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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft Weekly: Android on Windows, WHQL-signed malware, and 21H2 builds
by Usama Jawad
We're at the end of the week, which means that it's time to look at what happened in the world of Microsoft in the past few days. Windows 10 was primarily Microsoft's focus in terms of new builds, but as we know, the upcoming version 21H2 build is just enablement package so don't raise your expectations too much. More interestingly, Windows Subsystem for Android finally landed on preview builds of Windows 11. In the cybersecurity space, we also found out that Microsoft digitally signed a driver that was actually malware that can wreak havoc. Find out more about this in our weekly digest for October 17 - October 22.
After giving Windows 11 all the attention for the past few weeks, Microsoft finally decided to give some love to Windows 10 too. The company released builds 19043.1319 and 19044.1319 for Insiders running version 21H1 or 21H2, respectively, in the Release Preview ring. Both builds have identical change logs, which makes sense because 21H2 is just an enablement package for 21H1 after all. Tons of bugs were squashed including those that affected subtitles from displaying on certain streaming sites or video playing apps. Enhancements were also made in the department of memory leaks and ransomware protections. You likely won't notice any front-end enhancements if you install either of these builds though.
If you were thinking that build 19044.1319 will be the launch version of Windows 10 version 21H2 - when it eventually rolls out -, you'd be mistaken. Microsoft finally revealed that build 19044.1288 is a candidate build for that rollout and is now available for those on the Release Preview ring. The company has released ISOs too. The improvements offered in 19044.1319 will be provided in the next Patch Tuesday update. While a firm release date wasn't disclosed, Microsoft referred to version 21H2 as the "November 2021 Update", but also stated that out of the three noteworthy features promised for the update, a new Windows Hello for Business deployment method dubbed "cloud trust" won't be ready for primetime. You can find out more about what to expect from Windows 10 November 2021 Update in our guide here.
Windows 11 received some love in the form of build 22483 for the Dev channel too. It fixes some bugs related to Search and Settings but introduces some new ones to Search, Taskbar, and Start too. ISOs are available for install as well. Just a few hours ago, Microsoft released Windows 11 build 22483.1011 (KB5007484) to the Dev Channel, but that's just an update to test the servicing pipeline, it features no changes at all.
Android on Windows
Windows 11 did not feature Android app support, even though the feature was heavily touted when the OS was unveiled back in June. However, it appears that the general public will be able to get their hands on it soon as the capability was finally rolled out in the Beta channel this week. Those on 22000.xxx series Insider builds can install Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), download the Amazon App Store, and give Android apps on Windows 11 a whirl.
Microsoft has also released developer guidance for those who want to test how their Android apps are running on Windows 11. It is important to understand that this is a preview release so some issues are to be expected. Microsoft has already noted that you might see some odd visual artifacts with certain applications on ARM64, performance may vary with concurrent apps, and apps that come out of modern standby will encounter issues. It's also noteworthy that the Amazon App Store currently supports only a handful of apps curated by Microsoft and Amazon. It's likely that more apps will appear as they pass the two companies' validation process. There is also a workaround to install Google Play services on Windows 11 right now, but proceed at your own risk.
While Android is getting support on Windows, Microsoft is recommending that developers who want to take advantage of the latest features in Windows apps should migrate away from the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and opt for Windows App SDK instead. Windows App SDK combines the capabilities of Win32 desktop apps as well as UWP.
Something that turned heads this week was the discovery of malware that was signed by Microsoft... kind of. Basically, a driver called "FiveSys" was submitted for Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification, and Microsoft promptly digitally signed it. It was later discovered that Fivesys is actually malware in disguise, leading many to question the process behind Microsoft's program. The company typically verifies driver packages sent in by its various partner vendors through the Windows Hardware Compatibility Program (WHCP).
It was revealed that the Fivesys rootkit behaves in the following way:
In terms of other key characteristics, the associated whitepaper also mentions that the rootkit blocks registry modifications and also tries to block its competitors' access to an infected system.
This isn't the first time that something like this has happened. A malware called "Netfilter" was also validated by Microsoft back in June, likely in a similar fashion.
Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and gaming galore
There was a lot of notable gaming-related news this week. Microsoft revealed more details about the PC version of Halo Infinite. The game will ship with support for ultrawide and super ultrawide displays, and features like FOV sliders, dynamic resolution adjustment, triple key-bind options, and weapon model off-set control are also incoming.
The developer also mentioned anti-cheat mechanisms, but implied that user privacy would be respected and it won't be implemented in a way such that it inhibits the overall gaming experience in a negative way. Integration with Steam and Discord's social features were confirmed as well, and so was binding with Razer Chroma RGB. Local dedicated server hosting will be a feature on PC too, and any other PC or console connected to the local network will be able to join in for old school LAN parties.
Microsoft also revealed that it is partnering with AMD for raytracing support - which is not included in the launch version of the game -, and it launched a Halo Infinite-themed RX 6900 XT to celebrate this partneership. That said, the hardware is not available for sale and will likely be offered via giveaways on social media to evade scalpers.
In other news, Forza Horizon 5 has gone gold, and the game's size is north of 100GB across all platforms. Sea of Thieves crossed the 25 million players mark and celebrated the milestone with free in-game goodies. Tons of games including Outriders, Age of Empires IV, and Dragon Ball FighterZ are heading to Xbox Game Pass soon, and gamers also have Microsoft Flight Simulator GOTY Edition to look forward to in November.
