Windows 10 Build 10240 End of Life on March 26th

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Microsoft will be ending support for Windows 10 build 10240 on March 26th (via Mary Jo Foley), after a year and eight months since it launched in July 2015. For our home readers, this will not be too much of a concern, as most of us are on the Anniversary Update (or another OS entirely). Also, Microsoft supported it longer than some hardware vendors, such as NVIDIA, who requires a later build for PCs with a Pascal-based GPU.

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Rippin' off the band-aid.

Again, these new builds are free from Microsoft, so, from a financial standpoint, there’s little reason to not update if your machine can support it. What it does show, however, is how short of a time we have between a bad decision being implemented and a bad decision being forced upon all Windows PCs. If a change upsets you, or feels like it could be used anti-competitively now or in the future, don’t be shy to raise the concern when it appears. You will only have a year or two before it can no longer be avoided... at most... even if you're a business. In most cases, you'll only have a handful of months.

Source: Microsoft

Windows Insiders Receive Several New Features Post-Holiday

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Now that the holidays are over, software developers are going back to work. It seems like ones at Microsoft had several big changes stashed away, waiting to release when they would be around to support them in the new year. Over the last two weeks, we received three different builds, each with several significant changes. They seem to be tapering off, though, which would make sense if they’re merging through their backlog from 2016.

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One feature that might be lauded by our readers is the ability to temporarily pause updates. This one came in on build 15002, and it gives users an option to delay any update that will cause a restart for up to 35 days. Unfortunately for some, this will be restricted to Windows 10 Pro and above, because Microsoft still does not trust that Windows 10 Home users will not ignore updates then complain about how insecure Windows is when a 9-month-old worm hits them. Instead, from Home users, they are pushing a change to “Active Hours”, allowing it to be extended into an 18-hour window. Sorry if you have a 24-hour render or something!

Moving on, some users will appreciate the lunar calendar being added to the taskbar calendar, alongside the conventional, Gregorian one. You would think that this localization feature should have been implemented years ago, but, with the Creator’s Update, affected users will have a more functional, built-in calendar.

Another interesting feature, which came out in the most recent build, 15014, is the power mode slider attached to the battery icon. Rather than having it buried in the advanced power settings, Microsoft is allowing users to “slide right” when they need things like higher CPU power states. In the current build, the UI isn’t hooked up to the back-end yet, because they’re still discussing (with OEMs) what power settings the slider options should correspond to.

There are also a lot of enhancements for Edge, of course, as all web browsers are still undergoing a rapid release schedule. A lot of it involves tab management, such as stashing tabs for later (like a more transient bookmark) and sharing them to other applications.

The Windows 10 Creators Update (1703) is expected for April.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Confirms Windows 10 Creators Update Game Mode

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2017 - 07:17 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, pc gaming

A few weeks ago, Windows Insiders noticed GameMode.dll was added to the Windows 10 preview builds. It was speculated by Windows Central, based on their anonymous sources, that it would allow the user to increase performance for games. Now, in an Xbox blog post, Mike Ybarra of Microsoft confirmed the existence of this feature. It will arrive with the Creators Update and, yes, it is intended to “optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming”.

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That’s about all of the detail that is mentioned explicitly in the blog post. It does make a passing reference to “Windows Insiders will start seeing some of the visual elements for Game Mode this week, with the feature being fully operational in builds shortly thereafter”. While we don’t need to wait too long to actually find out, this snippet suggests that user involvement will be required. This might be a launcher or something else entirely.

On his Twitter, he also added that Game Mode will work for both Win32 and UWP games. Assuming this isn’t a mistake, and it’s stated quite bluntly albeit on Twitter, it looks likely that Game Mode’s UI won’t be an extension of Windows Store and it will work for any game. It will probably reside elsewhere, like an Xbox App or something, but we don’t really know yet.

The Windows 10 Creators Update arrives this spring. While its version number is 1703, rumors have it set for an April release date.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft looking to lower licensing costs to compete with Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2017 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, licensing

Microsoft has confirmed that they will reduce the cost of Windows 10 volume licenses associated with 14.1" and smaller laptops, which is intended to help their partners to compete against Chromebooks.  We have seen low cost Chromebooks launched by Lenovo, Acer, Asustek Computer, Dell and Samsung, all of which have taken market share from models running Windows as there are no associated licensing fees.  Microsoft's Volume Licensing pricing is extremely variable, screen size and relative power of the machine changing pricing, as well as the geographic location it will be sold and the size of the manufactures account.  This means we do not know the exact price reduction, only that it will be lowered.  According to what DigiTimes have found, you can expect to see this change start on March 1st.

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"Microsoft has settled with notebook vendors on Windows 10 licensing rates for models to be launched in 2017, with costs for under 14.1-inch low-cost models lowered from 2016, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

Pay closer attention Microsoft; this is the year of RGB, not Neon!

