Surface Pro 3: A VERY different experience

If you are a long time reader of this blog you may remember how thrilled I was when I bought the first Microsoft Surface Pro sold in Canada.  I wrote about it (including videos) that week (Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: It’s Here!) and quite a bit subsequently.  It was… well, it was a nice device, don’t get me wrong, but it was really a companion device to my laptop.  It simply didn’t have the oomph to replace my HP EliteBook (which I soon thereafter replaced myself with a Lenovo X1 Carbon).  I need more than 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to be comfortable.

This past February I decided to sell that device and trade up to a Surface Pro 2.  I was absolutely thrilled with the new device (Surface Pro 2: Oh yeah!) because it really was a replacement laptop for me… okay, it wasn’t… but only because the screen size was just too small.  However because of the amount of travel that I do I decided that was a small price to pay for a lighter load – and anyways, most of the offices I worked in and hotel rooms I stayed in had another screen I could connect to.  The 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage really did make the difference, although I was hesitant… I decided that before I actually sold my Lenovo I would put it away for a fortnight, and see if I ever missed it.  I didn’t, and when I decided it was time to sell I never looked back.

Okay, I looked back a little… I had been considering this as an option for a while, and in May I went out and purchased an external USB screen (There was a sale on the AOC model and I broke down and bought it).  The fact is that while I am on writing assignments – I don’t mean blog articles, but full length courses – I simply need more  desktop real estate, and I was not working from my home office so it was simply a necessity.

A few weeks ago Microsoft released the Surface Pro 3.  They didn’t release all of the models – there will be one with 512GB of storage, and one with a Core i7 CPU among others – but they released the equivalent model to my own… which really is all that I would ever need, as I use other devices (either servers or high-end laptops) to create the courseware that I am writing about.  I decided to roll the dice and see what I could get for my Surface Pro 2 on the open market. 

Jackpot!! I won’t say that I got my full purchase price for it, but I did get enough for it that the new device would not cost me too much… actually it wouldn’t cost me anything because I had a voucher!  I ran to the Microsoft Store at Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) and asked the associate to bring me a shiny new Microsoft Surface Pro 3, complete with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a navy blue type cover, and an extra stylus.  For good measure I purchased the Complete Care warranty too… that has saved my bacon a few times in the past!

For the first time in a very long time I found myself without a computer configured as my own, so I rushed home and opened it up… and I recorded the process of opening it up, narrating all along (including through the dropping thunk).

There are a couple of things that I noticed pretty quickly.  The Surface Pro 2 stylus was essentially a dumb device.  Not so with the Pro 3, and it comes complete with a AAAA battery.  You discover immediately when configuring the machine that it is also a Bluetooth device, and is pretty easily configured.

Did I mention how incredibly light it is?  Wow… 1.76lbs (800 grams) makes it 10% lighter than the Surface Pro 2…  and only about 10% heavier than the Surface RT.  As for thin, at 9.1mm thick it is 33% slimmer than the Pro 2 and only .2mm thicker than the RT.  All that with a larger screen (12”) with a better display resolution (2160×1440 compared to the 1920×1080 of the Pro 2).

Opening and getting to know the Surface Pro 3

Once you have watched the videos you should know that there were a couple of things that went wrong later on… For some reason out of the box I was getting a message that there was no battery detected, and I could not even turn the device on if it wasn’t plugged in.  I suspected at first that had to do with the battery type cover I have heard about, but when I looked up a solution on-line it seems that people had the same problem with the Surface Pro 2… I don’t know what it is, but it’s something… fortunately it was fixed by a couple of firmware updates.

Speaking of firmware updates and patching the device, it would not let me do any further patching until I had plugged the device in and charged the battery to 100%.  All this to say that rather than being ready to go right away, I spent the evening at the Niblick Pub in Oakville (which is no hardship I assure you!), and only when I got back a few hours later could I truly set it up.

Once that was done I have had no further issues… on anything.  I am sitting at Starbucks as we speak with my external AOC screen connected, but the truth is that I don’t need it; I probably would if I was on a writing assignment, but while the 16” external screen is larger than the 12” screen on the Surface Pro 3, the resolution of the Pro 3 beats the AOC hands down.

Is it a true laptop replacement?  I got into a bit of a debate with a friend about that on Facebook – it probably is for the vast majority of users, but for people who truly need higher resources – the friend in question truly does need 16gb of RAM to run the array of virtual machines he walks around with – it doesn’t cut it.  For most of us I suspect the Pro 3 really can replace our other laptops.

