Seagate RMA Experience 2015

I’ve been using a Seagate STCA4000100 USB3.0 4TB external drive for a few years now. I noticed the transfer speed slowed down to about USB2.0 speed. I plugged it in to different computers, ports, and even bought another cable. It didn’t solve the issue. I ended up contacting Seagate support via email. After a few exchanges in messages, they want me to RMA it and get it replaced. They informed me that the model no longer exist so they’ll be replacing it with the newer version. So I wanted to document my experience with Seagate’s RMA so I can share with others.

2015-02-04

I created a new RMA request found at http://www.seagate.com/support/warranty-and-replacements/. You will need to provide the serial number. This will be checked against their system to see if the product is still under warranty. My warranty doesn’t expire until May 2015.

You will have to chose from three different shipping method.

  1. Standard RMA: You will need to ship the item first and pay shipping to them. They will ship back a replacement at their cost.
  2. Ground Advanced Replacement (US & Canada only): They will ship you the replacement first at their cost. Once you receive it, place the broken drive and ship it back using the same box – so don’t tear it open. Shipping cost will be your responsibility. You will need to provide a valid credit card. A $1 temporary authorization will be placed to ensure the return of the broken hard drive. If not returned in a timely manner, they will charge $200 fee for an asset recovery fee. It’s recommended that you include tracking with your shipping.
  3. Premium Advanced Replacement (US & Canada only): For $9.95, it’s the same as option 2 but faster. The cost to ship back is also included.

You can find more information at http://knowledge.seagate.com/articles/en_US/FAQ/202271en?language=en_US#8. I chose to go with option 2.

2015-02-05

I received an email notification that the label has been created.

I tried to use Seagate Seatools to format the contents of the hard drive, but it only has diagnostic tools. I believe the DOS version has the formatting tools but I didn’t want to go through the hassle. I ended up using my Macbook Pro’s Disk Utility to format the drive. I used the Zero Out Data option – only 1 pass. That format took close to 48 hours. I much prefer to do the 3 pass but I’m sure that would’ve taken several days, probably close to a week. I’m not sure if it’s because it was done on a laptop (late 2011 model with Sandy Bridge i7) or it was on USB2.0 speeds. Although it is 4TB and to write out bit by bit will take a long time.

zero out data

It took close to 48 hours to complete.

2015-02-06

The replacement drive arrived. It came from East Rancho Dominguez, CA. I guess that’s why it arrived so quickly since it’s headed in the same state, so your time of delivery may vary.

safe shipping

Seagate’s packaging with lots of foam.

The drive is packaged well. The inside is fully foamed, even the cables. It came with the AC adapter and USB3.0 cables. The drive is recertified and the model is SRD00F2. It looks like a newer version of what I have – but it’s recertified. I’m assuming this Amazon product is what I got http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Expansion-Desktop-External-STBV4000100/dp/B00BFFQN3M.

I plugged it in to a USB3.0 and transferred some files to check the speed. This is what transferring in USB3.0 should be like.

usb3 speed

USB3.0 transfer speed

I will be sending off the old drive and updating this post once the next steps happen. So far the experience has been good and no surprises.

Aida64 Extreme

I recently built a new PC on the X99 platform. Now I’d like to run some benchmarks. What should I use? My search lead me to Finalwire’s Aida64. I’ve heard of the tool before. Many of the bloggers and Youtube users I follow use it. I now have a reason to use it. I first started playing with the trial, but ended up getting a license. Some of my screenshots will have “Trial” watermarks to show limitations of the trial versus a licensed copy.

Interface

The interface itself is intuitive. I myself don’t do much benchmarking on a regular basis nor am I highly experienced with it, but the interface is not intimidating at all. In fact, it felt just like any other software. I was able to find things as well as things I didn’t even know it could do.

main window

Main Window

On the left you have two tabs. The menu and favorites. They are pretty much self-explanatory. Each section in the menu has a triangle to expand and reveal additional features. On the screenshot above, I am displaying the CPU information under the Motherboard menu. Here it shows different attributes of my CPU. I used to have to install CPU-Z to get such information, now I don’t have to since it’s included with Aida64. Also in the screenshot, you will notice that not all the information is available during the trial but you are still given a lot of functionality.

preferences

The Preferences window show above uses the same layout as the main window. As you can see, you can customize many different settings and behavior of the program.

