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Microsoft Weekly: Edge Beta for Linux, a new Segoe font, and games galore
by Florin Bodnarescu
A number of things happened in the last seven days, including the arrival of Edge Beta on Linux, the unveiling of a new Segoe font variant, and even a refresh of the Azure logo. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 2 - 8.
Edge Beta for Linux
We should begin with a little info regarding Edge, as not much has happened with the browser this week.
For starters, build 92.0.878.0 made its way to the Dev Channel. While this would normally be pretty exciting, Microsoft says the build doesn’t change much, given that it came out just a few days after the previous build. The changes are so minor that the company didn’t even bother publishing its usual post about it.
Moving on to the stable version, namely version 90, folks may be experiencing problems with YouTube playback, namely crashing. This bug has been acknowledged by a Microsoft engineer, who suggested users disable hardware acceleration as a workaround. The same engineer confirmed that the company is working on a fix, but that the issue may be more significant than initially thought.
And since we’re taking a tour through the various Insider channels, it’s worth pointing out that over six months after the Dev channel availability of Edge for Linux, there is now a Beta variant for the open-source OS.
Lastly, Microsoft is now testing everse image search in the Bing sidebar. This does pretty much exactly what it sounds like it would, namely allows you to right-click on an image and search for it on Bing in the sidebar which appears on the right of the Edge browser. As per Reddit user Leopeva64-2 who stumbled upon this, the capability is available in Edge Dev, though we have not seen this on any of our test devices.
A new font
For Insiders in the Dev channel, Microsoft pushed out yet another preview build, 21376, which included the usual array of fixes and, rather interestingly a new Segoe font variant.
While Segoe UI itself has been used as a default system font going all the way back to Windows Vista, a number of variants have been revealed since, including Segoe Script, Segoe Pro, and what Microsoft used for its Modern design icons, Segoe MDL2 Assets.
The new font is called Segoe UI Variable and as the name implies, it’s meant to vary slightly depending on the use case. Segoe UI itself for example was originally designed to be optimal at 9pt sizes, while Segoe UI Variable tweaks the letter weight and tracking depending on the size.
For smaller text, the letters are more tightly tracked, have more weight and are more open, while at display size, text isn’t quite as tightly tracked and has amplified letter terminals. For those not familiar, tracking refers to the overall horizontal spacing between font characters. This is not to be confused with kerning, which refers to the proportional spacing between two individual letters, whereas tracking refers to, say, an entire word.
On the subject of change, we should touch on the fact that Microsoft is set to fully remove Flash from Windows 10 in July. While support for Flash was dropped by Adobe on December 31, 2020, and Microsoft released a manual update to remove it back in October of the same year, it was, as the name implies, not necessarily mandatory. Starting in July, the Redmond giant is set to push out the update to Windows 10 v1809 and above, automagically removing the media plugin.
To that end, the firm is also removing any update blocks for versions 2004 and 20H2 (May 2020 Update, October 2020 Update), allowing folks to freely upgrade to these supported variants. We’re on the verge of a new feature update anyway, so it’s not much of a surprise that Microsoft wants folks on the latest Windows 10 version, if possible.
Last but not least, to the dismay of perhaps three people, Windows 10X is allegedly delayed indefinitely, as Microsoft focuses on Windows 10 proper.
Since its original unveil at the end of 2019 with the dual-screen Surface Neo and Duo, the former device was delayed out of its Holiday 2020 release window, and Windows 10X was repurposed for single-screen devices - in stark contrast to its initial 'dual-screen devices first' approach. For now, it seems that the Redmond firm is putting 10X on the backburner, focusing its resources on the expected Sun Valley UI refresh coming to Windows 10 later this year.
In a rather surprising announcement, Microsoft decided to take the wraps off a sizeable selection of titles now supporting FPS Boost. More than quadrupling the number of supported games from 23 to 97, the latest additions include Dying Light, a number of LEGO games, ReCore, and more, with supported framerates from 60 to 120FPS.
There are good news on the Game Pass front as well, with FIFA 21, Red Dead Online, Psychonauts, Outlast 2 and many others either already available or joining the subscription very soon. Additionally, folks in the U.S. also get four months of Spotify Premium with Game Pass Ultimate, though this is available for new users only.
On the revenue share front, Microsoft dropped its cut from 30% to 12% on PC, and was planning to do the same on console, but it will no longer do so. An interesting tidbit about the company’s strategy relates to exactly why it lowered its split. As per the court documents filed in January, this is done “in exchange for the grant of streaming rights to Microsoft.”, in other words, xCloud. It’s not exactly clear whether the proposal was far enough along to even be discussed with console publishers, but for the time being, the revenue split on Xbox remains 30/70.
