The complaints about the emasculated Start button seem to have hit a Threshold

Subject: General Tech | December 10, 2013 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, threshold, win 8.2

Two rumours about Microsoft are making the rounds right now, the first about the impending death of one their OSes is pretty easy to understand; there is no polite way to describe WinRT.  The second is both more interesting and also harder to believe, Project Threshold could possibly see the return of a fully functional Start button to a newly updated desktop version called Windows 8.2 as apparently Service Packs are no longer cool.  Project Threshold is bigger than just a button as the rumours have this updating Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox One with the possibility that WinRT gets rolled into the Windows Phone OS.  While there are ways to modify Win 8.1 to allow a more classical interface it will be a big step forward in usability if it becomes native.  You can follow the links at The Register to the source of these rumours.

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"According to Winsupersite, Microsoft is planning the return of the Windows Start button under the codename "Threshold", and this will be the first time we'll see it in its original form since Windows 7."

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Source: The Register

How Many OSes Does Microsoft Need?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft

Peter Bright at Ars Technica is wondering how many operating systems (OSes) Microsoft actually needs and, for that matter, how many they already have. Three consumer versions of Windows exists (or brands of it does): Windows RT, "full" Windows, and Windows Phone. Then again, it is really difficult to divide up what a unique operating system even is. All of the aforementioned "OSes" run on the same base kernel and even app compatibility does not align to that Venn diagram.

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In my personal opinion, it really does not matter how many (or what) operating systems Microsoft has. That innate desire to categorize things into boxes really does nothing useful. At best, it helps you create relationships between it and other platforms; these comparisons may not even be valid. Sure, from the perspective of Microsoft's marketing team, these categories help convey information about their products to consumers.

... And if recent trends mean anything: very incorrect and confusing information.

So really, and I believe this is what Peter Bright was getting at, who cares how many OSes Microsoft has? The concern should really be what these products mean for consumers. In that sense, I really hope we trend towards the openness of the last couple Internet Explorer versions (and of course Windows 7) and further from the censored nature of Windows RT.

You can have 800 channels or just a single one but that doesn't mean something good is on.

Source: Ars Technica

Win7's market share continues to climb

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2013 - 01:05 PM |
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.

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"PC OPERATING SYSTEM FLOGGER Microsoft's Windows 7 still holds more market share than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined."

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Source: The Inquirer

The TIFF of Doom!

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2013 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: security, Malware, TIFF, windows

A newly discovered flaw in the handling of TIFF image files effects machines running Windows Vista or Server 2008 as well as Office 2003 to 2010 and Microsoft Lync products on WinXP and Win7 with Windows 8 being the only one that does not contain this vulnerability.  According to The Register attack code is launched when the image is display with tricks the "OS into copying malicious code stashed in the file into memory and then hijacking the processor to execute it."

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"The software giant said the flaw allows attackers to remotely execute code and install malware on a vulnerable system by sending an email or instant message or convincing a user to open a specially crafted webpage."

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Source: The Register

AMD Catalyst 13.10 Beta V2 has been released for Windows and Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 30, 2013 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: graphics drivers, catalyst 13.10, beta, windows, linux

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AMD Catalyst 13.10 Beta V2 for Windows:

  • Includes 32-bit single GPU and CrossFire game profile for Battlefield 4
  • Total War: Rome 2 CrossFire profile update
  • CrossFire frame pacing improvements for CPU-bound applications
  • Resolves image corruption seen in Autodesk Investor 2014
  • Resolves intermittent black screen when resuming from a S3/S4 sleep state if the display is unplugged during the sleep state on systems supporting AMD Enduro Technology
  • Updated AMD Enduro Technology application profiles

o Profile highlights:

  • Total War: Rome 2
  • Battlefield 4
  • Saints Row 4
  • Splinter Cell Blacklist
  • FIFA 14

AMD Catalyst 13.10 Beta for Linux:

Resolved issue highlights:

  • System hang up when startx after setting up an Eyefinity desktop.
  • Permission issue with procfs on kernel 3.10
  • System hang observed while running disaster stress test on Ubuntu 12.10
  • Hang is observed when running Unigine on Linux
  • AC/DC switching is not automatically detected
  • Laptop backlight adjustment is broken
  • Glxtest failures observed in log file with forcing on Anti-Aliasing
  • Cairo-dock is broken
  • Severe desktop corruption is observed when enabled compiz in certain cases 
  • glClientWaitSync is waiting even when timeout is 0
  • C4Engine get corruption with GL_ARB_texture_array enabled

Source: AMD

Microsoft Will Continue Windows XP Support, For a Price

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2013 - 12:17 AM |
Tagged: windows xp, windows, security, microsoft, legacy, enterprise, custom support

Windows XP seems to be the OS that simply will not die, and it seems that Microsoft has given in slightly on its plans to no longer support the aging operating system. For those customers willing to pay, Microsoft will continue patching Windows XP through its Custom Support program.

