Fix the slow performance problem on Surface Pro 4

Right after I installed the new Microsoft Anniversary Update, I started to notice performance issues with my Surface Pro 4. Switching between apps became a nightmare and the mouse started to move painfully slow. Nothing helped besides performing a complete restart. This happened to me during a meeting with one of my clients, causing me to apologize and stall untill the reboot was completed. I started my presentation again, only for the same problem to happen.

My desktop however was acting all fine, weird right?

Doing some detective work, I figured out that my CPU is stuck at the same frequency of 1.5 GHz. No matter what the Surface is doing, I get the same frequency all the time.

CPU Stuck Frequency

The Problem

I started to wonder why this is happening on the laptop but not the desktop? And why after the anniversary update of Windows 10? Google linked me to more people who are suffering from the same problem on Reddit and on the Microsoft Feedback Hub, oops!

Reading through the pages, I found out that the reason behind the slow performance was a new feature that Microsoft enabled on the Surface line, called “Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology“, which does the following:

Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology is an advanced means of enabling very high performance while also meeting the power-conservation needs of mobile systems.

  • Separation of voltage and frequency changes. By stepping voltage up and down in small increments, the processor is able to reduce periods of system unavailability that occur frequency change. The system is then able to transition between voltage and frequency states more often, improving balance between power and performance.
  • Clock partitioning and recovery. The bus clock continues running during state transition, even when the core clock and phase-locked loop are stopped, which allows logic to remain active. The core clock is also able to restart far more quickly under Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology than under previous architectures.

The tl;dr version of that goes along the lines of: In a computer, the OS tells the processor to speed up or slow down depending on current needs. Intel Speed Shift turns control of that over to the processor, and as a result everything is quicker (and theoretically can save a small amount of battery life).

The Solution

At first, people were hacking their way through the registry to enable extra power settings that doesn’t usually appear for users and are locked away. Changing those settings fixed the problem but on the account of causing more problems. Thanks to Microsoft, this was fixed by a firmware update that was released just recently which you can get by running Windows Update.

Surface Speed Fix

After applying the update and rebooting, the CPU started to change its frequency according to the OS needs. I haven’t tested if there is any improvement in the battery life, but that is yet to come in a future blog post.

CPU Stuck Frequency Fix

It’s worth mentioning that you need to remove the registry hack and revert to the original settings if you ever applied it BEFORE you install the update, and to also reboot the Surface machine at least twice for the update to be completely applied.

Cloud Computing Patterns: What you need to know

Who of you hasn’t bought a computer before? In this age and time, I would say no one. During your buying journey for a new computer, I’m sure you’ve stumbled upon some of the technologies that are used inside it, such as CPU, RAM, Disks and Network. You install a software operating system on top of the hardware you get and you start doing whatever you want with it. Servers are not much different than buying a computer for your own house, except that the components used inside a server are designed to serve a large number of people accessing the data inside those servers.

What does all of this have to do with “Cloud Computing Patterns”? I’m sure you’re wondering by now. My answer would be: if you’re able to tell the limits of a computer or a server, you could grasp the idea behind Cloud Computing Patterns easily. Let me explain.

Cloud Computing Patterns

I have been in the IT business for so long that I can always see over/under utilized servers, companies pour money into buying server hardware only to end up using a fraction of what the hardware can do. I’ve seen my share of the exact opposite scenario too where companies try to stay on a tight budget by buying the bare minimum of hardware requirements to run all the company apps on. Some will argue that Virtualization would be a solution to all of the above, I’ll leave this discussion for another post entirely.

Enter Cloud Computing Patterns to the rescue, a concept that allows you to utilize and use hardware components on the cloud depending on your app needs. A concept much known by the term “Elastic Cloud“. The term came from the idea that if you deploy an application on the cloud, you can configure it to increase or decrease the amount of CPU, RAM, Disks and Network that its using based on current load and other factors you may choose to use.

