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By Rich Woods
Finally dead: Verizon the last reseller to take down its Lumia listing
by Rich Woods
This day was bound to come, and many expected it to come much sooner than today. Verizon has finally removed the listing for the Microsoft Lumia 735 from its website, which means that there are no longer any official resellers in the United States from which you can purchase one of Microsoft's first party Windows phones.
Verizon's Lumia 735 was listed as out of stock for months, and as no longer available for months after that. But if you searched for 'Lumia' on the carrier's website, you'd still see the handset pop up with a price on it. Now, it's finally gone, and you can only find a support page.
Verizon was the last major retailer to stop selling Lumias, with Microsoft removing them from its own online store last June. The Windows 10 Mobile devices did make another brief appearance on the Store in February, although it was never made clear if any ended up being sold.
If you're still a die-hard Windows phone user, there are still just two options left, unless you want to resort to getting something off of a third-party marketplace like eBay. Microsoft is still selling HP's Elite x3 for $299 and Alcatel's IDOL 4S for $169. Currently, only the latter is in stock, although stock for both of them come and go pretty frequently, so if Microsoft doesn't have the one you want, keep checking back.
By Steven P.
Once again there are no Windows phones available at the Microsoft Store
by Steven Parker
It was only just over a couple of weeks ago that we reported on the HP Elite x3 with Desk Dock seeing a massive $500 markdown on the Microsoft Store, being sold for $299.99, down from its $799.99 full price, while back in January, the Alcatel Idol 4S was selling for even less at $99. Now though, both of those phones are "Out of stock" and all of the Lumia handsets are now marked as "Not Available" which, maybe for the first time, indicates that they will not be restocked.
Following any link for the Lumia 950, 950 XL, 650 (Dual SIM), 640 XL, 550 and even the AT&T Lumia 950 on the Microsoft Store shows them all as "Not Available" while the Elite x3 bundle, Idol 4S and Idol 4S with VR Goggles shows them as being "Out of stock" and to "check a Microsoft Store location near you". They are also all still listed alongside Android phones in the "All mobile phones" section of the Microsoft Store indicating they will possibly be restocked.
Navigating to the searched term for Lumia devices on the Store now also only shows available accessories for Lumia devices, among these being cases and a car mount. Perhaps now, we can finally put Lumia to rest.
Microsoft Weekly: System on a desk, system on the move, everything else to improve
by Florin Bodnarescu
This past half a fortnight has been a little lighter on the news front, but it by no means translates to announcements of lesser importance. Previews for everyone and their dog, updates for mobile devices, and a whole host of other quality of life improvements, they’re all here in your Microsoft digest for the week of March 17-23.
System on a desk
On the off chance you want to do some work, or better yet, play something, chances are you’ll make use of some sort of flat surface. While you’re sitting down, here are a couple of things you might want to know of.
Folks down in the trenches of the Insider program were greeted by a new build, namely 17127, which brought some Cortana improvements like a new profile page, and a new design plus performance improvements to the Notebook. The availability of the latter has now been extended to all languages and markets where Microsoft’s digital assistant is supported: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada, India, Spain, China, Mexico, France, Italy, Japan, and Brazil. There are no known issues, only fixes related to Edge and Mixed Reality.
Aligning with the number of the Slow ring release from a week ago, build 17120 of the Software Development Kit has also been freed into the wild. Unlike some previous SDKs, it can be installed on both systems running an Insider preview, as well as other supported versions of Windows. Testers in the slow lane are privy to build 17127 too, in case the week-old 17120 seems a little stale.
Alas, Microsoft giveth, but Microsoft also taketh away. In this particular case, the stubborn watermark in the right hand corner has at last been taken off. What has been given though is yet another Insider Fast build, 17128. To complement it, a new app dubbed Cortana Show Me can now be tried. In essence, it’s the virtual assistant guiding you to a certain setting you might be looking for, with 15 built-in guides at the time of writing – including but not limited to updating the OS, changing default programs, checking your version of Windows, and more.
Last but not least, Skip Ahead Insiders were offered build 17627 with no new front-facing features, and with a few known issues relating to Edge and accessing the Microsoft Store. All is not lost, since one of the fixes included addresses a rather nasty OneDrive bug. No more will you be given a free green screen when trying to access an online-only file via File Explorer.
