My Surface Story – Doing More with Less

My Surface Story – Doing More with Less

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‘My Surface Story’ is a new monthly series we’re kicking off on the Surface Blog. It will feature the stories of real people using Surface as they work, play, and travel. The posts will be written by Surface users, and we’re excited to see the many ways that Surface lets people ‘click in and do more’. First up in our series is Philip De Rop (@phderop) who shares with us how his Surface Pro has truly become the one device he needs whether he’s on the road or in the office.

Philip De Rop is a Quality Assurance Manager at Arkieva, a supply chain software company. He is based in Belgium and travels frequently to Arkieva’s headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. Philip manages a team of software testers, plans test cycles, and is an active software tester himself. Testing is like solving puzzles to him. As a technology and software enthusiast Phillip always enjoys the exciting features new hardware can bring.

Two months ago:

Here I was queuing at Newark Liberty International Airport to go through customs with my heavy laptop bag over my shoulder.  While still in the line, I started untying my shoe laces and removed my belt and watch.  When I finally reached the trays, I needed about 3-4 trays, 1 for my laptop, 1 for my iPad, one for my shoes and belt and one for my coat.  My laptop bag does not go in a tray.  People started staring at me, because I took up too much space.

Next I went to the lounge, an advantage for frequent travelers.  Here I take 2-3 power outlets, one for my laptop, one for my iPad and one for my phone.  People stared at me, because I took up too much space and too many power outlets.

On the plane I took out my iPad, because the laptop is to big too work on (14 inch).  I put it in airplane mode and noticed that I couldn't use my Bluetooth keyboard. Airplane mode means no Bluetooth. I had to take my iPad out of its case, keyboard is in a case.  Put the case somewhere on my neighbors lap and then put the iPad flat on my little tray table. The display keyboard takes up half of my screen and writing is difficult.  Then the stewardess arrived with drinks. I had to put the iPad on my lap, hoping not to spill my drinks on it.  People stared at me, because I took up too much space.

Since I have my Surface Pro:

I no longer need my iPad, which saves up a tray at the customs at airports. My laptop bag became a lot lighter.  Now people stare at me when I unpack the Surface.  I see them think, how can he work using only that small tablet? 

In the plane I can still use my keyboard in Airplane mode, so I don't have to get rid of it.  People stare at me because I take up so little space.

In the lounge, I plug in the Surface charger and charge both my Surface and my Windows Phone with it.  People stare at me, because they can't believe I need so little space and only 1 outlet. I guess they knew me from before.

In the office, my Surface Pro has fully replaced my laptop.  I couldn't believe the performance of that little machine.  As a tester I have the following software running on my machine: Microsoft Visual Studio Team Explorer for bug reporting, Microsoft Test Manager for creating and running test cases, our software which is a Supply Chain Software Suite handling a lot of data and using a lot of computing power, Microsoft SQL Management Studio, Jing for capturing and sharing issues with the software, Xmind to map functionality and to follow up test coverage.  Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer and Excel.  And a virtual machine that runs our software our software in a Windows 7– Internet Explorer 9 environment.


I have hooked up two 24 inch screens to display all the above, through a Targus USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Station.  With my laptop, I had to close my lid and could not use the laptop screen. Now I even have access to the Surface Touch screen. A full size keyboard and mouse are linked to the docking station. Why would I ever need an iPad again?

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  • Belralph
    1 Posts

    I typically try to use docked laptops for workstations even if they never get undocked so I've been very interested in trying this with a Surface Pro especially running multiple monitors. As it happens I had a similar Targus dock left over from another project so after I saw this article  I setup my own test with dual 24 inch monitors along with full size keyboard and mouse and it worked great.

    Maybe one day there will be dedicated Surface Dock but having a single USB 3 connection is pretty easy and the way people complain about MS "monopoly" leaving the docking solution to third parties on a standard interface might be the way to go. It would be very cool if the USB port on the Pro charger could put out 6.5 Amps, then we could toss the power brick for the Targus dock assuming of course Targus came out with a USB to PS power cord (hint).

