Aug 142014
 

So I purchased a Surface Pro 3 today from the new Microsoft Store that opened up in Calgary, Alberta today. I purchased the 512GB – i7 version with 8GB of RAM.

The unit is slick, beautiful, and totally has a purpose, however there is one major problem I encountered: overheating!

 

First it sync’ed my apps from my Microsoft Account, upon installing 20 (Metro) apps, the unit overheated and I was presented with the black background screen with a circle and a thermometer icon. The unit had to cool down for a while before it allowed me to power on. I wasn’t even using the device, except 20 “apps” were installing in the background.

 

I put the unit in my server room (air conditioned to 18 degrees), and then proceeded to configure the Surface, install applications, and install all the Windows Updates and firmware updates. Since installing the firmware updates the unit has not overheated, however it’s burning my hand from just ONLY running Microsoft Outlook.

Here is a screenshot of the temperatures when running only Microsoft Outlook.

SurfacePro3-Overheat

This specific unit is too hot to use for me. It’s too hot for me to even hold to just read e-mails, and the sound of the fan racing non-stop (even when idling) is driving me absolutely insane. I’ve decided to return the unit for a refund until it sounds like these issues get resolved.

Is anyone else noticing overheating issues with their i7 version of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3?

UPDATE: I found this thread on Microsoft’s “Answers” forum – http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro3-surfusingpro/excessively-loud-fan-constant-overheating-during/1efa253a-f7f2-486b-a891-5633738b8532

Jun 132013
 

As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. I’ve been using it since day 1 of the release and absolutely love it. This thing has become such a valuable tool in my life, if anything were to happen to it, I’d replace it in a flash.

Since I’ve had mine, I’ve had numerous clients ask about it. After demo’ing the device, most have actually gone out and pulled the trigger. They all compare it to their various old tablets, and say hands down the Surface Pro is #1.

Recently one of my clients, Larry Wellspring at Synterra Technologies Ltd. (a leading seismic consulting company located here in Calgary, Alberta and a long time client of mine) was thinking of purchasing one so he didn’t have to lunk around his high performance laptop. One of the most important questions he had were the spec’s of the device and if it could handle the seismic software applications he and his business use. Since the Surface Pro is essentially a higher performing computer in the form factor of a tablet, I said chances are it would work. He went out and bought one.

For the most part, most applications worked right off the bat. However we had a few issues with Omni 3D from Gedco. The application would install fine, however we were receiving errors when launching the application:

The application was unable to start correctly (0xc0150002). Click OK to close the application.

We tried contacting Omni 3D support, however they mentioned running Omni 3D on Windows 8 was unsupported and untested, especially running it on a Tablet. They mentioned they’ve never recalled getting Omni 3D to run on a tablet. Well, we wanted to make history! ūüôā

Trying different compatibility configurations had no affect. Ultimately, I researched the error and noticed it had something to do with C++ runtime’s. Although none of the posts had a solution to our problem, it at least pointed us in the right direction. I noticed we already had the 64-bit and 32-bit C++ 2010 runtime’s installed (I believe a different application installed these), so first and foremost, I re-installed these. It had no affect. I then decided to try installing the C++ 2008 run time installs. In our case, we installed the 64-bit version of Omni 3D, so I installed the 64-bit version of the Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Runtime components available here.

After installing this, we went to open up Omni 3D and it worked!

Keep in mind that this should not only work and apply to Surface Pro tablets, but to anyone trying to install Omni 3D on Windows 8.

Feb 222013
 

I have long awaited the release of the Microsoft Surface Pro since their first initial announcement about entering the tablet market. The first device released: “Surface RT” was a lightweight, thin, powerful tablet that could run Metro apps, along with Microsoft Office and had a battery life of continuous use around 10 hours. The second device released: “Surface Pro” was¬†a new device that didn’t fall under either distinction of a Tablet or Laptop but could be used as either, that was a powerful portable computer that could run all your applications, along with the Metro apps, be easily transported, used anywhere, and had a decent battery life (~4 hours of heavy use, I’ve gotten over 8 hours of battery use).

Being an I.T. professional, I figured I would wait for the Surface Pro to be released since I believed I’d mostly be using normal Windows applications over the “Metro” style apps. I’ve been running Windows 8 on my desktop since Microsoft made it available to partners mid way through 2012. During that time, once I tried to configure and use the Metro apps, but using them with¬† non-touch interface was weird enough for me not to end up using any. I usually stay on the desktop, and when needed to launch a program I simply hit the start button, type the first few letters of the program, hit enter, and it launches.

