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Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft has resolved the issue with rolling Windows 8.1 Update 1 out via WSUS and appeased customers with a new 120-day grace period, but home users are still facing the 13th of May deadline.


Microsoft has reissued its Windows 8.1 Update 1 patch for Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) users, having resolved a flaw that would prevent client systems from installing future updates.

A mandatory install for all Windows 8.1 users – those without Update 1 will be blocked from downloading security and bug-fix updates starting with next month’s Patch Tuesday on the 13th of May – the update has been the source of more than a little heartache for Microsoft’s customers. As well as the flaw that saw it pulled from WSUS shortly after release, users have reported numerous issues installing the patch and further flaws once the software is installed.

The cause of the WSUS flaw has been isolated, at least, and Microsoft has officially rereleased the update for corporate customers. ‘This means that you can now easily deploy these updates to the computers or servers you manage,‘ explained Microsoft’s Brendan LeBlanc in the company’s announcement. ‘For computers and servers that have already installed these updates, note that Windows Update will re-offer them but it will only install the portion of the update that addresses the fix. Other portions of the update which users have already downloaded and installed will not be downloaded or installed a second time.

Having perhaps recognised that the rollout of the first major update to Windows 8.1, and a mandatory one at that, hasn’t gone smoothly, LeBlanc also announced a new grace period to win over corporate customers. ‘We’ve decided to extend the timeframe for enterprise customers to deploy these new product updates from 30 to 120 days,‘ LeBlanc explained. ‘In order to receive future updates, all customers managing updates using WSUS, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager have until August 12th to apply the new updates. For those that decide to defer installation, separate security updates will be published during the 120-day window.

For home users, however, the extended deadline does not apply: anyone outside a WSUS-controlled corporate network who has not installed Windows 8.1 Update 1 by the 13th of May will not be able to download updates until Update 1 is installed.

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Halo composer fired from Bungie

Halo composer fired from Bungie

Martin O’Donnell was responsible for the score in several Bungie games and had been working with the company since before it was bought by Microsoft in 1999.


Halo and Destiny composer Martin O’Donnell has seemingly been fired from Bungie.

Having previously been the studio’s audio director, O’Donnell revealed over Twitter that the company’s board of directors had let him go last week for no reason.

’I’m saddened to say that Bungie’s board of directors terminated me without cause on April 11, 2014,’ said O’Donnell.

A statement on Bungie’s site contrasts slightly with O’Donnell’s comments and instead states ’today, as friends, we say goodbye,’ and goes on to wish him luck on future endeavours.

He had worked on the scores for several of Bungie’s projects, including older titles Myth 2 and Oni and Halo: Combat Evolved. He was also working on the score for the studio’s upcoming title Destiny, collaborating with former Beatle Paul McCartney. The score is planned as a full release of its own under the title Music of the Spheres.

As well as composing scores, O’Donnell was also responsible for a lot of the general sound work and for directing voice talent in several of Bungie’s games.

O’Donnell had been working with the company since before it was bought out by Microsoft in 1999, originally working on a contract basis out of his own company, TotalAudio.

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Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation problems continue

Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation problems continue

Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Update 1, a mandatory patch for future security updates, is proving a pain for some users who are unable to install it on their systems despite recent patches.


Microsoft is continuing to address problems with Windows 8.1 Update 1, its first major update to the operating system formerly known as Windows Blue and a mandatory install for anyone who wants to continue to receive security updates in the future.

Released earlier this month, Windows 8.1 Update 1 introduces a number of tweaks and improvements to Microsoft’s flagship OS including user experience enhancements for those who eschew touch-screen interfaces in favour of the traditional keyboard and mouse. While the biggest of these improvements, the reintroduction of the Start Menu which was removed in Windows 7 after its introduction way back in Windows NT 4.0, has been held back for a future release the mandatory nature of Windows 8.1 Update 1 makes it quite literally a must-install for Windows 8.1 users.

Sadly, all is not well with the update. Last week Microsoft was forced to pull the update from WSUS following reports that it would prevent the installation of future updates for corporate users. Now, the company is working to patch additional issues with the update – some of which prevent its installation altogether.

