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Making mixed reality: Meet the mind behind interactive film Free the Night

Created by Nicole McDonald and JauntVR, the full immersive app experience Free the Night is now available on Windows Mixed Reality. Read on to learn how its award-winning director made her childhood dream into a reality.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole McDonald, creator of Windows Mixed Reality immersive app experience Free the Night. But while some might bill the app as an interactive film, it would be an understatement to call Nicole simply a filmmaker.
In the 15 years since she began creating in multimedia, Nicole has worn many hats – from that of game designer, to NASA collaborator, to marketing campaign manager for the world’s biggest names, including American Idol, Cirque Du Soleil, and Toyota.
Now, Nicole is channeling her wealth of creative energy towards a new endeavor: the art of storytelling in mixed reality. The latest in a list of interactive films she’s created – many of which have been featured in festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, and SXSW – Free the Night is a collaboration between Nicole and cinematic VR producer Jaunt Studios. Designed exclusively for Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality immersive headsets, the experience enables audiences to place stars back into the sky and watch them glitter and swirl as they reclaim the night.

In celebration of Free the Night’s full release last month, I sat down with Nicole to learn more about the initial spark behind her creation.
Nicole McDonald, director and creator of interactive film Free the Night.
What inspired you to create Free the Night?
Nicole: In general, I am deeply inspired by my memories of being a child and childhood.
Free the Night was inspired by the most vivid of these: staring up into the night sky with my family. My father loved the sky and his enthusiasm and wonder of it pulled us all in. He would point out the constellations, and we’d discuss what could be out “there.” We grew up in a teeny tiny town and the sky was magnificent: there were thousands of stars, hints of the milky way, and we once saw a little bit of the aurora.
But sadly, one year, a huge mall was constructed nearby and it washed out almost everything. The amber glow of the parking lot made it impossible to view from our front lawn. It was heartbreaking. I didn’t understand how, or why, someone could do that.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when I was watching a fireworks display and thought how amazing it would be to have the same sky that my father introduced to me as the backdrop. I wanted to “blow” out all the lights out around me and… voilà, Free the Night was born.

You come from a background in advertising, filmmaking, and gaming. What led you to mixed reality as the medium for this story?
Nicole: I’ve always been interested in the marriage of narrative and technology, in understanding how innovative tools can enhance traditional storytelling. Mixed reality, to me, is placing the audience physically in the narrative, where they can participate and be moved emotionally by a story. It’s such a wonderful time of exploration, and we now have an audience that is curious, if not craving, these new media and experiences.
The setting of Free the Night, inspired by the creator’s hometown.
What can audiences expect from Free the Night when they put on their headsets?
Nicole: In Free the Night, we become giants in a mountainous landscape, tasked with liberating the stars into the night sky. We need to be able to get low enough to the ground to extinguish the manmade lights of the city and reach high enough to place the stars back into the sky. This requires us to interact with the entire 360-degree virtual space, a range of freedom only afforded in mixed reality. With Windows Mixed Reality immersive headsets, our audience has the seamless tracking and full “six degrees of freedom” to actively engage in the narrative and explore all around them.
The story begins with the silhouette of a girl releasing lights back into the night sky.
You mentioned that Free the Night encourages us to use our full 360-degree space with “six degrees of freedom” (6DOF). Can you tell me more about 6DOF for those of us who may be unfamiliar with it, and why you chose to incorporate it in your design?
Nicole: 6DOF is the freedom of movement in 3D space. Six axes of movement allow us interact with objects that are as low as the ground and as high as we can lift our hands – left and right, back and forth… all around us.
With immersive mixed reality, there’s something so delightful about playing with scale and exploring a narrative in 3D space. It challenges us to have new perspective and see and play in ways we haven’t before.
Using motion controllers, audiences can swirl and play with the embers, freeing them into the night sky.
Free the Night has been tagged as both “cinematic” and “interactive” – two qualities that, in conjunction, set the experience apart from your typical film or game. What inspired you to experiment with mixing the two media?
Nicole: Honestly, it started when I was nine years old, in a basic computer coding class. We all worked on monochromatic monitors – the instructor explained that computers would someday show us more colors. Of course, he was describing monitors that would have RGB color profiles, but, at the time, I naively thought he meant that computers would allow us to see more colors than are in our current rainbow. My mind went wild. I made up stories of who and what lived in these unseen colors… What could they do that we couldn’t?
Ever since, I’ve been captivated by using technology as a creative tool. I always ask myself if my concepts allow my audience to see more “colors,” more worlds that we’d never see without the innovations of today. I love exploring how we might profit from experiencing and interacting with these kinds of stories and, most importantly, how can we add joy and wonder to our audience’s lives.
Once freed, the stars sparkle and burst in impressive displays.
Did you have an ideal audience in mind when you decided to create this experience?
Nicole: Ideally, Free the Night is for everyone. It’s a universal story for human beings, and because it’s for all, I especially wanted it to be an invitation to those who haven’t necessarily found their space, or connection with content, in mixed reality. People sometimes think that mixed reality is just for gaming or 360-degree passive experiences, but I want my projects to be all-embracing interactive experiences – experiences in which everyone is enticed to participate in, rather than be intimidated by, the medium.

