Microsoft Designer Makes Masterpieces

Posted Posted in Microsoft

Every so often Microsoft launches a program that turns my head. This Microsoft 365 design tool (Microsoft Designer – Stunning designs in a flash) is one of them. Microsoft describes its new Microsoft Designer program as follows: “A graphic design app that helps you create professional quality social media posts, invitations, digital postcards, graphics, and more. Start with your idea and create something unique for you. Microsoft Designer – Stunning designs in a flash“. I was lucky enough to be given early access and my opinion, in a word, is WOW.

You don’t need a Fine Arts degree or design and graphics training to easily create anything from holiday greeting cards to promotional sale flyers. There are templates and even AI (Dalle2) generated images. You can upload your own images from your computer and/or your phone (the app generates a QR code that lets you send images stored on your phone directly to the app).

Want to create a brand for your business and establish an identity? No problem, there are color schemes and typefaces (which you can completely customize).

The Microsoft Designer app supports layers, and some limited animations (mp4 files). I’m impressed with the designs that others are creating; if you follow @MSFT365Designer ( you’ll see examples of what is being done by Microsoft 365 customers.

I’ve been experimenting (and learning just how powerful the app is). Here’s a mini mp4 created by Microsoft Designer:

You can extend the capabilities of Microsoft Designer as well. I used Microsoft Clipchamp to produce this piece as a test:

I wanted a unique Hanukkah greeting to post to Facebook, and I ‘asked’ the AI to generate “chanukah menorah in the style of  Picasso” and the graphic below was among the choices. Yep, that’s a statement graphic, so I quickly added some text and was done.

Microsoft Designer is going to be a VERY popular program among Microsoft 365 customers. I’ve already used Microsoft Edge to “install as app” to keep the app quickly available on my desktop.

Join the waitlist! Head on over to Microsoft Designer – Stunning designs in a flash to get started.


Designed for Surface Accessories

Posted Posted in Surface

I’m often asked “where can I get a USB-C to HDMI cable for my Surface Pro 8 or 9 that will work” or “is there a properly fitting keyboard skin for my Surface Laptop to protect it”. Shopping for Surface accessories on the Microsoft Store for Business/Microsoft Store isn’t always the best way to find the correct video cable or find a skin to protect your Surface keyboard. While the Microsoft Stores have a good variety of accessories, nearly all the items are Microsoft Surface OEM items, made by Microsoft. It turns out that there are a large number of officially licensed accessories, designed for Surface and manufactured by third party vendors. There is a small write up at Licensed Hardware – Designed for Surface Program | Microsoft Learn which provides some information and links to the actual site Designed for Surface Catalog ( where these items are showcased.

The site is well organized and, not only can you search for accessories, but you can access by Device, Category, Industry and Manufacturer.


Tip: Be sure to drill down by category and then by device compatibility. I found a keyboard skin for my Surface Laptop Studio this way (just selecting Decorations and Skins yielded no results).


I found many items that others had recently asked me about, including a Cable Matters 2.5GB USB-C to Ethernet adapter and an interesting dock from Brydge for Surface Pro 8.

I did do a double take when I saw a 65W PD USB-C adapter from Anker for $4490, but when I drilled down, details showed “Only available in Japan (pricing in JPY Japanese Yen)”.

You don’t need to be a commercial or education customer to purchase items from the Designed for Surface site, and I’ll definitely be sending both business and consumer customers here.

My NOAA Doppler Radar Mosaic Imagery App has retired

Posted Posted in News and Stuff, Software

My most successful Windows App, NOAA Doppler Radar Mosaic Imagery has had a great run over the 6 years it has been available in the Microsoft Windows Store.

NOAA has changed their source to a totally different model (they’ve been changing the target date frequently but it looks like it has finally happened). My app used the same sources as Doppler Radar National Mosaic – NOAA’s National Weather Service   (which is also no longer working because the NOAA source used the now dead and discontinued Adobe Flash to power the animations) – the individual sectors lead to pages like New Radar Landing Page (

NOAA’s new implementation is at NWS Radar ( which is a totally different way of viewing this information and  it is interactive  and allows you to specify  your location as opposed to static stations. My advice is to use the new Chromium Edge, find your location and then use the install site as app menu and use it as a replacement. I hope you enjoyed using my app; I also hope that using Edge’s ability to install as app will work for you as a replacement.

