Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

May 17th, 2019
Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The May 2019 update for the Xbox One's system software is now rolling out, bringing some small refinements to the friends list, messaging, and game/app list.

Starting with the last one first, the app list will now ignore "a," "an," and "the" when sorting or grouping alphabetically. This is the kind of change that makes me amazed that they weren't already doing this, as it almost always makes for easier-to-use listings. Video games don't even have The The to contend with.

The Messaging change is rather inexplicable. There's a sensible change: incoming messaging requests from your friends are now prioritized, with requests from non-friends put in a separate category. But for some reason, Microsoft is going to wipe all group messages as a result. You can save backups of the messages for a limited time at Xbox.com, and messages with individual users are safe, but the group messages are all going. There's no obvious justification for this change, as even if there were some significant change being made to group messaging, one would expect Microsoft to handle migrating the messages from old to new.

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Posted in console gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, PC gaming, Windows, XBox | Comments (0)

Windows dual booting no longer looking likely on Pixebooks

May 15th, 2019
Google's Pixelbook.

Enlarge / Google's Pixelbook. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Just under a year ago, there were signs that Google was modifying the firmware of its Pixelbook laptop to enable dual booting into Windows 10. The firmware was updated to give the Pixelbook the ability to boot into an "Alternative OS" ("AltOS" mode). The work included references to the Windows Hardware Certification Kit (WHCK) and the Windows Hardware Lab Kit (HLK), Microsoft's testing frameworks for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 respectively.

Google now appears to have abandoned this effort. A redditor called crosfrog noticed that AltOs mode was now deprecated (via Android Police). Pixelbooks are going to be for Chrome OS only, after all.

The dual boot work was being done under the name Project Campfire. There appears to have been little development work on Project Campfire since last December. This suggests that Google actually decided not to bother with dual booting many months ago.

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Posted in Chrome OS, dual boot, google, linux, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Microsoft warns wormable Windows bug could lead to another WannaCry

May 14th, 2019
Image of ones and zeros with the word

(credit: Pixabay)

Microsoft is warning that the Internet could see another exploit with the magnitude of the WannaCry attack that shut down computers all over the world two years ago unless people patch a high-severity vulnerability. The software maker took the unusual step of backporting the just-released patch for Windows 2003 and XP, which haven’t been supported in four and five years, respectively.

“This vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction,” Simon Pope, director of incident response at the Microsoft Security Response Center, wrote in a published post that coincided with the company’s May Update Tuesday release. “In other words, the vulnerability is ‘wormable,’ meaning that any future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017. While we have observed no exploitation of this vulnerability, it is highly likely that malicious actors will write an exploit for this vulnerability and incorporate it into their malware.”

As if a self-replicating, code-execution vulnerability wasn’t serious enough, CVE-2017-0708, as the flaw in Windows Remote Desktop Services is indexed, requires low complexity to exploit. Microsoft’s Common Vulnerability Scoring System Calculator scores that complexity as 3.9 out of 10. (To be clear, the WannaCry developers had potent exploit code written by, and later stolen from, the National Security Agency, to exploit the wormable CVE-2017-0144 and CVE-2017-0145 flaws, which had exploit complexities rated as "high.") Ultimately, though, developing reliable exploit code for this latest Windows vulnerability will require relatively little work.

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Posted in Biz & IT, computer worm, exploits, microsoft, vulnerabilities, Windows | Comments (0)

Microsoft: The open source company

May 10th, 2019
Microsoft: The open source company

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The news from Microsoft's Build developer conference that surprised me most was that Microsoft will ship a genuine Linux kernel—GPLed, with all patches published—with Windows. That announcement was made with the announcement of Windows Terminal, a new front-end for command-line programs on Windows that will, among other things, support tabs.

Microsoft's increased involvement with open source software isn't new, as projects such as Visual Studio Code and the .NET runtime have operated as open source, community-driven projects. But this week's announcements felt a bit different.

The Linux kernel will be powering Microsoft's second generation Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The first generation WSL contains a partial re-implementation of the Linux kernel API that uses the Windows NT kernel to perform its functionality. In choosing this approach, Microsoft avoided using any actual Linux code, and hence the company avoided the GPL license with its "viral" stipulations that would have arguably forced Microsoft to open source WSL and perhaps even parts of Windows itself.

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Posted in development, GPL, linux, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

HP Spectre 15 x360 2019 review: Carving a niche in a crowded space

May 10th, 2019
The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out.

Enlarge / The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out. (credit: Samuel Axon)

The HP Spectre 15 x360 is a good laptop, but it seemed we always found one or two things to quibble with.

With the 2017 model, we liked some key design decisions but felt let down by the performance and battery life. We were bigger fans of the 2018 update, which amped up performance while also improving battery life and making the 4K display standard. But we felt the trackpad was awfully small and didn't like that the fingerprint reader and power button were separate.

