• A Surface Pro 4 Review - or not. Surface Pro 3 final closing

    If you asked me a couple of months ago, this should have been a Surface Book or at least a Surface Pro 4 review. I replace my devices annually and I had planned on getting the new Surface Pro 4 as a replacement for my Surface Pro 3 and when the Surface Book arrived, I decided to change my order to a Surface Book.

    So what changed? Well, lets give you some of the history:

    I wrote a series of 3 articles on the Surface Pro 3 which I moved to as my work machine. I've been looking at stylus access for a Mac or iPad nothing coming from Apple I decided to shift to the Surface Pro 3. Whilst I hated Windows 8, Windows 10 was coming soon and it looked good so I soldiered on. Working with Windows 8 was like trying to do weight loss by scraping yourself with a spoon. Granted that's a minor exaggeration but for those who have worked with Windows 8, not by much. I'm not actually sure how some people survived Windows 8 era while I was in Mac land, or even liked it, the latter of which must point to some self loathing psychological issues. Yes, it was that bad, even Windows Fanboys I know think it's terrible. In my case, if it hadn't been for a little product called Start8, I don't think I would've survived, but I knew Windows 10 was on the horizon, and I didn't have long to wait. I'd seen the screenshots and the demos. It's funny how quickly we forget the pain endured by Windows that forced our initially departure. It's almost like mothers who have more children after enduring childbirth, somehow the brain forgets.*In my case, it was having to roll back drivers every day for 2 weeks about 6 years ago due to some bug in that current flavour of Windows that forced me to go out and buy a Mac, something I think saved my sanity. Anyway, back to current day.

    I remember registering for Windows 10 and actually being excited when the message appeared in a hotel room in Parramatta saying I could upgrade. It's probably the first time I've been excited about anything Windows…ever. Microsoft owned the hardware so the upgrades should be flawless and after having completed my install, it seemed like it had gone smoothly. Visually, Windows 10 is actually an appealing product, if an operating system can be appealing. At first glance it seemed to fill all holes left by Windows 8 on the Surface Pro 3. It solved the scalability issues with external screens. It brought back the start menu and combined it with touch in a usable but practical way. I went through checklist of issues I had with Windows 8, and one by one they seemed to be solved by windows 10. But I should've known what looked like a dream was really a nightmare.*

    A couple of weeks later, the honeymoon phase was well and truly over. Initially it was easy to overlook the little issues but progressively I realised that some of the issues were not really resolved, new issues and hadn't open and I had to contend with daily crashes that simply did not existing in Mac land. Scalability wasn't completely fixed and I still had issues with having to restart my machine every third or fourth time after unplugging from an external display because it left the icons small enough to fit onto a pin head. Search was dismal despite what Microsoft promised so I had to keep a third party product called X1. I had to do a fresh install to fix some performance issues and I had to rebuild my index to solve a search issue with settings where the CPU would max out when doing a search and the entire machine would be unusable for 20 second. *

    Then Office 2016 arrived and things got worse. Outlook crashed at least once a day, sometimes 4-5 times. Reinstalling and repairing did nothing.*Outlook 2016 seemed to come with a feature that crashed the product whenever it lost internet connection, which unfortunately was often due to a bug. Then in an attempt to fix the bug with a firmware update, they changed something which stopped my wifi 4G modem stopped working and I rely on my mobile connection. It wasn't just me either, all my consultants had the same issue. I had to tether my mobile phone to keep pointing a connection going, but every time I unplugged my phone to take a business call in privacy, Outlook would crash again.*

    Windows 10 also cost me in excess of a $300 of data in two months, thanks to a nasty feature which torrents updates to other users without your permission. We had data issues with multiple consultants and couldn't find the issue. Two months and $300 later, we discovered Microsoft had decided to torrent their updates to everyone in the world without telling users. Thanks Microsoft! In one day I lost $100 of data when I hit my cap with my phone on the other side of the room and I didn't see the SMS come in. We thought it was updates, and it was, just the updates Microsoft were sending to other computers from your laptop.



    Were those the only issues?

    Sadly not. I have a list of 20 issues I encountered but possibly my biggest annoyance is that the suspend mode on the tablet doesn't work when you put the screen cover on so half the time I would arrive at a destination with a flat battery and a hot device, or more annoyingly arrive on a plane to find out my battery was flat so I had nothing to watch for a flight because now airlines rely on your carrying your own device.

    Office 2016 should never have been released, it's less stable than a Zimbabwe's economy and that's not confined to Windows. Office 2016 is one of the only applications on my Mac that still crashes. It's at this point that I start to wonder whether Microsoft actually do quality control prior to release or whether the public betas are just an attempt to convince users they are actually doing quality control while the development sits back playing games.

    And those aren't all the issues, there are plenty more. Yes, it’s not a all new and improved Windows, it's the same old Windows with a haircut and new jeans pretending to have changed. It almost feels like getting back together with a bad ex-partner who says they have changed,, but after a couple of months it just seems like the same old thing and you realise there was a reason you broke up.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. If you're tied to Microsoft software, the hardware that Microsoft produced is amazing and the Surface Book looks incredible. In fact, if Apple produce this piece of hardware on OSX, I probably wouldn't be writing this article, but I guess that's the most concerning part. Microsoft has control over the hardware and software in this case, and if Microsoft can't get it right on their own hardware, what chance do the other manufacturers have? They don't even have that many devices to test it on so how could they get it so wrong?

    I think the problem with Microsoft is they have always been geared up for the corporate market where people wait for IT to install the software before deploying it to the organisation, because Microsoft's release to the public is a little like gmail, it's permanently in an unstable beta, and it's only really when a product reaches end of life that it has any stability. This explains why most IT departments don't want to upgrade their OS environments until any version of Windows has been public for at least 2 years. The mistake I made was believing that Microsoft would release a stable version of their software.

    Conclusion

    So where to now? I've traded my MacBook Air up for a 15 MacBook Pro Quad Core. Yes, it's big and bulky but I've decided that I'll sacrifice some weight for the better performance of a Quad Core and 15" retina screen. I still have a requirement to run Windows for some work related functions so I'll keep a Windows 7 and Windows 10 virtualised in an environment I can control their behaviour and rollback quickly and easy when problems arise. The Windows 10 VM loads from a complete shutdown in about 8 seconds as can be seen below and 3 seconds from suspend mode.

    And I've added an iPad Pro as well which deals with my handwriting and workshop process diagram requirements and despite it being bulky, it had the added benefit of being usable as a Wacom Cintiq which has at least cut away my reliance on Wacom.

    The sad part is I don't like have two devices. I want one. But Apple won't produce one and Microsoft produces a really bad one. And I realised I can't trust Microsoft. They had the Surface Pro 3 for over a year before they Windows 10. They had no excuses.

    Last farewells

    On a separate not, as you've probably gathered, Mactalk has reached an all time low and there isn't much happening. Like myself, most of the people have already jumped ship to Appletalk so this article is my final one here despite the waining readership, and more a matter of closing up loose ends. Farewell, adiios, goodbye and don't forget to switch the lights off on the way out.
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