Category Archives: Thoughts & concerns

Windows Terminology: Enablement Package KB (eKB)

In Microsoft’s Windows Client roadmap Update: July 2023 (published yesterday, July 13) I came across a new (to me, anyway) buzzword with associated acronym. As I add to my Windows terminology, enablement package KB (eKB) is now on the list.

Here’s the quote that got me looking around to learn more (I bolded those key words):

The upcoming Windows 11, version 23H2 shares the same servicing branch and code base as Windows 11, version 22H2. What does it mean for you? If you’re running Windows 11, version 22H2, it will be a simple update to version 23H2 via a small enablement package (eKB). Do you remember updating from Windows 10, version 1903 to 1909? Or how you’ve managed recent updates beginning with Windows 10, version 20H2 through 22H2? It will be that simple. Moreover, since both versions share the same source code, you don’t need to worry about application or device compatibility between the versions.

There’s also a Note of some interest as well. It reads:

Note: The eKB is not available on Volume Licensing Service Center. Media packages contain the complete Windows 11 operating system.

In fact, that last item is what really caught my attention and got me looking around, because eKB is an abbreviation/acronym I’d not seen before. My take: if MS thinks eKB is a thing, I’d like to know what kind of thing it is. Here goes…

Chasing Down Windows Terminology: Enablement Package KB (eKB)

A search on the acronym took me back to March 2022, to an post. Entitled “What is Enablement Package KB (EKB)…?” it took me to an early instance of that terminology. It also references the KB5003791 announcement, which talks about enablement packages in general (though it doesn’t use the eKB term itself).

In the simplest of terms, it means that we’ll transition from 22H2 versions of Windows 11 to 23H2 versions through a small and simple Cumulative Update (CU), rather than a lengthy Windows install-based upgrade. A long story, for a short conclusion.

And if you look at the big quote above, the part that starts “Do you remember updating…?” provides some recent, notable examples of an eKB even if it doesn’t tie it directly to that term.

Now I know what an eKB is. And, if you’ve read this through, so do you. Cheers!


WizTree v4.14 Mystery Finally Resolved

I must say I’m relieved. I keep in touch with Kyle Katarn. He’s the principal developer of Software Update Monitor (aka SUMo) and a bunch of other interesting software. Lately, SUMo’s been reporting there’s an update available for WizTree. But I’ve neither been able to find it, nor has the most recent available download resolved the discrepancy, either. Sigh. But this morning, the WizTree v4.14 mystery finally resolved itself. Indeed, its download page finally refers to — and makes available — the very version that SUMo recommends. See it in the lead-in graphic above.

Download Means WizTree v4.14 Mystery Finally Resolved

Even though it’s dated June 6 in that screencap, I swear by all that’s holy it’s only showed up on the download page recently. Somehow, Kyle’s data analysis tools figured out what was coming long before it actually appeared. This happens sometimes, when you use update tools that scan the web to figure out that new versions of existing apps may be available.

I’ve noticed, and reported, at least ten times a week lately that SUMo occasionally recommends things before they’re ready for consumption. And sometimes, it even recommends beta or preview versions of software instead of production ones. From messaging with Kyle I understand that’s because his tools pay close attention to version numbers. Apparently, that means the occasional false positive that selects an item based on version number even when that version isn’t yet ready for widespread distribution and use.

To his great credit, Kyle asked me to report these things to him as and when I find them. I do, and he almost always fixes them the same day (often within an hour or two). Indeed, I’m pretty impressed with his responsiveness and can-do attitude,

Enough! Or too much?

That balancing act actually comes from William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell (1793). It’s as true today as it was then. And it describes the kind of dancing on a knife’s edge that tracking updates demands. One must be just aggressive enough to catch everything, everywhere, all the time. But one can’t be so aggressive as to recommend updates that aren’t yet generally available, or that shouldn’t be put forward. That means recognizing and steering clear of previews, alpha and beta test versions, and so forth, even though they almost always bear higher version numbers.

Things can get tricky from time to time, tracking and managing updates here in Windows-World. Yet somehow, we manage to carry on. Whether or not we also keep calm at the same time tends to vary…



XP Bliss Wallpaper Brings Back Memories

It may be the longest-lived version of Windows, ever. Windows XP was generally available on October 25, 2001. And it didn’t hit EOL until April 8, 2014. That’s 4,548 days or 12 years, 5 months, and 14 days (not including the end date, add one more day if you’re feeling generous). Now, I’ve learned that the familiar grassy hillside from the XP default wallpaper that graced my desktop for much of that interval is available in 4K format for download. The old XP Bliss wallpaper brings back memories galore for me, as it may do for you.

An auto-scaled version of that download appears as the lead-in graphic for this admittedly nostalgic blog post. You can download the original from the Microsoft Design team. And here’s a shout-out to the Neowin team whose June 9 story brought this onto my radar.

If XP Bliss Wallpaper Brings Back Memories, Grab It!

You too, can grab and use this image yourself if you like. It works for wallpaper, or goes readily into your desktop background rotation. I remember that grassy sward both fondly and well from those days from decades past. If you’re of like mind you may, like me, be inclined to grab yourself a copy, too. The original weighs in a around 7MB in size, with native resolution of 4089×2726 pixels (hence its 4K label).

It’s big enough, in fact, that WordPress had to downscale it so I could run it as my “featured image” here. That took it down from the aforementioned resolution to a less-hefty 2560 by 1707 pixels instead. And there it sits, at the head of this post.



Windows 11 User Count Tops 1B Worldwide

This news comes from the Microsoft Windows Blogs dated May 26. It’s entitled “Delivering Delightful Performance for More Than One Billion Users Worldwide.” That’s the day after Build 2023 concluded, and the first time that MS has publicly disclosed user count data for Windows 11 in about a year. It’s also the first time they’ve proclaimed that the Windows 11 user count tops 1B worldwide.

These are the four instances in the afore-linked item where the “billion” word occurs:
1. In the title of the blog post, as quoted in the preceding ‘graph
2. In a sentence that reads (in part) as “... with over one billion users and a rich PC ecosystem…
3. Diagnostic data includes “…over 70.4 billion scenario performance data points per year.”
4. Final paragraph, penultimate sentence reads (in part) “…thanks to our Windows Insider community for helping us continue to improve Windows for the over one billion users worldwide.

What Windows 11 User Count Tops 1B Worldwide Means

According to Statista, as of June 2023, the company expects a ratio of 68.6% for Windows 10 vis-a-vis 18.12% for Windows 11. Thus, if there are 1 B Windows 11 users, there must also be  around 3.78 B Windows 10 users. To me this means one of two things:

(a) The ratio of visitors that Statista tracks doesn’t accurately model the Windows population of active users
(b) Microsoft’s claimed 1 B figure does not translate to active users 1-to-1 (makes sense, given that one active user can run multiple instances of the OS, especially VMs)

In January 2023, for example, Jason Wise reported at EarthWeb that MS claimed 1.4 B active devices running Windows 10 and 11 monthly in January 2022. They use this data, plus additional insights, to assert that “Windows, new versions and otherwise, run on more or less 1.6 billion devices around the world” as of January 2023.

Even assuming a monthly growth rate of 3% that puts the global Windows population at 1.85 B in May, 2023. How can there be at or over 1 B Windows 10 users and a similar number of 11 users with a total that’s arithmetically lower? Something here doesn’t make sense…

It should be interesting to see the pundit corps chew this over. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted…

Note Added 1 Hour Later…

It’s got to be devices, counting both physical and virtual machines as individual devices. I use 10 PCs here at my house, and I have at least another dozen VMs across various Windows versions at my disposals. That’s over 20 “devices” but only one user. That leaves room for a tangible “muliplier” between users and devices, IMO.



Concluding Windows 10 22H2 Non-Security Preview

There’s an interesting tidbit in the Support Note for KB5026435, released May 23, 2023. Indeed, it is the concluding Windows 10 22H2 non-security preview release, ever. It goes so far as to say “no more” such releases are forthcoming. In a way, this marks the beginning of the end for Windows 10, whose EOL date is 10/14/2025 (about 17.5 months from today). As you can see from the lead-in graphic, I just installed it onto my sole remaining Windows 10 production desktop.

Sussing Out the Concluding Windows 10
22H2 Non-Security Preview

MS elaborates further on the future release scheduling for Windows 10 in the afore-linked Support Note. It says:

Only cumulative monthly security updates (known as the “B” or Update Tuesday release) will continue for these versions. Windows 10, version 22H2 will continue to receive security and optional releases.

Here’s what I think this means:

  1. 22H2 is the final release for Windows 10 (unless something big changes).
  2. No more second (4th) Tuesday preview releases for Windows 10 22H2.
  3. There may be some second (4th) Tuesday security and optional releases from time to time.

The inescapable conclusion is that Windows 10 is now purely in “maintenance mode.” That means we’re unlikely to see more (or at least, precious few) Windows 11 features “back-ported” into 10.

Take it as a signal, business users. MS is clearly warning you that it’s time to start planning the transition to Windows 11 (or beyond). It should be interesting to see how this plays out between now and mid-October 2025. Stay tuned, and I’ll opine further on what’s up, what’s hot, and what’s not.


Macrium Reflect Swamps CPU Short-Term

Whoa there! I couldn’t help but notice that my production PC slowed briefly to a crawl this morning. A not-so-welcome first, in fact. A quick jump to Task Manager showed me the Macrium Reflect Backup tool was the culprit, with CPU utlization stuck north of 75%. It took about 5 minutes to subside to normal levels. This tells me quite a lot, but let’s start with the blunt observation that Macrium Reflect swamps CPU short-term.

Note: I cheated on the lead-in graphic. It’s from a much older PC where it’s frightfully easy to swamp that CPU. Notice all four cores are pegged at 100% utilization in the ever-handy CPU Usage gadget. I have 8 threads on 4 cores on the i7-Skylake production unit, and they were all likewise pegged at 100%, albeit for a short time. Thus, I saw what I show here, doubled, as that PC bogged down.

What Does Macrium Reflect Swamps CPU Short-Term Mean?

Good question. Beyond the inescapable fact that this program — which was running my daily 9AM backup when this happened — brought my production PC to its knees, there’s more. Let me spell a few things out:

1. This is an i7-Skylake (6th gen) Intel CPU [3.4GHz], 32 GB RAM [DDR4-2133], 512 GB NVMe SSD [Samsung 950 Pro]. I built it in 2017-2018.
2. It’s not Windows 11 capable, so it’s running Windows 10 22H2 Build 19045.2788: that’s the latest preview CU scheduled for general distribution on April Patch Tuesday.
3. It’s never hit the wall performance-wise before to my notice. I beat the beejesus out of this machine daily (there are 13 apps and 148 background processes running, with 4% CPU utilization, as I write this screed). Indeed, this PC (mostly) does what I need it to do.

But it’s old and somewhat out-dated.  And I have a Ryzen 7 5800X in an Asrock B550 mobo ready to take over the production PC role. That leads me to a vital question:

Why Not Switch Over, Already?

I have lots of obvious answers including inertia, laziness, ongoing usability and the usual fiddle-faddle. But here’s the real reason, in succinct visual form:

Macrium Reflect Swamps CPU Short-Term.This PC

Count ’em: 10 mounted physical drives (4 SSDs, 6 HDDs).
[Click image for full-sized view.]

This totals up to about a nominal 16TB  of storage, of which 40% or so is occupied. Thus, we’re talking around ~6.5 TB of stuff, of which I need to keep at least 5TB’s worth. There’s going to be some thinking, planning, time and effort involved in moving my show to another PC. I’ll have to back everything up to another drive (an 8TB unit should do) and then figure how to map it into a new set of storage devices on the target PC. That should be interesting. I guess I’d better get started. This morning, I got my “early warning!”


Build 25300 Restores Taskbar Clock Seconds

OK, then, they’ve been gone for some time now. But Dev Channel Build 25300 restores Taskbar Clock seconds to its display capabilities. The lead-in graphic shows that Settings checkbox, next to Winver for the build.

Note: we’ve not had access to seconds readouts in the Windows 11 taskbar clock since Day 1 of the release. It popped in — and then out again — in a recent Insider Preview. And right now, it’s only available in the Dev Channel release fork. Just sayin…

Find this by clicking through Settings → Personalization → Taskbar. Then, open the Taskbar behaviors pane. That’s where you’ll find the checkbox labeled: “Show seconds in system tray clock…” Notice that it comes with this caveat: “(uses more power).” MS has long put this theory forward (it recommended against turning on the second hand in Vista-era clock gadgets for the same reason) but doesn’t really present actual data to report how much more power is used — or battery life lost — as a consequence of turning this on. Sigh.

If Build 25300 Restores Taskbar Clock Seconds, Then…

I can only interpret the MS caveat as a warn-off of sorts. I guess we should be grateful they’ve deigned to restore this capability to those bold (or stupid) enough to use it. Count me among that number, and decide for yourself its potential significance. Here’s what it looks it, after you turn seconds back on:

Build 25300 Restores Taskbar Clock Seconds.clock-showing

Even at the cost of a bit of power, glad to get those seconds back!

Small though this change may be, I am glad to have the choice as to whether or not I get seconds with my time readout on Windows 11. It’s been that way in Windows as far back as I recall. And now, it’s back again.

Sometimes, those little things do make a difference. I count this as a minor victory for the small people, here in Windows-World.


MS AI Survey Shows Strong Appetite for Automation

Hmmm. A story today at MSPowerUser pointed me to a recently published (but infuriatingly, undated) survey from Microsoft. It’s entitled Four Ways Leaders Can Empower People for How Work Gets Done. Notice, AI appears nowhere in this string. Even so, this MS AI survey shows strong appetite for automation.

That is, the survey documents increasing demand from rank-and-file workers for technology based empowerment. What does this mean? Workers want low-code tools to DIY basic software so they don’t have to wait on the IT/development backlog. They also want “artificial intelligence tools that let them focus on what’s important” to quote from the survey’s tag line. Wow!

How MS AI Survey Shows Strong Appetite for Automation

I’m just going to gloss over some of the survey results in this piece. Those seeking more depth or details will definitely want to read the original MS Briefing. Here are some key elements:

  • To make workforces more efficient and flexible, workers need tools that deliver maximum results from minimal effort.
  • MS surveyed 2,700 employees (in-house) and 1,800 business decision makers (out-of-house) in the US, Japan, and the UK.
  • Questions posed included: (quoted verbatim)
    • Do people feel empowered by the tools they currently have?
    • Are teams equipped to collaborate effectively in a world of flexible work?
    • Can new technology like AI and low-code and no-code tools help solve their challenges and open up new opportunities?
  • 9 of 10  respondents want simpler ways to automate daily tasks, to focus on more important work.
  • 4 key principles to guide business leaders to empower workers: (paraphrased for brevity)
    1. Empower people with more say in choosing new technology
    2. Use collaborative apps to connect workers so  they can share info in workflows
    3. Equip everybody with low-code tools to accelerate innovation
    4. Implement AI to automate busywork: this improves worker satisfaction and engagement

There Is No East or West in AI Empowerment

The most interesting findings show that the majority of workers (and mostly a supermajority, at that) agree that AI and automation can help them do more, better and faster. I have to believe this “AI dividend” is what’s driving MS to invest tens of billions into AI tools and technologies. They’re already convinced — in large part because of their own experiences and observations in-house — that the payoff will more than justify their investment.

Personally, I can’t wait to start seeing more of that payoff for myself in my own daily life and work. For more insights and info, though, please read this survey brief for yourself.



Windows 10 EOS Hits January 31

First, an explanation of what may be a purely idiosyncratic acronym. In the preceding headline “EOS” stands for “End of Sales.” Indeed, the EOL (“End of Life”) date for Windows 10 remains unchanged at October 14, 2025. But EOS impacts those who want to build new systems, and for Windows 10 EOS hits January 31 of this year.

MS hasn’t commented on whether or not this means OEMs won’t be able to ship their PCs with Windows 10 installed after this date, either. But as you can see in the lead-in graphic, MS itself will no longer offer Windows 10 downloads for sale after this month ends. Note: despite the mention of Windows 10 Pro at top, the price shown — $139 — is for Windows 10 Home (Download). For my purposes here, the “More about Windows 10” text block is what matters most.

