Last year, Microsoft announced when it would be killing app updates and distribution in the Windows Store for Windows Phone 8.x and Windows 8.x. At the time, the blog post stated that Windows Phone 8.x devices would stop receiving app updates after July 1, 2019, while Windows 8.x devices would get app updates through July 1, 2023. However, it seems as though plans have changed a little bit, as the blog post has quietly been updated earlier this month. As spotted by Nawzil on Twitter, Microsoft has changed the wording in the post to state that Windows 8 devices will stop getting updates for their apps at the same time as Windows Phone 8.x, that is, July 1 of this year. Windows 8.1 devices will continue to receive updates through the previously announced date in 2023. Not entirely surprising, and this will affect pretty much nobody since Windows 8.1 is a free update.
From a Microsoft support document (as discovered by Neowin): Windows defines two main policies, Quick removal and Better performance, that control how the system interacts with external storage devices such as USB thumb drives or Thunderbolt-enabled external drives. Beginning in Windows 10 version 1809, the default policy is Quick removal. In earlier versions of Windows the default policy was Better performance. What this means is that starting with Windows 10 version 1809, you no longer need to use the Safely Remove Hardware process when removing a USB drive, because there’s no longer any write operation caching going on. You can still change this policy if you want to.
Today, Microsoft announced that it’s releasing the May 2019 Update to the Release Preview ring, and it’s available now. In order to sign up, you’ll need to go to the Windows Insider Program tab, click ‘Get started’, and choose the option for ‘Just fixes, apps, and drivers’. After your PC reboots, you’ll need to check for updates, as it’s only being offered to ‘seekers’ right now. The build that you’ll get is build 18362.30, and that’s the release candidate for the Windows 10 May 2019 Update. It’s possible that there will be cumulative updates between now and when it’s released next month, but the major build number should stay at 18362, unless there are some real dealbreakers that are found. I tried to install this latest update, but I was confronted by a most unhelpful dialog. After working so much on my Linux laptop lately, where there’s almost always an easy way to figure out why something’s going wrong and fix it, it starts dawning on you just how incredibly infuriating it is when you run into such unhelpful, user-hostile dialogs.
Microsoft is planning to start rolling out its Windows 10 May 2019 Update next week to testers before it’s more broadly available in late May. The new update is the next major version of Windows 10, codenamed “19H1,” and it’s a relatively light update in terms of features. Microsoft’s big visual change is a new light theme for Windows 10, alongside Kaomoji support, a Windows sandbox feature, and the separation of Cortana and Windows search. As Ars Technica further details, Microsoft is giving users a lot more control over Windows feature updates, and with this one, you can opt to skip the feature update while still receiving security updates.
If your computer runs into Windows problems and automatic recovery attempts are unsuccessful, Windows 10 will now automatically remove the botched updates. In a new support document, Microsoft has now detailed an interesting functionality where Windows 10 will automatically remove the installed updates to fix the startup issues and other bugs preventing PC from booting. Neat.
Blizzard added DirectX 12 support for their award-winning World of Warcraft game on Windows 10 in late 2018. This release received a warm welcome from gamers: thanks to DirectX 12 features such as multi-threading, WoW gamers experienced substantial framerate improvement. After seeing such performance wins for their gamers running DirectX 12 on Windows 10, Blizzard wanted to bring wins to their gamers who remain on Windows 7, where DirectX 12 was not available. At Microsoft, we make every effort to respond to customer feedback, so when we received this feedback from Blizzard and other developers, we decided to act on it. Microsoft is pleased to announce that we have ported the user mode D3D12 runtime to Windows 7. This unblocks developers who want to take full advantage of the latest improvements in D3D12 while still supporting customers on older operating systems. Let that sink in: Microsoft backported Direct X 12 to Windows just for World of Warcraft. I guess World of Warcraft is just as important as SimCity.
Microsoft is starting to test updates to its Your Phone app for Windows 10 this week, allowing Android users to mirror a phone screen directly to a PC. The “phone screen” feature will be available for Windows Insiders this week, and it requires the latest test builds of Windows 10 and the Your Phone app. Microsoft previously demonstrated the phone screen mirroring feature in Your Phone at the company’s Surface event in October. The app works by mirroring a phone screen straight onto Windows 10, and it provides a list of your Android apps. You can tap to access them and have them appear in the remote session of your phone that’s mirrored to your PC. My 2018 Dell XPS 13 came with a Dell application that offered the same kind of functionality, and other than 5 minutes of messing around with it, I’ve never used it. I’m quite curious who this functionality is for, and if anyone will use it beyond the mere curiosity that is seems to be. I’d say Windows has more pressing issues to address.
