Teams toolbar transition

Microsoft are redesigning the Teams interface to introduce a single toolbar for the controls used in meetings and when calling. The rollout will begin in early June and will continue until the end of August 2019.

The intention is to improve discoverability and reduce clutter for users in meetings and calls by unifying session controls to a single toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This change will affect Windows, Mac, and web clients. There will be no impact for mobile or Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) devices.

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Nexus365 Teams on Linux

Nexus365’s TEAMS application has, to date, been predominantly targeted at the Windows desktop. Other operating systems have had access to limited functionality via a web browser but the inability to video-conference, share desktops or applications, or to give presentations has limited the usefullness of the feature for Linux users.

Forcing users to boot a Windows VM simply for a meeting, to send emails, or to collaborate with colleague is far from an ideal solution. Things are, thankfully, improving. There is yet to be an official Teams client for Linux but in the interim additional functionality is now available, albeit with some preparatory effort.

By using a Chromium -based browser, tweaking a few settings , and installing a single browser extension, you can achieve near-parity with the full Windows Teams client. This will allow in-private video calls, presentations, and other functions not previously possible for Linux users.

This should be considered as a beta, or a work-in-progress, rather than a permanent well-tested solution. Microsoft are asking the Linux community to feed back and are promising to make further updates based on those responses.

What do I have to do?

  1. Ensure you have either Chrome for Linux, or a Chromium for Linux browser.
  2. Install the following extension from the Google Webstore: User Agent Switcher for Chrome.
  3. Add one or both of the following user agent strings to the “User Agent Switcher for Chrome”. This will allow you to switch to the desired one that works for your system:
    Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/64.0.3282.140 Safari/537.36 Edge/17.17134
    Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/51.0.2704.79 Safari/537.36 Edge/14.14393X
  4. Click the User Agent Switcher and choose your Edge browser string. This should remain selected until you change it to something else or back to the browser default.
  5. Open the Chrome browser, in the address bar type Chrome://flags and hit the Enter key. In the search box provided, search for each of the settings below. Set each one to ENABLED:
    Hardware Acceleration
    – Override software rendering list: ENABLED
    PWA
    – Enable PWA full code cache: ENABLED
    – Desktop PWAs: ENABLED
    – Desktop PWAs Link Capturing: ENABLED
    WEBRTC
    – Negotiation with GCM cipher suites for SRTP in WebRTC: ENABLED
    – Negotiation with encrypted header extensions for SRTP in WebRTC: ENABLED
    – WebRTC Stun origin header: ENABLED
    – WebRTC Echo Canceller 3: ENABLED
    – WebRTC new encode cpu load estimator: ENABLED
    – WebRTC H.264 software video encoder/decoder: ENABLED
    Downloads
    – Parallel downloading: ENABLED
  6. Verify that those settings work:
    – Open Microsoft Teams in your browser.
    – Start a private chat with someone and verify that the video chat icon switches from grey to purple and white. If so, you can start making video calls and you should also be able to make a presentation.

These same settings should also enable the same functionality on other operating systems, although naturally those cannot be assumed to have received any testing.

Known issues

While you can use the EDGE UA to participate in Conference calls it may cause issues with not displaying the most current posts in a TEAMS channel. So you may have to switch between the EDGE UA and the browser default UA.

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Skype / Teams ‘background blur’

Microsoft have just introduced a new feature to video calls made within Skype for Business and Teams: a ‘background blur’ feature that means you don’t have to think quite so much about tidying up your surroundings before joining that call.

The process using artificial intelligence to identify the person making the call, keeping you in focus, while blurring the background. It’s therefore not perfect and it is possible to confuse the software – it won’t always work. Microsoft are at pains to point out that you can’t rely on background blur to hide confidential information that may be nearby.

Accidentally broadcasting wifi password on TV

But it might have helped the organisers of America’s Superbowl a few years ago from telling the whole world their wifi password…

At this stage the idea of background blur is really just a bit of a gimmick but it does indicate an interesting new real-world example of how AI technology is being developed in new directions.

Here’s how to try out the feature:

How to enable background blur in Teams

Before calling

Before a call use the option below ‘join now’

Add blur during a call

Turning blur on during a call…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to enable background blur in Skype

 

 

 

 

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New mobile Outlook

Microsoft will soon be rolling out a new feature within Outlook for iOS and Android which adds a new mailtip or notification when composing messages. The intention behind this feature is to reduce the risk of sensitive information being inadvertently sent to external email recipients.

