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  • Microsoft changes search feature in Windows 10 v1511 using sneaky background delivery options – this is Microsoft “Searchgate”!

    Posted on August 12th, 2016 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    So in Windows 10 1511 and 1607 I have an issue with searching for internet shortcuts as outlined in this blog post. For Windows 10 1607 things seemed to get worse. But, then I noticed in Windows 10 version 1511 as well that all of a sudden “Search my stuff” was gone although it had been there before! The investigation reveals some interesting stuff and magic things happening in the background!

    SHORT SUMMARY: Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 1607 (Current Branch) search features to Windows 10 2015 LTSB and Windows 10 1511 (Current Branch for Business) silently and in the background without any announcements made.

    Search in 1511 (as when Windows 10 entered Current Branch for Business and as long it has not been connected to the Internet):

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    Investigation

    1. I installed Windows 10 1511 (media updated in april 2016) in a VM – with no Internet connection. Note: system language is set to Sweden (Swedish) during install.
    2. I logged in and noticed that “Search my stuff” was there.
    3. I then thought I’d connect the machine to Windows Update to get the latest CU and see what happens after that. But before I knew it, “Search my stuff” vanished just after connecting the machine to the Internet. Now, things are getting interesting!

    Further investigation

    1. I installed Windows 10 1511 (media updated in april 2016) once again in a VM – with no internet and system language set to Sweden (Swedish).
    2. I logged in and noticed that “Search my stuff” was there.
    3. Checkpoint created in Hyper-V :)
    4. Fired up good old Resource Monitor.
    5. Connected the VM to Internet.
    6. AS SOON AS I CLICKED THE WINDOWS FLAG IN WINDOWS  – things started to happen in the background!
    A process named BackgroundTransferHost.exe started to download new packages, including what seemed to be new and updated code for the Shell and Cortana!

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    7. When it finished downloading – Voílà – the search box in Windows 10 1511 looks very much a lot like in 1607 and yes, the option “Search my stuff” is gone.

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    Conclusion

    This raises more than a few questions:

    What else is changed using this background delivery manager? Can we expect the start menu in 1511 to look like 1607?

    Is background delivery the reason why MS always writes “No new operating system features are being introduced in this update” on any CU:s released? I mean, “no new features are introduced in the CUs but we will gladly publish (new and) changed features unannounced using other delivery technologies than Windows Software Update packages (CUs)”. (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12387/windows-10-update-history )

    I thought the whole idea of different builds (1507, 1511 and 1607) would mean no feature changes and especially no new feature changes which are completely unannounced or did I miss this announcement in feature change?

    Is Windows 10 LTSB affected by this as well? UPDATE! Windows 10 2015 LTSB is affected by this as well which should be troublesome for Microsoft as Cortana is not supposed to be there and it is supposed to be feature locked.

    Does this mean you can easily deploy a feature change/fix to my machine so that internet shortcuts are returned in the search results?

    No further questions on this – I’m still shocked!!!

  • Internet shortcuts and search in Windows 10 v1607 – it’s getting worse!

    Posted on August 5th, 2016 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    This is a follow up to the post “Internet shortcuts in the Start menu not returned in quick search in Windows 10“. The plot thickens quite a lot with Windows 10 v1607.

    UPDATE February 8, 2017: The fix is out! Read more in this blog post: LNK files now searchable in Windows 10 search (Cortana / Start menu search) 

    UPDATE August 21, 2016: In a newly opened support case with Microsoft they have come to the conclusion that this is a code defect and will be fixed, for both LNK as well as URL files. Question is when it will be fixed, and (*irony*) if it will be distributed quickly in the background using the sneaky update method I wrote about in a recent blog post.

    UPDATE August 12, 2016: It seems that Microsoft has also introduced this change in Windows 10 v1511! The option “Search my stuff” in the search box in the start menu and task bar is long gone! Read more about the sneaky update of the search feature in not only 1511 but also 10240 (CBB and LTSB).