To use Edge Chromium to set the NOAA site up as an App, navigate to the new NOAA site at and specify your location. Then select the three dots … on the upper right to open the menu, then Install this site as an app.

If you are a Google Chrome user, select the 3 dots …, then More tools, then Create shortcut.

And if you are a Firefox user, select the three dots … then Use This Site in App Mode

Microsoft Surface bulging batteries continue to anger and frustrate customers

Posted Posted in Surface

The bulging/expanded Surface battery issue has been growing. And it’s obvious that, while Microsoft won’t discuss this openly, that they are well aware of the issue. And trying to close the barn door after the horse has escaped. The issue starts for most customers with a yellowing of the screen which can eventually end up as a battery bulge. Reports of the issue started in November 2017 and it’s obvious from the more than 20,000 views of this thread that this is a problem. Typical of the problem is this post:

Well, I’m having the same issue. My screen is yellowing and the battery is causing the display to bulge making this “premium Microsoft product” unsafe and unusable. 

I contacted Microsoft support who let me know I’m outside the extended warranty period. Which was graciously extended because they know there’s a defect with these.

Support offered me a same generation, refurbished model for CAD $1,000. So, another $1,000 for another Surface Book that will eventually have the same problem.

This issue absolutely needs legal action.  ”

Running a search on Microsoft Communities specific to Surface Book and bulging  reveals multiple threads like where there are over 8600 views and 398 “me too’s” indicating others with the same issue who may not have posted in the thread. In this case, the original poster with multiple Surface Books with this issue writes:

I now have multiple Surface Books (1st gen) that the batteries in the tablet part are swelling and warping the screen.  My Surface Book can’t even close the lid due to the battery being so large.  My screen is bulging out.

We’ve already retired two Surface Books due to the screens peeling off and I have found 2 more where the screens are starting to curve.

We are now looking at replacing all 15 remaining Surface Books due to potential fire hazards.

What a shame.  It was such a nice piece of hardware.”

Microsoft has locked a number of these threads, which results in new threads being created. And there are still customers unaware of the “issue” who start new threads like Carol’s below.

Similarly, Surface Pro 4 owners are reporting this issue. Microsoft IS providing free, out of warranty refurbished Surface replacements for any customer with this issue, but only if within three years of the original purchase date. This would seem to indicate that the expected lifetime of a Surface device is three years and at this point, a majority of SP4 and Surface Book first generation customers are past the three years and fear that the refurbs they would have to pay for would develop the same issue.

So what has Microsoft said and/or done about this issue? states battery expansion does not present a safety concern but also states “you should stop using the device” which seems contradictory, but similar language is used by HP:

Here is Microsoft’s statement:


Microsoft has recently (and very quietly) also introduced functionality for the newest Surface devices called “Lifespan Saver” that claims to reduce the risk of battery expansion. They’ve also added a “Battery Smart Charging” feature that also mentions battery expansion. It is impossible to determine from the release notes in the Surface Update History for Surface devices exactly when this feature was added. But they’ve obviously recognized the issue with battery bulging afflicting Surface Book (original) and Surface Pro 4 owners (yes, a few Surface 3’s and other devices can develop this issue – I’ve had to junk a Surface 3 myself because of this). More and more customers report that, since they are stuck working at home due to COVID-19 work from home scenarios, that they are using their personal Surface devices more than ever before and there are increasing reports of bulging batteries on the MS Forums and elsewhere. Even iFixit has weighed in on this issue

Note that now documents the Lifespan Saver as follows (and the table on the bottom of the page pointedly states this feature is only available for Surface Pro 7, Surface Book 3, Surface Laptop 3, Surface ProX and Surface Go 2):

Battery Lifespan Saver – Battery Lifespan Saver is a feature designed to help protect your battery from the cumulative negative effects of consistent and recurrent use at high temperatures or high states of charge. This feature complements Battery Smart Charging by monitoring battery conditions continuously. If these adverse conditions are detected, Battery Lifespan Saver implements a limited number of permanent reductions in charging voltage. Although this will result in a small incremental permanent loss to battery capacity, it will maximize the total lifespan of your battery by limiting conditions that would otherwise accelerate battery deterioration, significantly reduce battery capacity, or lead to battery expansion.

