Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2014 - 11:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 9, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, windows 10, windows, threshold, microsoft
The Windows event for the enterprise, which took place today in San Francisco, revealed the name of the upcoming OS. It is not Windows 9, or One Windows, or just Windows. It will be Windows 10. Other than the name, there is not really any new information from a feature or announcement standpoint (except the Command Prompt refresh that I actually will give a brief mention later). My interest comes from their mindset with this new OS -- what they are changing and what they seem to be sticking with.
If you would like Microsoft's commentary before reading mine, the keynote is embed above.
Okay, so one thing that was shown is "Continuum". If you have not seen its prototype at the end of the above video, it is currently a small notification that appears when a keyboard and mouse is attached (or detached). If a user accepts, this will flip the user interface between tablet and desktop experiences. Joe Belfiore was clear that the video clip was not yet in code, but represents their vision. In practice, it will have options for whether to ask the user or to automatically do some chosen behavior.
In a way, you could argue that it was necessary to go through Windows 8.x to get to this point. From the demonstrations, the interface looks sensible and a landing point for users on both Windows 7 and Windows 8 paths. That said, I was fine with the original Windows 8 interface, barring a few glitches, like disappearing icons and snapping sidebars on PCs with multiple monitors. I always considered the "modern" Windows interface to be... acceptable.
It was the Windows Store certification that kept me from upgrading, and Microsoft's current stance is confusing at the very least. Today's announcement included the quote, "Organizations will also be able to create a customized store, curating store experiences that can include their choice of Store apps alongside company-owned apps into a separate employee store experience." Similar discussion was brought up and immediately glossed over during the keynote.
Who does that even apply to? Would a hobbyist developer be able to set up a repository for friends and family? Or is this relegated to businesses, leaving consumers to accept nothing more than what Microsoft allows? The concern is that I do not want Microsoft (or anyone) telling me what I can and cannot create and install on my devices. Once you build censorship, the crazies will come. They usually do.
But onto more important things: Command Prompt had a major UX overhaul. Joe Belfiore admitted that it was mostly because most important changes were already leaked and reported on, and they wanted to surprise us with something. They sure did. You can now use typical keyboard shortcuts, shift to select, ctrl+c and ctrl+v to copy/paste, and so forth. The even allow a transparency option, which is common in other OSes to make its presence less jarring. Rather than covering over what you're doing, it makes it feel more like it overlays on top of it, especially for quick commands. At least, that is my opinion.
Tomorrow, October 1st, Microsoft will launch their "Windows Inside Program". This will give a very early glimpse at the OS for "most enthusiastic Windows fans" who are "comfortable running pre-release software that will be of variable quality". They "plan to share all the features (they) are experimenting with". They seem to actually want user feedback, a sharp contrast from their Windows 8 technical preview. My eye will on relaxing certification requirements, obviously.
Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2014 - 10:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows 7
You cannot purchase a retail copy of Windows 7 at this point, officially. The last day of retail availability was October 30th, 2013. System builders can still include the operating system in their PCs, however, until October 31st, 2014.
Windows 7 Professional is the exception.
The Windows lifecycle website claims that OEMs can include Professional in PCs until a to-be-announced date. That date will be at least one year after whenever they decide to announce it. As of February 16th, the date is still listed as "Not yet established".
I should note that Volume Licensing customers have downgrade rights and installation media available for the two versions prior to whatever is current. In short, they have their own timeline.
Basically, we know that preinstalled Windows 7 Professional availability is on a countdown timer. We know that timer is at least one year long. We do not know how much longer than a year it will be. We also do not know when the announcement will be made and thus, when the timer will start ticking.
The Ars Technica article claims that this Windows 7 Professional OEM extension is for business users. That said, a fair amount of those users are on volume licensing. Another possibility is that Microsoft wants to bridge the gap between Windows 7 and the rumored "Windows 9" for enthusiasts. "Threshold", as it is codenamed, is supposed to address users who are primarily in the desktop interface. Professional would give them devices to purchase until then, without the general public purchasing a cheap Windows 7 machine and intending to use it for a decade (potentially beyond Windows 7's EOL in 2020).
Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate will no longer be preinstalled in PCs on October 31st, 2014. Windows 7 Professional will be available for some unannounced time afterward.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 21, 2014 - 03:39 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 7, hp
Windows 7 is not available to purchase at retail, officially, but system builders are still allowed to integrate it into their PCs until at least October. At the same time, Windows XP is nearing its end of life of April 8th (the day of its last security update). A third coincidence, modern Windows could easily be compared to modern art because it is made by someone who tells you what is legitimate and, when you actually attempt to admire it, makes no sense unless the designer explains everything.
