Windows 11 is getting some fine-tuning around how default app selections are handled and how apps are pinned on the desktop, making these systems work better and with more overall consistency.
XDA Developers spotted that Microsoft wrote a blog post on its new ‘principled approach’ to these app behaviors, with the incoming changes set to arrive in testing (Dev channel) in the “coming months,” we’re told.
The first measure to be implemented is with app defaults. Windows 11 will get a new Settings deep link URI (uniform resource identifier), allowing developers to take users directly to the correct place in Settings whenever any given app flags itself up as wanting to be the default.
The default app is the software which is opened automatically for a specific file format, so for example, your default browser is the one used when you click a link in, say, an email.
Secondly, Microsoft is changing the way that pinning apps – putting icons permanently on the Start menu or taskbar – works, by introducing a new notification. In the case that an app wants to request being pinned, this notification will pop up explaining just that, allowing the user to either click Accept or Decline.
Crucially, the software giant wants consistency with these interface tweaks, so all third-party software, and Microsoft’s own core apps for Windows 11, work the same way and abide by these rules. That’s the plan, anyway, although whether things work out this neatly, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Analysis: Defending against dodginess, and making up for past mistakes
As made clear in its blog post, part of Microsoft’s aim with this tweaking of app behavior is defending against “unrequested modifications” from dodgy developers. In other words, things happening in the background unbeknownst to the user, and the likes of adware or other rogue software managing to infiltrate into the system.
It’s also designed, no doubt, to reassure Windows 11 users that Microsoft is putting the past well and truly behind it regarding the firm’s own policies on default apps, which have been a source of criticism previously.
You might remember that when Windows 11 first launched, Microsoft made it an unnecessarily clunky process to change browser defaults away from its own Edge product (you had to go through every file type and change the preference individually, such as HTML, PDF and so on – a ridiculous state of affairs, really).
Indeed, Microsoft even mentions its browser specifically in the post, noting that: “We are committing that Microsoft Edge will release an update that adopts the new Settings deep link URI for defaults and public pinning APIs as they become available.”
At any rate, this is a welcome move, although in all honesty, app defaults should never have appeared in the state they were when Windows 11 was launched in the first place. Mind you, the same could be said about a number of things in the Windows 11 interface upon its release, with the OS having very much been a work in progress as Microsoft has gone along.
The feature should mean that users will be able to flag when they are free for a Microsoft Teams meeting, or alternately when they are too busy to attend, or are out of the office.
Microsoft Teams Calendar update
In the official Microsoft 365 roadmap entry for the new feature, officially titled, “Microsoft Teams: Calendar Show As in meetings”, Microsoft explains how it could benefit users with packed schedules.
The company notes how it would allow both organizers and participants of a Microsoft Teams meeting to choose a “Calendar Show As” status to reflect their availability, with options including free, busy or OOF.
Organizers will also be able to select private meeting functionality, which will allow users to hide meeting details from other users when their calendar is shared.
The feature is still listed as in development for now, with Microsoft estimating a general release date in June 2022. The company says that, when available, the addition will be provided to all PC and Mac users.
The update is the latest in a series of features introduced by Microsoft in an attempt to make hybrid working and online collaboration less painful for users across the globe.
The company recently revealed a separate update entitled “working hours and location” will allow users to set a notice showing where they are working, whether that be at home, in the office, or anywhere else in particular, giving managers more visibility on where their key employees are.
Users of its Outlook email service will also be able to display a second calendar type, with the company noting that users will have “a variety of global calendars” to choose from, including the likes of the Chinese lunar calendar, Indian calendar and the Islamic calendar will soon be available as options within Outlook, so certain holidays or observances are not missed.
Microsoft is looking to take some of the strain out of learning on the job with a new expansion to its Viva platform.
In a new entry on the Microsoft 365 roadmap, the company revealed that users will soon be able to discover Viva learning content directly through SharePoint, Office.com and Bing.
Previously, users had only been able to access such content through the video conferencing platform Microsoft Teams, with the move now opening up a whole new range of opportunities.
Microsoft Viva expansion
Microsoft says that the new update is an integration between Viva Learning and Microsoft Search, meaning actually being able to find the right content that is applicable to your workers should also be a lot quicker and easier now.
