Surface Book 2

My First Impressions of the Surface Book 2

Last week I got my early (or late) Christmas gift to myself. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch version was finally shipping to Switzerland. The 13-inch version of the Surface Book 2, was already available last year. I am a long time Surface user, since I got my first Surface and my first Surface Pro back in 2012. As you might remember I got a new Surface Pro 2017 as a new company device, back in July 2017. I picked the Surface Pro as a replacement for my Surface Book which I used quite a while and I am very happy with it. It is a light and mobile device, perfect when you are traveling. I think the new Surface Pro with LTE would even be better if you are on the road.

However, one thing I always knew, was that I am more productive with a larger screen. Even the 13” Surface Book, made a huge difference against the 12” Surface Pro. The thing is simple, it is mobility versus screen real estate. I am often working on the go, which means I like the mobility. On the other hand I am also working a couple of hours on the device with no extra screens. Having some extra space on the mobile device, makes me more productive.

Surface Book 2 and Surface Pro

When Microsoft announced the new Surface Book 2 13-inch and 15-inch, I knew I want a 15” version. It would give me more screen real estate, more productivity, paired with the Surface quality and design. The combination of a 15” screen in a 3:2 aspect ratio, together with a touch screen and pen support, will provide you with the best possible work setup.

The Surface Book 2 also comes with some performance improvements. With the higher end models, you get new 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U quad-core processor, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, which will provide you with the necessary performance. For me, these performance improvements are a nice addition, but not the reason I would upgrade. If you are a creator, designer, editor, you might highly benefit from the additional graphics performance. However, Microsoft also updated the disk to a faster NVMe SSD, and this you can see and feel in your day-to-day tasks.

Surface Book 2 – First Impressions

I haven’t used the Surface Book 2 long enough for a full review, but I want to share my first impressions.

  • Hardware and build quality are amazing as for all the Surface devices, no surprises here.
  • Performance improvements from the 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U quad-core processor, and the NVMe SSD are great. They are helping a lot if you are running Docker containers and Hyper-V on your machine. I can also imagine if you are doing graphic intensive work, you also benefit heavily from the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060.
  • The amazing 15” PixelSense display with the 3:2 aspect ratio and a resolution of  3240 x 2160 is just stunning and really makes a difference if you need screen real estate. The quality of the display is also amazing and you can switch between “Enhanced Mode” and sRGB. And as always I am very happy with the Surface Pen support.
  • Yes you can still detach the screen from the keyboard to use it as a giant 15” tablet.
  • Microsoft now includes 2 x USB type-A (version 3.1 Gen 1), 1 x USB type-C (version 3.1 Gen 1 with USB Power Delivery revision 3.0), 3.5mm headphone jack, 2 x Surface Connect ports, Full-size SDXC card reader. The only thing missing is the Thunderbolt port, but to be honest I never missed it before, but of course it would be nice to have it.
  • Of course the Surface Book 2 15” version is huge if you compare it to the Surface Pro or the Surface Laptop. With 1.9kg also heavier, but with the performance improvements, battery life and the larger screen, what else can you expect. However, if you undock the screen from the keyboard, the tablet part is still very light.
  • It also provides you with the necessary modern Wi-Fi standards a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth Wireless 4.1 technology and built-in Xbox Wireless for the 15-inch version.
  • Since I am using it only since a couple of days, I cannot really talk about battery life. Microsoft claims up to 17 hours of video playback. To be honest the first Surface Book was already very good in terms of battery life. I think, with the Surface Book 2 I will make it trough a day.
  • Of course it also ships with a Windows Hello face authentication camera. A 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video and a 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video.

Overall my first impression of the Surface Book 2 is amazing. The Surface Book 2 is the laptop I was waiting for, for a long time. I think this is the best notebook I have ever owned. Are you owning one, or thinking about buying one for yourself? Let me know in the comments.


Windows Server 2019

Microsoft announces Windows Server 2019 and System Center 2019

Microsoft today announced the next Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release for Windows Server called Windows Server 2019. In a blog post today, Erin Chapple, Director of Program Management Windows Server, announced the Windows Server 2019, which will be available in the second half of calendar year 2018. You can try out a Windows Server Preview build through the Windows Server Insider Program today. Microsoft also mentions that System Center 2019 will be available to manage Windows Server 2019 infrastructures.

