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Microsoft’s new Windows Package Manager is already better than the Windows Store

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Microsoft surprised Windows users with a new package manager yesterday. It’s a command line tool that allows developers, power users, and really any Windows user to install their favorite apps from a simple command. If you’ve ever had to wipe a Windows machine clean or set up a new device, you’ll know the pain of having to reinstall apps, find download links, and get a PC ready again.

Windows Package Manager aims to solve that, and it’s relatively simple to create a script to have your favorite apps installed from a command prompt. The Windows Store should be the central location for all Windows apps, but Microsoft’s initial Universal Windows Platform (UWP) push meant traditional and useful win32 desktop apps were never listed in the store. That’s changed in the years since Windows 10’s debut, but the Store still feels like abandonware. Most power users and even developers have ignored the Windows Store in favor of package managers like Chocolatey. Else they manually download apps from the web.

Some of the apps already on Windows Package Manager.

Microsoft creating its own Windows Package Manager (winget) is significant, and the command line tool is already more useful than the Windows Store. You can navigate to a command prompt, type “winget install Steam,” and the latest version of Valve’s Steam app will be installed on your system. Steam doesn’t even exist in the Windows Store right now; there are many apps already available on winget like Zoom, WinRAR, and Logitech Harmony Remote that are also missing from the Store.

As Windows Package Manager is only in preview and 24 hours old, it doesn’t have every app listed that you might want just yet. Windows Store apps aren’t available in winget yet, as Microsoft is maintaining its own separate repository of apps and validating them. Store app support is planned for a future update, though. The whole project is open source so other package managers can leverage the company’s validated packages. Software vendors will even be able to use Windows Package Manager as a distribution channel for apps, just like the Windows Store.

Using winget does require an element of trust, though. “One critical concern we had was how to build a repository of trusted applications,” explains Demitrius Nelon, a senior program manager at Microsoft. “We are automatically checking each manifest. We leverage SmartScreen, static analysis, SHA256 hash validation and a few other processes to reduce the likelihood of malicious software making its way into the repository and onto your machine.”

Most package managers are used by developers to quickly get a fresh dev box ready with all of their favorite apps. The Windows Store should handle this with ease, but it’s a mess. The Store has a library system that’s supposed to list all of the apps you own, but on my own systems, it simply says “there’s nothing in your library.”

Microsoft’s adoption of its own Windows Package Manager should serve as a wake-up call for the company’s Windows Store efforts. The Windows Store is poorly maintained, and a lot of developers have simply ignored it.

My hope is that we’ll see a combination of the Windows Package Manager repository and the Windows Store in the future. It would be great for all Windows users to get easy access to desktop apps they actually care about without having to open a command prompt.

Microsoft

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra may try to be the Xbox Phone

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Samsung’s Note 20 Ultra, which is expected to launch on August 5th at the next Samsung Unpacked event, may be highly optimized to stream Xbox games over xCloud, according to a new report from WinFuture.

While that might come as a surprise, Samsung and Microsoft have actually gotten pretty cozy over the past year. Last August, at the last Galaxy Note launch event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared onstage to recognize an increased partnership between the two companies, and the two companies announced that Samsung would preinstall Microsoft’s Your Phone app, Office apps, LinkedIn, and OneDrive on the Galaxy Note 10.

The two companies also announced they would be partnering on a cloud-based game streaming service in February. A Microsoft-made game streaming service would also fill a hole for Samsung, which shut down its own PC-to-phone game streaming service in March. More than 90 games will apparently be available to stream on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra over xCloud, according to WinFuture.

WinFuture’s report also included details about Samsung’s new flagship Note. The phone is expected to have a 6.9-inch screen with a 3200 x 1440 resolution, and will apparently be capable of a variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz, similar to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The phone may also be the first to have Corning’s Gorilla Glass 7.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is expected to have three cameras on a huge camera bump — which we’ve seen on previous leaks of the phone — and WinFuture mostly corroborates other rumors about those cameras. WinFuture says the phone will have a 108 megapixel main camera, a 12 megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 12 megapixel periscope lens (though leaker Ice Universe reported it would be 13 megapixels) that can magnify up to 50X. That zoom would a step down from the Samsung S20 Ultra’s hyped 100X zoom, but that turned out to be gimmicky in real-world use, so perhaps the reduced zoom will result in better photos. And the hole-punch front camera is 10 megapixels, reports WinFuture.