First off I want to start off addressing Windows 8 being used as a tablet interface. It’s slick! Since receiving my Surface Pro, even after installing Microsoft Outlook and other desktop applications I regularly use, I found that over time, I never even go in to the desktop. Using the Metro interface with touch capabilities is simply brilliant. It’s very easy to use, navigate, configure, and surprisingly enough I find that 98% of everything I do can be accomplished via Metro style applications. I don’t even go in to Microsoft Outlook anymore since I have my Exchange account configured with the Mail Metro app. Occasionally I might use Outlook,¬† but it’s only to do advanced tasks such as deal with Meeting requests that I need to add info, or dealing with numerous attachments, etc… The Windows 8 touch interface is beautiful and resembles Windows Phone to the tee.

Briefly visiting the desktop aspect, the desktop is your familiar Windows desktop, with the modification of no start menu since it’s running Windows 8. On the Surface Pro you can install any Windows Application, and they run great. This device has the power to run most graphic intensive games, drawing applications, and anything else you can throw at it. It works great and I have no complaints. One thing to note is that Microsoft implemented scaling since the display is a true 1080p display, and with such a small screen the writing wouldn’t be visible for those with bad eyes. I so far have not had any issues with the scaling, and applications look great.

Now going back to the Metro style interface, there are numerous apps available. Use of the Mail, People, Calendar, Internet Explorer, etc.. all work great. I use these all the time and haven’t had any issues. They are perfect for working with you exchange account, browsing the internet, talking with Facebook friends, tweeting on twitter, browsing internet forums, etc… Again, everything works great, no problems whatsoever, and you can accomplish plenty using these.

A few apps to mention, Xbox Music is fantastic. I’ve been using my Zune pass since I purchased my first Windows Phone 7 (Nokia Lumia 900), and have been creating playlists, downloading music on the fly, and absolutely love it. I also use it all the time on my desktop computer as well. When first playing with my new Surface, it was very easy to configure my xbox music pass, and it actually sync’ed all my music from my other devices to my new Surface once I enabled the feature. It’s fantastic, and now I often find myself listening to music whenever working wherever I am in my house, or on weekends when I’m doing work/implementations at clients offices. It’s super slick!

Another app that has come in handy for me, being an IT professional, is the Remote Desktop app. Whenever rolling out updates to clients, or working on my own servers, it’s awesome being able to establish numerous RDP sessions, and switch between them on the fly. It’s just that simple… It’s actually faster to use the Metro style Remote Desktop app, then it is to use the native Windows application.

The amount of apps I use is actually endless, so it’s pointless going in to detail for each and every one of them. The native Windows 8 metro apps are just awesome. One other app I actually do have to mention that is a particular favorite of mine is “Package Tracker”. I regularly sell, ship, and send items to/from clients, and it’s great being able to track all the packages in a simple to use interface. What’s even slicker, is having Package Tracker linked to my SkyDrive account, so packages I’m tracking will be sync’ed between my Surface Pro, and my Lumia 900 Windows Phone.

Now on to actual physical characteristic of the Surface Pro. The device is thin (thinner then I’d expect for a fully working high performance computer), and it’s built using great materials. It feels great in the hand, and the use of the kickstand is great! They have two separate types of keyboards/covers for both Surface models. I’m using the Touch keyboard and love it, it takes advantage of pressure applied to the keys of a pad with printed letters on it, also has a fully working track-pad. The other option available is the Type keyboard, which actually has mechanical keys on it, for those of you who prefer that. I haven’t seen or played with a Type cover, but the Touch cover is great for typing, using as a screen protector when mobile, and when flipping it backward the keys are disabled so you can’t accidently trigger any of the buttons (and in the 2 weeks I’ve had mine, it’s been working flawlessly).

The Surface pro also comes with¬†a pen that you can use for marking up documents, taking notes (really cool to use in Microsoft OneNote), and also as a mouse when you want something more¬†accurate then lets say your finger. Now Microsoft really shined with implementing this, you can actually rest your hand on the screen while writing with the pen, and since the Surface Pro recognizes the pen is near/present, it will disable any touch input from your hand. I tried as hard as I could to mess it up, but again flawless every time. The pen also has a magnet mounted on the side so it actually attaches to the tablet when mobile. At first I thought it would fall off easily when moving around, getting in/out of the car, etc… But it’s been rock solid and I haven’t had any accidents where it’s come off except when I actually want to remove it and use it.

