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Friday, May 8, 2015

A Little Surface Pro 4 Speculation

ANYONE STILL OUT THERE?

Oops, I did it again (or something like that). Another four month gap, with lingering personal and business issues, but we're going to give it one more try before the Surface Pro 4 "surfaces."

So on with the speculation!

Build 2015 came and went, and nary a mention of the Surface Pro 4. Well sports fans, that's the way it was last year, with Surface Pro 3 getting its own debut slot in an intimate little stage presentation. That is likely what is in store for the SPro 4, which is going to be the SPro 3s in effect:

PREDICTION 1 (and 1a) - debut will be in the next two weeks. With all the speculation of a July release for Windows 10, Microsoft will need to roll out it's flagship convertible for distribution with the new operating system.


PREDICTION 2 - only one size, a 12" tablet in the same physical dimensions as the SPro 3, with only the addition of another USB 3 port to the mix. No one will be able to tell if you are behind in your technolust.

PREDICTION 3 - Haswell mobile (not ULV, not Core M) i5 and i7. No Core i3 parts this time, that's the territory for the upper end of the Surface 3 line. THERE BE FANS HERE CAPTAIN! (sorry folks).


PREDICTION 4 - Storage - here's where we'll see the boosts. i5 with 8gb of ram and 128gb, 256gb, and 512gb options. i7 will have 8gb of ram with 256gb and 512gb ssd options, with a Cadillac model (and price) for a 16gb ram/1tb ssd model, which will be in extremely short supply. NO MORE SURGERIES:


PREDICTION 5 - ALL of the peripherals (power bricks, pens, Type Covers, and docks) will be the same as gen 3 - but you will get to order different color pens though (how sweet).


WHAT WE WON'T SEE -

  • No SkyLake chips (Apple would never let Intel upstage them with Microsoft)
  • No Type C reversible USB (too new for business)
  • No 14" model (yet)
  • No fanless model
  • No solid form factor base (like a real laptop would have)
  • No LTE
  • No pen silo with rechargeable pen
  • No unicorns
NOW FOR THE "YET"

I think (RANK RUMOR AND SPECULATION) we will see a Surface Pro 4xl this fall. 14" with SkyLake (after Apple gets them first for the redesigned MacBook Retina 15). This one will get the USB 3.1 Type C treatment (at least 2, with one being for power as well) and I believe they will make the power supply a mini-hub with more USB 3 out form it. This will be aimed at graphic designers and the arts folks, but will also be a hit in business as a MacBook Retina lite.

It will be a fun second half for 2015.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Keep Trying to Put the Square Peg in a Round Hole?

FIRST - AN APOLOGY
My prolonged absence was not intended as an abandonment. Family medical issues, the holidays, water floods at work (both before and after Christmas), all put a crimp in my usual chippy posting schedule. It's now time to get back to work, and try to change the direction of this blog a bit.

 
 
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!
 
I have spent the last few months "Settling in" on a one device solution. That is still a work in progress, but the centerpiece is the SURFACE PRO 3. It will also the reason for the title of this post.
  • I have seen and read about so many folks out there trying to take notes on iPads and other pure tablets.
  • They are in an endless quest for "the best" keyboard/case to make these tablets "more like a laptop/netbook."
  • They bounce between iWork and Office for iPad/Android desperately trying to turn those tablets into laptops
  • Endless experimentation with usb/lightening to video output adapters to hook up big screens
Why? Because a laptop is not as convenient as a tablet, and a tablet is NOT a productivity device. So they continuously (I was one of them) work to drive that square peg in a vastly smaller hole. Why keep fighting an impossible battle. Just get the Surface Pro 3. Yes, it is Windows (relax and breath all you iOS/OS X fans). No, it does not have hundreds of thousands of tablet only apps (and correspondingly, hundreds of fart apps). Yes, it is heavier (and a little thicker/larger) than the lighter-than-air iPad, but I have the FULL library of Windows applications (not Apps) at my fingertip.
 
