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Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Available Today

Microsoft released Windows 10, code named "Threshold 1," a little over two years ago. As of May of this year, there were approximately 500 million Windows 10 devices worldwide. Originally, Microsoft predicted that Windows 10 would be installed on 1 billion devices by mid-2018. When released, Windows 10 gained huge adoption from those running Windows 7 from the "free-upgrade program" which lasted one year.

Since then however, installations have slowly declined and in July of last year, Microsoft admitted that they would miss their projected goal of 1 billion devices. Since its release, Windows 10 has had three major update releases with "Threshold 2," in 2015, "Anniversary Update," in 2016, "Creators Update" in April of this year and today marks the release of Microsoft's fourth major feature update to its operating system, dubbed "Fall Creators Update," version 1709.

343 Industries Announces "Halo Recruit" Experience for Windows Mixed Reality

Update October 6th: Added new content courtesy of Road to VR, where you can see the entirety of the Halo experience in action, and updated sources.

With Microsoft's push towards a Mixed Reality ecosystem in full swing and coming to the hands of consumers as soon as October 17th, Microsoft would be remiss not to include that which still is their flagship franchise. Earlier reports already mentioned a Halo push towards the VR space, and today saw it confirmed by 343 Industries' Bonnie Ross in a Windows Mixed Reality blog post.

Facebook, Microsoft Finish Installation of 160 Tbps Subsea Data Cable

It might come as a surprise to some that the actual majority of global communications is done via subsea cables that connect continents - and people - together. This editor remember being dumbfounded at the mere idea of this whilst reading Frank Schätzing's "The Swarm", some 9 years ago. However, the installation of subsea datacables isn't new; in fact, the first ever recorded datacable installation occurred in 1850 - though it was simply used for telegraphy. The times change, though, and nowadays, there are cables that can transmit 160 terabits per second connecting continents. According to Microsoft, that's more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

One such is the new MAREA cable, laid down across the Atlantic by a Microsoft/Facebook joint operation, which connects Bilbao (northern Spain) to Virginia Beach, in Virginia. The cable is settled more than 17,000 feet (five kilometers for us metric system junkies) below the surface of the ocean and measures more than 4,000 miles (again, 6,400 kilometers) in length. It weighs nearly 10.25 million pounds (around 4,629 tons) and is situated along a route south of existing transatlantic cables, which should ensure more resilient and reliable connections for customers on both sides.

Tesla Motors Develops Semi-custom AI Chip with AMD

Tesla Motors, which arguably brought electric vehicles to the luxury-mainstream, is investing big in self-driving cars. Despite its leader Elon Musk's fears and reservations on just how much one must allow artificial intelligence (AI) to develop, the company realized that a true self-driving car cannot be made without giving the car a degree of machine learning and AI, so it can learn its surroundings in real-time, and maneuver itself with some agility. To that extent, Tesla is designing its own AI processor. This SoC (system on chip) will be a semi-custom development, in collaboration with the reigning king of semi-custom chips, AMD.

AMD has with it a clear GPGPU performance advantage over NVIDIA, despite the latter's heavy investments in deep-learning. AMD is probably also banking on good pricing, greater freedom over the IP thanks to open standards, and a vast semi-custom track-record, having developed semi-custom chips with technology giants such as Sony and Microsoft. Musk confirmed that the first car in which you can simply get in, fall asleep, and wake up at your destination, will roll out within two years, hinting at a 2019 rollout. This would mean a bulk of the chip's development is done.

Source: CNBC

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update to Bring Privacy Enhancements

Do you remember those times where your privacy wasn't such a concern? Where you could freely navigate through the world, and not have to worry if your apps, browsers, extensions, or operating systems weren't collecting way more data than you wanted them to? It seems eons behind us, now, but it's the world we've been living in - and the world we've been building up to with our choices as consumers. Now, consumers have to fight for almost every last scrap of privacy dignity we can expect to achieve.

Microsoft, through a blog post, has stated that they are continuing to assess and address privacy concerns users might have regarding how and when the operating system which is being hailed as the last major Microsoft OS release collects user information. Specifically, Microsoft states that "Continuing with our commitment to privacy and data control, today we're announcing privacy enhancements coming to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for consumers and commercial customers that further increase your access to information and provides you more control over what information is collected."

