Roundup As Microsoft's Ignite shindig loomed, the gnomes of Redmond took a break from crafting PowerPoints to emit Windows builds and a new icon for Edge.
A not-so-fond farewell to IE's e
Finally, the Edge team led the Windows faithful on a merry dance, teasing fanboys and fangirls to hop through hoops and solve puzzles in order to work out "what's next".
If you were hoping that "what's next" would be a date for the release of Microsoft's new browser, you would have been disappointed. Instead, those that solved the clues were rewarded with the new logo for Microsoft's crack at something that might be used for more than just downloading an alternative.
It's the latest sign that the Windows giant is keen to put the Internet Explorer days behind it (and the ill-judged first go at an Edge logo).
The past is not entirely forgotten, since there remains a trace of an "e" in what Microsoft doubtless fervently hopes will make users think of surfing a wave rather than a reminder of the browsers of yesteryear.
Unless, of course, you are the Australian Border Force.
Microsoft drops a new build, persuades Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 to be frugal with its RAM
While less courageous souls awaited the arrival of Windows 10 19H2 (aka the November 2019 Update), Microsoft has continued to fiddle with 20H1 for users in the Fast Ring.
Last week's emission was relatively light on features, unless kaomoji or the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 are your thing.
For the former, Microsoft has updated the Windows 10 emoji keyboard to include some extra kaomoji. You know the things – a sequence of characters that look like a, er, thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The latter, however, is a good deal more interesting and though the Windows team skipped lightly over the improvement, summarising it as an update to release unused Linux memory back to Windows, Craig Loewen, program manager for the Windows Developer Platform, went into quite a bit more detail.
The WSL2 VM is a voracious beast, allocating host memory based on the needs of the Linux kernel or the running processes. The problem (as we've noted on occasion) is that once allocated, WSL2 was not at all keen on handing memory back.
Developers weary of having to hit the skill switch will therefore be relieved to learn that once a Linux process releases in-use memory, it will now be handed back to the Windows host. Loewen used a C app to illustrate his point, although this hack's efforts with the language are more than capable of leaking RAM faster than an incontinent Labrador on a road trip.
Also notable is a Linux kernel patch to return contiguous blocks of memory to the host when no longer required (although WSL2 will not free up the page cache until the Linux kernel deems fit).
WSL2 aside, the gang has added some DirectX 12 features (including the likes DirectX Raytracing tier 1.1) to exercise those expensive GPUs.
The updated build also included a swathe of fixes, including an issue causing skipped frames in full-screen video and games. The mystery Wi-Fi reset bug was also dealt with.
However, the team has warned that, as well as anti-cheat issues, some users may find the Settings app borked due to a problem with Display Settings. It is good to remember, after all, that this all remains preview code for the time being.
20H1 is expected to be unleashed on the public at some point in the first half of 2020.
Your Phone drops Bluetooth, 'elevates' Phone Screen
There was good news for Your Phone users as Microsoft dropped the requirement for a Bluetooth Low Energy radio in order to use the phone screen function.
Previously, a user needed the gizmo attached to their PC in order to view the screen of their Android phone in the Windows 10 app. However, precious few PC owners actually had the necessary hardware, and so the feature remained a curiosity out of reach for many.
However, having "partnered closely with Samsung", Microsoft has removed the dependency, meaning users of a wider range of phones (from Samsung, naturally) can fiddle with their Android screens direct from their Windows 10 desktop.
While the Phone screen option will be hidden from users that lack one of the favoured phones, it is a safe bet that it won't be long before more members of the Android ecosystem get to join in the fun.
Phone screen requires a PC running the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (or later) and a compatible Samsung phone running at least Android 9.0 and on the same network as the PC.
By the Power of Renaming, I give you: PowerToys 0.12
The update fixes the issues that made the FancyZones windows manager a challenge with multi-monitor setups, making the tool more or less usable now (although the team acknowledged there is more to do).
However, the suite now includes a handy multiple file renamer in the form of a Windows Shell Context Menu Extension called PowerRename.
Via a dialog festooned in checkboxes in a way that only a developer could love (heck, it is PowerTools after all) a user can apply anything from search and replace to full-on regular expressions to rename parts of filenames, replete with options to expand or reduce the scope.
While we're not entirely sure the goal of "simplicity for the average user" has been completely achieved, it's quite a step up from some of the convoluted PowerShell commands we've used in the past.
Coming down the pipeline in future versions of the increasingly handy toolbox are functions to record animated GIFs, kill processes and a widget to maximise a window to a new desktop.
Oh, and doubtless more dark mode support. Rejoice.
Azure Sphere to finally become Generally Available... next year
It's been a while coming but Microsoft has named the date (or month, at least) for when its Azure Sphere micro-controller unit (MCU) and associated cloudy service will finally be ready for prime time.
February 2020 is the month to circle.
As a reminder, the Azure Sphere platform is part of Microsoft's tilt at the edge computing space, consisting of custom chippery based on Microsoft's System-on-Chip (SoC) blueprint and running its lightweight Linux-based Sphere OS. The hardware connects to the Azure Sphere service, which ensures things are kept up to date and the gizmos only run approved firmware.
It first put in an appearance back in April 2018, along with the MediaTek MT3620 hardware (which didn't ship until much later in the year). Microsoft said at the time that it expected the first devices using the tech to by shipping by the end of 2018.
In June 2019, chipmaker NXP signed up to extend its i.MX 8 high-performance applications processor series to include Azure Sphere tech, while Qualcomm will be delivering the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere chip.
Microsoft will also ship an SDK for Linux and an extension for Visual Studio Code "soon" as it seeks to engage more developers in its IoT tech. Full-fat Visual Studio users have had a preview of the SDK since September 2018. ®