The roadmap entry notes that the feature is still in development for the moment, but Microsoft has said it hopes to issue a release in March 2022. When complete, the feature will be available for all Microsoft Viva web users around the world.
Launched in February 2021, Microsoft Viva integrates with Teams and other Windows software tools to operate as a kind of intranet that brings together knowledge, learning, and communication services.
The platform was launched with remote working policies in mind, and is made up of four main pillars, one of which is Viva Learning. Microsoft says the offering is geared towards employee development and allows members of staff to share, assign, and learn from an organization’s training material, helping speed up onboarding and training processes.
Asides from learning and training, Viva also looks to support employee wellbeing and combat issues such as loneliness and burnout.
Microsoft also revealed a series of guided meditations and mindful exercises for the platform which users will be able to access via Microsoft Teams as it looks to help workers de-stress and become more productive.
A VoIP gateway is, at its simplest, a device – or bridge – that converts call traffic into data packets to be transmitted over the internet.
This happens in one of two ways:
1. When the call traffic originates from a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and needs to be converted from an analog voice signal into a digital one. The digital signal is then compressed using what’s known as a ‘codec’ and broken into a series of ‘data packets’ that are transferred across the Internet Protocol (IP) network.
2. When the call traffic originates from an IP network, then the VoIP gateway will decompress the data packets into a digital signal that’s then converted into an analog signal to be sent across the PSTN.
These data packets are the lifeblood of any internet call system as they dictate call quality – data packet loss can result in poor quality calls that frustrate employees and customers alike and can even have a negative impact on your business.
With traditional phone systems, one call is converted at a time, whereas with a VoIP gateway, multiple calls are supported simultaneously, increasing call capacity for busy companies.
VoIP gateway systems typically include the following features:
⚫ Voice and fax compression / decompression
⚫ Packetization and control signalling management
⚫ Call routing
⚫ External controller interfaces
Why was the VoIP phone late to the meeting…? It got hung up in traffic!
You can always tell when a new piece of tech becomes commonplace – the corny jokes start doing the rounds!
And it’s easy to see why VoIP has recently followed this well-trodden path given our remote ways of working since 2020.
But what about a VoIP gateway? It’s perhaps a term that is less common right now but is likely to see increasing usage in the coming months and years as more and more companies continue to switch to digital phone systems and look for ever more efficient ways of managing call traffic.
In this article, we’ll set out what a VoIP gateway is, how it works, what the different types of gateway are, and how to set one up.
VoIP gateways have many benefits, especially for businesses transitioning from one type of call system to another.
With VoIP gateways, you can, for example, migrate in phases, keeping your existing hardware in place to keep new costs down. By using existing equipment, you subsequently reduce training and set-up times for your teams.
The biggest benefit of a VoIP gateway is, therefore, one of cost. Changing over an entire office or organization to VoIP can be costly – in addition to the cost of new equipment, there’s the infrastructure and IT support costs to factor in too. With a VoIP gateway, however, these costs are more easily managed and can be spread out over a longer period of time – something most Finance Directors and CFOs will be very glad of!
What’s more, you can choose a VoIP gateway system that optimized for minimal or ‘Least Cost Routing’ by directing specific calls to the provider that will charge the least per minute.
In addition to this, VoIP servers can and often fail. VoIP gateways, however, have what are called ‘fallback’ modes that switch to the PSTN if the internet is down.
What a lot of businesses opt for nowadays is a ‘hybrid’ approach that combines on-site equipment with VoIP gateways. This enables them to get many of the advantages of VoIP while still retaining their existing infrastructure and equipment that they know to be reliable and familiar.
Oh, and watch out for what are called ‘Fully Hosted IPBX systems’ – they’re also a growing trend nowadays as they offer a full telecommunication system without the hassle of buying and managing additional hardware. However, if for any reason you lose your connection to the hosted IPBX, you lose the ability to make both internal and external calls.
What are the different types of VoIP gateway?
There are two main types of VoIP gateway, analog and digital.
