It's a Tile fire, another reason to distrust your new Start Menu

Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2019 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows 10, tiles, security, microsoft

*** Update from April 18th, 11:56
Microsoft has now deleted the nameserver record and we no longer control the subdomain. We still haven't received a reply from Microsoft. ***

If you like the animated Live Tiles which offer RSS type feed or even the animated ones that look fancy, there is something you should know.  The domain which provides the content to those tiles is no longer owned by Microsoft, though thankfully a security researcher was quick to notice this and is now hosting the site on his own Azure instance.  Predictably there is a lot of traffic asking for XML file updates to be able to display these feeds and according to the quote on Slashdot, he will not continue to sinkhole requests as it is running up his costs.

At this time Microsoft has not responded, so you might want to seriously consider removing any Live Tiles from your Win8/10 Start menu.

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"The subdomain (notifications.buildmypinnedsite.com) is currently under the control of Hanno Bock, a security researcher and journalist for German tech news site Golem.de. The subdomain was part of the buildmypinnedsite.com service that Microsoft set up with the launch of Windows 8, and more specifically to allow websites to show live updates inside users' Start pages and menus."

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Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Changes Course on Forced Windows 10 Feature Updates

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2019 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: windows update, windows 10, updates, OS, microsoft, auto update

The era of forced Windows Update for Windows 10 users is coming to an end. In a surprise move by Microsoft today it was announced that - at least for feature updates - users will be given an "update available" notification, allowing some choice as to when such an update is actually installed.

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"In previous Windows 10 feature update rollouts, the update installation was automatically initiated on a device once our data gave us confidence that device would have a great update experience.  Beginning with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, users will be more in control of initiating the feature OS update.  We will provide notification that an update is available and recommended based on our data, but it will be largely up to the user to initiate when the update occurs."

In a post entitled "Improving the Windows 10 update experience with control, quality and transparency" by Mike Fortin (Corporate VP, Windows), Microsoft's stance on the update process seems to have shifted at least partially back to the Windows 8.1 (and prior) era, wherein users actually had the option of when to download and install the updates of their choice. While not going quite that far the post does state that "all customers will now have the ability to explicitly choose if they want to update their device when they 'check for updates' or to pause updates for up to 35 days". The exception will be devices nearing end of service, at which point "Windows update will continue to automatically initiate a feature update".

The full post from Microsoft is available at the source link.

Source: Microsoft

Nice OS you have there; shame if something happened to it

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2019 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft, EoL

It does have to be said that running a 10 year old Microsoft OS might not be the wisest decision; though it is better than running one 18 years old.  However, as we learned in 2017 many businesses are not even close to adopting Windows 10 on the majority of their systems.  There are numerous reasons for that delay, from licensing through security to privacy not to mention the interface is different enough to upset many executive level users. 

That hasn't stopped Microsoft from once again displaying splash screens on Windows 7 machines, as KB4493132 rolls out to those with automatic updates enabled.  Thankfully it does not attempt to fool you into updating by changing the way they close window button works but then again, the update is no longer free.  The Inquirer, as you might expect, is as enthused about this as most users.

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"HERE WE GO AGAIN. Two years on from Updategate, Microsoft is back to posting nag screens on its outgoing operating system."

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Source: The Inquirer

Windows 10 KB4482887 Update Causes Performance Issues

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2019 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, retpoline

Microsoft has just acknowledged a graphics and mouse input performance issue with their March 1st, 2019 update for Windows 10. The “Known Issues” section of the update’s documentation, KB4482887, claims that users “may notice graphics and mouse performance degradation with desktop gaming when playing certain games, such as Destiny 2”.

Microsoft is working on a patch for the patch. For now, affected users must remove KB4482887.

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While the update, which brings Windows 10 up to build 17763.348, contains several fixes, one that stands out is the addition of Retpoline for high-performance Spectre 2 mitigation. (Check out Tim's post on it.) It was a bit of a surprise when this update was released for the Windows 10 October 2018 update (rather than waiting a month until the April 2019 update). Further, even though it is added with the update, it is disabled by default and must be activated with a registry key. If this was the offending issue, then I would expect a registry flag to simply disable it as opposed to telling users to remove the entire update.