System on the move
Extending the overall experience of desk-bound work and play, mobile solutions offer a little more flexibility for those on the go. Worry not, there’s something for this category as well.
First to get some enhancements are owners of the latest Surface Pro models, either regular or with LTE Advanced . The recently released firmware revisions contain fixes related to protection against the Meltdown and Spectre trio of vulnerabilities. According to the Redmond giant, users should experience better security, reliability, and battery life as a result of these aforementioned revisions.
And speaking of better, that’s how the day of folks on Windows Mobile devices should be after updating to the newest build. Lumia 640 and 640 XL owners – the only Windows handsets left in the wild that were supported for the Creators Update, but not its successor – can be once more on the bleeding edge of document opening. If you are however on the Microsoft Edge, specifically PDF opening should now be a breeze. Be sure to look out for build 15063.966 so you can open even the most portable of document formats.
Those in possession of older Lumias are stuck on the Anniversary Update (1607) of Windows 10 Mobile. There’s no PDF rendering issue there, and also not much in the way of changes. That said, you should see build 14393.2126 make its way to your handset.
Everything else to improve
Missing from the sections above, but indeed not forgotten, are some other parts of the Microsoft ecosystem. Or rather, a single part, that’s much bigger.
Users on Windows 10 1703 (Creators Update) as well as 1607 (Anniversary Update) received cumulative updates for the respective operating system versions. There are no known issues to report, and fixes range from those related to BitLocker Encrypting File System (EFS) all the way to support for additional SSD, high speed eMMC devices, and GDI handle leaks in the Windows Ribbon control. If you’re on 1703 look for KB4088891 (build 15063.994), and if you’re on 1607 keep an eye on Windows Update and KB4088889 (build 14393.2155).
People running the Fall Creators Update (1709) have gotten their fair share of fixes, some of which coincide with those above. In terms of those specific to this version of the OS, the issue relating to Windows Server 1709 not accepting credentials in the command line has been fixed, as has the Windows Defender Firewall policy rule 260-character cap. Look for KB4089848 (build 16299.334), and pay attention to the known issue related to update history whereby it is reported that KB4054517 failed to install because of error 0x80070643.
Stuck in update limbo or not, some improvements should be noticeable, as Microsoft says it has reduced the total offline time – time during the patching process when you can’t use your PC – compared to previous iterations of the OS. Whereas you’d have around 82 minutes in total of offline time for the Creators Update, that has now fallen to just 30 minutes.
Also welcome should be the changes made to accessibility features as part of Windows 10’s spring update. Joining the performance and reliability improvements to Narrator and those for the dedicated reading and writing component is a rather big user-facing change: the different accessibility features are now grouped sense / ability (vision, hearing, etc).
The Fast Ring
The Microsoft Store got a dedicated tab for Windows devices. Apache Spark-based analytics platform Azure Databricks is now generally available. Windows Server 2019’s first preview for Long-Term Servicing Channel customers is now available. Visual Studio 2017 version 15.7 Preview 2 can now be obtained, a week after the arrival of Preview 1. Build 1804.180316-1900 has been released to Xbox Insiders in the Beta and Delta rings. Logging off
With all this back and forth with previews and updates, it’s understandable if you’d like to take a break. Indeed that’s what we end with this week.
Earlier this week, the long-awaited cartoon piracy simulator, Sea of Thieves at long last set sail on its maiden voyage through the stormy waters of online multiplayer. The full price title is available to enjoy on the Xbox One console family as well as Windows 10 PCs, either separately or together. That is to say, you can take advantage of Xbox Play Anywhere and plunder the ships of your PC-bound friends, treasure chest in one hand and Xbox controller in the other.
Until next week, happy loot finding.
By Steven P.
FYI: Here's how to be sure you're on the most recent Windows phone update
by Steven Parker
Perhaps surprisingly for some of us who are by choice or not stuck on Windows phone, updates are few and far between, but they actually still exist for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile devices. The most recent update went out a few days ago for those on version 1607 (Anniversary Update), and before that on March 19 for version 1703 (Creators Update) and on March 15, for version 1709 (Fall Creators Update).
