Windows Enterprise Desktop


April 27, 2015  8:51 AM

Win10: Not a “Free Upgrade” But a “Marketing and Promotional Activity”

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows Upgrades

Although Microsoft has itself described its upcoming plans to provide a no-cost copy of Windows 10 to Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices to those who move up in the first year after its release as a Free Upgrade Offer, the company describes this plan as a “marketing and promotional activity” in its latest 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Why is this difference in reporting to SEC versus how plans are described to the public important? In a word: Money.

win10-upg-snip

The actual text is too big to turn into a compact screen cap, so I just grabbed some salient language.

The language in the 10-Q filing reads somewhat differently, and for a very good reason. If the company calls it a free upgrade, MS must defer some of the earnings on the current version of Windows (8.1) to defray the costs of the new release. If it’s a “marketing and promotional activity” MS is entitled to allow revenue from “new sales of Windows 8 … to be recognized as delivered” (see section entitled “Application of Critical Accounting Policies” in the 10-Q Filing Document).

While this may sound like mere accounting gobbledygook, there’s some serious money involved. ComputerWorld explains the potential costs in a story on the filing as follows:

The last time Microsoft offered a discounted upgrade to customers was prior to the launch of Windows 8. During an eight-month stretch from early June 2012 to the end of January 2013, people who purchased a new PC pre-loaded with Windows 7 were eligible for a $15 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.

Microsoft deferred just under $1.1 billion in revenue for that upgrade program over a three-quarter stretch, then recorded that money as income during the first quarter of 2013.

I take this to mean that a one-year stretch for the deferral costs of the upgrade to Windows 10 would have to be at least $1.46B, if not higher, because the time period is longer and the number of potential upgraders higher (Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, plus Windows 8.1 Phone users, are all covered, whereas the earlier upgrade applied only to those who bought new PCs during the 8-month period of coverage for the $15 offer). Approximately $1.5B and potentially much more is not chump change, and with Windows revenues already trending down because of lower OEM licensing rates, and with no consumer upgrades likely to occur (except for serious procrastinators), this will probably result in even lower revenues for Windows OSes once Windows 10 hits General Availability. I think CW is right to interpret this move on Microsoft’s point as an attempt to head off downward pressure on the stock.

All this does raise an interesting question, though: How will MS and its stock fare when one of its revenue mainstays — namely, Windows OS monies from consumer license purchases and upgrades — takes a one year vacation? We’ll be finding that out later this year.

April 24, 2015  10:03 AM

Batting .500 with Win10 Build 10061

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Beta Testing, Windows 10

If something happens once, it’s impossible to tell if it’s an anomaly or an expected behavior. Let it happen even one more time though, and a suspicion of pattern or predictability can’t help but rear its head. When I installed the last “fast ring” (10049) build on my two test machines, here’s what happened:

1. The Windows Update based install worked like a charm on my desktop test PC (i7 4770K, MSI Z87-G45 mobo, 32 GB RAM, GTX 760 video) and worked itself through its paces without even requiring any input from me (except to restart the PC when I noticed the upgrade had been applied). Aside from a few minor glitches (repair install on 8GadgetPack to restore gadgets to life, reset network from Public to Private) there were no major clean-ups required.

2. It was a different story on the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7130 (i5 Broadwell M, Intel HD 5000 graphics, 8 GB RAM): after the initial install phase completed and the automatic reboot was instigated, the PC refused to reboot into any version of Windows (either the predecessor build, or the latest one). Ultimately, I had to perform a clean install from the ISO of the installer files when they became available about a week after the fast ring release, when its slow ring counterpart finally became available.

bld10061

Build 10061 popped up on 4/22 via Windows Update for Fast Ring subscribers.

Guess what? My experience in updating to Build 10061 turned out exactly the same. This time, however, I rebooted the Dell from a recovery UFD and restored the most recent system image for the preceding build, figuring I’d otherwise have to wait a week to bring the tablet back into operation. Obviously, there’s some kind of low-level issue with the Venue 11 Pro and using Windows Update for an OS upgrade. I’ve not yet been able to figure out what’s going south during the process, but at least it’s fixable with enough time and elbow grease, along with the right bootable media and a workable repair strategy.