WHAT A MARVEL IT IS! It truly is a cross between the MacBook and iPad Airs, with an active digitizer thrown in for good measure. The dock lets me connect TWO WQHD (2560x1440) 27" monitors, and have THREE high resolution screens to work on. Slide open the dock, slap on the keyboard cover, and it is the best mobile experience out there, and not significantly larger or heavier than the iPad Air with a ZAGG or Belkin keyboard/case.
 
For you Windows 8.x deniers (clinging to Windows 95-Windows 7), the * version is more stable, lighter on the system, and faster. When coupled with a great touch device, it is a dream. And quit pooh-poohing touch - it is ANOTHER great input method to use WITH a keyboard and mouse. It is vastly quicker to touch links, scroll screens, and pinch to zoom than ANYTHING you can do with a mouse or trackpad.
 
So strap on your helmets (Surface Pros) fans and lets dig in to a great new, and productive, 2015!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Quest is Over - Now the Real Work Begins

I didn't know John Legend was writing about my Surface Pro 3 in "All of Me:"

What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You've got my head spinning, no kidding, I can't pin you down
What's going on in that beautiful mind
I'm on your magical mystery ride
And I'm so dizzy, don't know what hit me, but I'll be alright

My head's under water
But I'm breathing fine
You're crazy and I'm out of my mind

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

As the clock runs down on my return window with Microsoft for my Surface Pro 3, I have finally found the Windows 8x computer/laptop/tablet/device I have been looking for since the beta release days of the Samsung Series 7 Slate.
 
I know you've heard this before, but the SPro3 is the best computing device I have ever owned, warts and all. For the first two weeks it couldn't hold a WiFi signal for more than 10-15 minutes; always disconnected coming out of sleep; and ate batteries while in sleep like my grandson goes through M&M's (between 25-35% during any 8 hour sleep cycle; as much as 4% in 30 minutes of sleep). The July 8 driver updates came and went, with significant improvement in WiFi connectivity (although still dropped out on random occasions) but still no battery drain relief. Some good folks over at Tablet PC Review recommended a complete reset and reinstall of the new drivers, and as much as I DETEST having to do that, I did, and guess what -

IT WORKED IN SPADES

Very few network dropouts and battery drain during 8 hour sleep cycles from 3-6%. So, as they say on Do You Want to Be a Millionaire - Regis, final answer - I'M KEEPING IT:

I think he means it this time.

This was still a tortured decision.
  • First - should I wait for the i7/512GB mini-beast?  Microsoft helped out a lot with this decision, with the impending upgrade of OneDrive to 1TB, and the fact that I am up and fully running with 152GB left on C: and 59GB on D: giving me a lot of confidence that my general cruft and detritus can RIP on the internet, and still have all the room I need on my SPro 3.
     
  • Second - what about next Spring and Broadwell? Whataboutit? In a nutshell, I don't believe we'll see much more than the Surface Pro to Surface Pro 2 "tock" of the upgrade cycle - marginally faster and more power efficient processor, perhaps a move to USB 3.1, perhaps a 512GB i5 option, but nothing that would shake my confidence in the SPro 3. It will be the Model 5 (if we get that from Microsoft) that will bring on the next bag of tricks.
  • Third - Should I stick with a full size laptop and a small tablet - NO - SPro 3 finally relieved that angst once and for all. No more fruit envy in this corner!
  • Last - All the warts. Of course it's not the perfect device. It needs TWO output ports - Thunderbolt would be fantastic; USB 3.1 (with the new connector that goes either direction - like a Lightning connector); full SDXC; 512GB option in the i5 line; magnets at top edge of screen and Type Cover so it stays shut; more control over the power profiles; LTE option for god's sake.
So what next? I plan to do a "capping" entry at this blog to talk nostalgically of my path to the SPro 3 from the groundbreaking Toshiba T1100 Plus in 1986...a real snoozer I'm sure but I'll enjoy it. Then it will be time to start my new blog - one geared towards just the Surface Pro 3 and making it useful to lawyers and other business professionals. Help ferret out the driver issues; software for the professional; integrating it into daily workflow; and of course a compendium of tips and tricks I run across on the net.
 
