Now it’s Office’s turn to have a load of patches pulled

Now it’s Office’s turn to have a load of patches pulled

After endless difficulties with the Windows 10 October 2018 update—finally re-released this month with the data-loss bug fixed—it seems that now it’s the Office team’s turn to release some updates that need to be un-released.

On November’s Patch Tuesday two weeks ago, Microsoft released a bunch of updates for Office to update its Japanese calendars. In December 2017, Emperor Akihito announced that he would abdicate and that his son Naruhito would take his role as emperor. Each emperor has a corresponding era name, and calendars must be updated to reflect that new name. The Office patches offer updates to handle this event.

Two of these updates, KB2863821 and KB4461522, both for Office 2010, are apparently very broken, causing application crashes. The company has suspended delivery of the patches, but the problem is so severe that Microsoft is recommending that anyone who has installed the updates already should uninstall them pronto (see instructions for KB2863821 here and for KB4461522 here).

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Microsoft’s problem isn’t how often it updates Windows—it’s how it develops it

Windows 10 during a product launch event in Tokyo in July 2015.

It’s fair to say that the Windows 10 October 2018 Update has not been Microsoft’s most successful update. Reports of data loss quickly emerged, forcing Microsoft to suspend distribution of the update. It has since been fixed and is currently undergoing renewed testing pending a re-release.

This isn’t the first Windows feature update that’s had problems—we’ve seen things like significant hardware incompatibilities in previous updates—but it’s certainly the worst. While most of us know the theory of having backups, the reality is that lots of data, especially on home PCs, has no real backup, and deleting that data is thus disastrous.

Windows as a service

Microsoft’s ambition with Windows 10 was to radically shake up how it develops Windows 10. The company wanted to better respond to customer and market needs, and to put improved new features into customers’ hands sooner. Core to this was the notion that Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows—all new development work will be an update to Windows 10, delivered through feature updates several times a year. This new development model was branded “Windows as a Service.” And after some initial fumbling, Microsoft settled on a cadence of two feature updates a year; one in April, one in October.

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Next Windows 10 update nearing completion as it gets its official name

The last few Windows Insider preview builds of Windows 10 have offered few new features; instead these have focused on fixing bugs.

The latest build, released today, takes a step towards completion: it’s changed the operating system’s version stamp. Until now the previews have called themselves version 1803, the release from earlier this year. Today’s build updates that version label to 1809, showing that Microsoft intends to wrap up its development in September with an October release likely to follow.

Version 1809 will be the last of the five Redstone-codenamed Windows releases. The next release, likely to come in April 2019, is codenamed simply “19H1,” with Microsoft opting for date-based codenames to go with its date-based releases.

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Windows 10 will try not to reboot when you’re just grabbing a cup of coffee

The next semi-annual update to Windows 10 will use machine learning models to make automatic rebooting for updates a bit less annoying. The models will attempt to predict when you’re likely to return to your PC and not update if you’re expected back soon.

In prior versions of Windows, it was routine for systems to be compromised through flaws that were patched months previously because Windows users deferred installing those updates or even disabled Windows Update entirely. Windows 10 goes to some lengths to ensure that Windows users, especially home users, apply the monthly security patches in a timely fashion through a policy of automatically rebooting when a patch is available. Last year, Microsoft gave users greater control over this feature, allowing those reboots to be explicitly scheduled, but the policy of automatic installation and rebooting remains fundamentally in place.

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Microsoft offers extended support for Windows, SQL 2008: but with a catch

Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2, as well as SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, are due to move out of extended support over the next few years; SQL Server in July 2019, and Windows Server in January 2020. For organizations still using that software, this offers a few options: keep using the software and accept that it won’t receive any more security updates, migrate to newer equivalents that are still supported, or pay Microsoft for a custom support contract to continue to receive security updates beyond the cutoff dates.

Today, Microsoft added a fourth option: migrate to Azure. Microsoft is extending the support window by three years (until July 2022 for SQL Server, January 2023 for Windows Server) for workloads hosted on Azure in the cloud. This extended support means that customers that make the switch to the cloud will receive another three years of security fixes. After those three years are up, customers will be back to the original set of choices: be insecure, upgrade, or pay for a custom support contract.

Microsoft isn’t requiring customers to demonstrate that they have any kind of migration plan in place, and this support scheme incurs no additional costs beyond those already imposed by running software on Azure in the first place.

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Latest Windows 10 update now deemed good enough for business users

Corporate users should now be unafraid to roll out the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, aka Version 1803, to their fleets, according to Microsoft.

Over the course of Windows 10’s life, the precise terminology that Microsoft uses to denote this has changed. Originally, there was a split between the “Current Build”—the latest stable update with the latest monthly patch—and the “Current Build for Business.” This latter label was used to denote the version that Microsoft felt was sufficiently tested and stabilized as to be suitable to roll out to conservative corporate fleets. While the Current Build would be updated to each new major update as soon as it was released, the Current Build for Business typically lagged by a few months.

The terminology has now changed a bit; what was once “Current Build” is now “Semi-Annual Channel (targeted),” and “Current Build for Business” is now “Semi-Annual Channel.” But the effect is the same: as of yesterday’s patch, which brings Windows 10’s build number up to 17134.165, Version 1803 is now blessed with the Semi-Annual Channel label.

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Half of Windows 10 PCs already updated to the April 2018 update

The Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803, is enjoying the fastest rollout of any Windows 10 major update thus far.

Even though last-minute delays pushed its rollout into May for most users (it was available to manually install on the last day of April, but didn’t hit Windows Update until May’s Patch Tuesday), as of the 29th of the month, it’s now being used on just over half of all Windows 10 machines.

By way of comparison, the previous update, version 1709 (“Fall Creators Update”) took about two months to reach 50 percent penetration, and the one before that, version 1703 (“Creators Update”) took around three months to reach the same level.

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Microsoft blocks Windows 10 April 2018 update to some Intel SSDs

The April 2018 update for Windows 10 is now being blocked from installing on systems with certain Intel SSDs.

With the update installed, systems with the Intel SSD 600p Series and Intel SSD Pro 6000p Series devices seem to crash repeatedly during startup. The problem appears to be recoverable insofar as you can hold down F8 and roll back the update. But that’s the only known solution at the time of writing. The issue appears to be unique to Intel’s firmware on the SSD; other devices with the same controllers (but different firmware) do not seem to be having any problems.

Microsoft is now blocking the update from affected systems until a solution is devised.

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