Otherwise, Build 10061 seems to extend a bit of new functionality, while smoothing off some sharp edges from earlier releases. The visual differences between Tablet and Desktop modes are better elaborated (for example, more space between notification icons in tablet mode makes them easier to poke with a finger) and more thought out. Application switching works nicely in tablet mode now with a “swipe-from-the-right” gesture showing all open windows in tiled fashion, where any windows is easy to select with a single touch (about as convenient as the old Alt-Tab clickthrough method on the desktop). Notifications has had a fairly complete rework, both visually and in terms of layout, and is looking and acting a lot more like it’s ready for prime time than in earlier releases. New apps making their debut include Outlook Mail and Calendar, while recent introductions such as Project Spartan and Music and Video have been spruced up (though the media items are unable to download content until a fix is released — which may explain why 10061 remains a “Fast Ring” item at the moment).

I’d predicted another build in my last blog post, but was still surprised to see it show up later on the very day I proffered that prediction. I’m expecting at least two more incremental Windows 10 builds to pop up before a locked-down version makes its way to the OEMs in late May or early June. That should make the next 4-6 weeks very interesting for us beta testers!


April 22, 2015  12:35 PM

Internet Access Issues Aren’t Always What They Seem

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Last week, my wife told me the Internet was running slowly, so of course I checked the Ookla Speed Test page to see what was what. When speeds in the usual range manifested, I assumed the problem was a hiccup and nothing more. I was wrong, but it took me quite some time to figure out why. As it turns out, we tend to visit the same sites repeatedly at my house, and do very little serious random surfing. This matters for an interesting reason, but more on that shortly…

Yesterday morning I attempted to remote to one of my Windows 10 test units, and was mildly miffed to see it wasn’t working. Wanting to grab a screen shot of the Insider Hub, I simply attempted to connect to the other test unit, only to fail yet again. I checked the Remote Settings in the System widget in Control Panel, and found no problems. I check homegroup status, and quickly realized there were also issues there. Then I tried to connect via the usual IP address for one of my test units, and it failed, too. Very interesting!

My next step was to sit down at that same test unit, fire up the command line, and run the ipconfig command. Lo and behold, instead of a private IP address in the 192.168.0 Class C range, I saw a 169.254.0.x address instead. This is a special IP address on Windows machines that comes from its Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA) capability. Such addresses only appear on a Windows machine when it can’t find a DHCP server at boot-up. This clued me into an issue with my Time Warner boundary device where not only was DHCP not functioning as it should have been, but also where the Domain Name Servers to which the DHCP Server points were also not available (or only intermittently available, because name resolution would occasionally happen on devices with still-working IP addresses, but only very slooooooowly).

ipconfig-dns

Before the TW folks reset their back end server settings, the old DNS server addresses were on a 70.x.x.x Class A network.

I tried resetting my Arris device, and it helped with DHCP (my wireless nodes now had legit LAN addresses) but it still didn’t resolve the DNS problem. A quick phone call to Time Warner led to a call back from their third-level support desk, which informed me that they had changed the addresses for the domain servers on their backbone, but it hadn’t propagated successfully to the broadcast domain for the local cable segment for my neighborhood for whatever reason. After they made sure those values were correct, and another reset to the Arris box, all was copascetic once again.

I concluded my adventures by apologizing to my wife for not properly researching her Internet problem last Friday. Had I done so then, I could not only have taken care of her issues right away, I would also have saved myself the time needed to diagnose yesterday’s strange case of the malfunctioning remote access that helped me find the problem by guess and by gosh. Live and learn, eh?


April 20, 2015  11:54 AM

What a Late-July Win10 GA Might Mean

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Release cycles, Windows 10, Windows RTM

win10blurb

Lots of sources on the Web are reporting on a comment that Lisa Siu, CEO of AMD, let slip during the Q&A portion of a recent earnings call last Friday, which I reproduce here in its entirety:

What we also are factoring in is, you know, with the Windows 10 launch at the end of July, we are watching sort of the impact of that on the back-to-school season, and expect that it might have a bit of a delay to the normal back-to-school season inventory build-up.

