5 Surface Pro 3 Tips and Tricks

After using the Surface Pro 3 Empired has provided to me for a few weeks, I have rounded up all the tips and tricks I’ve had to use in order to get the most from it. Hopefully this saves some time for others going forward.

1) How to fold out the kick stand properly

One of the first things someone told me was that the kick stand is fragile and needs to be used correctly or it would be in for repair in short order. Check out this post from Darryl Webster on how best to adjust the kick stand.


2) Making the Surface Pro 3 Pen’s eraser button work

One of the cool features of the Surface Pro 3 is that the top button on the pen is supposed to open OneNote. This didn’t work in my case, but was an easy fix. I just de-paired and then paired the pen again in one note. To get the pen to re-pair just hold down the eraser button for seven seconds until a light starts flashing on the clip, and then go to Bluetooth and pair the device “Surface Pro Pen”

3) Always have your USB cable

Quite a few of my colleagues were unaware of the fact that the Surface Pro 3 charger actually includes a USB port. This is such a handy feature for travellers as it means one less power pack to bother putting in the bag.

Darryl Webster gave me another tip for this which was zip tie your phone cable to the Surface Pro 3 charger cable. Good advice as it means no matter where you are, if you have your Surface Pro 3 charger, you’ll have a phone charger.

4) Touch/Typecover Function Key Lock

When I first received my Surface Pro 3 none of the function buttons on the typecover worked. This was frustrating as it meant I couldn’t change brightness, mute the volume, or use Home, End, Page Down or Page Up quickly. After a long while someone clued me onto the fact that hitting Capslock + FN will engage or disengage the function lock button. If you can’t use those keys on your touch or typepad then try hitting Capslock + FN first.

5) Where do I put my pen?

This one frustrates a lot of people, myself included. Where do you put your pen? There is a magnetic area that you can attach a pen to under the charging port on your Surface Pro 3, but this is weak and I’ve dropped my pen multiple times when walking to a meeting.

If you are using a dock, the left hand side of the dock has a magnetic area which will hold the pen very securely, however it is a little counter intuitive that it is on the opposite side from the magnetic area on the Surface Pro 3 itself.

I’ve also had colleagues who tuck it under their type or touchcover. This works, but over time frays the hinge of the cover, and makes it a bit manky. It can also scratch the display, so this probably is not your best option.

If you bought a Type Cover, then an adhesive backed felt loop will have come with it. Put this on the back (not the hinged part) of the Surface Pro 3 for a convenient pen holder that won’t lose your pen.

The best option is to check out Clean Stylus at http://cleanint.com/cleanstylus-surface-pro/. They offer a series of accessory stylus holders that can also colour match your cover.


2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Presenting at TechEd Australia and TechEd New Zealand for 2013

It has been a long time between updates as things have been staggeringly busy, however I had to share my sessions for the upcoming TechEd Australia and New Zealand.   I’ve been attending TechEd events since 2006 and speaking at them since 2009, and these events are responsible for some of my fondest memories at conferences.  If you have an opportunity to attend a TechEd event and you haven’t before, then you really need to go!

I can’t wait for either of these events, and I really hope to see you there.   Of course the best part of these events aren’t the sessions, they are the incredible people that you meet.  If you see me wandering around the events, please grab me and say “Hi” or even better suggest that we go grab a beer or coffee and talk technology, I will never say no… unless I’m on my way to present a session 🙂

TechEd Australia

There is an great speaker line up for Australia in the Office 365 and SharePoint track, and if you are a disciple of these areas I’d highly recommend grabbing yourself a TechEd Ticket before they sell out.  The speakers in this track include Ben Walters, Ben Fletcher, Elaine Van Bergen, Brian Farnhill, Yoni Kirsh, Shyam Narayan, Al Speirs and more.

I’ll be lucky enough to team up with a few of these folks to deliver the following sessions :

Configuring and Collaborating with the new Office Web Apps for SharePoint 2013

While SharePoint 2013 will allow your users to collaborate, what about your users on mobile devices, tablets or other situations where they do not have access to a full office client? Office Web Apps 2013 fills that niche and add functionality that will enhance the SharePoint 2013 experience for your users, but this leaves another component to understand, design, implement and maintain.

Join Mark Rhodes, Senior Consultant at OBS and SharePoint Server MVP as he demonstrates all the improvements and changes made to Office Web Apps 2013. Mark will show key differences to previous versions, explain the design considerations and show you how to install, configure and maintain your new Office Web Apps farm for your SharePoint 2013 environment.

Note: This session is also very relevant to Lync 2013 and Exchange 2013 environments.

