Z-Car

2011 MacBook Pro GPU Failure – A software fix to disable GPU

Last year I repurposed a 2011 Macbook Pro 15″ as my home media server.  This laptop had been my main machine for a couple years until I upgraded in 2015.  Early in its life, I had used gfxCardStatus to disable the discrete AMD graphics card.  I mainly did this because I did not need the performance, and it definitely affected battery life negatively.  Because of this, I never was aware of the issue that thousands of other MacBook Pro owners experienced, a failing GPU causes the machine to either not work at all, have odd display effects, or reboot when video modes are switched.

About a year after using this machine as my main media server, it started to randomly reboot.  I could not find anything that was causing it, it would just be running fine, and then reboot.  I did notice that if I started up the machine, but did not login to a user account, it would stay running for quite awhile.  After some online research, I soon found out about all the issues that have plagued this machine.  The AMD GPU seemed to be the most likely culprit.  After finally having the machine stay running long enough for me to reinstall gfxCardStatus, I determined that I could immediately crash the system just by switching graphics modes.  Success, I was finally able to confirm that the GPU was failing.

Because I do not have any application that requires the GPU, I realized if I could somehow disable it, I could be back in business.  After extensive searching, I found lots of partial solutions, many required booting with Linux, putting the logic board in an oven, or trying to cut power traces on the motherboard.  After lots of reading, I finally was able to come up with a solution that worked, one that did not require opening up the laptop, or installing Linux.

My machine is a basic system running High Sierra, version 10.13.  I have confirmed that this works, although I did not try with previous versions.  If you have a highly modified system with lots of custom kexts, it may not work.   This modification will force the laptop to not boot into discrete graphics (dGPU) but directly into integrated graphics (iGPU).  While you will now be able to use your system you will lose the ability to use an external display.  Thunderbolt data and video connections should continue to work as normal.   It also assumes that all kexts are still in their default location /System/Library/Extensions, all AMD-kexts remain except one which is required to be moved.

Let’s get started!

Power on your laptop while holding <Cmd>+<r>+<s>, this will get you into Recovery/Single-User mode.  If your machine will not boot up into this mode, you can try putting it into a freezer for 10-15 min beforehand.  If you can keep the machine cool, it should let you boot to a command prompt.

The first step is to disable SIP.  This is done by entering : csrutil disable 

This is a critical step, as the following commands will not run unless you disable the default SIP protection.  You can leave this off permanently, or re-enable after you complete the whole process.  At this point, reboot the laptop by entering : reboot

This time hold down <Cmd>+<s> to boot into single-user mode.  We will then issue commands to disable the AMD GPU on boot by writing specific values into the NVRAM.  

Enter : nvram fa4ce28d-b62f-4c99-9cc3-6815686e30f9:gpu-power-prefs=%01%00%00%00

Enter : nvram boot-args=”-v”

This will turn on verbose mode when booting up.

One again : reboot

Hold down  <Cmd>+<s>  on boot

Next we will want to move one AMD kext so that it is not loaded on initial boot.  We will just move it, because after the machine boots up and you login, we will want to reload it.  This will keep the GPU disabled, but also will remove power from it so that it keeps your system cooler.

Type the following :

mount root partition writeable
/sbin/mount -uw / 
mkdir -p /System/Library/Extensions-bkup 
mv /System/Library/Extensions/AMDRadeonX3000.kext /System/Library/Extensions-bkup/ 
touch /System/Library/Extensions/ 
mkdir -p /Library/LoginHook
nano /Library/LoginHook/LoadAMD.sh

In nano, add the following text and hit control-X to save

#!/bin/bash
kextload /System/Library/Extensions-off/AMDRadeonX3000.kext
exit 0

You should have a saved file called LoadAMD.sh at this point.  Now type : 

chmod a+x /Library/LoginHook/LoadAMD.sh
defaults write com.apple.loginwindow LoginHook /Library/LoginHook/LoadAMD.sh 
reboot

This time, let the machine boot up normally

Reboot normally and your machine should work normally, however you will have an accelerated iGPU display.  This process will most likely need to be repeated when you do any system upgrade.  The NVRAM setting should stay, however you most likely will need to move the AMDRadeonX3000.kext file again.  Just make sure that if a new version is used, you save each.  

