Visual Studio Code gets more touch-feely, new Windows Server builds arrive for brave admins

Roundup In a week that left the Windows Insider team facing a leadership vacuum after its Ninjacat-in-chief jumped ship, Microsoft's army of gnomes continued to toil ahead of the company's impending Ignite shindig.

Carry on coding with Visual Studio Code 1.39

Dev darling Visual Studio Code released hit version 1.39.1 last week (replete with a swift update to squash a security vulnerability).

The changes are mainly aimed at making the lives of coders easier and include a move to a tree widget rather than a list for viewing source control (and the application of commands to folders) and the ability to copy and paste autocompletion details. The appearance of fonts has also seen improvements, with a move from Courier in Mac and Windows versions to a monospace that fits better with the Sans Serif typefaces used elsewhere in VS Code.

The editor has also been fiddled with and the current selection can now been seen in the code minimap, which can also be dragged with a finger, should your display support it. There is also a new command to allow devs to specify the creation of terminals with custom working directories.

Language-wise, auto-completions for HTML ARIA attributes now include a reference the WAI-ARIA docs and CSS property completion will drop a semicolon at the end of a line with Ctrl+Enter. There is also preview support for TypeScript 3.7, although TypeScript's latest and greatest won't make an official appearance until it leaves beta status.

Finally, there are improvements in debugging, with VS Code showing all the candidate locations for breakpoints in-line and general enhancements in the view and behaviour of the CALL STACK view.

So, nothing earth-shattering this time around, but worth an update.

Microsoft's cross-platform editor continues to win fans. Automation oufit Puppet's Deepak Giridharagopal told The Register at last week's Puppetize PDX event: "How times have changed, from laughing at Microsoft's development tools and things like that to now... I use Visual Studio Code all the time to write stuff."

In his keynote, Giridharagopal was obviously happy to extol the virtues of Puppet's Visual Studio Code extension, telling the assembled developers that it had been downloaded tens of thousands of times before joking that they should "drink the Kool Aid, express regret for the VI or Emacs tattoo that you got".

Laughing, he added: "I actually have a notepad.exe tattoo across my back in Times New Roman, you know."

We didn't dare ask to check.

New Servers and new SDKs

Windows Server, that unsung hero of Microsoft's back-office, has received a new build, 18995, for the semi-annual channel.

The build arrived in traditional ISO and VHDX formats from the Windows Insider preview pages, and as container version on the Docker Hub. Those hardy admins checking out these previews can also optionally download the preview of Windows Admin Center 1909, Server Core App Compatibility FoD Preview and additional language packs.

The server build was followed rapidly by an updated 18995 SDK for developers to pore over. Aimed at the matching 20H1 Windows 10 Insider preview, the updated SDK contains changes to the API used by coders when targeting Windows 10. As ever, the release notes indicate that there are some breaking changes as well as updates.

And, as has become the norm for these SDK previews, only Visual Studio 2017 or above is "formally supported".

Azure Sphere: Guardians of the IoT

Not the worst Marvel tie-up ever, but part of the Azure Sphere 19.09 release to the retail feed bringing assistance for those seeking to use Microsoft's IoT chippery to add secure connectivity to "brownfield" devices (for example, boxes already deployed or in use).

The theory goes that plugging an Azure Sphere-based guardian module into a brownfield device will keep things secure since communication with the outside world is handled by the guardian and, being an Azure Sphere device, the thing should be kept up to date, security-wise.

Which is, after all, one of the selling points of Azure Sphere.

The Guardian module should also be smart enough gather additional data from, for example, its own sensors and cache information should connectivity be lost.

The seemingly forever-in-preview Azure Sphere also gained a reference design for a standalone programming and debugging interface board as well as the documentation for the Guardian module. Applications can also request that updates (OS or app) be deferred and the devices themselves are better able to negotiate connections in crowded Wi-Fi environments and connect to Wi-Fi networks with hidden SSIDs.

Playing games with Apple? Tim & co are flogging the Xbox controller

Not content with a release of macOS that would make even the staunchest Vista apologist say "steady on, chaps", Apple has also welcomed Microsoft's controller into its online store for a Redmond-matching $59.99.

We're a little surprised not to see either the inexplicable Apple mark-up, nor the stupidly expensive Xbox Elite Controller, which, at $179.99, would have been more the fruity firm's style. The similarly compatible Sony controller has yet to make an appearance. Interestingly, the wireless controller enjoys a 3.5mm headset jack, presumably because Microsoft just isn't as courageous as Apple (at least where Xbox controllers are concerned).

The news came as Xbox Veep Mike Ybarra announced that he would be departing the Windows giant for pastures new. Ybarra has spent the best part of two decades at Microsoft, moving from Windows 7 to Xbox Live 10 years ago. His departure coincided with that of the co-founders of the Mixer streaming service.

"It's been a great ride at Xbox," Ybarra said, "and the future is bright."

The move also comes on the eve of public trials of Microsoft's Project xCloud game streaming service, expected to start this month. ®

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