The S Pen stylus in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra may only have a latency of nine milliseconds, according to WinFuture. And YouTuber Jimmy Is Promo revealed that the Note 20 Ultra could have a new “pointer” mode that will let you use an on-screen cursor by pointing the S Pen at the phone, as shown in a video posted earlier this month.

Rounding out the specs, WinFuture reports the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra will work on 5G networks, comes with either 256 or 512 GB of storage that can be expanded via microSD, and has 12GB of RAM, Wi-Fi 6, and a 4,500mAh battery.

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Mixer is getting a big Fortnite tournament series hosted by Ninja

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Microsoft’s Mixer streaming platform is making a bigger splash in the live event game with a new tournament series starting this week featuring Fortnite player Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Called Ninja Battles Featuring Fortnite, the weekly tournament series will take place starting this week on May 28th and lasting every Thursday through July, reports Deadline.

The event will be hosted on Ninja’s Mixer channel, which is the platform’s most popular channel since the streamer left Twitch last August to join Microsoft’s competitor as part of a lucrative multiyear streaming deal. Ninja’s high-profile departure, orchestrated in part by his management team at the talent agency Loaded, inspired a wave of new contracts spanning the entire live-streaming ecosystem. In the months after Ninja left Twitch, several popular gaming entertainers followed him and signed new deals with other streaming platforms.

Just in the last few months alone, Twitch and YouTube have locked down popular creators like Imane “Pokimane” Anys and YouTube megastar Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg to their respective platforms.

Ninja Battles Featuring Fortnite will feature $400,000 in prize money and bring together 60 Fortnite pros and other big names in the Twitch and broader live-streaming world, including Nicholas “Nick Eh 30” Amyoony, Fortnite World Cup champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, and Faze Clan streamers Nate Hill and Soleil “Ewok” Wheeler. Everyone will be streaming from the comfort of their home during the pandemic.

Ninja will of course be a centerpiece of the event, which is being co-produced by Ninja himself and his management team Loaded. He’ll participate in the competitions, while popular community members “BallaTW” and “MonsterDface” will commentate. Notably, Ninja was the first streamer to host a live and in-person Fortnite tournament in early 2018, just months after the game first came out and long before developer Epic Games formed an official esports circuit for the title.

“I joined Mixer to push boundaries, create different types of streaming content and interact with fans in new ways,” Ninja said in a statement. “Ninja Battles brings a new kind of gameplay to the community. I am excited to share this competitive experience with my fans as well as have my fellow gamers and friends participate.”

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Cortana now lets you schedule meetings by voice inside Outlook

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Microsoft is adding new abilities to Outlook’s “Play My Emails” feature, allowing you to use voice control to organize your emails and day-to-day schedule. The company originally released Play My Emails for Outlook last November, letting Microsoft’s AI assistant Cortana read emails out loud to users.

With the new features, Cortana will allow you to accept or decline meetings as well as set up a meeting with someone. If someone emails you regarding important or time-sensitive information, it will suggest setting a meeting during the next available 30-minute time slot on your calendar. Cortana will also give you an option to view your schedule and select a time to set up a meeting, and it’ll allow you to add emails to your task list.

Use Cortana to join a Microsoft Teams meeting, too.
Image: Microsoft

The new update will also include support for the recently released Microsoft Surface Earbuds, allowing owners to use Outlook voice commands and navigate their emails by swiping back and forth on the surface of the earbuds. Additionally, Cortana will soon allow you to quickly join a Microsoft Teams meeting if you’re behind on your schedule, so you can join the meeting within a minute before it’s slated to start or join once it’s in progress.

Microsoft is releasing this feature first on iOS devices, though Android support is slated to roll out “in the coming weeks,” according to the company.

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