Scott Hanselman

Using a Surface Pro 3 full time for two months

October 13, '14 Comments [49] Posted in Reviews
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en-INTL-PDP-Surface-Cover-Black-RD2-00080-LargeBack in August I posted my initial impressions of a Surface Pro 3 after using it for a week or so. I paid for the Surface Pro 3 with my own money and have been using it as my primary machine ever since. I've been using it now for two months full time and figured it was time to break down the good, the bad, and the weird.

I won't waste your time telling you specs and details you can search for. Instead, I'll tell you what has worked and what hasn't the last few months.

The Good

  • It's very fast. I haven't had any issues or concerns about performance. I've given talks internationally this last few months and used this Surface Pro 3 for demos involving multiple instances of Visual Studio without concern.
  • I always want more memory, but 8 gigs has been fine. I can run Hyper-V or VirtualBox and run at least one VM without concern. Even better is running the VM off a USB3 hard drive. However, 12 gigs of RAM would have been a nice option.
  • Running two monitors with the Surface Pro 3 Dock is pretty perfect. I'm having no major issues with my 24" monitors. A little more on some subtle video card things below under "The Weird."
  • It's far more usable in your lap than previous Surface versions. I'm sitting on my front porch right now, in fact, typing this post while the kids run around. It's actually kind of nicer than a laptop in that the screen part doesn't flop as I type.
  • The Dock is exceptional. It adds 3 USB 3 ports and 2 USB 2 ports, for a system-wide total of 6 ports. It adds a second Mini DisplayPort as well as Gigabit Ethernet and an audio jack. Drop in, go. It also works nicely with Mouse Without Borders.
  • The kick stand is brilliant. Having a continuous kickstand is perfect and useful. Every tablet should have one.
  • It's really an everything/everywhere machine. I use it for work, then remove the keyboard and use it on the treadmill for movies.
  • I added a 64 gig MicroSD card and put movies on it. Works great on a plane and everyone loves the kickstand and comments on it.
  • The pen is fantastic, but I don't really use it for anything other than OneNote.

The Bad

  • I'm underwhelmed by the battery life. I have been generally underwhelmed with batteries in general in the last year. From my iPhone 5S to my Lenovo to this Surface Pro, all batteries seem to last about 5 hours for me. This is "fine." But it's not awesome. I never take any device anywhere without some subconscious concern about the battery. It's not an all-day battery. From what I can tell the number one thing you can do to get it to last longer is to lower the screen brightness. Unfortunately for me, I like a bright screen.
  • I almost point this under the Weird, but I just don't like the Touchpad on the Surface Pro 3. It's OK, but it's not epic. A MacBook Pro is a universally loved touch surface. No one knows why, but it just feels right. The Surface Pro 3 touchpad is one of the best I've used, but it's very small and you'll want to at least adjust the pointer speed under Motion without Mouse Properties. While I don't use it as a mouse, it's gesture support for pinch to zoom and scrolling is excellent. That said, you'll end up using the touchscreen for that naturally.
  • With every Surface I've ever used there's been this weird thing where it would stop seeing the keyboard. It happens maybe once in 30 attaches, but it's annoying. Just detach and reattach, but it's clearly a flaky bug and I've seen it maybe 8 times in the last two months.
  • I spend a lot of time in Google Chrome and while it's great on my desktop, I must say that using Google Chrome on a hybrid like the Surface that has both touch and high-dpi really makes Chrome feel unpolished. Touch support in Chrome is there, scrolling and pinch to zoom work, but with newer betas there are weird zoom effects they appear to be bringing over from Android.
  • In recent Chrome builds it started popping up the Virtual Keyboard. Unfortunately, that's not Chrome's job to pop up the keyboard. ;) The keyboard pops up when a physical keyboard isn't attached. However, Chrome pops it up whenever a text box is touched, and even worse, resizes the window to half height. It's REALLY annoying. I just can't use Chrome or recommend it on a touch screen. I'd love it if someone from the Chrome team would get in touch with me or someone at Microsoft because this kind of thing makes everyone look bad. Here's an eight month old thread that continues filled with folks with this issue.

The Weird and The Subtle

  • Early on, before the first firmware update that came over Windows Update, I was seeing some concerning heat coming off the the back right side. I had one "thermal shutdown" while sitting in my car. I haven't seen any heat issues since the most recent firmware updates, but it was initially concerning. Ultimately I did have to come to terms with the fact that mine is an i7 processor, not an iPad Air. It does have a fan and it will use it if you are running Handbrake and compressing video.
  • Hotkeys and the keyboard take a week or so to get used to. One feature I'd like to see (can you hear me Surface Team?) is to be able to have F1-F8 be function keys and F9-F12 stay as Home/End/Page Up and Page Down. It took me a while to figure out some of the more subtle hotkeys on a Surface Pro 3 keyboard, for example:
    • Toggle Fn lock - Pressing Fn-CapsLock will toggle the top row to stay as Function Keys.
    • Fn+Spacebar - Printscreen
    • Fn+Del and Fn+Backspace - Brightness up and down
    • Fn+Up and Fn+Down - Page up and Page Down (in addition to the other PgUp/PgDn keys.
    • Windows Key + Vol Down - Screenshot to screenshots folder
  • I think Windows on a tablet should be more aggressive about what it does in the background on a tablet. Every once in a while there's some indexing service or malware service that slows everything down. It's no more on a Surface than it is on my other devices, but somehow I'm more aware of it with this device. When I'm not plugged in or have my keyboard removed, Windows needs to CHILL OUT.