Microsoft Acknowledges Gaming Performance Issues Under Win 10 Creators Update

Microsoft made considerable noise on their vaulted Game Mode, a Windows feature which made its appearance in their latest Creators Update version of Windows 10. Game Mode was one of the foremost features in the latest Windows update, which was supposed to deliver improved performance in gaming or other full-screen 3D applications, by enabling more of the available CPU and GPU resources to be tapped into by specific applications. Specific CPU (through winding down of non-crucial processes) and GPU (through prioritization of game-related graphics memory allocation) improvements were baked into this latest version; supposedly, only performance improvements should result from this effort on Microsoft's part.

ASUS Reveals HC102 Windows Mixed Reality Headset

ASUS is another company that will be launching hardware developed according to Microsoft's Mixed Reality specifications. The company has put out some details on its HC102 Mixed Reality headset, which put it on par with other offerings from the likes of Acer, Dell and Lenovo in terms of both features and design. 2x LCD screens display a combined 2880x1200 resolution (1440x1440 per eye), at a 90 Hz refresh rate and an acceptable 90º FoV (Windows' MR solutions typically have a slightly lesser FoV compared to pure VR solutions like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift).

Hardware-wise, ASUS also has the mandatory 6 DoF tracking, with an accelerometer and magnetometer increasing input data. A proximity sensor is also there, which we still haven't seen mentioned on other MR headsets. There are 2x inside-out cameras for positional tracking, and a 3.5 mm audio jack for your own high-quality headsets. All of this will set you back the same €449, with a pair of motion controllers, as the other options that have been announced on the market. It seems that vendors are generally locking in on Microsoft's recommended configuration - and the same price-tags - rather than differentiating through hardware and features - and, potentially, higher pricing. However, ASUS has done some work in making the HC102's design stand out a little more than the other solutions we've seen so far.

AMD Ryzen PRO Desktop Processors Released Worldwide

Building on the global enthusiasm generated by the launch of Ryzen high-end desktop processors and EPYC server processors for the datacenter, AMD (NASDAQ: AMD) today announced broad adoption of enterprise solutions featuring AMD Ryzen PRO desktop processors. Designed for business, Ryzen PRO processors bring reliability, security, and performance to address the demands of today's compute-intensive enterprise-focused workloads. Commercially-focused desktop solutions based on these new processors are expected to be available from Dell, HP, and Lenovo in the coming weeks.

"Today's business PC users require more processing power than ever before to run increasingly demanding applications, to ensure they can multi-task without disruption, and to help protect against security threats," said Jim Anderson, senior vice president and general manager, Computing and Graphics Group, AMD. "Ryzen PRO is designed to address these needs, and we're proud to collaborate with such a strong set of industry leaders on a robust assortment of AMD-based desktop PCs that showcase the strength and flexibility of the Ryzen PRO platform."

Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality Push to Include Steam Support, Halo VR

In what is possibly one of the most mouth-watering Microsoft reports as of late for this particular TechPowerUp news editor, it seems that Microsoft is making all the right strides towards bringing its Mixed Reality push to mainstream, popular support. Microsoft seems to have seen the error in its ways towards their usual walled-garden approach, and has announced that their Windows Mixed Reality initiative will see its Mixed/Vitual Reality headsets supporting Steam VR games. This means third-party support for yet another VR hardware piece, and something that Microsoft sorely needed, since adoption of its still upcoming platform wasn't showing much pulse.

But most important than all that (you are allowed to disagree), is that Microsoft is seemingly tapping its first-party studios to produce VR content for its Mixed Reality platform. Case in point, 343 Industries and the Halo franchise. Whether this means VR-only experiences or actual VR-enabled full fledged, numbered Halo games remains to be seen - only Microsoft and 343 know the answer to that. Though it's also likely none of the parts knows much about that at this point in time either; as it seems, and as Microsoft said on their blog post announcing these features, "we are working with 343 Industries to bring future Halo experiences into mixed reality. We are not providing specifics right now, but it is going to be a lot of fun to work with them."

Microsoft Announces Age of Empires IV, Developed by Relic Entertainment

I remember Age of Empires II fondly; it was my first PC game, really. The intro sequence of chess really served to put my young mind racing towards ideas of military movements and countermovements, and led me towards devouring historical romances accompanying the exploits of Alexander the Great (Valerio Massimo Manfredi's novels), and Hannibal Barca (I'm partial to Ross Leckie in this one). Now, Microsoft has announced yet another installment in this PC-exclusive series, after Age of Empires III's somewhat lukewarm reception. Age of Empires IV is coming for all of your medieval RTS needs.

