Criminy, that's a nasty one! Near invisible infections via BITS

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, BITS, security

BITS, the Microsoft Background Intelligent Transfer Service used for pushing out OS updates among other things can be turned to the dark side in a rather nasty way.  When cleaning up an infect network, security professionals stumbled upon a nasty discovery, a compromised machine with no sign of an infection vector except in the BITS database.  The malware came in through the usual channel but once installed it used a BITS task to clean up any traces of the installation from temp files and the registry and then delete itself, leaving an infected machine with almost no traces of where the infection came from or is residing.  The Register offers advice on how to check suspicious machines in their story.


"While working on a customer clean-up project, SecureWorks staff found that attackers had created self-contained BITS tasks that didn't appear in the registries of affected machines, and their footprints were limited to entries on the BITS database."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Open-Sources Their WebGL Implementation

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 01:42 AM |
Tagged: webgl, microsoft

Well that's something I never expected to write. It turns out that Microsoft has open-sourced a small portion of their Edge web browser. This is the part that binds OpenGL ES 2.0 functionality, implemented atop Direct3D in Edge, to JavaScript for websites to directly interact with the user's GPU (as opposed to hardware-accelerated CSS effects for instance).

Websites can use WebGL to share 3D objects in an interactive way, have interesting backgrounds and decorations, or even render a video game.


This is not an open-source build of Microsoft Edge, though. It doesn't have the project files to actually be built into something useful. Microsoft intends for it to be reference, at least for now they say. If you are interested in using or contributing to this project for some reason, their GitHub readme file asks you to contact them. As for me? I just think it's neat.

X means X again, thanks Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2016 - 12:28 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

It seems that taking inspiration from those nasty popups where the X button does not actually close the window was a bad idea for Redmond and thankfully they have listened to reason.  No longer will clicking the X on the Win10 nag screen be construed as accepting the upgrade as long as it is a Roman numeral, but will once again return to the clost command which it represents on any and all other windows.  The Inquirer was more than a little miffed about this which is perfectly understandable as this particular step was far beyond the pale, the other attempts to forcibly upgrade ranged from reasonable to annoying but this one was just wrong.  Thankfully Microsoft has listened and once again it will go back to asking you for a date repeatedly, until you remove KB2952664, acquiesce to its advances or hold out past July 29th when you will have to pay $120 to hang out with it.


"Microsoft has now responded to "customer feedback" and agreed to change the behaviour of the 'X' button back to the more 'piss off' tone that we all know and love."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft Releases Windows 7 "Convenience" Roll-Up

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows 7, Windows 8.1

I know this sounds like yet another story where Microsoft attempts to ram Windows 10 down your throat, but it's not (apart from a potential interpretation of the last paragraph). It's been about six-and-a-half years since Windows 7 launched, and about five years since Service Pack 1. If you've attempted to install Windows 7 recently, then attempting to run Windows Update makes it painfully obvious how long that's been.


Image Credit: Microsoft

Finally, Microsoft is making an official roll-up available. Better? It can be slipstreamed into install media, so you don't even need to go through that step with each reformat. This will not contain every possible update, though. Microsoft lists 23 patches that they excluded based on three conditions:

  • “They don't have broad applicability.”
  • “They introduce behavior changes.”
  • “They require additional user actions, such as making registry settings.”

They also excluded every update to Internet Explorer, which makes sense. Users can install Internet Explorer 11 and update it, or just uninstall it entirely if they want (after they download whatever browser(s) that they will actually use). While some of these excluded fixes will affect many users, it should be a much better experience than several hundred patches and a half-dozen reboots. It's probably better to let the user choose many of these optional updates by hand anyway.

At the same time, they also announced that “non-security updates” will be merged into a monthly roll-up for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (and several versions of Windows Server). They're not too clear about how this will work, but it sounds like users will not be able to pick and choose parts of optional patches anymore. Given how many of these were attempts to, again, shove Windows 10 down our throats, that's a bit of a concern. However, I suspect that this is just so Microsoft can align its release structure to how it's done on Windows 10. It's probably just easier for them to manage.

Source: Microsoft

Simply FUD or a message from the Forced Upgrade Department?

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, microsoft, fud

DigiTimes has a doozy of a post title, stating that Intel plans to limit OS support on future processors starting with Kaby Lake and Apollo Lake CPUs.  Now this sounds horrible but you may be taking the word support out of context as it refers to the support that major customers require which leads to the so called errata (pdf example), not that the processors will be incapable of running any OS but Windows 10.  This may not matter so much to the average consumer but for industries and the scientific community this could result in huge costs as they would no longer be able to get fixes from Intel, unless they have upgraded to Windows 10.   That upgrade comes with its own costs, the monstrous amount of time it will take for compatibility testing, application updating and implementation; not to mention licensing fees.

