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Category: Hardware

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

First Impressions of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Over a week ago I finally got my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and I will try to cover my first impressions in this blog post. Two years ago I replaced my notebook with the Surface Pro and one year later I replaced the Surface Pro with the Surface Pro 2. I have used both devices as my primary work devices for work as a consultant, at university and at home. The Surface is the perfect work device since I travel a lot. With the Surface I replaced my notebook, my desktop and my tablet with one single device. I always had one complain about the Surface and this was the screen size. If you travel and you work 8-10 hours in front of a 10-inch screen, you start thinking about a bigger screen. Lucky with the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft changed that. Now the Surface Pro 3 got a 12-inch screen and they also changed the ratio from 16:9 to 3:2 which makes a huge difference in terms of space on the screen. I just love the new screen size, it is absolutely perfect and still not too large for traveling. But let me jump back to the review.

Technical Specifications

Surface Pro 3 Specifications

First of all I got the I7 version with 265GB of storage:

  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Size: 292.1mm x 201.4mm x 9.1mm
  • Weight: 800 grams
  • Screen: 12” ClearType Full HD Plus
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1440
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:2
  • Touch: Multi-touch
  • Battery Life: Up to 9 hours of web browsing
  • Storage and RAM: 64GB or 128GB storage with 4GB RAM and 256GB or 512GB storage with 8GB RAM
  • CPU: 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (i3, i5, i7)
  • TPM Chip for enterprise security
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth® 4.0 Low Energy technology
  • Full-size USB 3.0
  • microSD™ card reader
  • Headset jack
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Cover port
  • 5.0 megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 5.0 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo microphones
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby® sound
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer
  • Surface Pen
  • 36W Power supply

Design and Durability

Surface Pro 3 with Pen

For me a great device includes three different things, design, features and a great eco system for applications and accessories. And this was one of the reason why I was a Apple user for a long time, because they offered great design, great hardware features and they had an ecosystem were software and hardware worked perfectly together.  Microsoft does not disappoint with the Surface line, the first and the second generation was already great and the third generation does not stop there. With the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft could finally make the device a lot thinner and than before. The device now has a larger 12-inch screen and a new 3:2 ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio before. This makes a huge difference if you hold the device in portrait mode to read something or browse the web and it also offers you a lot more space on the screen. Another change Microsoft did was to change the color from the dark VaporMg from the Surface Pro line to the silver color of the Surface 2. I am still not sure which color I like more, but both look great to me. After the size and the color the third big change is the new kickstand. The new kickstand does not only offer two position like the Surface Pro 2, you can now put the Surface in any position you want.

As always the build quality of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is just impressive. As a former Apple product user, I am really happy with quality, design and the durability of the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft sends a clear message here to his partners and competitors, about quality of tablets and notebooks. Everything seems to be at the right place and all buttons and the whole chassis is feeling very “high-class”. I really like the size and dimensions of the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 is not only thinner as the Surface Pro 2, it is also lighter. The Surface Pro 3 is 9.1mm thin and 800g light, which makes it a lot more portable than most ultrabooks out there but of course heavier than most tablets.

Display and Audio

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

For a tablet the display is the key component, and Microsoft did a great job with the Surface Pro 3. I already liked the screen of the Surface Pro 2 but the new screen is just amazing. Not only do I like the new high resolution (2160 x 1440) and the aspect ratio of 3:2, I also love the colors. One of the most underestimated features of the Surface Pro line is the integrated digitizer pen, which allows you to use digital Ink.

The Surface Pro comes with a digitizer pen which is perfect to take notes with OneNote and other stuff. As I mentioned I am using the Surface Pro at work and at university. At university I am using the pen mostly to take notes and mark some important stuff in documents and PDF files. At work I am not only using it to take notes, it’s also great during workshops or presentation, where you quickly want to draw something instead of using a whiteboard or a flipchart. And for all iPad or Android users, this is not just a normal Pen which buses capacitive touch, which basically is just a simulated finger, this is a digitizer pen which only works with special displays and for example offers pressure sensitivity and automatically deactivates touch input during your writing so you can place your hand on the screen.

The new pen also adds an OneNote button. If you press the OneNote button once you will open up a new page in OneNote even if the Surface is locked. This feature really helps you if you have an idea you want to write down really quickly. If you press the OneNote button twice you will be able to quickly mark the spot on your screen and quickly take a screenshot and save it to OneNote. This feature is just one of the example where Microsoft brings together there products and services for a better customer experience.

