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Making the web smoother with independent rendering

Independent rendering allows the browser to selectively offload graphics processing to an additional CPU thread, so they can be rendered with minimal impact to the user interface thread and the overall visible performance characteristics page, such as silk-smooth scrolling, responsive interactions, and fluid animations. This technique was pioneered in Internet Explorer 11, and is key to providing a fluid experience.
Today, we’re excited to share major improvements to the independent rendering pipeline in Microsoft Edge which will make pages significantly faster in EdgeHTML 16 and the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
Independent rendering is transformative to the user experience — but historically there have been a few elements that could disable it entirely when present on a page.
control
element
certain elements
Starting with EdgeHTML 16, we’ve enabled independent rendering on more sites by adding full support for the elements listed above. These investments greatly improve actual and perceived performance of a huge number of apps and sites, as these elements are very common on the web. You can preview these changes in recent builds via the Windows Insider Program – read on to learn more about the impact of these changes!
Visualizing independent rendering improvements
Independent rendering noticeably improves performance in several common scenarios: content processing, such as loading the page or adding significant portions of dynamically generated content; iterative operations or experiences with tight frame budgets, such as games, script-driven animations, and data visualizations; and scrolling while the main thread is processing script, where the rendering thread can continue displaying available content even if main thread is busy
Getting to the screen faster when processing content
By offloading rendering to a separate (parallel) thread, independent rendering can improve page load and dynamic content updates, while more efficiently utilizing multicore CPUs.
The visualizations below show simplified examples of modern browsers using the CPU as content is loaded, either as part of page load or as part of dynamic content updates. The first stage of this process is content processing, which involves downloading, parsing, creating the DOM, and laying out elements on the page. This is followed by the actual rendering process — drawing content on the screen.
While the browser has always tried to utilize the rendering thread wherever possible, as previously mentioned, it often could not be used due to the presence of the certain elements on the page. This resulted in a more saturated main thread, as the content processing and rendering operations had to be performed sequentially:
Figure 1. CPU activity sequence required to display a web page in EdgeHTML 15. Note that the rendering thread is available, but is not always used due to the presence of certain elements on the page.
Now that EdgeHTML 16 supports independent rendering of these elements, rendering can happen independently of content processing:
Figure 2. CPU activity sequence required to display a web page in EdgeHTML 16.
By leveraging multiple CPU cores, parallelized rendering results in faster page load times across the sites you use daily while using a similar amount of total CPU time.
Allowing applications to do more per frame
Another scenario that often benefits from independent rendering is script driven animations such as those present in games or complex visualizations. A typical rendering pipeline for such applications is as follows:
Setting up the frame – updating model, view
Requesting updated view to be rendered
Getting a callback for the next available frame and repeating the sequence
Similar to the previous page load and content update scenarios, the following visualization shows how the frame by frame rendering updates can be performed more efficiently by offloading rendering to a separate thread. When the duration of each frame is time constrained (e.g. to achieve a framerate of 60 frames per second, each frame can be no more than 16.7ms long), every millisecond saved helps your applications achieve their target framerates.
Figure 3. CPU activity sequence required to process frame updates – can lead to missing frame targets.
Figure 4. CPU activity sequence required to process frame updates – can improve frame rates by freeing up main thread.
Faster vector graphics with independently rendered elements
In EdgeHTML 16 we’re introducing independent rendering support for the following SVG elements:
Clip-path
Gradients
Markers
Masks
Patterns
These elements have already been supported in Windows Insider Preview builds for some time, and we are going to introduce support for independently rendered SVG filters in an upcoming Windows Insider Preview build.
Our telemetry shows that these SVG elements were the main reason that independent rendering was disabled on the top 100 sites. We’re excited to see these sites rendered even faster as a result of these improvements!
Faster 2D graphics with independently rendered elements
In addition to the improvements outlined above, we are also introducing independent rendering for 2D content.
Supporting independent rendering for canvas was critical to improving the performance of many demos, games and other interactive content on the web. Our telemetry showed 2D was the leading cause of independent rendering being disabled across in browsing sessions by volume.
Common canvas APIs are now significantly faster in the EdgeHTML 16:
Figure 5. Canvas APIs Performance (ms; 75 percentile) shows improvements in EdgeHTML 15 to EdgeHTML 16.
Other improvements
We’re also happy to report that our work to make apps and sites faster also accrues to benchmarks. We’ve run the MotionMark benchmark on two identical Surface Book laptops and measured a 43% overall score improvement!
Figure 6. Overall 43% improvement in MotionMark score from EdgeHTML 15 to EdgeHTML 16.
We couldn’t be more excited to see web content get dramatically faster in EdgeHTML 16 on a wide variety of hardware. We look forward to seeing web developers deliver an even faster and more graphical web soon!
Bogdan Brinza, Matt Kotsenas, and Scott Low
Program Managers, Microsoft Edge

This Week on Windows: Minecraft, OneNote, Marvel’s The Defenders

We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of This Week on Windows! Head over here to read more about the exciting changes coming to MINECON, learn how you can turn text into timelines in PowerPoint, or, keep reading for what’s new in the Windows Store.
In case you missed it:
Tune in for Xbox @ gamescom Live this weekend

gamescom is just around the corner and we can’t wait to kick the week off with Xbox @ gamescom Live this Sunday.
Don’t forget to tune in Sunday at 9 p.m. CEST / 8 p.m. BST / 12 p.m. PDT so that you can be the first to hear the latest news on highly anticipated games coming to the Xbox family and Windows 10. We’ll have world premiere trailers and, of course, more about the most powerful console ever made, Xbox One X. What’s more, you can sign in to your Microsoft account at Mixer.com and you’ll be in with a chance of winning lots of great prizes and be able to ask questions to the teams behind your favorite games. Head over to Xbox Wire for more info on Xbox @ gamescom Live and our other gamescom activities!