What, for you, was most intimidating about creating Free the Night?
Nicole: One of the best and hardest parts of working on interactive experiences is the ice-cream headache you get when you have to find a solution but there is no playbook available. There are so many limitations and unknowns; as creators in this nascent space, we have to be a bit like MacGyver.
For Free the Night, it was how to create the magic of extinguishing light embers in mixed reality. Traditionally, you can only have a small amount of particles on screen at any given time in VR. But we needed thousands, which would have personality and be responsive when we interacted with them. My dev team, led by long-time collaborator KC Austin, figured out how to write a system with compute buffers that allowed the experience to sing.
More generally, the biggest challenge in creating with mixed reality is disrupting our preconceived notions of the medium. People are so often intimidated by the experience they’re about to enter, or nervous that they’re going to do something wrong. We’re so conditioned to approaching this medium as a game, rather than something more. My challenge is getting people to settle in the narrative instead of trying to get the highest score.
Future of StoryTelling attendees were among the first to demo the experience in October.
Free the Night recently debuted as a demo at the annual Future of StoryTelling Summit in New York. (Congratulations!) After months of working round-the-clock, what was it like finally seeing your demo premiere?
Nicole: It was pinch-worthy. We had had our heads down working for a few months, so to see the general public instilled with the awe for which I’d hoped was a dream come true.
My favorite response was that of a peer who tried Free the Night for the first time at the Summit. As she took off the headset, her eyes welled with tears. She told me how she had been transported to her own childhood and was filled with the same wonder I’d been way back when. It’s because of reactions like this that I can’t wait for everyone to experience the full project this month.
A woman reaches for the stars at The Future of StoryTelling demo.
If there’s one idea or impression you hope audiences take away from the full version of Free the Night, what would it be?
My hope is that people feel more connected to the world when their headsets comes off – that by experiencing Free the Night, they are enticed to look up a little bit more often – and that they truly understand that we are the magic and Earth is Eden.
One of many flower-shaped constellations awaiting audiences in the experience.
We’ve talked a lot about your journey in making this childhood dream into a reality. Looking back, what advice do you have for someone aspiring to create an immersive experience as aesthetic and emotionally inspiring as Free the Night?
Nicole: Oh, my… Well, first, for those who want to create in the space, it’s extremely difficult and thus can be extremely fortifying. Before you begin, ask yourself what you want your audience to feel or take away from the experience. Try to understand how the idea will blossom in the medium; take advantage of what you can do inside mixed reality that you can’t do in traditional linear 2D displays. Don’t be afraid of limitations; you can execute the essence of ideas in many ways. Always, always storyboard, create animatics, and test and play.
For those new to MR, please, don’t be intimidated. There is no right or wrong way to create an interactive experience. Get comfortable; look around at your environment before trying to rush through it. Approach everything with the wonderment you had as a child.
Free the Night promises 360 degrees of breathtaking scenes like the one above.
One last question, Nicole, before I let you go… Now that Free the Night is officially on Windows Mixed Reality, what’s next?
Nicole: Surfing and yoga… haha. But really, I’ll be working on the full experience for HUE, an interactive film about a man named Hue who has lost his ability to see color. In this touch-based tale, he is reactive to our presence and touch like a living breathing being. We help Hue find his “full spectrum” by aiding him to see the everyday joy around him and his own potential to be wonderful.
Concept art for Nicole’s next interactive film, “HUE.”
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story, Nicole, and congratulations, again, on creating such a breathtaking experience. I can’t wait to try “Free the Night” again this week!
Free the Night is available from the Microsoft Store. Download it for free on your PC and plug in your headset to experience the magic of Windows Mixed Reality… and stay tuned for our next installment of Making mixed reality.

Building a great touchpad experience for the web with Pointer Events

Most web pages don’t fit on one screen, so good scrolling behavior is an integral part of a good web browser. It’s so crucial to the user experience that we have spent a lot of time optimizing page scrolling, with great results.
Since launching Microsoft Edge, we’ve optimized most scrolling experiences — scrolling via touchscreens, page and content scrollbars. One particular focus in previous releases has been improving touchpads, specifically precision touchpads (PTPs), to provide a smooth, fluid, intuitive experience by default.
In this post, we’re introducing a new optimization coming in EdgeHTML 17 to allow developers to customize scrolling behaviors and gestures with Precision Touch Pads, without impacting scrolling performance: PTP Pointer Events.
Background
Precision touchpads are high-end touchpads that ship in Surface devices (Surface Pro 2 and later) and modern Windows 10 devices from our OEM partners. Windows 10 takes advantage of this hardware to enable system-wide gestures and better, more responsive scrolling than what was possible with older technology.
Microsoft Edge also utilizes PTPs to enable back/forward swipe and to enhance users’ scrolling experience via off-thread (aka independent) scrolling. Since PTP input is processed differently by the input stack in Windows 10, we wanted to ensure that we took advantage of this and that we gave users a scrolling experience that felt as natural as their experience with touchscreens everywhere on the web.
However, the web has traditionally had a bit of a design flaw when it comes to scrolling, in the form of scroll jank — that ‘glitchy’ feeling that the page is stuck, and not keeping up with your finger while you’re scrolling.
Often, scroll jank is caused by mousewheel or Touch Event listeners on the page (these are often used for tracking user interactions or for implementing custom scrolling experiences):

