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What's that, Skippy? A sad-faced Microsoft engineer has arrived with an axe? Skippy?

Plus: New toys for Teams, a fresh Visual Studio Code, and more

Roundup Despite it being Ignite week for much of Microsoft, there was still plenty going on in the house that Bill built.

The axeman cometh for Windows Insiders' Skip Ahead

Windows Insiders expecting a quiet week keeping the Ignite booth staffed were to be disappointed as build 19018 of next year's Windows 10 (20H1) was pushed to those on the Fast Ring.

While the build itself wasn't particularly earth-shattering (even less so if you live outside the US), it did bring news that further rationalisation is happening within Windows testing, including snuffing out Skip Ahead.

Skip Ahead allowed access to bleeding-edge builds. As 19H2 nears release (Patch Tuesday anyone?) and Fast Ring users remain on 20H1, we would have expected a short window to open, allowing Insiders to jump on to 20H2, before slamming shut again. No more, it seems. "Our goal," said the team, "is to provide everyone in the Fast Ring the freshest builds at the same time."

The move reflects further simplification following last year's disastrous October 2018 Update, which memorably wiped user files, and the more recent confusion around the whereabouts of 19H2.

The November 2019 Update (19H2) has since become little more than a jumped-up cumulative patchfest. Users battered and bruised by Windows 10's inexplicable twice-yearly release cadence will be hoping to see major emissions settling down to something a little more annual.

As for 20H1 itself, there are four new quick web searches in Search Home: Weather, Top News, Today in History and New movies. The tweak is a server-side change, so will roll out for all builds from 1809 onward. The change will only hit US owners, presumably because weather and news doesn't happen outside of the Land of the Free.

Other fixes included dealing with spiking CPU usage when a device is unplugged and accessibility issues, including Narrator improvements when used with Google's Chrome.

There was also affection for Cortana as the gang dealt with the unloved assistant not appearing after an upgrade and failing to respond to "Hey, Cortana."

The poor thing was probably saying the electronic equivalent of "I can't answer right now, as I am being crowbarred into Microsoft 365. Ouch."

The Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL) also got some update love. The latest version includes fixes for localhost relay and restoring the persistent network drive for \\wsl$.

At present, WSL 2 is tied to the Windows 10 release cadence although we did note a wistful glance or two directed at the Edge team, which has broken free from the OS, from some within the WSL gang at Microsoft Ignite.

Never did no Arm: Edge looks likely for Penguinistas but Surface Pro X buyers should look to... Firefox?

Though Microsoft may have confirmed at Ignite that a Linux version of its new Chromium-based browser is on the way as it boasted of the code's cross-platform capabilities, it seems customers using Arm processors remain out of luck.

The Edge team were more than happy to confirm that Linux builds were lurking internally within the walls of Redmond – the gang are pondering what distributions to support – but the mention of Arm resulted in some shuffling of feet.

It's an odd situation. The Register saw Edge on Arm at Microsoft's Build event back in May and we were impressed with its performance since native Arm apps are considerably snappier than Intel-compiled code in emulation. However, other than a few leaks, an official build has yet to appear, even in the company's pre-release channels.

Those who have spanked a not insubstantial amount of cash on Microsoft's latest and greatest Surface, the Pro X, could be forgiven for hoping that the Windows giant would show similar commitment to the new Arm-based platform and throw the early adopters a bone.

Otherwise there's always Firefox.

Break out the Team toys

Also missing in action for those Pro X users is a native Arm version of the Teams client. However, for other users, there were plenty of new toys unleashed last week, including the long-awaited Private channels function.

Arriving before the end of the year will be the ability to publish the products of the Power platform to the Teams apps library as Microsoft seeks to close the app gap between it and arch-rival Slack. The likes of Power Automate will also be able to set up workflows within the collaboration platform.

Coming in 2020 are multiwindow capabilities to "pop out" chats and other Team activities into a separate window, a new Yammer app and better Outlook integration. And as if to rub salt into the wounds of those Pro X users, a Linux Teams client is due to hit preview later in 2019.

Visual Studio Code housekeeping

Finally, 4,622 issues were closed by the VS Code team last month during a frenzied bit of housekeeping. Those pesky users, alas, went and created another 2,195 but, overall, the gang reckoned it was ahead of the game with a net reduction of 2,427 issues.

While they were at it, the team also addressed a number of feature requests for the version 1.40 release.

Most useful in the mostly cosmetic tweaks is an indicator in the Activity Bar to make the active item a little clearer although customisers will be pleased to find theme-able window borders. The font rendering of the editor has also been improved, as has the scaling of the minimap, which will be handy for those lucky to enough to own high DPI displays.

Otherwise, the release was very light on major features as the team burned through the open issues. And, of course, the arrival of Visual Studio Online in public preview form may have proven more than a little distracting. ®

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