One bug, which presents the error code 0x800f081f during installation, has already seen a patch released on Windows Update; a second patch has been provided for users who are finding that installing Windows 8.1 Update 1 prevents Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft’s web server package, from being uninstalled at any time.

Despite these patches, problems with the update still remain. Many users are taking to the Microsoft support forums to claim that, despite the updated patch being released to Windows Update, Windows 8.1 Update 1 still fails to install. A work-around suggested in the forums has been noted by some to improve matters, removing a damaged version of the package so a fresh copy can be downloaded, but others report that the process makes no difference to their systems.

With Microsoft planning on enforcing installation of Windows 8.1 Update 1 by refusing security updates to anyone still on plain old Windows 8.1 starting on the next Patch Tuesday in May, the race is on for the company to fix the flaws and get the update rolled out to all its customers.

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E.T. excavation opens up to spectators

E.T. excavation opens up to spectators

There has never been an official confirmation that the landfill site is where the better part of 3.5 million unsold E.T cartridges were buried.


The impending excavation of the landfill where Atari was rumoured to have crushed and buried millions of unsold E.T. game cartridges has been opened up to the public.

The event is set to become part of a documentary backed by Xbox Entertainment Studios and produced by Fuel Entertainment. The dig was given the green light last week and now Microsoft has extended the invitation to attend to everyone.

Attendees might even be interviewed for the documentaries alongside E.T the Extra-Terrestrial video game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, the team of archaeologists and other people connected to the project.

Work on unearthing the dumped cartridges will begin on April 26 and 9:30 AM and run through until 7:30 PM at the Alamogordo landfill site in New Mexico. Xbox Entertainment Studios will be publishing the finished film as part of a documentary series.

Plans to unearth the abandoned cartridges were first announced in June 2013 and the project was briefly put on hold last week as the team was required to obtain special permission before any digging could take place.

The landfill site is purportedly the final resting place of the bulk of approximately 3.5 million unsold cartridges of 1983′s E.T video game from Atari, a title often name-checked as one of the worst video games in the industry’s history and a commercial failure that is credited as almost killing off video games as a business entirely.

Whether or not the burial site does in fact inter these cartridges has never been officially confirmed, and official statements claim that only broken and returned materials were dumped.

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Microsoft details space-saving WIMBoot for Windows 8.1

Microsoft details space-saving WIMBoot for Windows 8.1

Microsoft’s WIMBoot functionality, added in Windows 8.1 Update 1, can dramatically cut down the storage space required of a Windows installation by using a compressed image file.


Microsoft has announced a previously hidden feature of the recently-released Windows 8.1 Update 1, which promises to boost available storage on lower-end tablet and hybrid devices: Windows Image Boot (WIMBoot).

Introduced into the Windows platform for the first time with Windows 8.1 Update 1, WIMBoot offers a secondary method of installing Windows on a storage device: instead of the traditional method of extracting the contents of the installation media into directories on the storage drive, WIMBoot sees an image being copied into a dedicated partition with symbolic links being created to offer the illusion that the files are in the expected folders within the main system partition.

The advantage of this method, Microsoft explains, is that the WIMBoot image can remain lightly compressed – not enough to harm overall performance, but enough to mean that the user is given a little more storage space with which to play. ‘Let’s assume the WIM file (INSTALL.WIM) is around 3GB and you are using a 16GB SSD,‘ explains Microsoft’s Ben Hunter of the feature. ‘In that configuration, you’ll still be left with over 12GB of free disk space (after subtracting out the size of the WIM and a little bit of additional “overhead”). And the same WIM file (which is read-only, never being changed in this process) can also be used as a recovery image, in case you want to reset the computer back to its original state.

‘How does that compare to a non-WIMBoot configuration? Well, on that same 16GB system there might be only 7GB free after installing Windows – and then only if you don’t set up a separate recovery image.’

Available storage capacity on Microsoft’s Windows-based Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets has long been a concern, despite the presence of an SD card slot for expansion. The discovery that the 32GB model of Surface RT offers only 16GB of usable space led to numerous complaints; WIMBoot offers the potential to dramatically reduce the ‘wasted’ space, while also offering Microsoft and its customers the option to build cheaper 16GB models – something the hefty storage demand of Windows 8 and Windows RT had previously precluded.

