Manufacturer: Futuremark

Our first DX12 Performance Results

Late last week, Microsoft approached me to see if I would be interested in working with them and with Futuremark on the release of the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test. Of course I jumped at the chance, with DirectX 12 being one of the hottest discussion topics among gamers, PC enthusiasts and developers in recent history. Microsoft set us up with the latest iteration of 3DMark and the latest DX12-ready drivers from AMD, NVIDIA and Intel. From there, off we went.

First we need to discuss exactly what the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test is (and also what it is not). The feature test will be a part of the next revision of 3DMark, which will likely ship in time with the full Windows 10 release. Futuremark claims that it is the "world's first independent" test that allows you to compare the performance of three different APIs: DX12, DX11 and even Mantle.

It was almost one year ago that Microsoft officially unveiled the plans for DirectX 12: a move to a more efficient API that can better utilize the CPU and platform capabilities of future, and most importantly current, systems. Josh wrote up a solid editorial on what we believe DX12 means for the future of gaming, and in particular for PC gaming, that you should check out if you want more background on the direction DX12 has set.


One of DX12 keys for becoming more efficient is the ability for developers to get closer to the metal, which is a phrase to indicate that game and engine coders can access more power of the system (CPU and GPU) without having to have its hand held by the API itself. The most direct benefit of this, as we saw with AMD's Mantle implementation over the past couple of years, is improved quantity of draw calls that a given hardware system can utilize in a game engine.

Continue reading our overview of the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test with early DX12 Performance Results!!

Windows Apps Still Smell Like Windows RT

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2015 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, winRT, windows rt

Even though I am really liking the Windows 10 operating system from a technical standpoint, I did not mind Windows 8.x, as software, either. My concern was its promotion of the Windows Store for the exact same reasons that I dislike the iOS App Store. Simply put, for your application to even exist, Microsoft (or Apple) needs to certify you as a developer, which they can revoke at any time, and they need to green light your creations.


This has a few benefits, especially for Microsoft. First and foremost, it gives them a killswitch for malicious software and their developers. Second, it gives them as much control over the platform as they want. If devices start flowing away from x86 to other instruction sets, like we almost saw a few years ago, then Windows can pick up and go with much less friction than the corner they painted themselves into with Win32.

This also means that developers need to play ball, even for terms that Microsoft is forced to apply because of pressure for specific governments. LGBT groups should be particularly concerned as other platforms are already banning apps that are designed for their members. Others could be concerned about encryption and adult art, even in Western nations. If Microsoft, or someone with authority over them, doesn't want your content to exist: it's gone (unless it can run in a web browser).

On the plus side, I don't see the rule where third-party browser engines are banned anymore. When Windows 8 launched, all browsers needed to be little more than a reskin of Internet Explorer.

Beyond censorship, if Microsoft does not offer a side-loading mechanism for consumers, you also might need to give Microsoft a cut of your sales. You don't even seem to be able to give your app to specific people. If you want to propose to your significant other via a clever app, there does not seem to be a method to share it outside of the Windows Store unless you set up their device as a Window developer ahead of time.

Why do I say all this today? Because Microsoft has branded Universal Apps as Windows apps, and their strategy seems to be completely unchanged in these key areas. What kept me from updating to Windows 8 was not its user interface. It was the same thing that brought me to develop in Web technologies and volunteer for Mozilla.

It was the developer certification and lack of side-loading for modern apps.

I get it. Microsoft is tired of being bullied with crap about how it is insecure and a pain for the general public. At the very least, they need a way for users to opt out, though. What they are doing with Windows 10 is very nice, and I would like to see it as my main operating system, but I need to prioritize alternative platforms if this one is heading in a very dark direction.

Win32 might be a legacy API, but the ability to write what I want should not be.


Microsoft Changes Secure Boot Rules with Windows 10, Could Mean OS Lockout

Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2015 - 09:14 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Secure Boot, microsoft, linux

Secure Boot is a security measure that prevents malware from interfering with the boot process, but it can also prevent unsigned operating systems from booting on the same hardware. While Microsoft’s “Designed for Windows 8” guidelines required manufacturers to permit users to disable the Secure Boot option, the upcoming Windows 10 release will not have this rule in effect. At WinHEC it has been revealed that Windows 10 guidelines leave it up to the OEM to decide if they will allow users to disable UEFI Secure Boot in the system setup, and making this optional presents an interesting question about compatibility with other operating systems. OEM's will be required to ship computers with Secure Boot enabled to comply with “Designed for…” rules, and while they could then choose to provide the option to disable it (currently the required standard), preventing user installation of other OS software could be seen as a way to streamline support by eliminating variables.


Image Credit: Ars Technica

Why does this matter if most people who purchase a Windows 10 computer will run Windows 10 on it? This could be an issue for someone who wished to either replace that Windows 10 installation with another OS, or simply dual-boot with an OS that didn’t support the Secure Boot feature (which could be a build of Linux or even an older version of Windows). Requiring OS files to contain digital signatures effectively locks out other operating systems without special workarounds or keys, and although open-source operating systems represent a small segment of the market thanks to the way computer hardware is sold to most people, it is concerning to think future hardware could cause a loss of the freedom of choice we have always had with operating systems.

