Microsoft Surface Pro – Review

The Microsoft Surface was the biggest new tech of 2012, at least for me. Its first iteration—Surface RT, a confusingly named and marketed tablet-with-a-keyboard—bombed and I predicated that. The RT version was a bad idea, A Windows tablet…. without the power of Windows. What I was waiting for was the full-powered Surface Pro? Why? Well it is a braver and more divergent take on the laptop-tablet convergence than anyone else has risked so far.

But while the Pro improves on the RT in nearly every measurable way, it presents a whole different problem set for Microsoft. Where the RT was aiming at Tablet Plus—an ambitious enough goal—the Pro cannot afford to be Laptop Minus. In this strange new world of hybrid devices, is that even possible?

The Surface Pro is the fullest expression of the Windows 8 ethos. It has the face of a tablet & the guts of a laptop. Where other convertibles have struggled to contort old world design into now-world needs, the Surface starts fresh. This is the best chance we have to prove we might finally be ready to move past traditional, tired designs and interfaces.

But the Pro is also a reality check for Windows 8 itself. Defenders of the new OS insist that it just hasn’t been given the right vessel to showcase it yet. Well, there will never be any better hardware for Windows 8 than Surface Pro. If it doesn’t work here, maybe there’s a problem.

Like the Surface RT before it, the Surface Pro is gorgeous. The Pro is a bit thicker than the RT, but keeps the same design principles. Trapezoidal angles, sure-footed kickstand, snap-in keyboard cover.

At first blush, the Pro looks thick for what it is—a slate—and that can give the impression that it’s bigger than small-for-a-laptop machines like the MacBook Air. Don’t be fooled; it’s actually lighter and thinner than the 11.6-inch Air. Along with the Surface, Microsoft will happily sell you either a Touch or Type cover, both of which function as the Surface’s keyboard and trackpad. The Type cover has a traditional keyboard that’s basically full sized, while the Touch cover is a flat surface that detects your keystrokes with no moving parts. I personally have used the type cover keyboard and really like it. While these were purely optional on the Surface RT, they’re essential to approaching the Surface Pro’s full-PC potential.

The Surface Pro runs Windows 8 Pro, meaning it plays nice with all of Surface RT’s Metro apps as well as all your old desktop apps. If you want to use Surface Pro as a laptop? Simply snap in a keyboard cover, pop out the kickstand, set it down on a table. If you want to use it like a tablet, remove the keyboard and you have a great tablet – with the power of a real operating system.

As a tablet, the Pro has significantly more weight to it than the iPad . But the build quality is so strong—everything feels like it just fits—that you don’t really mind, unless you try to use it one-handed. It’s a little too heavy for that.

One of the Pro’s fundamental problems is almost tragically ironic. Its screen is too good. Which is to say, its 1080p resolution is so dense on the 10.6-inch screen that desktop programs seem too small, too cramped. Since you’re already going to probably be hunched over your desk and squinting while using this 10.6-inch screen, teeny tiny text isn’t much of a help. To offset this, Microsoft has made the default Magnification setting 150 percent. That helps a bit by enlarging icons, text, and some apps, but results in many third party apps looking like fuzzy eyesores.

There is zero difference between the keyboard covers that come with the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. They’re identical, and interchangeable. But unlike RT, Surface Pro needs a real keyboard if it has any chance of fulfilling its potential.

Both the Touch and Type keyboards are totally usable. You’ll need more time to get used to typing on the Touch, with the biggest difference being the lack of tactile feedback when you miss a letter. It’s also a little harder to reliably hit the bottom row of function keys, because they bleed into the palmrest instead of being clearly delineated. Annoying, but manageable, mostly. You’ll be able to type at basically full speed with the Type keyboard, and after a week or two, pretty confidently on the Touch cover as well. As I stated earlier I have the type keyboard and for about 10 bucks more than the touch I very much recommend the touch.

Should You Buy This?

If it fits your professional needs, you’ll at least want to consider it.

The Surface Pro is ultimately the best tablet on the market right now if you truly are trying to get work & play done at the same time on your mobile computing device.

Keep Your Web Browser From Crashing

Nothing kills productivity like that dreaded message from your web browser that it has encountered and “unexpected problem”. Or in many cases you simply can get stopped in your tracks by a web browser that simply will not respond.

There are many reasons why this can occur and here are four of the most common reasons and some advice that can help you prevent web browser disaster from striking.

1. Uninstall Java. We talked about this before and although there can be an argument for keeping it there is no arguing with the ongoing security risks Java has been responsible for. You can try going without it to see if you actually miss it.

2. Update Flash. yes – Flash must be updated constantly and it can be a pain when you are asked to do so several times a month. However if your Flash is updated your web surfing will go much more smoothly.

