Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

Chrome’s getting a dark mode on Windows to match the one for macOS

January 3rd, 2019
Chrome's dark mode.

Enlarge / Chrome's dark mode.

Chrome 73 is going to include support for macOS 10.14's dark mode, with an alternative color scheme for its user interface that cuts the brightness. It's now clear that a Windows version of the same is in development, though it seems to trail the macOS version.

A bug report was spotted by Techdows, and preliminary work has been started to bring Windows its dark mode. Unlike its macOS counterpart, which should track the operating-system mode, the Windows dark mode currently has to be forcibly turned on with a command-line switch. Adding "--force-dark-mode" to the command line of current builds of Chrome 73 makes everything dark.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The macOS work has top priority (P1). The Windows work is only P2 (originally P3), surprisingly suggesting that it's less important, enough though Chrome has far more Windows 10 users than it does macOS users. Development of the Windows theme was at least, for a time, hindered by one of the developers not having a Windows laptop to use.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, dark mode, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Windows 10 creeps past Windows 7 usage, latest update barely used

January 2nd, 2019
Who doesn't love some new Windows?

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

About three and a half years after its release, Windows 10 seems to have convincingly passed Windows 7 in usage share. Online stat-tracking service Net Market Share puts Windows 10 at 39.22 percent of usage, versus 36.90 percent for Windows 7.

Web-based stat-tracking services vary in their estimates of who's using what operating system. That's due to different sites being monitored and different methodologies in handling the data. Net Market Share is the one we've seen most often quoted by third parties (including Microsoft and Mozilla), so it is notable as the companies' own preferred measure. Another widely referenced service, StatCounter, reckons that Windows 10 passed Windows 7 a year ago, putting the new operating system at 52.42 percent to its predecessor's 35.65 percent.

That's a lot of people still using Windows 7—an operating system that's due to be end-of-lifed in January 2020. Microsoft says that corporate migrations to Windows 10 are going strong, with more than half of enterprise machines on Windows 10 as of October last year. But the clock is ticking to migrate remaining machines.

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Posted in market share, microsoft, Tech, Windows, Windows 10, windows 7 | Comments (0)

Microsoft issues emergency update to fix critical IE flaw under active exploit

December 20th, 2018
Microsoft issues emergency update to fix critical IE flaw under active exploit

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has issued an emergency update that fixes a critical Internet Explorer vulnerability that attackers are actively exploiting on the Internet.

The memory-corruption flaw allows attackers to remotely execute malicious code when computers use IE to visit a booby-trapped website, Microsoft said Wednesday. Indexed as CVE-2018-8653, the flaw affects all supported versions of Windows. The vulnerability involves the way Microsoft's scripting engine handles objects in memory in Internet Explorer.

In a separate advisory, Microsoft said the vulnerability is being used in targeted attacks, but the company didn't elaborate. Microsoft credited Clement Lecigne of Google's Threat Analysis Group with discovering the vulnerability. No other details were available about the vulnerability or exploits at the time this post was being reported.

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

Microsoft unveils Windows Sandbox: Run any app in a disposable virtual machine

December 19th, 2018
Microsoft unveils Windows Sandbox: Run any app in a disposable virtual machine

Enlarge (credit: F Delventhal)

A few months ago, Microsoft let slip a forthcoming Windows 10 feature that was, at the time, called InPrivate Desktop: a lightweight virtual machine for running untrusted applications in an isolated environment. That feature has now been officially announced with a new name, Windows Sandbox.

Windows 10 already uses virtual machines to increase isolation between certain components and protect the operating system. These VMs have been used in a few different ways. Since its initial release, for example, suitably configured systems have used a small virtual machine running alongside the main operating system to host portions of LSASS. LSASS is a critical Windows subsystem that, among other things, knows various secrets, such as password hashes, encryption keys, and Kerberos tickets. Here, the VM is used to protect LSASS from hacking tools such that even if the base operating system is compromised, these critical secrets might be kept safe.

