Monthly Archives: August 2021

Windows 365 No Deal for Non-Biz Linux Users


Microsoft’s new Cloud PC with Windows 10/11 service potentially offers a way for some Linux users to sidestep what could be the last barrier for businesses to adopt the Linux desktop without leaving behind must-have Windows applications.

But if you lack a company’s backing, for the time being you can expect Microsoft’s new platform to consider you unsuitable. So personal use of Windows 365 is not a real option for all Linux users.

Windows 365 launched Aug. 2, 2021 as software-as-a-service offering that initially targets business and enterprise users.

Microsoft so far is silent about expanding that target user base to non-business users. Linux and Chromebook users looking to pay the monthly subscription price — especially if they run a home office-based gig — might be able to sign up for the Windows 365 streaming service.

Microsoft’s announcement said Windows PC “is a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when available) through the power of the cloud across all your devices. We believe this will give organizations of all sizes the power, simplicity, and security you need to address the changing needs of your workforce as you embrace hybrid work.”

Microsoft just blew into the smithereens the only reason why we could not use the Linux operating system, offered Alina Clark, co-founder and marketing director at CocoDoc.

“It feels like independence. If anything, a large number of Linux users will now get to enjoy Word and other Microsoft Office tools, which provide the highest amount of consistency in that regard, while still basking in the lightweight, super-efficient glow of the Linux operating system,” the tech expert and growth manager told LinuxInsider.

Windows Cloud PC could lead to an increase of Linux users, she reasoned, since all those who were stopped from using it due to the Microsoft Office compatibility issues may just consider shifting.

What’s the Difference?

Windows 365 is not the same product as the still-existing free and subscription services of Microsoft Office and Office.com. The new service is a cloud computing product that costs users a monthly fee. With it you get a fully functional Windows operating system accessed by streaming the Windows OS from your Cloud PC setup to your local devices.

The difference is you do not have to install the cloud-delivered Windows software on every Windows computer you use. Instead, you can access a fully functional Windows OS with full access to whatever Windows applications you use over the internet instead of installing it on your local hardware. You can stream the same access to all your desktop and mobile devices, including smartphone, Chromebook, and Linux-based desktop and laptop computers.


Microsoft’s other Office suite is a web-based platform that only provides the Office apps. You cannot use it to run other the Microsoft OS and Microsoft Windows applications. That is a critical difference that Linux and Chromebook users (and for that matter, macOS users) need to understand.

This new “Windows as a service” is an option for people and businesses who prefer running Linux on their local computers without configuring a virtual machine to access Microsoft Windows and installed Windows applications within Linux.

That VM option is not even fully available on Chromebooks. But just as Chromebook users can run Linux apps — just like Android apps — on a Linux partition within the Chrome OS, that capability is coming to Chromebooks via a similar Windows partition.

Windows 365 is going to give Microsoft the ability to compete for market share on a huge variety of new devices, according to Devon Fata, CEO of web design firm Pixoul. It also positions Windows 365 as a complement to those who primarily run Linux or macOS.

“I see this cutting both ways. On the one hand, it will be easier to run Linux and supplement with Windows 365 when necessary. But on the other hand, Windows can now compete with Linux on more platforms,” he told LinuxInsider.

Quick ‘n’ Easy Sign Up (Maybe)

Signing up to subscribe to the Windows 365 cloud service is similar to the process Microsoft uses for its Office.com and Microsoft.com offerings. If you have a Microsoft business account already, you should be able to use your same email address to get started. I have an Outlook.com address registered for my web-based access to other Microsoft products.

My initial efforts were an exercise in futility. ECT News Network (the parent company of LinuxInsider) has a Microsoft business account, at least that is what the sign-up page confirmed as I cobbled together my user credentials to set up a Windows 365 account.

When I entered my outlook.com address, the Windows 365 sign up page balked and said I needed to create a new Microsoft account. The automated process had me enter my suggested business company account name, and after several tries approved an available user name.

The next step automatically affixed the required domain name of “.onmicrosoft.com.” That is required for the Windows 365 license. Then Microsoft approved my suggested password. I needed to provide a secondary email address to prove my identity with a provided one-time passcode.

Following that, I was required to give my credit card information for the monthly billing. An initial free trial period was no longer available. But subscribers can cancel at any time by notifying Microsoft using the administrator account manager page.

