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.



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.

How to upgrade to Windows 10

Microsoft are releasing a new operating system on July 29th called Windows 10.

If you have questions about Windows 10 watch this video by Scott Hansleman. He explains how to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10 and what to expect after you upgrade.

My advice to everyone is that you backup your devices before you upgrade, this is good practice before you install any software or updates.

Microsoft are offering Windows 10 for free for a whole year, so don’t panic. Take your time, backup all your important files and when you are ready install Windows 10. Nothing is going to stop working after July 29th if you don’t have the latest operating system on your machine.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions about what to do at the end of the month. If not feel free to write a comment or contact me with your questions.

Trying windows 10

My laptop has been getting a bit cluttered up with stuff so this weekend I gave it a reset.

As I am using windows 8 this was much easier than doing a format reinstall which I have done many times with previous OSes. Open settings and select recovery and after about 4 hours everything was back to factory settings.

I then installed a few updates and then installed the windows 10 preview. One of the requirements for windows 10 is Windows 8 Update (the one that came after 8.1), it took a few reboots and updates until I got that installed.

I had purchased the pro pack which gives you the same features as windows 8 pro but I didn’t notice until after I installed 10 that this hadn’t been installed. I will need to roll back to windows 8 apply the update and then reinstall 10 again. I can’t really be bothered to do that, so I will live without HyperV for now. As it is I have done a lot of sitting around waiting for things to finish installing.

win10I much prefer Windows 10 to Windows 8, an earlier preview had an issue with drivers for my second screen but that appears to have been resolved now. The start menu is back and I prefer it, to being taken to that extra screen of options that windows 8 had.

I prefer the email client that windows 8 had to the windows 10 version as my work emails don’t work with it. I assume this is due to how my exchange server has been configured and maybe a later preview will allow my email to work or failing that I will have to get emails at work fixed properly.

All apps now open in windows which is much nicer. Cortana is very similar to Google Home on my phone where I can talk and ask it stuff. But I never use this sort of feature apart from testing it.

The new web browser has some nice features like the option to scribble over a web page but nothing that special that I think I will change my default browser from Chrome. It will be interesting to see how it performs in browser stats.

I am part way through installing Visual Studio 2015 RC, but I think that will have to be a separate post.