Windows 8 is now available for computer manufacturers. The RTM release gives manufacturers some lead time to complete their preparations and testing before the general consumer (retail) release on October 26.
Another Patch Tuesday is here, and this time there are nine bulletins, with associated patches affecting most versions of Windows and Microsoft Office. Several of the Windows patches are classified as critical.
The patches are now available via Microsoft Update. Computers configured for automatic updates should start receiving them overnight.
As predicted by many, Microsoft has officially adopted Apple’s “take what we give you and like it” approach to software development. The hopelessly clunky, nameless, tablet-oriented new user interface in Windows 8 will not be avoidable.
Microsoft apparently really does think that everyone will like the new UI, and anyone who doesn’t is just not important. Since that last group of people includes everyone who uses their computer for more than web browsing, Skype and email, as well as everyone who reviews and evaluates software and makes software purchasing recommendations for organizations, I’m calling it now: Windows 8 is going to be a disaster.
On the other hand, intrepid developers out there have found ways around Microsoft’s idiocy before, and they’ll no doubt do it again. With any luck, they’re working right now on ways to make Windows 8 a usable O/S. UPDATE: Indeed they are – see how to bring back the Start menu in Windows 8 and Samsung’s attempt to revive the Start menu.
Microsoft will be issuing several patches for Windows, Office, and other software on August 14, 2012. According to the advance bulletin, there are nine updates in all, with five affecting various versions of Windows, and three affecting various versions of Office.
A total of 14 vulnerabilities will be addressed by the patches. Five of the bulletins are rated critical.
Additional details will be posted here as they are made available in the lead-up to Patch Tuesday.
Microsoft has completed preparations for the release of Windows 8. System builders and participants in various related programs will get access in the next few weeks, and retail copies will appear on store shelves on October 26.
Technet subscribers will get access to the new O/S on August 15.
Since I originally posted this, I learned that Adobe released version 11.3.300.268 to address this problem. It remains to be seen whether the problem has actually been resolved.
The latest version (11.3.300.265) of the ubiquitous Flash plugin found in most web browsers seems to be causing web browsers running on Windows 7 and Vista to crash. A quick search of Google shows that there are reports of this happening in Firefox, Chrome and Opera. Internet Explorer seems unaffected so far, possibly due to the fact that IE uses a separate (ActiveX) version of the Flash player.
Reports indicate that Mozilla is working with Adobe to resolve this problem, and presumably the other browser developers are doing the same. Meanwhile, if you’re running Windows 7 and you watch video on the web, you may run into this problem. As awful as it sounds, the only useful workaround at this point is to switch – temporarily – to Internet Explorer.
I’ve been digging through reports from all over the web, and it looks like this problem has actually been going on since as far back as 2009 and Flash 10.0.42.34. Internet Explorer may also be affected, although recent reports seem to exclude IE. Some reports imply that only 64 bit versions of Windows are affected. There are even reports that Windows XP and Mac OSX are affected. But it seems clear that something happened to Flash in version 10 that made it unstable in web browsers on Windows 7 and Vista, and the problem still exists in the most recent version of Flash, 11.3.300.265. It’s possible we’re looking at more than one problem, or one that has morphed somewhat as the Adobe developers try to fix it. An old problem that was previously fixed may have reappeared when Adobe changed something in a later version. Clearly, not all Windows 7 users are affected; if everyone who uses Youtube (the highest-profile Flash video source) on Windows 7 was having this problem, we would have heard more about it by now.
The problem seems to take slightly different forms: it may crash the browser; the plugin itself may crash, leaving the browser running; and in some cases Windows may crash. The web browser may freeze for a few minutes before any crash occurs, and Windows may become unresponsive. In most cases, the problem occurs after two or three minutes of Flash video, but it make take up to fifteen minutes. The most common scenarios involve long Youtube videos and Facebook games (both use Flash).
Here are some of the more interesting problem reports I’ve found:
- Try Internet Explorer. I know, yuck. But it’s only temporary.
- Uninstall all Flash software, then install Flash 9. This ancient version is apparently the last one that didn’t have these crashing problems. Again, this is temporary. You should upgrade to the latest version once Adobe finally fixes this problem.
- Adobe recommends uninstalling both Flash and Shockwave, then rebooting your PC, then installing the latest versions of Flash and Shockwave.
- Disable your anti-virus software. This is not recommended, although it may be useful as a test.
- Disable all non-Microsoft startup programs using MSCONFIG. If that works, re-enable each startup program one at a time until the problem recurs.
- Disable hardware acceleration in the Flash settings.
- Disable “Enable Web Download & Recording for these installed browsers” in RealPlayer (yes, in Realplayer). Some recent Flash installers include a link to a page on the Adobe support site about an incompatibility between Flash and RealPlayer, and this is the recommended solution.
- Revert to Flash version 10.3.183.20.
Prediction: if Adobe doesn’t figure this out, and Google has heard enough complaints about it, Google might be inclined to switch Youtube from Flash to HTML5. Everyone else in the world will follow Youtube, and then Flash will disappear forever and not be missed.
Update 2012Aug03: Adobe snuck a Flash update past me on July 26. Version 11.3.300.268 attempts to address crashing problems that occur on Windows and Mac computers when playing Flash content. Adobe doesn’t seem to be convinced that the problem is resolved, however: in the version announcement, they ask users for assistance in troubleshooting the problem.
Valve is one of the most successful – and influential – gaming companies around. Valve’s boss, Gabe Newell, has expressed his feelings about Microsoft’s upcoming version of Windows, and they are not good.
In fact, Newell is so worried about Windows 8 that he is predicting major OEM players will bail completely. And Valve is actively looking at porting its Source gaming engine and Steam client to Linux. The hugely popular Valve game Left 4 Dead 2 has already been ported to Ubuntu Linux.
Having Steam and Valve games on Linux might just be the push needed to get Linux gaming off the ground at last. Once Linux is seen as a viable gaming platform, Microsoft will be in serious trouble.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Windows 8 is the disaster predicted by Newell. But Gabe is a smart guy, and he spent some time working at Microsoft. If he’s right, we’re about to witness a major shift in consumer operating system preference.
Update 2012Aug01: Richard Stallman, an outspoken leader of the free software movement, isn’t happy about the idea of non-free games running on an otherwise free software platform. Still, he agrees that if you want to run non-free software, you’re better off running it on a free software platform like Linux.
According to ARS Technica, the fancy new Metro-interfaced email program in Windows 8 leaves a lot to be desired. Many features now considered to be standard for any email app – like IMAP support – are notably missing.
It’s unlikely that these deficiencies will be addressed before the release of Windows 8 in August. And of course anyone who previously depended on Outlook Express – included with many earlier versions of Windows – will be looking for alternatives.
Windows computers configured for auto update should receive these patches in the next 24 hours. If you are responsible for any Windows computers that don’t use auto update, you should run Microsoft Update on those computers as soon as possible. If you’d like to avoid using Internet Explorer (required for Microsoft Update), you can download the updates as a disc image. For the technical details, here are links to all eleven of this month’s bulletins:
Jeff Atwood raves about Windows 8 on his (awesome) blog, Coding Horror.
One rather surprising observation is that Windows 8 appears to start, shut down and generally run faster than Windows 7. Equally surprising is that the hardware requirements for Windows 8 are actually lower than for Windows 7.
I remain unconvinced, although to be fair I haven’t yet used it. The new Metro user interface alone is going to make Windows 8 a tough sell for me.
Windows 8 will be on store shelves in late October.