Microsoft Plans to Throttle Background Processes

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 08:02 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Pre-release builds of the next major update to Windows 10, planned for the September time frame, give or take, introduce a new power management feature. Starting with Intel’s sixth-generation Core processors, with support for other vendors planned in the coming months, Windows 10 will be able to prevent background apps from forcing high-power states. This will keep the CPU at a voltage and frequency that gets more work done per watt, even if it takes a little longer, which should result in longer battery life.

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There will be (and currently is) an override available for end-users, as well as an API for developers to suggest which processes can be throttled, and under what circumstances. This entire feature will also be disabled when the device is plugged in. I wonder if we’ll see that characteristic change a little in Windows Server, though, since it might be useful for data centers to throttle some maintenance tasks to cut down on the power and cooling bills for their many, many machines. Currently, it’s designed for battery life.

You can play around with this feature in the new Insider build, but, again, not while plugged in.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10 Cloud ("S"?) Performance Targets Leaked

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: windows 10 cloud, windows 10, uwp, microsoft

The upcoming version of Windows that can only install applications from the Windows Store, Windows 10 Cloud, will be Microsoft’s latest attempt at locked-down devices, like Windows RT was back in the Windows 8.x days. The goal is to take on the Chromebook market, which is similarly locked down to Google Chrome and Google Play Store apps (although Google allows developer sideloading). To be fair to Windows 10 Cloud, it can be upgraded to Home or Pro to run Win32 applications for a fee, although that somewhat flies in the face of “streamlined, simpler experience” if you acknowledge a monetary value in unlocking the features you claim those users theoretically don’t want.

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Image Credit: Windows Central

Preamble and opinion aside, it would seem that Microsoft is hoping to push OEMs into making decent devices. They are recommending a minimum specification of quad-core Celeron, 4GB of RAM, >40 Wh battery, and “fast eMMC or SSD” storage. This last note about “fast” eMMC amuses me, because it not-so-subtly telegraphs that cheap laptops, despite having technically solid state memory, don’t have a noticeably better experience than typical hard drives.

Microsoft is expected to discuss the initiative on May 2nd at their #MicrosoftEDU event.

Windows 10 Releases Target ~September and ~March

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Now that Microsoft has pushed their third major version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, the company has decided to settle on a six-month rotation. This is similar to how the Ubuntu distribution of Linux pushes updates, although Windows 10 will be targeting September and March rather than Ubuntu’s October and April (and Ubuntu has a different long-term support model, as we’ll discuss below). More importantly, it’s designed to occur at the same time as Office 365 ProPlus updates, so IT departments can certify and roll out both at the same time.

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The previous release cycle was a little… chaotic. The November Update occurred about three and a half months after the initial release, followed almost nine months later by the Anniversary Update. Seven months after that, the Creators Update landed, which brings us to today.

Each version will be supported for eighteen months.

Source: Microsoft

Cloudy with Microsoft; the new Chrome OS competitor?

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2017 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface 3, Project Scorpio, windows 10 cloud

From what The Inquirer has been able to find out, the Microsoft event taking place next month will not herald the release of the Surface Book 2, Surface Pro 5 nor the Surface Phone. 
It is quite likely we will see a new low cost Surface 3 device announced as well as more information on Project Scorpio.  This should also offer the first details on the new OS that Microsoft has been working on to challenge ChromeOS in low cost devices.  Windows 10 Cloud, also known as Bespin, will be a low cost OS which runs Windows Universal apps and will be aimed at students and those who want small inexpensive devices for light computing usage.  Check out more details here.

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"Microsoft sent out cryptic invites on Wednesday (we're still waiting for ours) which suggests there will be an education focus at the event, with the invite sporting 'Learn what's next' caption and '#MicrosoftEdu' hashtag."

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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 Opt-in and ISOs Now Available

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2017 - 10:23 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A few days ago, we mentioned that early adopters of the Windows 10 Creators Update can access the new build early by running an opt-in tool from Microsoft. At the time, it was unclear whether users couple perform a clean install without downloading the Insider build, which would also require enrolling in the Insider program.