If you’re wondering why you should know all about this and why you should care, perhaps reading my “Cloud Computing? Anyone?” introductory post to Cloud Computing would be a good idea now.

Alright, lets jump into talking about the five most cloud computing patterns out there, shall we?

  • Static Pattern: If you’re using physical computer or just the default installation of a server on the cloud, you’re using the Static Pattern, you’re not getting the “Elasticity” of the cloud. The resources you have will not scale up or down based on your needs, and you’ll end up paying the same amount for the resources allocated regardless if you’re using them or not. Not our preferred pattern but its faster to deploy in terms of time.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Static Pattern

  • Predictable Bursting Pattern: With this kind of pattern, the resources you’re utilizing are scaled up/down on regular bases and on known times. This is suitable for scenarios where the hardware resources being used are no longer needed and can be scaled down to cut cost, such as the end of a working day where employees are no longer working. The opposite also applies where your apps are in need for more hardware resources to run smoothly, such as the beginning of a working day.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Predictable Bursting

  • Unpredictable Bursting Pattern: Unlike the predictable bursting pattern, we don’t know when a spike of demand will appear to our app, and we don’t have any reading to when or how our app will be utilized. The unpredictable bursting pattern will help in this case by allowing hardware resources to scale up/down based on the app need without user intervention. This is very ideal for scenarios such as a social media site or a news websites where users will be accessing the site at random times based on real time events.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Unpredictable Bursting

  • Growing-Fast Pattern: with this type of cloud patterns, we start small and start scaling up gradually as demand starts to increase. The hardware resources will be added automatically as long as there is demand on the app. This is very useful for startups and companies who are just developing and evaluating new ideas, they start by paying the bare minimum and scale up as demand grows.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Growing-Fast

  • Once in a lifetime Pattern: In this type, the hardware resources are utilized for only one time and then discarded. This scenario is very useful for apps that are used during special events like an online event or the new year celebration. Once the event is done the hardware resources can be safely deleted since they’re no longer in use.

Cloud Computing Pattern: Once in a lifetime

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6 Things that are making Windows 10 great

Microsoft has finally managed to get their ship on track. By the time of writing this post, Windows is now being used on over 110 million machine all over the world, mind you that this number counts only the activated machines that is currently being used by people, it does not include machines that has Windows 10 preinstalled and ready to be sold. This is a very impressive number to think about, considering that Windows 10 was released in the 29th July, 2015, two and a half months ago.

Windows 10

So what are the things that made Windows 10 this successful and managed to grab the attention of 110 customer? here is my personal take on this matter:

  1. The return of the Start Menu: they say “you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, the start menu was spot on example for this, as the well missed feature was horribly removed from Windows 8/8.1 and replaced with what is known by the Modern UI, the Modern UI was Microsoft’s failed mission to bring the tablet/phone experience to the desktop, This created panic and fear for those who are genetically programmed to know that all your computer files and programs are right under this little icon on the bottom left side of the desktop. With Windows 10, someone thought that it would be a good idea to bring the start menu back to its original roots with a twist from the Modern UI formula, and you know what? it worked perfectly.
  2. The 1 year upgrade offer: the keyword here is “free”, who doesn’t like free? it was one of the smartest moves Microsoft did by offering Windows 10 free for those who have a valid license for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 Professional and Home edition, they managed to create a hype for the upgrade by asking users to reserve their right to get and install Windows 10 before it was released, they even coated this great offer with a time limit of a full year, giving the people the freedom of deciding when to upgrade.
  3. The easy upgrade experience: speaking from experience, upgrading Windows from older version was never a successful task, installing a new OS always meant a fresh clean format for the entire data on my hard disk, but with Windows 10, I have managed to upgrade over 80 different machines from Windows 8.1 that have different hardware/software, and it worked perfectly after the first boot, all the data and settings are preserved, it was never that easy before.
  4. Compatibility and Drivers: building on top of the previous point, installing a new OS always meant waiting for the companies that sell hardware to release drivers for their hardware that would allow you to run and use the hardware you have.  Guess what, Windows 10 is compatible with Windows 8.1 drivers, meaning that your hardware is most likely ready to rock on with Windows 10, not only the drivers are compatible, but almost all programs and software you use are ready to be used on Windows 10 too.
  5. Performance and stability: for a relatively new OS, Windows 10 is blazing fast, and stable too, not that Windows 8.1 had any trouble in that department, but the idea that you get to upgrade to a new OS that does everything better without trade off in performance is a great bonus, especially for those who like to delay their upgrade cycle for some time until all the problems in the OS are ironed out.
  6. Windows as a Service: Windows 10 will be the last iteration of Windows to be released, but don’t panic, Microsoft created three different branches of Windows 10 that meets the needs of customers and enterprises. Beside the security batches and fixes, Microsoft will be always updating the OS with new features at no cost on regular intervals as long as your hardware support it. This might cause problems to enterprise customers who would like to take control of their features update cycle, for those Microsoft has created a special edition of Windows 10 called Current branch for Business (CBB) that give administrators the option to delay the updates up to 90 days until the updates are verified compatible with the existing business, if 90 days are not enough, Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) provides long term support for mission critical systems and allows administrators to opt out of the new features but keep receiving only security updates up to 5 years.

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

I have been working a lot with Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing Platform and Office 365 for Business, Microsoft has worked very well in providing the IT masses with the a robust enterprise-grade platform to run your cloud services on. I believe that everyone and everything should be heading the cloud, and if you or your business are starting to consider the move, then it is important that you understand the available types of cloud computing, and how you can benefit from using each one of them, this does not only apply to Microsoft Azure, but to all other cloud computing providers out there.

There are three different types for cloud computing, those are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS)

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

Infrastructure as a Service: the most advanced type of the cloud, you get a total control of your environment, but unlike a local data-center where you have to manage everything your self, the IaaS takes off the burden of buying and running your own Networking hardware (such as switches and routers), Storage devices (such as NAS, SAN and backup solutions), Servers (insert any brand like Dell, HP and type like Blade and server technology like clusters, RAID controllers, UPSs) and Virtualization, which is considered the heart of cloud computing, your building blocks in this type are virtual servers with your own OS hosted on them, virtual storage and networks devices. This type makes sense if you are an IT Professional and would like to extend, move or build a new data-center infrastructure and have a control on the type of Virtual Machines that you would use to run your application and services on, without investing on the hardware side of the data-center. An example for this module would be Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Platform as a Service: in addition to the layers mentioned in the IaaS module, PaaS takes of the burden of configuring and running the Operating System VMs (such as Linux or Windows “duh!”), the Middleware (HAL, device drivers and virtualization processes) and Runtime (library, framework, or platform that an application code runs on such as .Net, C and C++), what you’re left with is a place where you can develop your own software and applications and make them run on the cloud using PaaS services, the provider will take care of running the infrastructure where your application is hosted while giving you a limited control of that environment using a self-service portal. This module makes sense if you’re a Software Developer and just want to focus on lunching your application or services to the masses without worrying too much about the technology running your application, making you focus your time and efforts on improving and optimizing the application and saving you time on the operational cost of the infrastructure, an example for this module would be Azure Web Apps.

Software as a Service: the most used type of all modules and by far the biggest market available. With this module, the cloud providers will take care of all the computing layers in a IaaS and a PaaS deployment, and will also include the Data and Application layers, which is web application that you use on your computer using a web browser without the need to install any software on your computer to make the application run, the providers will take care of all the application life cycle such as updating, backing up, securing, upgrading to new version and if needed, restore your data in case of disasters, what you’re left with is access to online applications that are secure and available to you from any where at any time. This module makes sense if you like to run a business and have the lowest possible operations time and investment on software and hardware, a great example for this layer would be Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business.