// Examples of event listeners that can negatively affect scrolling performance
document.addEventListener("wheel", handler);
document.addEventListener("touchstart", handler);

If one of these listeners is going to modify the default scrolling behavior of the browser, the browser has to cancel its optimized default scroll altogether (accomplished by web developers calling preventDefault() within handlers). Since browsers don’t always know if the listener is going to cancel the scroll, however, they always wait until the listener code executes before proceeding with the scroll, a delay which manifests itself as scroll jank:
An example page showing scroll jank due to a mousewheel handler with a 200ms duration.
Browsers identified this issue and shipped passive event listeners as a mitigation (available in Chrome 51+ and EdgeHTML 16+) to help reduce its scope:
The same example with smooth scrolling thanks to passive event listeners
Intersection Observers also help get around this issue by providing web developers with a mechanism to track user interactions with the page (to trigger lazy loading of infinite scrollers, for example) without affecting scrolling performance. These two approaches, however, still do not solve the cases where active event listeners are necessary, and require developers to be aware of the issues explained above and to change their sites in order for users to see improvements.
Given that we wanted to enable the best scrolling experience with PTP on as many sites as possible while minimizing developer work, we made the decision to not fire mousewheel events in response to PTP gestures (such as two finger pans). While this greatly reduced scroll jank and gave users a scrolling experience akin to the one they get on touchscreens, the lack of mousewheel events being fired unfortunately also meant that users were unable to zoom on sites such as Bing Maps and pan on sites that use custom scrolling controls (both of which expect mousewheel events coming from touchpads in order to operate).
Developers on our public issue tracker have made it clear that this has been a top pain point, however, the Microsoft Edge team wanted to ensure that the solution built to address these broken experiences not only fixed them, but also preserved the functional and performance benefits accrued by not firing mousewheel events.
PTP Pointer Events
As of EdgeHTML 17, Microsoft Edge will fire Pointer Events with a pointerType of “touch” in response to PTP gestures. While this is a departure from the mousewheel events of the past, we believe that the advantages to this approach more than justify the departure:
No additional overhead for modern websites
If your website already supports Pointer Events and touch, there is no additional work you need to do to take advantage of PTPs in Microsoft Edge; your site will just work!
If you have not yet implemented Pointer Event support, we strongly recommend you check out the MDN documentation for Pointer Events to prepare your site for the modern web. Pointer Events are available on Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, and Google Chrome and are in development in Firefox.
Enhanced scrolling performance
Scrolling with PTPs in Microsoft Edge will never cause scroll jank since Pointer Event handlers (unlike mousewheel and Touch Event handlers) are designed so that they cannot block scrolling.
With these new changes in Microsoft Edge, you can be certain that you are getting the best possible scrolling experience on PTP-enabled devices thanks to Pointer Events.
Improved Gesture Recognition/Site Functionality
Since PTP Pointer Events emulate touch Pointer Events, PTP gestures such as pinch to zoom and two finger panning will light up on sites that already support touch Pointer Events. This will allow developers to build near-native gesture experiences on the web, complete with the smooth animation and inertia curves that users have come to expect from interacting with pages via touch.
Using PTP Pointer Events
Using PTP Pointer Events on your site is as simple as registering for Pointer Events and using the touch-action CSS property to control how touches are handled by the browser:
In HTML, add the touch-action CSS property to your target element to prevent the browser from executing its default touch behavior in response to gestures (in Microsoft Edge, for example, this will prevent two finger swipes from triggering back/forward swipe behavior):

<canvas height=400 width=400 id="canvas" style="touch-action: none;"></canvas>

In JavaScript, attach a Pointer Event listener to your target element. You can determine the type of pointer that caused the handler to be invoked using the pointerType property of the event object passed into the event listener callback:

document.getElementById(‘canvas’).addEventListener(‘pointermove’, function(event) {
console.log(‘pointermove!’);
});

More detailed information on Pointer Events can be found on MDN here.
Once you have added Pointer Event support to your site, the only step that remains is understanding how Microsoft Edge exposes PTP gestures to sites as Pointer Events. Note that for both of the gestures below, the Pointer Events generated in EdgeHTML will be sent to the element that is directly under the cursor when the PTP gesture begins.
Two Finger Panning
The two finger PTP panning gesture is converted within EdgeHTML to a single contact gesture (identical to a single-fingered touch pan gesture) and is exposed to sites as such. The gesture originates at the cursor location and any movement of the fingers on the touchpad is translated to a scaled delta which results in a pan action. The CSS touch-action property can be used to control the way that a specific region can be manipulated by the user.
Zooming
The pinch to zoom PTP gesture is converted within EdgeHTML to a gesture that originates at the cursor location. Two contacts are placed at a scaled distance away from the cursor location and any movement of the fingers on the touchpad is translated into scaled deltas which results in a zoom action.

