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  1. .NET 6 will now include Hot Reload across multiple platforms Microsoft is reversing a decision to remove a key feature from its upcoming .NET 6 release, after a public outcry from the open source community. Microsoft angered the .NET open source community earlier this week by removing a key part of Hot Reload in the upcoming release of .NET 6, a feature that allows developers to modify source code while an app is running and immediately see the results. It’s a feature many had been looking forward to using in Visual Studio Code and across multiple platforms, until Microsoft made a controversial last-minute decision to lock it to Visual Studio 2022 which is a paid product that’s limited to Windows. Sources at Microsoft, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Verge that the last-minute change was made by Julia Liuson, the head of Microsoft’s developer division, and was a business-focused move. Microsoft has now reversed the change following a backlash, and anger inside the company from many of Microsoft’s own employees. “We made a mistake in executing on our decision and took longer than expected to respond back to the community,” explains Scott Hunter, director of program management for .NET. Microsoft has now approved the community’s pull request to re-enable this feature and it will be available in the final version of the .NET 6 SDK. We asked Microsoft to comment on the fact an executive ordered the change, but the company didn’t want to discuss the controversial decision. “We have taken steps to address the issue that some of our OSS community members have experienced,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Hot Reload capability will be in the general availability build of the .NET 6 SDK available on November 8th.” Microsoft’s blog post doesn’t address this controversial decision, though. Instead, it suggests it was simply a mistake to remove the code instead of simply disabling it, and not a business decision. “In our effort to scope, we inadvertently ended up deleting the source code instead of just not invoking that code path,” says Hunter. Hot Reload lets developers instantly see code changes while apps are running. While the reversal will be a welcome one for the .NET community, the explanation and circumstances around this incident won’t sit easy with those who value transparency around such decisions. “As is true with many companies, we are learning to balance the needs of OSS community and being a corporate sponsor for .NET,” says Hunter. “Sometimes we don’t get it right. When we don’t, the best we can do is learn from our mistakes and be better moving forward.” This eventful episode came after weeks of unrest in the .NET community over Microsoft’s involvement in the .NET Foundation. The foundation was created in 2014 when Microsoft made .NET open source, and it’s supposed to be an independent organization that exists to improve open source software development and collaboration for .NET. A resigning board member questioned the role of the .NET Foundation recently, asking whether it’s “here to enforce Microsoft’s will on .NET open source, or are you here to help foster and promote a healthy community?” A recent controversy also led to .NET Foundation executive director Claire Novotny resigning recently and others questioning the independence of the .NET Foundation given Microsoft’s special privileges. Microsoft has certainly damaged some of the open source work it has been building on for 10 years with this u-turn, and the company still has plenty of work ahead to improve relations with the .NET community and the issues around its influence on the .NET Foundation. Microsoft reverses controversial .NET change after open source community outcry
  2. OneDrive for Windows release notes (Production ring) - Rolling out What's new We've resolved product issues to improve the reliability and performance of the OneDrive sync app. Download: https://oneclient.sfx.ms/Win/Prod/21.196.0921.0007/OneDriveSetup.exe or https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=860984
  3. With the passage of another week, it’s time to look at all the Microsoft-related news that happened. This week, the news cycle in the Redmond giant’s world was dominated by the release of Windows 11. The next-gen OS from Microsoft began rolling out in a staggered fashion and brought with it a barrage of news and interesting observations. Along with the rollout also came a few app updates, some gaming-related news, and an interesting report from the firm. All this and more in our weekly Microsoft digest for October 3 – October 9. Windows 11 launch As promised by the firm, Windows 11 began rolling out to select users starting October 5, depending on the geography. Interestingly though, documentation for the offering’s support lifecycle notes the start date as October 4. As was expected, the release is a staggered, measured one, meaning a small set of eligible users receive the upgrade as an optional package. With time, more users will begin being offered the OS. The firm has also started showing a banner on the Windows Update Settings page notifying users that their PC is compatible. Of course, users can force the upgrade using the Media Creation Tool (MCT) and the like. Additionally, the Redmond company also made Windows 11 available to businesses customers as a Cloud PC in the Windows 365 Enterprise subscription. However, the OS did release with a few known issues, some that serve to be blocking bugs, meaning that the firm has placed a hold on rolling out the OS to devices that might be affected by the issues. This is why the firm also advises against installing the OS using the Installation Assistant or via the MCT to avoid any problems. However, those that upgraded to Windows 11 and wished to go back to Windows 10 can do so from within the OS itself. Refer to our handy guide that provides a walkthrough of that process. Not all was well with the rollout, as some users began reporting errors while trying to install the OS, especially when using the Installation Assistant. The most common of them were 0x8007007 and 0x800F0830, which could mostly be fixed using a simple workaround. Users of Windows Mixed Reality were also treated to issues on upgrading to the OS, with some users reporting that setting up the feature before installing was the best way to get it to work. Some users that successfully installed Windows 11 on systems running AMD processors were also in for a surprise, thanks to an announcement by AMD acknowledging that there might be some performance issues caused by the L3 cache latency. The impact could vary from a drop in performance of anywhere between 3% and 15%. Additionally, another issue affects processors with eight or more cores caused by the inability to schedule threads on a processor’s fastest core. Thankfully, a fix is on its way for both these issues. While all these impacted those that were available to download the new OS on their systems, Microsoft also posted an official workaround for bypassing the TPM requirements, albeit with a word of caution. There is no telling if unsupported devices will receive security updates in the long run as the company noted that it is doubling down on security. The company also reiterated its case for the TPM 2.0 requirement and VBS, advocating for the technologies and making them the default. Lastly, Dev channel Windows Insiders got Windows 11 build 22471, which brought a bunch of bug fixes and no new features. These fixes are expected to eventually make it to the production version that was released this week. However, there is no word on when features like Android app support will make it to the offering. While there wasn’t much in the way of news about Windows 10, the next feature update - version 21H2 – is on the horizon. Though there aren’t any major new features, we have put together a run-down of everything that you should know. Take a look at all that’s new with Windows 10 version 21H2 here. However, if you are more interested in all that’s new with Windows 11, we have got you covered there are well. You can head to our detailed Windows 11 review here to learn about the new features, misses, and more. New apps and updates As is the case every other week, there was news of yet another app receiving a refresh. This time, it’s the good old Notepad app. The app is receiving a new Settings menu and – as expected – rounded corners. The offering joins the list of other classic apps that are being revamped, including the likes of Paint. While not an app in itself, a new Feedback Portal is in the works that aims to replace Microsoft’s UserVoice. The portal will serve as the hub for gather feedback for the Microsoft 365 suite of apps Teams, and Edge. The portal will also add sections for Windows next year, but it is anybody’s guess if this means that the Feedback Hub will be replaced. There was some news for Excel users as well, as the firm announced that it is bringing Smooth Scrolling to Excel on Windows – which it has been testing in the Office Insider channels. The firm added that integrating the feature was a challenge and that the ability to should now enhance the experience for those that use the spreadsheet tool extensively. Talking about Insiders, a new Office Insider Beta build fixes an issue with high CPU usage on Excel. The build also adds a few fixes for update problems, among others. Rounding off the apps section is the weekly update to Edge. This week, the Dev channel build brought a few new features, including support for voice typing on Windows 11, improvements to moving tabs to a different profile, and more. As usual, there were a bunch of bug fixes. New Xbox Game Pass titles, new limited-edition controllers, more Headlining the gaming news this week is the list of new Xbox Game Pass titles for the first half of October. The list includes a couple of day-one releases such as Turtle Rock Studio's Back 4 Blood. The PC version of Destiny 2: Beyond Light expansion also makes it to the list, among others. In all, there are eight titles being added and six leaving the subscription. You can check out the full list here. Along with the Game Pass titles came huge discounts for a bunch of titles via Deals with Gold. This week, there are discounts on games from the Battlefield and Lego franchises, along with a long list of other tiles. Some of the deals, however, are specific to just Xbox Live Gold members. Additionally, Microsoft confirmed this week that it has completed upgrading all its Xbox Cloud gaming hardware to custom Xbox Series X consoles. The firm also added that it is working on a TV app to build game streaming right into TVs. This likely complements the dedicated streaming hardware that the firm is said to be developing. Staying on the topic of hardware, the Redmond company announced the 20th-anniversary editions of the Xbox controller and Headset. The special edition peripherals launch on November 15 and can be pre-ordered for $69.99 each. The firm has also partnered with Razer for a limited edition Universal Quick Charging Stand. However, for those looking for expansion cards for their existing Series X consoles, a 512GB version was spotted at an American retailer, hinting at a launch sooner rather than later. Moving on, we reviewed Alan Wake Remastered on Xbox Series X this week, sharing our thoughts on the story, performance and visuals, music, and lingering issues in the game. You can read through the entire review and our conclusion and share your thoughts in the comments. Rounding off gaming news is an interesting partnership. Xbox and Rockstar Energy Drink have partnered to offer Halo Infinite-themed collector’s edition cans. The cans also come with a code that can be redeemed for 2XP and entries for a chance to win Halo Infinite, Xbox bundles, a Razer Raptor 27” monitor, a Razer Kaira Pro Halo Infinite headset, the Jeep Gladiator grand prize vehicle and other in-game rewards. Dev channel: Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services will be generally available from November 1 Everything you should know about Windows 11 IoT Enterprise that is now out Microsoft announces the next phase of its plans for a decentralized identity system Microsoft agrees to expand "right to repair" options following shareholder pressure Russia poses the greatest cybersecurity threat to governments, says Microsoft Logging off: We continue our detailed coverage of Windows 11 with the Closer Look series. This week, we dove deeper into the new, unified Snipping Tool experience that combines the old Snipping Tool and the Snip & Sketch experience from Windows 10. We compare it to the Windows 10 versions and list everything that is good and aspects that can be improved. Take a complete look. Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 launch edition
  4. The company has given itself a deadline to go through a study and act on it Microsoft has agreed to have an independent third-party study the potential impact of it making its devices easier to repair and to make changes based on those findings by the end of 2022, according to Grist and the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. The agreement was made after As You Sow filed a shareholder resolution asking Microsoft to look into the potential impact that it could make by making it easier for consumers to get their devices repaired. As You Sow has withdrawn its resolution in return for Microsoft conducting the study and making parts and documentation more available to repair shops that aren’t official Microsoft service providers based on the study’s results. As You Sow calls Microsoft’s commitment “an encouraging step,” but it’s worth keeping in perspective that it is just a step — what Microsoft has actually done today is said that it’ll have a study done and then use it to “guide” its “product design and plans for expanding device repair options,” according to a statement emailed to The Verge by a Microsoft spokesperson. The fact that the company is at least willing to do that is encouraging and is more than other tech giants have done when it comes to right to repair. But without details, it’s hard to say how big of an impact this will have. It’s also unclear whether the public will end up getting those details or not. According to Grist, Microsoft will have to post a summary of the study by May 2022, but not the actual study itself (citing concerns over trade secrets). With that said, it should be easy to tell if Microsoft is sticking to its word on this — either it’ll become easier to get your Surface Pro or Xbox repaired at a third-party store, or it won’t. Grist also quotes iFixit’s US policy directory, which brings up Microsoft’s lobbying efforts. According to the US Public Interest Research Group (or US PIRG), Microsoft has been involved in lobbying against right-to-repair laws in Colorado and Washington. If that kind of behavior continues, it would be hard to give Microsoft props for any positive work it does for right to repair. Despite the caveats, right to repair supporters see this agreement as a good thing. iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens called it a “huge, landmark move” on Twitter and, in an email to The Verge, said that it “wasn’t just talk,” citing the Surface Laptop’s improvements in repairability over the years. PRIG’s right to repair campaign manager also told The Verge that it was “the real deal” and cited it as evidence as Microsoft “changing its tune” about right to repair. If it does end up making significant changes, Microsoft could end up ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing its products’ impact on e-waste and emissions — both President Joe Biden and the FTC have been working to clamp down on companies illegally making it harder for consumers to get their devices repaired. Microsoft has promised to actively look into right to repair