  • SirRDS
    5 Posts

    Is this where you leave your Surface stories? Or, do you have to do it on FaceBook & Twitter?

  • Ianb
    1 Posts

    I love seeing these blog entries.

    I have got but one problem with my Surface Pro.

    I can't buy one in Australia!

    When will I be able to do so?

    1 Posts

    "Surface Pro will launch before the end of May in Australia."

  • Ralexand56
    1 Posts

    2 things: It's a shame you guys don't use Microsoft ID for login and its also a shame you guys don't do your own docking solution where a user could just slide the Surface Pro into a slot and just go to work.  3rd party solutions aren't nearly as elegant.  Don't you want my money?

  • piskowk
    1 Posts

    "People stare at me because I take up so little space." Or they are wondering why your iPad is so large

    1 Posts

    I guess people who carry an ipad for playing games an use there tablet as a status symbol but have no real functional work needs from there device would think that, but working people would probably recognise the serious business software that was being used and be envious of the productivity gains.

    But yes it would be overkill if all you use your tablet for is Angry Birds.

  • pdsteele
    1 Posts

    This is really what the surface pro marketing should be about! The feature set on paper, while competitive, is not the impressive part about the SP. The impressive parts about the SP are how it changes the way you approached similar use cases in the past.

    This post discusses how airline travel is easier. I find as a teacher/grad student that taking/sharing/creating notes, lectures, and solutions is more fun, intuitive, and well organized. I went from carrying several notebooks and binders full of unorganized single-colored junk to having color coded, searchable, and logically organized notes. Alternatively, as a novice web developer, it's awesome to test out responsive layouts by simply rotating to portrait mode. It's also awesome to quickly screenshot a feature, draw notes all over it, and be able to share those ideas with teammates - all within a single piece of software.

    This is what has sold me on my SP, and what will keep me in the convertible tablet market for future purchases. Market these kinds of experiences - not dancing and beatboxing. Otherwise, people fail to understand why it is worth spending $1k on what looks like a big tablet/gimped laptop.  

  • lbastie
    13 Posts

    Good story!

    It is a shame the Microsoft Store (online and physical) don't sell the Targus docking station. It is a must have.

  • I would like to know about the docking station, also.  I don't need dual video, but I would like a docking station to plug in monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers.

    1 Posts

    Read my comment below.

  • beto
    1 Posts

    I have the same setup at home with my pro.  I am using the Toshiba DynaDock PA3927U1PRP (link below) docking station.  I have one monitor on hdmi and one on dvi and am still able to use my pro as my touch interface.  I had absolutely no problems on setup.  I might have had to install a driver, but I can't remember for sure. What I liked about the DynaDock is that it has 4 usb 3.0 ports and 5.1 surround sound audio.

    I have Visual Studio 2012 and SQL Server 2012 installed on mine and I have had no issues developing applications the same way I used to on my laptop.  I have not noticed any lag whatsoever in performance.  I assume that the SSD picks up any slack I might have felt otherwise with just 4gb of RAM.

    1 Posts

    This is the dock that I have.  While I remain optimistic about it's potential, right now the Windows 8 Display Link drivers are buggy, and video performance is disappointing.  Until these issues get sorted out, I prefer to use MiniDP out over the Dock's video out.  So right now, it's just an expensive USB 3.0 hub+audio out+ethernet adapter.

    1 Posts

    Spasm, you must have set yours up incorrectly somehow. I have had zero issues with mine.  I am a full time .NET developer and use it 7 days/week.  Display drivers work without a single problem.  Like I said, I have a dual screen setup and still use my surface's screen as a third display just like the picture above.

  • what is the exact model number of the Targus USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Station. I want one from amazon but they have several.

