Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

Windows Virtual Desktop now in public preview

March 21st, 2019
A VT100 remote terminal, which is basically the same thing as Windows Remote Desktop.

Enlarge / A VT100 remote terminal, which is basically the same thing as Windows Remote Desktop. (credit: Wolfgang Stief)

Initially announced last September, Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service has now entered public preview.

The service brings together single-user Windows 7 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and multi-user Windows 10 and Windows Server remote desktop services (RDS) and is hosted on any of Azure's virtual machine tiers. Microsoft is pricing WVD aggressively by charging only for the virtual machine costs; the license requirements for the Windows 7- and Windows 10-based services will be fulfilled by Microsoft 365 F1/E3/E, Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5, and Windows VDA subscriptions. The Windows Server-based services are similarly fulfilled by existing RDS client access licenses. This means that for many Microsoft customers, there will be no additional licensing cost for provisioning desktop computing in the cloud. The virtual machine costs can be further reduced by using Reserved Instances that commit to purchasing certain amounts of VM time in return for lower pricing.

As another big sweetener, Windows 7 users will receive all three years of Extended Security Updates (ESU) at no extra cost; this is in contrast to on-premises deployments that will cost either $25/$50/$100 for the three years of ESU availability or $50/$100/$200, depending on the precise Windows license being used.

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Posted in desktop, microsoft, productivity, RDS, Remote Desktop, Tech, vdi, virtual desktop, Windows | Comments (0)

Windows 10 version 1903 heads for the finish line

March 20th, 2019
Who doesn't love some new Windows?

Enlarge / Who doesn't love some new Windows? (credit: Peter Bright / Flickr)

It's clear that Microsoft is in the very final stages of development of Windows 10 version 1903, the April 2019 Update. The fast distribution ring has seen two builds arrive this week after two last week, bringing with them no new features but a slowly whittled-down bug list following the development pattern we've seen in previous updates. In the past, the company has tried to release Windows 10 feature upgrades on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month, meaning there's just under three weeks left to go.

A little alarmingly, a couple of long-standing issues with the release still appear to be unresolved. A green-screen-of-death error caused when games with BattlEye anti-cheat software are used has been a feature of the 1903 previews for many months, and Microsoft is still listing it as unresolved. The scope and impact of this bug was so significant that the slow distribution ring didn't receive a preview of 1903 for much of its development process; Microsoft felt that it was too likely to affect too many people to be usable. This is eminently plausible, as BattlEye is used by PUBG and Fortnite, among other games. The company finally relented in February, pushing out a new build on the slow ring but blacklisting any systems with the offending third-party software.

The bug was first listed as a known issue with build 18298, released on December 10 last year. Microsoft says it's working with BattlEye to resolve the problem, but there has been no visible progress so far. BattlEye boasts of using a kernel-mode component as part of its anti-cheat software. Running in the kernel means that it's harder for cheat software to hide from or otherwise interfere with what BattlEye does, but with this comes the temptation to mess with operating system data structures and functions that aren't documented, which then leads to system crashes when the operating system is updated.

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Posted in development, insider program, microsoft, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: The best Windows ultrabooks you can buy right now

March 20th, 2019
Guidemaster: The best Windows ultrabooks you can buy right now

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Buyers looking for premium Windows laptops today have plenty of choices; every few months sees some splashy launch of a new high-end PC. Ultrabooks have become the standard design for most premium Windows laptops, and they represent the best of what companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft have to offer in terms of design, power, and innovation.

If you're looking for a thin-and-light laptop that's still powerful enough to handle work and play with ease—and doesn't run macOS—a Windows ultrabook is what you want. But not all ultrabooks are created equal. That's why Ars has tested some of the most popular Windows laptops to see which are worthy for consideration as your next high-end notebook.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Posted in convertibles, dell, Features, Gadgetology, guidemaster, HP, Laptops, Lenovo, microsoft, Tech, ultrabooks, Windows | Comments (0)

D3D raytracing no longer exclusive to 2080, as Nvidia brings it to GeForce 10, 16

March 19th, 2019
A screenshot of <em>Metro Exodus</em> with raytracing enabled.

