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Microsoft Weekly: A round of Windows leaks, Xbox mini fridges, and hybrid work
by Florin Bodnarescu
In the last seven days we’ve seen the set of E3 2021 announcements from Microsoft – including the Xbox Mini Fridge -, the leaking of a Windows 11 ISO, and a number of other bits of news. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of June 13 - 19.
A round of Windows leaks
The week started in what the Redmond firm could call not ideal conditions, since screenshots of the yet-to-be announced Windows 11 emerged. A little later that same day, the situation got even more interesting as an ISO of build 21996.1 made its way onto the web.
Naturally, we got our hands on it and have chosen to highlight a number of the OS’s new features – like the Windows 10X-esque centered taskbar icons, rounded corners, or the translucent UI (in some places) – via either screenshots of the desktop UI, the OOBE, the new window snapping UI, the new set of wallpapers, and more.
It does seem that out of all, the Home version requires an internet connection to complete setup, but luckily there’s a workaround. In case you want to test this out yourself, you might want to be quick as Microsoft is already issuing DMCA complaints to take down the leaked ISO.
We won’t have long to wait until an official announcement though, with the dedicated set of events scheduled for June 24 at 11AM ET and June 24 at 3PM ET (the latter of which is aimed at developers). On that day we might also see the performance boots that the OS brings, especially for big.LITTLE x86 CPUs – as shown in a set of tests.
Xbox mini fridges
As is tradition, Microsoft held its annual E3 event on the Sunday just before the event’s kickoff, and on this occasion, it was joined by the Bethesda folks (the parent company of which it finalized the acquisition of this year).
To further emphasize the above, the showcase even started with Starfield, Bethesda’s first new IP in years. Powered by the Creation Engine 2, the title showcased an in-game cinematic sequence and perhaps more surprisingly, a release date as well.
The sci-fi game is coming November 11, 2022 (exactly 11 years after the release of Skyrim) and yes, it will be exclusive to Microsoft platforms.
While we’re on the subject of Bethesda, there was also some new ESO and Fallout 76 content announced, along with the fact that Game Pass is getting a number of the missing titles from the publisher, alongside titles like the entire Yakuza series, and even Turtle Rock’s Back 4 Blood on day one. Also in the Bethesda camp was a new IP from Arkane Austin, dubbed Redfall. The co-op vampire hunting game is coming summer 2022, unsurprisingly also to Game Pass day one.
We’ll touch on the fact that Injustice: Gods Among Us and Shadows Awakening are now free to claim, and that there’s in fact a rather good selection of Deals with Gold to peruse, while also mentioning that game stories is now a supported feature in the Xbox app and that the June update for the console has brought party chat accessibility options, among other things.
Speaking of other things, Battlefield 2042 gameplay was shown off during the game showcase, as was an interspersed story / gameplay trailer for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl (which lands April 28 next year, also in Game Pass), a cinematic announce trailer for co-op Xbox exclusive Contraband from Avalanche Studios, a cheeky meta cinematic announce trailer for The Outer Worlds 2, and more.
Alternate-universe sci-fi RPG Atomic Heart got yet another trailer at the event – sans release date -, Diablo II: Resurrected made an appearance too – showcasing its launch day of September 23 -, and Age of Empires IV got its long overdue launch date of October 28, available across PC and Game Pass.
In additional unexpected news, Sea of Thieves got a Pirates of the Caribbean crossover, bringing Jack Sparrow, Davy Jones and crew to the game thanks to a new original story dubbed A Pirate’s Life, which is coming for free to the tile on June 22.
Another game that got a release date was Flight Simulator, which lands on Series X|S consoles on July 27 – and has just gotten its World Update V, with a free Top Gun expansion coming this fall -, as well as Forza Horizon 5. The latter is set in Mexico and rather unexpectedly, lands on November 9 this year.
Of course, after the advent of Craig memes from last year, it was expected that 343 would show an updated look at Halo Infinite, complete with Joseph Staten on stage, a highlight of the game’s story and multiplayer, and an announcement that they will launch together this holiday. Infinite’s free-to-play multiplayer is also adding personal AIs for players, among other things.
Finally, the option to make your controllers more personal is now back, as Microsoft has relaunched the Xbox Design Lab with support for the new controller. That said, it’s not the only hardware announcement that the company made at this event.
