All posts by Peter Bright

Clover Trail systems won’t get Windows 10 Creators Update, ever

Enlarge / One of the affected Atom processors. (credit: Intel)

Systems using Intel's Clover Trail Atom processors and running Windows 10 won't ever receive the Creators Update, or any major Windows 10 updates in future. But in an exception to its normal Windows 10 support policy, Microsoft has said that it will provide security updates to those systems until January 2023.

We wrote earlier this week about the tricky situation of the Clover Trail systems. Those machines shipped with Windows 8 and 8.1 were due to receive software support until 2023. However, the systems were also eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10. But to receive security fixes on Windows 10, you have to keep pace with the periodic regular major upgrades that Microsoft makes to that operating system. Each of these named releases is only supported for 18 months, after which you have to upgrade, or else you're cut off from security fixes.

This is a problem for the Clover Trail machines, because those systems are prevented from installing and using the Windows 10 Creators Update, leaving them stuck on last year's Anniversary Update. Support, including security fixes, for the Anniversary Update is due to end in early 2018. As such, it appeared that upgrading from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 has taken Clover Trail systems from being supported until 2023, to supported until 2018, a five-year regression.

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“Autumn Creators Update” was “mistranslation“; “Fall Creators Update” for all

Enlarge (credit: Gordon Plant)

We wrote on Monday that Microsoft was branding the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update as the "Autumn Creators Update" in countries such as the UK and India, where the season between summer and winter isn't called "fall." Microsoft was using this British English branding on its English-language sites where British English prevails over American English.

The company has informed us today that this was a "mistranslation"—yes, between English and English—and that the update will, in fact, be called the "Fall Creators Update" everywhere. The use of British English branding for British English speakers was a mistake.

Similarly, the update will retain this branding for those living in the southern hemisphere, where it isn't fall or autumn, because it's spring.

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Windows 10 support could end early on some Intel systems

Enlarge / One of the affected Atom processors. (credit: Intel)

When Microsoft introduced Windows 10 and its "Windows as a Service" model, the company promised Windows users a steady stream of updates to their machines. The days of being stuck on an old version of Windows would be forgotten; once you were on Windows 10, you'd have access to the latest and greatest forever. But that support came with a small footnote: you'd only receive updates for the "supported lifetime of the device" that you were using Windows 10 on.

The old system of Windows development, with substantial paid upgrades every three years or so, had many problems. Not least among those problems was how many people opted to stick with older versions of Windows, which was bad for both system security (old Windows has fewer security protections than new Windows) and software developers (old Windows APIs have wider market share than better, newer ones) alike. But the old system did afford a certain advantage when to hardware support: each new release of Windows represented an opportunity to revise the system specs that Windows demanded. A new major version of Windows could demand more memory, certain processor features, or a particular amount of disk space.

Moreover, if a given version of Windows worked on your hardware, you'd be assured that it would continue to receive security updates for a set period of time, thanks to the 5+5 support policy that Windows had: five years of security and feature updates, followed by five years of security-only updates. Exactly how many years of updates you'd get would, of course, depend on how far through that ten year cycle your purchase was made, but at least the end date was predictable and known ahead of time.

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Because English isn’t the same in England, Microsoft renames Fall Update for some

Enlarge (credit: Liz West)

The branding of the next major Windows 10 update, due in around September this year, was announced in May as the Fall Creators Update. Our UK siblings immediately wondered if the update would retain that same name in the UK. While American English calls the season between summer and winter "fall," most of the rest of the anglophone community uses the British English "autumn."

At the time of the initial announcement, Microsoft said that it would use the "Fall" name universally. But now that appears to not be the case; spotted by Windows Central, the branding being used in the UK and other English-speaking countries such as India, is now the Autumn Creators Update. In the US and Canada, it will remain the Fall Creators Update.

Given that the name was already inelegant, we find ourselves wondering if Microsoft would be better off abandoning this branding entirely. For the most part, Windows itself does not use this type of branding. Although Windows Update referred to the "Creators Update," for example, everywhere else in the operating system simply calls it Version 1703 (which is to say, the Windows version from the third month of 2017). Windows Server, which will soon receive updates in parallel with Windows 10 similarly doesn't use this type of branding; it just uses the version number.

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First insider build of Windows Server arrives with new virtualization features

Enlarge / Server administrator kaiju hates user password reset requests. (credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment America (CC))

Back in May, Microsoft announced that Windows Server would be joining the Windows Insider Program. Late last night, the first preview release of Windows Server was published.

