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Microsoft moves its Windows 10 Insider Program from rings to release channels

For the last few years, Microsoft has given Windows enthusiasts the ability to opt in to early release ‘rings,’ with the choice to pick between ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ rings, as well as a relatively stable ‘release preview’ option. Today, the company announced a major change to this program as it is moving to release channels, similar to what you’re probably familiar with from most browser manufacturers.

“We are transitioning and converting our current ring model, based on the frequency of builds, to a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts,” writes Microsoft principal program manager lead Amanda Langowski in a blog post today.

She notes that the result of the ring-based system was that in the middle of 2019, for example, Windows Insiders were running builds from 3 different releases, depending on which ring they chose.

“As we continue to evolve the way we release Windows 10 and the diversity of Insiders we serve is greater than ever, it is critical that Insiders have a flighting option that is tailored to their needs,” she adds. “We believe the best way to do this is to shift focus from frequency to quality.”

Image Credits: Microsoft /

So starting later this month, the ‘fast’ ring will become the Dev Channel, the ‘slow’ ring the Beta Channel and the ‘release preview’ will now be known as the Release Preview Channel.

The Dev Channel is meant for users who want to get very early access to new features, which isn’t all that different from fast rings, but what’s important here is that this channel isn’t tied to any specific release. New features in this channel will make their way into releases once they are ready, whether that’s as part of a major update or a servicing release. Because of its unstable nature, Microsoft says this release is mostly meant for highly technical users.

As for the Beta Channel, the main different here is that it is really the beta version of a specific release and means for early adopters. And the Release Preview is exactly what you would think and meant to test relatively stable builds before they get shipped to the wider Windows 10 user base (and with that, IT admins can also test those releases ahead of their release to a company’s employees, too).

If you’re part of the Windows Insider program, those changes will be automatic and start with builds that are set to launch later this month.

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Chrome gets global media controls

Here is a small but useful new feature in Google Chrome: global media controls that allow you to control all of the audio and video sources in your current tabs from a single widget. With this, you can switch to the next song from your favorite web-based music streaming service, start and stop a YouTube video that’s playing the background or switch back and forth between what’s playing in multiple tabs without having to hunt around your browser for the right tab. It’s not going to rock your world, but it’s a useful new feature.

Google started these media controls last year when it enabled it for Chromebook users, but it’s now live in the stable channel for all Chrome users across desktop platforms.

This seems to work with as many media tabs as you can handle, though from what I have seen, Google’s own services like YouTube and YouTube Music tend to get more extensive control options with thumbnails while Spotify only showed three controls to go back, skip to the next song and pause.

To give it a try. Simply play media in any of your tabs and look for the new media control icon to pop up to the right of the URL field.

It’s worth noting that the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, which came out of preview yesterday, features the exact same media controls (down to the icon) in its pre-release channels, though they haven’t made it into the stable release yet. Firefox does not currently have a similar built-in feature.

Source: TechCrunch