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Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017

My impressions from Microsoft Ignite 2017

Okay, I know, Microsoft Ignite 2017 was already a couple of weeks ago. But still, I finally had time to write about my impressions from Microsoft Ignite, after the conference plus my visit in Seattle for the Intelligent Cloud Architect Bootcamp and spending my days in meetings and back at work in Switzerland. Since there is a lot of stuff and important changes coming, I think it is still valid to write about my impressions.

First, I have to say Orlando is great, I really loved spending my time there. This was my second Microsoft Ignite after the first one in Chicago. I have to say, it was very well organized and organizing such a huge conference is definitely not easy.

The Speaking part…

Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017 Theater

I had the great opportunity to speak in several Microsoft Ignite sessions and this was huge fun. It is always fun for me to stand in front of a couple of people and show them some stuff I am working on. I not only had the chance to do my Theather session about “Lessons learned from deploying Windows Server 2016”, I also spoke in two breakout sessions about our customer cases focusing on System Center and Storage Spaces Direct.

The Networking part…

One of the most important parts of such a conference is networking with others. The point is that all the videos are going to be online available for later review, but you get time to meet with people from Microsoft, customers and partners, and talk, share and learn from them. The connections you make at such a conference will be helpful in the future, trust me…

The Learning part…

One of the main reasons for me to attend, was to learn. Not only learn about the latest and greatest technology, but also about where the industry is heading. I believe that our industry is heading to one of the biggest changes in history since the transition from Mainframes to client server topology. I think this is not new to most of us, but what is interesting and something I underestimated is, how fast that transition will be going forward. Cloud Computing, AI, Big Data, IoT and modern applications are going to be big topics in the future and technologies like containers and methods like DevOps are going to accelerate this change. My lesson learned from these events is that we all in the industry have to learn much faster and be ready to adapt to change much quicker.

With that, I hope to see you soon at other conferences and events or again at Microsoft Ignite on September 24 – 28 in Orlando, Florida.



What is in my Bag for Microsoft Ignite 2017

What’s in my bag for Microsoft Ignite 2017

In a couple of hours I will catch my flight to Orlando FL to the Microsoft Ignite 2017 conference. I am happy to join the itnetX team and be able to speak at the largest Microsoft Conference this year. I am really looking forward to it and meet other enthusiast around Microsoft Cloud solutions and of course meeting with members of the Microsoft Product Group.

I am already preparing and packing stuff for my two weeks trip to the United States. After Microsoft Ignite I will spend another week on the Microsoft Campus in Redmond (Okay, actually it is in Bellevue at the Azure Cloud Architect Bootcamp) so I have to pack enough stuff so I can pre productive for these two weeks and especially Microsoft Ignite.

What is in my Bag for Microsoft Ignite 2017

  • My main devices is of course my new Microsoft Surface Pro which I use as my 3-in-1 device, replacing my notebook, tablet and desktop using the Surface Docking Station. Of course it is running the latest Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview. Battery life I get is around 8 hours depending on what I am doing I get even some more. I will leave my Surface Book, which I was using for over a year and was my daily driver for a long time, back home. The Surface Pro is lighter much more portable, and especially at a huge conference like Microsoft Ignite, it helps to have a light devices to carry around.
  • The Surface Pen, well especially for conferences, workshops and trainings, I like to take handwritten notes or draw things to discuss ideas and solutions with people. The Surface Pen and OneNote are a must have for such events! (Quick Tip: Check out my blog post about Why OneNote is Awesome to learn some new OneNote skills)
  • As my day to day phone I use the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL (Yes sometimes I still use a Windows Phone) and the Samsung Galaxy S8+, which are the perfect devices for me with great cameras to take picture from the place I travel to and listen to music.
  • Even I like the track pad of the new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover I think I am more productive using a mouse. For that I got the new Microsoft Arc Mouse, Microsoft delivered together with the new 2017 Surface Pro. It follows the same line of design as the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse and others, which are perfect for traveling. If you don’t need them, you can just click them, to turn the off.
  • The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Audio Headphones and their Noise Cancelling feature are some real life savers. I like them especially when I travel and have some long flights. But I also like that they now support bluetooth, so I can connect wirelessly. I also use them for Skype and Skype for Business calls.
  • To get some extra power if needed, I also carry a Microsoft DC-34 portable power charger with a 9000 mAh battery
  • I am also carrying the Garmin Forerunner 325 which helps me tracks the steps I walk during Microsoft Ignite and the limited sleep I get during this event. Trust me, you will definitely walk a lot during that conference.
  • For presentations I got a Microsoft Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI and VGA adapter as well as the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter which acts as a Miracast Receiver and is great for presentations.
  • I also carry a USB 3.0 drive, since you never know when you need to share some files, which might be to larger to share over the conference WiFi.
  •  I just use power adapter of the Microsoft Surface Pro which also has a USB port for charging the phone, speaker and other stuff.
  • Next to that, I will bring some cables, sunglasses and a bunch of other stuff you need during a conference.

