Windows 9 leak: New Start menu

The latest Windows 9 leaks, showing a Start-menu fusion of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, beg the question: Microsoft, why are you scooping ice cream over a hot dog?

On the surface, there’s really no reason for the straightforward, icon-driven approach of the Windows-7-like lefthand menu bar to coexist with the Windows-8.1-like, brightly colored tiles arrayed to the right of it. And we hardly pay attention to Live Tiles anyway: A typical Windows 8.1 user bounces to the Start page for a split second to launch an app, and that’s it. There’s not enough time for the user’s eyes to track the information Microsoft could be showing you via its Live Tiles before you’re off in your new app.

More of the same…or not, But yes, there is a reason that Microsoft may be trying to combine the two: because the icons represented in the screenshots are true Live Tiles.

That’s not always the case. So many tiles on a typical Windows 8.1 Start page simply show a static application icon, such as launch buttons for OneNote, or PowerPoint, or Adobe Reader. Many users undoubtedly still wonder what the point of all those massive icons floating in space actually are, and many wondered how to get rid of them when they appeared in Windows 8.

But in the screenshot of the leaked menu, the righthand Tiles should actually dosomething. If a user establishes an Outlook.com account, it’s a sure bet that the Mail tile will flip up to reveal new email. Or the News tile will deliver the headlines. Or Calendar will highlight a user’s upcoming appointments. (Yes, a user could also use them as easily navigable shortcuts to favorite apps, but that’s kind of a waste of space, no?)

So it’s going to be up to both Microsoft and the user to manage those tiles effectively.

windows 81 update1 power button
How long does anyone actually spend on the Windows 8.1 Start page, anyway?

From a marketing perspective, however, we’re stuck in the same quandary as before: if Microsoft leaves the Live Tiles there, the same users who were turned off by Windows 8 may not return. And if they hide them entirely, then Microsoft tacitly acknowledges that the Windows 8 design schema was a mistake.

That’s the tough choice I’d make. I don’t advocate eliminating the Live Tiles of Windows 8 entirely, but I’d leave them as an option for power users. Then I’d either replace the Charms bar with one that exposes a row of these tiles, or else replace them with a series of small, popup notifications.

Microsoft undoubtedly has its own design goals in mind, but it’s not too late for a little feedback. How say you, users?

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IE users in no rush to discard old versions after Microsoft’s support

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Users of Internet Explorer (IE) were in no hurry last month to discard older versions, even after Microsoft told them that their browsers will drop off the support list in early 2016.

In a surprise announcement on Aug. 7, Microsoft said that after Jan. 12, 2016, it would support IE9 only on Windows Vista, IE10 only on Windows Server 2012, and only IE11 on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

IE7 and IE8 will drop off support completely, but others on certain editions of Windows — like IE10 on Windows 7 — will also get the patch axe.

The browsers will continue working, but Microsoft will halt technical support and stop serving security updates for the banned versions. Because of the large number of critical vulnerabilities Microsoft patches in its browser — 110 in the last three months — it will be extremely risky running an unsupported version.

But Microsoft’s mandate did little to change the user share of the various versions of IE last month as measured by metrics vendor Net Applications.

Microsoft’s asking more than two-thirds of current Internet Explorer users to ditch their browser by January 2016.

IE9 actually gained ground. The browser, which is the newest able to run on Vista, added two-tenths of a percentage point to its user share to average 9.2% for August. But because Vista currently powers just 3% of all Windows computers, a majority of IE9 runs on Windows 7, which must dispense with the 2011 browser in under a year and a half.

IE8 will be an even bigger problem. The browser, which is the default for many of the Windows XP PCs still in operation, also was adopted by large numbers of businesses as the standard for Windows 7. That showed in Net Applications’ statistics: IE8 accounted for 21.4% of all browsers last month, down just two-tenths of a percentage point, and 36.6% of all copies of Internet Explorer.

