Microsoft’s Surface Tablet/hybrid has been steadily gaining traction in as both a consumer device and a business tool. I use mine for both personal and business use. I haven’t turned on my iPad in over 5 months and I’m only using my laptop as a test bed for pre-release versions of Windows 10. My Surface Pro 3 has become my go to device. My mobile phone and Surface meet 95% of my requirements without any compromise.
Microsoft has been rolling out Surface drivers and firmware updates through the Windows Update service. This works great for personal devices but IT departments have struggled to keep the devices updated using their traditional tools.
Enterprises need the ability to roll out Surface Updates with procedures that adhere to best practices and integrate into the processes that are already in place for other domain joined devices such as Windows Intune and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).
The Homebrew Solution
What does a smart Sysadmin do to solve the problem? He (or she) builds their own cumulative update payload that includes all updates including (patches, firmware, and drivers). Make it easy to manage and install in unattended mode with a smart wrapper like PowerShell or Windows Installer / MSI.
The Microsoft Solution
Microsoft has released a solution that meets all of the requirements of the homebrew solution but you don’t have to build it yourself. Here’s a link to the January payload. There are multiple files that can be downloaded from the link. Select the Surface Pro 3 January 2015 MSI.zip
It will install all drivers and firmware that have been released through January 2015. As new updates are released new MSI files will be available for download.
- It doesn’t contain all Surface Pro 3 drivers, just the driver updates
- Touch firmware updates are not included
- It will create an entry into add/remove programs
- There is an option that allows the installation operations to be logged verbosely for troubleshooting
Here’s a good post with a step-by-step that explains how to use the MSI with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and System Center Updates Publisher (SCUP).
This week, another firmware update was released for the Surface Pro 3. As I had reported previously, I’ve been plagued with Wi-Fi reconnection issues on my Surface Pro. I’ve been able to live with it by understanding some of the issues and making adjustments but they have felt like a compromise so far. The two adjustments I’ve are:
Hyper-V – I use Hyper-V quite a bit and one of the known issues is Hyper-V not playing nice with Connected Standby.
Home Wi-Fi Configuration – I’ve made some changes to my home network to try and work around some of the issues. You can read about them in a separate post.
Today, I received the latest firmware update to my device and the Wi-Fi seems more stable so far.
Surface firmware updates are available as part of the Windows Update Service. If you rely on this service, the update availability is staggered so not all devices will have updates available to them at the same time. I just got the January 15th payload this morning. January 17th.
In another post I will update you on a more enterprise friendly method to manage firmware and driver updates that relies on MSI files.
So what’s in the January 15th, 2015 firmware update for the Surface Pro 3? Here’s a brief overview.
- Surface Pro UEFI update (v3.11.450.0) adds support for updated HD Graphics Family driver.
- HD Graphics Family driver update (v10.18.14.4029) enhances display stability and performance, improves user experience when using Miracast adapters. Improves compatibility with DisplayPort monitors and daisy chaining.
- Wireless Network Controller and Bluetooth driver update (v15.68.3073.151) addresses connectivity issues while Hyper-V is enabled. Adds an advanced feature to control the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band preference.
- Surface Home Button driver update (v2.0.1179.0) ensures compatibility with the Surface Hub app.
- Microsoft Docking Station Audio Device driver update (v220.127.116.11) improves the user experience while using the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station so that sound is available when a speaker is not connected to the docking station.
For more detailed information on all firmware updates for the device, checkout the Surface Pro Firmware update history.
Since I started using my Surface Pro 3, I’ve been wondering if my home Wi-Fi setup was partly to blame for my connectivity frustrations. In this post I share some of the lessons I’ve learned while trying to get the most out of my mobile devices and my home network.
I can remember buying my first Wi-Fi router back in 1998. I spent about $500 for a Linksys 802.11b device. Back then I was one of about 40 people in my city that had residential broadband as part of a pilot project. Since then I’ve had at least a half a dozen different access points at least three from Linksys but also others from Netgear, TrendNet, D-Link, Belkin, Asus etc.
I’ve never had any real problems with my Wi-Fi network until last few years. Probably due to the proliferation of Wi-Fi in all sorts of consumer devices creating congestion in the 2.4GHz band. Add to that my stable of Microsoft Surface devices with flakey Marvell Wi-Fi drivers and it’s a recipe for frustration with something that I had come to rely on and taken for granted for over a decade.
As my family has grown I’ve had to give up my dedicated home office space and move my networking gear into a utility room in the basement. Another side effect of a growing family is a proliferation of wireless gadgets (Six Tablets, three laptops, three MP3 players, four mobile phones, two Xboxes, three eReaders, etc. – well I guess I’m the major cause of that but let’s blame the wife and kids just a little.
So what have I done to reduce my Wi-Fi headaches?
Repeater – I added a Cisco repeater on the main floor to help get signal to the far flung reaches of the estate. I’m Cisco Linksys RE100 Range Extender. I configured it to use the same SSID as by WAP. Although this works I may have created some issues for myself:
- When devices first connect to the network they select an access point based on signal strength. This may not be optimal as the repeater introduces some delay and selecting the base station might provide better performance even with a weaker signal.
- When roaming the client devices may not release the original access point at the optimal time/location when mobile. They will typically hold on to the current access point until the signal is excessively weak.
- SSID – I’ve been hiding (not broadcasting my) SSID for as long as I’ve had an access point that supported the feature. At one point I had even configured an old WAP as a honeypot (I stopped when the number of visible SSIDs on my street topped 2 dozen. It turns out I may have been creating some additional problems for myself. I have recently learned the SSIDs were never designed to be hidden and the security through obscurity effect is minimal if present at all. Long story short: I no longer hide my SSID.
- 2.4GHz vs. 5GHz – Similarly to the repeater configuration, I had been configuring both my 5GHz network and my 2.4GHz network to use the same SSID. Again, while this is supported, it can be sub-optimal. It turns out that most wireless devices do not prioritize 5GHz over 2.4GHz so it will select one network over the other based on which beacon it sees first. I now use a different SSID for each frequency.
I don’t actually use a repeater/extender anymore. Since I’ve moved to an ASUS AC1900 RT68u I’ve found that the range is more than adequate for our manse.
So what are the lessons learned?
- Avoid using the same SSID for a range extender and a WAP
- Avoid blocking the broadcast of the SSID
- Avoid using the same SSID for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.
I’m not a networking expert but I know enough to get myself into trouble. I hope these tips can help you stay out of trouble and get the most out of your Surface and other wireless devices.