Archive for the ‘Windows 10’ Category
Earlier today, we wrote that Microsoft was going to add some big new features to the Windows Subsystem for Linux, including native support for Docker containers. It turns out that that ain't the half of it.
The current Windows Subsystem for Linux uses a Microsoft-authored kernel component that provided the same kernel API as the Linux kernel but written from scratch by Microsoft. Essentially, it translated from Linux APIs to Windows NT kernel APIs. That worked pretty well, but the current subsystem had a few shortcomings: there was no ability to use Linux drivers, in particular file system drivers. Its file system performance, layered on top of Windows' own NTFS, was often 20 times slower than a real Linux kernel. It was also a relatively old version of the kernel; it offered approximately the set of APIs that Linux 4.4 did, and that was released in 2016. Some APIs aren't implemented at all, and others are only partially implemented to meet the needs of specific applications.
All is changing with Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. Instead of emulating the Linux kernel APIs on the NT kernel, WSL 2 is going to run a full Linux kernel in a lightweight virtual machine. This kernel will be trimmed down and tailored to this particular use case, with stripped-down hardware support (since it will defer to the host Windows OS for that) and faster booting.
Details are currently scarce, but Microsoft has announced some big changes coming to its command-line interface. In Windows 10, Microsoft has been working to make the Windows command-line experience vastly improved, making it work much more like Unix command-line environments. But a couple of issues are still waiting to be fixed: people want tabs in their command-line, and they want support for emoji.
Coming in June, Windows Terminal will bring both of these. It sounds as if Windows Terminal will be able to replace the existing conhost console (the Windows component that's responsible for drawing command-line windows) with its limited feature set, ensuring that the new features are available to anything and everything that uses the command-line, including the traditional Windows NT cmd.exe but also including PowerShell and the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
Windows Subsystem for Linux is also in line for some big improvements. Also coming in June, Microsoft intends to add full support for running containerized applications using Docker on WSL. This has been a much-requested piece of compatibility that developers have wanted in WSL.
While it's not officially out yet, the Windows 10 May 2019 update is available to Windows Insiders on the Release Preview distribution channel (and also to MSDN subscribers). So anyone who wants to get a head start on the next major iteration of Windows 10 can do so right now—unless they have USB storage connected to their PC.
Because of an issue that's frankly remarkable, Microsoft is blocking the update for anyone using USB storage or SD storage. That is to say: if you have a USB hard disk or thumb drive, or an SD card in an SD card reader, the update won't install. Perhaps more strangely, this is only the case if you're currently running version 1803 or 1809; upgrading from 1709 or 1703 (both of which are still supported, at least for Enterprise and Education users) means everything is, apparently, fine.
The reason for blocking the update is that it appears to be prone to shuffling the drive letters assigned to USB and SD storage devices. In other words, while your USB drive might show up as "D:" now, it could end up getting renamed to "E:" after upgrading to 1903. Fortunately, there is a straightforward to workaround: unplug the drives and remove the memory card, and the installation will proceed normally. You can then plug them back in after it's finished.
Long, long ago, Microsoft quietly announced that it was going to remove the venerable mspaint.exe from Windows 10. The app was listed as deprecated, indicating intent to remove it in a future Windows 10 update, and the app itself was even updated to warn users that it was going to be removed from Windows in a future release.
Microsoft said that Paint would still be installable from the Store, but it was no longer going to be included by default. The app was even updated to include a "Product alert" button on its ribbon that, when clicked, showed a message box to warn that Paint would soon be moving to the Store. Paint's role would be filled by the new Paint 3D application, which contains most Paint features, as well as lots of 3D things.
But there's good news. The very latest builds of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update have removed the "Product alert" button, and Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc has confirmed that Paint will in fact continue to be shipped with Windows 10. You won't need to get it from the Store. As such, there will be nothing standing between Windows users and terrible artwork.
For a day or two, members of the Windows Insider Program are in that special limbo period that lets them opt out of the preview program without having to reinstall their operating system from scratch. At the same time, anyone not in the Insider Program can now get early access to the May 2019 update, build 18362.30.
