Who would have guessed? Microsoft's Cloud has a Linux lining

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2015 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: azure, microsoft, linux

It is a strange new world we find ourselves, where part of Microsoft's Azure infrastructure will be built on Linux.  Azure Cloud Switch will allow software-defined networking to be used on Azure for those who are brave enough to dabble in SDN.  Microsoft will be incorporating the OpenCompute developed Switch Abstraction Interface based on Linux, as The Register points out this is likely due to a lack of similar functionality in Windows software.  In this particular case Microsoft will not be reinventing the wheel but will wisely focus on improving the functionality of Azure and Azure based products such as Office 365 which they have developed in house.  The 'cloud' is a strange place and it just got a little bit stranger.

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"Redmond's revealed that it's built something called Azure Cloud Switch (ACS), describing it as “a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux” and “our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches.”"

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Created a Private Linux Distro. Laugh It Up.

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, linux

Azure Cloud Switch is an operating system, which is based on Linux, that Microsoft has created for their data centers. This software will be installed on their network appliances, such as switches, to let them control the features that their data centers require. It also helps them interface hardware together, since they now control the software stack regardless of hardware vendor.

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This is naturally making tech websites doodle on their calendars as the company uses Windows for just about everything. While basing a portion of their infrastructure in Linux is a sign that Microsoft is embracing open source, this is not the first time. Back in 2003, which is not a Linux-friendly year for the company, Microsoft used Linux-based infrastructure from Akamai to provide DDoS and malware protection. It worked. They have even been attributed as a top contributor to the Linux kernel in the past.

The OS is internal to Microsoft, but it is in affiliation with the Open Compute Project. I'm not sure if we will ever see the OS or its full source publicly.

Source: Microsoft

September Update of Xbox App for Windows 10 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 07:29 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, xbox, pc gaming

The Xbox App for Windows 10 was touted as a major feature before launch, but you barely hear about it after. I will occasionally get a notification that I can record game footage, or a little pop-up after pressing the center button of my 360 controller. Other than that, I barely notice that it exists. A lot of the functionality is useful to manage their Xbox One or Xbox Live Gamertag (do they even call it that anymore?) but PC gamers barely have a reason to open it. Granted, I expect Microsoft hopes that will change after enough Xbox-aware games for Windows 10 hit market. It's early days.

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Some currently use it though, and it has just received an update for them. Version 9.9.16003.00000 has added four new features, two of which implement automatic updates for friends and their activity feeds. The button to refresh is still present, which is always nice in case something goes wrong, but it shouldn't need to be pressed as the app should be pulling notifications from Microsoft's servers on its own.

The other two features are more interesting.

The Xbox App now supports “Console text entry”. This feature allows Xbox One users to type into the console's search boxes “and more” using Windows 10 devices, and, more importantly, their keyboards or keypads. A chat pad is being launched for the console soon, which plugs into the controller to give it a QWERTY keyboard, but supporting laptops is definitely nice.

The last feature is “Game progress comparison”. In the Achievements panel, you are able to click on the “compare” button to line up your achievement history next to your friends. As it turns out, Ryan has a higher score than me in Halo 3. That just won't do.

Microsoft has also announced that they will be providing a Beta app in the future, which will arrive later this month. You can pick it up from the Windows Store when it becomes available, if you want.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview 10547 to Fast Ring

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 05:05 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

As we approach the first major update to Windows 10, Microsoft has released another build to Fast Ring users. Oddly enough, Slow Ring users have not received a single build yet, and rumors have the release scheduled for the October / November time frame. This build is bigger than some previous ones that we've seen, addressing issues from the Start Menu, Edge, Tablet Mode, first-party apps, and more.

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The headlining feature is an option to increase the number of tiles that are available on Start. Currently, you are allowed to have 512 tiles, but a switch will bump that up to 2048. This will obviously help users who have a lot of different applications, but I personally find myself using Search a lot more. I would like to see Microsoft support multiple instances of the same application, so you can select between common command-line arguments without having tiles on your desktop, bringing Search and Start to parity with it.

