Category Archives: Article

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

Do you believe…

This Easter week-end I made an unlikely call to a radio talk show on Ottawa’s CFRA.

Don’t get me wrong… I have called radio stations before, and am no stranger to being on the air.  However the circumstances of my call this particular Sunday morning were probably… out of character, or at least unexpected.

The topic of the show was: Can you be a good Christian if you do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  While this might be a reasonably common topic of conversation between Christians, as a Jew it is not usually one that I would weigh in on… but as I listened to three callers in a row I felt that I had to say something.

The host (I do not know his name, but he was obviously religious and well-versed in Christian doctrine) was being bombarded and he was shocked that it seemed to be unanimous… caller after caller said if you did not believe, you could not be a good Christian.

The first caller I heard (I tuned in late) said that there is only one path to Heaven, and if you did not believe that Jesus died on the cross for you, and then rose from the dead three days later, you would be denied entry into Heaven.

The next claimed that if Jesus did not rise then there is no hope for any of us (I assume she meant Christians) to be saved, and there is no reason to believe anything else in the Gospel.

They continued on like this.  Now I should remind you that I am Jewish, and while I have been married to a Christian woman (and father to a Christian son) for many years, I still strongly believe in my own faith… I have never believed in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, which is why I never call him Christ (which translates to Messiah).  However that does not mean that I do not respect the rights of others to believe.

I called and told the screener my position, and she put me on right away.

The message of Jesus, both alive and since, has essentially been that you should be a good and kind and charitable person.  If you are a good person then you will be rewarded in the afterlife.  Of course there is a lot more to it than that, but if you read his words essentially the rest is just commentary.  Of course, Jesus was not the first person to say this, and he was not the last.  However as far as Christian tradition goes he is the most important of those.  Okay.  Does that message stop being right if he did not rise from the dead?

There are many aspects of Christian doctrine that I do not understand.  If Jesus did not die on the cross for our (their?) sins then what is the point?  If Jesus did not rise from the dead then there is no hope!  As a Jew I don’t get it…

…But here’s the thing: In this day of science and proofs and thousands of years removed from any ‘confirmed contact’ with G-d, do any of us really believe? I am not an overly religious person (I can hear orthodox Jews laughing at that understatement as I type it), but I believe in the Torah.  I think many of the stories are exaggerated… but if we start from the Forefathers I believe most of it happened.  However I also believe that a lot of the miracles that happened can be explained scientifically.  I won’t go into those details for fear of starting a holy war with my own people.  Does my belief that the ‘miracles’ could be proven scientifically make me less of a Jew?  Not unless I say ‘Well, there really is no G-d so I can live as I want.’  I certainly do not say that.

So getting back to Christians and the story of Easter, even if Jesus did not rise from the dead his message is just as true… being a good person will bring rewards. 

If you do believe in Heaven and Hell (and not just the Joe Jackson album) then I cannot fathom any deity, who in his time on earth spoke of kindness and forgiveness and turning the other cheek, being so petty and unforgiving as to not letting a person who spent his or her entire life being good and charitable into Heaven just because they did not believe in one part of the doctrine that was written after he was gone from this earth.

What if you do not believe in Heaven and Hell?  I believe the message is just as valid.  I consider myself to be a good person.  I am kind, considerate, caring, charitable, and so on.  I do unto others and so on.  However that was not always the case; there were years when I was angry with the world, and was not so nice.  At a certain point I made the conscious decision to become a better person, and over time, as it happened, my life got better.  I became happier, I had more friends, all of the things that happens to good people.  Even if I do not believe in the Afterlife (another Joe Jackson album!) my life on earth became better, more enjoyable… less of a Hell.  See?  Even as a Jew, following the messages that Jesus taught I am enjoying the positive results here on earth, in this life.

I am not going to go into what I believe as far as doctrine versus science… that is a conversation for another time (and hopefully over a scotch or three).  However it seems to me that anybody – Christian or otherwise – who judges others on their beliefs rather than on their actions cannot himself (/herself) be a good Christian… or for that matter a good Jew or a good Muslim.  If we are supposed to turn the other cheek.  I suppose it would not be a proper religious article if I did not quote scriptures at least once… “Judge not, lest ye be judged!”-Matthew 7:1. 

