Microsoft releases firmware updates for Surface Book and Pro 4

Its been a long time coming for Surface Book and Pro 4 owners…

When the Microsoft’s Surface Book was originally introduce, most of the pundits in the industry, me included, declared it a total non-starter. It had a boat load of issues, and none of them were getting resolved quickly. I had declared that the Book was a disaster, and that I wouldn’t consider getting one any time soon. Its funny how things can change; but it wasn’t right away; and wasn’t without a number of firmware and system/ driver updates that didn’t come anywhere NEAR the mark.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4Thankfully, Microsoft finally DID figure it out; and they were able to get past some of the bigger problems plaguing the ground breaking ultrabook line. Keeping with a series of updates that, in recent releases have made the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 better than ever, Microsoft released a series of system based, firmware and driver updates for both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book. This is a key update for the Surface Book, however, as it hasn’t had the regular updates that the Pro 4 has had. It hasn’t had any updates released for it in nearly six months.

Here’s what’s new for the Surface Book:

Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) AVStream Camera 2500 – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) AVStream Camera 2500 – Sound, video and GC
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera Front – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera Front – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera IR Front – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera IR Front – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) Control Logic – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) Control Logic – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) CSI2 Host Controller – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) CSI2 Host Controller – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) Imaging Signal Processor 2500 – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) Imaging Signal Processor 2500 – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera Rear – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera Rear – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Surface – System – 1.0.85.1 Surface Camera Windows Hello – System device
1.0.85.1 Improves camera stability.

 

Here’s what’s been updated for the Surface Pro 4:

Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name
Surface driver update for Surface Embedded Controller Firmware – System – 3.0.0.0 Surface Embedded Controller Firmware – Firmware
103.1791.258.0 Improves device reliability.
Surface driver update for Surface Integration – System – 3.0.0.0 Surface Integration – System device
1.0.170.0 Improves device reliability.

All of the updates are available via Windows Update on any Surface Book or Surface Pro 4 running Windows 10. However, the Surface Pro 4 update can be downloaded here. The Surface Book update can be downloaded here.

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Surface Book Supplies are Constrained – Part 2

This is not something you want to hear when you’ve got a fatal problem with your Surface Book…

Last time, I waxed poetically about how my three month old Surface Book turned up defective. It wasn’t a happy time over here, and I did my best to get Microsoft to cover its replacement under warranty. I was successful, but it took a bit of doing on my part; and it also uncovered an unknown and previously unannounced product constraint on the Surface Book.

There are effectively no additional units to be had (as of 10 days ago, based on the date that I’m writing this, 2017-06-12). I guess this just really bothers me. When something like this happened to me with my Surface Pro 3 a couple of years ago, product constraints weren’t an issue. I was able to get everything swapped out without issue. Now, there’s a problem getting replacement Surface Book units.

I was a bit curious about all of this, so I contacted my good friend, Mary Jo Foley, through Twitter:

I had heard about the rumor that Surface Book may be replaced, but it seemed to me to be insubstantial. I’m also not buying that the product’s supplies are being constrained NOW for a refresh later this year.

Yeah… I trust MJF completely, but I find that her not having heard anything about the current constraint to be concerning. She usually has the inside track (hence the “All About Microsoft” thing and her going so well together.

Since this whole incident went down, almost 10 days ago, things have been going pretty well over here for me and my Surface Book. However, this is not the first time that I’ve had a Surface device die on me when trying to restore the device to a previous version of Windows.

It happened twice with my Surface Pro 3, as well.

I don’t know if this speaks to a problem with the SSD, the SSD drive controller, the driver for the SSD or the controller, or just the process in general. However, to be honest, this is not something that I really want to repeat, any time soon. It’s gotten to the point where I really don’t have any trust in the Windows 10 Restore process.

I think it would have been fine if I had started everything with the Surface Book Recovery Image Image; but in truth, I don’t know for certain. It may just have been a bad controller. However, I wasn’t experiencing any issues or problems with my Surface Book that would leave me to believe I had a hardware issue. I just wanted to return to the previous build, which shouldn’t have been a problem. As soon as the device restarted for the first time, things went sideways.

