Tag: Hardware

Last updated by at .

Surface Keyboard

Surface Keyboard User Review

A couple of days ago I finally got the new Microsoft Surface Keyboard to replace my Microsoft Designer Keyboard which I used for the past year. If you just have a quick look at it you might see not a lot of differences, but the new Microsoft Surface Keyboard is a great successor of the Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Keyboard. It is also a Bluetooth keyboard using 4.0 and 4.1 LE, it has a slightly changed key layout and of course it comes in a soft-finish grey as the Surface Pro, Surface Book or Surface Studio, making them a perfect match, and the finishing touch to a well thought-out desk space. Besides these small design changes Microsoft worked on the keys. The key travel and spacing are perfectly engineered for fast, quiet, and responsive typing, making it feel much more premium.

For me, this is the perfect keyboard right now, since I prefer the flat key design which matches the ones of the Surface Pro and the Surface Book.

Home Office



Azure Stack Hardware

Azure Stack TP3, Roadmap and Pricing Update available

Microsoft today not only released Azure Stack TP3 (Technical Preview 3) for the public, Microsoft also announced an update on the Azure Stack roadmap and about Azure Stack licensing. The Technical Preview 3 of Azure Stack brings a couple of new features and scenarios for your hybrid cloud deployment. Right now TP3 is also only the single node POC deployment.

Azure Stack Roadmap

This is great for test and showcases as well as getting your deployment ready for the release of Azure Stack GA, which will be mid-CL17. The Azure Stack POC deployment will also be renamed to “Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit” after GA.

For the Azure Stack TP3 release, Microsoft will deliver refreshes of that build until the release of Azure Stack GA.

At the Azure Stack GA release this summer, Microsoft will deliver Azure Stack hardware with provides from HPE, Dell and Lenovo. Later in 2017 Microsoft will also deliver Azure Stack with Cisco hardware.

After GA, Microsoft  will continuously deliver additional capabilities through frequent updates. The first round of updates after GA are focused on two areas: 1) enhanced application modernization scenarios and 2) enhanced system management and scale. These updates will continue to expand customer choice of IaaS and PaaS technologies when developing applications, as well as improve manageability and grow the footprint of Azure Stack to accommodate growing portfolios of applications.

Azure Stack POC Downloader

What’s new in Azure Stack TP3

With Azure Stack TP3, we’ve worked with customers to improve the product through numerous bug fixes, updates, and deployment reliability & compatibility improvements from TP2. With Azure Stack TP3 customers can:

  • Deploy with ADFS for disconnected scenarios
  • Start using Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets for scale out workloads
  • Syndicate content from the Azure Marketplace to make available in Azure Stack
  • Use Azure D-Series VM sizes
  • Deploy and create templates with Temp Disks that are consistent with Azure
  • Take comfort in the enhanced security of an isolated administrator portal
  • Take advantage of improvements to IaaS and PaaS functionality
  • Use enhanced infrastructure management functionality, such as improved alerting

Pricing and Licensing

Azure Stack

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Azure Stack from 4 different OEMs. HPE, Dell and Lenovo will deliver a solution at Azure Stack GA in mid-CY17 and Cisco will be available later in 2017. For the pricing model of Azure Stack, Microsoft decided to deliver the licensing of Azure Stack on a pay-per-use base. This meets of course the cloud economics and there will be no upfront licensing costs for customers. Services will be typically metered on the same units as Azure, but prices will be lower, since customers operate their own hardware and facilities. For scenarios where customers are unable to have their metering information sent to Azure, we will also offer a fixed-price “capacity model” based on the number of cores in the system.

 



Windows Server 2016 Whats new in Hyper-V

My Hardware Recommendations for Windows Server 2016

Many people are right now asking me about what they have to look out for, if they are going to buy hardware for there next Windows Server 2016 deployment using Hyper-V, Storage nodes or just physical servers. Of course you should normally not just buy hardware and design the solution after that, you should create an architecture for your datacenter first and than buy hardware for your needs. But still there are several things to look out for, this is probably not easy to say right now but here are several thing I would recommend to you.