AMD should take note of this, focus on continued legacy support and most importantly advertising that fact.  The price difference between choosing AMD over Intel could become even more compelling for these large customers and help refill AMD's coffers.


"With Intel planning to have its next-generation processors support only Windows 10, industrial PC (IPC) players are concerned that the move will dramatically increase their costs and affect market demand, according to sources from IPC players."

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Source: DigiTimes

So long WiFi Sense, don't let the door hit you ...

Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2016 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: wifi sense, security, microsoft

Here is an update we can get behind!  Windows 10 Build 14342 will no longer have WiFi Sense, that bizarre feature which Microsoft added which would pass on any of your stored WiFi passwords to your contacts as well as overriding your preferred network if one of your contacts signals was available.  This caused a certain amount of alarm as you might not trust every contact you might have on with your WiFi password nor trust their WiFi networks.  The blather about high cost and low demand is an interesting cover for changing their minds, regardless it is good to see it go.  There were a couple of other updates included in this release, check them out at The Inquirer.


"We have removed the WiFi Sense feature that allows you to share WiFi networks with your contacts and to be automatically connected to networks shared by your contacts," explained Aul."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft updates Windows 10 UWP to support unlocked frame rates and G-Sync/FreeSync

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 10, 2016 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, vrr, variable refresh rate, uwp, microsoft, g-sync, freesync

Back in March, Microsoft's Phil Spencer addressed some of the concerns over the Unified Windows Platform and PC gaming during his keynote address at the Build Conference. He noted that MS would "plan to open up VSync off, FreeSync, and G-Sync in May" and the company would "allow modding and overlays in UWP applications" sometime further into the future. Well it appears that Microsoft is on point with the May UWP update.

According to the MS DirectX Developer Blog, a Windows 10 update being pushed out today will enable UWP to support unlocked frame rates and variable refresh rate monitors in both G-Sync and FreeSync varieties. 


As a direct response to your feedback, we’re excited to announce the release today of new updates to Windows 10 that make gaming even better for game developers and gamers.

Later today, Windows 10 will be updated with two key new features:

Support for AMD’s FreesyncTM and NVIDIA’s G-SYNC™ in Universal Windows Platform games and apps

Unlocked frame rate for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) games and apps

Once applications take advantage of these new features, you will be able to play your UWP games with unlocked frame rates. We expect Gears of War: UE and Forza Motorsport 6: Apex to lead the way by adding this support in the very near future.

This OS update will be gradually rolled out to all machines, but you can download it directly here.

These updates to UWP join the already great support for unlocked frame rate and AMD and NVIDIA’s technologies in Windows 10 for classic Windows (Win32) apps.

Please keep the feedback coming!

Today's update won't automatically enable these features in UWP games like Gears of War or Quantum Break, they will still need to be updated individually by the developer. MS states that Gears of War and Forza will be the first to see these changes, but there is no mention of Quantum Break here, which is a game that could DEFINITELY benefit from the love of variable refresh rate monitors. 

Microsoft describes an unlocked frame rate as thus:

Vsync refers to the ability of an application to synchronize game rendering frames with the refresh rate of the monitor. When you use a game menu to “Disable vsync”, you instruct applications to render frames out of sync with the monitor refresh. Being able to render out of sync with the monitor refresh allows the game to render as fast as the graphics card is capable (unlocked frame rate), but this also means that “tearing” will occur. Tearing occurs when part of two different frames are on the screen at the same time.

I should note that these changes do not indicate that Microsoft is going to allow UWP games to go into an exclusive full screen mode - it still believes the disadvantages of that configuration outweigh the advantages. MS wants its overlays and a user's ability to easily Alt-Tab around Windows 10 to remain. Even though MS mentions screen tearing, I don't think that non-exclusive full screen applications will exhibit tearing.


Gears of War on Windows 10 is a game that could definitely use an uncapped render rate and VRR support.

Instead, what is likely occurring, as we saw with the second iteration of the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark, is that the game will have an uncapped render rate internally but that frames rendered OVER 60 FPS (or the refresh rate of the display) will not be shown. This will improve perceived latency as the game will be able to present the most up to date frame (with the most update to date input data) when the monitor is ready for a new refresh. 

