Windows 10 – nearly there

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3 July 2015 | 0

Paul HearnsThere has been much talk recently of a final form emerging for Windows 10 through the previews, particularly with the recent dense drop of builds 10154 to 10159 and then 10162.

However, when certain functionality falls off the table, it reminds you that no matter what the impression might be, things are a work in progress.

We here at TechPro Towers were using a Core i5 Surface Pro 2 as the test mule, reasoning that a Microsoft device that was designed for Windows 8 and touch, would be a better gauge of the overall experience than most other devices. Plus, thanks to Microsoft, we had it to hand and it was an easy process to install.

New media
However, one of the many current functions of the device is enabling a new (at least to our household) form of media consumption, namely internet TV cast to a big screen. In this case, a subscription to a niche sports broadcasting service.

Through the various builds of Windows 10 preview, the state of the wireless networking and display adapters has varied

This requires being able to cast the sound and video feed of the tablet to the TV. No problem, as we reviewed the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter some months ago and found it to be an excellent, if a little pricey, device for the job.

But — and you could hear that one coming — through the various builds of Windows 10 preview, the state of the wireless networking and display adapters needed to enable the connection of the tablet to TV via the Miracast standard has varied — greatly.

Casualties
With every new build it was a voyage of discovery to see which functions worked and which did not. Alas, the Miracast support was usually a casualty. This was infuriating as one would have expected that any major tech vendor would, even in preview, tend to its own hardware first, ensuring that it worked with its own stablemate accessories. Not so.

If one were so inclined, one could go online and search for solutions, but that was best done when in sanguine mood, as to get to any solution one had to wade through a tide of ire at yet again having to fix what no one thought should have been broken in the first place.

The workaround was usually fairly straightforward, depending on whether the issue was with the display drivers (Intel HD4400 in this case), or the wireless network drivers (Marvell Avastar 350N). Then the requirement for digital driver signing was disabled, the vendor driver overwrote the OEM one and usually all was well — though not always.

But as the release cadence grew ever quicker and the builds came thick and fast, the problems seemed to mount, not lessen. This may be an indication of just how much Microsoft was still tinkering with the innards of the nascent OS that it had to persist with drivers for which it knew issues persisted. No matter, it appears sorted now.

As of last night, after installing build 10162, the Miracast functionality appears restored.

Rough edges
The point in all of this is that when a company engages in a large and public beta or preview programme, one has to expect to see some rough edges on the offering as it progresses. What might be surprising for some is to see a vendor’s own stable of devices go in and out of support, perhaps as more fundamental issues are dealt with or underlying capabilities developed. However, it is now the eleventh hour for Windows 10 preview, as 29 July is the release date, to which Microsoft fully intends to adhere.

In a blog post, Terry Myerson, boss of the OS development, said that 29 July is on schedule but that not everyone who expects to get it on that date may be able to, as he says that from that date systems that have used the reservation feature in the availability notification sent out to older systems will begin to get the update in waves.

There would also be, he said, a scaling up from there on, which again sounds like a phased availability.

Last push
No matter, the 10162 build looks good and so far at least, has been stable. Certainly more stable than the 10158, which on our test mule, was desperately unstable and could not shut down without showing an error. So hopefully those that have tracked from build to build, providing feedback on what was good and bad, what worked and didn’t, will see the results in a well-polished offering, that works out of the box and will succeed likes Windows 7, not struggle like Windows 8.

Business view
From the business perspective, Myerson said in his blog that “Windows 10 Pro will be available on July 29, along with Windows 10 Home”, with volume licensing customers able to download Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education on Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) from August 1.

Myerson reiterated that the “Windows as a service” model will be available to “enterprise and business customers”, which will include “new servicing benefits, such as Windows Update for Business”. He added that Microsoft is also working on “a range of new features and capabilities” for enterprise customers.

For Window 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education Myerson said there are a “rich set of fundamentals”, as one would expect such as a range of security, deployment and management features, with new features and updates “in an ongoing manner, including Enterprise Data Protection later this year.”

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