Windows Archive

Microsoft adds “AI” to taskbar search field

In the last three weeks, we also launched the new AI-powered Bing into preview for more than 1 million people in 169 countries, and expanded the new Bing to the Bing and Edge mobile apps as well as introduced it into Skype. It is a new era in Search, Chat and Creation and with the new Bing and Edge you now have your own copilot for the web. Today, we take the next major step forward adding to the incredible breadth and ease of use of the Windows PC by implementing a typable Windows search box and the amazing capability of the new AI-powered Bing directly into the taskbar. Putting all your search needs for Windows in one easy to find location. I feel like adding a glorified autocomplete that tricks people into thinking it’s a real artificial intelligence to the Windows taskbar is not exactly what Windows users are looking for, but I guess that services revenue cash register has to keep dinging. I’m getting major cryptocurrency, NFT, and web3 vibes from all this, and I can’t wait for the whole thing to come crashing down once again.

Calmira, the Windows 95-like desktop for Windows 3.x, returns

Calmira Reborn is fourth in the line of Calmira projects. It is a fork of Calmira LFN 3.32 by Alexandre Rodrigues de Sousa, itself a fork of Calmira II 3.3 by Calmira Online!, itself a fork of Calmira 2.2SR by Li-Hsin Huang. This fork does not place much emphasis on new features and instead focuses on fixing issues I’ve discovered with Calmira LFN while using it on my old computers. Calmira should ring a bell for most Windows users of the ’90s. Calmira adds a Windows 95-like desktop environment to replace Program Manager on Windows 3.x, along with tons of other features and niceties. It makes using Windows 3.x a lot less cumbersome, and I am definitely going to set up a new Windows 3.11 install in PCem to try this new release out.

Dev explains why Tiny11 Windows is so tiny yet secure despite no TPM, Secure Boot

While many like how Windows 11 looks or feels, there are some who just want to cut out on what they feel is bloat as their hardware may not be good enough to run the new OS smoothly, or simply for the fun of it. Recently, a popular third-party Windows 11 tweaking and customization app called ThisIsWin11 (TIW11) evolved into Debloos or Debloat OS, which, as the name suggests, allows the de-bloating of the operating system. If one isn’t comfortable going about tweaking things themselves with it, they could also opt for Tiny11, which was released earlier today. This stripped-down Windows 11 Pro 22H2 mod requires 8GB of install space, 2GB of system memory, and perhaps the best part, it does not require TPM and Secure Boot. I always find the custom Windows versions scene fascinating. Legally, it’s a very grey area, but there’s usually some real gems in there, such as this one. As the creator emphasises – this isn’t for production use or for any machine that can run regular Windows 11, but it might be useful in certain niche applications or on older hardware.

This is Microsoft’s new modern File Explorer overhaul for Windows 11

As was revealed a handful of weeks ago, Microsoft is currently working on a significant update to File Explorer on Windows 11 that will update several core areas of the app with modern designs and new features that will better integrate the experience with OneDrive and Microsoft 365. The home page itself is being updated with more integration with Microsoft 365. Along the top will be a feed of “recommended” files, which will be presented with larger thumbnails that will make it easier to see what files are being suggested to you. That’s a lot of excuses for ads.

Windows 3.x VDDVGA

While working on my Windows 3.x display driver, I ran into a vexing problem. In Windows 3.1 running in Enhanced 386 mode, I could start a DOS session and switch it to a window. But an attempt to set a mode in the DOS window (e.g. MODE CO80) would destroy the Windows desktop, preventing further drawing from happening properly. It was possible to recover by using Alt+Enter to switch the DOS window to full screen again and then returning to the desktop, but obviously that wasn’t going to cut it. Oddly enough, this problem did not exist in Windows 3.0. And in fact it also didn’t exist in Windows 3.1 if I used the Windows 3.0 compatible VDDVGA30.386 VxD shipped with Windows 3.1 (plus the corresponding VGA30.3GR grabber). A classic retro computing bug hunt! These stories are always a good read.

