The TR Podcast 147: Amazon airlifts, 4K goes mainstream, and 290X goes wobbly

The Tech Report Podcast

Date: December 11, 2013
Duration: 1:28:02

Hosted by: Jordan Drake

Co-Hosts: Scott Wasson, Geoff Gasior, and Cyril Kowaliski

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Show notes

At long last, our panelists return with another glorious hour-and-a-half of vocal tech reporting. A large slew of listener mail questions kick off the show. The questions cover everything from hard drive health monitoring to Moore’s law and gaming. Then, we cover some of the latest tech news, including Amazon’s new drone delivery service, John Carmack’s departure from id Software, and the death of Winamp. Finally, Scott takes a deep dive into the question, “are retail Radeon R9 290X cards slower than press samples?”

Send in listener mail, and we’ll answer on the podcast. – jdrake@techreport.com

Follow us on Twitter – ScottJordanGeoffCyrilThe Tech Report

Listener mail/tweets:

Hard drive monitoring? – from Shawn:

“Love the work you and the guys are doing. My question relates to detecting HD errors. I know you can check the Windows Event log but is there any good (and free) way to automatically detect when a HD error occurs (like a bad block) and warn the user? My reason for asking is that I just had a Seagate ST1000DM003 drive go south on me with a bunch of bad blocks but never saw a sign that it was going south since it is mostly used as an archive drive. Luckily I only lost a few files before copying everything off the drive but I don’t want this to happen again. Gsmartctrl doesn’t really work since it says the drive passes SMART (unless I do a specific read test). HD Sentinel does what I want but it costs $$ and really doesn’t make sense for a personal system. So are there any good options available? Thanks for any help you can provide”

Office keyboard and mouse? – from Matt:

“The computers at my office are going to be replaced in December, but we are stuck with the standard wired keyboard and mouse combo from Dell. What keyboards and mice would you recommend for the office setting, primarily with using Excel? I’m assuming that I won’t be able to install any software that enables extra features, and I have no preference to a wired or wireless setup.”

Moore’s law and gaming? – from Mohi:

&quot’Hi there. You guys know Moore’s law right? Every year or in a particular cadence chip makers release new pieces of silicon that significantly outperform their predecessors. Since 2009, We’ve observed exponential graphics horsepower get heaper. Now, we have awesome graphics cards and CPUs that are incredibly fast and versatile.

My question: Why is gaming, as whole, stagnant? I’ve since Crysis through Crysis 3, And it would be a massacre to say there was no innovation. However, I’m not sure that Crysis 3 is that much better looking than the original. Heck I’d say, and I think some may agree that in some ways, the original was better looking. It certainly had better sound. We have had GPU’s that double performance compared to their predecessors, but know game has had a perceptible improvement. I’m not referring to the consoles causing the situation, I’m talking about developers. Have they run out of Ideas? Remember how Half life 2 was a revolution? Why aren’t we seeing those massive leaps anymore? Also, would like to hear gaming discussions back in the podcast. Sorry for the long question, Keep up the great work, and çox sag olun.”

HUMA and Mantle? – from Evan:

“Hi, I have listened to your podcast’s online since the beginning and I love your work, only recently have I begun to chime in on your forums under the name Modivated1 since the recent revelations of HUMA and Mantle.
I haven’t upgraded my system since January of 2009 which will make my system five years old and therefore I plan to upgrade toward the beginning of next year after I get my tax return. My question is, is HUMA and particularly Mantle compatible with currently released cpu’s and gpu’s like the 8350 and the r9 290(x) or will we have to invest in Kaveri based Apu’s to get that advantage? Oh, another quick question if you don’t mind is when is the DDR4 standard going to take effect and should I wait for that release to upgrade? Thanks for your great efforts to stay objective in your reviews, the wonderful layout of your website, your hard a perilous work analyzing various hardware and of course answering my questions.”

Tech discussion:

  • Amazon wants to airlift packages to your doorstep – Read more

    Dell intros 4K monitors; sub-$1,000 model coming soon – Read more

    Carmack to leave id, focus on Oculus – Read more

    OCZ filing for bankruptcy, assets could go to Toshiba – Read more

    It’s official: Toshiba will snatch up OCZ’s SSD business – Read more

    Winamp is shutting down December 20 – Read more

    Are retail Radeon R9 290X cards slower than press samples? – Read more

That’s all, folks! We’ll see you on the next episode.

Comments closed
    • moose17145
    • 6 years ago

    I would also like to point out (as a note to making the 290 even MORE appealing, is that _I_ can overclock MINE stabily to 1ghz and 1500MHz on the memory stable with it mining litecoins 24/7 (almost… I pause mining when I am actually using my computer). I would like to point out that I DO set my fan to a custom profile to 100% fan speed if needed. The fan rarely seems to spin above 60%. Maybe I am lucky, idk, But I also loved my Radeon 7970 GHz Edition I just ebayed for 500 bucks. It did very well too and I also did not find it too be too loud. Even at 60% the fan really does not bother me.

    HOWEVER, and I am going to throw this out there, MY ears may not be the best, I am fairly certain I inherited a bit of my fathers bad hearing (he wears hearing aids now), and I have noticed that as I age I am noticing that I do not hear things as well as I am quite certain I used to. I would like to point out I am only 27 and already noticing this. It makes me worry about the future of my hearing 🙁 And no that was not a joke on how the 290’s fan is ruining my hearing, just honestly stating that the thing seriously does not sound THAT loud to me at 60 – 70%. That being said I also notice I tend to appreciate sound and music in many ways more than others and probably is why I invest in good sound cards and such. I still am holding onto my x-Fi xtreme music because TO ME it seems like nothing else is quite as nice. I am also very hard of eye sight… seriously am looking into lasec.

    That being said as a side convo that is TOTALLY unrelated, has anyone noticed that the sense that you most lack is the one you appreciate the most? especially when others talk about it? I truly sometimes wish I could be annoyed by the supposedly annoying blower the stock 290(X)’s have that everyone is complaining about. Also I wonder how many people who complain about the 290 blowers actually own a 290. When I got my 290 I was a bit worried about how loud the blower would be and then was surprised how I didnt mind it even up to 70%. Not saying I do not think there are much better cooling solutions out there… just… idk I will assume everyone on this site is getting what I am saying. Or at least hope they do.

    • odizzido
    • 6 years ago

    I use explorer to organize my music mostly. c:\music\dark tranquility\we are the void\

    Media players play media for me. They do not do anything else.

    Works perfectly.

      • Philldoe
      • 6 years ago

      Same here. Folder sorting is by far the most reliable and best method rather than the crap media players use. Too many conflicting tag standards that just muck things up.

      • travbrad
      • 6 years ago

      I use both. All of my music is organized in folders then I just search for *.* and put everything in my media player (MediaMonkey). Media players/library programs can do things that Windows Explorer can’t (like smart playlists), and can do them faster. A good media player won’t mess with your files or folder structure at all unless you tell it to.

    • fent
    • 6 years ago

    Im guessing I am an outlier, but I’ve uploaded all my music to the google music service. And even though I have everything in local storage I still just stream it through google play in my browser. Maybe I am just paranoid about making my WD green drive spin up too much, I dont know.

    And with the podcast post, is it possible to add the timestamps for each subject change? Would make it easier to jump through some topics.

      • Milo Burke
      • 6 years ago

      I believe Jordan is having difficulty with the timestamps due to Apple removing features in iTunes. He’s looking for an alternative method. Although hearing you like this feature might encourage him to look with more ferocity. =]

      I use Google Play for on-demand music as well. But I haven’t uploaded a thing to it from my reasonably big library. What is the advantage of uploading music to them if they already have it?

        • fent
        • 6 years ago

        Sorry, I just mean on the post itself have it listed when each segment starts. Then the listener could just manually jump to that time in whatever player they are using.

    • The Dark One
    • 6 years ago

    The Beck song was ‘Beautiful Way’, but I’m not sure what Jordan was singing.

      • jdrake
      • 6 years ago

      Ok – so upon further research – I realize that I was right. It is a song called, “Like Humans Do” but it’s David Byrne…. not Beck.

        • Milo Burke
        • 6 years ago

        Will you be gracing us with a musical performance each podcast?

    • nanoflower
    • 6 years ago

    Both pleased and surprised my first question to the podcast made it in so quickly.

    • glynor
    • 6 years ago

    I’m going to go ahead an plug my own favorite media player: [url=http://www.jriver.com/index.html<]JRiver Media Center[/url<]. Available for Windows, OSX, and now there's even an early Linux version available. If you're looking for something a bit more powerful and flexible than WinAmp, something that is still actually actively developed (they push out new builds essentially every week), and something that isn't completely crap like iTunes... Check them out. Oh yeah, and it does extremely high-quality video playback in the Windows version (they recently hired the developer of LAV, and madshi is a frequent forum contributor there), and has extremely versatile high-end audio support if you're a huge nerd. It isn't free. Of course, they're still in business 19 major versions later, so sometimes you get what you pay for. 😉 PS. I do [i<]not[/i<] work for them. I'm just a fan and a long-time, very satisfied, customer. It baffles me that so many people haven't discovered it yet.

    • jsfetzik
    • 6 years ago

    For drive health monitoring check Acronis Disk Monitor. It looks at both SMART and Windows event data. May or may not be what you are looking for.

    [url<]http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/drive-monitor/[/url<]

      • nanoflower
      • 6 years ago

      Thanks for the suggestion. That works for what I need.

    • mcnabney
    • 6 years ago

    The issue with the 290x was almost predictable. Isn’t it the first of a new generation of GPUs that have a completely variable clock. Previous generations had specific clocks and turbo clocks with anything variable requiring manual adjustment. Hawaii does everything all by itself so superior samples will always perform better.
    Can the driver software allow for a specific frequency selection which could be specified during testing? For example, set a hard OC of 1mhz over advertised clock. It wouldn’t change the performance much, but it would show performance at stock. Then test normally and publish that result as an OC potential.

    • Goofus Maximus
    • 6 years ago

    Those Amazon ROFLCopter delivery drones are just about the dumbest idea I can think of. Think of the damage those propellers could do to someone, if one of those drones malfunctioned during a delivery, and took a dive into a city street/sidewalk. The liability insurance on these things would be so massive, there’s no way it could be profitable.

    Now that I think about it, the NSA may be willing to help defray the costs involved in using these mobile [s<]spying[/s<] delivery platforms.

      • chµck
      • 6 years ago

      Those Ford ROFLcar transport wagons are just about the dumbest idea I can think of. Think of the damage those boxes could do to someone, if one of those boxes malfunctioned during a delivery, and took a dive into a city street/sidewalk. The liability insurance on these things would be so massive, there’s no way it could be profitable.

      Horse drawn carriages ftw.

        • Goofus Maximus
        • 6 years ago

        The difference being the human behind the wheel, and ground transport. The two combine to make this transport cheap enough (per pound of cargo) to weather the costs of insurance and lawsuits. Just barely. 😉

        There will need to be changes in the drone design, such as ducted fans and emergency safety features such as chutes and airbags, before it’s ready for prime time…

    • Dysthymia
    • 6 years ago

    I think you meant to say Geiss, Scott. It sounded like you said Gauss. Ryan Geiss was the author of several notable Winamp visualizations including Monkey, and Milkdrop 1 and 2. He also developed the Geo Forms and Cascades tech demos for Nvidia, and worked with Microsoft to develop the software side of the Kinect in its initial form.

    Edit: That was at about 52:09.

    • pandemonium
    • 6 years ago

    Oh, Winamp. You’ll continue to be my music player of choice even after you’re officially declared dead. You’ve been it for some 15 years and I see no reason to change that. /silentnod

    Geiss! Also, Whitecap and Milkdrop. Most amazing visualization plugins, ever. I remember hooking up my PC to the TV back in the day with a playlist for parties and having those plugins mystify guests. Great stuff!

      • TwoEars
      • 6 years ago

      I still use it! Even use the classic shell!

      It’s minimalist and does the job!

    • Krogoth
    • 6 years ago

    4K hasn’t hit mainstream yet.

    Wait until there’s actual content for it, not just some tech demos. I give it at least two years. 1080p was in the same spot back in early 2000s.

      • danny e.
      • 6 years ago

      The 4K content is the desktop and desktop applications and that is all that is necessary.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 6 years ago

        And games. There are 4K games.

          • ULYXX
          • 6 years ago

          … and then the porn will be 4k.

            • Milo Burke
            • 6 years ago

            No, that will forever be 320×240.

            • moose17145
            • 6 years ago

            LMAO IRL for utter truth…

    • danny e.
    • 6 years ago

    What are these “breast practices” you speak of @ 41:51? 😉

    As per most listeners, I listen always but never typically comment.
    But I’ll take this opportunity to say, well done, all. I do enjoy the podcasts as it’s very nice to be able to listen to while working on other things.

      • Goofus Maximus
      • 6 years ago

      I think he’s feeling like a total boob for saying that… It has to be embarrassing to bobble your sentence in that way. :whistle:

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