In the other direction, Microsoft added the ability to run Edge tabs within a virtual machine to reduce the risk of compromise when visiting a hostile website. The goal here is the opposite of the LSASS virtual machine—it's designed to stop anything nasty from breaking out of the virtual machine and contaminating the main operating system, rather than preventing an already contaminated main operating system from breaking into the virtual machine.

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Posted in hyper-V, microsoft, sandboxing, Tech, virtual machines, Windows, Windows 10 | Comments (0)

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update is now fully available—for “advanced” users

December 18th, 2018
Who doesn't love some new Windows?

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

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update, version 1809, continues to limp out of the door. While the data-loss bug that saw its release entirely halted has been fixed, other blocking issues have restricted its rollout. It has so far only been available to those who manually check Windows Update for updates, and even there, Microsoft has restricted the speed at which it's distributed.

This particular speed bump has now been removed, and manual checking for updates is now unthrottled. That means a manual check for updates will kick off the update process so long as your system isn't actively blacklisted (and there are a few outstanding incompatibilities that mean it could be).

Microsoft is saying that this upgrade route is for "advanced" users. Everyone else should wait for the fully automatic deployment, which doesn't seem to have started yet. That'll have its own set of throttles and perhaps even new blacklists if further problems are detected. A number of the remaining compatibility problems are more likely to strike corporate users, as they involve corporate VPN and security software. Companies will need to apply the relevant patches for the third-party applications before they can roll out the Windows 10 update.

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Posted in microsoft, october 2018 update, patch, Tech, updates, Windows, Windows 10, Windows Update | Comments (0)

Microsoft is putting together a Microsoft 365 subscription for home users

December 13th, 2018
Big white clouds against an azure sky.

Enlarge (credit: Patty's Photos / Flickr)

Microsoft has had success in the enterprise space with its Microsoft 365 subscription, which bundles Office 365, Windows 10, and remote management with Enterprise Mobility + Security. Its home-oriented Office 365 subscriptions have also been growing steadily, with 32.5 million subscriptions as of the company's most recent financial reports. And now Microsoft is planning to bring these things together with a Microsoft 365 subscription aimed at non-corporate users, reports Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft 365 Consumer would be a subscription bundle with a consumer focus. Foley notes that there have been job advertisements alluding to such a product, and the move would seem to be consistent with the company's plan to re-engage with consumers. At its Inspire partner event earlier this year, the company said that it wanted to target "professional consumers" by offering software and services to enhance their "Modern Life and Devices." The meaning of this is not entirely clear, but it seems to mean that the company will continue to make its services work better wherever you use them (greater support for iOS and Android phones). Syncing and replication will ensure that your work and current context moves seamlessly between devices.

Less clear is what a Microsoft 365 Consumer bundle would actually include. Office 365 is an obvious component; it's already being sold to consumers, and it remains the heart of Microsoft's productivity vision. But beyond that? Windows 10 is, for home users, functionally free already. There have long been fears/rumors/speculation that Microsoft will move to a monthly Windows subscription model for consumers, but there are no signs that this is happening. Given the way Windows 10 has been positioned—the "last version" of Windows that will be updated and upgraded indefinitely—it's hard to imagine it ever happening.

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Posted in cloud, microsoft, microsoft 365, Office 365, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Latest Windows Insider build makes a major upgrade to, uh… Notepad

December 10th, 2018
Image of a spiral notebook.

Enlarge (credit: g4ll4is / Flickr)

There's a new Windows Insider build out today, and the biggest changes appear to be none other than Notepad, Windows' venerable barebones text editor.

Notepad already received a significant update in the recent October 2018 Update: Microsoft added support for files with Unix-style line endings. But the work hasn't stopped there. Oh no.