Microsoft again improved the audio on the Surface Pro 3. And it is great if you want to watch a movie in the hotel room and it is pretty much better than on any other notebook or tablet I have used. But still if you are a music lover you better get some headphones or external speakers.

Ports and Internals

macbook-air-surfrace-pro-3

The Surface Pro 3 has full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, a Headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort and at the bottom a Cover port for the Type Cover 3. Of course also the older Covers work perfectly but they just don’t match in size. The position of the ports have changed a little bit from the Surface Pro 2. The great thing here is that Microsoft moved the Mini DisplayPort to the upper right side which allows you now to use that port even you have docked the Surface into your docking station. So you can easily use to 4K displays at the same time.

One the power adapter you get another USB port for charging other devices like your phone, so you can still use your USB 3.0 on the Surface for other things.

Heat and Fan Noise

The Surface Pro 3 comes equipped with a powerful 4th generation Intel i3, i5 or i7 processor. For myself I got the i7 version and if you run some heavy workloads the device gets a little hot. You can feel a little bit of temperature on the back site and you can some fan noise. In normal conditions the Surface stay cold and you can’t here anything from the fan. I think the heat and the fan noise are the result of the new and thinner design.

Wireless

The wireless performance on the Surface Pro 3 seems to be great with no issues or troubles at all. I really can’t wait to get one of the Miracast adapters to stream my display to a beamer or another display.

Type Cover 3

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

One of the great features of the Surface product line are the covers. With the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft also released the Type Cover 3 which is basically the successor of the Type Cover 2 and is even thinner. Microsoft are claiming there are a lot of optimizations in Type Cover 3 and the two you will really see are the size which matches the Surface Pro 3 now and the new trackpad. The new trackpad is key here, it is bigger and a lot better than the trackpad of the Type Cover 2. They changed it back to a hard plastic and made it clickable again, which just feels a lot better if you work with it but it does look better than the first version of the Type Cover. The new Type Cover 3 comes with backlit which makes it perfect if you are working low light conditions like the Type Cover 2. The backlighting is automatic and turns of if you are not using it. If your hover over the keyboard with your hand, the Type Cover will automatically turn on the light again.  They also added new color options two the lineup, the Type Cover 3 is available in purple, red, blue, cyan and black.

Again the Type Cover is on of the must have accessories if you want to use you Surface as a laptop replacement. It works pretty well with the build in kickstand.

Battery life and Performance

Surface Pro 3 Lumia 930

The first thing I realized when I did start the Surface Pro 3 was that this thing is a screamer. The performance seems to be amazing but since the Surface Pro 3 is using the same generation of Intel chips I don’t think there is a huge difference between CPU performance. I think the key difference could be that Microsoft is using faster SSD storage in the Surface Pro 3 than in the previous generations. Since performance never was an issue for me I still like the new performance boost. With the new core i7 version you should not only get more CPU power, you should also get some more graphics power.

Microsoft is claiming that you get up to 9 hours of battery life, which fore me is a little more than with the Surface Pro 2. In my first test I think I am pretty close to get this 9 hours. But what impresses me even more is the Connected Standby or InstandGo features which allows you to wake up the Surface Pro 3 within an second. In my first tests the I charged the Surface on Friday and worked during Friday, Saturday and Sunday around 7-8 hours and the battery life was okay until late Sunday evening. But to get exact numbers I still have to run some more tests and see how it behaves in day to day usage.

Camera

Finally Microsoft also upgraded the front-facing camera to a 5 megapixel camera like the Surface 2 already had, but the Surface Pro 2 didn’t get. For me this gets even more important if you do a lot of Conference Calls via Lync or Skype for example.

Software and Accessories

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Software is where everything comes together. Windows 8.1 works perfectly on the Surface Pro 3 and I really like the mix between touch and keyboard usage. I use it as a tablet with touch apps and can run a full desktop applications like Office to get real work done. I really love the combination of different Microsoft Services such as Skype or Lync for communication. But where the real power comes together is with OneDrive and OneNote. The new Surface Pen and OneNote are already a perfect combination. You can press the OneNote button on the Surface Pen and OneNote opens instantly and you can start taking notes, even if you are not logged. The notes from OneNote get sync via OneDrive on all your devices like your phone or desktop pc. Microsoft is not only bringing software services together, they are now also integrate hardware.

