Band banned, Tarka arrives on Windows 10 and Visual Studio hits RC status

Just another week at Microsoft then

Do not reset

Roundup Windows 10 19H1 has joined 20H1 in being Otterly (Ouch – Ed) fabulous while the Microsoft Health Dashboard puts a brave face on things in this week's roundup of the Redmond news you might have missed.

Band on the run refund

While the unveiling of Microsoft's HoloLens 2 at last week's MWC shindig delighted many, the firm also reminded us about what happens when wearable tech falls out of favour – by driving a wooden stake through the heart of its Microsoft Health platform.

Launched alongside Microsoft's rubbery-smartwatch-cum-fitness-cuff Band, back in 2014, the service survived CEO Satya Nadella's 2016 consumer cull – which saw version 2.0 of Microsoft's fitness tracker axed even as a follow-up waited in the wings. Instead, the company opted to focus on the services side of the business via its Health platform.

Alas, it only appears to have been a stay of execution, and the platform will receive a visit from a sad-faced Microsoft engineer to pull the plug on 31 May 2019.

It isn't altogether surprising considering Microsoft no longer has a device to feed the platform and wearables hardware makers already have their own health ecosystems to which cuffed users are directed.

The dwindling cadre of Microsoft Band fans will lose access to cloud or phone functionalities since the app is also being dropped over all platforms, but will still be able to use the tracker as a less-than-smart-watch, still able to track steps, sleep and so on. Unless, of course, their Band is reset for any reason. Doing so will leave the device impossible to set up again. So this really is the end of the road.

To that end, Microsoft is offering refunds to owners of the hardware - $79.99 for a Band 1 or $175 for a Band 2. The catch is, unless you're covered by a warranty, you're only entitled to the cash if you actually used the thing between December 2018 and the start of March 2019.

Which, we suspect, was part of the problem.

Windows 19H1 is almost upon us. Have an Otter

The Windows Insider team continued to spray the Microsoft world with builds like an over-carbonated teenager on a waltzer. Windows Insider Programme Fast Ring testers seeking to put some clear water between themselves and the more cautious souls on the programme's Slow Ring were therefore delighted to receive build 18348 of 19H1.

19H1 should be unleashed upon the public in the next month or so if Microsoft follows its usual pattern. Aside from the whole release, de-release and re-release thing – no one wants a repeat of that.

With release so close, there was little to get too excited about in terms of new features, although the Emoji 12.0 character set has put in an appearance, as it did with the 20H1 build earlier last week. Featuring both an Otter and a picture of Saturn, the set is a worthy edition (for us, at least) although users will hope Microsoft lays off the emoji thing a bit and focuses on closing out the last of the known issues before putting out the release.

Because yes, that pesky problem with anti-cheat code in games triggering a Green Screen of Death is still there. The gang is also rolling back a cosmetic change to the Windows 10 Settings screen, intended to direct users to commonly used settings, to 50 per cent of consumers. The Insider team has suggested that the roll-out of the feature will increase again, but the code itself is likely peering nervously at whatever wardrobe the Sets feature got shoved into.

Fire up the licensing machine! The Visual Studio Release Candidate is here!

Users steering clear of the various previews of Visual Studio 2019 got a treat last week in the form of a Release Candidate (RC) containing all manner of goodness that will be familiar to anyone who has been tinkering with the previews up until now.

Containing the same bits as Visual Studio 2019 Preview 4, the RC can be upgraded to the Generally Available (GA) version, which will take a bow at the 2 April launch.

The move is significant, since the Previews up to now have been of the Enterprise variety, but unless a user has a ticket for that edition, the time has come to switch to whatever version you actually have a licence for. Cue much uninstalling and installing shenanigans.

Little has changed in Preview 4, other than the RC release. However, the C# team has taken the opportunity to fiddle with versioning for the language. The gang has added two new values to LangVersion. These are LatestMajor and Preview with the default determined by the target framework of the project.

So, for example, a developer targeting a preview of .NET Core would see C# 8.0 (which is in preview). Going for the .NET Framework, on the other hand, would select the Latest version, which is currently 2018's 7.3.

Of course, if a developer manually specifies a LangVersion then all bets are off, and the compiler will respect the decision.

The rationale behind the move is a good one. If a dev is working on a preview of .NET Core, then they are likely to want to work with the preview of C# (unless specified otherwise.) Certainly, we've been frustrated on occasion when trying out some new toys, only to find compilation errors caused by a surprise default to an earlier version of C#.

Visual Studio 2019 itself remains on track for a launch on 2 April.

SQL Server 2019, coming atcha with Apache

Finally, Microsoft took advantage of the Manchester SQL bits event to emit a fresh technology preview of its upcoming SQL Server 2019, taking the version of the Community Technology Preview (CTP) to 2.3.

Alongside the usual wave of fixes, the Apache Spark integration continues apace, with the ability to submit Spark jobs on SQL Server big data clusters now added to the venerable server. Microsoft has also added the ability to mount external HDFS-compatible storage into big data clusters with HDFS tiering.

Only those registered with the SQL Server 2019 Early Adoption Program need apply, however, and you'll need to ask Microsoft nicely if you want to join the party.

Otherwise, 2.3 has several other interesting tweaks.

Performance-wise, database recovery has been sped up in this release with the addition of an ACCELERATED_DATABASE_RECOVERY option, and the SQL Server team reckon they have reduced recompilations for workloads using temporary tables across multiple scopes, dropping CPU overhead. In addition, Query Store now supports the ability to force query execution plans for fast-forward and static T-SQL and API cursors.

2.3 is the fourth of Microsoft's monthly software previews ahead of its final release of SQL Server 2019. ®

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