Windows Server 2019 is built on the foundation of Windows Server 2016 and focuses on a couple of key scenarios. Microsoft in four key areas, Hybrid Cloud, Security, Application Platform and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).

Windows Server 2019 – Hybrid Cloud Improvements

Project Honolulu Server Overview

As of today Hybrid Cloud is more real than ever. With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft is focusing to improve the customer experience in a hybrid cloud world. Taking advantage of public cloud innovation such as Artificial Intelligence and IoT, and connecting them with on-premise services is a huge enabler for customers. At Microsoft Ignite 2017, Microsoft showed of the Technical Preview of Project Honolulu, a web-based management console for Windows Server. One of the goals of Project Honolulu is to connect Windows Server deployments with Azure services. Together with Windows Server 2019 and Project Honolulu, you can easily integrate services like Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, Azure Site Recovery and much more.

Windows Server 2019 – Security

Security was already one of the big investments in Windows Server 2016. Microsoft does not stop there. With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft brings various security improvements like Shielded Virtual Machine support for Linux VMs and Encrypted Virtual Networks. One of my favorite improvements is the possibility to integrate with Windows Defender Advanced Thread Protection (ATP). ATP was first available for Windows 10 and provides preventative protection, detects attacks and zero-day exploits among other capabilities, into the operating system. This gives customers access to deep kernel and memory sensors, improving performance and anti-tampering, and enabling response actions on server machines.

Windows Server 2019 – Application Platform

Ubuntu on Windows Server using WSL

One of the key focus of Microsoft for Windows Server, was always on the developer experience. Microsoft brings a couple of improvements to make it the best application platform out there. Microsoft invests in a couple of scenarios such as bringing the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to Windows Server. Another key investment area are Windows Server Containers and Windows Server Container images. In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft reduces the Server Core base container image to a third of its current size of 5 GB. This will reduce download time of the image by 72%, further optimizing the development time and performance. Another key improvement in terms of Container support is the integration and support for Container orchestrators like Kubernetes.

Windows Server 2019 – Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)

The 4th improvement area is the Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). With Windows Server 2016 Microsoft released a new feature called Storage Spaces Direct. Together with Hyper-V and other Microsoft technologies, this was great to build you own infrastructure for your virtualization workloads. Windows Server 2019 will bring a lot of improvements for Storage Spaces Direct, Hyper-V and other related technologies. Microsoft is adding scale, performance, and reliability to the platform. Microsoft also partnered with hardware vendors to provide an affordable and yet extremely robust HCI solution with validated design.

What else?

  • Windows Server will be GA (generally available) in the second half of calendar year 2018.
  • Windows Server will be a LTSC release. LTSC will be the recommended version of Windows Server for most infrastructure scenarios and workloads like SQL Server, SharePoint and Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter solutions.
  • With the LTSC release of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft will allow customers to use the Server with Desktop Experience as well as Windows Server Core. With the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) release, Microsoft only provides the Windows Server Core option.
  • There will be another Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) release at the same time as Windows Server 2019 focusing on Container innovations. The SAC releases will be supported as before for 18 months, while the LTSC releases follow the normal 5+5 year support.
  • Licensing will use the same model as Windows Server 2016 today, Microsoft mentions that it is likely that they will increase the pricing for Windows Sevrer Client Access Licensing (CAL), but will share more details later.

With that we can all be very excited for the next LTSC version of Windows Server. Until then the next SAC release of Windows Server, called Windows Server 1803, will be available this spring. The Windows Server, version 1803 will focus on container improvements. If you want to try out, Windows Server 2019 or Windows Server 1803, you can join the Windows Server Insider Program.

Presenting ExpertsLive

Speaking about Azure Stack at Experts Live Switzerland 2018 in Bern

Today, I am proud to announce that I am speaking at the country event of Experts Live in Switzerland. Experts Live Switzerland 2018 will take place at the 3rd of May in the new Workspace Welle 7 in ​Bern Switzerland. Experts Live Switzerland is a one day event with 17 session in three parallel tracks focusing on Microsoft Cloud, Datacenter and Workplace Management topics, with Microsoft MVPs, speakers from Microsoft and other industry experts.

I was already speaking at Experts Live US 2018, Experts Live Australia 2017 and of course Experts Live Europe 2017. As always, I am really looking forward to this country event of the Experts Live conference series. It is always a lot of fun to listen to great sessions and meet friends.