Here’s what’s new in the Windows Store this week:
Back to School App Sale

It’s time to think about shopping for fall classes and activities, but we’ve softened the blow a bit with our Back to School Collection featuring discounted apps. Now you can get heavy-hitters like Complete Anatomy, Movie Edit Plus Pro, Stagelight, Krita and much more, all on sale until September 17!
Forza Hoonigan Car Pack

Forza has teamed up with motorsport-lifestyle brand Hoonigan to bring some of the most iconic Hoonigan cars to Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 3. Fans who pre-order Forza Motorsport 7 Ultimate Edition ($99.99) digitally will receive Hoonigan Car Packs for both games at no additional cost. Read more over at Xbox Wire!
Defining the soul of a racecar in the Forza Motorsport 7 Garage

This is week five of the Forza Motorsport 7 Garage, and we’re bringing a huge list of cars to the game – cars that represent a worldwide sample of automotive excellence, with a particular focus on the best cars coming out of Europe. When curating this list of cars to reveal, we pondered the following question: what defines the “soul” of a European car? Some might point to quality, exemplified in cars like the Audi RS 4. Others will point to timeless design – think of the BMW 2002 or the Renault Alpine A110 as prime examples. What about incredible performance? With cars like the 2013 Caterham Superlight R500 and the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé Black Series, drivers will never lack power and agility. Is it luxury you want? Look no further than the likes of Bentley and Rolls Royce. Head over to Xbox Wire to check out the cars of week five!
Netflix – Marvel’s The Defenders

Get ready for the first episode airing August 18! A sinister conspiracy threatens New York City, but Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are joining forces to take on this common enemy. Watch the story unfold as Netflix debuts Marvel’s The Defenders (Netflix streaming membership required). With eight episodes in all, there’s no shortage of heart-stopping moments and stunning superhero moves.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 Sale

After a summer of making memories in pictures, it’s time to get them organized for easy viewing and sharing. That’s just what Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 ($59.99 through Sept. 4, 2017; regularly $99.99) does best. Now on sale for 40% off through September 4, Adobe PSE makes photo and video organization, editing, creating, and sharing as simple as it gets.
Have a great weekend!

Making mixed reality: a conversation with Lucas Rizzotto

I first met Lucas Rizzotto at a Microsoft HoloLens hackathon last December, where he and his team built a holographic advertising solution. Fast forward to August, and he’s now an award-winning mixed reality creator, technologist, and designer with two HoloLens apps in Windows Store: MyLab, a chemistry education app, and CyberSnake, a game that makes the most of spatial sound…and holographic hamburgers. Little did I know, Lucas had no idea how to code when he started. Today, he shares how he and you can learn and design mixed reality, as well as some tips for spatial sound. Dig in!

Why HoloLens, and why Windows Mixed Reality?
It’s the future! Having the opportunity to work with such an influential industry on its early days is a delightful process – not only it’s incredibly creatively challenging, you can really have a say on what digital experiences and computers will look like in 10, 20 years from now – so it’s packed with excitement, but also responsibility. We are designing the primary way most people will experience the world in the future, and the HoloLens is the closest thing we’ve got to that today.
The community of creators around this technology right now is also great – everyone involved in this space is in love with the possibilities and wants to bring their own visions of the future to light. Few things beat working with people whose primary fuel is passion.
How did you get started developing for mixed reality?
I come from mostly a design background and didn’t really know how to code until two years ago – so I started by teaching myself C# and Unity to build the foundation I’d need to make the things I really wanted to make. Having the development knowledge today really helps me understand my creations at a much deeper level, but the best part about it is how it gives me the ability to test crazy ideas really quickly and independently – which is extremely useful in a fast-paced industry like MR.
HoloLens wise, the HoloLens Slack community is a great place to be – it’s very active and full of people that’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction, and most people involved in MR are part of the channel. Other than that, the HoloLens forums are also a good resource, especially if you want to ask questions directly to the Microsoft engineering team. Also, YouTube! It has always been my go-to for self-education. It’s how I learned Unity and how I learned a ton of the things I know about the world today. The community of teachers and learners there never ceases to amaze me.
Speaking of design, how do you design in mixed reality? Is anything different?
MR is a different beast that no one has figured out quite yet – but one of the key things I learned is that you need to give up a little bit of control in your UX process and design applications more open ended. We’re working with human senses now, and people’s preferences vary wildly from human to human. We can’t micro-manage every single aspect of the UX like we do on mobile – some users will prefer to use voice commands, others will prefer hand gestures – some users get visually overwhelmed quickly, while others thrive in the chaos. Creating experiences that can suit all borders of the spectrum is increasingly essential in the immersive space.
3D user interfaces are also a new challenge and quite a big deal in MR. Most of the UI we see in immersive experiences today (mine included!) is still full of buttons, windows, tabs and reminiscent visual metaphors from our 2D era. Cracking out new 3D metaphors that are visually engaging and more emotionally meaningful is a big part of the design process.
Also, experiment. A lot. Code up interactions that sound silly, and see what they feel like once you perform them. I try to do that even if I’m doing a serious enterprise application. Not only this is a great way to find and create wonder in everything you build, it will usually give you a bunch of new creative and design insights that you would never be able to stumble upon otherwise.
An example – recently I was building a prototype for a spiritual sequel to CyberSnake in which the player is a Cybernetic Rhinoceros, and had to decide what the main menu looked like. The traditional way to set it up would be to have a bunch of floating buttons in front of you that you can air tap to select what you want to do – but that’s a bit arbitrary, and you’re a Rhino! You don’t have fingers to air tap. So instead of pressing buttons from a distance, I made it so players are prompted to bash their head against the menu options and break it into a thousand pieces instead.
This interaction fulfills a number of roles: first of all, it’s fun, and people always smile in surprise the first time they destroy the menu it. Secondly, it introduces them to a main gameplay element (in the game players must destroy a number of structures with their head), which serves as practice. Thirdly, it’s in character! It plays into the story the app is trying to tell, and the player immediately becomes aware of what they are from that moment forward and what their goal is. With one silly idea, we went from having a bland main menu to something new that’s true to the experience and highly emotionally engaging.
HoloLens offers uniquely human inputs like gaze, gesture, and voice. So different from the clicks and taps we know today! Do you have a favorite HoloLens input?
Gazing is highly underestimated and underused – it implies user intention there’s so much you can do with it.  A healthy combination of voice, hand gestures, and gaze can make experiences incredibly smooth with contextual menus that pop in and out whenever the user stares at something meaningful. This will be even truer once eye-tracking becomes the standard in the space.
What do you want to see more of, design wise?
I want to be more surprised by the things MR experiences make me do and feel challenged by them! Most of the stuff being done today is still fairly safe – people seem to be more focused on trying to find ways to make the medium monetizable instead of discovering its true potential first. I live for being surprised, and want to see concepts and interactions that have never crossed my mind and perfectly leverage the device’s strengths in new creative ways.
Describe your process for building an app with Windows Mixed Reality.
I try to have as many playful ideas as I possibly can on a daily basis, and whenever I stumble upon something that seems feasible in the present, I think about it more carefully. I write down the specifics of the concept with excruciating detail so it can go from an abstraction into an actual, buildable product, then set the goals and challenges I’ll have to overcome to make it happen – giving myself a few reality checks on the way to make sure I’m not overestimating my abilities to finish it in the desired time span.
I then proceed to build a basic version of the product – just the essential features and the most basic functionality – here I usually get a sense if the idea works or not at a most basic level and if it’s something I’d like to continue doing. If it seems promising, then the wild experimentation phase begins. I test out new features, approach the same problem from a variety of angles, try to seize any opportunities for wonder and make sure that I know the “Why?” behind every single design decision. Keep doing this until you have a solid build to test with others, but without spending too much time on this phase, otherwise projects never get done.
In user testing, you can get a very clear view of what you have to improve, and I pay close attention to the emotional reactions of users. Whenever you see a positive reaction, write it down and see if you can intensify it even further in development. If users show negative emotional reactions, find out what’s wrong and fix it. If they’re neutral through and through, then reevaluate certain visual aspects of your app to find out how you can put a positive emotion on their face. Reiterate, polish, finish – and make a release video of it so the whole world can see it. Not everyone has access to an immersive device yet, but most people sure do have access to the internet.

CyberSnake’s audio makes players hyper-aware of where they are in the game. Can you talk about how you approached sound design? After all, spatial sound is part of what makes holograms so convincing.
Sound is as fundamental to the identity of your MR experience as anything else, and this is a relatively new idea in software development (aside from games). Developers tend not to pay too much attention to sound because it has been, for the most part, ignored in the design process of websites and mobile applications. But now we’re dealing with sensory computing and sound needs to be considered as highly as visuals for a great experience.
CyberSnake uses spatial audio in a number of useful ways – whenever user’s heads get close to their tail, for example, the tail emits an electric buzz that gets louder and louder, signaling the danger and where it’s coming from. Whenever you’re close to a burger, directional audio also reinforces the location of the collectibles and where the user should be moving their head. These bits of audio help the user move and give them a new level of spatial awareness.
Sound is an amazing way to reinforce behaviour – a general rule of thumb is to always have a sound to react to anything the user does, and make sure that the “personality” of said sound also matches the action that the user is performing thematically. If you’re approaching sound correctly, the way something looks and moves will be inseparable from the way it sounds. In the case of CyberSnake, there was some good effort to make sure that the sounds fit the visual, the music and the general aesthetic – I think it paid off!
Spending some time designing your own sounds sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Grab a midi-controller, some virtual instruments and dabble away until you find something that seems to fit the core of what you’re building. Like anything else, it all comes down to experimentation.
What’s next for you?
A number of things! I’m starting my own Mixed Reality Agency in September to continue developing MR projects that are both wondrous and useful at a larger scale. I’m also finishing my Computer Science degree this year and completing a number of immersive art side projects that you’ll soon hear about – some of which you may see at a couple of major film festivals. So stay in touch – good things are coming!
As always, I’m impressed and inspired by Lucas’s work. You can connect with Lucas on Twitter @_LucasRizzotto and his website, where you’ll find nuggets of gold like his vision for mixed reality and AI in education. And maybe even his awesome piano skills.
Learn more about building for Windows Mixed Reality at the Windows Mixed Reality Developer Center.
Lucas is right about spatial sound—it adds so much to an experience—so I asked Joe Kelly, Microsoft Audio Director working on HoloLens, for the best spatial sound how-tos. He suggests using the wealth of resources on Windows Mixed Reality Developer Center. They’re linked below—peruse and use, and share what you make with #MakingMR!
Spatial sound overview
Designing/implementing sounds
Unity implementation
Programming example video (AudioGraph)
GitHub example (XAudio2)

