Microsoft

3 Cool Announcements From Microsoft Build 2020

I finally got a chance to attend Microsoft Build this year! Unfortunately, it was at the cost of a worldwide pandemic so I guess I shouldn’t be that excited about it. Typically, Build is held in-person with 15,000+ of your closest developer friends – it’s Microsoft’s big yearly showcase of all the innovation they’ve been doing for software development, and given Microsoft’s renewed focus on developers, lots of good things tend to come from Build.

This year, lots of very cool things were shown off at Microsoft Build – I mainly want to focus on the 3 that I think are the coolest.

Azure Static Web Apps

This was talked about quite a bit on day 1 – if you’ve ever used Netlify to deploy a static site built with Gatsby or Next or the like, it’s basically Azure’s version of it. You’re on Azure infrastructure with Azure resiliency and Azure support.

Quick rundown:

  • Uses GitHub repositories as its source
  • Uses GitHub Actions to execute the build and deploy process
  • Allows for custom domains and HTTPS
  • Free SSL certificate for your custom domain with auto-renewal 🤯
  • Currently completely free while in preview

At the moment this is still in public preview, but I have my blog built with Gatsby and in a GitHub repo so I thought I’d give it a spin. Azure asks you where you pant to put your app (resource group, location, etc) and connects your GitHub credentials to select the repo that has your code and THAT’S IT. Azure performs the magic to create the resource in Azure, the build/deployment configuration, the GitHub Action to do the deployment on commit, and a randomly generated URL reminiscent of GitHub-suggested project names. Within about 5 mins, I had the site up on Azure Static Web Apps.

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ASWA is not just for purely static sites either – it can use Azure Functions to provide APIs and uses the /api route to be able to access them. Easy API endpoints! There are lots of other little things like authentication that the service provides that you can find in the documentation.

Windows Package Manager

Windows has a package manager! Affectionately nicknamed “WinGet”, Windows Package Manager is something that power users have been clamoring for for a while. While there were 3rd party alternatives like Chocolatey (❤) or scoop, Microsoft has taken this on and brought a command-line package manager to the masses. You can effectively script the installation of software for setting up a new machine to exactly how you like it! It’s got a ways to go and it’s only in preview at the moment but I’ve got high hopes for what WinGet is going to be able to bring to us command-line junkies.

WSL2

WSL is the acronym for the Windows Subsystem for Linux and v2 of this very very cool technology is coming in the Windows 10 2004 update later this month. The WSL functionality has been in Windows for quite a while now and with v1, you were able to fire up a Linux distro from the Windows Store (younger me: wait, those words aren’t supposed to go together) and have a Linux environment running in Windows without virtualization. WSL1 depended on translating Linux kernel calls to Windows system calls and did the corresponding Windows-y thing. Cool tech and worked in a pinch, but due to the translation, disk i/o and other essential system functions could be really slow or not work at all.

With WSL2, Microsoft rethought how it would work and they came out the other side with something as non-legacy-Microsoft as you could get. Microsoft added a full Linux kernel(!) into Windows and uses that as its base for all WSL activities. What this means is you have a full-blown Windows system and a full-blown Linux kernel running side-by-side . Just sit and take that in for a sec. I’ll wait.

Admittedly I’ve been using WSL2 for a bit now while on the Windows Insiders build of Windows 10 and I’ve already thrown as many development workloads as I could to it and it has handled it amazingly. That Gatsby blog I talked about earlier? Built entirely in Linux in WSL2 and VSCode (the VSCode integration is bonkers).

Turns out that 2020 is the year of the Linux desktop – just not how we all had expected.

Bonus: Windows Terminal

This sort of kind of counts since Windows Terminal has been in preview for quite a while now and I’ve been using it since the early 0.x versions. At Build, they announced that Windows Terminal is officially out of preview and has released as 1.0. If you’re not using Windows Terminal, go download it from the Windows Store right now. It will make you love your command line again. As an ex-ConEmu/Cmder/Hyper user, just the speed alone on Windows Terminal is worth every penny (which is no pennies since its free and open source). Additionally, there are tons of customizations you can do with it through the settings file. If you’d like someone to just do it for you, there are a number of pre-built themes and color schemes on TerminalSplash as well. It’s a perfect companion to WSL2!

Were you able to attend Microsoft Build this year too? We would love to hear all the insights you got from the virtual conference – there were so many sessions and tracks that this was just a glimpse of all that was going on!

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