Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2011 - 07:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Media Center, htpc, microsoft, windows 8
There are quite a few aspects of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system that are still an unknown; however, a recent MSDN blog confirmed quite a few bits of software that will make the cut into the final version of the operating system. One piece of software in particular that will definitely be included in Windows 8 is Windows Media Center. Steven Sinofsky stated “I want to reassure customers that Media Center will definitely be part of Windows 8. No doubt about it.”
While the good news lies in Media Center’s inclusion in the new operating system, the announcement comes with two bits of bad news. Firstly, they are not able to release details about the Media Center application itself, so there are no details on any new features or speed increases. Further, Media Center will not be included in most of the pre-release builds of the operating system. While Microsoft reports that the beta testers of the application are pleased with it, the majority of consumers and enthusiasts will have to wait until the operating system gets closer to RTM (release to manufacturing) before getting a look at the application.
Microsoft further stated that the Media Center application will be included in the “premium” SKUs of the operating system, assuming the upcoming OS will imitate its predecessor’s multiple SKU strategy. More information on upcoming Windows 8 features can be found on the MSDN blog.
What are your thoughts on Media Center? Is it an application that you find useful, and if so what features would you most like to see improved upon? Personally, I use the Media Center extender functionality quite a bit to watch videos on the living room TV, and I would love to have Microsoft implement some performance increases to speed up the often pokey interface (which admittedly might be partly attributable to the Xbox 360’s hardware).
Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2011 - 08:50 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, VHD, microsoft, ISO
The Microsoft blog “Building Windows 8” reported today that the company’s next operating system, Windows 8, will support natively mounting ISO and VHD files. As a bit of background, ISO files are all the folders and files included on a CD or DVD encapsulated into a single file. Similarly VHD files are all the files and folders on a hard drive encapsulated into a single file. These VHD files are used primarily by Virtual Machine and imaging backup programs. Just as the OS did not support zip files out of the box for many iterations, ISO mounting has always required third party tools like Daemon Tools and SlySoft’s Virtual Clone Drive. However, it looks like the time has finally come for Microsoft to roll ISO mounting into the operating system. Steven Sinofsky stated that managing ISO and VHD files continue to be important for businesses and power users and that “we know even more support for VHD is a big request, so stay tuned.”
Rajeev Nagar, the group program manager on the Storage and File Systems Team, detailed how the ISO and VHD mounting will work in the upcoming Windows OS. For ISO files, users need only to select the ISO and choose the mount option in the Windows Explorer ribbon interface. Windows will then create a virtual CD/DVD drive with the files contained in the ISO available. The drive will also be able to eject the ISO file from the ribbon interface with a single click.
On the VHD, or Virtual Hard Drive, front, it is only a matter of double clicking on the VHD and allowing Windows to assign a drive letter and presenting users with all the files and folders contained in the VHD file. User will be able to interact with the virtual drive just as they would with a “normal” hard drive.
One issue with the ISO and VHD support in Windows 8 is that while users will be able to mount and interact with ISO and VHD files, they will not be able to create the files from scratch. Makers of ISO burning and VHD creating utilities are likely to appreciate still being relevant. Still, its a welcome step in the right direction for power users.
More information on Windows 8's native ISO and VHD support, including a video of it in action, is available on the MSDN blog.
Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2011 - 11:56 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ultrabook, tablet, windows 8, microsoft, Intel
Two contrasting opinions appeared this morning on the internet, concerned with not only the future of mobile computing in a possibly post-PC market but also touching on the impact Microsoft's Windows 8 could have on that choice. DigiTimes has a report from Wistron, an original design manufacturer based in Taiwan, which is concerned with the ultrabook. They see the coming year as dominated by the contentious ultrabook platform which Intel has been talking up recently. The company managed US$21.1B in revenue last year, so they are neither a small player nor uninformed about the industry. That does leave one wondering how they plan on making a profit if the bill of materials is as high as some manufacturers have claimed. Still, that is where the manufacturer sees Windows 8 making the most difference to the market.
