Cortana and Search to innovate separately in an amicable Windows 10 Insider split

Microsoft introduces the Schrödinger Linux Subsystem. (It might work. It might not.)

Hot on the heels of a patch for the version of Windows 10 that Microsoft hopes will undo the woes of 2018 comes a fresh insider build to break stuff just a few days before the company's bug bash.

Build 18317 brings with it more hints as to the eventual fate of Microsoft's unloved assistant, Cortana. Avoiding the "C" word has been tricky, with the thing being invoked at the slightest provocation.

But no more. As the Insider Team delicately puts it, Microsoft is "decoupling Search and Cortana" in the taskbar, allowing "each experience to innovate independently".

The move is interesting, both removing the shackles of Cortana from desktop search and hinting at the possibility of consumers being able to pick and choose their assistant while Cortana's technology continues to find a more comfortable home in Microsoft's productivity line.

One online wag wondered if Siri might make an appearance, a suggestion as horrifying as it is unlikely. Amazon's Alexa, however, could easily slip into Cortana's consumer footwear.

Microsoft has also taken strides in making Start work better in Windows, splitting it into its own process. This means that when if it falls over, it shouldn't take the rest of the desktop down with it or vice versa.

WSL – the Subsystem from Hell? Maybe not

Not so reliable is the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), which Microsoft warns will trigger a Green Screen of Death (GSOD) for the unwary. The gang at Redmond go as far as to suggest Linux lovers lay off this build if WSL is their thing.

It's all very odd. We're rather keen on WSL here at Vulture Central and of course had to have a go. We found that, well, it just works. The Insider team remarked that popular apps such as VI or tar would cause this build to vomit up a bugcheck but again, we simply couldn't make it fall over no matter what we threw at it.

And we weren’t alone. Inveterate poker-of-the-guts of Windows, Rafael Rivera, gave WSL a damn good kicking and also came up empty.

It's a rare and happy day when we take something emitted by Microsoft that we're told is busted and find it works a treat. But, as this is a test build, your mileage may vary hugely.

The build also includes some minor tweaks to how fonts are handled and general tidying of the Windows Insider settings. Among the raft of fixes is one to stop the Display Settings crashing.

The final fiddlings of note are to the Windows Console, which, among many other improvements, ups the performance of ConPTY. The performance is now very close to "raw pipe".

The solitary bug-bash (a week and a half where Windows Insiders get to run a variety of test scenarios) for this release is now less than a week away. It is therefore a bit worrying to see key components such as WSL still wobbling. Or not, as the case may be. ®




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