Tag Archives: windows 10

One thing that’s worse in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: uncontrollable application auto-start

One thing I’ve noticed in Windows 10 recently is that Outlook seems to auto-start, which it never did before. In fact, this caused an error on a new desktop PC that I’m setting up, as follows:

1. Outlook has an archive PST open, which is on a drive that is connected over iSCSI

2. On reboot, Outlook auto-started and threw an error because it could not find the drive

3. In the background, the iSCSI drive reconnected, which means Outlook could have found the drive if it had waited

All very annoying. Of course I looked for the reason why Outlook was autostarting. In Windows 10, you can control startup applications in Task Manager. But Outlook was not listed there. Nor could I find any setting or reason why it was auto-starting.

Eventually I tracked it down. It is not really Outlook auto-starting. It is a new feature in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that automatically restarts applications that were running when Windows was last shutdown. Since Outlook is pretty much always running for me, the end result is that Outlook auto-starts, with the bad result above.

I presumed that this was a setting somewhere, but if it is, I cannot find it. This thread confirms the bad news (quote is from Jason, a Microsoft support engineer):

This is actually a change in the core functionality of Windows in this development cycle.

Old behavior:
– When you shut down your PC, all apps are closed

– After reboot/restart, you have to re-open any app you’d like to use

New behavior:

– When shutting down your PC, any open apps are “bookmarked” (for lack of a better word)

– After reboot/restart, these apps will re-open automatically

If you want to start with no apps open (other than those set to auto-start via Task Manager/Start), you’ll need to ensure all apps are closed before shutting down or restarting the PC.

Why?

The desire is to create a seamless experience wherein, if you have to reboot a PC, you can pick back up quickly from where you left off and resume being productive.  This has far-ranging impacts across the OS (in a good way).

Not everyone agrees that this “far-reaching impact” is a good thing. The biggest gripe is that there is no setting to disable this behaviour if it causes problems, as in my case. Various entries in the official Windows feedback hub have been quick to attract support.

Workarounds? There are various suggestions. One is to manually close all running applications before your restart. That is an effort. Another is to use a shortcut to shutdown or restart, instead of the Start menu option. If you run:

shutdown /f /s /t 0

you get a clean shutdown; or

shutdown /f /r /t 0

for a restart.

As for why this behaviour was introduced without any means of controlling it, that is a mystery.

Microsoft Edge browser crashing soon after launch: this time, it’s IBM Trusteer Rapport to blame

A common problem (I am not sure how common, but there are hundreds of reports) with the Edge browser in Windows 10 is that it gets into the habit of opening and then immediately closing, or closing when you try to browse the web.

I was trying to fix a PC with these symptoms. In the event log, an error was logged “Faulting module name: EMODEL.dll.” Among much useless advice out there, there is one that has some chance. You can reinstall Edge by following a couple of steps, as described in various places. Something like this (though be warned you will lose ALL your Edge settings, favourites etc):

Delete C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe (a few files may get left behind)

Reboot

Run Powershell then Get-AppXPackage -Name Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml" -Verbose}

However this did not fix the problem – annoying after losing the settings. I was about to give up when I found this thread. The culprit, for some at lease, is IBM Trusteer Rapport and its Early Browser Protection feature. I disabled this, rebooted, and Edge now works.

Failing that, you can Stop or uninstall Rapport and that should also fix the problem.

Windows S: another go at locking down Windows, but the Store is not ready and making it ready is a challenge

There were two big ideas behind Surface RT and Windows RT, the 2012 Windows 8 project which left Microsoft (and some OEM partners) with a mountain of unsold hardware. One was to compete with iPads and Android tablets by making Windows a touch-friendly operating system. The second was that Windows had to move on from being vulnerable to being damaged or completely broken by applications. Traditional Windows applications have installers that run with full admin rights and there is nothing much to stop them installing files in the wrong places, setting themselves to start up automatically, or bloating the Registry (the central configuration database in Windows). “My PC is so slow” is a common complaint, and the cumulative effect of successive application installs is one of the key reasons. Vulnerability to malware is another problem, and one which anti-virus software can never solve completely.

Windows RT solved these problems by disallowing application installs other than via the Windows Store. At that time, Windows Store apps were also locked down, so that a malware infection was only possible if there were a bug in the operating system.

Why did Surface RT and Windows RT fail? The ARM-based hardware was rather slow, which was one of the issues, but a more serious flaw was the lack of compelling applications in the Store. Why was that? Complex reasons, but the chief one is that Windows RT was caught in a cycle of failure. Developers want to make money, and the Windows 8 Store was not sufficiently popular with users to give them a big market. At the same time, users who tried the Store found few applications worth their time, and therefore rarely used it.

The problem was compounded by the unpopularity of Windows 8, which was an unfamiliar environment for the existing Windows users who formed the primary market.

Nevertheless, the thinking behind Windows 8 and Windows RT was not completely off the mark. If only it could get over the hump of unpopularity and lack of apps, it could usher in a new era of Windows devices that were secure, touch-friendly, and resistant to performance decay.

It never did, and with Windows 10 Microsoft appeared to give up. The desktop was back, mouse and keyboard was again primary, and Store apps now ran in windows on the desktop. A special Tablet Mode attempted to make Windows 10 equally as touch-friendly as Windows 8, but did not succeed.

Windows still has those problems though, the ones which Windows RT was intended to solve. Could there be another approach which would fix those issues but in a manner more acceptable to users?

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Windows S and the Surface Laptop, announced today in New York, is the outcome. It is still Windows 10, but Microsoft has flipped a switch that enforces all apps to be installed from the Windows Store. This switch is already in the latest version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, but off by default:

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Microsoft has also taken steps to make the Store more attractive for developers. It is no longer necessary to develop apps on a new platform within Windows, as it was for the Windows 8 Store. Now you can simply take your existing desktop application and wrap it to enable Store download. This feature is called the Desktop Bridge, or Project Centennial. Applications so wrapped are not as secure as Windows 8 Store apps were; they can write to files anywhere that the user has permission. At the same time, Microsoft has taken steps to make Desktop Bridge apps better isolated than normal desktop applications. You can read the details of how this works here. It is arranged that applications install all files to a private location, instead of system locations, and that Windows hides this fact from the application code by using redirection. The same is true of the registry. This approach means that file version problems and registry bloat are much less likely. Such issues are still possible because the Desktop Bridge does not redirect file or registry calls outside the application package; these are allowed if the user has permission, for compatibility reasons. Nevertheless, it is a big advance on old-style Windows desktop application installs.

When the user removes a Desktop Bridge application, in most cases all its files and registry entries are cleanly removed.

An important additional protection is that applications submitted to the Store are vetted by Microsoft, so malicious or badly behaved instances should not get through.

Windows S will be installed by default both on Surface Laptop and on a new generation of low-end laptops aimed mainly at the education market.

The benefits of Windows S are real; but unfortunately Microsoft still has not solved the Store problem. Currently, your favourite Windows applications are not in the Store. Microsoft Office will be there, thanks to the Desktop Bridge, but many others are not.

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Microsoft’s big bet is that thanks to Windows S and other initiatives, the Store will be sufficiently attractive to developers, and sufficiently easy to target, that it will soon offer a full range of applications including all your favourites.

Right now though, if you get a Windows S laptop, you will probably end up buying the upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, for $49.00 or equivalent. Then you can install any Windows desktop application. However, by doing so you make it unnecessary for developers to bother using Desktop Bridge to wrap their applications – so they might never do so.

Windows S has a few other limitations:

Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Microsoft 10 S. You are able to download another browser that might be available from the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file. Additionally, the default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer cannot be changed.

In addition, it cannot join a local Windows domain (a problem for many businesses), though it can join Azure AD, the Office 365 directory.

Microsoft’s goal here is worthwhile: to move Windows into a new place in terms of security and resilience. Getting it there though will not be easy.

Email hassles with migration to Windows 10 – if you use Windows Live Mail

Scenario: you are using Windows 7 and for email, Windows Live Mail, Microsoft’s free email application. You PC is getting old though, so you buy a new PC running Windows 10, and want to transfer your email account, contacts and old messages to the new PC.

Operating systems generally come with a built-in mail client, and Windows Live Mail is in effect the official free email client for Windows 7. It was first released in 2007, replacing Windows Mail which was released with Vista in 2006. This replaced Outlook Express, and that evolved from Microsoft Mail and News, which was bundled with Internet Explorer 3 in 1996. Although the underlying code has changed over the years, the user interface of all these products has a family resemblance. It is not perfect, but quite usable.

Windows 8 introduced a new built-in email client called Mail. Unlike Windows Live Mail, this is a “Modern” app with a chunky touch-friendly user interface. Microsoft declared it the successor to Windows Live Mail. However it lacks any import or export facility.

The Mail app in Windows 10 is (by the looks of it) evolved from the Windows 8 app. It is more intuitive for new users because it no longer relies on a “Charms bar” to modify accounts or other settings. It still has no import or export feature.

The Mail app is also not very good. I use it regularly now myself, because there is an account I use which works in Mail but not in Outlook. I don’t like it. It is hard to articulate exactly what is wrong with it, but it is not a pleasure to use. One of the annoyances, for example, is that the folders I want to see are always buried under a More button. More fundamentally, it is a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app and doesn’t quite integrate with the Windows desktop as it should. For example, pasting text from the clipboard is hilariously slow and flashes up a “Pasting” message in an attempt to disguise this fact. Sometimes it behaves oddly, an open message closes unexpectedly. It is like the UWP Calculator app, another pet hate of mine – I press the Calculator key on my Windows keyboard, up comes the Calculator, then I type a number and it doesn’t work, I have to click on it with the mouse before it accepts input. Just not quite right.

I am getting a little-off topic. Back to my scenario: how are you meant to transition from Windows Live Mail, the official mail client for Windows 7, to the Mail app in Windows 10, if there is no import feature?

In one way I can explain this. First, Microsoft does not really care about the Mail app. Everyone at Microsoft uses Outlook for email, which is a desktop application. This is important, because it means there is no internal pressure to make the Mail app better.

Second, Microsoft figures that most people now have a cloud-centric approach to email. Your email archive is in the cloud, so why worry about old emails in your Mail client?

This isn’t always the case though. A contact of mine has just been through this exact scenario. He has happily used Windows Live Mail (and before that Outlook Express) for many years. He has an archive of old messages which are valuable to him, and they are only in Windows Live Mail.

Unfortunately Microsoft does not currently have any solution for this. The answer used to be that Windows Live Mail actually works fine on Windows 10, so you can just install it. However Microsoft has declared Windows Live Essentials, of which Live Mail is a component, out of support and it is no longer available for download.

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Incidentally I am writing this post in Windows Live Writer, another component of Essentials, but which fortunately has been published as open source.

If you can find the Windows Live installation files though, it still runs fine on Windows 10. You do need the full setup, called wlsetup-all.exe, rather than the web version which downloads components on demand. Here it is, installed and connected on Windows 10:

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This application is no longer being maintained though, and there are some compatibility issues with some email services. This will get worse. The better answer then is to migrate to full Outlook. However, Microsoft makes Outlook expensive for home users, presumably to protect its business sales. Office Home and Student does not include Outlook, and to buy it separately costs more, currently £109 in the UK. Another option is to subscribe to Office 365 and pay a monthly fee.

Even if you intend to migrate to Outlook eventually, it may make sense to use Live Mail for a while on Windows 10. There is an export option to “Exchange” format which means you can migrate messages from Live Mail to Outlook.

This is all more work than it should be, for what must be a common scenario. You would think that migrating from the official mail client for Windows 7, to the official mail client for Windows 10, would not be so difficult.

Is Windows 10 stable? Mostly it is, but there are some concerns

“Windows 10’s lack of stability is really starting to be an issue for me” says Mary Jo Foley over on zdnet.

The problems she experienced include the Store not working, the Mail app not syncing and then wiping her accounts after an update, and the PC randomly shutting down. She has now done a clean install and so far all is good.

I am using Windows 10 now for most of my work, having in-place upgraded from Windows 8.1. My experience has been better, with no random shutdowns, and the desktop environment has been perfectly stable. There are some bugs and annoyances though. Here are the ones that come to mind:

The Start menu bug is the biggest annoyance. This one deserves some reflection. If you have a lot (possibly more than 512, possibly some other factors) of Start menu entries, Windows 10 does not show them all. Even Cortana/Search does not find them. The entries exist though, and I use my Explorer workaround to find them.

I find this bug astonishing. It looks like poor coding in a hugely sensitive part of Windows, the first thing people mention when they explain why they dislike Windows 8. There is still no fix from Microsoft, though some users report improvement after various updates.

Another annoyance is that on my HP laptop I cannot disable tap-to-click. I can disable it temporarily but it reverts, certainly on the next start-up.

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While some users like tap-to-click, I loathe it and do not think it should ever be on by default. In many Windows laptops the setting is hard to find and some users have ditched Windows because of it, and switched to Macs. The reason is that it is easy to tap the trackpad by mistake; and an accidental click can have dire consequences, such as sending an email by mistake, or clicking Yes in a dialog when you meant No. If you suffer from any sort of tremble it is a disaster.

I am not sure who is responsible for this bug; it could be the Synaptics driver, but it was fine in Windows 8.1.

Another annoyance relates to the new Windows calculator. On my desktop PC I am in the habit of pressing the Calculator key to open it (I have a Microsoft keyboard). In earlier versions of Windows the calculator appears instantly. In Windows 10 it may take several minutes or not appear at all. Of course what you tend to do is to assume that you did not press the key hard enough and press it again. Eventually lots of instances appear. I’ve looked into this a little; the Calculator does appear in the Task Manager process list, but with a status of Suspended. I’ve also had a scenario where the calculator appears but does not accept input until you click on it with the mouse, defeating the value of the key.

I am using the Edge browser but in practice it is not that good. I like the direction Edge is taking, but some sites do not work properly, and there are bugs. Favourites do not work when you have a long list; you click a sub-folder but the wrong entries appear, until it settles down and starts functioning correctly. You can pin the task pane (with Favourites, History etc) but the setting does not persist when you next start the browser. I also sometimes get long delays opening a web page; it is always hard to say what causes these and sometimes it will be a server issue, but Edge is worse than other browsers so I think it is partly to blame.

Some of the new apps show promise but are not 100% stable. Photos is good but I have had it exit silently when scrolling through a long list (perhaps related to OneDrive issues). I still prefer Paint for quick cropping and simple editing. The Music app has its attractions, but Foobar2000 is much faster, and Spotify is better if you want all the cloud streaming and social aspects.

Talking of OneDrive, the lack of placeholders in Explorer, where a file is listed but only downloaded on request, is an issue though I do not find it too difficult to work around. I have a OneDrive folder called synced which I sync on every PC I use. Photos of course does have a kind of OneDrive placeholder system.

So there are annoyances, and others will have different ones, but nothing I would describe as instability. Most applications run fine, and I have found application compatibility with Windows 7 and 8 very good. I like the faster boot and resume. I like the new Task View button and the multiple desktops. Overall it is working OK for me.

My general advice when consulted about whether to upgrade is to wait until next year, unless there are pressing reasons to go more quickly. I am also aware of numerous issues related to the in-place upgrade. One user for example upgraded from Windows 7 because of the annoying nags from Windows Update. The upgrade worked, but for some reason resulted in tablet mode being enabled (I cannot be sure whether this was a mis-click or an upgrade issue). This is on a desktop PC. Unfortunately, tablet mode is almost as confusing as Windows 8 was for a less technical user. The taskbar is hidden and it is not easy to find your applications.

I am sure Windows 10 will be the best version yet. It is taking time though and from a user perspective there is no rush (yes, it was released before it was ready). From Microsoft’s point of view it is important that the worst bugs get fixed soon (Start menu, please); and the generally poor performance of the Universal apps is a concern, considering the strategic significance of the platform.

Update: a newer Synaptics driver on the HP site has improved the trackpad problem; at least, the setting has survived a reboot so I hope it is fixed.

Windows 10: My Surface Pro is mocking me

I have a Surface Pro, first version, still a reasonable spec with Core i5 and 4GB RAM, though the 128GB SSD is too small and a frustration.

Still, Microsoft hardware, Windows 8.1 installed and in good shape, Windows 10 upgrade will be a breeze?

Now, I know there is an ISO route that would probably work but I decided to wait for the upgrade to arrive via Windows Update since I have yet to see this run successfully. In due course the GWX (Get Windows 10) update sprang to life and said my upgrade was ready.

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Note that in anticipation of the big day I had freed over 10GB of disk space which should be enough, right?

The upgrade failed though.

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Well, I understand that things go wrong sometimes; but note that Microsoft has not seen fit to give us any log entries to give a clue about what might be going wrong, just an error code and a useless link that leads to generic Windows Update troubleshooting tips.

I did try a few things. Freeing more disk space. Resetting Windows Update. The famous sfc /scannow beloved of generic forum respondents. I was rewarded for my efforts with a variety of different error codes but the same outcome.

Now my Surface is mocking me. Every time I boot up, I get the little pop up assuring me that my upgrade is ready. Every time I shutdown I am am invited to “update and restart”, the machine attempts to install Windows 10, and then again it fails.

I guess I should get the message: this is not going to work.

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Again, I know there is an ISO route and I guess I will have to use it; but while I am not really surprised, it is disappointing that even on first-party hardware the automatic upgrade is so problematic.

Postscript

I am not sure what changed, but I tried the update again a couple of days ago and it worked. This is the first time I have successfully upgraded a PC to Windows 10 via Windows Update.

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Using Explorer as an alternate Start menu for Windows 10 to work around missing entries

There are a couple of issues with the Start menu in Microsoft’s just-released Windows 10. One is that some sort of bug means there may be missing entries. Second, the All Apps list is not great for navigation even when it is working. There are two many clicks: click Start, click All Apps, click a letter or start scrolling, maybe expand the folder you want, and you eventually get there.

I have upgraded my own desktop PC to Windows 10, which was running Windows 8.1 Enterprise. The good news is that the upgrade went smoothly, but unfortunately I have run into this bug and some applications are missing from the All Apps list.

I am reluctant to install a third-party Start menu like Start 10, though this is a good solution for many users, since I like to keep Windows as plain as possible as well as tracking changes Microsoft makes to the user interface. How than can I retain easy access to all my applications until this bug is fixed?

My first thought was to use the Windows libraries feature. Using this, you can combine the two main locations for Start menu entries into a single list in Explorer. These are the locations:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

The first location is for applications available to all users of your PC, while the second is per-user. I combined these in a new library which I called Store Complete and was initially pleased; all the shortcuts were there. Except they were not: I realised that my new Start folder did not include any Store apps, since the shortcuts for these are handled differently.

This led me to investigate Store app shortcuts, and I came across another approach. Make a new shortcut (no need for a library), and in the Target field type:

c:\windows\explorer.exe shell:AppsFolder

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I called the Shortcut Apps but you can call it what you like. This creates a folder with shortcuts to all your applications, both Store and desktop apps. The snag: they are all in a single list, whereas the Library approach preserves the hierarchy if an application has several subfolders of shortcuts (like some developer tools).

The Apps list on my PC has 836 items and it is complete. For example, I have the application Password Safe, which is not listed in All Apps, nor is Futuremark’s PC Mark which I have just installed:

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Actually PC Mark should be under F for Futuremark, but it is not there either:

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Nor are they found if I type Password Safe or PC Mark into Cortana/Search in the taskbar. But they are there in my Apps folder:

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Scrolling through this list is a little tedious, but it also has a search box which works. Not ideal, but a workable alternative.

Note: I tried pinning this folder to the Start panel but that does not work. However you can pin it to the taskbar for quick access.

Windows 10

The launch of Windows 10 today is a key moment for Microsoft and users of its platform. A few observations.

I like new Windows more than I had expected. I get on fine with Windows 8, though mostly on the desktop since that is where the applications are. Being able to run Store apps in a window makes a big difference though, and there is a real chance that this will kick-start Microsoft’s app platform at last. See my overview on The Register here.

Is Windows 10 ready, or rushed out too soon? The latter I fear. The desktop side is solid as far as I can tell, with the exception of the new Start menu – actually a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app – which is a bit broken. Since this is how users launch applications that is a serious problem. Still, it might work OK for you if you have fewer than 512 application shortcuts. I have also seen issues with search within the Start menu, either not finding apps, or in one case just hanging (reboot sorted it).

It really should not be difficult to have reliable search across a tiny database.

The Windows Store is another source of problems. I tried to install the latest Twitter app, and ended up with a “Restoring user data” message that would not go away. It is frustrating because you cannot simply cancel the process and try again. At this time my event viewer filled with DCOM activation errors, which may or may not be related, but did remind me how much intricate and ancient technology remains in Windows.

Microsoft also has this mad idea that all eligible users should be upgraded automatically using a Get Windows 10 (GWX) application installed via Windows Update. From what I have heard so far, failures are common. Users who suffer a long update process that ends with an error message and return to the previous version of Windows may never try again, or next time buy a Mac.

This is exactly what you would expect from an in-place upgrade. There are simply too many variations of hardware and software, too many things to go wrong, for this to work reliably across millions of users.

These things will distract attention from what matters more, which is Microsoft steering Windows towards becoming a modern, mobile-friendly operating system. There is also a lot of good work on the business side, in security and manageability. In six months time Windows 10 will be a delight.

The coverage of Windows 10 in the general media also interests me. Never mind Microsoft’s generally strong financials, the common view is that the company is failing because of its lack of success in mobile. That may prove true, but it is not true yet.

In this light, I am still puzzled by CEO Satya Nadella’s decision to dismantle the Nokia acquisition, at huge cost. At the Build conference in April, Microsoft seemed determined to make Windows Phone work, with the universal app platform, Android runtime layer, and Objective C compiler support. The Nokia team had the skills to design and build phones. Disposing of it seems short-sighted.

If the app platform in Windows 10 does succeed, users will want to run those apps on their smartphones too.

Installing Windows 10 on Surface 3 with Windows To Go

I am working on a review of Surface 3, Microsoft’s recently released Atom-based tablet, and wanted to try Windows 10 on the device. How to do this though without endangering the correct functioning of my loan unit?

The ideal answer seemed to be Windows To Go (WTG), which les you run Windows from a USB drive without touching what is already installed – well, apart from a setting in control panel that enables boot from Windows to Go.

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Luckily I have an approved Windows to Go USB drive, a 32GB Kingston DataTraveler Workspace. I downloaded the Windows 10 iso (64-bit, build 10074) and used the Control Panel applet on my Windows 8 desktop (which runs the Enterprise edition) to create a WTG installation.

(There are unofficial ways to get around both the requirement for Enterprise edition, and the need for an approved USB device, but I did not have to go there).

Next, I plugged the drive into the Surface 3 and restarted. Windows 10 came up immediately. An interesting feature was that I was prompted to sign into Office 365, rather than with a Microsoft account. It all seemed to work, though Device Manager showed many missing drivers.

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The wifi driver must have been one of them, since I had no network.

I had anticipated this problem by downloaded the surface 3 drivers from here. These were inaccessible though, since a WTG installation by default has no access to the hard drive on the host PC. I could not plug in a second USB device with the drivers on it either, since there is only one USB port on the Surface 3.

No matter, you can mount the local drives using the Windows Disk Management utility. I did that, and ran the Surface 3 Platform Installer which I had downloaded earlier. It seemed to install lots of drivers, and I was then prompted to restart.

Bad news. When trying to restart, boot failed with an “inaccessible boot device” error.