See you on the other side... 

 
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

UPDATED: Musings on the Morning After - Surface Pro 3 is Great



[Updated Below]

Well, so there seems to be a little bit of "first date remorse going on around the Internet this morning. Not to be unexpected when we have such extreme expectations, and it turns out our dream date has a few zits...For me, nothing of any real concern until I got here to the office for the first time. Here's a few "morning after" musings:
 
Concerns

Displayport: The old DP connector problem of the SPro 1 and SPro 2 raised its ugly head. Finally got all three screens running (super), but then if I so much as breath on the SPro 3 they all flash off and everything goes back to the SPro 3. That beveled edge, no matter how "cool" it looks, and I'm sure it helps with the illusion of being even thinner than it really is (they DEFINITELY learned that from Apple), it makes for a really crappy DP connection. I've literally cut the front edge of my plug off in an attempt to get a better connection, but that's not helping. it's as if the connector is too shallow - it sure doesn't fit in as far as it does on AcerBeast... However, I fully expect the dock to help in this regard where it won't be plugged and unplugged continually in this port.

Type Cover: A few times it "clicked in" but was not fully connected on the left side (when facing tablet) and had to be wiggled. It also seems to fall away from the tablet at the top when placed in a briefcase - be sure to secure it or your battery life will suffer (they need to add magnets to the top edge as well). More of a concern is that the new design does truly stabilize the laptop feel, but it flexes too much while typing. It "springs" when typing - perhaps I hammer too hard - but it does give when attached to front edge of tablet. These are not major concerns, however, as I intend to use the cover only when mobile and necessary, not as a full time typing solution. Besides, I secretly hope they will consider Touch Cover for an overall thinner experience.

Disk Space: This one is most definitely a personal problem, not a fault of the SPro 3 (well, it kind of is - WHY no 512GB i5 model?), because I am a terrible packrat, but I am working on it. Added a 128GB mSDXC, moved all media folders and OneDrive to the mSDXC, and am trying to move all picture archives to OneDrive.
 
Surprises (Good):
 
Now, for a few really good discoveries which some have commented on but strike me as being above and beyond....

N-Trig: I never thought I'd ever say this, but it is GOOD. Since I'm not an artist, not missing the real drawing experience of Wacom, but for note taking and simple drawings (like I would do while taking notes) it is every bit as good as Wacom was on the SPro 2.

Screen: Bigger is better - and 12" is near perfect for laptop use, yet not too big for effective tablet use. Couple with the game changing 3:2 design - now that is a bit (really?) of hyperbole, but it is so much better than 16:9 that I can't contain my enthusiasm for this one change.

Kickstand: The 150 degree angle is a note takers dream. Anyone can stand or sit and hold the tablet to take notes, but If you have ever sat at a conference table and tried to take notes it would drive you nuts with the screen sitting flat on the table. Pop the SPro 3 into the lowest kickstand setting and note taking becomes effortless and truly usable!

Overall Size and Weight: Is it "iPaddy" as Pogue referenced in his potshot against Apple, no, it is not. Is it too heavy or large to be an effective tablet - DEFINITELY NOT. I think, however, Microsoft got it backwards:

It is NOT the tablet that can replace your laptop...

IT IS the laptop that can replace your tablet...

A very subtle distinction, but I feel a real difference in how this should have been marketed. Despite some whining about needing a "true" keyboard dock, it is the best ultrabook on the planet - ARE YOU LISTENING MACBOOK AIR. What is does do is afford you the opportunity to shed the iPad Air/Galaxy Tab of choice. I realize they are shooting for those folks that are always snapping a keyboard on their iPad, but they should be focusing on down-marketing rather than up-marketing.
 
What Next:
 
I'll continue to exercise this thoroughbred around Churchill Downs for a few more weeks, but after only two days I am more impressed than with any device I've tried in the last two years. it is definitely the best Windows 8.x device on the market, and makes the two headed dragon have a real purpose and design logic.
 
