Review: Microsoft Surface

Last year my daughter hijacked my Acer laptop to take to college after she broke the hinge on her HP. (HP laptops don’t like going past 90 degrees when opening the screen.) Recently, I decided that I needed a replacement for my laptop so I could take a few college classes necessary to get promoted at work. After much debating and searching I decided to purchase a Surface Pro from Microsoft.

I looked at the RT version but I wanted to run PC programs as well as apps. My general opinion of apps is that they are buggy and tend to be unstable. This is true of Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8. (Apple burned their bridges with me a long time ago so they aren’t even part of my world.) PC programs are just more robust than apps. Also, PC programs don’t require Internet access and many apps are just front-ends for cloud data. Without Internet access most apps are useless.

Since Microsoft sets the sales price for Surface, it didn’t matter where I purchased it. Generally, I like shopping at Fry’s but their credit card is terrible. You can only make payments via snail mail. You used to be able to make payments on the Internet but they discontinued that many years ago. Their website claims that they now take payments again but I have yet to verify if this is so. Worst of all, they will not accept payments are their brick and mortar stores for their credit card. As a result, I purchased Surface at Best Buy. Best Buy has a multitude of payment options. I got my Surface for 18 months interest free. Best Buy tried to sell me an extended warranty but their prices were extremely high. I registered my Surface on Microsoft’s website and they offer a two year warranty for $149. It sounds much like what Best Buy offered for about half the price.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on Surface.

microSD Card
When I purchase the Surface I bought a 64GB micro SD card to use with the computer. I planned to keep photos and music on it so I wouldn’t fill up the internal hard drive. However, I was unable to use the SD card for this purpose because the Library function in Windows 8 will not allow a removable card to be added to my music library. The Surface has about 85 GB of storage available and my complete music collection is over 35 GB. Windows Media Player will see the audio tracks but will not play them from the SD card. The Music app will play the audio files on the SD card but you must manually navigate to the SD card each time you want to play something from it.

Best Buy only had one Blue Tooth Mouse in their otherwise huge store. The mouse was not even on display. It does work fine with the Surface but it creates a huge bulge in the storage case. The mouse is almost as big as my fist; it’s not a typical laptop size. I wanted my only USB port to be free if I needed it.

Start-up & Configuration
I logged into the Surface with my Windows Live account. I was going thru my initiation of Windows 8 when I was asked if I wanted to Trust this computer. I said YES and an email was sent to my phone. I typed in the code from the email and all my settings were copied from the Internet to the Surface. The desktop background on the Surface was the same photo as on my desktop. Additionally, all my Favorites from Internet Explorer and passwords were copied. The email app was also configured to match my desktop computer. While I thought this was cool, it did make me wonder how much the NSA is really watching us.

I like the touch ability in Windows 8 but there is one thing I cannot do successfully without the keyboard or mouse, I can’t get the right click menu to come up for a tile on the Start Screen. You can touch, hold, pinch or do any gesture that you can imagine but it won’t work. Nothing beats a mouse for customizing the Start Screen.

Mount ISO & MS Office
I did install Microsoft Office on the Surface but when doing it I did encounter a bug/glitch in the software. Every time I tried to mount the ISO image of Office that I downloaded from Microsoft I got an error. The error was that the ISO image could not be mounted. After some research on the Internet I found that the best thing I could do was ignore the error since the ISO image was really mounted even when the error said otherwise. I followed this advice and was able to load Office without any further issues.

Old PC Games
As an experiment, I downloaded Diablo 2 from the Internet to see how it would run. The download from Blizzard’s Battlenet website was painfully slow. Wi-Fi speeds are significantly slower than wired speeds. The program installed OK but when it came to running Diablo 2 I hit another snag. The only native resolutions for Diablo were 640 x 480 and 800 x 600. Running Diablo in a window the size of a large label is not my idea of gaming. I tried the fix for bigger resolutions suggested on the internet—this is a third party program that allows more resolution choices—but it would not work. By adding –w to the end of the target line of the desktop shortcut I was able to get a larger windows but still not the correct height. In the midst of learning this, I accidently changed the resolution for the Surface to 640 x 480 more than once. Correcting that problem was another challenge. Even rebooting the Surface would not restore full screen operation once the resolution was changed. This was another time when touch was not precise enough to change settings.

