Microsoft Weekly: Flight Simulator alpha, more Power BI updates, and patches for all

Quite a few things took place this past week, among which the arrival of the expected Patch Tuesday updates, the opening up of signups for Flight Simulator’s technical alpha, and even a round of updates to Power BI. You can find that – as well as the usual little bit extra – below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of September 7-13.

Flight Simulator alpha

No doubt one of the most surprising additions to Microsoft’ E3 2019 showcase was the announcement trailer for the Flight Simulator reboot. Beyond its visually stunning graphics and the confirmation by Phil Spencer that the tile uses two petabytes of geographical data, we didn’t know much about it. This week however, Microsoft opened registrations for the title’s technical alpha stage, while at the same time promising to reveal a release timeline and goals being pursued next week, on September 19.

This of course is not all that has happened with gaming at the company this week, with September 10 seeing the worldwide availability of Gears 5, the latest in the FPS series from The Coalition. The title has finally seen the light of day after three years in development, complete with a slew of returning and special characters and the introduction of Operations, which will be quarterly content updates for the game.

For its part, Minecraft: Education Edition has gotten a brand new world, focused on the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, The Māori. Students will be able to build communal homes (called wahrenui), as well as learn vocabulary from the ancient Māori language of te reo.

Sea of Thieves, too, has received a reasonably big patch dubbed the Smuggler’s Fortune update (version 2.0.7), which introduces an Ancient Skeleton random spawn, new voyage types, cosmetic microtransactions, and the previously showcased pets, namely the monkey and the parrot.

If you’re an Xbox Insider in the Beta ring, you should see build 18363.7159 which enables the redesigned Dashboard for 50% of testers. Unfortunately, the Insider team won’t be able to help you get the new Dashboard if you’re not part of the half that has it enabled.

Last but not least, if you’re running version 1903 of Windows 10, or the May 2019 Update, you may experience problems with audio in certain games, with Apex Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Overwatch being mentioned among affected titles. The common thread among affected users was the audio card provider, Realtek, so be aware if you have a card from this manufacturer. A potential workaround is disabling of all sound effects and changing audio quality to 16-bit, 44,100Hz.

More Power BI updates

Power BI, Microsoft’s business analytics solution, has gotten a fair few updates recently, and as such, it’s only fair that we highlight them in one of the three main sections of this column.

For one, there’s the September update for Power BI Desktop, including a more modern default theme for reports, updates to the theme JSON format for theme creators, custom format strings, dynamic formatting options, and much, much more.

Power BI’s dataflows received updates too, specifically targeting the enhanced compute engine, plus non-admin gateway support, and even a best practices guide meant to help folks get the most out of this data source unification feature.

The business analytics solutions’ developer community got some attention too, with the introduction of tracking of Power BI content consumption via audit logs and query caching for Embedded Reports and Dashboards, plus the ability to sort visuals using an API, and more.

It’s also worth mentioning that Microsoft has unveiled a number of new features headed to Power BI in its 2019 release wave 2, set to continue from October 2019 through to March 2020. These include the addition of an enhanced experience for report consumption, home customization, shared and certified datasets, open platform connectivity (XMLA Read/Write), datasets larger than 10GB in Power BI Premium, and much more.

While we’re on the subject of business and cloud offerings, it’s worth noting that Azure Data Studio’s September release is now out, and it encompasses improvements to the Notebook, the enabling of the SQL Server command line mode, Visual Studio Code merge 1.38, and a number of bug fixes.

Remaining on the subject of data, Dynamics 365 Business Central has now been enhanced with a number of tools aimed at data classification, and there are now two new Azure cloud regions in Germany. Furthermore, Microsoft and The Walt Disney Studios have signed a five-year Azure-centered partnership meant to enhance the latter’s production and post-production process.

Finally, Microsoft’s “chat-based workspace”, Teams, will be officially coming to Linux, though we have no other info like a release date. What we do have a date for is a Business Application Virtual Launch Event, which the Redmond giant will be holding on October 10.

Patches for all

As is tradition, Microsoft released a bunch of patches on September 10, otherwise known as this month’s Patch Tuesday. Let’s start with what you need to be on the lookout for if you’re running any of the various flavors of Windows 10:

  • May 2019 Update (1903): KB4515384, build 18362.356 – contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus. It also contains updates for verification of user names and passwords, as well as for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: Audio in certain games may be quitter or different than expected. To mitigate the issue, folks are encouraged to open settings in the impacted game and disable multi-channel audio. A solution is slated for availability in late September.
  • October 2018 Update (1809): KB4512578, build 17763.737 – contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus, plus updates in relation to verification of user names and passwords.
    • Known issues: Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5); Devices with some Asian language packs may receive error “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND.”; A small number of devices may experience a black screen during first logon; Apps and scripts that call the NetQueryDisplayInformation API or the WinNT provider equivalent may fail to return results with error “1359: an internal error occurred”.
  • April 2018 Update (1803): KB4516058, build 17134.1006 – contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus. It also contains updates for verification of user names and passwords, as well as for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5); A small number of devices may experience a black screen during first logon.
  • Fall Creators Update (1709): KB4516066, build 16299.1387 - contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus. It also contains updates for verification of user names and passwords, as well as for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5);
  • Creators Update (1703): KB4516068, build 15063.2045 – contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus. It also contains updates for verification of user names and passwords, as well as for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5).
  • Anniversary Update (1607): KB4516044, build 14393.3204 – contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus. It also contains updates for verification of user names and passwords, as well as for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: After installing KB4467684, the cluster service may fail to start with error “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)” if the group policy “Minimum Password Length” is configured with greater than 14 characters; Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5).
  • Windows 10 LTSC (1507): KB4516070, build 10240.18333 – contains updates that improve security for IE, Edge, networking technologies, and input devices – mouse, keyboard, stylus. It also contains updates for verification of user names and passwords, as well as for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5).

If you install the latest patch for version 1903 (the May 2019 Update), which bumps you up to build 18362.356, you may find that your Start Menu is broken. The specific error is “Your Start Menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in.” This however does not affect everyone that has installed this patch, so your mileage may vary.

In similar news, though only in regards to Lenovo PCs, if the screenshots you’ve taken are a bit on the orange side, this is a problem with the company’s Vantage software. You can check here to see how to resolve the problem.

Of course, older versions like Windows 7, 8.1, and their server equivalents are still supported, so here’s what folks on those operating systems will get:

  • Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4516067, KB4516064 (security-only) – provides protections against a new subclass of speculative side-channel vulnerabilities known as Microarchitectural Data Sampling for 32-bit versions of Windows, as well as security updates for the Microsoft Scripting Engine, App Platform and Frameworks, Kernel, Authentication, and more.
    • Known issues: Operations like renaming files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5).
  • Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4516065, KB4516033 (security-only) - provides protections against a new subclass of speculative side-channel vulnerabilities known as Microarchitectural Data Sampling for 32-bit versions of Windows, as well as security updates for the Microsoft Scripting Engine, App Platform and Frameworks, Kernel, Authentication, and more.
    • Known issues: VBScript in IE11 should be disabled by default after the installation of KB4507437 or KB4511872. However, in certain instances, VBScript may not be disabled as intended.

Insiders were of course not left out, as Microsoft pushed out build 18980 from the 20H1 to the Fast ring. In terms of new features, there’s the availability of Cortana to Insiders worldwide – regardless if they speak a supported language or not -, plus a series of improvements to WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) and an enhanced Optional Features page.

This build has quite an extensive list of fixes, which include ones related to deadlock issues with netprofmsvc.dll, the performance of various IMEs, screen snipping reliability, removable devices erroneously being labeled as HDD in Task Manager’s Performance tab, and more. Of course, known issues are also present, most of which are the same from previous builds – like Realtek SD card issues or bugs related to the Cloud download option for Reset this PC. Joining them is a new issue which reports Language Packs as installed successfully – despite the opposite being true -, as well as a bug with video capture for the Feedback Hub in Windows Mixed Reality.

A new Windows Server test build was also released, specifically 18975, though it contained no new features. The singular known issue relates to the App Compatibility FOD which cannot be added to the OS .wim image offline with the use of the DISM /image method. It instead requires the reinstallation of the new FOD via DISM /online.

Lastly, Slow ring Office Insiders on Windows - in the Monthly Channel (Targeted) ring - got build 12026.20108 which includes a Rewrite feature in Word, as well as the ability to save PowerPoint illustrations and slides as SVG (or scalable vector graphic) files.

The Fast ring

Hot corner

Hot corner is a section of The Fast ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.

Logging off

We end with a bunch of news and leaks related to Microsoft’s Surface hardware event at the beginning of October.

Before we get to the leaks and event-related news, there’s a rather strange patent for a foldable Surface device, which uses a liquid-powered hinge. This solution is to apparently prevent foreign objects from getting into the device’s cavities and ruining components like the display – which has happened with foldables previously.

As far as the aforementioned event is concerned, unlike last time, it will be live-streamed, which is quite good news seeing as a number of hardware refreshes are expected. Among them, the Surface Pro 7, which, according to leaked CPU and RAM configurations, may go as low as a Core i3, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD, and as high as a Core i7, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. These are allegedly the configurations coming to European customers, so they don’t necessarily rule out an option with a 1TB SSD.

In related news, a Core m3 variant of the Surface Go might also be in the works, more details about which it’s possible that Microsoft will share during the upcoming event. While you wait, the company has discounted its Surface hardware across the board, with price reductions ranging from $50 to $300.

Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.

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