Rotation
PTP Pointer Events in Microsoft Edge introduce support for two-finger Rotation gestures for the first time, due to the fact that raw pointer data is exposed directly from the touchpad in all cases other than panning (where the two contacts on the touchpad are combined into one). Existing sites with Pointer Event handlers for touch that support rotation will light up with Precision Touchpads in Microsoft Edge as well.
What’s next
You can try out PTP Pointer Events in Microsoft Edge starting with our next Windows Insider release on any site that currently supports Pointer Events for touch gestures, including Bing Maps or Google Maps, on any device with a Precision Touchpad. The broader Windows 10 community will see PTP Pointer Events when EdgeHTML 17 ships with the next major release of Windows 10.
We are excited to enable jank-free and near-native touchpad experiences across the web using Pointer Events, and look forward to feedback on this feature from developers and end users alike! You can share any bugs you encounter in testing via Microsoft Edge Platform Issues or the Feedback Hub app on Windows 10, or give your feedback directly @MSEdgeDev on Twitter or in the comments below.
Try it out and let us know what you think!
— Scott Low

This Week on Windows: Microsoft Store’s 12 Days of Deals, Always Connected PCs and more

We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of This Week on Windows! Head over here to learn more about Always Connected PCs, check out Microsoft Store’s annual 12 days of deals, catch up on our Windows 10 Tips on getting started with Continue on PC in the Microsoft Edge mobile app and bringing your stories to life with the reimagined Photos app – or, keep reading for more of this week’s news!
In case you missed it:

Here’s what’s new in Microsoft Store this week:
Forza Motorsport 7 – Doritos Car Pack

From classic racers to rough-and-tumble SUVs ready to tackle any conditions you throw at them, the Doritos Car Pack for Forza Motorsport 7 features seven vehicles from six different decades. Learn more on the Forza Motorsport blog.
Affinity Photo

Affinity delivers two serious tools, Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, for creative professionals at a Microsoft-exclusive 25% discount through Dec. 11. Faster, smoother and more powerful than ever, Affinity Photo ($37.49 through Dec 11; regularly $49.99) continues to push the boundaries for professional photo editing software. Packing a huge toolset specifically engineered for creative and photography professionals, it’s a leader in power and performance.
Have a great weekend!

Behind-the-scenes at Panasonic: factory to field

TOUGHBOOK CF-33
In the world of devices, when you hear the Panasonic name it brings to mind our line of rugged TOUGHBOOKs. For the past 20 plus years, TOUGHBOOKs and TOUGHPADs have been used globally to enable public safety organizations, utility companies and manufacturing businesses to work both efficiently and securely in the field. At Panasonic, we take great pride in the fact that these industries are the backbone of communities and they rely upon our technology to maintain smooth day-to-day operations.
Quality Begins at the Factory
Panasonic is committed to quality and continual innovation – both in the products we create and how these products are applied to real-world situations. To help communicate the meaning of our commitment, we invite you to watch our behind-the-scenes factory tour filmed in Kobe, Japan and featuring our recently launched TOUGHBOOK CF-33. The Kobe Factory is known as our “mother” factory where all new products are originally built and then best practices are distributed and assigned to our other facilities worldwide.

Innovation in Agriculture
We have a vision for another vital component of every community – agriculture. Agriculture is a necessity to every population, but the industry has not broadly transitioned to modern technology. We believe having a device in the field is key, so files and resources can be accessed in real-time and more precise crop maintenance can be administered. Ultimately, this should drive a higher consistency in crop yield and quality. Already built for extreme conditions, our line of TOUGHBOOK and TOUGHPADS are dustproof, waterproof, and military-grade rugged. Plus, our latest TOUGHBOOK CF-33 comes standard with Windows Hello which allow you to login via facial recognition. (Meaning, no need to awkwardly type passwords with gloves.)
To further explore this concept, we caught up with a Japanese rice farmer out of the Mie Prefecture who is currently using the TOUGHBOOK CF-33 and has a vision for advancing technology in the industry. Takeshi Tsuji, who owns Tarafuku Rice Farm, was previously an engineer in the aerospace industry and transitioned to working at his family’s farm several years ago. He immediately began modernizing his farming process with the help of Panasonic, Drone Japan, and Microsoft products to maximize his crop output.

Stay Connected
We are excited at Panasonic to be part of advancements and modernizations across a variety of industries. We will continue to innovate to further enable current and future customers to support their local communities. For those companies who are already Panasonic customers and are looking to stay connected in an increasingly global workplace, we recently launched Panasonic P.180. P.180 is a seamless end-to-end platform that uses eSIM technology to connect to Tier 1 LTE access through networks spanning over 180 countries. P.180 can be used with select TOUGHBOOK and TOUGHPAD devices.
Get Started
For more information on the TOUGHBOOK CF-33 with Windows 10 Pro, please visit the Panasonic website.
For those who are already TOUGHBOOK or TOUGHPAD customers, we encourage you to learn more about P.180 and how you can better connect your workforce.

Microsoft Announces Simplygon Cloud; Optimizes Mixed Reality Development

Earlier this year, we announced the acquisition of Simplygon, a leader in 3D model optimization based in southern Sweden. As we continue our journey to bring the benefits of mixed reality to everyone, Simplygon is an important accelerant that makes it easier, faster, and cheaper to develop in 3D.
Introducing Simplygon Cloud
Today, I am excited to announce the launch of Simplygon Cloud on Azure Marketplace. Simplygon reduces complexity in the creation and extensibility of 3D models through optimization. Simplygon supports GLTF, FBX and OBJ file types for ingestion; rendering engines including Unity 3D and Unreal Engine; and all major mixed reality platforms, including Windows Mixed Reality, iOS and Android. 
How it works
Historically, 3D asset optimization has taken days or weeks of manual effort and is one of the tasks that artists and developers dislike the most. With Simplygon, you can create 3D assets once – at full visual fidelity – and automatically optimize them to render smoothly on any platform – within minutes, saving valuable time and money.

As an example, the above left 3D model of a couch was built with 584,000 polygons. To render this content on a lower GPU device, Simplygon optimized this down to 5,000 polygons, which greatly reduces the file size, while maintaining the ideal visual fidelity for the intended device.
How To Get Started
Simplygon Cloud is now available in the Azure Marketplace. To get started, visit our Azure Marketplace home to learn how to deploy the Simplygon Cloud virtual machine and start optimizing your 3D assets. Please also visit our documentation for examples and more information on how to integrate this into your workflow today.
We look forward to sharing more in the months ahead. This is a very exciting time for everyone who is developing in the era of mixed reality!

Windows Template Studio 1.5 released

We’re extremely excited to announce the Windows Template Studio 1.5.
In this release, we finalized our work for localization, added in some new features, and started work on a bunch of new features and pages.
What’s new:
Full list of adjustments in the 1.5 release, head over to WTS’s Github.

New Features:
Share source, share target
Multi-view
Feedback hub (added in v1.4)
Template improvements:
Minor tweaks for Fluent
Caliburn.Micro Support (added in v1.4)
Improvements to the Wizard:
Localization in all Visual Studio supported language
Adjusted the feature categories
Lots of under the hood bug fixes and code improvements
Much more Visual Basic engine work
Work for supporting multiple projects in a single solution
Work to support Prism
Bug fixes
How to get the update:
There are two paths to update to the newest build.Already installed: Visual Studio should auto update the extension. To force an update, Go to Tools->Extensions and Updates. Then go to Update expander on the left and you should see Windows Template Studio in there and click “Update.”
Not installed: Head to https://aka.ms/wtsinstall, click “download” and double click the VSIX installer.
What else is cooking for next versions?
We love all the community support and participation. In addition, here are just a few of the things we are currently building out that will in future builds:
Image Gallery feature (In nightly)
Web to App Link feature (In nightly)
Visual Basic support (In nightly)
Drag and drop service (in nightly)
Prism support (Soon in nightly)
Improved update system to help increase speed of startup and file size download
Improved user interface in-line with Visual Studio
Continued refinement with Fluent design in the templates
Ink templates
Improved Right-click->add support for existing projects
With partnership with the community, we’ve will continue cranking out and iterating new features and functionality. We’re always looking for additional people to help out and if you’re interested, please head to our GitHub at https://aka.ms/wts. If you have an idea or feature request, please make the request!

Hot holiday savings are here during Microsoft Store’s annual 12 Days of Deals

Holiday shopping is well underway and, for those that haven’t found that perfect gift, Microsoft Store has you covered with its annual 12 Days of Deals unwrapped daily at midnight ET through Dec. 17 – featuring an exciting deal every day on the hottest products from Surface to Xbox to Windows Mixed Reality – from Microsoft and its partners.
Check out today’s Day 1 Surface Pro bundle deal and get a sneak peek into tomorrow’s Day 2 savings on select Xbox games available at your local Microsoft Store or Microsoft.com where you can track all the deals. Plus, take advantage of picking up a purchase in store made online and free shipping and returns on every item, every day.
Here’s a look at the first two deals – stay tuned for more!
Day 1 (Dec. 6): Save $329 on Surface Pro i5 128GB bundled with a black type cover, plus get a free select sleeve, now for $799.
Day 2 (Dec. 7): Save up to 50 percent on select Xbox games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
Receive a Limited-Edition Xbox Holiday Ornament

