Microsoft is releasing the .NET update you’ve all been waiting for

Although Microsoft's .NET open source framework only just celebrated its 20th birthday the company is now pushing ahead with a new version, .NET 7. 

In a blog post, Microsoft says it is releasing .NET 7 Preview 1 alongside ASP.NET Core Preview 1 and EF7 Preview 1.

“.NET 7 builds on the foundation established by .NET 6, which includes a unified set of base libraries, runtime, and SDK, a simplified development experience, and higher developer productivity,” says Microsoft's Jeremy Likness. “Major areas of focus for .NET 7 include improved support for cloud native scenarios, tools to make it easier to upgrade legacy projects, and simplifying the developer experience by making it easier to work with containers.” 

Open source forever and always 

If you use .NET for work (or pleasure), then it's worth reading the full blog for the details on what's new over .NET 6 as there's a lot. 

Some headline features is the addition of .NET Multi-platform App UI (MAUI), and new tools to make it easier to build cloud-native apps by simplifying the setup and configuration necessary to implement secure authentication and authorization, and also improving the performance of application startup and runtime execution.

Developers will be able to easily and quickly upgrade their .NET 6 apps to the new platform, with Microsoft providing a range of support tools and services.

After many years opposing open source, Microsoft is really leaning into making the space better. It's fair to say many developers were initially sceptical of Microsoft and it's commitment to making open source tools as the company, seeking to maintain its dominant position, opposed many developers and projects. 

But Microsoft's GitHub acquisition for $ 7.5 billion in 2018 helped the company turn a new page and win over sceptics. 

By maintaining .NET 7 – which is truly open source and cross-platform – so thoroughly (you could even say lovingly), Microsoft is doing its bit for the furtherance of computing.  

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Microsoft shares some good Windows 11 news we’ve all been waiting for

If you were worried that you’d have to wait a while before Windows 11 gets any major new features, then Microsoft has just shared some good news, which means the new operating system will get updated and improved far more regularly than first thought.

Microsoft had initially said that it would be only releasing a single annual feature update for Windows 11 each year, which led some people to worry that they would have to wait 12 months for new features to come to their PCs.

However, as ZDNet has discovered, in a new blog post about the Windows Insider program, Microsoft states that: “We will deliver updates to features and experiences in builds from the Dev and Beta Channels by releasing Feature, Web, and Online Service Experience Packs on top of these builds too.”

This means there will be three ‘Experience Pack’ updates alongside the annual feature updates. Rather than bringing a range of features, bug fixes and security upgrades across the whole of the Windows 11 operating system, as a major feature update does, these new Experience Packs will focus on adding or expanding features for particular aspects of the operating system.

So, Online Service Experience Packs will focus on adding features related to how Windows 11 manages online services and accounts – such as changing or improving the ‘Your Microsoft Account’ settings page.

Web Experience Packs will add features to do with browsing the internet, as well as features within Windows 11 that use the internet to bring you news and information. ZDNet spoke to Microsoft, which clarified that “the Web Experience Pack is updated through the Microsoft Store (while the Feature Experience Packs and Online Service Packs will be updated through Windows Update). The Web Experience Pack will allow Microsoft to update things like the Widgets experience in Windows 11.”

Finally, Feature Experience Packs will contain more broader features, such as updates to legacy apps to make them feel more modern.

Analysis: Keep the improvements coming

These new Experience Packs will be released independently of the annual major operating system updates, and this is good news for several reasons.

As we mentioned earlier, it means that you don’t have to wait a year for new features to be added. While in our Windows 11 review we said there’s a lot to like about the new operating system, it’s still not perfect. By having a regular new features coming to the operating system, Windows 11 will continue to evolve, while feeling fresh and exciting.

