The Windows 10 May 2021 Update has been finalized and Build 19043.928 is likely to be the release candidate. Unsurprisingly, May 2021 Update will begin rolling out to millions of users around the world in May, and it will ship with a few minor improvements, mostly for enterprise customers. Microsoft has officially named the version 21H1 update as “May 2021 Update” and published the final bits in the Release Preview Channel. I wish Microsoft would rethink its obtuse versioning and naming scheme for windows, because none of this makes any sense to me anymore. This is a small update, and mostly focused on remote work scenarios in the enterprise.
Microsoft is working on a brand-new Store app for Windows 10 that will introduce a modern and fluid user interface, as well as bring changes to the policies that govern what kind of apps can be submitted to the store by developers. According to sources familiar with the matter, this new Store will pave the way to a revitalized storefront that’s more open to both end users and developers. The biggest change is that Microsoft will supposedly allow developers to host unpackaged, unaltered, bog-standard Win32 applications in the Store. Right now, even Win32 applications need to be packaged as MSIX, but this requirement is going away. The Microsoft Store definitely needs a lot of love, but I feel like the problem isn’t the Store itself – it’s just how messy and fragmented managing applications on Windows really is.
While installing Windows NT 3.1 worked perfectly, I really like to tinker with my retro stuff. The Windows NT 3.1 CD comes with the full set of debugging symbols, I’m curious into investigating why NetDDE throws an error into the event log, and the system crashes with a specific EISA ethernet card (which might be due to faulty hardware), so I decided to dive into kernel debugging. Setting up kernel debugging is straight-forward, once you realize you should use the i386kd executable supplied with Windows NT 3.1 instead of kd/ntkd from the current Windows 10 develepmont kit. As soon as I want to break in (using Ctrl-C in i386kd), the target machine reboots instead of providing a kd> prompt. Such an obscure question and bug, and yet, there’s someone providing a detailed answer – and a fix.
WSL lets you run a Linux environment, and up until this point has focused on enabling command line tools utilities and applications. GUI app support now lets you use your favorite Linux GUI applications as well. WSL is used in a wide variety of applications, workloads, and use cases, so ultimately, it’s up to you on what you’d like to use GUI app support for. Useful for developers who target multiple platforms.
It’s a year later and we can now safely conclude that WinGet is terrible. It calls itself a package manager, but it doesn’t really manage packages: it can only install them. With AppGet you could actually manage your software. If it got outdated, you could update it. If you no longer wanted it, you can uninstall it. WinGet doesn’t do that. It just downloads software and installs it. For months there’s been “experimental” support for the most important feature of a package manager: upgrades. It just doesn’t work. Sure, it will download the updates. It’ll even pretend to install them. And if you run it again, it will do it all over again for the same packages. It’s pointless. It just pretends to upgrade software, just like it pretends to be a package manager. One of the main reasons I use Linux is just how insanely superior installing and managing applications is on Linux compared to Windows and macOS. As a Linux Mint user, I’m part of the Debian ecosystem, meaning virtually every piece of Linux software comes packaged as a .deb (you’ll have a similar experience with e.g. RPM or Arch-based distributions), managed from one central place. I never have to think about how to install, update, or remove an application. Windows and macOS have various different methods of installing, updating, and removing applications, and many of these methods leave files all over the place. On both Windows and macOS, you have to deal with individual per-app update tools, application stores, downloading individual updates from the web, using tacked-on, always-breaking ports systems, and it’s up to you to remember how, exactly, each application handles its installation, update, and removal procedures. WinGet is just another mess to add to the giant pile of garbage that is managing applications on Windows.
Windows 95 was the “next-generation” OS from Microsoft: redesigned UI, long file names support, 32-bit apps and many other changes. Some of Windows 95 components are still in use today. How does it look? Let’s test it and figure it out. It’s always fun to dive back into old operating systems we used to use every day. Windows 95 is such a monumental release, and one that changed the face of computing overnight. It turned an already massive computer company into one of the largest, most powerful companies in the world, and its influence on how desktop and laptop user interfaces work today can be seen everywhere. Windows 95 also happens to be delightfully pleasant to look at, especially taking into account the jumbled, chaotic mess of a user interface Windows has become today.
Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t allow you to remove 3D Objects and other folders from File Explorer using Control Panel or Settings. If you want to remove these folders, you need to use Registry editor and delete the entry. With the Sun Valley update, Microsoft is looking to reduce the clutter in File Explorer and they plan to hide the 3D Objects folder by default. After the update, this useless folder will no longer be shown under ‘This PC’ unless you right-click and select the “Show all folders” option on the navigation pane. I know this is a small change, and I know it’s insignificant, but these unremovable garbage folders always feel like such a slap in the face. It’s an annoying reminder that when you use Windows, you don’t really own your computer.
