Microsoft Releasing Kinect for Windows And SDK On February 1st, 2012

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 08:18 AM |
Tagged: xbox, windows, voice, software, PC, microsoft, kinect, gestures

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that on February 1st, the new Kinect sensor for Windows would become available for purchase. In addition to the new Kinect for Windows sensor hardware, Microsoft is releasing an official SDk or Software Development Kit. Having the SDK installed on a Windows operating system will be required in order to use Kinect software applications. Currently, there are no (Microsoft official) consumer applications using Kinect; however, official hardware and an official SDK will surely spur software development.

Kinect_for_Windows.jpg

Microsoft is confident that the launch of the SDK and specially tuned hardware will spur development of software. According to MSNBC, the company is working with over 200 companies to develop software applications for Windows using Kinect. Microsoft's partners include Toyota, Mattel, American Express, and United Health Group. These corporate partners seem to indicate that initial Kinect applications will be designed for consumers to use in a business setting, say on a sales floor of car dealerships, at hospitals, or point of sale devices (maybe American Express is planning a "card swipe" application where holding the card up to the Kinect can be used to purchase items. Software for consumers to use at home is also likely in the pipeline and users will see them in the future.

Due to the Microsoft Kinect for Windows sensor not being subsidized by Xbox 360 games and accessories, the PC version is $100 more than the Xbox 360 version, and will retail for $250 USD. Amazon currently has the device (for pre-order) here for a whole penny less at $249.99.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: MSNBC

Microsoft Rereleases Update to Improve Bulldozer... yeah.

Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 11, 2012 - 03:21 PM |
Tagged: windows, processor, microsoft, cpu, bulldozer, amd

Let us take a little break from the CES news with a load of bull -- a download of Bulldozer. If you have an eerie sense of being in this situation before then you may in fact have a bad memory as it did in fact happen and it was only about a month ago. Microsoft released an update in mid-December to optimize their operating systems for AMD Bulldozer technology; that patch disappeared without any listed reason. As of today, we have access to both the patch as well as most of the reason for the delay in the first place.

amd_bulldozer_performance boost.jpg

You know: part of me wants to see a Bulldozer go 100MPH, and another part of me fears greatly.

The first order of business is to explain to those who have an AMD FX series, Opteron 4200 series, and/or an Opteron 6200 series processor how to increase their potential performance: KB 2646060 and KB 2645594 each contain a patch which will optimize Windows to the Bulldozer architecture for most users when both are applied.

It turns out that Microsoft pulled the Bulldozer update last month when discussions with AMD revealed that the patch would not provide the promised performance increases for most users. The problem specifically centers on the Core Parking feature within Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: after the hotfix in December was applied, Core Parking would still interfere with Bulldozer’s design by attempting to save power and sleep cores that were unused without understanding that Bulldozer cores are not typical cores. With Core Parking disabled for Bulldozer-based CPUs either through this hotfix or by changing your performance profiles to “High Performance” from the often default “Balanced” you would allow Bulldozer to run as it actually desires to run. According to how these bulletins are worded, should you have been on “High Performance” profile back in December before the hotfix was pulled you would have experienced what should only have been available starting today.

These performance increases are not for every application, however. AMD has stated that applications which are more sparsely multithreaded would benefit most from the update.

Workloads that are moderately threaded have the potential for uplift. This could include virtualization, database, or transactional environments that are “bursty” – a mixture of light and heavy transactions, or legacy applications that are by nature not very threaded. The more heavily threaded the application, the less the likely the uplift.

My intuition knowing this as well as the Core Parking issue is that once Windows finally wakes the Bulldozer core, your experience is maximal with the December patch; applications which only temporarily become multithreaded either do not wake the proper portions of the processor or wake the processor in time to be of maximum benefit.

It appears as if the removal of the hotfix last month was simply because AMD believed that while the patch was effective, it would not be correctly applied to the vast majority of customers without a second hotfix and thus give the appearance of little to no real benefits.

Source: AMD Blogs

Microsoft Releases Update to Improve Bulldozer... I thought?

