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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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Fixing Cool Video Gallery

Cool Video Gallery Banner

Every time the author of Cool Video Gallery publishes an update it breaks the video tutorials on my site. I’ve sent the patch to the author, posted the patch in the forums, and yet the product remains unchanged. After upgrading today and searching for 30 minutes for the patch files I decided to put a post in my block with the 1-line fix so I can find it again with a lot less searching the next time around. Here is the original support post:

On linux (CentOS) I had to set the Gallery Settings FFMPEG libary path to /usr/bin/ffmpeg

This will cause the ffmpegcommandExists function in the lib/core.php to dump copious amounts of output to the error_log file on the server, slowing down web pages and loading up the disk with a bunch of error lgo fluff.

Running a valid license check and routing output to /dev/null allows the exec command to run without generating output but while still testing if the ffmpeg executable is available at the path specified:

I recommend the plugin developer add the noted options to the ffmpegcommandExists function:

/**
         * Function to check if ffmpeg is installed.
         *
         * @author Praveen Rajan
         */
        function ffmpegcommandExists() {

                $options = get_option('cvg_settings');

            $command = escapeshellarg($options['cvg_ffmpegpath']) . ' -L >/dev/null 2>/dev/null 1>/dev/null';
            exec($command, $output, $return);

                if ($return <= 1) {
                        return true;
                }

                return false;
        }

It appears to keep everything intact while no longer showing the ill side effects of the warnings being dumped to the log file, which is a LOT of extra disk I/O for naught.

/documentation/store-locator-plus/

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Envy 17 17-3070NR Video Problems When Recording

HP Video Fail Banner

Environment

  • HP Envy 17-3070NR with latest video drivers & BIOS
  • 3x HP ZR2440w Monitors attached, 2 on display port, 1 on HDMI

Problem

Any time I access ANYTHING to do with recording, such as going to the windows sounds interface and clicking on the recording tab, the screen on ONE of the Display Ports flickers to the point of being unusable.

It shows flashing thin 1 or 2- pixels white lines in random patterns on the screen, then the entire display shuts off.  It turns back on and looks fine for 2 seconds, then does it again until I click on the Playback, Sounds, or Communications tab.  This happens with ANY access to “recording” from any app including my Skype call recorder or my Screencast recorder.

This did not happen before I upgraded to the 1920×1200 ZR2440w monitors, which I did after confirming with HP support that the Envy 17-3070NR would indeed support 1920×1200 resolution if I used display port connections.

The problem continues if I swap monitors, so it is not a monitor issue.

The problem continues if I disconnect/disable the 3rd monitor on HDMI, in fact the cycle happens even faster with that display disconnected.

This looks very much like an old-school video memory corruption issue like you would have back in 1996 on  a Windows XP computer with crappy video cards and/or poorly written video drivers.      If I had to guess I would say BIOS and/or AMD drivers need work.

Has any else seen this problem?

Any clues how to fix this besides “don’t use 3 monitors” or “don’t record screen casts”?

Customer Non-Support

The best part is that I am entitled to email or chat or phone support from HP with my extended warranty.  Yet HP completely fails in that regard.    First of all the website the checks to see if you are entitled for support looks up my serial number and product number, shows the right product in the sidebar yet the customer support form only allows for PRINTER options on describing what is wrong.

HP Consumer Division Incompetence A Laptop is Not A Printer
HP Consumer Division Incompetence A Laptop is Not A Printer

HP needs to hire some programmers.

HP Fails At Selling Customer Care Packs

Then, to make things more fun, when I contact HP directly they tell me I do not have a warranty.   I have a dozen emails back & forth from HP stating I DO have a warranty for 3 years.    I can understand why they are confused, however, since THREE HP employees over the past year have screwed up my extended warranty so badly that nobody can figure out what the hell is going on.  Not even their escalation team.

The first person sold me the wrong warranty.

The second person “fixed” the warranty and attached a DIFFERENT, but still incorrect, extended warranty.

