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Microsoft Weekly: Patch Tuesday, better Quick Resume, and productivity enhancements
by Florin Bodnarescu
In the past seven days, we’ve seen the usual set of Patch Tuesday updates, a number of productivity improvements for Teams, and even a confirmation from The Coalition that it’s working on multiple projects using Unreal Engine 5. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 9 - 15.
Microsoft, right on cue, decided to release its latest set of Windows updates. For some variants of Windows 10, it also means their last update before EOL. This would be the April 2018 Update (1803) which as of this week is no longer supported. For the October 2018 Update (1809), folks can still get updates if they’re in the Long-Term Servicing Channel, while the November 2019 Update (1909) is set to still be supported for those running Enterprise, Education, or IoT Enterprise flavors until May 2022.
Flipping over to versions still supported, we have 2004 and 20H2 (May 2020 Update and October 2020 Update, respectively), both of which get a cumulative update. Details for this can be found in KB5003173, with the update bumping the build numbers up to 19041.985 and 19042.985, respectively.
Home and Pro users of Windows 10 1909 (November 2019 Update) also got an update, more details for which can be found in KB5003169. It brings the build number up to 18363.1556 and like the other updates above, contains a number of security and Bluetooth enhancements.
Last but not least, we have updates for variants of Windows 10 supported in specific SKUs. These are:
October 2018 Update (1809): KB5003171, build 17763.1935 – supported for Enterprise, Education SKUs. April 2018 Update (1803): KB5003174, build 17134.2208 – supported for Enterprise, Education SKUs. Anniversary Update (1607): KB5003197, build 14393.4402 – supported in the Long-Term Servicing Branch. Windows 10 RTM (1507): KB5003172, build 10240.18932 - supported in the Long-Term Servicing Branch. Of course, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 (for those paying for ESUs) are still supported, so here’s what you need to be on the lookout for in terms of updates:
Windows 8.1: KB5003209, KB5003220 (security only) – contains a number of security updates, and the same known issue that’s been plaguing the OS for months. Windows 7 SP1: KB5003233, KB5003228 – contains a number of security and SMB enhancements, with the same known issues being present too. Microsoft also released Windows Holographic version 21H1, which added the Chromium-based Edge browser, among other features. Additionally, build 21382 made its way to testers in the Dev Channel of the Windows 10 Insider program, bringing HDR improvements for Photoshop, font, and folder icon updates, as well as a respectable list of fixes.
Last but not least, if you’re on either Windows 10 2004 (May 2020 Update) or 20H2 (October 2020 Update) and use 5.1 audio, you may hear a high-pitched noise if you have KB5000842 installed. This seems to only be affecting certain configurations, and is not present when using stereo. The firm stated that it’s working on a fix for this problem.
Better Quick Resume
When it comes to games, there’s been a pretty steady stream of news coming out of Redmond, and this week is no exception.
Starting with the platform updates, the Xbox May 2021 Update adds passthrough audio and improved Quick Resume on console, and coincides with the beginning of the rollout of Dolby Vision HDR on Xbox Series X|S. This is essentially in the testing phase, and is available to Xbox Insiders in the Alpha ring, with a global rollout targeted for later this year. Also available for Insiders are new accessibility features in Xbox Party Chat, including speech transcription and text-to-speech.
And since we’re focusing on games, it’s worth highlighting some of them, including Ace Combat 7, Asura’s Wrath, Halo 5: Guardians, Lost Planet 3, and others, all of which are part of the latest crop of Deals with Gold. Speaking of latest, the latest and greatest DLC for Minecraft Dungeons, dubbed Hidden Depths, is set to surface May 26 both as a standalone expansion and as part of the Minecraft Dungeons Season Pass.
Looking out a bit further than May 26, The Coalition has confirmed that it’s working on multiple next-gen projects, and is set to use Unreal Engine 5 for said projects. The studio emphasized that a move to a new engine is “a big undertaking”, and made it clear that no new projects will be announced for “some time”.
In the third major section of this column, I thought we should highlight some productivity improvements made to Microsoft products and services this week.
For one, if you use the Office app on Android, it now supports voice recordings with transcription. You do need to be in the beta program and running version 16.0.14026.20172 to be able to use the feature. In case any errors are made in the transcription process, you can edit the text after the fact.