New Tools in Windows Device Portal for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Device Portal now offers several new tools from across Windows to help you location test your UWP, explore Mixed Reality, build new hardware peripherals and test your apps new installation pipeline. It’s a little bit of goodness for everyone, and we’re excited to share these with you.
If you’re not familiar with Device Portal, you can check out the blog posts below to see what other tools you can find in Device Portal, or look at the new docs.microsoft.com to learn how to enable it.
And as always, all of these tools are backed by a REST API, so that you can use it from a scripting or client application environment using the Device Portal Wrapper.
Location Based Testing
Most of us don’t have the travel budgets to test our apps across the world – but pretending to travel is almost as good!  The Location tool in Device Portal lets you easily change the location that Windows reports to apps. By tapping the “Override” check box, you can swap out the device location for whatever you set using the map or lat/long text boxes. Be sure to uncheck the box when you’re done so that your location (and timezone) come back to reality – every vacation must end…

Figure 1: The News app keeping me up to date with local headlines!
This also works for web pages in Microsoft Edge, letting you test your webpages in different parts of the world.
Some notes on what this tool can and cannot do:
This doesn’t change the locale of your PC! So the News app above still saw an EN-US user in the middle of Italy.
You may not see all apps using this location. Some programs don’t use the Windows API to determine location or have special logic (e.g. using your IP address) to determine your location.
This tool marks the PositionSource of the location data as “Default.” Some apps may check for the source and alter their behavior based on it.
Happy travels!
USB Diagnostics
This one goes out to all the hardware folks – if “HLK” or “WDK” sound familiar, you might find this handy. The USB team has updated the USBView tool to work inside Device Portal, so developers working on new hardware can have more tooling at their fingertips.
The USB Devices tool can be a bit tricky to find – head to the hamburger menu in the top right, and go to “Add tools to workspace.”  Scroll to the bottom and check the “USB Devices” box, then hit “Add.” And voila – a full view of your systems USB hubs, controllers and peripherals. The hubs and controllers expand to show individual devices using the + (plus) sign, and clicking the gear will expand to show the items properties.

Streaming App Install Debugging
The Windows 10 Creators Update added ““streaming installation” for UWP, which allows a user to launch the app before it finished downloading. In order to make this easy to test, the App Model team has added a Streaming Install Debugger tool to Device Portal. To use it, deploy an app with content groups to the device, then open the Streaming Install Debugger. In it you’ll be able to edit the states of the content groups so you can test your apps behavior as streaming install is being simulated and ensure it behaves correctly when content groups are missing.

For more details, check out Andy Liu’s blog posts about the new App Installer and Streaming Install Debugger tools.
Mixed Reality Tooling
One of the bigger splashes in the Fall Creators Update is the addition of Mixed Reality to Windows Desktop. As part of that release, we’re including a suite of tools to help developers build great Mixed Reality apps. Two of these tools may look familiar to HoloLens developers – 3D View and a Framerate counter. There’s also a new app launch option that appears when you have an immersive headset attached to your PC, which lets you launch your app in Mixed Reality.
Frame rate is an important factor in making mixed reality apps comfortable, and it’s important for developers to optimize performance to hit full frame rate on the systems they support. The Frame Rate tool in the Device Portal helps by showing developers both the frame rate of their app and of the system’s compositor.

The 3D View helps when testing your immersive headset’s interactions with the real world, displaying its position as it moves through space.

Finally, what good is tooling if you can’t actually run your app in your immersive headset? Now, when you have an immersive headset attached, the Installed Apps tool will add a button letting you launch the app in the HMD. While fully immersive apps will always run in Mixed Reality, this new button is particularly useful for 2D UWP apps (or apps that switch between 2D and immersive) when you want to test them in Mixed Reality.

As always, if you have ideas for Device Portal that would help you write or debug apps, please leave us a note on our UserVoice or upvote an existing request. If you run into bugs, please file it with us via the Feedback Hub.
Related Posts:
Using Device Portal to view debug logs for UWP
Using the App File Explorer to see your app data

Using your ad units correctly when you have multiple store apps

As we had blogged earlier, ad unit performance has a direct correlation with the application category and the users targeted by the application. Having an ad unit associated with multiple store applications leads to ambiguity, which can result in improper ad delivery. This will have an adverse impact on your revenue and user experience. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and other compliance requirements mandate that there is a 1:1 correlation between a store application and an ad unit.
Each ad unit must be only be used in a single store application. This requirement includes applications that target Universal Windows Platform applications, along with Windows 8.x (WinRT) applications.
We’ve reached out to developers through various means, including multiple notifications inside Dev Center. The ad delivery will soon stop on ad units used across multiple applications, so if you have any such ad units, please update! Setting up new ad units is extremely easy.
Don’t forget these following tips that can help maximize your in-app-ad revenue:
Move to the latest advertising SDKs
Set COPPA settings for your app
Use only IAB standard ad sizes
Set your ad placement appropriately
Use Interstitial Banner as fallback to Interstitial Video

Xbox Live Creators Program Is Now Live!

Back in March, we revealed the Xbox Live Creators Program. Today, we’re excited to announce that any developer can now directly publish their games to Xbox One and Windows 10. We’ve already had some great games published during the preview program (check out the list below!), but there’s always space for more, and it’s time for your game to shine. Microsoft is committed to ensuring that any developer who wants to publish their game on Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox One console family can do so, and the Creators Program enables creators big and small, from around the world, to do just that.
What’s the Creators Program, you ask? Xbox Live Creators Program allows any developer to directly publish their games – any of their games – to Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs with a standard certification process already in place for any other app or game in the Universal Windows Platform ecosystem. In other words, if you have a Dev Center account, then you’re ready to publish your game to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs.
But it gets better! Using the Creators Program also allows you to implement a number of Xbox Live services directly in your game. Stuff like Gamertag Presence, Xbox Live leaderboards and Connected Storage. Things that make your life as a game creator easier, but also enhance your gamers’ experiences. And you also get to take advantage of killer features like Game Hubs and Clubs, Mixer streaming (and integration for more interactive experiences) and some really awesome accessibility features to make sure your game is available for an even wider audience.
And because you get to use the standard Windows Store certification process, you can have the freedom to publish when you’re ready, set pricing the way you like and establish sales and updates that fit your schedule.
Any Creators Program game published on the Windows 10 Store will be listed in the Games category, it’s that simple. On the Xbox One console, we’ve created a special section of the Store called Creators Collection, so that your game can be easily discovered by people looking for something new. We also did this because we know from feedback from players, parents and developers, that the current curated experience on the Xbox One Store is something they love. So, having the Creators collection gives all of us the best of both worlds: A curated store and a fully open marketplace in the Creators Collection.
Does the Creators Program sound good to you? It does to us! And it’s so easy to do. First step is to build your game utilizing UWP and Xbox Live SDK, and for that you can use the tools you’re already using – Visual Studio, game engines like Unity, Construct 2, MonoGame and Xenko – and combine them with a retail Xbox One console and your Dev Center account. You’ll need to grab the free Dev Mode Activation app from the Xbox Store, but then you’re just a few button presses away from converting that retail machine into something ready for your development efforts.
The Dev Center account is the standard one for anyone building apps or games in the Microsoft ecosystem. If you don’t have one yet, it costs as little as $20 as a one-time fee. Then get started on your Xbox Live integration by checking out the Creators Program page and the Xbox Live Creators Program step by step guide.
Creators Program games have access to a large set of Xbox Live services, but not all of them. You’ll be able to implement features such as sign-in and presence, use of your Gamertag, leaderboards, access to your Activity Feed, Game Hubs, Clubs, Party Chat, Game DVR and broadcasting on Mixer.
However, since Creators Program is an open program as opposed to a managed one, some services are not available to you: Achievements, Gamerscore or internet multiplayer. The good news is that if you want access to these features, we encourage you to apply to the  ID@Xbox program where you’ll get the ability to incorporate these. And of course, there’s a path for games to move from the Creators Program to ID@Xbox during development (or even after they reach the Store) if a developer decides they want to add Gamerscore, Achievements or internet multiplayer later on.
While ID@Xbox was designed for professional game developers who wish to use the full set of Xbox Live features through a full certification process, the Creators Program gives all the other developers a “right-sized” set of Xbox Live services. So whether they’re small studios, hobbyists, makers, teachers and students, or if they’re just learning the ropes – the Creators Program is a simplified way to create and ship games to the Xbox community.
We know that the below set of titles is just the beginning. We’re going to highlight more of the diverse array of Creators Program games that catch our eyes on the Xbox Wire. I hope to see your game listed there one day soon.
Here’s a quick look at the first titles that will be available via the program:
Animal Rivals, Blue Sunset Games: Animal Rivals is an action-packed couch party game for one to four players. Drop into the game and fight for the Animalonia’s throne as one of the furry contenders in different mini-games and locations. The game itself presents a unique art style mixing the cartoonish looks and satire approach. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
Block Dropper, Tresiris Games: Block Dropper is a fast paced, arcade style, 3D platformer. Try not to fall as you guide your character through the challenging single player mode or grab a friend to battle head to head in a local multiplayer Block Battle Arena. Tresiris is a small game studio based in Olathe, Kansas, who create fun and simple games with quality as their top priority. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
Crystal Brawl, Studio Mercato: Gauntlet meets NBA Jam in Crystal Brawl, a 2v2 capture-the-flag local multiplayer game that melds fast action with MOBA-like strategy. Choose from a variety of characters with different abilities, with a notable twist: each character has a unique ability that alters the terrain. Experiment with different character combinations to uncover hidden strategies! Studio Mercato is an independent game studio based in New York City. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
Derelict Fleet, Bionic Pony: Derelict Fleet is a fast-paced space combat game. You are tasked with defending a refugee fleet as you travel the stars searching for a new colony to call home. Bionic Pony is a small indie studio based in Tampa, FL that started making Xbox Live indie games in 2010. (Xbox One)
ERMO, Nonostante: ERMO is a relaxing puzzle game featured with a calming and peaceful graphics. Immerse yourself in the landscapes and colors of ERMO and let you be carried away. You will learn the rules in a few seconds, but ERMO will catch you for hours. (Xbox One)
GalactiMAX!, ONLYUSEmeFEET: In the vast darkness of space, GalactiMAX has the player shooting aliens for points to pierce the heavens in classic arcade shooter action! As more aliens are defeated, the player’s ship will increase in size and power. How big can this ship get?! (Xbox One, Windows 10)
kubic, Pixel Envision Ltd: kubic is a relaxing optical illusion puzzle game based on M.C. Escher’s art, impossible objects and other geometric designs. The object is to construct the goal configuration from a number of pieces. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
Space Cat!, GershGamesLLC: Shoot your way past an onslaught of enemies and bosses. Collect weapon upgrades like missiles, bombs, laser beams and much more. GershGamesLLC is a group of young hobbyists that makes for fun on the weekends. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
Stereo Aereo, The Stonebot Studio: Stereo Aereo is an action rhythm game that is inspired by the pop-culture influences of the 80’s. You, the player, have to make sure that the mediocre space rockband Stereo Aereo, gets to their life changing concert, on time, in this comic styled sci-fi game. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
Finally, to celebrate the availability of Creators Program becoming open for any developer, we’re also highlighting the Dream.Build.Play contest, which has an Xbox One category for any game developer who incorporates Creators Program features into their game. So not only can you get your game on the console for the first time, you have a shot at winning some cash money while you do it. Sounds good to us!

