Subject: Graphics Cards | May 10, 2016 - 12:11 PM | Ryan Shrout
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."
Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2016 - 01:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft: Windows 10 Will Remain Free For People With Accessibility Needs @ Slashdot
- 3D Printing Bone @ Hack a Day
- Acer to launch gaming smartphone in 4Q16, says paper @ DigiTimes
- IBM's POWER cloud powers up almost a year later than promised @ The Register
- A Look At NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080, GTX 1070 & New Technologies @ Techgage
- Doom (2016) running on GTX1080 @ Kitguru
- NVIDIA's GTX 1080 & GTX 1070 Detailed @ Hardware Canucks
- Nvidia editors day event gallery featuring GTX1080 @ Kitguru
- AMD's Andrej Zdravkovic @ Kitguru
- TRENDnet TPL-421E2K Powerline 1200 AV2 Adapter Kit Review @ NikKTech
- Luxury all paid trip to see Independence Day 2 in London
Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2016 - 11:47 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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 | Allyn Malventano
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!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!
Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath
Program length: 1:29:10
Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2016 - 07:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, Windows Store
Well that's a great precedent, Microsoft. In Windows 10 1511, which released in November for the general public, they removed the group policy setting to disable Windows Store from Windows 10 Pro. From a consumer standpoint? I can't see this decision making any difference. I doubt that a group policy setting would be the best line of defense for any use case that requires a disabled Windows Store.
From an enterprise standpoint -- there might have been good reason to disable it. Microsoft's solution is to use Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education. This doesn't help those who already purchased a significant number of Windows 10 Pro licenses. I've also talked to someone in an enterprise environment who pointed to this decision as their reason to not upgrade to Windows 10 earlier in the year. Their organization cannot justify upgrading to Windows 10 Enterprise, and they have legal obligations that require locking down the apps that end-users can install.
So enterprises have been privately responding to this decision, apparently, but I'm not sure whether they're considering the bigger precedent. This is a concrete example of Microsoft removing user choice after they accepted the platform. This should start to make users think about all the other ways that Microsoft can alter the deal going forward, especially since you cannot just sit on Windows 10 1511 for a decade like you could with Windows XP or Windows 7.
Preventing users from blocking Windows Store (and the UWP) could be seen as a step toward deprecating the “wild west” method of installing software that we're used to. You can install unsigned Win32, for now. You can sideload UWP applications that aren't certified by Microsoft, although they need to be signed by a handful of root certificates, for now. This will always be a concern when dealing with a closed platform, where society isn't allowed to just fork away from disaster, but it's good to continually remind people of what could happen if decisions are extrapolated.
It would be wrong to assume malicious intent, though -- that stuff would leak all the time. But, with sufficient tunnel-vision, we could end up with negative consequences. It could be an enterprise worth of PCs becoming useless legal liabilities overnight, or it could be policies that allow a government to ban encryption software from installing on a platform.
Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2016 - 03:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, market share, linux
We've all seen the comments about how Windows 10 has finally convinced people to switch operating systems but today we have numbers which show that some may have been true to their word. According to Netmarketshare the marketshare of Windows on desktop machines has dropped below 90% for the first time. Mac OSX holds onto 3.96% of the market but the Other category is up to 8.59%, which is the category that represents the various flavours of Linux; it holds 1.56%, as well as other non-Microsoft OSes. It may not be the year of Linux but it certainly is not Microsoft's year. You can read the calm, rational discussion over at Slashdot on this topic, it is guaranteed to provide amusement.
"Windows 7 is still the king, but it no longer holds the majority. Nine months after Windows 10's release, Windows 7 has finally fallen below 50 percent market share and Windows XP has dropped into single digits. While this is good news for Microsoft, April was actually a poor month for Windows overall, which for the first time owned less than 90 percent of the market, according to the latest figures from Net Applications."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- If the Internet of Things will be SOOO BIG why did Broadcom just quit the market? @ The Register
- Intel loses its ARM wrestling match, kicks out Atom mobe chips @ The Register
- Iron Man-Inspired ROG GT51 Gaming Desktop Revealed @ Tech ARP
- Linksys LGS116P 16-Port Business Desktop Gigabit PoE+ Switch Review @ NikKTech
- Has Mankind Gone Too Far With Drone Fishing? @ Hack a Day
- Must listen: We've found the real Bastard Operator From Hell @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2016 - 04:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft
After the release of Windows 10 version 1511, Microsoft took a few months to refactor and otherwise update the deep-down chunks of their OS. After that was all settled, they started merging features from their many teams. For the last two builds, the amount of changes ramped way up, not all of which were announced at Build conference.