As if three different versions of Windows 10 for phones aren't confusing enough, there is also a way to get a newer "Creators Update" (version 1703) build on some eligible Windows Phone 8.1 devices which would normally be stuck at the Anniversary Update (version 1607) level. This required users to opt into the Fast Ring, however the last Fast ring build that was pushed to those devices was 10.0.15063.138, which was released 11 months ago.
Since I still have a Lumia 830 for test purposes, and seeing that my phone didn't find anything newer than 15063.138, I was reminded by a comment from Neowin member yepp to check the Over-the-cable Updater tool for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Mobile 10 which was recently updated to version 220.127.116.11. However, after using it with my phone, it returned the (rather confusing) message: "Publishing error: Null hashes detected", after doing some searching I came across the reason at a forum thread on XDA Developers, opting out of Windows Insiders would restore the ability to update.
If you are facing the same issue as I was, and you are no longer being offered updates after a considerable amount of time simply follow the steps to opt out of Windows Insiders:
Go into All Settings > Update & security, Tap Windows Insider Program, Tap Stop Insider Preview builds, Choose (first option) "Move to a less risky and less frequent schedule," Choose Release Preview from the dropdown and tap Confirm. You can now back out of there and head to Phone update and check for updates, if that does not detect an update, plug the phone via USB into the PC, run OTCUpdater.exe and it should find the latest version for which it is eligible.
After opting out of Windows Insiders, an update is found
Once an update is found and the files are transferred to the phone, the update process continues as normal. The most recent I can upgrade my Lumia 830 to, is build 15063.850 which was released in January.
There are some things to take away from this experience, Microsoft really does not care about Windows phones anymore, even the Over-the-cable Updater tool won't tell you that you're in an ineligible Windows Insider ring, so hopefully this helps someone who is confused as to why they aren't getting any updates.
You can get the Over-the-cable Update tool here, be sure to share your experiences with updating your Windows phone in the comments.
Microsoft Weekly: Gaming's at the fore, updates in store, inside Windows some more
by Florin Bodnarescu
It should come as no surprise that much like in previous weeks, the Redmond software giant’s campus was busy churning out news of all kinds these past seven days. From the heavier emphasis on gaming, to the hefty chunk of updates and indeed some Insider goodies, here is your Microsoft digest for the week of February 24-March 2.
Gaming's at the fore
The ever present and always growing backlogs were squeaking under pressure from a bunch of discounted games, future titles, and upcoming features.
Redstone 4 changes coming to Xbox One were finally revealed, with version 1804 confirmed to bring 1440p support, new audio controls, controller sharing and improved stream switching on Mixer, a better Edge UI, invitation request filtering for Clubs, and Tournament availability in Game Hubs. Furthermore, Xbox Live Gold users will be able to find their Games with Gold much easier, courtesy of a new dedicated tab. Alpha ring Insiders can grab build 17105 at their own risk, since it is complete with a few issues of its own. On the bright side, it also fixes some things, and there are known workarounds for the aforementioned issues.
But those need not be your focus if you don’t want them to be. Instead, Deals with Gold has a pretty compelling lineup of discounts for the Xbox One and 360. Among others, Blood Bowl 2 for example is a quarter of its full price on the One, and Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 enjoys and even higher 85% reduction in price for those on the 360.
A little split is the offering via Games with Gold as well, netting you a free copy of Trials of the Blood Dragon until March 30, if you’re on Xbox One. People still using its venerable predecessor can grab Brave: The Video Game, which is free until March 15.
Free is also your choice to subscribe to the Xbox Game Pass or not. However, this month’s lineup is quite good, seeing as for $9.99 you get access to Rise of the Tomb Raider, Super Lucky’s Tale – which recently got its first DLC -, Resident Evil Revelations 2, Oxenfree, Sonic CD, The Final Station, and Dovetail’s Euro Fishing on March 1. Probably the most high profile release also included is Sea of Thieves, which you can enjoy starting March 20. Rare’s maritime burglary simulator can also be had as part of an Xbox One S bundle.
That said, if silly pirate adventures don’t quite float your boat, there’s a modern interpretation of Age of Empires to give a go, or a shiny new Combat Tech variant of the Xbox controller to grab.