Microsoft also offers a lot of different accessories like display or Ethernet adapters which you just need to work efficiently. But they also offers some great accessories like the Type Cover 3 which allows you to use your Surface Pro 3 together with the built-in kickstand as notebook replacement or the Surface Pro Docking Station which allows you to dock your Surface if you are at the home or in the office and connect automatically to external displays, external hard drives, keyboards and other stuff. This two accessories complete the whole story of the Surface Pro 3.

Conclusion

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Now what can you expect from the Surface Pro 3? The Surface Pro 3 is a high class work machine which can transform to different devices such as a tablet or notebook and with the Surface Docking Station you can even replace your desktop. For me the Surface Pro 3 replaced three devices. It replaces my notebook which I need to get work done and I also use it as my tablet at home or when I watch movies on flights or in the hotel. At home I got the Surface Pro 3 docking station which allows me to use two external displays. Of course if you are looking for just a tablet or just something to replace your iPad, the Surface Pro 3 is probably not the right device for you. But if you like to replace your classic notebook and your tablet with one device, the Surface Pro 3 is just the best machine available right now.



System Center Universe Europe 2013

System Center Universe Europe – The Microsoft CloudOS Event you shouldn’t miss

In about 6 weeks System Center Universe 2014 opens it doors and if you want to learn and network about Microsoft CloudOS or Microsoft Datacenter solutions, you should definitely book this event.

System Center Universe Europe 2014

Register now for System Center Universe 2014 in Basel Switzerland. Date: September 17-19, 2014 Location: Basel-Switzerland Venue: Congress Center Basel Conference Language: English

SCU Europe 2014 is the successor of System Center Universe DACH 2013 in Bern, Switzerland. SCU DACH 2013 was a very successful community event, and got a lot of great feedback.

Never seen such a great event before. Thanks again for the great work and organization!

SCU DACH Is a potential succesor of MMS for people in Europe

Lineup was great.

Incredible high skilled speakers there. Loved it!Thanks to the organizators to bring up so many good speakers.Nice location, good beer and food and awesome people.

Absolut excellent! The entire team did a great job! Thank you for that.

Great job organizing this event. I would love to come back next year.

Extreme good organized, highly skilled speakers, very cool people and the content was amazing. Loved it and will be back next year for sure.

The Content

System Center Universe

This time System Center Universe Europe 2014 will be even bigger, with more speakers, more sessions and more experts. This time in for tracks there are around 60 breakout sessions around topics for the Microsoft Datacenter, Private Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid Cloud, focusing on technologies like:

  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • System Center 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Configurations Manager
  • Windows 8.1
  • BYOD
  • Software Defined Storage
  • Software Defined Networking
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Windows Intune
  • PowerShell
  • Windows Azure Pack
  • and a lot more…

For event attendees, only the best is good enough! SCU Europe will host the crème-de-la-crème of the Windows Server and System Center Community from all over the world, including a variety of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) and Microsoft employees. Take the opportunity to learn from the best and most experienced experts and community leaders in the Microsoft System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management area. In addition to classic breakout sessions, attendees also have the opportunity to discuss specific topics with several experts in small groups. So make sure you bring your questions and problems with you to discuss them with the experts. A real added value!

More Value

SCU Experts

So you will have a lot of great content and real word examples in the breakout sessions. But this is not the only benefit. In this three days you will have a lot of opportunities to talk to experts and other attendees to share some real world experience.

As in SCU DACH 2013, SCU Europe 2014 will included lunch and some networking parties so there is enough time to share experiences and knowledge.

The Location

Messe Basel

The location is different this time. Last time SCU DACH 2013 was hosted in Bern Switzerland. This time, since the location had to grow, the event will be held in Congress Center in Basel Switzerland. Basel is a great city with a lot of things to see around the event it self. With it’s two train stations and it’s airport, Basel is a perfect location for an international conference like this. You can reach the event location from anywhere in about 15 minutes.

