Windows Archive

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.

Microsoft’s internal upgrade to Windows 11

Microsoft’s upgrade to Windows 11 is largely considered the smoothest we’ve ever had. The Microsoft Digital Employee Experience team was able to upgrade 190,000 employee devices in just five weeks. We learned a lot so, in this post, I’m sharing our learnings with you to help with your deployment journey. Our success was built around several factors: far fewer app compatibility challenges than in the past, not needing to build out a plethora of disk images, and delivery processes and tools already that were greatly improved during the rollout of Windows 10. We divided our upgrade into three stages: plan, prepare, and deploy. It would be pretty pathetic if not even Microsoft itself could smoothly update its employees’ machines to the latest version of Windows, but that being said – I do not envy the people tasked with doing so.

Getting the basics of Windows 11 right should be a higher priority for Microsoft

Back when I reviewed Windows 11 for Neowin in 2021, I awarded it a score of 6.5/10, while saying that “simplification of UI isn’t a terrible idea but having it there in a half-baked manner doesn’t really make for an enticing user experience”. Although that was my opinion based on the launch version of the OS, unfortunately, it still hasn’t changed more than six months later. Microsoft seems intent on adding new features as we have seen in recent Insider releases, while ignoring all the UI inconsistencies and lack of basic functionalities in the existing release. The goal with Windows 11 was to make the UI more consistent, but as I predicted, it just seems Microsoft added yet another graphical layer atop the vast list of layers going back all the way to Windows 3.x in some places. Coming from the lovely visual and behavioural consistency of a Gtk+ desktop, seeing Windows 11 makes my brain hurt.

Windows needs a change in priorities

We need to talk about Windows priorities as a product. And I am saying this as someone who wants Windows to succeed – it’s a great OS that, despite it’s naysayers, is still one of the best when it comes to backwards compatibility and richness of functionality. I mean, I can literally run a game written for Windows 95 on Windows 11 without major issues (no, I am not going to open the SafeDisc can of worms this time). I can’t do that on macOS or Linux boxes reliably, and yet Windows is doing a-OK with this task. That being said, I am disappointed to see the direction that the OS is taking lately, and it feels like a very odd misplacement of priorities, especially given the advances that other Microsoft products are going through. A detailed post outlining all the problems on Windows – problems that are only getting worse. Using Windows these days feels like visiting Times Square in New York – it’s a cacophony of lights and colours and advertisements and noise that, while an experience worth having, I didn’t want to stay for much longer than a few minutes. It doesn’t have much to offer besides the lights and colours and advertisements and noise, because those are the very point of Times Square. There’s nothing else of value there. Windows is the same – it isn’t an operating system designed for its users, it’s an operating system designed to increase ad and services revenue. The people in charge at Windows clearly aren’t the people who care about a coherent, welcoming, pleasing, thorough, and well-crafted experience – it’s the advertisement bozos and cloudbros who run the Windows department. And that’s sad.

Microsoft puts ads in Explorer, claims it was a test

Microsoft appears to be testing a new type of ad inside File Explorer on Windows 11. Microsoft MVP and Twitter user Florian Beaubois discovered an ad in the latest test build of Windows 11, prompting users to check out the Microsoft Editor. While the ads might have appeared for some Windows 11 users, Microsoft says it was a mistake. “This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off,” says Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager for Windows, in a statement to The Verge. Almost every week there’s a news story about something plain dreadful happening to Windows users, and this is just the latest in a long string of ads Microsoft is plastering all over its operating system. I really don’t understand how users just accept this – they sit back, get bombarded with ads in their operating system, and just… Accept it. Baffling.

DirectStorage API now available on Windows

Starting today, Windows games can ship with DirectStorage. This public SDK release begins a new era of fast load times and detailed worlds in PC games by allowing developers to more fully utilize the speed of the latest storage devices. In September 2020, we announced DirectStorage would be coming to Windows, and after collecting feedback throughout our developer preview, we are making this API available to all of our partners to ship with their games. Check out the announcement blog for an in-depth exploration of the inspiration for DirectStorage and how it will benefit Windows games. This technology brings the fast storage features of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X/S to Windows gaming. I’m curious to see if this feature can make its way to Linux, but I wonder how e.g. games running through Proton would possibly make use of it.

Windows Defender is enough, if you harden it

This article is not intended to convince you to abandon your current antivirus solutions. In this post I would like to share my observations and ways to improve the effectiveness of Defender. But today, let’s focus on Defender for the home user. It does not have additional functions that are offered by other commercial solutions, but what it does is enough. However, it is worth enabling some additional functions that are not available from the graphical interface. Excellent article, and worth a read if you’re still using Windows.