After many months of work, Simon and I are pleased to announce the WireGuardNT project, a native port of WireGuard to the Windows kernel. This has been a monumental undertaking, and if you’ve noticed that I haven’t read emails in about two months, now you know why. WireGuardNT, lower-cased as “wireguard-nt” like the other repos, began as a port of the Linux codebase, so that we could benefit from the analysis and scrutiny that that code has already received. After the initial porting efforts there succeeded, the NT codebase quickly diverged to fit well with native NTisms and NDIS (Windows networking stack) APIs. The end result is a deeply integrated and highly performant implementation of WireGuard for the NT kernel, that makes use of the full gamut of NT kernel and NDIS capabilities. That’s an impressive porting job, and further spreads the availability of this protocol to entirely new users and settings.
Last week Microsoft released Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22000.100 to everyone in the Dev Channel. After no major issues were detected, Microsoft has released the same build to the more stable Beta channel. Microsoft suggests those who would like to test Windows 11 but who are not ready for the wild Dev channel ride may want to switch to the Beta channel now. Microsoft also said they will not be releasing a Dev channel build this week. This is the first what you could call beta release of Windows 11, hinting that Microsoft is well on track to release Windows 11 later this Fall.
When Windows 11 arrives this holiday season, there is going to be a ton of changes. It looks totally different, supports Android apps, and more. There are also changes coming to how Windows 11 is updated and how it’s supported, so just in case you were worried about it, you’ll be pleased to know that there will be a Windows 11 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version. Good news for people not interested in Microsoft’s update schedule.
Today we’re excited to announce Windows 365, a cloud service that introduces a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when it’s generally available later this calendar year) for workers from interns and contractors to software developers and industrial designers. Windows 365 takes the operating system to the Microsoft Cloud, securely streaming the full Windows experience—including all your apps, data, and settings—to your personal or corporate devices. This approach creates a fully new personal computing category, specifically for the hybrid world: the Cloud PC. As silly as this sounds, I’m actually somewhat interested in this. I have a Windows 10 VM for some Windows-only translation software I sometimes need to use, but managing and updating Windows is a pain, so the idea of just paying a few euros every month to have a Windows instance on some faraway server actually seems like a much better alternative.
Running Windows on a phone has long been a dream for Microsoft enthusiasts, especially after the company discontinued their Windows Phones. While we may never see Microsoft’s vision for a phone running Windows 11, some young developers have shown us a preview of the operating system running on Android phones. We may end up in a world where Windows 11 will run on old Android phones, but not on computers with 7th gen Intel Core processors. In all seriousness, this is amazing and cool, and shows just how versatile Windows NT really is. Excellent work by these enthousiasts, and it keeps the dream alive.
Microsoft’s free upgrade offer for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users ended way back in 2016, but you can still upgrade to Windows 10. As expected, Microsoft says it will continue to support Windows 11 users upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 as long as they meet the minimum system requirements. However, there’s a catch – Windows 7 to Windows 11 upgrade could wipe your apps, settings and customizations. That’s because a proper direct upgrade path is not available for Windows 7/8.1 users, according to a support document from Lenovo, which was published on June 24 and spotted by us earlier today. This isn’t entirely unreasonable. Windows 7 was released 12 years ago, and received its last (and only) service pack 10 years ago. Mainstream support ended 2015, six years ago. I think this is a fair point to say – no more in-place upgrades. I mean, I think most people do fresh Windows installations anyway.
We already know that Windows 11 Home will require a Microsoft account (MSA) at the beginning of the installation process. What Microsoft hasn’t publicized is whether it’s possible to log in with just a local account. It is, but only with Windows 11 Pro. A source close to Microsoft has now told us that the only way to avoid using an MSA is with Windows 11 Pro. According to our source, users who buy or own a PC with Windows 11 Pro may choose to use either a local account or an MSA from the very beginning of the installation process. The Windows 11 Home MSA requirement isn’t permanent, just unavoidable. Microsoft will allow the user to transition to a local account once the Windows 11 Home installation process has completed. Retail versions of Windows 11 Home will offer the same experience. So you’re going to need an online account to install Windows 10 Home. If, for some reason, you truly want Windows 11, I’d suggest waiting a few months and get some cheap OEM license for Windows 11 Pro from eBay for a few dollars to save yourself the hassle.
Microsoft gave its digital imprimatur to a rootkit that decrypted encrypted communications and sent them to attacker-controlled servers, the company and outside researchers said. The blunder allowed the malware to be installed on Windows machines without users receiving a security warning or needing to take additional steps. For the past 13 years, Microsoft has required third-party drivers and other code that runs in the Windows kernel to be tested and digitally signed by the OS maker to ensure stability and security. Without a Microsoft certificate, these types of programs can’t be installed by default. One of the reasons Windows 11’s hardware requirements are so stringent is because Microsoft wants to force Trusted Platform Modules and Secure Boot down everyone’s throat, in the name of security. This way, Windows users can feel secure in knowing Microsoft looks out for them, and will prevent malware and viruses from… I can’t keep writing this with a straight face.
