Close Solitaire and open this: It’s everything-Microsoft's-up-to-that-isn't-at-this-year's-Build

Woeful 1809 market share, Google warns testers off Edge, and we fire up Visual Studio once again


Roundup Today, Microsoft's annual developer shindig Build kicks off in Seattle, USA. Ahead of that event, the gang still found time to tinker with Windows, fiddle with API packaging, and celebrate Solitaire.

Here's a quick rundown of everything non-Build before we get round to, er, building out our Build coverage.

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update about to be just a bad memory?

The latest set of statistics from the ad slingers, AdDuplex, will have made grim reading for those within the walls of Redmond who reckoned unleashing the Update Of The Damned without a bit of time spent in Release Preview was a good idea.

With the next version of Windows 10 - the May 2019 Update (aka 1903 or 19H1) - already making its way into the hands of users, the October 2018 Update only managed to add just under 3 per cent to its market share. The update is now on 29.3 per cent of the 100,000 or so PCs surveyed.

This doesn't compare well to the previous cycle, where the April 2018 Update had managed to reach 89.6 per cent of PCs just before the disastrous launch arrival of 1809 and its data deleting antics.

As ever, a hefty pinch of salt is needed since the data is collected from Microsoft Store apps running AdDuplex's SDK. However, even with a substantial margin of error, it is looking increasingly likely that the majority of users will be skipping 1809 altogether in favour of something a little less... deleterious.

Something funny happened on the way to the Chromium

With Microsoft's refreshed Edge (at least in Canary and Dev guise) adopting the Chromium rendering engine, users could have been forgiven for expecting that the tiresome nagging to install Chrome while pottering around Google's sites would be a thing of the past.

Not so, alas.

Screenshot showing browser message

Some Chromium browsers are more equal than others

Having previously been perfectly happy, Google Docs began warning us that the version of the pre-release Edge we were using was "no longer supported" and we weren't alone. Other users chimed in, with some reporting that other services, such as Google Meet was also having problems.

Tinkering with the user agent string (the code used by the browser to identify itself) resolved the problem, but is hardly a fix suitable for all users.

Eventually, an engineer weighed in with an explanation pointing to some browser listing by Google that, er, failed to include the new Chromium-powered Edge.

Now, far be it for us to call shenanigans, but Google does have some form here. Windows Phone users will well remember the Chocolate Factory's efforts to stamp out attempts by the doomed mobile platform to make use of its services in the name of user experience.

Still, it could be worse. You could be a member of the enthusiastic brigade of Firefox users who found existing and new add-ons suddenly borked over the weekend.

New Insider Build? Move along, sir, nothing to see here. No, really

On the eve of Build, the Windows Insider team emitted a fresh version, 18890

While still early in the development process, the release was surprisingly light on new features. Although old problems, such as anti-cheat code making the OS fall over and Realtek SD card readers not working, continued to linger like a toxic airborne emission in an aircraft, new ones arose and some got fixed.

Notable fixes included a nasty that could stop the Windows Sandbox from launching and another dealing with cumulative updates failing when a language update was happening.

Of the next version of Windows 10, 19H2, there remained no sign.

Need to hit the Windows API from WPF and WinForms? Things just got easier

While going direct to the Windows Runtime (WinRT) APIs may have once have raised an eyebrow or two, a tacit acknowledgement that, hey, perhaps devs might want to do such a thing has resulted in a preview of a NuGet package to add the Windows API goodness without faffing about with contract files and reference assemblies.

Stuff like geolocation and, of course, Windows AI, are a mere click away. For Windows 10 versions 1803, 1809 and 1903.

Naturally, we gave it a go and, er, it didn't work. It transpired that our preview version of Visual Studio (16.1 Preview 2) needed the latest .NET Core 3 preview, version 4, installed before the NuGet Package Manager Console could do its stuff with the preview packages.

Your mileage may vary, of course. Those who live by the preview are more likely to die by the preview see scary console errors.

Once installed, all was gravy. Hitting the WinRT API required little effort, although the gang does warn that version-aware code would be a good idea if you’re going to start targeting earlier platforms.

Microsoft "optimises" the doors shut on a US government Azure region

In a surprising move, given the relentless rise of Azure (at least in the eyes of Microsoft), the cloudy compute shack is due to shrink, just a little, with the closure of the US Government Iowa region in just under a year.

As part of a desire to be "more efficient and cost-effective", the doors are closing on Iowa. The gang is quick to point out that there are three other Azure government regions, all with similar or better tech to poor old Iowa.

The legendarily quick-moving US government has 12 months to shift resources elsewhere. Microsoft recommends Virginia.

A little post lunchtime prevaricaton? Solitaire has been inducted into the gaming hall of fame

The Strong Museum of Play has added Microsoft Solitaire to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, joining such luminaries as Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Kart and Colossal Cave Adventure.

Obviously, we expect it to be the Windows 3.0-style original, which debuted in 1990, having been developed by intern Wes Cherry in 1989, rather than the gaudy effort that appeared with Windows 8, when Microsoft tinkered with the beloved format.

A handy tool to teach users how to use a mouse and get to grips with dragging and dropping, the game has turned up on over a billion computers over the years, with Microsoft claiming 500 million time-wasters users playing the thing.

Such numbers (and beyond) are the stuff of dreams for Phil Spencer, as the Xbox boss celebrated a milestone in the Microsoft's xCloud ambitions (aka, shovelling racks of Xbox hardware into Azure data centres.)

While Microsoft continues to edge closer to a cloudy gaming dream, 5G pushers, Huawei, have been cheerfully plugging the concept, with the South Korean telecom provider LG U+ sticking Nvidia's wares on top of the Chinese company's kit.

We had a play on a 4K version of Need for Speed running on cloud servers during our tour of the company's "Smart Hotel". As you would expect, we were rubbish at it. However performance was impressive.

US players are, however, unlikely to be getting their mits on the company's gear any time soon for fear of finding a terrifying army of Chinese Dongfeng trucks secretly injected into the game code. ®


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