First thoughts about CrEdge (ium)

After listening to the very popular Windows Weekly podcast curtesey of Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley and Paull Thurrott, I thought I would take the new Chromium based Edge browser for a spin.    As Leo suggested in the podcast it didnt take to find a safe download ( as the browser has not been realeased yet), but I have now installed it on my Surface Go and have been really please with the results so far.

Up until CrEdge I have always used the current Edge version plus Google Chrome on my device,  as certain website would prove laggy or not open completely.  Now I am no web developer  but the new Edge seems very responsive and quick on all the website I have used so far.  However using Chrome has always been a bot of a processor hog to say the least.

So whats changed.

Well quite simply Edge has become a Chromium browser, instead of using the Trident rendering engine. This really means for the end user that …. it simply works and works well now.   Of course the frontend at present looks very much like Google Chrome, but I suspect this will evolve as it gets to release.

A clean clear cut view of the Chromium Edge browser

Whats works now is that you can use your Microsoft Account to sync information accross devices, you can also utilise the extensions from both the Microsoft Store and other 3 rd party stores.  So if you have your favourite Chrome extension, you can use that in the New Edge.   Other features that have made it accross are the Read Aloud feature, which offers the ability for students to get an accessible reading view of any webpage they are looking at.

The new Edge browser allows extensions to be installed from the Google Store

The other great thing is that it isnt just for Windows 10,  New Edge will be available for Windows 7 devices as well, giving compatability in browser technologies for companies moving to Windows 10 in the future. This is really important as we draw near the end of support for Windows 7 in Jan 2020.

So at present this becomes my default browser on my Surface, and I am super excited that the browser is this good this early on.    In this identity centric world we have I am also keen that I only need to manage my Microsoft Account, not having to manage a Google account on my device to.

A final word of warning

When the new Edge becomes available and you get to make it your default browser expect to see the warning message

You are replacing Edge with Edge? Do you want to make Edge your new default browser ?

 

Man I love humour in IT !

Advertisements

Further adventures with Surface Go

My Surface Go  has proven its worth since purchasing it last year.    I now have standardised on the Surface Go whenever I am out at a customer site, as  discussed before at 1.15lbs its simply the lightest devie to pop in a rack sack and take with you.   My Surface Go is now running 19H1 (or 1903 in old money) version of Windows 10, so I can talk about the best of whats coming to WIndows in the future.

So as I pack the bag today for another client visit, I thought I would take a moment to talk about whats in the bag these days, and how I use some of the new connectivity with apps like Your Phone to get the best from my day to day to life with Surface Go.

So the first thing I have done to my Surface Go is to give it some body armour, really to protect from the day to day travels and knocks.  So I have invested in a Kensington case for the device.   This is great as it does not put to much weight on to the device, and concentrate on protecting the corners of the device in case it should slip out from your bag.    I would certainly reomend anyone looking at the device for daily out and about use or even a school looking at 1-2-1  the body armour is eesential!

The Surface Go with the durable Kensington body armour

The other greay thing about the Kensington case is that it leave the kick stand free, so you still get to use all of the Surface Go’s frictionless kickstand to get the best angle for use.    The case also has a pen holder for the Surface pen which is quite nice as you are not reliant on the magnetic strip to keep your pen close to you !

The only down side I have found with the case is the power connector, which can now be somewhat of a tricky operation to connect, event though its magnetic!  However a small price to pay in comparison to a new screen !

The space for the power connector can be a bit fiddly to get to

Now of course you may be aware that Surface Go has a USB-C connector, which can connect you to a massive list of accessories.   You can even charge your Surface Go via the USB, this is really handy if yoiu are travelling light and you only have your phone charge with you.   To use USB charging on the Surface Go, you need to have a charger that kicks out at least 15 watts of power, likewise if your looking to charge from a battery pack, you really need to ensure you have a USB-PD pack and cable,  this will enable the Surface Go to ‘Fast Charge’ from the pack . USB-PD stands for Power Delivery by the way !

The main adpater I plug into to USB-C is a USB-C to HDMI connector, allowing me to connect to HDMI displays (£34.99 from all good Microsoft Stores). This makes it easy to simply connect to any HDMI ready source via cable, however on the odd occasion where a cable doesnt reach etc I also carry a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter ! (Please remember to make sure that you keep your adapter firmware up-to-date).

Your Surface Go can be charged on the USB port

So thats what I take with me on my travels, however with the bi-annual updates to Windows, its the functionality that truly allows me to achive more with my Surface Go.

