Windows 10–A few days in

IMAG0901By the time you read this, we will be a few days into August, which means that Windows 10 started to become available a few days ago, and chances are this is not the first piece you are reading on Microsoft’s newest OS.

Over the past few years Microsoft has been talking about a single OS for every platform. Windows X seems to be that. I don’t have an Xbox (or any other gaming console), nor do I have a Windows Phone (Sorry Cortana, I’m with Siri). However I do have four different installation types that I have installed on, and am glad to share.

Docked Tablet/laptop/desktop

Because I have so many other portable devices, I find my (personal) Surface Pro 3 stays docked more than 90% of the time. It was the first of my devices to upgrade to Windows 10, simply because it was the device that I used for my Insider builds of Windows 10 beta. It was a seamless experience, and when the Start Menu (and not the Start Screen) takes up only a bit of real estate on the giant double monitors, it was great. I played with Cortana a bit, but I have not been home enough to really give her a go.

imageFull (i7) Tablet

My corporate Surface Pro is managed by the company, and as such upgrades and patches are blocked until approved by Tokyo. However I have a bit of a cheat… more on that later.

7″ & 8″ (Atom) Tablet

If you read my blog recently you know that I have a pair of HP tablets – the Stream 7 and the Pro Tablet 408. The Stream is still waiting its turn, but on Wednesday (GA Day) I had the 408 open on my desk when it told me the upgrade was ready. The process took longer than on my other devices – wifi combined with a slower Atom CPU – but it was seamless. I glanced over at it occasionally to see that it was still going, but it was only as the clock approached Bingo Hour (the time I need to leave my office to catch a train) did I get nervous. The upgrade finished at Bingo -2 minutes though, and I was good to go.

Windows To Go

Woohoo! If you have ever heard me discuss WTG you will know I am a fan, a lot more so now that I have discovered the Imation Ironkey W500. Fast, secure, and milspec indestructible.

I will be writing a separate article on my Windows To Go experience… Believe me, I am happy with it… but mostly because I have my Ironkey USB key.  I suspect that when I try it on the other devices that I had tried I will be just as unhappy with the overall experience as I was with Windows 8.1.

What you will lose when you update

Here is where I first noticed something that irked me: All of my Windows 8 Apps (now known as Universal Apps) were there… but my legacy apps (including Microsoft Office and Live Writer) were nowhere to be found. I am sure if I went looking through my Windows.old directory they would be there, but an Upgrade is supposed to be just that.

Microsoft wants us on Universal Apps; I get it. When I worked for them they were very specific about reminding users that their corporate IT department can side-load corporate apps, and their deployment tools will already be set up for their legacy apps. Now I am Mitch Garvis, and I know a thing or two about Windows and deployment and installing. What about the 50 year old housewife who agrees to an upgrade because Windows Update recommends it, then finds out that all of her programs are gone? She probably doesn’t have a record of every program she used (many of which she bought on-line) and has now lost, if only because she forgot how or where or what.

Fortunately most of the apps I need have worked the way they need to… one exception was Windows Live Writer, but with a little help from my friends I was able to figure out how to get that to work (see article).  However let me give Microsoft one huge LEMON for not telling us that our legacy apps will be gone… and in some cases may not be recoverable.

What should I do BEFORE I install?

While Microsoft has made upgrading to Windows 10 (Windows OS X?) easier than ever, there are a few things that you should still do before upgrading.

  • Back it up!  Hello, haven’t you been listening for the last twenty years?  If you don’t want to risk losing it, take a backup of your system… just in case.
  • Make a list of the programs you have installed.  Your Modern apps on Windows 8 won’t be a problem because in the worst case you can still go to the Windows Store and see a list of the apps you have bought or installed in the past.  However anything else – the programs which weren’t installed from the Windows Store – are probably going to be gone.  You may not want to re-install some of the programs you had on your old system… but making the decision to not re-install is different from not re-installing because you forgot it was there.
  • SNAGHTMLd3023f

  • Along the same lines, before you run through that upgrade go through the list of programs and see what you might have to re-download, or at least make sure you have a license key for/ them.  Also remember that some application licenses track installations, and you might have to uninstall before being able to re-install.
  • Have your drivers handy.  If you have any known OEM brand there is probably a directory on your system with all of your drivers… c:\swsetup or something like that.  Just to be safe, and especially if you have custom drivers installed, you might want to make a copy of the directories c:\Windows\System32\Drivers and c:\Windows\System32\DriverStore.  If you forget, don’t worry… it will still exist somewhere in the c:\Windows.old directory that the upgrade will create.
  • Clean out your hard drive.  Remember, GIGO.  Remember, a good defrag never hurt anyone Smile

     

    What if you are still not sure?

