Windows 10 Tablet Mode

It’s a paradigm shift to be sure…

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I’ve been messing around with Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 for a bit now. You can see a bit of my coverage here on Soft32, here where I talk about the new OS’ announcement highlights, and here where I talk about how surprised I was to find out that the latest preview got released about a week early.

Since then, I’ve had a very interesting time installing the OS. As of this writing, the two part article I wrote on how installations went on both a Surface Pro 1 and a Surface Pro 3 went haven’t been published. As I was sitting and thinking about Windows 10, my oldest son (an avid Xbox One fan) and Windows 10’s cool Game DVR, I thought about how he might be able to take advantage of that without a Windows 10 device to use (I use both my Surface Pro devices for work and review purposes and trusting those to a 9-soon-to-be-10 year old isn’t something that I’d recommend to anyone). I then remembered that I have a Dell Latitude 10 ST2 laying around in the home office doing nothing; and thought, “this might be the perfect device for him to use for Xbox One and Game DVR.” It really hasn’t been doing much since my initial review of the device in April of 2012.

The device itself has got low-end components and Windows 8 .x on it was a bit of a bust. I’m hoping Windows 10 with it, “only run what you need” approach to hardware and form factors will run a bit more smoothly than Windows 8 did; but that’s me – forever the optimist.

I’m not holding my breath…

The Dell was already running Windows 10 Build 9841. I wasn’t particularly happy with the performance on the device with that build; and after all of the grief I went through trying to get the thing on there, I decided it just wasn’t worth it, and shelved the device. Now that TP2 is here, I thought… why not dust it off and give it another go..?

I probably should have left the dust alone.

The Dell Latitude ST2 is a pure Windows Pro Tablet. This means it doesn’t have a native, detachable keyboard. It will use USB or Bluetooth keyboards, but it doesn’t have anything like the Surface/Surface Pro Touch/ Type Cover; and as I covered this in the review, it’s still an issue. I’m just sayin’…

Upgrading to Build 9926
This was the stupidest upgrade path I’ve seen in a long time. The Dell had Build 9841 on it. When I went to Windows 10’s Update and Recovery section under Settings, it found a new Preview Build and started to download it. Unfortunately, the first attempted errored out and I had to restart the download.

The build downloaded, but I had to wait until the next morning at the office to install it. It completed too late in the evening for me to start the upgrade. I’ve run into too many issues with Windows 10 installs to just let ‘er rip and let it go on its own. I wanted to baby sit it a bit…

So, I brought the device to work, plugged it into the wall and placed it on my desk. I started the device, hooked into the Wi-Fi network here, and brought up Update and Recovery again in Settings. I started the upgrade…

And wound up with build 9879…

Wait. What..??

How the heck did THAT happen? I was expecting Build 9926…

It became obvious to me that in order to get Build 9926, I had to upgrade to build 9879, run Windows Update, get any needed and important update bits for it; and then check for and download the new preview build. After it was installed, I would need to run Windows Update again to make certain I had the needed Technical Preview Update that provided all of the fixes that have been talked about.

So, as I said, I let the outdated preview build install and then tried to run Windows Update, and that’s where I started bumping into problems. While the big issue with SP3 was its graphics driver, the problem with the Dell Latitude 10 ST2 seems to be its Wi-Fi adapter. I always baby ALL of my equipment, so for me to have problems with a device that’s been shelved since October, was pulled out of the box to do this update and hasn’t left the home office in over 2 years really confused me. I’ve had eyes on the device for months.

For some reason, the Wi-Fi adapter on the Dell Latitude 10 ST2 likes to disappear. And when I say disappear, I mean, TOTALLY disappear. There’s no evidence of it in Device Manager. There’s no disabled adapter in the Network and Sharing Center. It’s just GONE…

That *SHOULDN’T* be just the driver. That should be a hardware problem…like “your ‘stuff’ is broke” problem. Which doesn’t make any sense. Currently *IF* the adapter disappears, it does so after a restart or power on. If the adapter were faulty, it would fail while the unit was on, running and using the adapter (if it was found…). I’ve had the device running Build 9926 (yes, I got there, but there’s more to this story, so stay with me…) for well over 3 hours straight, synching some OneDrive content. I haven’t run into an instance of the tablet dropping the adapter yet; and I’ve handled the device and used it a bit…

The adapter is usually lost after a Windows Update completes, which tells me that it’s a software issue, not a hardware issue. It also doesn’t matter how long the device has been running. If you turn it on, and it finds the adapter and you immediately run Windows Update after the boot cycle finishes, the Wi-Fi adapter will disappear after the device restarts.

Yeah… I’m TOTALLY confused on this one.

I can consistently reproduce this issue after performing a Windows Update (there doesn’t have to be any software to download). The Wi-Fi adapter disappears, is totally missing from the machine, and the ONLY way to get the thing back, is to totally remove ALL power from the device and restart it cold.

You may have to go into the Windows 10 boot loader , choose the Windows Rollback, and then choose the option to turn off your PC. If that doesn’t work, then you pull the battery (the Dell Latitude 10 ST2 has a removable battery…) and disconnect the AC power, let it sit for about 15-30 seconds, replace the batter and then restart. (so having that bug where the boot menu appears isn’t always a bad thing…). I’m also consistently able to reproduce the solution to the problem.

There’s a lot going on here with Windows 10. There are still MANY issues with it that clearly show it is NOT ready for prime time in any real sense of the word. If you don’t mind working through these issues, then Windows 10 may be a good option for you. If not, then you may want to wait a bit before you jump on board. Microsoft has a lot to do before Windows 10 is ready for release later this Fall. It needs to get crackin’, though if you ask me. It’s a little silly to having to jump through hoops like this to get the device to work normally.

Have you installed Windows 10 on any of your Windows 7 or Windows 8.x PC’s? Have you bumped into any issues? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below and tell us about them? I’d love to hear your experiences with Windows 10 Build 9926.

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Installing Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926: Part 2 – Surface Pro 1

Surface Pro 1

SurfacePro1

I honestly thought that things would have been better – read: really, REALLY clean – on a device that was already running Windows 10; but again, Microsoft reminded me that you really do need to approach running a prerelease version of Windows with a bit of caution.