Your Phone

I have been an Android user ever since my trusty Windows Phone  was put into retirement. Currently I am running a Galaxy S8 device, but I connect that to my Surface Go with the Your Phone app. Your Phone was part of the 1809 release of Windows 10 and allows you to connect to your Andorid phone and retrieve the last 20 photos from the device and also send and receive texts.   So frequently when I am travelling on the train, I can text directly from Surface GO, sometimes I will leave the phone in my bag.    To setup Your Phone simply launch the app from the Start Menu, follow the instructions to text the link to your phone  and then download the companion app on the Android device and you should then be linked.

Get the Your Phone app up and running on your Surface Go

Where next for Your Phone ?  Well you may have caught the latest version of Your Phone now supports Android screen mirroring.  This means you can see your Android phone screen and use directly in the Your Phone app.    So using any of the Android apps ie Snapchat (if you need to)  to booking your next hotel for your business trip can now be completed on your Surface.   Note this is not running the app natively in Windows (however I suspect that may be in the a not to far distant release) but simply mirroing the screen, but its a great start in the world of truly mobile working accross devices.

19H1

With the next version of Windows 10 just receiving the finishing touches, I would also recomend the new Office webapp, which is a part of the new build. This Progressive Web App, connects you through to your Office 365 subscription in one click. Its incredibly useful as it gives you a great summary of where you are in the day.

Office PWA opens your world !

Select from your favourite apps, online apps and documents from one screen.  You can customise this space to meet your needs and requirement. Its a great imporovement on the previous version and is coming in the 1903 release of Windows 10.

In summary

Have you ever sat on a train, looked around you and seen everyone with there laptops tapping away on Excel for example?   Well this is the world of mobile working that embraces the highest paid office exec to first line worker.  However devices like the Surface Go empower this at an affordable price by giving you more functionality with Windows 10 and the power of the Microsoft Cloud.  Surface Go has truly established its place in the modern workers rack-sack of life.

I am now using the Surface Go as my out and about machine.  Listed above are just a few things that fine tune my working experience, but at the end of the day I have a full blown PC, which is extremely powerful when paired with the Microsoft Cloud for the Modern Workplace.

Take a look at Surface Go in the Microsoft Store – if your a student sign in with your EDU account to receive a student discount.

So what is the Windows Mixed Reality platform?

Do you remember the hype over the Windows Mixed Reality platform?  I certainly do !  That’s what made me go an order one on the day of launch, and I have got to say that after it arrived I was left fairly deflated with what I had just spent my money on. However with the arrival of my Surface Book2 I finally got it  and since then I have become a bit of an addict.

Tip one – get the right device to run WMR

Biggest tip for sure is get the right device to run Windows Mixed Reality!  When I first got the headset, I had heard the WMR would work on a Surface Pro 4, but plugging the device failed the WMR hardware test.  So I tried on a Surface Laptop, that too failed.   So I then brought a Lenovo laptop which met the criteria, I spent about £600 on the device, and though it ran it was very buggy.   For example the speed of setting the environment took upto 10 minutues easily.  Moving around was very a painful experience, yet the device met the requirement of WMR.  So the frustrations of a middle aged man came through and I packed it up and stored it underneath my bed.

Lets fast foward into October 2018 when I start my new job working with the amazing team in Surface in the UK supporting education customers on there journey. This meant I could get my hands on a Surface Book 2 !, with an 8th gen Intel processor and chipset I thought it would be an ideal candidate for WMR – and it was !

The Surface Book2 amazingly useful all round device but the powerhouse behind getting the best from WMR

 

Before I could use Surface with WMR of course I needed a new USB C to HDMI connector, so a swift purchase from the Microsoft store fixed that.   Plugged in the headset and boon we were away, in the same room which had taken 10 minutes to setup, we were ready to go within 10 seconds, I could use the WMR controllers to navigate around swiftly and easily from the comfort of my chair.

Tip two – think outside the box !

My job role is mainly based from home, which is good in some respects and bad in others.   The distraction of the being located near the coffee pot and in short range of the TV remote control can be a bit distracting.  However with WMR and my Surface Book 2 I created my virtual office, which would give me access to all the information I require.  I can :

  • Access my files
  • Using desktop applications
  • Use the Windows Store to add apps
  • Use Teams to make calls as require
  • Listen to music

So here is a quick look around my office

 

As you can see my various screens are set up!  Didn’t have to purchase four super large screen and put them in my office at home, I simply look and use the screen I want to.  As you can see my Mail app is open on the left hand side and on the right is my calendar.

