June 13, 2013 1 Comment
I just came across a great new commercial for Windows 8… it really tells the story well, and there is no dancing, rapping, or funny faces. I hope you like it! –M
The day to day ramblings of an IT Professional and Community Leader
February 21, 2013 11 Comments
So as you know I was all excited to buy the very first Microsoft Surface Pro. I bought the 128 GB model because I knew that despite the fact that I have all sorts of external hard drives I was even likely to ax out 128 GB pretty quick. Fortunately between Cloud-based storage (SkyDrive for my personal stuff, SkyDrive Pro for my business files) and the ability to add a micro-SD card I would be fine.
I arrived at my hotel in Redmond and the package from my Amazon.com seller was there; I excitedly ripped it open and inserted the 64 GB card into the Surface Pro, reformatted it with NTFS, and installed the SkyDrive Desktop Client on Windows 8 (which allows me to synchronize my SkyDrive files onto my device’s hard drive or, in this case, its SD card.
Wow… ‘Your SkyDrive folder cannot be created in the location you selected.’ This was really disappointing, because that was exactly what I wanted to use my SD Card for… along with my Document, Picture, and Music Libraries. I will be honest, it never occurred to me that I could not map these to external drives, although it does make sense. However I was planning on making this SD Card a permanent drive in my Surface Pro, so I needed to find a way to do it.
\I did a little research and discovered that indeed there was a way… or rather a workaround that would work perfectly. Here’s what I did:
1) I created a directory on my C Drive called c:\SD Card.
2) I opened Disk Manager in Windows – you can either do that by right-clicking on the bottom-left corner of your screen and selecting Disk Management. If you are on a tablet and have no mouse, you could alternately pull up that menu by clicking Winkey-X.
3) Right-click on your SD Card and click Change Drive Letter and Paths…
4) Click Add…
5) In the Add a new drive letter or path for X: (Where X is the drive letter represented by your SD Card) select the radio Mount in the following empty NTFS folder:.
6) Click Browse…and navigate to the directory that you created. Click OK.
You should now be ready to proceed. To be sure, right-click on your SD card again and click Change Drive Letter and Paths… Your window should look like this:
The SD Card has both a drive letter and the mount point on the C drive. If this is what you see then you are ready to proceed. Cancel out of this window and close the Disk Management console.
I started the SkyDrive desktop app again and instead of mapping my SkyDrive folder to D: I mapped it to C:\SD Card\.
That looked a lot better. I was able to proceed and my SkyDrive files are now synchronizing properly.
Now that my SkyDrive was done I decided to go the next step and map some of my Libraries to the SD Card as well. This was easy at this point… I simply opened the File Explorer and created a new directory on the SD Card called d:\Pictures. I then right-clicked on the Pictures library that I wanted to redirect (in the Navigation Pane) and clicked Properties. I clicked Add… and in the Browse window I selected the new directory (c:\SD Card) and clicked Include. Back in the Properties box I clicked Set save location. I also dragged it to the top of the list. So now my Properties window looks like this:
Notice that the Pictures (C:\SD Card) is at the top of the list, and has a check mark next to it. That means that when I start saving pictures (or decide to import them from another profile) they will go onto the SD card and not onto the internal drive.
All of these steps will work for tablets but also for hybrids, laptops, and even desktops. It is a simple mechanism to convert external storage to internal storage. The mount point on the C drive is used as a hard link to the SD card, and nothing stored in that directory is actually on the C drive… it just looks that way to ‘fool’ Windows into doing what you want to do.
February 18, 2013 Leave a comment
I travel heavy. When going through airport security it is not uncommon for me to pull three or four laptops out of two laptop bags. In addition to that I will have external hard drives, a plethora of cables, and all sorts of other junk. It has resulted in very strong – albeit often aching – shoulders to be sure. It is a habit I have been in for a couple of years because of the way I work. When touring for IT Camps I often have to add two seventeen inch laptops weighing in at over ten pounds each (plus the power bricks for same, a network switch and such), that I take with me in a roller-board suitcase.