These features have been merged without much bug-crushing, though. Microsoft knows this, and then talk about a “Bug Bash” event happening sometime this week. To get a feel for the state of this build's quality, though, you can check out WinBeta attempting to show off the new features. Note that some of the issues they were experiencing were actually in the known issues list, namely the crash attempting to pin Settings options, but the list is quite long.
A couple of new changes are interesting and surprising. First, long-time, multi-monitor users will like that the clock is now on all taskbars, not just the primary monitor. They acknowledge that this was driven by the gaming community, although they don't explicitly state that it's because our applications run in fullscreen mode so frequently (covering the main monitor clock). I don't exactly know why this slipped past the user experience people for so long, at least since the multi-monitor enhancements in Windows 8, but it did. It should be publicly available in July.
They will also allow desktop icons to have mini symbols (badges) attached to them. This could tell you how many unseen emails you have, whether your alarm is active, and probably many other features when it's in a publicly-accessible API. It's concerning that it's UWP-only, though. It shows that Microsoft wants to deprecate Win32 for new features, without migrating them into UWP containers, which further suggests that Microsoft intends to deprecate Win32 altogether. This is very concerning for several reasons, but I'm not going to reiterate them in this post.
The other cool feature, though, is a new interface to select between multiple sound cards. In my scenario, I have two main sound devices. When I listen to my headphones, I plug them into a USB sound card (technically a Blue Yeti). When I want to use speakers, I flip over to motherboard audio and turn on my sound system. This means that I need to go deep into the Sound preferences in the Control Panel, and it also means that some applications don't cleanly switch over (even locking up entirely). With this a front-and-center input menu of Windows 10, it should pressure developers to test whether their software can accept a sound device change on the fly, and fix accordingly.
So yeah -- those are the three features that spoke most to me. Again, the lack of innovation in native Win32 APIs is concerning. It reminds me of when browser vendors declared that certain new APIs would be artificially held back from non-secure HTTP contexts. In some cases, it makes sense -- an unsecure Web app accessing your webcam is a sign that they don't care about your privacy -- but it also means that software developers need to give up some level of their anonymity to acquire a certificate to access those features (unless offline sites are classified as secure in the user's browser, which Google Chrome does and others might too). Tangent aside, it feels like Microsoft is trying to apply the same level of pressure to push people away from bare Win32. That makes sense, they want to promote new platforms, but it also usually comes before the old one gets the guillotine.
Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2016 - 12:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
If you are in the Windows Insider program you will have a chance to check out the new build 14328 of Windows 10, which reveals many of the new features which will arrive in the so called Anniversary edition. Once again they have chosen to change the Start menu, something which has always been well received by users, though perhaps this time it will not be so bad as the idea of a customizable Rail which always displays the power button and icons the user selects may be useful.
They have also added Ink Workspace, aka Inky, which will make using a stylus in Windows 10 much easier, for those with touchscreens or tablets and a desire to draw or write by hand. There are also quite a few things which sound less welcome, such as default save folders which vary from app to app and some odd behaviour from Cortana. Read more about the new features over at The Inquirer.
"Microsoft has released Windows 10 build 14328 to "Windows Insider" previewers. The build is available for both PC and mobile, and is described by VP Gabe Aul as a "MAJOR build, packed with lots of new features and improvements"."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Carbon nanotubes light up on photonic chips @ Nanotechweb
- Dogspectus: Android ransomware is silently installing bad apps @ The Inquirer
- BlackBerry is pivoting from phones to enterprise software @ The Register
- Gmail For Android Gets Microsoft Exchange Support @ Slashdot
- Do AMD Drivers Really Deserve Such a Hostile Reception @ eTeknix
Intro and Xbox One
Introduction to Remote Streaming
The ability to play console games on the PC is certainly nothing new. A wide range of emulators have long offered PC owners access to thousands of classic games. But the recent advent of personal game streaming gives users the ability to legally enjoy current generation console games on their PCs.