Clicking the ‘Next’ button at this point loaded the Microsoft 365 page. The cloud-based delivery then provided options for adding other Microsoft applications and business tools.

Microsoft Happens!

Subsequent sign in attempts start to display the Windows desktop before jumping to the failed page load display.

Microsoft sign in error

Over the course of several days, two other Windows screens of death appeared. Despite sending copies of several screenshots requesting tech support, email replies suggested logging on to file help requests. I would if I could, Microsoft!

Windows 365 page can't be found

Overall, Microsoft’s newest Windows 365 offering seems to have an identity crisis. Some sign in attempts brought me to my Office.com page or a Microsoft.com page. Some of the emails I received after contacting Microsoft directed me to respond to https://support.office.com/home/contact.

Another reply suggested that I go to https://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/home to scan the list of problems and solutions. That only added to my frustration. Nearly every entry there referenced other Microsoft products. I did not see any tagged with Windows 365.

Your organization doesn't have a subscription to Windows 365

Adding insult to injury, I searched other Microsoft databases for troubleshooting and general internet searches as well. That got similar results of no solutions. Again, almost no mention of Windows 365 turned up.

Finally, as I was finishing this article on Windows 365 as a non-option for most Linux users, I received an email response from a Microsoft media representative offering a suggestion but not a real solution.

“Since your initial access to Windows 365 is through a separate paid trial/subscription, we’re unable to check the status of your Windows 365 environment. We recommend checking out this Tech Community blog post, which provides detailed guidance on how to set up Windows 365,” wrote Nick Heinz for Microsoft.

Well, I did not sign up via a trial subscription. That option was no longer available for Windows 365. Clicking the link to the Tech Community blog post that Heinz provided just added more insult to injury, as shown by yet another Microsoft webpage failure.

Microsoft Defender for Office 365 has encountered an error

“We’d also like to remind you that Windows 365 is built for organizations, so you will need an existing Windows license and Microsoft 365 Business or Microsoft 365 Enterprise account for Windows 365 to work, as you would for a physical Windows 10 device in your organization. Provisioning can be done in the Microsoft 365 admin center,” he concluded.

Wrapping Up

Therein lies the rub, perhaps! My initial sign up for Windows 365 brought me beyond the admin center page. I have a licensed Windows 10 purchase. I previously signed up for a Microsoft 365 Business account, which I had no trouble accessing but will now not be renewing.


Microsoft’s limitation of Windows 365 to only qualified business accounts is a big disappointment for potential Linux users. Being able to migrate to Linux for personal use without leaving must-have Windows 10/11 applications is still an unfulfilled dream.

Why does Microsoft not want to reap more subscription fees from interested Linux users without business affiliations? Or for that matter, from non-business users of other computing and mobile platforms?

That is just plain bad business, Microsoft.

From a Linux user’s perspective, Windows 365 can be a convenient — but costly — option to stream the Windows OS to any of your non-Microsoft devices using the web browser of your choice. But Windows 365 is not an option for personal use for Linux or any other platform without any business ties.



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Con Kolivas Contemplates Ending Kernel Development, Retiring MuQSS & -ck Patches


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Con Kolivas has worked on many patches for the Linux kernel over the past two decades and particularly focused on innovations around desktop performance/interactivity. For over a decade now he’s primarily been focused on maintaining his work out-of-tree and not catering to mainline acceptance but now he is thinking of bowing out once more and ending his kernel development effort.

Over the past decade he’s been maintaining his “-ck” patches out-of-tree and updating them for each new kernel series with a variety of improvements to enhance the interactivity and performance of the kernel. He’s also been maintaining his MuQSS scheduler that is the successor to his former “BFS” Brain Fuck Scheduler.

While Con’s work in recent times hasn’t been mainlined, these patches have been carried by some distribution kernels and various third-party kernel builds like Liquorix and friends.

With Con Kolivas being a anaesthetist by profession and just a kernel hacker as a devoted hobbyist, last year he took a break from kernel development to design COVID-19 equipment during the early days of the pandemic. However, now he’s looking at taking a longer break or potentially a permanent departure from Linux kernel work.

