R.I.P. Cortana

Well that was quick!  A mere four to five years after introduction, Microsoft has banished its digital assistant Cortana to its “dustbin” of history.  I don’t know about you but I never took much of a liking to its capabilities (very linited IMO) within Windows 10.

According to Gizmodo.com, it appears that Microsoft will most defer to Amazon’s Alexa when it comes to providing smart assistant capabilities.

Check out their article here as well as ones from TheVerge.com here and WindowsCentral.com here.

A day in the life of a Windows 10 user looking to upgrade…

I can truly appreciate the time and effort it took for this user to describe in detail her Windows 10 version upgrade experience…

Courtesy of AskWoody.com:

Last weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and update a Win10-1803 Pro machine to Win10-1809, using Windows Update. I’d taken a system image backup, and as it wasn’t my production machine, I wasn’t too worried.

This machine is under a year old, a purchase necessary when a hardware failure put paid to my trusty Win7 Pro laptop. It allows me to work more than I can manage at my desktop, and does most of the hard yards online, especially here.

Windows Update installed 1809 x64 2019-10B – this was before Woody changed MS-Defcon from 4 to 2. It took 20 minutes to Prepare to Install, and nearly 2 hours to download, and several hours to install.

Needless to say, it didn’t go to plan… The first indication of a problem was after several hours of installing, when a blue screen appeared bearing the words “Stopcode” and “Bad Pool Header”. It restarted, still on 1803, pending install. It continued installing. Eventually it restarted, and I was able to see KB 4521862 and KB 4519338 had installed – along with a bunch of drivers being updated, when the Pro settings were not to download drivers from Windows. I also noticed I hadn’t had to reset the Metered Connection settings to allow the update to download!

After it finished its update, it wasn’t working properly. It looked fairly normal, but restarting started problems – none of the visible desktop items actually worked – not the Start button, any of the TaskBar icons, or anything other than the Ctrl>Alt>Del routine.

I tried Sign Out. It took ages. It caused a loop of: Hi; We’re getting everything ready for you; This might take several minutes – don’t turn off your PC (that part remained until it got to Hi again); Leave everything to us; Windows stays up to date to help protect you in an online world; Making sure your apps are good to go; It’s taking a bit longer than expected, but we’ll get there as fast as we can. This loop took 5 minutes to restart, again, and again, and again.

It had been over 12 hours since the process started at this point. As I had to do my day job, I just left it chugging away in the background while I got on with earning an income. Over 5 hours later, it finally came up for air – a desktop, but still not functioning.

Along the way, I saw various errors:
Error 0x80072EE7
The gpsvc service failed the sign-in – access is denied
windows\system32\config\systemprofile\desktop is unavailable

To add to my woes, it wanted to restart itself again, where it re-entered the 5+ hour loop. I still had work to get done, so I just let it be. No stopcodes this time, but still it didn’t work.

I couldn’t access safe mode, even with Recovery Tool USB access. Start Up Repair “couldn’t fix [the] PC”. Using the Recovery Tool, I was able to access the Command Prompt, where SFC /SCANNOW reported “Not enough memory resources are available to process this command” the first time, and then, after it went through 100%, “Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation”. Attempting to use Restore Points was another failure – they were listed, but “unavailable”.

At this time, I decided it was time to try to restore the system image. Again, the gpsvc error. Apparently there had been some issue prior to the update attempt? I had to put it aside for a few days, until I got time to address it properly. By this stage, I was heading for an ISO file on a USB stick. This laptop now needs to be reset from the ground up, going back over all the metered connection, deferred updates, Customer Experience, Start Menu apps settings etc. etc. etc. – and I’m sure there’ll be something important I forget!

Having got the ISO installed, I was able to run SFC / SCANNOW and DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth. All 100% clear, thank goodness.

There are only 5-6 programs to reinstall. If this had been a production machine, I’d have dozens of programs to have to reinstall. It’s still going to take another day or two until I get it back to normal, as I have other things I need to prioritize. If I’m a bit cranky this weekend, you now know why!

I’m really lucky I have a wealth of knowledge, support and expertise here at my disposal. A normal home user would have ended up paying for professional technical support, and if it had been my production machine, would have resulted in a loss of chargeable hours. I’m counting my blessings!

 

SCCM + Intune = Microsoft Endpoint Manager

One of the biggest announcement at Ignite 2019 is the merging of System Center Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune into the newly named Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

This follows Microsoft’s continued goal of simplifying branding for its service / management tool offerings.  Upon reviewing the 1911 Technical Preview (TP), you can see the changes within the updated console…

One of the better detailed summaries on this change can be found here in an article written by Kurt Mackie for Redmondmag.com … I guess now I have some motivation for installing the latest TP if I want to get hands on with the new product!

Windows 10 “End of Life” revamp

So I saw a tweet from the great Prajwal Desai asking the question as to why Windows 10 version 1903 will reach “end of life” status before version 1809…

 

The answer?  Apparently Microsoft decided that all Windows 10 feature upgrades released in the spring will have a shelf life of 18 months regardless of what edition is installed compared to a 30 month shelf life for Windows 10 upgrades released in the fall.

I must admit: my initial reaction to this news was WTF?!?!  The response from Microsoft is that in keeping in line with their “___as a service” strategy, “spring” upgrades are now to be looked at as the version that introduces more and newer features while the “fall” upgrades will now serve more as a refinement of the previous version.

Who knows if this is going to be a winner in Microsoft’s eyes but to me it seems that the only thing that has been consistent about the servicing of Windows 10 is the consistency!

 

 

Big update release out of nowhere

So AskWoody.com is reporting that Microsoft has released over 50 security updates out of the blue aimed that fixing the numerous issues stemming from the previous update cycles.  Needless to say that the last couple of months has been disastrous from a patching perspective.

Check out the details here and let us know what you have been experiencing in the environments you’re managing.

Microsoft Exchange 2010

Interesting announcement from Microsoft in that they stated they will extend the end of support date for Exchange Server 2010 from the original January 14, 2020 date to October 13, 2020.

Microsoft provides this as a reason for extending support for this Server product:

Our commitment to meeting the evolving needs of our customers is as strong as ever, and we recognize discontinuing support for a product that has been as popular and reliable as Exchange Server 2010 can be an adjustment.  We also know that some of you are in the midst of upgrades to a newer version of Exchange Server on-premises, or more transformative migrations to the cloud with Office 365 and Exchange Online. With this in mind, we are extending end of support to October 13th 2020 to give Exchange Server 2010 customers more time to complete their migrations. This extension also aligns with the end of support for Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010.

Check out the full Tech Community post on Microsoft’s website here for all the details.

Managing Windows 10 Updates Revised

Over the past couple of years, Ed Bott of ZDNet.com has done an awesome job of breaking down how Windows 10 gets updates which is all a part of Microsoft’s new updating philosophy.  To his credit, he has not hesitated when he feels that past practice has changed to the point that the masses should be notified in “layman’s terms” and not “Microsoft speak”.

This has led to all new recommendations on how to approach the installation of optional updates in Windows 10 resulting from the latest version 1903 release.

Even though I may have posted his original piece in a previous post, check out the most updated one here for the full scoop on what’s recommended from here on out.  That is until Microsoft decides to change things yet again!

Speed up Windows 10

So I had a friend of mine ask earlier this week what could be done to maintain a high level of performance or speed up Windows 10 on his office PCs and rattled off numerous suggestions that could help the cause (i.e. keep installed programs to a minimum, have a good amount of available HDD/SSD space, keeping it free of infections, etc.)

It just so happens that as I’m browsing one of my favorite tech news sites, I come across an article detailing the ways that can help a Windows 10 user speed up their PC.

Check it out here and let me know if you see a difference in performance on your PCs!

Time Machine Backups for Windows OSs

While doing some casual browsing about all things tech, I came across a post discussing a software package that can pretty much be looked at as “System Restore” on steroids.  Enter RollBack Rx…it has also been dubbed as the Time Machine Backup-like solution for Windows.

Check out the details here and I’ll be sure to test out the software for myself!

Path to using in-place upgrades for Windows Server OSs

So I believe its safe to assume that all of you Sysadmins out there are as busy as I am with upgrading all of those legacy servers still running 2008 / 2008 R2 in anticipation of the “end of life” (January 14, 2020 to be exact) date soon approaching.

It’s been a heck of a ride thus far but there’s a question that came to mind: Which version of Windows Server are you upgrading to?  2012?  2012 R2?  2016?  2019?

Believe it or not…if you have the time or if it needs to be done out of necessity, Microsoft has published a road map of how to perform in place upgrades (3 to be exact) to get from 2008 (R2 or not) to 2019.

Obviously in a perfect world, you may not want to take this route but if you have no other choice, it may be worth giving this road map (found here) a look!

Also, don’t forget to let us know which version of Windows Server is your final destination… 🙂