Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

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)

Password1, Password2, Password3 no more: Microsoft drops password expiration rec

April 25th, 2019
Password1, Password2, Password3 no more: Microsoft drops password expiration rec

For many years, Microsoft has published a security baseline configuration: a set of system policies that are a reasonable default for a typical organization. This configuration may be sufficient for some companies, and it represents a good starting point for those corporations that need something stricter. While most of the settings have been unproblematic, one particular decision has long drawn the ire of end-users and helpdesks alike: a 60-day password expiration policy that forces a password change every two months. That reality is no longer: the latest draft for the baseline configuration for Windows 10 version 1903 and Windows Server version 1903 drops this tedious requirement.

The rationale for the previous policy is that it limits the impact a stolen password can have—a stolen password will automatically become invalid after, at most, 60 days. In reality, however, password expiration tends to make systems less safe, not more, because computer users don't like picking or remembering new passwords. Instead, they'll do something like pick a simple password and then increment a number on the end of the password, making it easy to "generate" a new password whenever they're forced to.

In the early days of computing, this might have been a sensible trade-off, because cracking passwords was relatively slow. But these days, with rainbow tables, GPU acceleration, and the massive computational power of the cloud, that's no longer the case—short passwords are a liability, so any policy that makes people favor short passwords is a bad policy. It's better instead to choose a long password and, ideally, multifactor authentication, supplementing the password with a time-based code or something similar.

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Posted in administration, microsoft, passwords, security, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Microsoft 3Q19 revenue up 14% on the back of strong cloud and, uh, Windows?

April 24th, 2019
Microsoft 3Q19 revenue up 14% on the back of strong cloud and, uh, Windows?

(credit: Julien GONG Min / Flickr)

In the third quarter of its 2019 financial year, which ran up until March 31, 2019, Microsoft's revenue was $30.6 billion, up 14 percent year on year. Operating income was up 25 percent to $10.3 billion, net income up 19 percent to $8.8 billion, and earnings per share up 20 percent to $1.14.

Microsoft has three reporting segments: Productivity and Business Processes (covering Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, Dynamics, and LinkedIn), Intelligent Cloud (including Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Enterprise Services), and More Personal Computing (covering Windows, hardware, and Xbox, as well as search and advertising).

Productivity group revenue was up 14 percent to $10.2 billion, with operating income rising 28 percent to $4.0 billion. There's no one standout in the division but, rather, strong growth across the entire division; commercial Office products and service revenue was up 12 percent, consumer revenue up 8 percent, Dynamics revenue up 13 percent, with Dynamics 365 revenue growing by 43 percent, and LinkedIn revenue was up 27 percent. The number of commercial Office 365 seats is up 27 percent with more than 180 million monthly active users, and consumer Office 365 subscribers were up 12 percent to 34.2 million. The transition to the cloud continues to shift where Microsoft makes its money: while commercial Office 365 revenue was up 30 percent, perpetually licensed Office revenue fell by 19 percent.

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Posted in azure, financials, microsoft, office, productivity, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Windows 10 May 2019 update blocked for anyone using USB or SD storage

April 24th, 2019
Better unplug all these if you want the new Windows version.

Enlarge / Better unplug all these if you want the new Windows version. (credit: Miia Sample)

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.

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Posted in may 2019 update, microsoft, Tech, Windows, Windows 10, windows as a service | Comments (0)

Crap artists rejoice! MS Paint is getting a last-minute reprieve

April 23rd, 2019
Who needs Aurich's artistic talents, anyway?

Enlarge / Who needs Aurich's artistic talents, anyway? (credit: Peter Bright)

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.

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Posted in legacy, microsoft, paint, Store, Tech, Windows, Windows 10 | Comments (0)

Windows 10’s “Sets” tabbed windows will never see the light of day

April 23rd, 2019
Microsoft's inspiration, evidently.

Enlarge / Microsoft's inspiration, evidently. (credit: Jerry / Flickr)

For two periods last year, those using preview builds of Windows 10 could access to a feature called Sets: a tabbed interface that was eventually to allow tabs to be put in the titlebar of just about any window. These tabs would allow both multiple copies of the same application to be combined—a tabbed Explorer or Command Prompt, say—and multiple disparate windows to be grouped—combining, say, a browser window containing research with the Word window. However, both times the feature was enabled only for a few weeks, so Microsoft could gather data, before disabling it. Sets aren't in the Windows 10 May 2019 update.

It seems now that Sets are unlikely to ever materialize. Rich Turner, who oversees Microsoft's revamping of the Windows command-line infrastructure and the Windows Subsystem for Linux tweeted that the interface "is no more." Having everything tabbed everywhere isn't going to happen. Adding tabs specifically for command-line windows is, however, "high on [Microsoft's] to do list."

