Roundup Another new Windows build, a flash of Bluetooth, and Azure gazes into Space: it's another Microsoft weekly roundup, categorically free of references to Dark Mode – except for that one (dammit).
Microsoft invites Windows users to preview the world of 2020, with better Bluetooth and still no Sets
To tide us over while waiting for Windows 10 19H2, which should be little more than a cumulative update compared to last year's bombshell, Microsoft dropped a fresh version of next year's Windows 10 – preview build 18985 – for Fast Ring Insiders.
Assuming you won your virtual coin toss against the electronic Dona Sarkar or Brandon LeBlanc, you would have been a member of the lucky 50 per cent to try out the gang's latest crack at Bluetooth pairing. Previously a notification would have flung a user into the Settings screen to finish pairing, but now the linking of devices is all done within notifications.
Of course, you need a supported device and Microsoft helpfully lists a few of its own. However, the improvement is welcome compared to the slightly clunky method of today.
The build was otherwise light on new features, with updates to screenshotter Snip & Sketch making their way to the Release Preview ring (and even some lucky retail users) and fixes to the "Reset this PC cloud" download option.
While that bug caused by gaming anti-cheat codes continues to linger, it also appears that Microsoft has given up on the age-old issue with some Realtek SD card readers.
The "known issue" is going to be dropped and users still struggling are asked to file feedback instead.
Finally, some users sniffing around other bits of Windows code noted references to the long-dropped Sets functionality. Sets, which allowed the grouping of application windows, was quietly axed last year as the Windows team focused on making 1809, the October 2018 Update, as super special as possible.
Could the function be on its way back in 21H1?
Nope.— Brandon LeBlanc (@brandonleblanc) September 23, 2019
So that's that then.
Intelligent Edge from SPAAAACE
As if to demonstrate there is really no escape from the edge computing hype machine, Microsoft and Ball Aerospace were selected by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to support the US Air Force's wonderfully acronymed Commercially Augmented Space Inter Networked Operations (CASINO) project.
The gang were tasked with making satellite data actionable more quickly. Microsoft and Ball (sadly not a nerdy comedy duo from Saturday evening telly of yore) pondered what it would take to downlink that data directly to the cloud.
While some might have thought about shovelling more edge smarts into the satellites, Microsoft's solution was wonderfully low tech: it stuck antennas on the roof of its data centres. It doesn't get much more direct than that. Data from multiple feeds can then be squirted directly into Microsoft's cloud, and Azure can get to work processing it, either combining it with other data or keeping things ITAR-compliant in Azure Government.
At the moment, streams from only 20 satellites are being processed. However, with the rapid growth anticipated in small satellite launches, adding a few more dishes to the rooftop rather than more purpose-built ground stations has a certain appeal.
Are you... local? Then we have some Azure Cognitive improvements for you
Microsoft continued the trend of sticking Azure smarts in local devices with the arrival of its latest and greatest text understanding feature, Read, in Docker containers. Customers can run the containers locally to, er, Read text from images.
Read is a step up from the RecognizeText function, which was able to extract printed text (for example, from business cards). Read takes things a bit further and can spot handwritten text, although, to be frank, when we played with it, we found it a little hit and miss. Then again, 35 years of bashing keyboards has left this hack with terrible handwriting.
Read also supports TIFF, PDF and multiple pages. It only works with English.
The old RecognizeText function is due for deprecation from 4 October so those using those Cognitive Services to parse text will need to upgrade sharpish.
PowerShell 7 goes Fourth
Microsoft has released a fourth preview of the upcoming PowerShell 7 as the command line favourite inched closer to a planned January 2020 release.
Admins with a smattering of C# experience will be pleased to see the arrival of the ternary operator (
?:) this time around. While the Boolean-botherer won't replace the good old fashioned
if...else, it's nice to have.
Other tweaks in the big bag of experimental features include a
-WorkingDirector parameter for the
StartJob cmdlet, better debugging tools and the ability to compile DSC configuration scripts to mof files on platforms that aren't Windows. The gang warned that the latter feature is still "work in progress".
Of course, the whole thing remains a preview, so caution should be exercised regardless.
A fresh Java update for Visual Studio Code and a fresh font for everyone else
The September update of Java on VS Code arrived last week with refactoring improvements, live linting and tweaks to the whole Getting Started experience.
Move refactoring has been added to allow developers to shunt packages and classes around a project. Class members can be moved to other classes and inner classes bumped up the hierarchy. Obviously, this could be done manually, but refactoring tooling is always to be welcomed.
The gang has also added support for Live Linting and batch check for Java via the Checkstyle extension, meaning no more saving files one by one to see the result, and made the integrated terminal the default debug console. The VS Code Java Test Runner also supports more JUnit 5 annotations.
What isn't in the update is the shiny new Cascadia Code monospaced font shown off at Microsoft's Build event in May.
Finally available from GitHub and due to be included with the next Windows Terminal update, the font is a pleasing-to-the-eye addition to the existing family of monospaced fonts used in text editors.
It also supports Programming Ligatures, although you'll need to enable font ligatures in VS Code's settings to actually use them.
And yes, this being the new Microsoft, it is licensed under the SIL Open Font License 1.1.
Windows Terminal was originally codenamed "Cascadia", so the naming of the font is not a huge surprise, although over 7,000 Twitter users voted in a poll that could have seen the thing called "Seattle Code".
Sadly, "Fonty McFontface" was omitted from the list of names. A missed opportunity. ®