Here at Microsoft, we are always looking to engage with open source communities to produce better solutions for the community and our customers . One of the more useful debugging advances that have arrived in the last decade is DTrace. DTrace of course needs no introduction: it’s a dynamic tracing framework that allows an admin or developer to get a real-time look into a system either in user or kernel mode. DTrace has a C-style high level and powerful programming language that allows you to dynamically insert trace points. Using these dynamically inserted trace points, you can filter on conditions or errors, write code to analyze lock patterns, detect deadlocks, etc. ETW while powerful, is static and does not provide the ability to programmatically insert trace points at runtime. Starting in 2016, the OpenDTrace effort began on GitHub that tried to ensure a portable implementation of DTrace for different operating systems. We decided to add support for DTrace on Windows using this OpenDTrace port. We have created a Windows branch for “DTrace on Windows” under the OpenDTrace project on GitHub. All our changes made to support DTrace on Windows are available here. Over the next few months, we plan to work with the OpenDTrace community to merge our changes. All our source code is also available at the 3rd party sources website maintained by Microsoft. Microsoft is continuing its effort to draw developers to Windows by implementing features developers actually seem to want, instead of trying to push in-house features that are unique to Windows that nobody is asking for.
The Nintendo Switch has a pretty serious hardware vulnerability that leaves it open to all kinds of exploits, and we’ve previously seen it running Linux thanks to the work of some hackers. Meanwhile, since Microsoft introduced Windows 10 on ARM, developers have been working to port it to unsupported ARM devices, including the Lumia 950. So, it would seem that it’s only a matter of time until these two paths intersect, and that seems to have happened now. A Twitter user by the name of @imbushuo has posted pictures of attempts to install the ARM version of Microsoft’s operating system on Nintendo’s hybrid console. The developer has noted some issues and documented many of the problems he encountered on Twitter, but progress is being made. The latest status update simply shows the Windows boot logo on the screen, with imbushuo noting that some work still needs to be done, specifically in regards to memory regions. I’m not entirely sure just how useful it would be to run Windows 10 on the Switch, but that doesn’t make it any less of an impressive effort.
Microsoft is preparing a new lightweight version of Windows for dual-screen devices and Chromebook competitors. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the software maker is stripping back its Windows user interface with dual screens in mind. This new hardware could launch as early as later this year, depending on chip and PC maker readiness. This would be the fifth attempt in recent years to create a new version of Windows designed for smaller and mobile devices – Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 and up, Windows RT, and Windows 10 on ARM – and I just don’t see how this time it’ll all be different.
Ever since Microsoft recently began testing Windows 10 20H1 – its Windows 10 feature update that isn’t expected to start rolling out to mainstream users until April 2020 – there’s been lots of speculation about why Microsoft is doing this so early. Microsoft’s Windows Insider team has made some vague references to some things being worked on requiring a longer lead time. But I’m hearing from my contacts the real reason is much more mundane: It’s about aligning schedules between Azure and Windows engineering. Sometimes, the real story is just… Boring.
Microsoft said last Fall that it would offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates on a per-device basis for big customers willing to pay for them after the company ends Windows 7 support on January 14, 2020. Microsoft officials wouldn’t talk about how much those updates would cost, beyond saying they’d get more expensive over time. However, Microsoft has briefed some of its partners and salespeople about the cost of these Extended Support Updates (ESUs). And, as you’d expect, they’re not cheap, especially for customers who may want to apply them on multiple PCs. They’re even more expensive for customers using the Pro version of Windows than the Enterprise one. These extended security updates are only available to enterprise and educiation users, so no luck if you’re an individual home user.That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these updates make their way into less than legal channels.
Last April, Microsoft open sourced the original File Manager that shipped with Windows 3.0, allowing users to make changes and if they want, compile it for use on Windows 10. Now, the firm is making it easier to run the legacy app, as it’s offering the Windows 3.0 File Manager through the Microsoft Store (via Aggiornamenti Lumia) as a UWP app. It’s definitely neat to play with this – and it works wonderfully. It also has a few updated features, but retains its classic look.
Starting with the next major Windows update, Microsoft is going to reserve about 7 GB of disk space on Windows’ root drive for something it calls “reserved storage”, basically a space for updates, apps, temporary files, and system caches. Note that the 7 GB is variable, and will change depending on how you use your system. When apps and system processes create temporary files, these files will automatically be placed into reserved storage. These temporary files won’t consume free user space when they are created and will be less likely to do so as temporary files increase in number, provided that the reserve isn’t full. Since disk space has been set aside for this purpose, your device will function more reliably. Storage sense will automatically remove unneeded temporary files, but if for some reason your reserve area fills up Windows will continue to operate as expected while temporarily consuming some disk space outside of the reserve if it is temporarily full. In the comments under the blog post announcing this change, Microsoft’s Craig Barkhouse explains in more detail how, exactly, this feature is implemented. Instead of opting for VHXD or separate partitions – which would cause a performance hit and compatibility issues due to the files residing in a different file system namespace – the company optied for making use of NTFS. As Barkhouse explains: Instead we designed an elegant solution that would require new support being added to NTFS. The idea is NTFS provides a mechanism for the servicing stack to specify how much space it needs reserved, say 7GB. Then NTFS reserves that 7GB for servicing usage only. What is the effect of that? Well the visible free space on C: drops by 7GB, which reduces how much space normal applications can use. Servicing can use those 7GB however. And as servicing eats into those 7GB, the visible free space on C: is not affected (unless servicing uses beyond the 7GB that was reserved). The way NTFS knows to use the reserved space as opposed to the general user space is that servicing marks its own files and directories in a special way. You can see that this mechanism has similar free space characteristics as using a separate partition or a VHDX, yet the files seamlessly live in the same namespace which is a huge benefit. This functionality will only be activated on fresh installations of the next major Windows update, so existing systems will not be affected.