I’m actually kicking myself over this you see, because I’m a software QA manager/director. I should *REALLY* know better; but I honestly got seriously trapped by the reality distortion field that was Windows HoloLens and didn’t think that I’d have too much to worry about when Microsoft released an update to Build 9926 hours or minutes after making the latest build available to testers.

In other words… Yeah. I’m an idiot.

So while I was trying to download Windows 10 TP2 Build 9926 as an ISO on my Surface Pro 3, I was also using the updated build mechanism in Windows 10 Build 9879 to download the update on my Surface Pro 1. The internet connection on that particular device – or I should say, the Wi-Fi adapter – is pretty good. I normally get some really decent speeds from it, regardless of where I go or what network I’m on.

For example, while my Surface Pro 3 might get 50Mbps down on the office wireless network, my Surface Pro 1 will get 104-117Mbps down on the same SSID. The funny thing is, they’re sitting almost literally, right beside each other. So I have really no idea what is causing the SP1 to have nearly twice as fast network download speeds on the same Wi-Fi network other than the very well documented Wi-Fi issues.

And yes… the install of Build 9926 was (almost) a train wreck on the Surface Pro 1, too.

However, I did have a bit of a better go here than on my Surface Pro 3. So, it wasn’t as BAD of a train wreck…

With the Surface Pro 1, I upgraded through the Update and Recovery function in Windows Settings. I thought that with the faster internet connection speeds I had on this device I would have been able to download the update file (which, by the way is a totally BLIND download and install… something on the Windows side of the world that you aren’t used to). I mean, Apple at least gives you some kind of a progress bar and download X of Y total…

With the Update and Recovery tool, you don’t get that. All you get is a greyed-out Download Now button and the spinning, disappearing dots until everything is downloaded and you’re ready to install. This is both good and bad.

Its good because you can go on about your day, working and being productive without having to worry about where you are in the install. It’s in progress until its done and until then, you don’t have to worry about it.

It’s bad because you have no idea where you are. It’s also bad because your download progress isn’t saved and resumable. If you have to cancel the download, as I did, mid-way through, you have to start all over. I found this out the hard way, Monday after I got back in the office and figured I had about 30 minutes of download time left on the SP1. Boy was I wrong!

I had over three hours of download time, as I can download about a gigabyte to a gigabyte and a half per hour at work.

So, fast forward about three hours and the Surface Pro 1 finishes its download. At that point, you need to tap the Update/ or Install button and then… yeah. You have to wait some more as the process goes through its pre-reboot process of installing the latest Windows 10 build.

However, the first time I did this, I got a nasty error about 15 minutes in. A line of red text appeared above the Install button telling me that Windows couldn’t be updated right now and to try again later. The Install button changed to a Download Now button, and I thought I was going to be required to go through the entire three plus hours of downloading all over again. Instead, I got a bit of a reprieve and only had to download/ redownload content for about 20-30 minutes. Then the Install button showed up again.

restartwin10When it’s ready to restart the machine, you get a full screen “Windows 8/ Windows 10 dialog box” that throws a narrow, colored band across the entire screen, telling you it needs to restart. You tap the Restart button, and you’re device will reboot into a black screen where it will give you an update percentage, a spinning set of disappearing dots and, in my case, a Surface logo.

After that was completed, I got my standard lock screen and I was asked to sign into my Surface Pro 1. After I signed in, I got the “Hi.” Screen and waited for Windows 10 to download my Store apps, install them, and finish any remaining configuration and file prep. From there, I was pretty much done… at least with the Windows 10 Build 9926 install… I had the update files from Windows Update to go through next.

That process went smoother than I thought it would, but was still a bit bumpy. Updates on an updated or upgraded machine still aren’t the best way to get this done, in my opinion. There’s always legacy code or program or resource files left behind that effect performance.

On the Surface Pro 1, there isn’t another firmware update as there is on the Surface Pro 3. There is, however a System Hardware Update, dated 2015-01-15 as well as the KB3034229 Windows Technical Preview for x64-based systems that Microsoft informed everyone of. (There’s also a definition update for Windows Defender that you might need. Make sure you get this, too.) What really burns my butt about the History information on Windows update (and has for quite some time, by the way) is that the web links they put into all of the updates are a totally generic link to Microsoft Support. The whole purpose of putting in a hyperlink should be to get you to the EXACT KB article covering a particular update. Taking me to the root of the MS Support site and making me search, sort and sift through articles to find information that may or may not exist on this particular subject is simply infuriating. Give me the information, give me links to the correct information or simply tell me that there isn’t any information on the update in question, please! I shouldn’t have to search for this crap by myself!

I’m also having issues with the MS product key and Windows 10 Activation again. Windows 10 has NEVER activated correctly on this device. I’ve had to manually activate Windows 10 on every build I’ve installed on this device, including all of the updates that I get via Update and Recovery.

Tapping the Activate button in the Activate Windows screen gets me the spinning, disappearing dots, but I get an error message indicating that Windows can’t be activated right now and that I should try again later. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to activate with the “current” key (ending in -MKKG7), Windows simply won’t activate, and tapping the Enter Key button and reentering the same key doesn’t work.

Thankfully, this is a pretty well-known error, and the issue can be easily resolved. The issue is that the product key in question – ending in –MKKG7) is incorrect for the Enterprise version of Windows. I’m not certain what causes the CONSUMER key to be entered into the PC when the ENTERPRISE version is installed and acknowledged by the system; but it is.

To resolve this issue, go to the Technet Evaluation Center, log in and register for the Enterprise Preview. After you do so, the download for the Enterprise version of Windows 10 will start automatically (after you pick which language version you want). You can cancel the ISO download if you want.

In the Preinstall Information section, you find the Product Key that you need. In the Activate Windows Settings page of your unactivated, Windows 10 machine, tap the Enter Key button and enter this new product key into the dialog box that appears. After you type in the code correctly, Windows will automatically activate.

Conclusion
It’s safe to say that this update went a lot smoother than the upgrade I did on my Surface Pro 3. This went like most of the installs and updates of Windows 10 that I’ve done on my Surface Pro since the beginning of the program back in October of 2014. I find this both encouraging and concerning.

It’s encouraging because it’s been pretty much consistent. At least with consistency as a Quality Assurance professional, I can measure improvement. While the consistency has been consistently mediocre to crummy, the install process has been pretty much the same.