I recommend the Surface. It's an amazing, fast, thin device. It's got some quirks, but I've had two firmware updates in as many months, and Microsoft has publically said it would support it (as well it should) with Windows 10. I think the Surface Pro 3 will likely get more useful updates, as driver updates, pen updates, and firmware updates that will make it better.

Finally, Windows 10 and the "Continuum" concept cannot come fast enough. It's exactly the behavior I want on this device.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Plex for Xbox One is here and my life is complete - Plus Synology setup how-to

October 8, '14 Comments [31] Posted in Musings
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Plex on a SynologyI love my Synology NAS, and I love Plex. I also love my Xbox One. Finally, today these three things are working together to give me a lovely unified view of my media library.

I have a Synology 1511 (the Synology 1513 is today's model). It's a 5 bay Intel-based NAS. I put four 2TB 7200 Seagate drives in it. In the few years since I've had the Synology I've had 2 drives fail and in each case the Synology emailed me, I pulled the drive and replaced them (I now keep two spares around) and rebuilt without incident.

I run Plex on this Synology as it also hosts all my family photos, family videos, and DVD backups. The Synology (since I upgraded the RAM cheaply) also runs Surveillance Station monitoring 4 IP cameras posted around my house, as well as  VPN Server, *and* CrashPlan cloud backup. I used to run most of this stuff on my desktop, but I'm convinced more and more that every connected home needs a Home Server. I've even added a Git Server, iTunes Server, and a "Cloud Station" which is basically "Personal DropBox." Glorious.

I use Plex extensively on my iPad and Surface Pro 3. One of the best features (there's a million) is being able to seamlessly mark a file as "offline" and sync it to a portable device. Makes airplane travel a lot nicer.

The one missing part has always been watching Plex on my big screen. While I do have a Chromecast and we enjoy it, the Xbox One is our set-top box. We changed an option on the Xbox under Settings so it "Boots to TV." The Xbox controls our DirectTV and my wife uses a Logitech Harmony One Remote that we still love. From the Xbox we can "Xbox Watch Netflix" or "Xbox Watch HBO" and it just does the right thing. But switching inputs to the Chromecast, getting a tablet out, starting Plex on the tablet and throwing it to the TV requires more tech than my wife is willing to give.

Until now. Plex is out on Xbox One (and Xbox 360) and there was much rejoicing. A Plex Pass is required, but it's SO worth it, and not expensive.

What you'll need

  • Plex Server running somewhere - You can run it on any decent NAS, your desktop machine, or any machine you have laying around.
  • A Plex Pass - A monthly or yearly subscription. It's a fantastic value. You CAN use Plex free, but with the Pass you get the offline sync, Xbox support, Movie Trailers, Cloud Storage Sync, and Camera Upload.

One note for Synology people like me, you’ll need to install the latest Plex Pass preview release of the server (v0.9.10.3). Not a huge deal, go to Plex Downloads and get the right version for your Nas. I downloaded, then logged into Synology and did a manual install.

PLEX ALL THE THINGS

Now, go to the Xbox One App Store and download it and sign in. If you'd signed in before and got a warning that your Plex Server was the wrong version, you'll want to shut down the Plex app completely or reboot the Xbox to get a proper retry going.

Plex on Xbox One

The app looks fantastic, supports both Kinect AND Voice and really fits in with the other apps I use like Hulu and Netflix.

Plex Home Screen

Movies, TV, whatever.

Plex Home Screen

Plex is epic because it's your media EVERYWHERE. Here's a picture of the devices that my family have used to talk to Plex this year.

Plex Devices

Anyway, enough gushing. I couldn't be more thrilled. If you are already a Plex user, you're gonna love this. I'll do a full video and walkthrough of my setup soon, but Plex on Xbox One has finally turned my Xbox One into the ultimate media server. When the Media Player with DLNA support releases in a few weeks on Xbox One, it'll just be gravy.

Related Links


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselman's Newsletter of Wonderful Things: September 5th, 2014

October 7, '14 Comments [6] Posted in Newsletter
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I have a "whenever I get around to doing it" Newsletter of Wonderful Things. Why a newsletter? I dunno. It seems more personal somehow. Fight me.

You can view all the previous newsletters here. You can sign up here to the Newsletter of Wonderful Things or just wait and get them some weeks later on the blog, which hopefully you have subscribed to. If you're signed up via email, you'll get all the goodness FIRST. I also encourage you to subscribe to my blog. You can also have all my blog posts delivered via email if you like.

