Scott Hanselman

Solved: Surface Pro 3 USB Driver Issues with the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit

June 21, '17 Comments [5] Posted in Hardware
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I've got a personal Surface Pro 3 that I like very much. It's worked great for years and I haven't had any issues with it. However, yesterday while installing a 3rd party USB device something got goofed around with the drivers and I ended up in this state.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) Controller banged out in Device Manager

That "banged out" device in my Device Manager is the root Universal Serial Bus (USB) Controller for the Surface. That means everything  USB didn't work since everything USB hangs off that root device node. I know it's an Intel USB 3.0 xHCI Host Controller but I didn't want to go installing random Intel Drivers. I just wanted the Surface back the way it was, working, with the standard drivers.

I tried the usual stuff like Uninstalling the Device and rebooting, hoping Windows would heal it but it didn't work. Because the main USB device was dead that meant my Surface Type Keyboard didn't work, my mouse didn't work, nothing. I had to do everything with the touchscreen.

After a little poking around on Microsoft Support websites, a friend turned me onto the "Surface Tools for IT." These are the tools that IT Departments use when they are rolling out a bunch of Surfaces to an organization and they are regularly updated. In fact, these were updated just yesterday!

Surface Diagnostic Toolkit

There are a number of utilities you can check out but the most useful is the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit. It checks hardware and software versions and found a number of little drivers things wrong...and fixed them. It reset my USB Controller and put in the right driver and I'm back in business.

This util was useful enough to me that I wish it had been installed by default on the Surface and plugged into the built-in Windows Troubleshooting feature.

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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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Exploring the Tessel 2 IoT and robotics development board

December 27, '16 Comments [10] Posted in Hardware
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13841-01I'm still on vacation and still on the mend from surgery. I'm continuing to play around with IoT devices on my staycation. Last week I looked at these devices:

Today I'm messing with the Tessel 2. You can buy it from SparkFun for the next few weeks for US$40. The  Tessel is pretty cool as a tiny device because it includes WiFi on the board as well as two USB ports AND on-board Ethernet. It includes a two custom "module" ports where you can pop in 10-pin modules like Accelerometers, Climate sensors, IR and more. There's also community-created Tessel modules for things like Color Sensing and Motion.

Tessel is programmable in JavaScript and runs Node. Here's the tech specs:

  • 580MHz Mediatek MT7620n
  • Linux built on OpenWRT
  • 802.11bgn WiFi
  • WEP, WPA, WPA2-PSK, WPA2-Enterprise
  • 64MB DDR2 RAM
  • 32MB Flash
  • 16 pins GPIO, 7 of which support analog in
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports with per-port power switching

Tessel isn't a company, it's a open source project! They are on Twitter at @tesselproject and on GitHub here

NOTE: Some users - including me - have had issues with some Windows machines not recognizing the Tessel 2 over USB. I spent some time exploring this thread on their support site and had to update its firmware but I haven't had issues since.

Once you've plugged your Tessel in, you talk to it with their node based "t2" command line:

>t2 list
INFO Searching for nearby Tessels...
USB Tessel-02A3226BCFA3
LAN Tessel-02A3226BCFA3

It's built on OpenWRT and you can even SSH into it if you want. I haven't needed to though as I just want to write JavaScript and push  projects to it. It's nice to know that you CAN get to the low-level stuff I you need to, though.

For example, here's a basic "blink an LED" bit of code:

// Import the interface to Tessel hardware
var tessel = require('tessel');

// Turn one of the LEDs on to start.

// Blink!
setInterval(function () {
}, 600);

console.log("I'm blinking! (Press CTRL + C to stop)");

The programming model is very familiar, and they've abstracted away the complexities of most of the hardware. Here's a GPS example:

var tessel = require('tessel');
var gpsLib = require('gps-a2235h');

var gps = gpsLib.use(tessel.port['A']);

// Wait until the module is connected
gps.on('ready', function () {
console.log('GPS module powered and ready. Waiting for satellites...');
// Emit coordinates when we get a coordinate fix
gps.on('coordinates', function (coords) {
console.log('Lat:',, '\tLon:', coords.lon, '\tTimestamp:', coords.timestamp);

// Emit altitude when we get an altitude fix
gps.on('altitude', function (alt) {
console.log('Got an altitude of', alt.alt, 'meters (timestamp: ' + alt.timestamp + ')');

// Emitted when we have information about a fix on satellites
gps.on('fix', function (data) {
console.log(data.numSat, 'fixed.');

gps.on('dropped', function(){
// we dropped the gps signal
console.log("gps signal dropped");

gps.on('error', function(err){
console.log("got this error", err);

Of course, since it's using node and it has great Wifi or wired, the Tessel can also be a web server! Here we return the image from a USB camera.

