Tag Archives: SurfaceRT

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My Next Tablet: ASUS got my money, again!–Sorry SurfacePRO

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Yes, I did it! I chose mobility above Power and Style! Those of you that follow me might know about my predicament in a post I wrote some time ago complaining to Microsoft about SurfacePRO on battery life. I was conflicted whether to get the SurfacePro or not. Believe you me, there is nothing I wouldn’t give to get SurfacePro, its got the muscle, its got the style, but the only thing it hasn’t got is the stamina; which I desperately need. In the post I complained I already have a Core i5 tablet giving me an average of 3 hours, I was not ready to get another Core i5 tablet giving me an average of 4 to 5 hours. I need the stamina, to be able to leave the power adapter for once at home!

You could have said why not get the SurfaceRT that was pushing 9hrs of use, well, just one reason, I’m not just an Internet buff trolling the net all day, I’ve got some real work to do in my daily life. I need to be able to access my office and do real work on my Tablet, and I mean real work. VPN, Office, Citrix and Proprietary apps; you know, the real deal. SurfaceRT will not cut it for me. And if SurfaceRT will not cut it, iPad and Android devices could never. I am of the opinion, you stick to the platform that most serve your need. There’s no way to get me to actively use Google’s products. I only use YouTube passively, period. Apple’s walled-garden is too limiting for me, so thank you, I’ll stay on MS campus if you don’t mind.

So, the decision is quickly made, Atom tablet it is! Current x86 Clovertrail tablets are pushing average of 9hrs of use, the only thing is the bad press they are getting. Nearly all of the reviewers were complaining about near uselessness of these tabs. Could they be right? As of this moment, I can tell you for fact, the majority CAN be wrong, and they ARE wrong!

I went to the local Mall to check out the Atom tablets available for myself. There are many of them, but the one that got me is the ASUS Vivotab Smart.

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Dang! That device is small, thin and light! The ultimate mobility candidate! And it could give me 9+ hours? Well, I loved the size and its feature, but I was put off by its screen quality. It has just an IPS screen, a cheaper screen compared to others with Super-IPS screens. And what’s more it’s a bit greenish and washed out. It was the worst screen you could have!

Another thing is I could not for the life of me bring up the Charm on this thing, can’t open app bars, it seems this only Show unit was broken. Asked an attendant why the Charm is not working, he said he didn’t know why, and from his demeanor, I could see he didn’t care neither. This is exactly the reason why Microsoft needs to open motar&brick shops himself, there are just too much MS-hating shop attendants out there! Well, the geek in me did what’s right at that point in time; I reloaded Windows 8 there and then! Have you ever did a complete restore of an OS in a shopping mall?! Thanks to that single action, my opinion of the device changed. The device came back restored to its default state. Some idiots obviously were messing around with the tab, probably disabled the Windows 8 gestures in the registry, sabotaging the product. There are too many haters out there I tell you.

Well, the device is looking good now, and very responsive. WEI (windows experience index) is 3.2, that’s not bad for a device that all reviewers were dumping upon. And from what I can see, there is nothing wrong with the response. The only thing still is the white balance, still tends to the green. Tried to set the color correction to reduce green or bring up blue and red, to my dismay, you can’t do Windows color correction on this device. I was furious with Microsoft. Why in everything holy would they disable color correction in the Display Wizard?! Tweeted about this, bought the device and left the shop.

Guys, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Don’t listen to idiots when it comes to your devices. Go out there and try it, or order it online and give it a spin yourself, you can always return it if it doesn’t meet your requirement. I tell you, this atom device is perfect. It withstood everything I threw at it up till now. Got the Task Manager permanently fixed on the taskbar watching CPU usage, I’ve never seen such a cool device, and literarily cool too, no heat, no fan. It’s a dream. What’s more, this thing is powered via a standard micro-usb! I don’t have to lug a bulky power adaptor around, I could just charge with the same charger as my Lumia 920! Are you kidding me?! I mean, we all have this notion in our heads, when you mention an Intel device, you automatically see a bulky power adaptor next to it. I am looking at your HP and Dell!

