Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2015 - 08:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft
UPDATE (Nov 24th, 8pm ET): As I was informed, both on Twitter and in the comments, the update has been restored. Apparently the issue was that this tool, when upgrading Windows 10 to Windows 10 1511, accidentally reset four privacy settings to default. They also happened to be four of the less-severe ones, such as whether to allow apps to run in the background and whether settings should sync between devices. It has apparently been fixed and the tool will install the latest version of Windows 10 once more.
Source: Ars Technica
Regardless of your opinion about Windows 10, I'm glad that Microsoft has once again provided a way to force a specific version on your device. Their recent statement, telling users that Windows Update will give them the correct build eventually, is not comforting if someone is failing to receive the update. Is it coming? Or did it block for some reason? I also wonder if the 30-day policy would still be enforced, making clean installs that much more annoying. Turns out it was all hypothetical, and Microsoft was planning on reinstating it instantly, though.
This is a bit surprising and disappointing. When the November 2015 update for Windows 10 went live, existing users could upgrade with Windows Update (if it let them) and the rest could force an in-place upgrade from Windows 7, 8.x, and earlier builds of Windows 10 using the tool. The latter method has apparently been reverted to the original Windows 10 build from July 2015.
This image is getting a lot more use than I intended.
Why? Who knows. They are still offering the update through Windows Update, and Microsoft claims that they have no intention of pulling it. This concerns me, because there are a few situations where Windows 10 updates will get stuck, such as if you get it through Windows Update then uninstall it. I have not seen any report cover the official procedure for this issue. Also, I wonder if there's a way to get past Microsoft's 30-day no-update policy.
According to WinBeta, Microsoft's official statement contains the following: “Microsoft has not pulled the Windows 10 November 10 update. The company is rolling out the November update over time – if you don’t see it in Windows Update, you will see it soon.” (Emphasis not mine.)
We'll probably hear more about this as the week goes on.
Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 08:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, Privacy, microsoft
UPDATE (Nov 19th, 12pm EST): Ed Bott emailed me to clarify a few points. First, PINs for BitLocker are not required and will not be backed up to OneDrive. I knew that PINs were not required, but I was trying to say "would there be a way that a user could use BitLocker without giving all the necessary bits to OneDrive". Apparently, using PINs is one of those ways. He also claims that you can manage your own keys by changing them and storing them locally.
He also commented on the HIPAA remark. He claims that Windows 10 is HIPAA compliant, and the reason why it was not included in the statement is because the question wasn't asked. Again, if applicable, check with your vendors and other support.
Okay so one of the major concerns with Windows 10 is how it handles your private data. I gave my thoughts on the topic a couple of weeks ago, which was a bit critical of Microsoft. I said that there are definite concerns that should be disclosed, but it is not enough of a concern to stop using it and switch to Linux or something. At least, not yet.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
The foremost change is that Microsoft specified that only OneDrive, Outlook, and Skype files and content, private or public, are subject to disclosure to law enforcement. The previous wording looked like it applied to all files on Windows 10. Full access to all files sounds like something the law enforcement would want, but Windows 10 does not provide it.
Another change involves BitLocker. Recovery keys are synchronized to OneDrive “to allow recovery on personal devices”. I am not sure if this also includes PINs, for devices configured to use those, but it would be crappy if it did. Regardless, the privacy statement now says “Microsoft doesn't use your individual recovery keys for any purpose.” This raises two concerns: Why did they specify “Microsoft” and why did they qualify “recovery keys” with “individual”? My assumption is that this is just an awkward trait of the English language, but it could exempt sending batches of keys to third parties, such as governments, especially if it counts as a OneDrive personal file. Again, it is probably just an awkward wording though.
A final point for me is that Telemetry, when set to “Basic”, satisfies FINRA, SEC, and FTC regulations. Oddly they don't specify HIPAA, but you probably shouldn't be listening to tech reporters (yes including me) for advice about securing health insurance and patient data. You should have more reliable channels for that sort of inquiry.
Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 12:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
Scott covered a lot of what to expect from Threshold 2, the November update for Windows 10 but today we received another tidbit of information about the new release. When you first upgraded to Windows 10 you probably noticed that your Win7/8 license was not honoured if you tried to do a fresh install after the upgrade. As well, if you used software to determine the new license code, it was also not recognized for a fresh install and your only option to reinstall was to use the process found within Windows 10. That will change with the arrival of the new update according to what The Inquirer was told, as long as you have record of your old Win7 or Win8 key you will be able to do a fresh new installation of Windows 10, presumably on the same hardware. They also provided an estimate of how long the installation of this update will take, about one hour depending on the speed of your internet.
"That means if you start with a clean slate, your Windows 7 or 8 licence key just wouldn't work. The good news is that this problem has been fixed with the arrival of Threshold 2, and you can now use an old licence key to do a fresh installation."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- X-Gene 3 in 2016 – no, not a superhero movie. It's a 16nm FinFET 64-bit ARM chip for servers @ The Register
- Phoronix Test Suite 6.0 Delivers New Result/Phoromatic UI, New Modules
- More POS malware, just in time for Christmas @ The Register
- Vertagear SL4000 Gaming Chair @ Kitguru
- NYT Quietly Pulls Article Blaming Encryption In Paris Attacks @ Slashdot
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2015 - 10:58 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2015 - 11:21 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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).
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.
Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 07:05 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 12:27 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- WoW! Want to beat Microsoft's Windows security defenses? Poke some 32-bit software @ The Register
- Microsoft's Surface Book laptop is almost impossible to repair @ The Inquirer
- Huawei cooks own PCIe SSD: Flash IP in a flash @ The Register
- An Introduction to Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) @ Linux.com
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
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”.
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.
Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 09:56 PM | Scott Michaud
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%.
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.