Blue's Clues: Enabling Kiosk Mode

Over the weekend, a newer build (9374) of Windows 8.1 -- Microsoft's incremental update to Windows 8 -- leaked. One of the new features that surfaced in this build is something called "Kiosk mode".

Kiosk mode, in a nutshell, is a mode that, when turned on, keeps a single "Metro" application on the foreground at all times. (This application is run in a limited user context for obvious security reasons.) It's unclear if we'll see desktop application support -- my guess is no, given desktop apps have a much richer set of (uncontrolled) APIs available to them. For more, check out Paul Thurrott's "Blue's Clues: Kiosk Mode" article.

A cursory examination of Kiosk mode would lead you (like many tech bloggers) to believe the feature is broken in this build of Windows. But this is not the case. In fact, enabling Kiosk mode is easy but admittedly non-intuitive. Here's how:

  1. Create a limited user. You can do this PC Settings, Users, User accounts, then Add a user. (I recommend a Local Account but you can use a Microsoft account.)

  2. Log in as the limited user. You can switch to the newly created user by clicking your Start Screen user tile. (You'll have to sit through the welcome tour again, sorry.)
  3. Log out of the limited user.
  4. Switch back to your normal account and configure Kiosk mode with the new account and preferred foreground app -- Bing is a good one.
  5. Log in as your limited user. Your app should load immediately.

Blue's Clues: Enabling the new Search Pane

Taking a break from Internet Explorer 11, Paul Thurrott and I decided to take a look at some improvements coming to Search in the next version of Windows 8.1, codenamed "Blue".

The new Search Pane in Windows 8.1 does away with the visually distinct result categories -- Apps, Settings, and Files -- and instead provides results sorted by relevance in an easily accessible manner.

Paul has a full rundown of the new Search Pane in his "Blue's Clues: New Search Experience", so be sure to read that.

But if you're just looking to play around with it, you can do so via the registry script below. (Be sure to restart Explorer after running.) Be aware, however, that the Search Pane is buggy, incomplete, and does not appear to be finding settings correctly. I'll keep working on it and post any updates here.


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\SearchPane]
"NewSearchPane"=dword:00000001
"NewSettingsSearch"=dword:00000001
"NewFilesSearch"=dword:00000001

Blue's Clues: Internet Explorer 11 getting SPDY support

WebGL isn't the only big ticket item coming to Internet Explorer 11. No, digging deeper into IE 11, I found references to that newfangled SPDY protocol -- a protocol designed primary by Google to generally make the web go faster. Paul has a quick summary you should check out.

Oops. Internet Explorer 11 doesn't pass this test just yet.

Oops. Internet Explorer 11 doesn't pass this test just yet.

I can't talk SPDY or even properly demonstrate it working (as the screenshot confirms), but can say it's coming and is being implemented at the OS level (via additions to the Windows Internet API.) That means most internet apps -- like IE 11 -- will be SPDY ready for free.

You can tinker with this today with the registry script below. If you manage to get IE to confirm SPDY logic is enabled, please ping me!

[This is not an April Fool's joke.]


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings]
"EnableSpdy"=dword:00000001
"EnableSpdyDebug"=dword:00000001

; // Forces SPDY to function outside its expected
; // SSL/TLS environment
"ForceSpdyHttp"=dword:00000000

; // Disable SPDY compression of HTTP headers/data
; // for debug/test
"DisableSpdyCompression"=dword:00000000

Blue's Clues: How to enable WebGL in Internet Explorer 11

Last week, web developer Francois Remy published an initial analysis of Internet Explorer 11 -- the next version of IE that surfaced via a leaked copy of Windows "Blue". In his analysis, he noted that he found references to various WebGL APIs but ultimately wrote them off as non-functional.

Picking up where Remy left off, I dug a little deeper and discovered WebGL support is indeed incomplete but is coming and can be enabled for experimentation. (Paul Thurrott has the background on why Microsoft has been hesitant to adopt this technology to date.)

Yep, that's Internet Explorer 11 with WebGL code running!

Yep, that's Internet Explorer 11 with WebGL code running!

To enable WebGL, just execute the registry script below and restart Internet Explorer 11. You may also want to ensure you install the latest vendor-provided display drivers. (Inbox drivers don't typically provide much in the way of OpenGL support.)

Update 3/31: Remy has discovered that the FEATURE_WEBGL_HLSL_SHADERS flag actually instructs IE 11 to use IESL vs. the more standard OpenGL GLSL. If you leave that at zero, you'll run in a configuration that more closely matches what's out there today. I edited the script below to reflect this.


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl]

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_WEBGL]
"iexplore.exe"=dword:00000001

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_WEBGL_HLSL_SHADERS]
"iexplore.exe"=dword:00000000

To reproduce the blue WebGL screenshot above, cut/paste this sample code into an .html file and display it in IE 11.


<body onload="demo()">
<canvas style="height: 100%; width: 100%" id='webgl' />
</body>

<script>
var gl = {};
function demo()
{
  var canvas = document.getElementById("webgl");
  try
  {
    gl = canvas.getContext("experimental-webgl");
  } catch(e) { }

  if (gl) {
    gl.clearColor(0, 0.678, 0.937, 1.0);
    gl.clear(gl.COLOR_BUFFER_BIT);
  }
}
</script>