Windows Archive

Introducing the next feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1

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.

Windows Package Manager getting an uninstall option very soon

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?

Making Win32 APIs more accessible to more languages

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.

Windows 10X is now Microsoft’s true answer to Chrome OS

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.

Windows 7: a year after the end-of-support deadline, millions choose not to upgrade

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?

New Windows 10 mail client will be a web app

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.

Friends remember Microsoft renegade Eric Engstrom, who suggested a DirectX console

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.

Introducing x64 emulation in preview for Windows 10 on ARM PCs

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.

Some Windows 10 users about to be force upgraded if they use older versions

Starting December 2020, Microsoft will begin Some Windows 10 users about to be force upgraded if they use older versions ( 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.

Developer successfully virtualizes ARM Windows on Apple Silicon

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.

Windows Subsystem for Linux: the lost potential

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.

WinUI 3 Preview 3 is out with ARM64 support

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.

Windows 10 just made it impossible to access retired Control Panel pages

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.

Windows 10 October 2020 Update is now available

Microsoft is releasing its Windows 10 October 2020 Update to over a billion users today. Much like last year, this second Windows 10 update of 2020 is more of a Service Pack than a major release. Microsoft has, however, made some interesting tweaks, including a refreshed Start menu, some Alt Tab changes, and the bundling of the new Chromium-powered Microsoft Edge. It’s a very minor release when it comes to user-facing features, and you really have to squint to even notice the new Start menu – it’s more of a colour change than an actually new design.

After outcry, Microsoft presses pause on unsolicited Windows 10 web app installs

On Saturday, I pointed out how Microsoft force-restarting Windows 10 computers to install unwanted web apps was the latest proof you don’t own your own Windows PC. Today, the company says it was at least partly a mistake — and will be pausing the “migration” that brought web apps to your Start Menu this way. Originally, Microsoft tells The Verge, the idea was that any website you pinned to the Start Menu would launch in Microsoft Edge. If your website of choice had a PWA web app version, the Edge browser could automatically launch that as well. But — in what Microsoft seems to be calling a bug, though we’re trying to get clarity as to which part was the bug — the change also made it look like existing web shortcuts to its own Microsoft Office products had installed a web app on your PC as well. Ah, the “it’s a bug” defense. Not very imaginative. This is the kind of nonsense you have to put up with when you choose to use a closed source operating system or device that you merely license or borrow, not own. The slippery slope people have been talking and warning about for decades when it comes to closed source software has made it so that not only do we seem to accept this behaviour, people even defend it. Windows as an operating system is in this weird place right now where its guts are, by all accounts, in very good shape, while the user interface is messy and Metro applications are a failure, leading to an often startling user experience that switches from old Win32-looking applications to modern flat applications every other application, and many settings are hidden in old Win32 dialogs instead of being available in fancy modern ones. On top of all that, Microsoft has added tremendous amounts of telemetry, ads, and even forced installation and reinstallation of applications through updates. They built up massive positive mindshare with Windows 7, lost some of it with Windows 8, and then regained some of it with Windows 10 – only to just lose it all over again with nonsense like this. At this point, I have no idea where Microsoft wants to take Windows. It feels like the pace of development is minimal from a user’s point of view, while at the same time still being somehow fast enough that things regularly break. Why would anyone willingly use a platform like this? What redeeming qualities does it have over the competition?

Windows 10 on ARM to get 64bit x86 emulation

In a blog post today, amid the usual PR blabber, Microsoft announced a number of improvements that will be coming to Windows 10 on ARM later this year. The most important ones: We are excited about the momentum we are seeing from app partners embracing Windows 10 on ARM, taking advantage of the power and performance benefits of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. We heard your feedback and are making Microsoft Edge faster while using less battery, and announced that we will soon release a native Microsoft Teams client optimized for Windows 10 on ARM. We will also expand support for running x64 apps, with x64 emulation starting to roll out to the Windows Insider Program in November. Because developers asked, Visual Studio code has also been updated and optimized for Windows 10 on ARM. Adding support for 64bit x86 applications to Windows 10 on ARM’s emulation technology will surely help with application availability, but so far, OEMs and Qualcomm haven’t really managed to set the world of PCs on fire, so performance will remain questionable.

Microsoft’s Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 source code leaked online

The source code for Windows XP SP1 and other versions of the operating system was allegedly leaked online today. The leaker claims to have spent the last two months compiling a collection of leaked Microsoft source code. This 43GB collection was then released today as a torrent on the 4chan forum. This is a massive leak of old code, and other than Windows XP, it also includes Windows Server 2003 and various versions of MS-DOS and Windows CE. One of the funnier tidbits we’ve already learned from the leak is that Microsoft was working on a Mac OS X Aqua theme for Windows XP, probably just to see if they could. I doubt much of this code will be useful to any serious projects, since no serious developer working on things like ReactOS or Wine will want to be found anywhere near this code. That being said, individuals, tinkerers, and those crazy people still making community-updated builds of Windows XP will have a field day with this stuff.

Is anybody still using Windows 95 in 2020?

Before you click the link, please try and answer the question past the blurb. I am still using it at work, but not at home since 2001 when I upgraded to Windows 2000 – then I upgraded to XP in 2002 and this was the last Windows version I ran at home. After that I upgraded to Linux/Unix and have not had any reason to look back. So, this person is still using Windows 95 at work today. Before clicking through – can you guess what this person’s job is?

Windows 95 turns 25 years old today

Windows 95 turns 25 years old today. The operating system was possibly the most significant and notable release for the Redmond giant, which laid the foundation for some core elements of the OS, such as the Start Menu Taskbar, and the Recycle Bin that are still present, albeit in a much more modern form. It also marked the phasing out of MS-DOS, with it being merged with Windows into one offering, making it more user-friendly operating system. Windows 95 is the most impactful and most significant operating system release of all time – hands down. Windows 3.x laid the groundwork, mostly in corporate environments, getting people accustomed to and interested in Windows at their jobs. When it came time to get a computer at home, Windows 95 knocked it out of the park. It was a massive one-two punch that knocked out every single competitor, with Apple only surviving because Microsoft allowed them to. A computer on every desk and in every home, and Windows 95 was installed on every one of those computers. It’s easy to forget just how massive and hysterical Windows 95’s launch was, and the fact Windows 10 today still looks and behaves in essentially the same way as Windows 95 underlines just how many things Microsoft got right.

Windows 10 now allows you to get optional and driver updates

A new feature rolling out to Windows 10 will make it easier for users to access the available driver and optional updates. In Windows 10 Build 19041.450 or newer, Microsoft said it has restored the Windows 7-era optional updates page, which allows you to discover new updates to drivers and non-security features. Windows has definitely gotten beter over the years at providing a basic set of functional drivers after a fresh installation, but it’s far from perfect, and unlocking the full potential of your hardware still requires going through a long list of hardware manufacturer websites.