Windows 7 Key

Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate with Service Pack 1 Key

Clocking in: Windows 8 RTC overclocking issues are blown way out of proportion

Yesterday, popular overclocking site HWBot announced that due to problems with Windows 8′s performance when overclocking, they would no longer accept or validate results that used that platform. This was sufficient to kick off a tidal wave of speculation and vitriol towards Microsoft’s supposedly poor real-time clock (RTC). This has been picked up and magnified across the internet with all the inevitable effects of a game of telephone. It’s time to inject some sanity and examine what we reallyknow — and what we don’t.

The issue HWBot has identified has no impact on stock hardware. It has no impact on BIOS-level overclocking. It has no impact on software multiplier adjustments. This problem is limited to software programs that adjust the base clock rate (BCLK) on-the-fly, without a reboot. I’ve talked to several boutique owners in the past and they’ve confirmed that even among computer enthusiasts, overclocking is fairly rare. Overclocking by BCLK is even rarer for multiple reasons — but mostly because Intel discourages it these days and doesn’t allow it to occur save within a very narrow range.

I’m not saying HWBot was wrong to do what they did, because when your reputation is built on validating OC results, you have to make certain the results are, well, valid. But the first thing to understand is that this problem is only going to tag a specific group of people using software to overclock within the OS.

The actual clock mechanism involved isn’t clear – but this isn’t a cheat

One thing I’ve seen mentioned at several sites is the idea that Microsoft is somehow cheating to try and make Windows 8 look better. (See: Windows 8: The disastrous result of Microsoft’s gutless equivocation.) This betrays a fundamental lack of understanding for the problem. The fact that the system clock is losing time rapidly is proof that this isn’t intentional. Keeping system clocks updated and synchronized can be extremely important across a network. A system losing 18 seconds out of every 5 minutes will be nearly 6 hours out of sync within four days. That means backup jobs and system maintenance normally scheduled for 04:00  is happening at 10:00 instead. This is a real problem.

But the repeated references to Windows RTC (real-time clock) probably aren’t accurate. Previous versions of 3DMark (a program affected by this errata) have all relied on HPET, notRTC. HPET was introduced in Windows Vista; it polls at 14MHz rather than 3.2MHz and was required for running 3DMark 11. It’s highly unlikely that Futuremark returned to using the old RTC rather than the newer HPET standard.

I’m going to use a metronome analogy to explain the problem here. At boot, the system “calibrates” its internal metronome at a given speed — let’s call it 133 beats per second. Right now, changing the BCLK value in software is simultaneously recalibrating the metronome. Set the system to a BCLK of 122, and then run a benchmark, and the system reports a lower time in seconds. The system clock is falling behind the objective wall time because each second is fractionally longer than it ought to be.

HWBot underclocking results in Windows 8

I think this problem would have been clearer if HWBot had added a column to the chart above. The wall time required to run these tests should be identical in both cases. What’s happening here is that the system’s counters are shifting the number of beats per second, rather than keeping that figure constant. I suspect this problem might be fixed by flipping a deep setting in Windows 8 to adjust how it handles this kind of on-the-fly adjustment — which leads us to the next point.

OS-level overclocking software has always been hit-and-miss

I first cut my teeth on overclocking with an IBM PC, a K6-233, and a Golden Orb. The K6-233 was swapped out for a K6-2 400 thanks a 2x/6x multiplier remap that could be swapped via hardware jumper on the motherboard. Then the first K6-2+ came along: 500MHz on .18 micron with an on-board L2 cache. I picked up an MSI-5169 motherboard, overclocked the chip to ~580MHz, and was off to the races. For all the changes between then and now, one thing has remained constant: Overclocking tuning software run withinthe operating system has almost always sucked.

I’m not saying this to excuse whatever is going on with Windows 8, because clearly that problem is OS-wide. Back then, we fought for BIOS-level tools precisely because software was so hit and miss. It was not unusual for a motherboard manufacturer’s tool to insist a system was running at one speed while third-party tools implied another and benchmarks indicated a third. The experience has improved modestly since, thanks to various motherboard tools and support from Intel and AMD, but Intel’s own Extreme Tuning Utility requires you to reboot if you want to change the base clock — and it alters the value passed to the BIOS for boot initialization. I suspect that’s to avoid this kind of problem.