I was a little concerned by the size… next to the 10.6” Pro 2 the Pro 3 looks positively huge, and I was worried it would not fit into my messenger bag – when I shed the Lenovo I stopped lugging my huge laptop bag and have been happy carrying my kit in my messenger bag (not this exact one, but similar) and saving the added weight.  I was glad to see that while it truly is the maximum size I could comfortably fit into the bag, it did indeed fit.

Will the romance last? I don’t know.  For the time being I am thrilled with the device – not simply the size and form factor and novelty of it, but the performance is what I need to do my work.  I have been running a single Windows 8 virtual machine in the background and I haven’t seen any degradation in performance whatsoever.  Now granted, I have been writing, surfing, checking e-mail, and editing videos… nothing to truly test the mettle of the machine.  However with the 4th generation Intel Core i5 I don’t anticipate I will be disappointed.

Is it for you?  I don’t know.  Is it for me? Absolutely… all 800 grams of it!

P.S. I stand corrected… in the video I claim it is just under or over $1200, when in fact the model I have sells for $1,349, and the Complete Care Warranty would have added an additional $149, but there was a bundle of the Complete Care, a Type Cover keyboard, and a sleeve.  I don’t remember the exact deal, but the long and the short is that I walked out of the store $1,600 plus tax ($1,807) poorer… and one great machine richer!

Outlook Looking Out for me AGAIN!

A few hours ago a deadline was about to pass.  I had promised someone I would send them the final draft of a file before they got into their office this morning.  I also knew that I would not be available to re-send it if there was a problem because of a previous commitment.  I wrote the e-mail and pressed send.  Immediately the following window appeared:imageWow… how often have you done that?  ‘Hey I am sending you this file’ and then you forget to attach it?  Sometimes you catch yourself and sometimes you only realize it when the return e-mail of ‘what file?’ comes through.  Fortunately Outlook 2013 saved me in this case – I was tired and likely would not have realized it, and my colleague would have had nothing to work on this morning.  Thanks Outlook!

Honesty in Advertising

EatHereThis week-end I lambasted a friend who hosts/produces a radio show about travel for posting that a particular hotel chain wanted to appear on his show to discuss his product, but refused to provide a free stay in exchange for the privilege.  I also told him that I know the entire industry works that way, and that I was not holding it against him.  My comment:

it is unfortunate that every single travel (and most sales-type) shows think it a given that they have to be pay for play… because of that we the general public cannot trust any ‘review’ on these shows because they are all just paid ads (at best) and whoring at worst. No restaurant review, travel review, or product review will ever be honest if the product is given to the hosts as a prerequisite and barter for air time. This is NOT limited to ‘<our show>, believe me… I know it is all of them.

We had a bit of a back and forth about it, and he ended by saying that in a perfect world he would rather companies pay for advertising, and he pay for their product (or stay home).  I respect that.

Here’s the issue though… If it is true that every travel show works like this (and It seems they do) then how can you ever trust that a place is worth visiting?  In the same vein, in the IT industry, how can you trust a site that only gives positive reviews to products that are given to them?

Take, for example, my blog… www.garvis.ca. If you are not familiar with it you will be interested to know that (unless I have been quoted or plagiarized) you are currently on it.  I write product reviews from time to time, but I have a policy: Verum quod integrity primoris (Truth and integrity first).  However I also do not believe in bad-mouthing products for no reason.  I may not like it for personal reasons, but it takes a lot for me to actually badmouth a product.

With that being said, when I am asked to write a review I make them the following deal:

  1. They have to provide me with the product.   If it is hardware then they cannot be loaning it to me, and if it is software they must provide me a complete, non-time-bombed license.
  2. I will work with it within 30 days of them providing it to me.  If I am going to write a review it will go up within 45 days, or on an agreed upon date.
  3. If I do not like the product, I will not write the review.  What I will do, however, is provide feedback to the company as to why I don’t like it.  This will be done in the same promised time frame as I would have written the review

If you ever wonder why you never see negative reviews on my blog, that’s it.  I do not consider my site to be a place for ads, a profit centre, or anything of the sort.  However I know there are a lot of sites and shows that don’t work that way… and I respect that, but I wish they would let their listeners and readers know that up front.  ‘Hey, this site is a pay for play site, and any product that we promote has paid us to do so, either in cash or product.’  At least that would let them know the truth… and more pointedly, when they badmouth a product (either on their show or site, or on any social media) they should be very clear that they are not doing so because the product is bad, but because they refuse to play ball.

I am not holding my breath… but in the meantime I will promise you my readers that any product or service that I endorse, I do so freely and am not compensated to do so.

Mitch Garvis

Outlook 2013: Take Action!

