Category Archives: Windows 11

Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer

On July 22, I noted that my Insider Preview test machine hadn’t yet received a Windows 11 upgrade offer. This, despite assertions that such an offer was “coming soon” raised my curiosity, if not my ire. “Where’s mine?” I asked in the covering tweet for that story. Turns out it was where everybody else’s was, too: nowhere (not here yet). But yesterday, July 29, MS opened the Windows 11 floodgates to the Beta Channel. Thus, like many others, I witnessed and participated as Beta Channel Insiders get Windows 11 offer.

If you check the lead graphic for this story above, you’ll see the Beta Channel status window at right. It appears alongside Winver.exe output left, that shows this PC running Windows 11.

When Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer, What Next?

Just for grins, I timed the download and install processes for the new OS. I’m guessing server demand was high, because both took some time to complete. Download took 14:42, and Install took another 28 minutes and a bit more. Normally, OS download occurs in 5 minutes or less. Of course, the installation time is all on the local PC, so the servers have nothing to do with that.

Reliability Monitor also shows 3 “Stopped working” errors just after installation completed, while post-install updates and clean-up were underway. These included:

  • FwdUpdateCmd: a Lenovo System Update Plug-in, which probably hasn’t been updated and/or vetted for Windows 11 yet.
  • UsoClient: shows a BEX64 error, which usually indicates some kind of issue with Outlook. Interesting, because I don’t have MS Office installed on that PC. Might be related to the built-in Office trial.
  • Audio device graph isolation (audiodg.exe) shows an APPCRASH error, with CX64APO.dll as the faulting module. I recognize this as related to the Conexant audio driver present on the X380 Yoga. This is probably a driver hiccup incident to installation. From what I can see in Driver Store Explorer (RAPR.exe), all the current drivers are now stable and correct.

As I’ve been doing with Windows 11 on Dev Channel PCs, I’ll continue to explore, play and learn. I remain favorably impressed with this new OS, and look forward to learning and doing more with it in the weeks and months ahead. And yes, I’m glad to finally have another upgrade show up through “official channels.”

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Vexing Windows 11 Antimalware Platform Update Issues

Right now, I have two PC dedicated to Windows 11 testing and learning. Just recently, I discovered some vexing Windows 11 Antimalware platform update issues. The short version is: one of my PCs is up-to-date. It’s no longer subject to Automatic Sample Submission reset to off following each restart. Alas, the other remains stubbornly stuck on an earlier Antimalware platform release. None of the update options available work, so I can’t get no relief. Let me explain…

Fighting Vexing Windows 11 Antimalware Platform Update Issues

First, let me be clear. This is a known and documented Windows 11 issue. It’s been around since the initial release hit. Indeed, a fix exists: when the Antimalware Platform version gets to 4.18.2107.4 or higher, the problem disappears. For the record that problem is depicted in this story’s lead-in graphic. After every reboot, the Automatic Sample Submission feature for virus uploads in Defender is turned off. The feature is easy to turn back on, until the next reboot. OCD OS maintainer that I am, the workaround isn’t enough for me. I want it fixed, for good, now.

Here’s the vexing part. WU hasn’t yet deigned to update the antimalware engine behind the scenes. Ditto for the Protection updates option in Windows Security. There’s a registry hack documented on a related ElevenForum thread. There’s even a manual Defender update download that’s supposed to take the Antimalware engine release to 1.2.2107.02. It comes in a file named defender-update-kit-x64.zip. Alas, inspection of said update file shows the Antimalware engine to be 4.18.2015.5. It’s too old to fix the issue, in other words. Thus, no relief just yet, shy of a permanent registry hack.

The Perils of Perfectionism

Yes, I could hack the registry to turn this off. But I’d have to unhack it again when the fix finally shows up on the X380 Yoga that’s affected. I’m going to have to wait for WU to get around to providing me the latest antimalware engine on its own, or find a newer manual update. Alas, that’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World. Oddly, I find myself hoping for a new Windows 11 build, in hopes the latest antimalware engine will be part of its contents. Stay tuned: I’ll let you know how all this shakes out.

