Category Archives: Hardware

Surface Pro 3 Lockup on boot

tl;dr – Disabling Windows Spotlight seems to have resolved my Surface Pro 3’s lockup on boot issue. (Your results may vary)

I’ve had a Surface Pro 3 since September of 2015. Let’s just say it was a rocky start. Out of the box the machine blue screened on boot. I did a hard reset and was able to get in to use it. I went through the usual steps of doing updates, and things seemed to be going smoothly.

The next day I tried to do some reading on it however the Surface Pro 3 wouldn’t boot. It got stuck on the Surface screen without the spinning indicator. Again I had to do another hard reset. A little research revealed it was a common issue with no real solution. It was disappointing to say the least.

The system would lock up every third to fifth time I would try to use it. I tried factory resetting the device and still it didn’t want to boot consistently.

I then read somewhere that there were potential driver issues with the network card. Whether or not that was true I don’t know. What I did know was every time I hard reset the machine (and it successfully boot) the lock screen background image would flash and reset to the original. This got me thinking of something to try.

I went into All Settings (by swiping in from the right) -> Personalisation -> Lock Screen. Once there I changed the Background from Windows Spotlight to being a static picture. The Surface Pro 3 has not locked up on me since I made that change. It’s been booting consistently without any issues. I’m a happy user now.

Whether or not the fix was disabling Windows Spotlight I can’t be sure. It may be coincidence. At this point, I don’t care. It works.

Having a backup is not enough

I got the call on a Friday afternoon. It was shortly after 4:30 pm. The call nobody wants. A customer of one of my clients had been hit by a version of the cryptolocker ransomware virus. Their tech removed the virus, however half of their data files were encrypted. They were going to be fine. They were going to recover their data from a backup.

They paid their tech person to setup and do their backups. Except that someone did it poorly. This customer was not going to be fine. The daily backups were overwriting the same file every time. This meant that as time went on, the ransomware slowly digested the data files, the system happily backed up those newly encrypted files and overwrote any chance we had of recovering their data.

It’s very hard to believe that in this day of age with cloud and inexpensive hardware, that tech people still get this wrong.

I’ll give you a quick checklist of what I’ve been doing for a long time. If you have to wonder if what you are doing is actually a backup? It probably is not. This is a great blog that I direct everyone to when they ask me questions about backups. http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheComputerBackupRuleOfThree.aspx

I was never going to blog about this topic. Never thought I had to. Thinking now, maybe everyone should have a blog post about doing backups. Then there are no excuses.

A quick list of things I like to have for important backups:

– Multiple versions of backups. My backups never overwrite the same file. I create new backup files. Depending on what I’m backing up, I may keep the seven, fifteen, or thirty most recent backups.

– Multiple locations. My backup files are copied to multiple external hard drives, and another computer.

– Have a backup go offsite. Let a backup be Elvis, and leave the building. Take an external hard drive home with you. Use the cloud. Anything is better than nothing.

– RESTORE your backups once in a while! This is another situation I have seen in my days of doing support. “We have backups. We’ve always done backups.” I had to respond with “I’m sorry, but these backups are not going to work. It’s been backing up the wrong files.” Test your backups! A good and well practiced restore plan makes things a lot less stressful when under pressure.

Always have a reliable set of backups and know how to restore your backups in case things go wrong.

Initial thoughts on the HTC 8x 16GB WP8

I recently picked up two Windows Phone 8 devices. The HTC 8x 16GB and a Nokia Lumia 920. Out of the kindness of my heart, I gave the Nokia to my wife and I kept the HTC. I am giving my thoughts after using the HTC 8x for a few days.

Now, let me preface this by saying the HTC 8x is a very nice device. I do like it. There are a couple of issues that I am going to have to get used to. These issues may go away when I get a case for the phone. It also may sound like I am envious of my wife’s Lumia 920. This may be the case, but there are things about my phone that she is envious of. To be honest, if I had the choice again… to hell with being nice. I would keep the Nokia Lumia 920 for myself.

Starting with what came out of the box. The phone, of course. A micro usb cable, a 5v 1A charger, and documents. This is the basics. I was a little surprised there were no earbuds and mic. I thought for sure there would be considering it has Beats Audio. My wife’s Nokia Lumia 920 had head phones. Maybe I received a box where the earphones were missing? It’s ok though. I can use the ones that came with my Samsung Focus. Basics out of the box are phone, micro usb cord, charger, and documents.

I do like the sound the phone is able to reproduce. The HTC 8x automatically enables Beats Audio when you plug headphones in. I was testing using earbuds from my old Samsung Focus. I thought the music sounded pretty good. The speaker itself did well providing I didn’t have it muffled on my desk. I was going to test the audio for movies, but that will have to wait until we are allowed to load movies purchased through Zune. Overall, I thought the speakers and Beats Audio were very well done.

The HTC 8x had four custom apps out of the box. The HTC came with a flashlight app, unit converter app, photo enhancer app, and the HTC app (this includes local weather, news, and stock quotres). My wife is envious of the unit converter app. The app is elegant, fast, and easy to switch unit types. Photo enhancer is for adding effects to your pictures, such as making them look vintage. The Lumia 920 on the other hand came with an array of apps. I think there were four camera apps alone for the Lumia 920. There are a modest number of apps for the HTC 8x compared to the Lukia 920.

I haven’t had a chance to tinker with all the settings on this phone. There is a setting for those with hearing aids. This will increase the volume while you are talking on the phone. There is also attentive phone. This allows the phone to adjust to external actions during ringing. When enabled, the phone can quiet the ring on pickup, mute the ringer if you flip over your phone, or use a loud ring when the phone is in your pocket or purse. I don’t get many phone calls, that’s why I haven’t gotten to all the settings.

The phone is a good size and aesthetically pleasing. It is smaller and lighter than the Lumia 920. The HTC 8x has a nice feel to it. There are issues for the way I hold my phone. I prefer holding the phone using three edges instead of using a death grip on two. I hold the phone with my pinkie finger supporting the bottom edge of the phone. The phone has rounded edges on all sides and the micro usb port is located on the bottom edge. I find that because the phone is rounded, the edges of the usb port rub against my finger. This will probably not be an issue once the gel cover case arrives. The screen is very clear and the phone looks very nice.

Now, here is my main gripe with the phone. The power button is located on the top edge. I am finding it very inconvenient since I hold the phone using the bottom edge. Whenever I want to turn on the phone I either have to adjust the phone in my hand (fingers aren’t quite long enough) or use my other hand. Two hands to turn on your phone is non-optimal. This is where the Lumia 920 is really better suited for me. All three buttons are on the right edge of the phone. Ideal for one handed access and use of all three phone buttons. I may get used of it, or become more eficient of one handed turn on using my face (chin works well. I may look stupid in public though). The power button on the top is kind of a deal breaker for me.

Results so far: If I had known then what I know now. I would have gone with the Lumia 920. Just so I could have the power button on the side. Other than that, the HTC 8x is a very nice phone. At 16GB it is less than what the Lumia 920 has, but I never filled my old Samsung Focus with only 8GB. Am I happy with this phone? Yes, for the most part.

I know what people are thinking, “don’t hold it like that”.