I loaded it with all my Play and Work software. My VPN clients and Lync MX clients worked flawlessly, no lag nothing! Loaded Office 2013 and a few work related clients, everything works! I mean everything! This is a complete opposite experience than what I was reading in reviews. How can there be so much difference in what Reviewers say and what the real life experience is? Something is wrong with this picture! I was prepared for a very slow experience, after all, this is a netbook class CPU. Nothing, no lag at all. The only lag I’ve seen on this thing is my Bluetooth mouse being jerky at times when device is heavily in use. And the most awesome of all, I am getting about 10hrs on this thing! See what Windows PowerCfg says for yourselves:

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That “Since OS install” is just a fair estimation. I am definitely getting more than 10 hours on this thing. Its an eye-opener for someone that is used to meager battery life on my laptops and tablets.

So there you go. The last argument against Intel platform for mobility thrown out of the window. At the moment Intel Atom Clovertrail CPU leave ARM in the dust in terms of performance. And now that Intel can match and exceed ARM battery life, the contest is over as far as I am concerned. I don’t care what the fanboys sing. On lesson is very clear from this experience, don’t listen to Apple or Android-invested sites to tell you about a competing platform. Go out there an test for yourself. Go to GDGT and see the ridicule of it all. Where real users are giving products 9 or 10 and reviewers are giving 6 or 7. I tell you most of these fanboys have lost their credibility. I am mad that they are still being called journalists. There’s nothing journalistic about what they do. They don’t report facts, they only try to shape opinions.

When I was getting this device, my mindset was to get a less-than-average device to get me to the Intel Haswell timeframe when I hope MS will release a Haswell Surface product that combine beauty and brawn, with stamina to boot. But I can tell you I am more than satisfied with this ASUS Vivotab Smart tablet. Its my companion device now. No, I don’t play Crysis on the device, I don’t have ridiculous expectation of an Atom device like the most reviewers do. They should stop comparing apples with oranges. Atom Clovertrail was never meant to compete with Ultrabook class devices, it was meant to compete with ARM devices, and that is where it is leaving the types of iPads and Galaxy Notes and Nexus is the dust. If you’ve been holding back on getting Atom x86 tablets because of what you’ve been reading, don’t wait any longer, they are perfect Work and Play devices!

P.S: The Color correction no more available in the Display Wizard (Read-only now), adjustments is now ONLY available in Intel’s Graphic Media Accelerator Display client:

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See Also:
Engadget: ASUS Vivo Tab Smart
GDGT: ASUS Vivo Tab
GDGT: ASUS Vivo Tab Smart (Sorry, no user reviews yet, I am no GDGT user.)

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MS SurfaceRT Security Broken–Now you can run ANY Desktop App

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We knew it’s a matter of time, in fact I am surprised it took this long, but it has finally happened. Someone has found a way to circumvent the built-in Security of Surface preventing arbitral running of Desktop Apps on SurfaceRT devices. Its all about a Byte in the Kernel, and a hacker going by the handle of Clrokr (@Clrokr) has found it as below:

SeGetImageRequiredSigningLevel+0×18
LDR R3, =0x59FFA6 This is our byte, 0x19FFA6 at 0×400000 image base
LDRB R3, [R3]
CMP R3, #4
BHI loc_HighSigReq
B.W loc_LowSigReq

Here is what he said about it:

Finding the right spot

The minimum signing level determines how good an executable’s signature is on a scale like this: Unsigned(0), Authenticode(4), Microsoft(8), Windows(12). The default value on x86 machines is of course 0 because you can run anything you like on your computer. On ARM machines, it defaults to 8.
That means that even if you sign your apps using your Authenticode certificate, the Surface or any other Windows RT device (at this moment) will not run them. This is not a user setting, but a hardcoded global value in the kernel itself. It cannot be changed permanently on devices with UEFI’s Secure Boot enabled. It can, however, be changed in memory.
Finding this byte in the kernel takes a while, there is no exported symbol for it and not even in the symbol database at MSFT. I found it using WinDbg and a machine running Windows 8 Pro, creating processes and watching how the system behaves when the signature checks happen all the way through CI.dll and back. Because Windows 8 and Windows RT are so similar, locating it in the ARM kernel was not hard…

He provided the sample exploitation code on his blog. But what does it all mean to you as user? First, this is not for the faint hearted, you must know what you are doing. Second, someone will probably write a code to automate the jailbreaking. But the question is would you run this code on your ARM device?

I personally will like to to see how SurfaceRT performs after jailbreak. Remember the version of Office on SurfaceRT is specially crafted and optimized for the RISC architecture and its small power environment. So, will you be able to run the likes of AutoCAD/Photoshop now on Surface, I doubt it, you will be frustrated possibly with the performance speed. We will be keeping an eye on developments for you and report back if anything new come up around this story.

It’s a brave world out there, once again, it has been proven that nothing is secure by default. If it is written by man, it will be broken by man, period. Now that you can jailbreak SurfaceRT, what are you going to do about it? The decision is yours and yours alone.

You can read the rest at Clrockr site: http://surfsec.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/circumventing-windows-rts-code-integrity-mechanism/

[Update]
I have been made aware of the fact that you can’t run “ANY” desktop Apps on ARM devices like the hacker’s post suggested, but even after this jailbreak, you still have to compile your standard Desktop App for ARM before it will run in a jailbroken desktop. So, with this news, we can expect Google and the likes to start compiling Chrome and other apps for Windows RT desktop. And of course all the security risks and exploits will follow. Hopefully people will not be blaming Microsoft for their misfortune then.

Seriously Compromised with SurfacePro – A Public Plea to Microsoft

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This week, Microsoft announced the pricing of the SurfacePro to the whole wide world, and reception of the news has been mixed to put it mildly. Its not even the price that broke the deal for me, I don’t mind the price since its work/play device. What broke it for me is the Battery Life of the device. I must confess I am seriously compromised right now in my decision for this device. What were you thinking Microsoft, 4Hrs battery life these days is just not acceptable on a Tablet device. I know it’s a Core i5 device, don’t get me wrong, I can see the need for power for some people, but seriously?

Look, I already have a Core i5 tablet that came with Windows 7, that was announced for 4Hrs battery life when I got it, but actually was pulling 2.5Hrs max in reality. Installed it with Windows 8 DP and my battery life jumped to 3hrs, now with Windows 8 RTM I am getting average of 3.5Hrs on this awesome device. So here I am waiting patiently for SurfacePro in January, and MS announced 4Hrs battery, sorry, but that is disappointing. I was expecting something that will match SurfaceRT battery life if not surpass it. Core i5 with 4Hrs battery life is almost what I have right now with my current Win7/Win8 tablet, I don’t see what’s the improvement, that extra 30 minutes doesn’t cut it for me; not for $1000 price point.

When MS announced 3-months-later for SurfacePro, I was actually hoping that they did that to get the latest and greatest CPU from Intel to capture the same battery life as SurfaceRT, as all kinks with CloverTrail would then have been ironed out etc etc. Ok, they said 3rd generation core i5 CPU, whatever that means, I don’t see its effect if it slurps the battery empty in 4hrs.

So, this is my plea to Microsoft: Please, please, make a third option for SurfacePro with CloverTrail Atom CPU! If HP and Dell could promise 9Hrs on their CloverTrail devices right now, it is a shame for Microsoft to come in the year of the Lord 2013 with a meager 4Hrs battery life device. You know, I have this Core i5 device right now, I am not doing any monster work on it, I am not doing video editing, not installing it with Photoshop or AutoCAD software even if I could. All those are on my Desktop where the power is when I need it. I have chosen this device to be my companion device, I need it to be always available when I need it, not to be looking for the next plugin socket each time. I use it lightly, that is the intention the whole time, the need to be able to run standard desktop apps and be highly mobile. That is the promise of CloverTrail, that is why we wait, so why should we end up with something in January that I can have now; that I have now?!

So, either you come with an announcement before the mid of December Microsoft, else I’ll be forced to shop at HP and Dell for my next CloverTrail device with a Pen. Thanks for listening as always Microsoft.

[Update: Corrected OakTrail to CloverTrail in the post. Sorry people, getting old here Smile. Thanks Voleheart buddy!]

Your buddy,

Denny McAkins