Roundup Welcome to another look at recent happenings in Redmond, starring Visual Studio, Windows 10, Azure bots and that 20 year anniversary of the anti-trust case when Microsoft realised that breaking up was hard to do.
Wake us up when Windows 10 has new toys
Another version of Windows 10 hit the Fast Ring for Windows Insiders last week in the form of build 19640.
Enthusiasts looking forward to some of the new toys teased by Microsoft over recent months, such as the GPU pass-through for the Windows Subsystem for Linux or maybe even some of the containery shenanigans lurking within Windows 10 X sneaking into the flagship OS, were to be disappointed.
The Windows team scaled new heights of tedium this time around.
As has become the norm, there were again no new features to play with. Instead, Microsoft has disabled the option to have Storage Sense clear out the Downloads folder if it has been set to be synced to a cloud provider. Accidentally starting a username with a space will also no longer result in an error.
The issues list contained the usual suspects, such as the update hanging and the odd broken rectangle.
More Windows 10 2004 woes
While some grumble about a lack of progress on the next version of Windows 10, others continued to be faced with issues with the just-released incarnation. Despite spending a prodigious amount of time sat in testing, the release managed to arrive borked for some of Microsoft's own hardware.
You can add some variants of Intel Optane memory (or its drivers) to that list, as first reported by Windows Latest. The issue appears limited to Intel Optane M10 and H10 memory. H10 is punted to OEMs by Chipzilla as a way of boosting SSD performance. Or, in this case, making Windows 10 2004 vomit an error or two.
The problem itself looks to be a compatibility issue where, if newer driver files have been installed, the OS update has a crack at reapplying the removed installation files from earlier versions, resulting in an "Unable to load DLL 'iaStorAfsServiceApi.dll'"-type error.
While Microsoft has yet to officially acknowledge the issue in its Windows 10 Health Dashboard (although its education orifice did note something was amiss), Intel has published a guide on dealing with the problem.
In a statement sent to The Register, Intel said:
“We are aware of the issue and have been working with Microsoft on a fix. This issue applies to a small portion of the client (PC) segment for Intel Optane Memory for M10 and H10 products. There is no impact to Optane SSDs (e.g. 905p) or server products, which are not specifically associated with the Windows 10 May 2020 Update.”
Preview 2 of Visual Studio 16.7 arrives with C++ and Kubernetes toys
OS woes aside, the Redmond gang also livened up last week with an update to its flagship development environment in the form of Visual Studio 16.7 Preview 2.
The update improved the C++ space by adding the ability to add, edit and remove SSH connections in the Connection Manager. This in turn means that C++ projects can be built and debugged on a remote Linux system directly from Visual Studio. Enhanced Intellisense support for Clang has also arrived.
As one would expect, the team has also been working on Git functionality, with tweaks around merge conflicts and a vaguely terrifying checkbox to resolve all merge conflicts in one side or other of the merge editor with a single click. The gang has also worked on the commit text box as well as having VS close open folders and solutions prior to clone operation in an effort to get devs to their code faster.
Finally the Local Process for Kubernetes feature has turned up, allowing .NET microservice code to be written on a developer workstation while you are connected to a Kubernetes cluster (rather than having to go through the aggravation of building and deploying a container image).
Tweaks and teasing for Teams users
Microsoft continued to shovel toys into Teams, with a tease of a Zoom-baiting 49 users in a video meeting (up from the nine simultaneous video streams recently released) and a jump in the attendee limit for meetings and group chats to 300 people.
The company also kicked off last week by adding video Meetings in the free version of Teams with no limits on meeting length or size ("in response to COVID-19").
At last, a bot to tell you when the bins will be emptied
News reaches us that a bot built with Azure Cognitive Services has been deployed by the UK's Cheshire West and Chester Council for residents to chat with while the council's employees deal with the 5,000 locals shielding from the virus.
The bot, AIDA, can answer questions on a range of topics, ranging from coronavirus symptoms to pharmacy openings and, perhaps most important for the average Brit, when the bins are due to be collected.
10,000 more Microsoft-certified cloud fans on the way thanks to NTT DATA
NTT DATA, the services tentacle of Japanese telco giant NTT, has revealed a "strategic partnership" with the Windows maker aimed at flinging the likes of Azure, Microsoft 365 and Teams at clients.
NTT DATA had already hopped into bed with AWS via a three-year strategic collaboration agreement. However, the 900 AWS certifications the company laid claim to back in February is dwarfed by the 10,000 employees due to be qualified with digital technologies and Microsoft cloud-related certifications.
The move will see Microsoft further rolling its cloud tanks onto the lawns of Bezos and co, with Microsoft 365 and Teams providing a little extra leverage as the company continues the growth of its marketshare.
Breaking up is hard to do: 20 years since lawmakers tried to take a hammer and chisel to Microsoft
Where were you 20 years ago? Microsoft was staring at a judge holding a very, very big axe as Thomas Penfield Jackson issued a decision that could have seen the Windows behemoth broken up to stop it violating antitrust laws.
The plan would have seen the company split into two smaller companies, one dealing with its PC Operating System business and the other handling applications, such as the dominant Office suite of apps.
The Beast of Redmond back then was quite unlike the cuddly image Micros~1 likes to project today. Lawmakers, frustrated with execs such as the less-than-saintly Bill Gates and the company's monopolistic tendencies, reckoned a breakup was the best option. Pulling the OS away from the apps team meant the company would no longer be able to fill users' desktops with its wares quite so easily.
Naturally, Microsoft disagreed and unleashed the lawyers, overturning the ruling a little over a year later.
While Microsoft's legal shenanigans would fill volumes, this week's anniversary marks the moment the IT world slipped down one leg of the Trousers of Time. Enliven your lockdown by pondering what might have happened in the previous two decades had that axe actually been wielded. ®