Everything You Need to Know About Windows – September 2020
This month, Microsoft held the first part of its annual Ignite conference for IT professionals. The second part will be held in March 2021. So, let’s start with some of the noteworthy Windows news from the event.
Microsoft Ignite 2020
Most of this year’s Ignite conference was focused on Microsoft 365 and Azure. But nevertheless, there were some Windows announcements worth checking out.
Microsoft Edge coming to Linux, plus new features
Microsoft officially announced that a public preview of Edge for Linux will be available in October this year. Edge on Linux is largely intended for developers that want to test site compatibility without having to switch to Windows or macOS.
Microsoft also announced a couple of new Edge features, including native support for Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP), and the ability to roll back to a previous version of the browser if an update causes problems. If you use Edge to view PDFs, you will soon be able to view and validate certificate-based digital signatures. WebView2, the web component of Chromium-based Edge that developers can use to render web content in their apps, will be generally available for C/C++ and .NET before the year is out.
Say Goodbye to Traditional PC Lifecycle Management
Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.
Windows Virtual Desktop
The ongoing global pandemic is forcing companies to find more effectively ways to support remote working. And Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft’s Desktop-as-a-Service offering in Azure, is helping organizations quickly deploy secure remote desktops. At Ignite, Microsoft detailed four new features that will arrive this year:
- Windows 10 multisession SKU support in Microsoft Endpoint Manager (previously Configuration Manager)
- An Azure Monitor workbook that captures data to provide visualizations for assisting in identifying and troubleshooting problems faster
- Applications can be added to Windows 10 from the Azure portal to help organizations distribute apps within just a few clicks.
Starting this month, Cortana is getting some updates that will provide support for searching documents and writing quick emails in English in the US. Cortana can now also be activated using voice in English in the US and UK only. Next year, Cortana will see updates to help users arrange meetings more effectively.
Panos Panay wants you to ‘love and want’ Windows
In a conference session with Microsoft executives Brad Anderson and Panos Panay, Panay talked about his vision for Windows during the ongoing pandemic and said that he wanted ‘Windows to move from people needing it – to knowing they need it – to loving and wanting it.’ Panay added:
“That’s what we’re working towards – and there’s never been more investment in Windows than right now.”
Device provisioning moves from on-premises labs to the cloud
Anderson, who is responsible for Commercial Management Experiences, said that the challenge is to move processes for provisioning new devices from on-premises labs to the cloud. He added:
“Let’s take provisioning, management and security and operate these functions from cloud services – that is where the future lies.”
Support for Adobe Flash Player ending on Edge and Internet Explorer 11
Back in July 2017, Microsoft and Adobe announced that Flash Player would no longer be supported after December 2020. Adobe decided to end support for Flash Player because modern alternatives, like HTML5 and WebGL, have taken over in recent years. Microsoft will end support for Flash Player in Internet Explorer (IE) 11, and the Edge legacy and Chromium-based browsers.
For customers that need help moving line-of-business applications away from Flash Player to other technologies, or that require continued support, Adobe is suggesting that enterprises contact its official distribution licensing partner HARMAN. Customers can discuss support options beyond December 31st 2020.
Adobe says that HARMAN has ‘a long-standing history as a Flash partner, maintains knowledge of the platform and ecosystem, and is well-positioned to support our enterprise customers through this transition given more than a decade of experience.’
You can find out more about Flash Player end of life on Adobe’s website here.
September Patch Tuesday Windows 10 update breaks WSL2
The big new feature for developers in the Windows 10 May 2020 Update was Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2. But Microsoft promptly broke it with a cumulative update (KB4571756) this month. The problem only seems to affect users that also have the Hyper-V role installed. You can find a discussion here on GitHub from users experiencing the issue.
Windows 10 servicing could move to one feature update a year
According to a report by ZDNet and Petri’s Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft might move to releasing one Windows 10 feature update a year instead of the current biannual cadence. The idea is to boost development of Windows 10X by making more engineers available. Foley says that Microsoft is aiming for a spring 2021 release of Windows 10X.
As I wrote in July’s edition, Microsoft has apparently dropped Win32 app support from Windows 10X because the container technology used, VAIL, affects performance too much on low-end devices. VAIL could come back to Windows 10X, although not until 2022 or later.
If Microsoft does move to one feature update a year, Windows 10 20H2 will be the last fall update. And version 21H1 will be the only major release next year, bringing with it the code required for Windows 10X SKUs. IT departments shouldn’t sing hallelujah too soon, as none of this has made it to an official announcement just yet.
Windows Insider preview builds
Microsoft released Windows 10 build 19042.508 in early September. At the time, Microsoft said it believed it to be the final build for the Windows 10 October 2020 Update (20H2). The build was released to Insiders on the Release Preview Channel for pre-release validation. Microsoft is also preparing to roll out the October 2020 Update automatically to users on the Beta Channel.
But later in the month, Microsoft rolled out another update to 20H2, build 19042.541. The new build includes a raft of fixes, which you can find listed on Microsoft’s website here.
Insiders on the Dev channel also got several builds this month. Here are some of the highlights.
- The Windows 10 emoji picker gets an updated design, inline search, and GIF support
- Voice typing is a new and improved version of Windows dictation. The improvements bring a modern design, auto-punctuation, and an updated backend for a more reliable experience. It can be invoked by pressing WIN+H
- The touch keyboard design has been updated for some Insiders
- Users can now attach and mount a physical disk inside WSL 2 distros, essentially letting users access Linux disks on dual-boot systems from inside Windows
- Some Insiders are getting a new Skype ‘Meet Now’ button on the taskbar
- Your Phone now lets users pin notifications so that they don’t get lost
- Storage health monitoring detects hardware abnormalities in NVMe SSDs and notifies users so that they have enough time to act
Windows Server vNext preview
As Microsoft prepares the release of Windows Server 2021, this month saw the release of preview build 20206. In addition to last month’s build, the first where we were provided with a list of new features, build 20206 brings:
- SMB compression is now available with the robocopy and xcopy command line tools and the /compress If the destination device also supports SMB compression, file transfers should see significant performance improvements. Up-to-date Windows Server 2019 and Windows 10 devices already support compression. Windows Server vNext brings the tools so that admins can make use of it.
- AES-256 for SMB encryption and signing. When connecting to another device, Windows will automatically negotiate AES-256-GCM and AES-256-CCM if the device supports it. AES-256 can be enforced using Group Policy.
- SMB Direct over RMDA networks now supports encryption. Microsoft says in this release that data is encrypted before placement, resulting in a minor performance tradeoff in exchange for AES-256 packet encryption.
- Storage Spaces Direct get encryption for east-west communications within the cluster for improved security.
- Storage Migration Services gets Azure File Sync (AFS) Tiering support.
That’s it for another month!