Benchmarks

So what exactly does Aida64 do? Well, it’s a benchmarking software. The software sends instructions to the computer and it measures its performance with a score. The scores are then used to compare between different systems. You normally would want to run the same benchmark a few times and calculate the average. Now these benchmarks are synthetic and may not represent “real world” experiences. Here are the different benchmarks you can do with Aida64.

types of benchmark

Benchmarks

I normally just use the following.

  • CPU AES
  • CPU PhotoWorxx
  • CPU Queen
  • CPU ZLib
  • Memory Copy
  • FPU Julia

You can read more about each benchmark from their websitehttp://www.aida64.com/products/features/benchmarking. You can display results with other CPU for reference and comparison. You can also just display your result.

results with other cpu

Results with other CPU
individual result

Individual result

Other Benchmark

Aside from running benchmarks on your CPU, it can run benchmarks on your storage, ram, and display. You can access these benchmarks under the Tools menu on top. When using the Disk Benchmark, you are able to run 6 different types of benchmark.

  • Read Test Suite
  • Linear Read
  • Random Read
  • Buffered Read
  • Average Read Access
  • Max Read Access

You can find more information for each benchmark by selecting the “About” on the drop down menu found at the bottom left of the window, right above the list of benchmarks. I tried out the Read Test Suite on both my Samsung 840 EVO and Samsung 830 Series SSD. Below is the result I got. Unless I missed it, but I didn’t find a benchmark for write.

840 EVO VS 830

Samsung 840 EVO VS 830

Under the same Tools menu, you can run benchmark on your memory as well.

Cache & Memory Benchmark

Cache & Memory Benchmark

Finally, here’s a screenshot of the GPU benchmark you can do which is also found under the Tools menu.

GPU Benchmark

GPU Benchmark

System Stability Test

Yes, it can do more than benchmark. You can run the System Stability Test where it will run you computer to its limits to test stability. This is great when you are overclocking or changing bios settings and want to ensure that your components can handle it. I just did a quick 2 minute stress test and took a screenshot of it displaying the statistics. The other tabs actually display graphs.

System Stability Test

System Stability Test

Conclusion

In the past, I had to use many different tools to run different benchmarks and get hardware information. But now I don’t need to. Aida64 does most of what I need. I may still use another benchmark for my storage since I didn’t see it do any writing tests, but for CPU, it does everything that I’m looking for. The amount of details you get with hardware is impressive. The interface is great. The support staff so far have been responsive. I have been in contact with them via email regarding different topics and have received replies in a timely manner.

The version I tried out is 5.00.3300 and the build date is 12/8/2014. I tried it on three different computers, two are running on the X79 platform and the other on X99. You shouldn’t have any issues running it on other Intel platforms or AMD. Just check out their system requirements. You can find this at their product pagehttp://www.aida64.com/products/aida64-extreme. The $40 annual license cost is reasonable for the amount of features you get. If you are a student, they can offer you a discount by providing them some proof of eligibility – usually a copy of your student ID or other proof of enrollment. Just contact them to find out more information.

If you are interested in running benchmarks on your computer, you should try out Aida64 Extreme. As I mentioned, you can run a trial for 30 days with some limitation. It should be plenty of time for you to decide whether you want to buy a year’s license or not. You can download a trial copy athttp://www.aida64.com/downloads. They also offer a discount for the renewal license.

HP Stream 7

Over the holidays, Microsoft discounted the HP Stream 7. I was curious about the device, so I picked one up. The hardware itself isn’t that powerful but it matches the budget price.

box contents

Box contents

Hardware

  • 7-inch HD IPS touchscreen 800×1280
  • Intel Atom processor Z3735G
  • 1GB DDR3L-RS 1333 MHz ram
  • 32GB SSD for storage

It doesn’t sound too appealing but for under $100 it hits the spot. The performance itself surprised me. It actually ran quite well. I’ve always stayed away from Atom processors since I messed around with netbooks. The experience with those were just horrible for me. This tablet ran quite well. Navigating around Windows was pleasing and responsive. Where you’ll be reminded about the low-powered processor is during installation of software. Other than that, the experience is great.

tiles

Windows 8.1 with Bing tiles

It has bluetooth capabilities. I have yet to try that out but I’m glad it’s there if I wanted to use bluetooth peripherals.