I feel bad for the potential fall-out with MS that such a slip might cause, given AMD’s consistently weakening hold on the PC market, and its ever-declining consequent fortunes, but this is useful information because of what it tells us about the upcoming timeline for Windows 10:

1. Given a General Availability date on or before 7/31/2015, that lends more credence to February 2015 reports that the release to OEM manufacturers (RTM) would occur in June (see, for example, thee reports: Network World, NeoWin).
2. It suggests strongly that features of great interest should either appear, or fall out of the upcoming Windows 10 release, within the next 30-60 days. These include a new and improved Maps interface and applications, improved voice controls, final lockdown of universal apps features, advanced biometrics support, and more. I can’t wait to see what actually shows up by the end of May, because that’s when “feature lockdown” is most likely to occur.
3. Microsoft’s timing shows that they fully understand the importance of the “back-to-school” buying impulse, just as Ms. Siu of AMD does. Hopefully, a timely end-of-July release gives OEMs enough time to flood their channels and buyers enough time to buy in before school gets going from mid-August to early September around the country and the world.
4. All of this means that the next couple of “slow ring” builds to emerge for Windows 10 (which have been promised to hit at approximately 30-day intervals in the months ahead, indicating that one of the recent builds leaked, such as 10051 or 10064, may hit fast and slow ring status soon, given the 3/18 release date for 10041).

And indeed it looks like Windows 10 might be limbering up for the home stretch, and hopefully also, showing those remaining major capabilities still not in evidence that are intended for GA release sooner rather than later in that process.


April 17, 2015  10:54 AM

Win10 to Incorporate Biometrics Boost thru Windows Hello

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Authentication, Biometrics, Windows 10

Back in mid-March, Joe Belfiore (VP of the OS Group at MS) posted about a new biometric authentication technology to Blogging Windows. It’s called “Windows Hello” and although it has yet to make its debut in a Technical Preview build, it’s promised for inclusion in Windows 10 at some point in the as-yet indistinct future. You can read his description of this technology in the 3/17/15 post entitled “Making Windows 10 More Personal and More Secure with Windows Hello,” which also includes this intriguing screencap that apparently reports a successful “hello” experience.

w10-hello

When Hello works in Windows 10, you see the greeting message complete with smileyface on the splash screen.

When Windows 8 came along, part of its new feature set included built-in support for fingerprint readers. And indeed, on most of the laptops and tablets I tried that included fingerprint readers (most were of the AuthenTec variety), fingerprint support (enrollment and subsequent recognition or rejection) worked immediately following installation, and integrated with Windows login so that I could scan a fingerprint instead of typing in a password. As I understand what Windows Hello will do in Windows 10 is to add support for the Intel RealSense 3D camera, and also incorporate facial and iris recognition into its bag of biometric identification/authentication tricks. Thus, in much the same way that it will continue support for fingerprint readers, it will also add enrollment and recognition/rejection features for the aforementioned camera into its built-in capabilities, and integrate them into the Windows 10 login process as well. In addition, MS will also integrate with the Microsoft Passport environment, so that successful Hello recognition will also tie users into any of the various remote sites and/or services that currently require a Microsoft Account login today.

In fact, Microsoft Passport depends on asymmetric key cryptography for authentication. Also known as public key encryption, it endows uses with a private secret key and a related public key as a split form of authentication and proof of identity. Messages encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted using the private key, so successful decryption of a message or inquiry so encrypted constitutes a powerful proof of identity and can even be considered a form of “self-authenticating data” in that the ability to decrypt proves that the recipient possessed the key necessary to access message contents. This means that Passport bypasses any need to store secret keys or passwords online for authentication, and can use your public key to obtain necessary proofs of identity (one simple mechanism might encrypt a randomly-generated URL, for example, that a user would then click to continue  a secured interaction with a system or service). The private key is tied to the system where biometric recognition occurs, and can be related to or based around unique markers association with such recognition.

For a different and more detailed take on Microsoft Hello, check out Greg Shultz’s take on that technology at TechRepublic, in his 4/10/2015 story entitled “Windows Hello brings biometric security to Windows 10” or Mark Hachman’s “Microsoft’s Windows Hello will let you log into Windows 10 with your face, finger, or eye.” I’ll be curious to see how it plays out following a public release, and how much incremental cost the Intel RealSense 3D camera is likely to add to a typical tablet or notebook PC.


April 15, 2015  10:36 AM

Original/Early Win10 Builds Expire Today, Quit Booting after 4/29

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10

Has it really been that long since the first Windows 10 Technical Preview went live? Sure enough: Builds 9841, 9860, and 9879 all expire on April 15, 2015, and will quit booting when the clock ticks over to April 30, 2015, in just over two weeks. Here’s the blurb from the Windows 10 Insider Hub that tells the story, with a warning worth heeding:

w10exp

Please note what happens if you procrastinate past the “freshness date!”

