Thursday, 19 May 2016

If Microsoft gave the UWP treatment to the car ...

Coming Soon! 

Microsoft will announce a surprise addition to their ambitious plans to turn everything into a Universal Windows App. Because nothing is sacred and because, quite frankly, they can, Microsoft have released a insider preview of their UWP version of the humble automobile. 

Yes, they’ve given the vehicle we all know and love, which gets us from A to B, the universal treatment, apparently for no good reason at all. Still, what we get to look forward to is a car that will bring a consistent and responsive approach no matter what Windows 10 device it’s used with, be that mobile, PC, HoloLens or Xbox.

Head of Product Development for this new ground-breaking app, Dave R Watson posted on the official Microsoft Windows 10 blog about the excitement the new app generated inside Microsoft. They say it’s incomplete at this early stage but that it’s more than good enough for insiders. They hope to gain initial feedback on what insiders think, if they find any bugs, and if they have any features they’d like to see.

As you can see below, it’s already available in the Store for insiders to download, and yes, if you can spot the obvious elephant in the room issue, we’ve got the reply for Microsoft’s Head of Product Development for you.

“Yes, we know it’s missing all its wheels ..., “explained Dave slyly. “… We hope to literally roll out its tyres in a future update. However, we didn’t think that would get in the way of insiders getting an early look and an opportunity to wander around what is a responsive and feature-rich interior.”

If you want to get hold of this app it’s up now in the store although the initial release is listed to have only the following features:
  • Edit the interior of your car.
  • Easily share your car’s engine, seats and other internal luxuries with friends and family.
  • Upload your car to Sway or Photos app.
  • Live Tile (see live values from your car's air-con!)
  • A universal app that’s responsive across all your Windows 10 devices.
Of course, it didn’t take very long for insiders to try out this new universal app and start up voting via the feedback hub what they want to see.

The following is a selection of the latest and most popular comments:

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Eggheads: How to improve the show

I love the show. It passes half hour whilst munching away on my dinner. Plus, unlike mastermind, i stand a good chance of answering or at least guessing the answers to the questions. However, the show is quite dry and simple. The latter helps everyone follow it along nicely and it'll likely never ever be significantly altered in format as it runs for the next 20 years. But, if I could have my way for five minutes and make some changes that I reckon will improve the show, this is what I'd do.

Bring back the Egghead's introduction

"Hello, my name is Chris Hughes. Now, back in 1980 ..."

I loved hearing the Eggheads introduce themselves. It never took up much time and gave us all a decent nudge to remember how they got to be on the show and their credentials.

Then, for some reason, this was ditched.

Suddenly it's not important that we hear their CV and get to empathise and relate to the legendary Eggheads. Yet, we have to sit through listening to the opposition for almost a minute, whom we've never met before.

The Eggheads are the show. We should hear more from them and not just little chit-chats every so often when Jeremy Vine doesn't understand an answer to a question. It doesn't have to be long, just a quick "Hello, my name is x. I got all these x quiz awards etc. Away from quizzing I like to x."

We don't get to nearly enough interact with the Eggheads, which is a big shame in my book.


It's so quiet in the studio that you could hear a pin drop.

It's so dry that you are surprised a camel doesn't walk along every so often, followed by some tumbleweed.

I'm not asking for much. I don't want the Who Wants to be a Millionaire light-show or drums beating away like everyone is about to be eaten by cannibals.

All I'd like to see is a little chirpy sound to indicate an answer was right or wrong, some gentle background tension music when we go to sudden death, and maybe a little shifting in lighting to make the final general knowledge section seem just that little bit like it really matters.

This would all combine to make it all feel like this is something more than a family quiz over the dinner table and that it's a contest between minds. Plus, there is money on the line, our UK license taxpayer's money, and it should mean something to those playing and us watching.

So, lets use a little technology to make it seem like there's money up for grabs here, and that getting a question wrong is more than a little inconvenience.