For most of the year, the only way out of the Insider builds is to reinstall the previous stable Windows release. But twice each year, there's a short period where the Fast and Slow rings are shipping the same build as will be used for the stable release of the twice-annual feature updates. During this time, users of the Insider builds can drop out of the Insider program entirely or switch to the Release Preview ring, and their systems will update to the stable release and then stay on the stable track from that point onward.
Microsoft will soon close the window by distributing a build of Windows 20H1, the preview of the first 2020 update, to the Fast and Slow rings. Once this happens, dropping out of the preview scheme once again means reinstalling from scratch or waiting until 20H1's eventual stable release next year.
Microsoft really wants to avoid a repeat of the mess surrounding the release of the last Windows 10 feature update. Windows 10 version 1809, the October 2018 update, was found to have a bug that in some circumstances destroyed user data, forcing the company to suspend the update's rollout. It turned out that the bug had been reported but was overlooked, and even once that problem was resolved, that version still suffered certain other awkward bugs.
Accordingly, the company is going to take a very different tack with the next feature update to Windows 10. Codenamed 19H1 and currently still branded 1903 (denoting it was completed in March of 2019), the next update was expected to be released as the April 2019 update. But that's not the case. It's going to be the May 2019 update, because Microsoft is being a great deal more cautious about this release. Next week, a build will be pushed to the Release Preview ring, which should provide around a month of testing before its expected release date.
This alone is a major difference as compared to 1809, as that release largely skipped the release preview ring for reasons that remain unclear. But Microsoft is going much further to make this release a success.
The next Windows 10 feature update, version 1903, looks like it's going to give Windows 10 Home users a little more flexibility about when they install updates. All versions of Windows 10 allow for updates to be deferred, waiting a number of days after each update is released before attempting to install it.
Currently in Windows 10 version 1809, Windows 10 Home users are limited to a delay of just seven days. In the latest preview build of Windows 10, however, this has been raised to 35 days (via Reddit). This means that users nervous about being the first to use each new update can wait a little over a month before installing it.
While most Windows updates are problem-free for most people, issues do crop up from time to time. Generally, these are resolved within a week or two of the initial release, with Microsoft either reissuing fixed versions of the patches or sometimes blacklisting particular hardware or software combinations that have proven problematic. The 35-day delay is almost invariably going to be sufficient to let people wait for these bugs to be shaken out.
As the end of Windows 7's free extended support period nears, Microsoft is going to do more to tell Windows 7 users that their operating system will soon cease receiving security updates.
Starting next month, the operating system will show users a "courtesy reminder" to tell them that security updates will cease and that Windows 10 (and hardware to run it on) exists. Microsoft promises that the message will only appear a "handful of times" during 2019 and that there will be a "do not notify me again" checkbox that will definitely suppress any future messages.
For those organizations that intended to keep using Windows 7 beyond its January 14, 2020 cut-off date, Microsoft has up to three years of paid fixes through its new Extended Security Update (ESU) scheme. These will be available to any organization with a volume license and will have a ratcheting cost structure that doubles the price each year.
Customers using Windows Update for Business will lose some ability to delay the deployment of each new Windows feature release once version 1903 goes live.
When Microsoft first started delivering Windows 10 "as a Service" with a regular flow of feature updates, the company planned to have two release tracks: a "Current Branch" (CB) that was consumer-oriented and "Current Branch for Business" (CBB) aimed at enterprises. The CBB track would trail the CB one by a few months, with consumers acting as guinea pigs to iron out bugs before the quality of each release was deemed good enough for corporate customers.
That naming, though not the underlying concept, was changed in 2017 when Microsoft formalized the Windows 10 release schedule and settled on two feature updates per year, one in April and the other in October. The CB track became the "Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)" (SAC-T), and when this was proven in the real world, it would be pushed to the "Semi-Annual Channel" (SAC), the replacement for CBB. Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows could be set to follow one track or the other, depending on how aggressively an organization wanted to adopt the feature updates. Machines that were set to SAC would automatically wait a few months after each SAC-T release, waiting for the SAC-T version to be blessed as SAC. Typically the gap has been about three months, even for the troubled version 1809 release.