• Stuclark

    Last Friday, Microsoft released build 15055 to insiders in the fast ring. Once again, this build is mostly about bug fixes in the run in to releasing the Creators Update later this spring.

    As such, there aren't a great number of new features or things to get overly excited about; however one thing which is interesting in this build is that not only is the build identifier back, but ... it's been changed. It no longer says "Insider Preview" but rather just "Windows 10 ..." - that's a sure sign Microsoft feel they're getting close (yes, I know I said that on the one build where the build identifier was missing, but hey ho).

    As usual, the full release notes are available here.

  • Stuclark

    Microsoft yesterday released *yet-another* Windows 10 build, number 15048.

    It's becoming quite hard to keep up with all these releases, which can mean only one thing - the Creators Update can't be far away!
    This build is mostly bug fixes again, but there is one interesting thing to report in this build ... the build tag is back on the desktop. It's been absent in the last two builds, but is showing up in this one... I'm not quite sure that we can take anything from that, other than maybe this build has not gone through the same release candidate testing or production process as the previous two.
    As usual, the release notes are here.

  • Stuclark

    Yesterday evening, Microsoft pushed Windows 10 build 15046 into the wild. This is the second of the almost-release-candidate builds for the upcoming Creators Update version of Windows 10.

    As usual, most of the changes revolve around Edge, but this time they're bug fixes rather than changes; and infact most of the release notes are taken up with bug fixes rather than new features.
    One notable new feature though is that it is now possible to restrict application installation , with three new options of "install from anywhere"; "warn before installing apps from outside the store" and "install apps only from the store". These settings might be useful to admins in large organisations, (but generally in that case they'd actually need another "do not allow random store apps" option) but I can't see how most home users are going to give a fig about this option - there's simply not enough fully fledged apps in the store to make it viable to be the only installation choice yet.


  • Stuclark

    The Nokia 3310 returns

    By Stuclark, in News,

    Nokia (or at least HMD) have released the Nokia 3310 at MWC2017. It's not quite the same phone as we all remember from the late '90s, so what exactly is this handset?

    This phone a blatent re-boot of the original 3310, playing on our nostalgia for the previous almost-indestructable handset.
    This time round, the phone gets a colour screen, Bluetooth, MicroSD slot, 2MP camera, micro-USB charging and a headphone socket. There's no GPS, 4G / LTE, NFC or anythig else special, but at a Euro 49 price point, you can't ask for much more. You do get 2.5G browsing on the built-in Opera web browser, but forget about email, facebook, twitter etc.
    The design has had a bit of an update, including a slightly curved screen and some lucious looking smooth plastics. Oh, and there's a new version of Snake! The phone will be available world-wide in Q2 this year.

  • Stuclark

    LG G6 launched

    By Stuclark, in News,

    LG have finally launched the much-leaked G6 at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. This handset has been subject to many leaks and teasers; indeed LG have virtually shown us the entire handset in a number of official teaser videos. So which of the rumoured specs are true, and which anticipated features didn't make it in to the final decive?

    The official specs are:
    Format: Candybar; non-modular aluminium sides & glass front & back construction Screen: 5.7" "FullVision" 18:9 QHD+ 2880x1440 564dpi Size: 148.9mm long x 71.9mm wide x 7.9mm deep Weight: 163g Battery: 3300 mAh (non-removable) Processor: Qualcomm SnapDragon 821 Cameras (main): Dual 13MP cameras (Wide angle: F2.4, 125 degree) (standard angle: F1.8, 71 degree) , supporting HDR10, SnapDragon processor assisted zoom, IOS 2.0 Camera (front): 5MP wide angle (F2.2, 100 degree) RAM: 4GB Storage: 32GB UFS2.0 internal storage, plus MicroSD slot Conectivity: 3G, 4G, LTE (600Mb download), WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth, USB 3.1 Android version: Nougat 7.0. Google Assistant included, which works even with the screen off (exclusive to the G6) Colour: 3 distinct colours, "signifying nature" - Ice Platinum; Mystic White & Astro Black Fingerprint sensor / power button: Rear, under the camera (as has been the style since the G2) Sound: DolbyVision Support built in, quad-DAC system as found in the V20 Games: $200 of Google Play in-game credit for 6 games in the "G6 Game Collection" Interface: LG UX6 - designed specifically to make use f the 18:9 screen, with two square (9:9) windows side by side, for example in the camera app as well as more obvious things like calendar Cooling: Heat pipes nestled inside the phone help to cool the processor Waterproofing: IP68 dust and waterproofing Charging: Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0

