Microsoft Weekly: High frame rates, Patch Tuesday, and the Share button's return

In the last seven days we’ve seen the advent of this month’s Patch Tuesday, the first Chromium 78-based build of Edge, and the cancellation of Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack. You can find that – as well as the usual little bit extra – below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of August 10-16.

High frame rates

We open the gaming section with something that might seem rather obvious in regards to the next generation of consoles.

In a recent interview, head of Xbox, Phil Spencer stated that the focus of Project Scarlett – which is aimed at a Holiday 2020 release – will be on high frame rates and smooth gameplay. This of course echoes the comments made at E3 2019 regarding the 120FPS at the top end and 8K capability of the next console.

Until Scarlett rolls around though, there’s going to be the ID@Xbox Open House event on August 29, taking place on Microsoft’s Redmond campus between 5PM to 9PM. Beyond the ability to meet the various devs, there are also going to be a number of playable games and new announcements.

If a physical voyage isn’t something that’s in your future, but rather a virtual one, then the Sea of Thieves 2.0.6 update has got you covered. The latest iteration of the cartoony pirate adventure brings in Dark Relic voyages, rowboat harpoons, and much more. The update weighs in at 4.47GB on the Xbox One, and 6.44GB on both Xbox One X and PC.

If you managed to get into the Alpha or Alpha Skip Ahead rings of the Xbox Insider Program, you’ll be pleased to know that a new build has dropped this week, namely 18363.7094, which is part of the 1910 branch. The most interesting aspect of this build pertains to its build string, which no longer has any mention of 19H2, signaling that perhaps 1910 won’t be part of the 19H2 release.

On the off chance that you’re looking for new games to play, you are now able to claim Forza Motorsport 6 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow for free via this month’s Games with Gold. Of course, the ability to claim them presupposes that you have an Xbox Live subscription.

We end the section with a dual helping of bad news, as Tim Longo, Halo Infinite’s Creative Director has departed 343 Industries. He joined the developer in 2013, and was Creative Director on Halo 5: Guardians previous to the upcoming Halo installment. His role will be taken by Executive Producer Mary Olson, while creative control will still remain under Chris Lee.

Finally, Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack, announced over two years ago at E3, has been cancelled. The reasoning behind its cancellation is, as developer Mojang stated, the less than optimal performance across devices.

Patch Tuesday

As is the norm, the second Tuesday of every month brings forth a bunch of fixes for supported variants of Windows. As far as Windows 10 is concerned, these fixes are:

  • May 2019 Update (1903): KB4512508, build 18362.295 – improves security when using IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: Windows Sandbox may fail to start with “ERROR_FILE_NOT_FOUND (0x80070002)” on devices on which the OS language is changed during the installation of 1903; Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server.
  • October 2018 Update (1809): KB4511553, build 17763.678 - improves security when using IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; After installing KB4493509, some Asian language packs installed may receive error “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND; A small number of devices may start up to a black screen during the first logon; Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server; Apps and scripts that call the NetQueryDisplayInformation API or WinNT provider equivalent may fail to return results after the first page of data with error “1359: an internal error occurred”; Apps that were made using Visual Basic 6, macros made using VBA, and scrips, as well as apps, made using VBScript may stop responding or give out an “invalid procedure call” error.
  • April 2018 Update (1803): KB4512501, build 17134.950 - KB4511553, build 17763.678 - improves security when using IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; A small number of devices may start up to a black screen during the first logon; Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server; Apps that were made using Visual Basic 6, macros made using VBA, and scrips, as well as apps, made using VBScript may stop responding or give out an “invalid procedure call” error.
  • Fall Creators Update (1709): KB4512516, build 16299.1331 - improves security when using IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server; Apps that were made using Visual Basic 6, macros made using VBA, and scrips, as well as apps, made using VBScript may stop responding or give out an “invalid procedure call” error.
  • Fall Creators Update – Mobile (1709): KB4513172, build 15254.582 - improves security when using IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
  • Creators Update (1703): KB4512507, build 15063.1988 - improves security when using IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; Apps that were made using Visual Basic 6, macros made using VBA, and scrips, as well as apps, made using VBScript may stop responding or give out an “invalid procedure call” error.
  • Anniversary Update (1607): KB4512517, build 14393.3144 - improves security when using external devices like game controllers and webcams, IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: After installing KB4467684, the cluster service may fail with error “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)” if the group policy “Minimum Password Length” is configured with greater than 14 characters; Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server; Apps and scripts that call the NetQueryDisplayInformation API or WinNT provider equivalent may fail to return results after the first page of data with error “1359: an internal error occurred”; Apps that were made using Visual Basic 6, macros made using VBA, and scrips, as well as apps, made using VBScript may stop responding or give out an “invalid procedure call” error.
  • Windows 10 RTM LTSC (1507): KB4512497, build 10240.18305 – improves compatibility with the Window-Eyes screen reader apps, and security when using external devices like game controllers and webcams, IE, Edge, Bluetooth, networking technologies, and input devices like mouse, keyboard and stylus.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; Apps that were made using Visual Basic 6, macros made using VBA, and scrips, as well as apps, made using VBScript may stop responding or give out an “invalid procedure call” error.

