Category Archives: MIcrosoft Surface

Should I return the Surface Pro 3?

I have been having an issue with the device… it’s a networking issue that is absolutely not normal behaviour.  The Microsoft Store replaced it for me once, but I am still having the issues. I requested a call-back from Surface Support this week; I was assured by the site that I would receive a call within 34 minutes.  However 30 minutes later (after counting down the whole while) they changed the status to ‘Sorry, our support desk is closed, so call-backs are not available.  Please try again during normal business hours.’  Crap.

The next day I opted for on-line chat (during normal business hours).  I waited for an hour plus (the expected wait time was 22 minutes).  Finally Kaylee came onto the chat; after I explained the problem to her she reset the chat… in other words, the problem was over her head so she decided to waste my time and let me go back into the queue… for another hour long wait.

I am pissed now, and am ready to take the device back to the Microsoft Store and get my money back so that I can go elsewhere and buy a device that doesn’t have these issues.

What do you think?

What’s in My … Messenger Bag?

As I have written previously I recently picked up a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and despite a couple of minor annoyances it truly is a wonderful device.  Because I have not been traveling as much as I did over the past few years, I have taken the opportunity to downsize my carry-load. 

My sister called me a couple of weeks ago with the news that her new company device would be a Surface Pro 3, and asked me what accessories she should make sure she picks up.  We had a conversation about the keyboard, battery life, and so on.  Jennifer and I don’t speak all that often, and it was a nice excuse to talk.

Last week a friend and fellow MVP told me that his device was being delivered shortly.  He knew that I had downsized my carry load, and with that knowledge, and knowing that we have the same device, he hoped that I would take the opportunity to write a new article in my ‘What’s in Your Laptop Bag’ series. 

The first article I wrote on the subject does back to 2009, when I wrote ‘What’s In Your Laptop Bag?’  It is amazing the difference a few years made… as my priorities changed so did what I carried with me.  Back in 2009 I was carrying a full sized laptop in addition to a netbook, which at the time I thought was a good idea, and to an extent it was.  I had to carry two power supplies, mice, a power bar, external hard drives, a travel router, a headest, a digital camera… and a pack of lozenges.  Twenty-five pounds or so is the estimate I put down in that article; if truth be told it was probably a bit more than that.

A few years later – when I had a Surface Pro – I wrote the article ‘How Surface changed my thinking… and helped my shoulder.’  In it I discuss how I realized that downsizing my load could really do wonders for me… and it did.  Of course, when I went to Japan last year for nearly four months I upsized again, but only because I would be setting up a permanent system in my hotel room, and brought things like docking stations, speakers, and more.

I now find myself in August of 2014, nearly eighteen months later, and I am living a more sedentary life than I was.  As I am not traveling as much, my basic requirements are probably a lot more in line with what others need. 

We should actually start with what the bag actually is… In July of 2013 I wrote and article called ‘What IS your Laptop Bag?’  I am no longer in the business of shilling for other companies, so rather than use the branded freebies I had so many of I invested in a couple of proper cases… for the time being I am exclusively using a Briggs and Riley Messenger bag (black) that they refer to as a ‘Small Slim Vertical Brief’.  It is not exactly the one shown, but is quite similar.  It is made of a ballistic nylon fabric and has a lifetime guarantee. 

I downsized my bag for a couple of reasons, but the main one is simple… the smaller the bag, the less likely you are to pack useless crap (that will weigh you down).  As I sit as the pub with the contents of the bag emptied before me I would not go so far as to say there is nothing useless in there… but it’s still better than it was.

Device: Obviously (based on the opening of the article) I am carrying a Surface Pro 3.  I was a little worried when I bought it… the Surface Pro 2 fit perfectly, and I was worried that the larger form factor (12” instead of 10.6”) would not fit.  Fortunately it does – but barely.  Otherwise I would have to have changed out my bag, and I didn’t want to do that.

In case you are curious, yes I carry the keyboard and stylus with me, and no, it does not increase the weight noticeably when I carry the bag.

Additional Device: It’s not what you think… I said the Pro 3 was a great laptop replacement, and it is.  The additional device that I usually carry with me is a Kobo Glo e-book reader, including the magnetic case.  Of course I could read my e-books on the Surface Pro 3, but I see value in having both devices.

Cables: I carry a few different cables with me, primarily in the front pocket:

  • Micro USB cable to charge my Kobo, as well as my Nokia Lumia 920 when I am in the USA.
  • iPhone 5 cable to charge… well… yeah.
  • Mini USB cable, which is a legacy but I still carry it.  It is to connect the external USB screen that I use occasionally and which lives in the trunk of my car.
  • FitBit One Cable which charges that device.

Dongles: The downside of a smaller device is fewer ports built in, and an entire new industry – the industry of dongles – was created.

  • HDMI dongle
  • VGA dongle
  • Ethernet dongle

Logitech Wireless Presenter R400.  It’s not the newest, but it still works and is very comfortable in my hand.  If you spend any time presenting PowerPoint from your computer you will want one of these.  The newer ones all seem to be too light or two small.  I wish the R400 were Bluetooth instead of USB, but I’ll survive.

USB Keys: I currently have four of them in the bag – three for storage and when I need to transfer data, and one Windows to Go key (Windows To Go: This is going to be a game changer!).  If you wonder why I have four, I can’t answer… and in my defence, one of them is a bottle opener too :)

Mouse: The only problem that I had with the Microsoft Arc Mouse Touch was that it had a dongle, and took up the only USB port on the Surface.  Solution: Microsoft Arc Mouse Touch Surface Edition… Bluetooth connection, and it still folds flat for easy storage!

Ear buds: A couple of years ago I found myself in an airport without ear buds, and I picked (blind) a pair called a-JAYS Four.  I had never heard of the company and I am not quite sure why I picked them, but boy am I glad that I did.  They are comfortable, and more importantly the plug is flat (look at the picture and you’ll understand) so when I am on an airplane plugged in and stand up without paying attention I don’t wreck them.  They sound great too!

Pens: Yes, I carry pens… and use them all the time.  The nicer of the two is made of (or made to look like) a printed circuit board, and was a gift from my friends Rick and Isolina.

…and that’s it.  I have a few papers, I usually have some guest passes for Taekwondo to give out, and maybe a cigar… but there’s nothing else.  It makes for a much lighter load than I used to schlep… I remember dragging my Lenovo Carbon X1 behind me when I was in Japan… it was not that much bigger (14” instead of 12”) but because I had the bigger bag I always stuffed more into it than I needed, hence the shoulder pain.

But what’s missing?  You may have noticed (or not) that I did not list a power supply on the list… I don’t carry it with me.  I charge it overnight, but I have only run out of juice once in the last month.  Now it is worth mentioning that I am have been between contracts since I picked it up, and have been able to work at either Starbucks or the Niblick Pub for six to seven hours before having to go home.  I am starting a new contract next week, and if I end up using my own device then I will bring the power supply with me… or more likely the docking station which is coming out in the next couple of weeks (yes, I have pre-ordered one… first time ever).  I do have a power supply in the car, but it is still sealed in the box, and I might just return it because I never use it.  We’ll see!

What does it weigh? Honestly I don’t know… but probably around 6lbs… or roughly equivalent to the weight of the primary device I carried when I wrote the first ‘What’s in Your Laptop Bag’ article.  One thing is certain, I don’t worry about it hurting my shoulder as I used to, and I never worry about airlines making me gate-check it :)

Conclusion

The truth is that I need very little with this device… the dongles are important, and the USB keys, cables, mouse, and ear buds are really all I need.  Everything else that I might need in a hotel room – external speaker, VGA cable, and so on – can go in my suitcase when I travel.  What do you need?  I don’t know… but I hope this article will help you with the bare essentials!

Surface Docked

Earlier this week I posted an article about the versatility of my Surface Pro 2.  Actually it was a combination of an article (Battery Up- Windows 8.1 on the Surface Pro 2) and a Facebook status update (See here).  I bragged not only about the battery life, but also how cool it is that I can take a single device from tablet – to laptop (just add keyboard) – to complete workstation (plug the Surface Pro 2 into the docking station in my office, and it instantly extends to take advantage of the two large screen monitors, full sized keyboard, and regular mouse).

A Twitter follower named @Deskcovery asked if I had any pictures of the setup, because he wanted to see it in action.  Great idea!

Here’s the problem… my desk is usually a bloody mess.  I call it my secure, well-managed disaster zone.  It wasn’t always like that, but I don’t spend a lot of time there, so I don’t maintain it the way I used to.