Both Microsoft and Sony now offer streaming from their respective current generation consoles to the PC, but via quite different approaches. For PC owners contemplating console streaming, we set out to discover how each platform works and compares, what level of quality discerning PC gamers can expect, and what limitations and caveats console streaming brings. Read on for our comparison of Xbox One Streaming in Windows 10 and PS4 Remote Play for the PC and Mac.
Xbox One Streaming in Windows 10
Xbox One Streaming was introduced alongside the launch of Windows 10 last summer, and the feature is limited to Microsoft's latest (and last?) operating system via its built-in Xbox app. To get started, you first need to enable the Game Streaming option in your Xbox One console's settings (Settings > Preferences > Game DVR & Streaming > Allow Game Streaming to Other Devices).
Once that's done, head to your Windows 10 PC, launch the Xbox app, and sign in with the same Microsoft account you use on your Xbox One. By default, the app will offer to sign you in with the same Microsoft account you're currently using for Windows 10. If your Xbox gamertag profile is associated with a different Microsoft account, just click Microsoft account instead of your current Windows 10 account name to sign in with the correct credentials.
Note, however, that as part of Microsoft's relentless efforts to get everyone in the Virgo Supercluster to join the online Microsoft family, the Xbox app will ask those using a local Windows 10 account if they want to "sign in to this device" using the account associated with their Xbox gamertag, thereby creating a new "online" account on your Windows 10 PC tied to your Xbox account.
If that's what you want, just type your current local account's password and click Next. If, like most users, you intentionally created your local Windows 10 account and have no plans to change it, click "Sign in to just this app instead," which will allow you to continue using your local account while still having access to the Xbox app via your gamertag-associated online Microsoft account.
Once you're logged in to the Xbox app, find and click on the "Connect" button in the sidebar on the left side of the window, which will let you add your Xbox One console as a device in your Windows 10 Xbox app.
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 14, 2016 - 06:17 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, uwp, DirectX 12, dx12
At the PC Gaming Conference from last year's E3 Expo, Microsoft announced that they were looking to bring more first-party titles to Windows. They used to be one of the better PC gaming publishers, back in the Mechwarrior 4 and earlier Flight Simulator days, but they got distracted as Xbox 360 rose and Windows Vista fell.
Again, part of that is because they attempted to push users to Windows Vista and Games for Windows Live, holding back troubled titles like Halo 2: Vista and technologies like DirectX 10 from Windows XP, which drove users to Valve's then-small Steam platform. Epic Games was also a canary in the coalmine at that time, warning users that Microsoft was considering certification for Games for Windows Live, which threatened mod support “because Microsoft's afraid of what you might put into it”.
It's sometimes easy to conform history to fit a specific viewpoint, but it does sound... familiar.
Anyway, we're glad that Microsoft is bringing first-party content to the PC, and they are perfectly within their rights to structure it however they please. We are also within our rights to point out its flaws and ask for them to be corrected. Turns out that Quantum Break, like Gears of War before it, has some severe performance issues. Let's be clear, these will likely be fixed, and I'm glad that Microsoft didn't artificially delay the PC version to give the console an exclusive window. Also, had they delayed the PC version until it was fixed, we wouldn't have known whether it needed the time.
Still, the game apparently has issues with a 50 FPS top-end cap, on top of pacing-based stutters. One concern that I have is, because DigitalFoundry is a European publication, perhaps the 50Hz issue might be caused by their port being based on a PAL version of the game??? Despite suggesting it, I would be shocked if that were the case, but I'm just trying to figure out why anyone would create a ceiling at that specific interval. They are also seeing NVIDIA's graphics drivers frequently crash, which probably means that some areas of their DirectX 12 support are not quite what the game expects. Again, that is solvable by drivers.
It's been a shaky start for both DirectX 12 and the Windows 10 UWP platform. We'll need to keep waiting and see what happens going forward. I hope this doesn't discourage Microsoft too much, but also that they robustly fix the problems we're discussing.