Windows 10 may now be essential but users new and old have had a rough ride in recent weeks. And it has just gotten a lot worse after a new, high-profile Windows 10 failure has left more questions than answers and some seriously angry users. The drama began yesterday as Windows 10 users suddenly found that Search was broken with a black bar showing where search results should be, even for those who tried to perform a local search of their files. This is the future of proprietary operating systems like Windows, macOS and iOS as their parent companies move towards services and subscription models. More and more, they’ll use their operating systems to push their services and subscriptions, to the detriment of the user experience. It’s been happening in Windows 10 for a few years now, and iOS, too, is riddled with ads for Apple’s services. And so, we arrive at the point where local file search breaks down due to server issues. What a time to be alive.
Even though regular, free Windows 7 support has ended only a few days ago, Microsoft has already been forced to release a regular update to fix a bug. We reported earlier that Windows 7 users were complaining of their wallpaper being replaced by black screens when they install the important KB4534310 and KB4534314 updates for Windows 7. The wallpaper bug affected all the Windows 7 users who use stretch option while setting up wallpapers. Microsoft later confirmed that it was indeed a bug but said the company would fix it only for customers who purchased ESU, i.e. organizations. However, it looks like the company has gone back on its word and decided to release an update for everyone. The best laid plans.
It’s the end of an era. Today’s date, January 14, has been on the books for years now, and it’s the day that support ends for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. More specifically, extended support is ending for Windows 7 Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 and 2. There are, of course, workarounds. Microsoft is offering Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for those willing to pay up, and it’s only available for Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise. The price is going to be per-machine, and it will double every year. In other words, if you’ve got a business with multiple Windows 7 PCs, it’s going to be costly to keep them on the legacy OS. ESUs will be available for three years. You can get ESUs through volume licensing or through Microsoft 365. Windows 7 is 11 years old by now, and moving the operating system strictly to paid maintenance seems acceptable – you can’t expect operating systems to be maintained forever. This means that unless they’re planning on being irresponsible, Windows 7 users will have to start moving to Windows 10. They might want to download one of the many debloat programs, followed by a a tool that gives them strict control over Windows 10’s leaky privacy settings. Or, you know, move to something else entirely.
To date, Microsoft hasn’t said anything publicly about what’s going to happen to any of its digital app stores. But privately, officials across various teams at the company have been trying to come up with a concerted strategy, I’ve heard. That strategy does not call for Microsoft to drop the Web version of the Microsoft Store. I’m not sure what will happen to the Microsoft Store client that’s built into Windows 10 right now; my contacts say its future is “uncertain” at this point. To say the Microsoft Store has been a failure might be a bit too harsh – it has allowed Microsoft itself to update some core Windows applications easier than ever before – but a raging success it is not. Windows developers don’t really care, and users keep installing applications the way they’re used to, so it only makes sense for Microsoft to reevaluate its strategy with regard to the various versions of its application store. I’m not sad about it.
Now, Walking Cat has uncovered a change in the latest Fast Ring build that indicates a shift in the way new features are delivered to the users. Microsoft recently published a new app on the Microsoft Store called the “Windows Feature Experience Pack”. The app looks like a dummy at the moment but it does coincide with a small change made to the About section of the Settings app. The About section now shows Windows Feature Experience Pack under Windows Specifications. The version number is entirely different from the OS Build number which currently is 19536.1000. According to Walking Cat, this indicates a shift in the way shell features are delivered to the users. It looks like Microsoft might deliver shell experiences separately in the future. This is one of the unicorns Microsoft seems to have been chasing for a very, very lone time. The ability to more easily update core parts of the operating system without interrupting users, and outside of large operating system updates, has been improving with every single major release – from XP to today – but Microsoft is still a long way off. In fairness to Microsoft, Apple is still tying things like Safari to operating system updates in both iOS and macOS, and Google is also slowly but surely untangling Android to bypass OEMs and carriers to deliver updates faster. This is an industry-wide trend.
Microsoft Edge (Chromium) has been updated with a new flag called ‘Web Apps Identity Proxy’ to enable deeper integration between PWAs and Windows shell. When this flag is enabled on Windows 10 20H1 machines, web apps will be treated as native apps and there are many advantages. For example, web apps would appear independently in Windows 10’s Task Manager, it will allow web apps to display notification badges, and it will also let you uninstall the apps from the Start menu or settings. PWAs are a major boon for smaller and alternative platforms too, since it gives comparatively easy access to popular applications like Twitter, WhatsApp, and others.