Not to worry, the beefy Xbox One X got some attention too. If you managed to grab a hold of it, but have some older games you’d like to play, good news: Crackdown, Fable Anniversary, Forza Horizon, and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings will be enhanced to take advantage of the hardware. Luckily however, CSI won’t be doing the enhancing.
What else has happened this week? Why, updates happened.
Updates in store
The lifeblood of any ‘as-a-service’ model is the constant stream of updates. Though more akin to a creek than a stream, this week’s influx of changes was still noteworthy.
Office 365’s February update brought improvements to the Editor pane, the Resume Assistant, a StaffHub Now tab for workday insights, the ability to enforce naming conventions across Office 365 groups, and network diagrams in Visio Online. As part of the same wave, Microsoft Teams finally added guest access, whereby users can be added regardless of the email address provider they have.
Those who don’t have an Office 365 subscription and wish to use Teams may just be able to do so at some point in the near future. Microsoft is apparently thinking of adopting a freemium model for its “chat-based workspace”, which would mean dropping the subscription as a prerequisite.
But far be it for Microsoft to think at only a macro level, as evidenced by its Quantum Development Kit, which this week was updated with support for macOS and Linux. Sticking with things of reduced size, Intel’s Meltdown and Spectre-mitigating microcode for sixth-gen Skylake processors finally made its way into Microsoft’s Update Catalog.
Finally, for people with a Surface Laptop, a firmware update showed up and apparently improved reliability. Or was it battery stability? Not even Microsoft is all too sure about that.
Inside Windows some more
What Microsoft is sure about is its Windows Insider program, a new build from which rather unexpectedly dropped on a Tuesday.
Bumping up the build number to 17110, the latest iteration is part of the Fast ring and contains an array of features geared towards enterprise users. There’s the ability to run custom actions during the feature update install sequence, as well as the deployment of post rollback scripts in system context. The latter was implemented following feedback from enterprises stating that most of their users do not have admin privileges, and thus cannot run scripts in admin context.
Enterprise users taking advantage of the Docker Hub will also be able to acquire matching Windows container images for Server Core and Nano Server with the advent of build 17110. As you’ve guessed however, the build has its fair share of fixes and known issues.
Business users who are interested in deploying IoT solutions got some good news this week, with the announcement of an upcoming extension of the support cycle for the Long-Term Servicing Channel, and the addition of NXP chip support. These particular changes may affect a smaller portion of the Windows install base, but the following do not.
Currently, apps with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) can be published to the Store, but those with a Command Line Interface (CLI) cannot. This will change with the soon to be released version 1803, which will give Console UWP apps the green light for Store entry, and give all Universal Windows Apps broader access to the file system.
Until all that rolls around, there are users still on previous versions of Windows 10. Whether you’re running on Anniversary Update (1607) or Creators Update (1703), you’ll be greeted by build 14393.2097 (KB4077525) or 15063.936 (KB4077528), respectively.
The Fast Ring
Huawei unveiled its MateBook X Pro Windows 10 PC and we took a look at it. Lenovo showed off the Flex 14 and Yoga 730, also running Microsoft's latest OS. Microsoft expanded its collaboration with Xiaomi, centered around the cloud and AI. The Custom Vision service is now being offered in preview, along with an improved Face API and general availability of the Bing Entity Search. Office VP Javier Soltero has moved to a similar position on the Cortana team. Microsoft and Sunseap have signed a 20-year solar power agreement for the software giant's Singapore datacenter. Microsoft wants Congress to create data privacy and data use laws fit for the 21st century. Logging off
We end on a rather strange note with Microsoft’s ever more complicated approach of support for its mobile devices.
In one of the most bizarre will they / won’t they iterations to date, the Redmond giant has relisted its Lumia 550, 650, 950, and 950 XL handsets in the online store in the United States. For $139 you can have the lower-end 550, $199 nets you the Dual SIM 650, while the 950 and 950 XL go for $399 and $499. All pricing is for the unlocked variants.
How long these will be available to purchase is really anyone’s guess, as the Windows Mobile strategy seems to be as blurry as the Fluent Design app borders.