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Vol 1 Issue 193

Win10 Build 9879 Rejuvenated;
Win8.1 November Rollup Re-issue

As Windows Insiders and other enthusiasts know, Microsoft began to release builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview on September 30. That first public looksee was Build 9841. It included good news for desktop users who saw a partial return of the Start menu. On top of that, the still early beta proved surprisingly stable.

On October 21, just 21 days later, Build 9860, was released to the new and fast-growing Insider testing program participants. The second release contained a lot of changes and additions, but remained fairly stable - gain, for a beta. Then, on November 1 - keeping to Microsoft's three-week pace - the third release, Build 9879 arrived.

Unfortunately, it proved to be a bomb. There were messy issues - some resulting in BSODs (Blue Screens of Death) that had Insiders (now more than 1-million strong) in an uproar. The feedback sites were afire with comment. Rod Trent on Windows It Pro said the Insider Fast ringers "reported blue screens, app crashes, and unresponsive Windows components. . . Previous Builds surprised many on how well they actually worked."

Microsoft moved to calm troubled waters. Gabe Auld, who leads the Data and Fundamentals Team within Microsoft's Operating Systems Group said on Twitter Wednesday, November 19: "Thank you Fast ring participants - the crash data from your experiences helped us identify the issue so we could fix it for Slow ring," In a followup, he said: "We're almost ready to push 9879 out to the Slow ring, but are waiting to publish a bug check hotfix concurrently. Soon."

If you are not up on the Insider program (join here free ) you can choose to get on the Fast ring or be a Slow ring participant, get fewer of the builds in the release cycle. You should know that, at this point in time, build releases were ONLY updates on previous builds. And it can't be overstated - Win10 remains a Technical Preview - only for evaluation, a beta - troubles must be expected.

The company response to these troubles was definitely soon! On the following Monday, November 24, a patch for build 9879 was released. Brad Sams on Neowin said: "You can download it now by going to Windows Update. The patch is 2 MB, called the November Update - KB3019269."

Aul Tweeted: "Hi everyone, I'm excited to share the news that we're rolling out our next build update to the Fast ring of the Windows Insider Program - Build 9879! Once again this build has a ton of changes, some noteworthy new features, and a few gotchas to be aware of. It also has a number of things that YOU have influenced directly with your problem reports and suggestions. Thanks!"

He also noted: "Today we have published Build 9879 to the Slow ring and made ISO images available for download via the Windows Insider Program website. We have also released a hotfix package to Windows Update to address a few issues seen in this build."

Vishal Gupta on his site, AskVG says the problem is that: "it takes more than 50 minutes to download one of these bulky 3.86 GB ISO upgrade / update packages! . . . It causes waste of Internet connection bandwidth as well as users' time."

Again, Microsoft to the rescue - besides updates and bug fixes, later that same day, they provided complete (full, not update) ISO packs of build 9879 here: - saving time for anyone testing the preview. The site is open to the public - you don't need to be an Insider (albeit it is still a great idea!). The build 9879 rejuvenation and Microsoft's quick, response attitude, shows the value of the Insider program

Paul Thurrott on his Supersite for Windows says the company's improved Build 9879 release was important: "in two ways . . . made the build available via downloadable ISOs, letting testers clean install this build directly to a PC or VM, without having to first install the previous preview builds over each other. And it issued a fix for build 9879 that it says addresses a major BSOD error."

A Tweet from Aul came after the fix appeared, clearing answering Thurrott's query by confirming that indeed it was for "the 0xAB blue screensome were hitting."

Thurrott had some solid advice for testers: "After you install any pre-release Windows 10 build, make sure you clear out Windows Update, installing any updates that appear for the technical preview in particular."

Yet another problem surfaced later among those Insiders who used Build 9879's OneDrive sync. They found disturbing changes. According to The Ed Bott Report) on ZDNet : "At Microsoft's UserVoice site, a feature slogged by my colleague Mary Branscombe has now received 2,585 votes, with that total rising hourly. It was titled: 'An advanced option to restore showing all OneDrive files in Explorer, synced or not. Branscombe said: 'I rely on being able to see all the files on my OneDrive through Explorer, whether they are synced locally or not; if this integration is lost there is no advantage to using OneDrive over any other cloud. Please add the option for power users to continue to see all files and use an icon overlay to show which are local and which cloud.' "

Bott added: "The comments under that post are almost universally negative. The change they're protesting, is in the way Windows interacts with the OneDrive cloud storage service, a signature feature of Microsoft's flagship operating system in the mobile first, cloud first era."

Wonder how quickly Microsoft gets to that problem.

I've been testing Win10 installed over both Win8.1 and Win7. I also dual-booted it - installed it by itself in a separate partition. Besides blue screens, there was one oddity where my mouse works, but my keyboard didn't, just clicked. I subbed other keyboards, both wireless and wired, but none worked.

