Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2017 - 11:54 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows insider, Windows Game Mode, windows 10, pc gaming, creators update, beta
Last month Microsoft confirmed that a new "Game Mode" would be part of the upcoming Windows 10 Creator's Update planned for a spring release ("early 2017"). Microsoft has recently started rolling out the Game Mode to its beta testers in the latest Windows Insider preview build (for those on the fast track anyway, I am currently on the slow ring and do not have Game Mode yet). Now that it is rolled out in preview form, gamers have naturally started benchmarking it, and PC Games News has posted an article on their testing of the new feature and their findings on two Win32 and one UWP game. Not to spoil the results, but at this point Game Mode does not appear to offer anything and can even result in less frames per second with it turned on with its only saving grace being that in some situations it does offer increased performance when the Game DVR feature is also being used to record gameplay. They tested both a NVIDIA GTX 1060 and an AMD RX 480, and Game Mode in it's current preview software on a preview OS appears to have more benefits for NVIDIA while the AMD card PC Games News tested mostly just did it's thing regardless of whether Game Mode was turned on or off (heh, not necessarily a bad thing).
With Game Mode now rolling out to Windows Insiders, there is more information on how Microsoft plans to implement it. Rather than hiding it in the Xbox app, Microsoft has thankfully put it in the main settings app under the Gaming category and users access it by bringing up a Game Bar menu in-game for those games that support it (PC Games News noted Doom and GTA V did not work). Game Mode is an OS-level feature that will dedicate a certain amount of CPU threads to the game when it is turned on and leaves the remaining threads to be used by background processes (which themselves are reportedly minimized). Currently, this seems to work better with multi-threaded games and older games that were coded to only use one or two threads may not see any benefit in turning Game Mode on (and it may actually result in lower FPS). To Microsoft's credit, they are not over promising with Game Mode and note that it should be good for around 2% better performance when enabled with Game Mode having a bigger impact on UWP titles.
I encourage you to check out the PC Games News article where they have their benchmark results presented in a number of bar graphs. Most of the tests saw little to no benefit from using Game Mode, but not a negative effect. Some games like Hitman saw a 6% increase in average frames per second on the GTX 1060. On the other side of things, Forza Horizon 3 (ironically, a UWP game) performance actually drops when Game Mode is turned on to the tune of 13% to 23% less FPS with the RX 480 and 9% to 15% less with the GTX 1060. As far as Tomb Raider, things are more in the middle and things stay the same or get slightly better minimum frames per second when Game Mode and Game DVR are both turned on (though oddly there is a result in there that shows a performance drop with Game Mode on and Game DVR off).
It ia also worth noting that overall, the trend seems to be that Game Mode is going to be most beneficial at increasing the minimum frame rates on games with the Game DVR feature is being used moreso than getting overall maximum or average FPS out of a game. The biggest hurdle is going to be game compatiblity, especially for older games, and Microsoft tweaking things so that at worst Game Mode won't tank performance (like it currently does with Hitman minimum frame rates when Game Mode is on but DVR is off) and things will stay the same as if Game Mode was not on at all and at best gamers will get slightly smoother gameplay.
Right now Game Mode is not compelling, but it is still a work in progress and if Microsoft can get Game Mode right it could be a useful addition (and incentive to upgrade to Windows 10 is probably why they are interested in pursuing this feature) and could come in handy especially on gaming laptops! I am not writing off the feature yet, and neither should you, but I do hope that compatibility is improved and the performance hits are reduced or eliminated when it is enabled. My guess is that the games that will work well with Game Mode are going to be almost all newer games and especially games that are developed post Creator's Update final release with Game Mode in mind.
Hopefully we can use our frame rating on the final product to see how well it truly works as far as user experience and smooth gameplay. What are your thoughts on Windows 10's Game Mode?
Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2017 - 01:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: apple, wine, linux, windows 10, mac
So much for your excuses, if you have sworn that you are abandoning Microsoft because of Windows 10 then start migrating to Mac or Linux and shrink their market share. Wine 2.0 just dropped, allowing you to continue to use your Windows programs and play your games on Mac or Linux. Shader Model 4 and 5 support has been improved, DX9, Direct3D 10 and Direct3D 11 all are improved or added for your visual enjoyment. If you want to make a statement to Microsoft then hit them where it hurts and head over to Slashdot to start your journey onto a competitors OS.
"It's finally here! After so many months of development and hard work, during which over 6,600 bugs have been patched, the Wine project is happy to announce today, January 24, 2017, the general availability of Wine 2.0. Wine 2.0 is the biggest and most complete version of the open-source software project that allows Linux and macOS users to run applications and games designed only for Microsoft Windows operating systems."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Chrome To Introduce Timer To Throttle Background Pages @ Slashdot
- Penguins force-fed root: Cruel security flaw found in systemd v228 @ The Register
- Furby Rickroll demo: What fresh hell is this? @ The Register
- Hello, This Is Yahoo Mail Security, This Is Not A Scam… @ Techgage
Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 08:42 PM | Scott Michaud
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. (Update: I haven't been able to find out whether AMD supports 10240 or not, and it's really a small point for home users anyway. The point was to show that users are heavily intended to be on the latest version.)
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.
Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 06:27 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2017 - 07:17 PM | Scott Michaud
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”.
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.
Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2017 - 02:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- At Last, An Open Source Electric Vehicle From A Major Manufacturer @ Hack a Day
- It's not just your browser: Your machine can be fingerprinted easily @ The Register
- Everything wrong with IoT (and how to fix it) – according to Uncle Sam @ The Register
- Chrome is Getting the Ability To Play FLAC @ Slashdot
- Microsoft's New Windows 10 Game Mode Will Maximize Gaming Performance @ Slashdot
- Nintendo Switch for £280? They must be joking. Here's why it's not going to sell @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft cans pay-as-you-go Azure for new MPSA licensees @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 01:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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?
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Here's a world-exclusive first look at Gigabyte's AM4 mobos @ The Tech Report
- Microsoft Plans Big Reorganization Of Partner and Services Groups Starting Feb 1 @ Slashdot
- Norway To Become First Country To Switch Off FM Radio @ Slashdot
- Hands On With The First Open Source Microcontroller @ Hack a Day
- Google's January Android patch packet tackles Qualcomm and Linux vulnerabilities @ The Inquirer
- Windows PC spy nasty dormant for three years, mutates and resurfaces @ The Register
- 2016 – the year 3D XPoint came down to earth from Planet Hype @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2016 - 02:19 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2016 - 12:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Rising flash demand looks non-volatile. Time to build a fab @ The Register
- Windows 10 nags, Dirty Cow, Microsoft's Linux man love: The Reg's big ones for 2016 @ The Register
- Steam Fined $3 Million For Refusing Refunds @ Slashdot
Subject: Mobile | December 7, 2016 - 10:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
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.
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.
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.”