Category Archives: Insider stuff

Weird Full-Screen RDP Effect

I still use Windows 10 on my production desktop, but I run half-a-dozen instances of Windows 11 right now. Lately, I’ve noticed that with screen size expanded to fit the left-hand monitor — but not maximized — I get a weird full-screen RDP effect. I lose the start menu at the bottom of the screen. As I said: weird!

What Is the Weird Full-Screen RDP Effect?

The lead-in graphic for this story shows what I’m talking about from the Start Menu perspective. Up top, we see a Windows 10 Start Menu that surprisingly shows up at the bottom of a “full-screen” Windows 11 RDP window. When I hit the maximize  button at upper right, the lower (and normal) Windows 11 start menu appears. (Note: I selected “left” alignment in the Task Manager options to make it show up there for purposes of comparison and contrast).

Needless to say, when I don’t notice this and click on the full-screen Windows 10 menu, it doesn’t do anything to the Windows 11 RDP window above. This is disconcerting, to say the least. At worst, I start thinking I’ve got problems and start unnecessary troubleshooting actions. Sigh.

Why/How Did This Weirdness Present?

For some reason, this happened to me the last time I updated the Nvidia driver on my production PC. It’s now running version 516.93, installed last week. After the install completed, all the open windows moved to the right-hand (primary) monitor. That’s normal. But what’s different is that maximized RDP windows changed “auto-magically” to full-screen (but not maximized) layouts. That led me to the source of confusion when I dragged those full-screen windows to the secondary (left-hand) monitor.

Again: Weird! But by looking very closely at what I was seeing, I eventually figured out what was going on. Now I make sure to click the maximize button when using RDP. That way, I see the maximized RDP session controls at the top of the screen (see below) and know that the start menu at bottom is the start menu I want to work within that window.

Weird Full-Screen RDP Effect.controls

And that, dear readers, is how things sometimes go in Windows-world. As JRRT put it “All that glitters is not gold; not all those who wander are lost.” I wandered a bit, but ultimately figured out what was weird and why.

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Build 25169 Gains Spotlight Background

Windows Spotlight is a gorgeous collection of nearly 2K images that MS brings to OS users. It appears by default in the hidden local app data folder associated with your login account (see below for a full path spec). Thus, it’s always available to those who know where to find it. But, starting right now, Dev Channel Build 25169 gains Spotlight background option in Settings → Personalization → Themes. It also shows up at the top of the Personalization pane, as shown in the lead-in graphic above. It’s boxed in red at the upper right corner of the six theme tabs showing there. Its mouseover text reads “Windows Spotlight, rotating background images.”

When Build 25169 Gains Spotlight Background Variety Folllows

The range and coverage of the Spotlight collection includes reams of nature photography, plus all kinds of other arresting images of great visual interest. Thus, the collection is worth exploring just to see and appreciate what’s there.

Find it at the following path specification (broken across multiple lines for readability: if you cut’n’paste to navigate there, you may need to paste it back together first):

C:\Users\<Account-name>\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ContentDeliveryManager_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState\Assets

Please note: you’ll need to replace the place holder in the preceding string shown as <Account-name>. Use the label associated with your current logged-in account. In my case that’s “etitt” (a truncation of “etittel”). YMMV.

I Win at the Gradual Rollout Game, for Once!

Though the 25169 announcement is mum on this topic, 3rd-party reports on the Spotlight background option indicate that it’s another gradual rollout from MS. That means some Dev Channel users will see it on their desktops, while others won’t. To my astonishment and delight it showed up on my Dev Channel test PCs.

For once, I seem to have been included in the first wave of lucky participants. Good-oh!

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Updating Dolby Audio X2

On some of my Lenovo systems, one specific file often shows up in the Software Update Monitor (SUMo) in need of a newer version. It’s named dolbydax2desktopui.exe . According to Lenovo, it’s part of the Dolby Audio X2 system (DAX2) and comes preloaded on some of its PCs. Updating this Dolby Audio X2 file has been problematic, because a file source and update method have been unclear. No longer!

Updating Dolby Audio X2 Is Easy, If You Know How…

Most software updates require … well … an update of some kind to be applied. Not so for this particular file. One simply needs to overwrite the older version with a newer one in its default path:

C:\Program Files\Dolby\Dolby DAX2\DAX2_APP\

Of course, this raises an interesting question — namely, where might one find current versions of this file? I finally found them at a website named pconlife.com, which describes itself as “aimed at recovering the .dll or .exe file lost by Windows OS for computer users.” In general it seeks to help users replace lost, missing or damaged Windows files. For me, it’s shown itself to be a safe and reliable source of current versions of the afore-named DAX2 file. (Note: VirusTotal gives this file a 0/68 finding on its comparative checks).

