Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2015 - 05:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, internet explorer, spartan, IE11, ie12
Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet reports that Microsoft is planning to release a new web browser with Windows 10. We have talked about it in the past, and its rumored extension architecture in particular, but it was expected to become Internet Explorer 12. Even then, snippets have shown that the team was considering a name change away from IE, to some degree of seriousness. Now we are hearing that it might actually be a wholly new, standalone browser that is installed alongside IE11.
Yikes. Okay, so...
Stick a fork in... ... Trident...?
(Image Credit: Wikipedia)
Browser rendering engines have been in flux over the last couple of years. First, Opera decided to deprecate their Presto engine and move to Webkit, along with KDE, Apple, Google, Valve, and so forth. Later, Google decided to fork Webkit into Blink, with Opera following them, to push updates with less inter-company politics. Meanwhile, Mozilla (and Samsung) started a research project, called Servo, which was developed from scratch to be a multi-threaded, efficient rendering engine. This is difficult, because Web standards were designed to be single-threaded; it may be a successful replacement, or it may just teach them a few new tricks for Gecko.
Developing a new engine from scratch is daunting but Microsoft could obviously afford it, if it is deemed a worthy project. With Trident being forked, it seems unlikely for a while though. After all, why would they fork an engine if they had something in skunkworks for years (because a standards-compliant rendering engine takes a long time to make)? Chances are that they have no plans to even start, but don't let that belittle Microsoft's possibilities with a Trident fork that is free of legacy Internet Explorer concerns.
A preview of the new browser might not make the January technical preview of Windows 10, but it is expected to be done in time for Windows 10. We will probably have access to a pre-release version before then and they might even show it off during their Windows 10 Consumer event on January 21st.
Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2014 - 12:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: root certificates, microsoft, KB3004394, catalyst omega
The recently released KB3004394, an update for Win 7 and Server 2008 Root Certificate Program has been causing havoc with many machines and could also be what is causing the installation errors some users have had with the AMD Catalyst Omega driver. It is not just the new AMD driver, NVIDIA users have also seen installation issues after accepting this update and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Reports of issues with VirtualBox, Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Update itself and many other programs and system files are being negatively effected by this update. If you have it on your system Microsoft recommends you manually remove it to prevent issues with your machine now and in the long term using Programs and Features --> Installed Updates.
For those who can still access Windows update you should see KB3024777, which will remove the problematic update automatically or you can download it directly from Microsoft here.
"We have found that this update is causing additional problem on computers that are running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. This includes the inability to install future updates."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The Tech Report's Christmas 2014 System Guide
- Intel, IBM and Cisco team up to fight net neutrality by reclassifying the internet @ The Inquirer
- No more free Windows... and now it’s all about the services @ The Register
- Lenov-OUCH! 500,000 laptop cables recalled in burning mains cock-up @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2014 - 04:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, windows, patch, microsoft
A few days ago, I attempted to install my Windows updates, but one failed. After complaining about the update not being accepted, it would ask you to restart your computer, where it would proudly proclaim that you have an update pending... ad infinitum. It apparently did the same for many others, including Paul Thurrott (who voiced his concerns on Twitter).
Some day (of silence) later, and a workaround has been voiced. As far as I can tell, it was originally discovered by a member of the community, but an Engineering General Manager at Microsoft suggested that Paul Thurrott try it, even though the GM's official workaround was slightly different.
Long story short, here are the steps:
- Go to Add or Remove Programs.
- Go to View installed updates.
- Search for KB3019269 and uninstall it. Do not restart.
- Search for KB3018943 and uninstall it. Do not restart.
- Search for KB3016725 and uninstall it. Do not restart.
- Search for KB3016656 and uninstall it. Restart your computer.
- Run Windows Update and install whatever it tells you to.
- I needed to do Step 7 twice.
- Reboot a second time.
When I did this procedure, Windows Update complained about a failed update. Retrying it, without rebooting, was successful however. If you experienced this problem, be prepared for a potential false error – the fix might have still been successful.
