Mark Minasi's Windows Networking Tech Page
Issue #113 April 2014

Document copyright 2014 Mark Minasi; please see below for info on subscribing, unsubscribing or copying portions of this text.

What's Inside

  • News
    • BUILD News, I'm Not at TechMentor, I AM on PluralSight, and the Last Server 2012/R2 Class is in Encinitas 22-24 April
  • Tech Section
    • BUILD 2014: Windows 8.1 Update News... And Nothing More, Sadly
    • I Will Be Speaking at TechEd, But Not TechMentor
    • I'm doing PluralSight Videos, Check Out the Play by Play
    • Last Server 2012/2012R2 Class in Encinitas April 22-24, at a Discount Price
  • Conferences
  • To Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Read Old Newsletters or Change Your Email Address


Hi all —

This month, I'd been waiting for BUILD 2014 so I could report on what's new and cool in Windows desktop and Server... but apparently they just plain don't love us operating system folks any more.<g>

Microsoft did the official news on "Windows 8.1 Update," which basically just tweaks the desktop to make it a bit more Windows 7-like.  (Crap, sorry, I meant to say, "enhances the Start Screen experience for mouse and keyboard users."  Sorry, I'll try to get that right next time.)  Also, if you are a PluralSight subscriber, I have started doing videos for them because honestly (1) it's easier for someone else to have someone else worry about the production and sales and (2) they seem to have a pretty reasonable price model, so I can deliver stuff to you guys and while I don't make as much money, their subscription model is reasonably priced for you.  I'm speaking at TechEd and probably Windows Connections but not TechMentor this year.  Finally, the last public Server 2012 / 2012R2 class ever is running in Encinitas, courtesy of the MISAC folks, and at a special $999 price for the three days.  Details...

BUILD 2014:  No Server Love, But Some Desktop Goodies

Ever since its first appearance in 2011, BUILD -- yup, all caps, it's yelling at you -- has been Microsoft's tool for tossing out tidbits about upcoming operating systems.  Also, MS said last year that we'd see new versions of Server and Desktop more often, so I dutifully sat through six hours of keynotes hoping for some red meat.  Here's what I heard.

  • The worst-kept secret in recent Windows history, "Windows 8.1 Update," will be released on 8 April, and if you have an MSDN account, you can get it now.  It's packaged not as an EXE or a service pack but instead as six .MSU files that you must install in a particular order.
  • The MSU patches will also modify Server 2012 R2.
  • Microsoft has unified the newer "metro" or "modern" apps with the old-style "Desktop" apps on the taskbar.  Sounds like a small thing, but it's really quite nice to see all of your apps in one place.  Here's a screen shot:
New start screen with a taskbar

Notice a few things here:

  • First, icons to shut off the system and to search are in the upper right-hand corner.  Saves a few clicks, although in all honesty they added "power off," "log off," and "elevated command prompt" to the windows-plus-"X" menu in 8.1 last year.
  • Notice the task bar at the bottom.  This is the Start Screen, of course, but it never had a task bar.  As you can see, it shows both modern and Desktop apps.  Were I switched over to the Desktop, my task bar would look the same -- the individual modern apps each appear separately (which is new), as well as the traditional Desktop apps.

Furthermore, you can't see it here but Microsoft demonstrated that people can create modern apps that aren't as sprawling as the ones you've seen so far.  They even had modern apps with more familiar-looking menus, and even showed an early prototype of Office as a suite of modern apps.  (Apparently moving Word, Excel and PowerPoint to the iPad taught them a few things about using touch.  You just never know where insights will come from.)  That "modern" office had what they called "infinite undo," and as it's not around to test I can't check this, but wouldn't it be cool to undo across different sessions?  We'll see.

Microsoft says that those additions make modern apps more "mouse and keyboard friendly," as does this one -- right click a tile and you get a context menu, as you see here:

  • conext menu in Start Screen

It's the little things.  More "little things:"

  • Your taskbar will have the Windows Store icon pre-pinned to it.  Before you ask, you can unpin it.  And you can ctrl-click to multi-select multiple tiles to get a single context menu to modify those tiles en masse.
  • No Start menu.  But it'll appear sometime in the future, either Windows 9 (my phrase, not theirs -- new Windows head Terry Myerson said, "I'm not here to announce a new Windows," which saddened me) or future updates like the 8.1 update.
  • The current world where Desktop apps run on the Desktop and the modern apps run on the other desktop, the "Start Screen," remains in place, and so this two-desktop, two-app world I've referred to at "App-atheid," remains.  But Myerson showed us a screen shot of a Windows Desktop with a modern app running in a window, so it's on the way.  (And of course you could just give Stardock some money for "Modern Mix" and have it today.  I just like to keep my Windows systems as "pure" as possible so there's no one to blame when things crash.)
  • When you install a new application, its tiles/icons are brighter to highlight the fact that they're new, as it was in Windows 7.  Haven't tested that yet.