What I really need is a 5" Lumia 1020+ with N-Trig support for OneNote. Actually, the SPro 3 has focused me onto the need for an ultralight, ultra-mobile, ultra-connected ALL THE TIME with me device.  Even when I had the iPad Air and the iPad Mini, I never carried either all the time, and I have suffered with the 4: iPhone long enough. The short stint with the Galaxy Note 3 showed me that a big(ger) screen phablet is what I need for full time, always there, use (despite my dislike of Android). I don't want a 1520 or Magnum, just a 5.x" always there, always connected, smartphone to act as the tether for my SPro 3!

UPDATE:

Before anybody gives up hope on the SPro 3, check out Anand's full review at:

AnandTech Surface Pro 3 Full Review

I particularly like Anand's conclusion - honest and to the point: "Personally I'd still rather carry a good notebook and a lightweight tablet, but if you are looking for a single device this is literally the only thing on the market that's worth considering. I don't know how big the professional productivity tablet market is, but it's a space that Microsoft seems to have almost exclusive reign over with its Surface line. With its latest iteration, Microsoft is serving that market better than ever."

There are two reviewers I rely on implicitly:

Anand Shimpi for the best technical review (anandtech.com)

Lisa Gade  for the best user oriented reviews (mobiletechreview.com)

Between these two, you will get the best, most even-handed and unbiased information on ANY device.

And if I want a mercurial "I either hate it or I love it" review, I go to Paul Thurrott (winsupersite.com) because it matches my temperament.

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Double Shot of Espresso Please..."


One of my favorite commentators over at Tablet PC Review, jnjroach (Jeff Roach, a Microsoft MVP), summarized the negative Surface Pro 3 reviews about as well as anyone ever has:
 
"They are a bunch of Apple Drooling Bloggers who get to wrap their swill in names like the WSJ, Engadget, etc.. These are writers not technology journalists who actually understand the technology they are reporting on, they have Art and English Lit Degrees, if it wasn't for the fact that they got writing gigs they would be '...do you want fries with that...' and dreaming of moving to '.....Double Shot Espresso with Soy???'...." jnjroach
 
The level of intellectual dishonesty going out as review is a staggering volume of biased opinion. I don't understand where they get the temerity to hawk Apple (MBA, iPad Air, rMBP) so blatantly. They literally make up complaints, magnify insignificant differences, and nuance their writings to tip the playing field every chance they get. What is their vested interest in promoting Apple's platform?
 
But I think they are starting to get trapped in their own rhetoric. People see that picture of the scales with MBA plus iPadA on one side, SPro3 plus cover on the other, and they have to wonder about the "reality" these Apple shills are trying to feed them. Don't get me wrong, Apple makes great gear, and we have a houseful of iPhones and iPads to show for it, but they can't keep blatantly lying to help their buddies (sources) over at Apple.

Just to lighten up a bit:

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Spot the irony in this tweet by Tim Cook? The iMac in front of him, helping run the Mac Pro assembly line in Austin...

IS RUNNING WINDOWS! Even Apple recognizes quality...

You do know what he's asking the worker there - "How's that refrigerator/toaster coming?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Surface Pro 3 - A New Computing Paradigm


Post-PC to Tablet-Plus

Steve Jobs declared that the iPad had brought us to the "Post-PC" era, with this analogy: "When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy... because the PC has taken us a long way."
 
Witness the first cross-over - the Surface Pro 3. Quite frankly, most in the tech press don't understand it (or don't WANT to understand it), and Microsoft exacerbated the problem by focusing on "the tablet that can replace your laptop" and aiming directly at the MacBook Air. The SPro 3 will never be as light and breezy as the iPad Air, nor will it be as stable and "lapable" as a true laptop. Just like the cross-over, it won't be as comfortable as a Mercedes sedan, nor have the hauling capacity of an F150. But you will get five full size adults to their destination in a nice comfortable cabin, yet still haul the plants and potting soil for your weekend yard work. This all came to full realization to me while reading an excellent two part series posted by Dr. Tom Grissom at his blog:
 
 
I can't recommend these two articles enough; not because of his review of the Surface Pro 3 itself (which he has yet to receive, like the rest of us mere mortals), but because of his analysis of the basic reasons for its existence, and the endless possibilities it brings to the computing table. He discusses in detail the transformative quality of what SPro 3 delivers, and although from an educational market perspective, his series of "Imagine" hypotheticals are truly the essence of what should be Microsoft's marketing campaign, not some 20-something using his SPro from an alarm clock to a board meeting in a series of fast paced disjointed MTV-like montage.
 