If you don’t think that’s such a great deal, maybe some of the Deals with Gold will pique your interest, like the discounts for Borderlands 3, Control, PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition, and others.
However, if you have no desire to buy more games and already own the latest iteration of Flight Simulator or the spin-off title Minecraft Dungeons, it’s worth checking for updates, as both first-party games have received a number of enhancements and fixes.
The latest monthly Office Insider build on the Mac has added the ‘Share to Teams’ capability in Outlook, and more. Microsoft has announced its automation tool for security testing AI systems, dubbed Counterfit. Live transcriptions will soon be added for unscheduled and channel meetings in Teams. Microsoft has announced Reading Progress for Teams for education. Whiteboard now has improved Teams integration, support for rich content like images and stickers, and more. The Redmond giant has detailed more education features coming through August. Excel on the web now supports Power BI-connected PivotTables. Microsoft has delivered oxygen, ventilators, and more to support India’s COVID-19 response. New customization options are now available for Reply-all Storm Protection in Microsoft 365. Microsoft customers in the EU will be able to store all their data in the region by 2022. The Redmond firm has warned of a widespread gift card scam targeting organizations. Logging off
We end the week with a refreshed Azure logo, an interesting Defender bug, and some Surface firmware updates.
Starting with Azure, Microsoft has decided that the logo for its cloud service needed a bit of a Fluent Design facelift, and as such unveiled a brand-new icon. Ditching the angular shape of the old logo, this one is much more reminiscent of say, the Visual Studio icon, though in some cases, it may remind folks of the Adobe or Autodesk logos.
On the flip side, what wasn’t needed was a rather weird Microsoft Defender bug, which ended up creating “thousands” of files in users' boot drives. Some folks saw small files less than 2KB in size, while other users reported multiple GBs of storage being eaten up. A fix is already rolling out, and if you’re on Microsoft Defender engine version 1.1.18100.5, you’ll be bumped up to 1.1.18100.6 following this update.
Finally, for owners of the Surface Pro 4, Studio, Laptop 1,2, and 4, Microsoft has released a slew of firmware updates meant to bring stability and security enhancements.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
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By Abhay V
Microsoft removes all update blocks for Windows 10 versions 2004 and 20H2
by Abhay Venkatesh
Microsoft releases major Windows 10 updates in a staggered fashion, meaning not all devices get the update immediately. For the past couple of years, the firm has let users decide if they want to install a feature update till the time that the version that they are on reaches the end-of-support. The company does enforce update blocks – essentially blocking those PCs from being served the updates – due to known issues. The firm then gradually removes these “safeguard holds” as and when the issues are fixes.
Since the release of Windows 10 version 2004 (May 2020 Update) one year ago, there have been various holds on certain devices. Considering that the October 2020 Update (version 20H2) contains the same bits as that of version 2004, those blocks also applied to this version of the OS. Though most of these update holds have been removed over the last year and versions 2004 and 20H2 now account for 80% of total Windows 10 machines, at least two upgrade blocks relating to Conexant audio drivers were still in place, at least for some users.
Now, Microsoft has officially noted in the known issues page for both versions (spotted by Ghacks) that the issues have been resolved as of yesterday, May 7, 2021. This means that any devices that have been prevented from upgrading to the May 2020 Update or the October 2020 Update from older versions will now be served the bits automatically. An estimated 11% of users are still running the November 2019 update (version 1909).
Of course, users have had other ways to update to the latest versions such as by using the Media Creation Tool or performing a fresh install using the available ISOs. Additionally, the company also added a Group Policy to Windows 10 allowing IT admins to circumvent these blocks or disable them and force devices to update, in case they deem it necessary.
The official update from the Redmond firm about the lifting of these long-standing safeguard holds comes just a few days from the official end-of-support date for Windows 10 version 1909. Starting May 11, all Home, Pro, and Pro Education SKUs will reach the end-of-support, meaning those on version 1909 must move to any of the newer versions. This also signals the first time that all supported Window 10 versions will receive the same servicing updates, since the upcoming Windows 10 May 2021 Update (21H1) is yet another enablement package, just like version 20H2.
Have any of your devices been blocked from receiving versions 2004 or 20H2, or has your organization held off on updating the devices to a newer version? Let us know in the comments below!
