New Privacy Tools in Windows 10 Insider Builds

Microsoft has given Windows Insiders a look at the new Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer program that will be released with the next release of Windows 10. This allows greater transparency for Windows 10 users into the diagnostic data that is sent from your device as well as what data that is stored in relation to your device. Windows telemetry has been a big point for a lot of people hesitant to install the OS, and this is one more step in keeping things transparent for those users.

We’ve updated the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard with a new Activity History page which provides a clear and easy to navigate way to see the data that is saved with your Microsoft account. The Microsoft Privacy Dashboard allows you to manage your data and change what data is collected by adjusting the privacy settings on your device or browser at any time.

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Build 17083 For Fast Ring Insiders

For those Windows 10 Fast Ring Insiders, a new build has been unleashed – Build 17083. A lot of new things in this build, as well as a lot of fixes. As usual, check the known issues for anything that might be a show stopper for you.

Known issues

  • If you have a VPN client installed via the Microsoft Store, it won’t work after upgrading to this build. If you require your VPN client to work – you might consider holding off taking this new build.
  • If you install a font product from the Microsoft Store, then later install a new build (feature update), the Store package will remain installed, but the fonts within the package are not installed. Until this is fixed, the temporary workaround is to uninstall the product from the Apps page in Settings, then re-acquire the product from the Store.
  • When users try to create a Microsoft Edge InPrivate window from inside a Mixed Reality headset, a regular window will get created instead. Users won’t be able to use InPrivate inside Mixed Reality in this build. InPrivate on desktop is not affected.
  • We’re preparing for the inclusion of OpenSSH Server as a deployment mechanism in Developer Mode. However, the UI code got checked in ahead of the components, and so while there is a “Use OpenSSH (Beta) for remote deployment” switch in the UI under Settings, it won’t work, and turning it on will break remote deployment to that device until the switch is turned off.
  • Audio playback from Microsoft Edge is sometimes unexpectedly muted. A workaround is to minimize Edge, count to three, and then unminimize.
  • We’re investigating reports that Win32 apps pinned to Start have blank live tiles that show only a name starting with “W~”.
  • We’re investigating an issue where using Task View to switch to an app might result in touch not working properly in that app. If you encounter this, restarting explorer.exe will fix it.
  • The link for “Advanced display settings” is missing in Display Settings. If you need to access this dialog for now you’ll need to open Run and run “rundll32 display.dll,ShowAdapterSettings 0”.
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Build 17074 for Windows 10 Fast Ring Released

A new Windows 10 build heads to the fast ring. This time, it’s build 17074. As with the last flight, there is a block for AMD processors at this time. Be sure to read the known issues before installing, in case there is a show stopper in there for your specific case.

Known issues

  • When users try to create a Microsoft Edge InPrivate window from inside a Mixed Reality headset, a regular window will get created instead. Users won’t be able to use InPrivate inside Mixed Reality in this build. InPrivate on desktop is not affected.

  • We’re preparing for the inclusion of OpenSSH Server as a deployment mechanism in Developer Mode. However the UI code got checked in ahead of the components, and so while there is a “Use OpenSSH (Beta) for remote deployment” switch in the UI under Settings, it won’t work, and turning it on will break remote deployment to that device until the switch is turned off.

  • When you open Task View immediately after an upgrade, Timeline may not be visible. If you encounter this, wait 15-30 minutes and try launching Task View again.

  • The Windows Defender icon is missing from the systray, even if it shows as enabled in Settings.

  • Certain devices may hang on the boot screen after upgrading. If this happens to you, go into the BIOS and disable virtualization.

  • Apps that come preinstalled with Windows may fail to update in the Store with error 0x80073CF9.

  • Audio playback from Microsoft Edge is sometimes unexpectedly muted. A workaround is to minimize Edge, count to three, and then unminimize.

  • Upgrading to 17063 or later builds sometimes causes Settings / Privacy / Microphone, Camera, etc. to flip to “disabled”, which breaks camera and microphone access. A workaround is to manually turn them back on.

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Windows 8 Mainstream Support Ends

Mainstream support for Windows 8 & 8.1 ended yesterday without much fanfare. Windows 8 has low market share (around 8% according to NetMarketShare), but there are still people out there using it. Although the extended support still allows security updates, it does not give non-security updates.

Here is more detail on what the different security phases define as support:

Mainstream Support

Mainstream Support is the first phase of the product lifecycle. At the supported service pack level, Mainstream Support for products and services includes:

  • Incident support (no-charge incident support, paid incident support, support charged on an hourly basis, support for warranty claims)
  • Security update support
  • The ability to request nonsecurity updates

NOTE: Enrollment in a maintenance program may be required to receive these benefits for certain products.

Extended Support

The Extended Support phase follows Mainstream Support for business, developer, and desktop operating system products. At the supported service pack level, Extended Support includes:

  • Paid support4
  • Security update support at no additional cost
  • Nonsecurity related updates requires Extended Hotfix Support to be purchased (per-fix fees also apply).5
    Extended Hotfix Support is not available for desktop operating system consumer products. More details are available here.
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New Bing Features Include Flight Status, Entertainment, and Sports

Bing has added some new features that are pretty cool. Flight Status allows you to search a flight before leaving to the airport to pick someone up or to just check the status of the flight. Also, you can search for various entertainment, TV, and movie information. There is even a way to check out sports playoffs. As with in the past, there are Bing predictions that show who Bing predicts will win the game. I wouldn’t place your bets quite yet, though!

