In leaping forward from Windows 10 Technical Preview build 10041 to build 10049, the big news of course is the first glimpse of Project Spartan, the browser that's destined to eclipse Internet Explorer. But other pieces of the ongoing Windows 10 puzzle have emerged and warrant a look.
For a start, browser defaults have changed. If you upgrade from build 10041 to 10049 -- the path almost everyone has taken -- your old browser settings aren't disturbed. Some people, though, have constructed their own ISO files from the downloaded updates and installed build 10049 from scratch. Those people found a couple of remarkable changes.
First, the Internet Explorer icon on the taskbar has gone away. Your only option for launching IE is through the All Apps list (where it's hidden under Windows Accessories) or by manually running iexplore.exe (Windows key-R, type
iexplore, press Enter).
Second, Internet Explorer is not the default Web browser on the installed-from-scratch systems, Project Spartan is. Double-click on an HTML file and it opens in Spartan, not IE. How the mighty have fallen.
On a normal upgrade install, both IE and Spartan appear in the taskbar, but neither is in the tile pool to the right of the Start menu. To add Spartan to the Start menu, click Start, All Apps, scroll down to the P list, left-click Project Spartan, and drag it to the tile pool.
You can also put a shortcut to Spartan on the desktop. Same trick: Click on Project Spartan in All Apps and drag to desktop. The default icon is all white, which can be very hard to see. For a bit of wizardry, right-click on the shortcut and choose Properties. The shortcut target -- usually the location of a program -- is Microsoft.Windows.Spartan_cw5n1h2txyewy!Microsoft.Spartan.Spartan. (You can verify it by looking in the registry.)
Brad Sams at Neowin has published instructions for disabling Adobe Flash Player in Spartan. It's an obscure option at the bottom of Spartan's Settings pane. (Click the ellipses and scroll to the bottom.)
Cortana, in this version of Spartan, doesn't do much, but there's a specially crafted website that shows a little bit of the future. Fire up Spartan and go to cuoco-seattle.com. If Cortana is working (I had trouble getting it to run reliably), most of the time she'll put a throbbing circle on the right side of the address bar, with the text "I've got directions, hours, and more." Click on the circle and you get a pane on the right that looks like a modified Bing search result and a Cortana notification at the top that says, "I've got the details." The pane persists when you switch to other tabs, but never mind. (By the way, Cuoco is a real restaurant. Yelp it.)
The Calculator app has had a makeover. Like the Alarms & Clock app, it has new colors and typography. The old build 9926 trick is still there: Fire up Calculator, click the hamburger (three horizontal lines) icon, and choose the first converter mini app, for volume.
Try converting 10,000 milliliters. You'll find that it's equivalent to about 2,208 U.S. teaspoons, 2.2 U.K. gallons, and 0.03 bathtub. Yes, you read that correctly. The length converter tells you that 10,000 centimeters is about 3,397 inches, 0.1 kilometer, 0.06 mile, or 1.32 jumbo jets. The weight converter gives approximate equivalents in soccer balls, elephants, and whales (such as 100,000 pounds is about equal to 0.5 whale). The energy converter shows equivalents in batteries, bananas, and slices of cake; areas are given in sheets of paper, soccer fields, and castles; speed in turtles, horses, and jets; power in horses and train engines; and data in CDs and DVDs.
Then there's the Bio Hazard, er Bio Enrollment app, which shows up as the most recently added app when you upgrade to build 10049. Nobody knows for sure what it's supposed to do -- click on it and you're directed to the Windows Store, where there's nothing available. Best guess is it'll hook into Windows Hello biometric authentication at some point.
The Metro Mail, Calendar, and People apps are still broken, and the old fix from build 10041 still works.
Finally, yesterday Microsoft released new Windows Music Preview and Windows Movie Preview apps. They aren't as functional as the old Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps (believe me, that's saying something), but they're heading in the right direction -- primarily dispensing with the obligatory Xbox bling. OneDrive is fully supported as an independent source of media. Paul Thurrott has details. Both are available from the Windows Store (in beta) -- with the black icon -- under the names Music Preview and Video Preview. At this point, in build 10049, I can't get FLAC files to play in Music, and I can't get MPG files to play in Video, even after installing the media drivers in VLC