Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2016 - 03:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
My production machine has been on Windows 10 since the second Insider Preview build, back in 2014. We have a handful of laptops that are on older versions, however. One of them, which runs Windows 8.1, was upgraded to Windows 10 for a few weeks once 1511 landed, but it did not handle the transition well. There was a few nasty glitches, including 100% screen brightness for some reason being interpreted as 0% screen brightness, making the display turn off when I plugged it in (until I realized what was going on).
No problem, I thought to myself, I will just roll back to Windows 8.1. I gave it a shot.
That's apparently not good for Microsoft. Windows Update apparently has no record of an upgrade being rolled back, because the first thing it asked me when Windows 8.1 was restore was to upgrade back to Windows 10. Noooooooooooooooo. I will not, Microsoft, at least not until some later service release fixes these issues.
All I could think of is, if these are the problems that I'm having, how are novice users supposed to figure this out. It turns out that Microsoft has added a couple of Windows Registry keys to block the various naggings. Once I set them, the OS didn't complain or try to hide standard Windows Update buttons with Upgrade to Windows 10 ones. Registry keys are definitely not for novice users, but many of our readers should be comfortable with registry editing, and they may know novice users who would like a little help.
ll you need to do is change two keys:
- Change or add a DWORD named AllowOSUpgrade with a value of 0
- Change or add a DWORD named DisableGWX with a value of 1
- The GWX folder (called a key in the registry) wasn't present. I needed to add it.
After editing the registry and rebooting, everything Windows 10 nag-related was disabled and I could install Windows Updates. Applications exist to set these keys for you, but it's probably better to just do it yourself. The ZDNet article, linked below, also has a few files to automatically apply these registry keys to your system. I like doing these things by hand, though.
Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 02:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, internet explorer
Microsoft has been talking about moving their web browsers to a different support model. They intend to support only the most recent version of their browser, deprecating everything beforehand. This has two benefits. First, they don't need to port security patches to nearly as many targets. Second, web developers can mostly rely upon recently added features, especially ones which do not require special hardware.
A major stage in this plan occurs on Tuesday. Microsoft will issue a patch to notify users that their old browsers will no longer receive security updates. They are ripping off the band-aid with this one, deprecating Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 simultaneously. Since Internet Explorer 11 is very competitive with Chrome and Firefox in terms of standards support, you will probably hear a few web developers rejoice. Internet Explorer 11 is available for Windows 7 and later.
As a side note, this also means that every supported browser on Windows from Microsoft will be compatible with WebGL. You may not be able to rely upon hardware acceleration, as blacklisted drivers will be forced into a software rendering compatibility mode, but it's good news for Web gaming.
Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2016 - 12:05 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, recore
ReCore was first announced at the last E3 as an Xbox One exclusive, but Microsoft has recently announced that it will arrive on Windows, too. It is being developed by Comcept and Armature Studio for Microsoft Game Studios. Comcept was founded by Keiji Inafune, producer of Mega Man, Dead Rising, and Lost Planet. Armature Studio was founded by three members of Retro Studios, who made the Metroid Prime franchise. It was supposed to launch in the next couple of months, but it has been pushed to later this year.
It's still unclear what the game even is though, which is odd considering its relatively close release date. It is listed as an action-adventure title, and the developer claims that both Metroid and Zelda have influenced its direction. There also seems to be an element of “robotic cores” that can be moved from skeleton to skeleton, bringing its AI with it. Lastly, the Game Info site highlights a robotic companion element. Neither of those two points seem to fit in a Zelda nor a Metroid framework, which revolve around puzzle solving and re-exploring areas with upgraded abilities, respectively. There's something missing, and it will likely be revealed at E3 in June.
We'll see. It could be a bust, but at least we will have the option to try it.
Subject: General Tech | December 29, 2015 - 02:13 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, security
If your Windows 10 machine uses your Microsoft account as the login then your system's recovery key now resides on a Microsoft database in the cloud. That recovery key is used in the file system encryption present on Windows 10 systems. The backup is good news for people who find themselves with computer problems and need access to the key from a different machine, however this is also a huge security concern as your key could be stolen or demanded from Microsoft. Follow the link from the Slashdot article to find out how to delete that back up recovery key and consider using a domain or workgroup style account as opposed to a Microsoft account to log into your machine.