3. Get rid of toolbars. This drives me crazy. Many times when users ask me for help with their “slow web browsing” the first thing I find is several toolbars installed in their web browser. Get rid of them! Also be aware that many programs today will “ask you” if you want their toolbar when you install their application. Always say no! Be careful however – the default answer is almost always, “yes please install your toolbar”.

4. Update the browser. This could be the root cause of your problems. Keep your browser up-to-date and you will almost always be surfing the internet faster.

Fine Tuning Your Facebook Profile

The popularity of Facebook cannot be questioned. Since its launch in 2004 it has grown to over 1 billion users (as of October 2012). Almost 50% of the US population has a Facebook account. It is because of this popularity of Facebook and our comfort with the service that can lead to trouble from time to time. Countless people have lost their jobs over something that they posted on Facebook. There is no doubt that marriages have collapsed as a result of Facebook postings and I wonder how many people did not get a job because of something on Facebook. Did you know that one of the first places employers go now when conducting backgrounds on applicants is Facebook?

All this being said there are several things you can do to protect yourself while engaging in the world of social media. Here are 3 recommendations.

1. Limit Who Can Find You 

Your security protection starts here.

Make sure your Facebook profile stays private by clicking the blue gear in the top-right corner of the Facebook website and selecting Privacy Settings. From there, the best thing you can do is make it harder for strangers to find your Facebook profile in the first place by blocking search engines from linking to your profile and limiting who can look up your profile using the email address and phone number you gave to Facebook. That being said it’s probably a good idea to grant lookup access to Friends of Friends. That way, you can get some mileage out of Facebook’s social network by connecting with people your friends trust.

2. Stop Posting Public

Check your Facebook Privacy Settings. Make sure the ‘Who can see your future posts?’ option is set to Friends.

3. Secure Your Timeline

You can prevent the threat of embarrassing photos or video popping up in your Timeline without your knowledge by adjusting Facebook’s Timeline Review.

To  do this go to the Timeline and Tagging Settings menu. Here you can review and adjust your Timeline Settings. Turn the option titled ‘Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline’ to On.

These three simple changes will help secure your Facebook privacy. If you take some time to explore the Facebook’s Account Settings menus you will find even more privacy settings. Take the time to read through the various setting options.

Facebook is now so popular that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore its success. It can actually hurt you in a job search to NOT have a Facebook page. This is because some employers will actually think you are “hiding something about yourself” if you are not engaged socially. Therefore take the time to make sure your Facebook profile only presents you as your best (at least in public).

The Surface in Public

There may be hope for Microsoft’s Surface after all. This evening while waiting for a seat at out local watering hole, Victory Brewing Company I took notice of a guy checking in and waiting next too me. It looked like he was holding a Microsoft Surface tablet and I walked up and asked, “Hey is that a Microsoft Surface Tablet” you have there? He responded that “Yes – indeed It was’. We then had a great conversation comparing it to Apple’s IPAD. It was quickly established that we were both in the technology field and we both believed it was far superior to the IPAD in many ways. In fact I asked him if he “missed his IPAD” at which he responded that he lost track where “his IPAD even was at this point”. We both agreed that the small sleek form factor with the ability to install and run any Windows application made the surface the best tablet on the market at this point.

In addition we both agreed that the Surface tablet had enough computing power to – in many ways replace both the tablet and the laptop, resulting in a much easier life for many of us.

Our conversation sadly ended when our table was ready and I could see the wife walking off into the distance.. looking back and me… after which I said goodbye and followed Mrs. Mann.

How To Know If Malware Has Invaded Your PC

How do you know if you computer has been compromised by Malware? I am often asked the question. Malware can make your computer do really weird things all of which work to either make your computing life miserable or in the worst case scenarios actually steal your information.

Here are some signs that your computer may be infected.

1. Popup ads appear even when no browser is open. While not as common as they used to be, adware programs bombard their victims with advertisements.

2. Browser navigation gets redirected. Not every site redirect is malicious, but if you find that trying to reach Google takes you to an unfamiliar search site, you’ve almost certainly got a problem.

3. A security program you never installed pops up scary warnings. This one could almost be #1 on this list. Creating and distributing fake antivirus programs is a growing business. The perpetrators use drive-by downloads or other sneaky techniques to get the fake antivirus onto your system, then display scary warnings about made-up threats.

4. Posts you didn’t write appear on your social media pages. Malware focused on Facebook and other social media sites propagates by generating fake posts.

5. A program holds your PC for ransom. I have discussed Some malware programs literally hold your PC or data for ransom. Overt ransomware threats may encrypt all your pictures and documents and demand that you pay to get them back. Others try to obscure what they’re doing. For example, they may display a warning supposedly from the FBI stating that your computer was used to send spam and demanding that you pay a fine before you’re allowed to use it again. Of course, even if you do pay, you will not get your system back.

6. Suddenly you can’t use common system tools. A smart user, suspecting the presence of malware, might launch Task Manager to investigate, or check settings using Registry Editor. If you suddenly find that trying to use these or other system tools triggers a message saying your Administrator has disabled them, it may well be an attempt at self-defense by malware on your system.