If this were just an issue with the SSD (and not, as I have postulated, the drive controller), then the device should have started up from the Recovery USB stick. We should have gotten a different set of screens. Instead, all we saw was a flashing Surface Logo and the UEFI setup screens.

I think the things I find most concerning about all of this are the following:

1. No one seems to know what that drive icon with the “X” through it on the UEFI setup screen really means.
Is it a bad driver, bad drive or bad drive controller? According to the service techs at Microsoft’s Answer Desk (read the MS Genius Bar…), your guess is as good as mine… or theirs. They don’t have any documentation on it.
2. No one knows why Surface Book Supplies are currently constrained.
They also don’t know when they will get stock; or when the constraint will end. They can’t fulfill warranty replacements when someone brings in a three month old lemon and asks for an exchange, even if you’ve purchased their extended warranty (which I haven’t; but was suggested to me). I find this to be very confusing AND very concerning.
3. Microsoft tried to sell me an extended warranty for a broken unit they couldn’t replace. I’m also not pleased that the original service tech suggested that I lay down an extra $250 for an extended warranty that wouldn’t do me any good until God knows when. That didn’t – and still doesn’t – sit very well with me. It seems like the guy was trying to score points for a warranty sale that would benefit HIM instead of me.

So, at the end of the day, what am I left with?

1. A replaced Surface Book. I appreciate the Manager going the extra mile here and cannibalizing a business order to replace my defective consumer unit, but honestly, this should have been her first, go to answer. I shouldn’t have had to turn to leave and then beg her and the store staff for some other kind of solution to my replacement problem.
2. A bit of customer service concern. Again, I shouldn’t have to beg for something that should have been a very easy fix on Micrsoft’s part. They also shouldn’t have tried to sell me an extended warranty for something that I was in their store trying to have replaced. That was kinda tacky.
3. Confusion about the supply constraint. No one seems to understand why the Surface Book is currently constrained. At best all we’ve got is conjecture and rumor; and potentially upset customers who need replacement units, if needed.
4. Concern about Windows 10’s Restore Process. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had an entire unit break because I tried to use Windows’ Restore PC process. I think there’s enough here to warrant some kind of internal investigation. At this point, I can’t recommend users running Restore at all, especially on a Microsoft Surface device. I haven’t been able to run Restore without the process killing my device.

Microsoft…? Are you listening? I’d really appreciate an off line conversation, here. I’d really appreciate some answers. To be honest, I’m not completely comfortable with the results noted above, and I’d like to hear a response from someone at your office.

What about you, kids..? Has anyone here had issues with Microsoft’s Restore PC process in either Windows 8.x or Windows 10? Has it bricked your device? Have you done it on a Surface Book and then had trouble replacing it due to the supply constraint? Were you able to recover?

I’d love to hear from you on all of this. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your side of the story?

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Surface Book Supplies are Constrained – Part 1

This is not something you want to hear when you’ve got a fatal problem with your Surface Book…

A short while ago, I got a Surface Book. After searching for something to replace my Surface Pro 3, I have, in a sense, come home. During this journey, I have found that the old adage is true; and that you truly do get what you pay for.

So, realizing that a Surface device is really what I wanted, I sold the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA in late January 2017. About a month later, since there is a Microsoft Store located near the office, I ran over and purchased an entry level Surface Book in mid-February 2017. When I purchased the device, the President’s Day sale was still going on, and the price was $250 cheaper.

On the whole, I’ve been fairly satisfied with the purchase and the model choice. It gets the job done, has all of the Surface features that I’m looking for, and didn’t break the bank.

Yeah… the clouds darken somewhat at this point.

So, I bumped into a problem with my Surface Book and needed to go back to a previous version of Windows. I plugged the Surface Book into its AC adapter and began the Restore Process that I detailed out in a two part columnar series here on Soft32 (Part 1, Part 2). I have done this before, and after you get through the preliminaries in making choices about what you want to keep and what you can live without, it’s really nothing more than letting the machine do its work.