How about typing?

Well typing is as easy for me as texting with the controllers. However with more applications like Microsoft Office, having inbuilt dictation I made not need to use them in the future.  Also the Immersive Reader application is now available in WMR also which allows for accessibility in using these headsets as it does across the rest of the Microsoft platform.

There aren’t many views like this – the view from my window !

It may sound bizarre in a world of open plan offices  and commuting to work, but having a view like this is quite therapeutic !  It means I can take some away from the screen as I would do in the physical world, listen to some music for example.

Here is another shot from the back of my office !   Seriously early days but being connected to the Microsoft Cloud services, Windows Mixed Reality allows me to be fully exploit the functionality in the comfort of my own home without the distractions.  Don’t get me wrong the WMR headset is not on my head all day but it does focus me my taking out the distraction of the space around me.

Where might this go?    Much as it did back in the 1960’s where someone invented the “open plan” office for striking collaboration and communication in teams of employees (which didn’t quite have the desired affect), students we are teaching could find this as a common way of working in the future. Certainly in school students with educational needs can find there own space and still take part in lessons.

It may well have been off to a slow start and overshadowed by the HoloLens device, but don’t under estimate the power of Windows Mixed Reality from Microsoft.

Microsoft Surface Go Part 2 – out in the field

So it has been 4 weeks into using the Surface Go as my main machine – and I thought it was time to share with you how this has gone.    One of my roles in my working week is to manage the IT infrastructure and IT Strategy at Old Buckenham High School in Norfolk.   Now traditionally my work machine for this role has been my Surface Pro 4 however, I thought I would see if the Surface Go would be able to take on the role of the  Pro 4.

Entry sign to Old Buckenham High School
Old Buckenham High School is a typical rural school in Norfolk and makes great use of the Microsoft Cloud

Lets run through a typical school day 

My day starts at home at about 6.30 when I get up and get sorted, a black coffee is soon followed by BBC Breakfast to see how the world is performing since I went to sleep. Generally, I will use the Office 365 admin to check the school’s tenant is functioning as it should be.   The Office 365 admin app is available for free from the Microsoft Store and gives you a health check on the status of your tenant.  

My Surface Go on the lounge table with a cup of tea next to it.
The day starts with using my Surface Go to check the Office 365 status

Next, I will arrive at school approx. 8.30 get into the office.   

Once I arrive in the office and click the kettle on, we spark up the Windows Mail application and check the email of the day. Now I am sure this is a daily ritual for many people, however I only see 14 overnight emails, this is primarily down to the use of Microsoft Teams in the school.  Microsoft Teams is the collaborative centrepiece of Office 365 for Teaching and Learning and has seen us reduce the use of email – instead of using the social media based in the Teams to communicate.

Next up is a visit into one of the IT Suites at the school, and the requirement to reset a few passwords for the new Year 7 students.    Though my Surface Go is running in ‘S Mode’, which means I cannot install Win32 apps, I soon download the Microsoft RDP client from the store, and RDP into the server to connect to the User and Computers snap-in to allow me to reset the student’s passwords.

Windows 10 “S Mode” v Windows 10

‘S Mode’ – In Windows 10 like the Surface Laptop the Go comes with Windows 10 running in ‘S mode’.   ‘S mode’ looks and feels like Windows 10 Pro and can access any of the Microsoft Store Apps including Office 365 Pro Plus.  As Microsoft Store apps effectively run in a sandbox environment, this helps ensure a day 1 – day 1000 experience on the device, also ‘S-Mode’ devices authenticate against Microsoft Azure AD, not local AD.    ‘S mode’ doesn’t support fundamental IT Pro’s tool such as PowerShell and Command prompt, so you may wish to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or Edu.

I still use ‘S mode’ as its quicker to start up and I like the cloud management (more on that later) if I need PowerShell I simply either RDP into a Server or more recently an Azure VM that is connected through to our infrastructure.

Back in the Office, I use the Go with the Spotify app, and my £25.00 JVC Bluetooth headphones while I have lunch, and get on with a few more areas on our staff drive into there new homes in SharePoint online as we continue to move the school on its journey with the Microsoft Cloud.

As the bell goes a Teams notification pops up requesting some help on Microsoft Forms, so as we continue to move more services into the cloud it frees my time up from firefighting the technology to be able to support teachers to achieve more in the classroom.

