Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Scratching The Surface

As mentioned in a footnote in my last post, a while back I bit the bullet and picked up a Surface Pro 3.
I did so despite the fact that earlier in the year I had picked up the 2, had been annoyed at how close on the heels of that purchase Microsoft announced the 3, and being wary of switching from a device with a Wacom digitizer to one with an N-Trig digitizer (I had a really negative experience with N-Trig on an old Tablet PC) and its lower levels of pressure sensitivity.
Mostly because it was a good deal.  Or rather, a couple of good deals.
The first deal that caught my attention was for a 28” 4K monitor bundled with a Surface Pro 3 Docking Station.
I wanted that monitor – especially for that price – but the Docking Station wouldn’t do me any good without an SP3 to dock in it, as, due to the size difference and the different connectors, the SP2 wouldn’t fit in the SP3 dock.
Once they offered $150 the cost of the SP3, I decided to just go for it.  After all, the SP3 was bigger, while being lighter and thinner, had a higher resolution, a better battery life, and by most accounts the N-Trig digitizer worked just fine.  Plus there were some cool additional functions that ne Surface Pen could perform.
As for the lower pressure sensitivity – 256 levels as opposed to the 1,024 of the SP2 – well, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m not really physically capable of utilizing that many levels anyway.
So I ponied up the cash for the monitor/docking station bundle, a Type Cover, and a Core i7 model SP3.
I didn’t go top of the line, as the only differentiator between the two Core i7 models is the amount of storage.  Between cloud services, microSD cards, external drives, and my NAS, I’m not really hurting for storage*, so the penultimate model, with a 256 GB SSD as opposed to the 512 GB of the ultimate version, was the best value proposition.
In due course, my order arrived, I got everything set up, and I was very happy with it.  Happier – owing to the many improvements in form, such as the vastly-improved kickstand – than I was with the SP2.
However, about two or three weeks later I got an e-mail from Adobe.  As a subscriber to their Creative Cloud service, the message informed me, I could take advantage of a special offer:  $479 off the the price of a new Surface Pro 3.
”SON OF A BITCH!” I would have yelled, if I hadn’t been at work when I read the e-mail.  With that much of a discount I could have gotten the 512 GB version and still paid less than what I paid for the 256 GB model and the accessories.
Still, I remained happy with the SP3 itself, though I did consider returning it, then using the Adobe discount, but ultimately laziness won out over parsimony.
Despite that annoyance, everything was going along smoothly until a couple of weeks ago when I brought my car in to the dealership for its regularly-scheduled maintenance.  The only time I could get in for an appointment was during the workday, so I brought my SP3 along with the intention of using the free Wi-Fi to get work done while I waited.
I fired up the SP3 and was presented with a message informing me that no wireless networks were available.
”That can’t be right,” I thought, and confirmed my suspicion by connecting to the available network with my phone.
So I spent most of the time there troubleshooting the network connectivity issue without success.
As a result, I noticed a couple of things that were odd beyond the SP3’s inability to see available networks.

1.  The Surface Pen wouldn’t launch OneNote upon having the top button clicked, which is one of the cool features of the SP3 and its pen
2.  There was no listing for Bluetooth in the Device Manager
3.  There was an “Unknown USB Device” listed in Device Manager with an exclamation point

I was unable to resolve any of these issues – which all appeared to be related – or find much help online.  (The Internet being useless when it comes to finding a solution to a problem?  What are the odds, he asked, sarcastically.)
The couple of forum posts I found for similar issues all pointed to one conclusion:  a hardware problem.  Specifically, a problem with the Wireless Network Adapter.
Even though Device Manager reporting it working fine, this made sense, as the same hardware controls Bluetooth – which is how the Surface Pen communicates with the SP3 – and the “Unknown USB Device” was most likely the Bluetooth component, which probably (I guessed) had an impact on the Adapter’s ability to “discover” available signals, whether Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
After contacting Microsoft support and, eventually, leading them to the conclusion that I had already reached, it was determined that I had faulty equipment and needed to exchange it for a new one.  I could take my chances and drive to a brick-and-mortar Microsoft Store and hope that they had one in stock to replace mine, but the safer option was to ship it to the exchange center and wait.
In the meantime, I’ve busted out the SP2, which has been sitting around waiting for me to figure out what I’m going to do with it.  I have to say that, despite being less than a year old, and having only gone unused for a couple of months, it feels positively archaic in comparison.  And it’s so heavy!
While I’m using it I decided to install the Technical Preview of Windows 10 on it.  I’ll talk more about that in a future post.
In any case, the one thing I want to do is mention this for anyone – and hopefully it’s not a widespread issue – dealing with same problem with the SP3 that I had in a bold, TL; DR version that will hopefully show up in search results.

Surface Pro 3 – Unable to find available networks, no Bluetooth, Unknown USB Device in Device manager = hardware failure and requires a replacement.

I repeat:  If your Surface Pro 3 has no Bluetooth and can’t see available wireless networks, you need to exchange it for a new one.

*Well, I did have some storage issues on my desktop PC, due to having a relatively small C: drive.  I’ve since replaced it with a 256 GB SSD, which is sufficient to house the OS and my applications and a bit more besides.

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