Skype adds an AI powered f stop-ish feature

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2019 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, skype, Skype 8

If you liked the look of Sebastian's video on the Podcast, but lack the funds to order the camera he was using that let him adjust the aperture for that effect then Microsoft has good news for you.  They are bringing the AI powered background blurring effect they rolled out in Teams to Skype 8, which will be arriving the same time as the desktop version we are used to kicks the bucket.  While the move to UWP has not been well received by many, perhaps this indicates Microsoft will be focusing on improving the single remaining version of Skype.

The Inquirer reminds you why blurring your background can be a good idea, if you had forgotten about this video.

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"Said release is Skype version 8, the first to exclusively use the Universal Windows (tiled) standard at the expense of the more feature-rich desktop version, though Microsoft has confirmed that it will be adding more familiar features to the new edition."

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Source: The Inquirer

Like using Skype? Microsoft is going to fix that for you

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2019 - 04:14 PM |
Tagged: skype, microsoft, uwp

Once again Microsoft is planning to forcibly move you to the new Skype without giving you an option other than going to the competition.  For those on Windows 10, this will mean the UWP version which is pretty much incapable of calling anything other than other Windows 10 machines, and not well even then.  For those with business machines that block the Microsoft store and who haven't downgraded to Skype For Business, this means you had better start shopping around for other solutions. 

As The Inquirer has seen themselves, if you are using Skype Classic you will now be offered the choice to either upgrade or exit the application.

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"Users have been railing against the move since it was first announced, as Skype 8 has been beset by problems, many linked to the fact that it will see Windows 10 users forced to use a UWP (Microsoft Store) version of the app, which has historically not worked very well - a point we've made many times."

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Source: The Inquirer

Satya Nadella spotted heading into the woods with a shovel and dufflebag

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2019 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows phone, ios, Android, cortana, Alexa

It has been an interesting week to be Microsoft, as they have had to suggest to their user base that they might be better off moving to a competitor's product.  Sebastian has already informed you about the fact that Cortana and Windows Search are going through a somewhat amicable divorce, but today we find Satya Nadella suggesting that Cortana will become an optional skill which you can choose for Alexa or Google Assistant; if you don't see any better perks for that level.  Apparently they will also "be again completely consumer businesses" by offering consumers the same licensing scheme as they forced upon enterprise businesses, of which many have expressed strong feelings about since it was introduced.

What must really burn is their admit that Windows 10 Mobile is indeed as dead as the proverbial parrot, which has forced them to suggest that current users move to a different device as Microsoft will no longer even offer token support for that OS after the end of the year.  People paying attention to this may remember that the last major update to the OS was pushed in 2017.

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"Microsoft's guidance for customers is to "move to a supported Android or iOS device" and use the range of Microsoft applications on one of those platforms instead."

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Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft Separates Cortana and Search in Latest Insider Build

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2019 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, windows 10, search, microsoft, cortana, build 18317

In their announcement of the latest Windows 10 insider preview build (18317) Microsoft has revealed their separation of Cortana from Search. The news was posted on the Windows Blogs site this morning:

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Yes, this is Microsoft's official graphic from the announcement

"Going forward, we’ll be decoupling Search and Cortana in the taskbar. This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases. Some Insiders have had this update for a few weeks now, and we appreciate all the feedback we’ve received about it so far! For those new to this update, when it rolls out to you, you’ll find clicking the search box in the taskbar now launches our experience focused on giving you the best in house search experience and clicking the Cortana icon will launch you straight into our voice-first digital assistant experience.

Other available Search and Cortana settings have also now been split between the two, along with the familiar group policies."

Whether or not this change means that Cortana can be removed entirely without removing Search remains to be seen, though the known processes for completely disabling/removing Cortana are currently more involved than just unchecking a box in settings, to say the least.

Source: Microsoft

Windows Sandbox Virtual Environment Coming to Windows 10 in 2019

Subject: General Tech | December 19, 2018 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, windows 10, windows, VM, virtual machine, microsoft, build 18305

Windows Sandbox is a new virtual machine environment coming to Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise versions in 2019, which will be available as an optional component within Windows. Microsoft details the upcoming feature in a blog post published yesterday, describing it as "a new lightweight desktop environment tailored for safely running applications in isolation".