Microsoft announces Windows 10 Pro for Workstations

We know that power users have unique needs to run efficiently and we take the feedback we hear seriously. Much of that valuable feedback comes through the Windows Insider Program. Today we are very excited to announce a new edition of Windows 10 Pro designed to meet the needs of our advanced users deploying their Workstation PCs in demanding and mission-critical scenarios. Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will be delivered as part of our Fall Creators Update, available this fall.     

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, created with feedback from Windows Insiders, introduces new features to leverage the power of high-end PC hardware
The value of Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is directly aligned to increase the performance and reliability of high-end PCs, with the following features:
ReFS (Resilient file system): ReFS provides cloud-grade resiliency for data on fault-tolerant storage spaces and manages very large volumes with ease. ReFS is designed to be resilient to data corruption, optimized for handling large data volumes, auto-correcting and more. It protects your data with integrity streams on your mirrored storage spaces. Using its integrity streams, ReFS detects when data becomes corrupt on one of the mirrored drives and uses a healthy copy of your data on the other drive to correct and protect your precious data.
Persistent memory: Windows 10 Pro for Workstations provides the most demanding apps and data with the performance they require with non-volatile memory modules (NVDIMM-N) hardware. NVDIMM-N enables you to read and write your files with the fastest speed possible, the speed of the computer’s main memory. Because NVDIMM-N is non-volatile memory, your files will still be there, even when you switch your workstation off.
Faster file sharing: Windows 10 Pro for Workstations includes a feature called SMB Direct, which supports the use of network adapters that have Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) capability. Network adapters that have RDMA can function at full speed with very low latency, while using very little CPU. For applications that access large datasets on remote SMB file shares, this feature enables:
Increased throughput: Leverages the full throughput of high speed networks where the network adapters coordinate the transfer of large amounts of data at line speed.
Low latency: Provides extremely fast responses to network requests, and, as a result, makes remote file storage feel as if it is directly attached storage.
Low CPU utilization: Uses fewer CPU cycles when transferring data over the network, which leaves more power available to other applications running on the system.

Expanded hardware support: One of the top pain points expressed by our Windows Insiders was the limits on taking advantage of the raw power of their machine. Hence, we are expanding hardware support in Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. Users will now be able to run Windows 10 Pro for Workstations on devices with high performance configurations including server grade Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors, with up to 4 CPUs (today limited to 2 CPUs) and add massive memory up to 6TB (today limited to 2TB).
Performance is a very important requirement in this new world of fast paced innovation and we will continue to invest on Windows 10 Pro for Workstations to enable Windows power users to maximize every aspect of their high-performance device. Windows 10 Pro for Workstations utilizes significant investments, that Windows has made in recent releases, for scaling up across a high number of logical processors and large amounts of memory. Our architectural changes in the Windows kernel take full advantage of high-end processors families, such as Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron, that package a high number of cores in single or multi-processor configurations.
Thank you to our customers and Windows Insiders for your feedback.  We look forward to continuing to hear from you.

This Week on Windows: Microsoft Education, MINECON, Mixed Reality and more

We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of This Week on Windows! Head over here to learn about the exciting changes coming to MINECON and what’s new to Office 365 in July, read our Windows 10 Tip on how you can see your 3D creations take life in Remix 3D, or, keep reading for what’s new in the Windows Store.
In case you missed it:

Join Xbox Academy at the Flagship Microsoft Store to design and create your first video game

Microsoft Store is excited to announce Xbox Academy is back – this time class is in session at the New York and Sydney flagship stores! Xbox Academy is a series of FREE, hands-on game development classes that aims to foster creativity and STEM education outside of the classroom. The program will feature three unique courses, each covering a different aspect of the game development process to inspire new ways to build, create, play and transform ideas. Read more over at Xbox Wire!
When and How to Join
Flagship Microsoft Store in New York: Sunday, Aug. 20 to Sunday, Sept. 3; visit here to register.Flagship Microsoft Store in Sydney: Monday, Sept. 25 to Sunday, Oct. 1; visit here to register.
Here’s what’s new in the Windows Store this week:
Explore your favorite car in stunning detail in the Forza Motorsport 7 Garage

