New Teams goodies: Shared calendars? No. Private channels? No. Hold please ♩ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

Quickfire Windows 10 Fast Ring release ends a busy week at Microsoft

Cat sleeps on laptop

Roundup It was a busy week in Redmond as Microsoft geared up for its November Ignite shindig – new Windows 10 builds were flung, Azure capacities increased and Teams got a fresh feature... hold music.

Microsoft gets cracking on plugging the holes in Tunes Teams

Microsoft has shovelled more feature parity goodness into its cloudy collaboration product, but perhaps not the one many were hoping for.

It may struggle with Calendar Sharing and lack Slack's multi-account abilities, but for users who have called in and are wondering why everything is so quiet, the phone system will now play music to while away the time on hold.

Not configurable by an administrator, the feature is aimed at users calling in from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and placed on hold. It will also work for calls placed into a queue and is aimed at scenarios where users on other platforms would have had a visual cue, but the PSTN user had no way of knowing what had happened.

Microsoft first added the required to its roadmap back in May, but it has taken until now to make it Generally Available. Presumably recreating a pitch-perfect rendition of a warbly Casio-tone attempt at Greensleeves presented a near insurmountable challenge.

Quickfire patches for the Fast Ring and those lucky, lucky Slow Ring users get KB4517389

Microsoft continued its tentative tiptoe to the Windows 10 November 2019 Update with another step on the path to rationalising its testing rings. As a reminder, Insiders on the Release Preview Ring are either on preview versions of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (build 18362.418) or the impending November version (aka 19H2 or build 18363.418.)

Insiders on the Slow Ring, however, have remained on a different build with only a vague promise from the Insider gang that things would be fixed in the coming weeks.

Last week, a step towards that fixing was taken with build 18362.10024. Still not the same 19H2 as that enjoyed by the Release Preview gang, but a build that includes all the 19H2 toys (such as they are) and the KB4517389 patch.

Whether Slow Ring users will be entirely delighted with being on the receiving end of that patch is another matter. Although the knowledgebase (KB) article insists "Microsoft is not currently aware of any issues with this update", a quick scan of forums such as Reddit has shown problems with the Start Menu (acknowledged by Microsoft), broken browsers and the odd BSOD.

Still, what better place to unleash a potentially borking patch than somewhere users expect updates to crash PCs rather than, you know, actual production environments?

Crucially, the update also included a mystery fix necessary to get the Slow Ring on to the final build and thus able to switch rings and leave the programme without a tedious reinstall.

Once things are synchronised, it will be a few short days and weeks before the Slow Ring will see a stable version of next year's Windows 10, 20H1, and a return to normality for the programme after a rough few months.

Well, we can dream.

In the meantime, a version of next year's Windows 10 also dropped for Fast Ring insiders in the form of build 19002. While relatively light on features, the build included the updated Bluetooth pairing experience dangled in front of 50 per cent of Insiders back in September.

The improvements can be filed into the jolly handy category, and will pair supported Bluetooth devices (a helpful list of Microsoft's own peripherals is provided) without forcing the user to fiddle with a Windows 10 settings page.

As well as a swathe of fixes (including the one dealing with Bluetooth devices occasionally failing to reconnect) the upcoming Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 received some minor attention such as improvements in the handling of Unicode characters.

Alas, it seems impossible for the Windows Insider team to catch a break as some unlucky users noted that it was impossible to actually shut down or restart their systems after applying the Fast Ring update. Unlike the cursed KB4517389 and its "a-ok!" KB article, Microsoft was quick to acknowledge the borkage and push out a fix with build 19002.1002.

The Windows 10 November 2019 Update brings relief for hardware vendors

As if to emphasise how minor the November 2019 Update is compared to previous Windows 10 releases, Microsoft has told those at the pointy end of Windows Hardware Certification that no changes have been made to the eponymous program this time around. There will be no changes to the Hardware Lab Kit, and anything that qualified for the May 2019 Update (1903) will hold true for 1909.

Heck, since things haven't changed, even drivers meeting the requirements will continue to be signed as ".19H1".

It's a marked difference from last year, as things were updated for Windows 10 1809, and vendors given until January 2019 to get drives for the April 2018 Update sorted out.

Azure goes big

Those shovelling substantial chunks of data into Microsoft's cloudy data shack will be pleased to note tweaks to both Azure Backup and Azure Files last week.

The former has added support for larger Azure Managed Disks (up to 32TB) and up to 256TB for all disks in a VM combined. The fix should, to coin a phrase, "just work" with no user interaction needed if Azure Backup is already configured. Sadly, if security is your thing, you'll be disappointed – support for VMs with disks bigger than 4TB is still flagged as "coming soon".

The latter, Azure Files, has seen the capacity of a single file share in a general purpose account bumped to up to 100TB, 10,000 IOPS and a 300 MiB/s throughput. Those seeking higher performance are directed to the wallet-emptying premium tier of Azure Files.

As well as the capacity, Microsoft has added support for locally redundant and zonal redundant storage for large file shares and the ability to upgrade existing general purpose storage accounts and file shares.

The bean-counters will also be happy to note that "the increased capacity and scale of standard file shares on your general purpose accounts come at zero additional cost."

Microsoft explains how to get Extended Security Updates for Windows 7 as the nagging spreads

Last week, Windows 7 Pro users not joined to a domain or "part of an IT-managed infrastructure" were warned to expect a "courtesy reminder" to the effect that support was not much longer for this world.

This means, dear reader, that all those friends and family for which you provide free support and who somehow managed to end up running Windows 7 Pro are going to be calling you up about a mystery message that has popped up. Good luck with the choose-your-own-support-adventure choices of "Install Windows 10", "How about a nice Linux?" or "Maybe it's time for a Mac?"

The warning came as Microsoft explained how those fortunate enough to be eligible to get Extended Security Updates (ESU) after the 14 January 2020 cut-off could purchase the option through volume licensing.

An explanation for dealing with ESUs purchased through a CSP is due "at a later date".

Unsurprisingly, there is scripting to be done, and Microsoft recommends something like System Center Configuration Manager to fling scripts around the Enterprise, or using the Volume Activation Management Tool for devices not connected to the Internet.

Naturally, if your Windows 7 installations are running on Windows Virtual Desktop, things are quite a bit easier since Microsoft has promised the things will get the ESU in return for using the company's cloudy platform. However, be aware: "Azure VMware solutions should follow the same process as on-premises devices." ®

Sponsored: What next after Netezza?

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER




Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019