There’s an interesting story from last Thursday morning (10/20/2011) on the IT ProPortal site entitled “How to Use Windows 7 Everydays Apps in Windows 8?” Therein, author Alex Serban demonstrates the truth of Microsoft’s claims that ordinary Windows 7 apps run seemingly unchanged within the desktop side of the Windows 8 interface. Using this facility does require access what Serban calls “the old classic interface” (which Microsoft sometimes refers to as “the desktop interface”) and lauching the application from there. And although there is no start menu available, so you must cycle through Metro UI to launch or run multiple applications, old-style or new, old-style applications still work the same as they ever did.
Frankly I found rumors or speculation that current Windows 7 apps wouldn’t work in Windows 8 either hysterical or blatant attempts to incite controversy. Given the huge catalog of applications for the current reigning Windows OS, why would Microsoft want to alienate all of its application developers in one go? That just doesn’t make sense. This is especially important to the business/corporate market, which is always slower to adopt new desktop operating systems than are individual users, and which always look at new releases with a skeptical, if not outrightly jaundiced viewpoint, ready to pounce on incompatibility issues to fuel their natural tendencies to delay platform migrations as long as possible.
That’s why I’m glad to learn that my own experiences running existing apps in Windows 8’s current developer preview are being repeated elsewhere as other professionals dig into the new OS and learn what they can about its pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, and so forth. It continues to be an interesting ride, and it’s pretty clear that MS still has lots of work to do to smooth out some rough edges in the next 11 months or so before the latest Windows version is ready for prime time.
If you read this blog regularly, you already know that a team of authors — including Jeff Carrell (the lead), James Pyles, Tom Lancaster, Mark Mirrotto, and myself — are reworking a college textbook called Guide to TCP/IP. In fact, our primary motivations for this revision are to switch from Ethereal to Wireshark as the protocol analyzer of choice, and to add substantial IPv6 coverage to the previously IPv4 centric focus in the prior edition. With IPv4 public address space all but exhausted, and industry, government, research, academia, and communications providers busily switching over to IPv6, it’s highest time we provided students with the information and examples they need to understand the latest iteration of TCP/IP in detail.
Along the way we realized that Windows 7 doesn’t actually use the right default for auto-generating IPv6 addresses. While the specifications do allow for various methods to do this, the preferred method is to use the brand-new Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) to determine local network and interface identifiers, and to create a corresponding 128-bit IPv6 network address. Alas, Microsoft chose to implement an alternate method known as “random interface identifier assignment” instead.
This means that Windows 7 computers on IPv6 networks don’t behave the way that network administrators and IPv6-ready devices think they should, and can cause odd incompatibility issues to appear. Fortunately the fix for this problem involves running a single network shell (
netsh) command at the Windows command line:
netsh interface ipv6 set global randomizeidentifiers=disabled
Alas, Microsoft still doesn’t support the Secure Neighbor Discovery (SEND) protocol either, a more secure follow-on to NDP that verifies that neighbor devices discovered on a LAN actually belong there. It didn’t make it into SP1 for Windows 7, so we’ll have to hope to see it in Windows 7 SP2 and in Windows 8 next year!
[Comment Added 10/25/2011, thanks to Jeff Carrell. FYI, Jeff is my co-author on the TCP/IP textbook and has technical oversight for our latest and upcoming revision to that book]
RFC4861-NDP doesn’t care about how an interface get an IPv6 address, it defines some of the mechanisms to ensure no duplicate addresses (DAD) exist on-link. RFC4862 Stateless Address Autoconfiguration, mentions using the EUI-64 address and DAD test. There is also an update that mentions RFC4941 in the appendix.
It appears to be allowed to use either the RFC4291-EUI-64 or RFC4941-Privacy (random number) address formats for stateless address autoconfiguration.
Microsoft just happens to be using the Privacy format (since Vista/W2K8 came out in 2006/2008), which is actually more secure since it doesn’t have the MAC address embedded in the address string, but is different from the way that most other OS’s (client, server, infrastructure, etc) do it: they typically use the original standard known as EUI-64.
Agreed, RFC3971-SEND would be better, but I haven’t found any OS using it yet….actually I’ll be doing alot of resaerch on that for Ch13.
At the end of last week, global operating system share as reported by StatCounter for Windows 7 and Windows XP reached the crossover point. What this means is that on or about October 14, market share for the two operating systems coincided–at around 38 percent, as far as I can tell from the StatCounter graph. Now, with Windows 7 on the way up, and Windows XP on its way down, that also means that Windows 7 is the predominant Windows operating system in use today. That’s just under two years following its official public debut on October 22, 2009.