The third person, in the HP Escalation Division, fixed the problem again but did not properly attach the extended warranty to my serial number so nobody can find it.

Unfortunately there is no online form or interface available to the mundane every day HP Customer Support people that allows them to “enter the personal email sent from an HP manager ensuring the customer has an extended warranty” box.    Since my case falls completely outside of their scripted responses they are completely baffled.     Customer Support lemmings are not trained to think, just click the boxes, recite the words on the screen like Obama reading a teleprompter, and move on.  No thought required.    Come to think of it, maybe HP is training everyone to be the next POTUS.

 

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Store Locator Plus : City Drop Down

CSA Store Locator Plus Video

Intro to City Search

A brief intro video about the City drop down menu and how it works.
This is currently a feature that is available in the Pro Pack but will be soon
moving to Enhanced Search, where it belongs, along with other search related features.

by Lance Cleveland
Dad. Husband. Rum Lover. Code Geek.
Not necessarily in that order.

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Ubuntu – No Audio When Playing Videos

I recently tried to play a video on Ubuntu 10.04, but got no audio because of missing a Windows Media Audio codec. My video player tried to automatically find a suitable plugin and failed. So here’s how I fixed it by hand.

Step One: Update mplayer

The version of mplayer that comes with Ubuntu is behind the times.
But that’s easy to fix.

    $ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rvm/mplayer
    $ sudo apt-get update
    $ sudo apt-get upgrade mplayer

Bam. Done. Also why not install smplayer while you’re at it—has a much better interface in my opinion.

*Note:* If you prefer to use something else like vlc then upgrading may not be necessary. Check the documentation for your preferred movie player to see about its WMA support.

Step Two: Discover the DLL You Need

This is easy: just try playing the file from the command line.

Something like

    $ smplayer legitimate_copy_of_a_movie_i_totally_own.wmv

If you see a ton of output, and hear no audio, then you are missing a library. Thankfully (s)mplayer will tell you exactly what this library is called; just look in the output for the name of a `.dll` file mentioned in conjunction with audio.

Step Three: Add the DLL

Get on your favorite search engine, enter the DLL, and find a copy to download.

Whatever DLL you need, take it and put it in the directory `/usr/lib/codecs`. The directory probably does not exist, so create it first, of course. Video players will automatically look there for the DLLs they need.

After that, you should all be set. That’s how I was able to get audio out of Windows Media Player 9 files. Hope it helps you too.

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Website Components

What is Your Website?

When building a website you need to determine what it is you want the website to accomplish. Is your website a simple brochure to introduce your company to a potential client? A tool for existing clients? A store to sell your wares?

There are many different types of websites to choose from, and you don’t have to choose just one. Like any project, the more options you choose the more expensive it will be. Building a one room cottage is going to involve a lot less time and money than building a 12,000 square foot mansion.

Components of a Website

There are various components that make up a typical website. The components range from 100% custom applications to “out of the box” components from various vendors. “Out of the box” components include both free applications that are provided by the Internet Community as well as paid commercial products.

Blog

A blog is a page, or group of pages, on a website that present short articles in chronological order. Most blogs are used for one way communication with the visitors to your website, often in the form of a weekly or daily commentary. Blogs are a great way to connect to the visitors of a website by keeping them informed of current events related to your business.

Various types of blog components are available that make it easy for the typical business owner to keep this part of the website updates. Once the blog component has been installed by your ever-friendly technical staff, you can start publishing your articles fairly easily.

Most blog systems only require that you know how to use your web browser. To publish an entry you simply surf to the “edit my blog” link your tech staff has provided for you, login, and start typing your article into an entry box. The blog software handles the formatting of the page, keeping the articles in order, and doing the general maintenance.

Most blog systems allow for extensive customization and extended features beyond the basic “post a new article” feature. Some features include the ability to put articles into various categories, tagging articles with keywords, or allowing commentary from website visitors.

