Windows Archive

Windows 11 22H2 “Sun Valley 2” apparently going public on September 20

As it turns out, our guesstimation was probably pretty spot on, as there are now multiple reports alleging that Microsoft is going to be making Windows 11 22H2 (codenamed Sun Valley 2 or SV2) public on the 20th of September. It will be apparently be served via the Windows Update option in the Settings. For those on Windows 11 21H2, which is the original release, it should be a seamless upgrade process as the system requirements haven’t changed. I guess this Windows version gobbledygook means something to someone, but I lost track a long time ago.

The Windows 11 taskbar is getting better for people who open tons of apps

The most interesting addition we’ve seen in a while is rolling out to users on the experimental Dev Channel now: a modified version of the taskbar with much-improved handling of app icon overflow when users have too many apps open at once. Click an ellipsis button on your taskbar, and a new icon overflow menu opens up, allowing you to interact with any of those extra icons the same way you would if they were sitting on the taskbar. This would be a big improvement over the current overflow behavior, which devotes one icon’s worth of space to show the icon for the app you last interacted with, leaving the rest inaccessible. That icon will continue to appear on the taskbar alongside the new ellipsis icon. Microsoft says that app icons in the overflow area will be able to show jump lists and other customizable shortcuts the same as any other app icon in the taskbar. Nice little change, but it seems rather telling that they only got to this now.

Microsoft Validation OS

Microsoft Validation OS is a lightweight, fast, and customizable Windows 11-based operating system that you can use on the factory floor to diagnose, mitigate and repair hardware defects during Windows device manufacturing. Validation OS boots into a Command Line environment to increase reliability on the factory floor and supports running Win32 apps, smoothing the transition from early hardware bring-up to retail OS and apps development. This is an intriguing Windows variant I’d never heard of before. Validation OS boots to a command line and sports a basic UI framework, and is supposedly capable to run Win32 applications, but if the early reports on forums are anything to go by, it’s currently quite broken and effectively useless since Win32 applications do not actually run. As such, I’m not entirely sure who or what this is for, or if this is a very early release that needs a lot more work. In any event, it’s free, so no harm done in giving it a go.

Microsoft moves to new Windows development cycle with major release every three years, feature drops in between

Microsoft is shifting to a new engineering schedule for Windows which will see the company return to a more traditional three-year release cycle for major versions of the Windows client, while simultaneously increasing the output of new features shipping to the current version of Windows on the market. The news comes just a year after the company announced it was moving to a yearly release cadence for new versions of Windows. According to my sources, Microsoft now intends to ship “major” versions of the Windows client every three years, with the next release currently scheduled for 2024, three years after Windows 11 shipped in 2021. Windows’ release schedule and system have become so incredibly obtuse I honestly have long ago lost track of what, exactly, has been released, which features are widely available and which are only in one or more of the testing releases, and so on. The continuously shifting plans from Microsoft do nothing but muddy the waters.

Windows 3.1 flash edition

Recently, a friend of mine paid me a visit with a few of his ThinkPads. Over a course of a weekend, I’ve prepared a SPI flasher based on flashrom and a Raspberry Pi and flashed a few ThinkPads. Besides my rage that was mostly a result of badly written libreboot and coreboot docs (things are hard to find, a ton of the info is outdated, etc), I came up with an idea for corebooting my own X200. This is not going where you think it might be going.

USB installer tool removes Windows 11’s Microsoft account requirements (and more)

An easy workaround for this requirement is the Rufus USB formatting tool, which can create USB install media for Windows and all kinds of other operating systems. Rufus has already offered some flags to remove Windows 11’s system requirement checks from the installer, removing the need for clunky Windows Registry edits and other workarounds. But the beta of version 3.19 will also remove the Microsoft account requirement for new installs, making it easy to set up a new Windows PC with a traditional local account. The hoops people jump through to be allowed to use a mediocre operating system when better alternatives are abundant.

Is there a maximum size for Windows clipboard data?