There’s another benefit as well. Microsoft’s move to single annual major updates for Windows 11 (and Windows 10, which is getting the same treatment) is a welcome move in many respects. It should reduce the number of times a user gets bugged to download, install and restart their PC. It’s also no secret that Microsoft has having some pretty major issues with recent Windows 10 updates. By focusing on a single update, there’s a hope that Microsoft will be able to ensure these updates are much better built and tested, hopefully reducing any potential problems.

However, if Microsoft kept all of its updates to a single download once per year, that could lead to very large and complex updates. By separating features to their own updates, this will reduce the size of the annual update.

Adding new features to an operating system is also fraught with complexities, and this is where issues sometimes arise. If a new feature is added that doesn’t work as expected – or ends up breaking other parts of the operating system – it should hopefully be easier for Microsoft to identify and fix if it’s part of a smaller Experience Pack update, rather than causing issues in a major annual update (which will also inevitably lead to bad PR).

So, this is good news from Microsoft regarding Windows 11. Hopefully the days of major issues after updating Windows are behind us.

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This eagerly-awaited Microsoft Teams update has been delayed

Fluent Design is Microsoft's design language that the company is rolling out to Windows 11 and other apps throughout the year. But Microsoft Teams is going to have to wait slightly longer for its own update for Fluent emojis.

The update was scheduled for November 2021, but it looks as though emoji, and other features, will be coming soon in a significant update for Teams users.

Its online collaboration platform is reaching its fifth year in 2022, with the pandemic being a significant part of its growth of 250 million users so far. However, with Skype still being maintained by Microsoft as well, the new features for Teams need to differentiate itself from being a good platform for businesses to an essential one.

A fluent delay of features

While Fluent design has been available for Windows 11 and Office 2022, it's also expanded to other apps, such as Paint, Calendar, and other apps by Microsoft.

However, Teams is scheduled to reap the benefits of Fluent design in February, alongside live transcripts of calls, better meeting options, and other features that are coming to the app in 2022.

Video filters were also delayed from August to March this year, where you can customize your appearance before joining a conference call.

Many of these features should prove useful to many, but it depends if some of these are further delayed so that the Fluent design can be finished for Teams in March.

Via MSPowerUser

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Microsoft Teams is finally getting the update you’ve all been waiting for

Working together with others outside your organization in Microsoft Teams will soon be possible thanks to a new update to Microsoft's online collaboration tool.

Workgroups often extend beyond one's organization with employees connecting with multiple external stakeholders including customers, vendors and partners. However, up until now, users had to rely on different software or even personal apps to collaborate with them.

Not only does this require employees to use multiple apps which takes longer and can reduce their productivity, it also creates security risks for both workers and their companies.

For this reason, Microsoft is currently working on two updates that leverage Microsoft Teams Connect and the secure access capabilities of Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) to make cross-organizational collaboration easier for businesses.

Cross-organizational collaboration

The first update involves shared channels which allow individuals and teams across multiple organizations to work together in Microsoft Teams. When this feature becomes available in preview early next year, shared channels will appear within each Member's Teams tenant alongside other teams and channels. 

Users will also be able to schedule a shared channel meeting, use other Microsoft apps like Office and share each channel with up to 50 teams and as many organizations as they need.  Meanwhile, admins can use cross-tenant access settings in Azure AD to configure granular and differentiated trust relationships for external collaboration with different organizations.

Microsoft is also working on another update scheduled to rollout by the end of this year that will enable Teams users to chat with others outside their network including those using Teams personal accounts. They'll be able to invite any Teams user to chat using an email address or phone number while remaining within the security and compliance policies of their organization.

Cross-organizational collaboration is the Teams update many users have been waiting for as it will allow Microsoft's collaboration tool and video conferencing software to become a one-stop-shop for all of their business dealings both internally and externally.

Looking to improve your Microsoft Teams experience? Check out our roundups of the best business webcams, best headsets for conference calls and best video conferencing software

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Internet has been placed under immense strain – but it’s holding strong

The increase in sustained Internet traffic brought about by coronavirus lockdown measures has led to speculation infrastructure might crumble under the burden.

