Microsoft

What Is ReFS (the Resilient File System) on Windows?

Microsoft’s new ReFS file system was originally introduced on Windows Server 2012. It’s included on Windows 10, where it can only be used as part of the drive-pooling Storage Spaces feature. ReFS will be improved in Windows Server 2016, and a leak from Microsoft indicates that it will be part of a new edition of Windows 10, named Windows 10 Pro for Advanced PCs.

But what is ReFS, and how does it compare to the currently-used NTFS?

What Is ReFS?

Short for “Resilient File System”, ReFS is a new file system built using code from the current NTFS file system. At the moment, ReFS is not just a replacement for NTFS. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. You can’t just use ReFS instead of NTFS on your system drive.

As ReFS is Microsoft’s newest file system, it’s designed to address a few major issues with NTFS. ReFS is designed to be more resilient against data corruption, perform better for certain workloads, and scale better for very large file systems. We’ll look at exactly what that means.

ReFS Protects Against Data Corruption

The “Resilient” part is highlighted in the name. ReFS uses checksums for metadata—and it can optionally use checksums for file data, too. Whenever it reads or writes a file, ReFS examines the checksum to ensure it’s correct. This means the file system itself has a built-in way to detect data corruption on the fly.

ReFS is integrated with the Storage Spaces feature. If you set up a mirrored Storage Space using ReFS, Windows can easily detect file system corruption and automatically repair problems by copying the alternate copy of the data on another drive. This feature is available on both Windows 10 and Windows 8.1.

If ReFS detects corrupted data and doesn’t have an alternate copy it can restore from, the file system can immediately remove the corrupted data from the drive. It doesn’t require you reboot your system or take the drive offline, as NTFS does.

ReFS doesn’t just check files for corruption when reading and writing them. An automated data integrity scanner regularly checks all files on the drive to identify and fix data corruption, too. It’s an auto-correcting file system. You don’t need to use chkdsk at all.

The new file system is also resistant to data corruption in other ways, too. For example, when you update a file’s metadata—the file name, for example—the NTFS file system will directly modify the file’s metadata. If your computer fails or the power goes out during this process, there may be data corruption. When you update a file’s metadata, the ReFS file system will create a new copy of the metadata. ReFS points the file at the new metadata only after the new metadata is written. There’s no risk of the file’s metadata being corrupted. This is known as “copy-on-write”. Copy-on-write is also available on other modern file systems, like ZFS and BtrFS on Linux as well as Apple’s new APFS file system.

ReFS Drops Some…

State of Decay 2 fully simulates the world of the undead

Most undead games try to hook you with the number of zombies you can shoot in a minute. But Microsoft’s upcoming State of Decay 2 is different. It fully simulates the world and makes you worry about whether your community has stolen enough Twinkies from the local supermarket.

I got a demo of the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game event in Los Angeles last week. Jeff Strain, founder of developer Seattle-based Undead Labs, and Richard Foge, design director, led a hands-off session where they described how the game works.

Other games haven’t captured the full survival fantasy of what it means to live on a day-to-day basis in a post-apocalyptic world, Strain said. In this case, you don’t play as a single hero. You have to make decisions as the leader of a community within a larger open world full of zombies.

Above: State of Decay 2 Fight

“We wanted to create a game that allows you to play the fantasy out,” said Strain, in a small group briefing. “We have all of the systems put together to model the apocalypse.”

It seems simple enough. If you see a zombie, you shoot it in another game. But in State of Decay 2, there are consequences. If you shoot a zombie, you make noise. That will draw other zombies. They will eventually lay siege to your home base, and if they kill any of your community members. That’s it for them. They don’t come back.

Above: State of Decay 2 developers Jeff Strain (left) and Richard Foge are creating a simulation of the post-apocalyptic world.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Strain showed the consequence of what would happen if you choose to save a survivor, Tiffany. She is a unique individual, with a number of…

Microsoft wants to make Direct Reality VR’s answer to DirectX

Just ahead of Microsoft’s media event prior to E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) last week the company filed a trademark for Direct Reality. Given the company’s penchant for relabelling virtual reality as mixed reality, we had hoped that would mean VR would make an appearance at its showcase. That wasn’t the case, but do now know what Direct Reality really is.

Xbox head Phil Spencer outlined exactly what this trademark pertained to during an interview with Giant Bomb last week. He explained that it’s function would be similar to the company’s DirectX APIs, helping developers create software across a range of VR headsets with different features, just as DirectX helps VR work with different GPUs.

You can see the video below. Spencer’s explanation starts around the 14:45 mark:

“I think it’s important as the Windows platform company that we don’t start getting people tied…

DoJ asks Supreme Court to decide Microsoft foreign email battle

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to hear a case that could have a massive impact on the way tech companies respond to law enforcement agencies’ requests for user data. At issue is a warrant, issued in 2014, demanding the contents of an email account stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin, Ireland.