A customer had a program that opened a very large spreadsheet in Excel. Very large, like over 300,000 rows. They then selected all of the rows in the very large spreadsheet, copied those rows to the clipboard, and then ran a program that tried to extract the data. The program used the Get­Clipboard­Data function to retrieve the data in Rich Text Format. What they found was that the call to Get­Clipboard­Data was returning NULL. Is there a maximum size for clipboard data? No, there is no pre-set maximum size for clipboard data. You are limited only by available memory and address space. However, that’s not the reason why the call to Get­Clipboard­Data is failing. Edge cases are so much fun to read about – they give so much insight into how certain things are done programmatically, even for a non-programmer such as myself.

Delivering the Microsoft Edge WebView2 runtime to Windows 10 consumers

Starting with Windows 11, the WebView2 Runtime is included as part of the operating system. For Windows 10, we have recommended developers to distribute and install the runtime with their applications. In the past two years, more than 400 million of these devices now have the WebView2 runtime thanks to developers building and distributing WebView2 applications. Redistributable runtime deployment allows developers to use WebView2 on devices that didn’t yet have the runtime, but comes with increased development cost and has been a pain point for WebView2 developers. Once we complete the WebView2 Runtime rollout started today, developers can more reliably depend on the presence of WebView2 on Windows 10 or later consumer devices, in addition to all Windows 11 devices, making WebView2 app deployment much more straightforward. Windows 10 surely isn’t left behind any time soon – good news for those on the fence.

Microsoft to start nagging Windows 8.1 users in July about January 2023 end-of-support date

There aren’t many Windows users still running Windows 8.1 these days. But those who are may (or may not) know that support for the 8.1 release is going to end on January 10, 2023. Just to make sure Windows 8.1 users do know, Microsoft is going to start notifying them starting in July about the looming end-of-support date. When they see notifications, users will be able to click “Learn more,” “Remind me later,” or “Remind me after the end-of-support date” leading up to January 2023, Microsoft said. Microsoft has used these kinds of notifications in the past when trying to get users on older versions of Windows to upgrade to more recent/still-supported versions. (For what it’s worth: Those running domain-joined PCs, in the past, haven’t gotten nagged.) Do we have anyone here opting to run Windows 8? It seems like an odd choice, but nothing surprises me anymore.

Windows 98 system inside ESA’s Mars water-finder is finally getting an upgrade

Windows 98 was released by Microsoft back in 1998 which means in 2022 today, it’s more than 20 years old and something that most have forgotten. However, a recent major announcement by the European Space Agency (ESA) has brought Windows 98 back to the spotlight once more. The Agency says that it is upgrading the software inside its MARSIS instrument in order to enhance its performance and capabilities. Carlo Nenna, an engineer who is developing and implementing the new change says that one of challenges holding back the performance of MARSIS was its old Windows 98-based software. Maybe that’s why aliens have been avoiding us.

Finding the hardware compatibility list for the MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC versions of Windows NT

After our post a few days ago about running Windows NT for MIPS with Qemu, I was once again reminded of just how much fun it would be to own a MIPS, Alpha, or PowerPC machine from the mid-’90s that can run Windows NT 4. However, after some trouble finding a hardware compatibility list, I decided to ask Twitter – Steven Sinofsky suggested looking through the .iso files of these exotic releases for this information, but I couldn’t find anything in the official documentation contained on the Windows NT 4 for MIPS .iso. Luckily, however, Angus Fox, who worked at Lotus at the time, clearly remembered that there was a very clear, fully detailed HCL on the Windows NT 3.51 for Alpha disc, and it turns out he was right – the HCL comes on the disc as a .hlp file, which is a help file readable by older versions of the Windows help viewer. The Windows NT 4 .iso, too, contained an updated version of this HCL, detailing all the hardware, workstations, and servers supported by the MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC (and x86) versions of Windows NT 4. As he details on his website, it takes some work to read the .hlp file on Windows, but on my Linux machine, it was as easy as double-clicking the file – Wine’s own Windows help viewer loaded up the file without any issue. So, there you have it – if, like me, you are somehow interested in running these obscure version of Windows NT on real Alpha, MIPS, or PowerPC hardware, all the information you need is right on the disc. Sadly, a bigger problem to overcome is finding and buying the hardware in question. Like any other non-x86 hardware from the past 30 years (DEC, HP, SGI, Sun, etc.), it has become prohibitively expensive to buy, and pretty much only available in the US using eBay, adding hundreds to thousands of euros of shipping costs to the final price for us Europeans. I’m not entirely sure what is causing this massive surge in pricing, since rarity alone cannot possibly account for charging, for instance, over 6000 dollars (!) for an AlphaStation 255.