Intel and Microsoft Collaborate to Deliver Industry-First Enterprise Blockchain

Today, Microsoft announced a new framework that enables businesses to adopt blockchain technology for increased enterprise privacy and security, and named Intel as a key hardware and software development partner. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft, Intel and other blockchain technology leaders will build a new enterprise-targeted blockchain framework - called the Coco Framework - that integrates Intel Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX) to deliver improved transaction speed, scale and data confidentiality to enterprises. This first-of-its-kind innovation accelerates the enterprise readiness of blockchain technology, allowing developers to create flexible and more secure enterprise blockchain applications that can be easily managed by businesses.

Microsoft Adding Eye Control Capabilities to Windows, Improve Accessibility

People with disabilities typically find themselves in an uphill battle in a world that simply isn't geared for them. In everything, the economies of scale dominate, the cost/benefit ratios are weighed... And even though the disabled segment of the population is a significant one, measures to cope with their difficulties are seldom implemented due to that same economic cost/benefit ratio - though this has been steadily improving over the years (at great credit for humanity, I might say.)

Microsoft has now announced that it has partnered with Tobii (best known for their gaming-oriented eye-tracking products), in a bid to increase accessibility in its Windows OS. The work has gone towards implementing eye-tracking technology that can be used by people with motor disabilities to control a mice and keyboard on-screen. Available in the latest Insider Preview builds, Eye Control currently requires a specific piece of Tobii hardware (like the Tobii 4C, though support will definitely extend to other Tobii products in time), which unlocks access to the Windows operating system to be able to do the tasks one could previously accomplish with a physical mouse and keyboard.

Microsoft Announces the Windows Bounty Program

While Microsoft has been offering bug bounty incentives since at least 2012, Google has arguably been much more vocal in its bug bounty programs. The company recently increased the maximum payout in its bug bounty programs (mainly focused on Android) to a staggering $200,000, and now Microsoft is not only following suit - it's upping the game.

With the Windows Bounty Program, which Microsoft announced yesterday, the company is looking towards an increased incentive to security-hardening suggestions from tech-savvy users. This program will extend to all features of the Windows Insider Preview in addition to focus areas in Hyper-V, Mitigation bypass, Windows Defender Application Guard, and Microsoft Edge. And incentives starting at $500 and going all the way up to $250,000 are very, very respectful.

Source: Blogs.Technet @ Microsoft

The King is Dead; Long Live the King - MS Paint's Announced Demise

To be fair, the writing was already on the wall, in a way. It was so when Microsoft announced the introduction of a UWP app called Paint 3D. Paint 3D, which supplants Paint in a number of ways, is like the 1984-introduced app's big brother. It's meaner, faster, and thinks history is all its own. But that's fine.

So yes, Paint is dying. The prognosis: death by deprecation. Paint is being put on a "deprecated" list (which means "not in active development and might be removed in future releases" for Windows 10's latest update, the Fall Creators Update, which means that it's somewhat like Schrödinger's cat: it's in a limbo of life and death. It's not really dead, no; but at the same time, it really kind of is. "Whether you're an artist or just want to try out some doodles-Paint 3D makes it easy to unleash your creativity and bring your ideas to life. Classic Paint has been reimagined, with an updated look and feel and a ton of new brushes and tools. And now, create in every dimension. Make 2D masterpieces or 3D models that you can play with from all angles," Microsoft explains. And that's all well and good; but where is my nostalgia-factor? A small sentence lends hope to the Paint defenders out there, where Microsoft says "Paint will be available through the Windows Store." Alas, even so, it seems tales of Paint's demise weren't greatly exaggerated...

Source: Microsoft

Intel Clover Trail-based Systems Won't Receive Creators Update - Ever

We recently covered how users with systems powered by Intel's Clover Trail CPUs were having issues with a "Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC" error when trying to update their machines to Microsoft's latest Windows 10 Creators Update. The systems in question - built around Intel's Clover Trail Atom processors - are generally low-cost, low-power machines (mainly 2-in-1) released between 2012 and 2015 under Windows 8 and 8.1. These systems were deemed ready to receive Windows 10; however, now it looks as if they won't ever be able to support it.

In our last piece, we wondered if this problem was only temporary; now it seems it's permanent. Microsoft has however announced that Clover Trail-based systems will still receive security updates (just not feature updates) until 2023. The issue seems to lay with Clover Trail's integrated GPU drivers; Clover Trail Atoms use GPU technology licensed from Imagination Technologies. Ars Technica's Peter Bright says that "Imagination appears unwilling, and Intel appears unable, to update the GPU drivers to meet the demands of the Creators Update. So systems built with such hardware will never be upgradable beyond the Anniversary Update."