After Windows 10 EOS Hits January 31, Then?

First things first: I don’t see any similar warning on the official MS Download Windows 10 page. Apparently, users who already have valid Windows 10 license keys (unused or otherwise) can keep grabbing Windows 10 ISOs for installation and repair after January 31. That’s a relief!

So who’s really affected? Those who build their own PCs, or buy barebones models and elect to do their own OS installs (along with whatever else they do completing such builds). For such folks, buying a new, virgin Windows 10 license key (and download) from MS will no longer be an option. Undoubtedly, the aftermarket will remain awash in valid copies of same for some time after this cutoff date. That’s because plenty of such stuff is (or will be) in inventory when MS EOS hits.

What About the OEMs?

Again there’s no official word on this from MS. Ditto, AFAICT from the OEMs. But I can’t see MS stopping fleet or bulk sales to big buyers after January 31, even though they’re apparently halting small-scale retail sales of Windows 10 at that point. Too much potential business and revenue could be impacted, so no…

This raises an interesting question: Why do this now? My best guess is that MS is signalling end users — pretty strongly, in fact — that it’s time to target Windows 11 (and only Windows 11) on new builds. Given that Panos Panay talked about a Windows 12 successor at CES this year in Las Vegas, January 3-8, this timing is surely no coincidence.

Two predictions:
1. MS resellers will stock up on Windows 10 media and key combinations, to cover upcoming demand as they project it.
2. OEMs will continue to build Windows 10 PCs on order from customers, even after January 31.

As always, it should be interesting to see how this turns out. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you informed!



Where Windows 11 Business Use Stands

Here’s an interesting question to ponder: what is business doing with Windows 11? Data on general Windows 11 use (e.g. StatCounter, Statista, and so forth) shows that for every copy of Windows 11, around 4 copies of Windows 10 are in use. Determining where Windows 11 business use stands is a whole ‘nother story. That’s because there’s very little solid intelligence about the proportion of business to home/hobbyist/”other” users available. Frankly, I’m a little frustrated…

Where Windows 11 Business Use Stands Is Mysterious

For years now, MS has been careful about what kinds of numbers it discloses about Windows, particularly where business versus other uses are concerned. We know that roughly 1.8B copies of Windows are in use worldwide. If the breakdowns from still-available desktop marketshare analytics are relevant — I’ll use StatCounter (the source for the opening graphic here, as of November 2022) for reference — that means roughly the following:

1. With 69.75% of the total count, that grants 1.25B copies to Windows 10.
2. With 16.13% of the total count, that confers 290M copies to Windows 11.

Those observations may or may not be relevant, because the foregoing count may only include Windows 10 and 11, not the earlier versions (7, 8 and 8.1, as well as XP and “Other”) that StatCounter tracks. If that’s true — then the copy counts for Windows 10 and 11 increase to 1.46B and 330M, respectively.

The Key Known Unknown

With all due respect to Dick Cheney, what’s missing from these numbers is  sense of how each count breaks down across the “business versus all other users, by type” category. My best guess is that the ratio is no greater that 1:1 (that is, for each business user there is one or more other users). It could be less than that, though.

So far, business users haven’t found hugely compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 11. Indeed, it’s only the last year or so that I’ve seen most businesses I patronize or work with (including a great many law firms and medical practices and clinics) make the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

With Windows 10 facing EOL in just under 3 years (2 years 10 months and some change, as of my most recent reckoning last week), there’s not much driving businesses to migrate sooner rather than later. It will be fascinating to see how things unfold. A lot will depend on when “Windows Next” (version 12, perhaps?) starts to appear on the horizon.

To me, it’s looking increasingly likely that many businesses may leapfrog from Version 10 to “Windows Next”, skipping Windows 11 in the process. I see this as in part a function of combining hardware refresh with OS migration, and in part as a function of inertia (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). Time will tell!

A Bump May Be Coming

If I’m right about the reasons for delaying migration and hardware refresh, there could be a pot of gold for PC sales from mid-2024 through mid 2026. This would seem to dictate businesses will plan hardware refreshes around EOL for Windows 10, with a blurring of the timeline around the exact date of October 14, 2025. This could get interesting…