Today, we are introducing the next feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1. As people continue to rely on Windows more than ever to work, learn and have fun, we understand the importance of providing the best possible update experience to help people and organizations stay protected and productive. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly and why for the first time an H1 (first half of the calendar year) feature update release will be delivered in an optimized way using servicing technology, while continuing our semi-annual feature update cadence. In today’s blog I will cover details on how we plan to service the release, its scope, and next steps. Since I’ve lost track of the Windows release process and everything feels random and messy, I’m just going to say nothing at all.
That Windows Package Manager exists at all is a big step forward, but while the service is in preview it is rather limited. At present you can use it to find and install software but removing it has to be done the old fashioned way. And who wants to do that? Finally, though, that is about to change, according to these tweets from Demitrius Nelon, a member of the Windows Package Manager team. Yes, I know it’s a preview and all that, but a package manager that cannot uninstall packages isn’t really a package manager at all, now is it?
Win32 APIs provide powerful functionality that let you get the most out of Windows in your applications. While these APIs are readily accessible to C and C++ developers, other languages like C# and Rust require wrappers or bindings in order to access these APIs. In C#, this is commonly known as platform invoking or P/Invoke. Historically this has required developers to handcraft the wrappers or bindings, which is error prone and doesn’t scale to broad API coverage. In recent years, given the strong demand for calling Win32 APIs from various languages, several community projects have spawned to provide more strongly typed and idiomatic representations of these wrappers and bindings to provide an improved developer experience and spare developers the overhead of creating them themselves. Some notable projects include PInvoke for .NET and winapi-rs for Rust. The main challenge with these projects is they are manually maintained, which makes broad and sustained API coverage difficult and costly, and their work doesn’t really benefit other languages. As owners of the Windows SDK, we wanted to see where we could provide unique value here, take some of the burden off of the community, and make achieving broad and sustainable API coverage across languages a reality. The result of this is our win32metadata project and corresponding Win32 language projections now in preview on GitHub! I’m not a developer, but I think this means that Microsoft is trying to make it easier to tap into the Win32 API with languages other than C and C++. This seems like a smart move considering how popular some of these more modern and/or recent languages have become. It also highlights that despite repeated attempts to kill Win32, Microsoft seems to have accepted that it simply isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
After years of waiting, it looks like Microsoft now has a true answer to Chrome OS. A new and near-final version of Windows 10X has leaked, and it offers a first look at the changes Microsoft has made to the upcoming operating system to get it ready for laptops. Windows 10X first started off life as a variant of Windows 10 designed for dual-screen devices. It was supposed to launch alongside Microsoft’s Surface Neo, a tablet-like device with two separate nine-inch displays that fold out to a full 13-inch workspace. Microsoft revealed last year that Windows 10X is now being reworked for “single-screen” devices like laptops, and Surface Neo has been delayed. While the company has spent years differentiating Windows 10X for foldable and dual-screen hardware, it now looks and feels more like Chrome OS than ever before. This is literally Chrome OS. It looks, feels, and tastes like Chrome OS – and of course, that’s the point. It also points to what we can expect from regular Windows over the coming years.
Turning those percentages into whole numbers isn’t a matter of simple division, unfortunately, because we don’t know the denominator. Microsoft has told us for years that the Windows user base is 1.5 billion, but I argued a year ago that the number of Windows PCs is probably much lower than that, even with a pandemic-induced resurgence in PC sales. Even allowing for that uncertainty, it’s clear that at least 100 million PCs are still running Windows 7, and that number could be significantly higher. It makes sense. Windows 7 is still a perfectly capable operating system, and I can understand how especially for average, normal users, there’s little in Windows 10 that’s worth going through the hassle of an upgrade for. Security issues aside, Windows 7 still looks modern, too. Why should a regular user upgrade?
Microsoft is building a universal Outlook client for Windows and Mac that will also replace the default Mail & Calendar apps on Windows 10 when ready. This new client is codenamed Monarch and is based on the already available Outlook Web app available in a browser today. Project Monarch is the end-goal for Microsoft’s “One Outlook” vision, which aims to build a single Outlook client that works across PC, Mac, and the Web. Right now, Microsoft has a number of different Outlook clients for desktop, including Outlook Web, Outlook (Win32) for Windows, Outlook for Mac, and Mail & Calendar on Windows 10. The mail client in Windows will carry the well-known Outlook brand and will be a web app. You know, just in case you wanted to know how much faith Microsoft has in its own native application platforms. If not even Microsoft itself cares enough to write native Windows applications, then who does? The Windows application ecosystem is a complete and utter mess.