  5. Microsoft and AMD already have a strong relationship with collaborations spanning multiple product lineup including Azure, Surface, Windows and Xbox. Tech Enthusiast Tron recently revealed that Microsoft and AMD working together on a powerful ARM processor that will power Windows devices including Surface. The performance of this upcoming ARM chip will be lower than NVIDIA GTX 1050 class but will be much better than the current Qualcomm processors. This upcoming SoC will also have Samsung Exynos 5G modem for seamless connectivity. According to the report, this upcoming Cortex X1-based SoC will be manufactured by TSMC using 5nm process. Source: Tron Report: Microsoft and AMD are collaborating on a powerful ARM processor for Windows PCs
  6. Another week has passed, which means it’s time again to look at all the news in the world of Microsoft. This time, we are putting together the weekly digest for the week of September 26 – October 2. As usual, there were new builds for both Windows 10 and Windows 11, with the former including a C/D week optional preview release. The week also brought news of a possible security vulnerability in Azure AD, which the Redmond firm provided clarification on. As for gaming, Cloud Gaming headed to select console users. All this and much more are in our complete digest below. Windows 11 updates, new stores in the Microsoft Store, more As is customary every week, Microsoft released a new Windows 11 build for Dev channel users. Build 22468 got a bunch of fixes, but nothing new in the way of features. There were no Beta or Release Preview updates, but that is not surprising as the official launch of Windows 11 is just a few days away, which the firm is likely prepping for. Though Windows 11 is only available for Insiders, an AdDuplex report suggested that around 1.3% of Windows users are already running the latest OS, which is an interesting stat. While Windows Insiders and readers of Neowin are mighty aware of the new OS and the changes coming, a recent sample survey in the U.S. found that a majority of PC users were unaware of Windows 11. What’s more? Another survey of professional PCs suggests that a large number of devices lack the required system specifications needed to upgrade to the new OS. While the sample size might be small, it does pose an interesting point as Microsoft nears its October 5 rollout. For those wanting to take chances, there is an unofficial tool that helps users bypass TPM requirements to install Windows 11. Another interesting announcement was that of the impending launch of the Epic Games Store within the Microsoft Store. The announcement is in line with the company’s promise of expanding the types of apps and offerings that are made available in the Microsoft Store. While the blog also mentioned that Amazon will be bringing its storefront, there is no timeline on when Amazon’s Appstore will make it to the OS via the Microsoft Store, eventually bringing support for Android apps. Browsers such as Opera and Yandex are also becoming available in the store. Moving on, Windows 10 also received an update, albeit an optional one. The three latest Windows 10 versions received preview updates that are optional. These preview patches will eventually be included in next week’s Patch Tuesday updates and installed as part of that update for those who did not choose into installing the optional patch. Office 2021 pricing, Microsoft 365 updates, and Outlook issues In keeping with past trends, Microsoft listed all the new features and updates coming to its Microsoft 365 suite of apps and services. The features include the ability for the desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to co-author encrypted documents, new languages for the live captioning and transcription features in Teams, and a bunch of updates aimed at IT admins. Visio on the web is also receiving a few improvements relating to the color palette for objects. The upcoming version of the firm’s productivity suite, Office 2021, finally received a price tag. The one-time purchase offering starts at $149.99. The suite is focused on providing an experience tailored to Windows 11 and brings visual enhancements. Another change is that the list of apps will no longer include Skype, which is being replaced with Teams. Interestingly, the Skype team announced a major refresh for the service, casting ambiguity over the positioning of the product in the Microsoft ecosystem. This week, Outlook account users that rely on third-party email clients were facing issues with Outlook’s IMAP service, which the firm acknowledged and provided a workaround for. The only way out is to temporarily set the email protocol to Exchange – which might not be an option for all users. The firm does note that it is working on a fix. Moving to updates, the new Paint app began rolling out to Dev channel Insiders, bringing a fresh new UI for the legacy app. Another offering that might be on its way is a new Media Player experience for Windows 11, something that was spotted during the Insider Webcast. Edge users in the Dev channel were also treated to the first Edge 96 build that brought a few new features for iOS users, the rollout of the ability to send tabs across devices – even on mobile, and more. The company’s PowerToys set of tools was updated to version 0.47 with Shortcut Guide and stability improvements. Those that aren’t familiar with the new Clock app in Windows 11 can head to our Closer Look piece that details all the new features in the Clock app. These include the new Focus Session capability that helps keep track of productivity and breaks. While you are at it, you can also read through the complete walkthrough of the Teams integration in Windows 11. Lastly, Windows 11 users – and potential users – might be happy to know that Google is testing Windows 11-styled menus for Chrome in the Canary channel. It might not be surprising to see the changes make it to the OS a few weeks after the official launch. Xbox Cloud Gaming expansion, Halo Infinite beta, and more Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers that have been waiting to try out Cloud Gaming in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico can do so now, as the ability to stream games from the cloud has been enabled in those regions. This brings the total number of markets where the service is supported to 26. Select Xbox Insiders have also begun receiving the Cloud Gaming feature on consoles, which will bring improvements to those running newer games on older Xbox hardware. However, for those that own Xbox Series X|S consoles, the Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) standard is now live, enhancing visuals for over 100 games (existing and coming soon) on compatible displays. Moving on, Microsoft announced the Games with Gold titles for the month of October, bringing four bonus games for Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members in two waves containing two games each. The four games include Aaero, Hover, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X. You can head to the article for the dates and more information. Additionally, Deals with Gold also brought discounts to games from the Metal Gear Solid and Yakuza franchises, among others. This week, Marvel's Avengers headed to Xbox Game Pass, gracing PC, console, and cloud platforms. Gamers will also be able to quadruple their XP from September 30 through October 4 thanks to the anniversary celebrations. Forza Horizon 5's PC system requirements were also announced at the Tokyo Game show this week, bringing surprisingly tame hardware recommendations in comparison to today’s popular titles. Additionally, the PC version of the title supports ultrawide displays, uncapped frame rates, HDR, haptic feedback on Xbox Wireless Controllers, and much more. Rounding off the gaming coverage, Halo Infinite’s second beta weekend arrived with no caps on who can join the beta from consoles. For those curious, PVP matchmaking that started on October 1 offered Big Team Battle as one of the flavors for the first time. While PVP sessions were only open during specific times, Academy, training with bots, and customization options are available through the flight's end on Monday. Users can look through the known issues thread for the flight here. As a bonus, you can give our Diablo II: Resurrected review a read to gather our thoughts on the remastered version of Diablo II and its expansion, Lord of Destruction. Dev channel Xbox Game Pass might have a 30 million-strong subscriber base says Take Two boss Microsoft says Azure AD flaw enabling single-factor brute-force attacks is not an issue The first Visual Studio 2022 for Mac public preview is now live The Extensions button in Edge Canary is getting a nifty new improvement Logging off With Windows 11 just a few more days away from launch, interest in the upcoming OS might be at its peak. If you have not been keeping tabs, we got you covered with everything that you need to know about the OS. This rundown of the features and requirements supplements our Closer Look series, and you can also head to our guide on how you can get your hands on Windows 11 today. Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 nears launch, Office 2021 prices out, Cloud Gaming expands
  7. It’s been an eventful week in the world of Microsoft. There is a new Windows 11 build for the Dev channel with a bunch of bug fixes, Release Preview Insiders received their first taste of Windows 11 in the way of an optional update to the new OS, the Redmond company announced a bunch of new Surface hardware bringing much-needed upgrades to most of the product line, and much more. Check all this out and more in our weekly Microsoft digest for the week of September 19 – September 25. Windows 11 in Release Preview, new Dev channel build, more As is now the case every week, there was a new Dev channel build. Build 22463 brought a bunch of bug fixes, including a fix for the issue that caused the taskbar icons to align incorrectly. While the branch from which new Dev channel builds are being served is not tied to a specific Windows 11 version, the firm has said that many fixes being made will also be brought to the Windows 11 version releasing next month. It does note that newer features for the Dev channel are a while away. As the OS begins to near its October 5 rollout date, Release Preview Insiders finally got their first taste of Windows 11, thanks to the rollout of build 22000.194. The rollout, just like how recent feature updates have been, is currently optional for eligible users. It will not be surprising to see mainstream users begin receiving the same build when the OS launches on October 5, with there being a few day-one updates bringing bug fixes. Considering that the rollout is staggered, not many eligible users will see the update on day one, which gives the firm time to polish the offering further before expanding the rollout. For those who want to perform a fresh install, the firm also released ISO images for this build. However, for those trying to install the new OS on unsupported hardware, the company is supposedly planning to get those users to sign an acknowledgment, agreeing that they are installing the OS with the knowledge that they might not receive critical security updates or support. There has been an ongoing discussion about whether the firm will serve updates to users running its latest OS on unsupported hardware. Talking about hardware compatibility, the firm also released the updated PC Health Check app for Insiders, bringing much-needed improvements to the Windows 11 compatibility checking tool. Continuing the topic of updates, Edge Dev users received their final Edge 95 build which brought the new Windows 11-style visual updates by default. As expected, some elements such as the Mica material are exclusive to those running the offering on Windows 11. Another significant addition was the ability to pick up PDF documents where users last left them. The Microsoft Teams desktop client is also slated to receive a new capability that will allow adding anonymous users to Teams meetings. This brings another way for users to conduct meetings with vendors or users from different organizations. The rollout of the feature is slated for October, as spotted on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap. Brand new Surface hardware Source: Microsoft Microsoft held its much-awaited hardware event this week, announcing a bunch of new hardware. The Surface Pro 8 brought the first major redesign for the 2-in-1 in over five years. The display is now a 13-inch unit that sports a 120Hz high refresh rate. The device sports two Thunderbolt 4 ports, making it the first Surface PC to support a Thunderbolt port. There is also a new Slim Pen 2 that brings haptic feedback and a new design. The stylus can is housed in the new carbon-fiber sporting Signature keyboard. As for internals, the device sports Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake chips and can be configured with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of removable SSD storage. The Surface Laptop Studio is available in "select markets" for an asking price starting at $1599.99. The Android-powered Surface Duo 2 also brings welcome improvements. These include slightly larger 5.8-inch displays that now curve into the hinge area, making for a glanceable