Category: Hardware

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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.

 



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



Microsoft Modern Keyboard

Mini Review of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID

As you may know I am a big fan of the Microsoft peripherals like the Microsoft Arc Mouse, Surface Pen, Surface Precision Mouse, Surface Dial and the Surface Keyboard. The last one I have just upgraded to the Microsoft Modern Keyboard. The Microsoft Modern Keyboard almost looks the same when you compare it to the Surface Keyboard, except for some minor changes, like the on/off button, the USB charging port or the integrated Fingerprint reader.

As like the Surface Keyboard, the Microsoft Modern Keyboard feels extremely comfortable to type on, and in my opinion also looks perfect on your desk. It is thin and light and matches the style of the other Surface products. Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID’s aluminum frame makes it not only of the highest quality, but heavy and virtually indestructible. The keyboard not only supports Bluetooth Low Energy  4.0 / 4.1 / 4.2, it also supports USB as a wired connection, which allows it to be a great choice even at work.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard Fingerprint Reader

One of the main new advantages of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard is the new integrated Fingerprint reader. This allows you to use it together with Windows Hello, to easily login to your computer, without the need of a password.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard On Off Button

You also get a on off switch for they keyboard, which is really handy, especially when you are traveling and storing the keyboard in your bag.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard USB Charger

The Surface Keyboard came with batteries which you needed to replaces after a while. The Microsoft Modern Keyboard brings a rechargeable battery, which can be easily recharged using the included USB cable, which also lets you connect the keyboard not only using Bluetooth, but also using the wired USB connection. Microsoft promises up to 4 months battery life on full charge.

After using the Surface Keyboard and before the Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Desktop since 2015, the Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID is a great successor.



Windows SpeculationControl PowerShell

Microsoft Guidance to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities on Windows, Windows Server and Azure (Meltdown and Spectre)

Microsoft very quickly responded to the speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities also called Meltdown and Spectre which affect many modern processors and operating systems, including chipsets from Intel, AMD, and ARM. Microsoft released some guidance how you should protect your devices against these vulnerabilities. The Microsoft Security Defense Team also published an article with guidance and more details on this: ADV180002 | Guidance to mitigate speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

In this blog post I tried to quickly summarize the information and link it to the right websites.

Summary

Microsoft is aware of detailed information that has been published about a new class of vulnerabilities referred to as speculative execution side-channel attacks. This industry-wide attack method takes advantage of out-of-order execution on many modern microprocessors and is not restricted to a single chip, hardware manufacturer, or software vendor. To be fully protected, updates are required at many layers of the computing stack and include software and hardware/firmware updates. Microsoft has collaborated closely with industry partners to develop and test mitigations to help provide protections for our customers. At the time of publication, Microsoft had not received any information to indicate that these vulnerabilities have been used to attack our customers.

Note This issue also affects other operating systems, such as Android, Chrome, iOS, and MacOS.

Warning

Microsoft addressed protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities in the latest Windows Updates. However, customers who only install the Windows January 2018 security updates will not receive the benefit of all known protections against the vulnerabilities. In addition to installing the January security updates, a processor microcode, or firmware, update is required. This should be available through your device manufacturer. Surface customers will receive a microcode update via Windows update.

Guidance for Windows Client

Customers should take the following actions to help protect against the vulnerabilities:

  1. Verify that you are running a supported antivirus application before you install OS or firmware updates. Contact the antivirus software vendor for compatibility information.
  2. Apply all available Windows operating system updates, including the January 2018 Windows security updates.
  3. Apply the applicable firmware update that is provided by the device manufacturer

Windows-based machines (physical or virtual) should install the Microsoft security updates that were released on January 3, 2018. See Microsoft Security Advisory ADV180002 for updates for the following versions of Windows.

Read full guidance for Windows Client here: Windows Client Guidance for IT Pros to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Guidance for Windows Server

Customers should take the following actions to help protect against the vulnerabilities:

  1. Apply the Windows operating system update. For details on how to enable this update, see Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 4072699.
  2. Make necessary configuration changes to enable protection.
  3. Apply an applicable firmware update from the OEM device manufacturer.

Windows Servers-based machines (physical or virtual) should get the Windows security updates that were released on January 3, 2018, and are available from Windows Update.

  • Windows Server, version 1709 (Server Core Installation) KB4056892
  • Windows Server 2016 KB4056890
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 KB4056898
  • Windows Server 2012 Not available yet
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 KB4056897

Your server is at increased risk if it is in one of the following categories:

  • Hyper-V hosts
  • Remote Desktop Services Hosts (RDSH)
  • For physical hosts or virtual machines that are running untrusted code such as containers or untrusted extensions for database, untrusted web content or workloads that run code that is provided from external sources.

