX 12 Has No More Secrets
The DirectX 12 API is finalized and the last of its features are known. Before the BUILD conference, the list consisted of Conservative Rasterization, Rasterizer Ordered Viewed, Typed UAV Load, Volume Tiled Resources, and a new Tiled Resources revision for non-volumetric content. When the GeForce GTX 980 launched, NVIDIA claimed it would be compatible with DirectX 12 features. Enthusiasts were skeptical, because Microsoft did not officially finalize the spec at the time.
Last week, Microsoft announced the last feature of the graphics API: Multiadapter.
We already knew that Multiadapter existed, at least to some extent. It is the part of the specification that allows developers to address multiple graphics adapters to split tasks between them. In DirectX 11 and earlier, secondary GPUs would remain idle unless the graphics driver sprinkled some magic fair dust on it with SLI, CrossFire, or Hybrid CrossFire. The only other way to access this dormant hardware was by spinning up an OpenCL (or similar compute API) context on the side.
Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2015 - 02:56 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, windows server, nano server
Microsoft has really trimmed the fat off of Windows Server to make Nano Server, in fact they may have cut off some of the meat as well. A Microsoft engineer described it as "a model of 'just enough OS'.", which is why the new Server OS base install is a mere 400MB. The GUI is gone, you will use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) or the new Core PowerShell which will resemble the old Powershell, but again in a cut down manner. Drivers and APIs are minimal which will take programmers some time to adjust to as the DLL that they current use may not exist on Core and the installer you all know and hate, Windows MSI is one of the ones which has been cut. In order to install drivers and applications which currently rely on MSI, you will need to add them to your image. Read more about this major change in the way you will manage your Windows servers over at The Register.
"Engineers from Microsoft's Windows Server team took the stage at the Build developer conference in San Francisco this week to share more details on Nano Server, the upcoming micro-sized version of the OS aimed at cloud deployments."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2015 - 06:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 2015, build 10074, BUILD
When Microsoft forked their build numbers into 100xx and 101xx lines, we predicted that they were preparing a version to release at BUILD 2015. We also predicted that it would be heavily tested and pushed to both Slow and Fast simultaneously, which would give a good entry point for developers and probably even enterprise evaluators. I was surprised when Microsoft released 10061 last week, and then updated it just two days ago (why???) with four patches, but we ended up being correct in the end.
Microsoft has just released Windows 10 build 10074 to both Fast and Slow users. Its comes with a very small list of known issues, and they are much less severe than they were in previous releases. The first issue tells developers that Developer Mode needs to be enabled in Group Policy, rather than the place in Settings that it will eventually be. The next two issues are more severe: some games cannot be played in full screen and the People app is still broken. I am not sure how wide-spread “some games” is, but they plan to patch it via Windows Update “as soon as possible”.
One major fix is that now, when certain applications that play audio are minimized, they will continue to play audio. This bug made many media players, such as a few SoundCloud apps in the Windows Store as well as Microsoft's own Music app, pretty much useless. Until 10074, you would basically need to launch them, then cover them up with other windows if you wanted more screen real-estate.
If you were a fan of Aero from Windows 7, then you will like the blurred transparency effect of Start and the taskbar. Personally, while I think it looks nice, I was never really attached to that aspect of the Windows UI. Honestly, it used to drive me nuts when it kicked me out of games to complain about how it cannot properly manage 2GB of video memory, despite running perfectly fine if I select ignore. Hopefully that will not come back with it. But, if it is here without causing any problems, it does look pretty. Also, the Start Menu can now be manually resized to better arrange your apps. It also looks like the semi-horizontal layout is a great compromise between the Start Menu and the Start Screen for desktops.
So, as we expected, this build is what happens when Microsoft picks a target and mostly cleans up all of their relevant branches into a solid release. It is still a bit buggy here and there, but it feels better than 10049, which was itself better than 10041. That said, I also upgraded my NVIDIA drivers from 349.90 to 352.63; that could have something to do with it (although I am using the same Intel drivers).
There has not been too many announcements regarding features that are not present in 10074 though. It makes you wonder, at least a bit, how much will be added to the 101xx path until the OS finally launches.
Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2015 - 07:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, BUILD, build 2015
BUILD 2015 begins tomorrow, and I expect we'll learn the last features that Microsoft intends to add to Windows 10 at launch. The conference is targeted at software and web developers first and foremost. We might not see too much on the consumer side, but we should get under-the-hood information that will be relevant to consumers. For instances, some questions about Windows Store, WinRT, and DirectX 12 might be answered. We might even get a public DirectX 12 SDK (and more).
Note: WinRT (API) is not the same as Windows RT (OS).
As we noted earlier, development was forked into a 100xx-branch and a 101xx-branch of build numbers. We assume that, due to the proximity to the conference, the lower build number is getting polished for public presentation while the higher builds will surface later, with more experimental features.
Microsoft published an introduction video, based on the 10061 build, to introduce the new OS to new users. I guess they are expecting a new wave of testers after the conference, probably both developers and enterprise evaluators. It is brief but interesting, although it surprisingly did not mention anything about the “Continuum” interface to switch between mouse/keyboard and touch experiences.