One of the biggest things that Microsoft needs to do with the update and recovery pages in Settings is implement some kind of progress bar, internet speed meter and download x of y progress system. I’d like to know how far along I am in the process, how fast the download is progressing and how much I’ve downloaded out of how much there is total, please. It only seems logical and reasonable to expect this kind of information on these screens, even if the bulk of it is supposed to happen in the background, without my knowledge.

I haven’t seen any performance issues with the Surface Pro 1 like I did with the Surface Pro 3 and its video driver issues. However, it is running a dual core, Intel Core i5-3317U Ivy Bridge Processor where the Surface Pro 3 is running a dual core Intel Core i3-4020Y Haswell-MB Processor. The SP3’s processor is a year and three months younger than the processor in the SP1, but its running 0.2gHz slower and has 1MB less L3 cache. In this case, I’d give the SP1 a slight advantage on processing power, but they’re going to be pretty close. However, this version of the i3 was really meant to conserve batty power more than anything else, so we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples. The GPU on it (HD Graphics 4200) is only running at 850mHz max, so it’s not surprising that it was overwhelmed.

Neither of these are going to win any speed races, but it’s clear from what Wikipedia is showing me that the SP1 is clearly the faster of the two.

Do you have Windows 10 installed on a Surface Pro 1? Did you clean install or upgrade from a previous build? I’d love to hear your experiences with the upgrade process and subsequent use of the device and new OS. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the upgrade experience and on Windows 10 in general.

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Installing Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926: Part 1 – Surface Pro 3

It’s still not all sunshine and daisies, I’m afraid…

When I said I was shocked over the “early” release of the January Windows 10 preview, I really was. Microsoft has been pretty adamant about what it would and would not release and when it would (or wouldn’t) release things as part of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and they’ve pretty much stayed on mission thus far.

When I saw the available download for Windows 10 Technical Preview 2, I kinda new what I would be doing over the weekend of its release. I expected to have a ball. Instead, I ended up pulling my hair out (or what little I actually have left). The install experience so far has been a total train wreck. I’ve got two different machines – a Surface Pro 1 and a Surface Pro 3 – running Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926, here’s my experience in upgrading and installing Windows 10 Build 9926 on each of these.

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Surface Pro 3
The words, “train wreck” do not adequately describe the amount of crap I had to go through this weekend to get Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926 on my SP3. This was a huge pain the butt. And it all started out, with corrupt ISO files.

Yes. Corrupt ISO files.

I have my Surface Pro devices at use at work mostly; and I’ve got the enterprise version installed on both, just in case I get the opportunity to run either or both of them over my work network. While I’m not holding my breath – the office hasn’t totally adopted a formal CoIT policy as yet – I at least want to have the right build of Windows on my device(s) should the opportunity present itself. So, after chatting very briefly with Gabe Aul on Friday, I started downloading.

Initially, I had to abandon the first download as the network at the office isn’t that great. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t like my SP3 very much, as the speeds on it aren’t like they are on my SP1. Initially I thought this might be the Surface Pro 3’s dreaded Wi-Fi problem, but I have the same kind of crappy Wi-Fi performance on the ThinkPad T440 they gave me, so, maybe not. Wireless performance on my SP1, however, over the same network at the same time can produce download speeds of over 3x as fast than either my TP or SP3, so again… go figure.

When I got back to my place, I started the download almost immediately, and it was much peppier on the home network. Unfortunately, the ISO I downloaded was unmountable… it was also undeletable. As were the two additional copies I tried downloading to different locations on my Surface Pro 3. I couldn’t download a copy to save my life, and then I also couldn’t delete them either. I tried shutting the machine down; and I still got a “file was in use,” error from the OS. It was then that I simply restarted the machine and then was able to delete everything.

However, I still couldn’t download an ISO, and I didn’t want to try the consumer version, or simply downloading the EXE. I wanted installation media; and everything I could get my hands on was somehow getting corrupted.

You can’t download the Win10 TP on a Mac. The Windows Insider site is OS detecting, and unfortunately, doesn’t present a, “yeah, yeah, I know I’m running a Mac. Download the ISO’s anyway,” link. I also haven’t had good experiences burning a bootable Windows DVD on my Mac, so downloading the ISO’s via my Windows 7 VM under Parallels Desktop wasn’t an option, either.

I was kinda stuck… I bought my wife a refurbished Late 2009 13″ White, Unibody MacBook for Christmas to replace the 15″ Acer Windows 7 PC she had (someone stepped on it while it was closed and off, and cracked the LCD…) I’ve got her running Yosemite now. In fact, there really isn’t a “decent” and “working” Windows machine running Windows 8.x or EARLIER in the house any more… or was there..??

In a fit of desperation, I grabbed my wife’s 15″ Acer with the cracked LCD, and booted it up. The LCD is still half usable (on the right side) so I was able to run a browser, download both the Enterprise and the Consumer ISO’s and then using MagicISO, I was able to mount the ISO’s and burn them to a DVD.

Upgrading Windows 8.1 Update 2 to Windows 10 – The Train Wreck Continues
It just got worse from here.

windows-10-technical-preview-license

I had my Surface Pro 3 configured and setup with Office 365 and specific settings that came with it out of the box, and I wasn’t really ready to scrap all that, effectively blowing the device and starting over. So initially when I started the upgrade, I chose to keep everything.

Big, BIG mistake.

First there was a bit of confusion on my part as to how to appropriately start an upgrade. Windows 10 doesn’t want you to start it from a cold boot from the DVD. It wants you to start that from within Windows, so after booting to the Win10 Build 9926 DVD, I had to shut it all down and boot into Windows 8.1, put the DVD back in the drive and then run SETUP.EXE.

And that’s where it all turned south.

I knew the install would take a while, so with it running, I left to take the family to dinner. When I got home, I found the display off (as expected); but the device totally unresponsive. I had to look up how to resolve the, “my Surface Pro 3 won’t turn on,” issue. The thing that worked for me was pulling all USB devices and then holding power + volume up for 10 seconds and then releasing both buttons. After that, the device started up.

The setup picked up where it left off, with the “Hi.” screen. Unfortunately, the device was nearly unresponsive. The display changed colors, but very slowly. The text on the screen didn’t update. The mouse via the Type Cover would not work at all. In fact, the mouse cursor was totally missing. Typing a password didn’t update the screen, and then unlocking the screen seemed to take 15 seconds or more.

