Moving Away From Insider Builds

I have been an Xbox and Windows Insider since the two programmes were available. Though I have been more active in providing feedback and taking alpha, and regular early builds in the Xbox Insider programme than the Windows Insider programme. However, it has now come to the point where stability is an issue. I can live with the issues like party chat not working all the time or getting randomly disconnected from Xbox Live. But not being able to update your console is entirely different.

At the start of the Windows Insider programme I was active, much like I was with the Xbox Insider programme. The builds were fairly stable, the features were coming in fast and were generally reliably. However some point at the end of 2017 or early 2018 I felt that the builds had gotten less stable and I experienced a number of update issues. I never ran any of the Windows Insider builds on my regular and day to day Windows machine but the laptop that had been receiving builds was encountering issues updating to the next build and odd system performance and functional problems.

Note: I am well aware that taking early builds is always going to come with problems and being part of the programme is to help find issues, report them and provide feedback on the quality of the build. However when you cannot perform basic functions and update your machine to the next build, it becomes hard to stay in the programme. I commend Microsoft in trying to resolve as much of the issues as possible and getting the community’s feedback on features and functionality. But there comes a point where being part of the programme is no longer viable or worth it.

The issues that I had experienced with the Windows Insider programme, I rarely if ever experienced with the Xbox Insider programme. Updating to the latest Xbox OS version was never a problem (if you have an update waiting then your only options are to update to the new version, stay offline, or turn the Xbox off) and getting access to new features was great. Many of the issues I found with the Xbox Insider builds were mainly cosmetic until recently. Two weeks ago I tried to update my Xbox One X console to the latest Xbox OS build but I kept getting an upgrade error. As I stated above, my options were limited. I can either update the console or not play it.

I tried to update the console again after it failed, but that did not work. I performed a hard reboot and hard restart of the console but that too did not work. Looking at the Xbox support page provided me with an option to perform an offline update (but from what happened it appears that it only considers Xbox OS versions that are not part of the Xbox Insider programme). Updating offline did not help at all. I resorted to performing a factory reset but that too did not help. The error message was also inconsistent and when I went to the Xbox support page to look what the error messages meant, it showed that I needed to give my Xbox to Microsoft to fix it (not going to happen, especially during the holiday period). I was not sure the Xbox Insider build was the problem originally but I unenrolled the Xbox console from the Xbox Insider programme and tried to update it again. Low and behold it updated with no issue, to the current consumer wide stable version.

When you cannot update your console to the latest version, but need the update to have your console function properly it is a major issue. Should I have been part of the Xbox Insider programme with my main Xbox One X console? Probably not, just like I kept my main desktop Windows PC on a stable version of Windows 10 and my Windows laptop on an insider build, I should have done the same with my Xbox consoles. As it is noted by Microsoft when you join the programmes, the builds can be problematic and you may not use your machine because of the update or the update my brick your machine. With that in mind now and having issues I don’t feel it is worth getting access to new features when the builds are less stable no matter which ring (alpha, beta, etc) I am in. Once I learn that these issues are resolved or happening nearly not at all I may re-enroll my console.

Being an Xbox and Windows Insider

After installing a new Xbox OS update on my Xbox One X console, I launched the Xbox Insider application to see what the changes were and if there was any new Quests, Polls, Survey, etc. I noticed that I had been an Xbox Insider for 3 years and 11 months, essentially as soon as there was an option to try the latest features and opt in to new functionality I jumped on it. Along with being an Xbox Insider, I am also a Windows Insider; but I have not been as active in that program in recent months. Checking out the new features and functionality that the teams over at Redmond and around the world working at Microsoft are developing is something that really excites me. I love trying out new gadgets, devices, software, etc. What Microsoft is doing with both their Windows and Xbox platforms, allowing individuals to try new features and provide constructive criticism and feedback is extremely positive and very pro-consumer. It helps ensure that the best product is produced.

However by trying out early builds on either platform is not always fine and dandy. There have been a number of times when simple and basic functionality such as Xbox Live Party Chat did not work at all or installing and/or updating applications completely failed. Luckily to combat this, Microsoft has separated the Insider builds into “Rings” which determine the stability of each build and how new the features you will be getting are. If you are in the Alpha Ring (like I am) then you will get the latest and potentially breaking builds or you could be in the Delta Ring and get a significantly more stable build but not have the newest features. This creates choice for the individual while still allowing them to contribute to the evolution of the platform and assist in bug reporting (something as a software engineer is extremely helpful, the more testers the better). More software companies really need to start providing this feedback process as software is becoming ever increasingly more complex.

Many people will most likely not want to be involved in trying unstable or incomplete builds/features for various reasons. To me though, providing feedback and helping the features become less buggy and complete ready for the masses is rewarding (even though I do not write a single piece of code). To make trying out the new features more enticing and understandable, Microsoft has created Quests and Surveys. Generally if there is new functionality added after an update a new Quest will appear which shows you how to activate and or try it out. It is a very handy way to get your device configured with the new features. The Surveys provide an easy way to communicate how you find the new features (if they even do work as intended) and if there are any issues that you encountered. Reporting bugs and issues is also extremely easy. Each platform as their own Hub that allows you to provide as much detail as possible to help Microsoft resolve your problem, and if others have the same issue then they can piggy back off yours and add further information and diagnostic data.

Overall the entire Insider experience on both platforms has been fun and for someone who is looking to try new features before others, or just wants to help Microsoft out in providing the best possible experience for everyone then the Insider programs are a must. For more information about the Xbox Insiders Program check out the following link. For more information about the Windows Insiders Program check out the following link.