My recommendations

  • Windows Server Logo: Make really sure that hardware is certified for Windows Server and Windows Server 2016 when the certification is available
  • Network Adapters:
  • Processor / CPU
    • A 64-bit processor with second-level address translation (SLAT).
    • Of course recommend you do get the latest server grade CPUs from Intel or AMD to get the latest CPU functionalities
    • Think about the new licensing for Windows Server 2016 which will be core based
  • TPM Trusted Platform Module v2.0 – especially for the Hyper-V feature Shielded Virtual Machines or/and BitLocker support.
  • Storage
    • If you are going to deploy new Storage in your Datacenter, make sure you have a look at Storage Spaces and SMB Direct (Hyper-V over SMB) and especially the new Storage Spaces Direct feature, which I will write a bit about later this month. This also allows you to do Hyper-Converged scenarios running Storage and Hyper-V on the same physical hardware.
    • If you are goin to deploy Storage Spaces Direct make sure you choose a good quality of SSDs or NVMe devices. Especially for the caching devices choose Write-Intensive NVMe or SSD disks.

This are just some recommendations if I would buy new hardware I would also look at these features. Of course you don’t need all these features in every scenario, but if you want to make the most out of it, you should definitely look at them. Here are some feature related requirements:

Discrete device assignment

  • The processor must have either Intel’s Extended Page Table (EPT) or AMD’s Nested Page Table (NPT).
  • The chipset must have:
    • Interrupt remapping — Intel’s VT-d with the Interrupt Remapping capability (VT-d2) or any version of AMD I/O Memory Management Unit (I/O MMU).
    • DMA remapping — Intel’s VT-d with Queued Invalidations or any AMD I/O MMU.
    • Access control services (ACS) on PCI Express root ports.
  • The firmware tables must expose the I/O MMU to the Windows hypervisor. Note that this feature might be turned off in the UEFI or BIOS. For instructions, see the hardware documentation or contact your hardware manufacturer.

Shielded Virtual Machines

  • UEFI 2.3.1c — supports secure, measured boot
  • The following two are optional for virtualization-based security in general, but required for the host if you want the protection these features provide:
  • TPM v2.0 — protects platform security assets
  • IOMMU (Intel VT-D) — so the hypervisor can provide direct memory access (DMA) protection

for more detailed specification check out Microsoft TechNet: System requirements for Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016



Surface Hub Skype Meeting

My Microsoft Surface Hub Review

Last week we finally go our Microsoft Surface Hub for our itnetX office in Bern and I had the chance to do some testing. The Surface Hub is an interactive whiteboard developed by Microsoft ideally for business meetings. Before I get started let me show you the specs for the Surface Hub devices. Microsoft offers two models right now, a 84-inch model and a 55-inch model.

Microsoft Surface Hub

The Surface Hub 84” model is ideal for medium and large conference room and it allows three people to comfortably interact with the screen simultaneously. The 84” version has also a 4K resolution, an Intel i7 processor, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and a NVIDIA Quadra K2200 graphics card. The Surface Hub 55” model is perfect for smaller conference rooms and in work environments where you’ll move your Surface Hub into different spaces. The 55” model comes with a Full HD resolution, an Intel i5 processor, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and integrated Intel graphics.

Surface Hub Keyboard Surface Hub Pen

Both model feature a 100-point multi-touch display, 2 passive Infrared Presence Sensors, Ambient Light Sensors, 2 front-facing stereo speakers, 2 wide angle HD cameras, active pen support, Windows 10 and a wireless keyboard. To see the full specs of both devices check out the Microsoft Surface Hub website.

My first impression of the Surface Hub

Surface Hub Welcome Screen

My first impression was the Surface Hub looks great, it is perfect for every meeting room and it is very easy to use. The quality of the devices is, as usual for Microsoft Surface devices, really great and feels like a high quality premium device. When you come in come in the conference room use first see the big screen and showing the time, the next scheduled meetings and the most important apps like the whiteboard, wireless screen sharing.

Different Meeting Options

Surface Hub Startscreen

The Microsoft Surface Hub offers different meeting options. You can use it for in person meetings in the meeting room as a beamer replacement or wireless display for your notebook, as a whiteboard or use other apps like Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Maps app or many more to come. The other thing the Surface Hub does very well is video conferencing using Skype for Business using the same apps and features.

The Surface Hub works perfectly with different deployment types

Perfect for in-person meetings

Surface Hub Whiteboard

If you are using the meeting room for a meeting with persons in the room, the multi touch screen and the apps are great. I really like the whiteboard app which allows you to draw diagrams and other stuff. A nice feature is that when you take on of the pens out of the holder it automatically open ups the whiteboard app and you can immediately start drawing. You can also use the screen as a display for your notebook as beamer replacement.

