Microsoft Surface Pro: First Impressions

It all started a week ago when my laptop bag was stolen. My iPad and Macbook Air, gone. I’m going on vacation in a week and I was going to need to replace it but I didn’t want to spend the fortune that replacing those devices individually would cost (about $3500).

I thought about just getting a tablet and ditching the concept of the laptop altogether however that would preclude me from writing code on the road, something that I frequently do. It occurred to me that I might just buy another Macbook and ditch the tablet, but I really do read on my iPad quite a bit. Enter Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft Surface Pro

My Microsoft Surface Pro in Action

The specifications of the top of the line Surface Pro were almost exactly equivalent to that of my Macbook. The only thing I’d have to live with would be the smaller screen, lack of osx (that I admittedly rarely used), and perhaps a sacrifice in the battery life department. I figured that if I didn’t like it as a computer, I could always get another macbook and I’d just be stuck with an overpriced tablet. After reading this article about developing software on the Surface, my mind was made up. I went to a Best Buy and after suffering through their horrible customer service, the 128 gig Surface Pro was mine.

After a week of using the Surface, I must say that I’m overall disappointed.

The Good:

  • Powerful! I’ve yet to throw anything at it that Surface can’t handle. It compiles Gatekeeper 3 without breaking a sweat, and it honestly FEELS a lot faster than my macbook.
  • Windows 8 works as a tablet OS so much better than I’d thought, though it still lacks the polish of iOS

The Bad:

  • Atrocious Battery Life. I’d read that it was bad, though nothing could prepare me for battery life THIS bad.
  • The power connector seems to be a magsafe ripoff, but it doesn’t work very well. I find that I have twice as much fumbling to do than I did with my magsafe adapter on the macbook.
  • The pen attachment uses the same port as the power adapter, meaning hat I have no place to put it when I’m charging, and may very well lose it.
  • Overall Polish. Coming from an Apple environment, I’ve come to expect a high degree of polish from the products that I use. Things like switching from portrait to landscape mode, fullscreen “apps,” and their “multitasking” seem to kludgy at best
  • Keyboard often doesn’t connect to the tablet seamlessly. I have disconnect and reconnect it a few times.
  • Weight. I know that some compromises need to be made. For its size, the Surface Pro is incredibly powerful, but it just feels too heavy when I’m reading with the virtually unusable kindle app

Summary:

In all I was hoping to combine the best that a tablet and a laptop have to offer into one device. I think that what I ended up with was a very powerful computer whose design compromises to facilitate such power came at too high a cost. I think that what I’ll end up doing in the near future is buying an ipad mini whenever it supports retina display, and spring for a macbook pro with retina display.

 

Update 8/7/2013: The pen is gone. The little magnet that keeps it in its place isn’t very strong and it fell as I was getting out of an elevator, falling into┬áthe crack between the elevator and the ground and going into the elevator shaft.

6 MUST READS if you Want to be Successful

I’ve done quite a bit of reading in my life. When I was a kid, my dad had an agreement with me whereby he would buy me any book I wanted, provided that I would read it cover to cover. He kept his promise all the way up to my 18th birthday; though my mom hated making good on that promise since that meant taking me to the bookstore twice a week and trying to find a place to put the literally 10,000 pages/month that I would read. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made special note of the books that have had a major impact on my success in life:

1. Raising Venture Capital for the Serious Entrepreneur – When I failed to raise the money I needed to grow Scaled Dynamics, this book taught me exactly why. From setting up a business plan to negotiating a term sheet, this book walks you through startup finance from inception to exit. I ultimately succeeded by bootstrapping, however if I ever do try to raise capital again, I’ll do so armed with the confidence to pull it off successfully and under favorable terms.

2. Founders At Work – Owning a business is no joke. It is full of great highs, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of well being by providing job opportunities, and if you do everything right and have a bit of luck, untold riches. But being a business owner has its lows too. The 18 hour days become grueling, the roller coaster that is startup finance will wear on your nerves, and having to be the center of hope for everyone who relies on you for product and paycheck will also take its toll. This book is what gets me through those difficult times. It’s the stories of people that I consider to be my mentors and role models, and it gives me hope.