(The difference between the numbers for all browsers and only IE was because Internet Explorer has a 58.5% share of the browser space, not 100%.)

IE6 and IE7 also declined last month, but by minuscule amounts of two-tenths of a point and less than half of one-tenth of a point, respectively. IE6, although no longer supported on Windows XP, is still patched on Windows Server 2003, which is slated for retirement in July 2015.

IE10 barely moved, too: Its user share dropped by less than one-tenth of a point to 6.2% of all browsers, and to 10.6% of all copies of IE.

The only bright spot was 2013’s IE11, which gained about eight-tenths of a percentage point to average 17.6% of all browsers, 30% of all copies of IE.

By the numbers, Microsoft’s customers will have a very hard time scrubbing out-of-date versions of IE by 2016. If IE8 was to magically disappear — which it will not — it would have to shed 1.3 percentage points each month. That would represent an increase of more than 2,000% from its six-month average decline.

Likewise, IE9 will have to be aggressively suppressed. Even if every copy of Vista runs IE9 — certainly not the case — Windows 7 PCs must increase their IE9 disposal rate by 630% to make the monthly quota towards zero.

Overall, the numbers are daunting: Microsoft has taken the unprecedented step of demanding that nearly 70% of its current IE user base migrate to a newer browser, and do so, for enterprises at least, in a very short time.

Little wonder, then, that Gartner analyst Michael Silver last month said, “This is huge” when asked to characterize Microsoft’s announcement.

Net Applications calculates user share by mining data from the approximately 160 million unique visitors each month who browse to the sites it monitors for customers.

Microsoft reissues flawed Windows security update with new flaws

Microsoft yesterday re-released the updates for security bulletin MS14-045. This update had been released on the August Patch Tuesday, August 12, but withdrawn later in the week after user reports of blue screen crashes and disabled systems.

At the same time Microsoft withdrew MS14-045, it withdrew three non-security updates, KB2970228,KB2975719 and KB2975331. None of those have been reissued and we have no further information on them.

Updated on August 27: With respect to these remaining updates, Tracey Pretorius, Director, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, told ZDNet “[w]e continue to work diligently to get the Windows August Update rereleased to customers.”

A blog entry from Pretorius implies that the problem was related to a change in the release schedules for non-security updates.

The Knowledge Base article for the revised update (KB2993651) lists a confusing set of Known Issues remaining with the update.

  • With the update installed, fonts in the system that are not in the default fonts directory (%windir%\fonts\) cannot be changed when loaded in an active session. For more detail, see the KB article.
  • With the update installed, the z-order (depth) of some windows is changed. This means they can be hidden and therefore invisible. Four other earlier updates also cause this problem:
    • 2965768 Stop error 0x3B when an application changes the z-order of a window in Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
    • 2970228 Update to support the new currency symbol for the Russian ruble in Windows
    • 2973201 MS14-039: Description of the security update for Windows on-screen keyboard: July 8, 2014
    • 2975719 August 2014 update rollup for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2

Two of these (2970228 and 2975719) are among the updates withdrawn by Microsoft along with MS14-045. The other two have not been mentioned previously with respect to the recent problems. Those two now-problematic updates are also still available for download as of late afternoon on August 27.

The security bulletin says that “Microsoft strongly recommends that customers who have not uninstalled the 2982791 update [i.e., the old version, released on Patch Tuesday] do so prior to applying the 2993651 update [the new version].” This recommendation applies to users whether they are having problems with the old update or not. Note that Windows Update and Automatic Updates do not remove the old version.

To uninstall the update go to Control Panel, Programs and Features, Installed Updates, find the 2982791 update in the Microsoft Windows section, right click and uninstall. You can find the update by searching for “KB2982791” in the Control Panel for uninstalling updates. See the screen capture below. 

The update addresses three Windows kernel bugs, two of which could result in privilege elevation and the third in exposure of sensitive kernel information.

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