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Windows 10 to let you know that your SSD is dying rather than throwing out a BSOD when it's already too late
Also: Users split across 3 versions of OS, PowerToys update, MRTK support for Oculus Quest 2
In brief A new Windows Insider build – 20226 – contains a feature designed to spot impending failures of NVMe SSDs that gives users the opportunity to get their data off the things before they curl up and die.
The team is also rolling out a change that turns off theme syncing, as well as re-enabling the ability of Notepad to persist through updates and restarts.
For anyone bothered about Your Phone app (handy for Android users, particularly Samsung fans, but useless for iPhone owners), a settings page has been added to ease the pain of linking and removing devices.
The build was also festooned with minor fixes as well as a raft of problems. This is all preview stuff after all. One ended up sending this hack's test rig into temporary profile land, necessitating a rollback.
It may be time to nuke this particular Windows PC from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
2004 and a third
Three versions of Windows 10 occupy the vast majority of PCs surveyed by AdDuplex. The most recent, the May 2020 Update, aka 2004, has now slithered onto just over a third (up from 24.1 per cent at the end of August), a gnat's whisker behind its predecessor. 1903, released earlier in 2019, accounts for just over a quarter.
The mix is in marked contrast to the hysterical rate Windows was flung at computers a few years ago. Things are a little more cautious nowadays, to the point that large swathes of Microsoft's own hardware was left on the naughty step by the update due to upgrade blocks put in place because Redmond didn't think to test its Surfaces properly.
Microsoft's creatively named "October 2020 Update" is due to hit shortly. As it should be little more than a jumped-up cumulative update of its predecessor, one can but hope that there won't be a repeat of its predecessor's Surface-based teething troubles.
PowerToys 0.23: Your Mute feature is muted
The latest version of Microsoft's retro-inspired PowerToys released last week has temporarily cut the handy feature to mute both audio and video in the interminable videoconferences that fill the lives of many.
Microsoft's Clint Rutkas promised it would turn up "in about a week's time" while also canvassing opinions on a GIF recording tool planned in a future version.
The release itself was otherwise aimed at making things a little more stable, with the FancyZones windows manager seeing bug fixes around behaviours when a screen is newly attached and issues when spanning over multiple monitors.
Microsoft Mixed Reality Toolkit gains Oculus Quest support
Hot on the heels of the launch of the Oculus Quest 2 comes support for the headset in version 2.5 of the Microsoft Mixed Reality Toolkit (MRTK).
Aimed at cross-platform shenanigans, MRTK aims to scale up and down gracefully, depending on the hardware on which it is running. It also supports VR and AR scenarios. While VR headsets using Microsoft's take on a virtual world have hardly set the world alight, its expensive AR HoloLens devices have found a niche.
Oculus devices remain very much a VR thing at the moment and the arrival of support means that the skills learned in the MRTK will not have been wasted despite Microsoft's failure to nudge users in its preferred direction.
Microsoft's Mixed Reality continues to show signs of life in spite of its rejection by the marketplace. The HP Reverb G2 (developed in collaboration with Microsoft and Valve) is a high-end option for gamers and is likely to see action on the Flight Simulator 2020 platform before long.
Raise your hand if you're still using Skype
Finally, as Skype continues its mission to recover ground lost to the likes of Zoom, Microsoft is still adding features to the Insider version of the messaging platform. The latest raft of tweaks added the ability for a participant to raise a virtual hand when they wish to speak, rather than unmuting for the dread "excuuuse me" over the top of more important matters.
Other improvements included the long-overdue arrival of background blur for Android users and support for Meet Now in Safari on Mac, saving fanbois the effort of downloading the Skype app itself.
As for what Skype users really seem to want – namely "Make it look and work EXACTLY like classic Skype version 7" – there remains no love in this update. ®