This was actually the second update to fail in the exact same way, the first being a Windows Defender patch from the initial Technical Preview release. That time, the problem went away when Microsoft released a new build and I updated to it. The same probably would be true when Microsoft replaces Build 9879 with whatever they have upcoming, albeit that is at least a month away. As far as I can tell, not a whole lot has changed.
Again, this is pre-release software. I will not knock Microsoft for it, especially since the update procedure is one of the key points of focus for the entire Technical Preview. The occasional failure is to be somewhat expected.
Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2014 - 01:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 8.1, microsoft
Now that the average consumer has no choice but to buy a machine with Windows 8 or 8.1, the number of PCs running Win 8.1 has hit 10%. The increase beginning in November represents the official end of the availability of machines with Win7 preinstalled although you can see that this has not had much effect on the number of Win7 machines still running. The majority of users seem to be switching from WinXP which reached its extended EoL in April of this year. The other main point to take away from the data that The Register linked to is that those who bought Windows Vista are a stubborn crew, the number of desktops running Vista have dropped 2% but there are still a fair number of machines running the much maligned OS.
"Windows 8.1 broke the global 10 per cent market-share barrier a year after general release, and has now hit 10.95 per cent, according to latest data from StatCounter."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Bluetooth 4.2 looks to the Internet of Things with direct IPv6 internet connection @ The Inquirer
- Intel appoints Robert Swinnen as new head of Asia Pacific branch @ DigiTimes
- Iranian CLEAVER hacks through airport security, Cisco boxen @ The Register
- US parking operator: YEP, hackers got your names, credit card numbers, secret codes... @ The Register
- Overclocking Competitions: About the Player not the Hardware @ Hardware Asylum
- Fixing An NES For Good @ Hack a Day
- COMPRO TN2200 Mini-Dome Cloud Network Camera Review @ NikKTech
- Gangnam Style BREAKS YouTube @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, windows, mkv, microsoft, hevc, h.265, flac
Native support for audio and video codecs is helpful for a platform. Software will be able to call upon the operating system's built-in functions, rather than integrating a solution. Of course, some will continue to roll their own, and that's fine, but it is obviously helpful for the foundation to have its own solution (especially in cases where licenses and royalties are required).
Windows 10 is expected to increase its platform support to include FLAC, MKV, and HEVC (h.265), and more may be coming. The tweet from Gabriel Aul suggests that this will be available starting in the next preview build, which will land in early 2015. Hopefully these additions include both encoding and decoding support, possibly allowing audio and video editors to take advantage of these formats.
The next build of Windows 10 Technical Preview is expected for early next year. The full OS is said to launch late that year.
Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 09:29 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: apple, safari, google, yahoo, bing, microsoft, mozilla
After Mozilla inked the deal with Yahoo, the eyes turned to Apple and its Safari browser. Currently, the default search engine is Google on both iOS and OSX, although Bing is the primary engine used for other functions, like Siri and Spotlight. Until early 2015, they are tied into a contract with Google for those two browsers, but who will get the new contract?
Apparently Yahoo and Microsoft have both approached the company for the position, and Apple is not ruling any of the three out. Probably the most interesting part is how Yahoo is genuinely taking the search business seriously. The deal with Mozilla is fairly long-term, and with Yahoo approaching Apple as well, it probably was not just charity on Mozilla's part because no-one else wanted to be Firefox's default. Yahoo would probably need some significant monetary backing for an Apple deal, which suggests the same for their deal with Mozilla.
If both Mozilla and Apple leave Google, it will take a significant chunk out of the search engine. Power users, like those who read this site, will likely be unaffected if they care, because of how low the barrier is to change the default search engine. On the other hand, even the most experienced user will often accept default settings until there is a reason to change. The winning party will need to have a good enough product to overcome that initial shock.
But the money will at least give them a chance when the decision comes into effect. That is, unless the barrier to changing default search engines is less than the barrier to changing default web browsers.
Google will always be default on Google Chrome.
Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:17 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, windows 6.4
Windows Vista broke away from the NT 5.x version number that was shared between Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Since then, each major OS release from Microsoft has incremented the minor version by one: Windows 7 was 6.1, Windows 8 was 6.2, and Windows 8.1 was 6.3. The current Windows 10 previews register as Windows 6.4, but screenshots suggest that Microsoft is considering a bump to 10.0 before release.
Seriously, this time?
This leads to two discussions: “compatibility” and “why”.
First, because some applications query the Windows version number and adjust their behavior, there is some concern that 10.0 could lead to problems. For instance, if an installer checks that Windows' major version is 6, rather than at least 6, it could simply refuse to load (at least without compatibility mode). In fact, I remember Microsoft speaking about this issue back when Vista launched, saying that spoofing incorrect versions fixed (I believe) most problems. Peter Bright at Ars Technica notes that changes to application architecture, instituted with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, makes this change more safe than when Vista bumped it to 6.x, for instance. Applications will be given an earlier version number unless they claim higher-level support in its manifest.
And then we get to the “Why”. There really isn't any reason to keep the version number in lockstep with the branding. It could be a sign that Microsoft is pushing for branding with this release, which makes sense. Windows 10, from a technical standpoint, is shaping up nicely (although I am still concerned about WinRT-based app sideloading). It would not surprise me if they would go this petty to further cement a good brand image.
It could be a good... start.
So this is what happens when you install pre-release software on a production machine.
Sure, I only trusted it as far as a second SSD with Windows 7 installed, but it would be fair to say that I immersed myself in the experience. It was also not the first time that I evaluated upcoming Microsoft OSes on my main machine, having done the same for Windows Vista and Windows 7 as both were in production. Windows 8 was the odd one out, which was given my laptop. In this case, I was in the market for a new SSD and was thus willing to give it a chance, versus installing Windows 7 again.
So far, my experience has been roughly positive. The first two builds have been glitchy. In the first three days, I have rebooted my computer more times than I have all year (which is about 1-2 times per month). It could be the Windows Key + Arrow Key combinations dropping randomly, Razer Synapse deciding to go on strike a couple of times until I reinstall it, the four-or-so reboots required to install a new build, and so forth. You then also have the occasional issue of a Windows service (or DWM.exe) deciding that it would max out a core or two.
But it is pre-release software! That is all stuff to ignore. The only reason I am even mentioning it is so people do not follow in my footsteps and install it on their production machines, unless they are willing to have pockets of downtime here or there. Even then, the latest build, 9879, has been fairly stable. It has been installed all day and has not given me a single issue. This is good, because it is the last build we will get until 2015.
What we will not ignore is the features. For the first two builds, it was annoying to use with multiple monitors. Supposedly to make it easier to align items, mouse cursors would remain locked inside each monitor's boundary until you provide enough velocity to have it escape to the next one. This was the case with Windows 8.1 as well, but you were given registry entries to disable the feature. Those keys did not work with Windows 10. But, with Build 9879, that seems to have been disabled unless you are currently dragging a window. In this case, a quick movement would pull windows between monitors, while a slow movement would perform a Snap.
This is me getting ready to snap a window on the edge between two monitors with just my mouse.
In a single build, they turned this feature from something I wanted to disable, to something that actually performs better (in my opinion) than Windows 7. It feels great.
Now on to a not-so-pleasant experience: updating builds.
Simply put, you can click "Check Now" and "Download Update" all that you want, but it will just sit there doing nothing until it feels like it. During the update from 9860 to 9879, I was waiting with the PC Settings app open for three hours. At some point, I got suspicious and decided to monitor network traffic: nothing. So I did the close app, open app, re-check dance a few times, and eventually gave up. About a half of an hour after I closed PC Settings the last time, my network traffic spiked to the maximum that my internet allows, which task manager said was going to a Windows service.