And speaking of editing, Customer Key, a method for organizations to protect their data, - allowing for the development of personalized Data Encryption Policies -, is now generally available in Teams. Also hitting the GA phase are Teams Webinars, which allow for the creation of highly interactive Teams meetings with up to 1,000 attendees.
As far as features in the pipeline are concerned, Teams will soon let you restart a live event that accidentally stopped. The capability is in active development and is targeted for GA on both desktop and web clients globally in July.
Azure Blockchain Service will be shutting down in September. GitHub now supports video uploads. The May firmware update for Surface Studio 2 is now available. Microsoft Threat Vulnerability Management now has support for Linux. PowerToys v0.37.2 is out, fixing explorer.exe freezes, and more. The latest Edge Dev build is now out, adding a number of minor features, though not for Linux just yet. Edge Canary adds support for Coupons on Android. Logging off
We end this week’s column with a mix of good and bad news.
First off, the bad, as the Colonial Pipeline hack was allegedly caused by the company running an outdated version of Microsoft Exchange. As you may remember, on-prem Exchange Servers were the target of a widespread attack, which began being more widely publicized at the beginning of March. As the patches were released, an impressive number of servers were updated, but if the forensic report is to be believed, the unpatched Exchange server is partly to blame for Colonial Pipeline’s woes.
Staying on the subject of Microsoft services but this time switching to the desktop version of Outlook, a bug surfaced earlier this week which prevented users from seeing email contents. As per the Redmond giant, the issue was isolated and a fix deployed within hours of the issue being observed.
Moving onto the good news, Microsoft has partnered with Darktrace to help folks combat cyber threats via the use of AI. This is especially helpful given the increase in high-profile cyber attacks in recent times.
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Closed test gameplay leaks from Ubisoft's The Division Heartland
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Last week, Ubisoft announced The Division Heartland, a mysterious free-to-play spin-off based on its cooperative looter shooter series. Just days later, a couple of videos have leaked showcasing early gameplay and information on the setting.
The recordings come from a closed tech test given out to a small number of participants from the community for gathering feedback. A warning attached to the footage tries to ward off any NDA-breakers. Unfortunately for Ubisoft, this hasn't been very effective. Still, it is getting harder to find the leaks as mirrors of the unauthorized footage are already being taken down by the company, so embeds are out of the question.
Heartland Game Designer Taylor Epperly briefly describes the game as a "free-to-play open-world survival action shooter" in the first leaked video. The spin-off leaves behind the familiar massive cityscapes to present the small-town city of Silver Creek, an area heavily enveloped by the series' society collapsing virus.
At least in the test scenario, two modes are available to players. Expedition is a cooperative PVE raiding experience, while Storm adds 45 players into the mix alongside NPCs to be a "PvEvP" mode. It's unclear if this is meant to be a traditional battle royale or a dedicated spin on The Division's tried and true Survival and Darkzone modes. Players will be "scavenging, exploring, looting, fighting, and surviving" across both modes.
The second leaked video has gameplay of the systems currently in place, though with early assets and a huge serving of lag.
Being developed by Red Storm Entertainment, The Division Heartland has a broad release window that may see it launch either this year or the next. It is slated to hit PC, consoles, and cloud platforms. Ubisoft should have a proper reveal planned to showcase the project on its own terms during E3 next month. The company has confirmed it is bringing back its Forward showcase this year.
Weekend PC Game Deals: Ample publisher offerings, a Healing bundle, and more
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Weekend PC Game Deals is where the hottest gaming deals from all over the internet are gathered into one place, every week, for your consumption. So kick back, relax, and hold on to your wallets.
The biggest deal highlight of this weekend is Humble's new Heal: COVID-19 Bundle and its jampacked offerings. Lasting only one week, the bundle touts that 100% of its proceeds are going to charities focused on providing relief to pandemic hard-hit countries such as India and Brazil.
There are over 20 games included here from a variety of genres. Some highlights are BioShock Remastered, Into the Breach, Undertale, The Witness, Hyper Light Drifter, Baba is You, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Saints Row: The Third - The Full Package, SUPERHOT, and Titan Quest Anniversary Edition. Adding to that, the collection also offers several books and software to plump it up even more.
This charity bundle is slated to close on May 19, and the minimum amount you can pay to grab all its contents is $20.
The Epic Games Store giveaway this week is a copy of The Lion's Song, an indie title that released in 2016 from Mi'pu'mi Games.