At that point, I decided that saving all of the apps, programs and settings wasn’t worth the grief of having to compute at a glacial pace, so I decided to blow the device and start from scratch.

And that’s where it all turned Deep South.

Honestly, I didn’t think it could get much worse; and I really didn’t think I was going to get out of this mess, either. I mean, I know what I’m doing. And without sounding like a total jerk or anything, other than a few people like Paul Thurrott, I don’t know too many other technically savvy people other than myself (especially local to Chicago) who might be able to help me resolve the situation…without making a trip to the Microsoft Store and swapping the Surface Pro 3 out in a warranty exchange. I mean, I was really *THAT* stuck. I really thought the computer was (effectively) bricked at one point.

So I let the PC get to a point where I could come back and restart everything. That is to say, that I gave up for the night and picked it up the next day. I let the device finish whatever it was going to do and in the meantime, I took 3 Advil and went to bed.

The next day, I tried to determine the best way to blow the device. I was having trouble now getting the device to boot from the USB DVD drive I have. I still had to make sure the device would turn “on” via the power button +volume up method I mentioned above. The bloody thing was still unresponsive otherwise. To boot, I also have evidence of the boot screen bug that’s been associated with Build 9926 where the Windows 10 device shows a boot screen before booting to Windows 10.

However, this would prove to be the turning point in the process, too.

Since the boot menu appears with an option to actually boot into the recovery partition, I tried going there and looking for the option to blow all the personal files and settings and hopefully get whatever was causing the PC to move at such a slow pace, off the machine.

The first time I tried to use the recovery partition, it failed. I got an error that setup couldn’t start. I wasn’t given any reason or even encouraged to try again. I rebooted the machine.

The second time I tried, the recovery partition told me that the drive I wanted to install Windows 10 on wasn’t available because it was encrypted with BitLocker. I hung my head and simply rebooted the machine Thankfully, I got the boot menu again.

The third time I tried was the charm. The recovery partition was able to “figure out” what I wanted to do when I told it I wanted to restore Windows to its factory state. I had some errands to run on Saturday afternoon, so away I went.

When I got back to the desk in my home office, the screen on the SP3 was dark again, but I expected that. I had been gone for a number of hours, and even though the SP3 was plugged in and charged, I had expected the PC to be asleep. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t have the force power it on with power + volume up again. That’s not the way I wanted to start the device from here on out.

Thankfully, the device powered on immediately when I pushed the start button, and took me through setting up the PC without any issues. I’m pleased to say that everything appears to be running normally. After it got setup up, I ran Windows Update, as recommended by Gabe Aul and nearly everyone under the sun in a position to know that MS found and resolved issues with Build 9926 immediately after it was released.

WIndows-10-UI

Observations, Post Install
There’s a lot going on with Windows 10, especially on the Surface Pro 3. Here are some of the things that you need to know, going forward, if you use an SP3, and are running Windows 10 Build 9926.

  1. PRE install, you need to make certain you have all of the latest updates for Surface Pro 3 installed. This includes a much needed, and very important, firmware update. You can get all of it from Windows Update. Update the device there first in Windows 8.x before making the journey over to the dark side, and Windows 10.
  2. The video driver is a serious sore point in Windows 10 on the SP3. It’s very possible that you’re going to see the level of performance issues that I saw after upgrading (though I couldn’t imagine it being any worse that I what I saw). Depending on how bad your device performance is, you’ll need to open up Device Manager and delete the Intel HD Video Driver. This will install the basic driver. Then you’ll need to update the driver via the facilities on the Driver Properties modal dialog box and let Windows Update bring down the latest Intel HD driver for you. After a series of screen blips and blackouts (and possibly a restart or two later), you should be good to go.
  3. You may see a serious battery life hit after all is said and done. This will likely be temporary as this *IS* a Preview Build and MS is likely working on a fix, but forewarned is forearmed. You may not want to venture too far away from your AC adapter…
  4. You may see that issue with the Boot Menu I mentioned…or you may not.

A fuller, more comprehensive list of issues can be found on the SuperSite for Windows, now managed by my friend, Rod Trent.

Conclusion – Surface Pro 3
I think I can say with pretty much 100% certainty that this is the rockiest OS upgrade – beta, prelease, or preview – that I’ve ever done on any PC anywhere…and I’ve been running Microsoft OS betas since Windows 95. Heck, even the Developer Preview of Windows 8 back in 2011 was a heck of a lot smoother than this.

Key point – any time a software manufacturer announces an update to an OS they released THAT SAME DAY, you HAVE to know there are issues with the build. And honestly, I was expecting issues. I really was. However, I never expected as rough a go as I had. This was really painful.

However, Windows 10 Technical Preview 2, Build 9926 is installed and running on my Surface Pro 3. I’ll let you know how the OS performs over the coming weeks.

Have you installed Windows 10? Did you install it on a Surface Pro 3? Did you bump into any issues or problems when you upgraded or installed? If you’re on an SP3, did you bump into video driver issues? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and give me an update on how you fared? I’d love to hear what your experience was.

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Windows RT and Surface Tablets are Dead

Here’s why I’m sad to see them go…

303387-microsoft-surface-with-windows-rt

Its clear to me that Microsoft really tried to create a total converged device with Windows 8 and its Surface RT product. Its also clear to me that the computing public – both consumers and tech pundits alike, myself included – totally panned, bashed and otherwise lambasted the OS to the point where Microsoft scrapped its roadmap, dropped back and brought back not only the desktop, but the Start Button and Start Menu as well.

The mobile strategy was simple, really… build and market a product that could compete with Apple’s iPad line of consumer tablets so that Microsoft wouldn’t miss out on the tablet revolution that was sweeping the nation (back in 2012 when the tablet revolution was in full swing).

Unfortunately, Microsoft failed. Back in the 1990’s you’d never even think of anyone thinking those words, let alone typing them on a web page that would be read by ba-gillions of people. Today, however, the tables have turned on Microsoft and their mobile strategy, well… it just sucks.

Windows Phone never caught on in the States, which is unfortunate, because the mobile OS is very capable and does what it does very well. Microsoft thought, erroneously, that they could combine the success of the desktop products with the tablet form factor and give everyone a product that would be a home run. I’m certain it sounded good in the Board Room when it was pitched, too. Unfortunately, this is where Microsoft missed the boat.