Custom Support is mainly aimed at large enterprise and industrial customers who, for legacy or other reasons, have yet to move on to newer OS versions from XP. The program will pick up from where Microsoft ends its public extended support for Windows XP (Service Pack 3) on April 8, 2014.

Businesses that elect to go the Custom Support route and stick with XP will pay approximately $200 per PC for the first year alone. The systems in the program will continue to receive patches for vulnerabilities rated as “Critical” with optional patches for “Important” security issues available for additional fees, according to Gregg Keizer writing for PCWorld. Security issues classed by Microsoft as being of low or moderate importance will not be patched at all.

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Microsoft will reportedly be delivering these patches through a secure channel other than the standard Windows Update in an attempt to keep non-paying Windows XP users from getting their hands on the patches.

For now, it seems that Windows XP is still here to stay in a big way, at least in the enterprise space where it is likely cheaper to keep XP in circulation than to upgrade PCs, retrain employees, and re-code legacy applications. It will cost a pretty penny to keep the old OS up to date and (mostly) secure, however.

Source: PC World

Windows 8.1 can Boot to Desktop and has a Start Button

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | May 29, 2013 - 07:16 PM |
Tagged: windows blue, Windows 8.1, windows, microsoft

Personally, I really cannot care too much about the user experience quirks inherent to Windows modernization; the wedge slowly being shoved between the user and their machine is far too concerning. No matter how they modify the interface, restricting what users and developers can install and create on their machine is a deal breaker. But, after that obligatory preface reminding people not to get wound up in UX hiccups and be complacent to the big issues, Windows Blue will certainly address many of those UX hiccups.

As we reported, last month, boot-to-desktop and the Start Button were planned for inclusion with Windows 8.1. Then, the sources were relentless to emphasize: "Until it ships, anything can change."

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Images courtesy, Paul Thurrott.

Mary Jo Foley gathered quite a few details since then. Firstly, the option (as in, disabled by default) to boot directly to desktop will be there; from the sounds of it, it looks like it will be disabled by default but not exclusive to Enterprise SKUs. This is somewhat promising, as it would be slightly less likely for Microsoft to kill support for the desktop (and, by extension, x86 applications) if they feel pressure to punctuate it. Still, assuming because "it makes sense" is a bad way to conduct business.

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Also available (albeit, enabled by default) is the Start Button, seen in higher quality above. This will be, as far as we know, enabled by default. Its functionality will be to bring up the Start Screen or, alternatively, a new All Apps screen visible at ZDNet. Now this has me interested: while I actually like the Start Screen, a list of apps should provide functionality much closer to the Start Menu than Microsoft was previously comfortable with. Previously, the Start Screen attempted to make the desktop applications feel less comfortable than modern apps; this interface appears like it would feel more comfortable to the desktop. While probably still jarring, it looks to make finding desktop applications easier and quickly gets out of the way of your desktop experience.

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According to Paul Thurrott, for those who wish to personalize the Start Screen, you will have the option to share your desktop wallpaper with the it. For tasteful backgrounds, like the one above, I can see this being of good use.

Just please, do not grief someone with a background full of fake tiles.

As a final note, there is still no word about multiple monitor support for "Modern Apps". If you have tried to use them in the past, you know what I am talking about: basically only one at a time, it will jump between monitors if you bring up the Start Screen, and so forth.

Microsoft Rumored To Be Working On Cloud-Based "Mohoro" Windows Desktop Service

Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2013 - 05:07 AM |
Tagged: windows, thin client, remote desktop, mohoro, microsoft, cloud computing, azure

Microsoft may be working on its own cloud-based desktop service according to sources speaking with ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. The rumored service codenamed “Mohoro” would build the Windows desktop SaaS (Software as a Service) solution on top of the company’s Windows Azure cloud computing platform. With Mohoro, Microsoft would provide Azure virtual machines running the Windows operating system. Users would then be able to remote into the desktop on any Internet connected computer or mobile device (with remote desktop support) and get access to their own desktop and applications.

Windows 8 Desktop.jpg

The Windows desktop... coming soon to a cloud near you?

Windows Azure users can already run virtual machines with Linux or Windows OSes, but in the case of Windows Microsoft only allows server versions to be run. Incensing restrictions prevent users from loading consumer operating systems such as Windows XP, 7 or 8 onto the virtual machines. The rumored Mohoro service would apparently relax the licensing restrictions and allow businesses or consumers to deploy client operating systems running on the Azure VMs. It would basically take the need for enterprises to run their own hardware and move it to “the cloud” behind a Microsoft-run subscription service.

It is an interesting idea that I could see universities and businesses looking into. The Azure platform is actually pretty good, from what little testing I've done on it. However, I think that for many consumers a local install is preferable. Although syncing applications and files can be a pain if you have multiple machines, you retain control of your data and are not bound to needing an always-on Internet connection to access that data and run applications. Further, latency issues and bandwidth caps with home Internet connections make a paid-for Azure desktop less appealing to home users. I think Microsoft would have a hard-enough time selling users a subsciption for a local/traditional Windows installation, much less a subscription for an OS requiring an always-on Internet connection to use their computer.