Windows 11 is getting ReFS support

Recent Windows 11 Insider builds include support for ReFS, the Resilient File System. The file system is currently only available in Windows server operating systems, but not in client systems. Resilient File System is designed to “maximize data availability, scale efficiently to large data sets across diverse workloads, and provide data integrity with resiliency to corruption” according to Microsoft. I doubt ReFS will replace NTFS any time soon, but with Windows’ lacklustre support for file systems, it’s always interesting to see something new come up.

The defender’s guide to Windows Services

This is the second installment of the Defender’s Guide series. In keeping with the theme, we are discussing Windows Services, the underlying technology, common attack vectors, and methods of securing/monitoring them. Services are an important part of the Windows operating system, allowing the control and configuration of long-running processes essential to keeping the OS functional. This also allows services to be a common vector of escalation and persistence by attackers. Some services (especially custom services) run with high privilege levels, and are set to restart themselves on boot. This is a slam dunk for the enterprising attacker looking to gain a foothold in an environment. Everything you ever wanted to know about services in Windows, particularly as it relates to security.

No start menu for you

I tend to launch most programs on my Windows 10 laptop by typing the <Win> key, then a few letters of the program name, and then hitting enter. On my powerful laptop (SSD and 32 GB of RAM) this process usually takes as long as it takes me to type these characters, just a fraction of a second. Usually. Sometimes, however, it takes longer. A lot longer. As in, tens of seconds. The slowdowns are unpredictable but recently I was able to record an Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) trace of one of these delays. With a bit of help from people on twitter I was able to analyze the trace and understand why it took about a minute to launch notepad. I loved reading every bit of this post. Even for someone not versed in programming, it’s quite easy to follow along and understand what is happening deep in the bowels of Windows when this bug occurs. I’ll spoil the surprise: This deserves reiterating. My start menu was hung due to the combination of heap corruption and WerFault.exe deciding that it needed to upload the crash dump before releasing the old process so that a new one could be started. And uploading the crash dump ran into issues, causing the delay. The tools to watch for bugs is causing more bugs. Who watches the watchers?

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 reach the end of the line

Ars reports: It’s the end of the line for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. These older versions of Windows (plus Windows RT) stop receiving all security updates today, over a decade after their original releases. Microsoft will also stop providing Microsoft Edge browser updates for these operating systems in a few days, and the remaining third-party apps that still work will eventually follow suit (Google Chrome support, most notably, ends early next month). Windows 7 support for most people actually ended three years ago, but businesses that still used it could pay for up to three years of additional support while they transitioned to Windows 10 or 11. That window has now closed, and Microsoft isn’t offering a paid support option for Windows 8.1. Run an unspported operating system, or invite more ads and spyware. Tough call.

Microsoft backtracks one of the worst Start menu changes in Windows 11

Several weeks ago, we published an article detailing five not-so-great features coming soon to Windows 11. Recommended websites in the Start menu (introduced in build 25247) appear in the list as arguably one of Microsoft’s worst ideas. Luckily, the company has decided to backtrack that controversial change. Those unhappy with Windows 11 showing more ads on the Start menu will be glad to learn that developers removed recommended websites in the latest preview build. A bit of positive news on the ads-in-Windows front for once.

How many layers of UI inconsistencies are in Windows 11?

It’s 2023, and Windows 11 is finally a mature operating system that most people would be happy to use. Sun Valley has finally arrived, and it’s all about a long overdue reinvestment in design under Panos Panay’s leadership. But is it enough? Let’s take a look. For the purpose of this research, I used Windows 11 build 25267, which as of now is the latest Insider Dev build. Death, taxes, and new windows theme layers.