Ars Technica sees a different path for Microsoft to take, one that would be very different from the theory discussed by DigiTimes and very different from anything Microsoft has previously done. In this article, Ars suggests that the PC market is at a standstill because we have hit a post-PC market thanks to the tablet. While Microsoft has always considered the tablet to be a PC in a different form factor, Apple and other successful tablet marketers have visualized a completely different model. While Apple may have taken it to the most extreme, with no visible OS nor even a USB connector so you can transfer files directly from a camera or thumbdrive, nor hook up a wired peripheral. Other manufacturers have taken a less extreme approach but still hide the OS and have removed associated tasks like driver installation. That is very different from Microsoft's version of a tablet or phone which runs a trimmed down but still very recognizable OS and tends not to sell very well.
The question becomes one of design incompatibility; if Microsoft wants to release a Windows 8 which emulates the successful tablet OSes of the competition it will have to design something so different from their past OSes that it would be unrecognizable as a PC. In order to hide the OS and offload applications onto the cloud to make a perfect tablet the design choices would limit the effectiveness of Win8 as a PC OS. On the flip side, if they choose to design for the Ultrabook, risky in that we still have yet to hear the end of the pricing issues, the OS will be much lighter than previous versions but will still have a recognizable file system, the ability to update or customize drivers and all the other features common to netbooks through laptops. It will however not be a successful tablet OS, as history has shown with the failures of Microsoft's tablets and phones, some of which died before every being released.
The one thing that they can't do is try to make Windows 8 do both service as a laptop and a tablet OS. If they go that way, users on both sides of the divide will likely lose as you end up with an OS not customizable enough to do duty on a more powerful notebook or desktop. As well, it will have an interface which is similar to previous attempts by Microsoft to sell tablets which to this date have all failed against the competition.
"The launch of ultrabooks and Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will serve as growth drivers for the notebook industry in 2012, according to Simon Lin, chairman of Taiwan-based notebook ODM Wistron.
Shipments of ultrabooks will account for 10-20% of Wistron's total notebook shipments in 2012, Lin estimated.
Despite current economic turbulence touched off by debt issues in Europe and the US, Wistron's target to ship 30 million notebooks in 2011 remains unchanged, said Lin, who added that notebook Wistron's shipments will grow by a single-digit rate sequentially in the third and fourth quarters.
However, the company has slashed its LCD TV shipment target for the year to 8.5 million units, from 10 million units projected previously, while also scaling down the target for mobile devices from 10-12 million units to nine million.
Wistron has reported net profits of NT$4.5 billion (US$154.77 million) for the first half of 2011, down 20.44% from a year earlier. The earnings translated into an EPS of NT$2.28 for the six-month period."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- .NET Framework "1935 Error" Cripples Some Users' Office, IE9 Installs @ DailyTech
- And the Bulldozer die size is…….. @ SemiAccurate
- FPGA bitcoin miner is probably the most power efficient. @ Hack a Day
- Linux 3.1 Kernel Draws More Power With Another Regression @ Phoronix
- McAfee defends against Kaspersky's Shady RAT alarmist jibe @ The Inquirer
- Asus Black Diamond RT-N56U Router and USB-N13 Adapter Review @ OCIA
- Google Launches Identity Verification Badge Scheme @ Slashdot
- Video: Shocking [Jack] into submission with High Voltage @ Hack a Day
- Skype buys communications firm Groupme @ The Inquirer
- The TR Podcast 94: Dorm PCs and playing with blocks
- Real World Labs And Antec Joint Contest
- Cooler Master Silencio, GX 550 and Sentinal Giveaway @ XSReviews
Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2011 - 07:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows, operating system, microsoft
Windows XP is almost old enough that revisionist historians can have a crack at it without anyone speaking out against it. That is, it would be if not for the large number of users still using the operating system at their home and work. The decade old operating system has only now fallen below 50% of Windows' market share. More specifically, the slip in market share occurred between June and July where it fell 0.63% to a total of 49.94%.
The numbers are percentages of MS's total 87.66% market share.
In comparison, Windows Vista holds a much smaller 9.24% market share after dropping 0.28%. Microsoft’s most recent operating system, Windows 7; meanwhile, saw a gain of 0.74% to a total of 27.87% market share, which puts the new operating system well on its way to overtaking the XP juggernaut. Techspot has the full scoop on the market share situation, which you can read about here.
Are you still using Windows XP?