Some other tips for the conference:

You are going to talk a lot, and the days will be back with a lot of information and discussions, so make sure you pack something light to carry your devices around or a comfortable backpack. Also make sure you stay hydrated during the day, not just during the evening events 😉

By the way, check out my video interview with Marcel Zehner about my sessions at Microsoft Ignite during one of the itnetX X-Talk videos:

With that, hopefully see you at Microsoft Ignite 2017 in Orlando, and if you are there, contact me if you want to grab a coke, coffee or beer.



Surface Pro

First impressions on the Surface Pro 2017

I am one of the lucky persons owning an brand new Microsoft Surface Pro as a new device for work. This is the my devices I used for the last couple of days and weeks as my daily driver and this allows me to write a quick review about my first impressions about the Surface Pro.

After using the Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Book became my daily driver. And I had to say that it is a great notebook. But after using the Surface Pro for awhile, I really got used to the form factor. The 2-in-1 form factor and the small and light design, made the Surface Pro a really great travel companion and this was the reason I decided to go with a Surface Pro again.

Surface Pro 2017

My first impression when I took the Surface Pro out of the box was: “wow, this feels premium”. Even the Surface Pro and the Surface Book always felt really great, Microsoft improved it even more. The amazing premium sound of the kickstand,  the new rounded edges and the display of the Surface Pro making it even more premium and as mentioned the build quality is amazing.

The second thing I realized while using it, is the resume form standby is incredible fast. You basically press the on button and you can start working. And this while battery life is still great, I get around a whole working day out of it with a single charge.

Surface Pro 2017 Desk

Unfortunately I couldn’t really test the new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover, because it was not available at launch. But I will included it in my final review of the Surface Pro 2017, after I have used it for a couple of weeks.

 

 



HoloLens

My Microsoft HoloLens arrived – First Impressions

A while back Microsoft announced the Microsoft HoloLens and Windows 10 Holographic, which allows you to work with holograms. Last week my HoloLens finally arrived at my door step. And I had the chance to play with it a little bit over the weekend. I already had the chance to try it the first time a couple of weeks ago when I was speaking at the ITPro.ru event in Cluj. But since then Microsoft released a bigger update to HoloLens with some new feature like Bluethooth keyboard pairing, better voice commands, app improvements and much more.

Unboxing and Setup of the Microsoft HoloLens

HoloLens Package

The Microsoft HoloLens comes in a nice designed and large box with good quality. Basically what you can expect from a premium device which is not that cheap. You also get the HoloLens Clicker which you can pair with your HoloLens to click on things instead of using the click gesture.

HoloLens Box

I was quite surprised that the getting started guide only shows how you wear it and how you turn it on and off, but to be honest, that is all you need since the first setup and calibration experience is very easy, self-explaining and very nice designed.

 

Using Microsoft HoloLens

HoloLens Startmenu

To be honest, since this was the developer edition of HoloLens and it was still one of the first devices and software versions released to the public, I expected thing to be much more difficult and unstable. But already this release for me seems to be pretty good and usable. Even my mum and my dad, which are not really computer nerds, had no problems using it after only a couple of minutes.

To use it you simply look at things, use hand gestures, voice commands or paired Bluetooth devices for input. Especially the voice command and the gestures were working without any problems, things are recognized instantly and with no lag or misbehavior.

HoloLens Package

With the bloom gesture you can get a holographic start menu where you can find all the apps and Cortana, you can simply start an app by tapping on it. After that the app starts as a new hologram and you can first place it somewhere in the room. You can also size it and make sure it is at the right place, for example if you want to pin your Microsoft Edge Browser or pictures to the wall.

HoloLens Hyper-V

You get some default apps but you can also get some apps from the Windows Store. For me I downloaded the Mail and Calendar app and the Remote Desktop App. This allows me to manage my Hyper-V Servers directly from a hologram.

Vision and View

HoloLens Holograms

The view is surprisingly good, even the pictures I made to not really show this quality, but when you wear it the resolution and sharpness etc. are not really a problem.

One of the things you will notices is that the windows you can really see holograms is smaller than your normal viewing angle. So for example if a hologram is on the right edge of your view you can’t see it. But to be honest you get used to this very quickly.

Overall HoloLens Experience

Thomas Maurer HoloLens

So this was a quick summary of my first impressions of the Microsoft HoloLens. I have to be honest, I didn’t expect it to work that good. Microsoft HoloLens really works like Microsoft is advertising it. It is not just a crazy prototype device anymore, it is real. And I really can’t wait to see what developers do with the possibly Microsoft HoloLens offers to them.




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.

 



SurfaceBook

10 reasons why the Surface Book is great for IT Pros

As I mentioned in my little Surface Book review a couple of days ago, I really like the Microsoft Surface Book and it is my daily driver since November 2015. The Surface Book has a lot of reasons why it is a great device, but I want to highlight  some reasons why it is not only a great device for artists, but also for the IT professionals.