The new and improved Notepad now has better Unicode support, defaulting to saving files as UTF-8 without a Byte Order Mark; this is the standard way of encoding UTF-8 data, as it maximizes compatibility with software expecting ASCII text. The status bar will now show the encoding being used, too.

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Posted in insiders, microsoft, Notepad++, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

What was the name of your first exploit? Win 10 security questions open backdoor

December 5th, 2018
What was the name of your first exploit? Win 10 security questions open backdoor

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Security questions—the annoying shared secrets used as a secondary form of authentication—have been around forever and are used by just about everyone to deal with users who forget their password. That’s starting to change as more enlightened services—most notably Google and Facebook—have recently phased out security questions after recognizing something then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin learned the hard way in 2008: the answers are easy for hackers to guess.

Enter Microsoft, which earlier this year added a security questions feature to Windows 10. It allows users to set up a list of security questions that can be asked in the event they later forget a password to one of their administrative accounts. By answering questions such as “What was your first car?” the users can reset the forgotten password and regain control of the account. It didn’t take long for researchers to identify weaknesses in the newly introduced feature. They presented their findings today at the Black Hat Europe Security Conference in London.

“Durable, stealthy backdoor”

The problem, the researchers said, is that the password reset questions are too easy to set and too hard to monitor in networks made up of hundreds or thousands of computers. A single person with administrator credentials can remotely turn them on or change them on any Windows 10 machine and there’s no simple way for the changes to be monitored or changed. As a result, malicious users—say a rogue employee or a hacker who briefly gains unauthorized administrative control—can use the security questions as a backdoor that will secretly allow them to regain control should they ever lose it.

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Posted in Biz & IT, microsoft, password reset, passwords, security questions, Windows | Comments (0)

Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

December 4th, 2018
Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich)

Windows Central reports that Microsoft is planning to replace its Edge browser, which uses Microsoft's own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine, with a new browser built on Chromium, the open source counterpart to Google's Chrome. The new browser has the codename Anaheim.

The report is short on details. The easiest thing for Microsoft to do would be to use Chromium's code wholesale—the Blink rendering engine, the V8 JavaScript engine, and the Chrome user interface with the Google Account parts omitted—to produce something that looks, works, and feels almost identical to Chrome. Alternatively, Redmond could use Blink and V8 but wrap them in Edge's user interface (or some derivative thereof), to retain its own appearance. It might even be possible to do something weird, such as use Blink with the Chakra JavaScript engine. We'll have to wait and see.

Since its launch with Windows 10, Edge has failed to gain much market share. The first iterations of Edge were extremely barebones, offering little more than a basic tabbed browser—no extensions, little control over behavior. Early releases of Edge were also not as stable as one might have liked, making the browser hard to recommend. Three years later on and Edge is greatly—but unevenly—improved. The browser engine's stability seems to be much better than it was, and performance and compatibility remain solid (though with the exception of a few corner cases, these were never a real concern).

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Posted in browsers, chrome, EDGE, microsoft, standards, Tech, Web, Windows | Comments (0)

To complement the new Windows 10 dark theme, Microsoft is adding a light theme

November 14th, 2018
The new Windows 10 light theme.

Enlarge / The new Windows 10 light theme. (credit: Microsoft)

While end users have been customizing the color schemes of their computers for decades, we've lately seen operating system developers follow their users' lead with built-in, first-party support for dark themes. The dark theme was a big part of the appeal of macOS Mojave, and dark theme support in applications such as Windows Explorer was no less welcome.

With the next feature update of Windows 10, codenamed 1H19 and likely to ship in April next year, Microsoft is going a step further, with the introduction of a light theme. The light theme also comes with a new wallpaper (an iteration of the default Windows 10 wallpaper), and it will brighten up certain areas of the operating system that have always tended be dark regardless of the theme being used.

If the screenshot is anything to go by, it's going to be a good-looking theme, too.

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Posted in dark theme, design, microsoft, Tech, user interface, Windows | Comments (0)