What’s changing?
When composing or replying to a message with external recipients using Outlook for iOS and Android, the external recipient email address is highlighted in the address list. It may also be highlighted in the message body if someone is @mentioned. A small notice label is visible in the message header during the compose or reply process. This is NOT visible by the external recipients once sent.

Outlook mobile will clearly alert you when an external recipient is in the email address list when composing or replying to email messages, as shown in the image.

This capability is being rolled out by Microsoft already, but with the default setting set to OFF. From the 4th March Microsoft will change the default settings to ON. From that date Nexus365 users running Oulook on iOS or Android devices will therefore start to see this mailtip or notification whenever there is a recipient in the To, Cc or Bcc lines that is outside the University.

Please note that, as far as Nexus365 is concerned, an ‘external email recipient’ will include units which handle their own email and don’t use the central IT Services Nexus365 service. This would include, but is not limited to, the Saïd Business School and the department for Continuing Education.
This enhancement is related to Microsoft 365 Roadmap ID 27555 and 27556.

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Nexus365’s default homepage will become office.com

Nexus365 currently includes a user-customisable setting that allows users to personalise what page they land on when they log into the Nexus365 portal. However Microsoft have chosen to remove this functionality. They have begun rolling out a new (mandatory) home page for users logging in via the web. This will soon replace any customised landing page.

The thinking behind this change is that Microsoft’s Office.com page has evolved. Now it shows users’ most relevant applications, documents, and places where they are working. Since this useful information is all collected in one place Microsoft believe that it makes for a more useful, more consistent (and thus easier to support) default page when someone signs into Nexus365 at Office.com.
Users who miss the customised starting page can continue to use browser bookmarks and direct URL navigation to get to specific Nexus365 components, applications, or pages.

When will this happen?
The change should first become visible in March 2019, when users who have set a start page other than Office.com will be directed to Office.com when they log-in.

What should I do to prepare?
Informing your users of the upcoming change would be sensible, and encouraging them to bookmark any custom page they’ve set as their start page.

How can I stay informed?
The Nexus Team make information available via this blog, and via the IT Services Service Desk.
You can also review upcoming changes yourself via Microsoft’s roadmap page. This specific change can be found on that roadmap here.

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Outlook and repeating webauth logon popups

A number of Nexus users have recently logged support tickets with the Service Desk regarding a repeating cycle of logon authentication requests in Outlook. Similarly affected users may receive an error stating ‘You need the internet for this’ even when they are self-evidently connected and online.

Investigation has shown that – generally but not exclusively – this seems to affect users running versions of Office downloaded from the Nexus365 portal, and who are running Windows 10 as their operating system.

ITSS advice and things to try:

  1. Under Settings>Accounts>Access Work or School, remove any reference to an OnTheHub or personal Microsoft account.
  2. Ensure that your local firewall, antivirus software, and/or Windows Defender are not blocking processes that engage in authentication token acquisition.
  3. Removing stored accounts from Credentials Manager, and rebuilding Outlook’s profile may also help.
  4. There is a registry fix which can resolve this issue. However as the issue is due to be patched early in 2019 if you use this solution we strongly recommend you schedule to reverse it once the fix is released. With that borne in mind:
    Starting from build 16.0.7967, Office switches from Azure Active Directory Authentication Library authentication (ADAL) to Web Account Manager (WAM) for sign-in workflows on Windows builds later than 15000 (Windows Version 1703, build 15063.138). The workaround is to disable WAM by modifying the following key:[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Common\Identity\
    “DisableADALatopWAMOverride”=dword:00000001
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Thunderbird 60 and Nexus365 calendars

It has been brought to our attention that a recent update to Thunderbird – bringing the version number up to v60 – has the unfortunate side-effect of breaking Nexus365 calendars. Experimentation within the Nexus team has shown that the only calendar functionality that remains intact during testing is the use of one’s own calendar and, bizarrely, a single meeting room.

Calendar issues aside, this upgrade to the application is worthwhile. Testers within the Nexus team described it as  “…definitely snappier and more responsive.”

Mozilla have made a big jump with the plug-in architecture for Thunderbird (as happened for Firefox about a year ago), so to continue to use Nexus365 calendars within Thunderbird we will have to wait for the developers of the exchangecalendar plug-in to get their heads around the new design. In the meantime Outlook Web App (http://outlook.office.com) gives calendar functionality via almost any modern browser.