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"How many times have you downloaded an executable file, but were afraid to run it? Have you ever been in a situation which required a clean installation of Windows, but didn’t want to set up a virtual machine?

At Microsoft we regularly encounter these situations, so we developed Windows Sandbox: an isolated, temporary, desktop environment where you can run untrusted software without the fear of lasting impact to your PC. Any software installed in Windows Sandbox stays only in the sandbox and cannot affect your host. Once Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted."

Microsoft lists these features for Windows Sandbox, outlining the secure and non-persistent "disposable" nature of the environment:

  • Part of Windows – everything required for this feature ships with Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise. No need to download a VHD!
  • Pristine – every time Windows Sandbox runs, it’s as clean as a brand-new installation of Windows
  • Disposable – nothing persists on the device; everything is discarded after you close the application
  • Secure – uses hardware-based virtualization for kernel isolation, which relies on the Microsoft’s hypervisor to run a separate kernel which isolates Windows Sandbox from the host
  • Efficient – uses integrated kernel scheduler, smart memory management, and virtual GPU

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The environment requires a sytem with an AMD64 architecture running Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise build 18305 or later, with the rather slim minimum requirements of just 4GB of memory, 2 CPU cores, and 1 GB of free space (with 8GB RAM, 4 cores, and SSD storage recommended). 

The full blog post goes into further detail with a full "under the hood" look at Windows Sandbox, which among other things offers graphics hardware acceleration "with Windows dynamically allocating graphics resources where they are needed across the host and guest".

As to availability, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley had reported that while the feature was originally "expected to come to Windows 10 19H1 early next year" it could be available to Insider tester as early as this week with Build 18301 of Windows 10 - but this 18301 and earlier 18292 build referenced in Foley's post have apparently been removed from the Microsoft blog post, which now exclusively lists Build 18305.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft's honour Surfaces after months of simply flickering

Subject: General Tech | December 17, 2018 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: Warranty, surface pro 4, microsoft, flickering

If you, or someone you know, has had their Surface Pro 4 suffer premature death or performance issues since the firmware update Microsoft provided back in July then The Inquirer has some great news.  The issue might appear as an embedded controller or UEFI storage manager Error 10, screen flickering or even just a general degradation in performance; the symptoms seem to vary from system to system.  Regardless, Microsoft is finally making good on their promise to replace the defective Surface Pro 4 with one that works with the new firmware. 

If you have yet to make a warranty claim, or have had one which was not honoured you should follow up.

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"After weeks of mixed messages, with some users given a warranty replacement straight away while others have had to argue and fight for it, Microsoft has confirmed that there is an issue and that it will honour warranties."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsft heals some wounds as it moves to Open Source

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2018 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, open source, microsoft, edge, chromium, browser, Opera, firefox

One of the big stories this week has been the rumour and confirmation of Microsoft's move to Chromium.  What we hadn't seen until this morning was what the competition thought about it, which we now know thanks to a link from Slashdot.   You will be shocked to learn that Firefox sees this as solid proof you should have been using Firefox all along, or should switch immediately.

Opera and Google both applaud the move; Opera pointing out that they did something very similar about 6 years ago while Google welcomes Microsoft to the open source community it once spurned.  Take a peek at the rest here.

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"Google largely sees Microsoft's decision as a good thing, which is not exactly a surprise given that the company created the Chromium open source project. "Chrome has been a champion of the open web since inception and we welcome Microsoft to the community of Chromium contributors. We look forward to working with Microsoft and the web standards community to advance the open web, support user choice, and deliver great browsing experiences."

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Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Confirms Edge Browser is Moving to Chromium

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2018 - 10:02 AM |
Tagged: windows, open source, microsoft, Joe Belfiore, edge, chromium, browser

It's official: Microsoft is indeed moving their Edge browser to Chromium as previously reported. Windows VP Joe Belfiore made the announcement yesterday with a blog post entitled "Microsoft Edge: Making the web better through more open source collaboration".