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Next LTSC Is 21H2 Based: Windows 11 Follows Later

In a July 15 Windows Experience Blog post, MS VP John Cable writes that in “the second half of 2021” the next version of the Windows LTSC will hit. Here’s a quote: “…we will also launch the next version of the Windows 10 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) based on version 21H2 at the same time.” A recent “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session said a “next LTSC” after that would use Windows 11. Hence my assertion: the next LTSC is 21H2 based, Windows 11 follows later.

Next LTSC is 21H2 based Windows 11 Follows Later. How long?

Good question. Take a look at a list of LTSC Windows 10 releases. I include my guess for the upcoming one:

1. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2015 1507   07/29/2015
2. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2016 1607   08/02/2016
3. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019  1809   11/13/2018
4. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021  21H1   11/??/2021

The gaps vary. It starts with just over a year (1 → 2). The next is over 2 years (2 → 3). That latest goes up to around 3 years (3 → 4). Recent history argues it will likely hit in two or three years. A lot depends on features that Windows 11 offers and Windows 10 does not. Equally important: how much they matter for deployments likely to use the long-lived LTSC code base.

Why Use a Windows LTSC Release?

In its LTSC explainer in Microsoft Docs, MS works hard to distinguish LTSC from other release channels and to identify typical usage scenarios (italic text is quoted verbatim):

 Important

The Long-Term Servicing Channel is not intended for deployment on most or all the PCs in an organization. The LTSC edition of Windows 10 provides customers with access to a deployment option for their special-purpose devices and environments. These devices typically perform a single important task and don’t need feature updates as frequently as other devices in the organization. These devices are also typically not heavily dependent on support from external apps and tools. Since the feature set for LTSC does not change for the lifetime of the release, over time there might be some external tools that do not continue to provide legacy support. See LTSC: What is it, and when it should be used.

The latter document calls out a “key requirement … that functionality and features don’t change over time.” These include medical systems like those used in MRI and CAT scan devices, industrial process controllers, and air traffic control systems. All such systems are costly, complex, and relatively isolated from public networks.

My gut feel is a long wait doesn’t matter that much for LTSC deployments. Because they’re so specialized and focused. engineers will build around whatever’s available when they put LTSC to work. When it gets used, the Windows OS isn’t really important: the function and capabilities of the overall system in which LTSC is embedded is what really matters.

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Beta Channel Update Has Uncertain Timing

I always have troubles with patience. That goes double when I know a PC will run Windows 11, but hasn’t gotten the upgrade offer just yet. I’m talking about my second Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga unit. It had been on the Release Preview Channel. But two days ago, I bumped it up to the Beta Channel in hopes of getting the Windows 11 upgrade. Because this Beta Channel update has uncertain timing, I’m not sure when this PC will get the offer. Here’s the irony: I have a second, nearly identical X380 unit (they differ only in the SSD installed) that’s been running Windows 11 since Day 1 on the Dev Channel.

Does Trickle-out Mean Beta Channel Update Has Uncertain Timing?

As you can see in this story’s lead graphic, Beta Channel PCs should be getting “these Windows 11 builds…” So far, this particular X380 Yoga is hanging back on Windows 10, Build 19043.1149. I’m eager to get the machine onto the new OS, but I want to see how long this is going to take to happen.

My track record on such things is far from stellar. I’ve forcibly upgraded many machines to new Windows 10 versions when upgrade offers were slow to appear. That raises the question: Can I wait long enough for WU to do its thing? Or will I succumb to the fatal allure of instant upgrade and do it manually?

I do want to understand how things will work in the Beta Channel. But I’m having trouble waiting on the system to catch up with me. Let me try another reboot and see if that will help … goes off to make that happen … Nothing doing.

Stay tuned. I’ll be back (soon, I hope) to tell you that WU has come through, or to confess that my patience wore out and I used an ISO to perform an in-place upgrade to Windows 11. One way or the other, I’ll get there, I promise!