So, I was very surprised after I started the restore and noticed that the device would only boot to its UEFI screen and then wouldn’t go any farther. In the upper right corner of the UEFI screen, you could see an icon that appears to look like a hard drive with some kind of “X” in the middle of it.

As the device was just about three (3) months old, I decided to take a two pronged approach here.

1. Follow the instructions noted on the support page Surface Turns on but Windows won’t Start. This included downloading a recovery image for my Surface Book, and then building and starting my Surface Book with the bootable USB drive that the process created.
2. Make an appointment at the Microsoft Store for service – just in case the above steps didn’t work.

To be very honest, the instructions in step number one, above, haven’t really failed me. Ever… until now.

In one previous case, I had to go to the Microsoft Store and THEY got the recovery image to boot, so when I tried and couldn’t get past the UEFI screen, I thought that they certainly would be able to.

I was wrong.

Even THEY couldn’t get my three month old Surface Book to boot from the USB based recovery image. From what we were able to determine that hard drive icon with the “X” through it indicates a bad drive controller. They declared the device dead in the water, and it qualified for a free replacement, being only 3 months old.

At this point, I was a bit upset, as I was looking at a three month old brick. There was nothing that the Microsoft Store could do to get the device to boot. However, it did qualify for a free replacement, and I thought I would be back up and running shortly.

Unfortunately, they told me, they didn’t have any replacement units available in the store. They also informed me that Microsoft’s Online Store also didn’t have any available. I gave them the whole “deer in the headlights” look. I had a difficult time understanding – there were no Surface Books to be had. From anywhere… I was dumbfounded.

What was worse, the only explanation that I got was that Surface Book supplies were, “constrained.” And that’s all anyone was able to tell me. They had no other information to share.

At this point, my options were few:

1. Leave the store with a non-functional device
This option had me calling the store to determine if they received any stock of the entry level Surface Book that could be set aside as a replacement for my defective unit. They weren’t especially confident that I’d be able to get anything from them any time soon. Again, Surface Book supplies were “constrained” was the only explanation they could give me.
2. Contact Microsoft Complete Advanced Replacement Program
Microsoft Complete provides additional and advanced warranty options for your Microsoft Surface device, should you need them. The service is $249USD and like Apple’s Apple Care, adds an additional 2 years of warranty coverage. They’ll also send you an advanced replacement if you’re a Microsoft Complete customer, should your device need immediate replacement.

There are a couple of problems with these options – because supplies of Surface Book are currently constrained, neither gets me a replacement any time soon. Due to the supply constraint, it’s also not known when a device would become available to replace my defective Surface Book. The Microsoft Complete option would also cost me $1750.00, plus tax ($249 for the privilege of having them charge me – and hold on my credit card, indefinitely – $1500 for a replacement device that they will send to me, again whenever they get one, requiring me to send my defective unit back to them).

After speaking to a manager and not finding any solution, I turned around to leave (effectively choosing option 1…).

I stopped about 5 steps away from the counter and turned back around. There were Surface Books – floor/ demo units – all over the store. Surely they could give me one of those…

NOPE! Those are demo units, and are not part of store inventory. (Awesome…!)

At that point, the manager came back over and I asked her about any other possible avenues. She quietly asked the tech that I was working with if there were any business orders prepped in the back with an appropriate Surface Book unit.

The tech nodded his head, excused himself and went into the back room again. A few moments later, he returned with a replacement unit. The Microsoft Store Manager cannibalized a business order to satisfy a consumer warranty replacement issue.

Shortly after the replacement was finished, I walked back to the office and began setting up my new Surface Book, a happy man.

Come back next time when I wrap everything up and attempt to look into a potential constraint cause, as well.

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What’s with the Sleep of Death Thing..?!

Really..!? Surface Book users are still dealing with driver issues??