While the original release followed an episodic format, the Epic version delivers the complete edition including all four episodes. Each slice explores the personal struggles of a different character with an "exceptional mind" – a composer, an artist, a mathematician, and a writer –, and players' decisions determine if they reach their goals.
The Lion's Song is free to claim through May 20. As for what's coming next, it may be a rather high-profile adventure, as Epic Games is keeping the freebie's identity a secret till it is ready to be given away.
Changing course back to bundles, alongside Heal, Humble is also hosting a games bundle that touts tactical experiences. Coming with the descriptive name Deckbuild & Battle Bundle, it hands you seven games if you opt for the complete collection.
But right at the start, the $1 tier will get you a copy of Thea: The Awakening. You'll need to bump up to the average price tier to ramp up the offerings a bit, which adds Cultist Simulator and SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech for around $9 currently.
Going all-in will cost you $12, and expands your library further with Imperator: Rome, Thea 2: The Shattering, Fantasy General II, and Neoverse. The bundle has two weeks left on its timer before it goes away, and since Humble went back on its controversial charity money split decisions, you can choose where your funds go using the familiar sliders.
The garden variety free events have gone on break again, but IO Interactive has brought in another Hitman mission to try out for free in the meantime for your infiltration needs.
By grabbing the Hitman 3 - Free Starter Pack, you can now jump into The Icon mission set in Sapienza – a bonus mission from the first game in the trilogy. The location has been transformed into the set of a superhero movie, and your target – as Agent 47 – is the director and lead actor Dino Bosco.
The Icon will remain the free mission on the Start Pack through May 23.
Several publisher promotions carry most of this weekend's discounts, with Versus Evil, Team17, and Humble Store joining in. A Bethesda sale is happening right now too, but unfortunately, most of the discounts aren't anything to get excited about when compared to previous lows.
Find out highlights from those, and more, below in our Big Deals for this weekend:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – $38.99 on Battle.net Total War: THREE KINGDOMS – $25.99 on GamesPlanet Narita Boy – $18.74 on Steam Project Wingman – $18.74 on Steam Deep Rock Galactic – $17.99 on Steam A Hat in Time – $17.99 on Steam Dead Space Pack Bundle – $17.96 on Steam Total War: ROME II - Emperor Edition – $14.99 on Steam RAGE 2 – $14.99 on Steam Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - Obsidian Edition – $14.99 on Steam BioWare Inquisition - Andromeda Bundle – $14.86 on Steam Academia: School Simulator – $13.99 on Steam One Step From Eden – $13.99 on Steam Carto – $13.99 on Steam Ikenfell – $12.99 on Steam Total War: Shogun 2 Collection – $12.49 on Steam The Survivalists – $12.49 on Steam Overcooked! 2 – $12.49 on Steam QUAKE Collection – $12.49 on Steam Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair – $11.99 on Steam Wolfenstein: The Two Pack – $11.99 on Steam Void Bastards – $11.99 on Steam Crying Suns – $11.24 on Steam Moving Out – $9.99 on Steam Going Under – $9.99 on Steam Blasphemous – $9.99 on Steam Command & Conquer Remastered Collection – $9.99 on Steam Golf With Your Friends – $9.74 on Steam Middle-earth: Shadow of War Definitive Edition – $9.60 on GreenManGaming Prey – $9.49 on IndieGala Forager – $8.99 on Steam Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition – $8.99 on IndieGala Gang Beasts – $8.99 on Steam Them's Fightin' Herds – $8.99 on Steam American Truck Simulator – $4.99 on Steam Terraria – $4.99 on Steam Sunset Overdrive – $4.99 on Microsoft Store MOTHERGUNSHIP – $4.99 on Steam Dragon Age: Origins – $4.99 on Steam Dragon Age 2 – $4.99 on Steam Staxel – $4.99 on Steam Halo Wars: Definitive Edition – $4.99 on Microsoft Store Yoku's Island Express – $3.99 on Steam RUNNING WITH RIFLES – $2.99 on Steam DOOM 64 – $2.49 on Steam Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter – $1 on Steam The Dream Machine: Chapter 1 & 2 – $0 on Steam The Lion's Song – $0 on Epic Store DRM-free Goodness
Lastly, our highlights of the DRM-free games on sale this weekend can be caught below:
