Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Overview

I wanted a tablet that would help me type. I am a journalist and hoped to have the ability of a tablet to handle it. I bought a Surface Pro 3 with a Type Cover (snap on keyboard) because of a video I found on YouTube. This tablet works good for me and is handling other tasks well like graphic creation. It is also reasonably sized and lightweight; this makes it easy to carry in my backpack. Read this hardware review for hardware information.

This is an overview of the Surface Pro 3. I created a install CD, tested the hardware, and did some custom setup options.

Install Disc creation

I learned the hard way. I grokked that an install DVD was legacy, that the Reset PC and other tools in the Windows Recovery Environment could fix it. I had to buy it new later ☻ (BTW the boot error was entirely my own fault). The good news is that Microsoft has made available a Install DVD that can be downloaded. A search for Windows Media Creation Tool lead me to the right place.

Recovery Environment creation

Most Windows installations have a Recovery Environment partition. The Recovery Environment has tools to repair common problems and is real useful. However I have only been start it when in a running Windows installation (under Recovery Options). To have it always available a Recovery Environment creation utility exists to put it on a DVD or Flash Drive or SD card. Type create a recovery drive to open it.

If there is ever a need to recover Windows later this page has more details.

Hardware test and benchmarks

I wanted to test the hardware to make sure it was working correctly. I used the Windows Memory Diagnostic (open Start Menu and type this is the quickest way to get to it) utility first. Then did disk error check (File ExplorerThis PC(right-click C:\, Properties)Tools TabError checking Check. Then I ran a S.M.A.R.T. test on the disk. S.M.A.R.T. tests are built into the disk drives themselves and test the functionality of the hardware. I recommend doing a S.M.A.R.T. extended test with smartctl.

I tested the drive speeds as:

drive             read  write
----------------  ----  -----
SSD               ~500  100
USB Flash drive:  ~100  12
* MB/sec

Custom setup options

  • display scaling (aka desktop scaling): I increased to 158%: change display settingscustom scaling. (For a 217PPI display 225% is technically right so the scaling must be disproportional.)
  • display color calibrate: I have a guide that might help
  • recycle bin link to quick access to leave Desktop open for work files: themesDesktop icon settings
  • power plan adjustments: Control PanelHardware and SoundPower OptionsChange plan settingsChange advanced power settings
           bat  plg
slideshow  ava       # battery life should be ok with this on
sleep      10   45
hibernate  45   -    # hibernate loads quick enough
brightnes  50   50   # easy for the eyes brightness level
adaptbrig  on   on   # adaptive brightness is a nice bonus
  • touchpad
    • “leave touchpad on when a mouse is connected” turn off
    • tap as mouse click disable—bottom corners use
    • “drag two fingers to scroll”—on leave, ♥ the two-finger scroll
    • “pinch to zoom”—off turn, occasional and helps avoid accidentals
    • three and four finger gestures—off turn, repetitive and helps avoid accidents
  • right mousebutton key to Right Control key, keyboard-layout_context-menu-key-as-right-control.reg (requires reboot):
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,1d,e0,5d,e0,00,00,00,00
  • date format I customized as “yyMMdd ddd” so that it would fit in the taskbar, this can be done in Control PanelClock, Language, and RegionChange date, time, or number formatsAdditional settingsDate tab

Program additions

  • 7-zip
  • Arachnophilia
  • CorelDRAW
  • Geany—good basic text editor. I wrote a post to pare it down to just what I use.
  • HDGraph
  • Git
  • Steam
  • Vim
  • Visual Studio Code
  • WordWeb

Final thoughts

I am proud I got to own this tablet. Microsoft has put some love in to it. I began with the Surface User Guide I found out online that was very helpful.

I wondered if the 4GB of memory was going to be enough. I have emailed, web browsed, typed, and more and it has been running nicely. The GPU plays videos smoothly. On other GPU intense tasks with some programs on lower settings it can do a bit.

The updates are seamless and I am happy with how Windows 10 is running. The Edge browser I have been using although I am a long time Firefox user. It is efficient and just the basics.

(Tip: I read quite a bit offline and find the Print to XPS option useful. I find a page in web browser and type Ctrl + p. I think I have tried out enough options to be able to save these files nicely offline: The Surface Pro 3 has a 2160 x 1440 resolution, a 3:2 aspect ratio, a 12.01″ diagonal physical size, and a 217 PPI. The closest paper size (and I looked through most of them) is the A2 size, the PPI and size match best. To have it work: use the Landscape view and scale 200%. Scaling is necessary because Print to XPS only does 96 PPI. Thereafter in the XPS Viewer the page will need to be scaled down to look right; this can be done with Ctrl + N. Also tabloid at 150% also works good.)

External links


A beginner’s primer for the iPad


I got an opportunity lately to try out and setup an iPad. This was my first time trying an Apple IOS device and I wanted to share a beginner’s perspective for those any who have thought about trying it. I will discuss how to operate it, its design philosophy, and some basic settings that helped me.