With that being said, if you are going to judge someone, is it right to do it based on their beliefs rather than their actions?  Who among us has not seen someone else’s spouse and had inappropriate thoughts?  That may be a bad idea, but there’s nothing illegal about it.  If we were to act on those thoughts, that would be wrong.  I expect there are many of us who are relieved that we cannot be judged (and tried and sentenced) based on our thoughts and beliefs alone… but to go to Hell for them?  I think even Jesus would scoff at that.

Happy Easter to all of my Christian friends and followers, and Happy Passover to my Jewish friends and followers.

Night of Defiance

Five years ago I was flying home from London just in time for the first Passover Seder.  I wrote an essay which I ended up delivering as a guest sermon to my synagogue the following year before Passover, and I have read at my family’s Seder every year since (for reasons I will not go into this year I did not read it).  However in light of what is going on in Ukraine this year, I felt I should share it with a wider audience.  Please feel free to share the link… I wonder what Vladimir Putin might say to it! –MDG

This night we sit in defiance.

As a people we have for centuries – even millennia – adjusted, fit in, integrated into the societies that surrounded us. We were a displaced people who have lived in too many civilizations to list or count. Some of those civilizations embraced us, many more tolerated us.

Most of us who live in the Diaspora do not remember what it was like from the destruction through 1948. If this country tomorrow were to pass a law barring Jews – ridiculous as that may sound – we have somewhere to go, a country where we will always be welcome, accepted, and truly home. It has not always been like that.

Tonight, this night, the first night of Passover we sit in defiance of those who have turned on us, enslaved us, humiliated us, oppressed us, and killed us. US, and not them; our ancestors are us and we are they because if we were to find ourselves in their place we would not have been spared. On this night we sit around magnificent and opulent tables, openly celebrating our holiday; we do so in defiance not only of the Pharaohs of Egypt but of the Emperors of Rome; of the Hamans, of the leaders both of countries and of churches who have banned our celebrations; we sit in defiance of the Spanish of the 15th century and of Adolph Hitler in the 20th century; we defy the terrorists who would push us into the sea and of anyone who would tell us that on the first night of Passover we should not celebrate and remember.

Why do we celebrate Passover? Why is the Passover Seder different from all other nights? Why is it so vitally important for us to gather around, lean comfortably in cushioned chairs, and read the story of our enslavement and exodus? It is not only because we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but we were persecuted over the millennia by Greeks and Romans and Spanish and Germans and so many others – most of whom are confined to the annals of History now – who would be disappointed, upset, and outraged to know that we are still here reading the story of the exodus from Egypt. We read the same story every year and must never forget, because it could happen again if we let it.

Of course it is a ridiculous concept that a country such as Canada, the United States, or Great Britain would ever pass such a law. These are, after all, the most liberated societies in the world where people are free to be what they want, think what they want. These are countries where Jews live, work, and contribute to not only religious but also secular society; they own property and businesses, work in every job imaginable. Jews in our countries are comfortable because over the decades and for some even centuries they have become a part of the fabric of the secular societies of which we are a part. Laws like that could never be passed here, now, to us.

In the 1930s when Germany passed the Nuremberg Laws stripping rights from Jews they had lived, worked, and contributed to not only the religious but also the secular society of that country for hundreds of years. They owned property and businesses, worked in every job imaginable; they were comfortable because over the decades and centuries they became a part of the fabric of the secular society of which they were a part. Millions of them went to their deaths because they did not fathom that it could really happen here, now, to them.

In 1492 when the Spanish Inquisition gave Jews the option to leave, convert, or die they had been a part of that society for decades and centuries. They owned properties and businesses and worked in every job imaginable; they were comfortable because over the decades and centuries they became a part of the fabric of the secular society of which they were a part. The torture and humiliation and death and displacement took them by surprise but it happened, and the one country in Europe where Jews had known they were welcome and safe turned on them violently and thoroughly.

There are of course huge differences between then and now; however the only way to ensure that it will never happen again is to not let it ever happen again. As Jews we must not let it happen; we cannot be meek and we cannot be quiet, we must speak out and rise up and let the world know that we will never again be enslaved, persecuted, and slaughtered… always and loudly and with a resolution that will remind the world that Jews as a people and the Children of Israel as a nation are strong.

