What if a server OS died and no one cared

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2015 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: server 2003, microsoft, idiots, EoL

In a lack of foresight that will not take anyone working professionally in IT by surprise, 70% of business are ignoring the fact that Windows Server 2003 hits EoL next Tuesday.  The belief that what your clients don't know won't hurt them is endemic in the business world and this is yet more proof of that philosophy.  Most businesses sign agreements guaranteeing their clients data will be stored securely and using an unsupported OS over a decade old stretches the definition of secure storage far beyond the breaking point.  Your bank, your payroll company, your government, even your ISP and telephone provider are all likely to be guilty of this and you should be aware of that.  It does not mean that there will be a sudden outbreak of attacks next week, instead it will be a slow rise in the number of security breaches and leaks as more and more exploits are discovered and never patched.  The Inquirer does not have the numbers on how many companies are taking Microsoft's offer of support for Server 2003 beyond Tuesday for $600 per server but you can bet that the uptake is a tiny percentage of the 70%.   Much like the proverbial frog, people will not notice the slow rise in security breaches until the damage is already irreversible.


"WE'RE AT T-MINUS four days and counting, and a new survey suggests that as many as 70 percent of businesses are going to miss the deadline for upgrading from Windows Server 2003."

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Source: The Register

Faster than fast ring; Windows 10 RTM spotted?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, rtm, build 10176

Windows Insider members are currently on 10162, the third release in four days.  This new release offers you a chance to download an ISO to test a completely fresh install although you can install it as an in place update as well.  The new version also allows you to buy WiFi from the Microsoft Store as well, you may start to see WiFi networks in the USA and perhaps North America wide which you will be able to connect to after buying time and perhaps data from the Microsoft Store. 

We've also heard rumours via Slashdot that build 10176 will be the RTM version which may be sent out as soon as Thursday.  This implies that there will not be many changes to the new OS between now and the release date, as providing differing versions to the manufacturers and current customers would not be a good business decision.  As well, if purchasers of new hardware will form a very negative opinion if they have to go through a long series of updates simply to be able to use their new machine.  Ready or not, Windows 10 is just about ready to go.


"Mark Wilson reports that the first RTM candidate for Windows 10 has been spotted: build 10176. Leaks and sources have suggested the company intends to finalize the operating system later this week, perhaps as early as July 9th. This would give Microsoft almost three weeks to distribute it to retailers and devicemakers before the July 29th launch date."

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Source: Slashdot

My Take on July 29th Reservations

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2015 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A couple of days ago, Paul Thurrott wrote an editorial about Microsoft's Windows 10 reservation system. His point was that, while Microsoft claimed users of Windows 7 or 8.1 could upgrade on July 29th, they might not get it until later. Upgrades will start rolling out on the 29th of July, but the actual queue is expected to take several days. According to Microsoft's blog post, which shows blatant disrespect for the Oxford Comma, “Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users.”


Paul linked this backtrack to an episode of Seinfeld, one where Jerry reserves a rental car; his reservation was held, but a car was not. He stated that the availability date was clearly stated as July 29th, and not everyone will get it then. I can see his point, and I agree with it. Microsoft really should provide what they claim on the date that they claim it.

On the other hand, it is possible that Microsoft saw the whole reservation system as reserving your spot in line. That is, it might be that upgrade requests will be processed in reservation order, at least mostly, when devices are available. I imagine a “take a number” system where slots will be assigned for anyone below a threshold that increases as upgrades are fulfilled. Again, this is hypothetical, but I cannot really see any other reason for a reservation system in the first place, apart from pure marketing.

Either way, some may need to wait until after July 29th to experience Windows 10, and Microsoft botched their announcement.