Sean Gallagher: In a post yesterday to the Microsoft Tech Community blog, Microsoft Windows Core Networking team members Tommy Jensen, Ivan Pashov, and Gabriel Montenegro announced that Microsoft is planning to adopt support for encrypted Domain Name System queries in order to “close one of the last remaining plain-text domain name transmissions in common web traffic.” That support will first take the form of integration with DNS over HTTPS (DoH), a standard proposed by the Internet Engineering Task Force and supported by Mozilla, Google, and Cloudflare, among others. “As a platform, Windows Core Networking seeks to enable users to use whatever protocols they need, so we’re open to having other options such as DNS over TLS (DoT) in the future,” wrote Jensen, Pashov, and Montenegro. “For now, we’re prioritizing DoH support as the most likely to provide immediate value to everyone. For example, DoH allows us to reuse our existing HTTPS infrastructure.” But Microsoft is being careful about how it deploys this compatibility given the current political fight over DoH being waged by Internet service providers concerned that they’ll lose a lucrative source of customer behavior data. This clearly isn’t the sexiest of subjects, but there’s an important tug of war happening here between ISPs and privacy advocates.
An independent developer has managed to hack a Calculator to run Windows 10 operating system, but it’s not a basic or scientific calculator that we normally use. According to the photos, the device is actually the HP’s Prime Graphing Calculator which comes with a touch screen interface, and good industrial design. The photos shared by the developer Ben shows off Windows 10 IoT (Internet of Things) edition running on the HP Prime Graphing Calculator. Perhaps not the most useful hack in the world, but still very cool.
With Microsoft’s launch of the Surface Pro X last week, questions were once again raised about the apps that can run on it. The answer is that like any Windows 10 on ARM PC, it can run native ARM (ARM and ARM64) apps, and it can run emulated 32-bit Intel (x86) apps. This leaves out 64-bit Intel (AMD64, or x64) apps, so if you want an app that’s only available in an x64 flavor, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Photoshop Elements, you can’t use it. That’s going to change though. Speaking with several sources, I can confirm that Microsoft is indeed working on bringing x64 app emulation to Windows on ARM. When that will happen is a bit more unclear, but it seems like it could be in Windows 10 21H1, which would mean that the general public will have access to it in the first half of 2021, and Windows Insiders will be able to test it out next year. Developing tools and technologies like this always carries an inherent risk – if it’s slow and cumbersome, people will complain and won’t want to use your operating system. If it’s fast and seamless, however, developers have little to no incentive to develop native ARM64 applications for Windows on ARM. That’s a fine line to tread, and definitely something Microsoft will have issues with. On a related note, the ARM64 version of Microsoft’s new Edge browser has been released.
Microsoft is planning to remove WEP encryption from Windows 10. Since the 1903 release, a warning message has appeared when connecting to Wi-Fi networks secured with WEP or TKIP (which are not as secure as those using WPA2 or WPA3). In a future release, any connection to a Wi-Fi network using these old ciphers will be disallowed. Wi-Fi routers should be updated to use AES ciphers, available with WPA2 or WPA3. WEP is very old – it entered the scene in 1997 – and was cracked in 2001. It’s incredibly easy to crack, so it only makes sense to remove this outdated feature from Windows.
Gates said that he has no “doubt the antitrust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft” as the company would have otherwise focused more on developing the mobile operating system. The lawsuit ended up distracting him away from Windows Mobile and he ultimately “screwed that up“. He also said that Microsoft was “three months too late on a release” that would have been used by Motorola on a smartphone. While he did not provide the specifics, it is possible that Gates is referring to the iconic Motorola Droid which launched with Android and made consumers in the US notice the OS thanks to the heavy marketing push from Verizon and Motorola. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is actually quite close to reality. Had Verizon and an – at the time – influential phone makers like Motorola with its Droid phone and all the marketing blitz that accompanied it opted for a Microsoft product, I wouldn’t be so sure Android would’ve gotten the head start that it did.
Microsoft has mostly kept details of Windows 10X – a version of Windows 10 that has been tailored to dual-screen devices – under wraps. Now, a major leak has given us deep insight into the design and goals behind the development of Windows 10X. Am I crazy for being interested in Windows 10X not for foldable devices or laptops, but for my desktop machines? If this information is accurate, it looks like Windows 10X will be a much more straightforward, simpler version of Windows that doesn’t come with 30 years of baggage and technical debt. Assuming the container technology used to run classic Win32 applications – on which many people depend – doesn’t incur too much of a performance and compatibility penalty, and assuming Microsoft will actually make Windows 10X available for desktops, I’ll be excited to try it out.
Support for Windows Phone 8.1 operating system ended on July 11, 2017. As a culmination of the end of support process, the Windows Phone 8.1 Store will shut down on December 16, 2019. Lumia phones using Windows Phone 8.1 and any apps that have already been downloaded from the Store may continue to work after this date. Any Lumia device that can’t be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile will be affected.
