Trying out Ubuntu Gnome

This year for Lent, I gave up playing video games. Since the only reason I keep Windows around is for video games, I wanted to challenge that. I have an old Intel i7-2600K computer I was no longer using and decided to install Ubuntu Gnome. This is not my first time using Linux. I’ve used many different Debian-based distribution with virtual machines. I enjoy using it for development and daily tasks. So here we go.

Hardware

Here’s the hardware I’m running.

  • Intel i7-2600K
  • Asus P8Z68-V Pro motherboard
  • 16GB (4x4GB) G.Skill DDR3 1600MHz ram
  • OCZ Vertex460 240GB SSD
  • Western Digital WD10EAVS 1TB HDD

I’m using dual monitors.

  • Asus VH238H 23” monitor as the main display plugged in through HDMI.
  • Dell E2414H 24” monitor as the secondary display plugged in using DVI.

I first tried VGA but the resolution was horrible. I’m also using the IGP and not a discrete video card. I did notice some lag when resizing windows. Not sure if it’s driver related or hardware limitation. I have an eVGA 470SC and 550Ti video cards lying around. I could try either one of those but I want to try using the OS as a main PC first before investing more configuration time on it.

I know some of the hardware is a bit extreme but those are just old hardware that’s sitting around, might as well use it.

gnome overview

Gnome Overview

Installation

I used Rufus to create my bootable USB. I used the ISO and installation instructions fromhttps://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGNOME. Installation has gotten better over the years. Hardware compatibility has improved as well. I didn’t have to install anything after the OS was installed. I’m sure if I had a discrete video card, I would have to do some extra things. Otherwise, I booted to the desktop and all is well. Now that’s true “plug and play”.

Peripherals

I’m using a Logitech G710+ as a keyboard and a Logitech G500 mouse. As expected, they work without any issues. The keyboard programmable buttons functionality won’t work without additional software. This is my main keyboard and love the mechanical keys so I’m using it. The mouse side buttons work for the most part where the default action is to move backward and forward through the browser.

It detected my Brother MFC7860DW over the network and installed the drivers. I won’t be able to use the double-sided feature until I install Brother’s Linux drivers though.

Software

There are a couple of things I installed to help me move in.

  • Tweak tool – allows me to modify themes, fonts, etc.
  • Thunderbird – email client
  • Sublime text – text editor
  • Spotify – I need my music
  • Handbrake – just in case I need to convert videos
  • Kazam – Screencast and Screenshot software. Works well and has support for h.264 codec out of the box. One weird thing I noticed so far is it doesn’t seem to save the file location when I enable auto save. The default values for screencast is Videos in your home directory and the screenshots are saved in your home directory.
  • Variety – I like my wallpapers to change ever so often. This seems to be what people suggests but it makes my system freeze for a few seconds – and it happens frequently. After I quit out of the application, my system runs fine. I may look for something else.
  • Remarkable – Markdown text editor, it lags a little as I type, otherwise it’s a handy editor.

Conclusion

I’m normally on OS X so the transition isn’t too bad. I’m comfortable with Terminal and enjoy it, for the most part. It’s only been a day and a half. I will be generating content from Ubuntu nad posting it. Let’s see how that feels. I’m sure it’ll be similar to OSX.

X99 Desktop

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I built a computer, a hexacare at that. Back in 2013 I built one off the X79 platform. I didn’t want to build off the X99 platform until price on DDR4 has gotten better. But after the holidays, I came upon a few extra bucks so I decided to build one. You can check out my X79 build here. Here are the parts I used for the 2015 X99 build. You can visit my PC Part Picker page. Below I break down the parts I used.

CPU

I was torn between the Z97 and the X99 platform. More particularly, it was between the Intel i7-4790K and the Intel i7-5820K. It was a tough decision since Microcenter is selling the 4790K for $250 while for $50 more, you can get the 5820K. Sounds like a great deal but where the price difference gets offset is the price between DDR3 and DDR4. DDR4 ram is outrageously priced at the moment. Fortunately, there were a few deals going on during this build. So what are the differences between the two processors? Well, below are the differences I considered.

Intel i7-4790K
(1150 Devil’s Canyon)
Intel i7-5820K
(2011-3 Haswell-E)
Base Speed 4GHz 3.3GHz
# of cores 4 6
Cache 8MB 15
TDP 88W 140W
PCIE Lanes 16 28
Memory Channel 2 4

What I listed above are not all the differences, but the ones I considered. You can view the comparison chart from Intel at http://ark.intel.com/compare/80807,82932.

The price difference, number of cores, number of PCIE lanes pretty much solidified my decision to go with the 5820K.

Motherboard

The next part is the motherboard. I originally wanted my next build to be a smaller form factor so I looked into MATX (Micro ATX). Out off all the available motherboards in MATX, ASROCK was the only one (as of January 2015) that has the most features. Asrock has 2 boards – X99M Extreme4 and the Fatal1ty X99M Killer. Compared to the motherboards from other manufacturers, these two from Asrock come with dual gigabit ethernet ports, 10 SATA3 6Gbps ports, and M.2 port.

I chose to go with the Fatal1ty X99M Killer motherboard for two reasons:

  • The Killer NIC is suppose to reduce network latency when gaming. I haven’t experience much lag when gaming so this should improve what I’m already getting from good to better, in theory.
  • I like the color scheme of the motherboard.
Asrock X99M Fatal1ty

Asrock X99M Fatal1ty

Power Supply

Next was the power supply. I wanted to get a larger power supply than what I’ve used in the past. I wanted to get around 1000W just in case I wanted overclock and add more hardware. I had my eye on Corsair. I’ve used many in the past. Not only have they been realible, but they are quiet. I almost settled for the Corsair RM1000 with Gold certification and fully modular. What made me go with the EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W G2 instead is it uses Japanese caps. Surprisingly, the Corsair didn’t. The length of the power supply is longer than the average, so be aware of this when using it in a smaller case.

Memory

I would have loved to go with 32GB quad-channel for the ram but it’s so expensive. I settled with 16GB. I also looked for 2400MHz that can be overclocked a little bit if I wanted to. Originally, I went with the Node 804 case so I had to consider the space between ram with heatsink and the CPU heatsink. I ended up looking for ram without a heatsink. So the ram I went with is the G.Skill F4-2400C15Q-16GNT (4x4GB). I’ve used G.Skill ram often in the past and it works flawlessly.

Heatsink

Ever since I started using closed loop water cooling, I’ve always used Corsair. This time was no exception. I went with the H100i. My previous X79 build I used the H80i. It’s a bit louder for my taste but I’m thinking it may have something to do with the stock fans. This time I swapped out the stock fans with the Noctua NF-S12B. It is an improvement from the stock fans and runs at 1200RPM.

Video Card

I didn’t buy a new video card since my last one still works great. I have an EVGA 03G-P4-3788-KR GTX780 Classified. I took it from my X79 computer and replaced it with a MSI GTX 660 Ti Twin Frozr. This was the upgrade from my old EVGA 470SC. Then I upgrade from the 660 to the 780. Great card overall. Handles all the games I play at ultra settings without any issues. I may skip the 900 series from nVidia and see what AMD will come out for their 300 series cards. I’m also curious about FreeSync. G-Sync is a bit expensive right now. Either way, I’m due for a monitor upgrade soon.

Case

Because I went with a MATX form factor, I also wanted to use a MATX case. I went with the Fractal Design Node 804. This is a cube design case that uses two compartments to separate components. One compartment is where the motherboard sits. You can also mount up to two hard drives on the bottom of the case, below the motherboard. The other side is where the power supply, two drive bays (up to eight 3.5” hard drives), and the cable management. After building inside this case, I ran into some quality control issues. A few screw holes got stripped and the wiring for the power button didn’t work in a consistent matter. I also felt cramped while doing my build so rather than RMA and get the same case, I just returned it for a refund.

Fractal Design Node 804 - Motherboard Side

Fractal Design Node 804 – Motherboard Side

All my components fit. The video card I used is an EVGA GTX780 Classified. As you can see from the picture above that it fits. The Corsair H100i also fits.

I still went with Fractal Design but this time I went with the Define R5. My X79 uses the Define R4 and I loved it. Why not build another one with the newer version of the case. I will post more once I get the R5 and move in.

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.