    One of the great things about the age we live in is that we can dip our feet in the water without diving right in.  If you are unsure if you really want to upgrade your system before you get a chance to try it out, most modern systems will allow you to create a virtual machine and install an instance on your existing OS without affecting what you have.  Whether you do it with Hyper-V, VMware Player, or Oracle VirtualBox it doesn’t matter… just remember that the experience you will have will be that of a virtual machine, and you should test features and feel rather than performance. 

    When you decide that you like it, then you can go ahead and install.  Until you do, remember that what you have still works, and most of the features that are new to Windows 10 are great, but you have lived your entire life to date without them… you can go another few weeks.

    Caveat Installer

    I was hoping to spend a few hours on Tuesday upgrading my corporate tabtop (laptablet?).  However I had also hoped that a particular project would be done by then, but no such luck, I had to spend a few more days working on it.  While we keep hearing that the upgrade is a seamless process, it is not always quick… while you can continue working on your stuff as the bits download, once the actual installation starts your computer may be unusable for a couple of hours. If you have several systems available to you that might not be an issue, but since I can only connect to my corporate network from my corporate device, I decided to put this one on hold until I know that I have a few hours to relax.  (It should also be noted that I have already verified that most of my apps, most importantly my custom VPN client, will work.)

    How do I know if my program will work?

    If you are an IT Pro for a large organization, you should be installing lab environments and running compatibility tests for everything you need.  If you are an individual and are unsure if your applications or devices are compatible, there’s a site for that.  The Windows Compatibility Center allows you to type in any software package and find out.  So if you are one of those who bought Adobe Acrobat 7 and never paid for the upgrades, you can type that in to the tool and you will get this page.  Now granted, there are a few different submissions for the same package, and you can also end up with this page.  Obviously there is ambiguity, but at least you know that some people have said there are issues, so you should be careful.  If, on the other hand, you want to know about QuickBooks 2012 Pro, you will see that nobody seems to have an issue (see page).  However if you have any app or program that you are worried about and on which your productivity depends, I always recommend spinning up a virtual machine or Windows To Go key and see if it works firsthand.

    By the way, one of the areas around which compatibility has always been an issue come new OS time is printers and other devices.  We have to recognize that the device manufacturers who made your LaserJet 4000n in 2001 are the same ones making modern printers today, and while they will probably get around to releasing a driver for legacy hardware eventually, their main responsibility (and source of income) is their latest and greatest.  Once their newest drivers work on Windows 10 they will probably go back and write one for the hardware they stopped officially supporting during the Clinton Administration.

    Where is Mitch TODAY?

    I started writing this article on July 30th, one day after Windows 10 was officially released.  Because of my participation in certain programs I did have the final bits on one device a couple of weeks earlier, but it was only on the 29th that I got in line and waited like everyone else.  Here we are, a week later, and this is where I am:

    I have several devices working on Windows 10, including my personal Surface Pro, my HP Pro Tablet 408, and my work/test Lenovo T420s (docked).  Additionally, I have also created a Windows to Go (WTG) key on the T420s, which is really a combination of everything, and a computer unto itself… to prove that, in the middle of this very paragraph I saved my work, shut down the WTG on the Lenovo, plugged my USB key into my Surface Pro, and I am now working very happily in the same place on the same installation of Windows, but on a different CPU, monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  That’s pretty cool; expect an article on Windows To Go in a few days time.

    My corporate Surface Pro 3 and my personal HP Stream 7 are both still running Windows 8.1.  Why?  The reasons for each are different; the Surface Pro 3 needs my company to get a license for Windows 10 Enterprise assigned to it (which I could easily get around by using my own license, but seeing as you probably just finished reading the paragraph called Caveat Installer a few minutes ago, you will know I have other reasons as well.  The HP Stream hasn’t been upgraded yet because, like many of your computers, it is still waiting in line for the go-ahead.

