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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft offers more spares for commercial customers to repair Surface devices
by Usama Jawad
Back in February, Microsoft announced that it is offering spare parts to commercial customers so that they can repair, service, and upgrade their Surface devices. At that time, the only component on offer was the Microsoft Surface Removal SSD (rSSD) for the Surface Pro 7+. Today, Microsoft has significantly enhanced its initial offer by including more components covering a greater range of devices. The latest list of commercial spares can be seen below:
Component Description Surface Laptop 4 Surface Laptop 3 Surface Pro 7+ Surface Pro 7 Surface Pro X SQ2 Surface Pro X SQ1 SSD Door Provides access to removable solid state drive (rSSD) ✓ ✓ ✓ Kickstand Hinged stand for 2-1 devices ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ AB-Cover Display assembly
✓ ✓ C-Cover Keyboard, Trackpad, and Frame assembly ✓ ✓ The idea behind the program is to allow organizations to have IT technicians repair and service Surface devices on-site using spare parts. This will improve recyclability and reduce wastage. It will also extend the life and quality of a Surface device as organizations can simply purchase a spare module to replace their problematic one on-site instead of having to go directly to Microsoft. Commercial customers will also have the opportunity to "refresh" their device with newer components, where applicable.
That said, Microsoft has emphasized that the servicing of Surface devices should be carried out by skilled IT technicians who utilize the guidance provided by the Redmond tech giant. Commercial customers can purchase the aforementioned spares from Microsoft Authorized Device Resellers from October 15 across all Surface markets. However, it is important to note that the removable SSD announced for the Surface Pro 7+ back in February is only available in the U.S.
By Abhay V
Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 moves forward, new hardware is on the way, and more
by Abhay V
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.
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
Though it was posted just a while ago, it serves to be a good weekend read for those that haven’t jumped on to running Windows 11 builds. We are taking a look at Windows 11’s Quick settings and notifications in detail. We compare it to that in Windows 10, look at what’s good, what’s not so great, and what could be tweaked to improve the usability of the component of the UI. You can check out the entire Closer Look series here.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
If you’d like to get a daily digest of news from Neowin, we have a Newsletter you can sign up to either via the ‘Get our newsletter’ widget in the sidebar, or through this link.
By Abhay V
Microsoft reveals cryptic "Join us to see what's next" event for September 22
by Abhay V
Microsoft today announced an event for September 22, with the invite mentioning nothing other than the verbiage “Join us to see what’s next” along with the image of a Surface Pro device emitting a blue light. The event is slated to be streamed at 11AM ET and is a virtual event just like all other events recently.
The obvious hint from the image is that there could be a new Surface Pro on the way, which might be called the Pro 8, guessing from the usual naming trend. The Surface Pro 7 did receive a refresh, but it was called the Pro 7+ and was exclusive to enterprise customers. A redesigned Surface Pro has been rumored for long, but not much in the way of details is present about what changes might be making it to the device. The current design dates back to the Pro 4 from 2015 and is due for a refresh.
The obvious expectations include smaller bezels with a larger screen, refreshed internals in the way of Intel’s 11th-gen chips, and improvements to areas such as the display. It is anybody’s guess if the Redmond firm has any major surprises, such as the inclusion of a Thunderbolt 4 port, and more. With Windows 11 set to release on October 5th, the upcoming offering might serve as a hero device for a brand new operating system.
In addition to a new Surface Pro, the firm might also show off the Surface Duo 2, a device that has already begun showing up on benchmarks. The Duo 2 is expected to retain the form factor but leaked information hints at meaningful upgrades such as a triple camera array and current-gen internals that include a Snapdragon 888 chipset with 5G support.
In addition to these products, one can file a new Surface Book model in the list of possible launches. While recent patent images reimagine the form factor, it is not clear if a major Book refresh will make it to consumers this year, considering the firm has already cautioned investors about supply chain issues that might affect production capacities. Another surprise might come in the way of a new Surface Go 3 device with new internals, supposed benchmarks of which have also shown up.