In Windows 95 build 302 from 23rd December 1994, you won’t find the Start button you’d expect. Not because it’s gone, but because it’s been renamed to “Ship It!”. There is no serious explanation for this change, and it was already reverted by the time the next leaked build, 311, was made in January 1995. But when you consider the name of the product, Windows 95, and the date when this build was compiled, I hope you can see the obvious joke. I wonder what Matthew and Jennifer have to say about this.
Windows Media Player is no longer an essential addition to Windows and there are quality third-party alternatives, such as VLC Media Player. Microsoft’s offers the Films & TV app in Windows 10 as an alternative to Windows Media Player, but the legacy player remains the default player on Windows 7 devices. Today, we spotted a new support document which was quietly published yesterday and it has revealed that Microsoft is retiring a feature that is being used in Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player. This is a small change, but it marks the beginning of the end for Windows 7.
Windows NT stopped supporting the Intel 80386 processor with Windows 4.0, which raised the minimum requirements to an Intel 80486. Therefore, the Intel 80386 technically falls into the category of “processor that Windows once supported but no longer does.” This series focuses on the portion of the x86 instruction set available on an 80386, although I will make notes about future extensions in a special chapter. As with all the processor retrospective series, I’m going to focus on how Windows NT used the Intel 80386 in user mode because the original audience for all of these discussions was user-mode developers trying to get up to speed debugging their programs. Normally, this means that I omit instructions that you are unlikely to see in compiler-generated code. However, I’ll set aside a day to cover some of the legacy instructions that are functional but not used in practice. Written by Raymond Chen, so you know it’s good stuff. Part 2, part 3, and part 4 are also already available.
Many of us have seen the videos by now. Developers have figured out how to get full Windows 10 running on a Microsoft Lumia 950 or 950 XL. There’s good news though, as you can now try this out for yourself. There are a few warnings though. For one thing, consider the same warnings that you’d hear when installing a Windows Insider Preview. This is going to be unstable, the performance will be terrible (Windows on ARM is not designed for these chipsets), and you shouldn’t plan on using your phone as your phone. If you’ve got an extra Lumia 950 lying around that you’re not using anymore and want to try a fun project, that’s the optimal use case. There’s really no reason to install full Windows 10 on any Lumia devices, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun project to undertake.
Rather than some designer’s flashy vision of the future, Windows 98 icons made the operating system feel like a place to get real work done. They had hard edges, soft colors and easy-to-recognize symbols. It’s obvious that the icons were meticulously crafted. Each 256-color .ico file includes a pixel-perfect 16×16, 32×32 and 48×48 version that looks equally good on the taskbar and desktop. They are, indeed, quite good. Most platforms from that era had exquisite icon design – think Mac OS 9 or BeOS – and we really seem to have lost some of that usability. I feel like Haiku’s current icon set best captures that same aesthetic, but in a modern coat (and a unique, custom-designed vector icon format).
Microsoft is planning to end support for Windows 10 Mobile devices in December. While Microsoft revealed back in 2017 that the company was no longer developing new features or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile, security and software updates have continued. These security updates will now cease on December 10th 2019, and devices will be unsupported after this date. “Windows 10 Mobile, version 1709 (released October 2017) is the last release of Windows 10 Mobile and Microsoft will end support on December 10, 2019,” reads a Microsoft support note that was updated this week. Microsoft is now recommending that Windows 10 Mobile users move to iOS or Android devices. “With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, we recommend that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device,” explains a FAQ on Windows 10 Mobile end of life. After Microsoft pulls support in December, device backups for settings and some apps will continue for three months until March 10th, 2020. Microsoft notes “some services including photo uploads and restoring a device from an existing device backup may continue to work for up to another 12 months from end of support.” It’s yet another one of those moments where Windows Phone dies a little more, and every time, it makes me sad. I was a first-day adopter of both Windows Phone 7.x and 8.x, and to this day I maintain it was the most pleasant to use modern mobile operating system. I’m still sad Microsoft was unable to attract the third party developers required to keep a smartphone platform afloat.