  • Stuclark

    After a week without any builds, Microsoft on Friday released Windows 10 Insider Build 15042. This build focusses more on stability than have previous builds, and indicates we're getting close(r) to the public release of the "Creators Update".

    While the changes in this build might not at first seem too exciting, there's a few things which can be gleaned from the release notes. Firstly, a few of the "annoyance" bugs which have been hanging around for the last few builds (such as Windows incorrectly saying "some settings are managed by your organisation" have been fixed, and clearly much work has gone into "polishing" this build.
    Also notable by it's absense is the build identifier string on the desktop. This comes and goes on different builds in the Insider Program, but usually it only "goes" when Microsoft start testing builds as release candidates for a major public release. In other words, the fact that it has disappeared after having been on every build since the RS_1 release, means MS must be getting close to the RS_2 release.
    Other changes this week include the usual raft of Edge updates, plus a few fixes for Game Bar. I guess those only really matter to you if you make use of those programs or featuers.

  • Stuclark

    Microsoft have admitted that there won't be any more Windows 10 Insider builds this week, or presumably over the weekend.

    It's not unheard of for Microsoft to miss a build release date; it happened lots of times before the Anniversary update, but in the RS_2 (Redstone 2) cycle this is the first time we've not had at least one new build each week. Here's Donna Sakar's tweet confirming the lack of builds.

  • Stuclark

    After the repeated failure of my QNAP NAS, I decided the time had come to start experimenting on how to build my own. In this, the first part of a series of articles, I'll go through hardware choice and show you how to get Windows installed and running FROM an SD card (something Microsoft say you can't do).

