Microsoft Updates MS-DOS GitHub Repo To 4.0

We’re not 100% sure which phase of Microsoft’s “Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish” gameplan this represents, but just yesterday the Redmond software giant decided to grace us with the source code for MS-DOS v4.0.

To be clear, the GitHub repository itself has been around for several years, and previously contained the source and binaries for MS-DOS v1.25 and v2.0 under the MIT license. This latest update adds the source code for v4.0 (no binaries this time), which originally hit the market back in 1988. We can’t help but notice that DOS v3.0 didn’t get invited to the party — perhaps it was decided that it wasn’t historically significant enough to include.

That said, readers with sufficiently gray beards may recall that DOS 4.0 wasn’t particularly well received back in the day. It was the sort of thing where you either stuck with something in the 3.x line if you had older hardware, or waited it out and jumped to the greatly improved v5 when it was released. Modern equivalents would probably be the response to Windows Vista, Windows 8, and maybe even Windows 11. Hey, at least Microsoft keeps some things consistent.

It’s interesting that they would preserve what’s arguably the least popular version of MS-DOS in this way, but then again there’s something to be said for having a historical record on what not to do for future generations. If you’re waiting to take a look at what was under the hood in the final MS-DOS 6.22 release, sit tight. At this rate we should be seeing it sometime in the 2030s.

Microsoft Killed My Favorite Keyboard, And I’m Mad About It

As a professional writer, I rack up thousands of words a day. Too many in fact, to the point where it hurts my brain. To ease this burden, I choose my tools carefully to minimize obstructions as the words pour from my mind, spilling through my fingers on their way to the screen.

That’s a long-winded way of saying I’m pretty persnickety about my keyboard. Now, I’ve found out my favorite model has been discontinued, and I’ll never again know the pleasure of typing on its delicate keys. And I’m mad about it. Real mad. Because I shouldn’t be in this position to begin with!

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The Latest Windows 11 Release Might Not Work On Your Oldest Machines

Everybody knows you can’t install Windows XP on a 386, or Windows 95 on an original IBM PC. But for Windows 11, the goalposts seem to be changing with newer releases of the existing OS. As covered by¬†The Register, it appears the latest Windows 11 24H2 update might be incompatible with older machines.

It’s all down to the POPCNT CPU instruction. As shared on Twitter by [TheBobPony], the instruction appears in a number of Windows 11 system files, including kernel and USB XHCI drivers. Thus, it appears that any CPU not able to run this instruction will not be able to boot Windows 11. POPCNT was first included in AMD’s Barcelona architecture in 2007, and Intel’s Core processors in 2008. It’s an instruction for counting set bits in a word.

Ultimately, the effect is that computers with older CPUs will no longer be able to run the latest version of Windows 11. It could be as simple as Microsoft engineers enabling more modern CPU instructions at compilation time. However, given affected hardware is more than 15 years old, it’s perhaps likely that Microsoft is perfectly willing to cut these machines off from using the latest versions of its main operating system. We’ve talked about this phenomenon before, too.

In any case, keep a close eye on Windows update if you’re running super-old hardware. Let us know if you’ll be affected in the comments.

Thanks to [Stephen Walters] for the tip!

Not Dead Yet: Microsoft Peripherals Get Licensed To Onward Brands

After Microsoft announced in April of 2023 that they’d cease selling branded peripherals – including keyboards and mice – as part of its refocusing on Surface computers and accessories, there was an internet-wide outcry about this demise. Yet now it would seem that Microsoft has licensed the manufacturing of these peripherals to Incase, who will be selling a range of ‘Designed By Microsoft’ peripherals starting in 2024. Incase itself is a brand owned by Onward Brands, which is the portfolio manager for Incase and other brands.

Although Microsoft has been selling peripherals since the 1980s (with the Microsoft Mouse appearing in 1983), it seems that we now have to rely on this new company that is said to use the same suppliers as Microsoft did. As for what we can expect to see return with Incase, it’s effectively the same assortment of items that Microsoft was selling at the beginning of 2023, so we will likely not see the return of the Natural 4000 or other peripherals that saw their life cut short before this.