Xbox Series X owners were treated to 4K dashboards, Night Mode, and Quick Settings changes. And if you're in the mood for gaming, Microsoft has a decent Xbox Shocktober Sale going on as well.
Support for end-to-end encryption in Microsoft Teams calls is now in public preview
512GB and 2TB Xbox Series X|S Storage Expansion Cards have been announced
Cyberpunk 2077 and Witcher 3 PS5 and Xbox Series X|S upgrades have been delayed to 2022
Visual Studio Code for the Web is now available in public preview
Privacy Management for Microsoft 365 is now generally available
PowerToys 0.48.1 Experimental is now out and includes Video Conference Mute utility and one fix
Microsoft has highlighted all the UI changes coming to Visual Studio 2022
Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is the company's new platform for tech entrepreneurs
In this week's Closer Look, I discussed voice typing in Windows 11 and how it is a significant upgrade compared to its Windows 10 offering. Microsoft has updated the UI to follow the design language of Windows 11, but perhaps the most notable change is the fact that the feature is now powered by Azure Speech services, which means that it supports capabilities like auto-punctuation and tons of more languages.
You can read my thoughts about voice typing in Windows 11 here and check out our ongoing Closer Look series here.
And if you're interesting in trying out Android apps on Windows 11, check out Neowin's handy guide here.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
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By Asher Madan
BioShock and Control receive massive discounts in Xbox's Shocktober Sale
by Asher Madan
It's almost Halloween and Microsoft — and select publishers — have discounted a number of titles for the annual Xbox Shocktober Sale. Games from the BioShock and Darksiders franchises are available for substantially less. Below, you'll find the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 games with their respective discounts. The deals and games marked with an asterisk are only valid for Xbox Live Gold members, so you'll need an active paid subscription for the additional discount.
Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One
Many of the games are also backward compatible so you can play them on your Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One. Even if you still only have an Xbox 360, this month you're in luck!
Which titles are you interested in? Did you buy any? Let us know in the comments below.
By Asher Madan
Xbox Series X owners get 4K dashboard today
by Asher Madan
Today, Microsoft announced that the October Xbox Update is rolling out to console owners today. The patch includes Night Mode and other enhancements, but the standout feature has to be for Xbox Series X users.
Beforehand, the Xbox Series X dashboard resolution was limited to 1080p to prevent performance issues with 4K games. However, it seems like the team has found a workaround. Now, the text is crisp and the game art looks incredibly clear at 4K resolution. However, there are still some interface elements that are 1080p, like the Xbox Series X|S Optimized logo and some icons like HDR Calibration. Hopefully, these will be updated soon because they're a little jarring to witness.
If you simply update your console, you may not see the 4K resolution menu. In order to apply it, you have to go to Settings and change the resolution of your console to 1080p first, and then back to 4K. This should start rendering the dashboard at 4K. This is probably another bug that needs to be fixed.
Aside from the 4K dashboard on Xbox Series X, all Xbox owners are getting Night Mode and Quick Settings changes. Night Mode allows you to dim the light on your display, the power button on your controller, and the power light on your console. You can also change the blue light filter this way.
The Xbox Guide now includes a Quick Settings menu so you can customize your accessibility features. This is quite handy because you don't have to fish around in Settings anymore to open them.
What feature are you looking forward to the most with the October Xbox Update? Let us know in the comments below.
By Asher Madan
Forza Horizon 5 goes gold, requires 103 GB on most systems
by Asher Madan
Today, developer Playground Games announced that Forza Horizon 5, its upcoming open-world racing game, has gone gold. This means that only bug fixes remain before launch in November and discs will be printed soon. The title takes place in Mexico and features a number of graphical improvements over its predecessor.
Since the game has gone gold, you can pre-load it on PC and Xbox. However, storage space is one important detail to keep in mind. On the majority of platforms, including Xbox Series X|S, you'll need 103 GB. However, you'll need another 13 GB on Xbox One. This may be related to compression differences between the two platforms.
Xbox Series X|S: 103 GB Xbox One: 116 GB Windows: 103 GB Steam: 103 GB Forza Horizon 5 launches on November 9, 2021, for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Xbox Game Pass subscribers are also gaining access on day one. Meanwhile, Premium Edition owners will be getting into the action four days early on November 5.
Among Us heads to Xbox and PlayStation consoles as well as Game Pass in December
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
After a long time of waiting in the vents, Among Us is finally getting its console debut on Xbox and PlayStation. The developer Innersloth today announced the mega hit multiplayer social deduction game will hit Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on December 14.
That's not all for Xbox fans though, as the game is also coming to Xbox Game Pass at launch for no additional cost. The PC variant of the service received the game last year. Meanwhile, an exclusive Ratchet & Clank cosmetic is incoming for PlayStation console owners.
Based on real life party games like Mafia, Among Us offers a social multiplayer experience for up to 15 players who are depicted as cartoon astronauts. The objective of these Crewmembers is to complete all tasks scattered across a map or find and eject the Imposters that are blending in with the team before they assassinate the regular members. This involves plenty of interrogations and finger pointing by both sides.
Cross-play will be supported on the newer platforms as well, letting players join together for matches with others from any PC, console, or mobile device. While the title originally released in 2018 for PC and mobile, it was hit by a massive surge in popularity in 2020 and still remains a behemoth. A Nintendo Switch port released late last year as well.