Windows 8 is set to make it easier than ever for users to manage their Wi-Fi and mobile connections, with group program manager on Microsoft's devices and networking team, Billy Anders, publishing a post on Microsoft's Building Windows 8 blog, that outlines steps taken to improve the wireless connectivity experience.
Mobile broadband is being integrated alongside standard Wi-Fi in Windows 8. In Windows 7, it was included, but there were several steps required to be taken before the mobile device could connect, such as installing third-party drivers and software. Microsoft are removing that annoying step, by working with mobile broadband hardware partners to develop a universal driver that will work with all mobile devices and eliminate the need for additional drivers or software.
Windows 8 will include a new networks settings menu that allows you to turn off individual radios (Bluetooth, mobile broadband, Wi-Fi) or disable them all at once with the new airplane mode. This native radio management is said to eliminate conflicts and confusion that is often introduced when third-party manufacturers add their own connection software.
Windows 8 requirements are quite interesting, more interesting are the details inside for "device requirements". If you want to check them out, here's the link. Better get a coffee, energy drink or similar because it's nearly 1000 pages long. Onto the good stuff!
Within Windows have covered the interesting requirements, where Microsoft have stated that there must be five hardware buttons on Windows 8 tablet/convertible PCs, as well as a minimum component set for tablets and convertible PCs.
Microsoft requires '5-point digitizers', which is a minimum. This means it supports at least a hand of fingers on the screen at once. NFC "touch marks" are featured in Windows 8, where any tablet or slate must have a sticker of similar signage telling the user its NFC-capable. Microsoft also require that Windows 8 has the aforementioned 5 button minimum, with those buttons being Power, Rotation lock, Windows Key, Volume up, and Volume down.
CES 2012: Microsoft announced during their final CES keynote that the Windows 8 beta will be released to their darling public late next month. On top of the release of the public beta of Windows 8, Microsoft will also launch the Windows Store.
Microsoft's Windows Store is their central repository for Metro applications. Windows Store will be available globally, and will support every language that Windows supports, which is great. At this point in time, there was no talk of the release candidate, but if we're seeing a public beta next month, we should expect a single release candidate of Windows 8, just like Windows 7 had.
It is worth pointing out that when compared to Windows 7, Windows 8's development is slightly lagging when on a calendar basis. The Windows 7 beta was released to the public on January 10th, while the Windows 8 beta arrives 6 weeks later. There was a 9.5 month gap between the Windows 7 public beta and retail availability, so we should expect Windows 8 toward the end of the 2012. Maybe on December 21, 2012 and that's what the Mayan's meant by the end of the world? Gasp.
Microsoft have released a rare out-of-band update to fix a vulnerability in the .NET Framework. The update comes weeks before the next regularly scheduled "Patch Tuesday" in mid-January, and addresses a flaw that could allow attackers to exploit hash tables to perform a denial-of-service (DoS) attack against a website built with Microsoft's ASP.NET application framework.
DoS attacks usually require thousands of malware-controlled systems in a botnet to overwhelm a site with requests. This opening would allow an attacker to cripple a vulnerable site by sending a certain type of HTTP request. Each of these requests would consume 100-percent of one CPU core. As you can imagine, the more of these requests, the more CPU power that is zapped away.
Microsoft says "Attacks targeting this type of vulnerability are generically known as hash collision attacks." They also added that the problem is not specific to Microsoft's Web services as it affects PHP 5, Java, .NET, v8 and even PHP 4, Ruby and Python. The people behind these platforms will release updates soon, but the holidays will dampen these efforts.
Microsoft is preparing a new way to log into tablet PCs with Windows 8, by allowing a user to perform gestures on a screen instead of typing in letters or numbers. For example, you can use a photo with some personal meaning to you, create a sequence of taps, lines, and circles that must be performed in the right order, in order to unlock the computer.