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People – This is the quintessential human interaction handbook. 99% of this book is common sense, but it’s incredible how easily we often lose sight of the bigger picture when it comes to working with others. This book is a cure for that.

4. Ultimate Sales Machine – Based on the premise that your skills will only ever get better through “pigheaded discipline,” I’ve made it a point to read this book at least once a year since it was recommended to me. This book will teach you how to manage your time in an efficient manner and will walk you through a number of the intricacies of the sales process. With that said, the author, Chet Holmes is a perfectionist who is obsessed with discipline. This isn’t a “tips and tricks” book that will give you sales tactics, it’s a true game changer as long as you have the resolve and persistence to implement the Chet Holmes way.

5. When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management – I’ve read this book twice. Once when I was 17 and again when I was 27. This book was my first introduction to capital markets, and I would say that it is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand how markets work. A decade later, I was struck by how former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine was deeply involved, and it gave significant color to another industry blowup.

6. Barbarians At The Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco – Anyone who wants to understand how private equity works should give this a thorough read. A number of the characters are shared between this and When Genius Failed, so I’d recommend reading this before When Genius Failed to get a sense of chronology.

How to Negotiate a Raise, The Follow up

I couldn’t believe the response that came from my raise post last Thursday. I got a number of emails and comments and I’d like to address a number of them. Depending on my resolve, this may or may not turn into a regular series where I walk you through how to interview, crafting the perfect resume, and how to build a career. In the meantime, I want to address some of the points that were brought up, and provide some clarity.

A close friend of mine, Jeff Young is a Talent Acquisition Consultant for the Chamberlain College of Nursing. When it comes to recruiting, the guy knows his stuff. He’s been recruiting talent for almost as long as I’ve been making trading software.

Jeff writes, “Honestly, I have to say I disagree with most of the article. All it encourages people to do is become cockier, less dedicated to the business they work in, and overall they will change jobs so frequently that they will in essence be unmarketable. Maybe you could pull something like this in a sales oriented position, but for any other “corporate” position this really doesn’t work. There’s budgets and thousands of other restraints that keep someone from just getting a raise because they think they deserve one. I know if someone on my team asked for a raise because they deserved it, they’d be told to go pound sand. Now if that same person was making significant contributions toward the company’s vision/goals, then we promote. But that’s the management’s call, not the employee’s. Summary: Loyalty > threats.”

First I’d like to say that from a disclosure standpoint I’ve spent the majority of my career in sales so my approach might be a bit too aggressive for other parts of an organization. With that said, I don’t think that raises are exclusive to those in profit-center roles and I’m sure that there are other cases where you might be able to get a raise. If your skills suddenly come in demand (as I pointed out for compliance people in the financial industry) and your current employer doesn’t see fit to pay for rising costs, it’s in your best interests to find another job that will pay you. If you’ve significantly improved your skillset from the time at which you were hired, you’re probably significantly more marketable and again, would be eligible for a raise.

Many employers (such as my firm, Scaled Dynamics) have annual reviews during which time it’s expected that compensation will be discussed. If your employer does not have a process for reviewing employees from time to time, then being proactive and asking for the raise is, in my opinion, far superior to waiting and hoping.

People tend to put an implicit valuation on themselves and say things like “Oh this company couldn’t survive without me,” and “I could get way more elsewhere.” My first step is to encourage people to go find that out for a fact rather than just state it. If you can actually PROVE that you’re worth a significant raise, and the market supports it, there’s no reason on god’s green earth why you SHOULDN’T have that raise!

To Jeff’s point about loyalty, I agree wholeheartedly! Whenever I look at a resume full of 6 month and 1 year positions, I think to myself “this guy is a mercenary and isn’t going to stick around. I’ll pass!” Timing is everything. You should spend at least 2 years with each employer and you should be getting a raise at least once a year. Always remember that it’s also ok to turn employers down when you’re interviewing. You want to make sure that wherever you end up, it’s good enough of a fit that you’ll stick around for awhile.