The current build for Windows 10 is available through Windows Update in the Settings app, and also through a link in the aforementioned update in the Insider Hub app as well. If you are trailing behind on any Windows 10 builds, you’ll want to make sure to catch up before April 30 rolls around, because you’ll be forced to do a bare metal clean install of some OS (Windows 10 current build or otherwise) just to get your machine to boot. You’ve been warned!

And you thought “Tax Day” was just about punishment from the IRS. Now, Microsoft is doing its bit to add to the joy… To complete the information about what expires when, here’s a table of expiration and “stop booting” dates for all major Windows 10 builds, courtesy of RajithR, an MS Support Engineer, over at the Windows Insider Program:

w10-allexp

Cheers!


April 13, 2015  12:19 PM

System Refresh Leaves Interesting Items Undone

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Backup and restore, Disk image, Windows 8.1

In experimenting with a full system recovery recently on my Microsoft Surface Pro 3, I’ve been trying various methods to get from a current bad system state to a current good one. But while a recovery from a system image produces a complete restore of the system at the time of its capture, refreshing that system to roughly the same point in time still falls a wee bit short of what I would call a full and complete recovery. “What’s missing?” you ask. “Mostly passwords, keys, and other security related information” is the answer. Let me provide a detailed list of what I’ve noticed so far in working with a recent custom refresh on my SP3, created using RecImgManager, an excellent bit of free software from SlimWare Utilities that permits users to capture the current system image and use it for a system refresh.

recimgmgr

RecImgMgr captures current system snapshots that work with the built-in system refresh capability in Windows 8 and newer versions.

The List of Missing Items and Elements
1. All Wi-Fi authentication information must be re-supplied, after you identify your chosen wi-fi network(s)
2. Had to repair the 8GadgetPack install (also typical when upgrading Windows 8 or 10 versions)
3. Any applications missing from the Refresh image must be re-installed; because MS Office Click-to-Run runtime was deleted following its initial installation, this meant that I had to revert to a standard installation for MS Office Professional 2013 on my test machine simply because the Click-to-Run installer was no longer present on the SP3 when the refresh snapshot was made. Because I couldn’t repair the C2R install, I had to uninstall it, then (re)install from an MS Office 2013 ISO file from MSDN.

Close, But Not Exactly the Same as Restoring a System Image
When you restore a system image (either from the File History’s “System Image Backup” option at lower left in its application window, or from a third-party backup program such as Acronis True Image or Auslogics File Recovery Pro) you don’t have to worry about most of the various items in the preceding list (though an application missing from the snapshot wouldn’t be present, of course, the C2R installer would probably have remained available). Be aware that there are some differences between a system refresh and an image reversion, and you won’t suffer any unpleasant surprises as a consequence.


April 10, 2015  10:39 AM

Problematic SP3 Drivers Identified

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Device drivers, Surface Pro, Troubleshooting, Windows 8.1

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been engaged in a part-time exercise to rebuild my Surface Pro 3 from a clean re-install of Windows 8.1 Update 1. This has proved to be an interesting exercise for many different reasons, not least of which has been an ongoing trial-and-error effort to determine which of the latest device drivers that are currently available actually work on the platform, and which do not. I have come to the end of this particular trail, and now wish to report on my findings.

drvagnt-rpt

After one-at-a-time attempts to match all drivers to the DriverAgent analysis, I determine that 4 drivers must be “held back” to maintain stable, proper operation.

The other three drivers that do not appear in the preceding screen cap, in addition to the Intel HD 5000 graphics driver shown therein (running version 10.18.14.4029, but for which a newer 10.18.14.4156 version is available), are as follows:

Driver Name                                 Working                Latest Version
1. Realtek High Definition Audio   6.0.1.7198                 6.0.1.7460
2. Realtek USB 3.0 Card Reader    6.3.9600.31207       6.3.9600.31208
3. Android Composite ADB             6.3.9600.17041       3.3.1.0

For each of these four drivers, installing the latest version causes the system to misbehave, by which I mean either an inability to shut down properly (usually because of the Pages_Locked_in_Memory error I reported on in earlier blog posts on this topic) or because the “updated” device fails to work properly or at all. Apparently there is some method to Microsoft’s madness in limiting drivers to those it has tested and vetted rather than the “latest and greatest” available, as programs like DriverAgent seek to identify and recommend. I just wish MS would keep a list of this stuff on its Surface Pro 3 pages so that finding out which ones work (and which ones don’t) could proceed from knowledge and insight, rather than the trial-and-error I had to conduct for myself (and which others in the same boat must presumably conduct for themselves as well).