Windows 10 build 21376 is now available with a new font and other improvements
by João Carrasqueira
Following on last week's release of build 21370, Microsoft is sticking to a Thursday release for this week's Windows 10 build in the Dev channel, build 21376. Like the past few releases, this one is from the co_release branch, which would usually indicate that Microsoft may be getting ready to wrap up development on the next feature update for Windows 10.
This build is fairly light on news, but it does include a new Segoe UI Variable font, which is designed to scale better across different display sizes, specifically larger ones. The original Segoe UI font was designed to optimal at 9pt sizes, but this variant should adapt better to different displays.
Not every part of the UI will be using Segoe UI Variable right away, though, so you may not see changes in all elements of the OS.
Aside from that, the build mostly consists of smaller improvements, including a new icon for the Connect app. Here's what else is new:
The focus right now seems to be on bug fixes, and there's a lengthy list of them to look forward to in this build. Here's everything that's been fixed:
As Microsoft moves to focus on stability, the list of known issues keeps shrinking, and this time it's the smallest we've seen in quite a while. Here's what you need to be aware of before installing this one:
Since builds in the Dev channel are no longer tied to a specific Windows 10 feature update, it's hard to say when general users may be able to try out the improvements made in the past few builds. The next feature update, version 21H1, is a simple enablement package without much in the way of new features. We're expecting to see a more significant update in the second half of the year, though, and it could include some of these changes, but that remains to be seen.
New Windows 10 concept shows us a new Start menu and flyouts
by João Carrasqueira
Over the years, there's been no shortage of user-created concepts that try to depict what Windows 10 could look like, and that partly happens due to the number of inconsistencies across the OS, and how long it usually takes for changes to be made. A few weeks ago, a Reddit user focused on the File Explorer, but today, we have a new concept from Twitter user vGLAD, whose concept design is called Project Acrylic and focused on the Start menu and a couple of system flyouts.
Starting with (of course) the Start menu, we can see that the concept has it undocked from the taskbar and using rounded corners, something we're already expecting based on Sun Valley leaks from earlier in the year. However, there's a lot more going on here, starting with the dual-tone look thanks to the left-side pane using Acrylic transparency effects and the main area being a solid color. The All Apps list has been removed in favor of quick shortcuts to user folders and also some system settings like Disk Management, personalization, and connected devices.
Tiles are also done away with, and instead, a set of commonly-used apps and websites headlines the right-side section of the Start Menu, similar to how the Windows 10X Start menu looks in the preview builds we've had access to. However, below that you'll see Quick Access, which is usually a page in File Explorer, now more readily available. Users can pin folders and documents to this area, too. At the bottom, a button can take the user to the All Apps list.
You can also see the File Explorer in this screenshot, but it's not a big focus for this concept. It features a dual-tone design similar to the Start menu, and the ribbon has been removed, with core actions like renaming or deleting a file having new shortcuts near the top right corner. Some of the icons have also been redone.
Moving on to the next image, the concept focuses on the volume flyout and a new 'Devices' flyout, too. Both also use rounded corners, along with Acrylic transparency and solid colors to help highlight certain UI elements, and offer quick access to certain controls. In this image, you can also see updated icons and spacing for the system tray icons.
The sound flyout allows users to switch input and output devices on the fly and control music playback directly from the flyout, while the devices flyout offers a quick overview of devices plugged into the PC or connected wirelessly, with shortcuts to manage their files in the File Explorer.
The concept has garnered praise by other Twitter users, but of course, it's unlikely Microsoft will implement these concepts anytime soon. Microsoft has made some notable changes to the design in Windows 10 builds in the Dev channel, but they aren't this thorough, and they may take a while to be available to the general audience.
by Razvan Serea
StartIsBack++ restores original Windows 10 start menu with all its features: search, pinned and recently used apps, fully customizable settings. Start button and Start menu look and behave exactly as they used to in Windows 7.
StartIsBack is lightweight and secure: it does not require administrator rights to install, consumes minimal amount of system resources, does not run additional processes or services.
What's hot about StartIsBack on Windows 10 now:
Live badges for modern apps on taskbar and Start menu! Ability to reduce resource usage by disabling newer Start menu and Cortana processes from prelaunching Ability to use adequately sized (32x32) large icons and larger start menu button on taskbar Modern icon glyphs on Start menu right hand pane Modern blur, drop shadow and immersive context menus for start menu Fully dynamic DPI aware start menu and configuration app New modern style with round user picture Lots of new minor additions and tweaks Changes in StartIsBack++ 2.9.12:
Improved stability and compatiblity with other customization apps
Download: StartIsBack++ 2.9.12 | 1.4 MB (Free to Try, $3.99 to Buy)
View: StartIsBack Home Page
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