It has 1 micro USB 2.0 port and a combo port for headphone and microphone. It can connect to 802.11b/g/n with Miracast enabled. You may want to purchase an OTG adapter if you want to play around with other peripherals. I purchased mine from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GM0OZ4O.

OTG cable

OTG cable

You can use MicroSD cards to add storage space. It is found inside by removing the back panel.

back panel

Back panel
SD card slot

SD card slot

The tablet can be charged via micro USB port. I really love devices with this port because cables are easy to replace and are inexpensive. The cables are included but if you lose them or forget them, I’m sure you have other devices that use the same cable.

Software

The tablet is running Windows 8.1 with Bing at 32bit. It is a full version of Windows 8.1 but notice the reference of Bing in the name. From what I’ve read, this is how Microsoft is able to compete in the low-cost device game. This version of Windows is provided as a free license to OEM manufacturers for devices that are sold under $250. You can read more about it at http://www.howtogeek.com/195934/what-exactly-is-windows-8.1-with-bing-do-i-have-to-use-bing/.

windows 8.1 with bing

Windows 8.1 with Bing can run in landscape
windows 8.1 with bing

Windows 8.1 with Bing can run in portrait

Conclusion

Overall, if you’re looking for an inexpensive device that runs Windows, this could be a winner. Don’t expect to do more than web browsing and some light Office documents. If you’re a student or faculty, you may even get additional discounts off the price. On top of that, you get 1 year of Office 365 access. That alone is valued at about $70. Not a bad package for MSRP of $99.

No restore media is included. There is a hidden partition for restoration. If you want to back that up onto an external media, this is where the OTG cable comes in. Because of the absense of a USB port, OTG will allow you to gain access to one. It’s basically a micro USB to USB adapter. You will need at least 8GB to back up the partition. To be safe, just use a 16GB.

I would like to mess with the OS more. I want to install Windows 10 tech preview and try to dual boot with Ubuntu. Or even wipe out the drive and just run Ubuntu. I’ll post my results once I start messing with it. Right now I’m having issues backing up/restoring the factory defaults. I’d like to ensure this is possible just in case I had to revert back to its original condition.

iPhone 6Plus

I finally was able to pick up a brand new 64GB iPhone 6 Plus off contract and wow it’s pricey. I don’t like contracts, so I have to pay the price. This time I opted to go with a larger 64GB capacity. I filled up my 16GB iPhone 5S quickly with media and apps. I started to hate the experience after that. It’s good that Apple got rid of the 32GB model and replaced it with the 64GB. Overall, the experience on iOS 8.1.2 hasn’t been to bad, nor has the transition from Android 4.4.2 (for a few months) wasn’t difficult either.

What about that size?

I could have gone with the regular iPhone 6 with a larger screen size than my old iPhone 5S but there were features I was after that the 6 Plus had.

  • I wanted 5.5” display size versus 4.7”. I didn’t want a smaller screen coming from the LG G3.
  • I wanted a 1080 (401 ppi vs 326 ppi) display.
  • I wanted the optical image stabilization.
  • Larger battery – 2915 mAh vs 1810 mAh.
  • Landscape mode!

landscape mode

Landscape mode

The size itself isn’t that bad. I’ve always preferred larger phones, as long as it fits my pocket. I didn’t mind. Except for the iPhone 5S, the last few phones I’ve had have been generally big during its release.

  • HTC Sensation 4G – 4.3”
  • Samsung Nexus – 4.65”
  • Samsung Note 2 – 5.5”
  • Apple 5S – 4”
  • LG G3 – 5.5”

For the a over 3 years now, I’ve been using smart phones that have larger than 4” display. So it’s nothing new. I enjoy the larger screen. I spend more time digesting content on my phone, than actually making phone calls. If I do make phone calls, I usually use a bluetooth headset. Also, this phone is thin. I did buy a case that bulked it up again but I’m more concerned about protecting the phone and keeping it in good, functioning conditions. I’ve seen too many iPhones with cracked screens.

iphone 6 plus without case

iPhone 6 Plus before I installed the case.

iphone 6 plus with case

iPhone 6 Plus after I installed the case.