Microsoft Office 365 Deployment with Ben Walters, Yoni Kirsh and Jeff Medford

Come learn the best way to get Office 365 deployed. This session details the new Office 365 deployment process that enables you to quickly begin piloting Office 365 and move this pilot into production with the right set of features to meet deployment requirements. The session reviews the approach and outcomes of the deployment process and dives deep into the tools and actions used to simplify the Office 365 deployment

Using Windows PowerShell Magic to Manage Office 365 with Ben Fletcher

A great way to manage Microsoft Office 365 is through the Office 365 Admin Center. However, when you need to do a lot of configuration, managing Office 365 through PowerShell can boost productivity. In this session we explore PowerShell for Office 365 and have some PowerShell fun!

TechEd New Zealand

The speaker line up for New Zealand is just phenomenal, and I can’t wait to watch a few sessions.  There will be presentations from Wictor Wilen, Neil Hodkinson, Wayne Ewington, Debbie Ireland and more.  These are some of the finest minds in the SharePoint community,  believe me that everyone out there has something to learn from these guys!

I’ll be delivering the following sessions at this event, and I can’t wait.  Its not a very well kept secret that New Zealand is my favorite audience, you guys get so enthusiastic about your tech!

Configuring your SharePoint 2013 Farm for Apps

SharePoint 2013 introduced the App Model to SharePoint, allowing for potentially quicker and easier development of Apps, however the developers do not get all the fun. SharePoint Administrators still need to configure their farm for Apps which is not as easy as just deploying a Service Application. Join Mark Rhodes, Senior Consultant at OBS and SharePoint Server MVP, as he explains the requirements for hosting Apps on your SharePoint 2013 farm and how you can install and configure your farm to protect your users and your environment. This session will demonstrate how to configure your SharePoint 2013 farm to host Apps from end to end.

SharePoint Forensic Deep Dive

If something were to go wrong with your SharePoint environment tomorrow would you know? Relying on end users to alert administrators of a problem is not the best way to monitor your environment, but fortunately your SharePoint farm has a few tricks up its sleeve. Join Mark Rhodes, Senior Consultant at OBS and SharePoint Server MVP as he introduces you to the diagnostic and monitoring features of SharePoint. Learn about the Health Analyzer, Logging Database and Developer Dashboard and how you can utilise these features to quickly and easily troubleshoot problems, or even detect them before they become an issue. If you have a production SharePoint farm then this is a session not to miss, unless your uptime is not a concern of course.

Speaking at the Australian and New Zealand SharePoint Conference 2013

As you are probably already aware the Australian SharePoint and New Zealand SharePoint Conferences are rolling around for 2013 and have a fantastic line up of local and international speakers that you absolutely must see if you have the chance.

I will be presenting a session entitled “Beyond FBA: No-code Authentication with SharePoint and Azure”.  If you are running a SharePoint based extranet, or if you are facing authentication challenges on your SharePoint environment, this is a session I highly encourage you to check out.

Why? What if your users could log-in to SharePoint like this.

1.  Visit site and click “Sign In”


2.  Click on the appropriate provider


3.  Enter credentials on provider site


4.  Done – you are signed in.



No code.  No hacks.  No need to create accounts.  No messy codeplex solutions.  No need to mess around in AD.  Highly supportable and easily repeatable.

Come see my session at the conference to find out how to do this yourself with zero code and in use in under an hour!

SharePoint 2013 – Follow not working across Web Applications

When attempting to follow documents in SharePoint 2013 Release Preview, I noticed the following issue.  The new funcion of SharePoint 2013 “Follow” which will keep track of documents, sites, etc in a handy location in your MySite did not appear to be working.  This was quite odd as it was working for documents in my MySite, but not when trying to follow documents outside of the MySite Web Application.

The above screenshot shows the error that occurs when I clicked Follow, unfortunately these “Technical Details” are not as helpful as you would hope, so a quite trek into the ULS logs was in order.

Cranking up ULSViewer, which works just fine with SharePoint 2013, I noticed the below error almost immediately.

The way the follow function appears to work in SharePoint 2013 is a direct write back to your MySite Content Database.  If you have your primary SharePoint 2013 site and your MySite on seperate Web Applications there is a fairly reasonable chance you have split them out so that they use seperate Application Pool Accounts, and in this situation obviously there is going to be a permission issue.

All it takes to get this working is to make sure that the Web Application account has access to the MySite Content Database by giving it membership to the “SPDataAccess” role.

And just like that, Follow is now working!

SharePoint 2013 Configuration – Cannot start service AppFabricCachingService on computer

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been spending time with SharePoint 2013 and once again have come across another little error regarding Farm Configuration.

Cannot start service AppFabricCachingService on Computer “.”.

As mentioned in my last post, there are some posts out there that suggest that you can circumvent Distributed Cache problems by Creating or Connecting to your configuration database with the –SkipRegisterAsDistributedCacheHost parameter, however this will result in the Distributed Cache Service Instance being absent from your farm, and I have at this stage been able to get it to reappear.  As it is pretty early in the game for SharePoint 2013 I am not yet sure the impact that not having a Distributed Cache Service will have on your farm, however it will likely be negative.

