Windows 10 beta build 15002 brings real improvement

Beyond the marketing glitz and interminable feature lists, there’s actually a lot to like in this Creators Update

Windows 10 beta build 15002 brings real improvement

With much Insider fanfare and reams of feature lists, Microsoft yesterday released its latest beta of the next version of Windows 10: Redstone 2, Creators Update, build 15002.

After last year’s long string of lackluster Creators Update beta builds, I expected to find lots of fluff and little substance when I tore into the build overnight. Much to my delight, I found a few items that deserve your attention.

If you’re wowed by being able to put tiny tiles inside of bigger “folder” tiles, or a Win-Shift-S shortcut key for a Snipping Tool workalike, by all means read through the official announcement. Knock yourself out and download a desktop theme while you’re at it.

But if you’re looking for something a bit meatier, follow along. For the first time in a long while, there’s actually something there.

My jaw dropped when I saw that build 15002 supports metered connection status for both Wi-Fi and plugged-in (Ethernet) connections. Sounds esoteric, but it isn’t. If that feature makes it into the final version of the Creators Update (likely in April), then forced updating—one of my biggest complaints about Windows 10, which I’ve been kvetching about for years—will suddenly go away.

If Microsoft allows anyone to turn their internet connection into a “metered connection,” there’s suddenly an easy way to block forced Win10 updates. A few clicks (Action Center > Network > connection > Metered connection) will let you flip between blocking all updates and allowing them. Not Windows updates alone, mind you, but also Office, .Net, and driver updates – all will have a simple, single on/off switch.

Those of you who have avoided Win10 because of the forced updates need to take a new look. With the Creators Update, you no longer have to resign yourself to unpaid beta tester status. You can wait and watch while others test Microsoft’s patches, without going through convoluted patching avoidance schemes.

There are other Windows Update improvements worth your perusal. You now can change Active Hours – the block of time where Windows supposedly won’t reboot your PC – to last up to 18 hours (it was 12 hours in build 1607).

win 10 advanced options IDG

The press is making a big deal out of two settings on the Windows Update Advanced options screen (screenshot): “Include driver updates when I update Windows” and “Pause Updates for up to 35 days.” Those options are only available in Win10 Creators Update Pro and Enterprise versions. As best I can tell, neither is new – they were both included in the Anniversary Update – but they’ve been relocated from the Group Policy Editor and made part of the Settings applet.

“Include driver updates” appears in Win10 Anniversary Update build 1607’s GPEdit as Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Do not include drivers with Windows Updates.

“Pause updates” is a bit different. In Win10 Anniversary Update build 1607, GPEdit’s Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Defer Windows Updates > Select when Quality Updates are received has a similar setting, but it’s a variable (not on/off), and is limited to 30 days.

The GPEdit structure for updating has gone through many changes since the RTM build of Windows 10. Vestiges of older versions’ settings frequently—and confusingly—have no effect on newer versions. I’m seeing that again with this build. For example, switching the slider in the Settings applet has no effect on the GPEdit settings, and vice versa.

Paul Thurrot has a great take on the 35-day delay:

So it’s a fact: Windows 10 updates are not reliable. So much so that Microsoft is taking a small step to ensure that technical/educated users can find an option to protect themselves from this problem. Folks, that needs to be the default. Non-security updates should always be delayed by 35 days. And only those users who actually want updates immediately should be forced to find an option to open themselves up to this problem.

As I explained in September, that’s exactly how the Insider Preview ring should work. I agree with Paul but look at it from a different angle. I would also argue that you can’t wait 35 days to roll out some patches—particularly certain security patches. It’s best to set up the Insider Preview ring as a separate, not-beta-tester activity, and manage it accordingly. Let nonsecurity (and some security) patches percolate through the Insider Preview ring and only release them when they’re ready. 

In short, Microsoft is treating its Win10 Home users (and Pro users who don’t know any better) as unpaid beta testers. It’s a congenital flaw in the current “as a service” update model.

There’s a minefield here, and I wonder if anybody at Microsoft has thought it through. Win10 cumulative updates come at least every month, on the second Tuesday. What happens when you’ve paused updates for 35 days, and a new cumulative update comes out? Are you still paused for four or more days? (If so, why doesn’t the option say “Skip the next cumulative update”?) Does installing either cumulative update reset the timer? Or does installing a cumulative update turn off Pause update?

I guess we’ll find out in a month or two.

Working with a metered connection is much simpler and cleaner. Of course, Microsoft won’t recommend using the metered connection for fear that people will never apply updates—a perfectly reasonable fear, in some cases.

Another worthwhile improvement in build 15002 is hard to define but easy to see: The interface works better. Resizing windows is noticeably less laggy. High-definition screens are actually usable with some apps that don’t recognize high res. The improvements are good enough that you may want to think about upgrading your monitor to 4K.

Windows Defender is going through major changes, not the least of which is a transition from an old-fashioned desktop Win32 program into a fancy-schmancy UWP Metro app. Both the old and new versions are available in build 15002. The jury’s still out on whether the new version is better than the old.

Edge gains some ground on Chrome and Firefox with build 15002. It includes an interesting method for storing groups of tabs, not unlike Hide Tab, Tab Commander, and a dozen or so long-standing Chrome and Firefox extensions. I have no idea why Microsoft is building the extensions into Edge instead of encouraging experienced extension devs to make their own. Flash gets buried a little deeper, with manual approval required for the first run of Flash on a given site. Microsoft claims Edge won’t crash as often, but it seems like I’ve heard that before. (I gotta admit, the new tab preview bar is pretty slick.)

There’s also been a lot of work on the Action Center. Two MSDN articles talk about grouping toast notifications and creating custom timestamps—both of which will, some day, improve the usefulness of those notifications.

I’ve seen several reports that the Share pane (click the circle-with-dots icon in Edge) now includes ads—or rather, icons for “shareable” apps that may or may not be of interest to you and may or may not cost you money. They're PUPs, in other words.

You may have already heard about the Green Screens of Death. Microsoft is making BSODs on Insider builds green, so it's easier to answer questions. Don’t worry, your production machines will all go blue.

There are promises of other improvements that haven’t arrived yet, including Cortana voice to step users through setup, Defender PC health scans, camera-detected Good-bye (“Dynamic lock”), Edge Web Payments, My People on the taskbar, and Hyper-V Quick Create.

We’re getting down to the wire, folks. If Microsoft’s going to ship the Creators Update in April, those features need to be nailed down in the next couple of weeks.

This build is remarkably stable, but it has its problems. Some users report that they can’t get it to install. If you’ve had issues, run it up the flagpole on Reddit or drop by AskWoody.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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