Eggheads: TOP Jeremy Vine Annoyances

1. The Question is, can they be beaten?

It's not really much of a question that needs answering to anyone who has watched the Eggheads for at least a few weeks. They do get beaten, and have been beaten on numerous occasions. Sure, they don't lose that often but it's not like they are undefeated for years on end.

The question should be, when will they be beaten next?

2. Would you like to try?

No Jeremy, we wouldn't. We came on to this show purely to introduce ourselves, get a few seconds of TV fame and then bugger off home!

What exactly does Jeremy think they will say to answer, other than yes?

A better question would be, are you ready to have a go?

3. The Eggheads look worried

Jeremy is clearly not a psychologist because the Eggheads never look worried, scared or anything negative during this show. They might possibly look like they are having fun, or sometimes positively bored stiff, but worried or scared is certainly never something they look.

4. I wonder who will beat you

He may well wonder, and so do we all, but let's not bill them up as being impregnable because all sorts of people have already beaten them. Probably a better end question would be, When will you lose next?

Monday, 9 May 2016

Windows 10 Telemetry: What we do and don't know

Since Windows 10 rolled out many people have been shouting at the top of their voices about how Windows 10 is somehow stealing not only our data but probably our soul at the same time. The Privacy settings in Windows 10 tell Microsoft information about you specifically, so that your Windows 10 experience improves as it learns about you and can make things even more intuitive and magical for you as time ticks on. For example, they let you control what access apps get to your data and can help Cortana learn more about you. Telemetry, on the other hand, isn’t so dynamic in terms of it leaving your computer and later magically changing your Windows 10 personality overnight. It’s largely a one-way stream of information departing your computer and heading to Microsoft HQ for them to analyse. They use it to discover issues people are having with Windows 10 that they can then either fix or enhance in future updates.

It’s worth remembering that there is other software on your computer other than the actual OS collecting telemetry of varying sorts all the time. Microsoft Office has its own telemetry settings, so does Windows Update and Defender. Most 3rd party apps will send various statistics and diagnostics back to their respective HQ, although usually these apps have a setting to turn telemetry on or off.

Disclaimer: I'm only human and also dyslexic. I try my best to read and write accurately but I make mistakes and my enthusiasm can sometimes cloud fact. This is also a hobby, not a job. Please do check official documentation yourself to be sure I've got things right.

What do we know about telemetry?