Surface Hub Screen Sharing

You can use the screen as a wireless display using Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 10 Mobile and of course the display also features cable input for DisplayPort, HDMI or VGA. If you use the wireless display connection in Windows 10 you can also allow input from the Surface Hub screen back to your Windows 10 computer. For example you project your screen to the Surface Hub to show a PowerPoint slide deck for example, you can stand up and touch the screen for the next slide or draw on the slide it self. By the way, connecting wirelessly is very fast, I used several different devices to connect with my Windows 10 devices using Miracast, like the Xbox One or the Microsoft Wireless Adapter, but none of the devices connected as fast as to the Surface Hub.

 

And of course this also works with other devices supporting Miracast like Windows 10 Mobile (especially cool with the Windows Continuum feature) and for example Android smartphones.

Skype for Business Video Conferencing

Surface Hub Skype for Business

The other great scenario is using the Microsoft Surface Hub for conference calls. You can join Skype for Business Meeting adding the Surface Hub device as a resource and it will automatically show the Skype for Business Meeting and you can join the meeting. You can also just invite other people using sending Skype for Business invites or using phone numbers to call them. You can also add the Surface Hub to an existing Skype for Business meeting or call your Surface Hub using a phone number. The two wide angle Full HD video cameras are great and show the whole meeting room. If there is a single attendee in the room the camera also focus on him and follows him instead of showing the whole room.

Surface Hub Wireless Display 1

The great thing here is that you again can use the same features and apps like the whiteboard, screen sharing and the apps. For example one scenario can be that several people sitting in the meeting room and one of the shares the screen to the Surface Hub, the Surface Hub is joined to a Skype for Business meeting with some remote attendees. The screen of the Surface Hub, showing the screen of the notebook of attendee in the meeting room is also shared with the Skype for Business remote attendees. Or you can see the screen sharing or presentation of remote attendees.

Surface Hub Call Skype User

The most important thing here is, that is very easy and simple to use and it just works as expected. It looks like we are getting now more Surface Hubs for all the different office locations, so we can do meetings between the office in Bern and Zürich.

Cleaning up a meeting

Surface Hub Cleanup

Now setting up a meeting or joining a meeting is really simple, and basically everything is possible. But what after the meeting is finished? You can very simple clean up your workspace and everything is gone, and no one can access your data.

Apps for the Surface Hub

Surface Hub Apps

As mentioned the Surface Hub comes with different apps like the whiteboard which lets you also do drawings, Office which lets you to use office documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint and you also have the Maps app and the Microsoft Edge browser available. The Apps for the Surface Hub seem to be limited right now, but my guess is that Microsoft will soon enable the Windows Store to let you download and install apps on the Surface Hub. Microsoft has some example of apps on there Surface Hub website.

You can open Office documents from SharePoint, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online using Office 365 or connected USB devices directly from the Surface Hub, or you can share them from your notebook using screen sharing.

Overall Impression

The Surface Hub is an amazing device and we are very happy with the it, the device is great, works very easy and simple and it adds a lot of value to your meetings. If you ever have done a meeting using the Surface Hub you really want to have one for your self. If you have more question about the Surface Hub and his features and functionality just leave a comment.

 



Surface Book

My Surface Book User Review

A couple of months ago I got a myself a Surface Book while I was in the US. You may know that I am a Surface user for a long time now. I started with the original Surface Pro, upgraded to the Surface Pro 2 and the Surface Pro 3, which was my main device for the last year. Microsoft announced the Surface Book together with the Surface Pro 4, the new Microsoft Band 2 and the Lumia 950 as well as the Lumia 950 XL.

The Surface Book is the first laptop Microsoft has ever created and Microsoft doesn’t call it the ultimate laptop for no reason. I have used the Surface Book now for the past months while I was traveling, giving presentations, working at customer sites or at home writing blog posts. With that I got a great impression of the Surface Book in the real world, not just reviewing it for a couplnowe of hours, as other tech sites do, this is more kind of a real user review.