Source: Thurrott.com

Microsoft Releases Several Windows 10 Builds This Week

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2015 - 04:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Early this week, Microsoft released a pair of new builds into the Windows Insider Fast Ring. Back to back, Build 10158 was released on Monday and 10159 followed it on Tuesday. These two updates fixed several hundred bugs, officially branded Project Spartan as Microsoft Edge, introduced the new default wallpaper to the desktop and lock screen, and tweaked a few more interface elements since 10130. After an uneventful Wednesday, Build 10162 arrived on Thursday with ISOs released later that evening, which was great for me because I couldn't get the build through Windows Update. Sad face.


I was a Slow Ring user for the last few releases, and I honestly intend to continue with that pace going forward. This is my production machine, but switching to Fast was tempting in hopes that the new build would fix the few problems that I had. Namely, StarCraft II was flickering terribly since 10074 when played in windowed mode. Thankfully, StarCraft II can reliably alt+tab without crashing, but it excludes playing a slow-paced Arcade mod in another monitor while doing something else. Mount & Blade: Warband had similar issues, especially when the monitor and game are set to 120 Hz. It seems to be just DirectX 9 titles, too. Either way, they are still unfixed for me. Some of our viewers may want to know my experience.


The first thing that I noticed was a seemingly new upgrade screen between asking to reboot and actually rebooting. This was something that I only remember experiencing with Windows Updates, not whole new Windows builds. Perhaps this was a big one for some reason? It did try to install an anti-malware definition alongside it, so maybe it was just a weird interaction between Windows Update and the Windows 10 in-place build upgrade. Maybe it's something new though.


The lock screen is the next obvious change. It contains the new Windows branding that was announced a couple of weeks ago. The slanted window was made out of glass, fog, and projected light. Even though it fits the previous branding, Microsoft made a big deal out of it.

The major change occurs once logged in. Microsoft Edge is no longer referred to as “Project Spartan”, and it is basically a full-fledged web browser now. Its performance is great, and it is nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to browser compatibility. I do feel that the interface is kind-of ugly, though. Granted, the soft fonts are probably easier to scale between high and low DPI monitors, but I would prefer something more crisp. Likewise, the big, featureless, rectangular UI elements are likely a compromise for touch displays, but I've always thought they were placeholder during development builds. Then again, I find basically every browser to be bland, so there's that.


Other UI elements were altered as well. For instance, while I don't pay too much attention to elements in the notification tray, I am pretty sure that Quiet Hours and the OneNote shortcut are new. While “Note” is obvious, it opens OneNote, Quiet Hours apparently gives a toggle to disable notifications. This is not a new feature, dating back to Windows 8 and Windows Phone apparently, but it has a new home in the notification area.

We're getting close to the July 29th “release” date and might see several builds before then, too. Builds are mostly merging work into a stable core at this point. According to BuildFeed, fbl_impressive, the branch of Windows 10 that is given to Windows Insiders, is up to build 10164, which was created on July 1st. We're not going to see every build of course, some are destined to partners for instance, but the distance between QA-approved builds is shrinking. Unless something is broken that you hope Microsoft will fix or you can afford the time to upgrade, it might be useful to switch to slow until launch. You could always flip to Fast if something cool comes up, although there is sometimes a lag before Windows Update changes your branch if you do that.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10ish, coming July 29ish

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2015 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

No rumours this Friday but more confusion out of Redmond as Microsoft announces that the July 29th launch date for Windows 10 may or may not apply to you.  Brave members of the Windows Insider program will be able to install the new OS on that date but others may see their date moved into August as the OS will be rolled out in waves.  Even more interesting is that many may see a message recommending you reach out to an application provider or device manufacturer before upgrading if the tool identifies something on your machine that may not be compatible with Windows 10.  You will still be able to upgrade if you wish but you might want to double check which hardware is being flagged.  Check the story at The Register for the current list of applications which will not survive the upgrade process, including Windows Media Centre as Scott reported on.


"We already knew the OS will start shipping to members of the Windows Insider program on July 29. On Thursday, however, Microsoft OS boss Terry Myerson explained in a blog post that not everyone should expect to receive their updates on that date."

