surface go table on desk

Getting the Most From Your Surface Go

You’ve just picked up the latest ultra-portable from Microsoft – what next?

The Surface Go is a fantastic piece of gear. I’ve had mine for just over 4 months, and there are a few things any new Go owner should do to get the most out of this versatile tablet.

surface go showing apps
Take the Surface Go pretty much anywhere

S-Mode or Home Mode

The Surface Go comes with Windows 10 in S mode enabled by default. If you want to stick to Microsoft Store apps only, you can safely leave the tablet in this default mode. If, like me, you want to install apps (i.e Firefox or Chrome) that are not available in the store, you can switch to a standard Windows 10 Home installation. There is a great how-to over at Windows Central that can walk you through the simple steps.

Expand the Memory

I picked up the top-level Surface Go with a whopping 128 gigabyte SSD. Pretty sparse compared to my other gear – so the first thing I did was take advantage of the MicroSD slot behind the kickstand. You can use any MicroSD, but the larger and faster you use, the better the experience. I opted for a Sandisk Ultra 200GB card, which are available under $100 on Amazon. Once installed, it appears as a second drive. I opted to install Steam to that location, so all my game files are removed from my fixed disk. I also chose to save downloads to that location, which saves a bunch of memory.

rear view of surface go tablet
The MicroSD slot is located behind the kickstand

Experiment with Positions

I hold my Surface Go in various positions, depending on what I’m doing. Content consumption and social media scrolling are easiest while holding the tablet vertically, with the kickstand folded out just enough to form a gap that I can “wedge” my hand into. The ability to pivot the tablet to either hand makes this configuration great for sitting in bed reading the latest “Expanse” novel or catching up on Instagram stories.

holding a surface go in one hand
The Surface Go is great for one-handed use

The kickstand is amazing. It allows me to use the tablet on my lap, on an arm of the couch, or propped up on a pillow. When you combine it with the type-cover, it provides a stable platform for content creation and correspondence.

The keyboard cover is great, but it also packs an “auto-off” feature that allows you to fold it around the back of the tablet. When folded all the way back, keyboard input is disabled, and tablet-mode is enabled (if you have turned on auto-switching in the action center). The keys will not react to touch when the cover is in this position. While it takes a bit to get used to the feeling of the keys under your fingers, this quick-flip feature saves having to detach the keyboard to switch to tablet mode.

surface go in landscape mode
Wrap the keyboard cover around the back for an instant tablet experience

Check out Alternative Touch Keyboards

If you need to do a large amount of typing, or if you are used to a more “traditional” experience when typing, you should check out the alternatives to the stock Surface Go on-screen keyboard layout. You can choose between the standard on-screen keyboard, a “compact” version, handwriting panels, or a fully functional on-screen keyboard just like a normal physical keyboard.

surface go on-screen keyboard
Choose between several different on-screen keyboards

Load Up Some Apps

There are some great games and apps that work very well on the Surface Go.

You should immediately check out OneNote, the do-everything note-taking and journaling application that comes standard with the Surface Go. It supports clipping, pen input, and synchronization with the mobile versions of the application, so your notes are always with you.

Check out great apps in the Microsoft Store

Drawing and sketching on the small tablet can be a lot of fun. If you have purchased the optional pen (a must-have in my opinion) check out Autodesk Sketchbook and the Sketchable app to exercise your creativity.

For gaming, there are several great games available that work very well on the Surface Go. Minecraft plays well, as do Steam titles like “Slay the Spire”, “Celeste”, and many more.

Join Windows Insider

One of the most interesting (or foolhardy) things yo can do is join the Windows Insider program. You can opt for Fast or Slow updates, with fast being for the brave and slow for the more conservative among us. You’ll get access to new functionality and features before anyone else, but there are caveats in terms of exposure to more instability. If you want to help shape the next Windows release, this might be worth investigating. I had very few issues with the Windows Insider program fast ring when I added the Surface Go.

Enjoy!