They thought that people wanting to bring their iPad to work meant that they really wanted a TabletPC. They don’t. They want a tablet that can do some PC-like things; but they still want a tablet. Microsoft, I think, got that; but maybe not so much.

Windows RT was an experiment that didn’t quite make it because Windows on ARM, or WoA as it was originally called, couldn’t run all of the desktop apps that everyone had been using and amassing for years. Users of Windows RT and Surface RT tablets couldn’t install their familiar applications and Microsoft was never able to convince its 3rd party development partners to release any software for the platform. Thus the death of a platform.

They just couldn’t leave the desktop alone. Putting a desktop on a product that didn’t have any desktop apps didn’t make any sense and really kinda tanked – and eventually killed – the product. Nobody could EVER figure out what it was supposed to be.

uC15s

However, if Microsoft had just embraced the iPad-like need that their customers were telling them they wanted, and made Windows RT more like Windows Phone, then they may have had a chance on making the product work. The in betweeny thing that RT really tried to be – a bridge between the TabletPC/ desktop world and a more productivity-based, consumerization of IT device – just didn’t work and as I said, confused nearly everyone, Microsoft included. They ended up concentrating more on the Surface Pro product line, as it followed the standard desktop PC paradigm they were used to seeing and working with.

However, I can’t help but think of what Windows RT really could have been if it did what it should have done. I really think that Apple has the right model. iOS is very similar to OS X. It just lacks a few key support items and features, but its really very close to Apple’s full blown, desktop OS. While those differences do require developers to make mobile counterparts to their venerated desktop programs and apps, Microsoft has been struggling (until Windows 10) with how to make that work. They really only wanted developers to HAVE to make a single app if they wished (hence the whole “universal app” concept in Windows 10).

But if Microsoft had totally ditched the desktop on Windows RT devices, which confused and befuddled users, and didn’t really permit them to DO anything that they could do on their Desktop machines, and figured out a way to have Phone apps run on RT, who knows what could have happened to the product.

We *COULD* have had a Windows based tablet that was a real and true iPad competitor. With a clarified and solid marketing strategy that differentiated and defined exactly what “Windows Mobile” was (Windows Phone plus Windows RT), Microsoft could have had a platform that may have been able to compete with both Apple AND Google’s Android. It could have been really cool.

And that’s why I’m a bit bummed. I saw an article on Computer World that says all signs point to the death of Windows RT, and they’re right. Microsoft isn’t going to provide an update path to Windows 10, though they will have some kind of update released to sort of bring it close.

I have no idea what that sentiment means. I have no idea what Microsoft is really going to do with Windows RT. I don’t think THEY know what they are going to do with Windows RT. However, its clear… they need to do something, and they need to provide some way for users to either use the hardware they invested in, or provide a way to spring board into Surface Pro (maybe some kind of hardware trade up program..??)

But it could have been cool… Unfortunately, the technology world is full of “could have been cool’s” from over the years. In the end, we’re just going to have to wait and see what Microsoft wants to do.

Goodbye Windows RT… We really never knew you or what the heck you were supposed to be.

What do YOU think Microsoft should do with Windows RT and Surface RT and Surface 2? Should it all be scrapped? Should Microsoft provide some kind of premium trade up program? Should they do anything else? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below and give me your thoughts on the whole situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Windows 10 Announcement Highlights

There’s a lot to digest from the big announcements in Redmond. Here are the highlights…

I tried to watch most of the Microsoft announcement the other day. I got to see most of it, but I missed the very beginning and the very end. Such is the life of a working IT guy – meetings… its what we do. So I’ve been doing a lot of research on what’s coming with Windows 10 once the latest Technical Preview build is released. I’m also trying to keep an eye on the prize and dope out what might actually be coming through to us at the end of the whole gig, sometime in late Q3, early Q4 of 2015. What I’ve been able to pull together from what I can find on the internet is below.

However, please take everything with a grain of salt. The world is still geeking out over the Microsoft HoloLens. Everyone is doing the best NOT to turn into Lt. Barkley and become instantly addicted to the holosuite that can be strapped to your head. While I will cover some of that a bit later, its not the biggest and best thing about Windows 10, believe it or not.

win10

…and so, without much more mumbo-jumbo, here’s the highlights from the Microsoft Press Event of 2015-01-21.

Windows as a Service
This is probably the biggest announcement of the entire key note. It looks like upgrade costs – at least on the consumer side of the world – are a thing of the past. If I’m reading everything correctly, Microsoft is leaving its consumer, OS upgrade business model behind and is embracing the, “if you love them, set [it] free” model when it comes to upgrade pricing. According to the press even on 2015-01-21, Windows is now a SaaS (Software as a Service) product, and future upgrades will just appear on a Windows 10 (or better) machine, and cost the user nothing.

This is a HUGE step away from what was once a very lucrative business model – charging consumer users (sometimes hundreds of dollars) for OS/ platform upgrades. I can remember dropping $100 or more for an upgrade CD/DVD and looking at a full license cost of $357.99 or more and thinking that someone in Redmond was out of their mind. (Actually, I thought they might like to come over to my house, live like I do for a couple of weeks and then kindly explain to me what the hell they were thinking…) The general public can’t afford that, and that’s one of biggest reasons why users either tried to, wanted to or in fact, DID resort to pirating copies of Windows. The bloody thing cost too much for users either building or rebuilding a PC to afford (and don’t even START with me on Microsoft’s borked up Activation requirements that made you prove that you weren’t pirating a copy of Windows, but were, in fact, simply replacing a few computer components).

Now that Windows is a service and users of Windows 7 or better can upgrade their computer’s OS for free for at least a year after Windows 10 is released, pirated copies of Windows in the wild should be greatly reduced. The only question I have here is, “What if a consumer builds a Windows PC from scratch..? Will they have to pay for a Windows 10 license, or can they obtain a clean install DVD for free?” I haven’t seen an answer to that one just yet.

The other big question here is, “if Windows is TRULY a SaaS product, then is Windows 10 the start of ‘Windows 365,’ or some other subscription model?” My friend, Rod Trent, now running the SuperSite for Windows has an article on this specifically; and it makes some interesting points – Windows as a SaaS service is versionless (as its updated all the time, and there isn’t a new release, service pack or any major update… its just… updated); and how those updates will actually be rolled out to end users and/or corporate endpoints is unclear.