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The post begins as follows (emphasis added):

"For the past few years, Microsoft has meaningfully increased participation in the open source software (OSS) community, becoming one of the world’s largest supporters of OSS projects. Today we’re announcing that we intend to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers.

As part of this, we intend to become a significant contributor to the Chromium project, in a way that can make not just Microsoft Edge — but other browsers as well — better on both PCs and other devices."

Not an immediate move, the under-the-hood changes to the Microsoft Edge browser will take place "over the next year or so", with the transition described as happening "gradually over time". From Microsoft:

1. We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop. Our intent is to align the Microsoft Edge web platform simultaneously (a) with web standards and (b) with other Chromium-based browsers. This will deliver improved compatibility for everyone and create a simpler test-matrix for web developers.

2. Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows and on a more frequent cadence. We also expect this work to enable us to bring Microsoft Edge to other platforms like macOS. Improving the web-platform experience for both end users and developers requires that the web platform and the browser be consistently available to as many devices as possible. To accomplish this, we will evolve the browser code more broadly, so that our distribution model offers an updated Microsoft Edge experience + platform across all supported versions of Windows, while still maintaining the benefits of the browser’s close integration with Windows.

3. We will contribute web platform enhancements to make Chromium-based browsers better on Windows devices. Our philosophy of greater participation in Chromium open source will embrace contribution of beneficial new tech, consistent with some of the work we described above. We recognize that making the web better on Windows is good for our customers, partners and our business – and we intend to actively contribute to that end.

The full blog post from Belfiore is available here.

Source: Microsoft

Chrome plated Windows? Microsoft is making like a magpie

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2018 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: Project Anaheim, microsoft, rumours, chrome, chromium, arm, alphabet

There are two very interesting rumours about Microsoft circulating the intertubes today, both involving Alphabet's Chrome products.  The most shocking is that they have finally internalized the fact that when people refer to Edge as "the one you use to download Chrome with", they are not kidding.  This has lead to the possibility that they may be designing a Chromium-based browser, under the moniker Project Anaheim, to replace Edge as their embedded browser.  They have been trying to get Chrome add-ins to work on Edge with little success, so this would certainly resolve that, unless they intend to focus on making Windows Store apps work with Chrome.

The second rumour signals another big internal change, though in some ways it is less shocking than the previous rumour.  Via Slashdot we have heard more details on Windows Lite, which will replace products like Windows 10 S and RT.  It will be able to run on any processor, up to and including Qualcomm and other ARM based processors and is likely targeting the same market as Chromebooks currently do.  It looks to have a new GUI built off of the mysterious Windows Core OS.  Follow the link for more info on Windows Lite as well as Andromeda, which is not dead yet.

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" As we've previously told you, Microsoft is already working on Chromium in order to help Google port it over to ARM-based Windows machines, such is the power that the world's top browser holds. "

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Source: The Inquirer

Incoming friendly fire! Microsoft is launching more patches!!!

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2018 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: patch, terror, microsoft, windows 10

The seemingly endless barrage of patches attempting to patch the issue the previous patches attempt to patch after needing a patch to patch the patch ... continues ad nauseam.  If you are running Server 2016 or Windows 10 1709 or newer then you are about to receive a gift you probably don't want; though one fix in Server 2016 is worth it as it fixes something that left many technically inclined people, including The Register, scratching their heads.

You should consider a setting a shortcut to "About your PC" to keep tabs on your Windows version as Win10 has made this necessary for the first time.  Case and point, Windows 10 1703 is no longer receiving updates unless you are running Enterprise or Education versions, so unless you install one of the roll ups, you ain't even getting basic security updates!

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"Tucked innocuously among a swathe of fixes ranging from dealing with Russian time zone changes to fixing wobbly Hyper-V servers is the text: "Addresses an issue in File Explorer that sometimes deletes the permissions of a shared parent folder when you delete the shared child folder."

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Source: The Register