I never gave much thought to how heavy my laptop bag really was because I didn’t really have a choice. It’s just the way things were – a reality of life.
Last week I wrote that I picked up my new Surface Pro tablet. I was excited that I would be taking it with me for my first business trip of the year – a couple of days in Edmonton for an IT Camp followed by a week in Redmond for MVP Summit. As I prepared for the trip I grabbed my backpack, filled it with my usual kit PLUS my two Surfaces. As usual I decided I needed a second laptop bag; I transferred my HP EliteBook tablet to that bag, and added whatever else I needed. I then thought to myself that my Surface Pro was almost as powerful as the EliteBook, and with my recent back and shoulder issues (resulting from a recent motor vehicle accident) I decided to leave the EliteBook (plus its cables) behind. I saved nearly nine pounds when you count the cables and docking station that I always take for trips of over three nights.
On the way to Edmonton I started writing a review of the Surface Pro, but had a lot of trouble doing so. Why? Over the course of my career in IT I have gone through a series of laptops of increasing power and performance as my needs increased and the prices dropped. Although I have always had and used a number of them simultaneously I have always had one that was my primary – the most recent of which was my HP EliteBook 2740p. It has 8GB RAM, an Intel Core i7 CPU, and a 256GB solid state drive. The best compliment that I can give the Surface Pro is that it has thus far adequately replaced that device for all but my most intensive needs – tasks for which I need more than 4GB RAM. The device is comfortable and easy to use. For a hardcore user like myself the greatest compliment I can give it is that it is adequate to my needs, thank you very much. So much of the failed piece I wrote was about the size, and how it lightened my load… somewhat.
Sitting in my hotel room that night I looked at the two bags as I rubbed analgesic gel into my shoulder. One of my bags was lighter… I decided to try an experiment. I emptied both laptop bags onto the desk, making sure all that was left in either of them was a pile of business cards. I examined the contents, and then went to work. I started by putting the Surface Pro into its individual case and stopped… the case has weight, and the Surface is well protected in the bag anyways. Of course the power adapter went with it, followed by a 4-port USB hub, an external hard drive (1.5TB – I could have saved a few ounces by downsizing to a 500GB… a thought for when I get home). I then put in my video dongles – DV to VGA, DV to HDMI – and my Jabra Puck (because I watch a lot of movies in hotels). An external mouse – not necessary but certainly makes life more comfortable, but I removed the wireless notebook presenter mouse and replaced it with a lighter Microsoft Arc Mouse Touch which folds flat. I will only use it when I have the USB hub plugged in because if the dongle – I wish it was Bluetooth! My sunglasses, an eyeglass cloth (great for glasses AND touch screens!) and that was it. I put everything else (including the Surface RT in the case) into my backpack, which I left in the hotel when I went into the office the next day.
At the airport check-in counter this morning I decided to weigh the two bags.
Brenthaven briefcase with the essentials: 7lbs.
Ogio backpack with the extraneous: 14lbs.
Could I really cut my travel load by 20lbs by swapping out my HP for the Surface and then eliminating the extras? I was shocked… and thrilled! The Surface might really save my shoulders and back.
Of course there will still be times when I will have to take my heavier laptops with me… I am not retiring the roller board just yet because sometimes it really is needed. However by cutting the waste I will have an easier time getting to – and through and from – the airport, office, and so on.
A few years ago I wrote an article detailing what I carried in my laptop bag at the time (http://garvis.ca/2009/07/20/what%e2%80%99s-in-your-laptop-bag/). Looking back at what I carried then versus what I carry today is amazing. I only wish I had weighed that bag so I could see a real comparison with my new lightened load. I never realized it, but I was carrying a load equivalent to a toddler everywhere I went. Now my bag weighs the same as a newborn… only nowhere near as cute
The Surface made me sit down and evaluate needs versus wants and nice-to-haves. It is probably a good idea to do that every few months – you never know how much you can save!