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, project neon

Remember Aero Glass? Remember anyone that used it?  Well, it will be back in Redstone 3, the Windows 10 update after the upcoming update, or at least that is what The Inquirer has been told.  The headlines screaming that this is whole new Windows are a little far fetched, this is a work in progress GUI update, which one person describe as looking similar to the old Windows 8 mobile interface.  We don't have much more detail apart from the fact that once again Microsoft will be messing with the way their OS looks, again.  It can't always be a disaster, can it?

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"Project Neon, the UI upgrade for Windows 10 has had its first leak courtesy of MSPowerUser, and it's absolutely gorgeous, even if you're a Windows cynic. Probably because it looks more like Google's Material Design for Android than ever."

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Source: The Inquirer

Windows 10 "Game Mode" Library Spotted

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2016 - 02:19 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A new version of Windows 10 was leaked, and it apparently contains a file called “gamemode.dll”. Some people are speculating that this could be API hooks for applications to request higher priority with CPU and GPU resources, increasing performance. Microsoft gave a "no comment" to PC Gamer about the issue, but Windows Central cites anonymous sources claiming that this is the case, and it is either related or analogous to how the Xbox One multitasks.

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While I believe the DLL exists, of course, I’m skeptical about its function -- but I would bet that it’s true (given how sure everyone seems to be). Also, I’ve seen GPGPU compute times fluctuate wildly by leaving other windows open, so there is probably some overhead that the OS can reduce. It just seems weird that this has come out of nowhere.

We’ll probably find out soon, because the Creators Update (Windows 10 1703) is coming out in a few months. Whatever this DLL is, it seems targeted at that feature update.

You can also check out other features of the leaked 14997 build, listed by Paul Thurrott.

Microsoft finally reaches step 1; admission

Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2016 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, windows 10

Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, was on Windows Weekly recently and admitted, for the first time, that Microsoft may have gone a bit too far during their "Get Windows 10" extravaganza.  This shocking revelation supposedly occurred a short while after they released the version in which the red X in the popup window broke with their GUI's standard and no longer closed the window and cancelled the installation.  According to Slashdot this is the first time Microsoft have admitted to the use of excessive rendition techniques on Windows 7 and 8 users.

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"It's no secret that Microsoft has been aggressively pushing Windows 10 to users. Over the past year and a half, we have seen users complain about Windows 10 automatically getting downloaded to their computer, and in some cases, getting installed on its own as well. The automatic download irked many users who were on limited or slow data plans, or didn't want to spend gigabytes of data on Windows 10."

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Source: Slashdot

Qualcomm and Microsoft bring full Windows 10 to Snapdragon devices

Subject: Mobile | December 7, 2016 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, windows 10, snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, arm

At the WinHEC developer conference in China today, Qualcomm and Microsoft have announced a partnership to enable a full Windows 10 computing environment on systems based on the next-generation of Snapdragon processors in the second half of 2017. The importance of this announcement can’t be overstated – it marks another attempt for Microsoft to enter the non-x86 market with mobile devices (think tablets and notebooks, less smartphones).

If you remember the first attempt at Windows on ARM, Windows RT, it’s failure was a result of a split software base: some applications could work between Windows RT and Windows 8 while most could not. It likely helped in the demise of that initiative that Windows 8 was overall very poorly received and that the overzealous box-style interface just wasn’t a hit with users. Major players like NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Samsung and many different OEMs were all caught up in the mess, making it very unlikely that Microsoft would undertake this again without a surefire win.

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Though details are light today, the success of this depends on software compatibility. Microsoft and Qualcomm claim that Windows 10 on mobile devices will bring “the scale of the mobile ecosystem with an unparalleled pace of innovation to address consumers’ growing need to be always on and always connected.” Modems and high performance SoCs for mobile systems is the realm of Qualcomm and form factors using these components as the base could be a solid source of innovation. The press release states as much, saying this partnership will “enable hardware makers to develop new and improved consumer products including handsets, tablets, PCs, head mounted displays, and more.”

Software is the silver bullet though.

New Windows 10 devices powered by Snapdragon supports all aspects of Microsoft’s latest operating system including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Edge browser, Windows 10 gaming titles like Crysis 2 and World of Tanks, Windows Hello, and touchscreen features like Windows Pen. It also offers support for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and Win32 apps through emulation, providing users with a wide selection of full featured applications.

Based on what I have learned, the native software experience will come with UWP applications. UWP is Microsoft’s attempt to merge the software base for different platforms, and though it has been slow, adoption by developers and users has been increasing. If it’s true that everything being sold in the Microsoft app store today will be compatible with the ARM architecture processors in the Snapdragon SoC, then I think this leaves the door open for a wider adoption by an otherwise discerning audience.

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Are you ready to hit that start button on your Snapdragon computer?

The emulation for ALL other Win32 (and x64) applications is critical as well. Being able to run the code you are used to running on an x86-based notebook will give users flexibility to migrate and the ability to depend on Qualcomm-based Windows 10 machine for work and for play. With emulation comes a performance hit – but how much of one has yet to be seen or discussed. The rumors have been circulating recently that ARM compatibility was coming to Windows 10 with the Redstone 3 update, and the timing of “late 2017” matches up perfectly with the announcement today.