    Incidentally, if you received an e-mail ostensibly from Microsoft telling you to click here to install Windows 10, do not do it.  There seems to be a new ransomware going around – what this package does is encrypts your data and doesn’t give it back to you until you pay in untraceable Bitcoins.  In other words, don’t do it… it won’t turn out well for you.

    Conclusion

    As I walked away from my desk this morning with a couple of colleagues I said, out of the blue, that I was actually enjoying the Windows 10 experience.  There are certainly things that I am not happy with, and things I haven’t yet figured out.  However for the most part I am happy with it.  It integrates better with my Windows Account Microsoft Profile than any previous iteration of Windows, it saves my having to redo all sorts of work on each device I use, and with few exceptions all of my apps run on it.  If we assume that Microsoft spends millions of dollars trying to not repeat the mistakes of the past (notice the Start Menu is back), and learning from those mistakes, the user experience of Windows 10 should be exactly what the customer (you and me!) ordered.

    Should you upgrade? That’s up to you… as I mentioned in a previous article it is no longer my job to convince you to do so.  However if you do want to, you will probably not regret it!

  • Deal on the Stream 7!

    Over the past few months I have written a few articles about the HP Stream 7 (Stream-lining-A review of my new companion device, A Tale of Two Tablets).  So when I got this e-mail today from eBay I thought I would share it with you… in case you are interested in a 7” tablet that comes with a one year subscription to Office 365, all for $98 Canadian (About USD$80).

    image

    If you read my second article (A Tale of Two Tablets) you will know that this device does not hold a candle to the HP Pro Tablet 408… but since that device will run you USD$400, you may consider the Stream 7 good enough.  I know I would!

    A Tale of Two Tablets…

    I like my Surface Pro 3.  Despite a couple of hiccoughs before the drivers were stable I have always liked it.  It is a wonderful computer for what I use it for… and frankly, for a lot of things I don’t use it for.  So when I started commuting to a new office in Toronto earlier this year – a commute that involved nearly an hour on a GO Train each way – I figured I would simply load my movies, TV shows, and books onto the Surface and keep myself entertained on the train.

    This system worked perfectly for a couple of months, until I discovered the HP Stream 7… if you read my article (Stream-lining: A review of my new companion device) you will see why I switched.  I have had the Stream 7 for several months, and really the only complaint I have had about it is the battery life.  Of course, it is a little slow… that is to be expected from a Windows 8 device with only 1gb of RAM, but for my purposes (and for the absolutely incredible price) I was not complaining.

    A few weeks ago I won a contest, and HP sent me a new device… the HP Pro Table 408.  It is slightly bigger than the Stream 7 (8” as opposed to 7”), has more RAM (2gb), more storage (64gb over the 32gb Stream), and in addition to the micro-USB port that both devices use for charging, it also has a micro-HDMI port to plug in external video.  Okay, It was a present, so I was looking forward to trying it out.

    If I was a consumer looking at the two devices side by side I would probably use my Cuban cigar analogy… they are probably 15% better than other cigars, but for 100-200% more money, so not worth it.  The Pro Tablet 408 (the higher end version with the 64GB) retails on the HP Store for US$399, which is 400% of the cost of the Stream 7 at the same HP Store.  Can the slightly larger device really be worth it?  I dunno… The Stream is a pretty good companion device, especially if all you want to use it for is reading and watching movies.

    But wait… what if that is not all you want a tablet to do?  What if you want to use it for productivity apps and web surfing and so much more?  What if you are going to use it as a communications device with Skype and Lync (Skype for Business) and Viber?  What if you want to not only do all of these things individually, but multi-task as well?  Well my friend, if that is your game then the $99 Stream 7 isn’t going to cut it.

    By the way, I should state one thing for the record right now: The battery life on the Stream 7… well, how do I put it nicely?  It sucks.  It is simply awful. Don’t get me wrong, if I charge it overnight I have no problem using it for the train ride into Toronto, and even to watch a movie or read a book at lunch.  But that’s it… I would expect a device like this to last much longer, and that is just not the case.

    The battery is not the only weak component on the Stream 7… the wireless networking is not the greatest.  It takes several minutes to copy files over the network, to the point that I decided it was simply quicker to pull the Micro-SD card out of it and copy the files direct from my Surface Pro than it was to move them over the Wi-Fi.  I am not talking about terabytes of files… I mean it might take 25 minutes to transmit 5gb of movie files.  Yuck.  Also I like to use it to connect to via wireless HDMI to watch TV, and it works fine when I am sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV… but when I sit at my kitchen table eighteen feet away from the TV the signal gets disrupted (as in, whatever you are watching is no longer playing) whenever my cellphone rings.