Technical Specifications

Surface Book Box

  • Software: Windows 10 Pro
  • Exterior: Casing: Magnesium, Color: Silver, Physical buttons: Volume, Power
  • Dimensions: 12.30” x 9.14” x 0.51 – 0.90” (312.3mm x 232.1mm x 13.0 – 22.8mm)
  • Weight: Starting at 3.34 pounds (1,516 grams) including keyboard
  • Storage: Solid state drive (SSD) options: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB.
  • Display: Screen: 13.5” PixelSense™ display
  • Resolution: 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours of video playback4
  • Processor: 6th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 or i7
  • Graphics i5: Intel® HD graphics 520, i5/i7: NVIDIA GeForce GPU with 1GB GDDR5 memory
  • Security: TPM chip for enterprise security
  • Memory: 8GB or 16GB RAM
  • Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible
  • Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • Ports: Two full-size USB 3.0, Full-size SD™ card reader, SurfaceConnectTM, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort
  • Cameras: Windows Hello face-authentication camera (front-facing), 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video, 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video
  • Audio: Stereo microphones, Stereo speakers with Dolby® audio
  • Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer

I got the Intel Core i7 version with 8GB memory and 256GB of storage. To be honest, if I had the choice I would get the smallest Core i5 version with a dedicated graphics card or the Core i7 version with 16GB of memory.

Design and Durability

Surface Pro and Surface Book

As always Microsoft did build a great piece of hardware in terms of design and build quality. As the Surface Pro 3 and the whole Surface line the Surface Book is really high quality. I really like to work with it.

Display and Audio

Surface Book Traveling

What I really like about the Surface product line are the displays. First of all, the quality is pretty good, but what is even more important for me is the 3:2 ratio. With that you get a lot more space on the screen to get work done. This especially helps when you are doing some writing or get some mails done. The Surface Book comes with a 13.5 inch screen which is just a little bit bigger than the Surface Pro 4, and this is one if the main reasons I got myself the Surface Book instead of the Surface Pro. Especially on if you are on the road and the device is not docked, a bigger screen can make a huge difference.

Audio and especially the microphones work every well and have a very good quality if you are doing Skype or other conference calls.

Heat and Fan Noise

If you were owner of a Surface Pro 3 you might had some issues with fan noise and the Surface Pro 3 could get very hot. I am running the Intel Core i7 version of the Surface Book and I don’t have any issues in terms of heat of fan noise. The Surface Book runs very quiet and cool, I never really heard the fan, even when I run some heavy workloads like virtual machines.

Wireless and Networking

Surface Book Travel

Wireless and network connectivity are as usual pretty great, no issues here. If you want to use a wired connection you have to buy a USB to Ethernet adapter, since the Surface Book does not have a build in Ethernet port, but this isn’t a real problem.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard and the trackpad are amazing, I think this is the best keyboard and trackpad combination I have ever used. Typing feels really good even if you have to write lager documents or blog posts. Of course the keyboard has also backlight which makes it great if you have to write something in a dark hotel room.

Tablet Mode

Surface Book Tablet Mode

With the tablet mode you can easily detach the screen from the keyboard so you can use it as a very light tablet. The tablet is really light, even lighter than the Surface Pro and has up to 4 hours of battery life. As cool as the tablet mode for some people may is, I basically never use it. I use the pen and the touch screen a lot, but I never really detach the keyboard from it. This is kind of different than the Surface Pro, where I detached the Type Cover a lot and just place it somewhere using the kickstand, since the Surface Book does not have a kickstand you really have to hold it all the time, and I just don’t have a use case for this.

Battery life and Performance

Performance and battery life is where the Surface Book really starts to shine. Especially in terms of disk performance using an internal NVMe disk, the Surface Book is amazingly fast. I got the version with an Intel Core i7, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card. Next time I would choose the larger version with more memory and storage but at this time in November last year it was the only configuration which was available.

Battery life is also not an issue, I get around 8-12h of battery life when I am on the road. This is enough for a full day of work.

Software and Accessories

Surface Book Home Office Surface Dock

The Surface Book comes with Windows 10 Pro, and as I mentioned I really like Windows 10. I am running the latest Windows Insider builds and the work most of the time great. Performance is really good and one thing I always loved about the Surface was the Surface Pen. I am not an artist, but I use the pen a lot in workshops with customers, instead of using it a whiteboard or to take notes in OneNote.

At home I dock the Surface Book to the Surface Dock where I have two 27-inch screens, which makes it a fully functional desktop.