Having said that, I try to do what I can for my readers… so your wish is my command.  Mr. @Deskcovery, here it is… I walk into the office and drop the device into the dock.  After a few beeps and blips, this is what I see:

Surface Docked

Over the next few weeks you can expect better pictures (and possibly even a video) of the area and the versatility of the device, but from this picture it is hard to see anything except the finished product.  As such, here are the components:

  1. A Surface Pro 2 256 with 8GB of RAM
  2. A Surface Docking Station
  3. Two LG 21” monitors
  4. One Microsoft Sidewinder X6 gaming keyboard (not once has it ever been used to play a game)
  5. One Logitech MX Revolution wireless rechargeable mouse

Now here’s the problem that I found… I have far too many devices to settle for four USB ports.  Rather than mussing about trying to plug and unplug devices as I needed them, I decided to leverage the USB 3.0 port on the Surface dock to connect… another docking station!  Actually that’s not entirely accurate… I connected the Lenovo port replicator that I bought with my X1 Carbon… seeing as that device is now listed for sale on eBay it won’t miss its port replicator.

surface-pro-docking-station-04

Thinkpad

Now, instead of simply having three USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 port, I have:

  • 4x USB 3.0 ports
  • 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2x (mostly unused) Ethernet ports
  • DVI port
  • Mini-DV port
  • Audio out jacks

In other words… everything I need.

Don’t get me wrong… all of the USB ports are already accounted for, so if I do want to plug in another device I will have to unplug something… but the USB speakers and extra hiigh definition webcam are extraneous… I can unplug them any time I want…

I swear, I am NOT addicted!

Battery Up: Windows 8.1 on the Surface Pro 2

IMG_0031I have already bragged about the Surface Pro 2, and I still love it and that has not changed.  It took a lot for it to supplant my Lenovo X1 Carbon as my primary device (my original Surface Pro was always simply a companion device).  The device rocks, simply put.

One thing that I don’t particularly care for (and this is an issue with Windows and not with the Surface) is that the battery life indicator is wonky.  For example, a few minutes ago it told me that I have 10% of my battery left, or 25 minutes.  By that simple math, the theory is that the battery is good for 250 minutes – or a little under five hours.

IMG_0088That means I’ve already gotten five hours out of it, and there’s a bit under 30 minutes to go.  By my math that’s 5.5 hours right there.  I also know that I used it last night for an hour and did not charge it since… that makes 6.5 hours, not to mention that I have also used it today to charge my smartphone as well as my Kobo book reader.

I did not list my X1 Carbon for sale on eBay because I don’t like it… I really do, it is a spectacular device.  (If you would like to buy it by all means the bidding is open! http://www.ebay.com/itm/201053760576?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649)  I am selling it because I do not need two nearly identical devices (as far as specs go).  The Lenovo has a 14″ multi-touch screen, and the keyboard does not detach.  I have the docking station for the Surface Pro, and when I am at my home office it automatically connects to two 21″ monitors.  When I am on the road (I am almost ALWAYS on the road) it is still a comfortable high-definition screen that will double as a tablet when I detach the keyboard.

My Lenovo came along with me wherever I went… along with it came whatever else I would pack into my Briggs and Riley rolling laptop bag… my ultrabook that weighs less than 4lbs ended up weighing in at 25-30lbs on a regular basis, just for what went with it.  My Surface, on the other hand, goes into a much smaller messenger bag, which in turn weighs less than 10lbs when completely filled… and carries everything that I need, rather than everything I think I might need.  Smaller bag, less weight, better on the back.

Add to that the battery life of over six hours, and that it runs Windows 8.1 with Hyper-V and all that entails, and I don’t see the need for another device… at least not now.  I am sticking with the Surface Pro, and hope to recuperate the entire price of the device when I sell off the Lenovo!

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!

Converting an SD Card to Permanent Storage in Windows Devices

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.

imageWow… ‘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:

image

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\.

image

That looked a lot better.  I was able to proceed and my SkyDrive files are now synchronizing properly.

imageNow 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.

Good luck!

How Surface changed my thinking… and helped my shoulder

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 Smile

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!

A Tour of the Surface Pro with Tom’s Hardware

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

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Microsoft-Surface-Pro-Hands-on-Demo,21030.html

Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: It’s Here!

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.

Almost there…

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.

Opening the FIRST Surface Pro sold in Canada!
Turning on and setting up my Surface Pro.

My First Surface Article

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.

Oh and by the way, I wrote this entire article using the free WordPress app that I downloaded from the Windows Store, using the regular keyboard!

A Truly Energized Post: Sean’s experience buying his Microsoft Surface

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.

Microsoft PopupSo what was the morning like? On October 26th I had a crazy day.

The Microsoft Surface PC was being released, and I NEEDED and WANTED one for a presentation I was doing that week.

Hopping on the first train from my home to the Eaton Centre in Toronto, I rushed to find the Kiosk.

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 attach data from my BitLocker-encrypted USB memory kit, pull files of my MicroSD, and print if needed.

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