Con didn’t get around to updating MuQSS and his -ck patches for Linux 5.13 and now with Linux 5.14 recently minted, he’s been self-reflecting given the “depressingly large” changes at hand. He shared today that he’s thinking of ending his -ck / MuQSS effort so for now at least no updates are planned past the existing Linux 5.12 patches.

Con wrote on his blog, “I’m once again left wondering if I should be bothering with maintaining this patch-set, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog. The size of my user-base seems to be diminishing with time, and I’m getting further and further out of touch with what’s happening in the linux kernel space at all, with countless other things to preoccupy me in my spare time.

He further added, “There is always the possibility that mainline linux kernel will be so bad that I’ll be forced to create a new kernel of my own out of disgust, which is how I got here in the first place, but that looks very unlikely. Many of you would have anticipated this coming after my last motivation blog-post, but unless I can find the motivation to work on it again, or something comes up that gives me a meaningful reason to work on it, I will have to sadly declare 5.12-ck the last of the MuQSS and -ck patches.


Network Configuration Audits Are More Important Than Ever


To best visualize how an enterprise network has changed over the past few years, all an administrator must do is open their network traffic monitoring tool and view the drastic shift in data flows across the LAN, WAN, and network edge. While a significant portion of these data flow shifts have occurred due to modified work-from-home policies over the past 18 months, other changes came about through planned cloud and edge computing migrations. Adapting to these changes elevates the importance of network configuration audits.

Why? In many instances, network administrators correctly adjusted switching, routing, and firewall configurations to conform to how users and devices now communicate. But while these configuration modifications were made, the removal of old and obsolete commands can linger. Although these configurations can lay dormant and many are benign from a performance/security perspective, they can create confusion that often leads to missteps down the road. For this reason, it has become more critical than ever to perform a thorough network configuration audit so that obsolete configurations can be removed to ensure that the network can be easily understood and trusted by all network operations and administration staff. Let’s look at some examples of where out-of-date configurations are commonly found to give you a head start on your network auditing process.

  • Switches: Virtual LANs (VLANs) that have either been consolidated or are no longer needed tend to stay in switch configurations longer than necessary. This is especially true in data centers that have been downsized due to migrating apps, data, and digital services to cloud computing platforms. Trunked uplinks that manually specify which VLANs can traverse the connection should also be reviewed and pruned, if necessary.
  • Routers: While most networks use dynamic routing protocols to automatically maintain an up-to-date view of the most optimal paths across a network, it’s not uncommon to find static routes configured on one or more routers/layer 3 switches. Over time, these network destinations change or move – yet the static routes are forgotten. This can lead to a situation where the IP subnet listed in the static route is reused somewhere else in the corporate LAN or WAN. If this occurs, it can result in parts of the network not being able to access the newly formed subnet. Similarly, access lists and policies are commonly configured on routers to restrict who can reach devices on a particular subnet. Even if the network or switch virtual interface (SVI) is removed, access list configurations might remain. This can clutter the router configuration, sometimes confusing administrators that manage them.
  • Firewall rules: By and large, firewall configurations are more closely monitored and maintained compared to network switches and routers. However, some administrators opt to disable firewall rules and interfaces as opposed to deleting them outright. While this is an understandable practice as the ability to quickly re-enable the configurations is a matter of a few clicks – disabled configurations have a way to stay for weeks, months, or even years. This can lead to a scenario where administrators could inadvertently enable a disabled command on accident, leading to unnecessary threat exposure.
  • Site-to-site VPN tunnels: When it comes to VPN tunnels, configuration issues take on one of two forms. The first is when a site-to-site VPN setup is disabled/deleted on one side of the tunnel while the configuration remains enabled on the other. This issue can easily be resolved by identifying the defunct VPN configuration commands and deleting them. Another common site-to-site VPN audit issue is when administrators build multiple tunnels for networks with the same source and destination endpoints. When these are identified in an audit, it is mostly resolved by consolidating networks that can be accessed between locations into a single site-to-site tunnel configuration.

Have a plan, execute and document!

Because of the massive shift in how enterprise networks are used today compared to just a few years ago, there are likely any number of configurations on a network appliance that are no longer needed and are ripe for removal. The key for those that wish to perform network configuration audits is to come in with a specific game plan with which to methodically execute. Additionally, proper audit and change control documentation must be created with the purpose of documenting what configurations were earmarked for deletion and why. This creates an audit trail that can be referenced in the event that an in-use configuration command was accidentally removed.