Along with the product launches, Microsoft might devote time to talk about the upcoming Windows 11 launch. It will be interesting to see if there are any surprises in store, such as a new Surface Laptop or a Surface Studio refresh, which currently seem highly unlikely.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft is driving Zero Trust adoption under recent Presidential Executive Order
by Usama Jawad
Microsoft is a big proponent of Zero Trust architecture. For those unaware, this is a security model under which each request to an organizational resource is verified under the assumption that a breach has already happened, via "never trust, always verify" principles. The company has emphasized multiple times how it envisions a passwordless future in Zero Trust environments. Today, it has revealed how it is collaborating with federal agencies to drive the adoption of Zero Trust models under a recent Presidential Executive Order (EO).
The company has explained that EO 14028 - which was issued on May 12, 2021 - requires that it works with federal agencies and undertake significant investments to improve cybersecurity and proactively react to threats. As such, the Redmond tech giant is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technologies' National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NIST NCCoE) to drive Zero Trust adoption among organizations.
The goal is to develop and document Zero Trust architectures according to the NIST Special Publication 800-27 (SP 800-27), which will act as a form of guidance as to how organizations should implement these security models using commercially available and interoperable technologies. As such Microsoft is currently working on five scenarios that it believes will aid organizations the most.
One scenario is utilizing cloud-ready authentication apps as part of software as a service (SaaS). For legacy web apps that can't support modern authentication methods, Microsoft is encouraging Azure Active Directory (AD) Application Proxy, which it says is more restrictive than conventional VPN solutions. Other use-cases include the establishment of privileged-access workstations and "strongly authenticated" admin accounts for remote server administration, implementation of the segment cloud administration design pattern, and network microsegmentation via Azure. All of these scenarios also feature multi-factor authentication (MFA), continuous monitoring, and endpoint detection and response (EDR).
Microsoft has explained that:
The Redmond tech giant has highlighted that the SP 1800 series of documentation will cover example solutions and approaches in detail, and will also offer guidance around the installation and configuration of modular components. Microsoft has "applauded" the fact that the White House recognizes the importance of Zero Trust models, and is pleased that "ambitious measures" from the private sector have been demanded in the recent EO.
Microsoft rolls out August firmware update for Surface Laptop 3 (AMD)
by Anmol Mehrotra
Microsoft is rolling out a new firmware update for Surface Laptop 3 users who use the AMD variant of the device. The new update brings general improvements as well as addresses various security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, it also improves stability when using accessories like Surface Pen and Surface Dock.
You can head down to check out the full changelog for the update:
Windows Update History
Version and Update
Surface - Firmware - 184.108.40.206 Surface Keyboard - Firmware 220.127.116.11
Improves keyboard telemetry. Surface – System – 18.104.22.168 Surface Serial Hub Driver – System devices 22.214.171.124
Improves device stability by addressing bugcheck. Surface -System – 126.96.36.199 Surface Integration Service Device – System devices 188.8.131.52
Improves device performance. Surface - Extension - 184.108.40.206 Surface Dock 2 Firmware Update - Extension 220.127.116.11
Improves device stability and reliability with Surface Dock 2 scenarios. Surface - System – 18.104.22.168 Surface Integration – System devices 22.214.171.124
Improves device performance. Surface – HIDClass – 126.96.36.199 Surface Touch Pen Processor – Human Interface Devices 188.8.131.52
Improves Pen and Touch stability. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. - Display - 26.20.12067.1 AMD Radeon (TM) Vega 9 Graphics - Display Adapter / AMD Radeon (TM) Vega 11 Graphics – Display adapters 26.20.12067.1
Addresses security vulnerability and improves device stability. There is also a known issue wherein users may face audio issues. Fortunately, Microsoft has provided a workaround for the issue while it works on a fix. You can check out the details below:
Workaround If you no longer hear sound from the speakers on your Surface. Right-click the speaker icon on the taskbar and then select Troubleshoot sound problems. This will start the Get Help app, which will scan for and fix the problem.
We are working to correct this issue with the next driver release.
The new firmware update is available for devices running Windows 10 May 2019 Update (19H1) or greater and is rolling out to Surface Laptop 3 AMD users right now. As usual, the rollout will happen in phases so you may not see the update right away.