  • top quality hardware, all of it, runs smoothly and dependably
  • software is well designed and the user interface intuitive
  • plenty of good apps are available

Could be better

  • no file organization, nor file manager
  • apps often have to reload every time they are switched to


Almost all interoperability is done with three finger gestures: tap, for buttons; finger pinches, for resizing; and swipes, for page flipping. The Home button is used to return to the Desktop.

Design philosophy

Having used computers since the 1980’s, I expected common computer operations to be carried to the IOS. I had the notion to use my iPad as I had my laptop, hoping to get a likewise functionality out of it. One thing I learned definitively though is that the iPad is designed only to be a companion device. To elaborate: it is designed to be a supplemental piece to a personal computer for the purpose of doing specific tasks in an intuitive manner. I did attempt to add common computer functionality to it through apps and settings but it just isn’t designed to do so.

The following point is an expression meant in a positive attitude. However, just for note, I am very peculiar about how I control my files.

The functionality that I expected, that I considered necessary for any computer user, was to be able to manage files. I thought I would be able to rename, organize, copy…. However, there is no file manager. The design philosophy of the IOS is centered around apps. To open a file a user has to adapt their behavior to first recall the app that created it. To transfer files to/from the IOS device requires the user either to: plug the IOS into the personal computer and use iTunes (if the app has iTunes support built in); or use the iCloud app (which I only learned about after returning the iPad). So the process just appears complicated.


  • a $10 stylus will help keep the screen clean
  • a $10 cover will help keep the tablet safe from common bumps
  • a $30 tablet-sized keyboard is nice for typing… common keyboard shortcuts may not always be available, for Safari hold Command to see them
  • apps can be moved or removed from the desktop, press and hold the app for a few seconds to do so
  • close unused apps for better performance (double-click Home and swipe up)
  • for *nix tools a remote shell account can be used with a SSH app

Apps I liked

  • Apple Store
  • Apple Trailers
  • Coda \$10
  • Does not Commute
  • Microsoft Word is free, but Papers is supposed to be real good if it can be afforded
  • Rayman Adventures
  • Vim
  • Weather Channel
  • Wallpapers
  • Yahoo Mail


For users that have other ideas, consider giving Apple your iPad Feedback.

decompress—a wrapper script to decompress various archive types


The Arch Linux BBS has a thread where people put up their scripts so that others can peruse them. A long time ago someone came up with the idea to create a script that would detect various archive formats and decompress them. That post is unfortunately gone now, but I kept the idea and have expanded on it a bit: I’ve added a couple archive types, file detection, program detection, and archive list support. I gave it a good, overall test so I feel comfortable with it.

Options can be in any order:

$ decompress --help
decompress [*-l] ... — wrapper script to decompress various archive types
  -l, --list  - list archive contents

If an archive’s existence isn’t detected it will be displayed:

$ decompress
archive non-existent:

If a program’s existence isn’t detected it will be displayed:

$ decompress
program required: unzip

Listing support is available:

$ decompress -l
       32  2016-04-11 10:39   file-q1
       32  2016-04-11 10:39   file-q2

Listing and decompressing can be done for multiple documents:

$ ls
archive-a.tar.bz2  archive-f.tgz       archive-k.txz  archive-p.xz
archive-b.tb2      archive-g.tar.lz    archive-l.7z
archive-c.tbz      archive-h.tar.lzma  archive-m.bz2
archive-d.tbz2     archive-i.tlz       archive-n.gz
archive-e.tar.gz   archive-j.tar.xz    archive-o.lz
$ decompress archive-*
tar: This does not look like a tar archive
tar: Exiting with failure status due to previous errors
tar: This does not look like a tar archive
tar: Exiting with failure status due to previous errors

.exe and .rar files are untested because I was lazy. If there is an error its error message will be displayed.

decompress can be found in my general-scripts repository.

compress—a tar wrapper script to simplify archiving files


I have become accustomed to using long options over the years as they are easier to remember. I do however use tar in numerous ways. I needed to have a quick way to remember how to archive files; I wrote this script to make it real basic:

$ cd ~
$ compress .local/bin/ Development/general-scripts/
archive name [archive.tar.gz]: /dev/sda4/sc
scripture.css  scripts.tar.xz
archive name [archive.tar.gz]: /dev/sda4/scripts.tar.xz
archive exists, overwrite? (y/n): y
archive created: scripts.tar.xz

The compression type to be used will depend on which extension is typed; tar has a nice option called --auto-compress. So, in the above example, typing ...tar.xz will use the LZMA compression algorithm. Just typing Enter on the archive name and the default archive.tar.gz will be used. The script also supports tab-completion for typing the archive name to help navigate folders and files.

compress can be found in my general-scripts repository.

Perl module installation

If doing Perl programming or if another package requires a Perl module, learning how to install one may become necessary. The recommended way to install a Perl module is through the distribution’s repositories, however, they can be installed manually with Perl.


