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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Microsoft has a long history of innovations which never really went anywhere, but with the new Hosted App Model on Windows 10 the company may just have hit it out of the ballpark. Microsoft introduced the Hosted App Model in Windows 10 2004 ie. the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, and the technology already appears set to solve a wide variety of problems for both Microsoft and end-users. In the Hosted App Model, an app can declare itself as a host for other applications, while allowing those applications to retain their identity as independent apps. It does seem like a neat technology.
The Verge reports: The software giant placed Surface chief Panos Panay in charge of Windows earlier this year, and is now reshuffling parts of that team. It follows Microsoft’s decision to slice Windows into two parts more than two years ago after the departure of former Windows chief Terry Myerson. Microsoft moved core Windows development to a cloud and AI team (Azure), and created a new group to work on Windows 10 “experiences” like apps, the Start menu, and new features. Now, Microsoft is moving parts of Windows development back under Panos Panay’s control. Specifically, that means the Windows fundamentals and developer experience teams have been returned to what we traditionally call the Windows team. It’s an admission that the big Windows split didn’t work quite as planned. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of that with a messy development experience for Windows 10, delayed Windows updates, a lack of major new features, and lots of Windows update issues recently. That’s a lot of reshuffling, but I wonder what the purpose of it all really is. It seems most Windows users want Windows to just be… Windows. They don’t want ‘modern’ apps forced upon them, they don’t want touch-optimised user interfaces, they don’t want application stores, and they certainly don’t want Windows anywhere else but their desktops and laptops. How much freedom to push the Windows platform forward do you really have when all users want is to run the same set of Win32 applications in perpetuity? They’ve tried creating a version of Windows only capable of running ‘modern’ apps, and it failed – twice (and a third attempt is on the way). They tried combining the two into one with an adaptable UI – and everybody hated it. They’ve been trying to just kind of coast by on Windows 10, and as the above article notes, it’s been quite problematic. They’ve tried to put full Windows on phones – twice! – and nobody wanted that either. What other options remain?
WoR is a tool that can install Windows 10 ARM64 on your SD card for use in a Raspberry Pi. Exactly what it says on the tin. This isn’t Windows 10 IoT, since that’s 32bit – this is Windows 10 on 64 bit ARM. Don’t expect any crazy performance on the Raspberry Pi, but a neat tool it is nonetheless.
If I told you that my entire computer screen just got taken over by a new app that I’d never installed or asked for — it just magically appeared on my desktop, my taskbar, and preempted my next website launch — you’d probably tell me to run a virus scanner and stay away from shady websites, no? But the insanely intrusive app I’m talking about isn’t a piece of ransomware. It’s Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser, which the company is now force-feeding users via an automatic update to Windows. People should run whatever the hell they damn well please, but the last few years it has become increasingly clear that Windows is deteriorating fast. Oddly enough, it’s not the operating system itself that’s deteriorating – in fact, Windows is probably in a better technical state than it’s ever been – but the policies and anti-user ‘features’ draped around it. If you read OSNews, you are most likely technically inclined. People who read OSNews don’t need Windows, and shouldn’t be running it. It’s actively hostile towards its users, and you deserve better.
Microsoft is removing the ability for business users to defer manually Windows 10 feature updates using Windows Update settings starting with the Windows 10 2004/May Update. Microsoft seemingly made this change public with a change in its Windows 10 2004 for IT Pros documentation on June 23. I’ve read the article three times and I still don’t quite understand what’s going on.
Twenty years ago, Microsoft released Windows 2000. A rock-solid, 32-bit business-oriented alternative to Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition, it paved the way for future consumer versions, including Windows 10. Here’s why we remember it so fondly. Windows 2000 was definitely an important release, and many people seem to have good memories of it. I personally never used it back when it was new, and I never liked Windows XP. The only Windows release I truly have fond memories of – other than 95 and 3.11, which I used as a kid and can be attributed to pure nostalgia – is Windows Server 2003. I used it as my regular desktop operating system, and it always felt more stable, safer, and faster than XP. Regardless, like Server 2003, Windows 2000 defaulted to the utilitarian beauty that is the Windows Classic theme, something Microsoft really ought to bring back to modern releases of Windows.
The Windows team is changing the way it labels and distributes its beta and preview releases. Later this month, the Fast ring will become the Dev Channel, the Slow ring will become the Beta Channel, and the Release Preview ring will become the Release Preview Channel. This brings Windows beta and preview releases in line with Office, the new Microsoft Edge, and the industry at large. Even if it were just a name change, this makes a lot more sense than the weird ring names they used up until now.
What I haven’t seen is side-by-side comparisons of specific pieces of the Windows GUI, and while that makes sense, since it’s a deeply tedious and largely pointless exercise, it’s still been on my mind because I keep running old versions of Windows and finding out that minor elements of the interface are different than I remember. As an example, Notepad prior to – I think – Windows 2000 will not save if you press Ctrl+S. Little things like that that are somehow fascinating to follow through the years. Recently I discovered there are subtle (but occasionally quite significant) differences between revisions of Windows Explorer (the actual file browser, not the entire shell) that I had never realized were there – Windows 3.0’s File Manager, for instance, is a completely different beast than 3.1’s. Anyway, I checked every major release and compiled screenshots of each, so you can check them out yourself. A fascinating trip down memory lane.
It is well known that Win9x variants prior to Windows 98 have a tendency to crash on fast CPUs. The definition of “fast” is of course fuzzy but the problems were known to occur on AMD K6-2 processors running at 350 MHz or faster as early as 1998. This led to some acrimony when Microsoft attempted to charge $35 for the fix. The crashes were intermittent on the 350 MHz parts but harder to avoid with faster clock speeds. The problem soon started affecting other CPUs with higher frequencies, but it didn’t affect Intel processors for a while. Were Intel CPUs somehow better? Not exactly, but there was a reason for that; more about it later. I have been long aware of this problem but never looked into the details. And when I did, at first I didn’t realize it. An acquaintance mentioned that Windows 3.11 for Workgroups no longer works in a VM. A good and interesting read.
Let us say you are an independent developer and it is time to publish your app to the world. To make it easier, you build an installer and start distributing it. A courageous early adopter downloads and runs it, only to be greeted by this strongly worded warning: Indeed, in today’s Windows environment, Microsoft actively blocks binaries from running; thanks to “SmartScreen”. This article details some of the problems with SmartSCreen, which in theory could be an important and useful technology.