    I already have an HP Microserver G8 (GT-1610) running FreeNAS which works very well, but I wondered if there's anything in the Microsoft camp which could provide similar functionality.  With this in mind, I started off by buying another Microserver G8 as, even in their base specification, they provide a Celeron 2.3GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 4x 3.5in (non-hot swap) drive bays, internal USB and MicroSD card support, dual Ethernet plus iLO and a PCIe expansion port. This spec is good enough to run FreeNAS out the box, meaning I'd always have something to fall back on if my endeavours ultimately failed.
    The first decision was to get some more RAM - the G8 only has 2 DIMM slots so RAM needs (or at least should) be in matched pairs. For now mine is running 1x 8GB DIMM and 1x 4GB DIMM, giving an useable 12GB for the development work (the box will be upgraded to 16GB in the near future). Should the box end up running either Windows 10 or Server 2016 then i'll need a better processor than the Celeron it comes with, especially as it will get tasked with running my Emby media library as well, so a Xeon low power processor is on the cards, but only once the initial testing has been done.
    I should probably add that all this is going to be getting benchmarked against my existing FreeNAS setup, also running on a Microserver G8, and my existing Emby server, which is a MacMini with i7 and 32GB RAM, oh, and that's running Windows 10 of course.
    The first strugle with this plan is to get Windows installed on the MicroSD card that's sitting inside the G8. The reason for booting off a MicroSD card is twofold - 1) I've got a DVD-RW drive in the optical bay, so can't populate that space with internal SSDs; and 2) I already boot FreeNAS from the SDCard in my other G8, so if Windows is to win out in the new solution it has to do the same. It also keeps the OS and the disks which will make up the actual NAS element seperate, which is no bad thing. (infact, Windows does not allow a boot disk to be part of a Storage Spaces pool or cluster, so this is necessary to avoid loosing capacity)
    Microsoft *STILL* don't support booting Windows from any form of removable drive, unless you're opting to use Windows-to-go, which itself only works on USB pen-type drives (sticks) and not on SD cards. However, Windows runs absolutely fine from either SD or USB, so long as your machine's BIOS is able to address them as a boot device. To get round this, it is necessary to get a little bit inventive with Microsoft's imaging tools; which, when used in the right order, make this a simple, if time consuming job.
    First off (at least on the G8), make sure the SD card you'll be using as your ultimate boot device has not volumes on it; most cards ship pre-formatted these days, so use the Windows disk manager tool to delete any partitions showing on the card. Next, you'll need to have a bootable installation media for whatever version of Windows you choose (I picked Server 2016 over Windows 10, but both work in the same way) - I used Rufus to burn the Windows ISO onto an 8GB USB stick. Next, put the SD card and USB stick in the G8 and boot the machine. (you'll need to check that booting from USB is enabled in the BIOS if the machine is not set at its facrory defaults)
    Once the Windows installer boots, it will present you with a language, location & keyboard choice screen - leave all these as default as we're not going to be using the wizard to install Windows anyway. On the next screen, which is the "Install Now" screen, instead click on the text link marked "Repair your Computer" then click on the Troubleshooting and Command Prompt buttons on subsequent screens to get the installer to drop you into the Windows command line. It's here we'll actually do the work which will allow us to install Windows on the SD card.
    Next, we need to make a partition on the SD card using the command line DISKPART tool. To do this enter the following commands: (where the X below is the numerical value for the SD card (disk) in your system. Usually it will be 1 as Windows has booted from the USB disk 0)
    diskpart list disk select disk X clean create partition primary format quick fs=ntfs label="SD-Card" active At this point we need to assign a drive letter to the SD card, but becuase we're going to subsequently boot from this drive, it *has* to be drive letter C:. Unfortunately Windows has "stolen" C: for the USB drive we're currently booted from. To resolve this minor issue run these commands. (this is still within DISKPART, and you'll need to replace the values for X and Y with those shown in the list volume command. Usually volume 0 will be the volume from which Windows has booted, and so volume 1 will be the one on your SD card. This would mean X = 0 and Y = 1)
    list volume select volume X assign letter=D select volume Y assign letter=C exit Next, we need to apply the Windows install image to our newly created C: drive (SD card). Use the command below to do so. There's two versions of this code listed, depending on whether you're using a Server 2016 or Windows 10 boot image.
    WARNING: The dism command takes a looong time (30 - 40 minutes) to run.
    Windows Server 2016 version:
    dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:D:\sources\install.wim /index:2 /ApplyDir:C:\ Windows 10 version:
    dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:D:\sources\install.wim /index:1 /ApplyDir:C:\ Finally, once the DISM command has eventually finished (and you've drunk a lot of tea), the last step is to make the SD card bootable. Run these commands to do so, and once complete, feel free to reboot the computer. (remember to remove the USB stick when doing so)
    bootsect /nt60 C: /force /mbr bcdboot C:\Windows When the computer reboots, if you've got all the above correct, the machine will boot from the SD card and "Iinstall" Windows on to itself. In reality it is just going through the first run setup and "discovering devices" stages that we're used to seeing when installing Windows, but it will seem to take an age this time. Stick with it, and after a reboot or two, the system will eventually boot up with a fully installed copy of Windows, be it Windows 10 or Server 2016.
    Part 2 will cover the fun had in getting Storage Spaces to actually work on our newly installed machine... stay tuned!

  • Stuclark

    Breaking the once-weekly release cycle for the first time this year, Microsoft yesterday released into the wild Insider Preview build 15031.

    This build's headline new feature is the Compact Overlay Window - think of it as a picture-in-picture clone from your TV and you'll not be far wrong. It essentially allows app developers to write code that allows their apps to peak through another app's windows and appear on top (um, like that's been possible for years) - ah yes, but this new method allows that "peaked" window to take on a new compact design, only showing the contents (such as a video or TV stream) rather than all the fluff around the content.
    As always, the full release notes are available here for all to see, and they include a screenshot of what Compact Overlay Windows will allow (once every app under the sun has been re-coded to use the feature).
    As for user experience changes, I can't say I've noticed any yet, but if they crop up I'll add them to this post.

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