It is a new form of an unlock procedure, and will have three paths chosen for it: people will love it, people will hate it, or Apple will sue Microsoft for some form of patent rip-off. Microsoft does acknowledge that the new gesture unlock puts smudges on the screen, and recording devices could theoretically allow the gesture password to be compromised, but says the risks are very low.
Not everyone agrees with Microsoft, though. Kenneth Weiss, inventor of RSA's SecurID token who now runs a three-factor authentication business called Universal Secure Registry, told Network World that it's not "serious security," that the gestures someone makes upon a screen can easily be recorded from a distance.
Google last week announced Android 4.0.3 as the next incremental update to arrive for Ice Cream Sandwich. The update includes the usual bug fixes, optimizations and a handful of new APIs for developers, some of the new things included are:
A "Social stream API in Contacts provider" which leverages social networking for developers, allowing them to show users what their friends are doing while tying in photos and contact information.
Improvements for calendar providers: Apps can now color calendar events and utilize ne attendee types and states.
Add camera capabilities: Apps can now manage and check for video stabilization. They may also use QVGA resolution profiles.
Improved accessibility: Screen readers can access more content and will enjoy text-to-speech status and error reporting.
Improve user experience: Small improvements and bug fixes for graphics, database, spell-checking, Bluetooth, and more.
Password management and security is something that confuses a lot of people, and Microsoft are hoping to change that. A new feature that will be included in their next OS will allow users to put an unlimited number of individual passwords behind one master password, and then sync them across all other Windows 8-based machines they use.
The Live ID password is all you'll need, so for the multiple websites you use, you can set very complicated passwords for them, in the case you get hacked and your credentials are stolen, your entire digital life isn't ripped away from you. Windows 8 will automatically enter your login information when visiting a saved website.
On Monday, Steve Ballmer made some interesting changes of leadership over at Microsoft. First up, leadership of the Windows Phone 7 team has been taken away from Andy Lees, who has been steering the WP7 ship for three years now.
Terry Myerson, vice president and lead engineer will take his place. Lees has been moved to yield "maximum impact" of Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 in 2012. "Maximum impact" is not clearly defined, so we don't know what Microsoft are hinting at here. It could be tighter integration between Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8, which is something I'm sure Microsoft are aiming at.
AllThingsD have some live coverage from a just-held Microsoft event, where they talked about their upcoming Windows Store that features in their next OS, Windows 8. Windows President Steven Sinofsky was on hand, as well as Windows Web Services VP Antoine Leblond.
Both took the stage and talked up the Windows Store, where a fair amount of information was unleashed onto the public. First off, Microsoft are promising the best economics of any app store by saying "we're going to give you a bigger bite of the apple". I don't know if that could be put in better words, but I love it.
Leblond recapped that Microsoft is proud to have Windows 8 working on ARM and x86 chips, small and big computers, with "it's the biggest and most significant developer opportunity ever", he promised. Windows Store is set to offer some differences to what the Apple App Store and Google Android Market offer, by giving free trial versions of apps, Leblond says "the best advertisement for your app will be the app itself," and I totally agree.
The Next Web claims that sources close to Microsoft have said that we should expect the pubic Windows 8 beta sometime in late February 2012. Windows 8 is expected in 2H 2012, but an exact date for release is currently unknown.
But, knowing the release date of the public beta paints a better picture of when to expect the RTM copy of Windows 8. If we use Windows 7's release milestones, we should expect Windows 8 hit the released to manufacturers (RTM) release in June. If this happens, Microsoft could enjoy a very, very good 2H of 2012, by selling its new OS, pushing tablets powered with the OS and pre-built systems with Windows 8 baked in.
What is unknown about the Windows 8 beta is what exactly will be included in the beta itself. No feature set is known, but we should find some information closer to release. I'm incredibly excited myself.
Google's Android dev team have just released Android 4.0.1/Ice Cream Sandwich for x86 chipsets, which has been a promise of theirs to open Android up to both Intel and AMD-based systems.
