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Fixing the loud CPU fan on the Dell XPS 15 9550 (2016)

I’ve had my XPS 15 9550 almost 18 months now, here’s my replacement history so far… all covered under Dell’s Premium Support NBD contract:

  • 5 motherboards
  • 1 battery
  • 2 CPU fan
  • 2 graphics card fan
  • 1 heatsink
  • 1 keyboard

I can put at least 3 of the above motherboard replacements down to me telling them “the CPU fan is too loud” which was blamed by Dell Support and on-site technicians on issues with the motherboard and promptly replaced.

The fix for the loud CPU fan – especially when a Thunderbolt device is connected – is to turn on passive cooling within Power Options and using Intel XTU undervolt the CPU 0.100 V dramatically lowering the thermal profile of the XPS 15 9550 followed by setting Dell Command Power Manager to Quiet.

Showing the thermal profile of the Dell XPS 15 9550 24 hours after applying the Core Voltage Offset change and enabling Passive system cooling.

Today I have a silent machine with no noticeable effect on daily usage or CS:GO gaming performance, that’s with 2 Dell U2414H monitors occupying the HDMI and Thunderbolt connectors. I have multiple Chrome tabs open (10+), Slack and other typical CPU hogs running without the CPU fan attempting to rise off the desk.


Here’s how to fix the loud CPU fan on the Dell XPS 15 9550:

Part 1: Turn on passive CPU cooling

  1. Right click the battery icon in the start taskbar
  2. Select Power Options
  3. Click Change plan settings beside the Balanced power plan
  4. Click Change advanced power settings
  5. Expand the Processor power management list
  6. Expand the System cooling policy list
  7. Set the On battery and Plugged in options to Passive
  8. Click OK to save changes
  9. Click Save Changes on the Edit Plan Settings window to save changes

Part 2: Undervolt the CPU 0.100V

Dropping the Core Voltage Offset -0.100 V significantly lowers the thermal profile of the Dell XPS 15 9550.
  1. Download the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility from the Intel website
  2. Install and open Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (ala Intel XTU)
  3. Open the Advanced Tuning > Core section
  4. Find the Core Voltage Offset slider
  5. To the right of the Core Voltage Offset slider hover over the 0.000 V value to show the decrease/increase toggles
  6. Click the decrease toggle until the Core Voltage Offset indicator shows -0.100 V
  7. Click Apply
  8. Close Intel XTU and restart the computer

Part 3: Dell Command | Power Manager

Dell Command | Power Manager is the holy grail of thermal management tools for Dell units.
  1. Download and install Dell Command | Power Manager from Dell’s website
  2. Open Dell Command Power Manager from the Start menu
  3. Switch to the Thermal Management tab
  4. Set the Thermal Setting to Quiet

That’s it! ūüėÄ

How to turn off the Mazda Connect watchdog (auto-reboot)

By default Mazda Connect’s Watchdog service restarts the CMU on any error, to the general public this is a god send as the Watchdog resolves common issues by rebooting the system (e.g. Navi going silent, any screen lock-ups, etc.) but for developers this can have the unintended action of locking us out of SSH access from a simple mistyped character.

Here’s how to turn the Mazda Connect Watchdog service off, keep in mind this command only persists until the Mazda Connect system is rebooted (e.g. after turning the engine off for a short period of time).

echo 1 > /sys/class/gpio/Watchdog\ Disable/value

You can check if the Watchdog service is now inactive by running:

cat /sys/class/gpio/Watchdog\ Disable/value

There are ample instructions online for how to set up the above command to persist even after rebooting but I won’t provide this here.

That’s it! ūüôā

Resetting SSH access after “Too many authentication failures for …” on Google Cloud Compute Engine

Locked yourself out of SSH/SFTP access on Google Cloud Compute Engine? Does the below look familiar… Fun times…

Status: Connecting to domain.com...
Status: Connecting to domain.com...
Response: fzSftp started, protocol_version=8
Command: open "...@domain.com" 22
Error: Server sent disconnect message
Error: type 2 (protocol error):
Error: "Too many authentication failures for ... from 125.18.17.115 port 7145 ssh2"
Error: Could not connect to server

Here’s how to increase the number of allowed login attempts within sshd_config and then restart the sshd service so you can get back to work. ūüôā

  1. Open up Google Cloud Console
  2. From the Menu button open Compute Engine > VM Instances
  3. Beside your Compute Engine instance hit the SSH button within the Connect column
  4. When your terminal connection is established enter the following:
    sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  5. By default the sshd_config file does not have a MaxAuthTries entry but scroll through the file using the up/down keys and check just incase…
  6. I set the maximum number of login attempts to 10, change this number to suit your security needs. Add the following lines anywhere within the sshd_config file:
    # Max login attempts
    MaxAuthTries 10
  7. Save and close the file by using the following keyboard combinations:
    CTRL+O followed by the enter key to save the file changes
    CTRL+X to close the Nano file editor
  8. Reboot the sshd service using the following commands (I’m not sure which one works so let’s do all of them…)
    sudo service sshd restart
    sudo systemctl restart sshd
  9. Try and reconnect to your Compute Engine instance using Putty (SSH) or Filezilla (SFTP)

That’s it ūüôā

Configuring WordPress after installing on Google Cloud Platform using Click to Deploy

Following on from Fixing Installation Failed message on Bitnami WordPress and Google Cloud Compute Engine I recently tried installing WordPress within Google Cloud Platform using Google Click to Deploy.