I mean, its assumed that Windows Update will still continue to deliver these and that corporate network admins can still deploy a version of Windows to the enterprise and then sit on updates until they are tested and approved; but that along with cost, are REALLY still up in the air. If Windows really is a SaaS product, then the delivery method may completely change… or it may not.

Windows 10 won’t be released until September or October of this year, so Microsoft at least has some time to work that out… Until then, we can all speculate on whether Microsoft is going to drop the Windows 10 brand for Windows 365 or Windows 1; or it if will offer Windows as both a subscription AND a standalone product as it does with Office today… let the rumor mongering begin!

Cortana
When Cortana was introduced on Windows Phone, it was seen as a direct competitor to both Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now digital assistants. While Siri is really the only DIRECT competitor here (Google Now is impersonal and doesn’t have the built in personality that come built into both Siri and Cortana. It may have something to do with the fact that “Google Now” isn’t a proper first name…)

Anyway, Cortana gets a big upgrade in Windows 10. She sits front and center, accessible via voice right off your Task Bar. There’s been a huge fuzzy logic implementation here, giving her the ability to learn about you and what you do, how you work, play, etc.; and the service will be providing information as you work and play – things (she thinks) you will find useful. The more you use Cortana, the smarter and more useful it gets.

The big difference between Cortana and Google Now is that Cortana isn’t doing all of this in order to either sell something to you, or to sell YOU to someone else (much like Google is doing with all of your information gathered via Google Now and other Google Services). Here, Microsoft wants you to use its product, instead of making a product out of you. Now, how long that stays that way, remains to be see, but at least for now, we can “trust” Microsoft not to abuse its superpowers.

Universal Apps
So, Microsoft is releasing, really only a single version of Windows 10. That same version of the OS will run on a desktop or laptop PC, a tablet AND a smartphone. The hardware effectively tells the OS what it needs, and the OS only installs and runs those components. Its smart enough to automatically determine the right screen sizes and orientations for what it needs to do all by itself. That, in and of itself is pretty cool.

If you’re a developer, it gets a bit cooler. Microsoft has one version of its OS, and they’re giving you (the developer) the opportunity to release only a single “universal” app that will run on all three major form factors (desktop, tablet and smartphone). Thanks to the smarts built into the OS, your app can take advantage of the same technology and only run in the right modes with the correct UI, screens, orientation, etc. In the end, you only have to maintain a single app if you wish (Microsoft isn’t holding its 3rd party developers to universal apps as a requirement).

I don’t know of any other desktop OS with a mobile counterpart (and that’s really only iOS) that has this capability. Right now, this is a Microsoft and Windows 10 exclusive feature.

Spartan Browser
Microsoft has surely heard the cries of its people and has provided a new browser for them. Spartan, a new browser targeted mainly at mobile devices – again, smartphones and tablets running Windows 10 – is a browser that will be running a new and improved Trident rendering engine. The browser will also work on Windows 10 powered desktop and laptop computers.

While the first build of Windows 10 that is supposed to run on smaller devices with screens 8 inches and under – like stables and smartphones – won’t be released until February of 2015, Spartan won’t be included in that build. It also isn’t included in the latest build of Windows 10 – build 9926 – for the desktop.

The browser is totally new. While it uses the Trident rendering engine, Trident is totally new. Microsoft rewrote it from scratch just for Spartan. The idea here is to create a browser that can truly compete with Web Kit based browsers like Chrome, Safari and Firefox. And while IE in and of itself isn’t going away, Spartan will be completely separate.

Its not completely clear which hardware will run IE, going forward. While Spartan will run on all Windows 10 compatible hardware and in any mode of the OS – meaning on a smartphone or tablet – its assumed that IE will remain a desktop only application. As such, Spartan will have some level of legacy compatibility built into it. That is to say, that it will be able to interact with websites written specifically for IE (like Outlook .com and OWA). While these sites run on non-IE browsers, their functionality is clearly limited and in some cases, disabled or missing. At least Spartan will have some level of legacy capabilities built in. How much, remains to be seen; and it’s hard to say, how well Spartan will be received, so it’s difficult to determine if this is the Microsoft browser that will finally replace IE or not.

Game DVR is a Game Changer
It’s obvious with the (at times, debatable) success of Xbox 360 and Xbox One that Microsoft is big on gaming and getting users to use Windows as a gaming platform. Microsoft is modifying its Xbox app for Windows, allowing you to view your games and chat with people via Xbox Live.

Game DVR is perhaps the biggest feature in the new app. With it, you can view, comment on and share game play clips. Any Windows game – including older Steam titles – can save a (last) 30 second game play clips via the Windows+G command. Since you never know when you’re going to bump into a totally stellar set of events, Windows 10 caches ALL game play on a rolling 30 second window, allowing you to save off the last 30 seconds to a cool clip that you can post and share with friends. Note, you’re likely going to need a fast processor, available free RAM and a fast hard drive to do this in a “reasonable” amount of time, if at all.

You’re also going to be able to serve up your games to any Windows 10 compatible, connected device on your home network. This is especially important if you have, say, a 9 year old son who totally LOVE playing Minecraft on your 50″+ plasma TV screen, and hates that he has to shut down because it’s time for the big game, or the family is just tired of watching him play for 4 hours straight. With Game DVR, the game can be transferred to a compatible phone or tablet, or other Windows 10 computer, where it can simply be continued. All you may have done is paused the game on Xbox One, run the Xbox app on an appropriate device and picked up where you left off.

With something like this in place, my son won’t have to stop playing simply because something as trivial as the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl comes on. He can move to another Windows 10 device and pick up where he left off, and I can watch the game… All is right with the world.

Windows HoloLens
O
M
G

I nearly lost my mind when I saw Windows HoloLens. There’s a lot there to be excited about, but I couldn’t help but hear Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, “I’ll be back…” run through my head a couple of times while the presentation was going on. You had to think Skynet at least a couple of times while the presentation was running. It was totally (and frighteningly) cool.

Windows HoloLens was developed in part by the same guy that brought us Kinect – Alex Kipman. Both he and others that have tried the device describe it as pretty much what you would think it was – It looks and works pretty much like it did in the video demonstration that we saw during the keynote.