After much trial and error, I did get the Blizzard games to run at full screen. As usual, you had to blend parts of different procedures found on the Internet because none of them was correct.
The first part was posted at Surface Pro brightness bug
It was to download the full video driver from Intel. Use this one unless this is fixed in the Windows 8.1 update.

The second part was a completely undocumented key combination that I found. Here is the full post. I FOUND A FIX FOR OLD GAMES ON SURFACE PRO WITH SMALL SCREEN   After loading the video driver mentioned above, start game then simultaneously press CTRL+ALT+FN +F11. When this works, the game will go to full screen. Then you must exit game in the normal way. When you do screen resolution will be wrong. Then set screen resolution using Control Panel or Right Click. After that the games will be full screen when started again and desktop will be correct size.

The other game franchise that I tried without any success on Surface was Command and Conquer. I went on Amazon and despite the bad reviews I bought the C&C Ultimate Collection. This is a downloadable only collection of all 17 Command and Conquer games. They don’t require a CD or DVD to run them. Total downloads are over 60 GB. Before I gave Amazon my money, I actually installed the disk version of Command and Conquer Generals on the Surface through my external DVD. It worked without and patches, or tweaks necessary on Windows 7. After I proved it would work, I gave Amazon my money and downloaded Generals. It would not work. As a form of troubleshooting, I downloaded it on my Windows 8 desktop and it worked great. What I learned was that the Origin software (cheap knock-off of Steam) would not bring up the menu to let me start the game. I uninstalled it on both machines and tried it again with the same results. The biggest difference that I noticed in hardware was that I have an NVIDIA video card on the desktop and an Intel one in the Surface.

Weight and Usage
The Surface weights two pounds. It is heavier and larger than my Kindle Fire. I have not tried Netflix on it yet but holding it above my head to watch streaming video or surf the Internet the way I do with Kindle is more of a challenge. I think I will have to park it on the table next to my bed to use it for longer periods of time. The jury is still out on this aspect of the Surface.

They type keyboard is wonderful. It is thin and reliable. Having it cover the screen when not in use is an added bonus. The click in place feature is clever.

So far I like the Surface. If you get one, get a small Blue Tooth mouse and seriously consider the optional touch keyboard. The on screen keyboard is ok but sometimes covers the part of the screen that you are trying to type in.

Appearing Today: Earth Overshoot Day

And now from the people that brought you Global Warming, Climate Change, and Green Energy in their never ending quest for a socialist utopia, we proudly present Earth Overshoot Day. What is this; enquiring minds might ask? Warning: Read this and you may see your lunch again.

An environmentally focused think tank has announced that Earth will be living in what they referred to as an ecological deficit for the remainder of the year.

As of Tuesday, humans officially exhausted the planet’s resources to a point where the Earth is not able to regenerate them fully for the rest of 2013, the Global Footprint Network reports. The group referred to the official date of transition from one side of the ecological preservation coin to the other as “Earth Overshoot Day.”
study earth forced to operate on ecological deficit for rest of 2013

For me to know that God is in control is mythology but this idiocy is science? Mother Earth (a.k.a. the goddess Gaia) is failing to undo the damage inflicted on her by mankind! It’s shocking that this was even put into print. Walter Cronkite’s network has really fallen on hard times to call this newsworthy.

Whatever happened to the law which states “matter can neither be created nor destroyed; only changed in form”? So what are we loosing? This planet can support billions more people than live here now.