If you purchase from a set of select new desktop or laptops, HP will ship it with Windows 7 installed by default. On top of needing to physically choose Windows 8.1, the default Windows 7 install also comes with a $150 USD discount. The models are spread between Pavilion and Envy desktops and laptops.
I believe this is a very smart move for HP. You may soon have a mass of customers looking to replace expired devices and they may want the closest analogy to what they are used to. They will still have Windows 8-based options but they want to capitalize on anyone looking for something else.
Personally, trolling aside, I actually do not mind the interface of Windows 8.1. My only complaint is the reliance upon Windows Store and its potential future problems especially if it becomes the only way to install software. Could you imagine if someone like the NSA forced Microsoft to not certify encryption apps (or worse, tamper with them)? One of a million problems that mandatory certification, and the interest groups who abuse it, brings.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 8, 2013 - 11:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 7
Users of Windows 7, current and planned, have a few dates to remember. First, as of October 30th, Microsoft has stopped selling retail (boxed) packages of that operating system. Second, OEMs can continue to sell systems with Windows 7 preloaded for a year after that date (October 30th, 2014). Third, the operating system will receive typical updates until January 13th, 2015. Fourth, security fixes will be provided until January 14th, 2020. Oddly, Microsoft's website disagrees with Mary Jo Foley's timeline; I expect it might just be out of date.
Windows XP is creeping towards the oblivion as April slowly arrives. The 8th of that month marks the end of security updates and other forms of utter chaos for machines with a vibrant green Start button. With Microsoft essentially turning a blind eye to unpatched exploits, it will become progressively more unsafe to use XP except in well controlled (virtualized, firewalled, etc.) instances.
But, according to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft will not sell them a retail copy of the Windows 7 any more (as of October 30th, 2013). The official Windows Product Lifecycle guide, however, still lists this date as "To be determined". Either Microsoft is very slow (updating their warning website after the date passes) or it was a much softer deadline than the editorial claims. Most of the Amazon product pages are for third party resellers, except for Windows 7 Pro Full, so it might just be clearing stock. Who knows.
OEMs will have a much easier time, however. Microsoft will continue allowing them to sell Windows 7 with new PCs for another year, until October 30th 2014. Again, this date is unlisted from the Windows Product Lifecycle guide.
It will all need to come to an end at some point though. Windows XP lost mainstream support back in April 14th, 2009; the same will come of Windows 7 in a little over a year: January 13th, 2015. That said, beyond new versions of Internet Explorer, Windows 7 has not been receiving too many updates as it stands. With DirectX now considered a core feature of Windows, the last couple of revisions are exclusive to the latest release. We still have Firefox and Chrome when they pull IE from our cold dead hands. I feel weird writing this...
The most devastating date, which XP users are about to face, is the end of extended support. Come January 14th, 2020, Microsoft will not longer provide security updates. Users of Windows 7 will need to be extra cautious and only deploy it in well controlled environments.
Like for me, if Microsoft continues going down the Windows Store path, a VM on a Linux machine.
Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2013 - 01:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Windows 7, windows, win 8.1, microsoft
There is bad news at The Inquirer for anyone at Microsoft who is still labouring under the delusion than Win 8 + 8.1 will catch on just as soon as people see it in action. Not only does Win7 continue to hold a larger share of the market compared to its metrosexual cousin, Win7's market share is growing faster than Win 8+ 8.1, 0.22% growth compared to 0.05%. When people are willing to pay extra to remove Win8.1 from their shiny new toys and replace it with Win7 it says a lot about the acceptance of the new OS, currently even Vista holds a greater market share than Win 8.1, though Win 8 does have slightly more. You should also take note that as of today there are a mere 126 days before WinXP is no longer supported.
"PC OPERATING SYSTEM FLOGGER Microsoft's Windows 7 still holds more market share than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- All signs point to Kaveri being an evolutionary upgrade @ The Tech Report
- Intel Linux Driver Almost Neck-And-Neck With Windows 8.1 @ Phoronix
- AMD APU On Linux: Gallium3D Can Be 80%+ As Fast As Catalyst @ Phoronix
- That toolbar you downloaded is malware? Tough, read the EULA @ The Register
- Crafting A Liquid Crystal Display @ Hack a Day
Subject: Systems | July 21, 2013 - 12:36 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, Windows 7, veriton z, touchscreen, AIO, acer
Acer has launched two new Veriton Z Series All In One (AIO) desktops aimed at commercial customers and fitted with 19.5” touchscreens. The two Veriton Z2640G are Energy Star 5.2 rated and have VESA mounting points.