Monster Train - $14.99 on GOG Project Hospital - $12.49 on GOG Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines - $9.99 on GOG Opus Magnum - $9.99 on GOG XCOM: Enemy Unknown Complete Pack - $9.99 on GOG Kerbal Space Program - $9.99 on GOG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY Edition - $9.99 on Humble Store Age of Wonders 3 - $7.49 on GOG Leisure Suit Larry - Wet Dreams Don't Dry - $5.99 on GOG Mini Metro - $4.99 on GOG SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition - $4.99 on GOG The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - $3.99 on GOG System Shock 2 - $3.99 on GOG SiN Gold - $3.99 on GOG Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption - $2.99 on GOG Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director’s Cut - $2.99 on GOG SimCity 3000 Unlimited - $2.49 on GOG Darkstar One - $2.49 on GOG Spacechem - $2.49 on GOG Capitalism Plus - $2.39 on GOG Bad Mojo Redux - $2.39 on GOG I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream - $2.39 on GOG Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic - $1.99 on GOG King's Bounty: The Legend - $1.49 on GOG SimCity 2000 Special Edition - $1.49 on GOG X-COM: Terror from the Deep - $1.49 on GOG Sea Dogs - $1.19 on GOG Anachronox - $0.97 on GOG Deus Ex 2: Invisible War - $0.97 on GOG Deus Ex GOTY Edition - $0.97 on GOG Legacy of Kain: Defiance - $0.97 on GOG Thief 2: The Metal Age - $0.97 on GOG Keep in mind that availability and pricing for some deals may vary depending on the region you're in.
That's it for our pick of this weekend's PC game deals, and hopefully, some of you have enough self-restraint not to keep adding to your ever-growing backlogs. There's an enormous amount of other deals ready and waiting all over the interwebs as well as in services you may already subscribe to if you comb through them hard enough, so keep your eyes open for those, and have a great weekend.
Games with Gold: Dungeons 3 and Tropico 4 are now free
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Every couple of weeks, Microsoft likes to give away games to Xbox Live Gold subscribers, and keeping to its schedule, the company has now made available two more games to claim. Xbox Live Gold is included in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate all-in-one subscription, so those folks now have access to the two new freebies too.
The city management title Tropico 4 for Xbox 360 and the strategy experience Dungeons 3 for Xbox One are what's available this time, and both classics include backward compatibility support for modern Xbox consoles. Explaining the compatibility a bit further, Dungeons 3 is playable across Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S systems, while Tropico 4 can be enjoyed on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
To make things easy, the Microsoft Store links listed below can be used to immediately claim the games onto a Gold activated account:
Dungeons 3 (Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One)
Tropico 4 (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
While new Xbox Live Gold extras arrive every couple of weeks, the promotions don't disappear that soon. Anyone who didn't manage to grab Armello from the previous Games with Gold promotion still has plenty of time to snatch a copy.
As for how long are these Xbox Live Gold bonus games are accessible once claimed, all Xbox 360 experiences remain a part of the account even after the Gold subscription is discontinued. However, claimed Xbox One games are only accessible while being subscribed to Gold, and losing the subscription will make the titles temporarily unavailable until the membership is renewed.
Midnight Black & Cosmic Red PS5 DualSense controllers ready for pre-order
by Subir Kathuria
Sony has announced two new DualSense models - Midnight Black and Cosmic Red .They will be available starting next month to add a dash of color to your gaming setup.
The DualSense controller marked a radical departure from Sony's previous controllers by delivering innovative features. The new DualShock controllers support all the same features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that can put up varying levels of resistance, depending on what you're doing in games designed to take advantage of them. They also have a built-in microphone, speaker, and headset jack that lets you plug in any standard 3.5mm earbuds or headphones.
Just like the PS4 DualShock controller got many colorful releases over the life of the previous generation console, this probably won't be the last time Sony releases new color controllers for PS5.
Midnight Black features two subtly different shades of black with light grey detailing to reflect how space is viewed through the night sky. The controller is priced at $69.99 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com from this link with deliveries starting June 18, 2021.
Cosmic Red offers a striking black and red design inspired by the unique vivid shades of red found throughout the cosmos. It is priced at $74.99 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com from this link with deliveries starting June 18, 2021.
Sony advises that the exact date will vary by location. You can check PlayStation.com for more information regarding availability.
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