As always the installation and initial setup is a breeze, open up Google Cloud Platform¬†and within the search bar type in “WordPress”, one of the available options is called “WordPress – Click to Deploy”, select that then enter the following details:

  • Deployment name (this cannot be changed so think about it…)
  • Zone (where you want your instance to exist; us-west1-b is my favourite)
  • Machine Type (small 1 shared vCPU is plenty to start with and can be changed at any time without affecting site downtime)
  • Administrator E-mail (your e-mail address)
  • whether you want phpMyAdmin installed (if you’re using WordPress then this is very handy to have access to)
  • Disk type and size (Standard Persistent Disk and 10 GB is plenty to start with)
  • Automatic firewall rules for HTTP/HTTPS traffic (turn this on or you’ll need to do it later)

Then hit Click Deploy and away it goes, a minute or so later a set of logins are provided including a default admin WordPress User and login details, if phpMyAdmin was selected a default root User login is provided.

By default a dynamic IP is allocated to your WordPress instance so you’ll need to open Menu > Networking > External IP address and change the type to Static for persistent WordPress sites.

If you intend to manage your WordPress site via SFTP (FTP over SSH) then you’ll need to adjust your SSH user so that it can create and edit files within the base WordPress directory, to do this open the Google Cloud Shell within your WordPress instance by opening Menu > Compute Engine > VM Instances > under the Connect column beside your WordPress instance click SSH.

id
sudo useradd -G visser www-data

(replace visser with your SSH user name displayed when you enter id)

Adjust the file permissions and ownership of wp-config.php within your base WordPress directory then create a new .htaccess file.

sudo chown www-data wp-config.php
sudo chgrp www-data wp-config.php
sudo chmod 664 wp-config.php
sudo touch .htaccess
sudo chmod 664 .htaccess
sudo chown www-data .htaccess
sudo chgrp www-data .htaccess

Lastly let’s change the WordPress URL from the IP address allocated (e.g. http://35.197.92.168 to http://visser.io) and turn on Permalinks.

To change your WordPress URL open the WordPress Administration using the logins provided when your WordPress instance was created then open the Settings > General screen. Change only the WordPress Address (URL) field to your preferred URL Рdo not change the Site Address (URL) field Рthen hit Save Changes.

To enable Permalinks open up the General > Permalinks screen, within the Common Settings section change the radio button selector to Custom Structure and within the text input field paste the following (or your preferred Permalink structure):

/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/

Hit Save Changes to apply changes.

That’s it ūüôā

Safety warning regarding Philips Hue bulbs used internationally and sourced from the US

After a recently purchased Philips Hue White bulb died on me this past week I went about contacting the Philips Hue support team regarding a replacement. After a fortnight of different support channels (website, Facebook, phone, e-mail…) my local¬†Philips Lighting supplier – Philips Lighting Australia Ltd. – declined a replacement and has pointed me to the Philips Lighting US team. The saga continues…

Here’s what I learned and why I now have two Philips Hue White bulbs gathering dust due to the potential of a safety risk… not cool Philips Lighting.

Safety warning

First off, if you have been silly enough to purchase Philips Hue bulbs from Amazon.com or another US-based online marketplace and had products sent internationally where 110 VAC electricity is not used (e.g. everywhere) stop using those products and contact the Philips Lighting US team for a replacement.

Here’s the interaction with my local Philips Lighting team:

From the markings it looks to be a US bulb. These would run on 110v and not 240v and therefore and not usable outside of the US. It would be best for you to check all bulbs for the voltage range printed on the bulbs and if it does not say 220-240v you should stop using them as it could have the potential of a safety risk.

Unfortunately this would also mean that we could not replace them under warranty since we accept claims/complaints only for products sold by us in Australia.

–¬†Customer Order Manager,¬†Philips Lighting Australia Ltd

In summary:

  • Philips Lighting teams will only accept claims/warranties for products sold by their company in that given country (e.g. a Amazon.de purchase from Philips Lighting DE will not replaced by Philips Lighting AU).
  • Philips Lighting teams have no trade or express direct contact with other teams. You as a consumer must reach out to the Philips Lighting team where your product was purchased (e.g. in my case buying from Amazon.com means the US team and track them down).
  • Philips Lighting teams (e.g. the Philips Lighting US team selling on Amazon.com) are aware that customers are using their products internationally and not informing prospective customers or restricting international sales knowing of the¬†potential safety risk when using their products in non-US markets.

The first two points I understand. The last riles me up and is reason for this Post. Lift your game Philips Lighting!

Knowing the above I now source Philips Hue products from local suppliers, currently Apple.com/au/… are the cheapest online retailer with free shipping in Australia and they have confirmed via pre-sales¬†support to only¬†sell international Philips Hue products rated for 220-240V at 50/60Hz and safe for use in non-US markets. I have since purchased multiple bulbs from Apple.com/au/… and all have been internationally rated.