We are ten days from launch, and I will be using that time to build and present to you all of the reviews, hints, and other SPro 3 goodies I can find on the net. In the meantime, begin your exploration of this transformative device at your local Microsoft Store (or Best Buy - if you're lucky they'll have a demo unit), then absorb Paul Thurrott's extremely thorough review series (the link below takes you to his general review which is linked to around 20 smaller reviews he has done in the last two weeks following the announcement of the SPro 3:
 
 
.
 
 

Why I HATE The Tech Press

TOTAL RANT WARNING- this has nothing to do directly with convertibles, tablets, or even the Surface Pro 3 - but in fact does....

Yesterday, BGR ran an article entitled "Leak reveals the first details on Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ smartwatch." Microsoft Surface watch specs and features | BGR

This is the picture directly below the headline

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The author even writes: "According to the publication, the smartwatch has an elongated form factor, but isn’t “comically large” like the concept in the image above. “

Can you imagine BGR even considering mocking the future Apple watch, or anything Apple for that matter? Some (many?) may think I am being petty, but it is this kind of "journalism" that underscores the press' total hatred for anything Microsoft. For some, it is just subconscious prejudice (the Sterns and Kendricks of the world). For others it is manifest in their attitude, body language, and writing (Mossberg and the hyphen triplets Kingsley-Hughes, Vaughn-Nichols, and Baxter-Reynolds). Either way, is it any wonder that the general public has an indifference, much less disdain, for Microsoft's products. It is nearly identical to the treatment of a Democrat on Fox News or a Republican on MSNBC - they cannot see past their pre-existing prejudices.

Of course, this could all just be a figment of my imagination seeing as that I begin with the hypothesis that anyone at BGR is a journalist (whether self proclaimed or otherwise).

RANT OFF

Friday, May 30, 2014

RANT TIME - Enough Hating on the Surface Pro 3 Already

Sick and Tired of ALL the Naysayers

 
 
 
I want to begin today's post with a copy of my RANT over at Ed Botts' site at ZDNet:
 
I have NEVER seen a serious user of an iPad (Air or prior) that didn't carry a clunky keyboard base or case. IT IS NOT USABLE FOR PRODUCTIVITY WITHOUT ONE. Likewise, as Mr. Panay so aptly pointed out in the SPro 3 event, almost every Apple based productivity worker carries an iPad and a MacBook Air (or an even heavier MacBook Pro). You cannot get the Air twins at less than a COMBINED $1998 ($1299 MBA 8gb/256gb plus $699 iPad Air 64gb WiFi only - you could shave a $100 but 32GB is unrealistic by comparison), and you would still need another $39 to $119 for the iPad cover (whether smart cover or a ZAGG-like keyboard cover), for a not so grand total of $2037 - $2117 . My pre-ordered SPro 3 8gb/256gb plus type cover is $1428.

AND - we forgot to mention only the iPad Air is retina (MBA is 1440x900 - someone, really, tell Ive, Cook, and Cue that it is 2014 already); no touch screen on MBA (but it does have the best trackpad on the planet); no active digitizer for note taking; MBA and iPad run mutually exclusive operating systems; combined weight (with keyboard cover) is FIVE pounds plus; two DIFFERENT power supplies...are you dense Apple fanboys getting the picture yet...of course not...

I've owned that MBA/iPad Air combo with a Zaggkeys keyboard - a computer juggling mess. One device - 1.75# - single OS - touch screen - active digitizer - trackpad - if you can't understand that synergy, then you also believe Cook's insane "no one wants a toaster and a refrigerator" analogy - you are too dense to own a Surface Pro 3 and it was never intended for you in the first place...
 
I really am sick and tired of the Apple/Linux/Microsoft hating crowd dissing everything Microsoft. I get it - no guy in a mock turtleneck or gray t-shirt has blessed anything Microsoft with apple cider. But why do so many people have to loose every bit of intellectual honesty n their souls in order to defend their cherished platform? Why we are at it, lets dispense with any pretense that ANY device can be "perfect" in the eyes of the Technorati unless it is fruit branded...
 
Please be sure to read this excellent article by Pete Pachal over at Mashable - this paragraph sums up the entire debate about the Surface Pro 3:
 
But as everything devices go, the Surface Pro 3 scores very high. The point isn't to be the best at any singular task — it's to negate the need to carry, and even own, multiple devices that do pretty close to the same thing anyway. For the Surface, redundancy is the enemy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Great News - Surface Pro 3 - And a WARNING

LET'S GET THE WARNING OUT OF THE WAY:

You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!

Apple can be evil - if you have ever used iMessage on your iPhone, and then you want to move on to Android or Windows Phone, woe be on to you...you will spend an eternity trying to get your texts from other users who have iPhones and have been texting with them before the switch. I gave up on the Galaxy Note 3, and back to the iPhone, just for text sanity. Trust me, this is a real problem - all of the store personnel know about it but are powerless, and Apple is being sued over it. There are numerous solutions on the web, but they don't always work . My advice, well before your next upgrade, if you are trying to leave Apple, start at least a few months in advance: turn off iMessage on your iPhone, tell your friends to delete your conversations, have them delete your contact info from their iPhone, put you back in their contacts, and start trading texts as SMS (oh, by the way, if they send you a text, and it still appears as blue on their screen, tell them to hold it until it turns green, then re-send by SMS).
 
GOOD NEWS - Surface Pro 3 Was Announced Before My 30 Days Ran Out!
 
Witness the best looking tablet on the planet (and I'll wager best ultrabook ever):
 
Courtesy Microsoft Store
I've still been having daisy chaining problems with my Surface Pro 2, and Microsoft hasn't been able to stabilize it, and with the announcement yesterday of the Surface Pro 3, I called, they took it back, and the i5/256GB model will be shipping to my house on June 20. I truly believe Microsoft has slayed it by making a true tablet that CAN replace your laptop. Thanks to its 3:2 12" screen, it also looks like the BEST magazine/book reader, annotator, and note taking device going.
 
Do yourselves a favor, and watch the full Microsoft event; it is worth the time:
 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hello Galaxy Note 3 - You are One BIG PHONE


Well, ok, it's not quite THAT bad, but it is pretty big...


I try to use the "cover the phone with your hand" trick, but my hand is really not big enough for that...but I have to admit that I am hooked after only 24 hours of using this beast. It has the best,clearest, brightest, sharpest, fastest screen I have EVER used on a smartphone. It is a joy for reading email, Kindle books, and my legal services (like Fastcase, TX Laws - all the Texas statutes and codes), and general web browsing. Is it more cramped than a 7"-8" tablet - most certainly. Is it heavenly compared to 5" or less smartphones - absolutely.
 
In fact, if only OneNote for Android had inking support, there would be absolutely no reason to carry a separate tablet - ANY ultrabook (including my trusty Surface Pro 2) and the Galaxy Note 3 would have all the bases covered.
 
What this is really saying to yours truly is WHERE IS MY 5.5" SURFACE PHONE WITH WACOM?  Just think how awesome an upgraded Lumia 1020 would be with a larger screen, 41 megapixel camera, and an S-Pen for proper note taking. Keep it to 5"-5.7" (Lumia 1520 need not apply), with full OneNote ink support, and it would be the killer companion device.
 
So until then, the search is on for making this GN3 the best companion device possible. There is an excellent Exchange client (Touchdown - $19.99) and lots of free/low cost software out there, and I'll be taking those up as I integrate this with the Surface Pro 2 experience.
 
PS - thanks to the S-Pen, I now have an "always with me" stylus for all the times I lost/forgot the SPro 2 pen...