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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Is it Really Just Superficial?

Is my love for digital ink and Microsoft Surface PC’s on the level, or just skin deep?

Ok, kids…

I’m going to make this one quick and short for a few reasons – I’ve got a lot on my plate right now; and I want to really get to the meat of all of this in a deeper look at Microsoft’s Surface Book, intended to be published in the coming weeks.

However, I did want to relay a couple of things:

  1. Accept No Substitutes
    When you know you have your heart set on something, no matter how much it really just didn’t sit right with you in the first place, don’t try to convince yourself that something ELSE is just as good.In other words, even though it’s about one third the price, and has decent performance, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is NOT either Microsoft’s Surface Pro nor Microsoft’s Surface Book. As awesome as Intel’s Cherry Trail processor is, it’s not an Intel Core processor (no Intel Atom processor is…) and it isn’t going to provide the same level of performance.
  2. It’s not What I WantedWhen you’re met with the unmistakable conclusion that you were wrong and that you should just accept the facts as they are and move on, you really should do just that.
  3. Don’t be so Damn Stubborn
    Dude. Just say the words…, “I was wrong.” It’s not all that hard. Just say the words.

Ok…

So… here it goes:

  1. There really isn’t a substitute for the Microsoft Surface Pro or Surface Book. They’re basically the same 3×2 convertible ultrabook (with some minor differences). While you may prefer one over the other for one (set of) reason(s) or another, they’re effectively the same. No other transformer PC or ultrabook out there is the Surface Pro/ Book. There are similar devices, like the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA, but they are NOT a Surface device, and shouldn’t be thought of as a Surface replacement.They are similar, but NOT the same
  2. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. You can’t change the shape of your hole, either. If you want a round object, squaring it off isn’t going to make you happy. When you look at it, all you’re going to see is the fact that it used to be a circle.You can’t MAKE something into something it’s not. You hear that a lot about people, too… Yeah, it’s true there, too.
  3. Unde. I give, already.Okokokok… “you” were right. They’re not the same, and I just have to give in and let it go.

If you remember, I originally tossed my Surface Pro 3 to the wind because of the digital, disappearing ink bug that the Surface Pro (all generations – 1, 2, 3 and 4) and the Surface Book have.

The bug is still active, even as of this writing, and while I have implemented the work around, a work around is NOT a solution. Functionality on the Surface Pro series of devices is still deprecated in Microsoft OneNote. While I’ve disable “Use Pen as Pointer” and have turned off “automatic ink OCR,” having to use a work around just makes my teeth itch.

But then again, I’m a QA guy… defaulting to the work arounds is required to insure that ink doesn’t disappear, however, living with the work around and not a permanent fix just seems wrong to me.

But at the end of the day, the answer to the begged question here, “really..?? After all the complaining, you actually got a Surface Book??”, is, “yes. Yes I did.

The Surface Book has been around for quite a while, so doing a ground breaking review on it isn’t warranted, but I’ll have something together for it in the coming weeks. I’ve gotten an accessory or two for the device, so I’m committed to making it work; but the answer to that question, in all honestly, really remains to be seen.

I don’t like going backwards; and I don’t like having to put up with bugs on a machine, that by all accounts, should be the most bug free installation and implementation of Windows 10 and compatible hardware on the market. It feels wrong to me to have to put up with that kind of situation, and to be very honest, I’m not one to put up with that level of crap from Microsoft.

I don’t put up with it from Apple either, but the situation is a bit different. Windows is different from macOS in this regard because Microsoft licenses its OS to a number of different Original Equipment Manufacturers – or OEM’s. As such, there are a number of different drivers that have to be written for the OS, because – and let’s be honest – not all computer hardware is created equally.

I expect a great deal more from Microsoft Windows when it runs on a Microsoft branded computer than when it runs on a Dell or HP or even a Micro Center, build your own style PC. I expect everything on the Microsoft branded computer to work; and in the case of the Surface devices their history has been a bit bumpy.

If you remember, Microsoft had a number of different driver and firmware related problems with both Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Other OEM’s haven’t had this level of difficulty with their computers, especially when it comes to Microsoft software, like Office 2016 and all of their components.

In the end, with the work around, things work, but herein lies the article that I want to write later…

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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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Whisky Tango Foxtrot – Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

This was the WTF on the top of my day…

I’ve been a LinkedIn member since the very early 2000’s. Back in the day, you had to be INVITED to join LinkedIn, and you couldn’t connect with just ANYONE. You really had to have done business with a person or had to have worked with them; and you had to know their email address, too. If you didn’t know them, LinkedIn wouldn’t let you connect. In situations like that, you had to have a common contact between you and your desired connection “introduce” you; and then the person you were trying to connect with would very often either ignore you, or decline the connection. Back in the day, actually MAKING a connection on LinkedIn was a BIG deal.

LinkedIn used to be… USED to be… VERY exclusive.

microsoft buys linkedin

Today, it was purchased in total by Microsoft (MSFT) in a $26.2B (that’s Billion with a “B”), all cash deal, that is likely going to be 2016’s most outrageous and totally over paid deal of the year.

