Microsoft Weekly: A game of tactics, 20H1 in Release Preview, and more productivity

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This week, we saw at long last the arrival of 20H1 in the Release Preview ring, the prep for the launch of Gears Tactics, and even some nice productivity updates. You can find that, as well as much more, below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of April 11 – 17.

A game of tactics

One of the more important bits of gaming news this month is the release of The Coalition’s Gears Tactics spinoff, a top-down, turn-based title in the vein of XCOM – with a Gears twist on it. If you’re unsure about how all this is going to play out, be on the lookout for our review.

It’s worth mentioning that the game is of course coming to Game Pass on PC too, on its already scheduled launch date of April 28. Along with it, Gato Roboto will land on April 21, Deliver Us the Moon on April 23, HyperDot, and Levelhead on April 30, with The Long Dark and Machinarium listed as coming soon. On console, you’re already able to play The Long Dark, Gato Roboto and Deliver Us the Moon have identical release dates to those on PC, as do HyperDot and Levelhead.

On April 30 you will however have to say goodbye to The Banner Saga 2, Bomber Crew, Braid, Fallout 4, Full Metal Furies, Metal Slug 3, Ruiner, Silence: The Whispered World 2, Smoke and Sacrifice, as well as Wolfenstein: The New Order on console. On PC, The Banner Saga 2, Bomber Crew, Full Metal Furies, Ruiner, Silence: The Whispered World 2, plus Smoke and Sacrifice will be leaving the subscription.

In other recent news, the Game Pass PC preview has been extended to Japan and South Korea, priced at its $4.99/month fee during the beta.

Console folks with a Gold subscription are now able to get Knights of Pen and Paper Bundle and Toybox Turbos for free, as well as Project CARS 2 from the previous month’s promotion. If you own an Xbox, simply by playing on your console you can donate to the CDC Foundation via Microsoft Rewards.

For those in the Beta ring on Console, the new Xbox Insider Hub app can now be obtained, with the first Halo 2: Anniversary Insider test on PC now live – running until April 27 -, and Flight Simulator Alpha 1.2.10 also being made available.

In case you have the hardware and are curious how Minecraft’s blocky world looks like with ray tracing, the Minecraft RTX beta kicked off on April 16, and you can register now if you want to test this out.

Finally, for fans of CD Projekt RED’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 RPG, there’s a limited-edition themed Xbox One X and Wireless Controller bundle, set for release sometime in June. No pricing has been announced yet, however.

20H1 in Release Preview

Since we’ve just passed Patch Tuesday for the month of April, Microsoft of course released the usual updates for various versions of Windows. That said, we’ll touch upon the title of this section, after which we’ll move on to the patches.

Windows 10 codename 20H1 – or version 2004 – has been in testing much longer than any of the previous feature updates, and the latest build, 19041, has consistently been patched since its first arrival in the Slow ring in December last year. The version of the OS implies that it would be signed off on in April, with general availability in May.

However, as Patch Tuesday rolled around and Microsoft only pushed out 19041.207 with a handful of fixes, folks started wondering why this wasn’t already in the Release Preview ring – reserved for soon to be made available feature updates. Luckily, a mere three days later, this same build made its way to the aforementioned ring, complete with the official denomination: the May 2020 Update. If you want to know more about what features and changes are being brought in by this update, feel free to check out our guide.

Microsoft did have more builds on offer as part of its sprawling network that is the Insider Program. For instance, Windows Server preview build 19603 was released, as was build 19608 of Windows 10 vNext in the Fast ring.

The latter has improvements to the default apps section in Settings, allowing you to perform a search through the lists of protocols, file types, and applications when choosing a default. In terms of fixes, language packs failing to install – a known issue – should be a thing of the past, as should Snip & Sketch launching in the background, and the presence of performance issues when loading the Windows Update history page. Anything else that was already known in terms of bugs is still there.

Later in the week, the company also serviced build 19608, pushing out 19608.1006 which contained a single fix, rather vaguely described to “improve overall reliability of the OS”.

As hinted at in the first paragraph, this week was Patch Tuesday, so here’s what you need to be on the lookout for if you’re running Windows 10:

  • May 2019 Update / November 2019 Update (1903/1909): KB4549951, build 18362.778 (1903), 18363.778 (1909) – contains updates to improve the security of Office products and the way in which Windows performs basic operations, as well as updates to storing and managing files.

  • October 2018 Update (1809) Enterprise, Education: KB4549949, build 17763.1158 – identical highlights as the ones described above.

  • April 2018 Update (1803): KB4550922, build 17134.1425 – identical highlights to the versions above, although it does contain a shorter list of security fixes.

  • Fall Creators Update (1709) Enterprise, Education: KB4550927, build 16299.1806 – identical changelog to version 1803.

  • Creators Update (1703) for Surface Hub: KB45509939, build 15063.2346 – contains updates to improve the security of Office products, as well as basic Windows operations.

