Microsoft Releases First Windows 10 PowerToys Add-Ons


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In an earlier technological era when desktops ruled and laptops were briefcases, Microsoft released a suite of Windows 95 extensions called PowerToys. Despite a committed fan base, PowerToys faded away in newer versions of Windows, but Microsoft announced some months back that it was reviving PowerToys in Windows 10. Now, the first PowerToys utilities are available for download. 

For those who have forgotten (or are too young to remember), PowerToys debuted in Windows 95. These free add-ons extended the capabilities in Windows 95, and many of them became default features in newer versions of the operating system. The original batch of tools included starting a command prompt from an Explorer folder, auto-launching CD-ROMs, and moving window focus automatically with the mouse. In Windows XP, Microsoft experimented with batch image resizing in IE, file/folder synchronizing, and a more powerful calculator. Microsoft retired PowerToys following the release of Vista. 

It’s taken four months, but the first two PowerToys add-ons for Windows 10 are live on Microsoft’s GitHub. To get started, download the PowerToys installer and launch it. PowerToys lives in the system tray, allowing you to enable or disable each tool. Currently, there are two PowerToys available in the client: FancyZones and Shortcut Guide. 

At the time of the announcement, Shortcut Guide was the only tool Microsoft had fleshed out. The version we have now is indeed similar to what the company demoed in May. This tool helps you use all those Windows key shortcuts you probably don’t use. Simply hold the Windows key for a moment, and an overlay appears on the screen to remind you of features like managing virtual desktops, launching taskbar apps, and various setting shortcuts. 

The other PowerToys module, known as FancyZones, is a bit more advanced. This tool lets you create custom window layouts for more efficient multitasking. For example, you might want to split your monitor into three columns instead of the two zones you get with snapping in Windows 10. Alternatively, you might just want windows floating in a particular area of the screen. Just create a layout or choose one of the templates, and then hold Shift while dragging to drop windows into one of your custom zones — they’ll snap right into place. You can also choose to override the Windows Snap hotkey (Win + arrow) with FancyZones. 

This is only the first release, and Microsoft plans to release a lot more tools. If the new PowerToys is anything like the old one, it may give us a glimpse at features that will come bundled in future Windows builds.

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Microsoft: Latest Windows 10 1903 Update Can Cause CPU Spikes, Break Desktop Search


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Earlier this week, reports surfaced that some Windows 10 users are having problems with Windows 10 1903. The latest cumulative update released for the OS, KB4512941, can cause CPU usage to surge to 30 percent or even as high as 100 percent. Separately from that, some users are also reporting that Windows Desktop Search is completely broken.

According to Microsoft, the broken search issue only affects systems which have disabled the “Search the web” functionality embedded in desktop search. I admit, this kind of acknowledgment always makes me a bit grumpy, mostly because I’ve never understood why anyone would want web-search functionality integrated into desktop search in the first place. If I’m searching my desktop, I’m definitionally not searching the World Wide Web. Cluttering my results with data from locations that aren’t going to contain what I’m looking for isn’t a value-add, it’s an active detriment to the entire point of using a desktop search as opposed to a web search.

MS-Search-Problem

Separately from these issues, Windows 10 1903 is still grappling with a laundry list of problems. The company still doesn’t recommend installing 1903 on Surface Book 2 models with a discrete GPU because the update can break discrete GPU functionality. Some Qualcomm and Realtek device driver versions aren’t compatible with the update. Some users with an Intel Audio Driver have reported faster-than-expected battery drain, and the company hasn’t fixed an issue causing problems with gamma ramps, color profiles, and night light settings. This one produced some spectacular (and puzzling) visual results while we were testing the 5700 and 5700 XT for AMD’s Navi launch back in July.

In most of these cases, Microsoft has “mitigated” the problem by blocking affected products from updating to Windows 10 1903 automatically. The problem with that approach, however, is that it doesn’t address the issues of people who updated to 1903 already and didn’t discover it was the cause of their issues until the rollback window had already passed. It’s easy to remove a single Windows Update, like the cumulative KB4512941 that’s causing the new issues with CPU usage, but rolling back the entire 1903 installation is something you have to do within 30 days.

As for the broken desktop search functionality, that’s an issue I’ve actually run into before with earlier Windows 10 updates. When I updated my desktop to Windows 10 1809, it broke desktop search. I rolled the update back as a result, even though I wasn’t impacted by the data-deletion bug that affected some users.

Affected users should try uninstalling KB4512941. Users who still can’t install 1903 should wait to see if Microsoft will be able to resolve any of these issues before 1909 comes out. Microsoft has made significant changes to how it tests future Windows builds in the Windows Insider program. The result of these changes should be a longer overall test cycle and hopefully updates that will break less code moving forward, but 1903 was released before these changes had gone into effect. We may not see the impact of these changes until Windows releases its 2020 updates.

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Microsoft Demos Touch-Optimized Desktop in Latest Windows 10 Insider Build


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Microsoft’s touch-friendly tile UI arrived in Windows 8 where it was forced upon everyone all the time. Microsoft learned its lesson from that, and Windows 10 only uses the full-screen tiles in tablet mode. In the latest Insider build, Microsoft is testing a new approach to tablet functionality. There’s a new touch-optimized desktop, and the traditional tablet mode won’t turn on automatically. 

Microsoft just started rolling out Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 18970 this week. This version of the OS will eventually become the first major update of 2020. This version of Windows could include features like a redesigned start menu, cloud download recovery options, and more. Nothing set in stone, but Microsoft is trialing a new home screen setup in the latest build. You’ll only see the new desktop if you’re using a tablet or 2-in-1 device,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce though. 

Previously, disconnecting the keyboard from a Windows 10 computer with touch capabilities would kick you over into the full tablet UI. That means the traditional desktop goes away, and you have application tiles similar to the Windows 8 UI everyone hated. It wasn’t as bad as that version of Windows, but it could be a jarring transition that didn’t mesh with how people wanted to use their computers. That won’t happen in the latest build. 

Windows ARM Laptops

The standard tablet UI for Windows 10 makes things easier to tap, but it’s not great for productivity.

When disconnecting a 2-in-1 system from the keyboard in Build 18970, you’ll get a tweaked desktop UI that works better for touch. For one, the keyboard icon will appear in the system tray for easy access. Taskbar icons will also get a bit more space between them for easier tapping. The Search and Cortana buttons (if enabled) will collapse to a smaller tile as well. Lastly, the file explorer UI will switch to a touch-optimized layout. 

Microsoft is careful to point out the full touch UI is still there and works just like it did before. You can choose to enable that at any time, but Microsoft wanted people to be able to detach their devices and still have the familiar desktop UI without jumping through hoops. 

Microsoft is still probably six months away from releasing the features in this build to regular Windows 10 users. Insiders are invited to share feedback, which Microsoft has promised to listen to after recent update bugs. We can only hope.

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Chinese Vendor Designs PCIe 4.0 GPU, Targets GTX 1080 Performance


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The high-performance GPU industry has been a two-horse race for very nearly two decades. After the collapse of 3dfx, no new company emerged to seriously challenge the ATI/Nvidia split. While Intel holds a substantial stake of the total GPU market, its integrated business has only focused on 2D, video, and basic gaming 3D. Intel’s upcoming Xe architecture, expected in 2020, will take a serious shot at breaking into the consumer space. Now, there’s a word of a potential fourth player in the field, albeit it possibly in a more specialized area.

According to THG, Jingjia Micro is a military-civilian integrated company that’s primarily focused on developing GPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce for the military market thus far. The company began by building China’s first homegrown GPU, the JM5400, built on 65nm. The success of the JM5400 allowed the company to expand and move to newer manufacturing nodes. Its next products, the JM7000 and 7200, were built on 28nm. Now, Jingjia Micro wants to expand its reach further and target the performance of the GTX 1050 and 1080 with a pair of new designs — the JM9231 and JM9271.

Jingjia-Micro-Chart

Chart by THG

A post at cnbeta has additional information. Currently, the JM7200 is said to offer performance equivalent to the GeForce GT 640, albeit in a much lower power envelope — 10W, supposedly, compared with the 50W Nvidia specced for that card. We’d like to see that claim independently verified. The OEM variant of the GT 640 was a Fermi-based part built on 40nm, but that chip had a 65W TDP. The 50W variant was a Kepler-derived part built on 28nm — the same process node Jingjia Micro uses. The JM part also supposedly has 4GB of RAM, while the GT 640 50W version had just 1GB of GDDR5.

The JM9231 and JM9271 are supposedly the first fully programmable GPUs that Jingjia Micro has developed; there are references to the previous JM5400 and JM7200 families being based on fixed-function rendering pipelines. These limitations wouldn’t fly under modern APIs for Windows, but the company started life as a military GPU vendor, and such applications obviously have very different requirements for APIs and product certification.

The new JM parts obviously aren’t going to gun for the highest-end cards from Nvidia or AMD, but even approaching high-end performance from 2016 – 2017 would allow them to contend for the midrange and budget markets. Bringing up the software stack and winning developer support would obviously be critical to any market play, and there doesn’t seem to be any information about whether the JM9231 or JM9271 include any performance improvements or ideas that we haven’t seen before from the major vendors. Such events are rare, but not unheard of. PowerVR once attempted to establish itself as a third player in PC graphics with the Kyro and Kyro II, which won some market share for itself as a unique solution with higher memory bandwidth efficiency than either ATI or Nvidia.

The use of HBM memory in a product of this sort is rather interesting, as is the comparatively low memory bandwidth (by HBM standards). Given that both products lack modern API support, it’s possible they’re intended strictly for military use — though in that case, referencing the GTX 1080 would be a bit odd. Either way, China clearly has its eye on competing more aggressively in terms of overall silicon performance. A few more years, and we might see new products from vendors we haven’t seen before challenging ‘homegrown’ alternatives like AMD, Nvidia, and (if its Xe launch goes well), Intel.

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Udemy Class Review: Windows 10


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Virtually everyone today uses Microsoft Windows on a computer in their day-to-day lives. Over time, as Windows has evolved from the 1980s into the software we know today, a lot has changed. The fundamentals of how you use the OS has remained relatively steady since Windows 95, but at the same time the appearance has changed greatly and countless features have been added or removed. As a result, transitioning to a new OS version can be challenging.

For those experiencing difficulty getting used to Windows 10, Udemy has a $19.95 class that was designed explicitly to get you accustomed to the new layout used by Microsoft and the new features added to the OS to make your life easier. But does it measure up? Let’s take a look.

Course Overview

The lectures start out with a brief overview of the Windows 10 desktop with arrows used to indicate the Start button, shortcuts, and the taskbar. The function of each of these is elaborated upon over the course of the lecture series with small bits of information that may be helpful to more experienced users.

The beginning of the course is really overly simple for anyone familiar with Windows already, but you can skip forward to get information on specific topics. The course is well organized with each software feature broken into its own separate lecture, which makes it exceedingly easy to get information about a specific topic.

Skipping past the “Taskbar” and “Launch Applications” lectures, we start to get some more useful information that pertains to Window 10. Lecture 7 focuses on using Windows 10’s multiple desktop feature, which if you’ve never tried it is exceptionally helpful if you tend to work on several projects at the same time. The following lecture goes into the Windows Snap feature, which automatically sets windows to fit in either one corner or half of the screen. This feature was available on previous versions of Windows, but it’s not something everyone is aware of.

The lectures never get into anything too complex, however, such as managing multiple users, and the various features inside the Control Panel are ignored.

Conclusion

In general, this lecture series will give you a strong grasp on the basic features inside of Windows 10 for just $19.99. If you are moving to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or an older OS and you aren’t a power user, this course would likely be beneficial and help get you up and running faster on the new OS. For everyone else, this lecture may have a few helpful insights about the use of multiple desktops or customizing your start menu, but the course as a whole is simply too basic to be of much use to experienced users.

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Plex Announces New Desktop App, Leaves HTPCs Behind


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The media managing and streaming service Plex has rolled out a new app today, and it might mean some painful adjustments for long-time users. Starting today, there’s a new Plex desktop app for both Windows and macOS — this will replace the existing Plex Media Player client. That marks the end of old-fashioned HTPC support for Plex. 

For the uninitiated, Plex is a media player platform that organizes video, music, photos, and other media. You can link Plex to files stored on computers, servers, NAS boxes, and even mobile devices. Plex streams all that media on-demand, even transcoding it on the fly as necessary. Technically, you’re only supposed to be using it for media that you own and have backed up, which is already a gray area. However, it’s also popular with the torrent crowd. 

The new Plex desktop app supports most of Plex’s existing features and improves a few others. As Plex users can tell you, the “Sync” option for offline downloads has been abysmally slow and buggy for a long time. With the new desktop app, that feature gets a makeover as “Downloads.” It’s faster, more reliable, and gives clearer feedback while content is being saved. The interface is also consistent with other Plex clients with one notable exception: TV mode. 

Years back, the most common Plex implementation was to attach a home theater PC (HTPC) to a TV to stream media. With the proliferation of cheap streaming devices like the Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce almost no one bothers with HTPCs anymore. Thus, Plex is retiring the TV interface with the launch of its new desktop app. This will, no doubt, upset some Plex fans nonetheless. 

What about the old Windows app? The version of Plex in the Windows Store will be retired, but that’s no great loss. According to Plex, developing a Windows Store client made sense in the past as Windows Phone existed in some capacity. Today, developing for the Metro/Modern UI platform is not a good use of resources, Plex says. 

If you don’t want to give up the classic Plex Media Player client, it’ll be updated through January 30, 2020. You can keep using it, but it’ll probably break before long without updates. The new Plex desktop apps are available for free. Some features like mobile sync, live TV, and more are locked behind the “Plex Pass” premium subscription.

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Parallels 15 Boosts PC Game Performance on Macs With DirectX 11


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Despite all of Apple’s success over the last few decades, the Windows software ecosystem is undeniably larger. That’s particularly true if you’re a gamer. Many AAA titles never launch on Mac, and those that do often arrive late. Parallels just announced a new version of its Mac software that makes gaming performance better, so you might not have to wait for a buggy Mac port. 

Until the early 2000s, using a Mac meant locking yourself away from the Windows software ecosystem. Apple’s PowerPC architecture ensured that any emulation or virtualization would be slow as molasses. Then, Apple switched to the Intel x86 architecture in 2006, and Parallels was ready a few months later with its Windows virtualization suite for OS X (as it was known at the time). Parallels lets you run Windows applications on macOS side-by-side with Mac apps, and the new v15 release marks the first major update in a few years. 

In the latest build, Parallels Desktop 15 adds DirectX 11 support inside Windows applications and games. That’s thanks to the use of Apple Metal, a low-overhead 3D graphics API used on all Apple platforms. Parallels says the new version of its software can render 3D graphics 15 percent faster when they implement DX 11. Past versions of Parallels were a bit too sluggish for 3D games, but the promo video (below) shows the software running Overwatch reasonably well. You’d probably have to keep the graphics settings modest, but it’s better than not playing at all. 

Parallels 15 includes support for the new Sidecar feature coming to macOS Catalina. With Sidecar, you can use an iPad as a secondary display on your Mac. Therefore, you will soon be able to run Windows programs (an even games) seamlessly on your iPad. You’ll just need a Mac computer nearby. 

Parallels also claims the new version is 80 percent faster when opening Microsoft Office apps, and it works with many non-gaming applications the rely on 3D rendering like Autodesk 3ds Max. There’s also support for sharing files between the Mac and Windows sides in apps like Windows Mail, Safari, Photos, and other macOS apps. 

Parallels desktop is available as a one-time purchase for $99.99, but some of the features are locked behind the Pro and Business subscription. That’s $99 per year. If you have an older version of Parallels, you’ll need to buy the new version, but the upgrade price is a bit more reasonable at $49.99.

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AMD Ryzen 7nm CPUs May Not Hit Maximum Boost Frequency on All Cores


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AMD’s third-generation Ryzen processors have been a massive hit for the company by all reports, with excellent performance relative to Intel’s Core CPUs. There have, however, been a few questions around yield, overclocking, and boost frequencies. CPU overclocks on Ryzen are notably low, and some enthusiasts have noticed a limited number of cores on their CPUs hit the targeted boost frequencies.

Tom’s Hardware has done a significant deep-dive into this issue and came away with a number of key findings. In the past, AMD CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce were capable of hitting their top-rated boost frequencies on any CPU cores. Intel chips are designed similarly. With Ryzen 3000, apparently only up to one core needs to be capable of hitting its maximum or near-maximum boost frequency. The scheduler updates baked into Windows 10 were said to speed power state transitions (which they do), but they also assign workloads specifically to the fastest cores capable of hitting a given clock.

These findings may explain why all-core overclocking headroom on these new Ryzen 7 processors is so low. On the Ryzen 7 3600X, only one CPU core proved capable of hitting 4.35GHz, for example, with other cores on the same chip boosting to 75-100MHz lower. AMD has not released exact specs for what frequencies its cores need to be able to hit to satisfy its own internal metrics for launch, which means we don’t really “know” which frequencies these CPU cores will operate at. This is definitely a change from previous parts, where all cores could be more-or-less assumed to be capable of hitting the same boost frequencies, and it may have implications for overclockers — but it doesn’t really change my opinion on AMD’s 7nm Ryzen CPUs. If anything, I suspect it’s a harbinger of where the industry is headed in the future.

Building Faster Silicon Today Means Working Smarter, Not Harder

One of the topics I’ve covered repeatedly at ExtremeTech is the difficulty of scaling either IPC (instructions-per-clock, a measure of CPU efficiency) or clock speed as process technology continues to shrink. From December 2018 – June 2019, I wrote a number of articles pushing back against various AMD fans who insisted the company would use 7nm to make huge clock leaps above Intel. When we met AMD at E3 2019, company engineers told us point-blank that they expected no clock improvements at 7nm whatsoever initially, and were very pleased to be able to improve clocks modestly in the final design.

One of the major difficulties semiconductor foundries are dealing with on 7nm and lower nodes is increased variability. Increased variation in parts means the chance of getting a wider “spread” on which cores are capable of running at specific frequency and voltage settings. AMD adapted Adaptive Voltage and Frequency Scaling back with Carrizo in part because AVFS can be used to control for process variation by more precisely matching CPU internal voltages with the specific requirements of the processor. Working with Microsoft to ensure Windows runs workloads on the highest-clocked CPU core isn’t just a good idea; it’s going to be a necessary method of extracting maximum performance in the future.

Intel’s decision to introduce Turbo Boost with Sandy Bridge back in 2011 was one of the smartest moves the company ever made. Intel’s engineers accurately forecast it was going to become increasingly difficult to guarantee maximum clocks under all circumstances. There’s no arguing what AMD is doing here represents a fundamental shift from the company’s approach in years past, but it’s one I strongly believe we’re going to see more companies embracing in the future. Higher silicon variability is going to demand a response from software. The entire reason the industry has shifted towards chiplets is that building entire dies on 7nm is seen as a fool’s errand, given the way cost scales with large die sizes, as the slide below shows.

Why move to AVFS? To decrease variability. Why move to chiplets? To cut manufacturing costs and improve yields overall. Why change Windows scheduling to be aware of per-core boost frequencies? To ensure end-users receive the full measure of performance they pay for. While it’s true Intel CPUs may be able to hit boost frequencies on any core, that doesn’t mean this state of affairs was objectively better for the end-user. Windows’ typical core-shuffling is not some unalloyed good, a fact Paul Alcorn notes in his article. “Typically we would see more interspersed frequency jumps among cores,” Alcorn writes, “largely due to the Windows scheduler’s irritating and seemingly irrational tendency to allocate threads into different cores on a whim.” Meanwhile, we know the boost frequency Intel CPUs will practically hold still depends directly on how many CPU cores are being loaded. The fact that all CPU cores can reach higher clocks does not necessarily benefit the end-user in any way unless said user is overclocking — and statistically, most computer users don’t.

But because it’s getting harder to eke out frequency boosts and performance improvements, manufacturers are investing in technologies that tap the reservoir of performance in any given CPU solely for their own use. This is why high-end overclocking is slowly dying and has been for at least the past seven years. AMD and Intel are getting better and better at making limited frequency headroom in their products available to end-users without overclocking because overclocking these CPUs in the conventional fashion blows their power curve out so severely. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover AMD went with this method of clocking because it improved performance more at lower power compared with launching lower-clocked chips with a more conventional all-core boost arrangement.

The old rules of process node transitions and silicon designs have changed. That’s the bottom line. I’m confident we’ll see Intel deploying advanced tactics of its own to deal with these concerns in the future because there is zero evidence to suggest these issues are unique to AMD or TSMC. AMD’s adoption of AVFS, the rising use of chiplets across the industry, the lower expected clocks at 7nm that were turned into a small gain thanks to clever engineering — all of these issues point in the same direction. Companies will undoubtedly develop their own particular solutions, but everyone is grappling with the same fundamental set of problems.

Good Communication is Key

AMD, to its credit, did tell users they needed to be running the latest chipset driver and the Windows 1903 update to take advantage of the new scheduler. Implied in that rhetoric was not doing so would prevent you from seeing the full impact of third-generation Ryzen’s improved performance. I do agree the company should have disclosed this new binning strategy to the technical press at E3, so we could detail it during the actual review.

But does this change my overall evaluation of third-generation Ryzen? No. Not in any fashion. The work THG has done to explore this issue is quite thorough, but based on the reading I’ve done on the evolution of process technology in modern manufacturing, I come down firmly on the side of this being a good thing. It’s the extension of the same trend that led ARM to invent big.Little — namely, the idea that the OS needs to be more tightly coupled to the underlying hardware, with a greater awareness of what CPU cores should be used for which workloads in order to maximize performance and minimize power consumption.

According to AMD, roughly 25 percent of the performance improvements of the past decade have come from better compilers and improved power management. That percentage will likely be even larger 10 years from now. Power consumption at both idle and load is now the largest enemy of improved silicon performance, and variability in silicon process is a major cause of power consumption. Improving performance in the future is going to rely on different tools than the ones we’ve used for the past few decades, and one of the likely consequences of that push is the end of overclocking. Manufacturers can’t afford to leave 10, 20, 30 percent performance margins on the table any longer. Those margins represent a significant percentage of the total improvements they can offer.

Do these findings have implications for the currently limited availability on the Ryzen 9 3900X? We don’t know. Certainly, it’s possible the two are connected and that AMD is having trouble getting yield on the chip. Ultimately, I stand by what I said in our article on AMD CPUSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce availability earlier today — we’ll give the company a little more time to get product into market and revisit the topic in a few more weeks. But the CPU’s performance is excellent. Its power consumption, particularly if paired with an X470 motherboard, is excellent. We’re still working on future Ryzen articles and have been working with these CPUs for several weeks. The performance and overall power characteristics are fundamentally strong, and while the THG findings are quite interesting for what they say about AMD’s overall strategy going forward and what I believe is the general increase in variability in semiconductors as a whole, I view them as broadly confirming the direction the industry is moving in. Dealing with intrinsically higher silicon variability will be one of the major challenges of the 2020s.

I hesitate to bring Intel into this conversation at all, because we haven’t even seen the company’s latest iteration of its 10nm process yet, but it’s surely no accident the company’s upcoming mobile processors have sharply reduced maximum Turbo Boosts (4.1GHz for Ice Lake, compared to 4.8GHz for 14nm Whiskey Lake). Some of that may be explained by the wider graphics core that’s built into Gen 11, but Intel forecast from the beginning that 14nm++ would be a better node for high-frequency chips than its initial 10nm process. That doesn’t mean Intel has adopted AMD’s new clocking method, but it does show the company is grappling with some of these same issues around frequency, variation, and power consumption, and working to find its own ideal balance.

The challenges are getting tougher. There are no more easy wins. The interplay between software and hardware is going to change in the future because the alternative — simply giving up and going home — isn’t a tenable one. That may have trickle-down effects that impact other aspects of computing, including overclockers and enthusiasts. But it doesn’t change the fact, in this reviewer’s opinion, that the Ryzen 7 3000 family are an excellent set of CPUs.

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Microsoft Working on ‘Cloud Download’ Recovery Option for Windows 10


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Microsoft has seemingly abandoned the idea of rolling out new distinct versions of Windows every couple of years. Instead, it just releases more updates for Windows 10. It let one update sneak out before it was ready last week, showing off a revised Start menu. That build also has another secret to spill. Microsoft is apparently working on cloud recovery options in Windows 10, PCMag reports. 

We’ve all been there: some horrible, data-destroying thing has happened to your computer, and you need to reinstall Windows. At times like that, the last thing you want to do is dig through boxes and manuals to find your Windows install media. If you find it, the system image on it might be years old. With your computer incapacitated, you might not even have a way to make a new, up-to-date installation drive. 

The leaked Windows build has a simple solution to that vexing problem. It offers the option of downloading a fresh copy of Windows from the cloud alongside the option to “reset locally” and reinstall the version you already have. Downloading a fresh build of Windows from the cloud has the potential to save hours of downloading and installing patches for an old version. 

For this feature to work seamlessly, Microsoft would need its hardware partners to provide drivers or rely on the generic ones already bundled in Windows. Otherwise, users would have a fresh, new version of Windows and a bunch of non-functional hardware. That’s a problem most casual users wouldn’t know how to solve. Microsoft has the pull in the industry to make hardware vendors get in line, but it has to be serious about the effort. If OEMs are allowed to ignore the cloud restore option, no one is going to use it. Apple has a similar feature on Macs, but it has complete control over the hardware. So, there are no OEMs to strongarm. 

Microsoft hasn’t commented on any features from the leaked build. It never intended to send that version of Windows 10 out to the Insider program, but the cat is out of the bag. If cloud downloads become an official feature, we should see them in the upcoming 20H1 update in spring of next year. As always, this is a leaked version of non-final software. The cloud download feature may end up delayed or altogether canceled.

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Udemy Class Review: Master Microsoft PowerShell


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The Windows PowerShell is a powerful tool that gives you in-depth access to the Windows operating system. It gives you a greater degree of control and eases the task of managing multiple PCs. For system administrators and power-users, PowerShell can prove an invaluable asset, but relatively few people actually know that it exists. Udemy’s “Master Microsoft PowerShell” ($29.99) course aims to correct this oversight by teaching a wide audience of PC users how to use the PowerShell to their benefit.

Course Overview

The lecturer kicks things off by showing you how to install and start PowerShell. During these lessons, the lecturer uses PowerShell version 5.0, the latest version available when these videos were created in 2016. Microsoft has updated PowerShell to version 7.0 over the last few years, which means that this course is a little out of date. Newer versions added features and opened the PowerShell up for use on other platforms including macOS and Linux, but the fundamentals of using the PowerShell remain unchanged. As such, the information presented in these lectures is still relevant for learning how to use it.

After getting PowerShell started, the lecturer then starts things off with a few basic commands such as dir, ipconfig, and CLS, which also work in the standard command prompt. This is followed up with an explanation of how to create and manage variables. After covering the basics, the lecturer begins to teach you how you can use the PowerShell to help with various tasks such as sorting through files by length and size.

Later on, the lecturer turns his focus to the PowerShell ISE to teach you how to write scripts. This software is an extension of the original PowerShell program that gives you a graphical user interface and a test environment for developing scripts.

Conclusion

After completing the bulk of this course, I honestly can’t find a single major aspect of the course to complain about. That’s not to say that these lectures are perfect. The lecture could have slowed down and given a little more explanation on a few points, but in general, I felt the course was well-paced and that it provided plenty of information without overloading me with an excess amount of data. These lectures would also benefit from being updated to account for the recent changes made to PowerShell after the release of version 5.0.

In general, however, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better course to introduce you to PowerShell and teach you about its key functions and uses. The course is currently available for Udemy, and if you want to learn how to use PowerShell professionally then I would highly recommend taking these lessons.

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