Hopefully this will allow your machine is provide several more years of service.  Leave me a message if you have any questions, and/or you will successful.


Upgrade your Miata’s headlights with Hella H4 halogen bulbs, Cibie eCode projectors, and a relay kit.

 

My 1994 Mazda Miata has suffered over the years with a very poor headlight setup.  It got to the point where I just did not enjoy driving it at night anymore.  The pathetic yellow light dripped from the front of the car, providing limited visibility, even in urban driving.  Rural driving, out where I live, was just down right scary.

So, I finally decided to do something about it.  I ultimately decided to upgrade my sealed beams for a set of Cibie eCode projectors fitted with H4 100/80W bulbs.  When upping the watts and amperage from stock values to these floodlights, it is important to add an aftermarket lighting relay.  Your factory wiring harness and light switch will thank you, 20 year old thin wire usually does not like having 10+A flowing through it on a regular basis.  

First step, buy a quality relay harness that will work with your Miata.  The picture below shows the unit I went with.  Installation took all of about an hour.  I suggest connecting the power to the main fuse panel via the main breaker bolt.  Also, wire it in with your stock lights first to test operation before upgrading to the H4’s.  Changing one thing at a time helps with troubleshooting if you run into any issues.

The next step is to replace your sealed beams with the Cibie eCodes.  These are European styled projectors that will amaze you with how much better they project light down the road.  The light is focused, yet is aimed so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic.  Swapping out the projectors just involve popping your headlights, removing the plastic shroud around the pop-up, and then loosen the three screws around the silver retaining benzel.  

 

Lastly, we get to the Hella H4 100/80W bulbs.  Most folks will stick with the more standard 60/55W bulbs, however I highly recommend upgrading to a higher wattage.  The difference in output is just stunning, and when combined with the Cibie eCodes, you will not blind other drivers.  There are other wattage H4’s such as a 130/90, 130/100, and 100/90.  As long as you have upgraded your wiring with a relay harness, it is safe to give these bulbs a try.  However, it has been reported that the high wattage bulbs have very short lifetimes, sometimes only hundreds of hours before they fail.  Also, care must be taken when installing an H4 to get NO fingerprints on the bulb.  The oil from your hands will cause early failure as well. 

If you shop around (click on pictures to see on Amazon), you can pick up all the parts you need for less than $150.  And, future replacement bulbs can be picked up for less than $10 each.  Don’t put it off, click on the pictures above, go to Amazon, and be amazed at how awesome a new headlight setup will enhance your night time driving!  Leave a message to let us know how it goes for you.  

 


Troubleshooting and Hacking the Ambient Weather WS-0900 Weather Station

For Christmas I received the Ambient Weather WS-0900-IP Wireless Internet Remote Monitoring Weather Station.  This little unit is a great way to setup your own personal weather station, which as a bonus allows you to access the data over the Internet.

So, after setting up the unit, and playing with it for a while, I got the urge to start hacking it.  I found out that you can access the device over telnet.  The built-in controller has a limited set of commands, and unfortunately on this model, does not really have much utility.  After playing around with various commands to try and redirect the units update from weather underground to my own servers, I accidently used the fwupdate command which wiped out the units ROM.

Lesson learned, don’t mess around with stuff unless you are ok breaking it!  After a bit, I was able to work out the following procedure for reloading a valid firmware.

This is the proper fix if your  IP Observer is not connecting.  In this case, only the Power, Link and ACT lights are lit blue on the unit, and the ObserverIP module does not communicate to the server, and you cannot access the unit via the built-in web server.   This state will require that the firmware be reloaded.

  • Download the latest firmware here:  http://www.AmbientWeather.com/observerip.html 
  • Turn off the power to  the ObserverIP module however leave it connected to your network. 
  • Launch the IP Tools.   Because the ObserverIP module is turned off, you will not be able to locate it on your network, but continue anyway. 
  • Select the Upgrade button in IP Tools. 
  • Select the Select File button, and browse to the location of the file you downloaded in Step 1. 
  • Select the Upgrade Firmware button. 
  • Plug in the ObserverIP module. The software will locate the device on your network and begin the update.  The dialog box will display Received a Read Request from the ObserverIP module. A green progress bar will provide you with the upgrade status. 
  • Once the firmware upgrade is complete, the dialog box will display Read session is completed successfully.
  • Wait about one minute for the ObserverIP module to reboot, and then access the web server.