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Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence

Interesting news from the latest version of MIcrosoft’s Windows Lifecycle FAQ (updated July 24, 2021). It says upgrade frequency will change with Windows 11. No more semi-annual “feature updates” that characterized Windows 10 (e.g 20H1, 20H2, 21H1 and 21H2). Instead,  one such update/upgrade happens each year. Most likely, it will hit in October. That’s why I say that Windows 11 adopts annual upgrade cadence in this post’s title.

When Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence, What Else?

In the FAQ, we also get information about the servicing timeline for Windows 11 versions. Here’s a snapshot of the table clipped straight from the FAQ. It answers this question: “What is the servicing timeline for a version (feature update) of Windows 11?”

Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence.servicing

Business, education and IoT versions have a 3 year timeline; other versions get two years.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

What is a servicing timeline anyway?

As I understand it, this is the length of time that Microsoft will provide updates and enhancements for a particular Windows version or release. When that interval expires, PCs must update to a more current — and still-supported — version. Business, education and I0T versions benefit from a longer timeline. Consumer, end-user and SMB focused versions (Windows 11 Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations, and Home) get a shorter timeline with more frequent upgrades expected.

As the footnote says, Windows 10 Home “does not support … deferral of feature updates.” Thus, it will usually not hang around long enough to get forcibly  updated when an older version hits its planned obsolescence date.

Very Interesting! This should make things easier for everybody, especially for IT departments in larger organizations. They most adopt an “every other year” upgrade cadence anyway…

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Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan

Sometimes, I have to laugh at myself. Yesterday, in cleaning out my Downloads folder on a Windows 11 test PC, I noticed that clicking the Scissors icon didn’t delete selected files. Duh! That’s the job of the Trashcan icon, as I figured out a little later using mouseover tactics. By confusing Windows 11 scissors and trashcan icons, I showed myself that minor mistakes can stymie routine file handling tasks. Sigh.

If Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan, What Next?

Before I figured out my category/identification error, I found another quick workaround to delete files. By clicking “More options” at the bottom of the first right-click menu, another more familiar menu appears. It’s more or less the Windows 10 menu transplanted into Windows 11, like so:

Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan.more-options

A second menu has the familiar text entry to make my choice more obvious: Delete appears three up from the bottom.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As is nearly always the case in Windows (including 11), there’s more than one way to get things done. When one fails (or operator error leads to unwanted outcomes), another way can lead to success. My next step would be to turn to the command line, had this alternate path not led to the desired results. It’s always good to keep working at things until they get solved. That goes double when my silly mixup led to an initial lack of success.

As I learn new UIs and tools, this kind of thing happens from time to time. Call them Windows follies or funnies if you like. For me, it’s just another day, and another lesson learned, here in Windows-World!

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Are Over Half-a-Billion Windows 7 PCs Still In Use?

The old saying goes: “The numbers don’t lie.” Alas, I’ve been messing with numbers long enough to know that they don’t always capture the whole truth, either. Please indulge me for a moment, while I make a case for the size of the Windows 7 PC population. Warning! That case leads to the question that headlines this item: Are over half-a-billion Windows 7 PCs still in use? Sounds a bit high, as numbers go, so I’ll lay my reasoning out.

Why Ask: Are Over Half-a-Billion Windows 7 PCs Still in Use?

According to NetMarketShare.com, the platform version numbers for Windows 10 stand at 57.85% of desktops, versus 24.79% for Windows 7. MS has recently asserted that 1.3B active monthly users run Windows 10. Using that as a baseline, I calculate that if this number is accurate, there must be just over 557M Windows 7 PCs in use by proportion. How many of these are VMs, and how many are physical PCs is anybody’s guess.