Of course, the cynic in me would find it hilarious if the offending branch/commit was the one responsible for “Updates time zone information for Chile” or “Addresses an issue that may prevent Internet Explorer from loading images that have a backslash (\) in their relative source path”. Something small and innocuous sounding.

Thankfully, I did not install the update, so I flipped Windows Update into “Paused” mode. (I am running Windows 10 Pro.) It’s probably a good idea to avoid this patch for a bit.

Source: Microsoft

Skip Ahead? Skip Way Ahead. Windows 10 20H1 Test Build

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2019 - 03:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft has pushed a test build for Windows 10 20H1, which is scheduled to be publicly released around April 2020. For context, we are currently on Windows 10 18H2 and Windows 10 19H1 is expected to ship in a couple of months (~April 2019).

Microsoft still plans on shipping Windows 10 19H2 around October 2019.

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This decision was met with snark from some of the more prominent reporters on Microsoft and Windows. One issue that was raised is how the rings will be handled going forward. Currently, there does not exist a branch that contains 19H2. It seems likely that “Skip Ahead” will never drop back to 19H2, especially since rolling back from a preview build is generally unsupported. Will Microsoft continue to have “Skip Ahead” be two builds out, “Fast” be one build out, “Slow” be at most one build out, and “Release Preview” be incremental on the current build? Or will “Skip Ahead” kind-of roll back to “Fast” once the latter catches up and they no longer need to have a feature that requires an abnormally long testing branch?

As for the changes? Not a whole lot. One that stands out is a seemingly innocuous “updating the name of the Windows Light them to be Windows (light)”. This sort-of suggests themes that will not be Windows. I could see some sort of interface or theming update taking an abnormally long time… although I somewhat doubt that is the mystery big feature.

On the other hand, it must be something that Microsoft wants actively tested. Whether that’s automated (via telemetry on a wide array of computers) or through direct feedback from their users will need to be seen.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Separates Cortana and Search in Latest Insider Build

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2019 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, windows 10, search, microsoft, cortana, build 18317

In their announcement of the latest Windows 10 insider preview build (18317) Microsoft has revealed their separation of Cortana from Search. The news was posted on the Windows Blogs site this morning:

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Yes, this is Microsoft's official graphic from the announcement

"Going forward, we’ll be decoupling Search and Cortana in the taskbar. This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases. Some Insiders have had this update for a few weeks now, and we appreciate all the feedback we’ve received about it so far! For those new to this update, when it rolls out to you, you’ll find clicking the search box in the taskbar now launches our experience focused on giving you the best in house search experience and clicking the Cortana icon will launch you straight into our voice-first digital assistant experience.

Other available Search and Cortana settings have also now been split between the two, along with the familiar group policies."

Whether or not this change means that Cortana can be removed entirely without removing Search remains to be seen, though the known processes for completely disabling/removing Cortana are currently more involved than just unchecking a box in settings, to say the least.

Source: Microsoft

Cortana shall babble about cat videos no more!

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2019 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, cortana

The most widely used OS on the planet has finally received an upgrade worth getting excited over.  Anyone who spends time imaging machines is all to familiar with the voice of Cortana emanating from a fresh machine, to the point where the dive for the mute button is reflexive and doesn't require any thought.  Until today, there was no way to stop the inane advice about logins and WiFi but now, for non-Home versions of Windows 10, Cortana will be gagged by default during the setup process.

For those wondering why this is such a wonderful thing; check out the video at The Inquirer and taste the pain.

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"Actually, it's not quite as simple as that. Cortana will only be gagged if you're installing Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or Education - the voice assistant is still its perky, annoying self on Home installations."

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Source: The Inquirer

Windows Sandbox Virtual Environment Coming to Windows 10 in 2019

Subject: General Tech | December 19, 2018 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, windows 10, windows, VM, virtual machine, microsoft, build 18305

Windows Sandbox is a new virtual machine environment coming to Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise versions in 2019, which will be available as an optional component within Windows. Microsoft details the upcoming feature in a blog post published yesterday, describing it as "a new lightweight desktop environment tailored for safely running applications in isolation".