Subject: Processors | December 16, 2011 - 09:41 AM |
Tagged: amd, bulldozer, cpu, processor, windows, microsoft

Intel was far from demolished when AMD's Bulldozer came to town. Users still clung to hope that Microsoft's Windows 7 was not optimized to take advantage of Bulldozer's multi-core environment. Vindication came sweetly with a knowledge base article and a patch from Microsoft confirming the issue and offering a solution. While they can still feel comfortable knowing they were right, the solution has been pulled from Microsoft's website without any announced reason. Who should we feel sorry for: those who didn't download it yet, or those who did?

amd_bulldozer_performance boost.jpg

This picture is more meme-worthy than we realized...
99 hotfix and ah this ain't one? If you're having kernel problems I feel bad for you son.

 

To be entirely fair, Microsoft's knowledge base article was quite clear in its instruction to users regarding this hotfix.

A supported hotfix is available from Microsoft. However, this hotfix is intended to correct only the problem that is described in this article. Apply this hotfix only to systems that are experiencing the problem described in this article. This hotfix might receive additional testing. Therefore, if you are not severely affected by this problem, we recommend that you wait for the next software update that contains this hotfix.

Still, AMD users have another reason to be upset as if they needed one. The hotfix will come, and will come in completely stable form; it just looks like today is not that day. If you already received this update and have experienced technical difficulties, the comment form awaits.

Source: VR-Zone

Microsoft Releases Update To Improve Bulldozer Performance

Subject: Processors | December 15, 2011 - 10:56 PM |
Tagged: amd, bulldozer, cpu, processor, windows, microsoft

When AMD’s Bulldozer processors arrived, they were unable to best Intel’s fastest at most tasks. A number of users held out hope for Bulldozer; however, as it was discovered that Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system was not optimized to take advantage of the multi-threaded execution scheduling engine. While MS has implemented this optimization in the Windows 8 kernel, the current stable release has been without a fix until recently. The fix in question is available for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and can be downloaded here. It should be noted that service pack 1 is a pre-requisite to this hot-fix.

amd_bulldozer_performance boost.jpg

Conservatively, previous indications suggested such a fix would add a 5 % to 10 % performance boost in multi-threaded applications. That number is based on the estimates from around the web from people comparing benchmarks between Windows 7 and Windows 8 Developer Preview. If you are running a Bulldozer processor in your machine, be sure to apply this update and let us know how performance improves.

Source: Microsoft

Java JRE, Adobe Acrobat and Flash; the triumvirate of malware evil

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2011 - 09:19 AM |
Tagged: fud, security, microsoft, windows

An interesting study that Slashdot has linked to today breaks down three months of infection data and crunched the numbers to see how the infections made it onto systems and which systems are the most vulnerable.  Fully two thirds of the infections happened to users browsing with Internet Explorer, but you must keep in mind IE's market share.  At this time last year half of all users browsed the internet with some version of IE and while that has fallen to around 40% this year it is still the most commonly used browser and will therefore have a greater representation in the sample of PC s tested.  As long as you keep that in mind, you can then move onto disparaging the average IE user ... especially if it is still IE6.

As well, you can see that Vista has something to be proud of.  Even with the lack of PCs using the OS it has almost as many infections as WinXP machines.  As to the programs most likely to be used as an attack ... Java JRE sits at 37% with Acrobat just behind at 32%, leaving the much maligned Flash responsible for only 16%. 

net-security_research.jpg

"Since Up to 85 % of all virus infections occur as a result of drive-by attacks automated via commercial exploit kits, CSIS has actively collected real time data from them for a period of three months. The purpose of their study is to reveal precisely how Microsoft Windows machines are infected with malware and which browsers, versions of Windows and third party software that are at risk. They monitored more than 50 different exploit kits on 44 unique servers / IP addresses. The statistical material covers all in all more than half a million user exposures out of which as many as 31.3 % were infected with the virus/malware due to missing security updates."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Slashdot

Tweak Windows 8 With The Metro UI Tweaker Utility

Subject: General Tech | September 25, 2011 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, Utility, ui, tweaker, microsoft, Metro, developer preview, beta

Are you trying out the Windows 8 Developer Preview that was released earlier this month and finding the new Windows Explorer Ribbon and Metro UI start menu frustrating? If so, Lee Whittington has just the tweaking utility for you!