You put the helmet on, and you’re effectively inside a new world that’s laid over the top of the one you live in every day. The thing that struck me while I was watching the demo was the ability to man and control drones in the same manner that Will Robinson controlled the robot in “Lost in Space movie that was released back in 1998. This way, you could pilot a plane or fly a reconnaissance mission without ever having to leave the safety of the airbase; and have a better, over-all experience than you would flying via a camera on the drone, displaying on a monitor at the base. With Microsoft HoloLens, you’d be “in” the plane.

NASA has eyes on the device for controlling rovers and being able to “explore” the surface of a distant world or asteroid (dare I say, comet?!?) without having to physically man a mission. They will be able to move the surface topography, examine specifics of it, and replace it, all without disturbing a single grain of sand. Other applications for design, design review, and hands-on training come to mind. They possibilities are very vast.

So is it available? As of this writing, it hasn’t. It should be available to developers in the Spring of 2015. The fact that Microsoft has this developer based, preliminary release milestone set in stone means that they must have a somewhat viable product, at least.

The other big problem is, of course, the cost. When you have something that is this cutting edge, it’s hard to know if and what will be available at what price. I would assume that this will initially be quite pricey. However, with the consumer based examples that Microsoft demoed – the dad helping his daughter fix the drain on her sink, for example – you would think that this would be something that most everyone could afford to purchase and work with.

However, this, like availability, is going to be a wait and see operation. There’s a big deal here; but how big will ultimately be determined by how affordable it is for the masses.

Conclusion
There’s a lot here. Windows 10 could really be cool if it was affordable to all, always up to date, and contained technology (like Cortana, HoloLens and Game DVR) that really worked in real world situations without a boat load of tinkering and tweaking required to keep it running and at an affordable cost so that the down stroke didn’t eliminate more than 75% of potential customers.

What do you think? Is Windows 10 going to be a winner? I’ll have a few articles up on my install experiences with it over the next few days as well as a follow up article to my Windows 10 Predictions column.

In the meantime, why don’t you join me in the Discussion area, below and let me know what you think?

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 build 9926 and then some

Windows Insiders got a cool surprise on Friday afternoon 2015-01-23

Well, schniekies! Its available now instead of next week. My friend Gabe Aul over at Microsoft surprised me as well as everybody else today when Microsoft released Windows 10 Build 9926 to its Windows Insiders.

Nearly everyone was looking for this sometime next week. However, as I explained recently, I’m a bit of an update nut, and yeah… I decided to check this afternoon on the off chance that Microsoft did in fact release something. I knew when I was checking that I was going to be met with a “no update available” message or with the same ISO from the TechNet Evaluation Center’s Enterprise Download page.

I was wrong. Interestingly enough, Microsoft posted the 9926.0.150119-1648.FBL_AWESOME1501_CLIENTENTERPRISE_VOL_X64FRE_EN-US.ISO file to the download center, and then my friend, Gabe Aul (@GabeAul confirmed it all. The build is available now.

Tweet9926

If you’re a Windows Insider, get to downloading. If you’re not, but want to apply to become one, you can check out the Windows Insiders home page and apply for a spot there.

After you download the software and install it, you will need to run Windows Update. Microsoft has already released fixes to a few problems in the build. You can get the straight poop on all of the issues the hot fixes resolve, here.

Tweet9926Update

…Unfortunately – and I’m hoping it’s all the download traffic – the MS KB article came up totally empty when I tried to view it. However, I was able to snag the deets on all of the updates elsewhere. The hot fixes for Build 9926 address the following issues:

Reliability improvements to prevent some system crashes in explorer.exe
Fixes an issue that could cause a deleted app to be unintentionally reinstalled
Increased power efficiency to extend battery life
Reliability improvements for virtual machine live migrations
Performance improvements for Internet Explorer
Fixes an issue that could cause pending Windows Updates to be incorrectly reported in the update history
Fixes an issue that could cause the Start Menu to be improperly registered and fail to launch
Fixes an issue that could cause random pixilation on the screen when using Remote Desktop Client

It should be noted that this is NOT the same build that Microsoft demoed at their press event on 2015-01-21. The build demoed there was Build 9944, and this is a few builds behind (Build 9926)

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Windows 10 Day is Upon Us

Here are my hopes for what comes out of the Microsoft announcement…

big-windows-logo-wallpaper-100256988-primary.idgeI’ve been part of the Windows 10 Insider Program from the beginning. I’ve put every released build of Windows 10 on a Surface Pro and have been relatively pleased with its performance. While others have been less than happy with it, my experience has been ok.

It may be because of the way I use my Surface Pro – it’s really nothing more than an electronic note pad. I use it to take meeting notes with its stylus in OneNote. While I do occasionally use other productivity apps on it – mostly Office 2013 apps – I tend not to push it too hard. I’m the same way with my Surface Pro 3, especially since it’s only a 1.8gHz i3 with 4GB of RAM… but that’s another story.

So, 2015-01-21 is the big Windows 10 Consumer announcement. You can check the Next Chapter page for the webcast starting at Noon EST, 11am CST, 10am MST and 9am PST. Many things are anticipated. More is hoped for. Here’s what I want from Microsoft at the end of the day.

A New Build of Windows 10 Consumer/Enterprise
Let’s face it. The last couple releases of Windows 10 haven’t been quite up to snuff. The first few weren’t bad; but the last one totally sucked. I expect a new build to be released on 2015-01-21, and available for download immediately.

The new version is supposed to have a few new, highly anticipated features including Continuum, OneDrive improvements, Cortana integration and a refreshed UI. Up to now, many of these have been nothing more than hot air (I don’t want to say vapor, as Microsoft IS supposed to deliver on these, and they (the company) are too big, and this new OS release is too big for them to swing and miss on any of them, given the amount of press they’ve been given.

A few other places are also predicting this – ComputerWorld has a great article that consolidates most of them.

Talking Up the Consolidation
Windows 10 brings Windows under a single roof. My good friend, Mary Jo Foley references the Microsoft label, “OneCore.” Windows 10 contains a single core that recognizes the hardware you’re using and then displays the appropriate UI and only uses the appropriate libraries, platform layers, etc. it needs to support the hardware pushing it. This means that the same version of Windows you’re [hoping to] download today is the same version that’s going to run on phones, tablets, as well as desktop and notebook PC’s, Perceptive Pixel AND Xbox.

