Windows 8 on ARM for developers in February

Windows 8 running on a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor at CES.

Advance RISC Machine or most commonly known as ARM processors will be shipping with Windows 8 for developers this February according to sources close to Microsoft also stated that the operating system is more stable now. According to another source who also confirmed that the next generation of Windows running on ARM will be shipping on February, “In October of last year, (Windows 8 on ARM) scared the industry because it was unstable. But what we are seeing now is quite stable”. “We haven’t heard this directly from Microsoft, but we’ve heard this from the hardware partners that (Microsoft) is working with. We’ve been promised something in the February time frame,” the source added.

“The bigger implication is, with(Intel-based) ultrabooks you’re popularizing the idea that you have this thinner design that turns on faster, that lasts longer (battery life)–but then you have Windows 8 on ARM that’s built at a price point that’s much lower. And does all of those things too. This is setting up the ultrabook to head right into the teeth of their (ARM) competitor,” said the source stating that a high-end device that was demonstrated at the recent CES running  on Intel chips is expected to be less costly using the same device running on ARM.

The biggest challenge for Microsoft is for how this processor (ARM) will run legacy apps and the Microsoft Office, but one thing is for sure, some of the HTML5 Metro apps demoed will be available on Windows 8 on ARM.



Windows 8 New Improvements

Back at the BUILD Conference at Anaheim last year, Microsoft gives away a Developer Preview of Windows 8. Coming this late February, Microsoft will ship again another build of the next generation of Windows and by this time, its a Beta or others may called it as a Consumer Preview. A lot of users, mostly non-developers were very disappointed on WDP and as most of us know, it is intended for release to the developers so that they can work on the Metro styled apps earlier. Common issue on the Developer Preview is how the user can personalize the new operating system, especially the Start Screen.

Start Screen Personalisation

With Windows 8 “now”, user can easily customize the Start Screen based on the images available in the Personalize panel of the PC settings (previously known as Control Panel).  Chris Flores, Director of Communications in Windows pointed out that you cannot use a photograph as a background of the Metro-style Start Screen for a reason that a photo will not stretch and scale as the user add more tiles and performs zooming in and out of the Start Screen. Instead of using a photo, you can choose from 8 different images or parallax backgrounds and 9 colors available as default where it will matches the shades and font colors on the entire UI.

Using your mouse.

Users using a non-touch device will not be left out in the dark, as Windows 8 improves mouse gestures on the beta version.

1. Accessing Metro style apps is very much easy now. With a simple scroll on mouse scroll wheel, you can swipe sideways from the Metro style apps (working on WDP). For the semantic zoom feature, a new button placed on the bottom right edge of the screen will control the new gesture. This is to easily navigate on your group of tiles.

2. Clicking on the Windows flag at the bottom left corner of your screen will divert you to the desktop if its open.

3. Clicking on the upper right corner of the screen reveals the charm bar, this is to easily navigate to the items ,mostly located at the right side of the screen.

4. Pointing / Moving the mouse on the upper left side of the screen when Metro-style app is in full screen mode or snap mode, shows a thumbnail of other open apps which you can easily choose by using the mouse scroll wheel and by just clicking the thumbnail, the chosen app will be opened. Much easier compared to the swiping in/out in the WDP using a mouse.

Charm Bar

We’ve always mentioned the charm bar previously, and in the beta version, minor changes has been made on this feature. Putting your finger on the single pixel strip “accidentally” at the right side of the screen, will reveal the charm bar as a transparent one which means that the user didn’t really want to open the bar. This applies the same when using mouse. And since this instance appears only when the charm bar was accidentally swipe, it rapidly disappears.

Closing the Metro style Apps

In WDP, closing a metro style app is very unusual since you have to do it via Task Manager, which consumes a lot of time and gestures.  Apps that are not visible on your screen consume less resources or not at all unless you access it.  But most of us do not want a bunch of thumbnails appearing on the screen when choosing an app that we want to open. In Windows 8 today, killing an open app is very easy. Just drag your finger down from the top portion of the screen and in the middle portion of the screen, it will resize as a thumbnail informing the user that the said app was chosen and dragging it directly at the bottom of the screen closes the app. This applies also when using a mouse.