The State of Israel is a dichotomy to the ill-informed. It is a nation craving peace that is constantly at war; a nation of love that is the target of so much hate; a nation of hope amidst infinite despair. It has been a refuge for millions fleeing persecution around the world; escaping the Holocaust in Europe, persecution in Africa and the Middle East, poverty and troubles in the Soviet Union and then Russia. Israel offers Jews no matter where they are from a homeland when they want it, crave it, seek it, or need it. Likewise it is the guarantee that Jews will never again be rounded up and slaughtered.

For those who might waver in their support for Israel when the army is accused of wrongdoing they should consider what its enemies would do to it were the balance of power reversed. If Israel should elect a leader that they do not endorse whether they be right wing or left remember some of the leaders chosen by its neighbours such as Hafez Assad, Saddam Hussein, and the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Tonight we sit in defiance of them and countless more. We sit in defiance of Bashir Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad and so many more who would not only deny the right of the Jews to a homeland, but to their very existence…

…and never again allow us to be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Stay out of politics!

A couple of years ago I went to Montreal with my colleague Damir Bersinic to do a presentation at the Montreal IT Professionals Community (www.mitpro.ca).  I was born in Montreal, and when I moved to Ontario in 2007 I found it interesting to see the point of view of the ‘Rest of Canada’.  Nearly five years after my move and shortly before that visit to MITPro I wrote an article (in response to one in the Globe and Mail) called ‘Does Quebec Have a Future In Canada?

If I do say so myself, Damir and I rocked the show.  We were discussing virtualization, specifically Microsoft Hyper-V, in the months prior to the release of Windows Server 2012.  We were a hit, and that was reflected in our evaluation forms that the packed house submitted after the event… all but one.

One of the evaluation forms that was returned to us had a comment ‘you should blog about IT and keep your nose out of Quebec politics.’  It was actually written in French, and included a number of colourful words to go with it.

Now I should mention here that while I was there as support, it was Damir who was running the show; Damir was the speaker, I was only there for support (and we went for a really nice dinner that night).  So why then should he get a negative evaluation from an attendee for something that I had blogged about?

If you enter the search term Quebec into the appropriate box you will find several articles return on my site, but only two have to do with politics – the one I referred to, and one about the Quebec student protests of 2013 (see article).  Having recently spent a lot of time in the province of Quebec it is amazing to discover that any blog anywhere does not focus exclusively on the politics of that province, but there you go.  Two articles in a decade of blogging.

However if you look at the title of this blog it is not IT According to Mitch, nor is it What Some People Think Appropriate According to Mitch.  It is in fact The World According to Mitch, and as such I write not only about computers and IT, but about any number of subjects, from IT and virtualization to airplanes, food, hotel, travel, martial arts, and yes indeed language and politics.  It is not only a professional blog (although it is certainly that) but a place for me to express my opinion about things that I observe during my travels through this world.

Starting tomorrow I have a series of articles that concern the politics of the Province of Quebec, as well as my observations of how the people are coping with the upcoming election.  It will not all be pretty and it will not all be popular, but it is all according to me, and I thank you for your continued readership!

How Many Changing Rooms Do We Need?

washroom_sign-img-1216In January Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun published an excellent piece called Political Correctness Shouldn’t Trump Common Sense.  I heard her interviewed on the radio, and was impressed.  She took the Ontario Human Rights Commission to task.  It seems that she had been in the changing room at her health club, and a ‘woman’ – in quotes because it was actually a man who claimed to identify as a woman – who despite whatever he/she might identify as had a very male anatomy, and from what she could tell all of the bits worked perfectly; this she claimed because he/she was hitting on another woman in the locker room, and the male bits got… as male bits tend to get when its owner is sexually aroused.

In February there was another case where a ‘self-identifying woman’ was taken into a shelter for battered women, but it turned out that the ‘woman’ was actually a sexual predator who proceeded to take advantage… as sexual predators will.