Do keep in mind that if you’re having issues obtaining the patch for 1903, you’re not alone. Folks have reported seeing errors 0x800f0982, 0xe0000100, and 0x800073701 which prevent them from installing the latest update. Some may be solved by running the System File Checker – entering “sfc /scannow” in a Command Prompt that’s run as administrator – with multiple passes potentially required if you’re experiencing error 0xE0000100.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re still on Windows 7 and 8.1, here’s what you need to be on the lookout for:

  • Windows 7 SP1, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4512506, KB4512486 (security-only) – contains security updates for the Windows App Platform and Frameworks, Wireless Networking, Storage and Filesystems, Virtualization, Datacenter Networking, Scripting Engine, JET Database Engine, Input and Composition, MSXML, IE, and Windows Server.
    • Known issues: Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server; IA64-based devices may fail to start with error “File: \Windows\system32\winload.efi Status: 0xc0000428, Info: Windows cannot verify the digital signature for this file”, which is resolved via the latest version of KB4474419; Windows updates signed with SHA-2 certificates will be blocked or deleted if a user has any Symantec or Norton antivirus products installed, causing Windows to stop working or fail to start.
  • Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4512488, KB4512489 (security-only) - contains security updates for the Windows App Platform and Frameworks, Wireless Networking, Storage and Filesystems, Virtualization, Datacenter Networking, Scripting Engine, JET Database Engine, Input and Composition, MSXML, IE, and Windows Server.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”, which occurs when the CSV owner node doesn’t have administrator privilege; Devices using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) images from WDS or SCCM may fail to start with error “Status: 0xc0000001, Info: A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed” after installing the update form a WDS server.

Moving on to Insiders, folks in the Fast ring got to play with build 18963, which brought GPU temperature to Task Manager, the ability to rename virtual desktops, enhancements to the Optional Features page – including multi-select -, a mouse cursor speed setting, the ability to update Notepad via the Store, improvements to the Chinese IME, improvements to account pictures and Windows Search, and spell correction for Apps & Settings searches. In other words, nothing groundbreaking, but some nice quality of life improvements all around.

There are of course a number of fixes too, including ones for the Japanese and Chinese IMEs, the blank Graphics Setting drop-down list for Store apps, Snip & Sketch capture reliability, and more. In terms of known issues, the same anti-cheat and Realtek SD card bugs are present, along with the still work in progress “Cloud download” upcoming feature, and minimize, maximize, and close not working in certain apps.

Staying a little longer on the subject of Insiders, the Feedback Hub has gotten a new design, all testers should now be able to check out Calculator’s Always on Top mode, and both WordPad and Paint have now become optional features. This means you can uninstall both of them, if you so desire.

The Share button’s return

Though Microsoft has indeed made the move to the Chromium-based version of Edge, there are still a number of features from Spartan Edge that folks demand be included in the new browser. One such feature has at last returned.

The aforementioned capability is the Share button and resulting Share dialog, which made it easy to, well, share things to a number of apps or even other devices. Although it’s available for both Dev and Canary channels, it is rolling out gradually, so if you don’t see it yet, you may need to wait a tad longer.

On the subject of Edge Dev, the first Chromium 78-based build of it was released this past week, namely 78.0.244.0, which officially brings in the ability to choose between light and dark themes in Settings, the ability to import cookies from old Edge, and more.

If you’re on the Canary channel build 78.0.249.0 or above, you’re now able to test out global media controls. This basically gives you the ability to choose which tab you want to play audio and which one you don’t via a central location, without the need to navigate to each individual tab.

In addition to this, there are the improvements to ‘Read Aloud’, with the cloud-powered capability gaining two voice styles: Neural and Standard. The former is powered by deep neural networks and sounds the most natural, while the latter is the regular online voice pack offered in Microsoft’s Cognitive Services.

Lastly, while hell hasn’t quite frozen over, it is an interesting thing to see nonetheless, as Google has now implemented a Microsoft-made fix for Chrome’s battery drain problem. You can experience this fix by enabling the “Turn off caching of streaming media to disk” flag in “chrome://flags” in the latest Canary build.

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 the column with a bit of security and virtual desktop news.

First off, as revealed at the DEF CON conference in Las Vegas by security firm Eclypsium, more than 40 different drivers from 20 hardware vendors have been identified as having poor code. What this means is that the poor code quality can be exploited to create an escalation of privilege attack. Perhaps even more worrisome than the existence of these security gaps is that all these drivers have been certified by Microsoft.

Among others, affected vendors include ASUS, Huawei, Intel, Nvidia, and Toshiba. On 7th generation and later Intel processors, Microsoft will use the HVCI (Hypervisor-enforced Code Integrity) capability to simply blacklist affected drivers, with older architectures requiring manual uninstallation. Furthermore, Windows Defender Application Control can be used to block bad drivers, and memory integrity can be turned on in Windows Security, on capable devices.

There is some good news though, as Microsoft has indeed fixed two critical wormable vulnerabilities, namely CVE-2019-1181, and CVE-2019-1182, part of the Bluekeep vulnerability patched back in May.

As far as business-related features are concerned, Windows Virtual Desktop, which will allow folks to run Windows 7, 10, and Office apps in a VM in the cloud, is now feature complete. The capability will be generally available soon, with the most likely target month of availability being September.

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

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