Scott Hanselman

(BTW, since you *love* email you can subscribe to my blog via email here: http://feeds.hanselman.com/ScottHanselman DO IT!)

P.P.S. You know you can forward this to your friends, right?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Automating the tedious parts of open source on Azure

October 6, '14 Comments [12] Posted in Azure | Open Source
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Contributing to Open Source is a great way to get involved in community. Usually it's as simple as making your contribution, but when you start getting involved with larger projects at larger companies, legal gets involved. Projects need to have a "CLA" or Contributor License Agreement. For example, AngularJS has a form to fill out before sending a pull request. For individuals, it's a small form, but for companies, it's scanning, emailing, and/or faxing time.

As more and more of Azure goes open source with Azure SDK for .NET, PowerShell CmdLets, Mobile Services all on GitHub, as well as all the documentation available on GitHub as Markdown it needs to be easier to accept pull requests (PRs).

In fact, at the bottom of all the Azure Documentation is now a "Contribute to this article" where you can send PRs to help improve the docs or fix technical errors.

Contribute to Azure Articles

In order to make Contributing easier, the Azure folks made an Azure Pull Request Bot. It will automatically look at a PR, figure out if a contributor needs a CLA, setup the online form, even accept digital signatures and more! Even better, the way you start the bot's process is that you send a PR.

I'm going to submit a PR for Azure Documentation, specifically the article on Creating a Virtual Machine.

First, I'll fork the Azure Docs Repo from the GitHub site.

Forking a Repo

Next, I'll work on the article from my fork. I could do this locally, or on the GitHub site directly depending on the size of what I'm doing. The CLA only needs to be signed if you're changing more than about 15 lines.

Forking

The article on GitHub is here but I'll work on my fork here. It's Markdown, so I can either use an editor like MarkdownPad or edit online. I made a number of changes, some corrections, some additions to this article. Next I create a Pull Request.

Making a Pull Request

After making the pull request - instantly - the GitHub PR gets a comment from the Azure Pull Request Bot!

The Azure PR Bot

And the PR gets a label showing the status of my PR as requiring a CLA.

CLA Required

I click the link and can sign in with my GitHub account.

DocuSign at work

I fill out a quick form...

Who's my boss?

In a couple of minutes a verified email shows up from Docusign.

Signing the Document

I sign it, and I'm all set! The PR and CLA will get evaluated and merged. I'm hoping this process might be used by other teams at Microsoft as we continue to Open Source All The Things.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Can you trust your browser extensions? Exploring an ad-injecting chrome extension

October 3, '14 Comments [43] Posted in Musings
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My perspective on JavaScript-based browser extensions has been far too naïve until this point. We were all burned by bad toolbars or evil ActiveX add-ons in the past, so when I run IE I run it with no add-ons enabled, or very few. However, with Google Chrome and it's sync feature, as well as its rich extension store, it's easy to add a bunch of add-ons and get them synced to other machines.

I wanted to download a YouTube video recently so I installed a "U-Tube Downloader" extension. It is highly rated, seemed legit, so I added it. It puts a nice Download button next to any YouTube video. Like greasemonkey script it was there when I needed and it, and out of sight otherwise.

I installed it and forgot about it. So, put a pin in that and read on...

image

Today I was on my own site and this happened. A video slid onto my page from the right side and started playing. I was gobsmacked. I know this site, I know its code. I know my advertisers. WTH. Where is this coming from?

It's the surfing video there in the lower right corner.

newevil

First I knee-jerk emailed my advertiser asking if they were injecting this, then I pulled back and started to Inspect Element.

Looks like there's a supporting iframe, along with an injected div. That div includes JS from "vidible.tv" and the ads are picked from "panoramatech." But that's not all.

image

There's references to literally a half-dozen other ad-networks and then this, something called RevJet.

image

Search around and here's the first description of what RevJet is.

image

Whoa, ok, it's an extension. But which one? Grep for "Rev" in this folder C:\Users\Scott\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Extensions and I my U-Tube one.

Nicest Ad Ever

I particularly like the comment "nicest ad ever."

image

This extension also injects ads from "Yllix" when I'm on YouTube, and RevJet when elsewhere. Apparently if I set revjetoptout in my local storage, I can get around this. Very NOT intuitive. I saw no options for this extension exposing this.

image

Worse yet, every once in a while, Kim Kardashian shows up in my New Tab page. Again, there's no way for non-technical relative to figure this out. And it's pretty hard for technical me to figure it out. This is deceptive at best.

BxmVMpICUAA6lZq

Ugh.

Yes, I realize someone put work into this extension, and yes, I realize it was free. However, it wasn't clear that it was going to randomly inject ads into any website without asking. It wasn't clear that the ads were injected by this extension. There was/is no clear way for anyone without the ability to debug this to make it stop. Charge me a $1, but don't reach into webpages I visit and mess with my content without telling me.

I recommend you check out chrome://extensions/ and give each enabled one a good hard look. Consider disabling or uninstalling extensions you may have forgotten about or ones you don't explicitly trust. If you're a dev, consider reading the code within the extensions and make sure you're getting what you expect.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.