There was initially some confusion that the tweet might have meant that some other system-wide approach to tabs was going to be used. But Turner clarified today that the command-line tabs will be purpose-built for command-line windows, not a general feature for the entire operating system.

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Posted in browser, Chromium, EDGE, microsoft, Open Source, sets, tabs, Tech, user interface, Windows | Comments (0)

Unexpected security feature in Microsoft Edge could allow for file theft

April 19th, 2019
Unexpected security feature in Microsoft Edge could allow for file theft

Enlarge (credit: Brian Smithson / Flickr)

A researcher has uncovered strange and unexpected behavior in Windows 10 that allows remote attackers to steal data stored on hard drives when a user opens a malicious file downloaded with the Edge browser.

The threat partially surfaced last week when a different researcher, John Page, reported what he called a flaw in Internet Explorer. Page claimed that when using the file manager to open a maliciously crafted MHT file downloaded with Internet Explorer, the browser uploaded one or more files to a remote server. According to Page, the vulnerability affected the most recent version of IE, version 11, running on Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2012 R2 with all security updates installed. (It’s no longer clear whether any OS other than Windows 10 is affected, at least for some users. More about that in a moment.)

Below this paragraph in Page's post was a video demonstration of the proof-of-concept exploit Page created. It shows a booby-trapped MHT file triggering an upload of the host computer's system.ini file to a remote server. Interestingly, while Page's post says his exploit is triggered when the malicious file is downloaded by IE, and makes no mention of Edge at all, the video shows the file being downloaded with the newer Microsoft browser.

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Posted in Biz & IT, EDGE, exploits, Internet Explorer, vulnerabilities, Windows | Comments (0)

50-inch Surface Hub 2S: $8,999, shipping in June; 85-inch version next year

April 17th, 2019
50-inch Surface Hub 2S: $8,999, shipping in June; 85-inch version next year

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

First announced last year, Microsoft's second-generation Surface Hub now has a price and release schedule—and a couple of new siblings, too.

Surface Hub is Microsoft's hardware dedicated to collaboration within meetings. It combines several roles, most notably digital whiteboarding and video conferencing, with Teams, Skype, and OneNote built into a single combined, integrated package. The 50-inch 2S is only vaguely specified: it has a custom-built 3:2 aspect ratio 4K (3840×2560 with 10 bits per pixel) screen with embedded touch sensors that work with both pen and finger. Inside is an 8th-generation Core i5 (Microsoft offered no more specifics than that) with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage; while that may seem miserly, the Surface Hub 2 software is designed so that it doesn't store data locally, so 128GB should be abundant. To support video conferencing, it has an array of eight microphones, front-firing speakers, and a detachable 4K webcam. It will be available in the US from June, with other markets following, for a price of $8,999. One pen and one camera come in the box.

As we've come to expect from Microsoft, the screen looks great. It has a matte finish (reflections are too hard to avoid otherwise), so it doesn't quite have the punch a gloss finish would get it, but it's far better than many of the 1080p screens I've seen in offices around the world. Using techniques refined from building its portable Surface devices, the Hub 2's display integrates the touch-sensing layers into the glass of the screen, a design that makes the screen itself much thinner and reduces the parallax error when using a pen (it was 3mm in the first generation, down to 1.7mm in this).

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Posted in microsoft, Surface, surface hub, surface hub 2, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Hands-on: First public previews of Chromium-based Edge are now out

April 8th, 2019
There's really no difference between how the Ars front page looks in Edge and Chrome.

Enlarge / There's really no difference between how the Ars front page looks in Edge and Chrome.

Microsoft's switch to using the Chromium engine to power its Edge browser was announced in December last year, and the first public preview build is out now. Canary builds, updated daily, and Dev builds, updated weekly, are available for Windows 10. Versions for other operating systems and a beta that's updated every six weeks are promised to be coming soon.

Chromium is the open source browser project run by Google. It includes the Blink rendering engine (Google's fork of Apple's WebKit), V8 JavaScript engine, Google's software-based sandboxing, and the browser user interface. Google builds on Chromium for its Chrome browser, and a number of third-party browsers, including Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave, also use Chromium.

As a result, every Chromium browser offers more or less the same performance and Web compatibility. Indeed, this is a big part of why Microsoft made the switch: the company had grown tired of updating its own EdgeHTML engine to ensure it behaved identically to Chrome and is now offering Chrome-equivalent behavior in the most direct way possible. I've been using a version 74 build (which is a little out of date at this point) for the last week, and I have yet to see any difference between Edge and Chromium Dev when it comes to displaying Web pages. In principle, a page could treat Edge differently (it reports its identity as a rather ugly "Edg/74.1.96.14"; I'm presuming the misspelling is an attempt to ensure it isn't identified as a variation of the current Edge browser), but in general there's little reason to do so.

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Posted in browsers, Chromium, development, EDGE, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, the web, Windows | Comments (0)