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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.
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 Usama Jawad96
Closer Look: Voice typing in Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
Windows 11's staggered rollout began a couple of weeks ago (check out our review here), but due to the nature of distribution, it may not be available to everyone just yet. If you can't wait to get Windows 11, there are ways to trigger it immediately, but perhaps it's wiser to know what the OS has in store before you do so. This is why we have been discussing Windows 11's features in detail for the past couple of months in our ongoing Closer Look series.
So far, we have taken a look at Search, Widgets, the Start menu, Snap Layouts and Snap Groups, the Taskbar, quick settings and notifications, Virtual Desktops, power and battery settings, default apps configurations, File Explorer, context menus, Teams integration, the updated Clock app in Windows 11, the Microsoft Store, the Snipping Tool, the Paint app refresh, the lock screen, and the revamped Photos app. Today, we'll be discussing a relatively smaller feature, namely voice typing in Windows 11.
For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at the generally available Windows 11 build versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1288).
Voice typing settings in Windows 10 Voice typing essentially allows you to type in a text field using just your voice. It's more of an accessibility setting so I haven't used it in my workflows before but it's definitely a nice option to have if you have a need for it.
Weirdly, voice typing isn't referred to as such in Windows 10. If you search the term "voice typing" via Windows Search or even in the Settings, you'll come up with nothing. Instead, the capability is buried inside Ease of Access > Speech > Talk instead of type. And that's interesting because there are essentially no settings for this capability. All it has is a tip saying that you can use the Windows key + H combination or the dedicated button on your touch keyboard to make use of voice typing. It also includes a hyperlink that takes you to a guide about voice typing in Windows 10.
Voice typing in Windows 10 Voice typing is fairly easy to use. Once you launch it, you get a very wide search bar-like box at the top of your screen. You can't resize it but you can drag it around to reposition it. Upon launch, if you have a text field highlighted, it will automatically start listening for your voice but you can also click on the mic icon to manually initiate it. There are a bunch of voice commands that you can utilize to move your cursor or to punctuate your text in specific formats, and you can view them in detail in the aforementioned guide.
I found voice typing to be fairly accurate in its detection and interpretation of my voice even though I was using my laptop's mic and I don't even have an American accent (I live in Pakistan). That said, Microsoft does note that dictation commands are only available if you have your OS language set to US English, and that text symbols, and letters are only supported in a handful of languages including Simplified Chinese, French, German, English, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. For other languages, Microsoft has recommended the use of Windows Speech Recognition instead.
Voice typing settings in Windows 11 With Windows 11, the first thing I noticed was that Microsoft has made its accessibility setting more accessible. Now, if you search "voice typing" in Windows Search or Settings, you'll be guided to the dedicated section for this capability. I found this to be a really pleasant change considering how much I use Windows Search to find stuff on my PC.
Talking about the dedicated section, it is organized better and takes up less space. It also follows the design language of Windows 11. That said, I found it a bit odd that the hyperlink that took you to the guide for voice typing no longer appears to be there even though Microsoft has a dedicated page for voice typing in Windows 11 here too.
Voice typing in Windows 11 Voice typing in Windows 11 is considerably different than its predecessor. When you launch it for the first time, you'll be cautioned that voice typing now uses Microsoft's online speech technologies and offers a link to the privacy statement. This is an interesting change compared to Windows 10, and that is because voice typing in Windows 11 is actually powered by Azure Speech services. Apart from potentially being faster and more dynamic, the added advantage is that it now supports lots of other languages including Bulgarian, Croatian, Hindi, Russian, Telugu, and more. All you need to do is install the language of your choice from Start > Settings > Time & language > Language & region.
Coming over to the UI, you don't get a search bar-like box anymore. Instead, you get a very small window in which you get the mic at the center, a settings icon to the left, and a help icon to the right - which takes you to the aforementioned guide about using voice typing in Windows. Although it still can't be resized, reducing the size of this UI component is a very welcome change. You'll also notice that the icons are fresh and have rounded corners, consistent with the design language of Windows 11.