Big Picture Announcements

In the realm of "big ideas that might turn out to be really important," there were
  • "Universal apps:"  you've seen the introduced-in-Windows-8 tablet-y apps that run on the Start Screen, the "modern" apps.  Developers would say that they run on the "Windows Runtime" or "WinRT" platform.  At BUILD, however Microsoft announced that they've managed to implement versions of that WinRT platform that are nearly identical across Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT 8.1.  That enables developers to create apps that run unchanged on a phone, desktop, or lightweight ARM-based tablet.  Programmers have to follow some rules and color strictly within the lines to create truly "universal" apps, but the stuff they demo-ed was pretty impressive.
  • Universal apps run on XBox1.  Wow.  I've never owned a set-top gaming box, but the Xbox crowd is both large and pretty hardcorely religious about the platform, so we may see some interesting sequences where some amazing game on Xbox is quickly available on Phone, or a terrific productivity tool on Surface appears on Xbox just a few days after inception.  (This will, of course, be even more interesting when Xbox Glasses, code named "GoogleGlassGroundUnderfoot," appear.)  And along those lines, the new Kinect for Windows V2 looks pretty neat and will appear this summer.
  • Myerson announced yesterday that henceforth, Windows is free, no charge at all.  Well, sometimes... Windows on any of the "Internet of Things," like the copy of Windows running on your refrigerator, your burglar alarm, your thermostat or the like, will cost the device creator (and you) nothing.  Also, Windows is free for phone devices and tablets with screens nine inches or smaller.  (For my readers in the 518 countries that use metric, I just checked it with Calculator and that's a screen size of 2.5 liters or smaller.)
  • Microsoft announced literally hundreds of new cloud services.
And so the bottom line is that (1) Microsoft has built a huge cloud that provides not only storage but a pile of services, (2) they see Windows-based devices as the most likely users (read: subscribers) of those services, and so (3) Windows is free for a whole bunch of devices.  Put even more briefly, Windows' job these days is to create demand for Microsoft's cloud.

I Will Be Speaking at TechEd, But Not TechMentor

In case you're arranging your conference schedule this summer and fall, here's just a short note on where to find me.  TechEd's given me two talks:  "Modern Apps for the IT Pro," where I'll pick apart how those new apps work from the point of view of those of us who need to support them, and then I get to chat with my friend Mark Russinovich about what's going on behind the scenes where he works on Windows Azure.  If you're braving Houston in May, I hope you'll join us!

Unfortunately, if you're planning to attend TechMentor at their sole IT show this year, you won't find me there.  I pitched them a bunch of talks on topics like clusters, ADFS, PowerShell and the like, but they felt that none of them were sufficiently "enterprise related," so I won't be at Redmond in August... ah well.  I do expect to be at Connections and Intersection this fall, though, if you're at those shows then please look for me!

I'm Moving My Online Classes to PluralSight, Please Consider Viewing My Videos

While my favorite way of delivering a class is by standing up in the same room as you and engaging folks personally in whatever I'm talking about, I fully understand that in-person classes are beyond the means of many.  That's why I've created my multi-hour serieses of audio recordings, and many of you have kindly purchased them.  Despite that, many of you tell me that you can't afford $300 audio sets, and is there a way that I can get my talks out to my audiences in a more affordable manner?

To that end, this month marks the beginning of what I hope will be a better way to get my stuff to you folks, as I'm starting to put videos of my content on PluralSight.  They have primarily been a developer-oriented site, but after acquiring TrainSignal last year, they're moving into more and more IT fields, and I hope to be able to deliver a regular stream of talks on their site.  My first two videos are "The Case for PowerShell," which is an introductory lecture with PowerPoints, and a really different kind of talk called a "play-by-play," where I dragoon PluralSight VP and old friend Gary Einerman into helping me show you how to use PowerShell to learn PowerShell.  if you're a subscriber, please give it a look and I would love feedback -- do these roughly-an-hour nuggets help?  Let me know.

Last Server 2012/2012R2 Class Happens in Encinitas April 22-24, at a Special Price

The headline says it all.  The kind folks at MISAC are offering seats at my last Server 2012/R2 class in a couple of weeks -- a three day class, normally $1600/seat, is $999.  See you there!

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All contents copyright 2014 Mark Minasi.  I encourage you to quote this material, so long as you include this entire document. Thanks very much for reading, and see you next time.