Instructions for performing a WIMBoot install yourself are available on the company’s Technet knowledgebase.

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AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range

AMD’s Kabini desktop parts represent its first ever socketed system-on-chip (SoC) designs, offering upgradability for the entry-level market.


AMD has officially launched its desktop Kabini products, in the form of AM1 Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) designed for the entry-level market and bearing the Sempron and Athlon brands.

Designed to compete with Intel’s Bay Trail, the Kabini desktop parts have been created to reflect what AMD claims is the changing face of every-day computing: an increase in the number of applications, like office suites and web browsers, that can make use of GPU acceleration to improve performance. That’s something that an APU can do well, of course, but Kabini is more than just a slightly faster version of what has gone before.

The new AM1 platform, as Kabini will be known at retail, represents the company’s first-ever socket-based system-on-chip (SoC) design, which AMD has dubbed ‘System in a Socket.’ The Kabini SoC design will be provided as a PGA-based, user-replaceable processor which fits into the new FS1b socket type. Unlike Intel’s lower-wattage Bay Trail, which is BGA and soldered to the motherboard at the factory, AM1 owners will have the option of after-market upgrades.

The Kabini chips that form AM1 all have a similar feature set: an SoC design featuring up to four Jaguar CPU cores and Graphics Core Next (GCN)-based Radeon graphics with DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 support – no word yet on Microsoft’s as-yet unreleased DirectX 12 – and support for two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and two SATA 6Gb/s ports, all without the need for an external chipset. Manufacturers who need more are, of course, welcome to add extra chips as required.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
The bottom of the Kabini desktop brand will be the AMD Sempron 2650: two 1.45GHz Jaguar cores, 128 Radeon cores running at 4000MHz, 1MB of cache and support for 1,333MHz memory. Moving up the ladder is the Sempron 3850: four 1.3GHz Jaguar cores, the same 128 Radeon cores but running at 450MHz, 2MB cache and support for 1,600MHz memory.

The higher-end Athlon range starts with the Athlon 5150: four 1.6GHz Jaguar cores, 128 Radeon cores running at 600MHz, 2MB cache and the same 1,600MHz memory support. The range tops out with the Athlon 5350, with four 2.05GHz Jaguar cores and the same cache, graphics and memory support. All four Kabini chips will, interestingly, come in at identical 25W thermal design profiles (TDPs) – higher, unfortunately, than Intel’s BGA-only Bay Trail designs.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
AMD looks to be pushing Kabini on the desktop against Bay Trail on three fronts: wider software support for older 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems; higher overall compute performance; and price. The latter is perhaps the most surprising: the bottom-end Sempron 2650 will cost just $31 per unit in trays of a thousand, with the Sempron 3850 stretching to $36; the Athlon 5150 will cost $45 per unit in the same volume, with the top-end Athlon 5350 fetching $55. FS1b motherboards will cost around $25-$35, the company has confirmed, a price point reached by the Kabini SoC taking over tasks that would have previously required an external chipset.

AMD has named ASrock, Asus, Biostar, Gigabyte, MSI and ECS Elitegroup as hardware partners on Kabini, each of whom plans to launch low-cost FS1b motherboards in micro-ATX and the compact mini-ITX formats. Formal retail pricing has not been provided as yet.

According to AMD’s own internal testing, the new Jaguar cores – the same architecture found in the Xbox One and PS4 games consoles – offer considerable advantages over their predecessors. As well as boosts to low-power operation, the company is claiming a 17 per cent boost in instructions per cycle (IPC) over the E1-1500 Bobcat equivalent. Under PCMark 7, the company claims, that translates to a jump for the Sempron 2650 from the E1-1500′s 1125 points to over 1300.

Higher up the rankings, the Athlon 5350 doubles the Cinebench R15 single-core benchmark compared to the AMD E-350, while its extra CPU cores mean a quadrupling in the multi-core tests. How these will compare to the same benchmark on Intel’s latest low-power chips remains to be seen.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
A particularly interesting aspect of AMD’s Kabini design comes from its dynamic power management. During GPU-heavy activity, the less-loaded CPU cores act as a heatsink to draw heat away from the GPU; when the CPU is heavily loaded, the GPU is used in a similar manner. When both are loaded, of course, there’ll likely be some down-clocking – but it’s a system which should allow CPU- or GPU-bound applications to run at a higher speed than would otherwise be possible.

