Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows Now Supports 7, 8.x

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 07:20 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, Windows 8.1, windows 8, Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft

Last week, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows now supports Windows 7 and 8.x. Previously, the dongle would only work on Windows 10, which meant that other operating systems required Xbox One controllers to be wired.

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This does not mean that all functionality will be available on Windows 7 and 8.x, though. The Xbox Accessories app is required to manage profiles and update firmware without an Xbox One console. As far as I can tell, that will continue to be the case. If you have an Xbox One console, and don't mind managing the controllers there, then this wireless adapter might be for you. If you have don't have an Xbox One console, Windows 10, or an existing Xbox One controller, then you may want to reconsider getting an Xbox One controller at all. If you do, then you can turn it wireless, now even on Windows 7 and 8.x.

The Xbox One Wireless Adapter for Windows has been out for a couple of months.

Microsoft's penitent weekend

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2015 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Surface Pro, surface book

Along with the apology and reversal of their OneDrive policy, Microsoft has also apologized to customers about several issues that many have experienced with their new Surface Pro and Surface Books.  The complaints started on a forum, as usual, with several users encountering screen flickering when using the devices.  However the complaints quickly spread and even an interim firmware update was unable to resolve the issue.  On Friday Microsoft officially apologized for the ongoing issue which has persisted through numerous updates and promise to have more updates available soon, hopefully one of which will permanently resolve the issue.  The Register also mentions several other issues which users have experienced in their article this morning.

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"Buyers have complained on Microsoft user forums about several faults with the machines since their launch earlier this year, including a "weird screen flicker", slowness in waking from sleep mode and worse than expected battery life. Surface Book"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Microsoft Allows Opt-in to Grandfather Your Free OneDrive

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2015 - 09:54 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive

A month and a half ago, Microsoft announced that they would roll back OneDrive storage plans. Subscription OneDrive storage would return to 1TB, down from unlimited. Free OneDrive was hit, too. The service offered 15GB (with a bonus 15GB for using Camera Roll). That was also scheduled to be reduced to 5GB, with no Camera Roll bonus. Users were naturally upset at having their free storage reduced by a factor of 6.

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These changes will still take effect in early 2016, but not for everyone. If you are a current user with 15GB base storage, you can opt-in to being grandfathered by clicking a link. You will apparently also retain your 15GB camera roll bonus, if applicable, too. This will not be available for new customers, although there might be still time to sneak in, especially if you have a Hotmail / Microsoft Account / .NET / Passport / Passport Network / Live ID / Microsoft Account (again) / whatever they call it now account. Wouldn't hurt to check what OneDrive offers you today, and try to lock it in.

The Ars Technica article is a bit ambiguous about current Unlimited users. I mean, I guess it won't hurt to try. Be sure to let us know if you're successful. It sounds like it only applies to free tiers, though.

I guess it's nice that Microsoft allows users to be retain their settings. It's interesting that they require opt-in, though. This satisfies the users who are most likely to object, but it directs future users to subscribe. You know, unless they find old news posts on Google.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10 Tool Now Reverted to Build 10240

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2015 - 08:15 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

UPDATE (Nov 24th, 8pm ET): As I was informed, both on Twitter and in the comments, the update has been restored. Apparently the issue was that this tool, when upgrading Windows 10 to Windows 10 1511, accidentally reset four privacy settings to default. They also happened to be four of the less-severe ones, such as whether to allow apps to run in the background and whether settings should sync between devices. It has apparently been fixed and the tool will install the latest version of Windows 10 once more.

Source: Ars Technica

Regardless of your opinion about Windows 10, I'm glad that Microsoft has once again provided a way to force a specific version on your device. Their recent statement, telling users that Windows Update will give them the correct build eventually, is not comforting if someone is failing to receive the update. Is it coming? Or did it block for some reason? I also wonder if the 30-day policy would still be enforced, making clean installs that much more annoying. Turns out it was all hypothetical, and Microsoft was planning on reinstating it instantly, though.

This is a bit surprising and disappointing. When the November 2015 update for Windows 10 went live, existing users could upgrade with Windows Update (if it let them) and the rest could force an in-place upgrade from Windows 7, 8.x, and earlier builds of Windows 10 using the tool. The latter method has apparently been reverted to the original Windows 10 build from July 2015.

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This image is getting a lot more use than I intended.

Why? Who knows. They are still offering the update through Windows Update, and Microsoft claims that they have no intention of pulling it. This concerns me, because there are a few situations where Windows 10 updates will get stuck, such as if you get it through Windows Update then uninstall it. I have not seen any report cover the official procedure for this issue. Also, I wonder if there's a way to get past Microsoft's 30-day no-update policy.