At that time, on an install over Win8.1, I resorted to the OSK (on-screen keyboard) - via the small white icon located on the right side of the taskbar. In Win10, it is a dandy. The list of word suggestions that appear atop the keyboard to assist your mousing hunt-and-peck is even more useful than in Win8.1, particularly in my moment of crisis.

OSK first appeared in Win XP. The program continued in Vista with a wide keyboard including a number pad. It improved in Win7, where it is located under Accessories. It also had suggested words, but is a bit clunky in setup compared to the Win8.1 version. Win10 is a further improvement - more intuitive.

By the way, if you are an Insider and are not aware, you can switch between Slow and Fast ring updates by means of PC Settings > Update and Recovery > Preview Builds. The default is the Slow ring. If you want to work on the build updates as they become available, you will want to be on the Fast ring. If you prefer to wait a bit and let major bugs get fixed before you install the build, stay on the Slow ring. Currently almost 90 per cent of those 1-million Insiders are Slow ringers.

Another Win10 tip - the Insider Hub and Windows Feedback apps are NOT pinned to the Start Menu by default. You can find them in the All Apps section for pinning to the Start Menu. They are obviously the best way to keep in touch with the Technical Preview.

Thurrott on his Supersite says the first Win10 Consumer Preview builds leaked online. . . via IT Home China. Big news, he says: "is the addition of magnetic stickers, which are basically modern app live tiles on the desktop. So instead of a dumb shortcut, like we see today, these tiles will look and work much better, like desktop gadgets from Windows past."

Tom Warren on The Verge reminds us that: "Microsoft's first unveiling of Win10 was a small low-key event in San Francisco that lasted around an hour, but we're told the consumer feature unveiling will be more significant. Microsoft has a large number of features to discuss, including a new touch interface dubbed Continuum."

Brad Sams on Neowin reports "a new version of Win10, Build 9888, is making the rounds in a private channel and the kernel version has jumped from 6.4. However a new IT Home leak, shows the kernel version as 10.0. Quite a leap for the Windows platform whose current 6.0 kernel has been used since the Vista era."

In another post Sams warned: "Developers preparing for Windows 10 should note that the Windows NT value in the UA string will change from 6.4 to 10.0 with the new release. If you have code that depends on the version number, we advise that you update to allow for the new value."

8.1 November Rollup Booboo!

In the midst of that Win10 kerfuffle, Windows Update offered a big 723.9 MB, out-of-cycle, non-critical, non-security type Windows 8.1 update, that was optional, NOT even required! It sported a very long name too: The November 2014 update rollup for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2. A Google search revealed its shorter name to be KB 3000850.

Microsoft says that: "unlike the Spring rollup, it is NOT necessary in order to get further updates released outside the Patch Tuesday cycle. . . ." This rollup contains: "a long list of fixes and enriching changes, support for new hardware and also all previous updates since April, plus refreshed language packs."

I installed it and started getting problems. That was before I read Susan Bradley's article in Windows Secrets issue 457 • 2014-11-20. She advised to put KB 3000850 on hold for now. "But if you want to install it immediately, be sure to first make a full backup of your Win8.1 system."

I have made it general practice to backup before any big updates and before installing any new software - just to be sure I can get back to normal if problems occur. They did this time, but I wondered what went wrong.

When Win Secrets Newsletter, Issue 258 arrived November 27, I had some of the answers. Susan reported: "Microsoft included the wrong version of KB 2996928 inside the worrisome KB 3000853." The company has re-issued a corrected version and she recommends installing it "even if you've not had any problems with the original patch."

She also said; "Some users of Avast Antivirus ran into serious conflicts with KB 3000850, as noted on various web sites.. . . . Given the size of this update and the likelihood of more problems, I recommend keeping KB 3000850 on hold for a while longer.

I used a backup image made before the wonky instal to get a fresh start. Then I re-installed the 8.1 rollup, but unchecked KB 3000850, left it on hold. So far so good. Still nothing yet from Microsoft.

KB 3000850's support site still says the rollout: "resolves issues, and includes performance and reliability improvements. We recommend that you apply this update rollup as part of your regular maintenance routines. Check out the fixed issues in this update. . . . This is a convenient single step to bring Windows clients and servers up to date. . . . This update is thoroughly tested to the same quality level as our previous service packs. . . ."

Makes you feel all warm and comfy, right? Then, to get things back to reality - near the bottom of the long support article, there is this notice about Known Issues: "You receive a 0x800f0922 or 0x80070005 error message when you try to install this update." Solutions are offered (not guaranteed) "To resolve this issue, follow these steps: 1. Install the updated servicing stack update 2975061, and then restart the computer. 2. Try to reinstall this update."

The Microsoft support community still reports many problems - from not being able to shutdown to problems with IE. I had trouble with IE, pages not working, but put it down to Black Friday shopper zeal drowning servers - we'll see. Maybe when I've finished this article I'll do a full System Refresh. Get a clean start - who knows?

Impatient with the problematic Win8 / 8.1? Its successor, Win10 is expected to ship commercially by mid-2015.

With the calendar now in December, here's wishing you:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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