Same old camera?

Many may think it’s the same 8MP camera. Many also believe that the higher the megapixel, the better. It’s true to an extent. Even though the 5S, 6, and 6 Plus have 8MP camera, the 6 Plus is the only one with optical image stabilization (OIS). This enables the phone for faster focusing and less chances to have blurry photos. On top of that, it’s hardware, not software. With OIS, low lit photos come out better. We were in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. I had my LG G3 (13MP) and Abby had her iPhone 6 Plus (8MP). We took some photos at night and the experience and results were far better with the 6 Plus over the G3. This was one huge reason why I left Android once again. Her iPhone 6 Plus focused a lot quicker and the noise (ISO level) weren’t as apparent as the G3 photos. I’ve always been impressed with the iPhone’s photo taking capability and now this solidifies it even more. Unless you plan on printing poster size photos, 8MP is plenty specially on an iPhone. Besides, you’d want to use a camera not a camera phone for that.

Video recording

The iPhone, from my experience, has always given me great results with taking video. It’s amazing that a phone can do such good quality. What I’m excited about is the addition of slow motion video capture. It can capture up to 240fps. I’ve had such a great time with it and I find myself shooting videos I don’t normally do in slow motion.

iOS 8.1.2

At the time of writing this, I’m currently using iOS 8.1.2. It’s been stable compared to the horror stories I’ve read online with iOS 8. I guess they worked out a lot of the major bugs now. I did notice a little lag when waking it up after not using it for awhile. The Reachability (one-handed mode) is a nice touch, though I haven’t used it yet. You access it by double-pressing the home button. It moves the screen to the bottom half of the phone so that you can navigate around the phone with one hand.

reachability

Reachability helps with the bigger iPhone.

Siri

I have noticed Siri being more sensitive. I find myself repeating commands less. The text also appears as you are giving it commands. Another new feature found in iOS 8 is the ability to access Siri by saying “Hey Siri” while it’s plugged in. It doesn’t matter if the screen is off or on. Neat feature that Google has had but now is on iPhones. So far I’ve had mixed experiences. It’s a very quick way to set alarms and reminders accross the room. I just can’t seem to get it to work after successfully doing the first command.

Conclusion

I’ve had the iPhone 6 Plus for a few months now and have been happy with it. Going for the larger capacity is a great decision but cost a lot. The investment is worth it I may have to consider purchasing iCloud. I have been taking more photos and videos and the free 5GB is nearing capacity. Starting at $.99 per month, it seems like a good deal. I could also use Google+ app and store it in my Google account or use Amazon (free storage for Prime members). But for the price, the integration is cleaner.

I have noticed some lag when turning on my phone from standby. Also, with the Verizon network, you still can’t be on a call and browse the internet.

no talk and surf

No talk and surf…

You can enable VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which supposedly allows talk and surf. You can enable it in your settings.

enable VoLTE

Enable VoLTE in your settings.

I have found it to not be available in many areas yet. I hope the coverage improves. It really limits the smart phone’s capability. This didn’t happen when I was using an Android powered phone on the Verizon network. I have also heard from iPhone users with AT&T and T-Mobile that they don’t experience as of late.

If you’re curious about the case, I got it from Amazon. It’s by Cineyo. It protects well and has a kickstand. It’s a nice case but it does make the phone bigger than it already is. You can get it fromhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00QH2D0J8. It comes with a cheap screen protector that does what it’s supposed to do (I’ve had better – has bubbles) and a stylus (I don’t use it).

case with kickstand

My case with a kickstand. It makes the phone bigger than it already is.

Podcast Plans

I’ve been using Youtube to post various video content for several years now. Although I enjoy doing it, I just can’t find enough time to produce content. In the past, I have attempted numerous times to create audio podcast content. I do one or two and never go back to it for a while. I’m planning to try again with the hopes of sticking to the platform.

The plan is to have the podcast be supplementary to this blog. I’d like to do a weekly episode. If content and time allows it, I may do more than once a week. Many of the content I follow on the internet unfortunately uses platform that is not compatible with the iOS environment. For instance, I subscribe to many Youtube shows. I wish there was a way to download episodes for offline viewing just like how podcasts in iTunes have that capability. The reason for offline viewing is to conserve my bandwidth because of the bandwidth caps that service providers place on their customers.