Checking flight status can be a hassle, whether you’re rushing to pick someone up from arrivals, or if you’re in a terminal and want to check that your flight details haven’t changed.

Bing’s new tracking feature alleviates this by letting you look up flight statuses, even when you don’t have the airline or flight number on hand. Simply search by city name or airport code, and Bing pulls the results for you across airlines.

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Open a Command Prompt/Powershell Prompt at Folder Location

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Many times, you are browsing folders and find a console style program that you’d like to run, but would like to do it from the command prompt itself, or from the Powershell prompt. Rather than opening the CMD.EXE or Powershell prompt and navigating to the folder you’ve already opened, you can open the prompt very easily. Here is how.

1. Navigate to the folder you’d like. If you right click within the folder, you get the following menu. Notice it does not allow you to open a prompt.

 

 

2. Now, hold right shift and then right click within the folder. Notice the new menu option “Open Powershell window here” (some older versions may say “Open Command Prompt window here”).

 

 

 

3. When the prompt opens, it will already be at the folder location, ready to run the program or script and give you more verbose output without closing the prompt that is typical of running scripts from a window.

 

 

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Show Windows Side by Side; Stacked; Cascade

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Manipulating windows within Windows 10 is pretty simple. If you have multiple windows open and you want to make things easier to read, or to stack them to make them easier to find, you can have Windows do the work for you. Here are 3 different configurations that you can do to make manipulating windows easier:

 

Stacked Windows

1. Have at least 2 windows open. Right click the task bar and select Show windows stacked.

 

 

 

 

Side by Side Windows

1. Have at least 2 windows open. Right click the task bar and select Show windows side by side.

 

 

 

 

Cascading Windows

1. Have at least 2 windows open. Right click the task bar and select Cascade windows.

 

 

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Alexa on Windows 10 PC’s

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Lately there has been a lot of talk about the death of Cortana as a virtual assistant. From removing the AI assistant from Microsoft Dynamics to a partnership with Amazon and their Alexa assistant. While I don’t think this is going to be the end of Cortana, I think that Alexa on the desktop alongside Microsoft’s Cortana will cause some confusion. Brad Sams takes a look at the new HP Wave PC with built in Alexa and mentions something similar. It’s still early and their integration may end up being a good combination.

If you are looking for Alexa to control your PC, that doesn’t appear to be possible yet as it only operates within its current ecosystem. What this means is that searching your PC is still done with Cortana which puts you in an awkward situation of using two different assistants on the same piece of hardware.

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Performance Impact of Spectre and Meltdown Mitigations

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Over the past week or so, there has been a lot of talk about the big, bad vulnerabilities called Spectre and Meltdown. For many, getting the patches out and the problem mitigated is the highest priority. However, there are many out there that are worried about the impact on performance with these latest patches.

Terry Myerson has put up a blog post addressing these worries. For those with CPU’s older than a couple years old, you may have a noticeable impact on system performance. For those with newer CPU’s, there will be an impact, but it will be much less noticeable, if at all.

Here is the summary of what we have found so far:

  • With Windows 10 on newer silicon (2016-era PCs with Skylake, Kabylake or newer CPU), benchmarks show single-digit slowdowns, but we don’t expect most users to notice a change because these percentages are reflected in milliseconds.
  • With Windows 10 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), some benchmarks show more significant slowdowns, and we expect that some users will notice a decrease in system performance.
  • With Windows 8 and Windows 7 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), we expect most users to notice a decrease in system performance.
  • Windows Server on any silicon, especially in any IO-intensive application, shows a more significant performance impact when you enable the mitigations to isolate untrusted code within a Windows Server instance. This is why you want to be careful to evaluate the risk of untrusted code for each Windows Server instance, and balance the security versus performance tradeoff for your environment.

For context, on newer CPUs such as on Skylake and beyond, Intel has refined the instructions used to disable branch speculation to be more specific to indirect branches, reducing the overall performance penalty of the Spectre mitigation. Older versions of Windows have a larger performance impact because Windows 7 and Windows 8 have more user-kernel transitions because of legacy design decisions, such as all font rendering taking place in the kernel. We will publish data on benchmark performance in the weeks ahead.

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Several Windows Updates Blocked For AMD Users

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Microsoft released several security updates recently to protect against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. However, several of these caused some real issues with AMD powered systems. For now, Microsoft has paused the updates from being delivered to AMD systems. Intel powered systems are still receiving the updates.

“After investigating, Microsoft has determined that some AMD chipsets do not conform to the documentation previously provided to Microsoft to develop the Windows operating system mitigations to protect against the chipset vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown. To prevent AMD customers from getting into an unbootable state, Microsoft will temporarily pause sending the following Windows operating system updates to devices with impacted AMD processors at this time:

The updates include

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