Blizzard to Discontinue Support for Windows XP, Vista

Blizzard, best known for their Starcraft, Warcraft, and Diablo series (who are also responsible for that phenomenon World of Warcraft), has recently announced they are going to cut back support for older Windows-based operating systems. Resource allocation is a real problem; the opportunity cost of having engineers working on ensuring that their most recent updates and recent remasters aren't breaking support for older operating systems always comes at the cost of work on newer OSes.

As such, in a blog post on their forums, Blizzard has announced that starting in October of this year, "we will begin the process of ending support for Windows XP and Windows Vista in World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm." They went on to explain this decision, in that "Microsoft ceased mainstream support for these versions of Windows in 2009 and 2012, respectively, but since a decent portion of our audience was still using them at the time, we continued supporting them. However, there have been three major Windows releases since Vista, and at this point, the vast majority of our audience has upgraded to one of the newer versions." And if you're thinking that this isn't true end of life for these systems when it comes to Blizzard game support, think again: "The games will not run on these older operating systems once they are no longer supported, so we encourage any players who are still using one of the older OSes to upgrade to a newer version. We'll be rolling out this change on a staggered schedule, and will post further notices as we get closer to making the change for each game."

Source: Blizzard @ Battle.net Forums

Microsoft Decreasing Windows 10 Updates Downtime in Fall Creators Update

If you're a standard Windows user, you probably find Windows updates something of a pain - especially when they force you to reboot your PC after they're installed. But imagine you own a business that constantly has its machines up and running, but also requires the latest security upgrades; each minute of downtime for installing such updates is lost revenue. Because of that issue, which companies brought to Microsoft's attention over the years, the company is streamlining its update process, decreasing the amount of update steps that need to be taken offline (which means less time waiting for the machines to become available to use following an update.)

Windows 10 Support for Older Hardware Encountering Difficulties, Cut Off

As part of its new "Windows as a Service" model, Microsoft elected to provide users with a guaranteed, steady stream of updates with virtually no clear, hard-defined EOL. However, Microsoft took refuge, as well it should, from an increasingly difficult support for different hardware sets: a little footnote, saying that you are eligible for Windows 10 for the "supported lifetime of the device." Yes, it's true you now don't have to purchase a new Windows version. But that also means that your devices potentially won't be supported for Microsoft's previous 5 + 5 policy (meaning, 5 years of feature and security updates, and 5 extra years for security updates only.)

The systems in question - built around Intel's Clover Trail Atom processors - are generally low-cost, low-power machines (mainly 2-in-1) released between 2012 and 2015 under Windows 8 and 8.1. These systems were deemed ready to receive Windows 10; however, they are currently blocked from installing Windows 10 Version 1703 - the "Creators Update." Attempts to install result in a message saying that "Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC." The problem is that each Windows 10 update receives security fixes for just 18 months. Version 1607, the latest that these Clover Trail machines can install, will drop out of support in early 2018 - after which they'll cease to receive any patches at all.

Windows 10 Process-Termination Bug Slows Down Mighty 24-Core System to a Crawl

So, you work for Google. Awesome, right? Yeah. You know what else is awesome? Your 24-Core, 48-thread Intel build system with 64 GBs of ram and a nice SSD. Life is good man. So, you've done your code work for the day on Chrome, because that's what you do, remember? (Yeah, that's right, it's awesome). Before you go off to collect your google-check, you click "compile" and expect a speedy result from your wicked fast system.

Only you don't get it... Instead, your system comes grinding to a lurching halt, and mouse movement becomes difficult. Fighting against what appears to be an impending system crash, you hit your trusty "CTRL-ALT-DELETE" and bring up task manager... to find only 50% CPU/RAM utilization. Why then, was everything stopping?

If you would throw up your arms and walk out of the office, this is why you don't work for Google. For Google programmer Bruce Dawson, there was only one logical way to handle this: "So I did what I always do - I grabbed an ETW trace and analyzed it. The result was the discovery of a serious process-destruction performance bug in Windows 10."

Intel Unveils Powerful Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

Intel today launched its new Intel Xeon Scalable processors, providing businesses with breakthrough performance to handle compute-hungry tasks including real-time analytics, virtualized infrastructure and high-performance computing. Today's launch marks the greatest set of data center and network processor advancements in a decade.