As the name suggests, an analog VoIP gateway is used to connect your traditional analog telephones to a VoIP phone system, or to connect your VoIP phone system to the PSTN. These gateways are typically available for between 2 and 24 lines and come in two different forms, both of which often appear as ‘media gateways’ to:
FXS (Foreign Exchange Subscriber) gateway – used to connect your traditional telephones (and fax machines) to a VoIP phone system.
FXO (Foreign Exchange Office) gateway – used to connect your VoIP phone system to your PSTN lines.
Once again, the clue is in the name! Digital gateways are used to connect your VoIP phone system to your digital voice lines – either BRI ISDN lines (for Europe), PRI / E1 lines (for Europe), or T1 lines (in the US).
Other terms it’s worth knowing about when exploring VoIP gateway solutions are:
VoIP GSM Gateway
GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications and is used for routing IP, digital, analog, and GSM networks directly. With these devices, companies can take advantage of the ‘Least Cost Routing’ option that we mentioned earlier.
A PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) gateway is a third-party hardware component that converts signalling and media between the Enterprise Voice infrastructure and the PSTN, either directly or through connection to SIP trunks (more on SIPs and SIP trunks here).
It very much depends on your existing phone system as to which gateway solution is best. If you’re currently running on analog, then you’ll need an Analog Gateway. If you want to upgrade on flexibility though, then you should consider a Digital solution. And if cost optimization is high on your priority list, then it’s worth exploring the VoIP GSM Gateway option.
The basic steps are pretty similar across solutions.
What you’ll need before getting started:
An internal telephone device with external connectivity through VoIP via the Internet.
The PSTN interface to a telephone network, with IP connectivity to an in-house VoIP phone system.
Both PSTN and VoIP interfaces externally.
Steps to follow to setup a VoIP gateway:
Find and note the gateway’s network IP.
Log in via the device’s web interface and update your firmware to the latest version.
Assign a static IP and note it down.
Configure the VoIP gateway in your admin or management console.
You can typically do this by clicking on ‘SIP Trunks’ and then ‘Add gateway’. Here you’ll be asked for details such as the model, number of device ports and main trunk number.
You’ll also need to add the hostname or IP of the VoIP gateway and any Direct Inward Dialling (DID) numbers.
Once you have created the VoIP gateway connection, you’ll need to generate a device config file. Depending on your solution, that will either configure remotely or download a file to your computer. If the latter, you’ll then need to upload these to the gateway.
Your final step is to create ‘Outbound Rules’ to route calls over the PSTN gateway. You can do this via the ‘Outbound Rules’ function of your device.
You’re all set!
If at any point you get stuck, then contact your gateway device supplier or IT administrator.
The telecommunications world has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, with many businesses now relying on VoIP for their core operations. VoIP Gateway is additionally a common method for businesses looking to ease the transition to VoIP technology while still leveraging existing equipment and IT infrastructure.
Pardon the pun, but it’s an excellent ‘gateway’ to a much easier and more efficient VoIP system that helps to reduce IT costs and keep your business running. What’s more, the benefits of VoIP gateways make them a smart choice when trying to spread out upgrade costs while still retaining a professional, high call quality system.
What's more, you don't even need a Gmail account to sign up – and it's absolutely free.
Free Google Workspace
“We’re rolling out a new version designed to help people bring the apps they know and love to use in their personal lives to their work life,” Kelly Waldher, Vice President of Marketing, Google Workspace, wrote in a blog post.
“The new Google Workspace Essentials Starter Edition is a no-cost solution for business users looking to enhance teamwork and unlock innovation with secure-by-design collaboration. With Essentials Starter, we’re making it easy for employees to choose their own productivity tools and bring modern collaboration to work.”
There are some caveats to the plan, as users will only get 15GB of cloud storage, down from the usual 30GB available with the basic Google Workspace Business Starter plan, which typically costs $ 6/user/month.
There's also obviously no access to Gmail either, but users will be able to hold Google Meet video conferences of up to 100 people for up to an hour, as well as access to Spaces, Google Chat, Sheets, Slides and Docs.
The news comes as something of a surprise, given Google had recently said it would be cutting down on users accessing Google Workspace for free.
The company announced that all G Suite legacy free edition users would soon be shifted over to a paid version of Google Workspace from July 1 in order to ensure they kept access to tools such as Gmail, Meet and Docs.