You should have a restored fully functioning unit!  I still have not been able to redirect the weather updates to another server.  In my unit, a WS-0900 with the 3.0.8 version it appear that the server that it connects to is a hard coded IP address.  Leave a message here if you have found a way to make this work.


How to add DRL and LED to your Miata NA.

girl fixing a miata

As I have been daily driving my 1994 Miata NA for the last year or so, I have been more cognisant of trying to make the little Miata more visible. We also have a lot of divided highways out this way that require headlights to be on, and the police enforce it. I hate raising the barn doors, and if I just turn on my parking lights, they don’t really do much, and I always forget that I left them on.

So, I decided to get a couple of smoked replacement lights ($50 on Amazon for a pair), and modify them. I opened up the unused half of the light and used a LED for the parking and turn signal, and used the main bay with a H11 LED.  If you follow along, I will show you what you need to do to make this work.  In addition, you can easily wire in a relay to make your parking lights come on whenever the car is running.

First get some of these nice smoked turn signal assemblies.

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Then buy a set of 3157 parking and turn signal bulbs, I like these, and get this pigtail harness.  I also used H11 LED bulbs as the main DRL, I got these, and also the pigtails.  What we are going to do is open up the normally closed section on the parking light assembly.  I used a soldering iron to melt it out.   Once you get a good fit, a glob of silicone sealant will hold them in place and seal the opening from moisture.

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You will now need to wire the lights up.  This will vary by pigtail, lights, and assembly, but in general you will want to wire red to red and black to black.  The blue for the turn signal light will connect with the turn signal light coming from your original parking light wiring.  This is all pretty simple, leave a message if you have any issues.

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As you can see, it worked out pretty well. I wired in a relay that turns them on whenever the the car is in Run, instant DRL. I also wired the side markers to flash with the turn signals.

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How to Repair a Lotus Switch Pack – Or, why don’t my Elise’s parking lights work?

LotusGirl

Odds are you are either reading this page because your Lotus parking lights suddenly stopped working and you don’t know why, or you already know you need to replace or repair you Lotus Switch Pack.  That is great, because either way I will help you solve your problem.

I normally do not drive the Lotus that often in the Winter, and sometimes it can sit for a month or so with no venture outside.  This Winter was no different, and in addition, I had to get it moving at the beginning of March because I needed to get it emission tested.  That all went great, however when driving home I went to turn on the parking lights because it was misting slightly.  Imagine my surprise when the parking lights refused to turn on.  However, everything else worked, headlights, flashers, hazards, etc.  After looking at the schematics, it looked like Fuse F6 could be the issue.  I checked it, but it was fine.

Ok, this was not going to be a simple fix.  Maybe the switch was bad?  Remove the panel on the left that holds the switches, two screws on bottom, swap headlight switch connector and parking light connector.  As expected, parking light switch would turn on the headlights, so the problem was not the switch.   This panel is displayed below, the two green connector at bottom left are the ones you want to swap.

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After some more reading, and reviewing the Elise electrical schematic, it became pretty obvious the issue was the infamous Lotus Switch Pack pictured below!

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So, where is this Lotus Switch Pack located?  It is mounted on the steering column behind the instrument cluster.  Some online guides will tell you need to remove the full dash to get to it, however that is not true.  You can get to this by removing the cluster cover, unbolting the instrument cluster, and moving it out of the way.  Here is how you do it.

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First, remove (4 or 6 screws depending on if car was built on a Monday or Wednesday) the bottom cover around steering wheel.  One or two screws on each side, and two screws on the bottom.  Remove the top and bottom cover.  Then, you need to remove the instrument cluster housing.  This part sucks.  Remove two screws on each side.  The back of the cluster is just velcroed in place, yep 50K car uses velcro…  That part is easy, just lift up slightly.  The next is hard.  You need to pull the whole cluster back straight to release clips holding it on.  This requires pulling hard, if it does not come out, pull harder.  Take your time, and try not to crack anything.

