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Rapid-fire Windows 10 builds, Azure on Arm not for the eyes of mortals, and Teams at 10,000ft

All the Microsoft excitement you missed while installing 19H2

Roundup As Microsoft luxuriated in the Ignite afterglow, the hardworking Reg gnomes deep within the Windows mines managed to unearth a nugget or two of news you may have missed.

Windows 10 switches to double time

The Windows 10 November 2019 Update may have hit, but the Insider gang still found time to push two releases of next year's Windows to Fast Ring testers last week.

To the cynical, the cadence may have had more to do with a slightly borked build 19023 than a desire to unleash new and wondrous features upon the company's army of unpaid testers.

Build 19023 kicked off of an "experiment" to stop optional drivers being automatically downloaded to Insider PCs as the company tinkered with how updates are delivered. Users will have to manually download them through Windows Update until playtime ends next Monday, 25 November.

The release was light on other changes, other than a fix for an issue that could stop Cortana's voice activation switching back on following a reboot or restart of explorer.exe. This will be handy for the dozen or so people actually using the unloved assistant outside of Office.

However, among the list of known issues was a particularly nasty one: Sandbox and the Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) were both broken. Sandbox is a particularly handy feature for firing up suspect apps in their own special world while WDAG keeps things isolated.

Having both borked was therefore unfortunate, particularly as Windows Insiders are the sort of people likely to want to tinker with iffy software such as, er, preview builds of Windows 10.

And so it was that Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc announced the arrival of build 19025 shortly thereafter.

As well as a fix for the Sandbox and WDAG issues, the new build also brought tweaks to Windows Search. Microsoft, it appears, could not work out why people kept turning off the search indexer.

We're pretty sure Register readers could have given the Windows giant a clue or two.

In what will be a surprise to nobody at all, Microsoft has identified "excessive disk and CPU usage, general performance issues, and low perceived value of the indexer" as prime reasons.

Blessedly omitting "AI", the Windows gang has brought forth an algorithm to manage the indexer better, meaning that it should stop thrashing the disk constantly at the most inconvenient of times. Developers will also be delighted to learn that changes have been made to the oft-killed service to prevent searches of certain repos and project folders.

The long fix list included issues around accessibility (an area of Windows 10 of which the Insider team is particularly proud), Windows Hello and timeline problems with "new Edge".

It seems that even the Windows team doesn't know what to call it.

All, however, was not roses. As well as the usual suspects in the Known Issues list was borkage in Optional Updates area. Even after installation, some users are reporting optional printer drivers still showing up.

You say Armzure, we say Armlympus

Semiconductor giant Marvell revealed last week that production Arm-based servers for Azure were a thing thanks to boards based on its ThunderX2 chippery.

Aimed at "internal workloads" only, for the time being at least, the implementation is compliant with Microsoft's Project Olympus, the next big thing in cloud hardware design as far as the Redmond gang is concerned.

The pair had demonstrated the concept back in 2017, at the March Open Compute Project (OCP) summit as Microsoft showed off a version of Windows Server built for Arm (again, for internal use only).

The ThunderX2 chipset is compliant with Armv8-A and should sip power while affording devs decent computational performance. Assuming those devs are internal Microsoft users, of course.

Those looking nervously at their pricey Arm-based Surface Pro X machines will be relieved to see the software giant continuing its investment in the not-Intel tech after Armium Edge finally appeared last week.

Dr Leendert van Doorn, distinguished engineer for Microsoft Azure, said: "The deployment of Microsoft's Project Olympus cloud hardware with Marvell's ThunderX2 server processor is a milestone that enhances Arm64 product development on Azure cloud infrastructure."

That is all well and good, assuming you can use the thing. The Register checked in with the Windows vendor to get a timetable for when "internal" might go a bit more public, but has yet to receive a response.

Teams in Spaaaaaace (not really)

Finally, in a publicity stunt guaranteed to catch the eye of our inner space nerd, Netmotion, Panasonic and Microsoft have demonstrated a Teams call in the sky.

Well, sort of.

The gang attached a Panasonic Toughbook to a weather balloon and sent the thing into the stratosphere. A Teams call was kicked off, and the tech transitioned the connection from Wi-Fi to 4G at 110 feet. The call was maintained until what the PR orifice described as a "dizzying" 10,000 feet before connectivity was lost.

As a reminder, Airbus and Boeing's finest will bumble along quite happily at 39,000 feet or higher with connectivity expensively supplied by satellite.

Teams call aside, the Toughbook made it to 100,000 feet before the balloon exploded, sending Panasonic's hopes and dreams crashing back to Herefordshire. The Toughbook survived the drop, but there was no word on whether the Teams call briefly reconnected on the way down.

We, of course, remember well the time an owner of a Toughbook attempted to demonstrate its impact-withstanding abilities by flinging the open notebook at a bookcase. The screen cracked.

Clearly, more than a decade of development has improved things somewhat. ®

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