The point here is not to give Windows 8 a free pass, but to acknowledge that problems with software OCing have plagued operating systems for as long as there have been operating systems. Some components have never liked on-the-fly adjustments of their frequencies. Some programs don’t respond well to this kind of shift.

The ball, so to speak, is definitely in Microsoft’s court on this one. The timer behavior is unusual and likely unintentional. But this is a problem that will impact a fraction of overclockers, which are a fraction of hardcore computer enthusiasts, who are a fraction of computer users. It’s not unusual for programs that change timings post-boot to create erratic behavior as a side effect. The real problem is the way the internal clock gets knocked off kilter — and that’s something MS can almost certainly fix.

Leave a comment »

Computex 2013 wrap-up: Windows 8, tablets, Haswell, high-res displays, smartphones, earthquakes and more!

Computex 2013 wrapup Windows 8, tablets, Haswell, highres displays, earthquakes and more!This year’s Computex certainly didn’t come and go quietly. From a 6.5-magnitude earthquake shortly after landing in Taipei to tons of tablets, smartphones, Haswell systems and more peripherals than you can shake a Taiwan dollar at, this has been one whirlwind week of hot and humid adventure. Unlike other shows abroad, this country’s massive computer exhibition is only growing in importance, as more manufacturers from both East and West choose to announce products and services here in the Republic of China.

The week was filled with unveilings both revolutionary and evolutionary — fromquirky to crucial, there was a lot to take in. You’ll find many of our show picks at our Computex 2013 event page; there are dozens upon dozens of articles, hands-on videos and photo galleries to sift through, so set aside some time over the weekend and dig on in. We’ve also rounded up links to each and every related post after the break — click on through for all that and more.

Leave a comment »

Microsoft Unveils Update to Unpopular Windows 8 OS

Software-giant Microsoft has unveiled the updated version of its touch-enabled Windows 8 operating system at the world’s second largest computer show in Taipei.

Tami Reller, chief financial and marketing officer of the company’sWindows Division, said that Windows 8.1 would be available on both PCs and tablets later this year.

Speaking at the Computex show Wednesday, Reller said the 8.1 update took into account input from consumers on the Windows 8 system, which has received only lukewarm reviews.

“Windows 8.1 furthers the bold vision of Windows 8 by responding to customer feedback and adding new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing’s potential,” she said.

Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Program Management, demonstrated the upgraded system, which included enhancements in areas including platform personalization and search. The 8.1 system restores the start button function that was removed from Windows 8.

Once the most substantial presence in the computer industry, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has been working hard during the past two years to cope with the rise of tablet computing, and the resulting erosion in PC sales.

Microsoft’s own tablets have a 4 percent market share, far behind that of industry leader Apple (AAPL). They have been available for seven months.

Leave a comment »

Bing Translator app now available for Windows 8, uses a webcam to translate text

Bing Stock

Microsoft’s Bing Translator app has long been available for Windows Phone, but it’s arriving on Windows 8 this week. Like its Windows Phone counterpart, you can translate content through text and even a webcam. The application lets you simply point a camera at printed text and automatically overlays the translated text on top.

Microsoft has added offline support to Bing Translator for Windows 8 too, meaning you can download certain languages and use them when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection. The app makes full use of Windows 8 by integrating with the Share Charm so you can highlight any text in another Windows 8 app and translate it quickly. Bing Translator for Windows 8 is available immediately in the Windows Store.

Leave a comment »

More PC woes: AMD tanks, Windows 8 misfires in Europe

Maybe the PC isn’t dead, but it’s definitely showing signs of old age.

Shares of Advanced Micro Devices were off more than 12 percent Thursday on a downgrade from Goldman Sachs. And the PC market in Europe saw a sharp decline in the first quarter, according to Gartner.

Goldman downgraded AMD’s stock from “neutral” to “sell,” saying that AMD’s upside in gaming devices, like Sony’s upcoming PlaySation 4, “only partially offsets the continued…challenges in the company’s core PC business.” AMD is the second-largest maker of processors for PCs.

Dell was hit hard on Thursday, too, reporting a 79 percent drop in profit due to slumping PC sales. The PC maker posted its earnings five days earlier than planned, due to The Wall Street Journal reporting leaked numbers.

Maybe more damning is the collapse of the PC market in Europe in the first quarter.

“The first quarter of 2013 brought the worst quarterly decline in Western Europe since Gartner started tracking PC shipments in this region,” said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner.