SCU Location Map Basel

Conclusion

Well if I would have the summarize all this, I would find the following reasons to go to the SCU Europe 2014:

  • A huge number of Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Experts from all over the world.
  • Around 60 breakout sessions
  • Great networking opportunity, meet the who is who in the Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management stack.
  • 26 Microsoft MVPs
  • Speakers from Microsoft
  • Great organization
  • First Class catering
  • Perfect location
  • Networking Party
  • Perfect for a city trip in the heart of Europe
  • Cheap price CHF729 (599.88 Euro) for a three day pass including lunch and Networking party
  • exhibition & networking area with a lot of different vendors showing there products
  • Easy to reach (Airport, Train or Car)

So make sure you reserve the date and register for System Center Universe Europe 2014:

System Center Universe Europe 2014

Register now for System Center Universe 2014 in Basel Switzerland. Date: September 17-19, 2014 Location: Basel-Switzerland Venue: Congress Center Basel Conference Language: English



SCVMM Bare-Metal Fails

Add drivers to SCVMM Bare-Metal WinPE Image

A long time ago I wrote a blog post on how you can use System Center Virtual Machine Manager Bare-Metal Deployment to deploy new Hyper-V hosts. Normally this works fine but if you have newer hardware, your Windows Server Image does may not include the network adapter drivers. Now this isn’t a huge problem since you can mount and insert the drivers in the VHD or VHDX file for the Windows Server Hyper-V image. But if you forget to update the WinPE file from Virtual Machine Manager your deployment will fails, since the WinPE image has not network drivers included it won’t able to connect to the VMM Library or any other server.

You will end up in the following error and your deployment will timeout on the following screen:

“Synchronizing Time with Server”

SCVMM Bare-Metal Fails

If you check the IP configuration with ipconfig you will see that there are no network adapters available. This means you have to update your SCVMM WinPE image.

First of all you have to copy the SCVMM WinPE image. You can find this wim file on your WDS (Windows Deployment) PXE Server in the following location E:\RemoteInstall\DCMgr\Boot\WIndows\Images (Probably your setup has another drive letter.

WDS SCVMM Boot WIM

I copied this file to the C:\temp folder on my System Center Virtual Machine Manager server. I also copied the extracted drivers to the C:\Drivers folder.

After you have done this, you can use Greg Casanza’s (Microsoft) SCVMM Windows PE driver injection script, which will add the drivers to the WinPE Image (Boot.wim) and will publish this new boot.wim to all your WDS servers. I also rewrote the script I got from using drivers in the VMM Library to use drivers from a folder.

Update SCVMM WinPE

This will add the drivers to the Boot.wim file and publish it to the WDS servers.

Update WDS Server

After this is done the Boot.wim will work with your new drivers.

 

 

 

 

 



RemoteFX

GPU Requirements for RemoteFX on Windows Server 2012 R2

If your are planning a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) deployment with Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V  and you want to use physical graphics power with RemoteFX for your VDI machines fore example for CAD applications, you might wonder which cards are recommended and supported. Back in November 2013 Derrick Isoka (Microsoft Program Manager) wrote a blog post about recommendations and here is a quick summary.

RemoteFX GPU Requirements

To make use of RemoteFX with GPU acceleration on Windows Server 2012 R2 you require a compatible graphic card.

Most likely, the servers hosting the RemoteFX workloads will be located in a datacenter and as such, we recommend using passively cooled, server class graphics cards. However, it’s also acceptable to use a workstation card for testing on small deployments depending on your needs.

However the minimum requirements for the graphics cards to be used with Hyper-V RemoteFX are:

  • Direct 11.0 or later
  • WDDM 1.2 driver or later

DirectX and WDDM

There is some other point to this, in Windows Server 2012 R2 provides support for DirectX 11.0, DirectCompute and C++ AMP. Most of the graphics cards do support OpenGL 4.0 and OpenCL 1.1 or later, however these APIs are currently unsupported by RemoteFX in Windows Server 2012 R2.

Hardware and Driver Support

To find a graphics card also make sure you check the Windows Server Catalog.

RemoteFX Compatible GPUs

Microsoft did some tests and showed some of the results on the Remote Desktop Services blog.

RemoteFX Cards

  1. Best: These are server class cards, designed and certified for VDI workloads by hardware vendors like NVIDIA and AMD. They target the best application performance, experience, and virtual machine densities. Some of the cards are particularly recommended for designer and engineering workloads (such as Autodesk Inventor or AutoCad).
  2. Better: These are workstation class cards that provide acceptable performance and densities. They are especially capable cards for knowledge worker workloads (such as Microsoft Office or Internet Explorer).
  3. Good: These are lower-end cards that provide acceptable densities knowledge worker workloads.