This had upset users who may have recently signed up for the software, particularly non-business users facing having to pay for the first time, with Google saying that anyone not signed up to a paid subscription by the July deadline faced being locked out.
Google Workplace plans start at $ 6/user/month for its Business Starter option, with Business Standard ($ 12/user/month) and Business Plus ($ 18 /user/month) also on offer, providing an increasing level of services with the amount paid.
Google plans to automatically upgrade free users from May 1 to “an upgraded Google Workspace paid subscription”, based on its analysis of the customer's usage and the features it thinks you'll need. The company is also offering businesses who don't want to pay or upgrade the chance to export their data at no extra cost.
This means that Google Docs users can now mark their work in order to protect copyright, show that the information within is confidential, or simply notify readers that it is a draft or work in progress.
Google Docs watermark
In a blog post outlining the new feature, Google notes that text watermarks will repeat on every page on your document, making it useful for indicating file status.
Users can also include an image watermark, such as a company logo or sign, or include other images above or behind text. To find the new feature, which has no admin control, users simply need to go to Insert > Watermark > Text.
The feature will work across other platforms too, as when working with Microsoft Word documents, text watermarks will be preserved when importing or exporting your files.
The tool will be available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers, with the rollout starting in January 2022 and due to take a few weeks.
The news should be a boost to legal and high-end businesses dealing in confidential documents, and comes shortly after a further new functionality also looked to add greater depth to Docs that sees a new process for formal document approvals for high-priority files (such as contracts, legal documents and the like), building upon existing comment and suggested edit features.
Google Docs has also recently boosted its citations feature, making the software a more viable choice for students and academics. When adding a citation to an essay or research paper, users will soon be able to search for sources via an in-built database, and then automatically populate the necessary fields (title, publisher, date of publication etc.).
Every week I’m sent apps that are meant to help or solve a situation for users that haven’t been done before. But I was sent a particular app this week that made me rethink how a note-taking app should work.
Created by Rihab Mehboob, Note Yourself was released this week (January 20) for iOS and macOS devices that use the Apple Silicon chips, where you can note down your thoughts and your plans, but in a chat interface.
You may think, as I did at the start, that this sounds like a combination that simply can’t work. It sounds like having sugar on your Weetabix, or playing Banjo Kazooie on an iPad. But the more I’ve used Note Yourself, the more I’ve been impressed.
You’re brought to a layout that looks as though you’re going to start a conversation with yourself, and you can jot down something that you can set to remind you after a certain amount of time. You can also pin some of these entries to easily go back to, all in a very simple but elegant layout.
I’ve been using the app already for a shopping list at the weekend, and, unashamedly, the daily tasks I need to complete for Fortnite. It wasn’t long before I promoted the icon to my main home screen on my iPhone, and after speaking to some of the TechRadar team alongside some family, I was surprised to find that some do indeed jot down notes by sending messages to themselves over WhatsApp, WeChat, and iMessage. Is this the app they, and so many others, have been waiting for?
And when you consider a messaging layout with notes, could the same logic be applied to a music app? Or a storefront? It’s apps like Note Yourself that feel fresh, 14 years since the App Store first appeared, and it makes me wonder what other apps could be coming in 2022. I reached out to Mehboob to ask what made him design Note Yourself in the first place.
A chat with Note Yourself’s developer
I spoke with Mehboob after last night’s launch to ask why he thought this layout would work better for a notes app. “To keep track of various tasks, I used to message myself through iMessage, and after realizing I could make a dedicated app, with many features, I began making this app,” Mehboob explains. “I personally really like the idea of themed apps, where an app takes the style of another genre – and I think this was a great demonstration of that.”
After trying out many apps in this category over the years, I wanted to know why he thought this stood out, apart from the different layout. “It may not be as serious or feature-filled as some great note-taking apps, but it's a fun attempt at changing things up.” Mehboob continues. “I really like the UI/UX myself, and I love adding interesting features like the new iOS 15 Communication Notifications (to make it seem as if the notes you are receiving are being sent by others) and pinned messages, which to stand out I decided to make it seem as if the note is being sent by you as opposed to being sent to you.”
Using the app for reminders – thanks to the message notification feature – I can receive a slight nudge between 1 minute and 24 hours, similar to someone messaging me back. I asked Mehoob what other situations this could be used for.
“In fairness, they could be used in any situation! If you want some motivation, they could be used to act as if others are giving commands or letting you know what tasks are left.”
Already I’m using Message Yourself as an alternative note-taking app for sudden to-do lists, but there’s plenty of opportunity for improvements. I wanted to know what was coming up next for features.
“I’m currently attempting to add Siri Shortcuts, where you could let Siri know of any tasks or notes you might want to jot down but do let me know what you’d like to see.”
After confirming that vertical scrolling for Stories was in development back in 2021, Instagram is starting to test the feature in select countries.
Instagram Stories is the company’s take on tapping through short stories that can last up to ten seconds, both in a photo or a video. You can add in a GIF, tag someone, add filters, and more to update your followers on what you’re doing at that moment in time.
But when you decide to go to the next or previous story, you have to tap on the left or right in certain areas of the story in order to do these actions. This could be problematic as some tags placed in a story may overlap, so you may skip a story when you wanted to tap on the tagged person or place in question.
Navigating through your Stories by swiping will alleviate this, and while there’s a good chance that its similarity to TikTok will be mentioned, it’s a much better method for everyone, especially if you primarily use Stories on Instagram.
The company has been rolling out features to better rival TikTok in video content, such as Reels and the ability to add web links to a Story.
However, since Instagram confirmed that vertical scrolling was under development, users had been waiting to see if it would be implemented. One year on, we get confirmation that it’s at least being tested in countries such as Turkey.
🚨 Instagram is testing a vertical swipe stories feed in Turkeyh/t @yousufortaccom pic.twitter.com/KdJa9CTnTlJanuary 12, 2022
As smartphones get bigger or, foldable, having to tap on the left side of the screen to go back to a story is going to be more frustrating for users.
Swiping up or down to navigate your Stories is a much more appealing method. It’s TikTok’s main way of browsing videos in its app, and it would be a welcome change to Instagram Stories.
With a chronological feed due out soon, swiping in a Story could be the next big feature for 2022.
It’s an age-old adage that if something’s successful, there’s a good chance it’ll be copied. And that’s exactly what’s happened with Josh Wardle’s Wordle game, with copies swiftly appearing on Apple’s App Store.
Some developers were trying their luck in charging subscription fees for as high as $ 30 a year, which would grant you more words and no ads.
But overnight, after a heavy backlash against a copycat app that mirrored Wardle’s game in name and design exactly, Apple looks to have taken all of them down in one fell swoop. We’ve reached out to Apple for confirmation that it was the App Store team who did this.
Wardle has yet to comment on this, but as he has maintained that he’s not planning on monetizing Wordle, there could still be an opportunity for him to expand the game, offering different word counts or leaderboards with friends for example, but in an official capacity.
Analysis: What about the other copycats?
It’s no secret that the App Store has been here before with copycats – Flappy Bird and Temple Run come to mind as having been shamelessly ripped off in the past.
But this is notable because swift action was taken in the space of an evening. Whether or not it may be because Wordle is a web app, rather than one that can be downloaded from a Store, is up for discussion, as other similar apps that mirror official brands can still be downloaded from the App Store with no penalty.
However, if you search for a popular game or app in the App Store, there’s a good chance you’ll come across another copycat. Searching for Flappy Bird or Tomb Raider comes up with a list of apps that have nothing to do with the original developer, with some even showcasing screenshots of the original app.
Granted, inspiration can come from anywhere. Steve Jobs would repeat the quote in 1996 of ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’ from Pablo Picasso to reference Apple’s work on the Macintosh from 1984. But Jobs was also enraged by how he was convinced that Android had blatantly copied iOS in 2008.
But when you take the name of the same app you’re taking inspiration from, taking the same design cues from the app, then tacking on a chargeable fee when the original game is free and open to all, then it’s a major problem.
Apple has a mammoth task in weeding out other copycat apps. Granted, its efforts to improve standards for developers on the App Store, either through reducing approval times or reducing the company’s cut of in-app earnings are encouraging. But removing thousands of apps that blatantly steal from others is going to be something that developers will be watching closely for after the last 24 hours of Wordle copycats disappearing from the App Store.
Malware removal software is an important part of the armory of tools that can be used to defend your PC from being compromised by a malicious payload of one kind or another.
If you’re wondering how anti-malware tools differ from antivirus, we cover that in-depth elsewhere, but suffice it to say that malware removal apps offer a much more focused kind of protection against malware, and the facilities to rid your system of an infection.
But how do these applications work exactly? Read on for our full examination of how malware removal tools protect your device and what to expect if you install one of these utilities on your system.
Malwarebytes Premium is today’s best anti-malware tool
Save 25% on your security Sometimes free software just isn’t enough. Malwarebytes Premium is reasonably priced and uses heuristic analysis to identify new strains of malware, cleans up existing infections, helps protect you from phishing scams, and helps stop you downloading further malicious software.
As with an antivirus app, when installed on your machine, a piece of anti-malware software will give you the ability to scan the system to check if any malware is present.
There’ll be a ‘Scan’ button on the main menu of the app (most likely, or a submenu perhaps), and simply clicking on that will scan your drive(s) and memory. Just the same as with an antivirus, the malware removal tool will have (regularly updated) definitions of common malware. It’ll look for matches based on the content of this library of definitions, and if anything is found on your PC, that will (obviously) be flagged as malicious.
That will happen in a post-scan report, where any suspect discoveries are highlighted, and you’ll get the option to quarantine these offenders (or indeed malware might be automatically quarantined). Quarantining, as you might expect, is the banishment of a file to a cordoned-off area of the system, where it can no longer reach or harm your device or data.
As well as malware, Potentially Unwanted Programs (known as PUPs for short) may be reported in scan results, which are, as the name suggests, apps that you might not want on your system (a good anti-malware app will explain why they’re possibly undesirable). These don’t have to be quarantined, as they’re not actively doing any harm, so it’s up to you whether to take action on those. (You’re better safe than sorry in these cases, more than likely, but occasionally legitimate apps can be flagged, and you may want to ignore warnings in these cases).
This on-demand scanning is present with all anti-malware software, and one approach that some folks take is to install a freebie malware removal app just to sit on their system as a backup to a primary antivirus.
In other words, the tactic here is to rely on the antivirus in the main, but to run a manual scan with a second line of defense – the anti-malware – every now and then, just to see if it picks up on anything that the antivirus could have missed. That might only be a PUP, and not outright malware, but still, it could be something that you don’t want on your system, and would otherwise have sat there if you hadn’t plumped for a second opinion.
Malware removal software can give you more than just on-demand scanning, though, and some apps offer real-time defenses in the same vein as an antivirus. Real-time protection simply means that the anti-malware tool has a constant shield up, scrutinizing every file being introduced onto your system (and the processes currently running) for anything suspicious.
That gives you more watertight protection, and means you can run an anti-malware app as your frontline protection against malware, with no need for an antivirus (at least in theory).
Obviously it helps if you choose one of the best tools of this purpose, such as our current top-ranked pick Malwarebytes. Its premium version sports real-time protection, backed up by heuristics (monitoring for malware-like behavior, to catch threats which are brand new and not yet included in the program’s library of malware definitions).
Remember that anti-malware is built to major in such behavioral detection, and finding fresh threats that an antivirus might miss. You also get web defenses (against phishing and other online scams) for safer browsing, plus anti-ransomware tech – a broader level of protection, in other words, from the paid Malwarebytes app (as you might expect).
All that said, it’s still true that the best antivirus apps may offer a more accurate malware detection engine – at the time of writing, that is indeed the case according to the independent test labs, although Malwarebytes is rated solidly enough for overall protection – so you may prefer to run one of our best antivirus picks backed up by the free version of Malwarebytes (or your preferred anti-malware choice) for on-demand duties.
How do malware removal tools work?
Whatever the case, anti-malware apps offer a laser-focused protection against malware (and the likes of PUPs), and as we’ve seen, the good ones can work on multiple levels just like antivirus – with on-demand, plus real-time protection backed with heuristic tech – running the gamut of defensive countermeasures against all the nastiness out there, including ransomware, phishing and more.