As for some other random hardware notes, the surface comes equipped with a USB 3.0 port, and a Mini Display-port. I’ve used the display port to play movies from the Surface to my 1080p television and it was slick. Quality was amazing.

One major contribution that the Surface has given me, is the capabilities to work during meetings, have information readily available, and take notes. The device is so small, that when you meet with someone, and use it to take notes or reference material, that it’s not obtrusive if setup between you and the person you’re meeting with. Normally I have “Internet Sharing” setup on my Windows Phone, connect to my corporate VPN and I can access documents on the fly, generate invoices from QuickBooks, prepare quotes on the fly, and pretty much have access to any information, when I need it. I can’t tell you how amazing it is, to have all this information at your fingertips in such a nice little package.

Now to one of the biggest conclusions I’ve come to since using the Surface Pro, after realizing I use mostly Metro style apps, I could have actually gotten away with using a Surface RT instead. 90% of the day to day work I do could be done on the Surface RT. I actually plan on purchasing a Surface RT soon, and use the RT for day-to-day meetings, web surfing, music, web browsing, etc… And then use my Surface Pro for when I require a full computer, implementations, work at clients offices, when I require the use of Windows Desktop applications.

 

Overall I’m very impressed with this device, it’s slick, beautiful, and has increased my productivity. Perfect for everyday business or everyday personal use. I’ve demo’d the device to numerous clients (over 10) and they all love it and plan on purchasing one when stock is available.

 

Now as for my only complaint: The Surface Pro does not have LTE capabilities. This is somewhat of an annoyance since I regularly connect to my corporate VPN for network resource. Although it’s an annoyance, you can easily work around it by either using a LTE USB data card, or using “Internet Sharing” on your Windows Phone.

Oct 282012
 

I remember months ago when I was so excited to hear that Microsoft would be releasing their own tablet. I swore I would be one of the first people to get their hands on these devices… Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way I thought.

Since refined details were published regarding the specifications and capabilities in the time since, I’ve changed my mind, sadly.

While the device is still a “rock-star” device, with the capabilities it does have, I’m not so sure it’s designed for the professional. With that being said, there is a “pro” version coming out, however it will be slightly larger, slightly heavier, and will be running on the x86 architecture, instead of the lightweight, battery saving ARM architecture.

It’s in my opinion that they should have allowed the Windows RT release to be “upgraded” to a domain join-able version, that supports GPO, etc…

 

Few reasons why I decided NOT to purchase the Microsoft Surface

1) Lack of LTE / cell modem capabilities – I envisioned myself having access to the internet wherever I went. I wanted to have the ability to edit Microsoft Word or other Office suite application files seamlessly live over VPN. This way I could go to meetings, take notes, and have them stored directly on my servers back at the office. Not only does lack of LTE stop this from happening, but it also stops me from having the ability to read/write e-mails on the go wherever I am. I want to get e-mails instantly like I do on my phone, I don’t want to have to wait for a WiFi hotspot to become available.

2) Lack of domain capabilities – It would have been nice to be able to join it to the domain for single-sign on, and access to network resources.

3) Lack of retail locations in Canada – I remember seeing something that they had a Microsoft Store in Edmonton, I tweeted the Microsoft Store twitter account and asked if they are planning on opening a location in Calgary. They replied and said they have one in Edmonton. I’m not willing to drive 350 kilometers to just play with a device to see if I want to purchase one, then drive the 350 kilometers back (possibly without the device if I chose not to purchase it).

4) No clear explanation on application support – While there is a Windows Store that has applications for the Metro style interface, there is a lack of information on actual windows application support for building applications on the ARM architecture for Windows RT. It would be awesome if people could start building windows applications for the ARM architecture, but from what I have read that isn’t the case.

 

It’s unfortunate that there are these shortcomings. I would have loved to flash this device in the face of iPad lovers. However since I won’t be able to SSH using Putty compiled for ARM, and since I won’t have access to e-mail wherever I am, and won’t have access to any of my office documents on my servers wherever I am, I don’t think I’ll be pulling the trigger anytime soon.

Some other companies are manufacturing Windows RT tablets with built in LTE capabilities, however I much prefer to have it built in to the beautiful engineered Microsoft Surface.