The additional buttons for settings and help are much needed improvements too. You essentially have everything at your fingertips; or at least a launcher for everything considering that the guide is online. The fact that voice typing in Windows 11 is powered by Azure Speech services also means that you can use cloud-powered capabilities like auto punctuation, which is a welcome enhancement. You can also contribute voice clips to Microsoft to further improve the service, but that is completely optional.
All in all, I found voice typing in Windows 11 to be a massive improvement compared to its predecessor. Microsoft has put in a good amount of effort to make its accessibility setting more accessible to users. The UI is fresh and offers more control than Windows 10. The support for more languages via Azure is a great move too as it goes some way to remove Microsoft's "U.S.-only" label, and considering that it's powered by the cloud means that it'll only get better with time.
Take a look at the section here or select from the links below to continue exploring Windows 11 in our ongoing "Closer Look" series:
Closer Look: Search in Windows 11 Closer Look: Widgets in Windows 11 Closer Look: Start menu in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups in Windows 11 Closer Look: Taskbar in Windows 11 Closer Look: Quick settings and notifications in Windows 11 Closer Look: Virtual Desktops in Windows 11 Closer Look: Power and battery settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: Default apps settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: File Explorer in Windows 11 Closer Look: Context menus in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Teams integration in Windows 11 Closer Look: Clock app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Store in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snipping Tool in Windows 11 Closer Look: Paint in Windows 11 Closer Look: Lock screen in Windows 11 Closer Look: Photos app in Windows 11
By Steven P.
StartAllBack 3.0 released to address Windows 11 UI shortcomings, and a giveaway
by Steven Parker
StartAllBack has been updated to 3.0, you may remember this program by the name StartIsBack, well according to the developer it now has a new name and a new focus for Windows 11 UI shortcomings that are plaguing early adopters. Namely: the stubborn taskbar, slow File Explorer with cut context menus and the "quite cringe start menu" (their words, not ours).
So what does it do? StartAllBack restores taskbar from Windows 10, adopted with Windows 11 features and look. It restores the File Explorer UI and context menus, improved with Mica and Acrylic effects, as well as the classic start menu derived from Windows 7. That last point is the kicker, this app appears to mostly emulate the Windows 7 Start menu. So if you are looking for an app to restore the Windows 10 Start menu in Windows 11, this is not for you.
Here is the changelog:
StartAllBack costs $4.99, or $1.50 if you are upgrading from StartIsBack. The app is also included in the Rectify 11 project, which aims to provide Windows 11 clean installs with some visual fixes, as well as including StartAllBack as the default Start menu.
By Steven P.
Windows 10 build 19043.1288 after upgrading Patch Tuesday every time I boot into Windows the camera takes half a minute to start working and I get a message "Getting things ready" which is also new, then Windows Hello works as normal, but that delay is irritating.
Before Patch Tuesday and for the time I have had my Logitech Brio Stream (3 years) Windows Hello login has always been instant.
Windows 10 21H2 Insider build 19044.1319 boosts ransomware defence, fixes memory leaks, more
by Sayan Sen
Microsoft today released Windows 10 build 19044.1319 (KB5006738) to Insiders running version 21H2 in the Release Preview ring. It brings a ton of improvements that include improved security against ransomware attacks and other such cyber attacks, fixes memory leak issues.
While Insiders that have originally been running Release Preview builds of versions 21H2 will receive this update automatically, those that were moved from the Beta channel to the Release Preview channel recently will be able to receive it via the “seeker” experience, meaning that they will be served the update only if they check for updates manually.
The update (KB5006738) is also rolling out insiders on Windows 10 21H1with build version 19043.1319 and features the same changes. The reason for which the update packages for Windows 10 versions 21H1 and 21H2 are identical is that version 21H2 is just an enablement package, the way 21H1 was for versions 20H2.
Moving on, the long list of improvements Build 19044.1319 (KB5006738) brings is given below:
You can find the original announcement post for builds 19044.1319 (21H2) here and 19043.1319 (21H1) here.