    Scenario

    It is no secret that web applications become more and more common for every day that passes and that has been the case for many years now. I know Microsoft wants and thinks that everyone is now turning all their Line of Business applications into modern apps but that’s just not the case just yet. This is a fact on how it looks in the real world. With that said, the problem here is that Internet shortcuts in the start menu that points to a URL is listed in the Start menu list of applications but they are not searchable in the Windows search feature.

    Now things get interesting and at the same time worse! In Windows 10 v1511, you can search for an internet shortcut by typing its name and then choosing “Search my stuff”. In 1607, this option is gone. So without applying any workarounds the user must go back to find the web application by manually browsing through the long applications list in the start menu. So, with that we can tell all the users we for 10 years have tried to learn to use the search feature now to go looking for applications manually in the start menu. Well done Microsoft!

    Lapse in logic? I and users expect that whatever application can be seen in the start menu (EXE, modern apps or web apps) is also found when doing a search! As described above, this is not the case in Windows 10 version 1607.

    Workarounds

    Yes, there are workarounds, but only crappy ones.

    • You can exchange all LNK and URL:s and point them to iexplore.exe URL, i.e. “iexplore.exe http://www.microsoft.com”. This is what Microsoft recommends. Hmm, well is that a good solution? So when the customer wants to switch their standard browser will this workaround be a good idea? This workaround kind of defeats the idea of defining standard programs and URLs open in the browser defined as the standard program. I try to make my customers Windows client environments less complex and more standardized but this workaround points in the opposite direction to that.
    • You can also instruct the users to open the web site in Internet Explorer 11 and choose “Add Site to Apps”. By doing that you get a shortcut with the extension .website which is listed in the Start menu AND apart from that also being indexed and searchable! Is it possible to create these .website files and distribute? Not quite, as these were invented for IE9 where users could pin websites to the Task Bar, and are intended to be pinned by the user, not programmatically. Also, .website files are always opened only in Internet Explorer regardless if you set the OS standard browser to Edge or some other browser.

    Summary

    To sum it up, am I the only one having customers with internet shortcuts in the start menu? The reason they are there is that I do not want users to have to distinguish if a Line of Business application they use for their daily work is a EXE file or a web application (or a modern app for that matter). I expect them all to be treated the same as well as existing in the same place. I expect that EXE applications are returned in the search results. I expect modern apps to be returned in the search results and I expect web applications (internet shortcuts) to be returned in the search results.

    That is just simple logic in my world but who knows, I might be all crazy. I know 10000+ users that must think Microsoft are crazy when they are forcing users to go back to manually finding stuff instead of using search!

    Solution

    There is no solution so I appeal to Microsoft and specifically the Search team, that you repair the lapse in logic that exist in the current implementation in Windows search in Windows 10 1511 and 1607!

  • How to disable the Mobile hotspot feature in Windows 10 1607 using GPO or MDM

    Posted on August 4th, 2016 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    In Windows 10 v1607 Anniversary Update there is a brand new UI for sharing your internet connecting and creating a mobile hotspot. The feature has been there in Windows before but has previously required administrative privileges to activate. Starting with Windows 10 v1607 this is exposed in the modern interface under Network > Mobile Hotspot and can be activated as a standard user, posing a security threat if you for instance have network security in place which can then be circumvented.

    Solution

    Using GPO, you can disable Mobile Hotspot in the UI by settings the GPO setting Prohibit use of Internet Connection sharing on your DNS domain network to Enabled. This settings is located under Computer configuration > (Policies) > Administrative templates > Network > Network Connections.

    If you are using MDM, you can also configure this with this setting:

    URI full path: ./Vendor/MSFT/Policy/Config/WiFi/AllowInternetSharing
    Data type: Integer
    Allowed values:
    0 – Do not allow Internet Sharing.
    1 – Allow Internet Sharing (default)

    Result when this setting is changed wither via GPO or MDM:

    MobileHotspot