I have been using Microsoft Office 2013 since it was in early beta mode, and I still find features on a daily basis that I love.  Of course, some of them I have been using all along, like Action Items.

Microsoft Outlook analyzes your e-mails and lets you know if it has found things, like Action Items. So when I received the following e-mail:

image

At the top of the e-mail the following option now appears:

image

Because there is an address in the e-mail (I think it is LinkedIn’s main offices) the Bing Maps option appears; however it is the Action Items that I like… Outlook’s intelligent analysis determined that the e-mail was asking me to do something, so when you click on Action Items you see the following:

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Nice… you can now see at a glance what is being asked of you in the e-mail.  But that is not the end of it…

image

Fred wants to meet me for coffee Thursday morning.  You will notice that the application bar has the option of Suggested Meetings.

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So the good news is it found the meeting.  It did get the time wrong, and I am not quite sure how that happened, but it does make sure you keep on your toes.  You can click on Schedule Meeting and it will create the calendar object, including inviting Fred.  How cool is that?

Try it out… it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good!

Standardize your Hosts: Simplify your Life

For several years I have been speaking and writing about desktop deployment to standardize your client system environment.  What about your servers? What about your hypervisors? 

A couple of years ago VMware introduced Host Profiles into vCenter Server which allow you to take all of the settings from one host and then apply them to all of your other hosts.  Nice… but unfortunately it is a feature only of the Enterprise Plus SKU of the product. 

Microsoft has similar functionality with System Center 2012 R2, which is a real godsend for larger organizations.  But what about the smaller companies?  What about companies that have not completely implemented the whole System Center suite of tools?  Are they doomed to having multiple hypervisor configurations?  No… that’s what PowerShell is for!

Super-Shell!Okay, PowerShell is for a lot of things; in fact it is for just about everything, depending on how well you want to use it.  However with the help of my friend and fellow Microsoft MVP Sean Kearney I have put together a list of cmdlets that will do the job for you.

Firstly we should recognize that there are infinitely more settings to configure in VMware vSphere than there are in Microsoft’s Hyper-V; hundreds of settings, any of which can prevent critical functionality from performing properly.  There are certainly issues that need to be properly configured in Hyper-V, but not nearly as many.  With that being said, it is still important to standardize your Hyper-V hosts, if for no other reason than to simplify management, but also to ensure failover readiness and more.

For the purpose of this article I am going to assume a directory on all hosts called c:\Profile.  You can really name the directory anything you like.  In fact none of the file names have to be what I call them, as long as you remember what you use.

Hyper-VOh, and before you ask, this article applies to the full GUI version of Windows… and MinShell… and Server Core… and yes, even Hyper-V Server!

In PowerShell there is a simple cmdlet: Get-VMHost |fl.  This will show you all of the host settings.  The fl gets the full list, instead of the basic information.

If you are simply trying to collect the host settings for the purpose of documentation, you can export this information to a .csv (comma separated value) file that can be read in a text editor or, more importantly, in Microsoft Office Excel.  That cmdlet would be Get-VMHost |Export-CSV c:\Profile\HostSettings.csv.

PowerShellWhile this is helpful for documentation purposes, in order to actually work with the information we are going to export it to a .xml (Extended Markup Language) file.  It will be harder for us to read, but easier for the computer to work with.  The cmdlet to do that is Get-VMHost |Export-CLIXML c:\Profile\HostSettings.xml.

Now that we have collected the information, we can start applying the information to other hosts.  The corollary to any Get- cmdlet in PowerShell is a Set- cmdlet.  However the .xml file has some information in it that we would not want to apply to each host – hostname, for example.  So although we could theoretically apply each setting by hand (set-VMHost <parameter>) I have taken the liberty to write a script that would apply all of the information for you, based on the file we collected earlier:

$info=Import-CLIXML C:\Profile\HostSettings.xml

Set-VMHost -VirtualHardDiskPath $info.VirtualHardDiskPath
Set-VMHost –VirtualMachinePath $info.VirtualMachinePath
Set-VMHost –MacAddressMinimum $info.MacAddressMinimum
Set-VMHost –MacAddressMaximum $info.MacAddressMaximum
Set-VMHost –MaximumStorageMigrations $info.MaximumStorageMigrations
Set-VMHost -UseAnyNetworkForMigration $info.UseAnyNetworkForMigration
Set-VMHost -FibreChannelWwnn $info.FibreChannelWwnn
Set-VMHost -FibreChannelWwpnMaximum $info.FibreChannelWwpnMaximum
Set-VMHost -FibreChannelWwpnMinimum $info.FibreChannelWwpnMinimum
Set-VMHost -ResourceMeteringSaveInterval $info.ResourceMeteringSaveInterval
Set-VMHost -NumaSpanningEnabled $info.NumaSpanningEnabled
Set-VMHost -EnableEnhancedSessionMode $info.EnableEnhancedSessionMode

Let’s look at the format of this script.