Mozilla have provided the following guidance regarding calendar issues post upgrade:

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/calendar-updates-issues-thunderbird

This may also be useful:

https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/thunderbird/60.3.1/releasenotes/

 

EDIT: Version ‘v5.0.0-alpha2’ of the exchangecalendar add-on was released in the last 24 hours. Testing within the Nexus team has shown that with this version delegate calendars re-appear. https://github.com/ExchangeCalendar/exchangecalendar/releases

 

 

 

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Linux and Microsoft Teams

The fifth most-requested feature for Teams is a client for Linux. This simple request has garnered over five thousand votes since it was first posted two years ago.

Since Microsoft are slowly moving away from Skype clients, pushing communications functions into the Teams application, this will clearly become more of an issue as time goes on. In the current documentation Microsoft state that Meetings work on Chrome 59 (and later). Firefox users are effectively being told that they should replace their browser.

There is a convoluted work-around to permit video calls and presentations to work but it’s very much a fudge: it effectively persuades the server that you’re running the Edge browser.

However, as of yesterday, it seems that there may be a hint of progress. Some engineering time may even be being allocated to resolving these issues. In a tweet yesterday Microsoft’s Suphatra Rufo gave a hint that there may be progress.

If you are a Linux user and need a proper Teams client please add your voice here:
https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103/suggestions/16911565

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Nexus365 and iOS support

Apple have never been as clear as Microsoft regarding the timeline over which their software will be officially supported. However as a general rule the current version of the operating system, and the one immediately preceding it, can be considered officially supported. When dealing with Microsoft Office apps on iOS Microsoft are now following that premise.

Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are no longer supported for Office app updates on devices running iOS 10 (or earlier versions of iOS). In November support for Outlook will also cease for those versions of iOS.

These Office apps will continue to work, albeit officially unsupported and without further updates. Once the device is updated to iOS 11 (or later), Office apps will then resume receiving updates and patches. Users should be made aware that, if no action is taken to keep their operating system current, Outlook for iOS will eventually stop synchronising email and calendar data. Furthermore all Office apps will stop receiving feature and security upgrades.

Best advice is always to ensure your operating system is current to minimise exposure to security vulnerabilities. This will also ensure your Office programs continue to work securely too.

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Nexus365 and TLS – update to TLS1.2!

Microsoft are planning to discontinue support for the older 1.0 and 1.1 versions of Transport Layer Security (TLS) in Microsoft Office 365 from the end of October 2018.

TLS is the successor to the (now deprecated) Secure Sockets Layer  protocol which was designed to provide secure communications over a network. The protocol’s job is to provide reliable privacy and data integrity between client and server- so it is important that Nexus365 only implements current fully-supported versions.

The TLS protocol builds on Netscape’s original SSL specifications from the mid 1990s, which added HTTPS support to Netscape Navigator. TLS was first defined in 1999 with the specification updated in 2008 (RFC5246) and again in 2011 to ensure TLS was used in preference to SSL (RFC6176).

TLS 1.0 originally  included an option to downgrade to SSL3, weakening security and potentially allowing known attack vectors to be exploited. The revised TLS 1.1 dates from early 2006, and was again revised in the summer of 2008 with TLS 1.2 becoming a standard. Dropping support for versions of TLS older than v1.2 will thefore be mandating use of a protocol that has been around for a decade. Only the oldest, least regularly updated client software, should be unable to connect using TLS 1.2. In fact some browsers already support TLS 1.3, currently a draft standard, dating from March 2018.

The October 2018 deadline for dropping TLS 1.0 and 1.1 support already represents a postponement of Microsoft’s original planned date, so is unlikely to be extended further.

To ensure you can still use secure connections to Nexus365 after the end of October 2018 all client and browser software used to access Nexus365 must therefore be using TLS 1.2 or later. This may mean you need to update, or replace, your software in order to connect securely. Any TLS-related connectivity issues logged in support tickets relating to Nexus365 will require an update to TLS 1.2 as part of the resolution.

Examples of software known to use old versions of TLS:

  • Android 4.3 (and earlier)
  • Firefox version 5.0 (and earlier – and any related forks of it)
  • Internet Explorer 8-10 on Windows 7 (and earlier)
  • Internet Explorer 10 on Windows Phone 8.0
  • Safari 6.0.4/OS X10.8.4 (and earlier)

Analysis shows that, as a proportion of all traffic, very little of it is TLS 1.0 and 1.1 usage. Please note that we are not mandating that you cease using older versions of TLS for other functions. If you are still using TLS for other purposes you can leave it enabled for those functions – however TLS 1.2 should be enabled for secure connections to Nexus365 in addition to those.  This should ensure that you avoid future TLS connectivity issues when accessing Nexus365.

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