February 13, 2013 Leave a comment
On the day that Microsoft released the Surface Pro I sat down with Alex Davies from Tom’s Hardware (www.tomshardware.com) and gave him a little tour of the device. He recorded it and that recording went live on Monday. Check it out and let me know what you think! –MDG
February 11, 2013 Leave a comment
For most of the months of October through December, while I was on tour talking about Windows 8, the new Office 2013 & Office 365, and Windows Server 2012 the most common question I heard was not about any of these products… it was something like ‘So where’s your Surface? Why don’t you have a Surface? When will you have a Surface?’ It was grinding… not because I didn’t want one… I did, and badly. However I knew that if I bought myself a Surface with Windows RT in November my wife would never let me go back in February to buy myself a Surface with Windows Pro. So I waited… patiently.
Of course, as a Virtual Evangelist for Microsoft Canada there was speculation that they would give me one… but that didn’t happen. In December I watched with envy as all of my friends and colleagues got theirs – every Microsoft employee got one, but alas, I am a contractor so I didn’t.
Earlier at the beginning of summer I had promised my son that he could have one when they came out, and so in November I asked him if he wanted the RT version, or if he wanted to wait for the Pro version. Of course he opted for the RT version, and so he got one as a late middle-school graduation present. I took my wife with me to buy his device, and she was so enamoured with it that we bought two that day – hers being an early Christmas present. Still and all, I could look, but unless they needed technical support I could not touch.
And then a few weeks ago the general availability date was announced: February 9th.
I called my main contact at the Microsoft Store in Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) and confirmed that they would be going on sale on that day. I asked if he could put one aside for me, and his response was ‘yes… but I can only hold it until the end of the day on the 9th so make sure you come that day!’ I was willing to do him one better… since the shipment was obviously arriving well in advance of that day, why not simply let me come pick it up a few days early and we’ll keep it between us? ‘Not a chance… not even one minute before the 9th!’ (And of course no, they were not planning a midnight event, so I would have to wait until morning!)
Then I had an idea. ‘Friend, what if I were to come in early the morning of February 9th, buy the very first Surface sold in Canada, and record it for my blog in the store before you even open?’ He thought that was not only doable, but was a great idea. I put it in my calendar, and remembered to confirm with him on the 8th to make sure he hadn’t forgotten me… which I feel bad about because he never would!
Mother Nature decided to test Mitch…
February 8th, for those of you who were not paying attention, recorded the largest single-day snowfall in southern Ontario in nearly a decade. Everyone on every media from Television to Twitter was saying that if you didn’t have to go out… don’t. The road crews would be out in full force, but it would likely take them throughout the weekend to clear the minor arteries and possibly into next week for crescents, circles, and such (in one of which I happen to live). Knowing that I needed to drive out the following morning I bribed my teenaged son to shovel the driveway in the early evening. He did enough to make sure that I would be able to get my car out.
Of course, what are the chances that the tiny little circle, an off-shoot of a crescent off a tertiary road in Oakville, was going to be ploughed in time? Fortunately Mayor Rob Burton follows me on Twitter and knew that I was planning to head out this morning, and made sure that our little ‘Griffith Place’ was cleared. Okay, he did no such thing, but HUGE kudos to the road crews of Oakville, Ontario that cleared the street late last night!
At 6:15 on Saturday morning I headed out; I brushed 35 centimetres of heavy snow off my car and headed out, all the while listening to the reports on the radio of accidents along the way (I witnessed three of them and passed seven others on the 403 and 401). I was not to be stopped! I drove the treacherous highways ‘low and slow’ as I was taught for these conditions, and as I will teach my son next year. It took me nearly an hour to get there and park, but I did so safely.
I was surprised that I got to the store at 7:15am, and there were already people waiting in both lines (one line for people with the ‘golden ticket’ and one for people without)! I got my gear set up in the ‘theatre’ area. I set up my video camera on my tripod, only to realize that the battery was dead. No problem, I had plenty of time to go, so I plugged it in and let it charge. I set up my Surface with Windows RT (ironic that after all that waiting a colleague at Microsoft actually did get me one!) and several of the available accessories on the table where I would shoot. All I needed now was the Surface Pro…
At 8:15 Friend brought out two devices – one for me, and one for another VIP customer named Mike who already has a Surface with Windows RT, but really wanted the Pro and was glad to be getting it this morning before he heads off to Europe. Friend ran my credit card through, and once the POS system told him the sale was approved he e-mailed me my invoice and I was off to the races.
