Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Every Windows 10 in-place Upgrade (even with SCCM) is a SEVERE Security risk PART II

So, 127000 blog reads and a week later I believe it's a good time to publish the episode II of this story. Please read these few points and then see how to apply this on SCCM managed machines as well.

First a few things:

  1. My bad, I used the wrong term that was used in previous Windows versions. The BitLocker is SUSPENDED not DISABLED like I said. The end result is of course the same but I do want to use the correct terms.
  2. Most comments say this is an old thing that was in Windows decades ago. Yes, the Shift+F10 feature has been there for ages and I've used it for troubleshooting for ages. That is why I knew to look for it. I found it first in the beta-version of Windows 10. After finding it I knew the first time it really was an issue was the time when people upgraded from Windows 8 to 8.1 as that was the first time the in-place upgrade was recommended and we had BitLocker. So in XP you could press Shift+F10 but so what, we didn't use it to bypass BitLocker (I actually played Solitaire with it just for fun) - so I don't think this is the same thing at all…
  3. What makes this a "bug" (again you have to give me some slack, I'm Finnish and English is not my first language. I speak a language where we log on to Windows using the local Administrator account name of JÄRJESTELMÄNVALVOJA). So let me rephrase, this is a "mistake" that Microsoft forgot this in the upgrade sequence as they know how to block it and have a feature for that.
  4. I categorize myself as a conceptual hacker. This means that I find and use holes that are not Zeroday attacks or 3rd party application issues but holes based on principles that I know to look for because I've studied the OS for over 20 years. I teach Windows Internals and always tell my students that the base knowledge on the OS is a requirement for both creative troubleshooting and taking care of security. How would you know what's bad if you don't know what's normal.
    1. You can find my training on http://PluralSight.com/ and http://win-fu.com/ Let me teach you to find this stuff as well :)
  5. LTSB. You don't have to agree with me on this. This was just my personal opinion. I did offer other choices as well like the not leaving computers unattended when they are upgrading. I currently plan on staying on LTSB until 2018 and the do an easy upgrade to CBB - If things are worked out to the level I want by then.
  6. Will there be a time when this all will be put to a test? Yes, Microsoft just declared 1607 as Current Branch for Business. This means that 1507 release will be out of support in a few months and we will get to test this in action ;) You can read more about this here: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/windowsitpro/2016/11/29/windows-10-1607-is-now-a-current-branch-for-business-cbb-release/
  7. I know the Immutable laws of security and I know the computer is not your computer anymore if someone has physical access to it. If it wasn't a case like this trust me I would have gotten a bounty on this from Microsoft ages ago. I still believe that this is an issue as if I don't do inplace upgrades I don't have this issue… Some people got upset that I called it "SEVERE"… Well if you ask me when a computers integrity protection and data protection fail by pressing two keys… Sorry, I just believe it's SEVERE - I will agree to disagree with you on this if you don't.
  8. I also saw some recommendations on using Linux to hack the box - Although Linux is Finnish and I like to promote it, you don't need Linux to hack Windows - It does so itself just fine as I show in the next video.

Now let's talk about the next "issue" here. My good friend Johan Arwidmark made an amazing job in building a bandage for the Shift+F10 to be blocked. It could be used by SCCM/MDT or any manual upgrade. Here is the link: http://deploymentresearch.com/Research/Post/567/Using-ConfigMgr-to-fix-the-Shift-F10-security-issue-for-Windows-10-inplace-upgrades This is what Microsoft will probably use to fix the hole in the first place as well.

Although this is great I guess some people didn't see the real problem in this whole issue. If the Shift+F10 is a "bug" or a "mistake" it can be easily fixed as we see. The real security issue is the suspending of BitLocker. The next video shows you how to use this against any system including SCCM/WSUS controlled machines. Again it uses the knowledge gained on Windows Internals classes. I also do Security Audits (hire me ;) ) and you can bet I will take this into my toolbox for myself when I have the next bank to break into ;) And yes it does require physical access still and yes I boot the machine from a bootable media so you can just glue the USB ports. I will then take the disk at correct point and move it to another machine or start playing with Linux. Anyway at the end of the day you are fighting against windmills.