Would you use an Azure-powered desktop as your main OS?

Source: ZDNet

Stop Pushing Microsoft's Buttons! Take the Start Button!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | April 20, 2013 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: windows, start button, Metro

The latest rumors, based on registry digging and off-the-record testimony, claims that Windows 8.1 will including the option of booting directly into the desktop. A bold claim such as this requires some due diligence. Comically, the attempts to confirm this rumor has unearthed another: the start button, but not necessarily the start menu, could return. On the record, Microsoft also wants to be more open to customer feedback. Despite these recent insights into the future of Windows, all's quiet with the worst aspect of modernization.

Mary Jo Foley, contributor to ZDNet and very reliable bullcrap filter for Microsoft rumors, learned from a reliable source that the Start Button might have a place in the modern Windows. Quite the catch while fishing to validate a different rumor; she was originally investigating whether Microsoft would consider allowing users to boot direct to desktop via recently unearthed registry keys. Allegedly both are being planned for at least some SKUs of Windows 8.1, namely the Professional and Enterprise editions.

But, as usual for Microsoft, the source emphasized, "Until it ships, anything can change." No-one was clear about the Start Button from a functional standpoint: would it be bound to display the Start Screen? Would it be something more?

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Personally, I liked the modern Windows interface. Sure, it is messed up on the modern-side when it comes to multiple monitor support, but that can easily be fixed. As you will note, I am still actively boycotting everything beyond Windows 7 and this news will not change my mind. We are bickering over interface elements when the real concern is the deprecation of user control. Outside of the desktop: the only applications you can use are from the Windows Store or Windows Update; the only websites you can browse are ones which Internet Explorer can render; and the only administrator is Microsoft.

Imagine if Microsoft is told by a government that its citizens are not allowed encryption applications.

The Windows Store is clearly modeled by, and about as messed up as, the Xbox Marketplace. Even if your application gets certified, would Microsoft eventually determine that certification fees should be the burden of the developer? That is how it is on the Xbox with each patch demanding a price tag of about $40,000 after the first-one-free promotion. That would be pretty hard to swallow for an open-source application or a cute game that a teenage woman makes for her significant other as a Valentine's gift.

Microsoft's current Chief Financial Officer, Peter Klein, stated in his third quarter earnings release that Windows Blue, "Further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback." Despite how abrupt this change would seem, the recent twitchy nature should not come as a surprise; Microsoft has had a tendency to completely change course on products for quite some time now. Mary Jo mentioned how Microsoft changed course on UAC but even that is a bad example; a better one is how Microsoft changed from its initial assertions that Windows 8 Developer Preview would not be shaped by customer feedback.

A lot has changed between Developer Preview and RTM.

Then again, we can hope that Microsoft associates this pain with love for the desktop. I would be comfortable with the modern Windows if we were given a guarantee that desktop x86 applications would forever be supported. I might even reconsider using and developing applications if they allow loading uncertified metro-style applications and commit to never removing that functionality.

I can get used to a new method of accessing my applications. I can never get used to a middle-man who only says "no". If Microsoft is all ears, I hope we make this point loud and clear.

Source: ZDNet

Windows 8.1 (Blue) Build 9369 Leaks, Adds New Apps, Syncing Options

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2013 - 12:06 AM |
Tagged: windows blue, windows 8, windows, microsoft, leaked build

A new build of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8.1 (also known as “Windows Blue”) operating system has leaked to the Internet. Build 9369 is the build in question, and it adds quite a few new features to the Start Screen.

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My Windows 8 Start Screen.

The new Windows 8.1 build features further integration with the company’s SkyDrive cloud storage service as well as new applications and synching options. The new SkyDrive integration includes the ability to save files to SkyDrive by default, as well as a new “Files” application on the Start Screen (Metro, Modern UI, whatever-it’s-called-this week interface) that allows users to browse local and SkyDrive files in a Windows Explorer-like fashion without leaving the Start Screen.

Microsoft has also tweaked the Start Screen search function to allow users to begin typing on the Start Screen and get search results on the right-hand side of the display without leaving the Start Screen icons. Personally, I would have liked to see Microsoft revamp the Start Screen search to show all results by default and let me filter afterwards rather than only showing applications by default and letting me remove the filter by clicking a button. It should be the other way around in my opinion, but I suppose the current changes so far are still positive ones (even if they are not the changes I was hoping for).

Build 9369 also adds new sync-able settings that includes synching mouse, Start Screen, and file explorer settings across your Windows PCs. Microsoft has also added a click-able button to the Start Screen that allows non-touchscreen users to easily bring up the Apps List. Once viewing the list of all installed applications, the build allows users to sort the apps by name, install date, or by the frequency of use.

Microsoft has also made a multitude of smaller tweaks to existing functionality. You can find a full list of changes and a video walk-through of the new build over at WinBeta. Windows 8.1 is shaping up to be a better operating system, though it remains to be seen whether or not it is worth paying a subscription price for.

Read more about Windows 8 and Windows Blue at PC Perspective!

Source: WinBeta