I lost over 15 pounds (7 kilo) and so can you - thanks to #Azure and #Surface

Priority Lanes, Heavy weights and lifting, and no storage space

You've probably been there, getting on a flight, and if you're a frequent flyer like many of us in the IT industry you probably want to get on the flight early to claim the often limited storage space available for all your stuff.
The laptop bag, the carry-on items, since last thing you want to do is check any luggage and wait at the baggage carrousel.
So you pack to the max, and probably end up with something very close to what I used to take with me when I travel to a conference as I outlined some of the accessories I take with me each time I travel in this blog.


Getting all packed

More recently I decided to just pack the bare minimum to be able to run presentations and demos whenever needed, but still ended up with quite some heavy weight as you can see from the items below:



Here is what I would typically pack and take with me:

  • Lenovo Tablet X220T - Work Laptop - 8 Gb RAM
  • Lenovo W520 - Demo Machine - 32 Gb RAM
  • iPad 2 - personal usage (oops, did I say iPad2? I sure did, while a lot of people actually never realized I had an iPad and I would definitely never take it with me to take pictures while hiking Mount Rainier National park like I did see someone this summer)
    The reason you don't see the iPad in this picture is because the moment I took this picture I already decided to give the iPad a different destination as you will ready further in this blogpost.
  • Accessories varying from a couple of USB harddisks (with virtual machines, installation files for the OS, installation bits for SQL, VS2012, Office) to power adapters etc.

Total weight including laptop bag: 20.2 pounds, seriously? I think we need to go on a diet...

 Putting my laptop bag on a diet...

If you want to drop weight, considering a diet might be the right way to go (at least that's what my healthcare checkup explained to me), similar to a diet, I decided to move out of my comfort zone, and change my "behavior".
And as David Bowie put that in the lyrics of "Changes", I realized it was time for me to "Just gonna have to be a different man".

For the majority of my demos, I rely on our Hands-on-Lab Portal, since based on the richness of the VM set we have there, I can easily demo anything I want to demo on SQL Server (www.microsoft.com/sqlserverlabs).


I also started leveraging Windows Azure SQL Database, and Windows Azure VMs as part of my demo platform and environment.


How I did on my first week of dieting...lost the biggest weight - there goes the W520

In my first week of dieting I decided to leave the Lenovo W520 home, and just work from the Lenovo Tablet X220T, and dropped a good 7 pounds.
I also decided to create a couple of Windows Azure SQL Databases that I could use to demo T-SQL functionality, and was also running SQL Server on the Lenovo Tablet X220T, with the latest client tools installed.

Shortly after I also decided to spin up a fully networked virtualized environment leveraging Windows Azure VMs, configure SQL Server on it, put my own "Installation VHD as part of my domain controller", and use all the magic and tricks to perform unattended configurations, install my own demo domain etc. (More detailed blog on that to follow later).

Second week of dieting...dropped a Lenovo X220T

On my second week dieting, I picked up a Surface Pro at the Microsoft Store, since I was really targeting to get lean and mean, and set my target goal of dropping 15 pounds.

After joining the Surface Pro to the corporate domain, and going through the installation process of installing every tool I needed using unattended installations (as covered in this blog), I was able to "test" what would happen if I also decided to leave the Lenovo X220T home, so in my second week I dropped another 6 pounds. At this point I already presented for a Seattle based user group, only using the Surface Pro, for which I actually used on of the 2 display adapters (Displayport to VGA and Displayport to HDMI) I purchased for less than $50 total.

The demo I ran focused on AlwaysOn SQL Server 2012, xVelocity Columnstore , BI stack integration and I used the Data Platform showcase on www.microsoft.com/sqlserverlabs.
Cloud based demos, at that point I was running from the Surface Pro, which seamlessly allowed me to connect to any of my VMs directly from SQL Server Management Studio and RDP, and SQL Server Data Tools I installed locally, giving me the capability to publish my database projects to any destination.


Second week of dieting - there goes the iPad.. - may it rest in peace

Thanks to the great experience I had with Surface Pro, and being able to use Surface Pro both for my corporate work, and personal use (which primarily comes down to some web browsing, facebook, twitter, videos and music), I already was able to fully drop 2 laptops, and also decided that I would no longer need an iPad for personal use. The biggest constraint I had with the iPad was that I really couldn't use it for any other purpose but personal use. Thanks to Windows 8 on Surface Pro, I am actually using our Comcast subscriptions to catch up on some of the shows that I might miss (primarily Amazing Race, I guess that explains the travel bug in me).

My kids and wife were already on a Surface RT, and the great thing is - we can actually use both the Surface Pro and RT by easily interchanging the 64Gb MicroSD card that holds family pictures and videos, and all of the kids videos including the Belgian version of the Smurfs (that's right - Flemish for the kids, ad great memories for daddy who grew up with "De Smurfen"). The cool thing about Xbox Video is that we can use Xbox Smartglass, play movies on xBox, Windows Phone and any Windows 8 or Windows RT device.