With nearly 500 million Windows 7 licenses already out there, Microsoft is projecting total volume to reach 635 million licenses by the end of 2011 (according to a story in DailyTech entitled “Windows 7 Passes Windows XP in Just Two Years to Become Top OS“). According to the same source, the Win7-XP balance stood at 40.21% for Windows 7, and 38.64% for Windows XP, as of October 17, 2011, the date of that story’s publication.
It may seem ironic that Windows 7 has achieved ascendancy just as features and functions of its successor, Windows 8, are starting to become known through the Microsoft Building Windows 8 blog. But tht’s the way these things go in the whacky and wonderful world of technology. The crossover also presents hard evidence that enterprise migration to Windows 7 may finally be getting up a full head of steam as well.
The Building Windows 8 blog is rapidly turning into one of my favorite resources and references on what’s up with Windows 8, and this Monday morning I’m particularly taken with last Friday’s post (10/13/2011) entitled “The Windows 8 Task Manager.” If there’s one system utility on most modern major Windows versions that I use incessantly (Ctrl-Shift-Esc is programmed into my left hand at a pretty deep level, in fact) this has got to be it. So of course, I was more than mildly interested to read about what’s coming in the next iteration of this go-to utility.
Ryan Haveson, the group program manager for Microsoft’s “In Control of Your PC” team, is the author of this post, and he does a bang-up job of explaining what’s changing in Task Manager for Windows 8 and why slated changes have been made. If you’re as fond of this tool as I am, you’ll want to read the post in its entirety. For those who may just want the 10,000-foot recap, here it is:
- The default views for the Applications and Processes tabs have been simplified and cleaned up, to make it easier for users to find and kill errant or unresponsive apps and processes, respectively. A “more details” button will be included on each of those views to make it easier for geeks to get more details and information from the tool (see the posting for some nice illustrative screencaps).
- A “heat map” that represents various values with color is overlaid on all Task Manager displays. This uses color to call out anomalies or big resource consumers without having to zero in on units of measure or sorting the data to bring outliers to the top of specific columns. Column headers and specific entries light up with brighter more compelling colors to call attention to what’s up, and what’s out of whack.
- Equal coverage for network and disk consumption on commonly used panes (you now get Disk and Network counters/reports in the processes tab without having to jump to different tabs, or over to the Resource Monitor utility). Nice catch, guys!
- Smarter grouping of processes: entries are grouped by Application, Background processes, and Windows processes, so users have a better idea about what’s safe to kill, and what needs to be left alone. Applications also provide additional detail about parent and child processes. Thus, for example, you can look at Outlook.exe as a single entry by default, yet expand the hierarchy to see sub-processes or tasks inside the Outlook umbrella if you like.
- More process info available as a right-click option. I started using a uniblue look-up tool that plugged into Task Manager a couple of years ago because it made it easy for me to search for more information about strange, mysterious, or suspect processes online. I can’t remember why I quit using it, but it was handy to have around. With Windows 8, users can right-click on a process name in Task Manager, and elect a “Search the Web” menu option to do this without having to augment Task Manager itself any more. Bravo!
- And finally, MS does the homework for you with svchost.exe process entries, and ties them back to specific service relationships so that you can see which Windows services are using any particular instance of this DLL aggregating Windows infrastructure service. Bravo again!!
I’m actually looking forward to putting this new facility through its paces, as soon as I get my Windows 8 test machine up and running (probably, next week, if recent busy-busy-busy work rhythms keep clanging as they have been lately).
Thanks to an InfoWorld article by J. Peter Bruzzese entitled “How to snapshot Windows 7 and resurrect SteadyState — for free” I just learned that well-known Windows guru Mark Minasi (long-time Sybex author of all those many Mastering Windows books over the past 20 years) has resurrected an obsolete but valuable Windows facility. This facility is called SteadyState, and it enables Windows to return to a pre-defined state each time a system is rebooted. This made SteadyState a staple for admins who worked in schools, computer labs, libraries, or with kiosk machines, because it guarantees that a new user will encounter a clean, pristine Windows installation each time the system reboots, no matter what the previous user may have done with or to that machine.
Alas, Microsoft discontinued SteadyState in December of 2010, and Microsoft let support for this facility lapse entirely on July 1, 2011. There are, in fact, numerous commercial products that still do what SteadyState used to — Bruzzese identifies three named Deep Freeze, Time Freeze, and Returnil in his InfoWorld story — but at around $40 per seat, such costs may be beyond the means of the core audience for the old SteadyState stuff.