Enlarge / A screenshot of Metro Exodus with raytracing enabled. (credit: Nvidia)

Microsoft announced DirectX raytracing a year ago, promising to bring hardware-accelerated raytraced graphics to PC gaming. In August, Nvidia announced its RTX 2080 and 2080Ti, a pair of new video cards with the company's new Turing RTX processors. In addition to the regular graphics-processing hardware, these new chips included two extra sets of additional cores, one set designed for running machine-learning algorithms and the other for computing raytraced graphics. These cards were the first, and currently only, cards to support DirectX Raytracing (DXR).

That's going to change in April, as Nvidia has announced that 10-series and 16-series cards will be getting some amount of raytracing support with next month's driver update. Specifically, we're talking about 10-series cards built with Pascal chips (that's the 1060 6GB or higher), Titan-branded cards with Pascal or Volta chips (the Titan X, XP, and V), and 16-series cards with Turing chips (Turing, in contrast to the Turing RTX, lacks the extra cores for raytracing and machine learning).

Unsurprisingly, the performance of these cards will not match that of the RTX chips. RTX chips use both their raytracing cores and their machine-learning cores for DXR graphics. To achieve a suitable level of performance, the raytracing simulates relatively few light rays and uses machine-learning-based antialiasing to flesh out the raytraced images. Absent the dedicated hardware, DXR on the GTX chips will use 32-bit integer operations on the CUDA cores already used for computation and shader workloads.

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Posted in 2080, direct3d, DirectX, dxr, Gaming & Culture, NVIDIA, raytracing, rtx, rtx 2080, rtx2080 ti, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Corporations, not consumers, drive demand for HP’s new VR headset

March 19th, 2019
Corporations, not consumers, drive demand for HP’s new VR headset

Enlarge (credit: HP)

HP was one of the many companies that built a VR headset for the Windows Mixed Reality platform which launched back in 2017. Microsoft provided a SteamVR-compatible software platform, controller design, and inside-out, six-axis, positional-tracking technology; hardware companies like HP provided the rest, greatly reducing the price of PC-attached virtual reality.

Today, HP is launching the Reverb Virtual Reality Headset Professional Edition. As the name might imply, the audience for this isn't the consumer space; it's the commercial space. The headset will have a near-identical consumer version, but HP's focus is very much on the pro unit, because that's where the company has seen the most solid uptake of VR tech. The big VR win isn't gaming or any other consumer applications: it's visualization, for fields such as engineering, architecture, and education, and entertainment, combining VR headsets with motion-actuated seating to build virtual rides. The company has also found that novelty items such as its VR backpack have also found a role in the corporate space, with companies using them to allow free movement around virtual worlds and objects.

Accordingly, HP's second-gen headset is built for these enterprise customers in mind. Their demands were pretty uniform, and in many ways consistent with consumer demands too, with the big ones being more resolution and more comfort. To that end, it now has a resolution of 2160×2160 per eye, using an LCD with a 90Hz refresh rate. The optics have also been improved through the use of aspherical lenses, for a 114-degree (diagonal) field of view. AMOLED screens are common in this space, but HP said that it preferred LCD because LCD panels use full red, green, and blue subpixels, rather than the pentile arrangement that remains common for AMOLED.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hardware, headset, HP, mixed reality, Tech, VR, wearables, Windows | Comments (0)

Google, Microsoft work together for a year to figure out new type of Windows flaw

March 18th, 2019
Google, Microsoft work together for a year to figure out new type of Windows flaw

Enlarge (credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

One of the more notable features of Google Project Zero's (GPZ) security research has been its 90-day disclosure policy. In general, vendors are given 90 days to address issues found by GPZ, after which the flaws will be publicly disclosed. But sometimes understanding a flaw and developing fixes for it takes longer than 90 days—sometimes, much longer, such as when a new class of vulnerability is found. That's what happened last year with the Spectre and Meltdown processor issues, and it has happened again with a new Windows issue.

