H4cked Off: Slating the Surface

By Stuart Sumner
08 Jan 2013 View Comments

Computing's copy of the Microsoft Surface tablet has been knocking around the office like an expensive paperweight in recent weeks, largely due to the fact that it has never actually worked. You'd normally expect that a company, desiring positive media coverage, would check that their machines actually work before they send them out for review, but not Microsoft in this case.

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The main problem has been that it immediately throws you out to the ‘Modern' home screen every time you click on a tile.

I really wanted to like it. It looks nice, the screen is responsive, and I'm keen to see something disrupt the two-horse race that the tablet market has become. I'm also a fan of the PC in general. I graduated from the Spectrum 48k, through the Amiga 512k, to the pre-Pentium PCs of the early 1990s, and today's ever speedier variants. Generally, I prefer the power and customisation-potential of PCs to the slicker but stricter alternatives from Apple.

Back to Surface. As well as the tile problem there was a Store problem, and I'm not talking about the general lack of apps when compared to Google Play or the App Store. One thing our Surface does let us do is peruse the Microsoft Store. You can view apps and even select them for download, but that's where the fun ends. It will go so far as to say that apps are downloading, but then just as the progress bar tantalisingly reaches the end, it says an error occurred, and in true Microsoft tradition then furnishes the frustrated user with an unnecessarily long error code.

Why? I don't want an error code. Fine, tell me it hasn't worked, then try again in the background whilst I do something else. Don't just give me a meaningless code that you expect me to look up and troubleshoot. Do I ask you to do my work for me?

Anyway, when you Google the error code you find a Microsoft site offering help to Windows 7 users (no mention of Surface, or even Windows 8), which explains that this code means that the operating system didn't update properly. Helpfully, the site offers a tool for checking the offending code and properly updating it. I went through the process, watching the latest progress bar roll encouragingly up the screen... until it stopped working and presented me with yet another message stating that the process had failed. No further options, no helpful tool. Just failure.

So that's that then is it, Surface? I can only imagine the feathers I'd be spitting if I'd spent my own money on this machine.

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