"Data center and network infrastructure is undergoing massive transformations to support emerging use cases like precision medicine, artificial intelligence and agile network services paving the path to 5G," said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Data Center Group. "Intel Xeon Scalable processors represent the biggest data center advancement in a decade."

NVIDIA GeForce 384 Series Driver Removes Need for New CPUs for 4K Netflix

NVIDIA's GeForce 384 series drivers seem to have quite a few secrets, beginning with DirectX 12 API support on 5-plus year old GeForce "Fermi" GPUs, and now 4K Ultra HD support for Netflix UWP app without the need of new-generation CPUs (namely Intel "Kaby Lake," AMD "Summit Ridge," and AMD "Bristol Ridge."). The new-generation CPUs feature a host of hardware-level DRM features which the Netflix app needs to playback 4K Ultra HD content. The new GeForce 384 series drivers let you circumvent that requirement.

Reddit user aethervisor discovered that the Windows Store (UWP platform) app of Netflix could play back content at full 4K Ultra HD resolution on their machine with an older CPU and GeForce GTX 1080 graphics. New-generation CPUs had become a requirement for this to happen, besides the latest Windows 10 version, an HDCP 2.2-compliant 4K display (and no active secondary displays that don't satisfy HDCP 2.2), a powerful enough GPU, and either the UWP app or the Netflix website on Microsoft's Edge web-browser. NVIDIA struck down a big requirement that opens up Netflix 4K to a much wider user-base.

Source: Reddit

Microsoft Wants in on the Summer Sales: Announces "Ultimate Game Sale"

Summer is getting known more by the amount of game sales than by days spending creating a sunny side up on your skin. After GOG's Summer Sale and Steam's Summer Sale (which is still going strong until July 5th, to the woe of many households), Microsoft has just announced the "Ultimate Game Sale", which is striving to be the game sale to end all others.

Microsoft's sale isn't restricted to a single marketplace, encompassing all platforms where Microsoft does gaming business: Windows Store, Xbox Store, and Windows store. This sale also encompasses hardware, so if you're looking for some, this might be your chance. You'll have to wait for June 30th to get a look at the deals (the sale starts on June 30th and goes on through until July 10th), but you should temper expectations. Microsoft says games on this sale will be available for up to 50% off, which while welcome, isn't that much of a steep discount as it is. If that makes you twitch your face in discontent, you might want to take a selfie, so you can participate on Microsoft's "Ultimate Game Face Sweepstakes".

European Commission Fines Google in €2.42 billion for Antitrust Violations

Another year, another European Commission fine for an antitrust violation. This time, the target of the fine is none other than Google. In what could be the most important antitrust ruling in recent years (which overshadows even Microsoft's 2004 browser fine), the EC has found that Google has systematically worked towards increasing prominence in search results to those displayed by the company's own comparison shopping service, dubbed "Google Shopping". "Google Shopping" started in 2004, when Google entered the comparison shopping market in Europe, with a product that was initially called "Froogle", renamed "Google Product Search" in 2008 and since 2013 has been called "Google Shopping".

However, it would seem that Froogle wasn't all that successful. When Google entered the comparison shopping markets with Froogle, there were already a number of established players, which dampened the company's market foray. The EC states that Google was aware that Froogle's market performance was relatively poor, pointing to one internal document from 2006 that stated, quite plainly, that "Froogle simply doesn't work".

Windows 10 Task Manager to Get GPU Utilization Tab

Microsoft is working on an update to Windows 10, which among several other things, adds a GPU utilization tab to Task Manager. You will be able to monitor each individual GPU in your machine, and Task Manager will give you live utilization stats for the GPU's 3D load, Video hardware-acceleration (encode/decode) load, dedicated memory usage, shared memory usage, and basic driver information such as driver version and date. For now the update is part of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16226; and will make it to the main-release in the coming months.

Source: Windows Blog

After Kaspersky's Shots Across the Bow, Microsoft Reacts

You probably have heard about security giant Kaspersky having previously fired some shots (figurative ones, which translated into a very real antitrust complaint recently) towards Microsoft. The gist of the issue stands on Windows' handling of third party security software suites, with Windows sometimes removing those suits' installations on basis of "incompatibility" with more recent Windows versions. Other points of conflict mention the coloring in Windows Defender, where a user's security status appears as "not green", which leads customers towards believing that even though their systems have a third party security software installed, only Windows Defender can really and fully protect them (which is visually conveyed by the Window adopting a green coloring when customers select to activate Windows Defender.)
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