Surface Pro 3 in 24 hours

I’ve been intrigued by Microsoft Surface for a while. The mix of tablet, laptop and sketch pad is a compelling combo! I have an iPad 2. It’s fine, but I’d like a retina display (for comics) and I’d like to be able to code on it! The restriction on which apps you can install bugs me. Also, no flash means no watching Animation Mentor lectures. I have a MacBook Pro, and it’s nice but it’s heavy and has destroyed more than one backpack with it’s weight.

So I was keen to try a Surface and finally nabbed the deal to get the mid-tier model (i5, 8GB RAM 256GB SSD), with $50 store credit and an xbox controller thrown in for $10 more. Good deal. Got a type cover too of course. (Yes, I know it’s not a gaming laptop, but some casual games would play ok!)

It arrived yesterday and was pretty nice. Lovely screen. Good solid feel, nice light weight. Heavier than an iPad, but larger too. Actually a really good size for a tablet. Comics look fantastic—sadly the Comixology on Windows 8 is buggy (like, you must reinstall to download new comics buggy!), which is entirely unlike the excellent iOS and android apps.

Spent an afternoon setting it up and an evening playing with a few things. Tried sketching very briefly with the pen. It’s no pencil and paper, but was interesting. More practice and could be pretty good maybe. Ran Transformers Universe ok for a game which is pretty cool. And I had all my coding apps ready to rock: Sublime, github, browsers for testing…

But today it all went horribly wrong. I turned it on and … nope. I didn’t even get that far. It can’t be turned on. I don’t know what happened overnight (it was fine when I left it), but today it’s a brick. An expensive brick at that. Surface Pro won’t turn on has troubleshooting steps, but was no help in my case.

So I rang up to report the issue. It would take 2–3 weeks for a replacement Surface. Same amount of time for a refund. I took the refund option. Very disappointing, I was hoping to use it on my commute when I go back to work next week.

I agree with Microsoft that there’s room for a device that can replace a MacBook Pro and iPad, but I guess I’m gonna have to wait for another solution.

Update 5 October

Well, my refund came in early and I picked up a new surface from JB HiFi. They gave me a discount too, sweet! It survived overnight and still turns on so that’s a great start. Comics look more awesome than I remember 😉 I also quite like the touch input (with keyboard detached). Still need to learn how to use the pen 🙂

Interacting with digital signs

Been musing about what it might be like to interact with digital signs.

Unlike other devices, a digital sign is more active while idling (not being directly controlled). It should be doing interesting things. At quite a distance too. Even though signs are large, people may be far away from them so it may not be that different to designing for tablets and mobile really. Even more than the “10-foot UI” touted for TVs at home. Need nice large text and images. But if people came up close, that could change.

Should people come up close and interact? Should people at a distance still be part of the experience then? A multi-audience experience? Does the person standing at the sign block that view? What about left- vs right-handed? 🙂

Can people pause what they see? What if something grabbed their attention and when they reach the sign it’s gone. How easy is it to go back? What if an idea sparks them but they want to follow up later? Is there some kind of handoff to their phone or tablet? (Maybe QR codes or NFC, or something else?)

It’s such an interesting medium. Platform? Form factor? I didn’t know it was ready for front-end developers until I came across Rise Vision’s post: Web Designer Guide to Digital Signage. Cool stuff!