I took my Surface Go with me on a three-week vacation, and did not miss my Surface Book 2 daily driver at all. It may not be as fast or as powerful as a standard laptop, but for content consumption, light gaming, and on-the-go productivity, it is a winner.

If you have any tips for getting the most out of your Surface Go, please share!

The Gift of Time

The Gift of Time

I read an article last week that charted changes in Canadian life expectancy since 1921. If I had been born in that year, the odds are good that I would already be dead. The average life expectancy of a person born in 1921 was 57, a milestone I reached last year.

canadian life expectancy

By the time I was born, in 1960, life expectancy had grown to 70 years, and now, a child born in Canada can expect to live to be in their mid-eighties. What a fantastic gift that is. Continue reading “The Gift of Time”

Two people on a bench

Being Aware: Compatibility’s Key

I believe my spouse is so much better at understanding and describing how relationships work than I. The fact that I am aware of that may be the key to our compatibility over 25 years.

Last night we were talking about relationships, as one of our daughters enters a new one after several years of single life. I wondered out loud what makes people compatible, despite being entirely different personalities. I used our relationship as an example.

My partner, as is their gift, got straight to the “meat” of it.

“We know what little things drive each other crazy, and we avoid doing those things around each other. We care about, and are aware of, who we each are and what makes us happy.”

What an excellent example of what can make being together either stress-free or intolerable. The simple act of being aware of each other can make all the difference. Continue reading “Being Aware: Compatibility’s Key”

galaxy tab s3 and surface pro

Surface Pro from Galaxy S3 – A Migration Story

I admit it – I am a tech junkie. This addiction, a point of lots of ribbing by my partner,  holds true for all forms of technology: phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and all types of accessories for them. My latest acquisition of a Surface Pro led to a journey of migration from Android to Windows, with (mostly) success!

A Tale of Tablets

One of my passions has been tablet technology. I’ve owned the following tablets, among others (in no particular order):

  • Blackberry Playbook
  • Nexus 7
  • Surface Pro (first one)
  • Nvidia Shield Tablet
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S1
  • Asus Transformer
  • Asus Vivotab
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 2017

You’ll notice many of these are stylus-included devices. I have sausage-sized fingers and have found I get a better degree of control when using a stylus. No slam on Apple, but I owned the first generation iPod Touch back in ’08 and was not overly impressed with the OS or ecosystem. They are also a combination of various operating systems. Except for the short-lived Playbook, I’ve used Windows and Android-based tablets with abandon!

The most recent transition has been from the beautiful Samsung S3 to the latest Surface Pro from MS. I picked up the S3 after playing with it and the S-Pen for a bit. I was not disappointed in it at all but always missed the ability to work on writing and photo editing using my laptop. I was still walking around with two devices. Not ideal! Continue reading “Surface Pro from Galaxy S3 – A Migration Story”

lost person with compass

How to be a Decent Person?

How Can We Be Decent?

One of my favourite comedians, Jim Jefferies, has a straightforward rule about being a decent human being: “Try not to be a cunt, and if you do that every day, you’ll be a good person.” (link to video)

Crude, but perfectly valid advice.

You cannot expect to learn morals from outside of your own experience. They must be absorbed by observing your role models, parents, peers, and personalities you encounter. Once absorbed, you need to process those impressions into what your choices will say about you.

Why Not Depend on Religion?

Most people look to religion to get their moral compass bearings, which is a valid start. Christian’s Sunday school, Muslim Koran readings, Buddhist teachings, they all point to methods to determine what is right and wrong. But it is dangerous to rely strictly on external sources to inform decisions. So many millions have been marginalized, discriminated against or killed just because of strict interpretations of ancient words – which mean vastly different things in today’s more complex world.

Instead, as you grow up you should start taking your moral bearings from within. Once you’re past 6 years old, relying on someone else to tell you right from wrong is avoiding your responsibility as a human being.

Be Responsible

As a mental experiment, imagine if every word you said was tattooed on your skin – would you speak any differently to those about you? What is impressive is that every person has that capability – to just be a decent person by attempting to treat everyone else respectfully.