On the outside, the Veriton Z AIO desktops have a large 19.5” touchscreen display with a (disappointing) resolution of 1600 x 900 and a 5ms response time. Other features include two speakers, a built-in microphone, and a 2MP 1080p webcam that can swivel 180-degrees. External IO includes a DVD SuperMulti optical drive, one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, and one HDMI video output.
The two Veriton Z SKUs differ on the internal specifications and are the Veriton Z2640G-UC1007X and the Veriton Z2640G-UP2117X desktops. The former features a dual core Intel Celeron 1007U processor clocked at 1.5GHz, 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM (16GB maximum), and a 500GB 7200 RPM mechanical hard drive. On the other hand, the Veriton Z2640G-UP2117X has a dual core Intel Pentium 2117U CPU clocked at 1.8GHz, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM (16GB maximum), and a 500GB 7200 RPM mechanical hard drive.
Both Veriton Z series models also incorporate Acer’s “Dust Defender” technology, screw-less covers and modular components. Using the bundled stand, the display can tilt from 6 to 60-degrees. The systems will come pre-loaded with either Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Professional (depending on user choice). The Veriton Z2640G is aimed at business, education, and government customers.
Both AIO Veriton Z desktops come with a one year warranty and will be available soon from resellers and channel partners. The Veriton Z2640G-UC1007X has an estimated sales price (ESP) of $539 while the Veriton Z2640G-UP2117X has an ESP of $599. Except for the display resolution, the Veriton Z2640G AIO looks to be a decent business machine.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 6, 2013 - 11:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, Windows 7, microsoft, desktop market share
A recent report by NetMarketShare indicates that Windows 8 is having a difficult time displacing Microsoft's older operating systems. Of the total market, Windows occupies 91.50% across all existing versions. Windows 7 and Windows XP dominate the Windows market share at 44.37% and 37.17% respectively. Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, is sitting at 5.1%, which barely scratches past Windows Vista at 4.62%. Having more market share than Windows Vista and Windows 98 is good, but it is hardly proving to be as popular as Microsoft hoped for.
June 2013 Desktop Operating System Market Share, as measured by NetMarketShare.
Granted, Windows 8 is still a new operating system, whereas XP and Windows 7 have had several years to gain users, be included on multiple generations of OEM machines, and be accepted by the enterprise customers. The free Windows 8.1 update should alleviate some users' concerns and may help bolster its market share as well. However, Windows XP simply will not die and Windows 7 (if talk on the Internet is to be believed, hehe) seems to be good enough for the majority of users, so it is difficult to say when (or if) Microsoft's latest OS will outpace the two existing, and entrenched, Windows operating systems.
YoY, Windows 7 lost 0.33% market share while Windows XP lost 6.44% market share. Meanwhile, Windows 8 has been slowly increasing in market share each quarter since its release. Netmarketshare reported 1.72% market share in December of 2012, and in six months the operating system has grown by 3.38%. There is no direct cause and effect here, but it does suggest that few people are choosing a Windows 8 upgrade path, and that despite the growth, the lost market share for Windows 7 and XP is not solely from people switching to Windows 8, but also some small number of people jumping to alternative operating systems such as Mac OS X and Linux. The historical data is neat, but it is difficult to predict how things will look moving forward. If adoption continues at this pace, it is going to take a long time for Windows 8 to dethrone Microsoft's older Windows XP and Windows 7 operating systems.
How you made the switch to Windows 8 or gotten it on a new machine? Will the Back-to-School shopping season give Windows 8 the adoption rate boost it needs?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 28, 2013 - 02:05 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: BUILD, BUILD 2013, internet explorer, IE11, Windows 7
Windows 8.1 will be bundled with Microsoft's latest web browser, Internet Explorer 11. The line of browsers, starting with Internet Explorer 9, are very competent offerings which approach and eclipse many competitors. Microsoft has made some errors since then, breaking standards for personal gain, but their recent efforts in supporting W3C – and even arch-nemesis Khronos – displays genuine good faith.
HTML5 Developer Tools rivalling even Mozilla and Google
But Windows XP never surpassed Internet Explorer 8, and apart from glitch and vulnerability fixes, Windows 7 is in almost exactly the same state as the day Windows 8 shipped. Internet Explorer 10 made it to the platform, late and reluctantly, along with severely neutered back-ports of Windows 8 DirectX enhancements. The platform update was welcome, but lacks the importance of a full service pack.
More importantly, the hesitation to bring IE10 to Windows 7 suggested that it would be the last first-party web browser the platform would see.