And BTW I have a big issue to disclose that's totally unrelated to this and needs Microsoft's actions before I can talk about it so do enroll to my newsletter - like thousands of you already have: http://eepurl.com/F-GOj

And be sure to follow me on Twitter @samilaiho

Thanks for all the great feedback,


Monday, November 28, 2016

Every Windows 10 in-place Upgrade is a SEVERE Security risk

This is a big issue and it has been there for a long time. Just a month ago I finally got verification that the Microsoft Product Groups not only know about this but that they have begun working on a fix. As I want to be known as a white hat I had to wait for this to happen before I blog this.

There is a small but CRAZY bug in the way the "Feature Update" (previously known as "Upgrade") is installed. The installation of a new build is done by reimaging the machine and the image installed by a small version of Windows called Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment). This has a feature for troubleshooting that allows you to press SHIFT+F10 to get a Command Prompt. This sadly allows for access to the hard disk as during the upgrade Microsoft disables BitLocker. I demonstrate this in the following video. This would take place when you take the following update paths:

  • Windows 10 RTM --> 1511 or 1607 release (November Update or Anniversary Update)
  • Any build to a newer Insider Build (up to end of October 2016 at least)

The real issue here is the Elevation of Privilege that takes a non-admin to SYSTEM (the root of Windows) even on a BitLocker (Microsoft's hard disk encryption) protected machine. And of course that this doesn't require any external hardware or additional software. It's just a crazy bug I would say :(

Here's the video:

Why would a bad guy do this:

  1. An internal threat who wants to get admin access just has to wait for the next upgrade or convince it's OK for him to be an insider
  2. An external threat having access to a computer waits for it to start an upgrade to get into the system

I sadly can't offer solutions better than:

  • Don't allow unattended upgrades
  • Keep very tight watch on the Insiders
  • Stick to LTSB version of Windows 10 for now

(Update 6.12.2016: Read the next blog as well: http://blog.win-fu.com/2016/12/every-windows-10-in-place-upgrade-even.html )

I am known to share how I do things myself and I'm happy to say I have instructed my customers to stay on the Long Time Servicing Branch for now. At least they can wait until this is fixed and move to a more current branch then. I meet people all the time who say that LTSB is a legacy way but when I say I'm going to wait a year or two to get the worst bugs out of this new "Just upgrade" model - this is what I meant…

Remember to subscribe to my newsletter as I will disclose more like this very soon! Subscribe here!
And you can learn how to find these by yourself by letting me teach you some Windows Internals!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We have a winner - Bye Bye SurfaceBook!

So it's time to talk about my new best friend :) I wanted to wait a month to write this so I've had the opportunity to try the new device in all environments and tasks that I actually need. The new Best Friend, my company, my everything in business life, is now the Lenovo X1 Yoga. And I have to start by saying that I almost couldn't be happier with a laptop. In the last month I've done:

  • Microsoft Ignite - Demos for thousands of attendees
  • Consulting - Smaller part of my business
  • Taught many classes - 75% of my business
  • Broken into a few banks - My pentest business
  • Flown 22 flights - My life
So now I feel like I'm ready to give some sort of a verdict on this machine: IT'S AWESOME!!
Let's talk more specific. I have the i7 with 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD (I'm waiting for my 1TB NVMe disk as we speak). As before remember this is only my personal opinion based on what I do. I need 4 VM's, that's it, and I need to present and travel a lot.

Now let's do this the other way than usual and let me start by the cons:
  • Fn-button is in the totally wrong place for me as I've never had a Lenovo before
  • Battery life wasn't that good first but reverting to an older version of the graphics driver fixed it
    • With the newest Microsoft provided driver the screen wouldn't change brightness at all but was stuck on max setting
    • Now I'm mostly getting around 6h of battery life which could be better as I fly so much
  • The Pen is small and not good for serious artists but works for me well enough
  • I can't seem to flip it to tablet mode and have the flight attendants believe it's a tablet.. They ask me to put it away when landing as my SurfaceBook was allowed without the keyboard. Well, I watch videos mainly from my iPhone 6s Plus anyway.
  • The worst is easy... My device has totally lost its sex appeal and hotness :( I'm not kidding.. With my SurfaceBook I would sit in the airport lounge and Mac-people would talk to me... They would ask questions and mostly wonder how it was possible that my device cost more than their Macbook... But that's not the point - we were communicating for the first time in this way that they made the first move. Now with the X1 I'm all alone again - No one asks anything about my laptop :( It's a dull business machine with nothing of interest to Cool people... Lenovo X1 works like a perfect 100% proof contraception...