This echoes an April report from IDC thatmarked the worst-ever quarter since the research firm began tracking quarterly PC shipments in 1994.

Like IDC, Gartner cited Windows 8 as one of the culprits.

“Wide availability of Windows 8-based PCs could not boost consumer PC purchases during the quarter,” Gartner said.

And the research firm reiterated a common complaint about the operating system’s interface: “Although the new Metro-style user interface suits new form factors, users wonder about its suitability for traditional PCs.”

Leave a comment »

Microsoft Offers No Apology For Windows 8, Promises Better With Windows Blue

With Windows 8, Microsoft MSFT -1.33% ignored the basic tenets of change management and paid the price. Now Microsoft is finally trying to correct the mistakes it made with Windows 8.

In my analysis, the big drop in PC sales has been in part due to mistakes made by Microsoft in Windows 8.  I am an engineer and technology is my game.  It took me about three hours to become comfortable with Windows 8.  I can only empathize with users without a tech background.

I disagree with Apple AAPL -0.45% CEO Tim Cook’s assessment of Windows 8 when he called Windows 8 a combination of a toaster and a fridge.  Cook predicted that users would not like it. Under the hood Windows 8 is revolutionary and well implemented, but the user interface is another matter.

In my experience, a majority of people do not like change.  It is up to leaders to ease them into change in a manner that they can handle.  Since the pedigree of Windows 8 was desktop and not tablets, Microsoft needed to keep the familiar Windows 8 user interface in the forefront.  The right course of action would have been to provide options for the users who wanted the same look and feel in both their PC and tablet. The familiar Start button needed to stay and Charms should have been optional for the majority of people who do not like change.

Tami Reller, chief financial officer and chief marketing officer of the Windows client division at Microsoft, has been giving many interviews indicating that the next version of Windows is coming later this year. The code name for the next version is Windows Blue.  There are few confirmed details. Windows Blue will work with smaller tablets.  It will also support Intel INTC +0.96%’s Haswell processor and new processors based on ARM architecture.

The release of Windows Blue reminds me of Windows 3.1.  Windows 3.0 was Microsoft’s clumsy attempt to copy Apple’s graphical user interface and was released on March 22, 1990.  Windows 3.1 corrected the clumsiness of Windows 3.0, did the job well and the popularity of Windows took off making Microsoft the big behemoth it is now.

History is repeating itself.  Microsoft again tried to copy Apple iPad and messed up. Similar to Windows 3.0, Microsoft’s arrogance got in the way and has taken Microsoft entirely too long to address the situation.  Chances are this time Microsoft is not going to be as lucky as it was with Windows 3.1.

Unlike Apple, Microsoft is still lost in the woods.  Apple continues to describe a clear vision of software that is user friendly, intuitive, simple to learn, and elegant.  No such vision is coming out of Microsoft.  When vision is not clear, it is impossible to have elegant implementation.

Microsoft stock has recently moved up as investors chase yield and look for laggards.  However, do not get excited for a big move as Microsoft continues to lack vision.

Leave a comment »

Microsoft: More than 100 million Windows 8 licenses sold

Microsoft officials said on May 6 that Microsoft has surpassed the 100 million Windows 8 licenses sold milestone  — a number on par with the number of Windows 7 licenses the company sold in its first six months on the market.

(Windows 8 and Windows RT went on sale on October 26, 2012. So the exact six-month mark was April 26, which was 10 days ago.)

“If there had been more touch devices in the market, it would have been even more,” said Tami Reller, the Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft’s Windows client team. That said, “our sell-through has been consistently going up,” Reller added.

Reller said to expect the touch hardware situation to start to improve more in July, the kick-off of this year’s back-to-school selling season. By holiday season 2013, Microsoft expects there to be a full assortment of screen sizes, form factors and differently priced Windows 8 and Windows RT devices in market, she said.

Microsoft officials said they sold more than 40 million copies of Windows 8 the first month it was commercially available. On January 8, 2013, Microsoft officials said the company had sold 60 million licenses of Windows 8 to date. The bulk of the additional 40 million Windows 8 licenses sold since January have been on new PCs (as opposed to upgrades), given that most of the Windows 8 upgrade deals expired in January, Reller said.