Windows 8 reached Escrow

Looking back at my previous post with regards to Windows 8 road map, Microsoft was working really hard to meet with the schedule. And now it is official as confirmed by The next generation of Windows has reached the final coding of Pre-beta build as 8189.0.winmain.120120-1830. 

Microsoft team is now working on the Escrow build which a next step in achieving the final beta. The latest builds compiled in this stage were 8191.0.winmain.120124-1748 and 8192.0.winmain.120125-1820. Based on the road map, the team will sign off the the final beta build this week and to be previewed internally at Microsoft.

Pretty much excited on a Consumer Preview next month.

Windows 8: Simplifying your mobile internet experience

Wireless Fidelity or what we commonly called as Wi-Fi was first introduced by Microsoft in Windows XP. Since then 802.11 connections was became very useful in accessing the internet. In Windows 7, user can connect to mobile network but you need the mobile broadband hardware (e.g., mobile broadband dongle or embedded module and SIM). And this is the hardest part, If the drivers for your device and software from your mobile operator were not available locally, you had to find another connection type (perhaps Wi-Fi) to the Internet to search for software on the websites of the PC maker or mobile operator. This placed a sizable hurdle in front of users trying to connect with mobile broadband, right when they most needed that connection.

With Windows 8, connecting to wireless network will be smooth-sailing. A fully developed and integrated mobile broadband will work alongside with Wi-Fi. This will simplify user experience in getting and connecting to mobile networks and wi-fi automatically.

Check the full details here



Skype is looking for developers for Windows Metro

Previously at CES 2012, Skype Product Vice President Rick Osterloh committed that Skype is coming on Windows Phone “soon“. We all know that Skype has also a capability of running on Windows 8. At the Skype Jobs page, the Consumer Engineering Team was looking for Software Development Engineers who can build Skype client software on Windows 8 platform using C# and HTML5.

Business Brief:

The Consumer Engineering team at Skype is looking for passionate, team-oriented and self-motivated developers to help us build Skype client software for new Windows 8 platform.
You will have a chance to build new Skype client software from the ground up using latest Microsoft technologies focusing on C#. Result of your work will be used by hundreds millions of thankful users worldwide.
You will work in dynamical environment with the team of true professionals participating in defining, designing, developing, testing and documenting one of the most popular applications of the modern world.
You will closely cooperate with colleagues developing Skype cross platform core library in Tallinn, Estonia and audio/video team in Stockholm, Sweden.

ReFS: The Next Generation File System for Windows

Operating systems rely on a file system to organize the clustered storage space. The file system maintains a database that records the status of each cluster. In essence, the file system shows the operating system in which cluster(s) a file is stored and where space is available to store new data. A file system can be thought of as an index or database containing the physical location of every piece of data on a hard drive. Today, NTFS (New Technology File System) is the most commonly used file system for hard drives in Windows. And as Microsoft continuous to improved Windows 8, they introduced the new file system, ReFS which stands for Resilient File System. The new file system was built in NTFS foundation and so compatibility will not be an issue. ReFS will be piloted  on Windows Server 8.

Windows 8 Blog detailed the key features of ReFS:

  • Metadata integrity with checksums
  • Integrity streams providing optional user data integrity
  • Allocate on write transactional model for robust disk updates (also known as copy on write)
  • Large volume, file and directory sizes
  • Storage pooling and virtualization makes file system creation and management easy
  • Data striping for performance (bandwidth can be managed) and redundancy for fault tolerance
  • Disk scrubbing for protection against latent disk errors
  • Resiliency to corruptions with “salvage” for maximum volume availability in all cases
  • Shared storage pools across machines for additional failure tolerance and load balancing

The new file system will not replace the existing file system we know today at least for the time being. But as Surendra Verma explained in the post:

“With this in mind, we will implement ReFS in a staged evolution of the feature: first as a storage system for Windows Server, then as storage for clients, and then ultimately as a boot volume. This is the same approach we have used with new file systems in the past.”