But now for the GREAT stuff:
  • It just works! With the year with SurfaceBook I had almost forgotten how it feels when everytime you plug your laptop in to the docking station you actually get a working mouse and bigger screen. USB3-disks works like their supposed to, as does Wifi not to mention 2.4GHz powerpoint clickers! When you close the lid the computer actually goes to sleep - after SB it's actually really hard to believe so I still check many times if the computer actually stopped humming by placing it next to my ear.
  • The Pen is tucked into the laptop and charges automatically. This is Great! Now it's always ready and available. Although not as good as SB's Pen I'd still choose this.
  • The size is a lot better than SurfaceBook. More sleek and lighter.
    • On the plane it fits on my lap even when in economy and the guy in front of has reclined to max settings and his head is against my X1
    • The screen allows for minimal backlight on so it's good for the battery
    • The touchpad could be better but when things get really tight on a plane I actually like the small nob on the keyboard although I really thought I would never use it for anything - I was wondering why Lenovo still has two different mouse replacements but now I'm happy they do.
  • Keyboard is a lot better than SB's (except the Fn-key placement)
  • The screen is phenomenal!! As I've now learned you haven't seen black as black on a laptop before you get an OLED screen! It's crazy how black can get so...well...black...
    • This is not a joke.. The battery lasts longer when you have no content for the pixels so your screen background is better as black than anything else. I thought it was funny when I did my first demos on Dark Web as surfing there would save me battery life for the first time ;)
  • I have enough ports :) Full HDMI and three USB3 ports which is just perfect for me. I realized I've been carrying a hub with me all the time but haven't used it at all.
  • The killer feature compared to SB is the mechanism so traditional to the Yoga lineup that it seems so BORING compared to the cool hinge of the Book. But it works. It just works. When I need to draw I can without breaking the connection to my devices and my Skype session. It works for all situations and never fails!
So while all sexiness from my laptop is gone and I still have to say SurfaceBook is the most beautiful and coolest device I've ever owned it's time to admit that a working device might still be more important to me. But hey, that's just me.

Waiting to see what SurfaceBook 2 brings to the picture and what they've done with the hinge.



Friday, August 26, 2016

SurfaceBook's 1st Birthday approaching - How's it Really Been?

Hi all,

I've has lots of requests to update my judgement on the SurfaceBook. In this short update I try to go through my experiences and thoughts about the future.

In the beginning of November my 1 year guarantee will end and before that I'm luckily going to US as I have to return the device. The thing that amazed me the most is (not that surprisingly now that I think about it) actually the reason to take it back: The Hinge. Since a few months now the problem has been that when I crab the tablet part of the Book the connection between the tablet and the keyboard breaks. At home this means that for an annoyingly long 1 minute or so I lose my external monitor, LAN, keyboard and mouse. While training on Skype for Business or doing some webinars this much more dramatic as I lose the connection to my headset which then disconnects me from the call. If I'm presenting in a big conference I lose my connection to the projector so this is one of the biggest game stoppers for me.

Now a hinge can probably be repaired but now it's time to think about what I really need from the Book and why would I keep using it. This is not to include the reason of paying crazy amount of money for it of course.

What I need or don't need from the Book compared to others:

  • The Pen. This is what made me choose it over the Dell XPS 13.
  • The camera
    • I just can't live with the XPS's camera pointing at my fatter and fatter chin... That's just a looks issue but the technical is more important which is the compatibility with the Windows Hello facial recognition. Now I just realized I really need it only maybe four times a year as a fingerprint reader is more convenient for my use anyway. I now have an Intel RealSense R200 for my demos which is a lot smaller than the previous one I had which was the F200. The feature is FUN that's for sure but when thinking about my primary machine - not a game stopper anymore.
  • The Tablettability (I just came up with the term)
    • Adults honestly?? I only detach the tablet from the keyboard for the short amount of time when my plane takes off or lands. The time when you need to put your laptop away. Now with the iPhone 6s Plus I actually use that to watch videos for that short time so for the past two months I haven't detached it once except to brag to friends about the cool mechanics (that don't work anymore...). When I detach I lose all connections to projectors, all USB-devices, more than half of my battery, my external SSD and all the juice of the GPU in the keyboard base. The connection-thingy looks very neat but when I need to fold my laptop to a tent to draw for my students I need to detach and turn the tablet around which again means I lose all the connections for a while. So if you compare this to HP's devices or Lenovo's Yoga series, this is a really big disadvantage :(
So from the previous perspective I can probably live without the Book. Now what's still wrong with the Book after almost a year of ownership:

  • The USB-issue is still there :( So after every build upgrade of Windows 10 I need to install a false USB Controller and a USB Hub driver. That is to keep my external SSD's working.
  • The wireless issue is still there. SurfaceBook is still the only one of my machines that doesn't work with my wireless presenter from Logitech. That's not a game stopper as I have the Kensington BlueTooth one that works perfectly.
What do I now want:

  1. I still believe that the Book has huge potential and it is easily the coolest and best device from Microsoft that I have ever had. I can't wait to get the next one (I guesstimate it's 2017 spring) to see how it will be and will it make me a SurfaceBook lover again.
  2. I am going to buy something else.. If not before then at least after writing all down to this blog post do I realize I can make my life easier. I need a higly portable UltraBook with i7, 16GB or RAM, 8 hours of batterylife, 1TB SSD, a normal camera and at least a DisplayPort connection and a USB3 or 3.1 port. I don't need a tablet, I don't need a pen or a touch screen, I don't need a Windows Hello Camera, I don't need a USB-C only option for network/screens and I absolutely don't need a US keyboard...
  3. I think I'm going to get my hands on a Lenovo X1 Carbon and an X1 Yoga to start testing how my relationship after the honeymoon will be with either one.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Biometrics – Have your fingers been pwned?

First to start with I believe biometrics are in many ways the future of authentication but sometimes people forget to think about the bad sides as well – when they get too excited. I wanted to take some time and write down my thoughts on this and related topics. I’m talking about Security Internals in Estonia this year (http://koolitus.ee/blackbelt/) and I started to gather my thoughts on current trends in security and that gave me the inspiration to write this article. One important trend in my life also changed dramatically this summer as I and my family moved to iPhones. I still think that Windows OS is the best one that there is for mobile phones but at some point the lack of stability and apps just threw me over the Edge. “Over the Edge” in this context is actually just funny if you ask me ;) The iPhone introduced me with the simplicity of using my fingerprint to authenticate to my phone and boy did I welcome this ease! After the honeymoon with my new iPhone I started to seriously consider about this. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to talk about some common questions/comments I get and some points that I don’t believe all people totally understand.


#1 Ease of changing a password


I hope all of you know the best website out there monitoring system breaches called http://haveibeenpwned.com/ It’s run by a fellow PluralSight author and highly appreciated security expert called Troy Hunt. So what if you lose a password as you just need to change it, right? Right. So now what happens if your biometrics get stolen? You change your finger? Or even worse your face or your retina? So to cut corners a bit you can only be ten times pwned when it comes to your fingerprints.


#2 Lack of true biometric data in Windows


This is what I hear quite often: “Why do we still need to use a password in Windows which is then protected by a PIN or a biometric info? Why can’t we yet in 2016 save the biometric data to Active Directory and just use that?” Think about the previous point and the bad thing about not using a password. If your fingerprint is value 400 and your password is value 400 we can calculate a value of 160000 by multiplying them. If I lose my biometric data to someone I just need to change the password to invalidate the result. So from this perspective I am happy that my true biometric data is not stored in my AD as it would make it more probable for someone to steal my true identity and a lot harder for me to recover when it happens – and it will.


#3 Difference between physical and mental proof of ownership


By law in US you can be forced to use your finger or your “face” to open your device. By law you cannot be forced to give your PIN code to open your device. I would say I have nothing to hide and I’m not a criminal so it doesn’t really matter but many people don’t like the fact that a device with a biometric protection can be used to incriminate you and one with a PIN code can’t.


#4 Why Windows wants me to use a 4 digit PIN code when I have a 16 character password?


When you install Windows 10 and start using any cloud related features it will ask you to change to using a PIN code even if your password would be a lot stronger mathematically. This is because this PIN code protects your password on that certain device. If your real password is stolen all of your physical devices can be used to access your data but with the PIN code only that one device is compromised. That is if you use a different PIN on different devices – As this has always been the suggested best practice I’m sure all of you adhere to it ;) BTW. If your computer has a TPM then that is used to store the PIN making it very secure but if you don’t have one then the PIN is actually just saved in the registry making it a lot less secure.


#5 How do I do it?


To finalize I believe it’s fair to share how I do it personally. So here are some of my best practices I know I use and I also really, I mean REALLY, have the strength to follow.


-          My Windows passwords are always passphrases that have at least 15 characters, have at least characters from three different character sets and have numbers in the middle. So for example Jakedrank16beers! is a very good password but easy to remember. Most people use numbers at the beginning or the end and that’s also programmatically a lot easier to break so put them in the middle. I’m not trying to play Mother Teresa here so next time Jake might have drunk 17 beers ;)

-          I protect that password with facial detection on my SurfaceBook and with different PINs on my tablets that don’t have a keyboard.

-          I will never buy a device that doesn’t have a TPM, and I’d prefer them to have an IO-MMU for future features.

-          When signing in to websites I have a strong base-password but I use the two first letters of the websites Top Level Domain name to make it more unique.

-          I always use a password manager. I prefer LastPass although I hate that they were acquired by LogMeIn and I know they have had their break ins. It is still the only tool that does everything I need.

-          I never logon as an Admin to my workstations! And my Domain Admins are always prevented by policy from logging on to any computer except Domain Controllers

-          And YES, on my iPhone I use a fingerprint – the ease of use wins in my case – at least with my personal phone.

-          If you would ask me what the secure authentication of my choice would be I would like it to be a PIN+Biometrics so I could have a strong protection, easily change the password, not forget my dongles and not too complicated a method to use.


Stay safe,



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

First PluralSight Course Published!

I am so proud/happy/excited to tell you that my first ever PluralSight course was published today!

You can find it here: https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/windows-how-its-hacked-how-to-protect

It's about how to hack the OS so my favorite topic :)

Hope you have already gotten your license to PluralSight as it is the Best VOD training site out there with thousands of courses at an easy to handle price!

Hope you can view and enjoy my video.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Best Speaker at Nordic Infrastructure Conference 2016! YES!!

Today Nicconf organizers had this to say:

We are proud to announce Best Speaker of NIC 2016:

Congratulations to SAMI LAIHO for outstanding feedback and performance! Your sessions rated extremely high with a large number of votes, and you also manage to combine a great sense of humor with deep technical and practical knowledge, which make your sessions highly appreciated.

YES, YES, YES - I'm super happy about this because I was in a crowd of so many of the Best speakers in the world and even honored to just get invited :) 

Here are the results (censored other than mine):

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sysinternals 20th Birthday Party this summer in Helsinki!

This is a short one I know but I need you to be in the front row to get this news! I have been given the permission from Mark Russinovich himself to host the SYSINTERNALS 20th BIRTHDAY PARTY in Helsinki this Summer! Seats are limited and there's an EarlyBird price so head to: http://www.sysinternals20.com/ We'll update the speaker list asap but already now we have both of the official Sysinternals Admin Guide authors:

WelcomeNote by Mark Russinovich

Keynote by Aaron Margosis
Session on Sysmon by Paula Januszkiewicz

I have never been this honored and excited to host an event :) JIIHAA!!!

Twitter: @samilaiho

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quick and Dirty Reinstall of Windows 10 on XPS 13

I just wanted to share this super easy and dirty way to do a clean reinstall on an OEM-installed XPS 13 (in this case it was the XPS but can be any OEM Windows 10).

  1. Use Johan's instructions on creating a fresh ISO of newest Windows 10: http://deploymentresearch.com/Research/Post/399/How-to-REALLY-create-a-Windows-10-ISO-no-3rd-party-tools-needed
  2. Create a bootable USB key
    1. Diskpart
      1. list disk
      2. select disk 1
      3. clean
      4. cre part pri
      5. format fs=fat32 quick
      6. assign
      7. active
    2. Mount the ISO (in this case shows up as e:\)
    3. xcopy e:\*.* f:\ /cherkyi
  3. On the OEM-installed XPS 13Run in PowerShell "Export-WindowsDriver -Online -Destination d:\drivers" while you have the USB key as D:\ on it
    1. This exports all 3rd party drivers to the USB
  4. Mount the install.wim with dism to add the drivers to the Windows image itself
    1. copy d:\install.wim c:\temp
    2. dism /mount-wim /wimfile:install.wim /index:1 /mountdir:mount
    3. Dism /Image:C:\temp\mount /Add-Driver /Driver:d:\drivers /Recurse
    4. dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:mount /commit
    5. copy /y install.wim d:\sources\ (or replace with other means)
  5. (You can repeat the previous for the D:\Sources\Boot.wim if you want to skip steps 7 & 8) 
  6. Boot the new machine with the USB
  7. If you can't find the disk so do the following
    1. Hit Shift+F10 to get to the command prompt
    2. Change to your drivers folder like c:\Drivers
    3. Run "for /r %i in (*.inf) do drvload "%i"
  8. Refresh the disk view
  9. Clean the disks and install Windows 10
So what this does is takes all needed drivers from the preinstalled OS and makes sure your new OS (and WinPE if you did the step 5) has the same drivers :) Your Device Manager should look quite nice without any additional steps!



Judgement day: SurfaceBook vs Dell XPS 13

Now it's time for the verdict :) Remember this is purely from my point of view as someone who travels 200 days a year and does presentations for living. This is just my opinion.

I'm trying to review features that really matter to me. It's easy to say that both are superb devices compared to many others as the 3000$ price tag would suggest.

For more specific figures and values read this: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Dell-XPS-13-9350-InfinityEdge-Ultrabook-Review.153376.0.html

I totally agree with it and it gives the common performance numbers that I've verified with the great (Finnish) PCMark tests.

Size with Accessories = What I need to carry

The Dell XPS is way more beautiful and compact. Seeing them next to each other I would easily choose Dell. That's not the whole story anyway when it comes to what I need to carry with me. I sit in the airplane and I'm usually first in the plane because I'm a priority passenger and I want get a place for my trolley. This means I sit in the airplane more than others and have more time to watch series before the seat belt light goes off. This time I need a tablet and Dell XPS won't do. This means it doesn't work by itself but I need to carry my Surface 3 etc. with me to be able to use it while the flight ascends or descends. With the SurfaceBook I'm good. I'll turn the keyboard under the screen and if someone still complains I just put the keyboard away. It's a very big screen so I am missing my kickstand to be honest. That's something I'll live with or buy a kickstand.

That's for the device itself but that's not all. I need a USB hub and wired network. That goes for both and the external devices for this are the same sized. I need DisplayPort adapter for the SurfaceBook. The one I have is from StarTech with VGA,DVI and HDMI. With Dell I need the USB 3.1 extender but it has VGA, HDMI and Ethernet. It only has one USB port so I need the Hub anyway. So both require two devices which are of equal size and weight in total.

I need Biometric readers to authenticate. With the Dell XPS this only means a thumb size USB fingerprint reader for my personal use. It doesn't take space but looks ugly. And it only allows me to authenticate but not to demo Windows Hello's Facial Detection. For this I need an external camera. With the SurfaceBook I'm good to go as it has the needed camera for both my personal use and demos. SurfaceBooks battery lasts twice as long for me as the XPS does. With the XPS I can get through flights but only with the Power Companion from Dell. So SurfaceBook is bigger but with Dell I need these extra things to carry with me: Powerbank, RealSense Camera, Fingerprint reader. The ones that I need to carry for both or are of equal size are not listed, like external SSD, power supply, mouse and a wireless presenter.

Working with the computer = What can I do with it and how well

Keyboard and touchpad on both are good. The only problem I have is the US keyboard on the Surface which really does heavily bug me. Performance is good enough on both though SurfaceBook beats basically every aspect and the SSD and GPU performance is WAY better on the Book. Now when it comes to presenting there are a few things that differ. SurfaceBook with the DisplayPort adapter has never failed me - it just works. Only thing I need to do sometimes is to change resolutions. XPS on the other hand only fails me :( The HDMI-adapter hasn't worked on any of my external screens without using Intel's application to set frequencies etc... The VGA I haven't tried on either one. For me the quick and easy use of external monitors and projectors is of huge importance. The next thing I need to do is draw on the screen while presenting. I bought this to work with the touch screen of the XPS at all: http://www.adonit.net/jot/pro/ I highly recommend it if you don't have an active digitizer - it's very good compared to any other I've tried. Now I can't rest my hand on the screen, I can't erase, I can't select and I don't get pressure sensitivity. All of these I get with the SurfaceBook. This is honestly one of the biggest differences for me between these two. To do my work I like to do it I need the Surface 3 as a companion for my Dell. Well I need it for the travelling time as well on the other hand. But getting that picture to show from two devices during a presentation - that's not always that easy. Next I need to run VMs. If you've read my previous blog you know how it works on SurfaceBook as well and I can say both run just as fine with nice SSDs and 16GB of RAM.

Fun and spare time = Which one I like if I don't need to worry about work

The Dell is awesome on the lap! Both have equally good speakers and screens. I'd rather have the XPS on my lap but honestly the battery runs out too soon for my liking... I like to sketch and draw sometimes so Dell won't do it for that either. And OH BOY do I hate the webcam placement on the XPS!! I knew I wasn't in perfect shape and have gained a few pounds but the XPS really makes sure I understand the seriousness of the situation... The webcam is situated in the lower left corner of the screen so it looks up to you below your chin and you have no contact what so ever with your family while on Skype...

The verdict

I know SurfaceBook has it's faults and I do hate the wrong keyboard layout but for my work the choice is actually quite easy at the end of the day: The XPS has to go! SurfaceBook is a keeper :)



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review #2 of the SurfaceBook - The Honeymoon is Over

It's now been about two months of full workdays with my SurfaceBook. It's taken me this long to write this blog post as I strongly believe in this product and I want to keep using it so much that I wanted to give Microsoft some heads up and time to figure out if they can fix the biggest problems I've faced. Trust me, I'll tell you the whole story and everything there is to it. Sometimes it's just more important for the big picture to help rather than creating headlines. We all know this from the security vulnerabilities point of view.

The first month with my SurfaceBook I call the "Honeymoon". I was so happy and amazed about the product that I could spend my nights at the hotel just Attaching and Detaching the screen from the base and marveling the engineering behind that mechanism.

Now the Honeymoon is over and it's time to give an update how we're doing together today. Yesterday was a breaking point in some way. Next week I need to have a working demo machine to present at NIC in Oslo so I decided to call a friend of mine to fix me a Dell XPS 13 for Friday - Just in case. So as one can imagine the SurfaceBook hobby of mine and its cost to me is starting to make me a bit sad. I wish we were back at the Honeymoon paradise. By Murphy's law last night, after making the plan B, I finally fixed the biggest issue.

There are two major issues for me that are deal breakers. I speak at Big events and I need to have Hyper-V machines running on my local box as I can't put my machines on Azure. I need to be able to boot my demo machines with ISO-images and I can't trust the Internet. In TechEd EU 2012 the Internet connection was down for 36 hours and even at Ignite the connections were down all the time. If you want to be in the top positions as a speaker YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR VMs BEHIND THE INTERNET CONNECTION without a backup at least - My rule for success #1. I don't want to show screenshots like the Azure demoing speakers need to or be left without working demos at all. So now back to the SurfaceBook.

ISSUE 1: Wireless presenters don't work

There's some sort of a shielding issue with the Books USB 3. This only happens on the Book and not on any other laptops I have. None of my 2.4GHz presenters work properly when there is a USB 3 device plugged in next to the receiver. I thought it was because of the magnesium shell but it's not. USB 3 uses frequencies that collide with the 2.4GHz range. People are experiencing bad Wireless performance because of this as well. Intel actually has a document on this that everyone should take a look at: http://www.intel.it/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/white-papers/usb3-frequency-interference-paper.pdf The reason why your home wireless is bad might be because you plugged a USB 3 disk or printer to your access point. I've uploaded a video showing this: https://youtu.be/lHA-QAjNZfs

I've fixed this in two ways. I have a BlueTooth device that works quite well - Again 100$ more spent on this project. And I have a fix which is cheaper but looks unprofessional as you can see below:

Microsoft is aware and I hope there is something they can do about it. It might a physical issue so if not fixed for my Surface I hope it will be for future patches.

ISSUE 2: USB 3 external disks work only for a few minutes

This is biggest one and the one I fixed yesterday. When ever my USB 3 devices are under load they get to 100% usage level and then they just disappear! I can't run Hyper-V and I can't for example create Windows To Go -sticks. I've tried this with many external enclosures, USB keys and now latest with Samsungs AWESOME 1TB External SSD (size of a credit card!!). 500$ more on the project as I thought I had a broken disk :( I struggled with this and spend time almost every day trying to troubleshoot this for two months. I can't use the book if I can't run Hyper-V with an external SSD - That's just it! I tried different cables, different powered USB hubs, USB2, all the possible power management settings... No success. Yesterday I finally went to measures I don't recommend anyone. I figured out the Intel devices that are used, tweaked the INF-files to cheat Windows it's OK to use them, digitally signed the drivers myself and cheated the Book to trust my signatures. To get this working I needed help from another famous Finn called Kim Dot Com. He runs the Mega download site in New Zealand where I found the first hacked Intel drivers for experimenting with before creating my own. Last night I finally got the tweaked USB drivers installed for the USB 3 controller and the internal hub. And to my amaze.. IT WORKS!! Now Hyper-V is running with multiple VMs and has been stable for hours and hours! Not only does it run but it's actually lightning fast :)

So I'm going to NIC with my SurfaceBook that finally does what I need! :) I couldn't be happier! The ISSUE 1 still exists and ISSUE 2 is only a temporary fix by me so I hope Microsoft reacts fast and gets me permanent solutions :)

I have some issues with the tablet disconnecting from time to time from the base and from the docking station but even these seem to fixed now. That kind of adds up as the "Power/Dock connector" of the Book is just a weird shaped USB3-connection. 

I love the design, keyboard, performance, battery life, screen, airplane usability and the Pen - So don't get me wrong, this product is awesome in so many ways and with these "minor" issues fixed it will hopefully become the Best.

And... I guess in a few weeks you'll get to read an "XPS 13 vs SurfaceBook" blog post ;)


Sami and the Book 

Monday, January 25, 2016

My new Applixure Blog Post

I'm more than proud about the Startup company that I work as a mentor for: Applixure!

I've written a blog post for them that I would like to share with you as Applixure is getting features I'm super excited about: http://www.applixure.com/blog/security-starts-with-choosing-the-correct-devices/

The Applixure can now collect security information that I have requested and they also announced a really cool new tool to collect user satisfaction data so read the newest additions to their blog as well at: http://www.applixure.com/blog/



Monday, January 11, 2016

MCT Regional Lead for Finland - CHANGE OF POST!

Hello everyone!

I've been a Regional Lead for Microsoft Learning for three years and I have enjoyed every minute. Now my career has taken such leaps recently that I can't fulfill the goals of this position anymore. I'm not going anywhere - well it might be more accurate saying that I'm going everywhere all the time ;) I travel more than 200 days a year and I have a wife and two small kids so my time is just not enough to give the community the attention it deserves.

First I would like to thank Microsoft and all the rest of the Regional Leads around the world. I miss working and networking with you. I will the yearly RL Summit even more - An absolute gem of a Summit! I hope I can present there sometime maybe :)

The good news is that my position will be taken over by Jussi Roine. Jussi is a long time MCT and MVP and one of the only Finns that have global experience in speaking and teaching.

You should follow Jussi on Twitter: @JussiRoine

Again thanks for the good times and an invaluable experience!