Let’s say that 2 of 3 Windows 7 instances run on physical PCs just for grins. That would mean 557M Windows 7 OS instances translate into around 371 million devices running this now-obsolete OS. Recall that EOL for Windows 7 hit on January 14, 2020, 10.25 years after it debuted on October 22, 2009. These machines will be prime candidates for Windows 10 upgrades, because in all likelihood most of them will be unable to meet Windows 11 hardware requirements.

Another Question Comes to Mind…

As I tweeted last Friday, this raises another question. That question is: Will Windows 11 hardware requirements spur an uptick in Windows 10 installs, as older Windows 7 PCs get a “last and final” upgrade? Personally, I’m inclined to believe the answer is “Yes.”

Here are my reasons for so believing:
1. Because Windows 10 EOL is October 14, 2025, that buys time for home and business (mostly small business) users to save up for a hardware refresh to make themselves Windows 11-ready.
2. It reflects common practice in upgrading, where many users — again, especially those in  SMBS — deliberately trail the leading edge of Windows releases in the name of improved stability, reliability and understanding.
3. It’s always easier and cheaper (at least, in terms of current cash flow) to defer upgrades and hardware purchases until later, rather than to act sooner. That said, it gives more time for planning, lets others do the hard work of pioneering, and offers greater comfort in making changes at a time of the buyer’s choosing.

How all this actually plays out remains to be seen. If my numbers have any bearing on what’s out there in the real world, things could get interesting. I have to believe the big OEMs — Lenovo, Dell, HP, and other players (Acer, Asus, LG, and so forth) — are pondering this closely and carefully. I’m betting that PC sales will remain strong until 2026 and beyond, though probably not at pandemic levels, as the workplace returns to more customary modes of operation. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.

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Surface Pro 3 Gets 21H2 Feature Update

OK, then. The Windows release environment has now forked. Those PCs running the Release Preview version of Windows 10  can go one of two ways. Those who don’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements get an upgrade to 20H2 (Build 19044.1147) . The others get an invite to upgrade to Windows 11. Because my 2014 vintage Surface PC  falls into the first category, that Surface Pro 3 gets 21H2 feature update. The lead-in graphic provides more info, from Settings → System → About.

If Surface Pro 3 Gets 21H2 Feature Update, Then What?

This reminds me that Windows 10 has a planned life until October 2025. That’s 50 months from now, not counting July 2021 in the tally (50.35 months, countlng the 11 days remaining in this month). I find myself reconsidering hanging onto the old but still reliable SP3 as a way to keep up with Windows 10 even as most of my PC fleet switches over to Windows 11 later this year.

Other businesses and organizations may find themselves forced to straddle this fork, too. That’s because not everyone will be able to replace older hardware right away to make themselves Windows 11 ready.

Life on the Trailing Edge of Technology

If my experience with many small businesses is any indicator, Windows 11 will probably provide a wake-up call to those still running Windows 7. At least, most such systems will upgrade to Windows 10 and can keep running until October 14, 2025 when Windows 10 End-of-Life hits. This adds another 50 months to the planning and upgrade cycle, at which point businesses will find themselves more or less compelled to “move on up” to Windows 11.

NetMarketShare still reports the Windows 7 population as just under 24.8% of overall desktops. I think it’s pretty safe to guesstimate that 80-plus percent of those PCs won’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements on grounds of boot type (MBR vs. UEFI), CPU generation (7th or lower, mostly lower), and lack of TPM 2.0 support. This could lead to an upswelling of Windows 10 numbers, even as that OS marches toward its own EOL date.

But that’s the way things work sometimes, here in Windows -World!

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Windows App Update Blues

OK, then. I just got back from a nearly two-week hiatus (see yesterday’s blog post for a trip report). For the past day and a bit more, I’ve been catching up my 10 PCs. In part, that means updating the apps on those machines. Indeed, this experience has me singing the “Windows App Update Blues.” They’re nicely illustrated in the lead-in graphic for this story, which shows two apps on my primary production PC that lack built-in update facilities despite widespread proliferation and use (Kindle) and a pricey paid-for license (Nitro Pro).