Now, when SUMo tells me I need to update this file, I know where to go to get its specified version. I also know how to “update” that file. Choosing “Copy and Replace” in Explorer when seeking to over-write its predecessor does the trick nicely, thanks very much!

Yet Again, Persistence Pays Off

Learning how to keep Windows apps and components current is mostly a matter of routine. But for some things — this DAX2 item is a good example — one has to figure out how to do that, and where to get new versions as they appear. It’s easier when the vendor or maker provides an update package (and easier still when applying that package can be automated). But with enough investigation and elbow grease, these problems can be cracked over time. I’m glad to have this one finally made routine as well.

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Store Reinstall Solves Stuck Terminal

Interesting! As is my usual practice, I just installed KB5015882, the upcoming CU preview. It targets production Windows 11, and takes it to Build 22000.832. After that update and restart, I noticed two things. First, this PC was still running the old Windows Terminal version. Second, Windows Store offered me an upgrade for same, but it got stuck during the process. After forcibly closing Store, and returning to the same page, a Store reinstall solves stuck Terminal once and for all. Deets follow, and a general approach to app repair.

Praise Be! Store Reinstall Solves Stuck Terminal

To begin with, when I ran Windows Terminal, I noticed it was still running an old version (no access to Settings, nor various supported command line environments). When I visited the Store, and searched on “Windows Terminal” its app page hung while trying to upgrade that very tool. So I terminated the whole shebang by clicking the close button at upper right.

Just for grins, I ran winget upgrade --all. It did not upgrade my Windows Terminal install, though it found and updated numerous other items successfully. Go figure!

Then, I opened the Microsoft Store again. I repeated my search on “Windows Terminal.” Lo and behold, it offered an Install button this time. When I clicked that option, it downloaded and installed the latest version. As you can see from the lead-in graphic above, the result was a current version of Windows Terminal, which runs PowerShell version 7.2.5 by default. Fixed!

When Windows Apps Get Wonky…

When apps start going sideways, I go through a drill to clean them up. This drill consists of the following steps:

    1. Visit the Store, look up the app and see what it offers. Apply any resulting upgrades or installs. If this doesn’t work, go on to
    2. Use PowerShell and Winget to find the name of the package for the app in question. Here,  winget list terminal reports that name is Microsoft.WindowsTerminal.
    3. You can use winget to uninstall, then reinstall the package as follows:
      winget uninstall Microsoft.WindowsTerminal. Then,
      winget install Microsoft.WindowsTerminal
      will install the current version.

Most of the time — as in this instance — if the Store offers options, they will usually suffice to fix app issues. Steps 2 and 3 are only needed when the app itself is somehow damaged or corrupt.

Put this in your bag of Windows 10 and 11 tricks. It could come in handy someday!

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KB5015684 Provides Quick Windows 10 22H2 Upgrade

Here’s an interesting item. Turns out that MS has made KB5015684 available through its update servers. Thanks to the team at DeskModder.de you can find x86, x64 and ARM64 versions of either .CAB or .MSU files. All have links of the form https://catalog.s.download.windowsupdate.com/c/upgr/2022/07/windows10.0-kb5015684-xxx.cab or .msu. They must be legit, right? Hence my claim that KB501864 provides quick Windows 10 22H2 upgrade.

I just ran it on my production Windows 10 PC, and it went through without hitch or glitch. Completed in under 2 minutes, including download, install and reboot time, too. May be worth a try for those with Windows 10 PCs not expected to elevate to Windows 11 soon (or ever). So far, I see no discernable changes in look, feel, or behavior — just a new Build number 19045 (vs. 19044). Same minor extension as before, in fact: 1826.

What KB501864 Provides Quick Windows 10 22H2 Upgrade Really Means

Two things:
1. MS is getting close enough to a 22H2 public release for a preview to go out.
2. The code for the 22H2 release is stable enough to start it through the Windows Insider program.
Note: I didn’t have to join the Insider program to install this update, which appears as a “Quality Update” in Update History. The Windows Insider Program page on this PC, post-update, does NOT show itself as “joined-up” either. So one need not be concerned that applying the update automagically changes the PC’s status to that of an Insider machine. That’s a relief!

I ran the .MSU x64 version of the upgrade, simply because a self-installing update file is a little easier to apply than CAB files can sometimes be. You can find all links in the original Deskmodder.de article (6 files in all). It might be a good idea to apply this upgrade to test machines with some caution, if you’re concerned about possible unwanted side effects. That didn’t stop (or hurt) me on this PC, though…

If you’re interested, have at it. Cheers!

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Windows 11 Dev Channel Upgrades Itself

Well, then. I’ve just returned from a week-long absence to visit my son’s chosen college in Boston. Today is my first work day back in the office since July 15. Imagine my surprise and delight when I see that my two Dev Channel test machines upgraded themselves without issue while I was gone. Indeed, that explains my claim that Windows 11 Dev Channel upgrades itself to Build 25163.1010.

If Windows 11 Dev Channel Upgrades Itself, What Then?

Less worry and work for me is always good. And it’s great to observe that Windows 11 can handle itself well. That goes double, when I’m not around to babysit the upgrade process. In fact, my current observations tell me that recent,  ongoing Dev Channel upgrades have been fast, easy and relatively trouble-free.

There’s always a potential jinx when stating claims like the preceding one on the record. I’m prepared to deal with what might be coming my way. I’m still in the habit of making an image backup after each and every upgrade, and regular, periodic backups besides. That way, should I shoot myself in the foot (or Windows 11 do that for me) I’m ready to roll back and recover with minimum effort.

What Update History Has to Say…

On the X12 Hybrid and the X380 Yoga, the number of Feature Updates in Update History is 19, as far back as February 24,  2022. That’s 19 upgrades over 22 weeks. Do the math, and it comes to once every 8.05 days.

I can recall only one or two issues that came along during this period that slowed down or stymied backup. I did have to reset WU on the X12 Hybrid at one point. I also recall having to download and install an ISO on each machine at least once (or perhaps twice) during this time frame.

Overall, though, even though the Dev Channel builds are as close to “the bleeding edge” as MS lets Insider Program members get, it’s been a mostly positive and pleasant experience. Though plenty of people have beefs with Windows 11, I am NOT one of them. I think it’s a good OS. It’s also almost far enough along that enterprises should really start looking at (and planning for) large-scale migrations. When the Windows 11 22H2 Upgrade appears in coming months, that would be an excellent signal to get upgrade/migration testing and pilot programs underway.

It’s long been traditional for Windows users in businesses to wait for “the next upgrade” after a new OS emerges before getting serious about migration. In view of that history, the upcoming release of 22H2 says it’s time to get ready. My experience with all versions of Windows 11 so far argues that migration should be relatively painless. Time will tell!

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Build 25158 Camera App Reworked

The latest Dev Channel build includes a new iteration of the venerable Camera app. Indeed, in Build25158 Camera app reworked includes a brand-new, much sparser interface with simplified controls. No settings at all, in fact, as far as I can tell.

If Build 25158 Camera App Reworked, Then What?

Contrast that look and feel from the lead-in image with the Windows 10 version (from higher up in the same baker’s rack in my office). Settings are shown this time at left in the following screencap.

Build 25158 Camera App Reworked.win10-compare

Am I wrong to see the lack of more detailed controls as a loss of capability? [Click image for full-sized view.]

Indeed, most image manipulation is a post-processing task. But I occasionally found it useful to use some of the various controls that the old Camera app made available but which — as far as I can tell — the new Camera app does not. Particularly, the framing grid for image selection and layout help, and the photo quality and aspect ratio controls. To me, this turns the new camera into a more limited, image grab only, kind of function. It’s OK, but it’s not as flexible as the older version.

Running Against the Grain

This is kind of interesting, because most of the new-version or reworked apps showing up in Windows 11 include added functionality and capability, rather than a reduction in same. Favorite example: the sometimes elusive tab feature in File Explorer. Although it has turned into something of a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t phenom in recent Dev and Beta Channel builds, I do like it and think it represents a useful (if not long overdue) extension to what that tool can do.

The camera changed are described in a a July 13 Windows Blog. It does apparently gain improved QR and barcode scanning. The biggest accolade reads “match the beautiful new look and feel of Windows 11.” It says nothing about the banishment of Settings and related controls. Go figure!

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Choose Reflect Backup Drives Carefully

I’m a HUGE fan of Macrium Reflect. Available in both free and for-a-fee forms, I’m convinced it’s the best Windows image backup tool available today. Disclosure: I run both free and fee-based versions, and own a Home 4-Pack license that I upgrade as new versions are released. I was reminded to choose Reflect backup drives carefully yesterday, when I targeted an older USB 3 drive with mSATA SSD devices under its hood. Let me explain…

Why Say: Choose Reflect Backup Drives Carefully?

Because the read and write speeds of the underlying device and the speed of the channel (USB 3.1 in my case here) matter. In fact, they strongly affect the time it takes to complete a whole-image backup. In targeting an mSATA device that backup took nearly 40 minutes to complete.

I’m making the same backup right now, and targeting a PCIe x3 NVMe SSD in a Sabrent USB-C enclosure right now. As you can see from the lead-in graphic, Macrium Reflect currently guesstimates it will take 19 minutes to complete. That’s just over 50% faster than the mSATA number, or about 20 minutes overall.

If such a task is running in the background, and can complete whenever it’s done, that doesn’t matter much. But if, as in my case, I was waiting on completion to do something else, it matters a lot.

And There’s More…

While watching the NVMe and mSATA image backups proceed, I noticed another difference. The transfer rate for the two backups not only differed but so did their variability. The NVMe device kept getting faster as it proceeded. It ranged from a low of 1.1 Gbps to a high of 1.8 Gbps. The mSATA device started out at around 600 Mbps, It dropped as low as 220 Mbps, and as high as 1.0 Gbps during the course of the backup process.

Upon completion, Reflect also shared other stats worth noting. The overall read rate for the mSATA device was reported at 1.6 Gbps, while its write rate came in at a less stellar 550 Mbps. On the NVMe device, the overall read rate was 6.6 Gbps, and the write rate 1.9 Gbps. That’s a BIG difference, and explains the title for this story. Yes, these numbers appear inflated because they take compression into account. But those are the numbers that Reflect reports, and they do underscore the importance of device read/write speeds.

Note: Actual time for the NVMe backup was 19:31, while actual time for the mSATA backup was 39:52.

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Build 25158 Gains DNS Over TLS Support

Earlier this week, MS released Build 25158 into the Dev Channel. Among the many notes in this build’s announcements, you’ll find an item that starts off “DNS over TLS testing is now available for Windows DNS client query protection.” Thus, when Build 25158 gains DNS over TLS support, that means improved security for DNS traffic on networks everywhere. Given that DNS is a constant focus for direct and indirect attack, this is a good thing. So, how can you try this new feature out?

Putting Build 25158 Gains DNS Over TLS Support to Work

For brevity and convenience, DNS over TLS is usually abbreviated as DoT. Two ingredients are needed to take DoT for a spin:

1. You need to point your IP stack at a DoT DNS server. You’ll find a list of same at the DNS Privacy Project. It provided the lead-in graphic for this story, in fact. For the nonce, I’m using Google’s 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 addresses (and associated domain names for certificate authentication). There are several other options available.

2. A series of configuration tweaks, including Settings changes, and netsh and ipconfig commands, are required to set this up and make it work. Fortunately, all those details are covered in an MS Networking Blog post entitled “DNS over TLS available to Windows Insiders.” Therein, Tommy Jensen provides nicely illustrated step-by-step instructions to get you through the process.

More to Follow After Additional Try-Outs

I have two (2) test machines running Build 25158. I’ll try DoT on both of them, and let you know what happens. Mr. Jensen’s post on setting things up includes a potentially scary phrase. That is “This may result in a small performance improvement depending on the network environment at the cost of the flexibility HTTPS-based protocols can provide” (italic emphasis mine).

I’m afraid I know what this means. Indeed, I’ll be curious to see what’s still working — and what’s not — after experimenting with these changes. Given an upcoming out of office adventure, I might wait until week after next to put this to a real test. Stay tuned! In the meantime, you might find this Wikipedia article about DoT worth a quick read-through (good discussion and lots of good additional references there).

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A-Volute Software Component Mystery Solved

Oho! Yesterday was Patch Tuesday for July. Thus, I’ve been working through my stable of PCs, applying updates as I can. On my Ryzen 5800X Windows 11 desktop, I noticed something new and mysterious. Its MUC (Microsoft Update Catalog) entry provides the lead-in graphic for this story. Upon conducting research, this A-Volute software component mystery solved itself immediately.

How Is A-Volute Software Component Mystery Solved?

As with most such things, a quick trip to Google helps point me in the right direction. It turns out that A-Volute provides drivers for the Asrock B550’s audio circuitry. This also includes support for an Nh3 Audio Effects Component. It pops up under Software Components in Device Manager:

A-Volute Software Component Mystery Solved.dev-mgr-props

Googling online points me to a Realtek-related (Nahimic) audio driver, with matching entry in DevMgr. [Click for full-size view.]

I first found a credible mention of this at TenForums.  It appears in a thread on which I myself have been active. ( It’s entitled “Latest Realtek HD Audio Driver.”) Next, I find an entry named “A-Volute Nh3 Audio Effects Component” inside Device Manager. Presto! That convinces me the mystery is no longer unsolved.

I like to run things down when something new shows up amidst Patch Tuesday updates. It came along for the ride because MS  provides drivers as well as OS and other related updates. In most corporate or production IT environments, this doesn’t happen. Why not? Because untested drivers pose too many potential problems to simply let them through on their own.

Deconstructing Windows Mysteries

In general, when something new or unexpected shows up in Windows, it’s worth the effort to identify it. In most cases, it will be benign — as it was with this item. But sometimes, the mystery might deepen. Or it might even point to something malicious or malign. That’s when remediation comes into play. I’m happy that wasn’t needed this time. I’ll still keep my eye on new stuff going forward, though. One never knows when something wicked might this way come.

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