"The fact that new Windows devices require users to backup their recovery key on Microsoft's servers is remarkably similar to a key escrow system, but with an important difference. Users can choose to delete recovery keys from their Microsoft accounts – something that people never had the option to do with the Clipper chip system. But they can only delete it after they've already uploaded it to the cloud.....As soon as your recovery key leaves your computer, you have no way of knowing its fate."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Oculus Rift is on schedule to see a consumer release in Q1 2016 @ The Inquirer
- 2015: The year storage was rocked to its foundations @ The Register
- Highs and lows of tech in 2015 @ The Inquirer
- Patch now! Flash-exploitin' PC-hijackin' attack spotted in the wild by Huawei bods @ The Register
- Intel completes acquisition of Altera @ DigiTimes
- ASRock G10 Gaming Router Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech | December 24, 2015 - 05:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows defender, adware, Malware, superfish
The Microsoft Malware Protection Center has announced that, on March 31st, 2016, certain types of advertisement-injection will be reclassified as malware. This does not include all forms of ad-injection, just ones which use confusing, difficult to remove, or insecure methods of displaying them. Specifically, adware must use the browser's default extension model, including their disable and remove functions. Recent adware has been known to modify DNS and proxy settings to force web traffic through a third party that injects ads, including secure websites using root certificates.
In other words, Superfish.
An interesting side-story is that, while Microsoft requires that adware uses default browser extensions, Microsoft Edge does not yet have any. Enforcement doesn't start until March 31st, but we don't have a date for when extensions arrive in Microsoft. I seriously doubt that the company intends to give Edge a lead-time, but that might end up happening by chance. The lead time is probably to give OEMs and adware vendors a chance to update their software before it is targeted.
The post doesn't explicitly state the penalties of shipping adware that violates this blog post, but the criteria is used for antimalware tools. As such, violators will probably be removed by Windows Defender, but that might not be the only consequence.
Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2015 - 11:23 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, asus, X99-E WS, microsoft, surface pro 4, surface book, htc, vive, ECS, LIVA, vulkan, dx12, Mantle, nvidia, shield tablet k1
PC Perspective Podcast #380 - 12/24/2015
Join us this week as we discuss Microsoft's Surface Devices, the ASUS X99-E WS. HTC Vive and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Morry Tietelman, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 1:23:31
Week in Review:
0:39:25 This week’s podcast is brought to you by Casper. Use code PCPER at checkout for $50 towards your order!
News item of interest:
0:59:55 Vulkan API Slips to 2016
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Morry: Thermaltake Core X9 case
Design - A Tablet and a Notebook
For the last 30 days or so, I have been using both Microsoft's new Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 as every day computing devices. The goal was to review these items from not just a handful of days of testing and benchmarking, but with some lengthy time under my belt utilizing both products in a real-world environment. The following is my review with that premise. Enjoy!
A lot has already been said about the design and style of both the updated Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Book. Let’s start with the Surface Pro 4 as it sees the least dramatic changes from previous product.
The Surface Pro 4 uses the same kickstand tablet design that made the Surface brand so memorable as well as functional. Many different OEMs are starting to copy the design style because it has a lot of positive merits to it. For instance, it allows viewing angles from nearly 90 degree to flat. The Surface Pro 4 is a tablet in its purest form, though. It doesn’t have a keyboard or trackpad standard – you’ll have purchase the optional Type Cover. It’s only 8.5mm thick and weighs in at 1.73 lbs, without the added keyboard.
The kickstand works exceptionally, with unlimited positions between the starting and stop point of the hinge, and it allows smooth movement between them. It’s strong enough to stand up when being slid around on the tablet or desk. The biggest concern I have with the kickstand is that using it on your lap (or on an airplane tray table) is difficult to impossible, depending on the exact configuration or your legs / tray. Because the hinged kickstand needs a surface to make contact with, pushing the Surface Pro back on your legs where the hinged portion extends past your knees won’t work.
From a design and style perspective, I still think the Surface products are among the best that exist on the market today. The magnesium body is sleek and the angles are both professional and aggressive. Even when coupled with the magnetic Type Cover, it won’t look like a toy at the office or on the road.