Perl has its own repository where programmers make available their modules called the comprehensive Perl archive network, which is better known as the CPAN. Perl includes a built-in module that can download, build, and install from the network. For some distributions this module may already be built, however, it is probably a good idea for all to build it… to be sure it is set up correctly. Begin by starting the CPAN module shell so that it may be configured:

perl -MCPAN -e shell

A configuration message will appear… most users will be good with the automatic configuration it recommends. If additional configuring needs to be done later typing o conf init will re-run the configuration dialog. To leave the shell type exit.


The first requirement most people will need to do is build and/or update the CPAN module. Modules can be installed with the built-in module in three ways: from the module shell, from the perl command, or from the CPAN module binary.

From the shell (which was entered in the configuration section), the following command will install a new module, or in this case, update the CPAN module:

install Bundle::CPAN

From the perl command:

perl -MCPAN -e 'install HTML::Template'

From the cpan module binary:

cpan Module::Name

Note: CPAN itself recommends using the cpanm module for installation. Modules will need to be reloaded after being updated: reload cpan.


Modules are sometimes executable binaries and if they are known to the shell can be executed like any other command. Some modules are support modules and can only be used for programming or by use of another module. Information of installed modules can be discovered with the command perldoc perllocal.


Module maintenance is typically unexpected after installation and the built-in CPAN module has no ability to be able to do so. If the cpanm module is installed it does have the ability with the --uninstall/-U option. It will display the files to be removed and prompt for approval before uninstalling.

System backup to DVD

The purpose of this article is to explain how to span large archives into multiple files. One would do this, for example, to store on numerous DVDs.


I had an occurrence where the only form of storage media I had were DVDs. It became necessary to create a full operating system backup and I was able to do so with the DVDs. (A system backup with DVDs is atypical because DVDs have dyes which have limited time usage.) The following explanation is for an Operating System multi-volume archive creation that can also be used on other large archives.

Operating System archive creation

From an Install CD I did my archive creation. Such an archive will nearly always need to be done from such an external operating system (a running operating system is always adding or editing files that necessitates using an external operating system).

My disk partitions I label according to the Operating System. The archive name I used begins with my hostname which is my computer model:

mkdir               /mnt/LABEL
mount /dev/disk/by-label/LABEL
cd                  /mnt/LABEL
archive_name=$HOSTNAME_$(date +%F)_DISTRO.tar.xz
tar cavf $archive_name .

Archive Multi-voluming

I can now divide the archive to multiple volumes. I do this so that they fit on a DVD. A few explanations first:

  • DVD storage capacity varies. For me I used a 4.7 Gigabyte DVD.
  • DVD storage capacity will likely need to be converted so a multi-volume file will fit on a DVD. DVD storage capacity is almost always calculated with metric prefixes (i.e. a base of 1000); however, typical computer numerology uses the binary prefixes a base of 1024. The metric 4.7 Gigabyte converted to binary is 4.37721 Gibibyte (GB to GiB conversion fraction: 1,000,000,000/[1024 x 1024 x 1024] = 0.9313226).
  • The UDF file system, typically used for DVD data storage, at the time of this writing was still experimental on Linux and I choose to use the ISO-9660 file system for reliability. However, this file system has a file size limit of four GiB. Since my writable DVDs had a capacity of 4.7 GB I had to split up the files to two per DVD. File system overhead also has to be factored in and I reduced 2.188608100 GiB to 2.188000 GiB.

There are two methods that typically do this:


I default to the split command because the open source philosophy “do one job and do it good”. It is easy to operate: -b/--bytes= is converted to Mebibytes and -d appends a numerical suffix. (Notice the period following to the second value.)

split -b 2240M -d HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz.


tar can also do it. Gibibytes is converted to Kibibytes (1024 bits). To _c_reate a _L_ength-limited _M_ulti-volume archive:

tar -cML 2284284 -f HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz.00 HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz

The first multi-volume file will be created and then the name of the next file will be requested:

Prepare volume #2 for HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz.00

If the save location is in another location the path will need to be entered on every new entry (e.g. n /mnt/Backup/HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz.02).

DVD writing

I believe growisofs is a good way to do this:

growisofs -Z /dev/dvd -rJ HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz.{00,01}

Operating System archive restore

Boot from the Install CD, then:

mkdir /mnt/LABEL
mount /dev/dvd /mnt/dvd
mount /dev/disk/by-label/LABEL /mnt/LABEL

File system creation I am assuming is already done. To join the multi-volume archives (if done by split and tar respectively):


Then the archive will just need decompressing:

tar xvf HOSTNAME_DATE_DISTRO.tar.xz -C /mnt/LABEL

External links

Patterns and textures

These patterns were originally for Nautilus, the GNOME file manager (now called “Files”), when it supported having images as backgrounds. They are still good for some other programs though so I touched them up a bit.

I designed these so readability was good with them which was the key factor. A background I feel is to help with the comfort-ability of the area. They are barely noticed and add grip to the area. An original example:


And here is a view of them all: