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MacBook Pro Video Problems Solved

I’ve posted about this a few times on this site and now I feel like a fool for not discovering the problem sooner.     I’m not 100% certain if the issue is an HP monitor issue, a cable manufacturer issue, or and Apple hardware/OS/firmware issue.   All I know for certain is that a couple different brands of cell phones will cause my monitors to lose video signal and “flicker” on/off or show video artifacts.     Sometimes the video loss runs in cycles as fast as 1-second on/ 1-second off.  Sometimes the monitors power off for minutes-at-a-time.     Sometimes I just see horrible bands of pixelation run horizontally or vertically on the screen.    In many cases OS/X starts logging all kinds of video events in the system logs, but I am certain that is a side effect of a video data error that is not being handled as well as it could be.

At the end of the day the problem is easy to fix.   Move my cell phone away from my monitors.

Turns out that ALL THREE of my phones, an older HTC Incredible, a newer HTC Incredible 4G LTE, and a brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 all cause the problem.    It also turns out that the problem varies in intensity based on the lunar cycle and its alignment with the solar winds or some other cosmic crap like that.     What I do know is that when the problem starts my productivity goes to hell and as I can never guess when I can see my code or my browser.

For some reason the electro-magnetic fields (EMF) from the phone are causing all hell to break loose on the displayport video communications to/from the monitor.   That causes a cascade of problems which inevitably results in a monitor powering off or a black screen where video should be.     After multiple red herrings, running down innumerable rabbit holes, and even going so far as to not only swap video cables and monitors but also a brand new MacBook Pro,  the real issue is basic electro-magnetic interference and the solution is as simple as “move my cell phone”.

Here is the recap I sent to Apple Support today regarding the issue.   Hopefully someone will stumble across this online and save themselves some headaches as well.

 

Apple Support Communication

I finally figured out the monitor flicker, power cycle, and pixelation artifacts problem with my monitors after MONTHS of dealing with the issue.

This is really crazy, but it is without-a-doubt what is going on here:

PROXIMITY OF CELL PHONE TO VIDEO HARDWARE

I haven’t yet narrowed down the issue to exactly what the root cause is, but here is what I know for a fact:

1) This happens with my older HTC Inredible 4G LTE phone.
2) This happens with my new Samsung Galaxy S5 phone.
3) This happens ONLY on displayport but HDMI does not appear to be impacted.

4) The problem appears to only happen with the phone is within 5cm of the monitor end of the displayport cable.

5) The problem happens on the HP ZR2440w monitor and other HP monitors using DisplayPort as well as a Samsung monitor using DisplayPort  (I no longer have that monitor, wish I could re-test).

6) Portrait or landscape mode was a red herring.

7) I could not reproduce the issue by placing the phone near (even touching) the MacBook end of the displayport cables.
After 5 days of trying to capture the behavior with my camera-phone and the problem suddenly going away after picking up my phone it finally came to me.      Move the phone back and TOUCH the display cable… bam powers off the display like a wireless power switch.     Move it away, pixelation, then the monitor comes back on.

I then tested the FIRST displayport as I have only seen this happen on the 2nd displayport (furthest from power port on the MacBook) and like magic the first monitor turned off as soon as I touched the phone to the cable.

After multiple tests I’ve learned that I need to just be close to the cable (it is not a physical cable connection issue, verified that a few times).   Within 1-2cm the monitor powers off 60% of the time.   Within 2-5cm the monitor may power off (10% of the time) or display pixelation artifacts or the notorious “ants” problem (30% of the time).

It *may* be the minidisplayport-to-displayport cables I am using, however I have swapped out these cables and at least one set of cables is NOT from the same manufacturer.

To be determined:

a) Is this a cable shielding issue?
b) Is this a monitor build issue?

c) Why does the software react to EMF introduced at the hardware level?   (bad error checking/trapping in the video processing firmware/software?)

Just though I’d share so you can close this ticket and possibly disseminate this information to support channels.     I’m guessing my cell phone is not the only possible source of EMF that can cause external display issues.   Given the number of online posts about similar problems I would venture a guess that more than a few Apple support calls and hardware returns may be related to similar EMF-related issues.

I am very techy and know all about EMF but it never occurred to me that the EMF from my phone would affect a displayport signal to the point of being able to actually power down a monitor IMMEDIATELY.

Good to know what it is.  When I have more time I’ll do more homework and post my findings online.

In the meantime I’m relocating my phone charging cable to not be under my monitors.
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HTC Incredible 4G LTE Drivers

No matter what I tried I could not get my new HTC Incredible 4G LTE to show up on my Windows 7 (64-bit) system.   I found a TON of posts and sites, mostly spam sites, giving me advice or trying to get me to install something I didn’t need.    At the end of the day the solution that worked is ridiculously simple.

How I Got Win 7 To See My Incredible

Two easy steps:

1) Make sure I was not running in debug mode (not a default, but I develop mobile apps so I had this on).

2) Select “Media Sync” as the mount mode.

Turning On Media Sync

If your phone is acting normally it will sense the connection to a PC when you connect the USB cable.  If not, make sure you are using a qualified micro-USB cable that provides both data and power connections.  The cable that came with your phone definitely has this as will 99% of after-market cables.    I had “mucked with” my phone so much that that connection did not always come up.

You can change the connection type manually by going to your phone settings, and going to “Connect to PC” and changing default type to “Media sync”.  Disconnect and re-connect the phone.     When I did this my phone magically was recognized by Windows 7 and the phone driver was automatically installed.

My HTC Incredible 4G LTE is shown as an “Android Phone” device name “ADR6410LVW”.

HTC Incredible 4G LTE Driver Details
My HTC Incredible 4G LTE driver details.

Failed Attempts

Oddly enough with ANY other mode the phone was seen as connected but windows update would always say “could not locate driver” and leave it as an unrecognized device.   I also had downloaded the HTC Sync Manager and installed it.  That created a folder in my Program Files (x86) directory with Windows 7 64-bit drivers as a folder but NONE of those drivers, even after installing them manually worked properly.

Some of the things I tried:

Verizon Backup Assistant

Huge bloated software that tries to be a PC backup for your media, but is a poor excuse for a backup app.  If you want backup go use Crash Plan.   In addition the Verizon Backup Assistant, or BA Plus as they call it, requires Apple QuickTime.  Talk about bloat.  Then when it runs it is very unstable and hangs frequently.   Worst of all it never “saw” the HTC Incredible so the threads that said this would install the proper drivers did not help one bit.

HTC Sync Manager

Much cleaner & lighter than the Verizon app, and a native Windows 64-bit application.   It looked like a nice UI and did create a drivers folder with HTC Incredible 4g drivers for Windows 7.  In fact I may very well need those when I do my Android apps and need to connect with the ADB (Android Device Bridge) but they DID NOT help my PC “see” the Incredible and I could not mount it as a hard drive in either “Disk Drive” or “HTC Sync” mode.

Summary

At the end of the day simply changing the connection type to “Media Sync” got all the pieces I needed.   Hopefully that will work for you as well.  If not, here is the driver kit that was installed “automagically” for me in my Windows System 32 folders:

DRIVERS\UMDF\WpdMtpDr.dll  6.1.7600.16385 (win7_rtm.090713-1255)
DRIVERS\ winusb.sys 6.1.7601.17514 (win7sp1_rtm.101119-1850)
DRIVERS\WUDFRd.sys 6.2.9200.16384 (win8_rtm.120725-1247)
WpdMtp.dll 6.1.7600.16385 (win7_rtm.090713-1255)
WpdMtpUS.dll 6.1.7600.16385 (win7_rtm.090713-1255)

Hope this saves you a few steps.

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Droid Incredible Crashes Wifi Networks

Well, I’ve been holding onto this dirty little secret for over a week now.  I was hoping Verizon and/or HTC would address this issue BEFORE the story got out into the hands of the general media.

Why have I waited to release this story? Personally I think the Incredible is a great competitor to the iPhone.  In fact I terminated my contract with AT&T just last week.   Boy did that feel good after 3 years of no cell service ANYWHERE in the country and especially here in Charleston.  I truly want the Droid Incredible by HTC to be a success.  I want the dominance of AT&T and Apple to be tested by the likes of products such as the Incredible.  Good healthy competition is good for all of us.  Better phones, better service, better prices.

BUT… the problem has gone on for too long with only a warmed-over “must be your network” response from the people at HTC.   And that response came after more than a week of telling them “I think you have a problem” and “is anyone home?” messages.

I told Verizon about the problem as well.  To their credit they did ship a replacement phone overnight.  It didn’t help, but at least they tried.   Guess it was what I expected after I explained the problem to the local “tech” at the Verizon store down the street and got nothing but a blank stare in return.   I knew then & there that the guys at the local store knew as much about wireless networking as they did quantum mechanics.    When I brought the problem up with Verizon Corporate they simply bounced my mail back with a URL on “how to connect to WiFi” (thanks, NOT useful) and a tacked-on “not our problem – call HTC”  note at the end.

So now it is time to let the story out…

What Is Going On?

Well, I first noticed a problem the day I brought my new HTC Droid Incredible home.  My network was pathetically slow.  It would crash at odd hours, and I’d get NO Internet connection at all.   Odd, I thought, must be the new Comcast service.    I called Comcast, and after missing their first appointment and showing up 30 hours late they finally got a knowledgeable technician to the house.   Everything checked out fine.   No problems at the home, on the line, or down the street at the head-end router.

Yet, every so-often the network would just crash.   Then a week after working with Comcast, tracking network connections and sniffing packets on my network I figured it out quite by accident.   I was online on my PC running a diagnostic when I wanted to check email.  Not wanting to interrupt the CPU intensive task I reached for my HTC Droid Incredible and started reading my email.  One of the attachments was rather large so I flicked on the Wifi switch.   That is when the world came crashing down.  My wife ran into the room saying “Did you DO something?  The network just crashed!”   Sure enough, I was looking at my PC and seeing a “service disconnected” right in the middle of my testing.   Turn off the WiFi on the HTC Incredible, reconnect and everything starts running along just fine.  Flick.  On goes the Wifi on the HTC.  Off goes the network.   Hmmmm….what an ODD coincidence.

After several hours of testing, checking configurations, and re-testing I realized… this HTC Droid Incredible has a serious design flaw.

Proving The Fail

A few days after realizing that MY HTC Droid Incredible indeed crashed MY network, I visited the local Verizon store.  They expedited a replacement phone which arrived a few days later.   I immediately went into test mode.   Shut down the original phone, power up the new phone, activate, and connect to my network.   Same results… the network slowed to a crawl and crashed almost immediately.

Next test – a different network.  I brought the original HTC to my office after sending back the replacement phone (it had the same result, so it didn’t fix my problem).  Power on the wifi and connect to the office wireless.   Instant failure.  Every wireless device was unable to connect to the outside world.

The HTC Droid Incredible has effectively taken down 2 different networks at 2 different locations.  The only thing they have in common is that they are open networks with a 40/64-bit (10 character) all-numeric WEP key enabled.     Whether or not that is the trigger or whether it is more generic still needs to be tested.   One thing is certain, this phone is adept at crashing the only 2 networks I use on a regular basis.   Luckily I can stay online with 3G and not get on wifi, but this is still a problem.  Not everywhere I go will have 3G access especially in the bowels of various commercial buildings where I visit clients.

Current Status

Fast forward to today.  I have received a communication from HTC (finally) and they basically asked a few questions and hinted that it must be my network.  Reconfigure & reset the HTC.   Yup, been there done that.   At this point I KNOW the HTC crashes at least two networks with absolute certainty.   Later this week I plan to roam various public WiFi hotspots and the homes of various wired (wireless) friends and see what happens.   My guess – the problem will be 100% reproducable with little effort.

Sorry Verizon & HTC, this story is just too big to keep to myself.  The word is out, both to let people know there is a potential problem & to see if I’m alone in this situation.

So how about it Droid Incredible owners… anyone else run into a problem like this?