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Source: The Register

Windows Hololens is headed to space

Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2015 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, hololens

The new Windows Hololens will be headed to the ISS to let the NASA ground crew see through the eyes of astronauts onboard and even to annotate the view in real time.  Instead of using cameras and audio instructions, an astronaut could look at a peice of equipment and the engineer on the ground could overlay a visual of what repairs or changes would need to be completed, or text annotations giving details of the equipment.  One can only hope that the public might one day get a chance to see the ISS through the eyes of someone onboard.  The Inquirer also mentions several other projects the Hololens will be used in, from virtual tours of Mars to use in an underwater training facility to make the illusion of being in orbit even more convincing and valuable as training for future astronauts.  These devices will be wonderful for gaming but there are many other applications that they will be used for.


"Early demonstrations of Hololens included scenarios involving NASA researchers walking virtually on the surface of Mars through a sister project called OnSight, but now the idea has been extended to real-life interaction with ISS astronauts."

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Source: The Inquirer

Who gets Windows 10 love and who doesn't

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, fud

The Inquirer was nice enough to compile a list of requirements to get a free upgrade to Windows 10, based on the rather confusing information which is being provided by Microsoft.  Windows XP and Vista users as well as any and all Enterprise customers will have to pay; prices are expected to be similar to previous releases.  If you run Win7 then you have until 27 July 2016 to click that little upgrade icon to reserve your copy for installation once the new OS is released.  If you are running Win8 then you must upgrade to Win8.1, from there you are qualified.  If you ran the beta, as in you were a member of the Windows Insiders Programme, it depends on your current Windows license, the fact that you tested will not grant you a free copy of Windows 10.  If you pirated or have lost your key then you are SOL, as are those running Linux as The Inquirer amusingly points out.


"MICROSOFT has been a little less than helpful in clarifying the terms of the free Windows 10 upgrade offer, and The INQUIRER is here to help."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft Announces Xbox One Elite Controller for Windows 10

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller

And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.

Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.


At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.

The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.


That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.


Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.


This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.


The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10130 ISOs

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2015 - 12:53 AM |
Tagged: windows update, windows 10, microsoft, ISO

Microsoft pushed out the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10130 to Fast Ring users late last month, and now the company is releasing downloadable ISOs for the build. Microsoft is not yet ready to make this build available to Slow Ring users, but the company is making a special exception in releasing ISO files of the build (Microsoft usually only makes ISOs available after the build has been pushed to the Slow Ring). Specifically, the ISOs are being posted online in response to certain Fast Ring users getting a 0x80246017 error and not being able to upgrade using Windows Update.

Windows 10 with Start Menu Build 10074.jpg

Build 10130 will eventually come to the Slow Ring, but the company is still working on fixing several bugs including taskbar flyouts not working properly. For now we will have to wait.

However, if you are on the Fast Ring and are unable to use Windows Update, you can download the appropriate ISO for your language and system (32-bit or 64-bit), mount it, and apply the update by running the installer.

Download the Windows 10 Build 10130 ISO from the Windows Insider website.

Source: Microsoft

Now that's a Surface you can get excited about

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2015 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: surface hub, microsoft

The Microsoft Surface that we were promised ages ago is finally being released in the form of the Surface Hub.  Two models will be available for pre-order at the start of July, a $7000 55" model and a $20,000 84" version with a delivery date in September.  The screens can recognize up to 100 touchpoints and are also designed with a stylus in mind so you can use it as a whiteboard or to add comments to your media in real time.  The device sports infrared, imaging and depth sensors which can be used to add to your meetings.  The smaller model is powered by Intel's HD4600 while the larger model contains an NVIDIA Quadro K2200.  Check it out at The Inquirer.


"MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED that an 84in Surface device will go on sale next month at the bargain price of $20,000. Microsoft announced the Surface Hub 55in and 84in touchscreen all-in-one devices in January, and said today that they will be available to order from 1 July."

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Source: The Inquirer