notifications panel when the device is closed. There is now a new triple-camera array at the back, bringing ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto lenses, improving greatly on its predecessor. The phone also features support for the Surface Slim pen that can be magnetically attached to the back. Internals have also seen a significant upgrade, with the top-tier Snapdragon 888 SoC bringing 5G support. NFC is also being added. The Surface Duo 2 is priced at $1499.99 and is available for pre-order in select markets. The star of the show, however, was the Surface Laptop Studio, a new device in the Surface lineup that replaces the Surface Book brand. Unlike the Book’s detachable top section, the Laptop Studio features a swiveling display that can be placed in Laptop or Studio modes, mimicking devices like the Acer ConceptD Ezel laptops. The offering features Intel 11th-gen H35 chips and RTX graphics, making it the most powerful Surface device to date. Just like the Surface Pro 8, the Laptop Studio comes with a high refresh rate display and Thunderbolt 4 ports. The stepped design also allows for the Slim Pen 2 to be attached – and charged – magnetically under the keyboard deck. The laptop can be maxed out with 32GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. The Surface Laptop Studio is available for “select markets" for an asking price starting at $1599.99. There were a few minor upgrades to some devices as well. The Surface Go 3 was updated with new Intel chips, with the tablet now available with a 10th-gen Core i3 processor. The ARM-powered Surface Pro X, on the other hand, can now be had in Wifi-only flavor for a lower asking price. There were also new peripherals like the Ocean Plastic Mouse made from 20% recycled ocean plastic. Halo Infinite preview, Sea of Thieves Season Four, and more Starting off this week’s gaming news is – unsurprisingly – Halo Infinite. As announced earlier this week, 343 Industries opened the next round of technical tests for its upcoming title. The first weekend of the double Technical Preview drop this week brings access to player versus player Arena from the get-go, including Bot Arena from the previous flights. However, Social Arena playlist opens matchmaking only at pre-set times to stress test the servers. You can find the schedule in the news article here. The first preview closes on Tuesday, the 27th of September, and opens back up on Friday, October 1. The second drop will contain the overhauled 12 versus 12 Big Team Battle (BTB) mode. It must be noted that Bot Arena, Training Mode, Weapon Drills, and Battle Pass elements are accessible through both weekends. Moving on, Rare announced this week the next major content update for Sea of Thieves, Season Four, which began rolling out on September 23. The update takes players under the waves this time around, bringing new undersea adventures such as new Siren Shrine and Siren Treasury destinations. The studio is also introducing a treasure storage method to transport entire loot stacks from the bottom of the sea to save players from taking multiple trips to transport their loot. The new season also brings 100-level battle pass levels to climb for free and a refreshed premium Plunder Pas. Those waiting for Alan Wake Remastered were also treated to a comparison trailer showing off the visual upgrades made to the title against the original Xbox 360 version. Unsurprisingly, there is higher resolution rendering, accompanied by better textures, lighting, and more. The title launches on October 5, 2021, and features the base game and The Signal and The Writer story expansions. Rounding off gaming news this week are the Deals with Gold discounts. Titles from the Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Forza, and Star Wars franchises are receiving major discounts. However, some discounts noted in the piece are exclusive to Xbox Live Gold members. Lastly, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One September update was announced this week. The release notes mention the recently announced support for Remote Play and cloud gaming on PC via the updated Xbox app. The update also brings an update to the new Chromium-based Edge browser to improve performance and more. Dev channel Chrome 94 launches on Windows with controversial idle detection API Xbox 360 Gamerpics available for select Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S users VaxApp is a new Microsoft Teams app to help organizations manage vaccination attestation Microsoft and SSE form a partnership to make energy more sustainable Latest Chrome and Edge updates fix critical memory UAF security vulnerability Logging off We continue with the Closer Look series where we provide a detailed view of the various new components in Windows 11, a comparison of the equivalent feature in Windows 11 – where applicable, and a run-down of the good and the bad. This week, we looked at not one but two areas of the OS – the new File Explorer and the updated Context menus. Check out our complete comparison and let us know your thoughts. Microsoft Weekly: New Surface hardware, Windows 11 in Release Preview, and gaming
  8. The new hardware includes an updated Surface Duo 2, which you can finally call a phone, and a cute eco-friendly mouse. A week has passed since Apple dropped a deluge of hardware, but brace yourselves—it's Microsoft's turn. Today, the company announced new Surface laptops, accessories, and a phone, at a virtual event. From a wacky folding laptop to the new and improved Surface Duo 2, there's plenty to choose from if you've been holding out for an upgrade. All the hardware below is available for preorder starting today at Microsoft.com, and they'll officially launch on October 5 (except for the Duo 2, which launches October 21). Here's everything Microsoft announced. Surface Laptop Studio Photograph: Microsoft If the Surface Book and Surface Studio had a baby, it would be the Surface Laptop Studio. The 14.4-inch touchscreen laptop comes with a 120-Hz refresh rate, but the display can adjust depending on what you need to do. There's Laptop Mode, with full access to the keyboard and touchpad; Stage Mode, where you can pull the display toward you to watch movies or play games; and Studio Mode (aka Tablet Mode), for drawing and writing. This is all possible thanks to a dual-hinge design embedded into the center, back behind the display and the base. The screen doesn't fold, but the casing behind it does. It comes equipped with a 1080p front-facing camera and an 11th-gen Intel processor. (You can choose between Core i5 or Core i7.) It's compatible with Microsoft's new Surface Slim Pen 2, also announced today and sold separately, which adds haptic feedback for a more interactive experience and low latency. The latter means it should feel more responsive when you write or sketch. It attaches magnetically to the bottom edge of the laptop, below the trackpad, similar to Apple's iPad Pro. The Surface Laptop Studio starts at $1,600. Surface Pro X Photograph: Microsoft This time around, Microsoft is offering a Wi-Fi-only model of the Surface Pro X in addition to the LTE version. The starting price has also dipped by $100, making it a bit more affordable at $899. The Surface Pro X comes with improvements to Windows on ARM too, with a variety of optimized apps including Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Teams. Just like its predecessor, the Surface Pro X includes a 13-inch touchscreen display, up to 15 hours of battery life, up to 16 GB of RAM, and runs on Microsoft's very own custom processors. Surface Pro 8 Photograph: Microsoft The Surface Pro 8, on the other hand, brings improvements to both the inside and out. Its 13-inch display is bigger and brighter than the Surface Pro 7. Like the Surface Laptop Studio, it packs a 120 Hz screen, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and works with the Slim Pen 2 (sold separately). You can also charge and store the pen on the detachable keyboard (also not included). Microsoft made some improvements to its cameras too, adding better low-light capabilities for when you're Zooming in the dark. Internally, Microsoft says the Pro 8 is more than twice as fast as its predecessor, offering 40 percent higher CPU performance and 74 percent faster graphics. That's thanks to the 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor or i7 processor. It starts at $1,100. Surface Go 3 Photograph: Microsoft The Surface Go 3 isn't all that different from last year's model on the outside. It still has the same $400 price, the same 10.5-inch display, a kickstand on the back, a 5-megapixel selfie camera coupled with an 8-megapixel rear camera, and an attachable keyboard (sold separately). The main upgrades can be found under the hood. You now have the choice between a dual-core Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y processor or a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 processor. This tiny laptop/tablet hybrid also gets an additional hour of battery life, bringing the total up to 11 hours. Surface Duo 2 Photograph: Microsoft The first Surface Duo, Microsoft's dual-screened portable device, didn't exactly sell like hotcakes. But this time around, the company has leaned into the whole phone element of the Surface Duo (which had phone-call capabilities from the beginning). The Surface Duo 2 has been upgraded to include a rear camera module—with wide, ultrawide, and telephoto cameras—and will be powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 5G chip platform. That's the top-end smartphone chip found on most flagship Android phones today. It ships with Android 11, and in demonstrations of the foldable, Microsoft eschewed productivity hacks for more fun features: photo snapping, game playing, and TikTok browsing. No doubt, the Surface Duo 2 is a smartphone. Its starting price of $1,500 might make you wince, though. You can read more about it here. Additional Accessories Alongside the new Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130), Microsoft has another new accessory to go along with many of these Surface laptops: an environmentally-friendly mouse. The new Ocean Plastic Mouse is made of 20 percent recycled ocean plastic and 100 percent recyclable packaging. As for its features, it comes equipped with left and right click buttons, a built-in scroll wheel, fast-tracking sensors, and Bluetooth connectivity (with up to a year of battery life). It costs $25. Microsoft also showed off an inexpensive sticker-and-lanyard pack to help people with disabilities navigate their hardware. Called the Surface Adaptive Kit, the sticker pack includes 16 tactile, adhesive buttons. There are also high-contrast keycap labels for people with low vision, as well as port labels that can be applied to both a cable and corresponding port on a laptop. And a lanyard tab offers an attachable loop that helps people with limited motor skills open up laptops more easily. Windows 11 Is Coming Windows 11 will be free to everyone who owns Windows 10, this fall.Photograph: Microsoft Wednesday's event was extremely hardware-focused, but most of the devices revealed today are premium vehicles for Microsoft's newest operating system: Windows 11. First revealed this past June and shipping on October 5, Windows 11 is Microsoft's first major OS update in several years. Its notable features include a repositioned Start button (which can be moved back to its traditional placement if you prefer), a new Windows Store, and support for Android apps, among other things. Some of these features will be rolled out in phases, and beta versions of Win11 have been buggy. But you can bet that Microsoft—and other PC makers who license the company's OS—will be racing to get their machines buyer-ready by the holiday season. Everything Microsoft Announced, Including a Wacky, Flippy Laptop
  9. With the passage of another week, it’s time to look at all the Microsoft stories that happened September 12 through September 18. As usual, there were new Windows 11 builds for the Dev and Beta channels, but they came with them some bad news for users running the OS on certain VMs. Considering that this week brought the second Tuesday of the month, Microsoft also released the monthly Patch Tuesday updates for all supported Windows versions. These updates were accompanied with new apps, Office LTSC and Office 2021 release dates, and much more. Windows 11 builds, update blocks for VMs, Patch Tuesday, more As is the case every second Tuesday of the month, Microsoft released cumulative updates for all supported Windows versions. These included supported Windows 10 versions – including for specific SKUs, Windows 8.1 users and those on Windows 7 that opted for Extended Security Updates (ESUs). The updates fixed a Windows zero-day vulnerability discovered earlier this month and brought other quality improvements. While the improvements were welcome for most users, the firm posted an advisory acknowledging that the August patches that contained fixes for the PrintNightmare vulnerability were breaking the ability for some users to print without admin credentials. This impacts commercial customers than any other, considering end users do not have access to admin credentials. As for Windows 11, new builds were released for both Dev and Beta channel Insiders. The Dev channel was served build 22458 that brought a few fixes. While a new ‘Sign-in options’ link in the power menu was mentioned, it was made available with build 22454, but missed being noted in the changelog. Beta channel users received build 22000.194 that brought a bunch of new in-box apps that Dev channel users have been testing. These include the new Clock app with Focus Sessions, Calculator, and the unified Snipping Tool experience. More are on the way, though, such as the new Paint and Photos apps. What did come as a surprise for Insiders was the inability for those running these builds in certain VMs – including on supported hardware – to update to the new builds, thanks to the enforcement of TPM requirements for virtual machines as well. This means that those running Windows 11 preview builds on anything but VMWare Workstation Pro or Hyper-V Manager included with Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows will be blocked from receiving future updates. Currently, Oracle seems to be readying a passthrough driver for TPM for VirtualBox, making its offering suitable to run Windows 11 builds. Additionally, there was some news concerning those that were running Windows 11 builds on M1-powered MacBooks through solutions like Parallels Desktop. The Redmond giant has said to The Register that running Windows 