UPDATE 5/10/16 @ 4:31pm: Microsoft just got back to me and said that my above statement wasn't correct. Screen tearing will be able to occur in UWP games on Windows 10 after they integrate support for today's patch. Interesting!!

For G-Sync and FreeSync users, the ability to draw to the screen at any range of render rates will offer an even further advantage of uncapped frame rates, no tearing but also, no "dropped" frames caused by running at off-ratios of a standard monitor's refresh rate.

I'm glad to see Microsoft taking these steps at a brisk pace after the feedback from the PC community early in the year. As for UWP's continued evolution, the blog post does tease that we should "expect to see some exciting developments on multiple GPUs in DirectX 12 in the near future."

Source: MSDN

Another reason not to use UEFI Secure Boot

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2016 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: KB3133977, microsoft, asus, uefi, Secure Boot

There are many good reasons to use the new UEFI Secure Boot under Windows 10 but there are also numerous reasons not to.  The latest is an issue with a specific Windows Update patch which was recently changed from an optional update to a recommended update.  For systems using an ASUS motherboard and running Windows 7 this can be a bit of a bother as your Secure Boot will report that the OS has unauthorized changes and will refuse to boot.  If you can get at your UEFI BIOS you can change the OS Type from Windows UEFI mode to Other OS in the boot menu.  If this does not resolve your issue The Register has been told you should contact ASUS for support, as opposed to Microsoft since the issues root cause lies in a feature similar to Secure boot which ASUS added to their boards.


"Windows 7 machines that have installed Microsoft's KB3133977 update may trigger a "secure boot violation" during startup, preventing the PC from loading the operating system, Asus said."

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Source: The Register

What Will Happen After July 29th with Windows 10 Upgrades?

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2016 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

I've been wondering about what will happen after July 29th. This machine was granted a Windows 10 license because I used it for the Windows Insider program before the official launch. After leaving the pre-release branches, it remained activated for Windows 10 Pro. That said, I already had a license of Windows 7 Professional, which could also be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for free. I'm not sure how lenient Microsoft will be with re-activating a Windows 10 license, especially one gifted through Windows Insider, over the phone if my hardware changes too much.


Granted, a new license of Windows 10 Pro would... only... be a couple hundred bucks. That's an annoying burden, but not an impossible barrier, assuming I even need Windows 10 as a main or virtual OS at the time. I'm still curious whether this transferable license of Windows 7 could be a cheaper route, though.

At the moment? We don't know.

Last week, Microsoft published a blog post that... strongly implied... existing Windows 7/8.x users would need to purchase a full license of Windows 10 (or just get a new PC with Windows 10 pre-installed) after July 29th. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet contacted Microsoft for clarification, and received a slightly less firm response. “The free upgrade promotion is currently slated to end on July 29 and we encourage all of our customers to take advantage of it while it is still active.”

In other words: We still don't know what Microsoft will plan to do. The free upgrade could be extended, or they could create an official upgrade SKU that is cheaper than an official license. There might be other options too, including sending Joe Belfiore to your house to stare at you quizzically, but we'll leave the list of possibilities at free, upgrade SKU, and no promotion for now.

Note that, if you have tried Windows 10 but later rolled back after it was successfully activated, then this doesn't really apply to you. As I understand it, unless your hardware changed in that time such that it registers as a new PC, downgrading will not revoke a Windows 10 license, even one granted through the free upgrade promotion. Once you return to Windows 10, if you do, it should activate.

Finally, WinBeta says that “Get Windows 10” will be removed after July 29th, although it probably won't be an immediate change. (“... It will take time to ramp it down.”) Given how aggressively Windows 10 has been pushed, it seems odd that Microsoft will just back down after their arbitrary date. They could have just wanted to offset the inertia caused by how daunting an OS upgrade seems to average users.

Source: ZDNet

Podcast #398 - AMD Radeon Pro Duo Review, Godavari Refresh, ECS Z170-Claymore, ICY DOCK hot-swappable SSDs, and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2016 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: Z170, video, radeon pro duo, podcast, nvidia, nfme, microsoft, icy dock, Hot swap, GTX 1080, Godavari, freesync, ECS, Claymore, Antec P9, amd, a8-7670k, A10-7860K

PC Perspective Podcast #398 - 05/05/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Radeon Pro Duo Review, Godavari Refresh, ECS Z170-Claymore, ICY DOCK hot-swappable SSDs, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:29:10

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Jeremy: Microsoft - “Pray I don't alter it any further
  4. Closing/outro

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