After rumors of a streaming stick started circulating, folks assumed that the ‘one more thing’ at the end would be this. However, the Redmond giant leaned heavily into the memes and has announced it’ll make an Xbox Mini Fridge (shaped like the Series X).
Yes, it’s real, and yes, it’s coming holiday 2021 – even outside the United States.
Slotting just between the Xbox E3 showcase and the Windows event next week was a virtual presentation focused on hybrid work.
At this event, Microsoft has announced new Teams Rooms features like a “front row” layout for meetings, improved video layouts across multiple screens, new Together Mode scenes on the Surface Hub, and much, much more. Naturally, these features will be rolled out to Insiders first.
On the subject of Teams, the firm has additionally integrated Headspace for mindfulness exercises and to boost personal wellbeing in remote work situations. Worthy of mention is also the fact that inline chat message translation is now available for Teams on Android.
Last but not least, Whiteboard has received a redesign, which aims to help folks collaborate better in hybrid environments.
Edge Dev build 93.0.916.1 is now out, with a number of bug fixes. Better sharing and file picking were among the enhancements that arrived to OneDrive in May. Microsoft has elected Satya Nadella as chairman of its board of directors. Visual Studio 2022 Preview 1 is now available for Windows. Logging off
We end with a bit of an interesting bug related to the newly added News and Interests taskbar widget.
For folks running one of the various flavors of Windows 10 that have this feature, (1909 and up), there are instances in which the News and Interests text and icon appear blurry.
The issue has now been acknowledged by the firm as occurring on “certain display configurations”. Of course, which ones these are is set to remain a mystery. What’s also going to remain a mystery is when Microsoft plans to fix it, as the only time frame indication given was that it’ll happen in an “upcoming release”.
If you couldn’t care less about the widget, it can thankfully be turned off.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
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Windows 11 may get support for third-party widgets after all
by Anmol Mehrotra
Earlier this week, a Windows 11 build leaked online giving us the first look at the upcoming OS update. While, the new update comes with a visual overhaul, it also brings back a long lost feature. Tucked between the File Explorer and Task View sits the widgets option. If you have used Windows 7 in the past then you must be familiar with the widgets option. Unfortunately, the widgets option in the leaked Windows 11 build is just News and Interests which was launched for Windows 10 earlier this year.
However, reliable Microsoft insider, Walking Cat claims that Microsoft is planning to add support for third-party widgets that will allow users to customize the widgets menu as per their liking. However, initially, Windows 11 will support only first-party widgets, with third-party support rolling out later.
This is further confirmed by Rafael Rivera who did not find APIs related to third-party widgets in the leaked build indicating that the initial Windows 11 update will not ship with support for the third-party widgets.
Microsoft is expected to announce Windows 11 at an event next week. However, thanks to the recent leak, we were able to take a look at Windows 11 this week. You can check out our first impressions as well as hands-on articles for more information on Windows 11. In essence, the new update merges Windows 10 and Windows 10x while also bringing performance improvements as well as features such as the new window snapping assist.
Windows 11 boosts performance of big.LITTLE x86 CPUs shows testing
by Sayan Sen
After the Windows 11 ISO for build 21996.1 leaked a few days back, we at Neowin, as well as other outlets, have been exploring our way around it to get a feel of the upcoming Windows OS. You can read about our first impressions of Windows 11 here. We also briefly looked at the Pro version which you can find here.
A new kind of testing however was carried out by Hot Hardware, curious to find the changes made, if any, to the Windows 11 scheduler and how well it would cope with the upcoming Big-Bigger Alder Lake CPUs from Intel. In fact, AMD's next-gen Ryzen processors are also expected to feature a hybrid big.LITTLE kind of architectural design.
For testing, the Samsung Galaxy Book S with the Lakefield Core i7-L16G7 has been used since Alder Lake isn't out yet. The aforementioned Windows 11 build 21996.1 was compared against the 21H1 update for Windows 10 to check for performance differences in the new OS.
The results indicate a definite improvement in performance depending on the workload. There appears to be a big improvement in browser performance:
Geekbench, which runs a variety of short burst tests, saw moderate gains in the multi-threaded (MT) test and even lower gains in the single-threaded (ST) one.
CInebench, which tests Cinema 4D rendering performance, saw modest gains when all cores were loaded fully, but the improvement was more pronounced in the ST load since the workload jumps around between cores and is more affected by the scheduler input.
A graphics workload was also tested in the form of the 3DMark Night Raid, which is a light DirectX 12 benchmark. This is the only test that saw performance regression in Windows 11.