The podcast will primarily be in audio format. I may have some video as well. I will try to integrate it with iTunes so that fellow iOS users won’t be left out. I will also create RSS feeds so that other platforms will be able to get automation enabled.

Like this blog, it exist for fun and it’s a way for me to share. If you have ideas or would like to join me, that would be great. I’d like to build a community of liked interests. Please stay tuned for future episodes. I’d love to get some feedback as well. I hope to get some episodes done during the next few weeks.

podcast

Let’s podcast!

Going back to iOS

In just three months of using Android from iOS, I couldn’t wait to go back to iOS. I’ve been getting a lot of “I told you so” from friends because I went back to Android a few months ago and now I’m back to iOS. Like I said, I am a curious person and from time to time I bounce between the two to see what I’m missing. But my Android experience this time was a bit different. You can read about my LG G3 review here.

First of I’d like to address the limitations that iOS had that made me switch to Android and the solutions I came up with.

  • The bandwidth caps that most cell phone providers give their customers are horrible and doesn’t promote the use of the internet – unless you pay additional cost. I came up with a way to download content locally on to my device before leaving home so that I can access them when away without impacting my bandwidth limitation. In iOS, you are restricted to only using iTunes. It’s a pain and it will only work on one computer – and I use at least two on a daily basis. Solution: Currently we are using 4GB shared between two phones. We easily hit that every month. For $10 more per month, we can increase it to 6GB. Rather than add to an already expensive bill, we chose to watch our use. Recently, Verizon had updated their bandwidth tiers. Instead of increasing our cap by 2GB for an additional $10 per month, they increased it to a total of 10GB. For the situation, I guess this is a reasonable solution and we'll be considering it. I'd rather have unlimited bandwidth but that's another story.
  • For a user like myself, 16GB is no longer ideal. It is very expensive to purchase a larger capacity iPhone.Solution: Starting with the iPhone 6, Apple no longer has a 32GB model. It is now 16GB then it jumps to 64GB. I STFU, ate the additional cost, and got a device that fits my storage needs, haha. If it's truly an important, you have to shell out money.
  • Google Now actually bothered me more than I thought it would. I got mixed feelings using it. Sometimes it was helpful, other times it was creepy.
  • Verizon network still won’t allow data consumption while on the phone, unless you use VoLTE.
  • Multitasking is still limited in iOS, if not nonexistent.
  • Transferring files between devices is still limited. Although with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, you can useContinuity and Air Drop. Unfortunately, it’s only compatible with devices that have bluetooth 4.0 (2012 or newer – my Macbook Pro is late 2011). I can swap out the bluetooth card out of my MBP. The part cost around $70 but I’ll see if it’s worth doing. Some of the capabilities are still there like Messages integration, answering phone calls – those kinds of things.

I’m going to miss having a smart watch. It’s not perfect but it had the “cool” factor for me. Plus I still catch myself checking my regular watch whenever I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I gotten used to it. At this time, I don’t think I’ll be in line or pre-ordering the Apple Watch. Smart watches are great but for the price, it doesn’t do enough. I’ve already sold my Moto 360 so that’s a good thing. I returned the Nexus 9. All that’s left is to sell myLG G3 and I won’t have any Android powered device. I’ll still have a Chromebook though.

Stay tuned. I will have a review of the iPhone 6 Plus that I just picked up.

iPhone 6 Plus VS LG G3

The iPhone 6 Plus will be replacing my LG G3 as my daily driver.

Amazon FireTV Stick

So I recently got an Amazon FireTV Stick. Actually, I got a few of them. Amazon had a really good deal for Prime members, 50% off for preordering it. My whole goal is to find the most flexible, compatible, and inexpensive solution to use throughout every television in the house. This might be it.

Upon opening the box, you will find the device, a micro USB cable, and AC adapter. If the USB port on your TV is powerful enough to provide power to the FireTV Stick, you don’t need to use the AC adapter. If you go this route, you will see a warning that it is recommended to use the AC adapter so that it’s always on and receive updates.