If Incase does manage to relaunch these products this year, which items would you be most interested in purchasing, and how many dozens of those did you manage to stock up on in April when the news broke?

Is Microsoft BASIC Hidden In This Educational Child’s Toy?

The VTech PreComputer 1000 is a rather ancient toy computer that was available in the distant misty past of 1988. It featured a keyboard and a variety of simple learning games, but does it also feature Microsoft BASIC? [Robin] of 8-Bit Show and Tell dove in to find out.

Officially, the PreComputer was programmable in a form of BASIC, referred to by VTech as PRE-BASIC V1.0. Given that the system has a Z80 CPU and there’s little information in the manual about this programming language, [Robin] was suspicious as to whether it was based on Microsoft BASIC-80. Thus, an examination was in order to figure out just how this BASIC implementation worked, and whether it shared anything with Microsoft’s own effort.

We won’t spoil the conclusions, but there are some strong commonalities between VTech’s BASIC and Microsoft’s version from this era. The variable names in particular are a strong hint as to what’s going on under the hood. The video is worth a watch for anyone that’s a fan of early microcomputer history, BASIC, or just the weird computer-like devices of yesteryear. We also love the idea that the PreComputer 1000 was actually quite a capable machine hiding behind a single-line LCD display.

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Microsoft Discontinues Kinect, Again

The Kinect is a depth-sensing camera peripheral originally designed as a accessory for the Xbox gaming console, and it quickly found its way into hobbyist and research projects. After a second version, Microsoft abandoned the idea of using it as a motion sensor for gaming and it was discontinued. The technology did however end up evolving as a sensor into what eventually became the Azure Kinect DK (spelling out ‘developer kit’ presumably made the name too long.) Sadly, it also has now been discontinued.

The original Kinect was a pretty neat piece of hardware for the price, and a few years ago we noted that the newest version was considerably smaller and more capable. It had a depth sensor with selectable field of view for different applications, a high-resolution RGB video camera that integrated with the depth stream, integrated IMU and microphone array, and it worked to leverage machine learning for better processing and easy integration with Azure. It even provided a simple way to sync multiple units together for unified processing of a scene.

In many ways the Kinect gave us all a glimpse of the future¬†because at the time, a depth-sensing camera with a synchronized video stream was just not a normal thing to get one’s hands on. It was also one of the first consumer hardware items to contain a microphone array, which allowed it to better record voices, localize them, and isolate them from other noise sources in a room. It led to many, many projects and we hope there are still more to come, because Microsoft might not be making them anymore, but they are licensing out the technology to companies who want to build similar devices.

Microsoft Now Offering Parts And Repair Guides For Xbox Controllers

We’re big fans of repairable hardware here at Hackaday, so much so that when we see a company embracing the idea that their products should actually be serviced rather than thrown in the trash, we like to call attention to it. Yes, that even includes when it’s Microsoft.

This community has had a mixed relationship with the Redmond software giant, to say the least. But we’ve still got to give them credit when they do something positive. Not only are they offering a full selection of replacement parts for both the standard and Elite Xbox controllers, they’ve also provided written instructions and step-by-step video guides on how to install your new parts.

For those of you who stopped playing console games when the controllers still only had two buttons, this might not seem like such a big deal. But considering a new Xbox Elite Wireless Controller will set you back a dizzying $180, it’s not hard to see why some folks would be excited about the possibility of swapping out the guts of the thing for $50.

Of course, these parts were already available from third party sellers, and iFixit naturally has repair guides for all the different flavors of Xbox controllers. Nothing about what Microsoft is doing here makes the Xbox controller fundamentally any easier to repair than it was previously. But the fact that the company isn’t treating their customers like adversaries is a step in the right direction.

Valve has been similarly open about the internals of the Steam Deck, though their presentation was a bit dramatic, and even Sony provided an official teardown video for the PS5. We’re not sure why these companies are willing to pull back the curtain when it comes to gaming hardware. Whatever the reason, we’re certainly not complaining.

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