Following these two incidents I reached out to a number of friends who are more knowledgeable about the whole ‘wrong chromosome identification’ situation – they have friends who self-identify as being of the gender that their natural bits are at odds with.  They admit that there are certainly bad people out there who will abuse the system, but all in all the transgendered community are a misunderstood lot who are persecuted and need to be protected, and need society to respect that them as what they want to be, rather than as what they are.

Transgender_symbol_HiResI want to be clear… I respect a person’s right to choose in almost every respect.  If a man wants to sleep with women or men that is their own lookout, I will not judge or persecute.  However when it comes to what bathroom they should be allowed to / forced to use when in public I am of a mind that the needs (and rights) of the many should outweigh the needs and rights of the few.  I also strongly believe that one bad apple will eventually spoil the whole bunch, and the best way to prevent spoiling the whole bunch is to leave all apples in the right bushels.

I have changed or at least softened my opinion somewhat over the years – I tended to believe that if you are born with male bits then I am going to call you a HIM; over time I have realized there is no harm in referring to a man who wants to identify as a woman as a HER… it does not change who I am and it doesn’t hurt anyone.  However that is a far shot from saying ‘Hey, you have a penis but you say you are a woman so you can use the changing room where all of the women are walking around naked.’

So in response to that argument one friend argued that the man who identifies as a woman will feel embarrassed changing in front of all of the men in the men’s changing room.  The simple solution to that is use a bathroom stall to change.  If you think that person’s rights are being trampled on because they are being made to change in a room full of men, why would it be more acceptable to force every woman in the club to change in a room with one man?  It doesn’t matter if the man has an erection or not, those women should have the right to not be exposed to the male bits as they change.

The entire concept of political correctness in today’s society seems to completely discount the rights of the many – I have a right to be whatever, despite what anyone else thinks of it.  Leaving aside the two obvious cases of abuse called out herein, why should my wife or mother or niece forfeit their rights as women because  we have to accommodate everyone?  Wouldn’t that be the same as discriminating against them?

toilet-signs (35)[9]I joked recently with a friend (regarding the Changing Room case) that if I was ever to open an establishment with public restrooms I would forego the ‘Men’s Room’ and ‘Ladies’ Room’ of old and instead have one washroom marked ‘For people born with external plumbing’ and ‘For people born with female plumbing’.  As ridiculous as this may sound, it is in response to a ridiculous set of circumstances.  Thirty years ago who would have imagined there would be a circumstance where someone would actually argue which washroom was appropriate to use, and to actually sue for the right to use whichever they chose?

At the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory in Tel-Aviv (which I am told has since closed) they used to have a sign at the back that read ‘To the Johns…’ behind which there were two doors: ‘Olivia Newton’ and ‘Elton’.  Discounting the fact that these two ‘Johns’ are among the most ambiguous they could have selected, we always thought it was rather amusing.  In today’s politically correct society these signs might as well be changed to: ‘People who liked Grease’ and ‘People who like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’,.  Please, leave the musical theatre jokes out of it… I like musical theatre, and I am very much a straight male – although I might soon have to stop admitting that too loudly because we are among the only groups that is seems politically-correct to persecute and deride.

Another Opinion

Before publishing this article I asked a couple of people with different points of view to review it, and got a couple of answers that really shocked me.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but one person, who studies gender issues at university, wrote the following:

From a radical feminist perspective, the whole concept of gendered bathrooms is ridiculous and just another tool used to reinforce the binary concept of gender. All humans have genitals, no matter what form they take. We don’t ask men with small penises to change in different rooms. Or what about women with large clitorises? Should they also be shunned?

feminismAll humans (poop and pee). They all do. It transcends gender because all bodies need to excrete waste. Why are our washrooms divided, split, along binary gender lines, when we are all doing the same things in there? Aren’t separate stalls enough?

Why are we so ashamed of bodies that we must segregate when changing? Doesn’t this just reinforce the binary genders?

If we taught tolerance, of all gender expressions, women would not be alarmed when a man who identifies as a woman changes in the women’s change room. It is about tolerance. It is always about tolerance for the things we do not know enough about. It is always about the conversation that can help us learn, help us become more tolerant.