It should look like the below when all is removed.

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I did not get a picture of the unit installed, but imagine in the picture below it is connected to those two connectors, and is mounted vertically with a screw on each side.  That part is easy, remove two screws, release the connectors.  There is a tab in center of connector you need to hold down while pulling carefully on connector.  Wiggle as needed.

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Success, you now have the Lotus Switch Pack module in your hands.  At this point, you have two choices, you can either simply buy a replacement, or you can attempt a repair.  If you decide to buy a replacement, you will need to search for the proper unit.  My 2005 Lotus was part number C117M0008f.  This has actually been superseded by two newer model numbers, D117M0008f was used in some later models, and E117M0008f appears to be the current replacement model.  I was able to find new versions online for between $160-$250.

However what if I told you that you could repair the unit for free? Worst case, for less than $25.  So, how do you do this?  Read on.

Inside the Lotus Switch Pack are two little relays, and one of them is preventing your parking lights from working.  The other relay is installed for the factory fog lights, which in many cases will not be installed on your Lotus.  You will know because you will have a fog light switch below the headlight switch.  If you don’t have fog lights, you can simply swap relays and solve your parking light issue.

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If you remove the switch pack module cover, you will see the guts of the unit.  On the top are relays, which are soldered below.  If you look carefully below (taken after removing the fog light relay), you will see five empty holes.  These are the five connections that you need to desolder.

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The picture below shows the relays.  The one in the center is the fog light relay, the parking light relay is directly below.  You will need a desoldering vacuum pump and/or desoldering wick.  Carefully remove ALL the solder from the relays and gently rock them loose.  There is some sticky substance that causes the relays to adhere to the board, be careful as it is easy to damage the relay when removing.  In fact, my guess is there is a 50/50 chance that it WILL be damaged, so be prepared to have to replace the relay.  If you email me or leave a comment with your contact info, I can provide replacements that WILL work with your unit for $25.  If you purchase on your own, be careful of your source, as it appears there are a lot of used units on eBay that will not work.

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How do you know if your relay is good or bad?  If you measure the coil with your ohmmeter, it should have a value between 120-140 ohms.  The proper pins to  test are the outer pins of the three in a row.  In picture below, it would be the pins that go into the three holes in the center.  Here you can see that I have removed the fog light relay, and replaced the parking light relay with a new unit.

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Connect the unit back up, and if you press the button, you should hear the relay click, and you now have parking lights!

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Put everything back together in the reverse order, and have a cold one.  Think about the $750 you saved by not going to the dealer, and leave a comment with your success story.  If you have any questions on the process, connect me and I will see what I can do to help you out.  Good Luck!

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How to fix your snapping, popping, sparking microwave oven – replace waveguide easily

audrey_hepburn_checking_the_oven

So there I was the day after Thanksgiving…  The previous evening we enjoyed a yummy dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.   Now we all know that Thanksgiving leftovers are the best.  I quickly grab some turkey meat, pour some gravy on them, and pop them in the microwave for a quick reheat.  Imagine my surprise when I suddenly hear a loud crackle sound, and then a boom coming from the microwave.  Looking over, I even see some flashes of light coming from within the oven.

Now, I have a Sharp R-520KS microwave, but it turns out the problem I was experiencing is pretty common to all microwave ovens.  Within the microwave oven there is a device call the waveguide.   This is a hole  inside of the microwave that focuses the microwaves into the oven.  And over this hole is a cover which is made from mica paper.

Over time, this cover will collect food and crud on it, and eventually it will start to arc, if it gets bad enough, you will experience the same fireworks inside your oven that I did.  It is recommended that you try to keep it clean, but eventually it will probably need to be replaced.  Official replacements are often not cheap, and if you have an older oven, may no longer be available.

Luckily it is fairly easy to buy a sheet of mica paper and cut it yourself to match your existing cover.  I bought mine from Amazon (click on link below), and carefully traced the existing cover onto the paper.  Use a sharp knife, or scissors to cut out the new pattern.  Simply pop your new cover into place, and your microwave will be ready for many more years of service.

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