Microsoft’s “licenses sold” numbers are “sell in” numbers. That means these figures include sales of licenses to OEMs, as well as Windows 8 upgrades. They don’t include copies of Windows 8 sold via volume-licensing agreements. The “licenses sold” numbers may or may not also include Windows RT license numbers. (Microsoft officials won’t say.)

The minute that a PC rolls off the manufacturing line with a new version of Windows on it, it is counted as a “license sold,” Reller explained.

Microsoft sold more than 100 million licenses of Windows 7 in its first six months, company officials said back in June 2010. At that time, they called Windows 7 “the fastest selling operating system in history.”

It’s worth repeating that Microsoft’s “licenses sold” numbers are totally different from usage share data. Based on usage statistics from various firms, Windows 8 still lags substantially both Windows 7 and Windows XP, in terms of usage at the moment. Microsoft officials declined to provide usage share data for Windows 8.

More Microsoft milestones, commitments

Reller shared some additional Windows 8-related numbers during a meeting I had with her at Microsoft’s New York City headquarters on Monday, May 6.

She said the Windows team has delivered 739 updates for Windows 8 and Windows RT in the six-plus months  since those operating systems were made generally available. These updates have included everything from battery-life improvements, to drivers, to security fixes.

There are more than 60,000 Windows Store/Metro Style apps for Windows 8 and Windows RT available now, Reller also said. The Softies believe they will have Windows Store/Metro Style versions of the “majority” of top Android and iPad apps available in the Windows Store by holiday 2013. And there have been more than 500 updates to the first-party (meaning Microsoft-developed) Windows 8 and Windows RT apps in the Store since Windows 8 and Windows RT launched in late October 2012.

Reller reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to improving the retail experience for consumers looking to buy new PCs and tablets running Windows 8. She said that even though Microsoft invested more than ever on retail at the end of 2012 — by both training salespeople about Windows 8 and creating a standardized Windows 8 demo — all this “still wasn’t even close to enough.”

“We were smart, but not smart enough” about how users would approach the PC and tablet-buying experience at places like Best Buy, Staples and other retail outfits.

Reller said Microsoft will be doing more with its retail partners, first for the back-to-school buying season, but especially by the holidays. There will be more of a focus on creating specific sales experiences for tablets, touch laptops, convertibles and all-in-ones, she said.

Microsoft also will be changing its incentive programs for retail stores so that salespeople will be compensated for touch, 100 percent, when it comes to consumer sales. Microsoft also will continue to build out more of its own Microsoft brick-and-mortar stores, but will be focusing more on smaller, storefront style spaces, she said.

Leave a comment »

Spanish Group Complains to EC over Windows 8 Secure Boot

A Linux developer group in Spain called Hispalinux last week issued a complaint with the European Commission (EC) over Microsoft’s “secure boot” feature, according toReuters.

Secure boot is Microsoft’s term for an optional security feature that’s part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification. This feature uses certificates to check the firmware, prior to a computer system boot-up. It’s a security precaution that’s missing from present BIOS-based systems. The secure boot process is designed to avoid rootkits or other malware that currently go undetected by most anti-malware software during the boot-load process.

Controversy has arisen because Microsoft will requirethat original equipment manufacturers turn on secure boot by default on new systems. However, this requirement is only mandatory for Windows RT ARM-based systems. It’s not a requirement for Windows 8 x86-based systems. UEFI-based Windows 8 systems have an option to turn off secure boot from within the Windows 8 operating system, allowing Linux OSes to be booted on the machine.

The Linux community hasn’t been happy at all with secure boot, but it has responded by developing its own digitally signed certificates to facilitate Linux boots on UEFI-based Windows 8 systems. However, Hispalinux is going further in its complaint to the EC. In a blog post, the group indicated that Microsoft is acting “contrary to competition and the rights of consumers” with Windows 8 and that it would “irreparably harm the European software industry” by making it difficult to boot Linux.

It’s not clear at this point if Hispalinux’s complaint will cause trouble for Microsoft at the EC. Earlier this month, the EC slapped Microsoft with a $728 million finefor failing to comply with providing a browser choice option in Windows 7 software distributions. That incident, as well as past fines from the EC, may put Microsoft into the position of being regarded as somewhat of a scofflaw among the commissioners.

The Reuters article pointed to a comment by Joachín Almunia, vice-president of the European Commission and competition commissioner. A couple of months ago, Almunia issued a comment suggesting that the EC isn’t too worried about Microsoft’s handling of the UEFI security option with Windows 8.