Wow… this answer completely shocked me.  I had never even heard the term ‘binary gender lines’ before.  Now that I have had nearly a week to consider this position I am ready to completely disagree with it, but I am not going to disrespect her point of view.  Call me old fashioned or traditional, but I still think that there are some things that we should be allowed to do privately, and while I consider women to be completely equal to men, I am nowhere near ready to say that we are all the same.  However I did ask for her opinion, and I am glad to share it, word for word (I reworded the words in brackets).

For the record though, as someone who has never studied gender studies nor read any feminist literature that I can think of, I would be surprised if this view was shared by the majority of feminists.  I was going to continue on to say what I thought they might think, but then realized that as I am not a feminist, I will not take the liberty of trying to speak for them.

Conclusion

I am all for giving people whatever rights they need to get by and not feel bad about themselves… but as a society shouldn’t we demand a little give and take? We can call men who want to be women ‘Her,’ ‘She,’ and ‘Madam,’ and in return they use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with the physical?  I don’t think this would really be too much of a problem – as I suggested earlier they are welcome to use bathroom stalls to change, and from experience I know it is possible to avert ones’ eyes so as to not see anything they are uncomfortable looking at.  Here’s a little secret I’ll share… most guys are as uncomfortable looking at other guys’ male bits as you ever would be.

In this world where common sense is uncommon, why can’t we try to muster it… rather than taking these issues to court and tribunals, lets just all try to do the right thing… and yes, that includes those people who are demanding we recognize their rights.

Disconnecting Mitch

IMG_0122My son Gilad is truly a chip off the old block.  In some ways that is a good thing, but when he decides to be difficult it can be a real nightmare for his parents.

Take, for example, Wednesday morning last week.  Gilad was happily playing with his cars down in the family room when I walked in and told him that it was time to go to school.  He was not having any of that… he was very content to continue playing with his cars and did not want to go anywhere.  When I insisted he threw a temper tantrum – screaming and crying and just not being at all cooperative.

It should be known that we have a pretty reasonable schedule in the mornings… Theresa and I coordinate to make sure both of our children get to school.  Aaron leaves early for the school bus, and one of us will drive Gilad to pre-school.  Depending on what each of us has scheduled for the day we determine who makes the drive out to Hamilton with the young’un.  On this particular Wednesday Theresa had meetings, and I was driving to Montreal… I had no real timeline that I had to follow, so I was driving Gilad.

Because I was making the trip to Montreal I knew I couldn’t forget anything.  I had my suitcase, my messenger bag with my Surface Pro, and another bag that I needed to bring.  Three bags.  That was very important, because I could not forget any of these and still get anything accomplished in Montreal.

It took much longer than usual to Get Gilad coordinated this morning, owing to the temper tantrum from Hell.  He is usually a very happy and cooperative toddler, but when he makes his mind up to be otherwise he is much more than a handful.  Theresa and I worked as a team to get him out the door – right shoe on, right shoe tied, left shoe on, left shoe… wait, why is the right shoe on the floor now?  Repeat the exercise… several times.  All the while the boy was shrieking to the point where an outside observer would have suspected we were abusing the poor child and called Children and Family Services.  It should be known that the situation was quite the opposite, and had the outside observer seen the whole picture he or she might have offered to buy drinks for the very patient parents.

We finally had two shoes properly secured to his feet – we were only minutes away from breaking out the duct tape to keep them in place.  We then moved on to the jacket, which was another battle completely, and one that really requires a bit more cooperation than simple shoes.  Of course, since he now had shoes on he was even more able to run away from this unconstitutional forced enclothing.  Fortunately I was able to head him off at the stairs and his mother, in a move that would have impressed NFL scouts, avoided a block thrown by a doggie-linebacker and sacked the boy… scooped him up in her arms, and withy a practiced skill got down to the task at hand. 

‘Get the stuff out to the car and come back to get him so that we won’t have to go through this again!’  Good idea… I grab my suitcase, the bag, and the boy’s lunchbox, which he was obviously not going to carry himself.  Three bags.  Once they were in the trunk I ran back, got the boy, and somehow I was able to get him into the car without having a neighbour call the police on me.  It took two stops – one at McDonald’s, one at Tim Hortons, before Gilad Hyde transformed back into Dr. Gilad Jeckyll, and believe me, late as we might have been getting him to school, it was a relief.

