Noooooo, my theme-aware splash screen! Windows 10 Dev Channel sheds features as Microsoft jumps branches

Also: HoloLens 2 Dev Edition out, .NET 5 prepares debut, and PowerToys Mute gets experimental


In Brief It is said that Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away.

The company demonstrated this once again last week with a new Dev Channel Windows Insider release that tickled Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) fans but snatched away a few of the new toys it doled out over recent weeks and months.

Build 20246 saw a jump to a new release branch (FE_RELEASE) by engineers, which meant a swathe of features including voice typing, theme-aware splash screens and the updated emoji picker have "temporarily" been ditched as far as the Dev Channel is concerned.

The new branch remains a bit of a playground for engineers, meaning anything that appears (or disappears) isn't a guarantee of what will turn up in General Availability. It also marks the point where one would reasonably expect the Beta Channel to start hinting at what is coming down the line in 2021.

As well as the removal of existing features, the preview Calendar app is also scheduled for the chop "in an upcoming update" and will return to "its classic look and feel." You lucky, lucky people.

Still, WSL fans will welcome automatic Linux distribution installation via wsl.exe –install and a fix for those having GPU compute problems inside the environment. Other fixes included one dealing with devices running Malwarebytes Web Protection being unable to connect to the network and the usual parade of bugchecks.

The Dev Channel release was joined by another for Windows 10 20H2. Build 19042.610 hit both the Beta and Release Preview Channel with a list of changes comprising just the one item: a fix for a Code Integrity Policy that was causing Docker pull operations to fail.

.NET fans to mark the 10th virtual .NET Conf with a 5.0 release

November is here, and rather than attend a likely cancelled fireworks party, .NET fans can instead pitch up for .NET Conf 2020 where Microsoft has confirmed that .NET 5.0 will be launched.

Things kick off on 10 November and, as widely expected, Microsoft's crack at unifying the .NET world will receive the General Availability moniker.

Microsoft has grand plans for the new framework. As well as targeting a variety of platforms (Windows, Linux, Android, and so on), Microsoft would really like developers to ditch the various legacy platforms it has emitted over the years in favour of the one true .NET.

Not that those crusty old frameworks will be going anywhere – while the more exciting new features will be reserved for .NET 5 and above, the sheer weight of legacy code means that security and bug fixes should keep rolling in for a while yet. The .NET Framework 4.x will follow the same lifecycle policy as the version of Windows on which it is installed.

Still, for those seeking to make the leap, the cross platform .NET 5 has new toys (including Arm64 support and performance tweaks) to delight and the odd breaking change or two that possibly won't.

HoloLens 2 Development Edition arrives at last (in the US)

Far be it from us to wonder if US residents might wish to immerse themselves in a virtual world at the moment, but the timing of the HoloLens 2 Development Edition might be just the distraction needed by those with $3,500 to burn and a desire to wave a digit at holographic content.

Aimed at getting developers to build "experiences" with the pricey headgear, Microsoft bundles $500 of Azure credits into the deal, as well as three-month licences of Unity Pro and the Pixyz plugin (Microsoft claims the latter two come to $750 in value, assuming a developer doesn't already have them).

Unity is a popular platform in the 3D world, and its inclusion will be welcomed, although commercial licensing will be needed for those wishing to play with the keynote-fodder Dynamics 365 Remote Assist feature.

As ever, Microsoft has targeted the US first. Other countries, including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, will hit "by the end of the year."

Only a few more days to wait for that Mute button

It might have come too late for some, but the Video Conference Mute feature in Microsoft's retro-throwback PowerToys bundle should hit in experimental form this week.

The promise was made as part of last week's 0.25 release, which focused on "quality of life" improvements as well as stability and localisation.

PowerToys is a handy bundle of utilities, connected to the Windows 95 incarnation mainly in name only (and perhaps the fact that some, if not all, should really be in-box apps). 0.25 included fixes for many of the features (including FancyZones and PowerToys Run) but the Video Conference Mute function remained missing as the team continued to iron out issues.

Added while the world locked itself down, the function mutes audio and kills video with a single keystroke. With work for many still being conducted remotely, the arrival of the feature (even in experimental form) will be most welcome. ®

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