If I were the guys at LinkedIn… I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. If I were Microsoft, I would be trying to figure out how long it would be before I’d totally call the acquisition a failure before writing everything off… and if I were a long time, seriously dedicated LinkedIn user (and I am…) I’d keep my eyes open for the next big professional, social networking site. If I were Lynda.com, I’d be doing my best to try to figure out the best way to buy myself out of this deal…

If it doesn’t sound like I have a lot of confidence in Microsoft, or this acquisition, you’d be correct. I don’t. Not one bit.

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft’s track record for integrating businesses into its core hasn’t been a huge success. They bought Nokia and burnt it to the ground. They’ve totally screwed up their ENTIRE mobile strategy as a result, and I think I can say with 100% certainty that they have totally ruined their chances of EVER having any kind of meaningful presence in the mobile computing space.

On top of this, I have no confidence that OneNote is EVER going to work right on a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4.

Speaking of the Surface Pro… don’t even get me started on this thing. As much as I like it – and honestly, I really do – it’s not a tablet. It’s not. It’s an ultrabook. At best, it’s a slate computer with a removable keyboard…

THAT’s not a tablet, folks.

That’s a really thin PC with an even thinner keyboard. It runs desktop Windows. It doesn’t run Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. (and a UWP – Universal Windows Platform – does NOT a unified OS make… Just because the same version of Notepad that runs on desktop Windows will also run on Windows Mobile, doesn’t mean that Windows Mobile and desktop Windows are the same operating system. If they were…the same build would run on any Windows compatible device, regardless of form factor, and that’s simply NOT the case…)

Getting back on track… If I can’t trust Microsoft to not screw up my productivity software or produce an ultrabook that doesn’t have ENDLESS driver problems, or to not totally obliterate a mobile platform that, quite honestly should be ruling the world (because it outlasted Blackberry and had THE most universal mail platform that during 2009 – 2011 simply EVERYONE was using and interoperating with), or to not totally cannibalize and destroy THE single, most prestigious name in mobile handsets on the entire planet, how the H3LL am I – or anyone for that matter – going to trust them NOT to screw up the BEST – and really ONLY – professional networking site on the internet?

I have ZERO confidence in Microsoft when it comes to LinkedIn. I mean… when they integrated Skype into their productivity model, it didn’t screw it up at all, did it…?? It took me years to build and curate the pedigree that is my LinkedIn profile.

Quite honestly, LinkedIn is how I landed my last two jobs. If LinkedIn goes sideways, the entire way people look for jobs and network with coworkers and potential, professional network contacts will need to change. This may sound totally cynical, and it likely is, but I don’t have the time, patience or desire to completely rebuild that wheel; and based on what Microsoft did with Surface Mini, has been doing with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, Windows Phone, Windows 8.x and Windows 10, I have zero confidence that they will succeed with LinkedIn on their watch.

I think my former coworker, Paul Thurrott said it best, “So let’s see. Microsoft is spending four Nokias for a company that will it treat like Skype. Does that sound like a recipe for success to anyone?”

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The Surface Pro 3 and the Surface Pro 4 Head to Head

I was recently fortunate enough to have an extended hands on with a friends, Surface Pro 4…

Over the past ten (10) months, I’ve been working with a Surface Pro 3. It’s been a good supplemental work PC for me, in that I can use it to take hand written notes in meetings… that is, when I can get it to do that without the ink disappearing.

The Surface Pro 3 is a GREAT machine (again, when it works correctly and when it has a stable OS, but I most certainly digress. That’s a rant for another day, another time…), but nearly everyone is wondering if the Surface Pro 4 is compelling enough for those that own the Surface Pro 3 to upgrade.

Again, I’ve been fortunate enough to be friends with someone in the office who has purchased a Surface Pro 4. I was able to place the two devices head to head today and have the following to report.

Pen
These are general pen observations and comments. I was able to use the Surface Pen 4 on the Surface Pro 3 without any kind of pairing or other convincing. I just took the device in hand and was able to tap, select and ink with it. It worked very well.

The Surface Pen 4 is nice, and it will stick to the Surface Pro 3, but only on either the left device side or the right device side. Unfortunately, these are at spots where the Pen really wasn’t meant to sit – like on top of the power port, covering it up. This is problematic, as there really doesn’t seem to be a good spot for the Surface Pen 4 on the Surface Pro 3.

The following are additional observations I was able to make about the Surface Pen 4.

  • Magnet is strong, but not strong enough
  • Doesn’t stick on all sides of the device
  • Can be knocked off without you really knowing it
  • Surface Pen 4 only has a single button along its magnetic strip
  • Surface Pen 4 has an “eraser” function on the top button of the pen
  • Surface Pen 4 has a top button that starts OneNote when clicked
  • Surface Pen 3 has a top button that makes a sound when it clicks (grrr… this should work, Microsoft. It did under Windows 8.1)

Keyboard
The keyboard works with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro 3, but there seem to be driver issues with the Surface Pro 3, especially with Fast Ring Insider Builds on it. It was just a bit more than a tad quirky.