The new Surface Book is a completely different beast – a unique design and a new product. I am sure that there are some people that simply won’t like the way the notebook looks, but I am not one of them. Though it is technically a tablet and a keyboard dock, the Surface Book only ships as a complete unit so calling this a notebook or a 2-in-1 convertible feels more accurate than calling it a tablet. It has a larger and more pronounced 13.5-in screen than the Pro, which makes it larger, heavier and bulkier in your bag as well. The magnesium body shares a lot of design cues with the Pro 4, but it’s the hinge on the Book that really makes it different than any notebook I have used.
Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 06:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
A new build is available for Windows 10 at the Insider Fast update level. This one is numbered 11082, and it is the first one on the “Redstone” track. Users will probably not notice any changes, beyond the bugs, because the modifications are all under-the-hood. They are working on the core of the operating system, called “OneCore,” to restructure it better for the wide variety of hardware that it's designed for.
This raises the question: Why now? It's odd that they would release a public preview that seemingly adds nothing, just before the holidays when the engineers will be unavailable to fix it. That feels like replacing the first floor of a building from wood to maybe-not-quite-set concrete, then hopping on a plane for a few weeks. Of course, this is not a bad thing. This is what some Insiders want to experience, and those who don't can drop down to Slow (or leave Insider).
Also, Microsoft sort-of explained why they did this. First, they intend to get down to business on features and upgrades in January. Basically, they structured their work such that pre-Holiday tasks built the infrastructure for post-Holiday creations (as I mentioned in the first paragraph). Big development tasks are often done on branches of a canonical product that are merged when complete. Merging a branch back into the trunk is easier when the trunk is designed more modularly, etc. In that context, it makes sense to see how it reacts in a large sample of configurations just before you start pushing big feature payloads into it. The second explanation is that Microsoft intends to speed up Insider previews in general.
If you're interested, WinBeta has a video “walking through” the features, although they basically just read the announcement. They also checked to see whether Microsoft Edge changed to add extensions, and it didn't.
A list of known issues is also available in the Insider Hub app post. Basically, Language packs and "Features on Demand" will not install. File progress dialogues will not show (even though the actual copy / move / delete will work without issue). Finally, some default apps will be incorrectly reset.
It is available through Windows Update for Fast Insiders.
Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 07:20 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, Windows 8.1, windows 8, Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft
Last week, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows now supports Windows 7 and 8.x. Previously, the dongle would only work on Windows 10, which meant that other operating systems required Xbox One controllers to be wired.
This does not mean that all functionality will be available on Windows 7 and 8.x, though. The Xbox Accessories app is required to manage profiles and update firmware without an Xbox One console. As far as I can tell, that will continue to be the case. If you have an Xbox One console, and don't mind managing the controllers there, then this wireless adapter might be for you. If you have don't have an Xbox One console, Windows 10, or an existing Xbox One controller, then you may want to reconsider getting an Xbox One controller at all. If you do, then you can turn it wireless, now even on Windows 7 and 8.x.
The Xbox One Wireless Adapter for Windows has been out for a couple of months.
Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2015 - 12:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, Surface Pro, surface book
Along with the apology and reversal of their OneDrive policy, Microsoft has also apologized to customers about several issues that many have experienced with their new Surface Pro and Surface Books. The complaints started on a forum, as usual, with several users encountering screen flickering when using the devices. However the complaints quickly spread and even an interim firmware update was unable to resolve the issue. On Friday Microsoft officially apologized for the ongoing issue which has persisted through numerous updates and promise to have more updates available soon, hopefully one of which will permanently resolve the issue. The Register also mentions several other issues which users have experienced in their article this morning.
"Buyers have complained on Microsoft user forums about several faults with the machines since their launch earlier this year, including a "weird screen flicker", slowness in waking from sleep mode and worse than expected battery life. Surface Book"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Adobe: We locked our customers in the cloud and out poured money @ The Register
- FAA: Small Drones Must Be Registered By February @ Slashdot
- Micron to acquire Inotera remaining shares @ DigiTimes
- Asustek, Gigabyte motherboard shipments to drop 10% in 2015 @ DigiTimes
- Sphero Star Wars BB-8 Super Cute Droid Review @ Madshrimps