Microsoft launches its Bing Coronavirus Tracker

Keeping track of Coranavirus news can be quite the time-consuming process and a burden as well considering that you need to find reliable information.

Microsoft just launched its Coronavirus tracker on Bing. COVID-19 Tracker provides statistics and information about the spread of the virus in the world.

The startpage lists the total confirmed cases, cases by country, and each of these divided into active, recovered and fatal cases. There is also a map which highlights how individual regions are impacted by the virus.

Microsoft is pulling data from several sources including CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), WHO (World Health Organization), and ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control).

microsoft bing coronavirus tracker

A click on  a country lists active, recovered and fatal cases for that country. More interesting is the news section that provides a chronological list of news bits for the selected region.

If you select Italy, one of the countries hit the hardest by the virus at the time of writing, you find a list of news pieces that you may find useful. The news section is powered by Bing News; I saw German and English news articles listed by Bing and the filtering seemed to work fairly well. Chance is that you may get different languages based on the language settings of your computer.

There is also a video section below the news part, powered by Bing Video, with videos about the virus and the selected country.

One thing that is missing is an option to receive updates. The Coronavirus tracker site does not provide options to receive news updates, e.g. by email, RSS, or messaging service. What you can do, however, is use the Bing News or Bing Video RSS option.

All you need to do is append &format=rss to the URL, e.g. turn https://www.bing.com/news/search?q=coronavirus%20Italy to https://www.bing.com/news/search?q=coronavirus%20Italy&format=rss to get a RSS feed of the filtered news. You may then subscribe to the news in a RSS feed reader, e.g. QuiteRSS or the browser extension Smart RSS Reader, or any other program, extension or service, to receive updates as they become available.

Now You: how do you keep track of the virus and news?

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Need another reason that current web search integration is bad in Windows 10?

Reports are coming in that search is not working properly on many Windows 10 devices; the issue is different from the recent File Explorer search issue that users experienced and are still experiencing to a degree.

Basically, what is happening currently is that the search interface is entirely black and that searches don’t work at all on affected systems. The problem, it appears, is not caused by users or administrators, but by Microsoft.

Microsoft made the decision to interweave Cortana, the digital assistant, and search when it released the operating system. While Cortana and Search have been untangled, Microsoft decided to integrate and improve web search functionality in recent versions.

Search in Windows 10 returns offline and online content by default. Local search works pretty much like it did back in Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, online search displays suggestions for the most part.

Microsoft may change search functionality remotely on Windows 10 machines, e.g. to adjust settings or other parameters without having to release a Windows update that does that. That’s useful in theory, but not so much if remote issues cause search to stop working at all.

One would think that local search would continue to work if Windows 10 could not connect to remote servers or if some other form of remote connection does not work as expected; this is apparently not the case.

Affected users may want to use third-party search applications such as Everything or one of these desktop search programs to restore search functionality.

Windows Latest suggests that disabling Web Search on affected Windows 10 systems and rebooting the system restores search functionality as well on affected devices.

windows 10 web search

Here is how you do that:

  1. Use Windows-R to display the run box.
  2. Type regedit.exe and hit the Enter-key to start the Registry Editor.
  3. Confirm the UAC prompt.
  4. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionSearch
  5. Locate BingSearchEnabled.
    1. If the value does not exist, right-click on Search in the tree hierarchy of the left sidebar and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value. Name it BingSearchEnabled.
  6. Change the data value of BingSearchEnabled to 0.
  7. Locate CortanaConsent.
  8. Double-click on the value and set it to 0.
  9. Restart the PC.

The change worked on one test PC that was affected by the issue.

The issue is not the first search issue of Windows 10. Microsoft broke search in 2017 in the operating system and Windows 10 version 1903 had several search bugs as well.

Check out our guide on making Windows 10 search faster and more useful.

Now You: do you use Windows 10’s web search functionality?

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Microsoft will install a Bing Search extension in Chrome on some customer systems

Microsoft revealed today that it plans to install an extension in Google Chrome called Microsoft Search in Bing for some customers that will make Bing the default search engine in the browser automatically.

The move, which may remind some users of tactics used by the “old” Microsoft, forces Microsoft’s extension on systems of Office 365 ProPlus users in select locations (according to Microsoft, in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, United Kingdom and United States).

To give one example: Microsoft installed an extension in Firefox in 2010 automatically, also linked to the Bing Search engine, with an update for the company’s Windows operating system.

microsoft search in bing

The company points out that customers may start to “take advantage of Microsoft Search” when Bing is the default search engine so that they may “access relevant workplace information” directly in the browser’s address bar.

By making Bing the default search engine, users in your organization with Google Chrome will be able to take advantage of Microsoft Search, including being able to access relevant workplace information directly from the browser address bar. Microsoft Search is part of Microsoft 365 and is turned on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it.

Starting with Office 365 ProPlus 2002, out in February/March, Microsoft Search in Bing will be installed in Chrome automatically. Microsoft notes that the extension will be installed when users install Office 365 ProPlus or when existing installations are upgraded.

Administrators who don’t want this to happen can prevent the installation easily according to Microsoft, and if it is installed already, it is easy enough to stop using Bing as the default search engine as well (there is a toggle to use the previous default search engine again).

