Surface Book Review

en-INTL-PDP0-Surface-Book-CR9-00001-P2I have just bought myself a new laptop, but it is not just any laptop it is a Microsoft Surface Book.

I think this is probably the first time I have bought myself a top of the range laptop and after a few days of use I am loving it.

The Surface Book is the latest in Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets but the first to feature a keyboard and be more like a traditional laptop. The keyboard is detachable from the keyboard so you can use the Surface Book like a tablet.

As it is a top of the range laptop, it was not cheap, so if price is a significant factor in your laptop choice this is not the machine for you. Microsoft are trying to compete with Apple’s Macbook range.

So what did I get for my money:

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 16Gb RAM
  • 512Gb SSD (Formatted Size nearer 474Gb)
  • 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
  • Surface Pen
  • 13.5-inch touch screen

I have only had the device for a few days but these are my thoughts so far. My primary reason for buying this is for doing development work with Visual Studio and SQL Server.

I really like the Surface Pen. This is a feature that I didn’t think I would use much. The Pen connects via bluetooth and allows interaction with the touch screen. The pressure sensitive screen allows all sort of touch actions to be performed.

I especially like the choice of keyboards that are offered when the physical keyboard is detached. You can have either a on screen keyboard which you can type with pen or fingers, an on screen keyboard that splits in half or you can write with the pen. This is an amazing feature. My handwriting is not good but most of the time it understands my scrawl. With this option you can hand write a tweet or fill in a form on a webpage. For speed I would not recommend this form of input for large amounts of text, but for browsing the web of when you are just clicking on links it is great.

Windows Hello – I can unlock windows just by looking at my screen. How cool is that! It was really easy to setup, it just takes a photo of your face and next time you login all you need to do it look at the screen. Note if you are working in tablet mode, make sure the tablet is the correct way up.

It’s not all brilliant though. Detaching the screen is fiddly and sometimes takes a few moments to do. A few times I have felt I needed another hand but I am sure the more I do this the easier I will find it to do.

Battery life isn’t great especially when running off the tablet only. This is due to the machine having two batteries, one in the base and one in the screen so with keyboard attached you have much longer use times. Actually I am finding the battery is lasting longer now that I have used it for a few days.

The screen has a very high resolution 3000 x 2000 but using clever zooming technology everything is still readable and not tiny. However I use Remote Desktop a lot and this caused me a problem. When RDPing the remote session used the host screen resolution which made everything tiny on my servers. The solution to this can be found on SuperUser and involved using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection Manager, a cool bit of software for managing multiple RDP sessions. This is actually an improvement on the way I usually work, but until I found the answer this was annoying.

Another minor annoyance with the keyboard is that you can’t press Ctrl-Alt-Del with one 20160226_082809 (2)hand. Normally this isn’t a requirement but if the screen locks while I have my son on my lap I am stuck, but I won’t blame the surface book for this.

When I got my Surface Book I was also given a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. I am not a fan of this bit of tech as I can’t get it to work. I briefly got my old laptop to connect but my Surface Book keeps telling me NO!

Overall I like the Surface Book. It is certainly the nicest laptop I have ever used. Now that I have the docking station I can connect two monitors, have a wired internet connection and it becomes a proper work horse. What does everyone else think? Better than Apple’s range of laptops?

10 facts about Windows 10

Today Microsoft release Windows 10 so what else can I talk about? I like many technology people are very excited today. This version of window is the first that Microsoft have release for free.

Windows-10_Product-Family

 

10) You heard that correct Windows 10 is free. If you upgrade your device to windows 10 before 29th July 2016 it is free and will continue working on that device forever.

‘Upgrade to Windows 10 within the first year and it is yours free, forever. No subscriptions, no additional costs.’

9) As with any upgrade always backup your computer and any important files before you do anything. Microsoft and any IT expert will tell you this. For a great guide to upgrading see Scott Hansleman’s blog. I have upgraded my laptop without any problems but there will always be exceptions so take extra care.

8) Windows 10 is the LAST version of windows. I don’t know what this means but I can take a guess.

Typically Microsoft has created a new version of windows every few years. With every new version there has come headaches and problems as people try to make software and hardware work with the next version. Microsoft is instead going to try and release updates and patches to the operating system to keep things up to date.

However I can see that only working for so long. Eventually Microsoft will make something new but it is unlikely to be called Windows. Maybe it will be something hosted in the Cloud, as they have a really strong presence with Azure which is only going to grow as time goes on.

7) Windows 10 is available in 7 different flavours.

  • Windows 10 Home – equivalent to the Home editions we have had since XP. This version is designed for your typical consumer.
  • Windows 10 Mobile – this version is designed to run on phones and tablets. Unlike previous Phone versions, everything you can find on the desktop OS should be available on the phone (but optimised for the smaller screens)
  • Windows 10 Pro – this is the version I will be testing with my work PCs. It is designed for small businesses and allows domain joining.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise – this version is only available via Volume Licensing so not easily available to the typical user but is aimed at larger businesses.
  • Windows 10 Education – another version that is only available via Volume Licensing but targeted at schools and universities.
  • Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise – this version is for mobile and tablets in the business world. Standard policies can be applied to all your employees mobile devices.
  • Windows 10 IoT Core – this is an interesting version designed to run on hardware and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. I would quite like to play with this version on my Raspberry Pi

6) Windows 10 introduces a brand new web browser called Edge. For years web developers have hated Internet Explorer, for its lack of support for the latest web standards. Internet Explorer 6 caused many users to migrate away to browsers like firefox and later Chrome and despite Microsoft’s best effort with the later versions people have not moved back. Edge is an attempt at a fresh start.

5) In 2011 Apple introduced the personal assistant Siri, well now Microsoft are bringing us Cortana the windows equivalent. With Cortana you can ask your computer to do anything, set reminders, search the internet, answer questions, anything. With advanced voice recognition you can speak as well as type your questions. Cortana is now part of Windows 10.win10

4) Windows 10 brings back the start menu. The start menu you have always used to access programs works the same but features of the windows 8 start screen have been incorporated into it.

3) Windows 10 is more secure. Security patches are frequently released for all operating systems, but windows 10 has been designed with security in mind. For businesses there are options to completely lock down your users environment only allowing ‘white listed’ programs to run.

2) Continuum is one of the most revolutionary things about Windows 10. Continuum is the notion that one computing experience is continued regardless of the device used or the location. Continuum will automatically adjust your screen to make the best use of its size. Tablets and phones have the tiled view and start screen, if you connect a keyboard and monitor it will behave like a full blown PC. This is mind bending, that a phone running windows 10 can do as much as your laptop.

1) Today I am off to a Windows 10 launch event where I expect many of these features will be discussed and most likely many more.

As A Service

In Cloud Computing there are a lot of terms that end aas or As a Service. Most of these I hadn’t heard of until I started writing this list.

Any service that is delivered over the internet instead of hosted locally on your network or PC could in theory be described as an As a Service.

19656eePaaS Platform As a Service

This is one of the big ones. Microsoft Azure provides a Platform as a Service which I am familiar with. Platform as a Service is where a provider provides a platform where you can build apps or websites.

SaaS Software As a Service

Another popular one. Software as a Service can be as simple as a website that runs a service that a customer wants to use, I work for a company that provides a SaaS product.

IaaS Infrastructure As a Service

The last of the big ones. A good example of IaaS is a Virtual Machine which can either be hosted on a server somewhere (a private cloud) or on the internet via a company such as Azure (public cloud) The Pizza as a Service diagram illustrates the differences between Saas, PaaS and Iaas.

NaaS Network As a Service

This is just a type of IaaS that specializes in providing networking. Anything that provides network connectivity could be included in this category.

CaaS Communications As a Service

Another subtype of IaaS this time specializing in communications, this could include Voice over IP or other similar technologies.

MONaaS Monitoring As a Service

If you have a SaaS, PaaS or IaaS you will most likely want to monitor that it is working, I certainly do. This is something that is often included in your IaaS or PaaS package. Azure has various tools for monitoring and this could be included in this category.

BaaS Backup As a Service

With the growth of cloud storage and the decrease in its cost, backing up to the cloud is a very attractive option. Any service that allows you to backup and restore from the internet can be included in this category. Your provider needs to manage your backups for it to be truly BaaS rather than just another place to store your files.

DaaS Desktop As a Service

This is where your desktop is visualized and stored in the cloud. I know very little about this as I have never used it, but I would imagine you need a strong internet connection for it to work reliably.

DBaaS Database As a Service

This is a simple one if your database is stored in the cloud like Azure SQL Database then it fits into this category. If you run your own sql server install on a VM then it doesn’t fit in this category as you are still managing it yourself and is IaaS

HaaS Hardware As a Service

HaaS this is another subcategory of IaaS which concentrates on hardware.

IDaaS Identity As a Service

This is where the management of who you are is managed in the cloud. Single Sign-On could be achieved if a website redirected determining if you are who you say you are to a particular IDaaS. Azure Active Directory is an example of this.

SaaS Storage As a Service

You get the idea now, storing files on a remote cloud product is an example of Storage as a Service. DropBox or OneDrive are good examples of this.

FoaaS F Off As a Service

.NetRocks mentioned this a few weeks ago and is a joke As a Service. http://foaas.herokuapp.com/ The idea is that you can use this service to tell people to F off.

Writing this blog post has given me a better understanding of all the aaS that are out there. I am sure I haven’t explained some of these very well and no doubt missed some off.

Windows 9 or do I mean 10

Like many systems administrators I watched as the news came out yesterday about the latest version of windows. What would it be like? What would it be called? Would it be better or worse than previous versions?

Windows_10_fullwidthI was shocked when the name of the new operating system was revealed to be Windows 10. What really!? At first I though someone had tweeted a photoshopped image of the press conference, but no it was really going to be called Windows 10.

Windows 10 is the next operating system to be released after windows 8, many had been calling it windows 9 or windows Threshold.

Microsoft has never had a fixed naming convention for its OSes, so should we really be that surprised at its new name.

  • Windows 1.0 (1985)
  • Windows 2.0 (1987)
  • Windows 3.0 (1990)
  • Windows 95 (1995)
  • Windows 98 (1998)
  • Windows ME (2000)
  • Windows XP (2001)
  • Windows Vista (2007)
  • Windows 7 (2009)
  • Windows 8 (2012)
  • Windows 10 (2015)

One reason Microsoft may have gone with with Windows 10 is because they wanted to signify that the coming Windows release would be the last “major” Windows update. What does it mean to be the last major update?

If you look at the list of OSes above you will see that between XP and Vista was a huge 6 years, this gap is/has caused a huge headache for IT professionals (me included). Software was written for XP because that is all that was available, when XP moved out of support earlier this year it caused loads as problems as people tried to get this software to work on more modern OSes.

If windows 10 is around for a long time we may end up with a similar situation to XP, in that loads of software will run only on it and cause problems if you try and port it to whatever comes next. I am only a trainee developer so I don’t know what is involved with building an OS, but I would imagine there must be things that are very difficult or almost impossible to fix without ripping them out and starting again which is what happens when a new version of an OS is written.

Only time will tell if Windows 10 really is the last version of windows and what will happen to the OS in the future. What ever the case I am downloading a preview so I can have a look (I want my start menu back!)