If the DoJ is successful in its bid, it could put tech companies like Microsoft in a tight spot internationally. One concern is that companies will be forced to comply with other countries’ requests for data stored outside their borders (think China requesting a U.S. citizen’s data that’s stored stateside).

Another is that companies will be caught between competing regulations: one country’s law enforcement will demand data stored in another country, where handing that data over in response to a unilateral warrant is deemed illegal.

Microsoft was initially ordered by a magistrate judge to turn the data over, but…

AI Weekly: $102 million and machine learning’s theory of general relativity

This an image of the AI Weekly Newsletter logo

What’s $102 million among friends? That was the question last week as Element.ai raised this hefty sum in a Series A funding. Investors included Microsoft, Nvidia, and Intel Capital, all of whom have their own AI ambitions.

Element aims to make AI easy for businesses to use by connecting them with machine learning experts. And while Element may have brought together competitors Microsoft and Intel, the rivals have been fiercely staking their own claims with a flurry of investments and acquisitions.

While these moves point to AI one day becoming ubiquitous for business tasks, Google’s release of an academic paper called “One Model to Learn Them All” shows another route for machine learning to become commonplace. The paper describes a single machine learning template — dubbed the MultiModel — that can perform multiple tasks exceptionally well. As Blair Hanley Frank writes, “Google doesn’t claim to have a master algorithm that can learn everything at once,” but implicit in this statement is the ambition of eventually discovering one or more such algorithms, the AI equivalent of a theory of general relativity.

For AI coverage, send news tips to Blair Hanley Frank and Khari Johnson, and guest post submissions to John Brandon — and be sure to bookmark our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,
Blaise Zerega
Editor in Chief

P.S. Please enjoy this video of Recode’s Walt Mossberg interviewing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about the “gigantic” potential of AI.

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A picture of Vinod Khosla on stage

While much of the conversation around AI and jobs is focused on widespread job losses in sectors like trucking, venture capitalist and Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla thinks that there’s a high-paying job on the chopping block: oncology. “I can’t imagine why a human oncologist would add value, given the amount of data in oncology,” […]

Why voicebots aren’t ready for normal people

The tech elite love voicebots. Google Home is a…

Sea of Thieves should go into Early Access on PC and Xbox One right now

If you’ve paid close attention to the language coming out of major gaming publishers recently, you’ve probably heard buzzwords like “games-as-a-service” (GaaS) or simply “services.” That’s when a developer builds a game to keep players coming back for months or years with regular content updates and a core structure that never really ends. Think Overwatch or Destiny, and this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) trade show in Los Angeles revealed how services-based games like those are changing the industry.

Microsoft, in some ways, is ready for that change. But when it comes to Sea of Thieves, the company’s online pirate simulator that’s due out in 2018, Xbox boss Phil Spencer seems unprepared to commit to the new world of games-as-a-service.

Spencer has repeatedly said in interviews over the last couple of years that Microsoft makes most of its money from services (Office 365, enterprise tools, the Windows Store), and that’s one of the reasons he doesn’t care if people play Microsoft games on an Xbox or a PC as long as they’re logging into the Xbox Live online platform. And he also talks about the data that shows people are pouring huge chunks of their life into fewer games. For example, Spencer himself has played Destiny for 700 hours, and he has seen people doing that with games like Minecraft and Ark: Survival Evolved. And that has created a new market dynamic where games no longer live or die by their first-week sales. Instead, games can roll out slowly and grow into giant successes over time.

“Sometimes you see these games start small and get bigger over time,” Spencer said in an interview with Giant Bomb. “I think Ark: Survival Evolved is a great example of that. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds [is also a] great example of that. They come out and they actually get bigger as more people play and the virality of watching more people play and seeing their friends plays.”

Microsoft has seen this first-hand with Ark: Survival Evolved on its Xbox Preview Program, which is its equivalent of Steam’s Early Access portal for unfinished games. But even more directly, Microsoft owns Minecraft. Developer…

Microsoft creative director on reviving Age of Empires and making PC-only games

More companies at the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow are targeting a PC gaming audience. Alienware had a booth on the E3 show floor to reveal new prebuilt rigs with AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper CPU. Razer was showing its new Razer Blade Stealth with a smaller bezel and Intel’s Kaby Lake Core i7. And Creative was demoing its first new PCIe Sound BlasterX sound card in four years.

Even Microsoft, which debuted a new iteration of its Xbox One hardware with the Xbox One X, took time to specifically appeal to the PC gaming audience at E3. It did so by bringing its big first-party games like Sea of Thieves and Forza Motorsport 7 to The PC Gaming Show, but the company also delivered the highlight announcement of that presentation when Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Isgreen took the stage to reveal Age of Empires: Definitive Edition.