Because cross-compiling binaries for Windows is easier than building natively

I want Microsoft to do better, want Windows to be a decent development platform-and yet, I constantly see Microsoft playing the open source game: advertising how open-source and developer friendly they are – only to crush developers under the heel of the corporate behemoth’s boot. The people who work at Microsoft are amazing, kind, talented individuals. This is aimed at the company’s leadership, who I feel has on many occasions crushed myself and other developers under. It’s a plea for help. It’s never a good sign if people developing for your platform are not developing on that platform.

Running Windows NT 4 MIPS on Qemu in 3 easy steps

Today we will be looking at how to run Windows NT 4 for MIPS on the Qemu emulator. I didn’t really have a reason to try this but it seemed like a fun weekend project. In the process I’ve learned a lot about how some systems booted, got even more angry about how awful BIOS boot was on PC, and probably found a 25 year old bug in the ARC boot firmware. While I’m sure all MIPS server admins of yore knew about this I could not find any documentation on the problem, nor any solution to it. I suspect that most people playing with this today are totally fine installing Windows NT on a FAT partition. It is however very puzzling to me that this problem exists at all. What am I talking about? Read on! I find the non-x86 versions from the early days of Windows NT fascinating, and I definitely want to buy some old hardware at some point to run on of them on bare metal. In the meantime, this is a nice substitute.

People on unsupported hardware were being offered Windows 11 22H2 upgrade

Yesterday, Microsoft released Windows 11 build 22621 to Windows Insiders enrolled in the Release Preview Channel, marking another step towards general availability of Windows 11 22H2 which is scheduled for release sometime later this year. However, it seems from reports on Reddit, that users on unsupported hardware are being offered the upgrade as well, even those on Windows 10. The wrong bit was flipped.

Windows 9x Video Minidriver HD+

The OS/2 Museum has made available the first version of a display driver disk for Windows 9x running on VirtualBox. The driver uses a linear framebuffer and supports 8/16/24/32bpp modes with resolutions up to 1920×1200 pixels. The driver is not accelerated but tends to be very speedy on modern hardware. I cannot wait to try this out. The linked article also includes a few notes about the development of the driver in question – it won’t come as a surprise that this wasn’t an easy process.

Microsoft announces a brand-new ARM-powered desktop PC and ARM-native dev tools

At its Build developer conference Tuesday, Microsoft made a few announcements aimed at bolstering Windows on Arm. The first is Project Volterra, a Microsoft-branded mini-desktop computer powered by an unnamed Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC. More relevant for developers who already have Arm hardware, Volterra will be accompanied by a fully Arm-native suite of developer tools. According to Microsoft’s blog post, the company will be releasing ARM-native versions of Visual Studio 2022 and VSCode, Visual C++, Modern .NET 6, the classic .NET framework, Windows Terminal, and both the Windows Subsystem for Linux and Windows Subsystem for Android. Arm-native versions of these apps will allow developers to run them without the performance penalty associated with translating x86 code to run on Arm devices—especially helpful given that Arm Windows devices usually don’t have much performance to spare. I actually wouldn’t mind one of these as an actual product for regular end users. Windows on ARM needs a big push, and while I’m not sure these announcements constitute such a big push, it’s at least something.

Windows XP Delta Edition

Windows XP Delta Edition is a modification of Windows XP which aims to recreate the Windows XP Beta 2 aesthetic and bring back lost features, functions, and programs from previous versions of Windows, along with prerelease versions of Windows XP. I like these community releases for Windows XP. While I never really liked XP when it was current, and while you really shouldn’t be using XP in any serious capacity today, it can be a ton of fun to try and see how far you can get in the modern world with XP on old hardware or in a VM.