So a quick pop into room 10 during the free period in the afternoon means we can offer support to the teacher so she can now build a quiz for students that auto marks itself.   Using the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter in the classroom means that I can simply “connect” to the projector to show what I am doing on the board.   After 20 mins of running through Forms, I simply swipe from the right, chose Connect and then Disconnect from the display.

Finally, the last job of the day is to do some routine maintenance on our Azure AD joined cloud devices using Intune for Education.  The Intune for Education portal is designed to admin your estate from any web-connected device, but with its full-size keyboard, I don’t eat into the screen real estate when I am on the move, unlike my iPad which was my companion device previously.

The Intune Education portal makes it simple to refresh a device overnight and also add a new science web app for deployment, so tomorrow, when they sign in kids, will have access to the resource.

The Surface Go running Intune for Education to manage the school cloud devices

Its only towards the end of the working day you realise the battery life is nearing the end,  Surface Go has up to a 9-hour battery life but in its day to day role in the school, it gets used throughout the day.  Though looking in my bag I realise I have left my Surface charger at home, I don’t have a problem as I get out a USB – C charger for my Samsung Galaxy S8, (which I carry with me all the time!).    With enough charge to last me the rest of the evening I quickly use the Your Phone app (which is linked to my Galaxy S8) to text my wife,  that I am on the way home.

So I am a couple of weeks into using the GO as my main machine and talking to colleagues about their own experiences with the device.   In general, I have been really pleased with what the money buys!   An ideal companion machine for my day to day work, as it been able to all the things I have asked of it  – YES,  do I render high-end quality video and need to use Photoshop to manipulate big images  – absolutely not.

I would say the best aspect is simply the portability of the device and the knowledge of having a fully fledged PC device in your bag which is not going to run out of battery life during the day.  Even it did, you can sleep easy in the fact of being able to use your phone USB charger on the go.    The screen quality I have been particularly impressed with, with its uni-bond construction it means sharing the display with people sitting next to you is no problem.

The Surface keyboard is always a great experience to type on and the size of the trackpad is a vast improvement on the Surface 3 from a few years ago.   I guess my only side is the comparison of the size of the keys against the Pro, for someone like me in my late 40’s who has always used a full-scale keyboard and having middle aged chubby fingers I find at the moment I suffer from hitting the wrong keys when typing sometimes.

Peripherals and extras.

I have invested in the new Surface Mobile mouse from the Microsoft Store, so when I am typing I can be a bit quicker with using the mouse.

The Surface Mobile Mouse

The Surface Mobile Mouse is light, ergonomic and only £29.99 from the store.     Of course, the Surface pen is the best experience and has meant I have used the device in ‘tablet’ mode on several occasions just using the pen to input.   I also very much like the thought of Windows Hello (Face ID) working in portrait mode as well as landscape, so I don’t have to bother about passwords if I haven’t got the keyboard attached.

For the IT Pro or not?

Is the Surface Go the right choice for the IT Pro in school?   Well, it can certainly deal with the pressures of what’s required to admin a network (through RDP) and use in the day to day job.   What’s priceless about the Surface Go is the portability of a full-blown PC with a weight of only 1.15lbs.  Fully functional running Microsoft Office, using Windows inking, using existing 3rd party software and leveraging all of your schools existing investments.

 

How would I rate the Surface Go 

Portability         10

Battery Life       10

Processor           8

Connectivity       9

Keyboard           9

Overall             9.2 /10 

 

My final thoughts

I guess  I would finish with the same thing I would say about any hardware that you buy, is that you need to get the best out of the device from the software or services you decide to run on the device.   It goes without saying by using the Microsoft Cloud, OneNote, Flow, Power BI etc means I get the utmost best from the portability of the device.   If I didn’t and only used it for word processing then any entry-level device would do.   However, as mentioned the portability around the school is absolutely priceless and also as I do a reasonable amount of train travel with my work the ‘lap ability’ factor is completely priceless even against my Pro device.

In the classroom the same is true with service like the Windows Mixed Reality program which allows students to mix the digital world with the physical, on a device for less than £300 means these are truly transformational times in the world of personal computing.

 

Say hello to Surface Go ! Part 1

OK so it arrived yesterday ! – my new Surface Go…  I have got to admit I am getting a bit of a device complex now, having a Surface Book, Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and now the Go.   I have got to be honest not one device does it all, I still find myself taking the Book out to do demo’s, where as I prefer the to use the Laptop for everyday… I was wondering whether the Go will reduce the wait I have to carry around with me on a day to day basis.

