New Windows 10 build kills controversial password-sharing Wi-Fi Sense

When Microsoft announced Windows 10, it added a feature called Wi-Fi Sense that had previously debuted on the Windows Phone operating system. Wi-Fi Sense was a password-sharing option that allowed you to share Wi-Fi passwords with your friends and contacts in Skype, Outlook, and Facebook. Here’s how Microsoft described the featurelast year:

“When you share Wi-Fi network access with Facebook friends, Outlook.com contacts, or Skype contacts, they’ll be connected to the password-protected Wi-Fi networks that you choose to share and get Internet access when they’re in range of the networks (if they use Wi-Fi Sense). Likewise, you’ll be connected to Wi-Fi networks that they share for Internet access too. Remember, you don’t get to see Wi-Fi network passwords, and you both get Internet access only. They won’t have access to other computers, devices, or files stored on your home network, and you won’t have access to these things on their network.”

WiFiSense2

There were security concerns related to Windows 10’s management of passwords and whether or not said passwords could be intercepted on the fly. To our knowledge, no security breaches or problems were associated with Wi-Fi Sense. According to Microsoft, few people actually used the feature and some were actively turning it off. “The cost of updating the code to keep this feature working combined with low usage and low demand made this not worth further investment,” said Gabe Aul, Microsoft’s Windows Insider czar.

These changes are incorporated into the latest build of Windows, Windows 10 Insider Preview 14342. Other changes in this build include:

  • Microsoft Edge extensions are now downloaded from the Windows Store (Adblock and Adblock Plus are now available for download);
  • Swipe gestures are now supported in Microsoft Edge;
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows now supports symlinks (symbolic links);
  • Certain websites can now be directed to open in apps instead, ensuring that one of the mobile Internet’s worst features will be available in Windows 10.

Microsoft has also fixed playback errors with DRM-protected content from Groove Music, Microsoft Movies & TV, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu. The company fixed audio crashes for users who play audio to a receiver using S/PDIF or HDMI while using Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect, and fixed some bugs that prevented common keyboard commands like Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, or Alt-Space from working in Windows 10 apps. Full details on the changes and improvements to the build can be found here.

One final note:  Earlier this year, we theorized that Microsoft might extend the free upgrade period longer than the July 29 cutoff, especially if it was serious about hitting its 1 billion user target. The company has since indicated that it has no plans to continue offering Windows 10 for free after July 29. If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 or are still on the fence about whether or not to accept Microsoft’s offer, you only have a little over two months to make the decision.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update doubles up on Start Menu advertising

One of the changes Microsoft introduced when it launched Windows 10 was the ability to show suggested applications, aka advertisements, within the Start Menu and on the lock screen. The “suggested application” function can be disabled relatively easily, but Microsoft is making changes in Windows 10 to increase application visibility and hopefully entice more users to head for the Windows Store.

Once the Anniversary Update drops, the number of promoted apps in the Start Menu will double, from five to 10. To accommodate this change, the number of static Microsoft applications will decrease, from 17 to 12.

Win10-1

Many of these promoted applications (aka Programmable Tiles) aren’t actually installed on the system by default. Instead, they take the user to the Windows Store where the app can be installed.

Win10-2

Neowin isn’t sure if this will apply to existing Windows 10 PCs, or if this change will only go live on new installations. Either way, it’s a smart move for Microsoft.

Shifting paradigms

One of the most significant barriers to Windows Store adoption is the entrenched behavior of Windows’ users. For decades, Windows users have been used to downloading software from various sites on the Internet. If you need a media player, you use VLC or MPC-HC. If you need messaging software, you can download various apps from individual vendors or grab an all-in-one product like Trillian or Pidgin. Your first browser might come from Microsoft, but if you want something else you’ll head for Firefox or Google Chrome.

Microsoft wants users to see the Windows Store as a one-stop shop for its applications, but it’s difficult to shift how people use a system they’ve spent decades with. We don’t blame the company for using promoted apps what the Windows Store can offer. The problem is, the majority of the programs we’ve seen on the Windows Store don’t compare well against the applications you can download on the Internet. We’ve chronicled the problems with various UWP games already, but applications you download from the Windows Store are often tablet-centric and explicitly designed around certain limitations Microsoft enforces.

The real problem for the Windows Store isn’t getting people to look at it — it’s building up an application library of stuff people want to actually use. This has been a problem for Microsoft since it launched Windows 8, and while the store’s layout and UI have improved significantly, breakout application successes are few and far between. The app model simply hasn’t caught on for desktop software, possibly because most people expect PC software to be more complicated and have a greater range of capability than the application-equivalent. On a smartphone or tablet, apps can be good stand-ins for browsing or using websites. On desktops, the existing paradigm is different. Unless Microsoft can offer users some stellar software, it may not see the uptake it’s looking for, no matter how many PC users upgrade to Windows 10.

Microsoft releases unofficial service pack for Windows 7

One of the disadvantages to using an older Microsoft operating system is the need to install several hundred megabytes of patches after the initial OS is loaded. In the past, Microsoft ameliorated this problem by releasing several service packs over the life of the OS, but Windows 7 only ever got one service pack, in 2011. As a result, the last four years of updates and patches has to be run manually.

Now, that’s changing. Microsoft isn’t calling this new “convenience rollup” Windows 7 SP2, but that’s functionally what it provides. The update will also support slipstream installations, meaning you can roll the software updates into a unified installer and bring a system fully up-to-date at base install.

No such update has been announced for Windows 8.1 yet, but Microsoft has also stated that it will begin releasing monthly comprehensive updates for non-security patches. Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 will all begin receiving single updates on a monthly basis (security updates will continue to be released on their own schedule).

Update availability and contents

One significant change going forward is that updates will no longer be available via the Microsoft Download Center. Instead, they’ll use the Microsoft Update Catalog. If you’re wondering what that is, it’s a Windows XP relic that currently depends on Microsoft Internet Explorer and uses ActiveX. Chrome, Firefox, and other third-party browsers can’t access it (Microsoft says they’re working to modernize this).

Microsoft-Update

Yeah. It’s a little… dated-looking is the kind way to put it.

One question we’re certain will come up is whether or not the Windows 7 roll-up includes the various updates and packages designed to push Windows 10. The answer to that, so far as we can tell, is no. There are a number of KB articles associated with the Windows 10 rollout and the telemetry updates to Windows 7, including:

  • KB2952664
  • KB2977759
  • KB3022345
  • KB3050267
  • KB3035583
  • KB3068708*
  • KB3075249*
  • KB3080149*
  • KB3146449

We’ve gone through the included KB files in the Windows 7 convenience rollup and can confirm that the majority of these updates are not included in the software. There are three exceptions: KB3068708, KB3075249, and KB3080149. All three of these updates add additional telemetry tracking to Windows 7 to bring its reports into line with Windows 10, but they don’t add GWX.exe or any of the “Get Windows 10” adds that people have complained about since Microsoft’s latest OS went live.

While I realize that some readers won’t be thrilled with any backported changes from Windows 10 into Windows 7, the truth is, telemetry tracking in Windows 7 can still be disabled; you aren’t forced to participate in the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). If you’re still doing Windows 7 installations on new hardware, turning off telemetry tracking is a lot less hassle than manually performing multiple patch / reboot cycles — and it takes a lot less time.