  • In its documentation, Microsoft refers to a “Connected User Experience & Telemetry Component” (hereafter referred to as just the telemetry client) as the mechanism that’s used in Windows 10 to supply them with information about your device. This suggests, as one might expect, that there is a kind of client running in Windows 10 that controls all aspects of telemetry.
  • This telemetry client updates it’s settings from Microsoft. This suggests that what the client is set to do can be dynamically changed by Microsoft.
  • Reassuringly, all Telemetry data is encrypted during transfer to Microsoft.
  • There are 3 telemetry levels you can set your device to; Full, Enhanced and Basic. If you are running Windows 10 Enterprise, Education or IoT OS versions there’s also a security level, but for us consumers it’s just the three. If you’re using an insider build you are automatically locked in to the full level.
  • The telemetry client service name is called DiagTrack (Display Name = Connected User Experiences and Telemetry), so assumingly one could just turn this service off to stop telemetry?
  • The telemetry client process name is utcsvc. So if you want to monitor what goes on, this is the process to follow.
  • The telemetry client stores its data in folders under C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Diagnosis
  • Data sent by the telemetry client is claimed by Microsoft to be about 1.2k in size.
  • On a PC running at the basic telemetry level, tests by Ed Bott suggest that data transmissions occurred 32 times in an eight hour period.
  • There’s no official off switch for the telemetry client (aside from disabling the service) but you can control the level of telemetry sent back to Microsoft by toning down the level. The telemetry level at its lowest level is “Basic”.
  • At the lowest level of “Basic” you’re still sending a lot of information about your device to Microsoft. The word “Basic” has a considerably higher baseline than it might appear. The documentation says “device info” is sent to Microsoft at this level, listing Internet Explorer/battery/networking/processor/storage attributes as examples. On top of that, info about all the applications (apps and win32 software) installed, performance and reliability data, hardware attached to your computer and information about your network and connection is sent to Microsoft. It’s highly likely that, at the very least, the sort of information you find in “System Information” (msinfo) Reliability Monitor, Resource Monitor and Performance Monitor is heading to Microsoft at this “Basic” level. 
  • In its documentation about the telemetry client Microsoft frequently makes use of the words “including”, “such as” and “some examples”, which all implies that the specific information they’ve listed as being collected by the telemetry client isn’t comprehensive or complete. There’s highly likely to be considerably more information being sent to Microsoft than what they’ve outlined.
  • At the “Enhanced” level, everything in “Basic” is sent to Microsoft as well as extra information about how you interact with the OS and apps. The wording in the documentation suggests that only specific events related to problems regarding apps, the OS and certain devices are sent to Microsoft. However, they aren’t clear on what “events” really means. They could be the frequency or the length of time you use a certain feature or app but it’s all somewhat ambiguous.
  • If the telemetry client detects a problem with an app or OS feature on your device it’s possible that the information sent to Microsoft might happen just the once at the time of the specific event, or for up to 2 weeks.
  • It’s possible that at any of the three telemetry levels, although specifically enhanced and full, that personal information might be sent to Microsoft. I.e. if the app or OS crashed whilst you had a file open or was surfing a webpage, then the telemetry client would send some of that information to Microsoft. However, any personal information will not be used to identify or contact you.
  • At the Enhanced level, insider devices will send back specific information about pre-release binary and features so Microsoft know how well those new build features are performing.
  • At the Enhanced Level, Microsoft Engineers can ask the telemetry client to run further diagnostics on your device, including gathering personal content and registry keys related to the specific problem your device reported, so they can investigate the issue.
  • All information gathered by the telemetry client has to comply with their security and privacy policies as well as laws and regulations. Only a limited number of employees at Microsoft are allowed access to telemetry info.
  • If you have set your Wi-Fi connection as a metered network then not all telemetry data will be sent to Microsoft. Diagnostic Data, Crash data and “Normal” events are specifically stated as not being sent on metered networks.
  • The telemetry client (on non-metered networks) will send real-time event information immediately but other information is normally uploaded to Microsoft every 15 minutes if you’re connected to A/C power or every 4 hours if on battery.
  • Some telemetry information is only kept by Microsoft for 30 days but there is other data that is kept longer if it’s needed to provide a service and future analysis.
  • It’s possible that telemetry data will be shared with Microsoft vendors & agents but they must abide by privacy and security policies and are not allowed to use personal data for any purposes.

What don’t we know about telemetry?

  •  How often does the telemetry client update its settings from Microsoft?
  • What information is in the settings data that the telemetry client obtains from Microsoft?
  • When and why are the settings the telemetry client is updated with changed by Microsoft?
  • How do we know when our device is sending telemetry data back to Microsoft?
  • When the telemetry client detects a problem with the OS or an app, what are the metrics used to determine how frequently the client will continue to send data to Microsoft related to that issue?
  • What’s the full list of information sent to Microsoft at each of the telemetry levels via the telemetry client?
  • What kind of the data does Microsoft retain from the telemetry client beyond 30 days?
  • What exactly does the data look like that Microsoft passes on to vendors and agents?
  • How do we know when a Microsoft Engineer is accessing our devices via the telemetry client and what they did?
  • How many employees at Microsoft can view our telemetry data? How many is a ‘limited number’?
  • Why can’t we turn off the telemetry client when most third-party applications allow you to do so? Sure, we could disable the service but there should be an official option to turn off the telemetry, plus, it's unclear what effect turning off telemetry might have on a system.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Windows 10 Telemetry Documentation Latest

All information here is from Microsoft's Technet Documentation about Windows 10 telemetry, under this section

This document lists the main changes I've noticed in the latest version of Microsoft's telemetry documentation, which is dated 6th May 2016. 