Engstrom was known as part of the “Beastie Boys,” a trio of evangelists who paved the way for Microsoft’s expansion in games in the late 1990s and early 2000s with DirectX. The expansion eventually enabled Microsoft to launch the Xbox (X signified DirectX) video game console — an enterprise that generated billions of dollars for Microsoft and made it a major player in the game industry. What a fascinating man and career.
Microsoft has released a preview of 64bit x86 emulation for Windows on ARM. In this preview, you can install x64 apps from the Microsoft Store or from any other location of your choosing. You can try key x64-only productivity apps like Autodesk Sketchbook, as well as games like Rocket League. Other apps, like Chrome, which run today on ARM64 as 32-bit apps, can run as 64-bit using the new x64 emulation capability. These apps may benefit from having more memory when run as 64-bit emulated apps. I’m quite interested in trying out Windows on ARM out of sheer curiosity, but since I was one of the few sad sacks who bought a Surface RT on release day, I may sit this one out for a bit.
Starting December 2020, Microsoft will begin Some Windows 10 users about to be force upgraded if they use older versions (windowslatest.com) if they don’t update their PC manually. The move comes after Microsoft announced that it’s ending support for Windows 10 version 1903, including Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. It shouldn’t be a concern for most users considering that the tech giant issued the upgrade alert two months ago. Microsoft had also confirmed that it would start forcing people to upgrade even if they don’t want to. Does anyone even know what all these version numbers even mean anymore? There’s version numbers, date-based names, build numbers – I have completely and utterly lost track of Windows’ development cycle and rollouts.
A developer has successfully been able to virtualize the ARM version of Windows on Apple Silicon using the QEMU virtualizer. Apple’s M1 MacBooks have proved their worth when it comes to performance and battery efficiency. But, since these run on a custom ARM chip, it’s not yet possible to install, dual boot, or emulate Windows; which is in popular demand. Developer Alexander Graf, however, took to Twitter today to share his achievement: successfully being able to virtualize ARM Windows on Apple Silicon. Nothing too surprising, of course, but the real barrier to Windows on ARM running on M1-equipped Macs is not running Windows on M1 Macs, but Microsoft actually making the ARM version of Windows available for this very purpose.
If you have followed Windows 10 at all during the last few years, you know that the Windows Subsystem for Linux, or WSL for short, is the hot topic among developers. You can finally run your Linux tooling on Windows as a first class citizen, which means you no longer have to learn PowerShell or, god forbid, suffer through the ancient CMD.EXE console. Unfortunately, not everything is as rosy as it sounds. I now have to do development on Windows for Windows as part of my new role within Azure… and the fact that WSL continues to be separate from the native Windows environment shows. Even though I was quite hopeful, I cannot use WSL as my daily driver because I need to interact with “native” Windows tooling. I believe things needn’t be this way, but with the recent push for WSL 2, I think that the potential of an alternate world is now gone. But what do I mean with this? For that, we must first understand the differences between WSL 1 and WSL 2 and how the push for WSL 2 may shut some interesting paths. I was only vaguely aware of the fact WSL 2 switched to using a virtual machine instead of being an NT subsystem as WSL 1 was. There’s arguments to be made for and against either approach, but the NT subsystem approach just feels nice, more holistic to me – even if it is way more work to keep it in step with Linux.
Today, Microsoft is releasing the third preview of WinUI 3, and among the new features is native support for ARM64 PCs. If you’re not familiar with WinUI, you might remember it from Microsoft’s Build conference this year when the company announced Project Reunion. This is part of the firm’s plan to bring Win32 and UWP together, and do so without requiring a feature update to Windows 10. WinUI is the most important building block for an upcoming update to Windows 10 where things like Explorer and other Win32 applications will get a ‘modern’ makeover.
In the latest preview builds, Microsoft has removed all shortcuts that allowed you to access the retired pages of the Control Panel. In other words, you can no longer right-click within the File Explorer and select ‘Properties’ to open the retired ‘System’ page of the Control Panel. Likewise, Microsoft has even blocked CLSID-based IDs and third-party apps. Open Shell and Classic Shell, are also no longer able to launch the hidden System applet of the Control Panel. Now, when a user tries to open the retired Control Panel page, they are brought to the About page instead. This is a good thing. The weird, split-personality nature of Windows is odd, uneccesary, and needlessly complicated, and it’s high time Microsoft fully commits to something for once when it comes to Windows. Whether or not the ‘modern’ path is the one most OSNews readers want Microsoft to take is a different matter altogether.