    1 Posts

    This is the one I bought : It's the one without the power options, because the Surface power connection is not (yet) supported

  • JPR7
    1 Posts

    I have a USB 3.0 docking station from a company called "Plugable".  It works fine but is only single video.  The Targus looks to be a great option.

    Two questions:

    1. With the "Plugable", the DisplayPort drivers are required.  Assume this is the case with the Targus?  If so, there is (was?) a Win8 issue with playing downloaded Xbox Video content when the DisplayPort drivers are installed.  I found this out in an airport.  Uninstalling the drivers did the trick, but this would be a nightmare if I were to travel somewhat frequently.

    2. The article didn't mention the desktop scaling issue when moving from "undocked" to "docked".  Did you settle at 125% or do you switch the scaling each time you undock?

    Thank you for a great article!

    1 Posts

    You are right, I have to scale the font size again when I undock.  When docked I set it to 100% and only use apps on my surface screen.  When undocking I have to reset it to 150%.  Indeed an issue that can be improved

  • ggosling
    1 Posts

    Well that resolves one question I had about hooking up a pair of large monitors to the Surface. Can I ask is one driven off VGA and the other DVI? I'm assuming it's something like the Targus ACP70?

    Looking forward to availability in Ireland now :)

    1 Posts

    The Targus docking station that I use, has an HDMI and a DVI port, but it comes with 2 convertors: 1 HDMI to DVI and 1 DVI to VGA.

  • Ian Dixon
    7 Posts

    I tend to leave my laptop at the office and use my Surface RT when travelling, I VPN in to the office and remote control the PC if I need something on it but most of the time the Surface RT does the job. The extra battery life means you don't need to plug in the RT so no power sockets needed.

    At CES in January I covered all the press events, live blogging on  and posting the images from the Surface RT and never needed to worry about a plug socket. In previous years I would habe been hunting round for a socket.

    Plus there is no need for a device like an iPad if you have the Surface.

    I just wish Microsoft would put them in more stores in the UK like PC Word/Currys so people can play with them.


  • iansdigby
    1 Posts

    Here is as good a place as any to express my thoughts, whilst directly related to the above. I want Microsoft to succeed with the Surface. There is a lot of affection out there for the company. In my case, I shall be retiring soon and must thank Microsoft for giving me a substantial part of my entire career. With Excel/VBA in particular, coupled with its freely available technet resources; superb user-friendliness and reliability, a great many others have MS to thank for rewarding and satisfying careers. It seems, consciously or otherwise, that MS shines in taking established concepts and just doing them better, and more accessibly, than everyone else. So bravo, Microsoft, may your excellent tablet/PC succeed.

    1 Posts

    As a student and a bike commuter who used to have a couple thick notebooks  textbooks loading me down, I have gained so much freedom with the Surface Pro. The device has nearly replaced my desktop as well. I enjoyed reading Philip De Rop's story, and I would like to write my story to enter into this blog series. How may I go about this?

    1 Posts

    Whoops, didn't mean for that to be a reply of your post iansdigby. So I'll post it out here instead:

    As a student and a bike commuter who used to have a couple thick notebooks  textbooks loading me down, I have gained so much freedom with the Surface Pro. The device has nearly replaced my desktop as well. I enjoyed reading Philip De Rop's story, and I would like to write my story to enter into this blog series. How may I go about this?

    1 Posts

    PLEEEASE do an elegant docking station for the pro, please take a little more of my money. I have been using tablets since the HP TC1001, and for the first time with the pro I feel the promise is complete

    Great power, even for gaming, finally I can take my diablo 3 and arkaham city anywhere any time

    Another accessory could be an external keyboard+battery, even could be one that help with lap/bed computing

    I really don't mind the extra weight compared to an ipad, of course is heavier, but never has stopped doing anthing... perhaps long time ipad lovers just cant lift anything with their hands....

    Finally as a game developer, this is also a great tool, I can boot visual studio compile and test all my 3d xbox360 projects! that's power!

    The only con for the pro? Surface PRO 2 will be INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!  and of course the speakers are ***...