    The Pro Tablet 408, on the other hand… this is a device that you can work with.  I am able to stream Netflix over my wireless HDMI from any room in my condo (which is not something I should be overly worried about, seeing as my TV is no more than 40’ from any far wall in the place) clearly and reliably while checking my e-mail and writing this blog article.  I’m not saying it is going to run Hyper-V or Adobe Photoshop, but Microsoft Office and most of my day-to-day apps work just fine.  As well the 408 has an 802.11a/b/g/n (2×2) WiFi device, as well as (and this is why a lot of professionals will pick the 408 over anything else) HSPA+ Mobile Broadband (in other words… cellular data!

    The Stream’s battery is a 3000mAh Li-ion polymer, which is less than 60% of the 4800mAh Li-ion polymer one sported by the 408.  Unfortunately neither of these are user-replaceable, which is a bit of a tease, because when you pull off the back cover of either to put your GSM and SD cards in they are right there… but like a dancer at a gentleman’s club, you can look but don’t touch.

    With regard to the battery, I am seriously disappointed by the Stream 7 battery not only because of how long it lasts when using it, but because it seems to drain at a similar pace when the device is off (not Sleep Mode… OFF).  If I charge it overnight and then unplug it, I seem to have about a day to use it before it dies of natural causes.  In comparison: I lost the Pro Tab 408 this weekend.  That’s bit true… on Friday I placed it in the glove compartment of my car, and then spent the week-end trying to find it (eventually checking where it was Monday morning).  I had used it Friday for an hour before leaving it.  As I sit on the train typing away on it shortly after rediscovering it, the battery is at about 80%.  Advantage: Pro Tablet 408!

    The weight differential shouldn’t be a factor… .8lbs for the Stream and .83lbs for the Pro 408.  However when I bought the Stream at the Microsoft Store they had a special on a case for about $20, and while the HP Store does have a case in theory, in actuality it has been out of stock, and I eventually opted to buy a third-party case on Amazon (Cooper Case Backlight Executive) which I am quite happy with. 

    On the surface the CPU in the Stream 7 is faster (1.8GHz to 1.33GHz), but since the Pro Tab 408’s CPU has Intel Burst Technology (kicking it up to 2.16GHz) the Pro Tab wins there too.

    Conclusion

    The Stream 7 does what it needs to do very well, as long as you remember to plug it in every 12 hours.  For my ex-wife to share with our 5 year old son for his games it is perfect.  For a professional on the go who may not have time or remember to plug it in, make sure you are also carrying a charging device with you (I love the Aukey 20,000mAh Portable Charger).

    The HP Pro Tablet 408 really kicks it… It is more money than I would spend on a tablet for a 5 year old to play games on, but it is about the same as an iPad Mini, and it is the device that fanbois wish was made by Apple.  Add to the superior screen and battery the 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM standard, the SD Card reader, micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, and you have a winner on your hands. 

    By the way, my Aukey charger that I find necessary with the Stream 7 will give both tablets a full charge… three times in fact.  If you are looking for a portable charger, this is a device to consider.

    I should mention that I have not done a lot of research on competitive options, so if you have a device you like, tell me about it!

    We love the device… the only complaint we have is that the battery doesn’t last very long.

    That quote is from Theresa, and the device she is referring to is her new HP Stream 7 that I picked up for her and our younger son (see article).  I was surprised, because the promotional material for the Stream boasts up to 8 hours of battery.  I was also getting more than enough from mine… I unplugged it in the morning, watched videos on the train on my way to the office, and then again on the train on the way home.  I plugged it back in, and poof, the day was done.

    hp_stream_7

    One day, however, I used the device during the day.  My regular lunch companions were in a meeting, so I watched a video at lunch.  Knowing that I was doing this, I started downloading another video to watch on the train.  When I was finished with my lunch I closed the cover (as I do to put my Surface Pro to sleep) and put it aside.  When I got onto the train home I tried to boot it up to watch my videos, and the battery was dead.

    Crap.