Sorry iPad - may you rest in peace


 Third week of dieting... a total loss of over 15 pounds...

As I am currently writing this blog on my Surface Pro, I am actually excited to share with you that I lost a total weight of over 15 pounds, and was able to slim down my laptop bag to a much more comfortable, and stylish shoulder bag (after all I am European, and yes one of my colleagues calls it a "murse" (thanks Mike).

Thanks to the great capabilities with Skydrive, Office 365, our SQL Server Hands-on-lab platform and my own set of Virtual Machines and SQL Databases running on Windows Azure I am now fully transitioned to "a different man".

All my presentations reside on the 64Gb MicroSD card that I have in the Surface Pro, as well as every single installation bit that I have with me.

When disaster happens...

So what were to happen when on one of my events my "hardware decides to give up on me"?

No worries right - every single presentation and recorded demo (Clickthrough or WMV), I also have on Skydrive, my personal Office 365 SharePoint, and a second copy of my microSD Card, or could use any machine to connect to our publicly accessible platform.

How does my laptop and travel kit looks like after the 3 weeks of "slimming down"?

Just like the picture below:

  • Surface Pro (the power supply actually has a USB power out on which i charge my Windows Phone.
  • Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard (nice is that it allows you to connect 3 Bluetooth devices to which you can switch with the stroke of a single key, and that it is battery recharged using the same micro USB as my cellphone)
  • Microsoft Wedge Mouse Bluetooth (tiny, efficient, and even works on a hotel bed blanket and virtually any surface area)
  • A new leather laptop bag (I ordered from eBags and actually decided to pick a laptop bag that had the right dimensions to fit an iPad or Surface Pro)
  • Kingston 64 MicroSD


Some things to consider:

I switched to Surface Pro as my primary laptop, and the both the hardware and software truly do it for me.
Both at home and in the office I connect the Surface Pro to an external monitor that also supports 1920x1080, and I even hook it up using HDMI to connect to our 46" flatscreen TV at home.

Bring it on iPad, MacBook Air...

The iPad never did it, and actually never will do it for me when it comes down to being able to use it as a business professional.
I have full Office 2013 installed on Surface Pro including our latest tools and add-ins such as Data Explorer, a local instance of SQL with sample databases, a full blown Visual Studio 2012.
From a disk space perspective I currently have a about 58Gb available from the 128Gb Surface Pro version.

Did I ever consider a MacBook Air? sure - but 2 things that didn't do it for me would be the need to fully reinstall the software, or go virtual when it comes down to running Windows 8.
I would still have to keep an Apple OS in order to be able to perform BIOS updates or firmware flashes (are you seriously kidding?).
Also a MacBook Air would not give me any of the touch capabilities, the ability to disconnect the keyboard from the screen and so on.

The Surface Pro is joined to my corporate domain so I can easily use remote access.

What I actually didn't expect that would happen...

I personally didn't expect that I would be able to fully switch to a Surface Pro as my primary and only laptop. (I do keep the W520 aside in order to support the offline creation of VMs prior to sending it to our datacenters, but typically build the majority of those directly on our lab center or on Windows Azure).

Over the past week I presented at a SQL Server User Group, only using the Surface Pro to present from (including AlwaysOn demos), and also used it in the live presentation with thousands of attendees at www.certifiedcareerday.com (watch those recording, especially if you are interested in any Microsoft Certifications)



The final weight

After putting my laptop bag packed with everything I need for a trip this Monday to Amsterdam for the week, I am now downsized to 5.1 pounds (that includes the bag actually).
Not only does that make travel much easier, it also significantly reduces the risk for me to "leave something behind in the hotel" or simply get something stolen from my bag thanks to the single lock I can apply to the inner zipper of my new laptop bag.



As Microsoft Employee, people might thing I am leaning towards Microsoft technology and devices.
From a software perspective, I always struggled with the Apple OS's and remember my frustration when I had my first G4 now quite a couple of years ago, supporting one of my customers when I was still an OEM system builder and system integrator in Belgium.
The choice to switch and reduce my laptop footprint, reduce the amount of stuff I travel around with was rather a personal choice on which I decided to justify and decide what works for me.
When I decided to opt for the Logitech Keyboard for example, I basically made my selection on feature and found great use out of the illuminated keyboard and chargeability using micro USB, the connectivity with 3 devices.
I've been a Mac user in the past, but haven't been religiously attached to any hardware vendor like some of the Apple centric fans are.
My car still has an original iPod U2 20Gb build in, as I bought that when it was released now many, many years ago, but I also have a connection for my Windows Phone (using a standard jack) to play all of my music.


Written by Dandy Weyn - www.ilikesql.com - twitter: @ilikesql