Microsoft Weekly: Xbox Series optimized, better productivity, and updated builds

The second full week of the month brought with it Patch Tuesday, a number of updates to Office and other Microsoft productivity apps across platforms, as well as Double Fine remastered classics to Game Pass. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of October 11 - 17.

Xbox Series optimized

With the launch of the next-gen Xbox consoles less than a month away, Microsoft has started rounding off its list of games optimized for the Series X and Series S. Older games will get improvements simply due to the newer and better hardware, but a number of games will be specifically optimized for next-gen and available day one. Among them are the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, DiRT 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Observer: System Redux, and Sea of Thieves, to name just a few.

On the console operating system front, a sleeker and faster UI with an improved sign-in experience has made its way to the current Xbox consoles, courtesy of the October update. This experience will of course be similar across both the Xbox One and Xbox Series family of devices, although it’ll obviously run best on the newest hardware.

While we’re on the subject, an update was also pushed out to Microsoft Flight Simulator, bumping it up to version 1.9.5.0 and fixing a number of issues, as was an updated warranty for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2. The latter was extended from 90 days to a year due to “a small percentage” of customers experiencing “drifting” joysticks on the $179.99 controller. This issue itself was also subject to a class-action lawsuit, though the lawsuit itself is not limited to just the Elite Series 2.

In case you understandably do not want to spend too much on games, there are always Deals with Gold to browse through, freebies to claim if you have Xbox Live Gold – like Maid of Sker and Costume Quest -, and of course the ever-growing Game Pass library.

For one, if you’re a subscriber, you can now play Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse, and Heave Ho on PC, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition on PC and console, as well as Katana Zero across PC, Xbox, and Android via xCloud. If you’re on console, you’ll be able to play ScourgeBringer starting October 21, plus Cricket 19 and Supraland starting October 22.

It's worth noting that as of October 15, Felix the Reaper, Metro 2033 Redux, and Minit will be leaving the subscription across PC and console, with the same date also seeing the removal of Saints Row IV Re-Elected and State of Mind from the PC subscription.

On October 30, The Red Strings Club will be removed from the PC subscription, with After Party, LEGO Star Wars III, as well as Rise & Shine being removed from the console subscription. Last but not least, Tacoma and The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game will also be removed on October 30, this time from both the PC and console subscriptions.

To not end on a gloomy note though, it was announced that remastered versions of classic Double Fine point-and-click adventure titles Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango will be making their way onto Windows 10 and Xbox, as well as being added to Game Pass come October 29. These will also be available for the Xbox Series S and X once those consoles launch on November 10.

Another bit of news that surfaced this week was in regards to Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media. The $7.5B acquisition is the second largest in gaming history, and folks were understandably curious about what would happen to traditionally multi-platform releases like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series now that ZeniMax is under the Xbox Game Studios wing.

In no uncertain terms, Xbox head Phil Spencer specified that since the company has xCloud, PC, Game Pass, and the console base, it doesn’t have to ship these titles on any other platforms to recoup the investment.

Last but not least on the subject of investment, Microsoft clearly thought Halo Infinite could benefit from a bit more time in the oven and some more polish. However, what if the game was to be released in parts? Feel free to discuss this topic in the comments section of the relevant article.

Better productivity

Given the recent developments in this particular category, I think it’s best that we give the productivity side at least one major section this week.

For folks making use of Azure Lab Services and Microsoft Teams, you’ll be happy to know that the integration between the two services is now generally available. On the other hand, folks with Windows on ARM devices are now finally able to make use of a native Teams app for the platform.

In case you’re an Office Insider on Windows, the newest monthly update has added a theme awareness to Office apps, whereby the apps will switch their theme depending on your system setting. Improvements have been made to Excel and its Data Visualizer add-in, as well as the ability to save shapes as images (available in all Office apps). A built-in translator in Outlook, the ability to sync email signatures through the cloud, and a number of other features were also included in this month’s update.

Switching over to Apple’s platforms, Microsoft To Do for iOS now has support for auto-saving, with Office 2011 and Office 2016 for Mac reaching End of Life status.

