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A look at Microsoft’s patches and fixes in 2021 — the year of change

Jacob Scott

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As we near the end of another year, I like to look back at the past 12 months in patching from MIcrosoft. What changed (a lot), what didn’t (patch-related problems). We began 2021 thinking Windows 10 would continue to be serviced and updated as usual, for instance. We end the year knowing different. (I’ll have some predictions for 2022 next week.)

We now know that Windows 10 will not receive updates indefinitely. Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled Windows 11 and announced it would need certain hardware and Trusted Platform Module installed before machines would receive new OS. Given that most users only have hardware that will support Windows 10, many will be running the older OS until 2025. Microsoft already announced it will be providing security updates for Windows 10 until then and will move to an annual feature release model — matching the cadence for Windows 11. (My prediction for 2025: Microsoft will offer extended security patches for even consumer versions of Windows 10 because so many of us will have still usable machines unable to update to Windows 11. Come back in 2025 and we’ll see if I’m right.)

We started 2021 worrying about whether major companies were getting attacked with a back door vulnerability that entered systems through monitoring software called Solarwinds Orion. A security company called FireEye found unusual behavior in their systems and traced it back to third-party monitoring software it implanted in its updating software. This vulnerability was an eye-opener for businesses that rely on the security of our vendors.

January also saw Microsoft moving to disable Adobe Flash in Windows. I always felt that embedding flash into the operating system was a bad decision. Adobe Flash had a bad security rep and embedding it meant mandatory Flash patching for Windows systems. A month later, in February, Microsoft announced it would phase out the old Edge browser in favor of the new Chromium-based version as of April 2021.

In March, Microsoft released an out-of-band update for Exchange email servers. Initially it said the attacks were specifically targeted against certain businesses. But a few days later, it was clear that even small businesses were hit by attackers using the vulnerability. Microsoft customers stressed that servicing Exchange email was difficult for several reasons. First, taking a mail server offline for maintenance has to be planned. Second, ensuring that mail flow is not affected means many mail admins were woefully behind on patching. Microsoft had to release patches for versions that were long out of support just to ensure that firms were protected. Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation got into the act and proactively patched the web shells of affected servers to ensure all customers were protected. This unusual act set a precedent we’ve yet to see repeated.

In April, as promised, Microsoft released the Chromium-based Edge on Windows 10. The company also changed 20H1 and 20H2 to integrate Service Stack updates (SSUs) in the Cumulative update releases. Microsoft did so to make it easier for IT admins to always have the latest servicing stack update installed.

May turned out to be a big month, with the end of support for Windows 10, version 1803 (Enterprise, Education, IoT Enterprise); Windows 10, version 1809 (Enterprise, Education, IoT Enterprise); Windows 10, version 1909 (Home, Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations); and Windows Server, version 1909 (Datacenter, Standard).

That same month, Microsoft dropped SHA-1 support from its download site, which meant that many older Windows tools suddenly no longer worked. It took several months to get WUShowhide tool re-signed with SHA2. And finally, on May 18 official release of Windows 10 21H1 arrived. A minor, quick update, 21H1 brought a few features for Windows 10 and was relatively painless to deploy.

In July, users saw the first of many print spooler patches that led to side effects for the rest of 2021. The “Print Nightmare” caused printing nightmares for many IT admins. While less disruptive to consumers, it showed that print spooler code has long allowed attackers to enter computer systems. Also arriving that month, a fix to remove Adobe flash completely from Windows systems and the inclusion of “News and Interests” in a cumulative update rather than having to wait for a feature release to be deployed.

August saw yet another print spooler vulnerability patched — and the first of many fixes for the printing issues introduced in July. In October, we got the first patches for the just-released Windows 11, including a remote code execution fix. And in November, Microsoft pushed out updates that also introduced unwanted side effects with single-sign-on and certain Kerberos deployments.

Oh, and we can’t forget Windows 10 21H2, a minor released that did not add many new features. What it did bring was a major change to the Windows 10 feature release cadence. Microsoft announced that it would no longer be supporting a twice-yearly release schedule, opting instead to match Windows 11’s once-a-year schedule. (This had long been a request from both users and IT administrators.

As I look back now, I realize how many changes we’ve had to deal with in 2021. Too often, Windows users complain that security updates cause disruptions because they make changes to the operating system. Yet, many of these changes are actually introduced in the feature release process. With Microsoft finally moving to a once-a-year model, these disruptions will hopefully be minimized.

As we near the last major Patch Tuesday update for 2021 — next Tuesday, Dec. 14 — now’s a good time to review the health of your system. Is there enough space available on your C drive? If you’re using a desktop computer, can it handle more RAM? Should you at least take a can of compressed air and blow out the dust bunnies? (Yes.) As you reflect on any patching issues you faced this year, feel free to send any lingering questions to Askwoody.com. We love to help.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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