The publisher is rebuilding that 1997 strategy classic with updated visuals, improved mechanics, and a streamlined interface. It will support 4K resolutions, and Microsoft is inviting players to sign up for a beta test right now. Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is due out later this year, and the publisher is promising a big announcement related to the series when it shows up at the Gamescom fan even in Germany this August.

But instead of waiting a couple of months for more info, I caught up with Isgreen after The PC Gaming Show in L.A., and I asked him all about Age of Empires as well as Microsoft’s current feelings on Windows gaming.

Here the edited transcript of our interview:

GamesBeat: What was it like to finally get that game in front of people?

Adam Isgreen: Oh, my gosh. We’ve been trying to hold our tongues and not let this go. Age has such a wonderful history to it, this wonderful lineage. People love the series so much. We were racking our brains. What’s the best way to do this? This is really—Age has always been a PC series. It’s always been focused on PC gaming. We thought we should put it—should it be in the briefing? But really it all came down to, what’s the best place to show this? We’re here with a PC game for PC gamers. It’s here at the PC gaming show.

GamesBeat: Was Age of Empire: Definitive Edition going to happen no matter what — or is this something that came about due to Microsoft’s PC gaming focus?

Adam Isgreen: The response to Age of Empires we’ve seen, with the expansions we’ve done for Age II and everything like that — we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary. We thought, we’ve gotta do something great with Age. Like I said on stage, no one’s been able to play this thing outside of the CD-ROM for 20 years. A lot of people don’t know where the series started from. We thought, what a great time to put this together and bring it back. Age is this wonderful 20-year franchise. It’s still going. It’s great. It was a great opportunity, a merger—a perfect storm.

GamesBeat: Was it nice to reveal Definitive Edition at a PC gaming-focused E3 show?

Adam Isgreen: Personally, I think Age of Empires is strong enough to stand up…

Microsoft officially launches Stream enterprise video service

Microsoft is making it easier for companies to share videos internally with their employees, starting with the launch of a service today. It’s called Microsoft Stream, and it’s ready for prime time after nearly a year in preview.

One of the key new features that comes with this release is the addition of automatic transcription and face search, two intelligent capabilities powered by Microsoft’s cloud platform.

The features are designed to assist employees in finding the videos they need, according to Vishal Sood, a group program manager at Microsoft. While Stream makes it simpler for people to add metadata like tags to videos, the AI features make it easier to find the right footage without human intervention.

In addition, the service also gained integrations with Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, OneNote, and SharePoint.

The launch is a move by Microsoft to make the sharing and viewing of videos within businesses…

How (and Why) Microsoft Blocks Windows 7 Updates on New PCs

Microsoft doesn’t want you to keep installing Windows 7 (or 8) on new PCs. If you try, you’ll see an “Unsupported hardware” message and your PC won’t receive any security updates from Windows Update. Other hardware features may not work properly, either.

Microsoft Now Requires You Use Windows 10 With the Newest CPUs

This is somewhat confusing because Windows 7 is in its extended support period, and is officially supported by Microsoft with security updates until 2020. Windows 8.1 is still in its mainstream support period and is officially supported until 2023. In theory, these operating systems should work fine, even on newer hardware.

Historically, Microsoft hasn’t enforced any sort of hardware limitations for older versions of Windows. Even after Windows 7 was released, you could continue installing Windows XP on the new PC hardware being released, if you liked.

But Microsoft now has a new policy, which they announced at the beginning of 2016. New CPUs will require the latest version of Windows. “Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support,” explains a Microsoft blog post. This doesn’t even just mean Windows 10—it means the latest update to Windows 10, too.

This policy is now in place. If you have a PC with an Intel 7th-generation CPU (Kaby Lake) or AMD’s 7th-generation processor (Bristol Ridge or Ryzen), you’ll see an error message and Windows Update won’t offer your PC and security updates. New CPU architectures will have the same limitation going forward.

Microsoft initially announced that only some computer models running Intel’s 6th-generation CPUs (Skylake) would be supported with security updates, but most PCs with Skylake would be left out in the cold. This came as a shock, as it was announced after some people had already purchased Skylake PCs and installed Windows 7 on them. However, Microsoft eventually backed off on this threat. Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs with Skylake will continue receiving security updates normally until 2020. Instead, Microsoft is firmly drawing a line in the sand with the 7th-generation CPUs.

This policy also appllies to Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Server PCs will need the latest version of Windows Server to get security updates.

“Unsupported Hardware” Won’t Get Security Updates

Here’s what this actually means: Microsoft won’t provide you with security updates via Windows Update if you install Windows 7 or 8.1 on a PC with one of these modern CPUs. Instead, you’ll see an “Unsupported hardware” message that informs you your PC “uses a processor that is designed for the latest version of Windows”.

In other words, Microsoft is saying you should install Windows 10 on these PCs. Windows 7 and 8.1 don’t actually include code that prevent these operating systems from working on the new CPUs. Instead, Microsoft is just blocking…