UPDATE
The first UK retailers have gone live with AM1 parts, offering the Athlon 5350 for £39.99, the Athlon 5150 for £37.99, the Sempron 3850 for £29.99 and the Sempron 2650 for £25.99. Motherboards range in price from £26 up to £38.

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Microsoft pulls Windows 8.1 Update 1 from WSUS

Microsoft pulls Windows 8.1 Update 1 from WSUS

Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Update 1, a required update for future security fixes, has been pulled from its corporate WSUS distribution service following the discovery of an update-blocking flaw.


Microsoft has withdrawn Windows 8.1 Update 1 from its Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) platform over reports that it causes client systems to ignore future patches, even as it warns that machines without the update will be left behind at the end of the month.

A major update for Windows 8.1, previously codenamed Windows Blue, Windows 8.1 Update 1 adds a number of enhancements and improvements to Microsoft’s flagship operating system. Many of these address criticisms regarding the user experience, which many still claim is weaker than Windows 7 when used on a device without a touch-screen display. Although some enhancements are being held back for future release – in particular the reintroduction of the Start Menu, dropped in Windows 8 in favour of the tile-based Start Screen – it’s considered a major update for the platform.

It’s major enough, in fact, that Microsoft is mandating its installation: computers running Windows 8.1 without Update 1, the company has advised, will cease receiving updates at the end of the month – including critical security updates. Those who want to remain protected, then, are gently encouraged to make sure that the update has been installed before the month is out.

That’s easier said than done for corporate customers, however: Microsoft has pulled the update from its WSUS platform, which allows for distribution of approved software patches within an internal network, following reports of a serious flaw. When installed on a Windows 8.1 system, the computer loses the ability to check the WSUS server for future updates.

Although the flaw only affects servers running encrypted HTTPS connections, which is not the default, but with the latest TLS 1.2 functionality disabled, which is the default, the flaw is serious enough for the update to be removed from distribution. Although it will still be available through Windows Update for home users, WSUS administrators are asked to wait for an updated version to be released; those who have already deployed the flawed update can either enable TLS 1.2 if running WSUS on Windows Server 2008 R2 or disable HTTPS altogether if running on any other platform.

Microsoft has not offered a date for the patch’s rerelease.

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Nvidia claims Mantle-beating gains with 337.50 Beta

Nvidia claims Mantle-beating gains with 337.50 Beta

Nvidia’s latest beta drivers, 337.50, come with a claimed performance boost that can best AMD’s Mantle in some titles – and without the need for devs to go back and add support.


Nvidia has made big promises of its latest GeForce beta driver, with claims that optimisations made to its DirectX implementation can result in performance improvements that in some cases better those promised by rival AMD’s Mantle architecture, without the need to modify existing games.

Released late yesterday, the GeForce 337.50 Beta driver bundle make various optimisations to DirectX 11 titles which, the Nvidia claims, can have a dramatic effect on performance. According to the company’s internal testing, those running single-GPU systems will see a boost as high as 64 per cent in selected titles, while those on multi-GPU systems via SLI can expect gains as high as 71 per cent.

Granted, those gains apply only to Nvidia’s latest and greatest graphics cards, and even then only on selected titles: the company has measured a near-50 per cent boost in the performance of Sniper Elite v2 and Total War: Rome 2 using a pair of GeForce GTX 780Ti boards in SLI with an Intel Core i7 3960K and 8GB of RAM, just over 40 per cent in Alien vs. Predator, and just shy of 30 per cent in Sleeping Dogs. Other games highlighted by the company include Battlefield 4, with a promised 12 per cent boost, and Thief, with a 7 per cent boost.

The company also teased its DirectX 12 implementation, promising that when Microsoft’s next-generation API is ready for release it will bring even higher performance boosts for those whose graphics chips will support the standard.

