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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Google details new Android P features, including iPhone X-like gesture controls

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Google I/O 2018 has officially kicked off, and with it comes the traditional release of a new Android developer preview. While Android P, as the next major update is still called for now, still has a long way to go until its final release—Google still has three more developer previews planned, with a final consumer build scheduled for Q3 2018—Google took some time at the keynote of its annual developer conference to detail a few new features Android users can expect to see.

The biggest news in Preview 1 was a new design style that was applied to the notification panel, main settings screen, and some system UI bits. Burke recapped a couple of changes that had already been announced in that earlier preview, including a revamped volume control widget and the option to change the screen orientation even when you’ve locked the device in portrait mode.

At Google’s I/O keynote, Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke said the forthcoming update will center on three key pillars: intelligence, simplicity, and digital wellbeing.

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The Windows 10 April 2018 Update will ship this April, but only just

The next big Windows 10 update, originally expected earlier this month until Microsoft delayed it at the last minute because of a bug causing blue screens of death, at last has an official name and a release date.

As expected, Microsoft is dropping its “themed” names for this update, instead calling it simply the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, with the version number 1803. It’ll be available to download manually from April 30, just scraping into April. Broader distribution through Windows Update will start on the next Patch Tuesday: May 8.

Just as was the case with past updates, those installing it through Windows Update shouldn’t expect to receive the update immediately; Microsoft rolls each update out in phases, checking for incompatibilities and other problems, before opening the floodgates and offering the upgrade to everyone. Microsoft stepped up the pace of this rollout with the last update, which saw it peak at more than 92 percent of Windows 10 systems.

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It’s anyone’s guess when the next major Windows 10 update will be out

It looked like Windows 10 build 17133 was going to be blessed as the 1803 update, but that plan has been derailed. Though the build was pushed out to Windows Insiders on the release preview ring—an action that, in the past, has indicated that a build is production ready—it turns out that it had a bug causing blue screens of death.

Microsoft could likely have addressed the situation with an incremental update, but for whatever reason, it didn’t. Instead, we have a new build, 17134. This build is identical to 17133 except that it fixes the particular crashing issue. Fast ring Insiders have the build now, and it should trickle out to Slow ring and Release Preview ring shortly. If all goes well, the build will then make its way out to regular Windows users on the stable release channel.

When will that happen? That’s less clear. The expectation was that 17133 would be pushed out on this month’s Patch Tuesday; with the delay, May’s Patch Tuesday would be the logical opportunity, though if Microsoft is happy that the build works, there’s no particular need to wait.

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AMD systems gain Spectre protection with latest Windows fixes

The latest Windows 10 fixes, released as part of yesterday’s Patch Tuesday, enable protection against the Spectre variant 2 attacks on systems with AMD processors.

Earlier this year, attacks that exploit the processor’s speculative execution were published with the names Meltdown and Spectre, prompting a reaction from hardware and software companies. AMD chips are immune to Meltdown but have some vulnerability to the two Spectre variants. Spectre variant 1 requires application-level fixes; variant 2 requires operating system-level alterations.

Both Intel and AMD have released microcode updates to alter their processor behavior to give operating systems the control necessary to protect against Spectre variant 2. Microsoft has been shipping the Intel microcode, along with the operating system changes necessary to use the microcode’s new features, for several weeks now; with yesterday’s patch, similar protections are now enabled on AMD machines.

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