We’ll see how clean and lean it is over time. If Microsoft isn’t careful, it can get awfully bloated in there.

Talking Up the Hardware
I’m also certain that there’s going to be a lot of hardware talk. While I don’t expect Microsoft to announce a new Surface Pro 4, I wouldn’t be surprised if they refreshed the hardware with the latest Intel processor chip set. You should also see them announce and/ or speak to a couple, new Windows Phone devices, though any new and real mobile hardware announcements will likely be saved for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, later this Spring.

However, the item that I would like Microsoft to speak to is tablets.

Surface Pro is nice, but it’s really an ultrabook, and the world understand that now. I don’t want them to dust off Surface RT devices, because Intel’s Broadwell has [seems to have] finally cracked the mobile nut and should be able to push a better and more appropriate mobile experience without all of the bulk and bloat of a full desktop OS.

Since Windows 10 runs on phones, it should run on a tablet and provide a tablet experience that can more appropriately compete with the iPad. Since Microsoft is pushing “universal” apps – i.e. the same app downloaded from the Windows Store can run on a phone, a tablet or a desktop, again, detecting the hardware its running on and displaying the proper UI experience – developers shouldn’t have issues making apps that run on tablets. Since its really just the same app, the data that’s created and used in the app doesn’t have to be converted, transformed, transported or otherwise coaxed on to the device that’s running the app and using the data. It’s all just supposed to work. I’d expect Microsoft to really try to talk this up at the announcement.

We’ll see what happens during the announcement. I hope my predictions are accurate, as some of this would be very cool to see happen AND be successful. Lord knows, Microsoft needs a break. This year is a pivotal year for them. If Windows 10 doesn’t play to their bad version/ good version release cycle, (2006 – Windows Vista: BAD; 2009 – Windows 7: GOOD; 2012 – Windows 8: TRAIN WRECK), they’re due for a good one, then this could be problematic for them. They may begin to have relevancy issues (though in truth, they wouldn’t become totally irrelevant for a number of years… Windows runs nearly every businesses on the planet).

So, what do YOU think Microsoft will announce and speak to on 2015-01-21? Will a new version of Windows 10 be available for users to download? Will (some of) the new features that are supposed to be revealed be once that you might find valuable and use? While we may see some, we might not see everything that has been talked up. It’s very possible that items like Continuum may not be totally ready for prime time, and may come later this year or be totally held until final release.

Will we see a new class of Windows devices in true tablets to replace Surface RT and Surface 2 devices; or has that ship truly sailed and Microsoft can’t ever, EVER hope to compete in the mobile tablet market? If they make it, how will that effect BYOD and CoIT trends? Will bringing your own stuff to work be easier now, or still a huge issue for both users struggling to adapt consumer devices to a corporate world and IT professionals desperately trying to keep their enterprise malware free?

Is Windows 10 going to be a hit, a mediocre thud, or a total dud? Will Microsoft be able to phoenix up from the ashes of Windows 8.x and be a huge success with the enterprise and in consumer circles again, or will they just maintain the status quo?

I’d love to hear what YOU have to say on all of this. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts?

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Microsoft Delivers Surface Pro Firmware Updates

All three versions of Surface Pro hardware got updates this morning…

pro2_type_purple_cam8_pos-01I’m an update nut. Every time I turn on either my Mac or Windows machines, I always, always, always check for both system and app updates. Call it anal retentivity if you must, but with so many different vulnerabilities and exploits going around, computing on any connected devices can be dangerous without the proper OS and critical application updates. That’s why I check so often. I’m really online all the time, every day, out loud; and I don’t have time to deal with the aftermath of getting hacked.

I also just like making sure I have the latest version of everything.

As I said… anal retentive…

As a converted Mac user, you see app updates more often than you see OS updates. As a veteran Windows user, I’m used to running Windows Update at least 2-3 times a week to make certain I’ve got everything; and when you do run it, you run it over and over again until the service tells you there’s nothing left to update.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I got to the office and jumped over to SuperSite for Windows to read what will likely be Paul Thurrott’s last post there, when I saw this – an article on firmware updates for ALL three Surface Pro versions.

Microsoft missed a December update for the devices, and I honestly thought nothing of it. They should be pretty much done updating firmware for Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2, anyway. They’ve been replaced by Surface Pro 3, and I’d expect Microsoft to really be concentrating on this one. The updates here have some legs; and I’m really hoping they get up and walk around a bit… There are a couple things here, like the Wi-Fi and other wireless changes as well as the update to Surface Hub. Both of these should correct errors that have been hounding people around the world with Surface Pro 3 for some time.

Without further ado, here is the full list of updates, for all three devices.

Surface Pro 3:

Surface Pro UEFI update (v3.11.450.0) adds support for updated HD Graphics Family driver.
HD Graphics Family driver update (v10.18.14.4029) enhances display stability and performance, improves user experience when using Miracast adapters. Improves compatibility with DisplayPort monitors and daisy chaining.
Wireless Network Controller and Bluetooth driver update (v15.68.3073.151) addresses connectivity issues while Hyper-V is enabled. Adds an advanced feature to control the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band preference.
Surface Home Button driver update (v2.0.1179.0) ensures compatibility with the Surface Hub app.
Microsoft Docking Station Audio Device driver update (v1.31.35.7) improves the user experience while using the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station so that sound is available when a speaker is not connected to the docking station.

Surface Pro 2:
Surface Pro UEFI update (v2.05.0150) improves the PXE boot experience with the 1 gigabit Surface Ethernet Adapter and further enhances the system security.
HD Graphics Family driver update (v10.18.14.4029) enhances display stability and performance, improves user experience when using Miracast adapters. Improves compatibility with DisplayPort monitors and daisy chaining.

Surface Pro:
Surface Pro UEFI update (v1.7.50) further enhances the system security.
These updates for the Surfaces will be listed as “System Firmware Update – 1/15/2015″ once installed and viewed in update history.

As a reminder, when delivered via Windows Update, the Surface firmware updates are pushed out on a staggered basis. Instructions for manually installing the Surface firmware updates are available on the individual Surface Update History sites.

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