Not true, apparently. During their Build conference, Engadget claims to have spoke with a Microsoft representative who confirmed Windows 7 will receive the latest Internet Explorer. This is good news for every user of IE and every web designer with a cool WebGL implementation but is held back by browser market share concerns.
Honestly, my main concern is with the future of Internet Explorer, 12 and beyond. I am encouraged by the recent effort by Microsoft, but with Windows RT demanding for every browser to be built atop Internet Explorer, it better keep up or we are screwed. The web browser might be our operating system in the near future, applications should not be held back by the least of all possible platforms – be it Internet Explorer, Webkit, or any other dominant browser.
Of course, I should note that Engadget was not being specific with their source, so some grain of salts would be wise until it ships.
Installing Windows and Preparing for Media Center
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options
Now that we've walked through installing all our hardware in our previous article, we’re ready to install our operating system and configure it to get the most out of Media Center. As I mentioned before, I originally was planning to do this build with Windows 8 Professional and the Windows 8 Media Center pack, but there’s a few things that Microsoft has removed from Media Center in the new version that make using it for a Media Center a non-starter in my opinion. Not being able to boot directly into Media Center and having to boot into Metro and then launch Media Center is a deal breaker for me so I fell back to what’s been working great for me these past few years, Windows 7 Home Premium.
Before we even start with our Operating System install, there are a few settings you are going to want to configure in your BIOS/UEFI for the best system performance and stability.
- First, ensure that your Hard Drive/SATA controllers are in “AHCI Mode” as opposed to IDE or Legacy IDE. AHCI stands for “Advanced Host Controller Interface” and offers some features and performance improvements over the old IDE interface such as hot swapping of drives and NCQ (Native Command Queuing).
- Some motherboards will allow you to detect if there is a mouse and/or keyboard connected and stop the boot process if it does not see them. Since we’ll likely not be running the media center with a mouse/keyboard attached, make sure to disable this.
- Set the primary hard drive (your SSD or the big spindle drive if you don’t have a SSD) as the First boot device. You may want to temporarily set the CD/DVD drive to be the First boot device to complete your Windows installation and then go back in and change the First boot device back to your primary hard drive.
The Dell All-in-One
Reviewers, at times, can be somewhat myopic. I speak for myself in this particular instance. My job as a writer is to test hardware on a daily basis, and as such I have a very keen understanding (or so I hope) of the intricacies of computer design. If I need to build a machine, whether for test purposes or something that my wife can play Song Pop on, I have a near infinite variety of components that I can choose from to fit the needs of the project. As such, we often forget that not everyone has that level of expertise. Most people, in fact, just want to be able to buy something that not only fits their needs, but also simply just has to work.
Dog is unimpressed with packaging. UPS complained profusely though.
This is the reason why we have the Dells, HPs, and Lenovos of the world. The vast majority of people out there are unwilling to build their own machine and support it themselves. They neither have the time nor patience to dive in and learn the ins and outs of a modern PC and the software that runs them. This is not a bad thing. Just as I do not have the patience to learn how to sew, I still like wearing clothes. At least during our podcasts. For the most part.
We must also admit that we are moving well away from the typical beige box that dominated the 90s and early 2000s. Manufacturers have a much better eye for not only functionality, but also aesthetics. No longer do we have the hulking CRTs of yesteryear, and neither do we have the large boxes that are nearly indistinguishable from one or another. Multiple form factors abound and these large manufacturers have design teams that pay very close attention to things like compatibility, power consumption, and thermal dissipation. With these things in mind, they are able to create unique devices that not just serve the needs of consumers, but also just simply work.
Apple has been at the forefront of this type of design for quite some time. This is a company that has prized fit, finish, and functionality far more than they have pursued cost cutting and homogenization. This has lead to much higher margins for the company, and a nearly rabid following by the people buying their platforms. We certainly can argue that they probably perfected the “all-in-one” machine back in the Macintosh days, and since that time they have not stood still. The iMac was a further advancement in that field, but the introduction of relatively inexpensive and large LCD panels allowed them to further shrink the all-in-one. It also allowed them to further sculpt the design into what we see today.
Everything is nicely supported in the box.
Obviously people around the industry have noticed this trend, and noticed the devoted following of the Apple consumers. It is hard to miss. The world is a big place though, and surely there are people who crave the type of design that Apple pushes, but do not necessarily want to jump on that particular bandwagon. Dell has recognized this and created their XPS One lineup of products. Not everyone wants to run OSX and pay the Apple tax. If this is the case for a reader, then this might be the product that catches their attention.