If you think that malware has taken control of your PC, install a powerful antivirus utility immediately. Already got one? Then the malware got past the protection. This is much more common then you would think. This is simply because many times anti-virus company’s must respond the new virus threats after they are in the wild. This leaves your computer open to the threat – until you have updated the software which is why keeping your security software update is so critical. Nevertheless make sure your security software is up to date and run a full system scan if you think your PC has been compromised. If the scan does not eliminate the infection contact a technology professional as soon as possible. You definitely want to get that nasty, malicious program out of your system as soon as possible.


Voyager 1 Enters Intersteller Space

Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun and exited the heliosphere, according to a new study appearing online today.

This is really big news because the heliosphere is a region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles, and which is thought to be enclosed, bubble-like, in the surrounding interstellar medium of gas and dust that pervades the Milky Way galaxy.

On August 25, 2012, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft measured drastic changes in radiation levels, more than 11 billion miles from the Sun. Anomalous cosmic rays, which are cosmic rays trapped in the outer heliosphere, all but vanished, dropping to less than 1 percent of previous amounts. At the same time, galactic cosmic rays – cosmic radiation from outside of the solar system – spiked to levels not seen since Voyager’s launch, with intensities as much as twice previous levels.

It is these observations that have many in the scientific community believing that Voyager 1 has actually entered interstellar space. If this is true this is amazing. A man made object leaving the solar system, and beyond the influence of our very own sun. This makes me want to watch some Star Trek for sure. In fact if you recall the plot of “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” from 1979 the USS Enterprise does find the Voyager Spacecraft and it’s not happy. But that’s a story for another day.

 Captain Kirk & Crew try to persuade Voyager from destroying it’s creator… namely us.

Sadly, we probably are not going to learn much about what lies beyond our solar system. This is because Voyager will begin shutting down its instruments in 2020 and at some point after 2025 its power supply will be exhausted. After that, we just have to hope that it doesn’t someday come home with a head full of questions and an existential void in its soul, which is exactly what happened in the first Start Trek motion picture.

This is quite amazing for a piece of technology that was launched by NASA way back in 1977. This is also the spacecraft that Carl Sagan’s “Golden Record” and much debated “road map” to Earth was included. The disc carries photos of the Earth and its life-forms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people (such as the the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States) and a medley, “Sounds of Earth”, that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of Earth music, including works by Mozart and Chuck Berry.

Cyber Attack in South Korea

Cyber Security has been in the news recently and it seems the threat of cyber crime is increasing every day. As Cyber Security concerns were being reported last week a new cyber attack occurred, this time in South Korea.

Investigators today, March 21, 2013 traced a coordinated cyber-attack that paralyzed tens of thousands of computers at six South Korean banks and media companies to a Chinese internet protocol address, according to authorities in Seoul.

IP addresses, which are unique to each computer connected to the internet, can easily be manipulated by hackers operating anywhere in the world, and the investigation into who was behind Wednesday’s attack and whether they were in China will take weeks.

Suspicion for the simultaneous shutdown is focused on North Korea, which has threatened Seoul and Washington in recent days over UN sanctions imposed for its nuclear test conducted on February 12, 2013.

The attack did not affect the government or military, and there were no immediate reports that customers’ bank records were compromised. However the cyber attack did disable scores of cash machines across the country, disrupted commerce and renewed questions about South Korea’s internet security and vulnerability to hackers.

If the attack was carried out by North Korea, the purpose would seem to be to send a message – and a warning – to South Korea that Pyongyang is capable of breaching its computer networks.

On Thursday, only one of the six targets, Shinhan Bank, was back online and operating regularly.

This proves that Cyber Security is only going to continue to rise in it’s importance as land armies begin to become less relevant and cyber war grows in it’s importance.

Downgrading IE10 to IE9

Just yesterday I wrote an article reporting that Microsoft was now pushing out Internet Explorer 10 to Windows 7 computers. While there are many real improvements in IE10 some users will no doubt run into some problems running IE10. Indeed I ran into a problem with one of my office computers that had been upgraded yesterday. A program that I run at least once a week would simply not work with IE10.

Luckily there is something you can do if IE10 is causing you problems. You can downgrade to IE9 which should get you back up and running if you experiencing issues with IE10. To do this follow these simple steps.

1. Open the “Control Panel”.
2. Open “Programs and Features”.   

3. On the left panel select “View Installed Updates”This may take a moment as the programs listed refreshes to include programs and updates, which by default this application does not do.
4. Browse until you find “Internet Explorer 10”. Select Uninstall and when it has finished reboot.

Be aware that this downgrade can only be done with Windows 7. If you have Windows 8 you are stuck with IE10. Hopefully the providers of software that rely on Internet Explorer can update their programming to deal with IE10 in the near future.