Subject: General Tech | July 27, 2011 - 12:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: qdos, msdos, microsoft
Back in the ancient days before the comment "Drop to command prompt" made sense as the command prompt a little known company called Microsoft bought QDOS and renamed it as MS DOS. That was also back when IBM was the be all and end all of 8086 (and 8080) processors and planned for their newly designed Personal Computer to run an OS called CP/M-86 but couldn't get a good enough deal on the licensing; which lead to Microsoft's product being adopted. It also lead to the Personal Computer catching on much more quickly and thoroughly than anyone predicted.
From that humble beginning came what was first used to slow your 386DX based computer enough to be able to control Wing Commander and now controls almost 90% of the PCs currently running and keeps techs employed world wide..
"Thirty years ago, on July 27 1981, Microsoft bought the rights for QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Seattle Computer Products (SCP) for $25,000. QDOS, otherwise known as 86-DOS, was designed by SCP to run on the Intel 8086 processor, and was originally thrown together in just two months for a 0.1 release in 1980."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- How to build your own quadcopter, step by step @ Hack a Day
- Stuxnet clones may target critical US systems, DHS warns @ The Register
- LSI samples three SAS12 chips @ SemiAccurate
- Intel gives former CFO Bryant the chair @ The Register
- Kit steals Mac login passwords through FireWire port @ The Register
- Apple Gets It. @ t-break
- Picture Collage Maker Pro 3 Review @ BayReviews
- soundscience Halo Bias Lighting Review @ OCC
- Weekly Giveaway #8: NZXT H2, fans, Source 210 Elite and Avatar S Mouse @ eTeknix
- Real World Labs And FinalWire Joint Contest
Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2011 - 10:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows, microsoft, branding
Microsoft and their Windows brand have always been synonymous where it comes to Operating Systems. As someone who grew up with Windows 3.1, I have grown up seeing Microsoft through the proverbial Window(s). As such, Windows has been a brand that has always been around, and one that I assumed would always be around. In a surprise twist; however, This Is My Next reports that Microsoft may be dropping the Windows brand for their future operating systems after Windows 8.
Look how far the MS OS logo has come. What does the future hold?
Windows 8 is already incorporating tile elements of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Xbox elements in the form of a re-branded Games For Windows Live service. It seems logical; therefore, that Microsoft would want to even further integrate their mobile, gaming, and computing platforms into one cohesive unit. This Is My Next reports that the future OS will present a single Operating System and UI features across all devices and platforms. They further quote Andy Lees in stating that the single ecosystem would facilitate consistency across all Microsoft powered platforms and “the goal isn’t just to share UI, but also core technologies like Internet Explorer.”
You can read more about the “Next Next” OS over at This Is My Next. What are your opinions on the proposed branding theme? Do you have any fold memories of the Windows brand?
Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2011 - 12:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: .net, longhorn, microsoft, windows, winfx
Way back in the beginning of the 00's, before Win7 was Win7, Microsoft announced the development of a new OS that was named Longhorn. This was an ambitious plan to move from the old Win32 programming interface to a newcomer called .NET which Microsoft had designed to be an alternative to both Win32 and VisualBasic. There would still be backwards compatiblity with Win32 apps but no more extensions to the API would be created. Of course as we know this project never saw the light of day and Win7 remained dependant on the two old, if familiar APIs.
Now, in a move that is hard to judge if it is a mean trick or an honest attempt to placate the hoards of fuming .NET programmers, Microsoft has announced that Longhorn is not dead; it was just resting. Windows 8 will ship with a pair of runtimes, .NET 4.5, and a C++ implemention which will be called WinRT and do everything Win32 could do and more and will work with the new user interface design tool they're calling DirectUI. Even Silverlight is being integrated into the APIs, which means all that training in Microsoft programming may pay off in the end. Drop by Ars Technica and decide if this is bull or not.
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- How the Lytro No-Focus Light Field Camera Changes Photography @ ExtremeTech
- Microsoft BPOS biz-cloud hit by another outage @ The Register
- The Linux 3.0 Kernel With EXT4 & Btrfs @ Phoronix
- Weekly Giveaway #3: TWO x Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 FleX Edition 1GB Graphics Cards @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 21, 2011 - 10:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: skydrive, microsoft
There are a number of reasons for which someone would desire to have their data accessible from the internet and there are a number of services that provide that capability in many different ways. If you are looking to collaborate on a small project with automatic syncing then you will probably find your way to Dropbox. If you are looking to access your music collection from your variety of devices then you will probably like Amazon or Google’s music lockers. Should you be looking to migrate a business to a really large online storage system then Amazon S3 might be worth hooking into. If you are a home user who wishes to store and share your photos, documents, and videos with friends and family then Microsoft recently updated their Skydrive service to help users like you; it should be available to you right now.