I’ve been testing Windows for Microsoft since Windows 95 – that goes back to 1995, so more than 20 years – and if there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that Microsoft Windows has ALWAYS had issues with power management. It doesn’t matter if its sleep, hibernation, or simply creating profiles to manage power use… battery life management on any kind of portable computer has been a freakin’ train wreck for Microsoft since someone put Windows on a laptop for the first time.

sleep of death

…and 20 years later, things haven’t changed much.

Based on what I learned late last night, Microsoft is STILL having driver and power related issues on its new Surface Book convertible notebook/ tablet.

Now, between us, if this was just any Windows laptop, I wouldn’t be so surprised or very concerned, for that matter; but Surface Book is a PREMIUM computing product, with some configurations costing well over $4000 USD after tax (when configured with Surface Dock, Microsoft Complete Accident Protection for Surface Book, Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition and Surface Ethernet Adapter). Configurations of Surface Book start at $1499 USD. And that, kids is really the bottom line – this common problem that goes back well over 20 years, is happening with a $4000, Microsoft branded laptop.

You may recall my rant, published the other day, about Microsoft purchasing LinkedIn. I had a reader comment to me that I really must be upset with Microsoft as I spent at least two paragraphs ranting about Surface Pro and Surface Book in THAT article.

Yeah… I think you can say that I am…

Allow me to be blunt here, folks – I’m very bearish on Microsoft over the Surface Pro 3/ Pro 4 and Surface Book for my issues and concerns around OneNote. The bottom line there is a video driver issue. So it’s clear to me, that Microsoft is having a very serious driver development issue that it just can’t see to get around. When I said earlier that this problem goes back to the days of Windows 95 and the first laptops running Windows 95 and Windows 98, I wasn’t kidding. In nearly 21 years of covering Windows and mobile computing, I have never had Microsoft power management features work as designed on all of the hardware I’ve used it on. And nearly every time there’s a problem with Windows, it nearly is always related to some sort of driver conflict (and then nearly always a battery or power management related driver).

I don’t know if this is because Windows runs on just about any and every type of computer hardware in the world (heck, even a Mac can run Windows and do it WELL), meaning that the hardware options are just too diverse to manage, or if it’s because the developers that write this stuff don’t know what they’re doing (the INDIVIDUAL drivers don’t work right) or if it’s just a matter of too many developers writing code that just can’t work and play well with others.

I don’t know; but when entry level buy in for a Surface Book is well over $1500 after taxes, shipping and any necessary/ wanted accessories and warranty, this level of performance is completely unacceptable. At this point, Microsoft doesn’t necessarily have a fix or resolution yet for any of these power/ hibernation/ sleep problems.

Reddit users are having field day with this. Many of them are using traditional support channels to try to address the problem with varying levels of success, but never final resolution. When they finally get fed up and try to return the device to Microsoft, most are being met with the, “Microsoft doesn’t accept any returns after 30 days,” excuse… which is sending some users through the roof.

However, Microsoft is standing firm on its 30 day return policy. If you’ve had it for more than 30 days, it’s yours. Period.

As of two weeks ago (as of this writing), the Sleep of Death issue is still plaguing the Surface Book and many Surface Pro 4’s. How and when Microsoft will resolve this issue is anyone’s guess, however. They haven’t been able to resolve this issue, EVER.

The only work around that I know for it is to NOT use any sleep or hibernation features. While this will require you to shut down the night before and restart your Surface Book cold every morning (or every time you want or need to use it). There are to my knowledge, no known whole or even partial resolutions for this issue, regardless of hardware.

If you sleep your machine and then try to wake it from sleep hours later, be prepared to be forced to pull all power cables/ batteries from it so that it fully shuts down. If you failed to save any work prior to finding your computer in this condition, you’ll lose any unsaved work. Unfortunately, the only thing that I, or anyone, for that matter, knows to do to resolve this particular condition is to power the device completely off and to do a cold restart.

Do you own or use a Surface Book or Surface Pro 4 that is experiencing the Sleep of Death? Do you use any other Windows powered computer that bumps into the problem? Have you found any way to resolve the problem? Have you tried to return your Surface Book to Microsoft after owning it for more than 30 days only to be told that you can’t?