Ok, so if this were true what would these environmental extremists want us to do? I would venture to guess they want more government control of our lives.
Socialism-Abolish personally owned vehicles and other private property ownership.
Eugenics-Population control coupled with government healthcare.
Freedom from Religion-Outlaw guns, God, and grillin’.
Community Planning-all housing would be assigned by the government based upon your contribution to society. This would eliminate suburban sprawl by eliminating privately owned housing and replacing it with more efficient multistory housing and allow for establishment of more green spaces and community gardens. Millions of jobs would be created by building the new multistory housing units and environmental restoration of formerly inhabited spaces that would be returned to the state of nature which existed prior to humans inhabiting the area.

Only in Berkeley could something like this originate.

CRI Exploiting Transgender Stupidity

World Net Daily today published an atricle on the lastest fundraising drill run by Capital Resource Institue. This one is supposed to overturn the transgender bathroom billed signed by Jerry Brown.
race on to overturn transgender bathrooms
Since CRI’s effort was presented as a serious one by the author of the story, I felt I needed to respond to him. Below is the letter I sent to him:

Mr. Unruh,

I just read your story “Race to Overturn Transgender Bathrooms”

I do wish CRI—Karen England and Tim LeFever—and others would mount a serious effort to overturn this law but that has not been their track record. The last few ballot efforts run by CRI have been fundraising gimicks to prop up CRI. Virtually none of the funds they took in actually went to getting anything on the ballot. In fact, England doesn’t even live in California, I have it on good authority that she actually lives in Reno Nevada and commutes to Sacramento where she works for CRI a few days per week. I know CRI has reduced much of it’s staff over the last few years.

It typically takes about three million dollars just to get enough signatures to qualify a ballot measure in this state and several times that to run the campaign to get it approved. England & LeFever don’t have access to that type of funding. When they start a campaign like this and fail, they give the other side confidence that they are the majority and CRI’s failure emboldens the Leftists and anti-christian people in this state. If you wish you can research how CRI pretended to be part of the Prop 8 campaign and used the money just to keep their current operation running or their failed Harvy Milk Day, or SB 48 initiatives. capitol resource institute

CRI fleeces the flock to keep running their organization but has little to show for it.

Then there was the time in 2011 that CRI and friends tried a hostile takeover of the California Republican Assembly.

CRI has no track record of success on any ballot initiative they have attempted. They have yet to qualify anything for the ballot in California let alone get it approved. This is the same kind of fundraising drill that some political consultants do in the name of the Tea Party.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it”— Luke 14: 28

Elk Grove Milling Death No Surprise

On August 13th, a man died after a forklift rolled over and trapped him. Video of the story can be found at this URL. person trapped under forklift in elk grove
“The man who died after being pinned under a forklift early Tuesday is Armando Estrada, a 42-year-old resident of Sacramento.” forklift accident results in fatality  I’m sorry that the man died but I am not surprised.

I briefly worked at Elk Grove Milling many years ago. Here are some of my recollections.

On my first week on the job, a worker got his right arm caught in a screw conveyor. He had multiple compound fractures from his wrist to his shoulder. His arm was almost severed in at least three places. He lost so much blood that the injuries were no longer bleeding. I helped administer first aid to him.

It took firefighters more than 30 minutes to arrive. After a long stay in the hospital he was finally released. I saw him a few months later. He had his arm is some sort of primitive looking brace with steel pins going thru his arm to try to get the bones to heal and align properly. Based on the extent of the injuries that I saw, his arm will never be the same.

As a result of that incident, I was asked to do a safety survey of the site. I documented many safety violations and potential hazards. I included photos of the problems that I noted along with a narrative of what needed correction. To my knowledge none of the problems that I found were ever corrected…at least not in anything resembling a timely manner.

I know that other industrial accidents had occurred at Elk Grove Milling prior to my employment there.

The Elk Grove Milling facility is a patchwork of uneven concrete slabs with conduit and anchor bolts sticking out of the concrete. Some of the unused equipment is still in place instead of being removed. Exposed wiring and open electrical panels are also in abundance on the site. Electric motors without guards can be found in various placed. Ladders without correct cages and landings were easy to spot during my time there. In addition many of these hazards were covered in dust and hulls from the milling process. Portions of truck and forklift routes are on uneven dirt and gravel roads.