Disclaimer: I'm only human and also dyslexic. I try my best to read and write accurately but I make mistakes and my enthusiasm can sometimes cloud fact. This is also a hobby, not a job. Please do check documentation yourself to be sure I've got things right.

My Summary

There's new insight into how the telemetry client works in latest update. We know not only is HTTPS involved, but SSL and certificate pinning when data is transferred from us to Microsoft. More interestingly to me, it's stated that the client uses Event Tracing which will mean it's likely writing a log file somewhere. This is the same technology that they introduced for Windows Update in Windows 10 which requires a blooming powershell command to convert the log files into readable text!

There's a fair few nuggets for enterprise customers to chew over; unlike with Windows 10, Windows Server metered connections will continue to send telemetry as normal unless you've set telemetry level to lowest, which is the security level. It's stated that non-internet servers should be set to that level so they don't amass data that's going nowhere. At the same time they say that if you rely on Windows Update Services (and who doesn't?) you shouldn't use the security level as that level doesn't send telemetry on update success etc, meaning Microsoft can't improve quality of updates as they learn nothing. Regarding System Center telemetry, it says that at basic and security level, no system center telemetry is sent but makes it clear that the control for System Center telemetry is from within the product itself. Also worth noting is that the text suggests that the default telemetry level for Server OS is Enhanced. I'm not sure if that's new or if that's what consumer Windows is set to as well. I thought it was basic?

Consumer wise, the Retention section now suggests that a fair amount of data is retained longer than 30 days. Which makes sense in some respects as they do say they supply anonymised data to third parties and vendors. Would be hard to do that without keeping data longer than a month, right? Of course, they don't say what they do keep specifically.

Equally interesting to me, and somewhat expected I guess, is that if you run any virtual machines, they too will be sending telemetry back, including all the apps they have installed. They also make it clear about something I already suspected, which is that pretty much every aspect to the use of an app is recorded too. i.e. how long it's used, does it have focus and when was it started. You can bet they'll be more than those 3 aspects that they described here that they record.

Not a biggie, and somewhat also unsurprising, the text now says that they can take crash dump files too from your computer via telemetry client. This is done at Enhanced Telemetry Level.

The ability at enhanced telemetry level to take content that might include user sensitive information is now not in the documentation at all, but I'd be surprised if that means they don't do that anymore. Remember, this is only if the user files were involved in the issue they are investigating and they won't do anything with what they find. i.e. your info in a document are safe.

There's also mention that telemetry data is taken at a "fractional sampling rate" which can be as low as 1%. I don't really know what that means. Suggests that telemetry likely targets only specific devices perhaps? Also, doesn't say what the average sampling rate is, only what the minimum could be.

Actual list of changes:

Configure windows telemetry in your organisation

Overview Section

  • Makes it clear that the article doesn’t apply to System Center products as they use different telemetry service than Windows and Windows Server.
  • Overview section explains the forms of telemetry Microsoft used to take in previous versions of windows and windows server; Defender Signature, Windows Update, Reliability Analysis Service and using CEIP.
  • Overview section says Microsoft partnering with enterprises to provide added value from the telemetry information shared from their devices; i.e. app capability and driver reliability issues.

Data Collection section:
  • Completely reworded section, now with additional information.
  • NEW = Connected User Experience & Telemetry component in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 uses Event Tracing for Windows trace logging to gather and store telemetry events and data.
  • NEW = The Connected User Experience and Telemetry Components transmits over HTTPS and uses certificate pinning.
  • NEW = Enhanced & Full levels of telemetry is gathered at a fractional sampling rate, which can be as low as 1% of such devices reporting data.

Data Transfer section
  • Section has been renamed to ‘Data Transmission’.
  • CHANGE = Now implicitly says telemetry data is encrypted using SSL and uses certificate pinning during transfer. Before it just said data was encrypted.
  • CHANGE = The example it gives for real-time events that are sent immediately is altered from ‘gaming achievements’ to ‘Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection’.
  • CHANGE = After saying that normal events are not uploaded on metered networks it now says that doesn’t apply if you are on a metered server connection.