Minasi has created a total bare-bones Website called www.steadierstate.com where he provides a zip file that contains a detailed step-by step description of how to roll your own version of SteadyState along with all the files needed to put this environment together for yourself (along with licensed system components, of course). For the technically curious, it works by booting first to the Windows pre-installation environment (aka WinPE) which then loads a pre-defined VHD for the pristine system image that this tutorial teaches you how to construct.
There is one caveat that Bruzzese points out in his story worth attending to. Because Microsoft does not allow Windows 7 Professional to manipulate bootable VHDs, you cannot use this technique with machines running that version of Windows 7. It only works with Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate versions. Nevertheless, this is a great bit of public service from Mr. Minasi, and I’d like to add my thanks to him to Mr. Bruzzese’s while also thanking Mr. Bruzzese for bringing this effort to my attention and for his useful commentary and analysis of what Mr. Minasi did. Thanks guys!
There’s a fascinating new post up on the Building Windows 8 Blog from Steven Sinofsky, dated October 7, 2011. It’s entitled “Reducing runtime memory in Windows 8”, and it digs into lots of interesting tricks and techniques that Microsoft is using to bring down memory consumption for Windows 8 overall, and to make best use of available memory even on devices equipped with as little as 1 GB of RAM.
Here’s an example of the kinds of insights this blog post contains “…minimizing memory usage on low-power platforms can prolong battery life.” That’s because RAM consumes power all the time it’s in use, so “…the more RAM you have on board, the more power it uses, [and] the less battery life you get.” Sure, I knew that from a simple energy consumption basis, but I’d never really put it in those terms before, probably because my computing universe has hitherto assumed a constant supply of power from a wall circuit rather than a limited reservoir of battery-based juice.
Other interesting tidbits in this posting include how designers used “memory combining” so the Windows memory manager could identify duplicate bits of data or information, then store them only once, instead of as many times as the OS and applications choose to store them (any time such info is written to, a private copy is created and allocated to prevent inconsistencies). Another trick is to change services so that they start only when they’re used, and consume memory and other system resources only IF they’re used. Old fashioned usage and visitation analysis applied to memory also let MS observe memory usage, and allocate runtime memory only for things likely to be referenced and used sooner rather than later. This plays into a more strategic notion of memory prioritization (what to keep resident and what to swap out after a period of inactivity) that helps the OS make better use of available physical RAM. And finally, given the differences between the Metro UI and the older desktop UI in Windows 8, the OS can defer memory allocation and use for desktop UI stuff only when it’s needed rather than automatically upon system startup. This, too, affords some useful savings (23 MB, according to the blog post, for the current preview version of Windows 8).
All in all this adds up to some interesting memory savings and optimization, and also explains somewhat more of how Windows 8 internals function, and how they compare to Windows 7. It’s starting to look like MS is taking the whole mobile device aspect of things very, very seriously!
Dang! I just stumbled across another pending change coming with Windows 8, and I’m sorry to say I’m not too thrilled about it, either. It seems that the Metro UI doesn’t make room for Windows Gadget displays. In fact, you can read a post at the Windows Live Gallery that includes the following quote “Microsoft is no longer supporting development or uploading of new Gadgets.” (for the Windows Live Gallery, anyway). Here’s a screencap of the Windows Live Gallery page as it currently stands:
In discussing this subject in an article for Network World (“Windows 8 Means no More Widgets or Start Menu“), author Andry Patrizio opines that he “… never knew anyone who used them…” (gadgets, that is). Well, I for one have found a certain class of gadgets invaluable for system activity and health monitoring. I regularly use Microsoft’s Clock gadget, which puts an instantly readable clock face on my screen (yeah, I know I can look down at the digital readout for Date/Time at the lower right in the notification tray, but I can tell what time it is much more quickly from a clock face, and see it from much further away). I am also extremely fond of All CPU Meter and Network Meter from Addgadget.com, regularly use the Norton Internet Security desktop gadget, and love the Windows Vista Shutdown Control Gadget, OS designation notwithstanding, because it lets me restart or shutdown my PC quickly and easily.
I sure hope some mechanism for accessing handy little management and control applets persists into Windows 8. They may not be called gadgets anymore, but I sure hope they remain available!
I had a fascinating phone conversation with Executive Editor Ed Scannell at TechTarget yesterday, who clued me into one very interesting facet of his recent trip to Redmond for a sneak preview of the coming version of Windows Server (which everybody is calling Windows Server 8 these days, even if it will undoubtedly be called Windows Server 2012 by the time it ships). Amidst our discussion of interesting rumors and suppositions–such as, for example, the notion that Windows 8 desktop may precede the release of Windows 8 Server by as much as six month, with perhaps an early release for ARM and a later x86 release to jump on smartphone and tablet opportunities–he revealed to me that Windows 8 will include a facility known as “Cluster Aware Update” which works with an eponymous wizard called the Cluster Aware Update Wizard, or CAUW (I want to pronounce this “cow”, but the word on the street is that this is “not cow”).