“The Commission is currently not in possession of evidence suggesting that the Windows 8 security requirements would result in practices in violation of EU competition rules as laid down in Articles 101 and 102 TFEU,” Almunia wrote in January, responding to a question. “In particular, on the basis of the information currently available to the Commission it appears that the OEMs can decide to give the end users the option to disable the UEFI secure boot.”

However, Almunia noted that the EC was continuing to monitor such “market developments” with an aim toward ensuring fair competition.

Leave a comment »

Windows 8 slowly gains market share traction, analysis shows

Barely five months after its release, Windows 8 has captured 3.17 percent of the desktop operating systems market share, though it’s still lagging behind Vista, according to theMarch stats from Net Applications.

Windows 8 shipped in October 2012, and its market share has grown slowly but steadily. In November, Net Analytics tracked a 1.09 percent share for Windows 8, which went up to 1.72 percent in December. It hit 2.26 percent in January, then 2.67 in February, and took another jump to reach 3.17 percent in March.

Windows captures more than 91 percent of the desktop OS market (Macs collectively have 6.94 percent and Linux systems, 1.17 percent), but Windows 7 is used on 44.73 percent of systems and XP has 38.73 percent of the market. At 3.17 percent of the market, Windows 8 is the fourth most popular OS, still behind Vista (which retains 4.99 percent) but ahead of Mac OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion (2.65 percent).

The Net Applications stats are obtained by tracking 40,000 web sites and data captured from 160 million unique visitors across the web. Another company that tracks market share is StatCounter, which calculates its figures based on 15 billion page views from web sites it tracks. StatCounter’s figures are not very different from those of Net Applications, showing Windows 8 at 3.9 percent for March, a slight increase from 3.16 percent in February.

windows 8 market share

Slower adoption rate than Windows 7

Net Applications’ stats go back only to 2011, so one can’t compare how Windows 7 did in its first five months; but StatCounter has more historical data. Since StateCounter’s current figures closely match those of Net Applications, a comparison gives some illustrative context.

StatCounter’s figures shows that five months after its launch in October 2009, Windows 7 had 11.92 percent of the market, while Vista had 20.73 percent and the leader was XP with more than 51 percent of the market. Based on these statistics, it appears that in its first five months, Windows 7’s adoption rate was three times higher than Windows 8’s.

windows 8

It’s not surprising that Windows 8 lags Windows 7’s initial adoption rate, as the new OS has polarized users with its new interface. Ed Bott uncovered a similar result when he compared for Cnet more than 3000 Amazon ratings for boxed Windows versions. His research shows that Windows 7 has overall 47 percent 5-star ratings, compared to 36 percent for Windows 8, and 23 percent for Vista. Windows 8 also has 29 percent 1-star ratings, faring better than Vista’s 42 percent, but still above 17 percent of the Windows 7 1-star ratings.

With Windows 8 though, Microsoft can address issues with the OS much quicker than previously, since the company announced it will update more frequently. The first such update in line is Windows Blue, which is due out later this year. A version of this update has been already leaked, and we inspected the 10 coolest new features, as well as a bunch of other discoveries.

Leave a comment »

Microsoft cracks down on Windows 8 piracy in Melbourne

Microsoft sleuths have cruised markets across Melbourne and busted four alleged pirates flogging DVDs loaded with bootleg Windows and Office software.

The software giant has launched “enforcement action” against the hawkers.

Of the 12 DVDs purchased, half failed to run. The remainder had Windows Updates disabled and firewall settings modified.

Microsoft said 20 instances of malware were found, but it was unknown if these related to cracking and patching tools which are flagged by default as malicious by most anti-virus products.

Some of the software appeared to be burnt copies of popular pirate torrents. One such torrent of Windows 8 saw users and crackers battle with Microsoft as it blocked registration codes and tactics to mitigate the activation process.

Thousands had downloaded the installation and were using either a phone activation method or an executable file to modify the Windows installation to avoid Microsoft’s anti-piracy measures.

Microsoft Australia warned that pirate software could contain backdoors or malware designed to siphon user data.

“The risks posed to consumers if they had installed these counterfeit disks include loss of sensitive data, substantial financial losses and costs, and a big waste of time trying to fix system problems,” it said in a blog.

It cited a 2013 IDC study which claimed more than three-quarters of pirate software installed “tracking cookies or spyware”.

Leave a comment »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.