The performance is incredible

SurfaceBook

As many of you know I am using my Surface Book for a lot of demos and also testing a lot of stuff. I run Hyper-V on my Windows 10 machine and it is extremely fast. Virtual Machines boot up in just a couple of seconds and if you for example run the new Nano Server in a Virtual Machine, the installation of a new Nano Server Virtual Machine is done in under 3 seconds. If you want to run more Virtual Machines on your device, make sure you get the 16GB RAM model. Not only do you get plenty of power with the Intel Core i5 or Core i7 chip, the NVMe SSD disk is blazing fast and can be up to 1TB.

The touchscreen with the pen support is great

Surface Pro and Surface Book

If you have a touch screen machine you just get used to use your fingers while browsing or writing stuff down in OneNote. The pen is just perfect for taking notes or doing presentations or workshops with customers. Since I got my first Surface device, I never really used a whiteboard or something like that. I just used OneNote and a projector to draw and after the meeting I could easily sent the drawings to all the attendees.

Tablet Mode can be handy

Surface Book Tablet Mode

I wouldn’t consider myself as a huge tablet user, but there are several scenarios where you will love the possibility to convert your Surface Pro or Surface Book into a tablet. For my job I travel a lot and I realized, I used the tablet mode a lot while for example being in a plan or train, to just read some stuff or watch movies. This is also really handy if you sit at home in front of the TV or if you are in a hotel room and just wanted to watch some Netflix, before you go to sleep. But there are two other very useful scenarios for me. The first one is while I am doing presentations for customer I use the Surface Pen a lot, but instead of sitting in front of my Surface Book, I can take the keyboard of and walk around while doing the presentation and draw on my Surface. The second one is when I am in a meeting and I want to take handwritten notes, the tablet mode is perfect, I can just use it as a piece of paper, which makes it much more attractive to write on and also I am not hiding behind a computer screen. By the way, the tablet or screen it self is extremely light so even holding it with one hand is great.

Enterprise Security and Windows Hello

Surface Book Windows Hello

Well if you are working and traveling a lot, security is a very important part. Protecting your data using the Surface Book is very easy, since it comes with a TPM 2.0 chip you can encrypt your SSD and all the data stored on. The other thing I really like is the camera supporting face detection using Windows Hello. First I thought this feature is just a nice toy, but hey, I really got used to it, I just open my Surface Book and I get logged in without typing the password.

Battery Life is awesome

When did you get a thing and light device and you didn’t had to worry about battery life for a whole day? With the Surface Pro 3 I was very close to it, but the Surface Book finally gets me trough a whole day without the need to recharge. I get around 8-12 hours of battery life depending on the workload I am running. In the morning I can leave without a power supply and can work the whole day.

The Screen

Surface Book

This is another great feature of the Surface Book, the screen is sharp and the colors are amazing, but this is not the only reason I love the Surface Book screen. The Surface Book comes with a 13.5” PixelSense display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a resolution of 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI). This gives you enough space on the screen to get some work done, without making the device to big. Especially the 3:2 aspect ratio is one thing I really like, especially while writing and reading.

Connectivity and accessories

Microsoft also adds a lot of great accessories to the Surface product line. The Surface Book comes with 2 USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized SD card slot, a headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort and a Surface Connect port, which allows you to connect the power supply or the Surface Docking station. It also used the latest Wifi and Bluetooth connections to connect wirelessly to networks or devices. The Surface Book comes also with great cameras, stereo microphones and speakers which make the device great for video or voice conference calls. But also the small things you will start to like, for example the additional USB port in the power supply, which allows you to charge other devices like your smartphone or your Microsoft Band, without having to carry another charger.

The Docking Station makes it a great workstation

Surface Book Home Office

If I am at home or in our company office I can connect the Surface Book to the Surface Docking Station, which turns it into a full workstation. At home I use 2 Dell 27” screens using the 2 Mini DisplayPort adapters on the Surface Docking station. I also like the additional USB 3.0 ports you get with the docking station.

Perfect device to travel

Surface Book Travel

The Surface Book and also the Surface Pro are in my opinion some of the best options if you travel a lot. First the devices are light and have a small footprint, so carrying them is easy. But they still have a lot of performance to run some heavy workloads where ever you are, and with the battery life you get, even long flights or long work days are not a problem at all. But what really makes it great, you just need one device, you don’t have to carry a notebook and a tablet to have all the options, you can simply unplug the keyboard and you can go from laptop mode to tablet mode. With Windows 10 owning a 2in1 or 3in1 devices makes even much more fun.

Deliver great presentation using the Wireless Display Adapter

Surface Book Presentation

As I mentioned before, I use the Surface Book for a lot of presentations and workshops. With the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter you can even do this wirelessly, which makes especially workshops more interactive and fun.