The new Windows 10 VR update falls upon us

Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2017 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, creators update

Today marks the launch of the Windows 10 Fall Creators update which will be pushed out to your machine some time in the near future.  Microsoft will be taking it slowly, so if you do not see the update yet do not fret as it will come to you eventually.  If you can't possibly wait another second, you can install it manually instead of waiting for the recommended process via Windows Update.  The update includes Paint 3D and Story Remix, which brings back capabilities similar to the old MovieMaker, along with enhanced VR support and much more.  You can read some of the highlights over at The Inquirer.  

Remember patience is a virtue.

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"But the main update involves virtual reality (VR) support ready for the wealth of cheapish headsets that are on the way supporting Windows Holographic. Devices from HP and Acer lead the charge."

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Source: The Inquirer

Slow down there pardner, maybe wait for Microsoft to push out the Creators Edition

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2017 - 02:11 PM |
Tagged: creators update, microsoft, windows 10

It is a lesson which is learned anew by every wave of new adopters, installing something brand new can lead to unexpected problems.  In this particular case it is the Windows 10 Creators Update, some of those who have manually updated are now in a Vista-like driver conundrum.  There is a method behind Microsoft's madness, they are pushing out the updates to systems they have vetted first and slowly expanding their scope as issues come to light and are resolved, more or less.  If you are doing a fresh install you may end up with several devices which are not functioning properly, if you are manually updating you may find yourself without a working machine.  Patience can be a virtue, especially when it comes to Windows 10.  The Inquirer has some rather pointed commentary here.

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"IF YOU'RE as excited as Microsoft are about the Creators Update to Windows 10, we've got some bad news. The company is warning people not to jump the gun and install it themselves, despite having made the disc image available to download."

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Source: The Inquirer

Windows 10 obsessive net nanny edition

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2017 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, creators update, stalking

The discussion surrounding the telemetry and data of users of Windows 10 which is collected by Microsoft has been energetic and not without a certain amount of vitriol.  Until this past week, much of it has been based on educated guesses and traffic analysis, with Microsoft deigning to provided specifics.  That has changed with the upcoming release of the Creators Update and Microsoft have finally released the details of what data they collect in both the new Basic and Full modes. 

The list is impressive.

The new Basic mode is the same as the previous Full mode, collecting hardware and software information and how they are used, driver usage data, inking and typing data and allowing remote access of your machine and documents without your knowledge.  While this will certainly help with troubleshooting Windows issues it does seem a bit much to collect without users approval.

The new Full mode is even more like an overly attentive software company, it includes all of the above plus it collects your user settings and preferences, installed browsers and the use thereof, an inventory of attached peripherals and how long you use them, a list of every application you've ever installed and a long list of other data which the Register lists here.

Windows 10 Enterprise and some of the Windows Server 2016 editions offer a bit more control which is good, considering many companies sign agreements with clients to the effect that none of their data will be shared with third parties.  That is something Microsoft seems to have trouble comprehending as they continue to pressure businesses to update their infrastructure.

All of this data does help Microsoft collect errors and develop effective fixes but one questions the necessity of the sheer amount of extraneous data collected at the same time.  Perhaps some of the more paranoid claims made by people on the internet were not all that far off base after all. 

If Microsoft does not offer ways to disable at least some of these features, let us hope that security companies find ways to block them; every single one is a vulnerability which could be exploited by people other than Microsoft.

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"Right now, it's doing a little damage control, and preempting complaints about privacy, by listing the types of information its operating system will automatically and silently leak from PCs, slabs, and laptops back to Redmond."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 Creators Update Accessible on April 5th

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, creators update

TL;DR:

  • Windows Update will begin pushing the Creators Update on April 11th
  • Early adopters can, this time, use a tool to force the update as early as April 5th.
  • ISOs are currently available, but marked as Insider Preview.
  • The earlier you update, the more patching you should expect to do, historically.

While Jeremy has already given a brief mention to the news that the Windows 10 Creators Update will begin rolling out on April 11th, Microsoft has just announced that users can opt-in as early as April 5th. If the Anniversary Update is any indication, then the average user should wait until Windows Update devices to passes them the new bits (or longer). In fact, the main reason (besides just liking new things) for forcing an early install should be “it was a convenient time”.

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Of course, as I say this, I’m remembering my experience with the November 2015 update, refreshing Windows Update for two days. I was participating in an Epic Games game jam at the time, and I didn’t want the update to drop right in the middle of my work. It should be any minute now, right? ... Yes, Microsoft giving enthusiasts an explicit opt-in tool is a great step forward. I’m definitely glad they did it. I’m just emphasizing the point that the first few weeks of a Windows feature update are, historically, a bit dicey.

