Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 03:40 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 12:44 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The Windows 10 future: Imagine a boot stamping on an upgrade treadmill forever @ The Register
- DIY USB Type C @ Hack a Day
- Updategate: Microsoft said to be auto-creating Skype accounts in Windows 10 @ The Inquirer
- IBM triples the capacity of PCM memory, and that's a big deal @ The Inquirer
- Firefox Tops Microsoft Browser Market Share For First Time @ Slashdot
- Symantec antivirus bug allows utter exploitation of memory @ The Registe
- A million machines enslaved by MitM Google ad fraud botnet @ The Register
- Microsoft To License Nokia Brand To Foxconn, Says Report @ Slashdot
- Arozzi Enzo Black Gaming Chair Review @ NikKTech
- Error 56: Apple's iOS 9.3.2 update is borking iPad Pro tablets @ The Inquirer
- 5 Reasons To Only Use NAS-Optimised Drives In Your NAS @ Tech ARP
- ZFS comes to Debian, thanks to licensing workaround @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2016 - 01:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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 Outlook.com 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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- NVMdurance extends flash life tenfold @ The Register
- Nest releases open source version of Thread IoT networking protocol @ The Inquirer
- Chipzilla veteran joins IBM's OpenPOWER @ The Register
- TSMC board approves US$4.1 billion for capacity expansion @ DigiTimes
- Sales Of PCs, Laptops, Tablets Continue to Fall, Hit Lowest Point Since 2011 @ Slashdot
- Marc Benioff apologizes as Salesforce NA14 instance goes TITSUP @ The Register
- This is what a root debug backdoor in a Linux kernel looks like @ The Register
- A quarter of Windows users are using an outdated browser called Internet Explorer @ The Inquirer
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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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
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.