High-End Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book Are Available

Subject: Systems | January 23, 2016 - 02:26 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, surface pro 4, surface book

The Microsoft Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 launched back in October, and Ryan published a review of them in December. He didn't really make reference to it, but the highest-end model of each were unavailable until a later date. As it turns out, that time is roughly now. I say “roughly” because, while Microsoft has launched the devices, Amazon's landing page doesn't list them, and searching for the product directly shows a price tag of just under $10,000. I assume Amazon hasn't pushed the appropriate buttons yet.

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The only real improvement that you will see, versus the second-highest SKU, is a jump in SSD capacity from 512GB to 1TB. This extra storage will cost roughly 1$/GB, but this is also a very fast NVMe SSD. If 512GB was too small, and you were holding out for availability of the 1TB model, then your wait should (basically) be over.

Although, since you waited this long, you might want to hold off a little longer. Microsoft is supposed to be correcting (some say) severe issues with upcoming firmware. You may want to see whether the problems are solved before dropping two-and-a-half to three grand.

Source: Microsoft

Cortana, where is my app?

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2016 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows Store, windows 10

If the complaints of the developers in this story over at The Register are accurate then the problem with the Windows Store might not be that there are no good apps but instead that you simply can't find them.  If a developer can't find their own app in the store using keywords in the title or description or even the ones they submitted to the store then how can you expect to?  If the only good way to find an app is to know its exact name, how many apps are there in the store that no one but the developer has even seen?  It is still possible that an improved search function will not help the Windows Store but at this point its reputation could not get all that much worse.

all-search-results-windows-store.jpg

"Looking at the developer forums though, it seems that official guidance and assistance for this issue is not easy to find, which will not help Microsoft in its efforts to establish a strong Windows 10 app ecosystem."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 Build 11102 Released to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 06:39 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

I wasn't planning on reporting every Windows 10 Insider build, but I actually have something to say about this one. The last couple of builds were examples of Microsoft switching to a faster release cycle for preview users, although the known issues list were quite benign. The semi-frequent upgrade cycles would shake users away from the Insider program, or transition to Slow.

They now seem ready to start rolling back to less QA for Fast users.

windows-10-bandaid.png

Five issues are known about build 11102. First, internal changes to the Windows Graphics architecture cause some games to crash on launch, full screen, or resolution changes. The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, and Metal Gear Solid V are known to be affected by this bug, but other games (and maybe even other software) could be affected too. Second, screen readers and other accessibility software may crash randomly. If you require those accommodations, then this build could make your device functionally unusable to you.

Beyond those two, big issues, three other ones are present. There is an error message on login with a workaround, a breaking change for old wireless drivers that you should probably upgrade beforehand if you rely upon wireless to download drivers, and “The Connect button does not show up in Action Center.”

Microsoft is currently updating the deep insides of the OS, which means that they will be poking around the source code in weird places. Once it's completed, this should make Windows more maintainable, especially for multiple types of hardware. But again, if you're not wanting to be a part of this, switch to Slow or leave Insider.

Source: Microsoft

Skylake and Later Will Be Withheld Windows 7 / 8.x Support

Subject: Processors | January 17, 2016 - 02:20 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, Windows 7, windows 10, Skylake, microsoft, kaby lake, Intel, Bristol Ridge, amd

Microsoft has not been doing much to put out the fires in comment threads all over the internet. The latest flare-up involves hardware support with Windows 7 and 8.x. Currently unreleased architectures, such as Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Bristol Ridge, will only be supported on Windows 10. This is despite Windows 7 and Windows 8.x being supported until 2020 and 2023, respectively. Microsoft does not believe that they need to support older hardware, though.

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This brings us to Skylake. These processors are out, but Microsoft considers them “transition” parts. Microsoft provided PC World with a list of devices that will be gjven Windows 7 and Windows 8.x drivers, which enable support until July 17, 2017. Beyond that date, only a handful of “most critical” updates will be provided until the official end of life.

I am not sure what the cut-off date for unsupported Skylake processors is, though; that is, Skylake processors that do not line up with Microsoft's list could be deprecated at any time. This is especially a problem for the ones that are potentially already sold.

