Windows 10 Fast Ring Insiders see double while SQL Server 2019 sidles closer to release
Also: Storage shenanigans and that Xbox fragrance gets its own ad
Round Up The Microsoft gang continued their summer of software emissions with a SQL Server 2019 Release Candidate and yet more Windows 10 previews in this week's round-up.
Windows Fast Ring Insiders see double
Microsoft emitted two builds of next year's Windows 10 in quick succession over the past week, although thankfully not excluding enthusiastic testers via a "virtual coin toss" as it has done with the slow ring 19H2 builds.
Build 18965, aka 20H1, due to release in the first half of 2020, was relatively light on features this time around.
The major change was a control to allow a user to decide if restartable apps should be, er, restarted after a user signs in.
It's all a bit Mac-like. MacOS will try, with varying degrees of success, try to get the user back to where they were following a restart.
There's no word on if Microsoft plans to adopt further Mac features. We hear that Apple may have a bunch of old butterfly keyboards lurking around if the gang at Redmond needs inspiration for the next Surface Type cover.
The rest of the release is a little self-indulgent, with tweaks to the feedback hub and a refresh of the Windows Insiders Achievements page.
Sadly, there is no "You've just saved Microsoft millions by doing its testing for free" award.
And the double? Microsoft followed up the release with a new preview a day later. The paucity of features in 18965 seemed positively generous compared to this one – just a few version numbers were changed as part of a test of the company's service pipeline.
SQL Server 2019 goes RC
Away from the shenanigans of the company's Windows Insider programme, the bread-and-butter work of the back-end team responsible for the company's server products continued with the emission of the first public release candidate of SQL Server 2019.
The product has been in preview for a while now, with nine community technology previews (CTP) under its belt, but with the RC, a final release is nearing.
The veteran database supports containers, and can be deployed on Kubernetes as well as Linux and, of course, Windows.
Apache Spark takes a bow in 2019 and big data fans will be pleased to see the support for the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). Data virtualization is also catered for with TSQL jockeys able to query the likes of Oracle and Teradata from within the warm embrace of SQL Server.
Finally, the team has improved the smarts of the query processing engine to up performance without requiring quite so much in the way of carefully crafted code. It has also upped the security with secure enclaves for server-side computation.
SMS - Storage Migration Service updated
The hardworking server team at Microsoft also flung out some significant storage updates for August.
The service is aimed at persuading users to make the jump from their legacy platforms to, in this case, the RT version of Windows Server 2019.
It's a bumper bundle of fun for storage fans. Support has been added for Samba Linux servers as source devices as well Windows Server failover clusters, which can now be migrated to new clusters.
And, of course, it is also possible to migrate from a standalone server to a shiny new cluster (and all the availability such a move brings.)
However, what makes this update particularly interesting is the migration of local users and groups. SMS will now recreate the things on the destination as well, preserving permissions that might have come from a local security principal.
And, of course, it isn't only Windows 7 for the chop in 2020. Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 support comes to an end on 14 January 2020.
Paint pushed, WordPad whacked
While the shunting of Notepad into the moribund Microsoft Store (ostensibly to allow for updates outside of OS releases) resulted in much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the Windows team took advantage of the bad news to bury something else – another attempt at killing off the venerable Microsoft Paint.
The drawing tool has been part of the Windows furniture pretty much since the beginning, although has evolved over the years. Microsoft had a crack at killing it off with the advent of Paint 3D but eventually relented and, as of the May 2019 Update, it was still present and correct.
As for WordPad, well, we were vaguely surprised that it was still a thing.
Both have been added to the Optional Features in Settings, meaning both can easily be uninstalled, saving a few megabytes of disk space.
Not quite the lightweight version of Windows some dream of, but perhaps the start of another attempt to offload Microsoft Paint into the desert of the Microsoft Store.
And finally: Kiwi Xbox gamers to smell simply splendid
The fragrance so beloved of males of a certain age has come to gamers in the southern hemisphere thanks to an Xbox themed edition from bathroom botherers, Lynx.
Far be it for us to suggest that the average Xbox gamer is so focused on the games and iffy interface of Microsoft's console that personal hygiene might take a back seat to waggling a joystick.
After all, we're pretty sure that Sony Playstation fans could be equally wary of the washing facilities during a particularly intense bout of Grand Theft Auto V.
The tongue-in-cheek ad campaign picks up on the theme of achievements and popular games.
However, there is no indication of a "washing regularly" achievement to be unlocked being added to the Xbox dashboard.
More's the pity. ®