April 8, 2015  10:45 AM

Interesting Benefits of Click-to-Run Office Installation

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Application virtualization, MS Office

I’ve just recently rebuilt my Surface Pro 3 installation, and am still recovering from that aftermath. Upon discovering a link to “Click-to-Run” installation for MS Office Professional 2013 on my refurbished desktop this morning, I decided to give it a try, and discovered a hidden benefit, or perhaps a cluster of related benefits. C2R, as I like to abbreviate Click-to-Run, is described as “a streaming and virtualization technology that is used to install Office products.” It works with Office 365 subscriptions (Office 365 ProPlus, Visio Pro for Office 365, Project Pro for Office 365, SharePoint Designer 2013, Lync 2013, and Lync 2013 Basic), but also with Office retail products (Office Professional 2013, Office Home and Business 2013, Office Home and Student 2013). Here’s what product information shows up about my brand-new install:

msofc-info

The C2R version of MS Office installs quickly and update automatically.

Imagine my surprise when the install process started and the runtime let me know I could start using Office apps right away, even before the install was complete. Sweet! Imagine my subsequent astonishment when I went to update the MS Office install (usually, this is a multi-step interaction with Windows Update that requires at least half an hour and sometimes as long as an hour to complete) and observed that the installation was already up-to-date. A little additional online research informed me that C2R retail installations, just like their subscription based counterparts, are updated automatically outside the Windows Update environment, and don’t require updates to flow through Windows Update at all. And for those who want or need to run multiple versions of Office side-by-side on the same PC, C2R for 2013 works alongside conventional installations of Office 2007 or 2010.

Good stuff! I’m going to try C2R on my next desktop build (or rebuild) and see how it works there, too. I’m curious to see what happens when, as is sometimes the case, I must run Office on a mobile PC when no Internet is available.


April 6, 2015  10:06 AM

Fixing 2 Win10 Build 10049 Gotchas

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows installation

I’ve got two test machines upon which I’m running the latest Win10 build, namely 10049. In getting those machines up and running, I’ve found myself subject to 2 inadvertent gotchas along the way. Because one prevents the build from activating, and the other sucks up beaucoups disk space (about 2.5 GB) I’m going to share the fixes as well as explain what’s going on in each case.

Gotcha 1: All Language Packs Automatically Install

Through some no doubt accidental configuration setting, downloading Build 10049 from Windows Update automatically installs all available language packs for Windows 10. Although that current list includes “only” 19 languages at the moment, that still represents a lot of data which in turn sucks up substantial disk space. To uninstall unwanted language packs enter the command lpksetup /u at the Windows command line, then pick all the languages you wish to have uninstalled from the “Install or uninstall display languages” window that pops up in response. The whole process takes about 15 minutes to complete if you eliminate everything except your core language (and the base English MUI which is always installed). This also explains why installing Build 10049 seems to take longer to download and install than previous Win10 builds: it includes a whole lot more data!

ext-lang

It takes around a minute for each language to uninstall, so multiply that by 17 for total removal time.

Gotcha 2: Yet Another Hard-to-find Activation Key

If the ISOs are available for a Win10 build, all you generally need to do to grab the activation key for that build is to visit that page. But when the build is only in the “fast-ring” stage, the ISOs aren’t yet available, so one needs to do some hunting and pecking to find that key. This time around, I located an MS Community Wiki article entitled “How to activate the latest Windows 10 build” that provides the key despite also claiming that “By default, Windows 10 builds are pre-keyed, meaning, you do not have to enter a product key and should not be prompted to enter one even after Windows 10 has completed setup.” Alas, I must be either cursed or unlucky, because Windows Activation has demanded a key from me for every Win10 build I’ve installed from Windows Update so far (the ISO versions don’t seem to suffer from this gotcha, either). At any rate, you can find the key needed for a successful activation on that page if you need it, as I did.


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