WuMgr gives Windows 10 users control over updates

WuMgr (Update Manager for Windows) is a tool to manage updates of Microsoft products on the Windows operating system. It uses the “Windows Update Agent API” to identify as well as download and install missing updates. It allows the user fine control of updates on modern (Windows 10) operating system versions, comparable to what windows 7 and 8.1 offered. This functionality should be included in Windows by default, and the fact that it isn’t is just one of the many laughable deficiencies Windows is riddled with. And speaking of laughable deficiencies in Windows, a third party user interface to the optional and limited winget package “manager” has recently been updated.

Win16 retro development

Several months ago I had a go at producing a high resolution 256-color driver for Windows 3.1. The effort was successful but is not yet complete. Along the way I re-learned many things I had forgotten, and learned several new ones. This blog entry is based on notes I made during development. There’s tons of lessons to re-learn when focusing on older platforms, whether as a mere user exploring or reminiscing, or as a developer trying to deal with all the constraints and limitations these old systems bring to the table. I’m glad it’s being documented, because the older these platforms get, the less we’ll remember about them.

Windows 11 22H2 to get more new features as several “Moment” updates are planned

Reports have indicated that Microsoft is planning to release a new Windows version every three years like it was in the times of Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, Microsoft doesn’t want Windows 11 to become boring or unexciting. Microsoft wants to keep Windows 11 constantly updated with “Moment” and some “feature” updates. Microsoft has reportedly scrapped the original Sun Valley 3 project and Windows 11 will receive Windows 11 23H2 based on the existing version 22H2, similar to enablement package updates for Windows 10. Microsoft wants to release a new Windows in 2024 (Windows 12? We don’t know yet). Version. Moment updates. Feature updates. Enablement package updates. 22H2 and 23H2. Cumulative updates. Main development channel. Windows 11 2022 Update. Windows 11 Build 25262. But sure, I am the idiot for not being able to keep track of this nomenclature diarrhea.

Legacy Update revives the original Windows Update website for XP, Vista, 7, and more

This is a community-run resource to help you fix the Windows Update service on earlier versions of Windows. Since Windows XP was discontinued in 2014, followed by Windows 7 in 2020, Microsoft’s support for their earlier OSes has significantly dwindled. As XP and earlier don’t officially support modern security improvements, such as the SHA256 hash algorithm required by modern SSL and Authenticode certificates as of 2019, much of the internet has become inaccessible to these devices. Adding insult to injury, Microsoft actively removed many downloads for XP and earlier versions in 2020. In effect, working with these OSes is now incredibly difficult. Windows Update provides many optional and recommended updates, in addition to drivers for your system, but Windows XP and 2000 can only install critical security updates through the built-in Automatic Updates feature. Legacy Update revives the original Windows Update website – the only way to see and install every update available for your system. This is very cool for virtual machines and old boxes you may have lying around for use with legacy software or games.

Atlas: third party Windows ISO for gaming

Atlas is a Windows version designed for gamers. Atlas users can enjoy higher framerate, lowered input delay & latency. Great for people on a low-end system, or high-end gaming machine. I had no idea people still did this – create custom versions of Windows ISOs and try to pawn them off as something special. The legality of this is more than dubious, of course, and you can probably achieve the same results with some of the countless scripts that are out there that also remove services, telemetry and pointless applications.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux in the Microsoft Store is now generally available on Windows 10 and 11

Today the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in the Microsoft Store is dropping its “Preview” label and becomes generally available with our latest release! We are also making the Store version of WSL the default for new users who run wsl --install and easily upgradeable by running wsl --update for existing users. Using the Store version of WSL allows you to get updates to WSL much faster compared to when it was a Windows component. In response to the WSL community’s requests, WSL in the Store will now also be available on Windows 10 in addition to Windows 11. So, Windows 10 users will also be able to enjoy all of the latest features for WSL including systemd and Linux GUI app support! I obviously have no hard data on this, but I feel like WSL is actually quite popular among developers, as it gives Windows users easy access to a very popular tool chain and development platform. I don’t know just how transferable knowledge and experience gained through WSL is to “real” Linux, but it seems close enough.