There for Microsoft posted some additional registry keys to mitigations on servers. Microsoft also added some extra registry keys if you are running older versions of Hyper-V.

Read the full guidance for Windows Server and the registry keys here: Windows Server guidance to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Guidance for Virtual Machines running on Hyper-V

In addition to this guidance, the following steps are required to ensure that your virtual machines are protected from CVE-2017-5715 (branch target injection):

  1. Ensure guest virtual machines have access to the updated firmware. By default, virtual machines with a VM version below 8.0 will not have access to updated firmware capabilities required to mitigate CVE-2017-5715. Because VM version 8.0 is only available starting with Windows Server 2016, users of Windows Server 2012 R2 or earlier must modify a specific registry value on all machines in their cluster.
  2. Perform a cold boot of guest virtual machines.Virtual machines will not see the updated firmware capabilities until they go through a cold boot. This means the running VMs must completely power off before starting again. Rebooting from inside the guest operating system is not sufficient.
  3. Update the guest operating system as required. See guidance for Windows Server.

Read the full guidance for Guest Virtual Machines here: Protecting guest virtual machines from CVE-2017-5715 (branch target injection)

Guidance for Surface Devices

Microsoft will provide UEFI updates for the following devices:

  • Surface Pro 3
  • Surface Pro 4
  • Surface Book
  • Surface Studio
  • Surface Pro Model 1796
  • Surface Laptop
  • Surface Pro with LTE Advanced
  • Surface Book 2

The updates will be available for the above devices running Windows 10 Creators Update (OS version 15063) and Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (OS version 16299). You will be able to receive these updates through Windows Update or by visiting the Microsoft Download Center.

Read full guidance for Surface Devices here: Surface Guidance for Customers and Partners: Protect your devices against the recent chip-related security vulnerability

Guidance for Azure

Microsoft has already deployed mitigations across the majority of our cloud services and is accelerating efforts to complete the remainder.

However, I always recommend that you also patch your operating systems and applications to be protected against other vulnerabilities.

Impact to Enterprise Cloud Services

Microsoft is not aware of any attacks on the Microsoft Cloud customers which leverage these types of vulnerabilities. Microsoft employs a variety of detection capabilities to quickly respond to any malicious activity in our enterprise cloud services.

Most of the Azure infrastructure has already received mitigations against this class of vulnerability. An accelerated reboot is occurring for any remaining hosts. Customers can check the Azure Portal for additional details.

All other enterprise cloud services such as Office 365, Dynamics 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security have mitigations against these types of vulnerabilities. Microsoft engineering is continuing to perform analysis across the environments to confirm further protection.

Read full guidance for Microsoft Azure here: Microsoft Cloud Protections Against Speculative Execution Side-Channel Vulnerabilities

Guidance for Azure Stack

Azure Stack customers should take the following actions to help protect the Azure Stack infrastructure against the vulnerabilities:

  1. Apply Azure Stack 1712 update. See the Azure Stack 1712 update release notes for instructions about how to apply this update to your Azure Stack integrated system.
  2. Install firmware updates from your Azure Stack OEM vendor after the Azure Stack 1712 update installation is completed. Refer to your OEM vendor website to download and apply the updates.
  3. Some variations of these vulnerabilities apply also to the virtual machines (VMs) that are running in the tenant space. Customers should continue to apply security best practices for their VM images, and apply all available operating system updates to the VM images that are running on Azure Stack. Contact the vendor of your operating systems for updates and instructions, as necessary. For Windows VM customers, guidance has now been published and is available in this Security Update Guide.

Read full guidance for Microsoft Azure Stack here: Azure Stack guidance to protect against the speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Guidance for SQL Server

The following versions of Microsoft SQL Server are impacted by this issue when running on x86 and x64 processor systems:

  • SQL Server 2008
  • SQL Server 2008 R2
  • SQL Server 2012
  • SQL Server 2014
  • SQL Server 2016
  • SQL Server 2017

IA64-based versions of SQL Server 2008 are not believed to be affected.

Microsoft made a list of different SQL Server scenarios depending on the environment that SQL Server is running in and what functionality is being used. Microsoft recommends that you deploy fixes by using normal procedures to validate new binaries before deploying them to production environments.