Shortly after, I was given the option to install the update. After finishing what I was doing, I clicked the install button and... it didn't seem to do anything. After about a half of an hour, it prompted me to restart my computer with a full screen message that you cannot click past to save your open windows - it is do it or postpone it one or more hours, there is no in-between. About another twenty minutes (and four-or-five reboots) after I chose to reboot, I was back up and running.
Is that okay? Sure. When you update, you clearly need to do stuff and that could take your computer several minutes. It would be unrealistic to complain about a 20-minute install. The only real problem is that it waits for extended periods of time doing nothing (measured, literally nothing) until it decides that the time is right, and that time is NOW! It may have been three hours after you originally cared, but the time is NOW!
Come on Microsoft, let us know what is going on behind the scenes, and give us reliable options to pause or suspend the process before the big commitment moments.
So that is where I am, one highly positive experience and one slightly annoying one. Despite my concerns about Windows Store (which I have discussed at length in the past and are still valid) this operating system seems to be on a great path. It is a work in progress. I will keep you up to date, as my machine is kept up to date.
Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 07:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: visual studio, microsoft
While this is significantly different from what we usually write about, I have a feeling that there is some overlap with our audience.
Update: If you use Visual Studio Express 2013, you may wish to uninstall it before installing Community. My experience seems to be that it thinks that both are installed to the same directory, and so uninstalling Express after installing Community will break both. I am currently repairing Community, which should fix it, but there's no sense for you to install twice if you know better.
Visual Studio Express has been the free, cut-down option for small and independent software developers. It can be used for commercial applications, but it was severely limited in many areas, such as its lack of plug-in support. Today, Microsoft announced Visual Studio Community 2013, which is a free version of Visual Studio that is equivalent to Visual Studio Professional 2013 for certain users (explained below). According to TechCrunch, while Visual Studio Express will still be available for download, Community is expected to be the version going forward.
Image Credit: Wikimedia (modified)
There are four use cases for Visual Studio Community 2013:
- To contribute to open-source projects (unlimited users)
- To use in a classroom environment for learning (unlimited users)
- To use as a tool for Academic research (unlimited users)
- To create free or commercial, closed-source applications (up to 5 users)
- You must be an individual or small studio with less than 250 PCs
- You must have no more than $1 million USD in yearly revenue
Honestly, this is a give-and-take scenario, but it seems generally positive. I can see this being problematic for small studios with 6+ developers, but they can (probably) still use Visual Studio Express 2013 Update 3 until it gets too old. For basically everyone else, this means that you do not need to worry about technical restrictions when developing software. This opens the avenue for companies like NVIDIA (Nsight Visual Studio Edition) and Epic Games (Unreal Engine 4) to deliver their plug-ins to the independent developer community. When I get a chance, and after it finishes installing, I will probably check to see if those examples already work.
Visual Studio Community 2013 Update 4 is available now at Microsoft's website.
Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 10:13 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive, skydrive, cloud storage, subscription service, subscription
I guess if you are going to take a hit on the enthusiasts by offering a 1TB tier, then you might as well just go all the way. Microsoft has been rolling out an unlimited tier to their various subscription products, starting with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University. OneDrive for Business customers, who are currently limited to 1TB of total storage, will be granted the unlimited tier, starting with "First Release" customers in 2015. It will probably arrive to "Standard Release" customers a couple of weeks later.
The 1TB tier was not around too long. It launched to several different subscriptions in late April, starting at $5 per user per month. Now, the current cheapest option is $7 per user per month, but it comes with a license of Office 365 Personal. Note that the first three tiers, Home, Personal, and University, are each non-commercial licenses. The rapid increase in capacity could mean either that the original initiative was very successful at wooing new customers, or the exact opposite of that. It is even possible that unlimited was the original intent, but they arrived there by way of a 1TB plan, either to shake up competitors, to double-up on media attention, or simply to dip a toe in. Basically, they could have done this for any reason under the sun. We have no idea.
Unlimited storage in OneDrive for Office 365 Personal, Home, and University is currently available, starting at $7 per user per month. OneDrive for Business customers will need to wait until 2015.