Source: Microsoft

Performance and Scale

This is important, Microsoft also points out that GPU speed and memory, the performance and scale of your VDI deployment also depends on additional factors such as CPU, Storage and Network performance.

 



Cisco Microsoft

Cisco and Microsoft Announce Sales and Go-to-Market Agreement

At the Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 Cisco and Microsoft announced a multi-year sales and go-to-market agreement designed to modernize data centers through the delivery and acceleration of integrated solutions. This will focus on bringing a deeper integration between the datacenter technologies of both companies. This includes Cisco UCS and Nexus products as well as Microsoft’s CloudOS solutions based Windows Server, Hyper-V, System Center, SQL Server and Microsoft Azure.

Highlights:

Go-to-Market:

  • Cisco and Microsoft agree to a three-year go-to-market plan focused on transforming data centers through the delivery of integrated solutions for enterprise customers and service providers.
  • In year one, the companies will focus on six countries — the United States, Canada, UK, Germany, France, and Australia — with expansion to additional countries in the following years.
  • Cisco and Microsoft will align partner incentive programs to accelerate solutions selling via mutual channel partners.
  • Cisco and Microsoft sales teams will work together on cloud and data center opportunities, including an initial program focused on the migration of Windows 2003 customers to Windows 2012 R2 on the Cisco UCS platform.

Integrated Solutions:

  • Integrated solutions will focus on private cloud, server migration, service provider, and SQL Server 2014
  • Cisco technologies to include Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus switching, Cisco UCS Manager with System Center integration modules, and Cisco PowerTool.
  • Cisco-based integrated infrastructure solutions will include FlexPod with NetApp and Cisco Solutions for EMC VXPEX.
  • Microsoft technology includes Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, PowerShell, Microsoft Azure and SQL Server 2014
  • Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure and Cisco InterCloud Fabric to be integrated in the solutions in future releases

Source and More information: www.streetinsider.com

As you may know I am a Microsoft MVP and a Cisco Champion and I really like doing project with Cisco Hardware since they do a lot of integration with the Microsoft Stack especially System Center and PowerShell. In my opinion this could be a strong partnership and will make life of a lot of people a lot easier.



Hyper-V Share

Hyper-V is eating VMware’s lunch

During the WPC 2014 Keynote Microsoft COO Kevin Turner showed the following slide and commented it:

Hyper-V is eating VMware’s lunch

 

Hyper-V has now 30,6% market share in x86 Server Virtualization which means Microsoft won 4.6% since the release of Windows Server 2012. VMware is now at 46.4% market share which means they lost 5.1% market share since the release of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

And this because of good reasons, like great features and 4 times lower cost than VMware. So if you are still running VMware you should definitely have a look at Hyper-V now!



Azure Preview Virtual Machines

Virtual Machines IaaS now available in the Azure preview portal

Some months ago Microsoft lunched a new preview portal for Microsoft Azure, with a cool new design and features. The IaaS or Virtual Machine services was missing from the portal. A week ago Microsoft announced to add some enhancements to the preview portal including Virtual Machines. Now today Microsoft rolled out the enhancements to the portal. with other improvements:

  • IaaS Functionality: Create, deploy, monitor and manage rich virtual machines’ based applications, and manage virtual networks within a fully customizable Portal experience. In addition to creating simple virtual machines, we are adding the ability to automate the deployment of rich multi-machine application templates with a few clicks. With this, deploying a multi-tier, highly-available SharePoint farm from the portal will be a few clicks away!
  • Resource Group enhancements: Manage infrastructure services like virtual machines and virtual networks along with platform services like web sites and databases, all within the same Resource Group, as a single application. This level of flexibility and control is an example of how Azure is leading the way in blurring the lines between infrastructure and platform services, giving customers the choice to pick the best platform for their application needs.
  • Azure Image Gallery Updates: The completely re-imagined Azure Gallery is more powerful with the addition of several new virtual machine images that enable you to provision dev/test servers or production applications in minutes. The new virtual machine images and templates take the guesswork out of building, orchestrating and deploying complex applications, thus letting you focus on creating business value instead of managing the infrastructure.
  • Azure SQL Database: Customers can manage their Azure SQL Databases within the Portal, consistent with other Azure services. This includes provisioning databases across Web and Business (currently in general availability) and Basic, Standard, and Premium (currently in preview).

Checkout the blog from  Director, Product Marketing, Microsoft Azure to learn more.

Azure Preview Portal Virtual Machine