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Scheduler Changes For Linux 5.15 – Still No Sign Of Any Intel Thread Director Optimizations


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Ingo Molnar began sending in his pull requests bright and early as usual for the just-opened Linux 5.15 merge window. With the scheduler changes for this next kernel version there are some improvements worth mentioning but also worth mentioning is what hasn’t found its way to the kernel yet: any software optimizations around Intel Thread Director for upcoming Alder Lake processors.

The new scheduler material for Linux 5.15 includes changes for dealing with asymmetric scheduling affinity. This asymmetric scheduling affinity is initially focused around handling of 32-bit tasks on AArch64 systems where some SoCs are having AArch64-only cores not capable of 32-bit (AArch32) execution. The scheduling changes allow defining their own CPU possible mask for tasks to ensure the scheduler will place a given task on a CPU that supports it. Again, initially all focused on the Arm front with legacy 32-bit tasks for some SoCs having 64-bit-only cores.

The scheduler changes for Linux 5.15 also add cgroup SCHED_IDLE support, deadline scheduler improvements, enhanced CPU node-distance determination, and various fixes. The full list of scheduler patches for the Linux 5.15 merge window can be found via this PR.

Notably what isn’t part of this pull request nor have I seen it elsewhere on the kernel mailing list or any prominent staging public Git repositories is any Linux support/optimizations around Intel Thread Director. With upcoming Alder Lake processors there is Thread Director as the new Intel hardware-based functionality for trying to determine the best placement of a given task between its mix of E energy efficiency and P performance cores.

Thread Director is hardware-based for trying to determine the most appropriate task placement among Alder Lake and future Intel hybrid processor designs, but there is a software element at play too. Intel made clear back during Architecture Day that Windows 11 will carry optimizations for Thread Director but wasn’t too clear on the specifics. Intel has also been mum on any Linux software support/optimizations around Thread Director. Well, with no patches queued up for Linux 5.15 that in turn will be out as stable this autumn and with the first Alder Lake processors due out later this year, it doesn’t look like Intel will have any launch-day Linux optimizations in place.

The Linux kernel has long been catering to Arm’s big.LITTLE designs and supporting features around energy aware scheduling and other software improvements on that front, including this work in 5.15 around proper scheduling of tasks if certain cores have reduced capabilities, but we haven’t seen anything on the Intel front in the scheduler or power management areas. P-State has prepared for Alder Lake / hybrid CPU designs but again no kernel activity around the Thread Director front even in early patch form on the LKML.

Thread Director should work fine without any OS engagement given that Microsoft Windows 10 should work fine with Alder Lake without any apparent kernel changes, but in any case we’ll see what comes up in the weeks/months ahead and how the Alder Lake Linux performance is out-of-the-box later this year.


Linux 5.14 Released With New Hardware Support, Core Scheduling, MEMFD_SECRET


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As expected Linus Torvalds promoted Linux 5.14 to stable in providing the latest features, hardware support, and other improvements ahead of the autumn 2021 Linux distribution releases.

See the Linux 5.14 feature list for a comprehensive list of the changes in this new kernel version. Some of the Linux 5.14 highlights include core scheduling support, secret memory areas support with MEMFD_SECRET, continued enablement around Intel Alder Lake, Yellow Carp and Beige Goby AMD graphics support, AMD SmartShift laptop support, Raspberry Pi 400 support, and more. Linux 5.14 has the usual mix of new hardware support, improving existing features, and adding in other new kernel innovations.

This Linux 5.14 kernel release comes just days after the 30th anniversary of Torvalds announcing the Linux kernel. Linus Torvalds wrote in today’s Linux 5.14 announcement, “So I realize you must all still be busy with all the galas and fancy balls and all the other 30th anniversary events, but at some point you must be getting tired of the constant glitz, the fireworks, and the champagne. That ball gown or tailcoat isn’t the most comfortable thing, either. The celebrations will go on for a few more weeks yet, but you all may just need a breather from them. And when that happens, I have just the thing for you – a new kernel release to test and enjoy. Because 5.14 is out there, just waiting for you to kick the tires and remind yourself what all the festivities are about.

Now it’s on to the Linux 5.15 merge window with a lot of exciting changes planned.