For example, when I tried to bring up the device’s About screen (All Settings –System – About), Settings froze. I tried to close Settings and relaunch it, but Settings wouldn’t restart; and I had to bounce the device. Bounding the device produced the same results. Ultimately, I had to remove the Surface Pro 4 keyboard from my Surface Pro 3 in order to get All Settings – System – About to display.

I noticed that when I originally attached the Surface Pro 4 keyboard to my Surface Pro 3, a “You must restart your computer for these hardware changes to take place,” dialog appeared, indicating that the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro 3 keyboard drivers are different. Since I’ve got the latest Fast Ring Insider’s Build installed on my Surface Pro 3, I think there might be a driver issue here…

By far, this is – or will be when the driver issues I noted above are resolved – the biggest, best overall hands, on, noticeable improvement on the device. Now, before you go losing your mind wondering what about the better, upgraded processor, and other enhanced guts the Surface Pro 4 has over the Surface Pro 3, you have to admit, that all things being equal between the two devices, the keyboard is the best reason to upgrade. However, if that isn’t compelling enough on its own (and it’s not, at least not in my opinion…) then you can always go and purchase the Surface Pro 4 keyboard and use it with your Surface Pro 3.

The following are additional observations I was able to make about the Surface Pro 4 keyboard.

  • Biggest hands on improvement
  • Same overall size as the SP3 keyboard
  • Keys are “island-styled” and set further apart. The Surface Pro 4 keyboard offers better key travel
  • Better overall typing experience
  • Trackpad is bigger than the one on the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover
  • Better trackpad experience, as its more responsive and has a different overall feel
  • Issues when working with SP3. All Settings – About wouldn’t display until I removed the keyboard, indicating some level of driver incompatibility (perhaps with the latest Windows 10 Fast Ring Build…??)

The Devices
Unfortunately, my friend wasn’t too amenable to me taking the device for a couple of weeks so that I could review it… and I really can’t blame him. I love my Surface Pro 3. If I had a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book, I wouldn’t want to part with it for very long, either. The point to all of this, is that you should take the following with a grain of salt. I didn’t have a lot of time with the device… only about an hour or so.

Screenshot (1) Screenshot (1) SP3
The Settings – System – About screen for the Surface Pro 4 The Settings – System – About screen for the Surface Pro 3

The two devices weren’t completely identical. The most glaring being the difference in processors and the amount of device RAM each had. The Surface Pro 4 had 8GB, twice the amount of my Surface Pro 3. I think that, more than anything, would through the task comparisons between the two off; and… quite honestly, it did. Everything on the Surface Pro 4 was much smoother and more natural.

Aside from the external, physical differences – and there are a few – for example,

  • The bezel on the Surface Pro 3 is a tad larger on all four sides,
  • The Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have a haptic-enabled Windows button on the bezel,
  • The volume rocker on the Surface Pro 4 is on the top to make room for the Surface Pen 4 on its left, landscape-oriented side

the devices are nearly identical. Telling them apart is difficult without a real, hard look at the two. Once you know what to look for, telling them apart is fairly easy. The point is, however, that the devices are very similar.

The following are additional observations I was able to make about the Surface Pro 4.

  • Surface Pro 3 seems slightly bigger
  • Left edge, top edge device variations to allow for pen placement (volume rocker moved to the top)
  • Ports don’t align exactly
  • No active Windows button on the device bezel of the Surface Pro 4

 

IMG_2356 IMG_2357 IMG_2358
Head to Head! SP3 & SP4 left edges, vertical with Kickstand Left Edge – SP4 on top
IMG_2359 IMG_2361 IMG_2362
Top Edge – SP4 on top Right Edge – SP4 on Top Bottom Edge – SP4 on Top
IMG_2363 IMG_2364 IMG_2365
Notice the slight size difference – SP4 on top Keyboards – SP4 keyboard on the right SP3 keyboard up close
IMG_2366
SP4 keyboard up close

 

Conclusion
I think it’s pretty obvious… The Surface Pro 4 is a great device and worthy of a purchase – if you don’t have a Surface Pro 3. If you have a Surface Pro 3, then the Surface Pro 4 keyboard is the best and most value added way to get perhaps, an additional year or more out of the device, especially if (theoretically) you purchase the new Type Cover with the Windows Hello compatible finger print sensor.

Between now and the time that Threshold 2 is released (as the Windows 10 Fall Update), I would wait. There are driver issues with the new keyboards, that even with the released version of Windows 10, may cause issues. However, after that, the keyboards should be 100% compatible with Surface Pro 3, as Microsoft indicates.

Do you have a Surface Pro 3? Have you considered purchasing either a Surface Pro 4 (to replace your Surface Pro 3 or as a new device), or the new Surface Pro 4 Type Cover as an upgrade for your Surface Pro 3? If you have the Surface Pro 4, what are your thoughts on the device? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on the subject?

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