Speaking at Experts Live Switzerland 2018

I am happy to give attendees an overview about Microsoft Azure Stack:

Azure Stack - Your Cloud Your Datacenter

Microsoft released Azure Stack as a Azure appliance for your datacenter. Learn what Azure Stack is, what challenges it solves, how you deploy, manage and operate a Azure Stack in your datacenter. Learn about the features and services you will get by offering Azure Stack to your customers and how you can build a true Hybrid Cloud experience. In this presentation Thomas Maurer (Microsoft MVP) will guide you through the highly anticipated innovations and experience during the Azure Stack Early Adaption Program and Azure Stack Technology Adoption Program (TAP).

The event is limited to only 180 attendees, so make sure you reserve you ticket right now! There will be a lot of other great sessions and a lot of experts from the Microsoft Cloud community.

Some more information about the conference:

  • 1 day event
  • In the heart of Switzerland (Bern)
  • 17 sessions
  • 3 parallel tracks
  • Top Community speakers
  • limited to 180 attendees
  • Partner booths in the expo hall
  • modern location
  • focusing on Microsoft Cloud Technology



Azure Stack PowerShell Docker Container

Run Azure Stack PowerShell and Azure Stack Tools in a Docker Container

The Azure Stack Tools is a set of scripts and tools to work with Azure Stack and Azure. If you want to run the Azure Stack Tools you will need to install the Azure Stack compatible Azure PowerShell module. To install that that can be some work and it does not allow to run the side by side today with the latest Azure PowerShell Module. For that I have a simple solution. I created two Docker Containers with preinstalled Azure Stack PowerShell and one with Azure Stack PowerShell and the Azure Stack Tools together.

AzureStack-Tools is a GitHub repository that hosts PowerShell modules for managing and deploying resources to Azure Stack. If you are planning to establish VPN connectivity, you can download these PowerShell modules to the Azure Stack Development Kit, or to a Windows-based external client

Azure Stack PowerShell Docker Container

Azure Stack PowerShell Docker Container

This container contains the Azure Stack PowerShell. To run Azure Stack PowerShell in a Docker Container, just run the following command on your server or PC with Docker installed.

Azure Stack Tools Docker Container

Azure Stack Tools Docker Container

This container contains the Azure Stack PowerShell as well as the Azure Stack Tools. To run Azure Stack Tools in a Docker Container, just run the following command on your server or pc with Docker installed.

Both Images are based on Windows Server Core and depending on the microsoft/windowsservercore Docker images.

This should help you to quickly spin up new Azure Stack Operator Workstations. And it should help you to work and interact with Azure Stack.

Azure Stack Capacity Calculator

Azure Stack Capacity Calculator Tool

One of the most common questions I get when a customer decided to buy Azure Stack is, how you can calculate the sizing of your Azure Stack. He also wants to know how larger the server should be for his workloads and which Azure Stack Hardware SKU he should go for. Microsoft just released the Azure Stack Capacity Calculator (Version 1801.01). This tool will assists customers in the pre-purchase capacity planning of the Azure Stack hardware configuration. This helps you decided on how large your Azure Stack solution should be configured. This sizes server configuration and amount of servers you need to run your workloads on a Azure Stack integrated system. This also helps you in your Azure Stack Pricing Calculation.

The Azure Stack capacity planner is intended to assist in pre-purchase planning to determine appropriate capacity and configuration of Azure Stack hardware solutions.

The Azure Stack capacity planner helps you make informed decisions with respect to planning capacity in two ways: either the by selecting a hardware offering and attempting to fit a combination of resources or by defining the workload that Azure Stack is intended to run to view the available hardware SKUs that can support it. Finally, the spreadsheet is intended as a guide to help in making decisions related to Azure Stack planning and configuration.

The spreadsheet is not intended to serve as a substitute for your own investigation and analysis.  Microsoft makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided within the spreadsheet.

Azure Stack Capacity Planner

Azure Stack Resource Calculator

You can download the Azure Stack Capacity Planner from the TechNet Gallery. It is a simple to use Microsoft Excel file, where you enter your workload data. I will out put some information about the configuration you need and even allows you to compare different hardware SKUs. It will also indicate which one will be the best solution for you.