The biggest areas of improvement in the new build are around virtualization and containers. The preview allows exposing more of the underlying hardware capabilities to virtual machines, with support for virtualized non-volatile memory and virtualized power/battery status. For both containers and virtual machines, networking capabilities have been enhanced to enable a wider range of virtual network capabilities with greater performance.

The focus on containerization has also seen the Nano Server deployment of Windows Server change. Presently, Nano Server is still a full operating system, but with the Redstone 3 release of Windows later this year, that's going to change. It's going to be a strictly container-only deployment. Upgrading and maintaining Nano Server will be done through updating the container image. This has enabled Microsoft to strip down the Nano Server installation. It no longer requires, for example, the Windows servicing stack. Because it's upgraded simply by replacing the image, Nano Server no longer needs to use Windows Update itself. The result is a 70 percent reduction in the image's footprint.

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AMD Threadripper—16 cores and 32 threads for $999–arrives in August

Enlarge / AMD's Ryzen die. Threadripper has two of these in a multi-chip module. Epyc has four of them. (credit: AMD)

AMD today announced the pricing and (approximate) availability for Threadripper, its high-end desktop platform that was first unveiled in May.

The top-end part will be the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X: a 16 core, 32 thread chip with a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 4.0GHz for $999. Below that will be the 1920X: 12 cores, 24 threads, at 3.5/4.0GHz, for $799.

Both chips will use a 4094-pin socket called TR4 and the X399 chipset, offering 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity and four channels of DDR4 memory. Both have a notional power envelope of 180W. Internally, the chip is essentially a doubled up version of the existing Ryzens: AMD's basic building block is a unit of eight cores with 16 threads (split internally into two core complexes of four cores each). Threadripper has two of these chips in each package; the Epyc server processor has four.

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Intel launches its new precious metal Xeon platform

Enlarge / That weird tab at the bottom is the Omni-Path Fabric interconnect. (credit: Intel)

NEW YORK—At a trendy entrepreneurial workspace in Brooklyn, Intel formally launched a new range of Xeon processors powered by its new Skylake-SP core. The new processors offer more cores and more performance than their predecessors, with a new mesh-based design to enable greater scaling within their multicore processors.

The new chips also bring with them a new set of precious metal-based branding, with four metals—Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum—used to denote processor capabilities. Unlike AMD's new Epyc platform, Intel is continuing to segment its features.

Xeon SP ("scalable platform") chips will have up to 28 cores and 56 threads. This high core count prompted Intel to move away from the ring-based design used in prior processors. The ring design arranged cores in one or two loops with core-to-core communication having to go around the ring, potentially requiring data to travel over a dozen or more hops to move between cores. With the new mesh design, the individual cores (along with memory controllers and I/O interfaces) are arranged in a 2D grid (4×4, 4×6, or 6×6, depending on the overall core count), allowing data to move between cores in many fewer hops. This design should help keep the communication latency between the cores low, and it's a key advantage over AMD's Infinity Fabric-based design, which can suffer very high latencies in a number of situations.

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Over many objections, W3C approves DRM for HTML5

(credit: Bart Maguire)

A system for providing DRM protection to Web-based content is now an official recommendation from W3C.

In 2013, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the industry body that oversees the development of Web standards, took the controversial decision to develop a system for integrating DRM into browsers. The Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) would offer a way for content producers to encrypt and protect audio and video content from within their plugin-free HTML-and-JavaScript applications.

EME is not itself a DRM system. Rather, it is a specification that allows JavaScript applications to interact with DRM modules to handle things like encryption keys and decrypting the protected data. Microsoft, Google, and Adobe all have DRM modules that comply with the spec.

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Seven years later, you can now run the Azure cloud on premises

A block diagram that is supposed to clarify what Azure Stack does and is. (credit: Microsoft)

After being announced in 2015, Microsoft's Azure Stack—which offers a wide range of Azure services for on private, on-premises hardware—is now available.

Azure Stack is positioned as a major part of Microsoft's hybrid cloud offering. It offers the same management tools, straightforward provisioning, and usage-based licensing as the public Azure cloud, but it runs on premises. This makes Stack suitable for organizations with security, privacy, regulatory compliance, or legacy integration constraints that preclude the use of the public cloud.

When announced, Microsoft's intent was to enable organizations to build private Azure clouds on any suitable hardware. It had an initial release date in 2016, and this would have made Azure Stack a direct competitor and alternative to OpenStack. Last July, those plans were changed as Microsoft switched to an appliance model and a 2017 release date. Rather than constructing their own infrastructure, Azure Stack customers must now buy specific hardware from select Microsoft hardware partners, with Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo all having systems available to order today. Later in the year, those companies will be joined by Cisco and Huawei. Shipments will start in September.

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