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As it turns out, Microsoft, today, has updated their Media Creation tool to produce media for the Creators Update. I haven’t yet installed it, because performing a clean installation on your only PC takes a fairly clear schedule, but I’ll probably give my first impressions on this post tonight or tomorrow. I have already opened the ISO, though, and a lot of the files are dated March 18th, so I'm confident in the reports that this has been updated to Creators Update.

Again, I would recommend that the vast majority of users wait until at least April 11th, if not longer, to give Microsoft extra time for tuning the new build. The first couple of months of a new build have, thus far, involved frequent updates and some compatibility issues. Microsoft is confident with enthusiasts grabbing the bits tonight, so go ahead if you like, but it might be a little bumpy for weeks and/or months.

Source: Microsoft

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

Microsoft won't teach an old, or possibly deceased dog new tricks

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, server 2003, security

Microsoft is once again putting sales ahead of customer security, although it is for a 10 to 14 year old operating system which they officially pulled the plug on almost two years ago.  Sadly the end of support did not have any impact on the infrastructure budget allocations of tens of thousands of businesses and so Server 2003 remained in use.  Security researchers spotted an attack last year which exploits a vulnerability in IIS WebDAV which will allow a buffer overflow attack to succeed.  Predictably Microsoft's answer is that you should buy a brand new server OS, with hardware upgrade costs likely to be required as well.  Thankfully there is a patch available from a third party, which you can check out over at The Register

It is a dream, but perhaps this might convince some bean counters that an infrastructure upgrade might be a reasonable investment.

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"Microsoft will not patch a critical security hole recently found and exploited in IIS 6 on Windows Server 2003 R2 – the operating system it stopped supporting roughly two years ago."

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Source: The Register

Have a 3D printer? Why not set up a Kinect based 3D scanner to go with it?

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2017 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: kinect, 3d scanning, microsoft

You may have seen a similar project in the past, if not this might be something you should check out.  If you have seen it, the process has matured somewhat and the quality of the imaging has improved.  In addition to the Kinect and a decent PC, you will need to install the The Kinect SDK and Kinect Explorer, along with Reconstruct Me, AutoDesk 123D Catch  and Skanect.  Drop by Techware Labs to read through the setup instructions and see if this project catches your imagination, or if there are updates to the process your own Kinect scanner might benefit from.

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"How many times have you sat there and thought about getting a 3D Scanner? If you are in to 3D printing then it’s probably a lot. If you go online and look for a 3D scanner you will find a lot of them with extremely high price tags. From $120 - $32,000. Seems a bit crazy on the high end but you are paying for the resolution. The idea behind a 3D scanner is that you use a laser that bounces back to a camera to tell it the contours of the model. Well what does a Kinect do? It scans a body for motion tracking using lasers and a camera. BINGO, there is a 3D scanner waiting to be used."

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Microsoft is making friends again, no new Win 7/8 updates for new chips

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2017 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: ryzen, kaby lake, microsoft, Windows 7, windows 8

KB4012982 describes the error you will see if you attempt to update Windows 7 or 8.x on 7th generation Intel processors, AMD Bristol Ridge and newer or Qualcomm "8996" and more recent models.  Microsoft has implemented the hardware based obsolescence which they had discussed several months ago when they stated that new chips would need Windows 10 to run.  This move will of course be heralded as brilliant and no one could possibly find this upsetting in the least, especially not in this Reddit thread.  It is a good thing Microsoft does not have a near monopoly in the market and that anyone who does not support this decision can choose from a wide variety of easily implemented alternatives.

Expect there to be workarounds, the vast majority of Enterprise customers have no interest in moving their infrastructure to Windows 10, nor the budget available to do so if they wanted.

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"Microsoft has started the process of built-in obsolescence to current hardware by blocking updates of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to Intel 7th Generation (Kaby Lake), AMD Ryzen and Qualcomm Snapdragon 82x processors."

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Source: Reddit