Microsoft enjoys market dominance with Windows thanks to its licensing model (giving it a monopoly on pre-built PC systems that don’t have an Apple or Chrome logo on them), but reportedly began considering possibilities "to assert its intellectual property against Linux or any other open-source software” a decade ago, and this has reached farther than they probably imagined with the adoption of Android (from which Microsoft makes money on every device sold). Is this Secure Boot move nefarious, and does Microsoft consider Linux to be a potential threat to the their desktop market share? It could be that Microsoft would simply like to claim that Windows 10 is the safest version of Windows yet, and that isn’t a bad thing for consumers. Unless they want to easily use another OS on the hardware they purchased, that is.

Source: Ars Technica

Once pirated, always pirated? Microsoft muddles the Win10 upgrade news

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2015 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, confusion

Slashdot has linked to news out of Microsoft that the option to upgrade your non-genuine version of Win7, 8 or 8.1 to Windows 10 is not as clear cut as it sounded earlier in the week.  Microsoft stated in the interview that "they will remain in a “non-genuine” status and Microsoft will not support them".   This is more than a little odd if the stated purpose of this move, to reduce piracy rates across Asia, is correct as there is little to no reason to upgrade if your PC still remains unsupported.  Perhaps there is some sort of disconnect at Microsoft in which they think that one look at their new OS and Store will cause an epiphany in lifelong software pirates and they will leap at the opportunity to pay for Windows 10?

As Microsoft declined to elucidate further we really have no idea what they mean when they state that your Windows will remain unlicensed.  Will you simply have the same Reduced Functional mode, the black desktop overwrite that appears on non-genuine Windows currently?  Will you get all, some or none of the security updates?  Will it simply refuse to boot after a certain amount of time?  All in all it seems that Microsoft could have just skipped their original announcement as nothing seems to have changed.


"When Microsoft confirmed it will offer free Windows 10 upgrades to pirates worldwide, many were shocked. VentureBeat has been trying to get more details from the company, which disclosed today that after PCs with pirated copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are upgraded to Windows 10, they will remain in a 'non-genuine' status and Microsoft will not support them."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Windows 10 Build 10041 Released to Insiders

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2015 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 10041

It has been a long time coming, but the new preview build of Windows 10 has been released. 10041 can be installed for users on the “Fast” ring, leaving users who opt into “Slow” to be on 9926 for a bit longer. You know, the wise enthusiast learns from their mistakes, but the smart enthusiast learns from the mistakes of others. At any rate, pun intended, a few things have changed in this build, but I expect that most of it is under the hood.


On the user-facing side though, the Start menu has been modified to include transparency and Virtual Desktops can now support dragging windows between instances (or onto the + to create a new Virtual Desktop with that window in it). Each update, I have attempted to use Virtual Desktops but I have never stuck with it. Rather than being organized, it felt separated, which gave the impression that I was wasting more time context-switching than if I just sifted through cluttered windows. As always, I will give it another chance with 10041. Perhaps I am just using it wrong. We'll see.

There are some known bugs in this version, like always, so read up on it before making the update if your machine is important. I mean, even 9926 has some noticeable problems that are getting annoying, so you might even be net-positive, but look before you leap. That is, unless you are on an unimportant device or are amused by bugs and you want the newest nowest yesterday.

Speaking of which, as previously discussed, Microsoft intends to speed up the rate of “Fast” builds. Their users seem to want less-stable and more cutting edge builds, so they are hoping to have one or two builds per month.

Also, don't let my posts discourage anyone from trying Windows 10. Just because I need to report on all the issues that I experience (even some that ended up being coincidentally exploded hardware, whoops...) doesn't mean that I am casting shame on it. Ultimately, whatever you install Windows on is a device. If that device performs a critical function in your life, then you need to be aware of the issues that I know about. If not, then enjoy the pre-release experience.

I will probably be installing 10041 soon, especially if it brings new Intel and NVIDIA GPU drivers.

Update (March 19th @ 4PM EDT): I installed 10041 last night, and was greeted with two new graphics drivers: one for Intel and another for NVIDIA. Still to early to tell whether it fixed issues or made things worse, but nothing bad happened yet. I am hearing that some people are having difficulty installing audio drivers, though. Allyn linked me to a problem with Xonar cards, and people in the comments of this article mention "audio drivers" in general. About that, all I can say is that my Blue Yeti works fine, as both a mic and sound card.

Source: Microsoft

Get your pirated Windows a letter of marque

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2015 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: WinHEC, windows, microsoft

If you know a friend that has a friend that might have picked up a copy of Windows from a site of ill repute they still have a chance to redeem their soul.  At WinHEC today Microsoft announced that any eligible version of Windows running on hardware compatible with Windows 10 can also upgrade to a new and fully licensed version of Windows 10 when it is released.  This is an interesting move by Microsoft but there is sense behind the move as it will increase their customer base for purchasing apps from the Microsoft Store and any licensing which may come into effect after the free year they offer.  It also gives them more accurate data on the number of users of Windows and possibly other metadata as well.