I will forward the following post to Philips Hue Facebook team for comment as that is the only online channel that seems to respond to customer queries and if possible return my Philips Hue White US-bulbs as I have no further use for them.

How to download map updates for your 2017 Mazda 3 Maxx

  1. Visit the Mazda Connect update website
  2. Click the Download Mazda Toolbox menu link
  3. Click the Download for Windows button *1
  4. While the download is running click the Register link from the top menu to create a new Mazda Toolkit user account
  5. Open the confirmation e-mail and hit the link to verify your user account
  6. Open the installer once it has completed downloading (~20MB) and run it
  7. Retrieve the SD-card installed in your Mazda 3 from the center console, above the USB ports; it is protected by a rubber holder
  8. Insert the SD-card into your computer and ensure it is detected as a hard drive
  9. Open Mazda Toolbox from your computer
  10. Click Login from the opening screen using the user details entered above
  11. Click Available Updates to check for new map updates
  12. Click Install if a new map update is available
  13. Click Backup to save a backup of the existing map files on the SD-card
  14. Click Updates to load the latest map files onto the SD-card, be patient, this can take awhile…
  15. When the download and transfer is complete hit Exit to close Mazda Toolkit
  16. Remove the SD-card from your computer and re-insert it in the SD-card port of your Mazda 3
  17. Press the Start engine button once to initialize the infotainment system

That’s it! ūüôā

*1 If you’re using a Mac then hit the Download for¬†OS X¬†button

Screenshots

Resolve Bluetooth audio connectivity issue with Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Flat

My¬†Samsung Galaxy S7 Flat (G930F) does not get along with my Jaybird Bluebuds X Bluetooth headphones since updating to Android 7.0 (Nougat). I’ve tried the common fix lists, re-paired Bluetooth devices, cleared the “Bluetooth share”¬†App data, reset network settings, even nuked the¬†cache partition from¬†recovery. Same issue, less than 30 seconds of Spotify playing to my Bluetooth wireless headphones then nothing, silence, not even a “command received” tone when using the media controls on my headphones, nothing then after a while it decides to play before again giving me the silent treatment.

Here’s how to fix the Bluetooth audio connectivity issue affecting the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Flat, there are three components as well as a list of common troubleshooting steps at the bottom. I found Bluetooth scanning was the culprit for me but suspect both Samsung Connect and Trusted devices were involved.

Update: After a brief period of stability the dropouts returned, I suspect the Android 7.1 release will fix this as it is a widely known issue with Android 7.0.

Uninstall Android Wear

The Android Wear App is known to conflict with some Bluetooth headphones (Jaybird Bluebuds X), I don’t understand whether it’s the App or the Bluetooth device at this point.

  1. Open the Apps menu
  2. Drag Android Wear into the bin
  3. Restart the phone

Turn off Bluetooth scanning in Location screen

  1. Open the Apps menu
  2. Open Settings > Connections > Location > Improve accuracy
  3. Turn off Bluetooth scanning
  4. Jump back to the Home screen

Turn off the Samsung Connect panel

  1. Open the Apps menu
  2. Open Samsung Connect (a new App that has been installed by Samsung alongside the Android Nougat release)
  3. Open Settings from the top-right menu (three dots)
  4. Ensure Samsung Connect Panel is set to On
  5. Turn your Bluetooth headphones on and wait for your Samsung Galaxy S7 to establish the connection
  6. Pull down the status menu by sliding from the top of the screen
  7. You should see a “Samsung Connect” listing below the device feature icons, click the Settings icon within that panel listing (looks like two circles with horizontal lines attached)
  8. From the Samsung Connect Panel screen first untick your Bluetooth devices and “Audio output”, finally change the first option from On to Off
  9. Jump back to the Home screen

Turn off Trusted Devices

If you have configured your Bluetooth device as a Trusted device to bypass the lock screen try removing it.

  1. Open the Apps menu
  2. Open Settings > Lock screen and security > Secure lock settings > Smart lock
  3. Enter your device PIN and press Next
  4. Open Trusted devices
  5. Remove your Bluetooth audio device
  6. Jump back to the Home screen

Common Bluetooth troubleshooting tips

  • Delete the Bluetooth connection and re-pair with the Bluetooth device
  • Clear the Bluetooth App cache via Settings > Apps > Show system apps (via three dots menu) > Bluetooth share > Clear cache
  • Open Settings > General management > Reset > Reset settings
  • Open Settings > General management > Reset > Reset network settings
  • Clear the system cache from Recovery mode

Try establishing a connection from your Samsung Galaxy S7 if it has been disconnected and playing audio. That’s it! ūüôā

How to soft reset the Mazda Connect infotainment system

If the Mazda CMU freezes or locks up while driving Рor if for any reason you need to reset the CMU Рyou can reset it without turning off the ignition by pressing the following button combination and holding it for 10 seconds:

BACK + MUTE + NAV

The infotainment screen will go black then display the Mazda logo as the unit finishes rebooting.