As stated, BUILD 2015 starts tomorrow and we will probably have a bit of coverage for it.
Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2015 - 07:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft
There are still a few users on old Windows 10 Technical Preview builds from 2014. In a few days, there won't be: their computers will refuse to boot. The affected builds that will completely brick themselves on April 30th are 9841, 9860, and 9879. You cannot accuse Microsoft of surprising users though, because Windows has been notifying them since April 2nd and force-rebooting every three hours since April 15th if they didn't take the warnings seriously. The current batch of builds are valid until October.
WinBeta has linked this policy to Microsoft's rumored piracy policy. My thoughts? No.
This is actually typical of Microsoft when it comes to pre-release operating systems. In fact, the only difference between this and Vista's pre-release (ex: “Beta 2”) expiration is that Microsoft relaxed the reboot time to three hours. It was two hours back in the Vista era but otherwise identical. That policy only applied to the previews then, and I see no reason to believe that it will be extended to released operating systems now.
Granted, with the Windows 10 continuous update structure, it does raise concern about what will happen if/when Microsoft releases a build that users don't want. For instance, imagine Microsoft decides to cut off legacy support for Win32 -- will customers have the ability to opt-out of the upgrade treadmill and continue to use applications that are then unsupported, like practically every Steam game they own?
But I see no reason to think that this policy has anything to do with that.
Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2015 - 01:55 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: windows 10, Device Guard, security, microsoft, IOMMU
The Register gleaned some details about Windows 10 Device Guard at RSA but there is still a lot we do not know about it. It is an optional service that can be enabled by an administrator and it checks every application launched to see if it has been signed by Microsoft as a trusted binary before letting it run. While certainly good for security it may cause some issues for developers who have not gone through the vetting process to have your app approved for the Microsoft Store. Device Guard is also separated from the WinX kernel, if your machine does become infected, Device Guard will still not allow unsigned apps to run. You will need hardware which supports input/output memory management unit (IOMMU) to use Device Guard, thankfully that technology is present on most current PC hardware, though not so prevalent on the mobile front.
"The details are a little vague – more information will emerge at the Build event next week – but from what we can tell, Device Guard wraps an extra layer of defense around the operating system to prevent malware from permanently compromising a PC."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Ubuntu 15.04 Released, First Version To Feature systemd @ Slashdot
- Intel to help vendors launch inexpensive tablets, say Taiwan makers @ DigiTimes
- iTunes goes to borksville for Windows XP holdouts @ The Inquirer
- Apple throws out iOS apps that declare Pebble smartwatch support @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft profits decimated: And it's YOUR FAULT for not buying PCs @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft, amd
The CEO of AMD is an unexpected, but probably very accurate, source when it comes to knowing the Windows 10 release date. First off, the news broke on a quarterly earnings call. When you make a statement on those, you have a strong legal obligation to be telling the truth according to the knowledge that you have at the time. Also, as a major hardware vendor of CPUs and GPUs, her company would have been notified by Microsoft so that they could plan development of graphics drivers and so forth. It also aligns with the “Summer” announcement made last month by Microsoft.
Of course, this led to a flurry of comments that claim three months will not be enough time to bake a successful product. Others, naturally, claim that Microsoft has been developing software for long enough to know that they can finish their product in three months. Still others shrug and say, “Yeah, you both make sense. I'm going to go play some Grand Theft Auto.”
One aspect that I don't see mentioned enough is that Microsoft has multiple projects and teams on the go, and we only see a fraction of what is being done in our Insider branch. Despite the narrative that Microsoft wishes to avoid another Windows 8 fiasco and they want their users to guide development, they have alluded that a major reason for the Insider program is to test their build delivery system. While I am having a bit of a hard time finding the supporting quote, I did find one reference to it being the reason for ISOs being delayed.
And finally – we heard from you loud and clear you want ISO images of the new builds we release. We felt it was important to listen to that and give you what you want – but there’s a catch. Getting the update & install data from our Preview Builds mechanism is super important for us. It helps us ensure smooth ESD distribution, download, and upgrade success for this program going forward, and also will help us ensure great upgrades for people once we release Windows 10. So we’re going to release the ISOs at the same time as we publish to the Slow ring. That means if you want to be FIRST and FASTEST to get the build, you’ll need to use our Preview Builds mechanisms (either automatic or Check Now in PC Settings to download.) If you must have an ISO you’ll have to be a bit more patient. I hope that you’ll consider that a fair tradeoff.
So what is my point? Basically, it is difficult for us to make assumptions about how baked Windows 10 is from our standpoint. They are being more open with us than ever about their development methods, but we don't know certain key things. We don't know what final feature set they plan. We don't know how much work has been done on any individual feature since it was merged into a build that we saw. We also don't know how much has been done by third parties. In some cases, a release in three months could equate to like, six months of work for a specific team since their last contribution was merged. I do think that any major feature we see at BUILD will pretty much be the last additions to the OS before it launches though, unless they have a surprise that will surface at E3 or something.
Also, remember that the things they show us are slanted to what they want feedback about.