So what have I brought… well Surface Go is available in two flavours in the UK first is a 4gb memory 64gb storage version and the second is 8gb / 128gb.   I opted for the big brother.

First impressions

Well once out of the box you definitely know its a Surface device, the same build quality is evident from the moment you pick it up.   Against the Surface 3 you have the frictionless kick stand (aka Pro 4) which is a great improvement on a budget device.  Now my initial disappointment with the device (seeing that its aimed at students/ edu) is the adoption of a USB C adapter!   What I hear you cry – we have been after Surface devices with USB C for years now and you don’t want one ?    No no no no !  I welcome the inclusion of USB C, especially as I have a USB C phone which means one less charger to carry around,   but I also have a Surface charger  built-in to the device but no USB 3.0 port.

20180830_110402
Up close reveals the Go has a Surface Charger and a USB C  but no USB 3.0

Though we live in the cloud age, and this is a cloud book essentially, I still believe the majority of students would like to see a USB on the device, to plug in there USB stick or device (remember printers … we still use them!)   So perhaps ditching the Surface connector and have replacing it with USB 3.0 may have been a better call.

Powering on the device takes me through the typical Windows 10 setup and of course its great to have a chat with Cortana to tell her about the UK keyboard I need !.

So what Windows do you get ?

Well initially you will launch the device with Windows 10 Home in S mode.   So what exactly is S mode ?    So first lets start with Windows 10 Home – the lowest common denominator in the Windows family, its the ‘retail version’ of Windows so doesn’t come with the functionality of the Enterprise or Professional versions.    S – mode is the cloud variant of Windows 10, which gives you a super fast, super safe environment, looking like and behaving the same as Windows 10.  Imagine it as Windows 10 ‘Cloud’ ideal to work with Microsoft’s Office 365, so you can store your documents in the cloud and share and collaborate with others.  The main difference  is that any software you use will need to be installed from the Microsoft Store – S mode doesn’t support the older software i.e. things that come on a dvd or where you have to click a setup.exe file to get things started. OK  so here is the big deal with S Mode,  it promises to be a day 1 – day 1000 experience for the user, typical things that eventually slow a normal Windows device  down have been removed ensuring the device is always quick to start – no more hour glasses to watch.  Times are indeed changing ..

You know I almost forgot the keyboard !   a vast improvement on the Surface 3 version !  A trackpad that is well proportioned  and very useable and of course the Alcantara  feel makes it as good as the Pro 4 for any spillages  !

20180830_110424
A vast improvement in the keyboard in the GO.  Great feel to the using the keyboard and well proportioned trackpad  makes the device truly portable.

Of course as we continue our tour around the Go we find the MicroSd slot under the kickstand, supporting upto 256gb a quick and easy way to expand the capacity of the device.   I have already added a 64gb card and use it to sync my Onedrive for Business account so I am truly portable with or without internet connectivity (which can be very useful on the way into London on the train).

Beauty is only ‘Screen Deep’

I will be honest I thought I was going to struggle with a small 10 inch screen, however the Pixelsence screen is probably the best on any device. With a resolution of 1800 * 1200 and 10 point multi-touch it really is a pleasure to use – making clarity the top feature will be a key success for people to use the Go on the road. On that basis Surface Go is truly a beautiful device,

Have you said Hello to Windows Hello?

The camera’s are important on the Go to me, first off the front facing camera support Windows Hello. The Go has two camera’s   front facing (5mp) and world camera (8mp).  The rear camera is RGB and therefore support the Windows Mixed Reality platform, allowing students to blend the digital with the real world. However lets talk more about Windows Hello and how that improves the sign in experience. Windows Hello has been around since the launch of Windows 10 but normally on high end devices.  However Go brings you Windows Hello at an affordable price point.    Windows Hello replaces your password allowing only you to unlock your device.

Remember Surface Go is a budget version of the Surface family – and if your directly compare it to the Surface Pro you will be disappointed.  However I am now going to use the Go as my work device and see how I get on with it.

Surface Go is small and lightweight for work on the go

So first thing I notice is instead of taking my ruck sack and I can use my smaller back with the device and a USB C Charger.

In my next post I will talk about how Surface Go can be managed from the Microsoft Cloud and how I get on with the Go on a day to day basis.

We will be back soon with another post on the Surface Go soon.