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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.
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.
I 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!
Then 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!
Off-line files are a wonderful thing. The fact that my users can synchronize the files from a central server (where they are backed up) to their laptop is great. But what happens when things get out of hand? In theory, users can save a lot more onto a file server than they can their local machine. In practice, when the folder is set to synchronize in full to the local hard drive can cause headaches… like waking up one day and realizing that they have 0kb free on their C drive.
Okay, you go to the server and move the offending files to another location. You log into the affected computer… and nothing doing, still zeroed out.
The problem is that there is a folder called the Client Side Cache (or Offline Files Cache). It is stored under the SystemRoot – i.e., it is (by default) c:\Windows\CSC. Now, this folder can be moved, but it is not a simple process, and I will cover it in a later article. The issue is that the CSC directory sits on the C Drive, and is completely secured against reasonable attempts to modify it manually… which is good, because trying to do so will cause some pretty serious issues.
So we have fixed the problem on the back-end, and now we have to fix it on the front-end, which means cleaning out the Client-Side Cache. We can’t simply do this manually, we have to actually clean out the CSC database. How do we do this: Here you go:
**VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
The Windows Registry is not meant to be touched by anyone who does not have a very thorough understanding of how it works, and can cause serious and irrecoverable damage to your Windows installation if handled improperly. I strongly recommend that you do not do this if you are not extremely comfortable with it.
1. Open the Registry Editor (regedit.msc)
2. Navigate to HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Csc\Parameters
3. If there is no Parameters key under CSC then you have to create it.
4. Under Parameters create a new DWord 32-bit value called FormatDatabase.
5. Set the value to FormatDatabase to 1.
6. Close the registry editor and reboot your computer.
Okay, that is the long way around, but it is also the ‘fewer chances for error’ way. If you are not afraid of typos, you can do the following:
1. Open a command prompt with elevated privileges.
2. Type: reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Csc\Parameters /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
(Where /v is the value, /t is the data type, /d is the data, and /f is force overwrite.)
3. Close the command prompt and reboot your computer.
Once your computer reboots you should be alright. You shouldn’t even have to enter your Recycle Bin, the disk space should just be there
Good luck, and remember to back it up before you hork it up!
Congratulations. You have decided to implement a Folder Redirection policy on your domain. There are real advantages to this, not the least of which is that all of your users’ profile folders will get backed up centrally… and that when they change computers their files and settings are just there.
You have created a Group Policy Object (GPO) in Active Directory that you have called Folder Redirection, and you have applied it to the Organizational Unit (OU) that your user account is in, and as is so often the case with Desktop Administrators, you have made yourself the guinea pig. From Windows you run the command gpupdate /force, and are informed that in order for the Folder Redirection policy to be applied, you will have to log off and then log on again. You do.
It must have worked! Why do you I say that? Because unlike most of the time, when logging on takes a few seconds, it took a full ten minutes this time. As a seasoned Desktop Admin you understand that this is because all of the folders that you set to redirect – Documents, Pictures, Videos, Favorites, Downloads – are being copied to the server before you are actually allowed onto your desktop. However a few minutes later, once you are logged on, you open Windows Explorer, and in the navigation pane you right-click on Documents, and see that the My Documents folder is no longer at c:\Users\Mitch, but at \\Sharename\Mitch.
Unfortunately there is one step that you are now saying to yourself ‘Mitch, you missed one thing!’ Because you know that when you clicked on Windows Explorer in the task bar, you got a warning message that looked like this:
As a seasoned IT Pro you know that security warnings are a way of life, and it wouldn’t bother you if you had to accept this every time… but you know your end users are going to go ape, so you need a solution. No problem.
I should mention that while these steps will work for all versions of Windows since Windows Vista, the way you access the screens may be a little different.
1) Open Control Panel. Don’t be alarmed, you are going to get the same security warning when opening the CP.
2) In the Search window type Internet Options. When it comes up, click on it.
3) In the Internet Properties window select the Security tab.
4) On the Security tab click on Local Intranet. Then click on Sites. Note that the Sites button will be greyed out until you select Local Intranet.
6) In the Local Intranet window click the Advanced button.
5) In the Local Intranet (Advanced) window type the location of your folder redirection share into the box marked Add this website to the zone: Uncheck the box marked Require server verification (https://) for all sites in this zone. Click Add. Then click Close.
6) Close the Internet Properties window.
Now try opening Windows Explorer again. It should open without the security warning.
If You’re Gonna Do IT Then Do IT Right…
Okay, so you know how to configure this setting for your individual desktop… but you don’t really want to have to go to every desktop/laptop/tablet in the organization and do this, do you? Of course not, that is what Group Policy is for!
We are going to make one change to your Folder Redirection policy.
1) Open Group Policy Management Console.
2) Right-click on your Folder Redirection policy and click Edit…
3) Navigate to: User Configuration – Policies – Administrative Templates – Windows Components – Internet Explorer – Internet Control Panel – Security Page.
4) Right-click on Site to Zone Assignment List.
5) Enable the policy.
6) In the Options box click on Show…
7) In the Value name cell enter the UNC path of your file share.
8) In the Value cell next to the UNC path you just entered enter the value 1. (Where 1=Intranet/Local Zone, 2=Trusted Sites, 3=Internet/Public Zone, and 4=Restricted Sites). Click OK then click OK in the Site to Zone Assignment List dialogue box.
9) Close Group Policy Management Editor.
That should be it… remember you will have to re-run your gpupdate /force on your machine, but even if you don’t it will apply in the next few logoffs, right?
**Thanks to Joseph Moody for the list of settings for the Zone Value list!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I do like my Surface Pro 3. With that being said, I know everyone has different tastes, and some people are not going to like it. A couple of months ago my sister, a long time Mac user (and Apple Fanboi) told me that her new job would be giving her a Pro 3, and asked what I thought of it. I told her – it predated my realizing the extent of the network issues – that I loved it, and expected she would too.
Last week she e-mailed me to tell me that she really hated it. It crashed a number of times in the first week, and she does not have the patience for these errors – she said her Macs (all of them) just work, and don’t have blue screens of death or other issues.
Now to be fair to the Surface team, a lot of the issues she outlined had to do with Windows 8.1, Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and the Microsoft Account. I understand her frustration – if you take the device out of the equation, those are four different products from four different teams that are all supposed to work together seamlessly… but don’t. I respect that Microsoft has a lot of different products, but if you are going to stop talking about products and start talking about solutions then you should make sure your teams work together a lot closer to make sure that seamless really is seamless.
I probably know Windows better than 99.5% of the population, and work very fluently across these four products… but one of the reasons for that is because I have come to understand that sometimes the seams between them are going to show, and like a Quebec driver I have learned better than most to navigate the potholes. However if Microsoft really wants to stay at the top in an era where customers do want things to just work, they had better get off their butts, come down off their high horses, and start making sure that seamless really is just that.
I want to be clear… I am not trading in my devices for Macs (or Linux). While I do have an iPhone (See article) I would just as soon have an Android or a Windows phone. I love Windows 8.1, and even now at my office I cringe at having to work with Windows 7 (Ok, cringe is a strong word… I just wish it was Windows 8.1!). However I have worked with iPads, Androids, Macs, and more, and I know that those solutions do make for a better experience with regard to some features than the Microsoft ecosystem. I hope that under Satya things get better… but nearly a year into his tenure and I don’t see much progress.
In the meantime I am strongly considering going to open an account at one of the banks that is currently offering free iPad Minis to new account holders!
I 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.
That 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!
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…
I 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.
When 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…**
I 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!