TechSock

    Giving Windows another shot

    Microsoft has been putting out what seem to be some really excellent products after the past couple years. The Surface Pro 3, SP4, Surface Book, and Surface Studio looked to be extremely polish compared to the average Windows machines, but I haven't really touched a Windows machine since Windows 7.

    Let's go back to 2014, I was working for Apple as an AppleCare Advisor for iOS devices, and it turns out, plenty of people use their iOS device with Windows. I had zero knowledge of Windows 8, but I wanted to make sure I was as confident in navigating Windows 8 as I was Windows 7. This lead me to pick up a Dell Venue 8 Pro. Beyond using it to learn Windows 8 settings, charms bar, and control panel navigation, it saw some occasional use as a couch web surfing device. I was kind of a fan of Windows 8, but it really only excelled on a tablet. I was engulfed into the Apple ecosystem (I still am), but from where I was standing, it didn't appear anyone was putting out high quality Windows devices.

    Fast forward to 2017, Microsoft is putting out some killer devices. Sure.. Windows phones kind of flopped, but the Surface line seems really polished. I still enjoy my Apple products, but I want to take a peek into the Windows world again. Coming off of CodeMash 2017, I decided I'd start looking. Why? CodeMash had a CTF run back Hacking Lab this year, and I decided I'd see what it was all about. Step 1, install VirtualBox and boot the supplied VM... Turns out an Apple MacBook, with it's Core M processor, doesn't like to run VMs. Leaving CodeMash this year, I felt that I wanted to peek into the Security world a bit more and would need a bit more horse power. Yes, I have a desktop... and sure, I could by a MacBook Pro. But I really like my small form factor portables. I started looking at 12"-14" options for Windows Machine. Looked at a ThinkPad(In my life before Apple products, I always wanted a ThinkPad), Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and a couple others that were eliminated fairly quickly. I wanted to keep it under $700, since I wasn't entirely sure I would be able to use Windows everyday. I tried a few devices, but I ended up picking up a loaded used Surface Pro 3(Core i7, 8GB, 512GB SSD).

    How is it? ... I kind of like it. I miss the astonishingly great battery life Apple always manages to squeeze out of the devices, but I know I could fix that with a Surface Book. This is the device I wish Apple would build. Do I use the pen? Not too often. I'm sure I will more in time as I find places for it. I don't even use the touchscreen very much, but I think it's the option to use them if I wanted that I like. The keyboard is pretty good, but I'm not much of a keyboard aficionado. Part of what I like about it is the form factor. It's is a tablet instead of a laptop. I know that it doesn't seem like a big deal, but I think it's easier to turn a tablet into a good laptop than it is turning a laptop into a good tablet. I really think that Apple could get here. They really are not that far off. If they add a navigable file system and cursor support to the iPad, they would be 95% of the way here. The rest is dependent on developers delivering killer apps.

    The biggest hang up I've found using the Surface is undoubtedly the lack of affordable web editing software with decent UI design. I think I've looked at a minimum of 10 different programs to replace Espresso by MacRabbit. It didn't seem like it would be hard to replace, but I'll cover that search in my next post. I also miss AirDrop. How do Windows users survive without AirDrop?! Yes, there are thousands of ways to transfer photos, files, etc. from my phone to a computer, but AirDrop is sooo easy. Beyond the lack of a good web editing program and AirDrop, I haven't found too much I miss yet. In some ways, I'm even embracing the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft Edge has been treating me fine. It's going to remain my daily driver, until it presents a reason to install Chrome. I know many are partial to Chrome's Dev Tools, but Edge's F12 Dev Tools are perfectly fine so far.

    All in all, I'm really digging this Surface. I would even go as far to say that the Surface Book has moved into consideration for replacing my MacBook. If Microsoft keeps up it's current pace, I'm even looking in to the possibility of replacing the iMac at my day job with a Surface Studio in a year or two. They are putting out some solid hardware that is making some Apple fans a bit envious, and as an Apple fan, we can only hope that Microsoft's devices will nudge Apple into responding with competitive and innovative devices.


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    Written by Matt Hopkins
    Ohio