Why Sing Those Low-Down Windows App Update Blues?

It’s nearly inconceivable that Amazon, that paragon of modern software efficiency and might, doesn’t include an updater for the Kindle reader. Ditto for Nitro Pro, which makes me shell out over US$100 for updates to this powerful and otherwise handy PDF tool on a more-or-less yearly basis.

Updates are not that simple on either side. For Kindle on PC, I have to visit the “free Kindle app” page at Amazon. Because I stay logged into the site, clicking “Download for PC & Mac” brings a file named KindleForPC-installer-1.32.61109.exe to my PC. Then, I have to run the installer, and it gets updated. Thankfully, this does not require me to remove the older version manually by way of post-install cleanup. Question: why can’t I get an update through the usual Help → About sequence typical for most Windows apps?

Nitro Pro has a “Visit our website” link on its Help → About pane. I guess that’s intended to streamline the manual update process. But each time I have to upgrade, I have to remember to visit the Downloads page via the website’s page footers, and manually download the latest version. While Amazon is at least kind enough to rename its updates so you can tell them apart, all four versions of Nitro pro 13 share the same filename: nitro_pro13.exe so only file creation dates distinguish them from one another. Then, something called “Nitro Pro SysTray” blocks installation until I instruct the installer to shut it down manually. After that, things work their way to proper completion. It, too, cleans up older versions (thank goodness).

But the Question Lingers: Why Manual?

I’m still not happy that I have to run this stuff down on my own and run updates manually. I hope somebody at Amazon and Nitro notices this item, and takes appropriate action. Given that most programs do this automatically, why can’t their apps do the same?

 

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Audacity Announces Data Harvest Plans

Dang! I just came across a news item that indicates one of my favorite audio recording and editing apps may be going over to the dark side. I’m talking about the long-time, well-known open source freeware program Audacity. Following  its April acquisition by the Muse Group, the program’s privacy policy updated on July 2. Alas, in that policy, Audacity announces data harvest plans. These include include telemetry data, and sharing of such data.

Audacity Announces Data Harvest Plans: What Kind?

What kind of data will Audacity collect? The types of data to be collected seem pretty innocuous. Namely, OS version, user country based on IP address, OS name and version, CPU. Also, non-fatal error codes and messages, and crash reports in Breakpad MiniDump format. I don’t see any personally identifiable information here, except for the IP address.

Who gets to see it? The desktop privacy notice reads “Data necessary for law enforcement, litigation and authorities’ requests (if any).” Legal grounds for sharing data are “Legitimate interest of WSM Group to defend its legal rights and interests.” That said, we also find language that reads such data may be shared with “…a potential buyer (and its agents and advisors) in connection with any proposed purchase, merger or acquisition of any part of our business…”

What has the user community most up in arms is that Muse asserts the right to occasionally share “…personal data with our main office in Russia…” This contravenes requirements of the GDPR, and could potentially violate data sovereignty requirements in certain EU countries (e.g. Germany) and elsewhere.

Does This Mean It’s Time to Bail on Audacity?

Not yet. These new provisions don’t take effect until the next upgrade to the program (version 3.0.3, one minor increment up from current 3.0.2) take effect. But a lot of people, including me, will be thinking long and hard about whether or not to upgrade. At a bare minimum, it might make sense to run Audacity in a VM through a VPN connection, to obscure its origin and user.

Note: Here’s a shout-out to Anmol Mehrotra at Neowin whose July 6 story “Audacity’s privacy policy update effective makes it a spyware” brought this chance of circumstances to my attention.

Note Added July 23: Audacity Updates Policy

If you check this story from Martin Brinkmann at Ghacks.net, you’ll see that Audacity has retreated from all of its controversial or questionable privacy policy language. Seems like the resulting user reactions caused them to revisit, reconsider and move away from data harvest that could touch on user ID info and addresses. Frankly, I’m glad to see this: I like the program, and am happy to understand its new owners have decided to leave its prior policy positions unchanged.

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