var av = require('tessel-av');
var os = require('os');
var http = require('http');
var port = 8000;
var camera = new av.Camera();

http.createServer((request, response) => {
response.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'image/jpg' });


}).listen(port, () => console.log(`http://${os.hostname()}.local:${port}`));

I'll make a Hello World webserver:

var tessel = require('tessel');
var http = require('http');

var server = http.createServer(function (request, response) {
  response.writeHead(200, {"Content-Type": "text/plain"});
  response.end("Hello from Tessel!\n");
console.log("Server running at");

Then push the code to the Tessel like this:

>t2 push index.js
INFO Looking for your Tessel...
INFO Connected to Tessel-02A3226BCFA3.
INFO Building project.
INFO Writing project to Flash on Tessel-02A3226BCFA3 (3.072 kB)...
INFO Deployed.
INFO Your Tessel may now be untethered.
INFO The application will run whenever Tessel boots up.
INFO To remove this application, use "t2 erase".
INFO Running index.js...

Where is my Tessel on my network?

>t2 wifi
INFO Looking for your Tessel...
INFO Connected to Tessel-02A3226BCFA3.
INFO Connected to "HANSELMAN"
INFO IP Address:
INFO Signal Strength: (33/70)
INFO Bitrate: 29mbps

Now I'll hit the webserver and there it is!


There's a lot of cool community work happening around Tessel.  You can get involved with the Tessel community if you're interested:

  • Join us on Slack — Collaboration and real time discussions (Recommended! - ask your questions here).
  • Tessel Forums — General discussion and support by the Tessel community.
  • — Community-submitted projects made with Tessel.
  • — Join a Tessel meetup near you! Meetups happen around the world and are the easiest way to play with hardware in person.
  • #tessel on Freenode — IRC channel for development questions and live help.
  • Stack Overflow — Technical questions about using Tessel

Sponsor: Big thanks to Telerik! They recently published a comprehensive whitepaper on The State of C#, discussing the history of C#, what’s new in C# 7 and whether C# is the top tech to know. Check it out!

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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Connecting my Particle Photon Internet of Things device to the Azure IoT Hub

December 20, '16 Comments [1] Posted in Azure | Hardware
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Particle Photon connected to the cloudMy vacation continues. Yesterday I had shoulder surgery (adhesive capsulitis release) so today I'm messing around with Azure IoT Hub. I had some devices on my desk - some of which I had never really gotten around to exploring - and I thought I'd see if I could accomplish something.

I've got a Particle Photon here, as well as a Tessel 2, a LattePanda, Funduino, and Onion Omega. A few days ago I was able to get the Onion Omega to show my blood sugar on a small OLED screen, which was cool. Tonight I'm going to try to hook the Particle Photon up to the Azure IoT hub for monitoring.

The Photon is a tiny little device with Wi-Fi built-in. It's super easy to setup and it has a cloud-based IDE with tons of examples written in C and Node.js for you to use. Particle Photon also has a node.js based command line. From there you can list out your Photons, see their available functions, and even call functions over the internet! A hacker's delight, to be sure.

Here's a standard "blink an LED" Hello world on a Photon. This one creates a cloud function called "led" and binds it to the "ledToggle" method. Those cloud methods take a string, so there's no enum for the on/off command.

int led1 = D0;
int led2 = D7;
void setup() {
pinMode(led1, OUTPUT);
pinMode(led2, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(led1, LOW);
digitalWrite(led2, LOW);

void loop() {

int ledToggle(String command) {
if (command=="on") {
return 1;
else if (command=="off") {
return 0;
else {
return -1;

From the command line I can use the Particle command line interface (CLI) to enumerate my devices:

C:\Users\scott>particle list
hansel_photon [390039000647xxxxxxxxxxx] (Photon) is online
int led(String args)

See how it doesn't just enumerate devices, but also cloud methods that hang off devices? LOVE THIS.

I can get a secret API Key from the Particle Photon's cloud based Console. Then using my Device ID and auth token I can call the method...with an HTTP request! How much easier could this be?

C:\Users\scott\>curl -d access_token=31fa2e6f --insecure -d arg="on"
"id": "390039000647xxxxxxxxx",
"last_app": "",
"connected": true,
"return_value": 1

At this moment the LED on the Particle Photon turns on. I'm going to change the code a little and add some telemetry using the Particle's online code editor.

