Tag Archives: PC

Follow the path to new Windows themes

I think we all spend too much time on roads we’re not very excited about following. For example, the daily commute to and from work through heavy traffic… that’s not exactly an adventure. But there are some paths that make us eager to explore and see what’s around the bend. So for this first theme, I gathered together eleven of the most intriguing, enticing footpaths I could find, winding through gorgeous scenery that I hope will take you away from the daily grind.


Or, maybe you’d like to follow a different kind of path, one that traverses the sky along the Milky Way? From the Latin via lactea, or “milky road,” it’s a starry trail people have marveled at for thousands of years, looking up into dark skies around the world. Now it can trace its luminous way across your desktop.


The rest of our new themes feature the works of contributors to our Open Call. The first one brings us back down to earth – way down! – to explore the quiet world of the forest floor. Photographer Bojan Šeguljev gives us a peek into a secret realm of delicate mosses, mushrooms, and other fungi.


Photographer Akshay Patil also focuses on botanical details, but his theme showcases colorful garden flowers from his Mumbai farm.


We have not just one, but two new themes from our next contributor, Claudio Marinangeli. In his first theme, he highlights the simple but unexpectedly lovely details to be found in everyday life.


His other new theme presents landscapes and architecture of Italy in dramatic tones of sepia and black and white.


Photographer Shilpa S. Rao is back with a sequel to her Liquid Jewels theme. While her first was a festival of brilliant amethyst and ruby colors, Liquid Jewels 2 turns water drops into delicate pearls and crystals in a softly toned collection.


Our next new theme is also a sequel. Photographer Sean Byrne’s follow-up to his Beauty of Britain theme is a virtual UK tour through Devon, Surrey, North Yorkshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Wales, and (of course) London.


The last theme in today’s roundup is a sequel, too. Rebecca Heigel shares fresh floral photography in a follow-up to her first theme, Spring Blooms.


If you have an older version of Windows that can’t use themes, or if you prefer to use a single image, we have new desktop décor for you, too. Here are just a few of our new wallpapers.

wp-milkyway wp-abstract wp-reflection

wp-racer wp-paintsplash wp-aurora

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: You can also customize your Windows 8 or 8.1 lock screen – or your Windows Phone – with wallpapers from the Personalization Gallery. I explained how in this blog post.

That wraps up today’s overview of new themes and wallpapers. I hope you’ll keep checking back on the Personalization Gallery for more new imagery to keep your Windows PC or Windows Phone looking great, no matter where your path takes you.

How we’re addressing misleading apps in Windows Store

As Windows Store expands to reach more customers in more markets with a growing list of great titles, we are continuously looking for ways to improve both customer experience and developer opportunity. We strive to give our worldwide customer base easy access to amazing app experiences while keeping developer friction to a minimum. From time-to-time this process slips out of sync and we need to recalibrate.

Every app store finds its own balance between app quality and choice, which in turn opens the door to people trying to game the system with misleading titles or descriptions. Our approach has long been to create and enforce strong but transparent policies to govern our certification and store experience. Earlier this year we heard loud and clear that people were finding it more difficult to find the apps they were searching for; often having to sort through lists of apps with confusing or misleading titles. We took the feedback seriously and modified the Windows Store app certification requirements as a first step toward better ensuring that apps are named and described in a way that doesn’t misrepresent their purpose. These changes included:

  • Naming – to clearly and accurately reflect the functionality of the app.
  • Categories – to ensure apps are categorized according to the app function and purpose.
  • Icons – must be differentiated to avoid being mistaken with others.

These revised policies are being applied to all new app submissions and existing app updates for both the Windows and Windows Phone Store. We’ve also been working on titles already in the catalog, conducting a review of Windows Store to identify titles that do not comply with our modified certification requirements. This process is continuing as we work to be as thorough and transparent as possible in our review. Most of the developers behind apps that are found to violate our policies have good intentions and agree to make the necessary changes when notified. Others have been less receptive, causing us to remove more than 1,500 apps as part of this review so far (as always we will gladly refund the cost of an app that is downloaded as a result of an erroneous title or description – customers can visit Windows Support and Windows Phone Support to contact Microsoft about a refund.)

The Store review is ongoing and we recognize that we have more work to do, but we’re on it. We’re applying additional resources to speed up the review process and identify more problem apps faster. No approach is perfect, so we encourage people to report any issues they may encounter with Windows Store. For most issues, customers can use the “report concern to Microsoft” link in the Store. For infringements concerns, people can use our online tools or email reportapp@microsoft.com directly.

We remain as committed as ever to delivering a great customer experience AND expanding the developer opportunity through fair and transparent policies.

Toronto-based developer will leverage Windows 8.1 features to more deeply engage gamers

Onome Igharoro is a co-founder of Toronto-based Sterling Games Inc., which makes the hugely successful Xtreme Joyride game. After two years of publishing their games on Windows platforms, Onome and his partner, Steve Fernandes, are now porting their games to Windows 8.1. They like that Windows 8.1 provides them the convenience of single sign-on through universal apps and creates a better experience for their players. I caught up with Onome to learn more about his innovative games and his plans to embrace Windows 8.1.

