Microsoft is pushing out a new Windows 10 build to Fast ring subscribers in the Windows Insider program (on purpose this time!). The new build (18945) is a preview version of the 201H update that is headed to PCs in the first half of next year, rather than the one that will roll out later in 2019 (currently codenamed 19H2). It brings with it a handful of improvements, including ones centered around Linux.
Windows 10 users who are also fans of Linux can look forward to a proper Linux kernel in Microsoft's operating system, with the release of the 20H1 update next year. In the meantime, Microsoft continues to tweak and test things through its Windows Insider program. For this round of testing, build 18945 adds the ability to connect a user's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) networking applications using localhost.
This can be seen in the image below, which depicts starting a NodeJS server in a WSL 2 distro, and then connecting to it in Edge via localhost. Check it out...
"Additionally, we’ve added global configuration options for WSL. These are options that will apply to each of your WSL distros. This also allows you to specify options that relate to the WSL 2 virtual machine (VM), as all your WSL 2 distros run inside of the same VM. The most exciting option that you’ll get access to in this build is being able to specify a custom Linux kernel!," Microsoft says.
Outside of making improvements to WSL, Microsoft has started testing a new Cortana experience in Windows 10. It is available as a beta to Windows Insiders and features a new chat UI, giving users the option of typing or speaking questions.
Microsoft also retooled Cortana to support both light and dark themes, created a new screen for "Hey Cortana" that is supposed to be less intrusive, and updated the digital assistant with new speech and language models, as well as "significantly improved performance."
An updated File Explorer is being tested in the Windows Insider program as well. Starting with this build, Windows Search powers File Explorer, which will help integrate online OneDrive content with traditional indexed results.
The usual round of general fixes and improvements are part of the new build too. And of course there remain a few known issues that Microsoft is working to resolve. If Microsoft sticks to its past release cadence, we can expect the 20H1 update to hit PCs around April or May of next year.