Windows Sandbox Screenshot.jpg

"How many times have you downloaded an executable file, but were afraid to run it? Have you ever been in a situation which required a clean installation of Windows, but didn’t want to set up a virtual machine?

At Microsoft we regularly encounter these situations, so we developed Windows Sandbox: an isolated, temporary, desktop environment where you can run untrusted software without the fear of lasting impact to your PC. Any software installed in Windows Sandbox stays only in the sandbox and cannot affect your host. Once Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted."

Microsoft lists these features for Windows Sandbox, outlining the secure and non-persistent "disposable" nature of the environment:

  • Part of Windows – everything required for this feature ships with Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise. No need to download a VHD!
  • Pristine – every time Windows Sandbox runs, it’s as clean as a brand-new installation of Windows
  • Disposable – nothing persists on the device; everything is discarded after you close the application
  • Secure – uses hardware-based virtualization for kernel isolation, which relies on the Microsoft’s hypervisor to run a separate kernel which isolates Windows Sandbox from the host
  • Efficient – uses integrated kernel scheduler, smart memory management, and virtual GPU

Optional Windows Features Dialog Box.png

The environment requires a sytem with an AMD64 architecture running Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise build 18305 or later, with the rather slim minimum requirements of just 4GB of memory, 2 CPU cores, and 1 GB of free space (with 8GB RAM, 4 cores, and SSD storage recommended). 

The full blog post goes into further detail with a full "under the hood" look at Windows Sandbox, which among other things offers graphics hardware acceleration "with Windows dynamically allocating graphics resources where they are needed across the host and guest".

As to availability, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley had reported that while the feature was originally "expected to come to Windows 10 19H1 early next year" it could be available to Insider tester as early as this week with Build 18301 of Windows 10 - but this 18301 and earlier 18292 build referenced in Foley's post have apparently been removed from the Microsoft blog post, which now exclusively lists Build 18305.

Source: Microsoft

Incoming friendly fire! Microsoft is launching more patches!!!

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2018 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: patch, terror, microsoft, windows 10

The seemingly endless barrage of patches attempting to patch the issue the previous patches attempt to patch after needing a patch to patch the patch ... continues ad nauseam.  If you are running Server 2016 or Windows 10 1709 or newer then you are about to receive a gift you probably don't want; though one fix in Server 2016 is worth it as it fixes something that left many technically inclined people, including The Register, scratching their heads.

You should consider a setting a shortcut to "About your PC" to keep tabs on your Windows version as Win10 has made this necessary for the first time.  Case and point, Windows 10 1703 is no longer receiving updates unless you are running Enterprise or Education versions, so unless you install one of the roll ups, you ain't even getting basic security updates!

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"Tucked innocuously among a swathe of fixes ranging from dealing with Russian time zone changes to fixing wobbly Hyper-V servers is the text: "Addresses an issue in File Explorer that sometimes deletes the permissions of a shared parent folder when you delete the shared child folder."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #523 - RX 590, 860 QVO, Drobo 8D

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2018 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: Z390, windows 10, Samsung, rx 590, podcast, gigabyte, EVGA SuperNOVA, evga, ECS, drobo, amd, 860 QVO

PC Perspective Podcast #523 - 11/28/18

Our podcast this week features reviews for the new AMD Radeon RX 590, Drobo 8D, the Samsung 860 QVO, a new fanless mini PC, 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: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Jim Tanous, Allyn Malventano, Sebastian Peak, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 2:15:34

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. For a limited time, get 3 months of Audible for just $6.95 a month:  audible.com/PCPER or text PCPER to 500500.
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Picks of the Week:
    1. Jeremy: It’s better than bad, it’s Alexa on Big Mouth Billy Bass
    2. Allyn: Ring Alarm deals on Amazon (8 piece kit cheaper than 5 piece kit)
  5. Closing/Outro