 What excites you most about Windows 8.1?
“From a development perspective, building our apps in Unity and porting them to 8.1 is seamless.”

Xtreme Joyride icon

Xtreme Joyride icon

The Windows 8.1 release marks a huge turning point in the history of Windows development. Windows 8.1’s universal apps and converged platform make development easier and faster, and it opens up both Windows marketplaces to us. We can easily use features such as persistent data saving or single sign-in across multiple devices, and create a better and more engaging user experience across different form factors.

Those kinds of capabilities are important to us at Sterling Games, and we know they’re unique to Windows. We established Sterling Games three years ago, and since then, we have developed eight games that have accrued more than two million downloads across various platforms. Developing for and publishing on Windows Phone has been a lot simpler and faster than it is for other platforms. We can design a more consistent user experience on low-end Windows Phone devices than we can on Android or even iOS.

From a monetization standpoint, the 8.1 release provides developers significant opportunities. We have earned enough on Windows Phone alone to cover our expenses and payroll and invest in our future releases and updates. As we expand our user base to all of Windows and more form factors, our earnings potential increases dramatically.

From a development perspective, building our apps in Unity and porting them to 8.1 is seamless. The most exciting part of 8.1 is the various new features that enhance the competitiveness of Windows Phone devices against iOS and Android in the high-end device market.

What Windows Phone 8.1 features do you intend to leverage to make your game even more successful?
“The Azure Mobile Services backend is scalable across platforms and that makes it a very attractive combination for our multi-platform games built on Unity.”

Xtreme Joyride screenshot

Xtreme Joyride screenshot

Xtreme Joyride, a 2D side-scrolling car-driving game, is our most popular game; it has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. The game’s user base continues to grow; users download it an average of 500 times every day, and they consistently rate the game 4.5 out of 5. By adding the cool features available in 8.1, we will attract even more users.

We intend to take advantage of the live tile improvements and the new Action Center so we can engage our users by delivering personalized and non-intrusive notifications. These notifications and the user experience will be consistent across the various form factors, keeping users engaged no matter what device they’re using. As a developer, I feel I can better control notifications and avoid spamming my users.

I also intend to use Windows Azure Mobile Services to power our backend, and I am investigating ways to enable social sharing of match replays for our upcoming game, Super Triclops Soccer. The Azure Mobile Services backend is scalable across platforms and that makes it a very attractive combination for our multi-platform games built on Unity.

What advice do you have for developers?
“Most importantly, build for Windows 8.1!”

Super Triclops Soccer

Coming Soon: Super Triclops Soccer by Sterling Games

Developers need to build quality apps to showcase their talents. It’s hard to see the finish line in terms of developing games, especially when a developer has big plans. So I tell developers: come up with a fixed scope and work towards it. Iterate and change your scope if you feel it is not satisfactory, but realize what it means to your bottom line.

Throughout the process, developers should get feedback from people that are not involved in the design—and more than one or two people. Getting 10 people to play a beta version is incredibly valuable, and candid feedback is crucial. If players don’t like an element of the game, the developer needs to look at it from the player’s . point of view and be prepared to scrap portions of their work and take others’ suggestions.

Game design should be something you love, not something to put food on the table. No matter how hard it is to see it from that perspective, try to understand that. But be realistic, because you need food to make games.

Most importantly, build for Windows 8.1



Download the updated Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 public preview

Last week, Microsoft released an updated version of the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 public preview.

We made more than 200 improvements to the core SDK, including the addition of the Kinect Fusion tool kit, which provides higher resolution camera tracking and performance. With substantial improvements to the tooling, specifically around Visual Gesture Builder (VGB), the update will help developers finalize applications for commercial availability through the Windows Store later this year.

The v2 sensor and SDK enable you to build applications that understand humans, objects, and their environments better. The SDK is free and there will be no fees for runtime licenses of commercial applications developed with the SDK.

Download the updated SDK 2.0 public preview, purchase the v2 sensor and start building interactive apps today.

Ensuring compatibility of desktop applications with WIMBoot systems

This post was written by Tobias Klima, Program Manager, Windows Storage, File Systems & Protection.

Windows Image Format Boot, or WIMBoot, is a technology that provides significant capacity savings for low-cost devices. The basic idea is that the OS image is compressed by default and is only de-compressed if it needs to be modified in any way. This is not a concern, of course, for apps that are installed after OS deployment. For full-trust desktop applications and pre-loaded apps, however, that can interact with OS or pre-loaded files, they must be mindful of how their activity might impact stability and performance.

Let’s look at how a system can be identified as a WIMBoot installation, how best to interact with files backed by the compressed image, and how to identify potential issues.

For more info about setting up a WIMBoot system, see What is Windows Image Boot (WIMBoot?) on the Springboard Series Blog.

How WIMBoot works

WIMBoot keeps the OS image compressed in a WIM file in the recovery partition on the primary storage device, which provides the bulk of the capacity savings. To minimize the impact to existing and legacy applications, placeholder files are created on the C: volume (user partition) that represent the files in the compressed image. Under the covers, the OS links the placeholder files to the respective locations in the WIM, decompressing files on the fly when necessary.