The first time I started up the device (USB powered), I ran into a few problems. It wanted me to log in using my Amazon account but it kept rejecting my credentials. I contacted Amazon support for FireTV Stick. I was only on hold for under five minutes. It turns out, the device needed to be updated. There are some bugs associated with my issue but since it wasn’t using the AC adapter, it didn’t install any updates, even though it checked for updates prior to me entering my Amazon account credentials. So I unplugged everything for a minute and used the AC adapter. This time, it found updates and installed it. After it restarted, I was able to log in with my account.

When you first log in and turn on your Amazon FireTV Stick, it will play an introduction video. You cannot skip the video. It’s kind of annoying and I hope there’s an update that will allow you to skip it in the future.

With kids in the house and having them “accidentally” purchasing apps on our smart phones, I decided to use the parental controls feature. Enabling this, you will need to enter the five digit code set in your Amazon instant video account. If you forgot the pin, you can visit http://amazon.com/PIN and reset it. This pin will be used throughout the environment from viewing content to installing apps – even if it’s free. One of the surprising apps it wanted me to enter a pin is the NBA Gamete app. I guess it’s because of the app rating system.

The only thing you’re able to do is watch off Amazon’s streaming service. For Amazon Prime members, you will be able to access the library included with the service. You can also rent and purchase digital content off Amazon. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, the FireTV Stick comes with 30 days trial. You can also use other providers like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Youtube, Showtime Anytime, and others. I was surprised and disappointed to not find HBO Go. Unsurprisingly, you will not find any Google Play services. For local network content there isPlex support as well. I haven’t tried this yet since I haven’t fully moved to Plex. Many of my media is still usingXBMC (now Kodi). I’ve had issues with Plex transcoding many of my files. These services come in a form of apps. Just install from the list. They should be free. Hopefully, they will add support for HBO Go in the future. I won’t hold my breath on Google Play services – it would be great though.

One thing I noticed is the keyboard layout. When you first turn on the device and enter your Amazon credentials, it is using a keyboard where the keys are in alphabetical order. But when entering account credentials within apps, it will use QWERTY. It’s a minor thing that many may not even notice, but I wanted to bring it up. It may change in future updates if Amazon cared about consistency.

Also, I would review the default settings. Here’s a couple of things to check out.

  • By default “Collect App Usage Data” is on. You can change it under Settings > Applications.
  • In-App purchases are on. You can change it under Settings > Applications > Appstore.
  • The software version during this post is 54.1.0.1.

Here is a list of why the Amazon FireTV Stick has an advatage over Google Chromecast.

  • No need to look for a device to stream from. This is great considering it supports HBO Go. It’s even more flexible with the Chrome browser on your computer since it can stream anything that can be played within the browser. I just didn’t like how unnatural it is. I prefer to have a device that’s a bit more capable without being dependent on another device.
  • The remote control for the FireTV Stick gives it a more natural feeling.
  • It is slightly more expensive but hardware is slightly better (wifi antenna, cpu, and ram). Which is why it is not a streaming device and can work on its own.

CNET has a quick comparison between the Google Chromecast, Amazon FireTV Stick, and Roku Streaming Stick. It also has a nice chart outlining the available service support.

For streaming content at home, I have an Apple TV2, a couple of Google Chromecast devices, a few Amazon FireTV Stick devices, an Amazon FireTV, and a Roku2 😄. I also have a media server running via DLNA. I have yet to find the perfect platform where it has all the services. I also haven’t figure out if I were to go pure digital, which service provider should I buy digital content from. For instance, if I wanted to purchase a license for a movie, should I buy from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play? It’s unfortunate that consumers have to play this game – which is why I haven’t moved toward purchasing digital copies of media yet. I still go the store and buy discs. I am glad that Ultraviolet digital copies come with many movies and hopefully that content is accessible outside of a computer.

With the smaller form factor like we see with the FireTV Stick and its lower price tag, I don’t see why you shouldn’t have at least 1 of the 3 (Google, Amazon, Roku) devices to increase accessibility at home. It is somewhat inconvenient but it increases assurance of compatibility.

DSC08120

FireTV Stick Box
DSC08121

FireTV Stick and remote control
DSC08122

Box contents
DSC08123

Chromecast next FireTV Stick