Finally, PCMark 10 was run that tests both the CPU and GPU at the same time and is meant to simulate a real usage scenario of our PCs. The results for this were mixed as it tests a variety of different workload types.
Although these are very early days for Windows 11, and in fact, they are earlier than early to be fully honest, the results overall do look somewhat promising. In the coming days. with more available hardware and further updates, we may see more improvements still.
Source and images: Hot Hardware
By Abhay V
Windows 11 Home requires internet to complete setup, but there's a workaround
by Abhay Venkatesh
A Windows 11 ISO leaked to the web earlier this week, bringing the ability for enthusiasts to try out the upcoming OS from Microsoft and get an early look at the changes, including some cool new wallpapers. In the few days that the build has been out, users have been giving the OS a spin and finding some quirks in it. One such interesting – and surprising – aspect was found by our reader Adam (warwagon) relating to the Windows 11 Home Out-of-box experience (OOBE) process.
The Redmond firm has constantly pushed for users to log in to their Microsoft accounts on Windows 10 when setting up a new device and has made it difficult for users to skip the sign-in process. The workaround on desktops was to unplug the ethernet cable and select the “I don’t have internet” option to go ahead with a “limited setup” that allowed users to set up a local account. For Windows 11 Home users, however, that might no longer work – unless the OOBE experience is further tweaked in newer (and official) builds.
Left: Windows 11 Home | Right: Windows 11 Pro We tried this on multiple VMs and even on a physical machine and noticed that on the screen prompting users to connect to a Wi-Fi network, there is no “I don’t have internet” option for users to choose from and go ahead with creating a local account. What’s more? Unlike Windows 11 Pro, the “sign-in options” menu on the page succeeding the network connection page does not contain the “Offline account” option, leaving users with no other option but to log into (or create) a Microsoft account. This is the case even when users are not connected to the internet.
Left: Windows 11 Home | Right: Windows 11 Pro However, here’s where Adam’s simple workaround came in handy, which is both amusing and surprising; When Windows 11 Home prompts users to connect to a network, a simple ‘Alt + F4’ shortcut closes the prompt, and the screen proceeds directly to the local account creation page – something that is never offered to users in the usual process. This bypasses the entire Microsoft account login screen, which is a nifty little trick for those who want to avoid signing into their accounts during the OOBE process, especially in these early days when most installs of the OS are happening on virtual machines.
Windows 11 Home OOBE | Using Alt + F4 to jump to a local account creation Of course, those who choose to log in to their Microsoft account can head into account settings and switch into a local account after setting up their device, but currently, there seems to be no other way to circumvent the limitation in the OOBE.
It is not clear if the absence of the option to set up a device without a Microsoft or an internet connection at all is accidental or has to do with the fact that this leaked build is ways from what will ship to customers. While still remote, there are instances where users might want to set up their devices when not connected to a network. For now, though, the only – and simple – workaround seems to be to use the ‘Alt + F4’ shortcut to bypass the network connection screen. Seeing as the OOBE is entirely new and different from that of Windows 10, it does seem intentional.
Microsoft will officially show off Windows 11 on June 24, with the general release expected to happen sometime this fall.
Thank you, Adam, for the brilliant find and video!
By Jay Bonggolto
Microsoft Teams adds inline chat message translation on Android
by Jay Bonggolto
Microsoft rolled out support for chat translation to Teams on iOS in July of last year. Now, that feature has arrived for Teams on Android.
In a message posted on the Microsoft Teams UserVoice page, the software giant confirmed that inline chat message translation is now available on Android. The feature allows you to translate chat messages into your preferred language. Microsoft also promised late last year that the Android version of Teams would get on-demand translation in chats.
The capability allows colleagues to communicate and understand each other even if they speak different languages by translating chat conversations. It's turned on by default and it supports 72 languages at the moment.
To get started, you can simply press and hold a message you want to translate and then tap "Translate". Of course, you'll have to set your preferred translation language first. You can do that by heading to the Settings page and then opening Translation, under which you can select your desired language. You'll also have the option to revert to the original language, if necessary.
The feature's arrival on Android is a welcome development especially for users from different parts of the world who work in virtual environments. Yesterday, Microsoft also unveiled several features for Teams Rooms meant to improve collaboration and the experience for “hybrid” meetings.
Source: Microsoft Teams (UserVoice) via MSPoweruser