Windows Archive

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.

Microsoft is testing a desktop watermark for unsupported Windows 11 PCs

If you’ve already installed Windows 11 on unsupported devices, you might soon notice a new watermark on the desktop. The watermark, which appears above the taskbar clock, is similar to the “Windows is not activated” error, but it won’t affect apps, windows or web browsers. The desktop watermark simply states “system requirements not met” and it may irritate some users, but it should not come as too much of a surprise, as Microsoft previously warned users of possible ‘damage’. You have to feel sad for Windows users. Windows 7 really seems to have been the high point of Windows – ever since then it’s been one mess after another.

The cats sitting on a fence in early builds of Windows 8

Now, a black screen could have multiple causes. The video driver may have crashed. Or the video driver could be working fine, but the compositor has crashed, so that nothing is being given to the video driver. Or the compositor could be working fine, but the shell has crashed, so the compositor has nothing to render. Or the shell could be running, but it simply forgot to put something on the screen. For that last case, the Windows 8 shell created a backstop window that sat at a layer below all of the other layers. If none of the other layers were present, then at least you got a backstop window. And in early debug builds, that backstop window contained an ASCII drawing of cats. That way, if you saw cats, you knew that you were in that last failure case: The shell is running but forgot to put something on the screen. Why cats? I approve of cats.

Windows 11 Pro to also requite Microsoft Account during installation

They hid it very well, two-thirds down a long list of changes and screenshots, but what was already inevitable is now reality. Similar to Windows 11 Home edition, Windows 11 Pro edition now requires internet connectivity during the initial device setup (OOBE) only. If you choose to setup device for personal use, MSA will be required for setup as well. You can expect Microsoft Account to be required in subsequent WIP flights. In other words, installing Windows 11 Pro will now, just like 11 Home, also require a Microsoft Account and thus an internet connection. You didn’t think pro users would be safe from big tech’s data hunger, now, did you?

Windows 11 update coming next month brings Android apps to Windows

Next month we’re bringing new experiences to Windows that include a public preview of how you can use Android apps on Windows 11 through the Microsoft Store and our partnerships with Amazon and Intel, taskbar improvements with call mute and unmute, easier window sharing and bringing weather to the taskbar, plus the introduction of two new redesigned apps, Notepad and Media Player. Definitely some welcome changes for Windows users.

This is Microsoft’s canceled Andromeda OS running on a Lumia 950

Ever wondered what Microsoft’s canceled version of Windows for the Surface Duo was going to be like? Well wonder no more, as we’ve got a first hands-on look at a pre-release build from mid-2018 running on a Lumia 950. We’ve already shown you what Andromeda OS looked like in recreated mockups, so now it’s time to see the real thing running on video. The idea of using a blank canvas for writing as the homescreen is fascinating, but it’s definitely not the first time this has been tried. In fact, one sure way to ensure your mobile platform will fail, is to build it around the notepad interface. It didn’t work for PenPoint OS, it didn’t work for Apple’s Newton, and it didn’t work for any other attempts either. People simply do not want to do handwriting on a computer. It’s been tried over and over, and people just don’t like it. The only platform which has been able to sort of make handwriting work is Palm OS, but that’s a misnomer since Palm’s Graffiti was a standardised character set you had to learn – it didn’t recognise handwriting at all.

Windows 11’s Device Manager finally uses OS path instead of A:

Microsoft took a while to figure out that the A: assignment is pointless as the era of Floppy drives is now over. This has been fixed in Windows 11 Build 22000 (stable). Starting with Windows 11, Device Manager no longer defaults to A: i.e it doesn’t ask you for a floppy disk for drivers (icon has also been replaced). Device Manager can now automatically detect the OS drive, so you can easily locate the driver package if you extracted the downloaded zip file to a folder on the system drive. Everything about this user experience is terrible, but at least the ditching of A: makes it slightly less terrible. I can’t believe we’re at Windows 11 in 2022, and this UI is still identical to what was first shipped in Windows 95.

Filling in some gaps in the story of Space Cadet Pinball on 64-bit Windows

Space Cadet Pinball has a special place in the hearts of many Windows enthusiasts. A customer used their support contract to ask how to change among the three levels of play in Space Cadet Pinball. My proudest achievement of Windows XP was fixing the game so it didn’t consume 100% CPU. People keep asking if it can be brought back. One point of contention is over my claim that I removed Pinball from Windows because I couldn’t get the 64-bit version to work. Retrocomputing enthusiast NCommander even undertook a Zapruder-level analysis of all of the 64-bit versions of Windows he could find to prove or disprove my story. I was amazed at the level of thoroughness (and the fortitude it required to get those Itanium systems up and running, much less debug them), but there’s one version of 64-bit Windows that NCommander didn’t try out, and that’s the one that’s relevant to the story. This story and investigation into Space Cadet Pinball is wild. At this point we seem to have a pretty complete picture of its entire history, but it too some serious digging to get there.

Windows 11 Sun Valley 2 to be finalized by summer

Windows 11 is going to be a year old in July 2022 and Microsoft will be giving users an anniversary present – a new feature update with a long list of much-needed improvements. The update is apparently codenamed “Sun Valley 2” internally and it is going to be similar to the anniversary update for Windows 10. Sun Valley 2 or version 22H2 would be a version of Windows 11 with some important improvements to make it faster, smoother and more modern, and to integrate WinUI more closely with the rest of the operating system. For example, a new Windows Run with dark mode could show up in this release. We’re also expecting new native apps. Considering Windows 11’s modern desktop context menu has its own classic Win32 context menu, I think they still got some work to do.

Windows 2000 modernization guide

So, you want to use Windows 2000 in 2021? Well, you’ve come to the right place, although we’re not the only place you’ll want to keep handy. You’ll find some great tips, software advice, and know-how at the MSFN Windows 2000 Forums. Special thanks to @win32, who provided many of the pointers and suggestions used in this guide. This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it! Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture. This place is not a place of honor… no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here. What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger. The danger is in a particular location… it increases towards a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us. The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours. The danger is to the body, and it can kill. The form of the danger is an emanation of energy. The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

Update for Windows 10 and 11 blocks default browser redirect, but there’s a workaround

You can no longer fully switch away from Edge in Windows 10 and 11. It seems that Microsoft has quietly backported the block, introduced a month ago in a Dev build of Windows 11, on tools like EdgeDeflector and browsers from being the true default browser in Windows 10, with the change being implemented in Windows 11 too. Starting from KB5008212, which was installed on all supported versions of Windows 10 yesterday with Patch Tuesday, it is no longer possible to select EdgeDeflector as the default MICROSOFT-EDGE protocol. They spent engineering resources on this.