A freeware tool developed for The Windows Club dubbed Metro UI Tweaker (for Windows 8) is the first third party tweaking tool for the upcoming operating system. It provides several tweaking options to make the transition to the Metro UI more palatable including the ability to completely disable (or enable) the Metro Start Menu and new Ribbon interface in Windows Explorer (which can also be easily hidden without the need for this tool via an icon in the corner). When disabling the Metro Start Menu and Ribbon, the Metro style Task Manager and new lock screen will also be disabled.

ui_tweaker.jpg

Such sweeping changes are not the only tweaks possible, however. The Windows 8 utility also lets you add power options including sleep, restart, and full shutdown to the Metro interface (when clicking on your user name’s picture), as well as adding any application or file to the Metro Start Menu.

Now at version 1.0, the Metro UI Tweaker is available for download from here for those adventurous enough to use a beta tweaking tool on a beta operating system. How do you feel about the new Windows 8 interface? Will you be checking out this tool? Let us know in the comments.

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build Sees Public Release At BUILD Conference

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2011 - 10:04 AM |
Tagged: windows, windows 8, Metro, developer preview, microsoft

While some folks may be dissapointed that Microsoft's first public beta download was not released this week at their BUILD conference, we did get the next best thing; Microsoft released a developer preview build for 32 and 64 bit systems yesterday. The download page went live at 11 PM Eastern Time, and hosts three versions of the Windows 8 build available to the public-- despite the name an MSDN subscription is not required.  The download page does hint that MSDN subscribers are able to access additional downloads, however.

The three available downloads include a disk image (.iso) with developer tools, a 64 bit Windows 8 disk image, and a 32 bit Windows 8 disk image.  Of the three versions, the last two will be most applicable to the public and enthusiast users.

Windows 8 Start Screen.PNG

The Windows 8 Start screen

The Developer Preview with applications for software development work weighs in at a hefty 4.8 GB .iso and features a 64 bit copy of Windows 8, the Windows Metro SDK for applications, Microsoft's Visual Studio 11 Express, Microsoft's Expression Blend 5, and 28 Metro style applications.  Because of the hefty download, you will need a dual layer DVD or USB drive if you plan on installing it on bare metal (single layer DVDs need not apply, in other words).

The next largest download is the 64 bit Windows 8 Developer Preview build that drops the development software and features only the 64 bit Windows 8 operating system and Metro style applications.  This download weighs in at an easier to manage 3.6 GB .iso disk image.  The minimum system requirements for both 64 bit builds include a 1 GHz or faster x64 CPU, at least 2 GB of RAM, 20 GB of hard drive space for installation, a WDDM 1.0 supported DirectX 9 capable graphics card, and a touch screen to utilize the touch functions.

The final download is a 32 bit version of Windows 8 with Metro style apps suited for older computers with less than 4 GB of memory or lacking 64 bit capable hardware.  At 2.8 GB, this disk image is the smallest of the bunch.The Developer Preview.  The minimum system requirements for this build are a 1 GHz or faster x86 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of available hard drive space for installation, a DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver support, and (I am embarrassed Microsoft believes this needs to be listed) a touch screen in order to take advantage of the touch screen functionality of the OS.

All three builds are of the English language variety and are available here for your downloading pleasure.  Note that if you do choose to install the Windows 8 download on bare metal, you will need to wipe out your current installations, and a clean reinstall of your old operating system will be required to restore your system; therefore it would be prudent to at the very least make sure everything important is backed up before attempting the installation.  For those less adventurous a free Virtualization program might be in order.  Keeping in mind that performance will impacted by running it as a virtual machine, Virtual Box seems to handle Windows 8 very well using the Windows 7 64 bit settings after allocating 4 GB of RAM and the maximum amount of video memory.  VM Ware and other paid solutions should also handle the operating system well enough for you to get an idea of Microsoft's vision for the operating system by using tweaked Windows 7 presets.

What features of the Windows 8 developer preview would you like to see tested out?  After you've had a chance to check the operating system out for yourselves, let us know what you think of Windows 8 in the comments!

Source: Microsoft

GPU-Z Releases Version 0.5.5 With Improved Support for AMD and Nvidia Graphics Cards

Subject: General Tech | September 5, 2011 - 10:32 PM |
Tagged: gpu, hardware, Utility, windows, amd, Intel, nvidia

GPU-Z is a fine little Windows utility that, much like its CPU-Z brethren, can tell you all sorts of useful information about your graphics sub-system. The lightweight program does not require a restart, and weighs in at 922 KB. GPU-Z is distributed by TechPowerUp, and is now officially on it’s 0.5.5 version.

gpu-z.gif

The new version adds support for a slew of AMD and Nvidia graphics cards, improved support for BIOS identification, and a new tab for a giveaway by graphics card vendor PowerColor. On the AMD front, the new version adds support for the companies line of A-Series APU graphics cores, AMD’s mobile cayman GPU “Blackcomb,” and various FirePro cards including the V8000, V3700, and 2460 (FireMV). On the Nvidia side of things, the new version adds support for the GeForce GT 530, GT 545, GT 560 Ti OEM, Quadro 400, Quadro 4000M, and Quadro 5000. Further, GPU-Z updated support for mobile versions of Nvidia cards, including the GeForce GT 305M, 410M, 520M, 520MX, 555M, and the GTX 580M.

The program further improves the BIOS readings of Nvidia cards as well as fixing a shader count detection bug on the Blackcomb mobile Cayman AMD parts. The ASUS MARS II GPU also receives support in version 0.5.5. PowerColor is holding a giveaway for a 6990 graphics card to a lucky winner. The new GPU-Z tab has all the relevant information as well as an entry form. Lastly, the program will now remember the last selected GPU selected from the drop down on multi-GPU systems.

The updated support is nice, and the lightweight program starts up just as fast as the previous versions. Do you use GPU-Z?  You can download the new version here.

Windows XP (Finally) Falls Below 50% of Windows' Market Share

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2011 - 04:54 AM |
Tagged: windows, operating system, microsoft

Windows XP is almost old enough that revisionist historians can have a crack at it without anyone speaking out against it. That is, it would be if not for the large number of users still using the operating system at their home and work. The decade old operating system has only now fallen below 50% of Windows' market share. More specifically, the slip in market share occurred between June and July where it fell 0.63% to a total of 49.94%.

graph (2).png

The numbers are percentages of MS's total 87.66% market share.

In comparison, Windows Vista holds a much smaller 9.24% market share after dropping 0.28%. Microsoft’s most recent operating system, Windows 7; meanwhile, saw a gain of 0.74% to a total of 27.87% market share, which puts the new operating system well on its way to overtaking the XP juggernaut. Techspot has the full scoop on the market share situation, which you can read about here.

Are you still using Windows XP?

Source: Tech Spot

Microsoft May Be Dropping the Windows Branding In Future Operating Systems

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2011 - 07:14 AM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, branding

Microsoft and their Windows brand have always been synonymous where it comes to Operating Systems. As someone who grew up with Windows 3.1, I have grown up seeing Microsoft through the proverbial Window(s). As such, Windows has been a brand that has always been around, and one that I assumed would always be around. In a surprise twist; however, This Is My Next reports that Microsoft may be dropping the Windows brand for their future operating systems after Windows 8.

windowslogos.png

Look how far the MS OS logo has come.  What does the future hold?

Windows 8 is already incorporating tile elements of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Xbox elements in the form of a re-branded Games For Windows Live service. It seems logical; therefore, that Microsoft would want to even further integrate their mobile, gaming, and computing platforms into one cohesive unit. This Is My Next reports that the future OS will present a single Operating System and UI features across all devices and platforms. They further quote Andy Lees in stating that the single ecosystem would facilitate consistency across all Microsoft powered platforms and “the goal isn’t just to share UI, but also core technologies like Internet Explorer.”

You can read more about the “Next Next” OS over at This Is My Next. What are your opinions on the proposed branding theme? Do you have any fold memories of the Windows brand?