    Okay, there are a few things you need to know about the Stream.  The first is that, unlike the Surface Pro, it is a pure tablet device and not a hybrid.  Whereas the type cover to the Surface is actually connected electronically to the device so it senses that it is closed, the cover for the HP is just a cover.  The second thing is that, like every other computer in the world, the more it is doing, the shorter the battery life will be.  So the action of downloading the new video (which I usually do when it is plugged in at home), coupled with the fact that the tablet was on all afternoon, drained the battery.

    So what can I do to conserve my device’s battery?  Here are a few tips.

    While I am writing it specifically about the HP Stream, the following tips will work to extend the battery life of any portable computer.

    1. Choose the power plan that is best for you.  A lot of people think they need full power all the time on their device, and it is possible that you do.  However Windows has several Power Plans that you can use to conserve power, and you can access these by clicking on the battery icon in the task bar.  These power plans include different settings for ‘On battery’ versus ‘Plugged in’, so when I am at home downloading my videos, I can set the download working and walk away without worrying that my tablet will go to sleep and interrupt the download.  However when it is NOT plugged in, I now have the ‘Put the computer to sleep’ option set to 4 minutes, so I won’t close the cover and drain the battery.
    2. Lower the brightness.  This is part of the power plan as well, but is also easy to adjust.  On a bright sunny day on the train I do need the screen to be brighter, but I have to remember that the brighter it is, the more battery it consumes.  Lower the brightness when you don’t need it.
    3. Turn off what you don’t need!  Most devices these days have Bluetooth and WiFi built in, and that is great… but they also consume resources.  If you don’t need the Bluetooth on a regular basis, turn it off.  However Windows includes a great ‘catch-all’ for transmitting and receiving functions… Enabling Airplane Mode disables them all with one button, and then re-enables them when you disable it.  in Windows 8 swipe from the right, click Settings, click on the network option (this may be renamed after your wireless network) and switch it on.
    4. Processes running in the background consume resources.  Open your Task Manager and see what is running… and then turn off what you don’t need.

    None of these tips are really all that new, but since the concept of using a device all day without plugging it in probably is to most of us, following these simple tips can help extend the life of your battery.  There are probably many more which I haven’t mentioned… I would love for you to put them in to the Comments section!

    Stream-lining: A review of my new companion device.

    I have always had a deal with the companies that have supported me over the years: If you give me a product to test and I like it, I will write about it. If I don’t like it, I will not write about it. That is why there are so few negative reviews on my site. It has always been a workable arrangement that has allowed me to showcase positive technologies for them. There are plenty of sites out there who are all too happy to write the negatives.

    I say this because three years ago my friends at HP gave me a device that I did not like. To date I think it is the only HP device that they have given me that I did not like, and I never wrote about it. It was a tablet device that I think was still running Windows 7. It was just not my cup of tea.

    So when my friends at the Microsoft Store showed me a new 7” HP tablet a few weeks ago I was hesitant. I know, it runs Windows 8.1, and only weighs a little less than a pound… but would I really use it? I mean, I have a Surface Pro 3 as my corporate device, and another Surface Pro 3 for my personal stuff, and between the two of them I am more than covered. I was afraid the ship had likely sailed on my becoming enamoured with HP tablets.

    Enter my son.

    No, not Aaron. My 17 year old has a Surface RT as a companion device to his HP EliteBook laptop. He treats them both with the respect that his mother and I have taught him.

    Gilad, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Our 5 year old is a rambunctious little guy, and it is not hard to see that he is his father’s son. For those of you who know me when I was much younger, that is a very scary thought. He has the temper and the attitude and the tantrums and the lack of control that he comes by honestly. Only when I was of that age, home computers did not get dropped… because they had not been invented yet, and when they did come around they were expensive and heavy and cumbersome. In this day and age where almost all computers are portable and tablet computers weigh a pound, it is easy to forget that they break. Add to that games which require the player to hold the tablet up to steer, and the dangers are real.

    “Mitch, Gilad dropped the Surface one too many times last week, and the screen broke and it is now unusable.”

    The fact that it took as long as it did for me to hear that was a bit surprising, but that is that call I got last week. My mind immediately went to the $99 HP Stream 7 that my friend showed me, and I promised Theresa that I would pick one up for her, and that is what I did on Wednesday. I spent the extra money on the screen protector and case/stand, and it cost me, all told, $150.

    Stream 7

    Over the next few days I gave it a lot of thought… I commute into Toronto 4 days a week, spending nearly an hour on the train each way. What I have been doing is downloading my TV shows onto my personal Surface Pro, and I would watch them on the train. It is a great solution, but it also means I am carrying a $1500 tablet around. Yes, it has the Complete Care warranty in case I drop it, but what if it gets stolen? I decided that for what I do on the train, I was going to take the plunge.

    I picked up the HP Stream 7 on Monday. I got the same package as I had bought for Theresa, except in lieu of her light blue cover I opted for the black. I was ambivalent because it only had 32gb of storage, 1gb of RAM, and an ATOM processor… but even with that it runs the full Windows (not Windows RT), and for what I need it for, that should really be enough. In fact, it might be considered overkill J

    Two Ports, Three Buttons.

    Stream 7 CornerI believe in the KISS principle… but I cannot think of any device I have ever owned that had less to it: a micro-USB port (which, from what I can tell, is only meant to charge the device) and a headset port (which was not a deal breaker, since otherwise I would have bought Bluetooth headphones); it has a power button, an up-volume and a down-volume button… and that’s it. I did not think it possible to have a fully functional device with less buttons than my iPhone, but there is was. Okay, I suppose the Windows logo could be considered a button, so it is actually tied with the iPhone. No matter, it works.

    The first problem I encountered was file transmission speed… traditionally I download my TV shows on my Surface Pro (the personal one, in case anyone at Rakuten is reading this). For the first few days I would then transfer them to the HP. Unfortunately transferring a low-res one-hour TV show over wifi seemed to take a long time… 8 minutes. Wow, there has to be a better way…

    …and there it was! In a very under-promoted feat of innovation, if you pop the back cover off the device with your fingernail, there is a Micro-SD card slot! Woohoo! Increased storage, here I come!

    Stream 7 BackThen it occurred to me… why take all of these extra (and probably unnecessary) steps? I will now just download my shows onto the tablet, and skip the middle-man (not to mention free up my SP3 for more important duties).

    I went looking for other problems… but so far I haven’t found any. There’s no external display port. Who cares, it’s a companion device! It doesn’t have a USB port. Who cares, it’s a companion device! There’s no stylus, and if you want to attach a mouse or keyboard you have to do it over Bluetooth. Who the heck cares, it’s a companion device!

    So let’s review… For $99 (plus the cost of the screen protector and case) I picked up a tablet with 32gb of storage that is expandable to 160gb, has a gigabyte of RAM, runs all of my applications that I need, has front and rear-facing cameras, and fits in my back pocket, lets me watch movies and listen to music on the go, and Oh, by the way, for the price also comes with a year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, AND came with a $25 voucher for the Windows Store. Add to that the Bitlocker encryption on the hard drive, and a 5-point touch screen, and this device that actually does fit into my back pocket is a better computer than my first laptop… and probably my second and third one now that I think of it…

    I should mention that it is now the only device I have that runs the 32-bit version of Windows. Who cares, it’s a companion device! I keep saying that because really, it does everything I need. I wouldn’t replace my primary systems with it, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to run Photoshop on it. But for years I have talked about The Best Tool for the Job, and for what I will be using it for, the HP Stream 7 really does seem to be that.

    Of course, it does run Windows, so I will be adding it to my Windows Intune account for anti-malware and management. Intune has never led me astray, so the fact that it is able to manage my tablet without mucking about with APNS Certificates made my life easier.

    Earlier this week I was sitting in the lunch room on my break, watching a movie. Someone came up and asked me about the device, and of course I showed him my new toy. He then asked me ‘So why did you pick this and not an iPad?’ I had a few answers for him… yes, I used to be a Microsoftie, and yes, I am a big fan of Windows 8.1, and of course I know the OS much better than I know iOS… but the bottom line is that the least expensive iPad costs about $300; that is not unreasonable, but it is also not an impulse purchase. At $99 the HP Stream 7 was exactly that; I was at the Microsoft Store for another reason, I looked at it, and I decided to buy it. I had not walked in with the intention of walking out with one, but there it was. It costs one third what the iPad would cost me, and the only thing that I know of that it does not do is Facetime. Fortunately the entire world also has Skype, so I won’t really suffer.

    Let me be clear: This is not simply a rewired and rebranded HP Slate 2. This is a spectacular and fully functional device that is not trying to be all things to all people, but instead does what it is meant to do really well.

    Overall, it gets a huge thumbs up from this user… and unlike many of the devices I have discussed in the past I paid full boat for this. Nonetheless, thanks HP!

    Surface Pro 3: Two weeks later

    Are there problems with it?  Yes.

    Do I absolutely love it? I love my kids and my dogs… but I suppose I do like it as much as I have ever liked a laptop or tablet… and I have had quite a few of them over the years!

    What are the problems? There is really only one that you should be aware of if you are thinking of going out to buy one.  It’s the patches and the battery.

    How, you may ask, do patches and batteries wind their way into a single problem?  Simple… as you probably know, everything in computers is managed by software drivers… and that includes the battery to some extent.  When you buy the device (or any device) you are prompted to apply patches, and at this point a couple of them for the Surface Pro 3 are firmware updates.  You apply the first one, and then you have a problem…

    …Windows tells you there is no battery detected.  Worse, if you unplug the device it shuts off immediately.  The firmware update actually tells the computer that there is no battery installed.

    BUT THERE IS! Wait a minute!  I was using it unplugged just a few minutes ago!  Where did it go?  Oh… I get it!  The pesky firmware is what screwed me up.  Let’s check to see if there is ANOTHER firmware update.  Plug it in, connect to the Internet, run Windows Update… By Jove, there it is!  Install it, and presto changeo, there’s my battery!

    …and what a battery it is!  My original Surface Pro probably gave me 3 hours of battery (with Hyper-V and a bunch of other things draining it).  The Surface Pro 2 was probably closer to 5.  The Pro 3? I haven’t had it run dry on me yet… for the first time in my laptop-owning life I am not afraid to leave the house in the morning without the charger.

    THE SCREEN BOSS, THE SCREEN!
    (Imagine the voice of Hervé Villechaize if you would…)

    Yes, there are a lot of improvements over the Surface Pro 2, but wow I never would have imaginged that the 1.4″ difference in screen size (12″ over 10.6″) would make that much of a difference.  As I told you recently I have an external 16″ screen that I keep in the trunk of my car so that I can have the dual screen experience on the go.  I don’t know that I have pulled it out once since I got the Pro 3… the combination of the slightly bigger screen and the much improved screen resolution make the extra screen redundant… at least when I am on the go.

    Don’t get me wrong… the day the Pro 3 docking station is available I am buying it – I have pre-ordered it from the Microsoft Store, and I have the voucher for it (from something else I returned).  All I need is the e-mail saying it is in… and I expect that to be around the same time the remaining Surface Pro 3 models (with the Intel i3 and i7 CPUs) are released, sometime in August.  When I am at home (or an office) I will still want the multi-screen experience.  On the go?  Not necessary anymore.

    A lot of people are saying I should have waited for the Intel i7 version, but the reality is I have not found myself lacking.  The Surface Pro 3 runs everything I need it to with 8GB of RAM and the Intel Core i5 CPU, and frankly I don’t want to spend the extra money (the i7 version will come in two models – 256GB storage for $1,599, and the 512GB model for $1,999.  Too rich for my blood, but thanks!

    Conclusion

    I am asked pretty often (including 3 minutes ago, as I sit at the Microsoft Store in Square One Mall blogging) whether the Surface Pro 3 is really a laptop replacement.  The answer, as with everything, is that it depends.  I would think that for the vast majority of people the answer is yes.  If you are a true hard-core gamer? Maybe not; there are some gamers who need more than 8gb of RAM.  If you are a coder? I have a friend who is a programmer who needs to run virtual machines running more than 8gb of RAM at all times.  (Did I mention that I LOVE the fact that it runs Hyper-V?  Well I do…). Aside from them?  I don’t know too many users – even power users – who need more than 8gb of RAM ever, not even occasionally.  For them (like myself) I would say that this is the device for you.

    If you are in the Greater Toronto Area come down to the Microsoft Store at Square One or Yorkdale Malls to check it out! 🙂

    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!

    A Thumbs-Up for Windows 8

    James Kendrick writes for ZDNet, and has been a tablet-fanatic for years.  So when I read his article lauding Windows 8 on the right hardware platform I was happy… I happen to like my Surface Pro, but it took the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 for James to truly see the value of Windows 8 on a tablet.  Check out his article here:

    http://www.zdnet.com/epiphany-windows-8-is-a-very-good-tablet-os-7000019601/?s_cid=e539&ttag=e539

    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 (https://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 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