Now we're working with the 2019 model, and it brings a whole new design along with some faster internals and extras like clever port placement and a hardware webcam kill switch. At its heart, the 2019 HP Spectre 15 x360 still seeks to accomplish the same things as its predecessors. It's an eye-catching (if a bit bulky) convertible packed with most of the features creatives and heavy consumers of media are looking for.

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Posted in convertible, Features, HP, hp spectre x360 15, laptop, Tech, USB-C, Windows | Comments (0)

Lenovo adds AMD Ryzen Pro-powered laptops to its ThinkPad family

May 8th, 2019

Lenovo is adding more choices to its beloved and iconic ThinkPad lineup this year: the new T495, T495s, and X395 laptops are all powered by AMD's Ryzen 7 Pro processors with integrated Vega graphics. With the same design and MIL-spec level of durability, these new ThinkPads will give customers the option to go with AMD without sacrificing what they love about the premium ThinkPad lineup.

The ThinkPad T495 and T495s models are 14-inch laptops while the X395 measures in at 13 inches. They will look similar to the T490 and T490s Intel-based laptops announced last month because Lenovo essentially took the same frames and stuck AMD APUs inside. That means they all have MIL-spec tested designs and features like far-field mics for VoIP conferences, Lenovo's camera privacy shutter, and optional PrivacyGuide screen filter.

The 14-inch displays on the T495 and T459s and the 13-inch display on the X395 will be FHD 1920×1080 panels with touch and non-touch options. They will also have AMD's FreeSync technology for improved refresh rates and pixel quality.

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Posted in AMD, Lenovo, ryzen pro, T495, T495s, Tech, ThinkPad, Windows, X395 | Comments (0)

Windows 10 will soon ship with a full, open source, GPLed Linux kernel

May 6th, 2019
Windows 10 will soon ship with a full, open source, GPLed Linux kernel

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

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.

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Posted in GPL, Open Source, Tech, Windows, Windows 10, windows subsystem for linux, wsl | Comments (0)

Windows Solitaire inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

May 3rd, 2019
Windows Solitaire inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The classic Windows game Solitaire has joined such landmarks as Doom, Tetris, and World of Warcraft in being inducted into the Strong Museum of Play's World Video Game Hall of Fame. The award recognizes Solitaire's role as a significant part of gaming's history.

Solitaire was first bundled with Windows 3.0. Much like the other notable bundled game, Minesweeper, Solitaire was there to serve as a secret tutorial: in a time when the mouse was still regarded as a new and exotic piece of computer hardware, Solitaire honed clicking, double clicking, and drag-and-drop skills. As a computerized version of a familiar card game, it was instantly recognizable. It was bundled with every subsequent Windows version, up to Windows 7. Windows 8 replaced it with a much more varied set of card games.

The combination of approachability and bundling means that the game has been installed on more than a billion PCs, and it has likely been played by many billions of people.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hall of fame, microsoft, PC gaming, Solitaire, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

HoloLens 2 dev kits: $3,500, or $99/month, with Azure credits, Unity trials

May 2nd, 2019
Promotional image of augmented reality goggles.

Enlarge / Microsoft HoloLens 2. (credit: Microsoft)

The second-generation HoloLens 2 was announced back in February. At the time, Microsoft only disclosed commercial pricing for the greatly improved augmented reality headset: $3,500. This is $1,500 less than the commercial edition of the first edition but $500 more than the developer edition.

Today, the company revealed the developer pricing. It'll be that same $3,500, or $99 per month. Whichever payment option is chosen, the development edition will come with a few extras that the commercial edition does not: $500 of credit for Azure services as well as three months of Unity Pro and the PIXYZ CAD plugin. The developer headset will also be limited to one per person and won't be licensed for commercial usage, though as best we can tell, the hardware will be literally identical.

Monthly pricing is available for the commercial edition, too: for $125/month, you get a HoloLens 2, along with one license for Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.

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Posted in augmented reality, hardware, hololens, microsoft, mixed reality, Tech, virtual reality, wearables, Windows | Comments (0)

Systems with small disks won’t be able to install Windows 10 May 2019 update

April 26th, 2019
Systems with small disks won’t be able to install Windows 10 May 2019 update

Enlarge (credit: Alpha Six)

Traditionally, Microsoft would use the release of a new operating system to bump the minimum hardware requirements that the software needs. With Windows 10 being the "last" version of Windows, Microsoft is using the major updates to bump specs. The May 2019 update, version 1903, takes the opportunity to do just this.

Previously, 32-bit Windows had a minimum storage requirement of 16GB, and 64-bit Windows needed 20GB. Both of these were extremely tight, leaving little breathing room for actual software, but technically this was enough space for everything to work. That minimum has now been bumped up: it's 32GB for both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows.

Part of this growth may be due to a new behavior that Microsoft is introducing with version 1903. To ensure that future updates install without difficulty, 7GB of disk space are permanently reserved for the install process. While this will avoid out-of-disk errors when updating, it represents a substantial reduction in usable space on these low-storage systems.

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Posted in hardware, microsoft, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)