Updated: April 4, 2016
Several weeks ago, a big storm erupted over the Internet sea, after we learned that Microsoft has decided to bundle non-security fixes into their cumulative Internet Explorer patch. This was a first, and it created a rift in trust between the company and its users, already eroded by the Windows 10 shenanigans and whatnot.
I decided to do some testing of my own. So we have a precedent, and we have workarounds, but we don't have any real proof how this Windows 10 promo stuff fits into the cumulative updates, and how it's presented to users. Rather than let rumor and fear reign supreme, I expanded my testing to yet a third Windows box, this one without any protection from GWX. Let us see what gives.
Rumor 1: MSN homepage and Windows 10 popups
As you recall, I was not able to see how the non-security piece affects me. There were several possible scenarios where I was supposed to see enticing Windows 10 offers. But I didn't have any on the two Windows desktops, both of which had the patch that disables OS upgrades. This meant trying a pristine and supposedly susceptible box.
Following on a billion comments, angry gossip and forum posts, I learned that having the Internet Explorer 11 homepage set to msn.com would trigger Windows 10 popups after the KB3139929 patch is installed. But that's not good enough. While it is popular to hate Microsoft, we need to be absolutely clear and accurate in how we do our testing. Which means we must check what happens in Internet Explorer BEFORE the patch, too!
And so, without the notorious update on the system, I fired up Internet Explorer, a first in many years, changed the homepage, Gosh O'Blimey, watched the slow and ungainly browser load the ugliest and least optimized page in the world, watched the various bits and pieces of crippled Flash banners and other random crap slowly populate the screen, and then finally got an ultra-blue popup offering Windows 10.
So one thing is certain. MSN and Windows 10 are not related to the KB3139929 patch. They might be, but for other reasons. Anyhow, if you click Learn more and then close the page that opens later on, you won't be seeing any popups until the cookies are cleared. There's that, in case you're one of those people who actually use Internet Explorer, although honestly, given its speed, fluidity and style, you really shouldn't. With JS-rich pages, it is simply behind Firefox and Chrome. And MSN is a disgrace of a web page.
Rumor 2: New tab page
Well, I went back to the original premise. I tried using Internet Explorer 11 for a while, with great pain and annoyance, opened a whole bunch of pages, restarted the system, fired up the browser a few times, nothing.
The new tab page had nothing - not even the tabs it was supposed to be offering. Just a blank page with no recommendations, no recently visited sites, and certainly no banners or offers for Windows 10. I really do not know how this patch is supposed to affect me or other users, or how it delivers its message, but there was nothing for me to report.
If you're interested, these could also be of use:
Should you upgrade to Windows 10?
Well, I am a Microsoft shareholder, and I'm also utterly pissed off by what Microsoft did with GWX and then this latest Internet Explorer update. Don't take me wrong, it is a highly dangerous update. It opens the door to a new age of corporate bullshit, and it sets the rules of the game for where your system will be used as a propaganda platform. This is something that must be opposed, on a conceptual, philosophical and practical levels by any means necessary.
However, for this particular patch cycle and this particular KB, I cannot find any evidence to corroborate either the Internet rumors or even Microsoft's intentions, because I was unable to replicate any one of the popular rumors, on three systems with and without the disabled OS upgrades. I tried quite a few angles. Nothing. So perhaps this is some kind of a ticking bomb, a sleeper cell, maybe someone messed up their development, maybe Microsoft are waiting, or they have disabled the functionality on their servers, who knows. I can only say that there's nothing to pest your systems. Yet. But you should still be careful and mindful. We will have to follow up, and I promise to return when I have more. For now, the story is all about our anger and principles, with no practical application of promotional spam. That isn't so bad, after all. See ya.