Object RTC in Microsoft Edge is interesting from a developer perspective, though. This standard allows real-time audio and video communication, which is commonly used for applications like video conferencing -- but that is not even its most important application. The base standard, Web RTC, allows websites to create network sockets, including peer to peer. Mozilla created a game, BananaBread, which uses this -- not for audio or video chat -- but for multiplayer synchronization without a server (except to connect the initial handshake). Unfortunately, implementations that I've used is also hostile to networks without UPnP support... maybe Microsoft will push that in a good direction.

Build 10547 is available now for Fast Ring users from Windows Update.

Source: Microsoft

Are you leaving us so Zune?

Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2015 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: zune, microsoft

Much to the dismay of a certain PCPer, Zune is passing off this mortal coil as yet another iTunes killer that turned out not to live up to the creators hopes.  As of November 15th Zune services will be retired which means no new music or streaming for owners of the MP3 player.  You will still be able to play music as long as it is not DRM protected, once the licensing servers go down the protected content will no longer be accessible in yet another glaring example of how DRM hurts those who pay for content far more effectively than it prevents theft.  The Register does have some good news for those dozens of people effected, Zune Music Pass subscriptions will be converted to Groove Music Pass subscriptions.

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"Come November, Microsoft is killing off Zune – the very thing that was supposed to kill off the Apple iPod and iTunes. As you may be able to tell, that execution never came about."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 for Enterprise gets a few new tricks

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, enterprise

In the very near future sysadmins pondering a Windows 10 roll-out will have a few new features to test.  Enterprise Data Protection offers protection against unintentional data leaks by encrypting files so that they can easily be encrypted for all but licensed programs, ensuring installed social media applications and the like can't get into places they really shouldn't be.  It also allows you to wipe those files remotely, leaving the rest of the machine intact which will be handy in shops that allow users to attach their own machines to the domain.  Microsoft Passport will be another identity manager tool, integrated directly into the OS and they will also be launching a separate Windows Store for Business catering to the needs of companies.  Check out more details by following the links at The Register.

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"Microsoft says features of Windows 10 for enterprises that weren't available when the OS launched in July will begin rolling out this month."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft is a little fuzzy on what the word 'no' means

Subject: General Tech | September 2, 2015 - 06:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, KB3080149

It seems that not only aren't people leaping to Windows 10 and allowing Microsoft permission to collect their metadata but far too many who use Windows 7 or 8 are opting out of the program.  KB3080149 is a recent 'Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry' which will enable Microsoft to track your usage even though you explicitly opted out of the Customer Experience Improvement Programme.  At least the data sent is encrypted, little consolation for users as The Inquirer points out.

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"MICROSOFT HAS BEGUN retrofitting some of the more controversial aspects of the new Windows 10 operating system to predecessors 7 and 8."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft Releases Build 10532 to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | August 31, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Less than a week and a half after publishing 10525, Microsoft has pushed Windows 10 Build 10532 to members of the Windows Insider program that are set to receive “Fast” releases. This version adjusts the context menus for consistency. In the provided screenshot, all I can really notice that is different is the icons for Display Settings and Personalize are now axonometric, rather than face-on. The Feedback app has also been updated to allow sharing.

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While Slow Ring users are still on the general public build, 10240, it might not be too long. Gabe Aul mentioned on Twitter that they were evaluating 10525 for Slow Ring. With 10532 being released though, that has almost definitely been put off. The next update is particularly important, as it will be the last chance for Windows Insiders to disable Insider Builds before all of them will be pushed off of 10240. It's about time to decide whether you want to use the stable version that's supported by all manufacturers, or continue with pre-release versions.

To receive 10532, join the Insider program from Windows Update's Advanced options and set it to receive Fast builds. To leave the Insider program, go to the same Advanced options menu and press the button to stop receive Insider builds.

