From the trenches with Windows 10 build 10041: What you really need to know

From features to fumbles, P2P to Photos, install stalls to a recalcitrant Mail app, build 10041 holds many surprises

From the trenches with Windows 10 build 10041: What you really need to know
Mark Hachman

The Web is awash with screenshots, speculation, and debates concerning the new Windows 10 build released yesterday: build 10041. Here's my school-of-hard-knocks take on what you can do, and what you should expect.

Installing the new Windows 10 beta 10041 build

If you're running build 9926 and you don't see build 10041 listed in updates (Start > Settings > Update & Recovery > Check for Updates), you aren't in the Fast ring. Using an admin account, click or tap Advanced Options and change the Choose How Preview Builds Are Installed box to Fast. (If you don't see the Choose How Preview Builds Are Installed box, you aren't running with an admin account.) Go back and enable Check for Updates. Build 10041 will be there. It's quite fresh, compiled on March 15.

Updating from the leaked build 10036 to 10041, on the other hand, is a fool's errand. I've seen all sorts of problems reported online, from freezes to lockouts to odd behavior once the update's installed. On my pirate build10036 PC, I installed 9962 from an ISO, then upgraded from there.

The download will take a while. Once the installer finally starts working, you'll see the new bulls-eye progress indicator (see figure). Be forewarned that it'll stall at either 2% or 3% complete. Expect to spend at least 10 minutes, and possibly as much as 30 to 40 minutes, staring at a 3%-complete message that just doesn't go anywhere.

Windows 10 build 10041 installation status screen

The build 10041 installer will hang at 2% or 3% for 10 minutes or more

Installing Mail, People, and Calendar

Once the PC is set up, you'll no doubt notice that the Mail, People, and Calendar tiles on the Start menu are out to lunch. The tiles are there, but they're marked @{, and clicking the tiles doesn't do anything. Windows 10 mouthpiece Gabe Aul, in his Blogging Windows description of build 10041, says that "some apps in the Store Beta will fail to install or update due to a licensing issue." In my experience, every PC I've upgraded came up with bad Mail, People, and Calendar apps.

No doubt that isn't considered a major issue in Redmond. Those apps are all about to be terminated with extreme prejudice, presumably replaced by Universal apps that are less of an embarrassment.

To get the Mail, Calendar, and People apps working, click or tap Start > All Apps > Windows System. Scroll down to PowerShell, right-click it and choose Run as Administrator.

Copy this command line into PowerShell and press Enter:

Get-appxprovisionedpackage –online | where-object {$_.packagename –like "*windowscommunicationsapps*"} | remove-appxprovisionedpackage –online

That's all one line, so you may have to remove a carriage return to get it right. If everything worked correctly, you see a cryptic response that looks like this:

Path                    :

Online                : True

RestartNeeded: False

When you see that response, "X" out of PowerShell. (If you see some other response, either you didn't run in admin mode or you copied the command line incorrectly.)

With the licensing gods appeased, you need to manually install the Mail, People, and Calendar apps (which are, beneath the covers, just one app). To do so, click or tap Start > All Apps, scroll down to the green Store icon, and click or tap it. Note that you need to use the green Store icon, not the black Store (beta) icon.

Once you're in the Store, in the upper right corner, search for Mail. Choose the first result, which should be identified as Mail, Calendar, and People. Click or tap Install. When it's installed, go back to the Start menu and click or tap the leftmost @{ tile to get People, the second tile to get Mail, and the third tile for Calendar.

You may have other Start tiles with weird names and no icons. In some very limited testing, I found that the other scrambled tiles work fine -- you need to guess at what the tile does, drawing on the text description at the bottom of the tile, but the operation of the program doesn't seem to be affected.

What's new in Windows 10 Build 10041

Once Mail, Calendar, and People are working, you should be ready to look around. Realize from the get-go that there's no Project Spartan browser just yet -- Brad Sams at Neowin interviewed Gabe Aul to get the full story -- but there is a Spartan-inspired update to the IE11 rendering engine. Spartan, we're assured, will be in the next build.

And there's no Windows Hello biometric authentication. Your eyeballs are safe from identity thieves for now.

There's a new login screen that's better than any I've seen before. But you may or may not like the Start menu transparency, the new tiles, and other cosmetic stuff. The Start menu can be customized just a little bit by dragging apps over to the tile side.

I think Cortana has a few new tricks. Microsoft says she now works in Germany, China, the United Kingdom, and France, but I've seen reports that she's now working in Spain and Canada as well, eh?

The taskbar can be taught to only show icons from running programs on the current virtual desktop (right-click the taskbar, choose Properties). Xbox Music can now pull music files you've copied to OneDrive.

Homegroups aren't working on two of my PCs; it's not clear why, although I'm seeing problems changing from public to private networks. Continuum, the app that switches between connected and disconnected keyboards, may not work right.

The Photos app works better (makes me wonder what the next Windows 10 Mobile Photos app will look like).

Virtual desktops behave a bit differently. At least in theory, build 10041 will update itself by pulling in streams from all over the Web, but in practice I didn't see any improvement in download speeds.

Based on many hours working on the beta through the night, using three different PCs, I'm impressed. Build 10041 is quite stable, and even quick in places.

Is Windows 10 now ad-supported?

Not all is sweetness and light: WinRT API guru WalkingCat/@h0x0d tweeted late last night:

ContentDeliveryManager used to be called "Suggestions for you," recently it becomes "Windows Spotlight," and it's used to show ads, apparently / it can show ads on your lock screen, Start menu, or when you do something like press Alt-Tab -- don't tell me this is how Windows 10 be free!?

He went on to tweet, early this morning:

the lock screen UI is implemented by the XAML app Microsoft.WindowsDefaultLockScreen and it supports using Bing wallpapers as lock screen image, complete with hotspots, with help from ContentDeliveryManager

It sounds like Microsoft has cooked up a new, sophisticated advertising delivery system that can pump out ads even when you aren't using your computer. I'd be willing to bet that's the financial rationale for giving away Windows 10.

Enigmas in Windows 10 beta build 10041

The "Windows Spotlight" setting on the Universal Settings Personalization pane remains an enigma. For the background/lock screen, Win10 offers "Windows spotlight," Picture, or Slideshow. The latter two work as they always have, but if you choose one of them, you get an additional slider control for "Windows mini-spotlight" -- whatever that is.

To add to the branding confusion, Microsoft Distinguished Engineer (and former MS System Journal columnist) Don Box just posted a Blogging Windows entry that refers to "Windows for PCs," "Windows for phones," and "Windows on Xbox." It also talks about "Windows desktop applications" and "Windows phone apps." All in all, it's a refreshing take on a bafflegab naming battle ("Windows 10 Mobile"?) that's certain to get worse. Let the naming games begin!

Windows Update still has, basically, no options: You can't block individual patches, can't hide an update, and can't control automatic installation of updates. I'm concerned that the final version may work that way. You should be concerned, too.

It's very much a beta. I've seen 10041 freeze, the mouse disappear, the keyboard stop responding -- the usual beta blues. Aul has a laundry list of additional shortcomings in his blog post.

All in all, if you're enjoying build 9926, I bet you'll enjoy 10041 even more. The usual caveats about running beta software apply.

There's a complete changelog of new features on the site.

Will Win10 be ready by summer? I guess that depends on what you mean by "ready."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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