When a placeholder file is opened with write access, we must assume that a modification of the file will occur (otherwise it would have been opened for read access). In this case, the placeholder file is replaced with the full, decompressed copy in the WIM, such that edits and modifications are possible. As a result, applications should be aware that opening such files for write access consume additional space on the C: volume, which should be avoided.

This diagram shows the standard WIMBoot installation with two WIM images (OEM and System) and the respective partitions they reside in.


Figure 1: WIMBoot partition layout (Image not to scale)

Identifying a WIMBoot installation

Rather than labeling a system WIMBoot or not WIMBoot, APIs were added in Windows 8.1 Update that allow a caller to query whether or not a given volume or file is backed by a WIM. These are specifically the FSCTL_ENUM_OVERLAY and FSCTL_ENUM_EXTERNAL_BACKING control codes for the FtsFsControlFile routine.

To query a volume for its backing, use the FSCTL_ENUM_OVERLAY control code. Called on a volume, it will return all sources backing this volume.

In order to query which individual files are currently backed by a compressed image, use the FSCTL_ENUM_EXTERNAL_BACKING control code. Called successively, it enumerates all files in the directory structure that are currently backed by a compressed image.

How to interact well with files

With WIMBoot’s unique behavior on opening files for write access, applications should only open OS or pre-loaded files for read-access. While many applications won’t have an issue with this, or only modify files they create in the first place, there are applications that might walk the entire file tree and inspect every file or many files (e.g. antivirus, indexers, defragmentation utilities, etc.). Such tools should open files for read-access only.


To determine what impact your application has on a WIMBoot system, you can perform very basic testing as follows:

  1. Enumerate all WIM-backed files using the FSCTL_ENUM_EXTERNAL_BACKING control code.
  2. Install your application.
  3. Run through various scenarios, tests, and experiences your app was designed for.
  4. Enumerate all WIM-backed files using the FSCTL_ENUM_EXTERNAL_BACKING control code.
  5. Compare the lists of files from steps 1 and 4 to determine which were modified and thus no longer WIM-backed.
  6. Check how you’re using the files on that list in your code—if you’re not making any modifications to an affected file, be sure to change its access mode to read-only.

Note: Make sure that this basic testing does not coincide with the daily maintenance or Windows Update, which may modify system files and thus make your measurements less accurate.


WIMBoot provides significant capacity savings by keeping the OS image compressed. To take long-term advantage of these savings, it’s important that applications avoid opening OS or WIM-backed files for write access, which causes them to be decompressed.

Coca-Cola Freestyle app lets you share a Coke with a friend

My dad loves Coke. It’s his beverage of choice everywhere we go. He even has an antique Coke vending machine my mom bought him a few years ago that he keeps stocked with glass-bottled Coke. So dad, I am dedicating this blog post to you because it’s about Coke. Or more specifically – it’s about the new Coca-Cola Freestyle app for Windows and Windows Phone.

Screenshot_355133_1000001 35512faa-4871-48f2-b51a-5151acdc3c3a

With the Coca-Cola Freestyle app, you can locate the nearest location that has a Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain with 100+ choices of flavors for you to mix with some of your favorite beverages from Coke and many other brands. For example you can mix different flavors into Coke like cherry or vanilla or both. The app will show you all the flavors that a Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain has to offer. With the app, you can also save your favorite flavors, create your own mixes of up to three Freestyle flavors, and share your favorite mixes with your friends on Facebook – all while earning badges and prices by checking in at locations that have a Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain and easy integration with MyCoke rewards. You’ll also get great deals from your favorite restaurants, movie theaters and more.

And now through August 31st, you can download the Windows Phone app, scan the QR code on the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine you’re using, enter the email address of a friend or family member and share a Coke! As you’re enjoying your “freestyled” Coca-Cola beverage, your friend will receive an email with a coupon for $1 off the purchase of a 20-ounce Coke.

Download the Coca-Cola Freestyle app for your Windows PC or Tablet here from the Windows Store or for your Windows Phone device here from the Windows Phone Store.

Tentacles: Enter the Mind now available worldwide for Windows and Windows Phone

Copenhagen-based studio Press Play has released the sequel to their award-winning game Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin today. Tentacles: Enter the Mind is now available worldwide for download (free with in-app purchases) from the Windows Store and from the Windows Phone Store.

TentaclesETM_Screenshot#4_1366x768 TentaclesETM_Screenshot#5_1366x768

Tentacles: Enter the Mind is a full 3D adventure that continues the crazy story of Dr. Phluff and his tentacled mascot, Lemmy. In the game, they embark on a journey inside the mad Professor to take out the creatures that have overtaken Phluff, progressing through the many layers of his mind from Super Ego to Paranoia. The game supports cross-platform cloud save so you can play between Windows PC or Tablet and Windows Phone devices. And Tentacles: Enter the Mind uses Xbox Leaderboards and Xbox Achievements (up to a combined 400 gamerscore points). If you enjoyed Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin then you’ll want to give its sequel a try!