Source: Microsoft

We could tell you what was in that update but then we would have to terminate your process

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2015 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The more we learn about Windows as a Service the less we seem to know.  Already many have discovered that a fresh install with license from an upgraded Windows install is not as simple as it sounded, the license has far more to do with your current hardware than the OS license you once purchased.  Now it seems that figuring out what updates are being installed on your computer will also be obfuscated, where before you could see the number of the relevant Knowledge Base article now you will simply receive generically labelled updates.  This should worry home users as it will make it difficult to avoid Windows Updates with known compatibility issues and terrify any businesses which were considering moving to Windows 10 as releasing untested patches into a production environment is verboten and this makes the testing process more, not less difficult.

Windows Insiders may actually end up knowing more about the updates than the regular users who will only hear details of a limited number of updates.  Build 10525 has recently been released to insiders on the Fast Release ring with Microsoft's Gabe Aul went into detail about what changes were made in this new build, as well as the new issues present in this version. Build 10512 of Windows 10 Mobile was also just recently released for those few souls running on Windows Mobile and testing the newest incarnation of the OS.  The Register did try out the new version, you can read about their experiences here.

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"The Register asked Microsoft for clarification on the policy after the company issued a new cumulative update for Windows 10 and refused to say what it does other than to say it offered “improvements to enhance the functionality of Windows 10.”"

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Publishes Build 10525 to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2015 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Almost exactly a month ago, Windows 10 Build 10240 was released to both Fast and Slow. This build served as the milestone for an everyperson's operating system, and it gave OEMs something to validate drivers and software against. According to BuildFeed, the first known branches at that build number were compiled on July 9th.

windows-10.png

Today, Windows Insiders on the Fast ring will receive Build 10525 when they next perform a Windows Update. This build was first compiled last week on August 12th, and it represents the first published milestone of the TH2 branch. It contains two new (advertised) features: extra color options for Windows UI elements and improvements to Windows 10 memory management.

I'll talk about Memory Manager first.

As Windows 10 builds were released, there was one where I noticed the System process begun to use a significant amount of RAM -- a whole gigabyte or two. I figured that this was a memory leak that would be fixed in a later build, so I put up with it. Some time later, I noticed that its usage would actually go up and down as I open or close applications. It was also never “fixed” before release.

It turns out that it was an intended feature.

When operating systems decide that a chunk of memory is unlikely to be used, they tend to push them to the hard drive. This could be an application that has been minimized for a while, or portions that were displaced by a big, RAM-hungry program. You will often see this when you switch programs. Sometimes, there's a program that's already open, albeit minimized, but it still takes a few seconds to pop up. This behavior is often because it was pushed out of system memory and Windows (or Mac, Linux, and so forth) wasn't prepared to abruptly fetch it again.

Now, system memory is big and cheap, and Windows is being installed on devices with small banks of flash storage and relatively fast processors. Microsoft now believes that it makes sense to cram old chunks of memory into a container, which resides in RAM, that is compressed (as opposed to just dumping it onto permanent storage). This occurs in the system process, which explains why it tends to inflate when you're doing a lot of things at once.

Build 10525 tweaks this feature a bit in undescribed ways. I could imagine that Microsoft cut development in the public branches to make it robust for Windows 10's launch. They now have an opportunity to point Insiders to the less tested branches.

microsoft-2015-win10-10525-system.png

I think this is interesting, and could make a lot of sense if they successfully manage data into their most efficient storage locations. I do notice that System tends to get large even when a lot of RAM is still available. For instance, I have 55% of my memory unallocated at this point, but System is about 1.2 GB large. There could be very good reasons for this, which might be something that my operating system would know better than I, but it might also be a sign that it's slightly over-aggressive. Maybe my system could benefit from a big, contiguous chunk of available memory, or maybe my PC is being unreasonably taxed. Who knows.

The other major feature is color management. While the three displayed toggles are available in 10240, the user is apparently now able to adjust more colors. Without installing 10525, I cannot figure out what those changes are, but Microsoft asserts that they're there.

If you register as a Windows Insider Fast Ring user, you can now receive 10525.

Source: Microsoft