Typical Implementation:

  • Pre-built blog systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
  • Some clients rent blog software and hosting from a software-as-a-service provider and link to their page at the blogging site.

Related Links:

Content Management System

A content management system manages the main part of your website. It provides an easy way for the business to add pages, update content on pages, delete pages, and move stuff around without the involvement of technical staff.

The benefit of a content management system is that the basic page layout (also known as the page template) is usually designed and installed by a web designer. Once the software and the template are installed on your server you then have control over the pages and paragraphs that appear on the site. Normally you will log in to a special web page on your site where you access a “control panel” for your pages. The control panel is where you add & delete pages and provides the links to edit the page content.

Typical Implementation:

  • Pre-built contents systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
  • Many clients opt for the software-as-a-service model from providers that include web hosting and the content management system in one package ensuring you have the latest updates at all times.

Related Links:

Forum

A forum is a section of a website that allows visitors to the site to communicate with each other via short articles known as posts. A typical forum is setup by the website owner with various sections representing categories of discussion that are pertinent to the website. Visitors to the website can both post a new question or comment or respond to a question or comment posted by another user. The postings and their responses tend to be grouped together in a way that represents a chronological dialog.

Forums are a great way to allow people interested in your business to share ideas, comments, how-to, and general knowledge related to your business. It often serves as a form of extended support for your client base where both your official support staff assists in answering questions alongside other members of the community that may be well versed about the intricacies of your business.

Typical Implementation:

  • Pre-built forum systems are downloaded and installed on your server.

Related Links:

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Store

A store allows users to buy items directly from your website. The variety of items that can be purchased online vary from downloadable software to physical goods to services. Your website becomes a simple way for people to pay for the items they are interested in. Stores can vary from something as simple as a form that collects credit card or other payment information to full fledged product displays with reviews and related information.

Online stores tend to be the most often customized part of a website and often requires the involvement of an experienced technical team. Business owners often desire a specific type of user experience when their clients are buying something from them. Most web software does not provide the desired features straight “out of the box”. Since a customer can be made or lost based on the store experience, it is often worth spending extra time and investment dollars in making sure this part of the website matches your expectations for the sales process.

Simple stores and shopping carts can be setup via a variety of online software-as-a-service providers. The advantage of these providers is a “hands off” approach to credit card storage, limiting your liability. The disadvantage is your are often unable to customize the presentation to meet the exact needs of your business.
Typical Implementation:

  • Large stores: Pre-built forum systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
  • Small stores: Software as a service, such as Yahoo Stores are often linked to the website.

Related Links:

Video

Video clips are a large part of today’s Internet landscape. Most people surfing the web today expect more than just a static textual presentation from their favorite websites. Almost every type of business can benefit from the addition of short video segments presented on the website. The videos can be anything from a simple “introduction from your host” to instructional videos to pure entertainment.

Proper formatting and production of videos is as important as proper placement and implementation on your website. Selecting compatible formats that work across many different computers is important. One of the more common distribution formats in place today is the use of Flash video formats due the freely available and widely distributed flash viewer application provided by Adobe.

Typical Implementation:

  • Video content is formatted then uploaded to your web server
  • Web pages are tailored to present the video inline (middle of the page) or in a separate popup player window

Related Links:

Wiki

A wiki is a section of a website that is often presented as a series of linked web pages. Unlike the main content of a website, the wiki pages are often kept separate as the content is typically edited by the visitors to the website. Wikis are collaborative documents where the entire user community shares in producing documentation for your product or services. Think of it as a sort of self-help guide written by the users.

The content of a Wiki does not need to be limited to help systems, but that is a common purpose. Wikis can also contain commentary, photos, links to other resources, or any other content that could appear on a standard website. The primary difference is that Wikis usually don’t have a central “controller” of the information. The concept is to allow the community to create content for your site.
Typical Implementation:

  • Most wikis are installed on your server using free downloads of the wiki software.

Related Links: