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.

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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

Meet Windows Universal Apps, they'll run on anything

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Microsoft Store, windows 10, Windows Universal Apps

Microsoft is really opening up their app store for people to develop software for users to pick up with what they are calling Windows Universal Apps.  These apps will run on any Windows device and are not locked into the infamous tile interface once known as Metro.  Even more interesting is that you will not need Visual Studio to develop these, you can use assets imported from other available resources to build your app.  They also have a simulator to allow you to run your app in full screen while still in development mode as well as allowing you to manage the contents of an app collection without committing a change, giving you a chance to screw up by the numbers without negatively affecting anything outside of your test environment.  This could really help grow the Microsoft Store app ecosystem with interesting new applications and of course the inevitable detritus which clutters any and all app stores.  Check out the full story at The Inquirer.

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"MICROSOFT HAS RELEASED a major update to the Windows App Studio which will allow users to become developers without a lick of code, and without going via Visual Studio."

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Source: The Inquirer

Actually, Microsoft Wants LESS of Your Data?

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

They apparently want, at most, 1TB of it.

Last year, almost to the day, I wrote about Microsoft upgrading their 1TB OneDrive offer to unlimited. Granted, I was about a week late in my reporting of their announcement, but the November 2nd publish date is still amusing none-the-less. Regardless, they have reverted this decision. Unlimited plans will be reduced to 1TB, and free plans will be reduced from 15GB to 5GB. The 15GB “camera roll” bonus will also be removed. These changes will take effect in “early 2016”.

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Officially, the change was prompted by users who stored whole movie collections and DVR recordings to the cloud, using up over 75TB of storage. Interestingly, they say that this is “14,000 times the average”. This means that “the average” user stores about 5.4GB of data on OneDrive. Granted, mean values are somewhat skewed by outliers, as the 75TB example suggests. If 14,000 users were on the service, of which only one person used it at all, but that one person put 75TB on it, then the average would be the same. It's a data point nonetheless, though.

After these changes occur, you will have about 12 months before Microsoft will force you to cull the storage that you are using. You just will not be able to add to it until then. Afterwards? Well, I'm not sure how Microsoft will know what is most important to delete. Probably best to do it yourself.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10 Market Share Report and Other Thoughts

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

According to NetMarketShare, Windows 10 now makes up around 7.94% of all desktop PCs. For comparison, all versions of Mac OSX combined total about 8% on this survey. It is behind Windows 8.1 and Windows XP though, which sit at 10.68% and 11.68% respectively. Windows 7 is still the overwhelming majority at 55.71%.

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The OS has a few controversies associated with it, though. Some are warranted, some are not, and still others lay between. The first issue is that the reservation application has been known to download Windows 10, even without permission to do so (and redownload the several-gigabyte file if removed). This isn't counted on the market share survey of course, since the OS isn't actually installed, but it can be annoying for users will small main drives or metered internet connections. For people with satellite broadband, this will probably ruin your whole month.

Microsoft has also just announced that Windows 10 will be pushed to Windows Update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.x at some point in 2016. It will not automatically install, you will need to accept the EULA, but it will automatically download. Intentionally.

There's also some (many) concerns about privacy and data collection policies. Part of it is because Microsoft is pushing a free operating system without a clear business model, which leaves a lot of room to speculate what the value actually is. Many of these concerns aren't really possible, if only because too many people would need to be involved for the lack of leaks, but some level of concern is useful. For instance, there has yet to be a sufficient explanation of what “AutoLogger-Diagtrack-Listener.etl” does, precisely and specifically. Does it pipe everything you do to every advertiser and government acronym in the world?

No. Of course not.

It is an area that Microsoft, and basically all of their competitors, should improve upon, though.

The sad tale of the refresh that failed to quench the desires of Windows users

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, market share

Of the total PC market Windows holds just over 90%, Linux 1.57% and Mac around 8% which is about what it was a year ago.  The release of Windows 10 has not created a surge in Microsoft users, nor has it caused the migration to Linux that so many claimed they would do after the EoL of Windows XP.  Worse news for Microsoft is that there are more people using Windows 7 than there were 12 months ago, 55.71% compared to 53.05%.  Even Windows 8 users are not shifting in any significant amount, 13.22% compared to 16.8% last year.  Even with the dearth of new hardware to spur an upgrade cycle the numbers show that consumers have little to no interest in updating to Microsoft's newest platform.  Perhaps the negative press surrounding some of the contentious features which Microsoft introduced in the new OS have harmed the upgrade cycle in addition to the lack of a driving reason to do a full system upgrade.  For more on these interesting times in the PC market you can check the original story at The Inquirer.

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"Things are almost stagnant elsewhere, which is a worry because it seems that, although Windows 10 is gaining ground, very slightly, it doesn't seem to be at the significant expense of anything else."

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Source: The Inquirer

Just Picked Up: Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows

Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2015 - 09:36 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, windows 10

As some have noticed, my recent “Just Delivered” post for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller was not very... wireless. Simply put, the Elite does not come with a wireless adapter for Windows, because that would be useless for the console-only crowd, and its price was already high enough. While it was released on October 20th, the Xbox Canada website gave a server error for its product page until the 22nd.

It seemed like a bit of a rushed launch, to say the least.

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Well, when I popped into EB Games on my walk today, I was surprised to find that they have stock. Yay. Installation was relatively simple. Open the box, stick it into an available USB port, wait for Windows 10 to recognize it, put batteries in your gamepad, turn the controller on, press both sync buttons, and wait until the Xbox logo (on the controller) turns a solid glow. From then on, you just need to turn the gamepad on and off by pressing and holding the Xbox logo, which takes about a count of fifteen to turn off.

A couple of additional notes. First, the adapter is said to support up to eight controllers. This is great, especially for indie developers who are interested in party games. Also, the ability to update controller firmware will be added via the “Xbox Accessories” app from Windows Store, which is the same one used to rebind gamepad inputs. That update will be available on November 12th (see "Headset audio issues through the controller"). Thanks to an anonymous comment for this info!

Also, this means that you pretty much should not get Xbox One accessories unless you're planning to run Windows 10.

Microsoft Publishes Windows 10 Build 10576 to Fast Insiders

Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2015 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

It's unclear which changes will make it into the general release November update, but Insiders are still getting features early. Microsoft has just published Build 10576, which contains a few interesting additions, but one that stands out. Microsoft Edge will be able to cast (unprotected) content to any Miracast and DLNA device on your network. This could be something like a WDTV Live or an Amazon Fire TV. It might even work with the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, but that's just speculation from a quick Google search.

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So basically, it works with YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, and other sources. It will not work with Netflix or Hulu, which use EME, though.

There are quite a few Known Issues with this build, though. Volume gets ducked when the system gets a notification, some devices will bluescreen if their display resolution is odd, a few codecs are still missing (although that last issue was around for a couple of builds).

If I were to guess, I would expect that these features are targeted for Threshold 2 in November. I doubt that we have seen anything scheduled for Redstone 1 yet, but I could be wrong.

Source: Microsoft