You can finde the list for scenarios and recommendations here: SQL Server guidance to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

There is also a list of updates for SQL Server available:

 

  • 4057122 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2017 GDR: January 3, 2018
  • 4058562 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2017 CU3 RTM: January 3, 2018
  • 4058561 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2016 CU7 SP1: January 3, 2018
  • 4057118 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2016 GDR SP1: January 3, 2018
  • 4058559 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2016 CU: January 6, 2018
  • 4058560 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2016 GDR: January 6, 2018
  • 4057114 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2008 SP4 GDR: January 6, 2018
  • 4057113 Description of the security update for SQL Server 2008 SP3 R2 GDR: January 6, 2018

Read the full guidance for SQL Server here: SQL Server guidance to protect against speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

Verifying protections again speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities

The Microsoft Security Response Center released a PowerShell Module on the PowerShell Gallery called SpeculationControl, which verifies if your system is protected or not.

You can find more here: Use PowerShell to verifying protections again peculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities CVE-2017-5754 (Meltdown) and CVE-2017-5715 (Spectre)

 

More information on how to mitigate speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities can be found here: ADV180002 | Guidance to mitigate speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities



Windows SpeculationControl PowerShell

Use PowerShell to verifying protections again speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities CVE-2017-5754 (Meltdown) and CVE-2017-5715 (Spectre)

As you might have seen in the last couple of days, there are huge news about some security bugs in CPUs from different vendors (not just intel). The Microsoft Security Response Center released a PowerShell Module on the PowerShell Gallery called SpeculationControl, which verifies if your system is protected or not.

Microsoft is aware of a new publicly disclosed class of vulnerabilities that are referred to as “speculative execution side-channel attacks” that affect many modern processors and operating systems, including chipsets from Intel, AMD, and ARM.

Note This issue also affects other systems, such as Android, Chrome, iOS, and MacOS, so we advise customers to seek guidance from those vendors.

Microsoft has released several updates to help mitigate these vulnerabilities. We have also taken action to secure our cloud services. See the following sections for more information.

Microsoft has not yet received any information to indicate that these vulnerabilities have been used to attack customers. Microsoft continues working closely with industry partners including chip makers, hardware OEMs, and app vendors to protect customers. To get all available protections, hardware/firmware and software updates are required. This includes microcode from device OEMs and, in some cases, updates to antivirus software as well.

Enabled protections will show in the output as “True” like in this screenshot here

Windows SpeculationControl PowerShell

So make sure you patch your systems, for Windows and Windows Server are already patches available and the Surface Familiy already got some firmware updates.

Also check out Mike F Robbins (Microsoft MVP) how he explains how to use the SpeculationControl PowerShell module on remote machines.



Surface Precisiaon Mouse Box

Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse Review

Last week I got the Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse delivered. The Surface Precision Mouse will become the replacement mouse for my Microsoft Sculpt Mouse, which I used for the last couple of years. Now I want to give you some impressions about the Surface Precision Mouse, since I am very happy and very surprised about the feature set.

Surface Precision Mouse

First of all the Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse feels awesome, very high quality and it is very comfortable in your hand. It feels very precise and you get very quickly used to it.

Now let me write about some extra features you might didn’t know about. You first get a button to configure the scroll wheel in two different speeds, one feels very light and fast and the other one is slower and is more resistant, so you can choose what you like more and switch between them, depending on your task.

Microsoft Surface Percision Mouse Settings

Of course you get some extra buttons which you can customize with different shortcuts, for example to open the Windows 10 Tasks View or other applications. You can also customize the buttons depending on the application you are working with.

Surface Precision Mouse Bottom

By already having the perfect mouse, in terms of feeling, comfort, precision and customizability, you get a really cool extra feature. The Surface Precision Mouse gives you more multi-tasking power by allowing you to work seamlessly across up to three computers, supports both Bluetooth and wired USB connections. You can pair your Surface Precision Mouse with three different devices and you can manually switch between them with the button on the bottom of the mouse, or you can use something called Smart Switch.

Microsoft Surface Percision Mouse Smart Switch

Smart Switch on the Surface Precision Mouse can be enabled by using the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center. It allows you to setup the workplace layout in the app and now you can move the cursor to the border of the screen and the mouse will seamlessly switch to the other device. So if you are working on your desktop and you have your notebook right next to it, you can easily move the mouse from one device to the other.

Overall I am super happy with the new device!

 

Tech Specs

The mouse also works with Windows 7, Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and macOS devices as long as they support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.

 
InterfaceUSB 2.1, Bluetooth® Low Energy 4.0/4.1/4.2Dimensions4.8 x 3.05 x 1.7 (122.6 mm x 77.6 mm x 43.3 mm)
Wireless Frequency2.4GHz frequency rangeWeight4.76 ounces (135 grams) including rechargeable batteries
Buttons6 buttons, including right and left click and scroll wheel buttonBatteryRechargeable lithium ion battery (included)
DesignErgonomic design with side gripsBattery LifeUp to 3 months
ScrollingSmooth or magnetic detent customizable horizontal and vertical scrolling1ColorGray