MSE the next generation; Windows 10 Device Guard

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2015 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Device Guard, security, microsoft, IOMMU

The Register gleaned some details about Windows 10 Device Guard at RSA but there is still a lot we do not know about it.  It is an optional service that can be enabled by an administrator and it checks every application launched to see if it has been signed by Microsoft as a trusted binary before letting it run.  While certainly good for security it may cause some issues for developers who have not gone through the vetting process to have your app approved for the Microsoft Store.  Device Guard is also separated from the WinX kernel, if your machine does become infected, Device Guard will still not allow unsigned apps to run.  You will need hardware which supports input/output memory management unit (IOMMU) to use Device Guard, thankfully that technology is present on most current PC hardware, though not so prevalent on the mobile front.


"The details are a little vague – more information will emerge at the Build event next week – but from what we can tell, Device Guard wraps an extra layer of defense around the operating system to prevent malware from permanently compromising a PC."

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Source: The Register

AMD's Lisa Su Expects Windows 10 to Launch in July

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft, amd

The CEO of AMD is an unexpected, but probably very accurate, source when it comes to knowing the Windows 10 release date. First off, the news broke on a quarterly earnings call. When you make a statement on those, you have a strong legal obligation to be telling the truth according to the knowledge that you have at the time. Also, as a major hardware vendor of CPUs and GPUs, her company would have been notified by Microsoft so that they could plan development of graphics drivers and so forth. It also aligns with the “Summer” announcement made last month by Microsoft.

She believes that Windows 10 is set to launch in July.


Of course, this led to a flurry of comments that claim three months will not be enough time to bake a successful product. Others, naturally, claim that Microsoft has been developing software for long enough to know that they can finish their product in three months. Still others shrug and say, “Yeah, you both make sense. I'm going to go play some Grand Theft Auto.”

One aspect that I don't see mentioned enough is that Microsoft has multiple projects and teams on the go, and we only see a fraction of what is being done in our Insider branch. Despite the narrative that Microsoft wishes to avoid another Windows 8 fiasco and they want their users to guide development, they have alluded that a major reason for the Insider program is to test their build delivery system. While I am having a bit of a hard time finding the supporting quote, I did find one reference to it being the reason for ISOs being delayed.

And finally – we heard from you loud and clear you want ISO images of the new builds we release. We felt it was important to listen to that and give you what you want – but there’s a catch. Getting the update & install data from our Preview Builds mechanism is super important for us. It helps us ensure smooth ESD distribution, download, and upgrade success for this program going forward, and also will help us ensure great upgrades for people once we release Windows 10. So we’re going to release the ISOs at the same time as we publish to the Slow ring. That means if you want to be FIRST and FASTEST to get the build, you’ll need to use our Preview Builds mechanisms (either automatic or Check Now in PC Settings to download.) If you must have an ISO you’ll have to be a bit more patient. I hope that you’ll consider that a fair tradeoff.

So what is my point? Basically, it is difficult for us to make assumptions about how baked Windows 10 is from our standpoint. They are being more open with us than ever about their development methods, but we don't know certain key things. We don't know what final feature set they plan. We don't know how much work has been done on any individual feature since it was merged into a build that we saw. We also don't know how much has been done by third parties. In some cases, a release in three months could equate to like, six months of work for a specific team since their last contribution was merged. I do think that any major feature we see at BUILD will pretty much be the last additions to the OS before it launches though, unless they have a surprise that will surface at E3 or something.

Also, remember that the things they show us are slanted to what they want feedback about.


Windows 10 Internal Builds "Jump" from 1006x to 101xx

Subject: General Tech | April 20, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

According to WinBeta, the internal builds of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system have jumped from the 10060s-range to the 10100s. This mirrors the activity before January's consumer event, which led to the release of 9926. What this likely means is that Microsoft has forked internal development ahead of their BUILD 2015 conference, which takes place between April 29th and May 1st.


I expect that they will release a new, highly-tested build in the 1006x-1008x range to both Fast and Slow rings, like 9926 was, at or around the time of the event. Meanwhile, new and experimental features will land on the 10100 branch. The interesting question is: when will we see that later fork?

If Microsoft dedicates themselves to rapid releases, it might not be too long for users in the Fast ring, or a faster-than-Fast ring that they could potentially announce at the event. With the visibility of BUILD, it would be a good time for them to shake up their release cycle. They really cannot afford to relax quality control any more significantly than they did with 10041 without assurance that Insiders get the message. The journalist attention of the conference would likely do it though.

Alternatively, the released build might be classified as a developer preview that is expected to stick around for a while. If I needed to guess though, I doubt it. As stated earlier, it will probably be a highly QA-tested build for Slow ring users, but I see little reason for Microsoft to throttle down the more enthusiastic users. When 10049 was the last build for Fast users, you could say that they were not wanting to overshadow BUILD. That obviously does not apply after the conference is over, and I cannot see anything else further on the horizon.

That is, of course, unless they are getting cold feet about releasing not-fully-baked builds to the public.

Source: WinBeta

Google Chrome Team Commits to XP Throughout 2015

Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows xp, windows, microsoft, google, EoL, chrome

It has been a year since Microsoft cut off extended support for Windows XP including Internet Explorer security updates for the platform. Yeah, I know, it doesn't feel like it. Other browser vendors announced that they would continue to target the retired OS after Microsoft washed their hands of it. At the time, Google said they would give at least 12 months support, which brings us to yesterday.


Now Google is extending their commitment to the end of the year. They did not say that it was a hard deadline for their customers, but they also did not add an “at least” qualifier this time. The browser vendor wants people to upgrade and admits that they cannot genuinely provide a secure experience if a known issue bites everyone at the OS level. You can keep training the guard at the door, but if your window falls out, mind the pun, then it is still dangerous to be inside.

Granted, we have not seen a major attack on XP over the last year. You would have to think that, even if the attacks are sophisticated, some of the victims would have noticed and reported it to someone. Still, I wonder how it keeps surviving, especially since I would have thought that at least one vulnerability in the last twelve Patch Tuesdays could be ported back to it.

Maybe it is too small of a target?

Source: Google

Microsoft Currently A/B Testing Virtual Desktop Behavior

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2015 - 05:21 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, virtual desktops, microsoft

Virtual Desktops is one of the largest interface changes for Windows 10. It is an organizational feature, which allows users to group relevant windows together. This puts them out of sight when you don't want them but also easily accessible when you do, and with the programs that you would want to use alongside them.


Microsoft is wondering about one specific area though: should running applications be visible in other desktops? Some believe that a virtual desktop should only show icons for applications in the current context, and alt+tab should behave the same. It makes sense, because otherwise you're exposing the clutter in the taskbar and alt+tab, which are some of the most visible places. Others want everything to be visible at all times, or alt+tab-able to at all time. I guess this is to reduce the clutter on the desktop, without touching the clutter otherwise?

Microsoft has stated clearly that both cases will be user-selectable because there is enough usage on both sides. A user can have virtual desktops affect the taskbar or not, or alt-tab or not, independently. The question they are trying to solve right now is “What should the default be?”

If you are a Windows 10 Technical Preview user, and you care about the adoption of Virtual Desktops, Microsoft might push you into one or the other camp. Later, they will pop up a notification to ask your opinion once they feel you have used it long enough.

This is one area that your vote will influence Windows 10 in a very specific way.

Source: Microsoft

Latest Trillian Beta Fixes Windows 10 (Build 10041+)

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2015 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, build 10041, build 10049, microsoft, trillian, cerulean studios

Since the release of Windows 10 Build 10041, Trillian, the instant messenger client, suffered some issues regarding window sizing (along with Firefox, Chrome, and a few other applications). Basically, the window would progressively shrink every time you type and the resize controls would hang about five pixels outside the window edge. Some windows would also “be open” but cannot be unminimized, requiring you to close them in the task bar and reopen them by double-clicking on the contact.


Cerulean Studios has just released Trillian 5.6 Beta, along with its associated release notes, which seem to address both of these issues. I say seem because the latter issue (chat windows staying minimized forever) was intermittent, so I can't tell whether my testing is simply luck. That said, I tried to make it happen and I couldn't. Either way, the chat window shrinking bug was vastly more annoying.

Before this update, Trillian was just about useless on Windows 10. The only way to get it somewhat function was to maximize the window to a full monitor. Even snapping it to the left side of the screen would not prevent it from slowly shrinking itself.

I hope this news helps some of our readers as much as it helps me!

Source: Trillian

Windows 10 Build 10056 Leaks

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft, build 10056

Moving up five steps from the 10051 leak that was published just a few days ago, another build was leaked: 10056. The first thing Neowin, who reported on the WZor leak, noticed is the new Recycling Bin icon. People were not a fan of the change that occurred with 10041, which honestly looked like it was out of a Mike Judge cartoon. It is now a semi-transparent, almost prism-shaped bin from a dimetric viewpoint. That should make some people happy.


Also visible is a new “Virtual Desktop” icon and a relocation of the power menu button from the top right to the bottom left. This shift puts it alongside every other control except the Start menu's fullscreen button, which remains in the corner. To me, this looks a lot more organized.

On the topic of future builds, Gabe Aul seems to be implying that Slow Ring users would not get 10049. This likely means that Fast will get another build soon, which we would expect to trickle down to the “Slow” users on 10041. The proximity to Build confuses that slightly though. It is possible that Microsoft will do what they did with 9926 and delay Fast builds so they can have a highly-tested preview build (“Technical Preview 3” or something) pushed to both Fast and Slow rings to surprise attendees of the conference. Well, as much as they can hide stuff given that every few builds are being dissected online. I'm sure they have a lot of work being done in external branches though.

Either way, we'll find out soon... even if that's by not finding out soon.

Source: Neowin

Windows 10 Build 10051 Leak gets WinBeta Walkthrough

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2015 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, leaked build, leak, build 10051

This leaked build arrives just two versions ahead of the latest public release from last week. As such, not much has changed, but some things have. First, Mail and Calendar have been replaced with an upgrade under the Outlook branding. Those apps make up the majority of known changes for this not-release. One change to Project Spartan has also been spotted by WinBeta in their walkthrough. Spartan now includes an “Open with Internet Explorer” option. The concept seems to be if you visit a website that was designed for Internet Explorer, you can easily switch to the other Microsoft browser.

A new app, Microsoft Family, has also been added but it currently consists of a Windows Live logo leading into a completely blank screen. More specifically, it is the Windows Live 3d characters in the same arrangement as the silhouettes on Microsoft Family Safety. As such, it will probably be a parental control application.

There will probably be a few more builds until we get one pushed down Windows Update, but at least we can see a bit more of what's going on behind the scenes.

Source: WinBeta

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview Build 10049

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 10049

Less than two weeks after releasing the last preview build, 10041, Microsoft has pushed an update for users in the “Fast” ring. We have been asking for more rapid releases and we are beginning to get them. I spent quite a bit of Monday downloading, installing, and rebooting to install Build 10049. Now that I have used it for a bit, I can give my opinion.


Before we get to what's new, I would like to get into what is fixed (and broken). First, apparently Visual Studio 2015 has some issues, particularly with deploying to external devices. On the other hand, my usage of Visual Studio 2013 seems fine and stable. Second, a bug is preventing Hyper-V from being enabled for users who want to create a virtual machine. If you upgrade to 10049 from a previous build, where Hyper-V has been activated, then “everything works fine” when you update.

One of the listed bugs for Build 10041 (the previous build) was that Windows Update would tell you to restart to complete updates even if nothing was installed, and that the messages could be “ignored safely”. I never had that happen in 10041, but have seen it this afternoon in 10049. No big deal.

As for fixed? When I upgraded to 10041, StarCraft II stopped working and apparently the bug extended to Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, League of Legends, and others. This has been fixed in 10049. I can play StarCraft II without problems. Yay! Also, many sections of the new Settings app crashed when I attempted to open them. This nuisance has been bugging me since one of the earlier builds from last year. It has mostly been fixed now. The only hiccup is “Apps & features”, which sometimes (but not always) crashes after the loading bar completes.

The main “feature” of this build is the introduction of Project Spartan. Now this is interesting. The browser itself feels a lot more smooth. I have been suspecting that Microsoft would include a DirectX 12 rendering path for Project Spartan, which would better explain the move to their “Edge” fork of Trident, but I have been unable to benchmark it. I have been trying to push sites with a lot of small draw calls, but it seems to be within the performance of a normal browser. One WebGL benchmark saw an increase of about 17% going between Internet Explorer 11 with Edge disabled and Project Spartan, but that is probably just more efficient rendering and JavaScript engines. So... nothing yet.

Apparently Cortana has been given some non-descript update. They might be referring to its integration with Spartan, which I have yet to test, but it is still unable to, for instance, set a timer or launch Photoshop.

It took me two installs to get it actually on my system, but it seems to be very stable for a pre-release operating system with a bunch of unfinished APIs and drivers. Looking good (but I'm still scared of Windows Dev Certification)!

Source: Microsoft

It seems Microsoft is not abandoning the Surface Pro series

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2015 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

While the ARM based Surface model seemed likely to disappear there are many hints that the Surface Pro models powered by x86 processors are going nowhere and that even Windows RT will stick around.  More evidence came today from The Register who read through a Microsoft post and highlighted several updates to the UEFI in the Surface Pro 3 aimed at Enterprise users.  Some of the updates are minor but very useful, you can now set the boot device for the device in the UEFI instead of needing to physically push a button during boot.  One security feature which is key to the adoption of this device in the Enterprise is as being able to control what devices are functional on the Surface and with this update you can disable various connections as well as the USB ports.  The final feature, being able to make changes to the UEFI remotely has been enabled but the tool needed to do so is not yet available.

The device originally seemed doomed to failure but Microsoft has found a market for their tablet and we will be seeing new models soon.


"As explained in a blog post by Redmond's JC Hornbeck, the latest update to the Surface Pro 3's Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) adds new features for enterprise customers but only minor improvements for consumers."

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