So, what exactly are you planning to do with this new PC? Windows Insiders face new questions during OOBE

Also: Getting Edgy in the holidays, AtHoc and Teams, and Azure updates


In Brief Microsoft's army of unpaid testers have received their weekly dose of love from the Windows Insider team in the form of Dev Channel build 20231.

Most notable was a new page added to Out Of Box Experience (OOBE), the click-through device setup dialog that users have to trudge through when setting up a new piece of Windows kit. The latest edition will ominously ask what you plan to use the thing for (for example: gaming, business, creativity etc) so that Windows can "better understand how you plan to use your device" and set things up accordingly.

Sadly for enthusiastic Dev Channel insiders, the feature is only hitting a subset of fans first and, naturally, will only be visible during a clean install on a device.

There were also tweaks around file associations for enterprises. The odd-looking camera icon of the Meet Now function has also been rolled out to all Dev Channel Insiders.

One fix will be welcomed by Windows Subsystem for Linux users: that pesky vEthernet adapter disconnection issue has been resolved. Other tweaks included solving the problem of the Alt+Tab Window order suddenly and inexplicably changing and audio glitches afflicting certain devices over Bluetooth.

Issues outstanding in the preview build include Office apps either disappearing or crashing and virtualisation bugchecks. We were, however, heartened to see a pointer to the temporary profile issue that affected some of us last week (too late for this hack, who had already hit the reset button, but handy for anyone else).

Enterprise security and hitting the virtual shops with Microsoft Edge

Those tasked with deploying Edge into the enterprise were gifted the security baseline for version 86 of Microsoft's Chromium-based browser last week. The good news is that while v86 introduced 32 new computer settings and 28 users settings, the settings from v85 continue to be the recommended baseline.

Consumers, however, have more treats to look forward to, including a Price Comparison feature (due in the coming month). The new component shows a list of prices from alternative retailers after a product has been added to a collection. As seems to be the norm for Microsoft nowadays, the feature is US-only.

American users will henceforth be able to make use of Bing Rebates, where those using Microsoft's search engine will see Bing-based cashback offers in the search results.

Finally, Microsoft remains determined to ram the Meet Now experience down the throats of as many users as possible, and will be adding the video chat feature to the new tab page of the browser. Also in the Dev Channel for Windows 10 is the Zoom-stomping feature allows a link to be sent to up 50 participants, who can join in the chatting and screen-sharing fun without sign-up or registration.

While still in the Dev Channel at present, Microsoft stated that the feature will turn up "on the Windows 10 taskbar in the coming weeks." Just in time for a good old-fashioned Christmas family row held virtually rather than face-to-face.

BlackBerry AtHoc comes to Teams

Critical event management platform BlackBerry AtHoc is to integrate with Microsoft Teams.

While some might regard the former communication giant's financials or the wobbly infrastructure on which Teams is perched as critical events in their own right, the integration is handy for organisations using both Teams and AtHoc.

AtHoc allows incident response managers to fling as many alerts and updates as are needed to any device during a critical event (anything from a service failure to a full-on natural disaster). Plugging things into Teams means Microsoft's platform can be used to manage things without having to hop between applications.

"BlackBerry AtHoc integrations with Microsoft Teams are important for our mutual customers," said Mike Ammerlaan, director of Microsoft 365 Ecosystem marketing. "Providing business continuity assurance is a priority and this integration delivers an enhanced tool for ongoing, secure communications."

One can but hope that such "business continuity assurance" is also being applied to the cloud services being pushed by Ammerlaan's employer.

Price drops for Azure Files and Soft Delete for Containers

While Microsoft's cloud demonstrated all the stability of jelly nailed to a wall, those shunting file shares into Azure Files saw a 33 per cent price reduction on the premium tier.

The premium tier is hosted on SSD storage and aimed at high-throughput, low-latency workloads.

Azure Files is a handy approach to serverless file shares (and is accessible via the likes of SMB). A stepping stone to the cloud, users can also stir Azure File Sync into the mix to cache and synchronise Azure File shares on local Windows Servers.

The price drop came as Microsoft extended the public preview of soft delete for containers in Azure Blob Storage to all public Azure regions. Once enabled for a storage account, a deleted container (and its contents) will be retained in Azure Storage for a specified period, thus affording an undelete option for that "Oh shit" moment.

While there is no charge for switching on the functionality, users will still be billed for soft-deleted containers at the same rate as active data. ®


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