We are at the end of yet another week, which has been an extremely busy one in the world of Microsoft due to tons of announcements and the release of several Windows builds. Find out more about this and more in our weekly digest for November 14 – November 19.
It’s raining Windows builds!
The highlight of this week is the start of the rollout of the Windows 10 November 2021 Update, more simply known as version 21H2. It’s quite a minor update as it’s essentially just an enablement package that lights up a couple of Windows features that have been dormant by default previously. These include support for WPA3 H2E standards for increased Wi-Fi security and GPU compute support in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows (EFLOW) deployments. You can find out more about both of these capabilities in our detailed piece here.
Changes are being made to the overall rollout strategy as well. Due to “positive” feedback, Microsoft is increasing the pace of Windows 11’s rollout, so if you’re on a supported machine, expect a notification in Windows Update soon. Furthermore, Windows 10 will now also follow an annual release cadence similar to Windows 11. This means that feature updates will be released once a year rather than twice. The Windows 10 on ARM variant of the OS won’t be getting x64 emulation support either, and Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 11 on ARM if you want to take advantage of this capability.
On the Windows Insider Preview front, Microsoft released Windows 10 Build 19044.1379 (21H2) / Build 19044.1379 (21H1) (KB5007253) to the Release Preview ring. There is a long list of fixes and improvements that you can see here, but it does not bring any new features, as expected. Shortly after, Microsoft also released Windows 10 Insider build 19044.1381 / 19043.1381 to the same channel, fixing an issue related to devices joined to Azure Active Directory (AAD) and using Windows Hello for Business.
Windows 11 received some love too. The Dev Channel received a brand-new Media Player app intended to replace Groove Music eventually. Microsoft touts that it features design elements associated with Windows 11 as well as “rich artist imagery” when you’re listening to music. The Dev Channel was also treated to build 22504 which contains a bundle of new features including a redesigned Your Phone app, an enhanced Touch Keyboard, and fixes for lots of items including a crashing File Explorer. It was also confirmed that the build 22000.346 that was rolled out to the Beta and Release Preview rings has reverted the color of the BSOD to blue instead of the previous black.
Later, Microsoft also rolled out build 22000.348 (KB5007262) to the Beta and Release Preview rings to patch a Kaspersky compatibility bug, followed by build 22504.1010 (KB5008697) to the Dev Channel to test the servicing pipeline. The company has also promised to improve Windows 11’s performance in 2022.
Halo from the other side
Microsoft celebrated the 20th anniversary of the original Xbox with some major announcements. The Xbox Backward Compatibility program has returned one last time with 76 games being added. These include Max Payne, F.E.A.R games, and some old Star Wars titles along with tons of other games.
That said, the highlight of the event was undoubtedly the surprise release of Halo Infinite Multiplayer with a beta tag. This is weeks ahead of the launch of the Halo Infinite Campaign which just went gold in time for its December 8 release. We did learn some more things about the Campaign though. It will feature an Easter Egg for our favorite character Craig the Brute, but the co-op campaign experience is still six months away, at the very least.
For those who would rather play games other than Halo, the developers behind Age of Empires IV revealed a roadmap detailing balance updates, modding support, and more. Meanwhile, those who would rather explore a blocky sandbox world have the Minecraft Caves & Cliffs Part II update to look forward to on November 30.
Forza Horizon 5 has been an immensely successful launch for Microsoft with over 10 million players in its launch week. Meanwhile, those who prefer the aerial route will be happy to know that the Reno Air Race: Expansion Pack and Reno Air Race: Full Collection have become available for purchase on the Microsoft Flight Simulator Marketplace today for $19.99 and $59.99 respectively. Microsoft Flight Simulator: Game of the Year Edition has become available too. Fans of Xbox Cloud Gaming will also be pleased to know that the feature has launched on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.
Living on the Edge
We had lots of news regarding Microsoft Edge this week. Starting off with the most controversial one, Microsoft essentially admitted that it is purposely making it difficult to change the default browser in Windows, especially in the Search experience. The company indicated highlighted that:
Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers. At the same time, Windows also offers certain end-to-end customer experiences in both Windows 10 and Windows 11, the search experience from the taskbar is one such example of an end-to-end experience that is not designed to be redirected. When we become aware of improper redirection, we issue a fix.
This does not bode well for people who want to avoid Edge at all costs. It also means that the Redmond tech giant will be blocking further workarounds from third-party developers designed to circumvent its restrictions.
In some slightly more positive news, we learned that Microsoft is experimenting with an enhanced CTRL+F toggle and a Citations tool in Edge. The former can now find related words for you while the latter enables you to grab information from a website and assign it a citation format like APA or MLA.
The browser is also getting a bunch of shopping-related features in the coming days, including information on ethically sourced products, price drops, an “efficiency mode” to conserve system resources, and an “easy update” capability to quickly change your compromised passwords. The Android variant of the browser will also give you the ability to authenticate before autofilling fields.
- Microsoft has restored WSATools to the Microsoft Store – the app allows you to easily sideload APKs on Windows 11
- Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) Preview version 0.50.2 is now live with a logo featuring an familiar mascot and an updated Linux kernel
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has received ray tracing, DLSS, FSR, and more on PC
Microsoft has noted that Intel’s Smart Sound Technology (SST) is causing BSODs on some Windows 11 PCs, a compatibility hold will be applied until you update your drivers
Following backlash from the community, the new Whiteboard app will be replaced by the older UWP one
Microsoft will launch Teams Phone with Calling Plan for businesses in 2022
Under the spotlight
We have effectively wrapped up our Closer Look series for Windows 11 until Microsoft releases some new features worth covering in more detail. While the OS isn’t a home run, there is still a lot to love about it. You can read more about the top five features of Windows 11 that I really like. And be on the look out for five features I hate tomorrow!
This week, Asher had a look at the Xbox Series X version of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, and as you probably know by now, the game’s not a home run either, quite the opposite actually. There are a bunch of issues plaguing this release but on the brighter side, Rockstar Games has issued an apology, pledged to fix its latest release with updates, and promised to restore the classic versions of all three games.
Finally, if you have updated to Chrome 96 and want to enjoy Windows 11-style menus with rounded corners in the browser on Windows 10 or 11, check out Neowin’s handy and brief guide here.
This week’s most interesting item deals with Xbox chief Phil Spencer sharing his thoughts on the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in gaming. Simply stated, he’s not a fan and thinks that their use seems to be exploitative rather than something that can boost entertainment value. That said, the executive has not completely closed the door on incorporating NFTs in gaming, he just doesn’t like it in its current state of infancy.
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