ARM64EC is a new application binary interface (ABI) for Windows 11 on ARM that runs with native speed and is interoperable with x64. An app, process, or even a module can freely mix and match ARM64EC and x64 as needed. The ARM64EC code in the app will run natively while any x64 code will run using Windows 11 on ARM’s built-in emulation. The ARM64EC ABI differs slightly from the existing ARM64 ABI in ways that make it binary compatible with x64 code. Specifically, the ARM64EC ABI follows x64 software conventions including calling convention, stack usage, and data alignment, making ARM64EC and x64 interoperable. Apps built as ARM64EC may contain x64 code but do not have to, since ARM64EC is its own complete, first-class ABI for Windows. Another tool in the toolbox for Windows developers who wish to treat ARM64 as a first-class citizen.
Microsoft has published a blog post, trying to dispel some of the confusion around Windows 11’s system requirements. First and foremost, the company makes it clear that TPM 2.0 and 8th generation Intel and 2nd generation Ryzen are hard floors. Microsoft adds that based on the feedback during Windows 11’s testing process, support for 7th generation Intel and 1st generation Ryzen processors might be added. Using the principles above, we are confident that devices running on Intel 8th generation processors and AMD Zen 2 as well as Qualcomm 7 and 8 Series will meet our principles around security and reliability and minimum system requirements for Windows 11. As we release to Windows Insiders and partner with our OEMs, we will test to identify devices running on Intel 7th generation and AMD Zen 1 that may meet our principles. There are ways around these hard floors, through registry hacks and custom Windows 11 ISOs, but updates might break those, and who knows if Microsoft will plug those holes.
In my first story on the unveiling of Windows 11, I remarked that the system requirements remained largely unchanged from Windows 10. Well, as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since the announcement, Microsoft has been incredibly obtuse and back-and-forth about the system requirements for Windows 11, and at this point, it seems like nobody has any clue anymore what’s true and what isn’t. Windows 11 is arriving later this year as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, but many are discovering that their hardware isn’t compatible. Microsoft has altered its minimum hardware requirements, and it’s the CPU changes that are most surprising here. Windows 11 will only officially support 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, alongside Apollo Lake and newer Pentium and Celeron processors. Windows 11 will also only officially support AMD Ryzen 2000 and newer processors, and 2nd Gen or newer EPYC chips. That’s one hell of a hard cutoff, and one that seems entirely arbitrary. There’s nothing in Windows 11 that a first generation Ryzen or 6th or 7th generation Intel Core processor cannot handle, so why rule them out? A lot of people just assume Windows 11 will work on older processors than those listed, but there’s no confirmation from Microsoft that this is the case. Aside from processor support, there’s another aspect that Microsoft is vague about: does Windows 11 require TPM 2.0 or TPM 1.2? Do you need a hardware TPM, or will a firmware TPM, available in about every modern x86 processor but turned off by default, suffice? Nobody seems to have the answers, and it’s leading to a lot of speculation ad uncertainty. The same applies to Secure Boot and UEFI – Microsoft lists both of them as requirements, but most news stories online just assume Microsoft doesn’t truly think of them as requirements, more as suggestions. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air here for Windows users.
Let’s take a step back from Windows 11 and go back in time – to 22 years ago, to be exact. Alpha on Windows NT is dead. As far as NT goes, it’s an Intel world. Last week, Compaq announced that it was laying off more than 100 of its Alpha/NT employees in its DECwest facility located near the Microsoft campus. This group of developers was tasked with making Alpha on NT a technical reality. Citing Compaq’s decision and the strength of Intel’s architecture and systems, Microsoft says it will discontinue development of future 32-bit and 64-bit Alpha products across its existing product line. Windows NT on PowerPC, Alpha, MIPS, and Itanium have always been deeply fascinating to me, and at some point, I want to get my hands on some supported hardware, just for the fun of it.
Next up, an important detail regarding Windows 11’s support for running Android applications. While there’s no Google Play Services or Play Store, you can sideload any APK you want. Microsoft has now confirmed that it will allow users to install any Android APK on Windows 11 devices. Yes, you can download a 3rd party Android APK file and install it on your Windows 11 device. This is a great decision by Microsoft as it enables consumers to install their favorite Android apps from various sources. This is good news, and I’m sure it will take about four days for XDA to hack Play Services and the Play Store onto Windows 11.
At an online event today, Microsoft officially announced Windows 11, the next major version of Windows. Windows 11 comes with several new features and improvements for end users. Microsoft highlighted the below features during the event today. Aside from the visual nip and tuck that we were already aware of, there’s a new Windows Store experience, a shift to a yearly update schedule, lots of new features for gaming, and the biggest new feature of all: Android applications are coming to Windows. Android applications on Windows have a few asterisks, though, the biggest of which is that Microsoft is collaborating with Amazon on bringing Android applications to Windows – after installing or upgrading to Windows 11, you first have to install the Amazon App Store from within the Windows Store, after which you can install Android applications, but only those found in the Amazon App Store. There’s no Google Play Store here, and no Google Play Services. My guess is that Google wasn’t going to play ball on this one, so Microsoft had to settle for this. Microsoft also showed off a revamped Settings app, redesigned versions of Notepad and Paint, and teased a UI overhaul for Windows Explorer, merely replacing its ribbon with a few buttons, so there’s no truly new, improved Explorer here. There’s more, but these are definitely the highlights. Windows 11 will come out later this year, and will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 users. The hardware requirements are roughly the same as Windows 10.