Updated builds

To nobody’s surprise by now, the second Tuesday of the month brought with it the ever-expected Patch Tuesday updates. If you’re on Windows 10, these updates are:

  • May 2020 Update / 20H2 (2004 / 20H2): KB4579311, build 19041.572 / 109042.572 – improvements to Office and basic Windows operation security, as well as updates to verifying usernames and passwords.
    • Known issues: Users of the Microsoft IME for Japanese or Chinese might experience issues with input, including inability to enter text, as well as receiving of unexpected results after input; When installing a third-party driver, you may receive the error “Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software” or “No signature was present in the subject” when attempting to view the signature properties via File Explorer.
  • May 2019 Update / November 2019 Update (1903/1909): KB4577671, build 18363.1139/18362.1139 – identical changelog to the version above, with the addition of updates for storing and managing files.
    • Known issues: When updating to v1903 or v1909 from any previous version, you may receive a compatibility report dialog with “What needs your attention” at the top of the error. “Continuing with the installation of Windows will remove some optional features. You may need to add them back in Settings after installation completes. Additionally, a compatibility warning might also be received when Local System accounts are blocked in a firewall from accessing the internet via HTTP. This is cause by the Windows 10 Setup Dynamic Update (DU) being unable to download the required packages; When installing a third-party driver, you may receive the error “Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software” or “No signature was present in the subject” when attempting to view the signature properties via File Explorer.
  • October 2018 Update (1809): KB4577668, build 17763.1518 – identical changelog to the versions above.
    • Known issues: After installing KB4493509, devices with some Asian language packs installed may receive the error “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND.”; When installing a third-party driver, you may receive the error “Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software” or “No signature was present in the subject” when attempting to view the signature properties via File Explorer.
  • April 2018 Update (1803) Enterprise, Education: KB4580330, build 17134.1792.
  • Fall Creators Update (1709) Enterprise, Education: KB4580328, build 16299.2166.
  • Creators Update (1703) for Surface Hub: KB4580370, build 15063.572.
  • Anniversary Update (1607) LTSB: KB4580346, build 14393.3986.
  • Windows 10 RTM (1507) LTSB: KB4580327, build 10240.18725.

Folks still running older versions of the OS, like Windows 8.1, have also gotten some updates, as did businesses running Windows 7 that have signed up to receive ESUs (Extended Security Updates). As such, here’s what you need to look for if you’re on any of these operating systems:

  • Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4580347, KB4580358 (security-only) – corrects DST in 2021 for the Fiji Islands, adds a notification to IE11 that Flash will reach EOL in December, as well as addressing an issue which caused Group Policy to recursively delete critical files when the “Delete local user profile policy” was enabled.
    • Known issues: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with the error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL(0xC00000A5). This occurs when the action is performed on a CSV owner node from a process without admin privilege; When installing a third-party driver, you may receive the error “Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software” or “No signature was present in the subject” when attempting to view the signature properties via File Explorer.
  • Windows 7 SP1, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4580345, KB4580387 (security-only) – includes the same Group Policy fix from above, as well as security enhancements, in addition to fixing an issue with the Graphics Device Interface (GDI).
    • Known issue: Operations like rename, that are performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with the error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL(0xC00000A5). This occurs when the action is performed on a CSV owner node from a process without admin privilege.

With Patch Tuesday out of the way, it’s worth pointing out that build 20236 of the Windows 10 vNext branch made its way to the Dev channel over on the Insider side.

The only notable change in this build is the better placement of the refresh rate setting in the Settings app. Instead of going through a bunch of screens, you’ll now find it under System > Display > Advanced display settings.

There was of course a list of accompanying fixes, and a rather long one compared to previous builds. The list of known issues remains pretty much identical, that is unless you’re running build 20236.1005, which added two more known issues.

Dev channel

Logging off

To end the column, we take a look at the latest hardware to come out of the Redmond giant.

First off, for folks who haven’t been able to pre-order either the new Surface Pro X or the Surface Laptop Go, both devices are now available to buy outright. If you were among the lucky folks who pre-order, a shipment notification should’ve already been dispatched.

In case you’re on the fence about exactly which model to get, if you’re in the market for a such a device, we have a handy Specs Appeal for you to check out, as well as a full review of the Surface Laptop Go.

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

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