Also now documented is Battery Smart Charging (but it is unknown as to when this feature was added as it is not specified in any of the release notes in Surface Update History and it applies to all devices except Surface 3):

Battery Smart Charging – Battery Smart Charging is a feature that helps protect your battery from the effects of charging patterns and high temperatures that may accelerate battery deterioration or lead to expansion. Battery Smart Charging is always active and engages automatically to limit battery charging capacity when it detects your device is plugged in for prolonged periods and/or used at elevated temperatures. Battery smart charging is automatically deactivated when the battery is discharged below 20%.

Charles Hill has an interesting theory

When Microsoft figured out that the Battery Smart Charging wasn’t doing what they expected it to do (strike one) they instituted a firmware update called Battery Limit Mode (No one I know ever received notice that this had to be utilized in the UEFI) but this wasn’t done until 2018 which for most of us was 2 years or more from the date of purchase AND more then a year AFTER our warranties expired. AND, they never notified us that these batteries were prone to these types of actions because the Battery Smart Charging wasn’t performing as they thought it should (strike 2).  Incidentally, Microsoft instituted a new battery mode in the newest surfaces which leads me to believe either the Battery Limit Load isn’t working as they thought it would or they are afraid customers would balk at the possibility that once the customers found out they could only charge these batteries to 50% thus degrading the batteries quicker then normal and they wouldn’t buy the product (strike three).  Microsoft conveniently does not supply these documents with their systems AND does not notify it’s customers (remember that registration form you had to fill out the day you registered your Surface?) through any of the numerous means available from the registration forms…email, address, phone call about these problems or the solutions. It’s become a Con game with Microsoft and we the customers who have spent thousands of dollars have become the marks.

He further goes on to say in I dig deeper into this fiasco I am finding more and more about the possible cause of these battery issues. Going over my battery report I am finding something very strange, first I see that for the first 58 weeks using the system I am seeing an average overcharge on the battery of 278 to 314 mWh and this stops once the May 2017 Firmware and UEFI (103.1684.256.0 improves battery life during sleep.and other Surface drivers) updates are installed in June of 2017. From here I can trace the degradation of the battery immediately after each and every Firmware and UEFI update to the day. The worst degradation I’ve noticed is immediately after the Aug 2019 Firmware update (Surface – Firmware – 103.2614.257.0) where within a matter of 2 weeks the mWh dropped from 34972 mWh to 28634 mWh and it has been staying within a few hundred mWh per week since then.  “

The bulging battery issue is NOT unique to Surface devices.

The big difference between Surface and most other devices is that the Surface batteries are NOT replaceable. Most people wouldn’t mind spending $150-200 for a replacement battery, but the out of warranty cost to replace a SP4 or Surface Book per is $599 USD, which is a lot of money to pay for a refurbished device that was released in 2015. The Surface Team actually stated in a Reddit AMA that the battery replacement cost for SP3 was $200 and “If the battery fails during the warranty period, we’ll replace the battery.” And many of the boxes that these devices came in suggest a replaceable battery (by an authorized service provider). I’ve seen this statement on several Surface Pro models myself.

Surface Laptop 3’s Spontaneous Cracked Screens?

Posted Posted in Surface

A growing number of customers on Microsoft’s Answers Forum and Reddit are complaining that their nearly new Surface Laptop 3’s have developed spontaneous cracks in the screen. It appears that these devices are all the non Alcantara variety and are Aluminum only. Customers are posting pictures like the one below showing the issue in Microsoft’s Answers Forum.

Customers state that they did not drop, bang, or mistreat these devices or expose them to extreme temperature swings. So far, Microsoft outsourced forum support has been treating these as individual physical damage claims. For those who spent the extra money on Microsoft Complete, there is better coverage, albeit there is a $49 cost and there are only two “incidents” covered and this counts as one. One customer contacted support and states: “ I am currently waiting to hear back from Microsoft after numerous complaints…. they are taking forever but I finally got someone to admit they were investigating reports of the same issue. They said they had no time frame for a resolution or reply

Reports of this issue are growing. Here’s a partial list of complaint threads:

One customer writes: “ Soon after using it I noticed that the hinge would make a creaking sound when I opened it and the bottom chassis would do so as well when I lifted it applying even the slightest pressure. In addition to hearing the chassis creak, you can feel it flex when it happens.  “

It appears that if you are afflicted with this issue and are able to get to an official Microsoft Store, you may be able to convince the Store Manager to waive charges, as Nightryder21 reports:


Clearly, something is amiss here and the typical silence from Microsoft is deafening. Panos Panay, are you listening?