Editing Particle Photon Code online

They've got a great online code editor, but I could also edit and compile the code locally:

C:\Users\scott\Desktop>particle compile photon webconnected.ino

Compiling code for photon

attempting to compile firmware
downloading binary from: /v1/binaries/5858b74667ddf87fb2a2df8f
saving to: photon_firmware_1482209089877.bin
Memory use:
text data bss dec hex filename
6156 12 1488 7656 1de8
Compile succeeded.
Saved firmware to: C:\Users\scott\Desktop\photon_firmware_1482209089877.bin

I'll change the code to announce an "Event" when I turn on the LED.

if (command=="on") {

String data = "Amazing! Some Data would be here! The light is on.";
Particle.publish("ledBlinked", data);

return 1;

I can head back over to the and see these events live on the web:

Particle Photon's have great online charts

Particle also supports integration with Google Cloud and Azure IoT Hub. Azure IoT Hub allows you to manage billions of devices and all their many billions of events. I just have a few, but we all have to start somewhere. ;)

I created a free Azure IoT Hub in my Azure Account...

Azure IoT Hub has charts and graphs built in

And made a shared access policy for my Particle Devices.

Be sure to set all the Access Policy Permissions you need

Then I told Particle about Azure in their Integrations system.

Particle has Azure IoT Hub integration built in

The Azure IoT SDKS on GitHub at have both a Windows-based Azure IoT Explorer and a command-line one called IoT Hub Explorer.

I logged in to the IoT Hub Explorer using the connection string from the Azure Portal:

iothub-explorer login ";SharedAccessKeyName=particle-iot-hub;SharedAccessKey=rdWUVMXs="

Then I'll run "iothub-explorer monitor-events" passing in the device ID and the connection string for the shared access policy. Monitor-events is cool because it'll hang and just output the events as they're flowing through the whole system.

IoTHub-Explorer monitor-events command line

So I'm able to call methods on the Particle using their cloud, and monitor events from within Azure IoT Hub. I can explore diagnostics data and query huge amounts of device-to-cloud data that would potentially flow in from my hardware devices.

The IoT Hub Limits are very generous for free/hobbyist users as we learn to develop. I haven't paid anything yet. However, it can scale to thousands of messages a second per unit! That means millions of messages a second if you need it.

I can definitely see how the the value an IoT Hub solution like this would add up quickly after you've got more than one device. Text files don't really scale. Even if I just IoT'ed up my house, it would be nice to have all that data flowing into a single hub I could manage and query securely.

Sponsor: Big thanks to Telerik! They recently published a comprehensive whitepaper on The State of C#, discussing the history of C#, what’s new in C# 7 and whether C# is the top tech to know. Check it out!

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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Playing with an Onion Omega IoT device to show live Blood Sugar on an OLED screen

December 14, '16 Comments [6] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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arduino_lb3dg8I've been playing with IoT stuff on my vacation. Today I'm looking at an Onion Omega. This is a US$19 computer that you can program with Python, Node.js, or C/C++. There's a current IndieGogo happening for the Onion Omega2 for $5. That's a $5 Linux computer with Wi-Fi. Realistically you'd want to spend more and get expansion docks, chargers, batteries, etc, but you get the idea. I got the original Omega along with the bluetooth dongle, Arduino compatible base, tiny OLED screen. A ton of stuff to play with for less than $100.

Note that I am not affiliated with Onion at all and I paid for it with my own money, to use for fun.

One of the most striking things about the Onion Omega line is how polished it is. There's lots of tiny Linux Machines that basically drop you at the command line and say "OK, SSH in and here's root." The Onion Omega is far more polished.

Onion Omega has a very polished Web UI

The Omega can do that for you, but if you have Bonjour installed (for zeroconf networking) and can SSH in once to setup Wi-Fi, you're able to access this lovely web-based interface.

Look at all the info about the Omega's memory, networking, device status, and more

This clean, local web server and useful UI makes the Onion Omega extremely useful as a teaching tool. The Particle line of IoT products has a similarly polished web-interfaces, but while the Onion uses a local web server and app, the Particle Photon uses a cloud-based app that bounces down to a local administrative interface on the device. There's arguments for each, but I remain impressed with how easy it was for me to update the firmware on the Omega and get a new experience. Additionally, I made a few mistakes and "bricked" it and was able - just by following some basic instructions - to totally reflash and reset it to the defaults in just about 10 minutes. Impressive docs for an impressive product.


Onion Omega based Glucose Display via NightScout

So it's a cool product, but how quickly can I do something trivial, but useful? Well, I have a NightScout open source diabetes management server with an API that lets me see my blood sugar. The resulting JSON looks like this:


That number under "sgv" (serum glucose value) is 135 mg/dl. That's my blood sugar right now. I could get n values back from the WebAPI and plot a chart, but baby steps. Note also the "direction" for my sugars is "flat." It's not rising nor falling in any major way.

Let's add the OLED Display to the Onion Omega and show my sugars. Since it's an OpenWRT Linux machine, I can just add Python!

opkg update
opkg install python

Some may (and will) argue that for a small IoT system, Linux is totally overkill. Sure, it likely it. But it's also very productive, fun to prototype with, and functional. Were I to go to market for real, I'd likely use something more hardened.