Of course, with any new release, its not fully stable with many bits missing such as sound, camera, ethernet, and hardware acceleration for Intel chips. Included and working however is, Wi-Fi, sound, and hardware acceleration for AMD chipsets. If you'd like the instructions on how to download the source code, check below [or over the page]:
As always, the MSDN blog has a long, but interesting read on large disks and large sectors in Windows 8 and goes into lengthy detail of how the upcoming OS will handle such things.
I will note, that in the article, they state that from a recent IDC market research report, that they estimate the maximum capacity of a single hard disk will reach 8TB in 2015. But, does this take into consideration the flooding in Thailand? I don't know. Impressive to think though, 8TB in a single disk. Imagine losing all that data. Eep.
There is a huge post on the MSDN blog about Windows 8, and how they are improving the setup experience. Microsoft are really working hard on perfecting Windows 8 and after reading the blog I'm 100-percent confident they are on the road to success.
They've got some big challenges ahead of them, and are committed to get more PCs working with Windows 8 than any previous version of Windows was capable of. With more than 450 millin PCs that will be Windows 8-capable, Microsoft expect that many systems that are currently rocking along with Windows Vista and even Windows XP will be eligible.
Windows 8 will also now be offered through an online installation, with a "pre-key" inside the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, this means that you won't even need to enter the 25-digit product key during installation. In pre-installation, Windows 8 will scan your PC to determine compatibility, resulting in a summary report that shows what programs and devices on your system will/won't work, and what items require your attention.
One thing that really irks me with Windows (and even OS X) is updating and the requirement of restarting. I've never understood how operating systems have come this far with everything happening behind the scenes, yet it requires user intervention to do simple things like "when would you like to restart, I've just done updates, come on!".
Microsoft are working on this for Windows 8, which will see Windows Update consolidate all the restarts in a month, synchronizing with the monthly security release. This means that your PC will only restart when security updates are installed and actually require a restart. Security updates are released in a single batch on the second Tuesday of every month, where this will keep the system secure, in a timely manner, reduces restarts and makes restarts more predictable.
My, my, how time has flown by. I still remember triple-booting my PC with Windows 98SE, Windows 2K and Windows XP, how has ten years gone by? Microsoft include the infographic below, which is not only cool, but it shows just how long ago 2001 was with all of the old technology (or lack thereof).
For example, in 2001 we have in-person meetings, now we have video conferencing. Working at the office, can now be done anywhere (such as me posting this news out to the world, I can do so in my boxer shorts and you wouldn't even know it - begin dreams, now). Chat rooms have been swapped for social networking, dial-up for broadband/Wi-Fi, and hard drives for "the cloud".
Linux Kernel version 3.1 has popped its head up and offers support for a range of technologies such as Intel's Ivy Bridge and Cedar Trail chips, NFC and drivers for Wiimotes. It also has improved power management. It's available to download right now, but of course you may want to wait for the distro of your choice for an official update or release.
Its own summary sums it up quite well:
Support for the OpenRISC opensource CPU, performance improvements to the writeback throttling, some speedups in the slab allocator, a new iSCSI implementation, support for Near-Field Communication chips used to enable mobile payments, bad block management in the generic software RAID layer, a new "cpupowerutils" userspace utility for power management, filesystem barriers enabled by default in Ext3, Wii Controller support and new drivers and many small improvements.
In a new posting on Microsoft's MSDN Blog pages we can get a better idea of how the search function available in the start menu will work, and it is indeed quite different to what we're used to with the likes of Windows 7.
While the start search in Windows 8 takes up a lot more space, it is a lot easier (and quicker) to make use of when it comes to looking for a program, file(s), or settings windows. As there will inevitably be a ton of apps included with Windows 8, which would only grow a lot more once all the 3rd party stuff starts getting installed, Microsoft has made the decision to split the search feature into three sections.
One section will focus solely on all the apps and programs installed; another will be dedicated to listing settings and Control Panel items, while the third will display files and gives a range of filters to trim down the search.