This particular problem seems to be permissions related as the Windows Service “AppFabric Caching Service” is unable to start when it is using the SharePoint 2013 Farm Account, and while I have not YET spent much time trying to figure out why this occurs, I was able to avoid the problem by adding my Farm account to the Local Administrators group.

Hopefully this post will help a few folks avoid a rather frustrating problem.

Note : Yes I am aware this is not best practice, however it may help a few folks get around the problem in what is likely to be a non-production test machine anyway as the software is still in Beta (Release Preview).  I’ll be looking into this further to try and find out exactly what permissions are required so that we do not need to add to the local admin group.

SharePoint 2013 Configuration – Failed to connect to host in the cluster

I’ve been spending a little bit of time around SharePoint 2013 and have been probing the various installation methods and came across this problem twice sp far while trying to configure SharePoint 2013 Farms.

Connect-SPConfigurationDatabase : ErrorCode<ERRCAdmin040>:SubStatus<ES0001>:Failed to connect to hosts in the cluster

There are some posts out there that suggest that you can circumvent this problem by Creating or Connecting to your configuration database with the –SkipRegisterAsDistributedCacheHost parameter, however this will result in the Distributed Cache Service Instance being absent from your farm, and I have at this stage been able to get it to reappear.  As it is pretty early in the game for SharePoint 2013 I am not yet sure the impact that not having a Distributed Cache Service will have on your farm, however it will likely be negative.

What seems to be causing this particular problem is an alias being used for the SQL Server, when your SQL Server is on another server.  Re-running the command or trying to establish your farm with the server name instead of the alias seems to avoid the problem.

Hopefully this post will help a few folks avoid a frustrating problem.

Note : This is not a solution, it is just a work around that might avoid frustrating and let you test out SharePoint 2013.

Early Bird Tickets available for NZ and AUS SharePoint Conferences

I’m already looking forward to these events, so I’m happy to mention that there are now early bird passes available for both events, at the early bird prices (NZ – 650.00 and AUS -725.00) for the two day event. These will go fast and are limited to the first 250 people registering. You can also get a great discount if you have 5 or more people register.

See http://www.sharepointconference.com.aufor the 2012 Australian SharePoint Conference, which is in Melbourne March 20/21

See http://www.sharepointconference.co.nz for the 2012 New Zealand SharePoint Conference, which is in Auckland 28/29 March.

After an AWESOME planning weekend, with the organiser team on the Gold Coast earlier in December, we have an agenda up on the sites. This will be improved in the next few weeks, but gives you a taste of what is to come! FIVE tracks this year, as we introduce a new track – “Office, Productivity and BI” – lots of great sessions in there.

The Voice of a Customer track has changed names to “Case Studies” – and as it aptly describes, will be a collection of Customer stories – these are shorter 25 min sessions, which means we will have 20 Stories to share!

We have more great technical content for both Developers and IT Pros…and speakers from the USA, UK, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia. More details will come throughout January…

IN addition to the two days packed with informative sessions, and lots of learning, you can also register for one (or many) of the GTTP (Get to the Point!) half day workshops. There is a selection of around 12 different topics, for all levels – and two full day workshops also. Check out the site for more details.

Hong Kong SharePoint Conference 2011

I am pretty excited that I will be presenting this year at the upcoming Hong Kong SharePoint Conference 2011.

The session I am presenting is :

SharePoint 2010 Performance and Health Monitoring

An amazing amount of new and exciting features were added to SharePoint 2010 for IT Professionals, a major investment being Server Health and Monitoring Infrastructure. In this session we will look into these features in-depth, focusing on guidance for keeping SharePoint installations healthy and running at peak performance. We will go into detail on supporting features such as Diagnostic Logging, the Developer Dashboard and the SharePoint 2010 Logging Database; illustrating how to successfully use these features and more, to troubleshoot issues quickly and accurately. If you have a production environment running SharePoint 2010, then this is a session not to miss!  

If you have the opportunity to make it to this conference, I would highly recommend it and tickets are still available!


Have You Registered? Under 2 weeks to go!

Be part of the very first Hong Kong SharePoint Conference…join us at the SharePoint event of the year!

Great sessions and speakers from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, USA, and New Zealand

Introductory sessions
Come along to the introductory sessions to hear real life stories about the University of Nottingham, working with Office 365, governance, social computing and how to create massive user adoption!

Extending sessions
Visualising business data, best practice document management, Project Crescent, and text analytics for search.

Technical sessions
Learn great tips and tricks from the experts on PowerShell, web parts, development, infrastructure monitoring, migration and more!