The following videos were filmed in the Microsoft Store Theatre in Yorkdale Mall, Toronto. I want to thank Alison (the store manager), Friend (who knows who he is, and Emily (who is the Community Development Specialist, and therefor in charge of the theatre area and all of the presentations and parties held there. They were filmed on February 9th, 2013 between 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning. The only edits that were done to the video were for the sake of time and flow. All opinions, mistakes, errors, and omissions are mine and mine alone, and I have made no effort to alter the video to hide them.
January 29, 2013 5 Comments
Ok, so maybe it is not my first article on Microsoft Surface, but it is the first article that I am writing from one. A friend here was kind enough to loan me one for a few weeks, and even though my EliteBook is within arm’s reach I decided to spend my morning on this device exclusively… to get used to it and all.
The keyboard was the first challenge that I anticipated… the flat, waterproof keys reminded me at a glance of the chicklet keyboard of the Atari 400. How wrong I was… although the keyboard does take some getting used to, it is really quite friendly and easy to use. The missing function keys also struck me as a worry… I use the F-keys pretty regularly, and it did not take long for me to notice their absence. I expect that I am in the minority on this point though… IT Pros and Devs will miss them, but the vast majority of end users will likely not even notice that they are missing**. The responsiveness is another thing worried me (I noticed it as I was writing this paragraph). I seemed to be typing faster than the keyboard could send the keys to the screen. That however turned out to be not a problem with the Surface, but rather with the app that I am using to write.
**Edit Feb. 1: The top row of keys is indeed the function keys, but on the keyboard I have the numbers are not printed. As with many keyboards, you need to press the Fn key to shift to the Function, so Alt-Fn-Play is the same as Alt-F4.
Theresa Garvis, my lovely wife and very capable business manager, has been using her Surface since the end of October, and she has been loving it. When I discussed my concerns with the keyboard she assured me that she used the keyboard… but the truth is that she gets along without it just as easily. ‘I have used the on-screen keyboard without any problems, and it works great for me. The only reason I use the external keyboard is because it is there, and have never had any problem when I left it at home.’
The Surface RT does not have nearly the kind of horsepower that I need for my day to day computer use. However I am not your average computer user, and I expect that with 2 GB of RAM, a 1.3GHz NVIDEA TEGRA 3 Quad-Core CPU, and 32 GB of storage (a chunk of which is used for the OS) most end-users will be happy with it. My son Aaron started high school this year, and was eager to swap out his EliteBook for the Surface. He found that the only thing that he couldn’t do with his Surface was a school app that requires Flash Player… and I have not yet looked into a solution for this. In the meantime he is happy using one of the home computers for his French homework, and the rest of the time he sequesters himself in his room with his Surface.
The Surface is not intended to be a desktop/laptop replacement, but it could very well be that for many people. But what about the rest of us who absolutely need more power? What about those of us who need legacy apps? I personally immediately felt the missing link in the Office chain – no Outlook. In fact, this is a complaint I have heard from quite a number of people who have gone out and bought Surfaces… what do I do without my Outlook??
Outlook is not the only app that people are missing on the Surface (or, more accurately, on Windows RT) but it is a big one. Most of the functionality of Outlook that I use is actually available in Microsoft Mail, Calendar, and Contacts (all of which come standard with Windows RT). However let’s be honest… if you are used to Outlook there really isn’t a viable alternative.
So what do we do? On the one hand we have a really powerful tablet that runs Windows 8, and on the other we have a device that isn’t quite powerful enough for us. But what if we could harness the power of our desktop from the Surface? What if we could use all of our apps and resources of the great but heavy desktop that is always connected directly from Windows RT? Wouldn’t that be great?
We can… and in my next article I will show you how you can do it too, using a few simple tricks and some free tools.