Download Azure Stack Capacity Calculator: TechNet Gallery Azure Stack Capacity Planner (Version 1801.01)


What is in my bag for the Microsoft MVP Summit 2018

What is in my bag for the Microsoft MVP Summit 2018

Soon again I am on my way to the Microsoft MVP Summit 2018 in Redmond. The Microsoft MVP Summit is the yearly, multi-day event, which is hosted at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond and in Bellevue. The event brings a large catalog of technical sessions and variety of networking opportunities. The Microsoft MVP Global Summit enables MVPs from around the world to connect with each other, build relationships with Microsoft product managers, learn about upcoming technology and products, and provide feedback on Microsoft products and services.

If I remember correctly this I my 7th MVP Summit, which I can attend. I am really looking forward as always and I am sure it is going to be great fun.

Obviously you need to pack some stuff, to make the best out of the week. Especially since you need to take a lot of notes, and also work on some projects remotely. Besides my clothes and my running shoes, I also pack my latest tech stuff.

What is in my bag for the Microsoft MVP Summit 2018

What is in my bag for the Microsoft MVP Summit 2018

  • Surface Pro – As my daily driver I will bring my Microsoft Surface Pro, which is a perfect travel companion, since it is a small and light devices. As you may know, I also love to take notes in OneNote using the Surface Pen. The battery life should bring me more less through a day of work at the event.
  • The Surface Pen  – The Surface Pen is one of my favorite Surface peripherals to take handwritten notes during sessions.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – After Microsoft really holds back on the Windows 10 Mobile investments. I decided to Switch to a Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The Note 8 looks beautiful, has a great camera, a Pen for OneNote. It also has enough battery life to bring me trough a long day.
  • Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse – The Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse is my absolut favorite travel mouse. I am using a Microsoft Arc mouse since the first version and I am happy with the integrations Microsoft made.
  • Bose Quiet Comfort 35 – The best travel Headphones I have ever owned. I like the new wireless capabilities and the noise canceling is perfect when you are stuck on a long flight.
  • Samsung Gear S3 Frontier – Around my wrist I am currently wearing a Samsung Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch, which helps me track my runs on Samsung health
  • Microsoft Surface Adapters – Of course I bring a bunch of Surface Pro adapters, since you never know if you need to connect your Surface to a big screen.
  • Microsoft Surface Power Adapter – This is a thing I really started to like. The Surface Power Adapter not only allows you to charge your Surface, but the extra USB port also allows you to charger your phone or another USB device at the same time.
  • Next to that, I will bring some cables, sunglasses, even I might not really need them in the Seattle area this time of the year, and a bunch of other stuff you need during an event.

Old Times

By the way it is funny to see, how the inside of my bag change over the years. I wrote a similar blog post for the Microsoft MVP Summit in 2013. When I was carrying a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 and a Lumia 920.

Bag for Microsoft MVP Summit

My Favorite Visual Studio Code Themes

While I am doing presentations, I often do demos, and since a lot of my demos are PowerShell based, I use a lot of Visual Studio Code. With that I often get the question which is the Visual Studio Code Theme I use. Even I change my Visual Studio Code Themes pretty often, I have a couple of favorites I want to share.


Visual Studio Code Theme Cobalt2

My current favorite Visual Studio Code Theme is Cobalt2. Cobalt2 is a dark but colorful theme for Visual Studio. I like it because it is a dark theme, but it not uses the classic dark grey background, instead I like the mix of dark blue and yellow.

Atom One Dark

Visual Studio Code Theme Atom One Dark

Atom One Dark is another Dark theme I started to like very much. I like the popping colors on the dark background.

Ayu Mirage – Visual Studio Code Theme

Visual Studio Code Theme Ayu Mirage

The Ayu Themes for Visual Studio are simple, bright and elegant themes. I prefer the Ayu Mirage theme which as I said looks very elegant. The Ayu themes also have other options like the Ayu light which is also one of my favorites.


Visual Studio Code Theme Dracula

Dracula is one of the famous Visual Studio Code themes, which is also available on other platforms. When I am not using the Cobalt2 theme, I most often switch to Dracula.

Ayu Light

Visual Studio Code Theme Ayu Light

I mentioned the Ayu Themes before, and this is the light version of it. I am mostly using dark themes, but when I switch to a light theme, I mostly use Ayu Light.

PowerShell ISE

Visual Studio Code Theme PowerShell ISE

If you are coming form PowerShell scripting, you are already familiar with the PowerShell ISE. The PowerShell ISE theme bring you back in to the old school world and even gives you the PowerShell blue background terminal.

There are a lot of other great Visual Studio Code Themes out there. What is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!