While you’re shopping this weekend, Dec. 8 through Dec. 10, visit your local Microsoft Store to receive a Limited-Edition Xbox Holiday Ornament with a purchase of an Xbox One S or Xbox One X. Starting Dec. 15 through Dec. 17, you can get the exclusive ornament with any in-store gaming purchase of $50 or more. If you want to skip the holiday lines, get select Xbox digital games, downloadable game content, and subscriptions as the perfect gift that anyone can download instantly right from Microsoft Store on the Xbox One family of devices, Windows 10, or on Microsoft.com. Limitations apply. See Terms and Conditions.
Give back this holiday season with the Microsoft Wish Machine

Give back this holiday season by turning a wish into action that impact’s someone’s life when you visit the Microsoft Wish Machine at any Microsoft Store across the U.S., Canada and Sydney, Australia.*** Share your most inspiring wish – big or small – for a chance to have yours granted and inspire friends, family and your community to do the same.
Happy shopping!
###
*12 Days of Deals – Each offer valid for 24 hours (until the next deal goes live), while supplies last. Promo period: Dec. 6 – Dec. 17. Deals on Microsoft.com will be available starting 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET, and during local Microsoft Store hours of operation. Deal availability varies in select markets. Not valid on prior orders or purchases; cannot be transferred or otherwise redeemed for cash or coupon code(s). May not be combinable with other offers. Refunds will take into account the discount. Price discount does not include taxes, shipping or other fees Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Microsoft reserves the right to modify or discontinue offers at any time. Other exclusions and limits may apply. 
**Limited-Edition Holiday Xbox Ornament – Offer valid from Dec. 8-10, Dec. 15-17 or while supplies last. Available at physical Microsoft Store locations. Not valid on prior orders or purchases; cannot be transferred or otherwise redeemed for cash or promo code(s). May not be combinable with other offers. Refunds will take into account the discount. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Microsoft reserves the right to modify or discontinue offers at any time. Limit of 1 offer per customer. Other exclusions and limits may apply. See store associate for details.
***Microsoft Wish Machine – NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to 50 U.S. (D.C.), PR, Canada and Australia 13 years and older. Visit local Microsoft Store to enter by 12/31/17. Void where prohibited. For Official Rules, including prize descriptions, for U.S. click here, Canada click here and Australia click here.

Always Connected PCs enable a new culture of work

Throughout the history of personal computing, a steady wave of progress has changed how we interact with technology in both our work and personal lives. Microsoft and our partners have led many of these shifts in technology like enabling the original mobile computer – the laptop, navigating with touch, signing in with your face, detaching screens from keyboards, exploring mixed reality, and storing your files in the cloud. We are again at the beginning of another major technology shift: the ability to be connected anytime, anywhere with Always Connected PCs that are instantly on, always connected with incredible battery life.
Terry Myerson, Windows and Devices Group Executive Vice President, shares his personal experience with Always Connected PCs at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit.
New Always Connected PCs unveiled
Last year at this time, I was with many of our hardware partners at the WinHEC event in Shenzhen, China, where we painted a new vision for connected computing with built-in LTE connectivity, devices that are instantly on and battery life that went beyond hours into days and weeks. We also set a goal for us to begin delivering on this promise within one year.
Today, at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit, I stood with Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm Chips, and we delivered on the promise that we made then. Along with our hardware partners HP and ASUS, we showed the world the first full-featured Always Connected PCs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset running Windows 10 and a new, optimized version of Office 365. ASUS and HP have worked hand in hand with us to deliver on pushing the boundaries of what a PC can do, and we continue to work closely with Lenovo as they build their own Always Connected PC.
ASUS NovaGo is the world’s first Gigabit LTE laptop, with superfast download speeds allowing users to download a 2-hour movie in just 10 seconds. Powered by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform with X16 LTE, the NovaGo is always on, always connected with a battery supporting 30 days of standby and 22 hours of active use.
The HP ENVY x2, an Always Connected PC, combines the best of a smartphone experience with the best of a Windows PC. Impossibly thin and incredibly durable, the HP ENVY x2 offers lightning-fast 4G LTE2 and Wi-Fi. With up to 20 hours of active use battery life, the detachable PC provides flexibility and connectivity to perform daily tasks while on the go.
Instantly on, Always Connected, and a week of battery life is liberating
One of the favorite parts of my job is trying out new products. Seeing the innovation, understanding how all the components work together, how it looks and feels, and ultimately how the customer will experience the product.
For the last few months, I have been using an Always Connected PC, running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform. In the last week, I watched the movie Moana with my daughter, worked in PowerPoint, browsed the web every day, reviewed budgets in Excel, checked email while waiting to pick up my son from soccer, marked up a few PDFs with Ink, played some games on the plane – all of this without plugging in my power cord all week.
The PC is fast and responsive when I am using it and quickly goes into standby being incredibly battery efficient when I’m not using it.

This new Always Connected PC is ultrathin, beautifully designed, running Windows 10 and a new, optimized version of Office 365. But beyond the full experiences you’d expect in a PC, this new Always Connected PC has fundamentally transformed how I work, because of three significant advantages over my other PCs.
The screen is instantly on whenever I pick up the device. I never have to wait for it to wake up, it’s just on.
Being always connected wherever I am whether I am in the car, airport or coffee shop, always being connected just feels like the most natural, safe and secure way to work with teams and be creative.
Lastly, the battery life is just awesome! I am finding myself charging it once a week. When I was using a wearable that needed to charge every day, I didn’t really rely on it. Once I moved to a Fitbit that only needed charging once a week that was game changing for me. Not carrying around power cords is liberating.
Once you start using this new category of PCs that are instantly on, always connected with a week of battery life and the full Windows 10 experience, you can really feel what a big shift this will be for consumers.
Always Connected PCs enable a new culture of work with better security at a lower cost
Always Connected PCs also have three huge benefits for organizations
New culture of work: IT is always thinking about the culture of work they enable through the technology they choose: how a given device enables teams to collaborate and be productive. The Always Connected PC is a cultural shift, enabling teams to work effectively, whether they are on a corporate campus, visiting customers or on the bus commuting, freeing a real constraint on the creativity of employees today.
Better security: IT also must manage increasing security threats and is responsible for protecting an organization’s information. Security has been a huge focus for Windows 10. But there are still these public Wi-Fi hotspots out there, which every day unknowing users connect to and could put hackers in control of the data coming and going to their device, potentially enabling hackers to steal corporate data and invade user privacy. The Always Connected PC is real security progress enabling safe connectivity everywhere, bypassing untrusted networks.
Lower costs: Today IT organizations are spending millions of dollars installing, updating and maintaining Wi-Fi antennas and repeaters throughout their buildings, and upgrading those every few years to make them even faster. At the same time, mobile operators have invested billions in building fast 4G networks. The United States alone is now 98% covered by 4G. And mobile operators have now embarked on even faster 5G network build outs that will be even faster.
Just like IT is now leveraging the massive investments in cloud compute and storage in data centers like Microsoft Azure, moving networking to the cloud will lower IT costs. Today’s global mobile operators are professionally maintaining, managing and updating their networks with massive investments in speed and security. Always Connected PCs are key for IT leaders to unlock the benefits of this global networking and provide employees with a modern workplace they want at a lower cost.
With the introduction of the Always Connected PC, IT now must ask themselves: how can they leverage the public networks of Sprint, AT&T, Orange, and others – and reduce their investment in their private antennas – to give employees faster connectivity at a lower cost than they enjoy today?
For IT, the Always Connected PC enables a new culture of work, a real step forward in security and an opportunity for massive cost savings, as the local network moves to the cloud. More on this shift is detailed in Accelerating the Move to the Cloud with Always Connected Computing.
Always Connected PCs are modern Windows 10 devices with Windows Hello, touch, pen and Ink, with thin, light, elegant designs that are more secure, instantly on, always connected with a week of battery life. When I think about organizations and whether they are going to leverage the massive networks of mobile operators and adopt these new PCs – the answer is simple: It is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and how fast all mobile PCs become Always Connected PCs.
Terry
LinkedIn |  Twitter

Announcing Windows Server Insider Preview Build 17046

Hello Windows Insiders!
Today we are releasing Windows Server Insider Preview Build 17046 to Windows Server Insiders. This build is the second preview build of the next Semi-Annual Channel release of Windows Server. For more information on the Semi-Annual channel, please see the Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel overview
Available Content
Server Insiders have the choice of Server Core Edition in ISO or VHDX format. The images are pre-keyed –  no need to enter a key during setup.
Symbols are available on the public symbol server – see Update on Microsoft’s Symbol Server blog post and Using the Microsoft Symbol Server. As before, matching Windows Server container images will be available via Docker Hub. For more information about Windows Server containers and Insider builds, click here.
This Server Insider pre-release build will expire on July 2nd, 2018. For the best experience, the Windows Server team recommends a clean install.
What’s New in Build 17046 for Windows Server
There are no new features to announce for this build.
How to Download 
To obtain the Insider software downloads, registered Insiders may navigate directly to the Windows Server Insider Preview download page.  If you have not yet registered as an Insider, see GETTING STARTED WITH SERVER on the Windows Insiders for Business portal.
It’s all about your feedback! 
The most important part of a frequent release cycle is to hear what’s working and what needs to be improved, so your feedback is extremely valued. Use your registered Windows Insider device and use the Feedback Hub application. In the app, choose the Server category and then the appropriate subcategory for your feedback. Please indicate what build number you are providing feedback on.
Known issues with Windows Server build 17046
[NEW] Dynamic disks fail I/O with STATUS_INVALID_DEVICE_REQUEST, resulting in failures to mount or format a volume. The contents of an affected volume will be available after updating to a build that fixes this issue, so reformatting and restoring data from backup is not necessary.
Upgrading to recent pre-release builds of Windows Server is not currently an option. However, upgrading will be supported in the future.
The Health Attestation CSP fails with error message 500 when attempting to get a certificate.
Data corruption may occur on some NVM Express (NVMe) solid-state drives (SSD) if scatter-gather list (SGL) functionality is enabled.
The base filtering engine (BFE) service may fail to start, which prevents the Windows Defender firewall (MpsSvc service) from starting.
A system crash may occur because of a kernel security check failure (bug check 0x139) from a corrupt list entry in a deferred free pool.
Hyper-V isolated containers will fail to start with an error of “The description string for parameter reference (%1) could not be found. (0x3ab6)”. Users can work around this by temporarily disabling our cloning optimization by creating a registry key and rebooting or restarting the vmcompute service.
reg ADD “HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionVirtualizationContainers” /v TemplateVmCount /t REG_DWORD /d 0
Although installation will continue successfully, the product key will not activate.
 Terms of Use
All pre-release software made available to you via the Windows Server Insider program are governed by the Insider Terms of Use, which takes precedence over any license agreement that may be in the product.
No downtime for Hustle-As-A-Service,
Dona

Introducing the Web Media Extension Package with OGG Vorbis and Theora support for Microsoft Edge

We’ve heard requests from many of our customers to support additional open-source formats in order to access a broader set of content on the web. To address this, ,we recently added support for the WebM container format and the VP9 and Opus codecs on supported hardware.
Today, we’re excited to announce a new mechanism which will allow our customers to add more formats on demand and increase our agility to add new formats in the future: Media Extensions. Alongside this mechanism, we’re releasing the Web Media Extensions package to the Microsoft Store as a free Media Extension for Microsoft Edge.
Media Extensions
Media on the web has been evolving at a furious rate for the last few years. Adaptive video streaming is now common, providing a simpler mechanism for professional-quality video under changing network and device conditions; HTML5 Premium Media provides the tools for interoperable, plugin-free protected media; plugin-free video and audio conferencing is now routine with tools like WebRTC and ORTC.
We’re proud to be at the leading edge of these features, providing a modern set of capabilities with more efficient and higher quality video in Microsoft Edge. At the same time, we’re always looking to make sure Microsoft Edge meets the needs of our customers and web developers alike, and to provide a seamless playback experience on the web.  The rapid growth in media capabilities has naturally resulted in a need to support more media formats in web browsers.
Media Extensions are Media Foundation components designed to extend the core Windows platform and enable Windows apps including Microsoft Edge to support an ever-increasing range of formats. Media Extensions, much like browser extensions, allow customers to extend their device beyond the core experience shipped as part of Windows 10. It also allows the developers of media technologies to update and enhance media components independently of the Windows 10 release schedule. This allows us to work with the community to deliver high quality, interoperable codecs to Edge customers quickly and reliably.
The Web Media Extensions Package
The Web Media Extensions package adds support for the open source OGG container and the Theora and Vorbis codecs, and it expands support for WebM VP9 to work with Theora in simple video elements.  Our support for these formats is based on proven implementations from the well-known FFmpeg codecs using the FFmpeg Interop library. We expect this set of formats to be useful for enthusiasts and customers with specific format needs and we’re excited to bring support for these FFmpeg formats to Microsoft Edge!
Our initial release of the Web Media Extension package is focused on supporting these developers and customers who know they need support for these formats – the seekers and enthusiasts on the web. In the spirit of flighting, this will allow us to learn and improve based on your feedback before we expand support to the broader range of Edge customers on the market today. Long-term, we expect to expand distribution of the Web Media Extension package to all Windows 10 devices so that these formats become a trusted and reliable part of the web platform available to developers.
Getting started
Developers and customers can get started with these new formats in Microsoft Edge by simply installing the Web Media Extension Package from the Microsoft Store. You can also find the package under the Microsoft Edge Extensions collection in the store. This package extends the base media platform in Windows, so the formats will be available to Windows apps and Microsoft Edge with no further action from the user.
We encourage you to install the extension and try it out today! Going forward, we intend to expand distribution, release more formats as Extensions and work with third parties on new formats for Microsoft Edge – your usage will help validate this approach and help us identify potential issues as we evaluate opportunities to provide these capabilities to our customers.
We’re passionate about providing a high-quality, interoperable media experience in Microsoft Edge. This extension package is a first step forward broadening Microsoft Edge’s playback capabilities while providing new mechanisms for us to deliver expanded support in response to the diverse needs of customers, devices, and different browsing contexts. We look forward to hearing your feedback as we work with the community to move our media platform forward!
— David Mebane, Senior Program Manager, Windows Media Platform— Jerry Smith, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Edge