Elk Grove Milling makes various types of pelletized horse feed. The ingredients for this feed are lying on the ground in a warehouse that is partially enclosed. The building also has some holes and other penetrations where wind, rain, rats, and other things can easily get into the ingredients. Ingredients are separated by primitive dividers that keep them from mixing too much while in storage. Excessive moisture causes some ingredients to cake-up. As a result of moisture, mold and mildew can be seen growing on the surface of many ingredients later added to the horse feed. Batches that are returned by customers or fail quality control are mixed with fresher ingredients and recycled into even more horse pellets. Excessive moisture in the finished pellets sometimes cause problems for customers.

Not surprisingly, the owner would occasionally field calls from people that accused the horse feed of killing their horses or making them very ill. On more than one occasion I heard the owner on the telephone vociferously denying these accusations.

There is a reason Purina products cost more than Stable Mix. Sanitation and quality control cost money.

Bob, I think a world of hurt is about to rain down on your livelihood.

Thoughts on Superman

I grew-up with Superman as a part of my youth. I remember George Reeves stopping bad guys with guns and Christopher Reeves stopping Gene Hackman with nukes. Both versions of the iconic comic book hero were likeable and campy. This summer we were treated to a new version of Superman. In this film, director Zack Snyder went out of his was to keep away from the tradition of “fighting for Truth, justice, and the American way” which has been the bedrock of classic Superman lore. Instead, the new incarnation of Superman has Henry Cavill doing something heretofore unspeakable; Superman kills General Zod.

As a follow-up, the next movie is supposed to be Superman fighting Batman. I have a lot of problems envisioning how two heroes of my childhood are suppose to beat the crap out of each other as a way to get us to a Justice League movie. I’m thinking Adam West v Christopher Reeves—not possible; they’re both nice guys. First how does Batman cripple Superman enough to land a punch that hurts? He can’t use Kryptonite because in the new Superman, he does not have a weakness to the rocks from his home planet.

“I’ll be honest with you, there’s no Kryptonite in the movie,” Snyder said. Man of Steel hopes to humanize Superman, but by giving him new flaws and vulnerabilities. Superman actor Henry Cavill said, “Although he is not susceptible to the frailties of mankind, he is definitely susceptible to the emotional frailties.”
Zack Snyder says there’s no Kryptonite in man of steel

So how does this revelation square with the graphic novel by Frank Miller that is supposed to be the basis of the next movie? Miller has an older Bruce Wayne give Superman the beating of his life because Supes is too tight with the military. How can anybody beat-up Superman more than General Zod did in Man of Steel? Again, I ask how an old Bruce Wayne will lead us to the Justice League? Doesn’t sound like “Super Friends” to me. This all seems overly complicated.

Batman v Superman director Zach Snyder will have talks in the next few days with the man who first pitched the two superheroes against each other in an iconic comic book tale 30 years ago.

Writer and artist Frank Miller cast an ageing Bruce Wayne against Clark Kent in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a series later compiled into a graphic novel, just under 30 years ago.
Batman v Superman

I think Warner Brothers is betting a lot on this movie and this plot line. Batman v Superman will either rid the DC universe of more mega budget movies or the franchise will go the way of Star Trek; same names, different reality. How both characters—Batman & Superman—could become lifelong friends after this film will require more good writing and directing than Hollywood has displayed so far this summer. Then again they are copying Miller’s tome not producing an original script.

I would like to dwell a few minutes on the climax of Snyder’s Man of Steel where Superman kills General Zod. Before I make my comments, I want to insert portions of this story from

Comic guru Grant Morrison has been cranking out acclaimed funny books for decades, so what does the DC alum (and accomplished Superman comic writer) think of Man of Steel? Turns out, he has some qualms…

Morrison saw the good and the bad (“kinda liked it and kinda didn’t”), but said that controversial ending that saw Superman snap Zod’s neck definitely rubbed him the wrong way.