Why start the video from the desktop, Microsoft? A guy has feelings you know.
One feature I wished that Microsoft would have implemented to Skydrive at some point over the last few years is an easy method to map your Skydrive account to a drive letter on your computer. Sadly this feature is still not present in Skydrive. What are present are features to make Microsoft’s service look much more user friendly and much more like a native application. Their new photo browser looks quite a bit like their Windows Phone 7 tile interface with photos shown in their original aspect ratio fitting together like a puzzle. There is also a nice looking content browser that slides both pictures and videos across a viewing screen with thumbnails below for selection. With features like these with a focus on cross-browser support it is obvious that Microsoft is looking to be your family’s content hub and prevent Facebook from getting that much more powerful in this space.
What do you use, if anything, to share content with friends and family?
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 17, 2011 - 04:35 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, microsoft
WebGL: Heaven or Hell?
(Image from MrDoob WebGL demo; contains Lucy model from Stanford 3D repository)
WebGL is an API very similar to OpenGL ES 2.0: the API used for OpenGL features in embedded systems, particularly smart phones. The goal of WebGL is to provide a light-weight, CSS obeying, 3D and shader system for websites that require advanced 3D graphics or even general purpose calculations performed on the shader units of the client’s GPU. Mozilla and Google currently have support in their public browsers with Opera and Apple shipping support in the near future. Microsoft has stated that allowing third-party websites that level of access to the hardware is dangerous as security vulnerabilities that formerly needed to be exploited locally can now be exploited from the web browser. This is an area of expertise that Microsoft knows all too well from their past attempts at active(x)ly adding scripting functionality to the web browser evolving into a decade-long game of whack-a-mole for security holes.
But skeptics to Microsoft’s position could easily point to their effort to single out the one standard based on OpenGL, competitor to their still-cherished DirectX standard. Regardless of Microsoft’s motives it seems to put to rest the question of whether Microsoft will be working towards implementing WebGL in any release of Internet Explorer currently in development.
Do you think Microsoft is warning its competitors about its past ActiveX woes, or is this more politically motivated? Comment below (registration not required.)
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 15, 2011 - 05:58 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: programming, microsoft, fusion, c++, amp, AFDS
During this morning's keynote at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit, Microsoft's Herb Sutter went on stage to discuss the problems and solutions involved around programming and developing for multi-processing systems and heterogeneous computing systems in particular. While the problems are definitely something we have discussed before at PC Perspective, the new solution that was showcased was significant.
C++ AMP (accelerated massive parallelism) was announced as a new extension to Visual Studio and the C++ programming language to help developers take advantage of the highly parallel and heterogeneous computing environments of today and the future. The new programming model uses C++ syntax and will be available in the next version of Visual Studio with "bits of it coming later this year." Sorry, no hard release date was given when probed.
Perhaps just as significant is the fact that Microsoft announced the C++ AMP standard would be an open specification and they are going to allow other compilers to integrated support for it. Unlike C# then, C++ AMP has a chance to be a new dominant standard in the programming world as the need for parallel computing expands. While OpenCL was the only option for developers that promised to allow easy utilization of ALL computing power in a computing device, C++ AMP gives users another option with the full weight of Microsoft behind it.
To demonstrate the capability of C++ AMP Microsoft showed a rigid body simulation program that ran on multiple computers and devices from a single executable file and was able to scale in performance from 3 GLOPS on the x86 cores of Llano to 650 GFLOPS on the combined APU power and to 830 GFLOPS with a pair of discrete Radeon HD 5800 GPUs. The same executable file was run on an AMD E-series APU powered tablet and ran at 16 GFLOPS with 16,000 particles. This is the promise of heterogeneous programming languages and is the gateway necessary for consumers and business to truly take advantage of the processors that AMD (and other companies) are building today.
If you want programs other than video transcoding apps to really push the promise of heterogeneous computing, then the announcement of C++ AMP is very, very big news.
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