Microsoft Data Management Service Section
  • Section title renamed to ‘Endpoints’
  • CHANGE = Opening two sentences changed substantially:
    • Used to say = The Microsoft Data Management Service routes information to internal cloud storage, where it's compiled into business reports for analysis and research. Sensitive info is stored in a separate data store that's locked down to a small subset of Microsoft employees in the Windows Devices Group. The privacy governance team permits access only to people with a valid business justification.”
    • Now says = “The Microsoft Data Management Service routes data back to our secure cloud storage. Only Microsoft personnel with a valid business justification are permitted access.
  • NEW = Two new endpoints now mentioned:
    • Windows Error Reporting connects to
    • Online Crash Analysis connects to

Usage section
  • Renamed to ‘Data use and access’.
  • Minor wording changes to all sentences but essentially saying exactly the same thing as before.

  • Mostly minor wording changes except last two sentences.
  • CHANGE = “Other info may be retained longer, particularly if there is a regulatory requirement to do so.” Changed to Much of the info about how Windows and apps are functioning is deleted within 30 days. Other info may be retained longer, such as error reporting data or Store purchase history.”
  • NOT NEW (as I've subsequently realised but I'll keep it here anyway) = Added sentence here which was previously elsewhere “Info is typically gathered at a fractional sampling rate, which for some client services, can be as low as 1%.”

Telemetry Levels


·         CHANGE = Windows Server 2016 and System Center added to list of Oss that this section applies to.
·         CHANGE = Windows Server 2016 added to list OS that have additional Security telemetry level.

Security Level 
·         CHANGE = In first ‘Note’ where it says organisation that rely on Windows Update shouldn’t use the Security level, it now says that because Windows Update Information isn’t being sent at this level, Microsoft can’t use that information to fix causes of any failures and improve quality of updates.
·         NEW = Says that servers with default telemetry settings and no 
·         NEW = Says telemetry data about Windows Server features or System Center are not gathered at this level.internet connectivity should be set the telemetry level to Security to stop data gathering for events that will  never be uploaded due to no internet connectivity.

Basic Level 
·         NEW = Says “The Connected User Experience and Telemetry component does not gather telemetry data about System Center, but it can transmit telemetry for other non-Windows applications if they have user consent.”
·         NEW = Added following to list of data that basic level gathers “Virtualization attribute, such as Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) support and guest operating system.”
·         CHANGE = App compatibility section now says that apps that are installed on a device or virtual machine will be gathered at this telemetry level.
·         NEW = Added following to list of data that basic level gathers “App usage Data. Includes how an app is used, including how long it is used for, when the app has focus and when the app is started.”

Enhanced Level
·         NEW = “Says this is the default level and the minimum level needed to quickly identify and address quality issues with Windows, Windows Server and System Center”.
·         NEW = Added following to list of data that enhanced level gathers “Some crash dump types. All crash dumps, except for heap dumps and full dumps.”
·         REMOVED = Sentence that says what happens if more details are required no longer says anything about how long it will gather info for that issue (was 2 weeks).

Full Level
·         Where section says what capabilities Microsoft Engineers have to use the telemetry client to gather more information ...
·         REMOVED = “Ability to gather user content, such as documents, if they might have been the trigger for the issue.”
·         ADDED = “All crash dump types, including heap dumps and full dumps.”

Manage your telemetry settings section
·         NEW = “Says you can turn on and off system center telemetry gathering. The default is on. Says setting telemetry level to Basic will turn off system center telemetry even if system center telemetry switch is on”.
·         NEW – Section on how to configure system center 2016 telemetry settings.

Examples of how Microsoft uses the telemetry data section
·         This is a new section.
·         Has three paragraphs explaining how telemetry data is used, which have the headings “Driver higher application and driver quality in the ecosystem”, “Reduce your TCO and downtime”, “Build features that address our customers’ needs”