Right from the get go Windows 7 was looking strong out the gate and allowed Microsoft to take a quick U-turn away from the rocky road they travelled down with Vista, but it's been Windows XP that has retained the biggest impact in the OS world for MS all this time.
However, if the latest consolidation of data from StatCounter is accurate, the first half of this October has seen Windows 7 actually overtake XP in becoming the primary operating system of choice worldwide. The data was collected from over 3 million sites in total and it was discovered that Windows 7 now has a market share of over 40%, which is up from 39.04% last month.
Windows XP is still going super strong, though, with a 38.62% market share. Meanwhile, Vista continues to dwindle in third place at a far distant 11.18% market share. Trailing behind Vista in fourth is Apple with Mac OS X at 7.3%, then in fifth sits iOS at 1.1%.
With Windows 7 now making it into pole position as the leading OS of choice, it's not hard to believe that it will remain in that position for quite a long time; especially due to Windows 8 still being a ways off and needing to prove itself as the OS of choice well after its release.
Windows 8's UI has undergone some changes as Microsoft received a bunch of feedback due to its developer preview of the upcoming OS last month, where they pledged to respond with a number of changes. Firstly, the app displayed within the Windows 8 App Screen can now be organised into groups, rather than the alphabetical arrangements (as shown in the image below).
Apps can now be displayed at a higher density, which means cramming more content into the same space. Enterprise users will have the ability to customize their companies' Start screens and unify them across the networks, which is pretty darn cool if you ask me. There's still no word on whether administrators have the ability to opt out of Windows 8's Metro Ui tile-based interface, in favor of the "old-school", Windows 7-esque Desktop app, which is a highly requested feature.
There are many changes Microsoft are baking into Windows 8 and its great to see them so open with their users and implementing them so quickly. Take a look at the Building Windows 8 blog for an absolutely mammoth read, its very detailed and very awesome.
Microsoft have set the goal of reducing the overall runtime memory requirements of the core system, this is a benefit to everyone and will allow people to run more and more apps, or many apps simultaneously on systems with only 1 or 2GB of RAM. Microsoft are wanting to reduce Windows 8's memory footprint as it will be pumping away on SoC-based devices which will have not only limited specs compared to a full blown desktop, but they also have batteries that don't last forever.
As Microsoft say "If an OS uses a lot of memory, it can force device manufacturers to include more physical RAM. The more RAM you have on board, the more power it uses, the less battery life you get. Having additional RAM on a tablet device can, in some instances, shave days off the amount of time the tablet can sit on your coffee table looking off but staying fresh and up to date." This is very true, so reducing the memory footprint is a very, very important move.
Wishing you could retain more of a Windows 7 oriented look with your install of Microsoft's Windows 8 developer release? You'd certainly be one of many who just can't get used to the vastly different interface at this stage, in which case you'll be impressed to know there is now a way to get more of a Windows 7 look from Windows 8 thanks to the "Metro UI Tweaker" from The Windows Club.
Using this tweaking tool (after first installing .NET Framework 3.5.1), disabling the Metro start menu and Explorer Ribbon is just the start of what it can do. Other tweaks on tap include :-
1 Disable Metro Start menu: Disables only Metro Start menu screen. This function requires editing a system file. It does not remove the file
2 Disable Metro Ribbon: Disables only the Metro Ribbon UI. It requires taking ownership of a system file. It does not remove this file
3 Disable Metro Start menu and Ribbon: Disables the Metro Start menu UI, Ribbon UI, Metro Task Manager UI and the lock screen
4 Enable Metro Start menu and Ribbon: Re-enables all available Metro UI options
5 Add power options to the Metro Start menu screen: Logoff, Switch User, Lock, Sleep, Restart and Shutdown
6 Add any application/file to the Metro UI Start menu screen: Some applications/files may not be available to you to add to the Metro Start menu screen. This program allows you to add those applications/files which would otherwise be unavailable