"Microsoft will make Windows 10 available as a free upgrade even to pirated copies of other Windows operating systems in China. Terry Myerson of Microsoft's operating systems unit made the announcement at the WinHEC technology conference in Shenzhen, China, and then told Reuters, "We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10.""

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot


Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2015 - 07:43 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, IE, project spartan

First of all, this is possibly the shortest title we have ever made at PC Perspective. I guess I win something? Either way, WinBeta claims that Microsoft has finally said, on the record, that the Internet Explorer branding will not be applied to Project Spartan. The quote is from Chris Capossela, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft.


And Web Developers say...?

We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10," said Capossela. "We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we’ll also have a new browser called Project Spartan, which is codenamed Project Spartan. We have to name the thing.

This quote still seems a little vague for me. While it clearly separates “the new brand” from “Internet Explorer”, it does not definitively say that Project Spartan will not be derived from it (pardon the double-negative). Of course, I think it is safe to say that it will be a wholly new brand, but I don't think this quote changes anything.

By the way, may I recommend “PhoIEnix”? I'm pretty sure no-one tried that name for a web browser before being immediately disputed by Phoenix Technologies. Wow, that's oddly specific to not be a reference to anything, at all, ever...

Source: WinBeta

Windows 10 Preview Build Stuff and Stuff

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

So we have been on Build 9926 for a while and Microsoft is aware that we want something new. They started out this Technical Preview claiming that we will see the OS evolve as it is built. While we have, for the most part, been given builds frequently enough to influence the development, the last couple of updates have been about half of their expected interval.


For this release, Microsoft claims that there is just a single blocking bug that is preventing a public release. They also state that users who want a more stable preview build, such as those who installed it to a production machine (not naming any names... sigh), should switch their update schedule to “Slow”. Users on the “Fast” lane will get new builds much quicker. The words “Daily Builds” appeared on an internal document, but was quickly clarified as an internal memo.

Microsoft is also considering a third tier that pushes updates faster than both “Fast” and “Slow”.

There are two opposing forces when it comes to the update speed of preview software. While you end up with more stability if you are extra careful with troubleshooting, you will not catch every bug. For that matter, there are still bugs that I can point to in Windows 7 that will never be fixed at this point (there is one bug with resizing windows on vertically-separated multiple monitors that still exists in Windows 10 -- although other multi-monitor interfaces that are not in Windows 7 give plenty of workarounds room).

When the update speed is low, you are stuck with bugs that feel excruciating for what feels like forever. Add that to the slow, bursty roll-out of new features and it gives some extra merit to the fast release model. That is, unless you get so quick that you run into bluescreens and other, more critical failures. It is a tough balance that I can sympathize with and empathize to.

It's tough, so I have personally flipped my machine over to “slow”. I figure that I could keep on the more stable builds for a short period of time and wait to hear what the community thinks about each new release before flipping to the fast track.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

Hey Cortana, your father is 20 now! Hope you fare better than BOB

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, fail, bob

For those who have seen the interface in the YouTube video before; we apologize for the mess you just made on your floor but the younger generations should be reminded of what has come before.  Microsoft Bob was released 20 years ago yesterday and most of it died very shortly afterwards as Windows 95 did not need a replacement GUI for the File Manager, the only way to interface with your Windows machine previously.  The saddest part is that File Manager grew up to become Windows Explorer while what remained of Bob were only seen when you encountered a machine that did not have the Search Buddy turned off.  You may recognize that giant waste of CPU cycles, Rover, as that Search Buddy but he also stalked you throughout the Bob GUI, though back then he would roll over if you scratched him.  You can find Bob and Win3.1 on the net in seconds but The Register was also nice enough to link to an .OVA file so you can relive one of the more painful memories of both Microsoft users and executives.  Let's hope Cortana doesn't suffer as horrible a fate as her predecessor.

"Tuesday, 10 March 2015, is a day of infamy, for on that day in 1995 Microsoft gave the world Bob, the “social interface” for Windows 3.x and 95."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Windows 10 (Enterprise) Build 10031 Sighted

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft

WinBeta found a new screenshot of an internal Windows 10 build. They originated from the same group, Wzor, that leaked almost every other image from unreleased Windows 10 builds. The only real feature that is shown is a translucent start menu. To make the transition a little less jarring, you are able to partially see the content behind it.


Image Credit: WinBeta and Wzor.

This feature should be especially useful for the full-screen start menu, so that it looks like an overlay, rather than: “Your computer is doing something totally different now!” You can still see, if only a little bit, what you were doing. It should feel a lot more like the Steam Overlay rather than a full context switch.

The build is also not labeled Microsoft Confidential, so it might be on the branch that is designed for public release. We are due for a new build, so it should only be a matter of days before consumer previewers, and apparently enterprise ones too, get pushed forward... ... after about five-or-so reboots.

Source: WinBeta