It truly was an amazing transformation… walking into school with a big smile on his face you would never suspect that just ten minutes earlier he had broken his father’s 37 year old record for longest and loudest tantrum by a four year old.  This was just one of the things I was thinking of as I made my way eastbound on the 401 toward Montreal.

You should know at this point that I am considered by most to be a very good driver.  Unfortunately I have, like many, developed the very bad habit of glancing at my smartphone when it beeps, especially when I am on a very straight and dry road.  I might even respond with a one- or two word text if appropriate and (reasonably) safe.  However when I got the text asking me to send someone a detailed e-mail a couple of hours into my drive I was not going to risk an accident (or a hefty fine) and do it behind the wheel.  I pulled off at the Big Apple exit and pulled into Tim Hortons.  I opened the trunk and there it was… as clear at the sky, once Gilad’s lunchbox had gone into the school I was left with only two bags… neither one of which was my Surface Pro messenger bag.

Crap.

Let’s face it, the pending e-mail was not a problem… I can just as easily type it on my smartphone as on my tablet.  Unfortunately my trip to Montreal was not entirely a pleasure trip, and I would need a computer for some of my work… not to mention that I had a meeting to work remotely with a colleague in Japan for several hours Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  That could not be done on a smartphone.

Oh, and did I mention that I am the hyper-connected geek who has never gone five days without his computer?

Of course I could have turned around… I was about two hours from home, and turning around was not really a viable option – it would have added four hours to a 5.5 hour drive, not to mention the grief I would have gotten from my father for making him wait up for me.

Interestingly enough I had also forgotten my wristwatch, which I always wear.  I don’t want to have to pull out my phone to know what time it is… I want my wristwatch, and would again, to a lesser degree, be lost without it.

Mitch was, for all intents and purposes, disconnected… what would he do?  How would he survive?  Over the next few days I will talk about what I did and how I managed… and what obstacles I faced, beginning with the fact that my smartphone charger was in my messenger bag too!

Surface Pro 2: Oh yeah!

It is not so hard to believe that it has been a year since I bought my Microsoft Surface Pro.  I liked it, but as I am not an average computer user, it did not take too long for me to realize that it was simply not powerful enough to be my primary laptop.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great companion device, and I used it as such for the past year.  It was great for e-mail, web surfing, and e-book reading.  I watched a ton of movies and TV shows on it, but that was really the extent of what I used it for.  The long and the short of it is that once it was relegated to the secondary role, I could have settled for the less expensive (and even less powerful) Microsoft Surface with Windows RT.  What’s done is done though.

Following the launch of the Surface Pro 2 I noticed that the specs were identical in most (and superior in some) aspects as my primary laptop.  I decided to give it a try… the last week of January I stopped into the Microsoft Store in Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) and picked one up.  Of course money being a factor, I decided to settle for the 4/128 base model (4GB RAM, 128GB SSD).  For $999 it was not as powerful as I wanted, but to try it out…

surface-pro-2I spent precisely a week with it before I realized that if it was a little more powerful this could be my primary laptop.  I debated and debated… and then when I got a $50 gift card for the Microsoft Store I decided to bite the bullet… the store’s return policy is 14 days, so on Day 11 I went back… only to find out that they were completely out of stock.  However, they told me, the new Square One location had plenty in stock.  I hopped into my car and zoomed down there.  Yay, they had it!

One of the things I really appreciate about dealing with the Microsoft Store is that whether I have my receipt or not they can look up my past purchases by e-mail address.  They found my most recent transaction, and within a few minutes they exchange was done.

**FEATURE ALERT!**

Mitch-SurfaceWhen I started using the original Surface Pro last year I was worried that 128GB of storage would drain pretty quickly, so I also bought a 64GB Micro-SD card, and through the magic of Windows 8 I configured most of my profile (documents, pictures, videos, downloads, desktop) to redirect automatically onto that chip, which I left inserted permanently (See article).  While I never came close to my 128GB storage limit on the device, this strategy made migrating my data the simplest of operations… I took the Micro-SD card out of the old machine, inserted it into the new, and redirected the appropriate folders.  Done.  Between that and SkyDrive, I am loving Windows 8.1 more and more every day!