According to WinBeta, Microsoft's official statement contains the following: “Microsoft has not pulled the Windows 10 November 10 update. The company is rolling out the November update over time – if you don’t see it in Windows Update, you will see it soon.” (Emphasis not mine.)

We'll probably hear more about this as the week goes on.

Source: WinBeta

Microsoft Updates Privacy Statement (via Ed Bott of ZDNet)

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 08:55 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Privacy, microsoft

UPDATE (Nov 19th, 12pm EST): Ed Bott emailed me to clarify a few points. First, PINs for BitLocker are not required and will not be backed up to OneDrive. I knew that PINs were not required, but I was trying to say "would there be a way that a user could use BitLocker without giving all the necessary bits to OneDrive". Apparently, using PINs is one of those ways. He also claims that you can manage your own keys by changing them and storing them locally.

He also commented on the HIPAA remark. He claims that Windows 10 is HIPAA compliant, and the reason why it was not included in the statement is because the question wasn't asked. Again, if applicable, check with your vendors and other support.

Okay so one of the major concerns with Windows 10 is how it handles your private data. I gave my thoughts on the topic a couple of weeks ago, which was a bit critical of Microsoft. I said that there are definite concerns that should be disclosed, but it is not enough of a concern to stop using it and switch to Linux or something. At least, not yet.

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

Since then, Ed Bott of ZDNet discussed Microsoft's new privacy policy, which clarifies a few points. It looks like he ran the two versions of the EULA through a text-difference tool to highlight all changes, and took a few screenshots of key moments.

The foremost change is that Microsoft specified that only OneDrive, Outlook, and Skype files and content, private or public, are subject to disclosure to law enforcement. The previous wording looked like it applied to all files on Windows 10. Full access to all files sounds like something the law enforcement would want, but Windows 10 does not provide it.

Another change involves BitLocker. Recovery keys are synchronized to OneDrive “to allow recovery on personal devices”. I am not sure if this also includes PINs, for devices configured to use those, but it would be crappy if it did. Regardless, the privacy statement now says “Microsoft doesn't use your individual recovery keys for any purpose.” This raises two concerns: Why did they specify “Microsoft” and why did they qualify “recovery keys” with “individual”? My assumption is that this is just an awkward trait of the English language, but it could exempt sending batches of keys to third parties, such as governments, especially if it counts as a OneDrive personal file. Again, it is probably just an awkward wording though.

A final point for me is that Telemetry, when set to “Basic”, satisfies FINRA, SEC, and FTC regulations. Oddly they don't specify HIPAA, but you probably shouldn't be listening to tech reporters (yes including me) for advice about securing health insurance and patient data. You should have more reliable channels for that sort of inquiry.

Source: ZDNet

Among the other things, Threshold 2 will finally honour your previous license

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Scott covered a lot of what to expect from Threshold 2, the November update for Windows 10 but today we received another tidbit of information about the new release.  When you first upgraded to Windows 10 you probably noticed that your Win7/8 license was not honoured if you tried to do a fresh install after the upgrade.   As well, if you used software to determine the new license code, it was also not recognized for a fresh install and your only option to reinstall was to use the process found within Windows 10.  That will change with the arrival of the new update according to what The Inquirer was told, as long as you have record of your old Win7 or Win8 key you will be able to do a fresh new installation of Windows 10, presumably on the same hardware.  They also provided an estimate of how long the installation of this update will take, about one hour depending on the speed of your internet.

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"That means if you start with a clean slate, your Windows 7 or 8 licence key just wouldn't work. The good news is that this problem has been fixed with the arrival of Threshold 2, and you can now use an old licence key to do a fresh installation."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Skylake Architecture Comes Through

When Intel finally revealed the details surrounding it's latest Skylake architecture design back in August at IDF, we learned for the first time about a new technology called Intel Speed Shift. A feature that moves some of the control of CPU clock speed and ramp up away from the operating system and into hardware gives more control to the processor itself, making it less dependent on Windows (and presumably in the future, other operating systems). This allows the clock speed of a Skylake processor to get higher, faster, allowing for better user responsiveness.

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It's pretty clear that Intel is targeting this feature addition for tablets and 2-in-1s where the finger/pen to screen interaction is highly reliant on immediate performance to enable improved user experiences. It has long been known that one of the biggest performance deltas between iOS from Apple and Android from Google centers on the ability for the machine to FEEL faster when doing direct interaction, regardless of how fast the background rendering of an application or web browser actually is. Intel has been on a quest to fix this problem for Android for some time, where it has the ability to influence software development, and now they are bringing that emphasis to Windows 10.