We are all exposed to social media that captures people behaving badly: racial insults at a cashier, road rage, fights at Walmart, politicians denying sexual abuse charges. It seems like an endless parade of people behaving like they’ve forgotten what those early lessons in right and wrong were teaching. All to the point where we become desensitized to the pervasiveness of questionable behaviour.

So a challenge: we all have the power to be the light of reason in someone else’s life, as long as we follow a path that fits with our moral compass. Do that, and as Jim Jefferies says, “you’ll be a good person.”

You might also like: Zen Koan 45: Right & Wrong

People on a dock - leaders

3 Traits of Real Leaders

Can You Learn “Leadership”?

I read and follow a LOT of self-help content on leadership. By the sheer volume (200,659 results for “leadership” on Amazon alone, for example), you might be inclined to think that you can read a few books and become a successful team leader.

You may be the exception if you can. Ideally, you should first examine your own leadership experience, style, and responses. Otherwise, you may end up in a position where others are depending on you to lead, and you are incapable of doing so. I’ve seen many well-meaning, but incompetent people completely derail a team.

There are three traits you should examine, as you look at how effective a leader you may (or may not) be:

  • Serving
  • Timing
  • Acting

By assessing how you follow each of these three traits, you can determine where your leadership skills need work.

1. Serving the Team

“If you think service is beneath you, then leadership is definitely beyond you.”

I wrote earlier about the two types of leaders I have experienced: directors and guides. While a this is a valid analysis, we can push it even further. We should consider those grey areas that exist on the “Goal versus Team” scale. This scale goes from “Hit the Target at All Costs” to “Create an Amazing Team.” The result is a leader who either burns out the team achieving the goal or misses the goal but has a great group.

More effective leaders place themselves in a service role first. They coach, develop, and guide the team to the point where achieving the target is not only possible, it serves the goals of the team members. Bullying, cajoling and browbeating your team is not motivation, it is a trait of a weak leader. You do not need to fawn over the team members. Basing your success on how much the team likes you is not a valid measure of your leadership. You can be a strong leader in building a strong team that naturally achieves the goal.

The key here is that you build your team via the individual building blocks that are its members. Each one has unique strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. By paying more attention to developing each person’s contribution, you create a culture of shared goals and group achievement.

2. Timing Your Intervention

“If you feel you are always the right person for the job, you are not a real leader.”

Stepping in at the right time is a crucial trait of leadership. But so is stepping back out! If you insist on being heard all the time, it merely means you are seeking recognition.

I’ve seen a lot of potential leaders over-direct their squad, like a hockey coach that tries to fix a poor performance by switching the lines up too much. The result is a fractured, frustrated group.

You run the risk of being seen as brusque, bossy, and an attention-seeker if you continually take command. When a firm decision MUST be made, that is the time to step up.

Assess each situation. Are you required to step up and take charge? Is a situation best suited to another team member’s strengths? Is a consensus needed, rather than an edict from above?

3. Observation versus Action

“Uninformed action is like diving into a shallow pond: the results can be disastrous.”

We’ve all seen the boss that works more extended hours than anyone else. They fire off more memos, emails and useless blather around the team. They are confusing action with leadership: believing that intense activity will create team cohesion and success. In fact, they distract from the well-informed business that achieves the goals of the team. I talked about the importance of “Thought before Action” in a previous post.

What’s worse, they mirror that constant push for activity onto the team. If it you are not working as hard as the boss, your performance review will reflect it.

Effective action is the last step in the process of patient observation. Seeing all potential pitfalls, opportunities and effects of a proposed action are far more critical than acting at random. Real leaders listen more than they talk, and think more than they do. Chasing after work to look busy is likely to end in missed goals, a burnt out team, and a reputation for lack of focus.

Be Self-Aware!

Being a real leader takes more than these three essential traits. But they provide a simple first step toward understanding your leadership style. Natural leaders do exist. But they must first achieve a level of self-awareness that lets them see within.

You must understand your inner motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. That awareness is a prerequisite to understanding and leading others.

Photo by Stuart Vivier on Unsplash