  • Anniversary Update (1607) LTSC, Server 2016: KB4550929, build 14393.3630 – contains updates to improve the security of Office products and basic Windows operations.

    • Known issue: After installing KB4467683, the cluster service may fail to start with the error “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)” if the group policy “Minimum Password Length” is configured with greater than 14 characters.

  • Windows 10 RTM (1507) LTSC: KB4550930, build 10240.18545 – identical changelog to 1607.

For folks affected by this on Windows 10, Microsoft has fixed the bug which caused Defender to crash during a Full Scan.

Before we move on to the patches for Windows 7 and 8.1, it’s important to mention that Microsoft has extended support for Home and Pro variants of Windows 10 1809 (October 2018 Update) until November 10, 2020. The Windows Server equivalent has also benefited from the same extension, with Configuration Manager 1810 extended from May 27 until December 1. SharePoint Server 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010, and Project Server 2010 were extended from October 13, 2020 until April 13, 2021, and the deprecation of the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement legacy web client has been pushed back to December.

If you’re running either Windows 8.1 or are a business paying for Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for Windows 7, here’s what this Patch Tuesday brought forth for you:

  • Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4550961, KB4550970 (security-only) – includes security updates for IE, Microsoft Scripting Engine, Kernel, App Platform and Frameworks, Graphics Component, Windows Media, Windows Fundamentals, Core Networking and JET Database Engine.

    • Known issues: Certain operations like rename, performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with the error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” when the operation is performed on a CSV owner node from a process without admin privileges; Devices on a domain might be unable to install apps published using a Group Policy Object (GPO). The issue only affects app installations that use .msi files. It does not affect any other installation methods, such as from the Microsoft Store.

It’s worth mentioning that the monthly rollup above needs to be downloaded manually, and will not be provided through Windows Update.

  • Windows 7 ESU, Server 2008 R2 SP1 ESU: KB4550964, KB4550965 (security-only) – includes the same security updates as those for Windows 8.1, with the addition of a fix to address the “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0x00000A5)” error given when performing certain operations on a CSV.

    • Known issues: After installing this update and restarting your device, you might receive the error “Failure to configure Windows updates. Reverting Changes. Do not turn off your computer”, and the update might show as Failed in Update History; Devices on a domain might be unable to install apps published using a Group Policy Object (GPO). The issue only affects app installations that use .msi files. It does not affect any other installation methods, such as from the Microsoft Store.

More productivity

Since there’s been a surge in working from home due to the current world conditions, here’s a highlight of some of the productivity-focused updates that have been revealed this week.

For those using Power BI workspaces, there’s now a more modern design, putting the ability to get data and search within the workspace front and center. There’s also a view switcher now, better organized lists and tabs, filters, quick actions, as well as a tweaked colour scheme. Staying on the subject of Power BI, you’re now able to copy a Power BI visual as an image, complete with all of its metadata.

Office Insiders on Windows in the Monthly Channel (Targeted) have gotten the April set of updates, which brings the build number to 12730.20150. Word has a new Action Pen in the Draw tab – which replaces the Ink Editor -, the ability to create a private copy of a document – which allows you to make annotations without then being visible to everyone accessing the document -, Excel has a new Workbook Statistics view, PowerPoint can now sync changes to the presentation even while you’re presenting, and much more.

The Your Phone app now supports file drag-and-drop on Samsung devices, and Teams will pretty soon bump up the number of simultaneous users you’re able to view to nine, with more coming later.

As expected, Microsoft also committed more cloud and tech support for non-profits combating COVID-19.

The Fast ring

  • Microsoft Edge 81 is now out in the stable channel.

  • Edge Dev 83.0.478.5 is now out, bringing nicknames for payment cards, and more.

  • The Microsoft Launcher Preview could soon allow more granular theme customization and backing up of settings.

  • It’s rumored that PowerToys’ Window Walker feature, called Power Launcher – which isn’t its official name – will be launching in May, as a replacement to Win + R.

  • There’s now a Bing Wallpaper app which lets you set the search engine’s daily images as your desktop wallpaper. A similar feature, though only for the lock screen, has been available in Windows 10 for a while.

Logging off

To end, we take a look at some hardware-related leaks, more specifically for a trio of upcoming Surface devices.

The first one to surface (pun intended) was one relating to the second generation of the Dock, which got listed by a Belgian retailer for €244, or around $267. The accessory apparently will come with two USB-C ports – replacing the dual min DisplayPorts on the back. Power delivery has been upped to 200W from 95W on the first generation, and there’s also a ‘Power Supply 127W for Surface’ listing on a Dutch website, presumably for the rumored Surface Book 3.

Speaking of, the Book 3 is said to feature Nvidia’s Quadro GPUs, and up to 32GB of RAM, if listings by European retailers are to be believed. It, along with the Surface Go 2 – which just passed through the FCC – are expected to be announced soon, possibly in May.

Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.

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