If any of these things have happened to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can either meet me in the Discussion area below or send me email to chris (at) oneitechgear (dot) org.

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Microsoft Redefines Surface

Microsoft has redefined their Surface Pro line of devices

The big Microsoft hardware announcement was 2015-10-06. Everyone and their brother was anticipating the unveiling of the two new flagship Windows Mobile 10 devices (the 950 and the 950XL) as well as a Surface Pro 4. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think everyone got a little bit more than we initially thought we were going to get.

The flagship class phones were desperately needed. Microsoft hasn’t released a flagship classed phone in – literally – years. So both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950-XL are very well received. Features that include the Continuum Dock, provide for a complete mobile to desktop experience. Something like that might work very well in an existing desktop, and would make it a lot easier to use existing equipment with your current notebook setup.

Honestly, I have doubts about how useful its going to be, given that the current computing paradigm hasn’t completely changed over to Mobile… at least not yet; and at least not in the enterprise (where this may have the best opportunity for success).

surface book

The Microsoft Surface Book (shown off in a video by Microsoft on YouTube, here) is a really neat ultrabook. Unlike the Surface Pro line of devices, the Surface Book is marketed as a laptop, and not a tablet. In fact, the tablet isn’t called a tablet, it’s called a “clip board.” It has touch and while the device will come away from its keyboard, its clearly NOT meant to be used as a slate device, without its keyboard (containing extra battery and discrete graphics adapter – at least in the higher end models) for an extended period of time. It only has three (3) hours of battery life as a clip board device.

The table above compares the Surface Book to both the MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 13. The Dell is a decent computer; but it’s clearly outclassed by both the MacBook Pro and the Surface Book. The only REAL thing that it has going for it is affordability, due in large part to the premium price tags of both the MacBook Pro and the Surface Book.

There’s something to be said for that.

Build and component quality on the Dell may be far below the other two, but it IS approximately half the price of both, making it much more likely to end up in a work situation near you. The MacBook Pro is a premium laptop. Its components and build materials are high quality, and Macs have been known to last for seven to ten years – if well cared for – before having to be replaced due to breakage or parts simply wearing out. The Dell doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of having that happen. Its components are composites and plastics.

The build quality on the Surface Book may be on par with the MacBook Pro; but I haven’t really had a chance to put my hands on one, so I really don’t know for certain. However, there are serious issues when it comes to the Surface Book and its price point.

  1. Microsoft is NOT Apple
    Bluntly put, there’s no way this device is worth a maximum of $3,200 ($3462.92 after tax in Chicago, IL). Microsoft products don’t have the same level of build quality or longevity that Apple products do. Based on this point alone, the Surface Book is seen by many to be grossly overpriced.
  2. The Surface Book is a New Class of MS Device
    The main idea behind the Surface line of products was for Microsoft to show the capabilities of Surface, hoping that OEM’s would build similar features into their own products. While that’s morphed a bit with the release of Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 – they’re more finished products than Surface RT/2 and Surface Pro 1/ 2 – Surface Book is a 1.0 product. If it follows the same product strategy, then the Surface Book is grossly overpriced. No other Windows PC (that I’m thinking of/ aware of) is priced this high (and those that may be aren’t selling well or aren’t targeted at the consumer market).

Microsoft needs to reevaluate the price points around Surface Book before the device actually hits the streets. It could have a much bigger launch and a vastly more successful product line if the price point was cut in half. I’d certainly buy one at half the current price without thinking twice… However, at its current price point, Surface Book will never see the inside of my office.

My original intent with this article was to discuss both Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, however, Surface Pro 4 is really nothing more than an evolutionary update of Surface Pro 3. From what I’ve been able to see, while it gets a nice performance boost, it’s really a “meh” kind of update. Surface Book took all of Surface Pro 4’s thunder. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Microsoft did, however, produce a cool vide on the new product. You can see it, here.

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