As I said, I could SSH into the machine but since the Web UI is so nice, it includes an HTML-based terminal!

A Terminal built in!

The Onion Omega includes not just libraries for expansions like the OLED Display, but also command-line utilities. This script clears the display, initializes it, and displays some text. The value of that text will come from my yet-to-be-written python script.


oled-exp -c

VAR=$(python ./

oled-exp -i
oled-exp write "$VAR"

Then in my Python script I could print the value that would be returned into VAR and then printed with the oled-exp command line utility.

OR, I can bypass the shell script entirely and use the Python Module for this OLED screen directly and do this. Grab the JSON, clean it up because apparently the json library sucks (?), then display it.

#!/usr/bin/env python                                                                                                        

from OmegaExpansion import oledExp
import urllib
import json


info="\n" + str(sugar)+" mg/dl and "+direction


Now here's a pic of my live blood sugar on the Onion Omega with the OLED! I could put this to run on a timer and I'm off to the races.

The OLED Screen says "149 mg/dl and Flat"

The next step might be to clean up the output, parse the date better, and perhaps even dynamically generate a sparkline and display the graphic on the small B&W OLED Screen.

Have you used a small Linux IoT device like the Onion Omega?

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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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Learning Arduino the fun way - Writing Games with Arduboy

October 18, '16 Comments [3] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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IMG_1666My kids and I are always tinkering with gadgets and electronics. If you follow me on Instagram you'll notice our adventures as we've built a small Raspberry Pi powered arcade, explored retro-tech, built tiny robots, 3D printed a GameBoy (PiGrrl, in fact), and lots more.

While we've done a bunch of small projects with Arduinos, it's fair to say that there's a bit of a gap when one is getting started with Arduino. Arduinos aren't like Raspberry PIs. They don't typically have a screen or boot to a desktop. They are amazing, to be sure, but not everyone lights up when faced with a breadboard and a bunch of wires.

The Arduboy is a tiny, inexpensive hardware development platform based on Arduino. It's like a GameBoy that has an Arduino at its heart. It comes exactly as you see in the picture to the right. It uses a micro-USB cable (included) and has buttons, a very bright black and white OLED screen, and a speaker. Be aware, it's SMALL. Smaller than a GameBoy. This is a game that will fit in an 8 year old's pocket. It's definitely-fun sized and kid-sized. I could fit a half-dozen in my pocket.

The quick start for the Arduboy is quite clear. My 8 year old and I were able to get Hello World running in about 10 minutes. Just follow the guide and be sure to paste in the custom Board Manager URL to enable support in the IDE for "Arduboy."

The Arduboy is just like any other Arduino in that it shows up as a COM port on your Windows machine. You use the same free Arduino IDE to program it, and you utilize the very convenient Arduboy libraries to access sound, draw on the screen, and interact with the buttons.

To be clear, I have no relationship with the Arduboy folks, I just think it's a killer product. You can order an Arduboy for US$49 directly from their website. It's available in 5 colors and has these specs:


  • Processor: ATmega32u4 (same as Arduino Leonardo & Micro)
  • Memory: 32KB Flash, 2.5KB RAM, 1KB EEPROM
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0 w/ built in HID profile
  • Inputs: 6 momentary tactile buttons
  • Outputs: 128x64 1Bit OLED, 2 Ch. Piezo Speaker & Blinky LED
  • Battery: 180 mAh Thin-Film Lithium Polymer
  • Programming: Arduino IDE, GCC & AVRDude

There's also a friendly little app called Arduboy Manager that connects to an online repository of nearly 50 games and quickly installs them. This proved easier for my 8 year old than downloading the source, compiling, and uploading each time he wanted to try a new game.

The best part about Arduboy is its growing community. There's dozens if not hundreds of people learning how to program and creating games. Even if you don't want to program one, the list of fun games is growing every day.

The games are all open source and you can read the code while you play them. As an example, there's a little game called CrazyKart and the author says it's their first game! The code is on GitHub. Just clone it (or download a zip file) and open the .ino file into your Arduino IDE.

Arduboys are easy to program

Compile and upload the app while the Arduboy is connected to your computer. The Arduboy holds just one game at a time. Here's Krazy Kart as a gif:

Because the Arduboy is so constrained, it's a nice foray into game development for little ones - or any one. The screen is just 128x64 and most games use sprites consisting of 1 bit (just black or white). The Arduboy library is, of course, also open source and includes the primitives that most games will need, as well as lots of examples. You can draw bitmaps, swap frames, draw shapes, and draw characters.

We've found the Arduboy to be an ideal on ramp for the kids to make little games and learn basic programming. It's a bonus that they can easily take their games with them and share with their friends.

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