As I hinted earlier, this will probably reinforce the opinion that Microsoft is doing something malicious with Windows 10. As Peter Bright of Ars Technica reports, Windows 10 does not exactly have an equivalent in the server space yet, which makes you wonder what that support cycle will be like. If they can continue to patch Skylake-based servers in Windows Server builds that are derived from Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, like Windows Server 2012 R2, then why are they unwilling to port those changes to the base operating system? If they will not patch current versions of Windows Server, because the Windows 10-derived version still isn't out yet, then what will happen with server farms, like Amazon Web Services, when Xeon v5s are suddenly incompatible with most Windows-based OS images? While this will, no doubt, be taken way out of context, there is room for legitimate commentary about this whole situation.

Of course, supporting new hardware on older operating systems can be difficult, and not just for Microsoft at that. Peter Bright also noted that Intel has a similar, spotty coverage of drivers, although that mostly applies to Windows Vista, which, while still in extended support for another year, doesn't have a significant base of users who are unwilling to switch. The point remains, though, that Microsoft could be doing a favor for their hardware vendor partners.

I'm not sure whether that would be less concerning, or more.

Whatever the reason, this seems like a very silly, stupid move on Microsoft's part, given the current landscape. Windows 10 can become a great operating system, but users need to decide that for themselves. When users are pushed, and an adequate reason is not provided, they will start to assume things. Chances are, it will not be in your favor. Some may put up with it, but others might continue to hold out on older platforms, maybe even including older hardware.

Other users may be able to get away with Windows 7 VMs on a Linux host.

Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Insider Build 11099

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2016 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The second Insider release on the “Redstone” branch has been pushed to Fast ring users. Once again, this has basically no release notes because a lot of features are “under the hood.” The push with Windows 10 since just before the holidays is to create a sensible structure for various teams to target with their changes. You could imagine how difficult this gets when you're dealing with phones, IoT, tablets and convertibles, HoloLens, and high-performance workstations, across a few different architectures.

windows-10.png

Insiders who are interested in UX updates and other features will probably be best to switch to “Slow” for a handful of builds once they find one that's stable for them. I can't really see this being useful for most Insiders, because unlike open-source previews where you can contribute to (or develop software alongside of) the internal tweaks, all you really can do is report when something is broken or acting funny. If that's what you want, then it's great that Microsoft is providing these previews.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 8 Also Deprecated on January 12th

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2016 - 10:31 PM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, windows 8, microsoft

So I was just browsing ZDNet when I came across a post by Ed Bott. Turns out that Microsoft, on top of deprecating Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10, will also end support for the original Windows 8 on that date. To receive security updates, users will need to install the Windows 8.1 update first. Alternatively, if they have Windows 8 Pro, they can exercise their downgrade rights and install Windows 7 Pro. You can also install Windows 10, but I'm sure Microsoft has told you that ad nauseum.

Windows8TheEndLogo.png

They reason for this is because Windows 8.1 is considered a service pack. Microsoft allows service packs to be delayed for up to 24 months before they stop developing security updates. Once they upgrade to Windows 8.1, they will remain supported until 2018 with “extended” support until 2023. Windows 7 will continue to be supported until 2020.

The vast majority of our readers probably don't care. One or two might have an old laptop that you've never bothered pushing the service pack on, or they work for an enterprise IT firm that will have an annoying week starting Monday.

Source: ZDNet

CES 2016: Windows 10 PC-Exclusive Data Plans

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft is partnering with Transatel to provide cellular data services for Windows 10 PCs and tablets, but not phones. It will launch in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but could be rolled out to other regions over time. This will not be a contract service. Everything will be pre-paid, with short-term plans (think “XGB for the next 30 days for Y upfront”) available for a discount before a trip or something.

windows-10.png

One downside is that compatible PCs will require a SIM card slot, which a Microsoft-branded SIM card will be inserted into. The write-up at Thurrott.com doesn't discuss external adapters, like the USB cellular modems that carriers offer and were popular until tethering became mainstream. A few unlocked LTE, USB modems can be found online, which you'd think would be compatible, but I'm not up on many of the details. I'm not a mobile enthusiast.

