C is for ‘Careful now’, D is for ‘Download surprise’: Microsoft to resurrect optional Windows 10 updates as ‘Previews’

Also: Money for Excel hits US, Teams readies new toys for next academic year, and more

Roundup  As Microsoft continues to fling fixes at the world and its dog, the firm has also expanded Teams grid to allow teachers to gaze upon 49 little faces and despair as well as tweaking Edge to provide, er, heaps better memory munching.…

Roundup As Microsoft continues to fling fixes at the world and its dog, the firm has also expanded Teams grid to allow teachers to gaze upon 49 little faces and despair as well as tweaking Edge to provide, er, heaps better memory munching.

They’re baaaack – ‘optional non-security updates’ return to Windows 10

Because, heck, it’s not as though breaking printing once a month is enough, Microsoft has announced that “C” and “D” updates for Windows 10 will be making a comeback after it hit the pause button back in March.

Those optional “C” and “D” releases were intended to give admins a heads-up with regard to what was coming down the pipe in the monthly Patch Tuesday emission, aka the “B” release.

Far be it from us to suggest that “B” might stand for “buggy” or even “borked”. Unless, of course, you wanted to actually print something.

Things are, however, being tweaked a little. To ensure admins know what they’re in for, the optional updates are now being called “Preview” releases, although Microsoft insists they are “validated, production quality”, just like Windows 10 itself, we presume. The previews will also only be delivered in the “C” week and not show up at all for admins using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

Patch Tuesday, which we have all started to look forward to in the same way as one anticipates root canal surgery, remains unchanged.

The resumption is planned for July 2020 and is also aimed only at Windows 10 and Windows Server 1809 or later.

Manage your money in Excel, as long as you live in the US

Microsoft has emitted another part of the lineup of its Microsoft 365 Personal and Family platform in the form of “Money in Excel”.

Shown off at the hastily COVID-adapted rebranding exercise, Money in Excel is a template and add-in for Excel that slurps financial information, such as bank and credit card transactions into an Excel spreadsheet. For US customers only.

Once connected, users can slice, dice and view their finances in a variety of ways, replete with alerts to flag up subscription increases or charge changes. Alas, you must still manually click an Update button to make the magic happen “without ever leaving Excel”.

Frankly, we’d prefer to see a resurrection of the long lost Microsoft Money app rather than something shoehorned into Excel. That said, for those content to spend their days in Excel, the add-in is a neat tool even if there are plenty of more creative things for which one could be using Microsoft’s venerable spreadsheet app.

49 students sat on a call, 49 students there. Knock one off with bandwidth issues and there’ll be 48 students sat on a call

Microsoft’s panicked sprint to add features to Teams that Zoom fans take for granted continued last week with the tease of a 7 x 7 view for video conferences on its Slack-for-suits platform.

Recognising that educators like to be able to see the faces of the little darlings as wisdom is imparted, the Teams Grid view is to be expanded to permit 49 participants at once on a single screen. Educators will be also be given the ability to create Breakout Rooms to allow students to collaborate in smaller groups.

Sadly, the new features won’t arrive before the summer holidays. Microsoft has instead made the vague promise that teachers will be able to get themselves into even more of a pickle “in time for fall”.

After all, we have a great deal of sympathy for teachers suddenly forced to switch to a Zoom/Teams/G Suite mode of lesson delivery by the current virus situation. This hack has many fond memories of educators struggling to operate overhead projectors and those newfangled VCR things. We therefore wish them all the best with online learning in 2020.

“Most of our teachers hadn’t ever created a video or opened Teams before COVID-19, and within a couple weeks’ time, they’ve learned how to use Teams to teach lessons, meet with small groups for support and connection, give and grade assignments, and check in with students one-on-one,” said Kelly Aramaki, executive director of schools at Bellevue School District in Washington state.

Coming ahead of the fall release is a feature to prevent students starting meetings unattended and a Meeting Lobby to ensure only assigned students can join.

Microsoft to tame Chromium Edge’s RAM addiction

Edge boffins are laying claim to a reduction in memory munching of up to 27 per cent in Edge thanks to tweaks in the Windows 10 May 2020 Update to allow Win32 apps “to manage memory more efficiently”.

While mileage may vary for different devices and configurations, using less memory should make for a better experience overall.

Fans hoping the change will encourage more users to give the formerly unloved browser a chance (particularly once it starts turning up as part of the next release of Windows 10) might be disappointed. The new Edge is Chromium-based and the Windows memory usage improvements have therefore found their way into the browser source.

Google engineer Bruce Dawson noted that while actual results “will vary widely”, with the greatest benefit coming on machines with lots of cores, the memory saving itself could be in the order of magnitude of hundreds of megabytes.

Microsoft snaps up data model wrangler ADRM Software

Microsoft has opened its purse once more as Nadella’s team snapped up ADRM Software, an outfit that provides large-scale industry data models, used as information blueprints by large companies.

ADRM Software goes a few steps beyond an abstract starter data model. The company modestly lays claim to “3 to 5 times the size and level of detail of competitive offerings” while sniffing that its models were not “unmaintained artifacts left over from one-off consulting engagements”.

While a price for the deal was not disclosed, ADRM CEO Kevin Schofield was unsurprisingly enthusiastic about the whole thing, and looked forward to “combining ADRM’s comprehensive industry data models with the limitless storage and compute from Azure to power the next generation of intelligent data lakes, modern DWs, next-level analytics, and AI/ML”. ®

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