11 on M1 Macs is not a “supported scenario”, casting doubt on whether there will be future blocks that render it difficult to run Microsoft’s latest OS on M1-powered machines. Lastly, Microsoft announced that users can now delete their Microsoft account passwords to completely rely on alternate forms of authentication, further making the case for a password-less world. While the ability is available for consumer accounts now, the company aims to bring it to accounts that use Azure Active Directory (AAD) as well. Office 2021, Office LTSC, new apps, and app updates The biggest news this week relating to new apps came in the way of the announcement of Office 2021’s release date. The perpetual version of Microsoft’s productivity suite of offerings for consumers will be made available starting October 5, coinciding with the release of Windows 11. The version for commercial customers, Office LTSC, is now generally available. The LTSC versions differs from the consumer variant in some ways, one of which includes the support lifecycle. What both have in common though, is that they will not receive new features like the Microsoft 365 versions. The start of the week also saw the arrival of the Movies Anywhere app for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One users, bringing a native solution for watching purchased Movies Anywhere content in addition to the Movies & TV app. Another potential app expected to make it to the Microsoft Store is the firm’s own PowerToys suite, a listing for which was spotted this week. However, it seems like the listing will only introduce an installer for the app that then pulls in the suite of tools. PowerToys experimental version 0.46 also made it to testers, bringing a bunch of fixes. Another Microsoft app to receive an update was Edge, as Edge Dev users received a new build that brought a quick way to hide the extensions button from the menu from the address bar along with a bunch of bug fixes. Talking about browsers, it was discovered that the latest version of Firefox allows users to directly change their default browser preference without going through the cumbersome steps to do so, which is a welcome change. It is not clear if this will be mirrored by more apps and browsers going forward, but the Redmond company has received backlash from browser rivals for making the process complicated and less user-friendly. Mozilla also announced that it will begin setting Bing as the default search engine on Firefox as part of a test. This will apply to just one percent of desktop users and the test is expected to conclude in early 2022. Xbox Game Pass additions, Remote Play on Windows, and more This week, Microsoft announced the titles being added for Xbox Game Pass subscribers, which is the second drop for the month. There are 13 games being added, with eight of them being day-one launches. The list includes Aragami 2, Sable, SkateBird, I Am Fish, and many more. Additionally, there are 11 more games that have touch controls enabled when they are streamed through the cloud. There are five titles leaving the service, which happens on September 31. If those wanting to run these games on Xbox Series X|S consoles are looking for additional storage and do not want to shell upwards of $200 on an expansion card, a 500GB option might be on its way, at least if a listing spotted in France is to be believed. However, if you have one of those consoles and wish to stream it to your PC, you can now do so using the updated Xbox app on Windows. The app also brings cloud gaming, giving users another way to use the service in addition to doing so from the web. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Live Gold members are also receiving a second round of games for the month, with Games with Gold bringing Mulaka for Xbox One and Samurai Shodown II for Xbox 360. Lastly, there are a bunch of discounts as part of Deals with Gold, bringing discounts for titles from the Assassin's Creed, Halo, Forza, and other franchises. There doesn’t seem a week that goes by without Halo Infinite news. While minor, this week brought leaked images of Craig the Brute, showing off some visual improvements. This also hints towards the possible arrival of new gameplay that might show off the visual improvements being made. Moving on, Call of Duty fans might be interested to learn that Call of Duty 2022 – possible called Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 – might launch next year. Call of Duty: Vanguard, on the other hand, is slated to launch in November this year. Rounding off gaming news is the announcement of a new beta build of Age of Empires IV being made available this weekend. The invites for the beta included almost anyone who wished to try it out. Improvements made thanks to feedback from testers include a further zoom out distance, balance tweaks for English and Chinese civilizations, and a bunch of bug fixes. Microsoft Weekly: Patch Tuesday, Windows 11 update blocks for VMs, and Office 2021
  10. Winaero Tweaker - universal tweaker software which supports Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and Windows 11. The program includes tweaks for every version of operating system from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Winaero Tweaker automatically detects the version of Windows OS you’re running and shows tweaks and customization options accordingly. The software can be installed as a portable app so you can take it with you as you move from one computer to another. ? Note: the set of available options will depend on the operating system version you are running. Winaero Tweaker features the following set of options (and this is only the beginning as more will be added over time): Special Windows 10 tweaks: Change Windows Update behavior which is locked to "Install updates automatically" in Windows 10 Technical Preview. Enable the secret hidden experimental Date & Time pane which is not enabled by default in Windows 10 Technical Preview. Enable the secret hidden experimental Login Screen which is not enabled by default in Windows 10 Technical Preview. Here you can switch between the old resizable Start menu and the new "Continuum" Start menu in Windows 10 Technical Preview. Appearance options: Aero Colors These options are inherited from my famous AeroTuner application and available for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. It allows changing many Aero related hidden secret parameters in Windows 7. You can also sync the Aero color and the Start screen color in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. In Windows 8, it also includes "Enable Window Colorization" and "High Contrast Mode" hidden settings. Customize Shortcut Arrow Customize or remove the shortcut overlay icon in Explorer. This will restart Explorer automatically. Customize Window Borders Customize the size of the window frame. You can reduce or enlarge it. Slow down window animations When enabled, you can slow down window animations by pressing and holding the Shift key. This is the the animation you see when minimizing, maximizing or closing a window. Sync Metro/Aero Color (Windows 8/Windows 8.1) Apply the color of the Start Screen to window borders and vice versa. Operating system behaviour options: Disable "Look for an app in the Store" Notification(Windows 8/Windows 8.1) Disable "Look for an app in the Store" option when an unknown file type is opened. When disabled, Windows will only show a dialog with apps installed on your PC. Disable Aero Shake The Aero Shake feature minimizes all other background windows when you shake the active window. Here you can disable or enable it. Disable Aero Snap Disable the window snapping behavior, that is, the resizing and repositioning of a window that happens when you drag it and touch the pointer to the left, top or right edges of the screen. Disable New Apps Notification(Windows 8/Windows 8.1) Enable or disable the notification "You have new apps that can open this type of file" for newly installed apps. Boot and Logon options: Disable Lock Screen (Windows 8/Windows 8.1) Here you can disable the Lock Screen if you do not want it or need it. Don't display last login user name When enabled, Windows will not display the last user that successfully signed in on the Login screen. Enable CTRL + ALT + DEL logon requirement Enable or disable the CTRL + ALT + DELETE sequence for logging on in Windows. This can require users to press CTRL+ALT+DELETE before logging on. Verbose Logon Messages Enable or disable verbose sign-in status messages. Verbose status messages may be helpful when you are troubleshooting slow startup, shutdown, logon, or logoff behavior. User accounts: Disable or Enable UAC Enable or disable User Account Control (UAC) confirmations and prompts. Disabling UAC is not secure, but it makes Windows less annoying. Enable Built-in Administrator The default account named "Administrator" remains disabled and hidden since Windows Vista. Here you can enable or disable the built-in Administrator account. Pinning options (Windows 8/Windows 8.1): Enable "Pin To Start" for all files Enable or disable the "Pin To Start" context menu command for all files and folders. Network options: Enable Network Drives over UAC Enable access to mapped Network Drives from elevated apps. By default it is turned off, so any elevated app can't access your mapped network drive. Enable TCP/IP Router Enable or disable Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) forwarding to use with apps like OpenVPN. By default, TCP/IP forwarding is not enabled in Windows OS. System information View information about your PC hardware and OS including WEI score. Home: https://winaero.com/ or https://winaerotweaker.com/ Changelog: 1.31.0.1 - Changes and fixes in this release. Download Page: https://winaero.com/download-winaero-tweaker/ or https://winaerotweaker.com/download/ Downloads: Official: https://winaerotweaker.com/download/winaerotweaker.zip Official Mirror: https://www.winaerotweaker.com/ Official Telegram Channel Download: https://t.me/winaero/4735
  11. Another week has passed, and a lot has happened in the world of Microsoft. There were new Windows 11 builds for both the Dev and Beta channels, information about another refreshed app for the OS came from Windows chief Panos Panay, a few vulnerabilities were reported on - including a zero-day that affects all Windows versions, some security fixes, and a bunch of gaming news. Check all this out and much more in our weekly Microsoft digest for September 5 – September 11. Windows 11 builds, new apps, and a rebranded service As was expected, Microsoft released new Windows 11 builds for both Dev and Beta channel users. While Dev channel users got build 22454, Beta channel users were served build 22000.184. The Dev channel build brought a few minor UI improvements, such as a modern right-click menu for the Recycle Bin and more. It also included a ton of bug fixes, something that the Beta channel did not see, as those users received a couple of fixes to address translation inconsistencies. The firm did, however, note that fixes that were made as part of the Dev channel build will be released to the stable version in the way of servicing updates after the OS releases on October 5, which does seem odd. Additionally, Dev channel users that wanted to perform a clean install could download new ISO images of build 22454. The week also brought news of a Photos app refresh, a welcome addition for those who have hoped for the in-box app to be more aesthetically pleasing and feature-rich. Of course, another expectation is that the app brings some much-needed reliability and performance improvements. It is to be seen if that is the case, as the app is yet to begin rolling out. Speaking of refreshes, Microsoft announced a rebrand of its news service to Microsoft Start. The new service doesn’t bring much in the way of additions or features and the branding change is being applied across platforms, including on the web, in Windows, and the mobile apps. In the area of updates, there is also a new Edge 95 build for the Dev channel. It does not come with many new features, which is because it is still an early build for major version 95. For those still on the fence about installing Windows 11 builds on their machines, we have been looking at the various components of the OS and documenting them in our Closer Look series. This week, we went over the improvements and changes coming to the Virtual Desktop experience in Windows 11 and compared it to that in Windows 10. And to gin up enthusiasm about the upcoming OS, Microsoft has posted a new ad on YouTube and is also speaking about how the OS makes the best of new hardware. Windows zero-day vulnerability, Outlook bug, and Azure patch There were a couple of security issues reported this week, the most significant of which was the zero-day in Windows that can enable specially tailored Office files to let attackers perform remote code execution. Microsoft acknowledged the vulnerability, adding that it is currently being exploited in the wild. The firm has said that it is working on a fix and expects to release a fix soon. The zero-day affects all Windows versions going back to Windows 7 and the corresponding Windows Server release. Another security vulnerability affected Outlook users, where a bug had the potential to falsely flag phishing emails as genuine, thanks to the service not filtering IDs from Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). While the firm denied having plans to fix the issue to the researcher that discovered it, it appeared that the firm changed its mind and fixed the issue, which is always a good thing. On the positive side of things, the Redmond firm changed how Microsoft 365 apps deal with Trusted Documents to make them more secure. Now, Trusted Documents no longer override the Protected View restrictions and adheres to pre-set policies. Another fix – this time affecting commercial customers – came in the way of a patch for a vulnerability in the Azure Container Instances (ACI) service. The issue risked data leaks across the same clusters, but the firm was quick to note that it found no indication of active exploits. Halo Infinite’s next multiplayer preview, Alan Wake Remastered screenshots, and more Starting off the week’s gaming roundup is news about Halo Infinite’s next multiplayer preview, which starts September 24. However, the sign-up cut-off is soon approaching, with the date set for September 13. Those eligible will receive invites on both the PC and Xbox platforms. As for the changes, 343 Industries detailed the tweaks it is planning to make based on the technical feedback. For those excited about Alan Wake Remastered, screenshots of the game appeared on Amazon UK, showing off the noticeable visual upgrades. The listing’s Xbox cover also hinted that the title runs at 4K, but frame rates specifics are not known yet. An extended look at Marvel's Midnight Suns also came this week in the form of visceral footage. Considering that the footage is of the game in its alpha stages, the animations and visuals were still unpolished but gave a better look at the villains. Fallout 76 Worlds Update also began rolling out, bringing Public and Custom Worlds. However, only Fallout 1st subscribers will be able to host Custom Worlds. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, luckily, will receive Fallout 1st subscription for one month. Bethesda also acknowledged an issue with Season 5’s rank-ups, which is why it extended the season by two weeks. Square Enix revealed the Fall and Winter 2021 Roadmap for Marvel’s Avengers, noting that it is working to address player’s concerns and bringing improvements to Gear, Resources, and Cosmetics. It also confirmed that PS4 and PS5 users will be able to experience Spider-Man in a few months. However, that title is exclusive to the mentioned Sony consoles. Coming to Microsoft’s gaming subscriptions, this week’s Deals with Gold included hefty discounts on games from BioShock, Borderlands, and Dragon Ball franchises. Additionally, this week’s Xbox Free Play Days games included Madden NFL 22, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Blasphemous. For Forza Horizon 5 fans, we have listed the current list of cars confirmed by Turn 10 Studio, which is over 400 in number. Cars from the likes of BMW and Tesla are obvious omissions and there is no word on whether they are expected later. This week, we also posted a list of every 120FPS game on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 (PS5). Rounding off gaming news is Flight Simulator’s next World Update. This time, central European nations are receiving love, including Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. As usual, there are a bunch of new airports, New Bush Trips, landing challenges, and Discovery flights, and overall improvements to the visuals in those countries. Dev channel: Microsoft will soon let chat supervisors delete messages in Teams chats Microsoft acquires a video-editing software startup named Clipchamp Xbox Insiders will receive an update for their controllers that improves latency Microsoft offers GPU-accelerated ML training on Windows 10 and WSL via TensorFlow-DirectML Benchmarks show Ubuntu 21.10 outperform Windows 11 in certain use-cases You can still use proper Internet Explorer (IE) in Windows 11 using a Chrome extension Logging off: When Windows 11 began being offered to testers, it was discovered that Windows 11 Home users could not complete the setup process without an internet connection. We found out a workaround, which was soon patched. Now, there is yet another way to bypass this block, which we have detailed in our guide here. Big thanks to Neowin member warwagon for sharing with us the method. Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link. Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 builds, new zero-day vulnerability, and gaming news
  12. The first week of September is almost over and a lot has happened in the world of Microsoft. The most significant one is that the Redmond firm has put an official date on the release of Windows 11. In addition to information on the release of the next generation of the OS, the Dev channel has begun testing the version slated to come after the one releasing this fall. However, not all is good as some users are being kicked out of the program due to running unsupported devices. There is more news relating to gaming, security, an upcoming hardware event later this month, and a benign ad that crippled users’ taskbars on Windows 11. Check everything out in our Microsoft digest for the week of August 29 – September 4. An official release date and new builds for Windows 11 Microsoft finally announced that the official release date for Windows 11 is October 5. This is when the firm will begin rolling out the OS to eligible devices – albeit in a staggered fashion – and OEMs will start shipping devices running Windows 11 out of the box. Of course, while this news has been great for many, there are a bunch of Windows Insiders running Dev channel builds on unsupported hardware that haven’t had a good experience as they were kicked out of receiving Dev channel builds, in line with the firm’s promise from June. The firm even clarified its stance on Twitter, justifying its move. For those that were still in the program, the firm released new builds for both Dev and Beta channel Insiders. While Beta channel users were treated to build 22000.176 that brought bug fixes, it’s the Dev channel that got more love in the way of a major build number bump. The first build from the ‘rs_prelease’ branch, build 22449, brought a ton of fixes and a simple yet modern startup animation, among other improvements to the overall UI. This build comes from a branch that is not tied to any Windows 11 release, which means they will eventually become more unstable. Those running Beta channel builds, which are expected to be the more stable of the two channels, were surprised to see that a weird bug that broke the taskbar. While the firm quickly identified the issue and posted a workaround, it was later discovered that a small JSON blob from the IrisService component that was used tasked at serving an ad for Windows 11’s Teams integration is what broke the Start and Taskbar. Thankfully, the bug was not significant enough to cause much trouble. Business users weren’t left out either, this week. Windows Insider Program for business users running Release Preview builds can start testing Windows 11 or Windows 10 version 21H2, available for download across all the usual distribution channels. This hints at Windows 11 OS being closer to completion than ever since the firm wants commercial customers to begin validation testing for the new OS. However, it is not forcing those that want to continue running Windows 10, with the firm promising free support and AppAssure support for customers running previews of both versions. If you aren’t running Windows 11 and would like to take a look at the new Snap Layouts and Snap Groups feature in Windows 11, we’ve got you covered. Additionally, you could also look at the new – and controversial – changes to the Taskbar, we’ve put together a detailed look at that as well. Microsoft also announced a “devices and Windows 11” event for September 22. The company posted a picture of what looked like a Surface Pro device in the teaser, hinting at a possible new Surface Pro model. The Surface Duo 2 might also make its debut. There is not much concrete information on what is expected, but there could be some surprises. App updates and security Talking about software, the first Edge 95 build was released to the Dev channel, bringing some PDF and screenshot inking improvements. Being the first release, it was light on features and fixes. However, with major releases now following a four-week cadence, features and improvements will begin showing up soon. With major version 95 heading to Dev, Edge 94 was promoted to the Beta channel and Edge 93 was released to the general public. For those running the popular PowerToys set of tools, version 0.45 was released that focused on improving stability and adding Fluent design elements to the Settings UI. Lastly, Windows Thin PC, a stripped-down version of Windows 7 for low-performance PCs, will reach the end of its support next week. Developers and prosumers that run Windows Terminal were also on the receiving end of updates, with the Preview users receiving Terminal Preview 1.11 that brought with it a ton of fixes and improvements, including improvements to panes, an acrylic title bar, updates to the Settings UI and more. Naturally, Windows Terminal version 1.10 moved to stable users. That version added Quake mode to the system tray, and more. However, not all features made it to stable, as some of the omissions include the ability to set the tool as the default terminal, or the ability to edit actions from the Settings UI. As far as security is concerned, Microsoft has made usage analytics for Microsoft 365 pseudonymized by default starting September. The change impacts user-level information stored in APIs and products that include usage reports in Microsoft Graph, Teams analytics and Teams admin center, Microsoft 365 admin center, and more. The firm is hoping to bring in these privacy changes while also allowing admins to measure trends within their organization. Xbox Game Pass games, Halo Infinite multiplayer tweaks, more With the start of a new month came new Xbox Game Pass games. The Redmond giant has added seven new titles to the subscription service, out of which Surgeon Simulator 2 and The Artful Escape are day one arrivals. Just as always, there are seven games that are leaving the subscription. One of those is Forza Motorsport 7, which is being delisted from all storefronts. In addition to the Xbox Game Pass titles, Microsoft also made available the September Games with Gold selection. The first wave of the free bonus games includes Warhammer: Chaosbane for Xbox One and Zone of the Enders HD Collection for Xbox 360. You can claim the games via the links provided here. Additionally, you can also check out the Deals with Gold list that includes games like Borderlands 3, Call of Duty: WWII, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more that are available for substantially less. Moving on to Halo news, there is a fresh Insider test for Halo: The Master Chief Collection that brings a preview of what is slated to make it to Season 8. This includes the improvement and expansion of the popular Custom Game Browser, among other additions. For those excited about Halo Infinite, the firm has announced a bunch of tweaks being made to the title’s multiplayer portion, thanks to the feedback from the technical preview. These include making the motion tracker (radar) behave like older Halo titles, improvements to Bot AI, improved weapon drills, and much more. 343 Industries noted that the mentioned changes will make it to the game at launch or as a post-launch, depending on the complexity of each area. Just as a reminder, Halo Infinite Campaign and multiplayer portions are launching on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S systems on December 8. In other gaming news, Asphalt 9: Legends is now free to download on Xbox and Windows, with Microsoft providing those downloading the 2018 game with an Xbox-themed Porsche 911 GTS Coupe for a limited time. With support for cross-save, you can pick up where you left off on either of the platforms. Those waiting for the Crysis Remastered Trilogy on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC will be happy to know that Crytek has announced that the package releases on October 15, with the publisher promising a significant overhaul of the visuals, There are improved framerates, textures, and lighting. Additionally, those that purchased Crysis Remastered when it launched on consoles will be provided the option to buy the rest of the games in the package separately. Rounding off the list of expected launches is the spotting of a retailer listing for Alan Wake Remastered on Rakuten Taiwan's website. The release date of October 5 spotted on the website may or may not be a placeholder, but if it does make it out on that day, it is expected to make it to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, alongside the Xbox platforms. Lastly, news of a promise not kept comes from the Flight Simulator franchise with the delay of the Top Gun: Maverick expansion. The expansion was slated to release in November, timed with the release of the new Top Gun movie. The tentative release date is now set for 27 May 2022. Dev Channel: Xbox has become the official gaming partner for England’s national football teams LinkedIn realizes that stories aren’t for everyone, retires the Stories feature from its service The Windows 10 Team 2020 Update finally makes it to all Surface Hub devices Windows Server 2022 is now officially hit general availability, after beginning to show up in multiple distribution channels Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 moves forward, new hardware is on the way, and more