Despite the source being a Microsoft corporate VP, speaking on the record, it has not been officially announced by the company yet. Details, like when it will be available, have not been released.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Thurrott.com

If you really don't want to upgrade to Windows 10 ...

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2016 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

There are those who are not interested in upgrading to Windows 10 from 7 or 8.x and they offer a variety of reasons as to why they will not.  Recently two objections have been resolved, with the newest Media Creation Tool from Microsoft you are now able to do a clean install, using your Win7/8.x key during the installation process.  As well Scott has shown how you can force a roll-back if you encounter difficulties after the upgrade.

If you still have no interest in the new OS, then take a gander at these tips from The Register which will disable those annoying popups.  By making these changes to the registry you will retain the ability to recieve updates via Microsoft Update, you just will not see the nag screen asking you to upgrade to Win10.  They also mention a way to stop the update files from being downloaded.  You can also just choose to ignore this until Microsoft's stated deadline of  July, at which point the popup should disappear as well.

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"If you're using a PC running Windows 7 or 8, you may be getting a little sick of endless popup screens telling you to upgrade to version 10. And you may be worried about inadvertently installing the upgrade as part of a security update."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: Slashdot

Is Windows 10 Nagging Actually Getting Worse?

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2016 - 03:18 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

My production machine has been on Windows 10 since the second Insider Preview build, back in 2014. We have a handful of laptops that are on older versions, however. One of them, which runs Windows 8.1, was upgraded to Windows 10 for a few weeks once 1511 landed, but it did not handle the transition well. There was a few nasty glitches, including 100% screen brightness for some reason being interpreted as 0% screen brightness, making the display turn off when I plugged it in (until I realized what was going on).

No problem, I thought to myself, I will just roll back to Windows 8.1. I gave it a shot.

windows-10-bandaid.png

That's apparently not good for Microsoft. Windows Update apparently has no record of an upgrade being rolled back, because the first thing it asked me when Windows 8.1 was restore was to upgrade back to Windows 10. Noooooooooooooooo. I will not, Microsoft, at least not until some later service release fixes these issues.

All I could think of is, if these are the problems that I'm having, how are novice users supposed to figure this out. It turns out that Microsoft has added a couple of Windows Registry keys to block the various naggings. Once I set them, the OS didn't complain or try to hide standard Windows Update buttons with Upgrade to Windows 10 ones. Registry keys are definitely not for novice users, but many of our readers should be comfortable with registry editing, and they may know novice users who would like a little help.

ll you need to do is change two keys:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\OSUpgrade
    • Change or add a DWORD named AllowOSUpgrade with a value of 0
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\GWX
    • Change or add a DWORD named DisableGWX with a value of 1
    • The GWX folder (called a key in the registry) wasn't present. I needed to add it.

After editing the registry and rebooting, everything Windows 10 nag-related was disabled and I could install Windows Updates. Applications exist to set these keys for you, but it's probably better to just do it yourself. The ZDNet article, linked below, also has a few files to automatically apply these registry keys to your system. I like doing these things by hand, though.

Thanks to Ed Bott at ZDNet for making a big write-up about this, just yesterday actually.

Source: ZDNet

Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 Will Be Deprecated on Tuesday

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, internet explorer

Microsoft has been talking about moving their web browsers to a different support model. They intend to support only the most recent version of their browser, deprecating everything beforehand. This has two benefits. First, they don't need to port security patches to nearly as many targets. Second, web developers can mostly rely upon recently added features, especially ones which do not require special hardware.

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A major stage in this plan occurs on Tuesday. Microsoft will issue a patch to notify users that their old browsers will no longer receive security updates. They are ripping off the band-aid with this one, deprecating Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 simultaneously. Since Internet Explorer 11 is very competitive with Chrome and Firefox in terms of standards support, you will probably hear a few web developers rejoice. Internet Explorer 11 is available for Windows 7 and later.

As a side note, this also means that every supported browser on Windows from Microsoft will be compatible with WebGL. You may not be able to rely upon hardware acceleration, as blacklisted drivers will be forced into a software rendering compatibility mode, but it's good news for Web gaming.

Source: Microsoft