Conclusion

As you can see I am really happy with the device I am using for around 7 months. The only thing which makes me want a Surface Pro again is the size. The Surface Pro with the Type Cover is much more mobile, especially when you are traveling a lot by plane or train. Otherwise the Surface Book is the perfect device.



Azure Stack

Hardware requirements for Microsoft Azure Stack Technical Preview (POC)

Jeffery Snover (Microsoft Techical Fellow) just announced that they will release a PoC (Proof of Concept) of Microsoft Azure Stack Technical Preview soon, which you can run in your datacenter to test Microsoft Azure Stack. Microsoft also released the Hardware requirements for Microsoft Azure Stack Technical Preview (POC) deployment.

 

Azure Stack PoC Hardware

Storage:

Data disk drive configuration: All data drives must be of the same type (SAS or SATA) and capacity.  If SAS disk drives are used, the disk drives must be attached via a single path (no MPIO, multi-path support is provided)
HBA configuration options:
     1. (Preferred) Simple HBA
2. RAID HBA – Adapter must be configured in “pass through” mode
3. RAID HBA – Disks should be configured as Single-Disk, RAID-0
Supported bus and media type combinations

  •          SATA HDD
  •          SAS HDD
  •          RAID HDD
  •          RAID SSD (If the media type is unspecified/unknown*)
  •          SATA SSD + SATA HDD**
  •          SAS SSD + SAS HDD**

* RAID controllers without pass-through capability can’t recognize the media type. Such controllers will mark both HDD and SSD as Unspecified. In that case, the SSD will be used as persistent storage instead of caching devices. Therefore, you can deploy the Microsoft Azure Stack POC on those SSDs.

** For tiered storage, you must have at least 3 HDDs.

Example HBAs: LSI 9207-8i, LSI-9300-8i, or LSI-9265-8i in pass-through mode


Microsoft Display Dock HD-500

First view on the Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 and Windows 10 Continuum for Phones

Some days ago I received my new Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, which is one of the first phones with Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft also created some new cool accessories, such as the Microsoft Display Dock HD-500. The Microsoft Display Dock allows you to connect your Lumia 950 or Lumia 950 XL using a USB-C cable and adding a keyboard and mouse and connect it to a bigger screen. Windows Universal Apps such as for example, Mail, Outlook, Office, Edge, File Explorer and several others scale up on the connected screen like they would run on a desktop computer running Windows 10. This Windows 10 Mobile feature is called Continuum for Phones and it allows you to use your phone as a desktop PC. This is great for example think about it, you only carry your phone and when you need to do some real work you can connect it to mouse, keyboard and screen and you have a desktop ready to use.

Microsoft Display Dock

Display Dock Connections

The Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 has a USB-C Port for connecting and charging your phone, 1 powered and 2 full-sized USB 2.0 ports to connect keyboard, mouse, USB drives or external drives, a HDMI and a Display-Port for connecting the screen or beamer. The device supports a resolution up to Full HD (1920×1080).

Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 Lumia 950 XL

Continuum for Phones

Continuum for Phones makes it possible to use this feature. Now Continuum for Phone also works wirelessly using Miracast for example with the Microsoft Display Adapter or even using the Xbox One with the Wireless Display App (right now for Preview Members only). You can also connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your phone, so you can use this feature completely wireless.

Continuum for Phones

Continuum for Phones has also some limitations, right now it only supports Windows Universal Apps and no Win32 apps or old Windows Phone Apps.

Some apps which work with Continuum for Phones:

  • Mail
  • Calendar
  • File Explorer
  • Photos
  • OneNote
  • Excel
  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • Messages
  • Maps
  • MSN Money
  • MSN Sports
  • MSN News
  • Alarm and Clock
  • Groove Music
  • Movies & TV
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Xbox
  • Facebook
  • Fitbit
  • Cortana
  • Camera

I am sure a lot of developers are working on porting apps to the Windows Universal App Platform and make them available on several devices. Continuum for Phones is one of the best examples how Windows 10 and the Windows Universal Apps will improve the Windows Ecosystem. I think for some people and even employees, Windows 10 Mobile phones could replace the desktop PCs, since you have a lot of great Universal Apps for Mail, Office and other Offices tasks. If Microsoft makes a Universal App for Remote Desktop available you can even have a full desktop, with full desktop apps on your phone while docked to a screen. And with the new Mobile device Management options in Windows 10 Mobile, this can be perfectly managed by enterprises. They can also implement the Microsoft Windows Store for Business on Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile.