Woody Leonhard

About the Author Woody Leonhard


Microsoft promises fixes for several long-standing Surface problems

Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar Surface brand has taken many hits in its relatively short and sordid career, while customer support vacillated between inadequate and non-existent. Now, official posts on the Microsoft Answers Forum lend a ray of hope to those who have specific problems. It remains to be seen if the posts reflect a corporate change of heart, or if they’re just more of the same-old same-old.

Last week I wrote about the apparent bug in the Win10 Fall Creators Update that makes some Surface Pens stop writing. In that article I list 10 separate Answers Forum threads and two Reddit threads, packed with complaints from similarly afflicted customers.

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Non-security Office patches appear with the reprise of KB 2952664 and 2976978

November’s two dozen or so non-security Office patches won’t raise any eyebrows: A bad antivirus scanning sequence problem (KB 4011188, 4011229, 3162081, 4011138), an upgrade from Lynch 2013 to Skype for Business (KB 4011255), and lots of miscellaneous bug fixes. Two patches caught my eye.

First, I’m surprised that the antivirus scanning problem is characterized as non-security:

If Windows Defender is enabled and registered for IOfficeAntivirus scanning, Office applications still run registry key scanning first instead of using Windows Defender for documents scanning. After you install this update, Office applications will use Windows Defender instead.

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Microsoft yanks buggy Windows patches KB 4052233, 4052234, 4052235

As I reported last week, Microsoft released a handful of buggy patches designed to fix the “Unexpected error from external database driver” bug introduced by all of the October Windows security patches. As noted then, the bug fixes have bugs themselves, and the cure is worse than the disease.

Now comes word that Microsoft has not only yanked the bad patches; it’s also deleted the KB articles associated with the patches.

Specifically, all of these KB articles report that the page does not exist:

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Surface Pen malfunctions after installing Win10 Fall Creators Update

If you have a Surface Pen, and you installed the latest upgrade to Windows 10 – the Fall Creators Update, version 1709 – you may be experiencing problems with your pen.

No, the battery doesn’t need replacing.

No, your pen isn’t wearing out.

Instead, it looks like there’s a bug in 1709 that makes “pinch to zoom” fail – or simply disables the pen as a whole.

Poster GabrielleRice describes the worst problem on the Microsoft Answers Forum writes:

I have a Surface Pro 4, for which I’ve had a Surface Pen. My pen, however, has been malfunctioning. In essence, it stops writing. I can still use the buttons and my screen responds to touch, my keyboard still works, etc., but my pen simply will not write. Most puzzling, this problem comes and goes seemingly at random. The pen will be completely nonfunctional for hours at a time and then, without warning, will write flawlessly again. I’ve tried every troubleshooting tip to no avail, and have even replaced the battery. Replacing the battery helped briefly, but the problem has persisted. I went back again and tried the troubleshooting tips, but they haven’t stuck. As someone who bought this tablet to help me with my digital art, it’s really unhelpful to have a malfunctioning pen.

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MS fixes ‘external database’ bug with patches that have even more bugs

Yesterday, Thursday, a date which will live in infamy, Microsoft unleashed patches for five versions of Windows. They were supposed to fix the widely reported bug in all of the mainstream October Windows security patches that gave rise to a bogus “Unexpected error from external database driver” message.

It’s too early to assess all of the damage, but reports from many corners say installing these new patches brings back old, unpatched versions of many files. If you installed one of the patches from yesterday, best to uninstall it. Now.

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Surface Pro 4 screen shake/dead Type Cover problems fall on deaf ears

Microsoft’s ongoing record of shoddy response to Surface Pro problems continues unabated. This time, the Surface Pro 4 (born October 2015, superseded June 2017) takes the limelight: Complaints about shaky screens and dead Type Covers abound.

We’re seeing a repeat of the all-too-familiar pattern of Surface denial, aided and abetted by clueless, paid, outsourced support personnel on the Microsoft Answers forum.

Surface Pro 4 shaky screen

If you haven’t yet seen the shaky screen problem, look at this YouTube video submitted by DimkaSuperStaR 18 months ago. The Microsoft Answers forum has been flooded with complaints about the problem. I wrote about it six months ago and again three months ago.

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Free Windows 10 upgrade offer’s days are numbered

One of the best known nudge-nudge-wink-wink features of Windows 7 and 8.1 is about to fade into the sunset. As of Dec. 31, the offer to upgrade from either version of Windows to Win10 for free will end. At least, it looks like the offer will end. With no clear announcement from Microsoft, the nods and winks seem more furtive than ever.

At the core of the conundrum: Microsoft has officially permitted “genuine” Windows 7 and 8.1 machines to upgrade to Win10 for free, long after the original free upgrade program expired on July 29, 2016. The trick? You had to verify by asserting, “Yes, I use assistive technologies.”

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Get Windows and Office patched – but watch out for creepy-crawlies

Those of us who have to keep Windows 10 working have hit yet another rough course. This month’s patches haven’t been pretty. In fact, if your admin set the WSUS or SCCM update servers to automatically approve Windows 10 updates, you may have had to deal with oceans of blue screens.

Right now, the biggest threat is not KRACK – Computerworld‘s Gregg Keizer has an overview here and the Krackattacks.com site has the latest details; it hasn’t (yet) started infecting normal Windows users. The big threat now is from that Wacky Wascal BadRabbit, which started with a fake Flash update on a Russian site and an ancient DDEAUTO field exploit in Word (and Excel and Outlook and OneNote) and is being used to carry Locky and other ransomware.

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Win10 Fall Creators Update’s rapid, rocky rollout

A week ago today, Microsoft rolled out the “RTM” build of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (FCU), version 1709, build 16299.15 – which should’ve been immediately upgraded to 16299.19. At least anecdotally, the initial push brought in far more Win10 machines than any previous rollout. I’ve seen few reports of problems from those who had FCU thrust upon them, but there are plenty of problems among those who installed the upgrade manually.

Yesterday, Windows servicing and delivery director John Cable talked about the phased rollout approach on the Windows Blog. Cable said:

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Excel, Access, external DB driver errors linked to this month’s patches

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How to block Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from installing

Some people want to install the latest version of Windows 10 the moment it’s available. They’ll line up — intentionally or not — to participate in a beta testing cycle that’s disguised as a four-month-or-so exercise, designed to winnow the last bugs out of the new version before it’s deemed ready for corporate use.

If you want to help beta test an unpolished version of Win10, you don’t need to do a thing. Microsoft plans to release Fall Creators Update on Oct. 17 and will roll it out over your machine when the company figures it’s fit.

On the other hand, you might want to consider waiting until any initial problems get ironed out, keeping Win10 Fall Creators Update off your machine until you’re ready for it. Blocking the update isn’t easy, in many cases. But if you’re persistent, you can do it.

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Microsoft patch problems persist: bad release sequences, CRM blocks and more

We’re sitting at PT+2 — two days after Patch Tuesday — and the problems continue to roll in. Here are the latest mug shots in a rapidly devolving rogue’s gallery.

If you’ve been following along, you know about the initial problems I reported on Tuesday — the Word zero-day, TPM patches that don’t patch, known and acknowledged bugs in Windows patches. You saw the late bloomers I reported on Wednesday — delayed, failed and rolled back Windows patches, a non-existent Flash update, confusingly no .NET security patches, an incorrect description of the CVE-2017-11776 fix, and more TPM follies.

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Early reports of myriad Microsoft Patch Tuesday problems

This month’s massive bundle of Patch Tuesday patches almost certainly contains more than a few surprises, and they’re only starting to surface. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve seen in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

There are lots of reports of delayed, failed and rolled back installations of KB 4041676, the Win10 Creators Update (version 1703) monthly cumulative update, which brings 1703 up to build 15063.674. A quick glance at the KB article confirms that there are dozens and dozens of fixes in this cumulative update — a remarkable state of affairs, considering the Fall Creators Update, version 1709, is due on Oct. 17.

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Another banner Patch Tuesday, with a Word zero-day and several bugs

It’s going to be a banner patching month. I count 151 separate security patches and 48 Knowledge Base articles, as well as the odd Security Advisory.

The Windows patch Release Notes point to four known bugs:

The cumulative update for Win10 Creators Update, version 1703 — which sports dozens of fixes — has a couple of problems: Systems with support enabled for USB Type-C Connector System Software Interface (UCSI) may experience a blue screen or stop responding with a black screen when a system shutdown is initiated, and it may change Czech and Arabic languages to English for Microsoft Edge and other applications.

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Duck! Windows and Office patches are coming

If you’re running Windows, do yourself a favor and put Automatic Update on a temporary hold. Then wait and see if anything comes bursting apart at the seams.

Last month, there was good reason to install specific patches shortly after they were released — at least if you couldn’t train yourself to avoid the “Enable Editing” button in Word. But by and large, if you could avoid that button, there were myriad reasons why waiting a bit before installing the September patches paid off.

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