While notebooks and convertibles are likely on the table for this platform, it’s the new form factors that should excite you. Microsoft’s Terry Myserson expects Qualcomm and Windows to bring “a range of thin, light, power-efficient and always-connected devices, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform, is the next step in delivering the innovations our customers love.” Cristiano Amon, President at Qualcomm Technologies thinks they can provide “advanced mobile computing features, including Gigabit LTE connectivity, advanced multimedia support, machine learning and superior hardware security features, all while supporting thin, fan-less designs and long battery life.”

This partnership will lead to more than just new consumer products though, reaching into the enterprise markets with the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform addressing markets ranging from “mobility to cloud computing.”

Full press release after the break!

Source: Qualcomm

Friends don't let friends perform unattended updates ... or Bitlocker be broken

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2016 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: bitlocker, microsoft, windows 10, security, hack

Is Bitlocker cramping your voyeuristic cravings and preventing you from snooping on your loved ones or strangers?  Assuming you do not instead seek medical help for your problem, all you need to do is wait for Windows to perform a version update and for the user to get bored and walk away.  Hop onto their machine and press SHIFT+F10 to get a command prompt which will be running at root privileges and take advantage of the fact that Windows disables Bitlocker while installing an updated version of Windows.  This will not work for all updates, it needs to be a major OS update such as the move to Anniversary Edition which changes the version of Windows installed on the machine.

Microsoft is working on a fix, in the meantime sticking with Windows Long Term Service Branch or slighly modifying how updates are pushed via WSUS or SCCM will ensure this vulnerability cannot be leveraged.  You can also take the simple measure of sticking around when major updates occur.  Pop over to Slashdot for more information.

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"This [update procedure] has a feature for troubleshooting that allows you to press SHIFT + F10 to get a Command Prompt," Laiho writes on his blog. "The real issue here is the Elevation of Privilege that takes a non-admin to SYSTEM (the root of Windows) even on a BitLocker (Microsoft's hard disk encryption) protected machine." Laiho informed Microsoft of the issue and the company is apparently working on a fix."

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Source: Slashdot

Rumor: Microsoft Working on x86 Emulation for ARM64

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: x86, windows 10, microsoft, arm

According to Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, Microsoft is working on emulating the x86 instruction set on ARM64. Her sources further claim that this is intended to be a Windows 10 feature that is targeting Redstone 3, which is the feature update expected in late 2017 (after the upcoming Creators Update in early 2017). Of course, Microsoft will not comment on this rumor. Mary Jo Foley is quite good at holding out on publishing until she gets multiple, independent sources, though. Still, projects slip, pivot, and outright die all of the time, even if the information was true at one point.

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Media Center is still dead, though.

So, while keeping in mind that this might not be true, and, even if it is, it could change: let’s think.

The current speculation is that this might be aimed at enterprise customers, including a potential partnership with HP and Qualcomm. This makes sense for a few reasons, especially when you combine it with Microsoft and Samsung’s recent efforts to port .NET Core to ARM. Combining rumors like this might be akin to smashing two rocks together, but you never know if it’ll spark something. Anyway, you would expect these sorts of apps could jump architectures fairly well, because they’re probably not real-time, form-based applications. You might be able to get a comfortable enough user experience, even with the inherent overhead of translating individual instructions.

Another possibility is that Microsoft hasn’t given up on the Windows 8 / Windows RT vision.

Back in that era, the whole OS seemed designed to push users toward their new platform, Metro. The desktop was an app, and that app contained all of the Win32 bits, isolating them from the rest of the PC and surrounding that tile with everything WinRT. The new platform was seductive for Microsoft in a few ways. First, it was more secure, and people considered Windows the operating system that’s plagued with malware. Second, it let them assert control over their apps, like Apple does with their App Store. At the time, they even demanded that third-party web browsers be nothing more than re-skins of Internet Explorer. Firefox? Don’t even think about bringing Gecko in here. It’s Trident or bust.

Say what you like about those first two points, I know I have, and often disapprovingly from an art enthusiast standpoint, but there was a third one that also interested Microsoft:

Hardware independence.

The WinRT runtime, when it was first unveiled, was pretty much designed in a way that Microsoft could swap out everything underneath it if they wanted to jump ship and move to a new architecture. At the time, almost a decade ago, Intel wasn’t competitive against ARM in the mobile space. This kept Windows applications, and Microsoft, watching the rest of the world sail away.

But supporting both ARM and x86 isn’t good enough. What if IBM wins next time? Or a completely different instruction set? If everything calls an API that can be uprooted and transplanted elsewhere? There will never need to be this mobile concern again.

But then we have this whole decades of stuff that already exists problem. While I don’t like the frog boil analogy, it could be Microsoft’s attempt to uproot enough x86-locked content that people can accept UWP. I’m not sure that will work out, especially since we rely upon real-time software that is not accepting Windows Store, but it might be their goal.

What do you all think?

Source: ZDNet