  13. As the final full week of August comes to a close, we take a look back at the various bits of news that have surfaced, from the sea of gaming-related reveals, to the small but significant selection of security vulnerabilities. You’ll find info about those subjects and more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of August 22 – 28. Halo Infinite in December As is tradition at the end of August, gamescom took place this week, and thus a number of game announcements and related news tidbits were present. Microsoft of course chose to have its own showing, which revealed a number of first-party, Game Pass, and streaming-related things. For one, Xbox Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud) is set to be made available for the Xbox One and Xbox Series families of consoles in Holiday 2021 – which holiday though, is up to Microsoft, and the solution will support 1080p 60FPS streaming. You’ll be able to differentiate between titles which do or do not support this feature via the small cloud icon, often placed directly onto the ‘Play’ button. And as Cloud Gaming is part of Game Pass Ultimate, we’d be remiss not to mention the fact that Microsoft’s gaming sub is also gaining 10 Humble Games-published games when they launch. This being positioned as a partnership, means we could see more games arrive to the service in the future. Speaking of the future, State of Decay 2 has crossed the 10 million player mark, with the developer announcing that the game’s Trumbull Valley will become a regular open-world region. This all is set to land September 1 as part of the game’s Homecoming update. Sticking to the very same month, September 7 will be bringing World Update VI to Flight Simulator, with the Top Gun: Maverick free expansion landing November 19 (aligning with the release of the eponymous movie). Also in September, Minecraft Dungeons is set to dig its way to Steam, surfacing on September 22. Moving onto October, the just-announced Wasteland 3: Cult of the Holy Detonation expansion is prepped to hit digital shelves – on October 5 -, followed by Age of Empires IV on October 28 (which just revealed its Holy Roman Empire and Rus civilizations). In chronological order we then arrive at the month of November, with the 9th marking the release of Playground’s Forza Horizon 5, and the 15th seeing the launch of the special edition, Halo Infinite-themed Xbox Series X and Elite Series 2 Controller. The 15th also happens to be the 20th anniversary of Halo and the original Xbox (the Xbox one, not Xbox One). As for the game after which the special edition is modeled, Halo Infinite was said to launch on December 8 according to a leak, a leak which was not long after officially confirmed during the gamescom presentation. Another notable launch, though not first-party, is Destiny 2: The Witch Queen expansion, landing February 22. Loosely confirmed for sometime in the future is also Crusader Kings III. Pardox’s grand strategy will be hitting both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S…at one point, which I suspect depends entirely on how long it’ll take the developers to finish the game they’re currently playing. This may take a while, though hopefully not as long as Starfield, some of the major locations for which were revealed this week. Of course, it’s not all about waiting for some nebulous time in the future to enjoy games as, for example, Double Fine’s excellent Psychonauts 2 is already available – you can check out our review here – as is the ability to grab Mayhem, a Borderlands-inspired ship in Sea of Thieves. If the above aren’t quite your thing, there are Deals with Gold to browse for Destiny 2, Crysis Remastered and many more, as well as Warhammer: Chaosbane, Mulaka, Zone of the Enders HD Collection, and Samurai Shodown II to look forward to as September’s Games with Gold. And as if that was not enough, a Halo Infinite dynamic theme has now been added as an option for Xbox Series X|S owners, and your Xbox 360 gamerpics are now going to be properly displayed for those of you who own an Xbox One or Xbox Series console. Oh yeah, and the chunk of text above doesn’t quite cover all the Xbox announcements at gamescom. For those, take a trip to this link to find out more. Tweaked support lists testing of Microsoft’s upcoming major version of Windows continues in the Beta and Dev channels, both of which got build 22000.168 on Friday. Beyond the usual array of known issues and fixes, the build introduces a couple of new features like expanded language support linked to the Chat with Microsoft Teams feature, as well as a new Microsoft 365 widget, and small tweaks to the Store’s Library performance and general UI. In case you’re not quite happy with the various bugs or potential crashes experienced as part of the Dev channel, even Microsoft itself has sent out a formal communication advising testers to move to the Beta channel. The company states that upcoming builds “may be less stable” and will not align with the version of the OS expected to be made available to the public later in 2021. Speaking of availability, the firm has added the 7th-gen Core X and Xeon W series of processors from Intel – as well as the Core i7-7820HQ from the Surface Studio 2 – to its list of supported Windows 11 processors. The likely reason for this hodge-podge of official support has more to do with VBS (virtualization-based security), a feature that’s not present in unsupported CPUs. Unfortunately, first-gen Ryzen processors from AMD did not make the cut, but if you really want to install this OS, Microsoft has left the door open for enthusiasts to use it on unsupported hardware. Be warned thought that you may not receive feature and security updates due to the hardware not being officially supported. As always, Microsoft takes another gold medal for clear and concise communication. Lastly, if you don’t want to bother with the whole Insider Program testing, there’s Windows 11 in React, a browser-based simulation of Microsoft’s upcoming OS that you can try out. Though nowhere near as responsive as testing things on actual hardware or in a VM, it is nonetheless, an option. Also an option would be for you to check out our Closer Look series, in which we focus on certain Windows 11 features. After Search, we’ve also moved the spotlight onto Widgets, as well as one of the more visible changes, the new Start menu. Database chaos Continuing with the rather unfortunate security news left and right, there’s a report from Upgard, a firm specializing in risk and attack surface management. According to it, due to folks using the default configs in Power Apps portals, 38 million customer records were exposed – across various companies - featuring everything from phone numbers to social security numbers. This was due to these portals being configured by default to have APIs (and thus data related to them) publicly accessible. The issue even affected some of Microsoft’s own apps, according to Upgard. Thankfully, Microsoft released an update in August to make APIs private by default. As with any kind of bad news, the flaw above was not the singular one to make headlines this week. By way of security firm Wiz, a critical Azure Cosmos DB flaw was discovered, a flaw which makes use of a default configuration in Microsoft’s “planet-scale”, fully managed NoSQL database offering. Dubbed ChaosDB – with a naming convention which follows in the footsteps of vulnerabilities like PrintNightmare -, the flaw makes use of Cosmos DB’s Jupyter Notebook integration. More specifically, the capability was introduced in 2019, and enabled by default for everybody in February of this year. As a result of poor configuration of this feature, Wiz was able to trigger a privilege escalation which broke the notebook’s container, allowing the researchers to access Cosmos DB’s primary keys and the access token for the notebook’s blob storage. With this, the firm was able to gain admin access to all of the data hosted by the impacted accounts. The vulnerability was discovered on August 9 and privately reported to Microsoft on August 12 – for which Wiz was awarded $40,000. Within 48 hours of the flaw being reported, Microsoft disabled Jupyter Notebook in Cosmos DB, as well as patched the vulnerability and informed its customers (including Fortune 500 companies) that it recommends rotating the private access keys. According to the company, it has received no indication that any other external entity outside Wiz “had access to the primary read-write key”. Dev channel The final Edge Dev 94 build (94.0.992.1) is now out, adding a myriad of fixes and features. Microsoft has fixed the bug causing in-place upgrade incompatibilities for Windows on ARM64 machines. Support for Office Android apps on Chrome OS is set to be dropped by Microsoft next month. The Surface Duo 2 has been spotted in benchmarks, sporting a Snapdragon 888 and 8GB of RAM. Logging off We wrap things up this week with an announcement about change – or rather, two announcements*. You’ve seen quite a bit of Windows and Surface chief Panos Panay, but this week he’s been in the news once more. Panay has gotten a promotion and is now part of the SLT which, contrary to first impressions no, is not some kind of sandwich like a BLT. Rather, it's the Senior Leadership Team. These are the folks who form the advisory board for CEO Satya Nadella, amongst whom are also former CVP of Azure Scott Guthrie – now EVP of the Cloud and AI group – and the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer. It will be interesting to see how the direction of the company changes now that Panay has a somewhat bigger say in the matter – otherwise he wouldn’t have been promoted to this position. Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link. Microsoft Weekly: Halo Infinite in December, tweaked support lists, and database chaos
  14. Readers who have been following the Windows and Surface space on Neowin in the past few years are well familiar with Panos Panay. Last year, the Microsoft executive was tapped to lead both the hardware and the Windows division, and now he has received another promotion, getting a seat at the company's senior leadership team. This piece of news comes from Bloomberg, which reports that Panos Panay is now an executive vice president at Microsoft and a member of the senior leadership team, which means that he will be advising CEO and board director Satya Nadella on strategic decisions. This move means that Windows will finally have a seat at the senior leadership table, which hasn't been the case since former Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group Terry Myerson departed from the company in 2018. While Microsoft hasn't updated its list of Executive Officers recently, Panay will be joining Xbox chief Phil Spencer, cloud and AI guru Scott Guthrie, and more in advising the CEO as part of the senior leadership team. This is Panay's second promotion in just over a year. In February 2020, the executive was entrusted to lead both the Windows and hardware division at Microsoft. While the company's Surface hardware has been struggling in the revenue department recently and the Surface Duo is also considered a flop, Panay's innovative approach to premium hardware is something that is worthy of respect, at the very least. Outside of Microsoft, the executive is also a member of Sonos' board of directors. Microsoft promotes Windows and Surface chief Panos Panay to senior leadership team
  15. Executives and leaders from big tech, education, the finance sector, and infrastructure have committed to bolstering US interests' security during yesterday's White House cybersecurity summit. This summit was held by President Biden and members of his cabinet to discuss and coordinate a plan with business leaders on how they could work together to help protect US businesses and interests against increasing cyberattacks. Some of the executives who attended the summit included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, JPMorgan Chase Jamie Dimon, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. As part of the summit, various companies and institutions have committed to increased investments in cybersecurity and education, which are listed below: Government initiatives: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will work with Microsoft, Google, IBM, Travelers, and Coalition to create new standards for securing technology and open-source software. Open-source software is a critical component that needs strengthening due to its wide use in other software, leading to potential supply chain attacks. The Biden administration has added natural gas pipelines to the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative, aiming to strengthen critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Big tech initiatives: Apple will push for mass adoption of multi-factor authentications, vulnerability remediation, event logging, and security training. Google is investing $10 billion over the next five years to expand zero-trust programs and secure open-source security and the software supply chain risks. Microsoft will invest $20 billion over the next five years to increase its security solutions and initiatives. They are also immediately making $150 million available to federal, state, and local governments to upgrade their security protection. "Thank you, President Biden for convening a critical conversation on cybersecurity. Microsoft will invest $20 billion to advance our security solutions over the next 5 years, $150 million to help US government agencies upgrade protections, and expand our cybersecurity training partnerships," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a LinkedIn post. Amazon will make the security awareness training used by employees available to the public at no charge. Amazon will also provide a free multi-factor authentication device to AWS customers to help secure their accounts. IBM will train 150,000 in cybersecurity skills over the next three years and partner with 20 Historically Black Colleges & Universities to create a more diverse cyber workforce. Insurance initiatives: Cyber insurance provider Resilience will require policyholders to meet a threshold of cybersecurity best practice as a condition of receiving coverage. It is not clear what this threshold is at this time. Cyber insurance provider Coalition will make its cybersecurity risk assessment & continuous monitoring platform available for free to any organization. Education initiatives: Code.org announced it would teach cybersecurity concepts to over 3 million students across 35,000 classrooms over three years. Girls Who Code announced it would establish a micro-credentialing program for historically excluded groups in technology. The University of Texas System announced it would expand existing and develop new short-term credentials in cyber-related fields to strengthen America's cybersecurity workforce. Whatcom Community College announced it has been designated the new NSF Advanced Technological Education National Cybersecurity Center and will provide cybersecurity education and training to faculty and support program development for colleges to "fast-track" students from college to career. Microsoft and Google to invest billions to bolster US cybersecurity
  16. Changelog: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployedge/microsoft-edge-relnote-stable-channel Download Page: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/edge/business/download Downloads: x86: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=2093505 https://msedge.sf.dl.delivery.mp.microsoft.com/filestreamingservice/files/07d23d92-5e40-4669-95a2-ccdb290dd36e/MicrosoftEdgeEnterpriseX86.msi x64: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=2093437 https://msedge.sf.dl.delivery.mp.microsoft.com/filestreamingservice/files/734efada-a5dc-435d-a362-35cafffced51/MicrosoftEdgeEnterpriseX64.msi
  17. Microsoft today announced that Ignite conference will be held digitally on November 2-4, 2021. In the Ignite conference, you can expect latest product demos, Q&A with Microsoft experts, technical deep-dives, and more. Also, the event will be free and open for everyone. You can find more details about this event here. Microsoft Ignite conference is coming digitally on November 2-4, 2021