Welcome to week four of the Forza Motorsport 7 Garage, where we are well on our way to revealing the more than 700+ vehicles that will be a part of Forza Motorsport 7 at launch. With hundreds of cars to race, customize, and explore, this week we’re focusing on the “exploration” part of the game. After all, every car in Forza Motorsport 7 features a full Forzavista experience, thereby allowing players to discover each car’s unique characteristics in exquisite detail.
This week in the Forza Motorsport 7 Garage we are proud to announce a deep list of cars from America; more than 100 cars and trucks from as early as 1970 (earlier models were announced during week 2 Vintage Week). Whether you prefer classic muscle or the latest trends from Detroit, this week’s lineup will never leave you wanting for power. Head over to Xbox Wire to read more!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Set to the sounds of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($19.99 HD) continues the team’s adventures as they seek to unravel the mystery of Star-Lord’s parentage. Get the blockbuster hit today in the Movies & TV section of the Windows Store, two weeks before it comes to Blu-ray!
Travel Essentials Collection
 
Travel the world with a little help from Windows Store in our new Travel Essentials Collection. Whether you’re itching for a worldwide adventure or a weekend getaway, do it with the help of the apps we’ve assembled – from Lonely Planet and Tripwolf for your research, Expedia for bookings it all, and movies and more from Netflix to enjoy along with way.
Summer Entertaining Collection
 
You just might get bragging rights to the best summer barbecue in town when you enlist the Windows Store and our Summer Entertaining Collection. This curated collection of entertaining apps and books can help you learn the basics of cooking with How to Cook Everything, easily find and save your recipes with Recipe Keeper Pro, and make the perfect cocktail with guidance from The Art of Mixology.
Have a great weekend!

ES Modules in Node Today!

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from John-David Dalton, a Program Manager on the Microsoft Edge team and creator of the popular Lodash JavaScript library, sharing the news of a new community project to bring ECMAScript modules to Node.
I’m excited to announce the release of @std/esm (standard/esm), an opt-in, spec-compliant, ECMAScript (ES) module loader that enables a smooth transition between Node and ES module formats with near built-in performance! This fast, small, zero dependency package is all you need to enable ES modules in Node 4+ today!
@std/esm used in the Node REPL
A tale of two module formats
With ESM landing in browsers, attention is turning to Node’s future ESM support. Unlike browsers, which have an out-of-band parse goal signal and no prior module format, support for ESM in Node is a bit more…prickly. Node’s legacy module format, a CommonJS (CJS) variant, is a big reason for Node’s popularity, but CJS also complicates Node’s future ESM support. As a refresher, let’s look at an example of both module syntaxes.
CJS:
const a = require("./a")
module.exports = { a, b: 2 }
ESM:
import a from "./a"
export default { a, b: 2 }
Note: For more in-depth comparisons see Nicolás Bevacqua’s excellent post.
Because CJS is not compatible with ESM, a distinction must be made. After much discussion, Node has settled on using the “.mjs” (modular JavaScript) file extension to signal the “module” parse goal. Node has a history of processing resources by file extension. For example, if you require a .jsonfile, Node will happily load and JSON.parse the result.
ESM support is slated to land, unflagged, in Node v10 around April 2018. This puts developers, esp. package authors, in a tough spot. They could choose to:
Go all in, shipping only ESM, and alienate users of older Node versions
Wait until Jan 1, 2020, the day after Node 8 support ends, to go all in
Ship both transpiled CJS and ESM sources, inflating package size and shouldering the responsibility for ensuring 1:1 behavior
None of those choices seem super appealing. The ecosystem needs something that meets it where it is to span the CJS to ESM gap.

The strength of Node.js has always been in the community and user-land packages.
— Sindre Sorhus (@sindresorhus) May 9, 2017