If we consult years of insider whispers about Microsoft’s alleged internal strategy for Windows, many from The Verge’s own Tom Warren, there’s a simple reason why you shouldn’t care whether Windows 10X ships on just a few devices or thousands. That’s because Windows 10X is likely just a modular shell that gives the core Windows operating system a new user interface to do the tricks you see in these videos. And it all comes back to the philosophical question of what “Windows” really is now. As Tom and fellow reporters have discovered, Microsoft has been building a new Windows Core OS (WCOS) that will serve as the new modular backbone of Windows. It can be paired with a different user interface for different types of displays by adapting what Microsoft’s calling a Composable Shell, or CShell (say it out loud), to each new interface. I hope Microsoft will eventually give users the choice to switch between the various shells whenever they so desire. And if not – the community will take care of it.
Those dual-screened experiences Panay describes are just as reliant on the software working well as they are on the two screens existing side by side. And that’s where Android comes in. At some point Microsoft determined that if you can’t beat them, you need to join them and try your darnedest to differentiate. It will attempt to make Microsoft apps the best Microsoft apps you can get on an Android device. When I ask him if he ever considered reviving a Windows mobile OS, Panay says no. Twice. And he says it firmly. “At the end of the day, where the applications sit today, the opportunity that people have already leaned into, that developers have already taken advantage of—it’s right there. And there’s a reality to that. To ignore that would be silly.” Of course they never considered using Windows for a mobile phone. That ship has sailed, crashed, and sunk, and the market just isn’t open to any new entrants, as the lack of response to this change.org petition illustrates.
I’ve heard this from multiple sources now, and it was confirmed again at yesterday’s Microsoft event, where the company announced the ARM-based Surface Pro X. What’s unclear is why Google isn’t releasing Chrome for ARM64. There seems to be some kind of disagreement between Google and one of the other companies involved (either Qualcomm or Microsoft), and last I heard, it will likely be resolved some time in the February timeframe. At this point this doesn’t seem to matter much – how many ARM Windows 10 devices are out there, really – but with Microsoft really going all-in on ARM now, it’ll really want this issue resolved quickly.
Today, we’re excited to announce that Windows Virtual Desktop is now generally available worldwide. Windows Virtual Desktop is the only service that delivers simplified management, a multi-session Windows 10 experience, optimizations for Office 365 ProPlus, and support for Windows Server Remote Desktop Services (RDS) desktops and apps. With Windows Virtual Desktop, you can deploy and scale your Windows desktops and apps on Azure in minutes. Among other things, you can use this to run virtualised instances of Windows 7 on Azure, where Windows 7 will get free Extended Security Updates until January 2023. This can be a great tool for maintaining access to legacy Windows 7 applications.
Windows admins have options to create local or Microsoft Accounts when it comes to the operating system. The initial setup after installation pushes the Microsoft Account option but it was possible up until now to create to a local account instead. Microsoft has made it more and more difficult to create local accounts during initial setup and discouraged users to do so. A report on Reddit suggests that Microsoft has made it more difficult to create local accounts during first run. The user reported that no option to create a local user account was presented during first run on the system Windows 10 was set up on. While there’s nebulous ways to make the local account option reappear, this is clearly designed to push people to online Microsoft account. I personally use an online Microsoft account since I find it easier to manage my various machines, but removing or hiding the option to use a local account is just a user-hostile dick move.
Microsoft is planning to redesign the tablet experience for Windows 10. The software giant has started testing a new design for 2-in-1 convertible PCs that will keep the user interface more similar to the existing desktop design. Currently, Windows 10 throws you into a more tablet-optimized UI that removes task bar icons and puts the Start menu full-screen when a device automatically switches into “tablet mode.” Microsoft is now walking back some of those changes, while keeping some touch-optimized elements for 2-in-1 PCs. In the new tablet experience, the desktop will remain in full view, with the task bar icons visible and increased spacing between them. If enabled, the search box will collapse into an icon, and the touch keyboard will appear when you tap on a text field. File Explorer will also switch to a touch-optimized layout. Windows’ tablet modes have simply never really taken off, so it makes sense for Microsoft to try and come up with better ways to align Windows with what users actually want. I’ve had several Surface devices with detachable keyboards, and not once have I liked the tablet mode. I always prefer to just use the regular desktop environment, with the slightly enlarged and more spaced-out touch targets Windows already supports. This seems like Microsoft embracing this particular way of using Windows and touch, and I’m all for it.
It’s 2019, and Windows 10 has too many useless and annoying features. Don’t get me wrong: Windows 10 has gotten better and, overall, I love it compared to Windows 8. But some things just need to go. Like any operating system, Windows 10 is full of junk that we’d all love to remove, and this is a decent list. Personally, I’d much rather more and more of the ancient things in Windows 10 get replaced by modern equivalents, such as Explorer, various outdated settings panels, applications like Notepad, and so on.