Microsoft to lock down other operating system in Windows 8 ARM devices

Late last year, Microsoft and its hardware partners confirms that Windows 8 will not lock down Linux on ARM devices. But this confirmation tends to be a misleading statement.

Last month, Microsoft published “Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements” for client and server systems. And as stated in the introductory page:

This release to web (RTW) document contains the Windows Hardware Certification requirements for Windows 8 Certified Systems. These requirements are Microsoft’s guidelines for designing systems which successfully meet Windows performance, quality, and feature criteria, to assure the optimum Windows 8 computing experience. Successfully following this guidance will allow a partner to receive certification for their system.

On page 116 of the published document, there are statements regarding the Secured Boot that can be optionally disabled .

MANDATORY: Enable/Disable Secure Boot. On non-ARM systems, it is required to implement the ability to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup. A physically present user must be allowed to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup without possession of Pkpriv. Programmatic disabling of Secure Boot either during Boot Services or after exiting EFI Boot Services MUST NOT be possible. Disabling Secure MUST NOT be possible on ARM systems.

Analyzing these statements, it is safe to say that there is a possibility of disabling the Secured Boot -on traditional PCs but not on ARM devices. The document and the blog post of Windows 8 team seems to be contradicting or the blog itself is not intended for ARM devices if we will look in the documents. Lets wait for Microsoft to clear this thing out.

Skype is coming to Windows Phone

The acquisition of Skype last year was a big move by Microsoft to incorporate voice and video communications that will be beneficial to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. Skype will support Microsoft devices such as Windows Phone, Xbox and Kinect, as well as other Windows devices.

At last week’s CES, Skype product Vice President Rick Osterloh committed that the service will be delivered to Windows Phone “soon”. Not mentioned any other details but he confirmed that they are working on app for Microsoft. They have previously shown off its VoIP app running on Windows Phone but no additional information regarding the software. It has been a rumored that the app will be released at the last quarter of the year.

Windows Server 8 Beta revealed

While most of the users were focusing on the development of Windows 8 client build, Microsoft was quietly setting up the next generation of Windows Server. Codenamed “Windows Server 8”, the Redmond giant claims the this is a bigger upgrade than its desktop cousin.

Today, revealed some screenshots of the server build, comparing the released Developer Preview and the latest internal build from Microsoft.

According to the site, Microsoft is now implementing two separate codes for the client and the server build removing some items from the latter like the Immersive or Metro PC Settings,Windows to Go, wallpaper packs, aero cursors, and others not needed for a Server.

The Lock Screen

Logon Screen (Developer Preview)

Logon Screen (Beta)

Server Dashboard (Developer Preview)

Server Dashboard (Beta)

Storage Spaces on Resilient File System (ReFS)

New Windows Phones Unveiled at CES 2012

During Steve Ballmer’s keynote at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, he announced the availability of Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II. The two mobile phones will be exclusively available for AT&T in the US in the coming months.

Nokia Lumia 900

This phone has a very sleek design packed up with 1.4 GHz CPU and support for LTE network for a super fast data transfer on AT&T network. It has 4.3 inch AMOLED display pushing every pixel in the phone and an 8-megapixel cameras. It also carries a 16GB built-in storage and 512 MB of RAM that makes this Windows Phone runs smoothly.

HTC Titan II

Titan II was the first LTE Windows Phone of HTC. It has a huge 4.7-inch LCD screen. The HTC Titan II was also equipped with a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon CPU.  For those who love taking pictures this powerful handset comes with a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with wide-angle lens, autofocus, image stabilization, dual LED flash red eye reduction, a backside-illuminated sensor and a physical camera button. The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera was acceptable enough to play 720p video.

Both phones are running the latest Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.