Additional announcements made by Nvidia include the release of the GeForce Experience 2.0 software, offering optimisations for more than 150 games and the introduction of ShadowPlay and GameStream support for laptop users. The SHIELD hand-held console, yet to launch in the UK, has also seen a software update which adds the ability to stream games from a desktop over the internet as well as the local area network.

The company’s full performance figures for the new driver update, along with a link to download the drivers, are available on the official GeForce site.

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Xbox boss Spencer: ‘wrong decisions’ were made

Xbox boss Spencer: 'wrong decisions' were made

Microsoft’s new Xbox division head Phil Spencer has admitted that ‘the wrong decisions’ were made prior to the launch of the Xbox One.


Microsoft’s Xbox division has a new head, former Microsoft Game Studios leader Phil Spencer, and he’s determined to get gamers back on-side following the competitively weaker launch of the Xbox One.

When Microsoft first showed off its next-generation console, many felt it had forgotten about its core demographic. Much fuss was made over the ability to watch TV through the console’s HDMI input, while concerns about its requirement for an always-on internet connection to play even offline single-player games were dismissed. The public spoke, and Microsoft was forced to dramatically alter its plans with the dropping of the always-on requirement and the decision that the bundled Kinect sensor platform could be left disconnected from the console with no ill-effect.

Now, Spencer is eager to convince gamers that under his auspice lessons will be learned. ‘There is a lot of learning that I did as a leader in the organisation,‘ he explained in a video interview with Microsoft’s Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, ‘when I just heard how our message resonated with people and some of the decisions that we made, that I think were actually the wrong decisions, and we had to revisit those decisions.

Describing the anger that gamers showed towards Microsoft at that time as being personally hurtful, Spencer has vowed that the division won’t be making the same mistakes again. Calling the current sales of the Xbox One ‘great‘ – despite Sony’s PS4 considerably outselling its more expensive rival – Spencer described a future in which Xbox will be the key driver in Microsoft’s rebirth ‘as a consumer[-oriented] company.’

Missing from Spencer’s interview responses were any reference to the company’s plans for supporting PC gaming on its Windows platform. If you’re curious as to how the new Xbox boss comes across on camera, the interview is embedded below.

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Microsoft and Intel team up for Sharks Cove SBC

Microsoft and Intel team up for Sharks Cove SBC

Intel’s Sharks Cove board, teased in this low-resolution preview, has been developed to Microsoft’s exacting specifications, allowing developers a standardised platform for writing Windows drivers for SoC hardware.


Microsoft has pledged to help support Windows developers with an officially-certified line of development boards, starting later this year with Intel’s Sharks Cove platform.

Not to be confused with Intel’s open hardware projects Galileo and MinnowBoard, the latter in cooperation with BeagleBoard and BeagleBone creator CircuitCo, the new development boards are built to Microsoft’s specifications to create an off-the-shelf development environment for creating Windows software optimised for system-on-chip (SoC) platforms.

Hardware engineers have traditionally faced challenges in creating Windows drivers for SoC platforms,‘ admitted Microsoft in a statement regarding the upcoming programme. ‘Unlike PCs, which have PCI slots and USB ports, SoC systems like tablets and clamshells use low-power internal buses that lack standard connectors, Plug and Play support, and discovery mechanisms. Often these devices are protected by secure boot and cannot be used to develop or test third-party drivers. That will soon change. Hardware engineers will be able to buy off-the-shelf boards that are designed to work with specific SoC environments.

Intel’s Sharks Cove will be one of the first, the company confirmed. A single-board computer (SoC) design, the Sharks Cove board breaks out all the functionality of Intel’s Atom system-on-chip (SoC) platform; even portions which are rarely used, such as general-purpose input-output (GPIO) connectivity, will be readily accessible using expansion connectors. The aim, Microsoft claimed, is to make the development of Windows drivers for SoCs as easy as possible.

Sharks Cove won’t be the last board, either: Microsoft has promised that several boards will be available later this year, with a number of ARM-based boards – for Windows RT development – likely to launch alongside Intel’s offering. Pricing has not been confirmed, but these are not Raspberry Pi competitors; with a professional feature set and formal Microsoft certification, these engineering boards will be priced for corporate purchases only.

Intel has not yet confirmed the specifications of Sharks Cove, with more information expected later this year ahead of a planned 2H 2014 launch.

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