Check out the agenda now

Dux Raymond Sy

Dux Raymond Sy
Empowering Your Organisation with SharePoint 2010

Experience the power of one of the most sought after SharePoint speakers and learn how you can empower your organisation using SharePoint 2010.

Thinking of implementing SharePoint or do you already have it? Either way, don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else around the world! Invest some time to get things done right!

Come along to the 2 day Master ClassSharePoint Governance and Information Architecture with Paul Culmsee.


Microsoft, Platinum Sponsor

Register Now!

Early Bird Price EXTENDED

Conference Day:
Friday 11 Nov 2011

Conference Price:
Early Bird Price: $HKD250.00
Group Discount: for 5+ people
Regular Price: $HKD300.00

Conference Location:
Harbour Grand Hotel

Thank you to our gold sponsors!
AvePoint, K2, OpenText, Pingar

Event managed by SPevents, a division of envisionIT (NZ) Ltd in association with the Hong Kong User Group and is run BY the Community FOR the Community.
Phone: +852  2121 2688

Hong Kong SharePoint Conference, 11 November 2011

Adding 285 Contoso Users with Pictures to your Development Environment Active Directory

While I love the Information Worker Demo VMs that Microsoft make available, I really wish they would hang around more than the really short expiry they are currently set to, and besides while I like the stuff they have in their VMs I do not need all of it for my work.

What I really like is the pre-populated Contoso Active Directory, with all of the users, properties and profile pictures pre-populated.   I like it so much I took the time to export all of the values and code up a script that will add them into just about any Active Directory environment.

# Title : Create Contoso Users in Active Directory
# Author : Mark Rhodes - markrhodes@gmail.com - @mrhodes
# Purpose : Creates 270+ users in Active Directory copied from the Contoso Information Worker Environment
# To Use : Extract all files and run "CreateUserAccounts.ps1 from an Administrative PowerShell prompt.
# Requirements :
# Active Directory RSAT tools installed.
# User Account with sufficient privilegse to create accounts in "USERS" Container.
# Files :
# CreateUserAccounts.ps1 - PowerShell Script
# ADUsers.csv - CSV file with all Active Directory properties
# Folder UserImages - 270 Images of users to be populated into the thumbnailPhoto property
# Warning! - Do not use this on a production directory.
#Import Active Directory Module
Import-module activedirectory

#Autopopulate Domain
$dnsDomain =gc env:USERDNSDOMAIN
$split = $dnsDomain.split(".")
if ($split[2] -ne $null) {
 $domain = "DC=$($split[0]),DC=$($split[1]),DC=$($split[2])"
} else {
 $domain = "DC=$($split[0]),DC=$($split[1])"

#Declare any Variables
$dirpath = $pwd.path
$orgUnit = "CN=Users"
$dummyPassword = ConvertTo-SecureString -AsPlainText "P@ss1W0Rd!" -Force
$counter = 0

#import CSV File
$ImportFile = Import-csv "$dirpath\ADUsers.csv"
$TotalImports = $importFile.Count

#Create Users
$ImportFile | foreach {
$progress = [int]($counter / $totalImports * 100)
Write-Progress -Activity "Provisioning User Accounts" -status "Provisioning account $counter of $TotalImports" -perc $progress
if ($_.Manager -eq "") {
New-ADUser -SamAccountName $_.SamAccountName -Name $_.Name -Surname $_.Sn -GivenName $_.GivenName -Path "$orgUnit,$domain" -AccountPassword $dummyPassword -Enabled $true -title $_.title -officePhone $_.officePhone -department $_.department -emailaddress $_.mail
} else {
New-ADUser -SamAccountName $_.SamAccountName -Name $_.Name -Surname $_.Sn -GivenName $_.GivenName -Path "$orgUnit,$domain" -AccountPassword $dummyPassword -Enabled $true -title $_.title -officePhone $_.officePhone -department $_.department -manager "$($_.Manager),$orgUnit,$domain" -emailaddress $_.mail
If (gci "$dirpath\userimages\$($_.name).jpg") {
$photo = [System.IO.File]::ReadAllBytes("$dirpath\userImages\$($_.name).jpg")
Set-ADUSER $_.samAccountName -Replace @{thumbnailPhoto=$photo}

I’ve made a zip file available that contains :

1 CSV file populated with all the values required.
1 PS1 file with the full script to create these users
1 Folder with 285 user images

All you need to do is unzip these, and run the PS1 file with PowerShell.  By default my script puts each user into the USERS container, however if you wish to change this, just modify the $orgUnit variable.

The script can be downloaded from my public dropbox here. It is approximately 14 MB due to the large amount of photos contained within.

Update – 26/10/2011 – Fixed a couple of minor bugs, including one that stopped this working on any domains with three parts in the domain name.