  18. Microsoft’s gamescom 2021 showcase is happening today where the firm is announcing new titles making it to its Xbox Game Pass subscription, showing off flashy new gameplay trailers, and more. Along with those announcements, the company also unveiled the next major World Update for Flight Simulator and a few other additions making it to the simulation title over the next few months. Flight Simulator World Update VI brings visual improvements to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland this time around. As expected, these include high-resolution scenery, new 3D cities, over 100 points of interest, and a bunch of new airports such as Lübeck, Stuttgart, Klagenfurt, and St. Gallen. There are also new bush trips, landing challenges, and discovery flights that are aimed at showing off the visual upgrades. The update will begin rolling out to users for free on September 7. In addition to the visual upgrades, the Redmond firm is introducing a new ‘Local Legends’ series of additions that aligns with the World Updates. These are aimed at adding specific aircraft based on the regions in the World Update, highlighting airplanes that are “not as well known to a worldwide audience”. The addition for this time is the Junkers JU-52, a “famous German plane from 1930”. The firm adds that it has gone to “great lengths” to recreate the offering, even going as far as creating high-resolution scans, collaborating with the grandson of the plane’s original designer, and a pilot who last few the aircraft. The Junkers JU-52 will be a $14.99 addition and will be available on September 7. Another addition to the simulator expected to make it in November is the Volocopter, an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) air taxi made by a German company. The firm adds that the addition of this helicopter-like vehicle is the “first step” towards introducing more helicopters, something that has been widely requested. There is no word on whether this will be a free addition. Lastly, the company is adding STIHL National Championship Air Races to Flight Simulator this fall, thanks to its partnership with RARA (the Reno Air Racing Association). This is said to be the “world’s fastest motorsport” with planes flying as fast as 500mph at an altitude of 50 feet to 250 feet. These races bring multiplayer racing to the game, where users will be able to compete with friends around the globe. The firm did not, however, mention if these will be a part of a free update or if this “first major expansion” will be a paid add-on. While it was not mentioned in today’s announcement, the game will also be receiving a Top Gun: Maverick expansion on November 19, aligning with the release of the Top Gun: Maverick movie. While this was announced along with the Xbox console launch announcement, not much in the way of details has been revealed yet. You can take a look at everything that Microsoft showed off at its gamescom 2021 showcase here. Microsoft announces next major Flight Simulator update, multiplayer racing, and more
  19. As the third full week of August is coming to a close, we take a look back at the various bits of Microsoft news that have surfaced during this time. Among them, the arrival of the first official Windows 11 ISOs (with Insider builds, that is), some new Xbox peripherals, and the ever-present security flaw discoveries. You can find out additional details about the aforementioned and other news below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of August 15 – 21. More Windows 11 changes As hinted at by the Redmond giant, the various changes brought forth with Windows 11 are slowly but surely starting to appear. This week, the company teased an updated version of the Paint app, featuring newer icons, the expected rounded corners, and even dark mode support. Paint joins the already available to test newer Clock app, which made its debut via build 22000.160, which arrived in both the Dev and Beta Insider Preview channels. As always, the build also contains a number of known issues, which should be expected, given that it’s a test version we’re talking about here. Coinciding with the release of the build above is also the arrival of the first-ever dedicated Windows 11 ISOs, which contain build 22000.132. In case your VM – or if you’re testing this on actual hardware, your partition – is acting up, you can now clean install this Insider build to rule out any in-place upgrade related issues. In addition to the new build and the ISOs, you can also preview Windows 11 for Azure Virtual Desktop, with Microsoft confirming – along with Intel – that the upcoming operating system is optimized for the latter’s Alder Lake architecture, namely the big.LITTLE design which is similar to ARM chips. For those who do not want to (or can’t) upgrade to Windows 11, there’s also Windows 10 21H2, build 19044.1200 of which was also made available this week to Release Preview Insiders. It brings, along with a number of fixes, support for WPA3 H2E, a new deployment method for Windows Hello for Business, and GPU computer support in WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) and Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows (EFLOW). It’s not all good news though, as the Default apps settings page in Windows 11 has caused the ire of the other browser makers. This is due to the convoluted manner of setting up say, Chrome as your default browser. When you do so, you’ll also get a prompt asking you to reconsider your choice, and if you’re using the newly (re)introduced widgets, those will outright ignore your preference and still launch Edge. No statement from Microsoft has been released regarding this so far. Until the above is rectified, there’s always the option of simply typing in name of the app you’re looking for in the Start menu. If you’re curious how the search functionality works in Windows 11, we’ve got you covered. Higher-res dashboard For those who bought an Xbox Series X and were rather pleased with its gaming performance, a sometimes-criticized aspect of the software side was the dashboard UI. Unlike its ability to play games at 4K and up to 120FPS, the console’s UI was stuck at 1080p, which made for a jarring transition from game to dashboard. Folks in the Alpha – Skip Ahead ring of the Xbox Insider preview, as per Xbox Director of PM, Jason Ronald, are now able to test out a variant of the UI which is “displayed in a higher native resolution”. Whether this is 1440p or 4K is not yet known, and its seems that the resolution bump will be limited to Series X owners, with Series S not being mentioned. If all goes well in testing, the higher-res UI should make its way to regular users in the coming months. Something that you won’t need to wait months for is the arrival of new games in Game Pass, with Humankind, Need for Speed Heat, Train Sim World 2, and more already being made available in the subscription. Psychonauts 2 and Myst are set to join the roster on August 25 and 26, respectively. Speaking of new, there’s now a new Xbox Stereo Headset – available now for pre-order priced at $59.99, and launching September 21 -, as well as a Skyrim Anniversary Edition, set to be made available November 11, 2021, exactly 10 years after the original release. In other gaming news, Sea of Thieves saw an increase to 4.8 million monthly active players, due to the Pirates of the Caribbean cross-over, while 343 has announced that Halo Infinite’s campaign co-op and Forge will not be available at launch. The game will have seasons, each of which will last about three months. Co-op is planned for launch in Season 2, while Forge features are targeting a Season 3 launch. Lastly, in case your backlog simply isn’t big enough, there are myriad Deals with Gold to peruse, including discounts for games like Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Child of Light, Fallout 3, and more. Security flaws Yet another week’s gone by, but unfortunately, yet another security flaw has been discovered. Coming by way of Google’s Project Zero is an elevation of privilege flaw in Windows. This one concerns the Windows Filtering Platform (or WFP), and its interaction with AppContainers. Specifically, due to WFP’s default rules, a malicious actor could connect to the TCP sockets of AppContainers and inject malicious code – hence the elevation of privilege. The OS mentioned in the report is Windows 10 version 2004, with Project Zero stating that it had awarded this flaw a low criticality rating and that it had reached out privately to Microsoft on July 8, 2021. On the 15 of that same month, the Redmond giant asked for a 14-day extension (which was granted) due to the complexity of the issue. On July 19 though, Microsoft stated that the issue would not be fixed due to the exploit requiring that an AppContainer is already exposed to the internet. Now, the company has started working on patching the issue once again, but has not provided a time frame for a fix yet. In light of this and its previous efforts, Microsoft has been quite vocal about the adoption of Zero Trust security models – the aptly named “never trust, always verify” set of principles. This is also reflected in the way in which the company recommends that users manage their security on Windows 365 Cloud PCs. Dev channel Azure Government Top Secret is now generally available. Microsoft Universal Print will soon be integrated directly into OneDrive. Microsoft 365 apps and services have dropped support for IE11. Support for regional accents has been added to Microsoft’s Translator app. Microsoft 365 is set to become more expensive for commercial customers. Logging off We end the column with a look at an alternate version of Windows 11’s Start menu, courtesy of one of our readers. While the UI direction in which Microsoft is taking its next major OS is somewhat promising, there are certainly some rough edges here and there. Among them, the new – but perhaps not totally improved – Start menu. The sentiment above was also echoed by our very own Dot Matrix, who decided to put together a concept showcasing how, with a few tweaks, the new Start menu could be a tad more functional. The result is a bit of a fusion between the Windows 10 and 11 approach, making much better use of the available space as compared to the ‘default’ counterpart. The full concept details can be seen here. Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link. Microsoft Weekly: More Windows 11 changes, higher-res dashboard, and security flaws
  20. At its Architecture Day 2021 event today, Intel outlined details regarding its upcoming CPU and GPU platforms. The company released more information regarding its Arc-branded discrete graphics cards and the accompanying features. Alongside Arc GPUs, it also discussed its upcoming Alder Lake processors that are launching later in the year. Alder Lake is based on Intel's upcoming hybrid Big-Bigger approach called Performance Hybrid architecture and among other things, the company today explained how task assignments will work with the new design. In fact, during its presentation, Intel confirmed that Windows 11 is optimized to work really well with its Alder Lake CPUs, stating: To enable this level of fine-grained coordination for real performance, Intel jointly worked with Microsoft to incorporate this revolutionary capability into upcoming Windows 11 release. Mehmet Iyigun, Partner Development Manager at Microsoft, added to this, saying: Throughout the Windows 11 development cycle, my team has been working with our colleagues at Intel to enlighten and optimize our upcoming OS to take full advantage of the Performance Hybrid architecture and Thread Director in particular. With Thread Director feedback, the Windows 11 thread scheduler is much smarter about dynamically picking the most appropriate core based on the workload to achieve the best power and performance. We have apparently already found evidence of this when a Lakefield Core i7-L16G7 was earlier tested in the Windows 11 environment. For those wondering what the Thread Director is, essentially it is a new technology in Alder Lake that provides feedback to the OS that in turn helps the Windows 11 scheduler to efficiently assign the workloads such that more complex ones composed of vector instructions, among others, go to the Performance Core (P-core), while lighter scalar instructions and background tasks are sent to the Efficient Core (E-core). However, the feedback is dynamic and it can adapt depending on the workload present on each core. To know more about how Thread Director works, you can view the demo by Intel linked in the source below. Source: Intel Newsroom (YouTube) Microsoft and Intel confirm Windows 11 is optimized for Alder Lake's big.LITTLE design
  21. A new paper published by Microsoft's research department proposes to tackle piracy with a blockchain-based bounty system titled "Argus." The system allows volunteers to report piracy in exchange for a reward. It uses the Ethereum blockchain and is transparent, practical, and secure, while limiting abusive reports and errors. Microsoft is one of the world’s most prominent copyright holders with a vast experience in fighting piracy. The company is part of the Software Alliance (BSA), for example, which is known to track copyright infringements both off- and online. The BSA is also known for its piracy bounties, where it promises whistleblowers cash rewards in return for fruitful tips. This is a controversial strategy which Microsoft’s own research team hopes to improve upon. Argus A few days ago Microsoft’s research department published an article titled: Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns, which lays out the details of its plan. The paper, which also received input from researchers at Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon University, suggests that an open and transparent blockchain is part of the solution. This openness is currently missing from BSA-style reporting mechanisms. “Industrial alliances and companies are running anti-piracy incentive campaigns, but their effectiveness is publicly questioned due to the lack of transparency. We believe that full transparency of a campaign is necessary to truly incentivize people,” the paper reads. Piracy Bounty Hunting The article is full of technical details. We don’t strive to provide a full summary but, simply put, Argus is a transparent system built on the Ethereum blockchain that allows people to anonymously report piracy in exchange for a bounty. Pirated content is traced back to the source through a unique watermark that corresponds with a secret code. When a pirated copy is reported, the status of the source (licensee) is changed to “accused.” The system provides an appeal option, but if that fails, the accused status changes to “guilty.” Argus is an open system but there are various safeguards to prevent abuse. Reporting the same pirated work multiple times under different aliases is useless, for example, as that will only reduce the reward. Low Blockchain Costs The system relies on several checks to ensure that the system is open, while avoiding false accusations at the same time. And according to the researchers, the costs of utilizing the blockchain are relatively low. “We effectively optimize several cryptographic operations so that the cost for a piracy reporting is reduced to an equivalent cost of sending about 14 ETH-transfer transactions to run on the public Ethereum network, which would otherwise correspond to thousands of transactions. “With the security and practicality of Argus, we hope real-world anti-piracy campaigns will be truly effective by shifting to a fully transparent incentive mechanism,” the researchers add. Real-World Use? Whether Microsoft has any plans to test the system in the wild is unknown. It theoretically works with various media types including images, audio and software. That said, it’s unclear how effective it will be. The researchers “assume” that the watermarking technology deployed is tamper-free, which isn’t always the case today. All in all, it’s intriguing to see blockchain technology used to improve the rather old-fashioned piracy reporting campaigns. This idea isn’t completely new, however, as the South African company Custos came up with a similar idea years ago. Microsoft’s research notes that Argus is superior to Custos’ solution as it can assess the severity of piracy and the strength of accusations. At the same time, they believe Argus is better than BSA’s campaigns because the reward payments are transparent. The paper and the Argus system will be presented at the upcoming 40th International Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems, which will be held virtually at the end of September. Microsoft Envisions a Blockchain-Based Bounty System to Catch Pirates