Apparently, there was some loose talk about how this tool could make Patch Tuesday updates a thing of the past for server administrators, and also allow Microsoft to push updates on an as-needed basis. “Bully for Microsoft!” Ed and I agreed, but most enterprises aren’t going to pick up and run with Microsoft patches without testing them outside the production environment first, and then only rolling those that pass testing and verification out into production during carefully scheduled update windows for that purpose. I’m not sure how this is supposed to end Patch Tuesday, but Ed has commissioned me to write a 600-700 word article on this impending technology for submission later this month. I look forward to reporting further on this as I learn more. In the meantime, chew on this cool blog from System Center guru Robert Smit (a Server Cluster MVP for Microsoft) which even has screenshots of the CAUW at work: “Windows 8 Cluster Update #CAUW ( Cluster Aware Update Wizard ).” Way cool!
Die-hard MS pre-release technology consumers already know that CTP is shorthand for “Community Technology Preview,” a pre-beta technology release stage that usually seeks to help developers become familiar with and prepare for important coming Microsoft technologies. Timed to coincide with the Developer Preview for Windows 8 (which shares a common code base with Windows Server, lest anybody forget that scripting languages are more important for servers than desktops, by and large), there’s a CTP for Windows Management Framework 3.0 now available, and it includes a reworked version 3.0 of the Windows PowerShell scripting language that offers some pretty cool new features and capabilities.
There’s a nice post to the Windows PowerShell Blog entitled “Windows Management Framework 3.0 Community Technology Preview (CTP) #1 Available for Download” that explains all this stuff in more detail, but here are some high points of what the latest iteration of PowerShell 3.0 is going to deliver:
- Support for workflows that can “perform complex, large management tasks such as multi-machine application provisioning.” Also “Windows PowerShell workflows are repeatable, parallelizable, interruptible, and recoverable.”
- Support for robust sessions, means that PowerShell sessions can “…automatically recover from network failures and interruptions…” and more.
- Simplified language syntax for PowerShell 3.0 makes “…commands and scripts look a lot less like code and a lot more like natural language.”
- Extensions to support cmdlet discovery, automatic module loading, and a new Show command that provides easy methods for users to find and use cmdlets properly
You’ll also find changes to the Windows Management Framework (aka WMI), including a new provider development model that makes it easier to build service providers, and extends management applications running on Windows outside the Windows umbrella. Likewise, remote management (WinRM) has also been extended to include more robust and resilient client sessions, for more comprehensive and robust remote management facilities. There’s even a PowerShell Web Service that offers remote access for calling cmdlets from Windows or non-Windows clients. Way cool!
Wow! There’s a fascinating new post on the Building Windows 8 blog from Monday (9/26/2011). It’s entitled “Signing in to Windows 88 with a Windows Live ID,” and it explains how Windows 8 users can employ a Windows Live ID as the OS log-in so they can synchronize application settings, preferences, and “environment stuff” across multiple Windows 8 machines and devices.
In a nutshell things work as explained in this bulleted list that I lifted directly from the Live ID blog I just cited:
- Associate the most commonly used Windows settings with your user account. Saved settings are available when you sign in to your account on any Windows 8 PC. Your PC will be set up just the way you are used to!
- Easily reacquire your Metro style apps on multiple Windows 8 PCs. The app’s settings and last-used state persist across all your Windows 8 PCs.
- Save sign-in credentials for the different apps and websites you use and easily get back into them without having to enter credentials every time.
- Automatically sign in to apps and services that use Windows Live ID for authentication.
The key phrase that impelled my blog title appears a little later in this post, is in a later paragraph that explains in more detail what kinds of settings are captured and preserved (“… your lock screen picture, desktop background, user tile, browser favorites and history, spell check dictionaries, Explorer settings, mouse settings, and accessibility settings, among many others…”). It says that all of these things “… are now associated with your Windows 8 account and stored in the cloud.” But alas, this capability apparently applies only to Metro style apps because the blog further states: “If you want to roam your settings for desktop apps then you can continue to use the mechanisms available for roaming profiles and client side caching of files available with Active Directory and Windows Server.”
Dang! I see the emergence of a two-tier system here, and a powerful impetus to move users onto Metro style applications. It will be VERY interesting to see how this all plays out, and to see if application developers take the bait and start building Metro style interfaces for most common and popular applications. Only time will tell, but this should be fascinating to watch and learn from.