Fool that I am, I tried this operation again with a small variation. I rebuilt the WTG drive, and instead of mounting the drives on the host, I used it first on another PC, where the wifi worked straight away. I copied the Surface 3 files to the WTG drive C, then booted it on the Surface 3. Ran the Surface 3 Platform Installer, restarted, same problem “Inaccessible boot device”.

The third time, I did not run the Surface 3 Platform Installer. Instead, I installed the drivers one by one by right-clicking on the Unknown Devices in Device Manager and navigating to the Surface 3 drivers files I had downloaded using another PC. That looks better.

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I restarted, and everything still worked. I have wifi, Bluetooth, audio, cameras and everything. So something the Platform Installer tries to do breaks WTG on my device.

The next question is whether the system will update OK when set to Fast for the Windows 10 bleeding edge. So far though, so good.

Note: there is an issue with power management. If the Surface 3 sleeps, then it seems to wake up back in Windows 8 if you leave it long enough. Not too much harm done though; restart and you are back in Windows 10.

Note 2: new builds will not install on WTG, they complain about an unsupported UEFI layout

Windows 10 at Mobile World Congress 2015: a quick reflection

I attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week – with 93,000 attendees and 2,100 exhibitors according to the latest figures.

It was a big event for Microsoft’s new Windows. It started for me on the Saturday before, when Acer unveiled a low-end Windows Phone (write-up on the Reg). Next was Microsoft’s press conference; Stephen Elop was on stage, presenting two new mid-range Lumias as if nothing had changed since last year when he announced the now-defunct Nokia X:

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The Lumia 640 looks good value, especially in its XL guise: 5.7” 1280 x 720 display, 8GB storage plus microSD slot, 13MP camera, 4G LTE, quad-core 1.2GHz CPU, €189 ex VAT. The smaller Lumia 640 is now on presale at £169.99; we were told €139 ex VAT at MWC, so I guess the real price of the 640XL may be something like £230, though there will be deals.

These phones will ship with Windows Phone 8.1 but get Windows 10 when available.

The big Windows 10 event was elsewhere though, and not mentioned at the press conference. This was the developer event, where General Manager Todd Brix, Director of Program Management Kevin Gallo and others presented the developer story behind the new Universal App Platform (not the same as the old Universal App Platform, as I explain here).

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This was the real deal, with lots of code. There was even a hands-on session where we built our own Universal Apps in Visual Studio 2015. Note that the Visual Studio build we used featured an additional application type for Windows 10; this is not the same as a Store app in Windows 8, though both use the Windows Runtime.

As someone with hands-on experience of developing a Store app, I am optimistic that the new platform will achieve more success. It is a second attempt with a bit more maturity, and much greater effort to integrate with the Windows desktop, whereas the first iteration went out of its way not to integrate.

Much of the focus was on the Adaptive UX, creating layouts that resize intelligently on different devices. The cross-platform UI concept is controversial, with strong arguments that you only get an excellent UI if you design specifically for a device, rather than trying to make one that runs everywhere. The Universal App Platform is a bit different though, since it is all Windows Runtime. Microsoft’s pitch is that by writing to the UAP you can target desktop, Windows Phone, tablet and Xbox One, with a single code base; and without a cross-device UI this pitch would lose much of its force. Windows 7 legacy is a problem of course; but if we see Windows 10 adopted as rapidly as Windows 7 (following the Vista hiccup) this may not be a deal-breaker.

The official account of the MWC event is in Gallo’s blog post which went out on the same day. There was much more detail at the event, but Microsoft is holding this back, perhaps for its Build conference at the end of April. So in this case you had to be there.

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Aside: if you look at the publicity Microsoft got from MWC, you will note that it is mostly based on the press conference and the launch of two mid-range Lumias, hardly ground-breaking. The fact that a ton of new stuff got presented at the developer event got far less attention, though of course sharp eyes like those of Mary Jo Foley was onto it. I have a bias towards developer content; but even so, it strikes me that a session of new content that is critical to the future of Windows counts for more than a couple of new Lumias. This demonstrates the extent to which the big vendors control the news that is written about them – most of the time.