  22. Several Windows printing related vulnerabilities have been discovered, disclosed and resolved in recent time. Microsoft released an emergency update in July to address a vulnerability dubbed PrintNightmare. This week, Microsoft disclosed yet another printing related vulnerability in Windows. The CVE reveals little information at this point as Microsoft's investigation is still ongoing. According to the provided information, it is a remote code execution vulnerability that does affect the Windows Print Spooler. A remote code execution vulnerability exists when the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performs privileged file operations. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. Microsoft does not list the affected versions and editions of the company's Windows operating system, as research is still ongoing. All versions of Windows were affected by PrintNightmare, and it is possible that the new 0-day vulnerability affects all versions as well. Microsoft notes that it is working on a security patch, which it will likely release as an out-of-band patch once produced. Workaround: disable the Print Spooler Microsoft's workaround for protecting systems against attacks targeting the new Print Spooler vulnerability is to disable the Print Spooler. The downside to disabling the Print Spooler is that printing becomes unavailable. One of the PrintNightmare vulnerability workarounds was to stop the Print Spooler as well. Disable Print Spooler via PowerShell Open Start. Type PowerShell. Select Run as administrator. Run Get-Service -Name Spooler to get the status of the print spooler- Run Stop-Service -Name Spooler -Force to stop the Print Spooler service. Run Set-Service -Name Spooler -StartupType Disabled to set the startup type of the service to disabled so that it is not activated on system start. Disable Print Spooler via Services You may also use the Services management interface to stop the Print Spooler service and set its startup type to disabled. Open Start. Type services.msc Locate the Print Spooler service. The list is sorted alphabetically by default. Right-click on Print Spooler and select Stop. Double-click on Print Spooler. Set the Startup Type to disabled. Select Ok. Effect of the workaround You won't be able to print anymore on the device if the Print Spooler service is not running. You could enable it on demand, e.g. just the moment before you start a new print job on the device, and turn it off afterwards again. Microsoft suggests once again to disable the Print Spooler to protect against new 0-day vulnerability
  23. The latest set of seven days has gone by, and as such, we should take a look at the variety of Microsoft-related news that have happened. Among them, the confirmation of Humankind launching day one on Game Pass, the arrival of this month’s Patch Tuesday updates, and even some more PrintNightmare news. You’ll find info about those subjects and more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of August 8 - 14. Humankind on Game Pass To the shock of I suspect very few, we begin at the beginning, with SEGA’s upcoming 4X strategy title, Humankind. Launching August 17 across Steam, EGS, and Stadia, the title will also be available day one via Xbox Game Pass, as recently confirmed by Microsoft. Speaking of availability, Xbox Cloud Gaming can now be tested by Insiders in the Xbox App on Windows, while the Series X|S optimized variant of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has arrived, boosting graphical fidelity and gaining ray tracing support. In case your backlog is simply too small, you may want to take a look at the Xbox Add-on Sale, which features titles from series like Assassin’s Creed or Doom. Additionally, there’s Yooka-Laylee and Garou: Mark of the Wolves to claim for free if you’re an Xbox Live Gold subscriber. Last but not least, there’s an Xbox show planned around gamescom. The showcase, which is set to give an in-depth look at upcoming games, is scheduled for August 24 at 10AM PT / 1PM ET (that's 6PM BST or 7PM CEST). Patch Tuesday Like clockwork, the second Tuesday of August has rolled around, signaling that it was time for the Redmond software giant to push out is usual set of Patch Tuesday updates. For folks on Windows 10 versions 2004, 20H2, and 21H1, the relevant update is listed under KB5005033, and is set to bump up the build numbers to 19041.1165, 19042.1165, and 19043.1165 – in order of oldest to newest supported version. The list of fixes mentions a particular change to the Point and Print functionality, which now requires administrative privileges to install drivers. This is to combat the security flaw with the ID CVE-2021-34481. Those still on 1909 Enterprise, Education, and IoT Enterprise SKUs will get KB5005031 – which bumps the build number up to 18363.1734 -, while those within the LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) flavors of Windows 10 will be given the following updates: 1809: KB5005030, build 17763.2114 1607: KB5005043, build 14393.4583 1507: KB5005040, build 10240.19022 Those still on Windows 7 (such as businesses paying for Extended Security Updates) or Windows 8.1 got their very own sets of patches. For the former OS, details about the monthly rollup can be found under KB5005088 (or KB5005089 for the security-only variant), while a rundown of everything fixed for Windows 8.1 users can be found under KB5005076 (KB5005106 for the security-only flavor). Naturally, like the Windows 10 counterparts, the Windows 8.1 and 7 patches also include the Point and Print default behavior change described above. New Windows 11 builds With Windows 11 vaguely on the horizon, Microsoft is continuing to push out test builds to its Dev and Beta Insider channels. This week, testers were greeted by build 22000.132, which added the ability to chat from Teams (a feature showed off at the OS’s debut livestream earlier this year), a new Snipping Tool, as well as updated Calculator, plus Mail and Calendar apps. As always, these are subject to a staggered rollout, but in the meantime, here’s a quick look at all of them. Naturally, Insider builds come with their fair share of bugs, so here is the – rather lengthy – list of known issues, covering everything from localization to the new Store, the Search functionality, as well as test channel-specific bugs. Dev channel Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management is now generally available. Power BI now has a new component geared towards Angular web apps. Power BI has added in-product store browsing capabilities. The OneDrive sync client will no longer work on macOS 10.12 or 10.13 after September 10. Teams web users will soon be able to add background effects and share system audio. Microsoft has acquired Peer5 to bolster its large-scale video-streaming capabilities in Teams. Edge Dev build 94.0.975.1 is now out, adding Sleeping Tabs improvements. Visual Studio 2022 Preview 3 is now available to try. The August firmware update for the AMD-based Surface Laptop 3 is now out. EY and Microsoft have partnered to create a $15B growth opportunity. Microsoft has expanded its partnership with Samsung, optimizing its apps for the latter’s foldables. Logging off We end this week’s column with a rather important subject, which is another variant of the PrintNightmare exploit. Following on from last month’s discovery of the Print Spooler flaw lovingly dubbed PrintNightmare (or SeriousSAM, depending on who you ask), Microsoft has confirmed that yet another variant has been discovered, one which has been assigned CVE-2021-36958 as its ID. This exploit takes advantage of the fact that the Print Spooler service is capable of improperly performing privileged file operations. Unsurprisingly, a patch has already been pushed out (coinciding with Patch Tuesday this week), with the Redmond giant understandably recommending immediate installation. Furthermore, the company has also outlined its vision for the way in which organizations can protect themselves againts cyberattacks. To end on a bit of good news, Azure CTO Mark Russinovich has confirmed that a security vulnerability found in the Remote Desktop Connection Manager (or RDCMan) has been fixed. The improper parsing of XML inputting with references to external entities flaw has now been addressed via version 2.82 of RDCMan. Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link. Microsoft Weekly: Humankind on Game Pass, Patch Tuesday, and new Windows 11 builds
  24. The battle has moved from JEDI to WildandStormy After spending years battling over the Defense Department’s $10 billion JEDI cloud services contract, Microsoft and Amazon are fighting over another government deal. Now it’s the National Security Agency offering a contract that could pay up to $10 billion as it shifts away from on-premises servers to a commercial provider. However, as Washington Technology reported first, this time around, Amazon Web Services won the $10 billion contest, and it’s Microsoft turn to file a protest with the Government Accountability Office. Washington Technology reports that Microsoft’s claim is the NSA didn’t conduct a proper evaluation while considering a provider for its new project, code-named WildandStormy. In a statement to NextGov, an NSA spokesperson confirmed the award and protests, saying, “The Agency will respond to the protest in accordance with appropriate federal regulations.” The NSA is pursuing a “Hybrid Compute Initiative” to meet its processing and analytical requirements while also holding onto intelligence data (although it might not need as much storage as it used to). AWS already holds many government cloud contracts, but the JEDI process revealed Microsoft as a formidable competitor. Last year the CIA split up its Commercial Cloud Enterprise contract between five companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Oracle, and IBM. Last year, a Microsoft blog post said it was pursuing US government accreditation for its Azure Government Top Secret regions to “meet the demand for greater agility in the classified space.” When Amazon was pushing for a review of the JEDI contract process, it cited “errors and unmistakable bias,” as former president Donald Trump reportedly stepped in, bringing his animosity toward then-CEO Jeff Bezos. Eventually, the DoD decided the program’s design no longer met its needs and scrapped the entire plan to pursue a multi-vendor solution called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability. Will WildandStormy meet a similar fate? A step toward an answer will come within the next couple of months, as the GAO’s decision is due by October 29th. Now Microsoft is protesting after Amazon won a $10 billion NSA cloud contract
  25. Microsoft has revived the Remote Desktop Connection Manager (RDCMan) app that was deprecated last year due to an important severity information disclosure bug the company decided not to fix. RDCMan is a Windows RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) client used by system admins to manage multiple remote desktop connections. After discontinuing the app, Microsoft advised customers to switch to Windows built-in Remote Desktop Connection (%windir%\system32\mstsc.exe) or the universal Remote Desktop client. "An information disclosure vulnerability exists in the Remote Desktop Connection Manager (RDCMan) application when it improperly parses XML input containing a reference to an external entity," Microsoft explained in the March 2020 security advisory. "An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could read arbitrary files via an XML external entity (XXE) declaration." Attackers could exploit the bug (tracked as CVE-2020-0765) by tricking authenticated targets into opening RDG files containing maliciously crafted XML content. RDCMan revived as a Sysinternals tool However, as Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich revealed earlier this year, the company added RDCMan to the Windows Sysinternals toolkit and released version 2.8 in late June. "Good news for RDCMan (Remote Desktop Connection Manager) fans (like me): we've saved it from abandonment by bringing into Sysinternals," Russinovich said in February, confirming the tool's revival. "Look for its Sysinternals debut in the near future." While the company didn't share any details on the security flaw addressed in RDCMan 2.8, the patched vulnerability was not the one that led to the app being discontinued last year. Microsoft disclosed today in an update to the initial security advisory that the flaw was fixed in RDCMan 2.82, released on July 27 through the Sysinternals documentation website. The new Remote Desktop Connection Manager version runs on Windows 8.1 and higher or Windows Server 2012 and higher. "User with OS versions prior to Win7/Vista will need to get version 6 of the Terminal Services Client," Microsoft says. "You can obtain this from the Microsoft Download Center: XP; Win2003." Microsoft revives deprecated RDCMan after fixing security flaw
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