Although cloud-based services (such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams) have experienced outages – likely as a result of increased traffic – and broadband providers have suffered blips in service, the UK is yet to experience significant downtime outside of usual margins.

TechRadar Pro spoke to network monitoring firm ThousandEyes about the performance of UK Internet infrastructure, the challenges facing internet service providers (ISPs) and how the pandemic might affect Internet services going forward.

The company detects network performance issues by actively probing networks from thousands of vantage points around the globe. It takes billions of measurements each day, detecting instances in which traffic is terminating within ISPs and the networks of public cloud providers, UCaaS providers, and edge service providers.

According to ThousandEyes, this outage detection mechanism is highly specific, enabling isolation of traffic termination incidents down to the interfaces of the infrastructure involved.

How do you set about detecting outages?

ThousandEyes detects network performance issues (including outages) through active network probing from vantage points around the globe. The resultant network telemetry data covers latency, packet loss and other key performance indicators.

While packet loss of any level can be potentially disruptive to users, ThousandEyes defines an outage as an incident involving 100% packet loss, where traffic completely terminates at some point within a network.

Since lockdown measures were introduced, how would you assess the performance of UK Internet infrastructure?

The performance of Internet infrastructure in the UK has been varied over the course of lockdown, but generally speaking, it has held up well.

When compared globally, UK outages have remained low overall, standing at 21 in the first week of lockdown, with the second week rising to 28. A significant reduction was seen in the third week with only 10 outages, before we observed a slight increase in the fourth week with 13.

How is UK Internet faring in comparison to other countries?

About a third of all outages in the first quarter this year occurred in EMEA. Although the duration and scope of many of the outages suggest they were the result of network operators optimising performance as traffic levels increased, we have also seen a clear spike in outages among collaboration app network providers, including video conferencing services.

Comparatively speaking, the UK’s Internet has fared well. We saw outages spike in mid-March, but when a second global elevation occurred in early April, the UK was minimally affected.

What kind of damage was caused by the recent outages you identified?

The impact of outages can vary depending on location, time of day, and scope of the outage. In general, when Tier 1 ISPs, broadband providers, and large transit providers experience outages, the impact of consumers and business can be significant.

The recent Tata Communications outage had far-reaching implications geographically, as did last week’s CenturyLink outage, which caused Merrill Lynch to publicly report on disruptions to its brokerage business. Many other large businesses experienced service disruption throughout the outage. Taken together, the financial impact may well have been in the millions of dollars.

What have been the primary causes of outages in recent weeks?

Outages can occur for many different reasons, including infrastructure failure, fibre cut, and configuration error, making them hard to predict.

Throughout March, as traffic usage increased to support remote work, online school and leisure activities, the duration and scope of network outages has increased compared to pre-coronavirus. These characteristics aren’t consistent with congestion related outages. Instead, they suggest increased traffic engineering activity by network operators — likely to address increased traffic usage.

What are the greatest challenges currently facing ISPs?

Overall, ISPs have performed well given dramatically increased network usage. As traffic volumes increased, many reported an increase in requests for bandwidth and connectivity from their customers and peers. Responding to a large number of service requests may have posed a challenge for some providers.

ISPs are also under greater scrutiny, given the dependence that users now have on the Internet. Even issues unrelated to network usage, such as fibre cuts, can bring an unwelcome spotlight.

Outages are, however, an inevitability even under normal Internet conditions, and sound network strategy and operations will continue to be the best methods to limit their occurrence.

Do you anticipate any changes to the way services are consumed going forward?

The overnight transition to a remote workforce and customer base has made one thing very clear for a lot of enterprises – they’re reliant on a well-functioning Internet to power all of those online services and applications that are core to employee and consumer experiences.

Going forward, we may see a change in the way businesses invest in and consume some Internet services. ISPs may also examine their service and investment prioritisation given the heavy utilisation of consumer networks.

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