His reasoning is actually pretty great:

  “It’s a credible Superman for now. But I’m not sure about the killing thing. I don’t want to sound like some fuddy-duddy Silver Age apologist but I’ve noticed a lot recently of people saying Batman should kill the Joker and, yeah, Superman should kill, he should make the tough moral decisions we all have to make every day. I don’t know about you, but the last moral decision I made didn’t have anything to do with killing people. And I don’t think many of us ever have to make the decision whether or not to kill. In fact, the more you think about it, unless you’re in one of the Armed Forces, killing is illegal and immoral. Why would we want our superheroes to do that?

  There is a certain demand for it, but I just keep wondering why people insist that this is the sort of thing we’d all do if we were in Superman’s place and had to make the tough decision and we’d kill Zod. Would we? Very few of us have ever killed anything. What is this weird bloodlust in watching our superheroes kill the villains?”

As much as Snyder tried to make a grounded, relatable version of the character, Morrison makes some good counterpoints. What do you think? Was the ending brave, or controversy just for the sake of it?
legendary comic writer grant morrison bashes man steel ending

I understand that it is not in the comic book “cannon” for Superman and Batman to kill; however, if they had the powers exercised in the comics and did those things in the real world, most certainly people would die. You can’t keep knocking over skyscrapers like Supes and Zod did in Man of Steel and not have them land on top of innocent bystanders.

The key quote in the article above is, “… unless you’re in one of the Armed Forces, killing is illegal and immoral. Why would we want our superheroes to do that?”

Morrison clearly does not believe that we have a right to self defense. This reasoning is the basis that explains why nobody understands the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is the right to defend yourself, your family and property from invaders whether they are criminals, foreign invaders, or government agents. The Second Amendment is predicated upon the right of private ownership of property. Limited government requires citizens to be responsible for themselves and their communities. Both State and Federal governments were intended to be distant from the daily lives of average citizens.

In Man of Steel, Superman was placed in a situation that innocent people would be murdered by General Zod unless he took drastic and immediate action. Superman was protecting lives so killing Zod was justified. However, what we know in our hearts is that the makers of this movie were manipulating us purposely by killing a piece of innocence. Killing Zod moved Superman from a comic book world of black and white, good and evil into the modern realm of moral relativism.

This tearing down of cultural pillars evokes a reaction in us that we often can’t quite quantify or even identify. We know the net result is that we are further from what God wants us to be. Our hearts of flesh are turned a little more into stone each time the forces of humanism tear-down the old order.

Superman may be the embodiment of Nietzsche wrapped in red, white and blue or a totally separate creation, but despite his origin as a defender of Roosevelt’s New Deal, Superman came to represent many of the ideals of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation”. His killing of Zod is symbolic of a repudiation of the values of our parents and grandparents. Flawed as his worldview is, I think Grant Morrison senses this substitution of values when Snyder’s Man of Steel takes a life, ever when fully justified.

If you couple the above discussion with the pre-publicity that Man of Steel was purposely using many symbols to equate Superman with Jesus then the ending is even more clearly a rebuke to the faith of our fathers. man steel filled with jesus christianity references Snyder, like J.J. Abrams and Star Trek, is trying to convince us that we live in a world of varying shades of gray, one that is devoid of any moral absolutes. Snyder, like Nietzsche, is trying to declare that “God is dead”. The logical result is that there are no absolutes just choices.

I disagree. As I heard R.C. Sproul Jr say recently, “God didn’t come to make bad people good; he came to give dead people life.” God believes in absolutes and the devil thrives in shades of gray. Culturally, we are moving away from God and slinking into the shadows. It often seems like the 99 sheep went astray and only the one stayed with the Sheppard.

In half a year we have lost marriage, privacy, Boy Scouts, and now Superman. At this rate I think our proverbial goose is cooked.