The ISOs for the final build (15063) are already out, but they’re currently on the Windows Insider Program website. I’m not sure if the contents will change at some point, and, if so, when that new ISO will be available for public consumption, so clean installers will probably want to wait a little bit still.

If previous updates are any indication, we’ll be in for about a month or two of updates every week or so until it gradually slows down to “Patch Tuesday”. Or, you can stay on Anniversary Edition (or another OS entirely). Personally, I’ll probably be installing the Creators Update sometime late next week.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10 Game Mode Gets Benchmarked, Still Needs Work

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2017 - 11:54 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, Windows Game Mode, windows 10, pc gaming, creators update, beta

Last month Microsoft confirmed that a new "Game Mode" would be part of the upcoming Windows 10 Creator's Update planned for a spring release ("early 2017"). Microsoft has recently started rolling out the Game Mode to its beta testers in the latest Windows Insider preview build (for those on the fast track anyway, I am currently on the slow ring and do not have Game Mode yet). Now that it is rolled out in preview form, gamers have naturally started benchmarking it, and PC Games News has posted an article on their testing of the new feature and their findings on two Win32 and one UWP game. Not to spoil the results, but at this point Game Mode does not appear to offer anything and can even result in less frames per second with it turned on with its only saving grace being that in some situations it does offer increased performance when the Game DVR feature is also being used to record gameplay. They tested both a NVIDIA GTX 1060 and an AMD RX 480, and Game Mode in it's current preview software on a preview OS appears to have more benefits for NVIDIA while the AMD card PC Games News tested mostly just did it's thing regardless of whether Game Mode was turned on or off (heh, not necessarily a bad thing). 

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With Game Mode now rolling out to Windows Insiders, there is more information on how Microsoft plans to implement it. Rather than hiding it in the Xbox app, Microsoft has thankfully put it in the main settings app under the Gaming category and users access it by bringing up a Game Bar menu in-game for those games that support it (PC Games News noted Doom and GTA V did not work). Game Mode is an OS-level feature that will dedicate a certain amount of CPU threads to the game when it is turned on and leaves the remaining threads to be used by background processes (which themselves are reportedly minimized). Currently, this seems to work better with multi-threaded games and older games that were coded to only use one or two threads may not see any benefit in turning Game Mode on (and it may actually result in lower FPS). To Microsoft's credit, they are not over promising with Game Mode and note that it should be good for around 2% better performance when enabled with Game Mode having a bigger impact on UWP titles.

I encourage you to check out the PC Games News article where they have their benchmark results presented in a number of bar graphs. Most of the tests saw little to no benefit from using Game Mode, but not a negative effect. Some games like Hitman saw a 6% increase in average frames per second on the GTX 1060. On the other side of things, Forza Horizon 3 (ironically, a UWP game) performance actually drops when Game Mode is turned on to the tune of 13% to 23% less FPS with the RX 480 and 9% to 15% less with the GTX 1060. As far as Tomb Raider, things are more in the middle and things stay the same or get slightly better minimum frames per second when Game Mode and Game DVR are both turned on (though oddly there is a result in there that shows a performance drop with Game Mode on and Game DVR off).

It ia also worth noting that overall, the trend seems to be that Game Mode is going to be most beneficial at increasing the minimum frame rates on games with the Game DVR feature is being used moreso than getting overall maximum or average FPS out of a game. The biggest hurdle is going to be game compatiblity, especially for older games, and Microsoft tweaking things so that at worst Game Mode won't tank performance (like it currently does with Hitman minimum frame rates when Game Mode is on but DVR is off) and things will stay the same as if Game Mode was not on at all and at best gamers will get slightly smoother gameplay.

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Source: PCGamesN.com

Right now Game Mode is not compelling, but it is still a work in progress and if Microsoft can get Game Mode right it could be a useful addition (and incentive to upgrade to Windows 10 is probably why they are interested in pursuing this feature) and could come in handy especially on gaming laptops! I am not writing off the feature yet, and neither should you, but I do hope that compatibility is improved and the performance hits are reduced or eliminated when it is enabled. My guess is that the games that will work well with Game Mode are going to be almost all newer games and especially games that are developed post Creator's Update final release with Game Mode in mind.

Hopefully we can use our frame rating on the final product to see how well it truly works as far as user experience and smooth gameplay. What are your thoughts on Windows 10's Game Mode?