Bridge building
Enter the @std/esm loader, a user-land package designed to bridge the module gap. Since Node now supports most ES2015 features, @std/esm is free to focus solely on enabling ESM.
The loader stays out of your way and tries to be a good neighbor by:
Not polluting stack traces
Working with your existing tools like Babel and webpack.
Playing well with other loaders like babel-register(using .babelrc “modules”:false)
Only processing files of packages that explicitly opt-in to having @std/esmas a dependency, dev dependency, or peer dependency
Supporting versioning(i.e. package “A” can depend on one version of @std/esm and package “B” on another)
Unlike existing ESM solutions which require shipping transpiled CJS, @std/esm performs minimal source transformations on demand, processing and caching files at runtime. Processing files at runtime has a number of advantages.
Only process what is used, when it’s used
The same code is executed in all Node versions
Features are configurable by module consumers(e.g. module “A” consumes module “C” with the default@std/esm config while module “B” consumes module “C” with cjs compat rules enabled)
More spec-compliance opportunities(i.e. @std/esm can enforce Node’s ESM rules for environment variables, error codes, path protocol and resolution, etc.)
Standard features
Defaults are important. The @std/esm loader strives to be as spec-compliant as possible while following Node’s planned built-in behaviors. This means, by default, ESM requires the use of the  .mjs extension.
Out of the box, @std/esm just works, no configuration necessary, and supports:
Dynamic import()
The file URI scheme
Live bindings
Loading .mjs files as ESM
Unlockables
Developers have strong opinions on just about everything. To accommodate, @std/esm allows unlocking extra features with the “@std/esm” package.json field. Options include:
Enabling unambiguous module support (i.e. files with at least an import, export, or “use module” pragma are treated as ESM)
 Supporting named exports of CJS modules
Top-level await in main modules
Loading gzipped modules
Performance
Before I continue, let me qualify the following section:
It’s still super early, mileage may vary, and results may be hand wavey!
Testing was done using Node 9 compiled from PR #14369, which enables built-in ESM support. I measured the time taken to load the 643 modules of lodash-es, converted to .mjs, against a baseline run loading nothing. Keep in mind the @std/esm cache is good for the lifetime of the unmodified file. Ideally, that means you’ll only have a single non-cached load in production.
Loading CJS equivs was ~0.28 milliseconds per module
Loading built-in ESM was ~0.51 milliseconds per module
First @std/esm no cache run was ~1.6 milliseconds per module
Secondary @std/esm cached runs were ~0.54 milliseconds per module
Initial results look very promising, with cached @std/esm loads achieving near built-in performance! I’m sure, with your help, parse and runtime performance will continue to improve.
Getting started
Run npm i –save @std/esm in your app or package directory.
Call require(“@std/esm”) before importing ES modules.
index.js:
require(“@std/esm”)
module.exports = require(“./main.mjs”).default
For package authors with sub modules:
// Have “foo” require only “@std/esm”. require(“foo”) // Sub modules work! const bar = require(“foo/bar”).default
Enable ESM in the Node CLI by loading @std/esm with the -r option:
node -r @std/esm file.mjs
Enable ESM in the Node REPL by loading @std/esm upon entering:
$ node
> require(“@std/esm”)
@std/esm enabled
> import path from “path”
undefined
> path.join(“hello”, “world”)
‘hello/world’
Meteor’s might
The @std/esm loader wouldn’t exist without Ben Newman, creator of the Reify compiler from which @std/esm is forked. He’s proven the loader implementation in production at Meteor, since May 2016, in tens of thousands of Meteor apps!
All green thumbs
Even though @std/esm has just been released, it’s already had a positive impact on several related projects:
Fixing Acorn’s strict mode pragma detection and aligning parser APIs
Improving dynamic import support of Babel and Acorn plugin(the dynamic import Acorn plugin is used by webpack for code splitting)
Improving the parse, load time, and spec compliance of Reify
Inspiring a fast top-level parser proof of concept
Spurred championing of export * as ns from “mod” and export default from “mod” proposals
What’s next
Like many developers, I want ES modules yesterday. I plan to use @std/esm in Lodash v5 to not only transition to ESM but also leverage features like gzip module support to greatly reduce its package size.
The @std/esm loader is available on GitHub. It’s my hope that others are as excited and as energized as I am. ES modules are here! This is just the start. What’s next is up to you. I look forward to seeing where you take it.
Final Thought
While this is not a Microsoft release, we’re proud to have a growing number of core contributors to fundamental JavaScript frameworks, libraries, and utilities at Microsoft. Contributors like Maggie Pint of Moment.js, Nolan Lawson of PouchDB, Patrick Kettner of Modernizr, Rob Eisenberg of Aurelia, Sean Larkin of webpack, and Tom Dale of Ember, to name a few, who in addition to their roles at Microsoft, are helping shape the future of JavaScript and the web at large through standards engagement and ecosystem outreach. I’m happy to share this news on the Microsoft Edge blog to share our enthusiasm with the community!
― John-David Dalton, Program Manager, Microsoft Edge

Evolving our Windows approach to AV, thanks to partner feedback

Earlier this summer I shared that we believe in a healthy antivirus ecosystem working with us in protecting our shared customers from security threats. Our top priority is and always will be to protect our customers with security innovations for the Windows platform, increase our customers’ pre- and post-breach security stance, and provide a platform that offers choice.
Part of delivering on that commitment is listening and responding to feedback from our customers and partners. We work closely with AV partners like Kaspersky Lab, and at our Microsoft Virus Initiative forum last month, we made great progress in building upon our shared understanding of how we deliver Windows 10 updates and security experiences that help ensure the ongoing safety of Windows customers.
I’m pleased to share these discussions have helped us clarify our roadmap and implementation plans. As a result, we are making updates to our AV partner requirements today that reflect the interests of the community and our shared customers. We will also implement changes in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
Here are some of the changes we are making to support our partners in delivering security protections to Windows customers.
We will work more closely with AV vendors to help them with compatibility reviews in advance of each feature update becoming available to customers. This means customers can expect we will have worked through compatibility issues with AV providers before offering the update to customers running that AV.
We will give AV partners better visibility and certainty around release schedules for feature updates. This includes increasing the amount of time AV partners will have to review final builds before the next Windows 10 feature update is rolled out to customers.
We will enable AV providers to use their own alerts and notifications to renew antivirus products before and after they have expired.
We have modified how Windows will inform users when their antivirus application has expired and is no longer protecting them. Instead of providing an initial toast notification that users could ignore, the new notification will persist on the screen until the user either elects to renew the existing solution or chooses to rely on Windows Defender or another solution provider.
We appreciate the feedback and continued dialogue with our partners and are pleased to have found common ground with Kaspersky Lab on the complaints raised in Russia and Europe. We look forward to our continued partnership with the industry.
Customers deserve the best and most up-to-date protection possible. Microsoft and our security partners share a commitment to keep them safe.