With the most recent Windows 10 update, to build v10586, Intel Speed Shift has finally been enabled for Skylake users. And since you cannot disable the feature once it's installed, this is the one and only time we'll be able to measure performance in our test systems. So let's see if Intel's claims of improved user experiences stand up to our scrutiny.

Continue reading our performance evaluation of Intel Speed Shift on the Skylake Architecture!!

Xbox One Controller Chatpad Now Available, Supports Consoles and Windows 10 PCs

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2015 - 10:58 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, chatpad, microsoft

Microsoft released the Xbox One chatpad on Thursday, making it easier to chat with friends and browse the internet thanks to the full QWERTY keyboard. The pad plugs into the bottom of the controller using both the proprietary connector and the 3.5mm audio jack. The chatpad then provides its own audio jack to plug a chat headset into.

The chatpad keyboard is back-lit features dedicated buttons to control the volume level, game and voice chat volume mix, and a microphone mute. it also has two user programmable keys (X1 and X2) that are usable only on the Xbox One although that functionality will not be available until "mid 2016" according to Microsoft. Currently, pressing the X1 and X2 function keys will take a screenshot and save the last 30 seconds of game play as a video clip respectively.

Xbox One Chatpad 1.jpg

The chatpad is compatible with all Xbox One controllers provided they are running the latest firmware. It can be used with both the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. Note that the Xbox One must be running the NXOE (New Xbox One Experience) update and Windows 10 must be updated to the November Update. Function keys only work with the Xbox One.

The chatpad and chat headset are available now from Amazon for $34.99.

Also read: 

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10 November Update Released...ish

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2015 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft has published the November 2015 Update for Windows 10, which brings it to the logical version number: 1511. It is not available to everyone though. The update is apparently being rolled out to users slowly, and manually pressing “Check for updates” will not fix it either. I've been doing that all day and still haven't got it. Those who want to receive it before Windows Update graces you with its existence will apparently need to either download the ISOs, or use the Windows 10 update tool. It was designed to bring Windows 7 and Windows 8.x to Windows 10, but it (apparently) can also be used on older versions of Windows 10 to update them to newer, public versions. It might remove the ability to go back in case of problems though, so be careful.

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The update itself shouldn't be too surprising if you have been following our periodic check-up with the Windows Insider program. This is essentially the most recent build, although it apparently is installed without the big in-place upgrade process (although I have yet to do it myself, as stated above).

In the foreground, users will likely notice a handful of changes in the interface. It should be better behind the scenes, too. Microsoft Edge has been upgraded to include many new Web technologies, which should enable peer-to-peer networking for websites and very high-performance numerical math in JavaScript. The OS's memory manager has been updated too. Build 10240 had the compressed memory feature that first appeared, as far as I can tell, around the 10074 era, but Microsoft clearly wasn't done with it. The first Insider preview after the July launch updated the memory manager, although they wouldn't specify exactly how. Likely this means that Microsoft merged the changes that they knew they could clean up by July, and left the rest to hang in a private branch (until the post-launch Fast Ring preview).

And, of course, WinBeta did a video walkthrough that highlighted the visible differences between July and November. I guess that's something to watch while you continually click “Check for Updates”. Or not.

Note that if you have only recently installed Windows 10, Microsoft will not push the new version to you just yet. They do not want the new build overwriting the image to bring you back to Windows 7 or 8.x, so they are waiting for it to expire.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Updated Windows End of Sales Dates

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 07:05 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, windows 8, Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft

Officially, the only version of Windows that you can purchase standalone is Windows 10. Sales of Windows 7 ended on October 31st, 2013, and retail availability Windows 8.x ended on September 1st. Unofficially, you can find SKUs available on Amazon and elsewhere for both of these versions, and in several different editions.

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PCs with Windows pre-installed follow their own calendar, though. Almost two years ago, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 PCs will be available until October 31st, 2014, with an extension for Windows 7 Professional that will be at least 12 months after... whenever they decide to announce the date. They announced the date a few days ago and, you guessed it, it's 12 months from then: October 31st, 2016. They also announced that PCs with Windows 8.1 pre-installed will have the same end of sales date.

So basically, you can only purchase Windows 10 now, and PCs will only have it pre-installed after October 31st, 2016... officially.

Source: Microsoft