1)  $info=Import-CLIXML C:\Profile\HostSettings.xml
What we are doing here is importing the .xml file that we created into a variable called $info.  Each piece of information in the XML file will be called using that variable.

Next let’s look at one of the Set-VMHost lines:

2) Set-VMHost -VirtualHardDiskPath $info.VirtualHardDiskPath
What we are doing here is taking one of the parameters – the default directory for new virtual hard disks – and setting it with the VirtualHardDiskPath parameter from the .xml file… because we imported that file into $info, that sub-variable is expressed as $info.VirtualHardDiskPath.  We will repeat that for each parameter.

So essentially for this script we are running the same cmdlet twelve times with different switches.  Can we put them together into a single line? Sure… it would look like this:

Set-VMHost -VirtualHardDiskPath $info.VirtualHardDiskPath –VirtualMachinePath $info.VirtualMachinePath –MacAddressMinimum $info.MacAddressMinimum –MacAddressMaximum $info.MacAddressMaximum –MaximumStorageMigrations $info.MaximumStorageMigrations -UseAnyNetworkForMigration $info.UseAnyNetworkForMigration -FibreChannelWwnn $info.FibreChannelWwnn -FibreChannelWwpnMaximum $info.FibreChannelWwpnMaximum -FibreChannelWwpnMinimum $info.FibreChannelWwpnMinimum -ResourceMeteringSaveInterval $info.ResourceMeteringSaveInterval -NumaSpanningEnabled $info.NumaSpanningEnabled -EnableEnhancedSessionMode $info.EnableEnhancedSessionMode

It may look long and ugly, but the good news is you don’t have to type it out again… all you have to do is copy and paste it from this article!

Of course, you can clean it up a little… if you are not using virtual fibre channel, for example, you could remove all of the parameters that pertain to that.  A lot of companies don’t care about the MAC addresses of their VMs and resource metering, so remove those.  All of a sudden that line gets a lot smaller:

Set-VMHost -VirtualHardDiskPath $info.VirtualHardDiskPath –VirtualMachinePath $info.VirtualMachinePath –MaximumStorageMigrations $info.MaximumStorageMigrations -UseAnyNetworkForMigration $info.UseAnyNetworkForMigration -NumaSpanningEnabled $info.NumaSpanningEnabled -EnableEnhancedSessionMode $info.EnableEnhancedSessionMode

Because PowerShell is plain English, you can easily go through these scripts and customize it the way you like.  No worries, have fun!

Of course, you may have noticed by now that we have not even touched on virtual networks here, and that is certainly an important component.  What do we need for that?  You need to read my next article!

Still need help! Walking for ALS in four days!

Hey folks.  Last week I reached out to you to support my walk for ALS, and many of you responded and I can’t thank you enough.  I am still shy of my goal and really need your help.  Anything you can give helps, but bigger numbers mean more help to the people suffering from this terrible disease!

Please donate what you can online now at http://my.e2rm.com/PersonalPage.aspx?SID=(!SolicitationID)&LangPref=en-CA.  If you do not want to use your credit card on-line then let me know and I can help you out.

Thanks again for your help!

M

Consumer Camp: Your chance to ask the REAL experts!

The MVPs are coming! Yes, on May 29th there will be a plethora of Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) congregating at the Microsoft Store in Square One, Mississauga.  Some of us will be there to answer your questions, some will be giving presentations on topics of interest. The rest of us will be there to heckle the other MVPs, so if you don’t have any questions it will still be entertaining Smile

MVP_Horizontal_FullColorThe event is called the MVP Consumer Camp, and it’s a really big deal.  Why? Because most of us will speak to IT Pro audiences most of the time, and do not come out of our castles to speak to consumers and consumer issues.  There will be MVPs from across Canada, and they want to meet you.  In fact, they want to meet you so badly that Simran Chaudhry and Joel Langford, MVP Leads for Microsoft Canada, will be buying everyone who signs up and attends a steak and lobster dinner after the event**

So click on this link and register today…  we would love to see you out there, and bring your questions… whether they be on Windows, Office, Xbox, or just about any other Microsoft technology, the experts will be in the house!

When: Thursday, May 29th, 4:00pm – 9:00pm
Where: Microsoft Store, Square One Mall, Mississauga
Registration Link: https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032587467&Culture=en-CA&community=0

**Our lawyers want to be clear that nobody will actually be buying you anything, and that you should be buying us drinks.