**How does it feel?**

With zero exceptions, the only thing that is slightly less comfortable on the Surface Pro 2 (in comparison to my Lenovo Carbon X1) is the keyboard.  I still like a full sized keyboard, and that is lacking when I am on the road.  However the Surface 2 Type Keyboard (now backlit!) is great in almost every respect… I am just not a fan of the mouse pad, but as I almost always use an external mouse (and touch screen and stylus) it is really mostly irrelevant.  I still would not have cared for the touch keyboard, but the tactile ‘I can feel the keys when I type’ keyboard is great – I am a fast if not great typist, and I do not find myself making any more or fewer typing mistakes on this keyboard than I do on the laptop.

**How long does it last?**

That, of course, is the $64 question.  The simple answer is that I don’t know yet… I have not run the battery down.  However the 128GB model that I replaced with this one charged overnight Friday, and I used it for demos all day Saturday at the Microsoft Store… it wasn’t until midday Sunday that I needed to plug it in.  As for this model, I charged it overnight Tuesday, and will not plug it in again until the battery dies.  I will report back the results.  However remember again, this is the only device I am using this week, and I already have a couple of virtual machines running so while results may vary, I assume I will be on the lower end of expectations.

One thing I was told with regard to the battery life is that the firmware update (available from Microsoft Updates) greatly improves the battery life… I applied the update yesterday, so it shouldn’t adversely affect me.

**How are you managing it?**

Because I am no longer ‘with’ Microsoft, I don’t really want to join the Surface Pro to a domain.  No problem, I have a subscription to Windows Intune, and I simply installed the agent and poof… I can manage it, and aside from that (and patch management) the Windows Intune Endpoint Protection (WIEP) began protecting the computer right away.  For my money there isn’t a better product on the market for what it does.

**But can I do…**

Mitch-SurfaceI got a call this week from an old friend asking if his customer would be able to install his own software on the Surface Pro.  In fact, the Surface Pro is a complete Windows 8.1 machine with no exceptions or limitations.  It runs Windows 8.1 Pro (although that can be replaced with Windows 8.1 Enterprise for corporate users).  It has a kick-ass Sandy Bridge CPU, and as I said… it does everything that my Lenovo does.  In fact, when I travel I can leave the Lenovo at home and just take its port replicator/docking station, because with the USB 3.0 port on the Surface Pro 2 that is all I need to transform it into a multi-screen workstation with all of the desktop peripherals in my hotel room.

Now with that being said, I just bought a Surface dock on ebay.com (they seem to be impossible to find otherwise) and am really looking forward to it… the device sits seamlessly in, and I can take it with me to my hotel whether that be in Japan or wherever… and just take the device when I go to the office or to a client (or a café or an airport).

**Summary – What do you think, Mitch?**

As I look at the Surface Pro 2 (and not how it compares to the Surface 2) I have to smile… it is a fully functional computer that weighs in at just under 2lbs.  The power supply uses the same connector as the stylus so you can either charge it or connect the pen, but that is a minor issue.  The fact that the power supply has a USB port to charge devices rocks by the way.

The ports – Mini-DV for whatever video I need, Micro-SD slot (discussed earlier), USB 3.0 port, and audio jack are fine for when I am on the go, and the ability to plug in any external USB  3 docking station or port replicator means that when I am at home (or semi-permanent space) I can plug in as many external devices as I want, especially my dual 21” monitors in my home office. 

The keyboard is great compared to everything else in its class, but when I am docked I will still have an external keyboard and mouse – I have an abundance of those anyways.  However I like having the options.

What do I think?  I think that what you spend versus what you get the Surface Pro is the best deal in town.  There are other great fully-functional tablets on the market, but this one has and does everything I need, and the price is right.

Oh by the way… there has been a lot of discussion about the addition of a second position of the kick-stand.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I do not care about that – Maybe at some point I will use it, but for now every time I have flipped it down I tried it for ten seconds and decided that no, I prefer the original.  However I am sure that some people will like it… it’s just not for me; it neither appeals to me nor bothers me.

Thanks Microsoft, for coming up with a device for me.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go do something in Hyper-V.  What, you ask?  Anything I want… the Surface Pro 2 supports it!