One of the main reasons some people tend to avoid updating their PCs is that “it makes it slower”. Especially with Windows 10’s Software as a Service approach, where it gets the so-called “feature updates” twice a year. But is it actually true? Today we’re gonna find out how much Windows 10’s performance has changed over time, by benchmarking 10 elements of the OS experience. As much as I dislike Windows, performance really was never an issue for me. It’s been responsive and snappy ever since Windows 7, but it’s still interesting to see the changes in performance over Windows 10’s lifetime.
We’ve all heard this riddle: if you dig down deep enough in Windows 10, you’ll find elements that date from Windows 3.x days. But is it actually true? In this article we’ll discover just how many UI layers are in Windows and when they were first introduced. This is just painful to read. It highlights just how messy, inconsistent, and jarring Windows has become, which is a damn shame, since during the days of the ‘Classic’ theme, Windows was actually quite consistent and predictable. It’s pretty much been downhill since Microsoft introduced the Luna theme in Windows XP, and it’s clear Windows 11 isn’t fixing this issue either. To dispel a common myth – this issue does not just affect what the various parts of Windows look like – it also affects how they act and behave. There are still scrollable areas in Windows 10 that do not register mouse wheel input, or cramped dialogs and windows that should be resizable but aren’t, all because they were designed in the era of Windows 95 or even Windows 3.x. This is simply inexcusable, and the fact a massive company like Microsoft does not seem at all interested in addressing these issues, preferring to develop yet another five new application frameworks not even Microsoft will use, shows how little they actually care.
Me, three weeks ago: Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess. Nothing more. Fast-forward to today, and we have a leaked build of this “next generation of Windows”, Windows 11, and much to my utter, devastating surprise, it turns out I was 100% right. Windows 11 is exactly what I said it would be: Windows 10, but with a few small nips and tucks (rounded corners, centered taskbar, tweaked Start menu), and that’s it. All the old Windows 95, XP, and 7-era stuff is still there, and since you can actually easily turn off a lot of the changes in Windows 11, there’s now a whole new layer of old design – Windows 10-era stuff. If this is the “next generation of Windows”, Microsoft is delusional.
A new update has brought back Microsoft’s recommendation for Bing and Chromium Edge on Windows 10. After Microsoft Edge 91, Windows 10 has now started displaying a pop-up message that appears through Windows 10’s built-in notification center. The nag prompt enthusiastically addresses users on the benefits of using “Microsoft Bing” as the default search engine. And as you might guess, this prompt is being delivered only when Microsoft Edge is not the default browser or you’ve moved away from Bing to another search engine manually. Apple and Microsoft are cramming ever more ads into their platforms – platforms you pay to use, making the practice even more user-hostile. I’m so glad I left Windows, macOS, and iOS behind – they treat users like credit cards on legs. It’s dreadful.
Microsoft isn’t talking about its big Windows plans at Build 2021 this week, and that’s because the company is preparing to detail what’s next for its PC operating system separately. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella teased this announcement during his Build keynote this morning, revealing he has been testing “the next generation of Windows” in recent months. Windows is in a bit of a rut. As far as its core frameworks and lower levels go, it’s an incredibly solid, fast, extensible, and yes, secure operating system that can chug along just fine. The user experience, however, is a garbled, confusing mess consisting of bits and pieces dating back to Windows 3.11 (if you look hard enough). Almost every part of the operating system has multiple sides to it with different user experiences, looks, and feels, and if you come from a modern Linux distribution, the update experience, installing and managing applications, changing settings, and so on, are just downright laughably bad. The user-facing part of Windows doesn’t just need an overhaul – it’s had countless overhauls over the years, all leaving various bits and pieces around that you still encounter today – but a complete redesign. I think the lower-levels and core frameworks are more than fine, but everything on top of that needs a clean start. Microsoft has promised countless of these “next generations” of Windows, and aside from the move from Win9x to Windows NT, they’ve all been thin, patchy veneers atop all the thin, patchy veneers that came before. After so many empty promises, it’s just hard to take them seriously. Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess. Nothing more.
As we head into the spring of 2021, the plans are changing again for the OS. According to people familiar with the company’s plans, Microsoft will not be shipping Windows 10X this year and the OS as you know it today, will likely never arrive. The company has shifted resources to Windows 10 and 10X is on the back burner, for now. Microsoft missed the boat on the modern smartphone, and as far as their operating system business goes, they seem like a rudderless ship in a hurricane ever since. If I cared, it’d be painful to watch.