Google researcher James Forshaw first grasped that there might be a problem a couple of years ago when he was investigating the exploitability of another Windows issue published three years ago. In so doing, he discovered the complicated way in which Windows performs permissions checks when opening files or other secured objects. A closer look at the involved parts showed that there were all the basic elements to create a significant elevation of privilege attack, enabling any user program to open any file on the system, regardless of whether the user should have permission to do so. The big question was, could these elements be assembled in just the right way to cause a problem, or would good fortune render the issue merely theoretical?

The basic rule is simple enough: when a request to open a file is being made from user mode, the system should check that the user running the application that's trying to open the file has permission to access the file. The system does this by examining the file's access control list (ACL) and comparing it to the user's user ID and group memberships. However, if the request is being made from kernel mode, the permissions checks should be skipped. That's because the kernel in general needs free and unfettered access to every file.

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Posted in bug, Flaw, google, Google Project Zero, microsoft, security, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

It looks like Windows 10 Home can now defer updates for 35 days

March 13th, 2019
A painfully adorable guinea pig sits amidst green grass.

Enlarge / Not every Windows 10 user appreciates being a guinea pig for Windows updates. (credit: Andy Miccone / Flickr)

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.

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Posted in microsoft, Tech, updates, Windows, Windows 10, Windows Update | Comments (0)

Windows 10 will automatically remove updates, drivers that break booting

March 12th, 2019
failed update screen

Enlarge / Genuinely the worst.

Windows appears to be getting a little smarter about updates that go wrong. A newly published support page (spotted by Windows Latest) describes what the operating system does when a recent update causes a boot failure. First, Windows will uninstall the update and revert to a configuration that should work correctly. It will then block the update for 30 days.

The page states that this approach will be taken for both driver updates and the regular monthly Patch Tuesday updates. It's not unusual for Microsoft to have to issue blocks for these updates to prevent them from being distributed to certain system configurations after problems are found. But this policy allows for more fine-grained blocking, wherein systems will impose a temporary block on themselves should they have to. In most cases, when problems with updates are discovered, they're fixed and the updates are re-issued within a few days or weeks. So a 30-day block should typically give enough time for the update to be fixed prior to the attempted reinstallation.

It's not clear if this approach will be used for the twice-yearly feature upgrades or just the regular monthly Patch Tuesday updates. Microsoft's terminology usually distinguishes between "updates" (which are the things released on Patch Tuesdays) and "upgrades" (which come out twice a year). The description only mentions updates and driver updates. The install mechanism used by upgrades is completely separate from that used by updates, with its own separate rollback logic, so we'd suspect that nothing has changed for those.

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

Windows 7 end-of-life nag messages will start showing up next month

March 12th, 2019
Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate.

Enlarge / Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate. (credit: Peter Bright)

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.

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Posted in end-of-life, microsoft, support, Tech, Windows, Windows 10, windows 7 | Comments (0)

Next Windows release will include DTrace support

March 11th, 2019
The bits in the dashed box are the CDDL parts that are more or less common to every platform offering DTrace.

Enlarge / The bits in the dashed box are the CDDL parts that are more or less common to every platform offering DTrace. (credit: Microsoft)

The forthcoming Windows 10 feature update will bring support for DTrace, the open source debugging and diagnostic tracing tool originally built for Solaris. The port was announced at the Ignite conference last year, and today the instructions, binaries, and source code are now available.

DTrace lets developers and administrators get a detailed look at what their system is doing: they can track kernel function calls, examine properties of running processes, and probe drivers. DTrace commands use the DTrace scripting language, with which users can specify which information is probed, and how to report that information.

After its initial Solaris release, DTrace spread to a wide range of other Unix-like operating systems. Today, it's available for Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and macOS. The original Solaris code was released under Sun's Common Development and Distribution License. Microsoft has ported the CDDL portions of DTrace and built an additional driver for Windows that performs some of the system-monitoring roles. The latter driver will ship with Windows; the CDDL parts are all a separate download.

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Posted in debugging, DTrace, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)