Admins may run the following command to remove the extension again:

  • C:Program Files (x86)MicrosoftDefaultPackPCMainBootStrap.exe uninstallAll

Administrators may use these instructions to block Microsoft Search in Bing from being installed; instructions to block the installation using the Office Deployment Tool, Group Policy, or Configuration Manager are provided.

Admins may set the value in the Registry to block the installation:

  1. Use Windows-R to open the run box.
  2. Type regedit.exe and hit the Enter-key.
  3. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftoffice16.0commonofficeupdate
  4. Right-click on officeupdate and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value.
  5. Name it preventbinginstall
  6. Set its value to 1

Closing Words

It is one thing to make customers aware of new functionality that they may not be aware of, another to make changes forcefully in third-party programs that may affect user workflows or preferences. It is likely going to backfire on Microsoft.

Users who set Bing as the default in Chrome don’t need the extension as they are all set up already. The extension won’t be installed in this case.

Now you: what is your take on Microsoft’s strategy to get customers to use Bing / Microsoft Search?

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DuckDuckGo Lite: efficient search without ads

DuckDuckGo Lite is a tiny resource-friendly search option by the search engine DuckDuckGo that has no advertisement.

Users of DuckDuckGo use the search engine for its stance on privacy but also functionality that it provides. The main DuckDuckGo site works well on desktop and mobile systems. The search engine’s homepage and search results pages display elements besides the search field and results: there are ads, images or news may be displayed, and menus and other information may also be displayed.

The search results are not as polluted with advertisement as Google’s results are and tracking is not used by DuckDuckGo when it comes to advertisement.

duckduckgo lite

DuckDuckGo users who, sometimes or all the time, want a quicker way of accessing the search engine may find DuckDuckGo Lite useful for that purpose. The tiny homepage of DuckDuckGo Lite displays only a search field, and the equally tiny result pages list only the results (and a search field).

Overall size of the page is reduced significantly. The entire homepage has a size of less than 5 Kilobytes compared to the 1 Megabyte size of the original landing page. The search results page is equally tiny, it has a size of about 33 Kilobytes compared to the roughly 2 Megabytes of the original search results page.

DuckDuckGo makes less than a handful of requests when you load the homepage or search results. The original DuckDuckgo search results page makes more requests, over 50 at times).

duckduckgo.com lite

As a comparison: the Google Search homepage has a size of about 1.9 Megabytes, result pages differ based on ads and other content but they are usually in the 2-3 Megabyte range (with content being dynamically loaded at times). Google makes way over 100 requests on its search results pages.

Closing Words

The lite version that DuckDuckGo maintains is ideal for low-resource or slow/unreliable Internet situations. Considering that you just need to transfer 10 Kilobytes and make two or three requests to display the search page and just a bit more for results, it is ultra-light and fast at the same time.

Obviously, it may also be used if resources are not an issue as results are displayed quickly and without any noise but at the expense of some of the additional functionality that DuckDuckgo provides on its main search site.

Now You: which search engine do you prefer currently and why?

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Google Search displays icons now on results pages

If you are still using Google Search, you may have noticed that Google changed the design of the search results page by adding icons to results.

Google does not make changes to the company’s search results page on a large scale regularly, and when it does, it is usually backed up by data that confirms that the change is beneficial.

Previously, search results showed the page title, part of the URL, and a short description of content. The only exception to the rule have been ads placed prominently on search results pages as they featured a tiny “Ad” next to the URL.

The search change rolled out last year to mobile users but Google started the roll out for desktop systems just this week.

The change impacts how advertisement is marked on search results pages and how sites are displayed. When you run a search now, you will notice that a site’s favicon is displayed next to the URL in the top line. Below it is the page title and below the title is the description.

Google, bascially, swapped page title and URL positions and added the icon to the line depicting part of the URL in the results.

As far as ads are concerned — of which there are plenty above the fold — they use the new design as well. The color has been changed to black though and the box that surrounded the Ad text was removed as well.

google search icons ads

Google stated on its official The Keyword blog that the refresh is designed to “better guide” Google customers “through the information available on the web”.

With this new design, a website’s branding can be front and center, helping you better understand where the information is coming from and what pages have what you’re looking for.

Internet users who have monitored Google over the years may have a different answer as to why the change was made: to further push advertising revenue. With the Ad text now black and without a box around it, it may be more difficult to spot what is an ad and what is now especially since all sites now show something in the spot.

While most favicons are not text, it is certainly possible that some sites display text as the favicon. The Dutch netwspaper Algemeen Dagblad even uses AD as its favicon, albeit with a red background.

Lifehacker published a filter that you can add to uBlock Origin, Adblock Plus, and other content blockers that support the blocking syntax to do away with these icons.

google com without icons

All you need to do is add the following filters to the custom filters list.

google.com##.TbwUpd
google.com###am-b0
google.com##.GHDvEf.ab_button

The filters remove the icons from Google Search to return to the much clearer look.

Google made some changes with impact to its search engine over the years. A look in our archive returned a style from 2011 that shows a sidebar on the left and results that displayed title, description, and url in that order. The company moved the sidebar to the top in 2012 and the order of results changed to title, URL, and description in that year.

Now Y0u: what is your take on the change? Do you still use Google?

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