November 7, 2012 Leave a comment
This post was sent to me by the original Energized Tech and former Friday Funny Guy. Sean Kearney is not only a Microsoft MVP (PowerShell), he is a good friend and certainly among the most passionate technology enthusiasts and Microsoft fans I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Sean will be assisting me at the official opening of the first international Microsoft Store in the Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) on November 16th.
Occasionally he does release the krakken (as he puts it) and on October 26th – the day the Microsoft Pop-Up Store opened at Toronto’s Eaton Centre, the day that the Microsoft Surface was released – he did just that; he was near the front of the line and as such one of the first Canadians (and indeed first people anywhere) to own a Surface tablet running Windows RT. Here is the experience of getting there in his own (largely unedited) words. –MDG
(The original post can be viewed on Sean’s personal blog at http://ye110wbeard.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/2298/)
Microsoft Rises Above With Microsoft Surface and Windows RT.
The Microsoft Surface PC was being released, and I NEEDED and WANTED one for a presentation I was doing that week.
Oh and I did, the logo stood out calling to me….
“Sean! Run here!” Run I did thinking there would be a limited supply. I was all prepped up in my nerdiest of gear! MVP Scarf at the ready!
But Microsoft ensured stock was APLENTY.
“Do you have any Surfaces?!” I burst out at one of the first reps in line, almost knocking him down with my vocals (Those of you who know me, know that can happen)
“Surfaces? Absolutely sir! We have plenty! Tons! Which would you like?”
“32GigabyteWithAKeyboardIfYouPleaseButIfYou-Don’tThat’sOkCuzIJustNeedOne” the words burst out of my mouth in a rapid blast of syllables.
Do you remember the Squirrel from “Hoodwinked?” *I* was the Squirrel.(MDG Note: I do not know this reference)
I stood in line and looked.
With about two hours to go, a line was building. A hundred strong and growing by the minute.
It was a line full of executives, enthusiasts and even a few Mac users! I was blown away! I was shaking like a leaf.
I kept thinking in my head “Faster! Faster! I need one of these in my hands NOW! Surface! Surface! Surface!”
There was some hooting and hollering along the way and oddly enough there were wagons full of candy bars.
But I wouldn’t move a micrometre from the line. I wanted my Surface and would not allow my own grumbly stomach to delay that. We nerds have our priorities don’t ya know (MDG Note: Although Sean was born in the USA, this is a very common down-to-earth Canadianism, often heard in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia).
After about FORTY minutes I found myself staring at the counter moments away from the Surface. Live production models were on display, sexily toying with my emotions.
But in a very short while I would be standing in front of the Register, a dream being realized; I would own a real Microsoft tablet PC.
The transaction occurred.
One 32gb Microsoft Surface with keyboard combo and a VGA extension to run off projectors.
“I own a Microsoft Surface.” The words barely left my lips moments before a large “W0000000TTT!!!!” shattered the air.
I think some of the staff in the kiosk fell back from the shockwave.
I DID warn them I was the Energized Tech…
I do believe I scared most of the people at the Microsoft Kiosk, marketing people and possibly a few mice running about as I stood proudly at the top of the stairs and announced
“Ladies and gentleman! I hold in my hands, THE FUTURE! I HAVE THE POWER! W000000ttt!”
There was applause over that. The Microsoft people seemed to enjoy getting a bit of praise. It’s nice to feel a job well done.
I hold it in my hands now and realize I am holding something truly different.
It is a device that is as portable as a current tablet device and yet just a bit more.
It’s Windows 8 computer that is slim, powerful and capable of running my presentations, allowing me to blog and have a little fun at once.
But best of all, a system with the same user experience as my full-fledged desktop version of Windows 8.
I can finally have a portable device that works the SAME as my desktop with very few differences.
I can leverage the power of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel because they are built right in!
I can (and am doing so at this very moment) attach a full sized display and USB keyboard/mouse to my Surface and use it just as if it were a real PC.
Because when you get right down to it? That’s just what it is.
This entire blog post was composed and edited with Microsoft Word 2013 on my Microsoft Surface RT…
and I personally LOVE IT!
Sean The Energized Tech MCTS, MVP Windows Powershell Charter Member Springboard Technical Experts Program