MacBook Pro vs Soniq TV vs HDMI adaptor

Most things on the Mac are purportedly easy since many of the un-ncessary options are removed.  This is great until you want to non-conform (read, use some hardware that is old, cheap, or just un-ordinary).

Trying to get HDMI with sound working through a Kanex iAdapt v2 mini display port, proved to be tricky due to the lack of options and just some wierdness of HDMI in general.

The other player in this whole mess was my cheopo year old 32″ Soniq QSL 322 LCD TV5.  Its been great so far, I’ve used HDMI connections to a couple of PVR units without problem.

When I plugged everything on the Mac though, even though it automatically recognised the display, the sound would still come through the laptop speakers.  Turns out thats a Sound System Preference Panel option to switch that. (option + F11)

Quick win right? Wrong, still no sound!  Rebooting, changing the order things were switched on.  Turning the volume up on the TV didnt do anything.  Also, while your Mac sound output is HDMI, the volume controls (F11/F12) dont do squat!

Then I tried a different tack.

I rebooted into Bootcamp (win 7 64bit) & the sound was working fine. There was a bit of a hiss in the background, and if no sound for a few seconds, the sound would switch off for a while – no hiss – until I played something again.  There would be a 1/2 sec delay waking up from the silence but otherwise ok for watching movies and music.  I later learnt from Kanex support that this is normal part of HDCP (the handshake that your devices do with each other to make sure they aren’t pirates. aarrrrrrr!)

When I rebooted back into OS X, the sound continued to work fine.

However once I put my computer to sleep and rewoke it, whilst leaving everything plugged in, the sound on the TV stopped working.

I recall reading on the apple support forums that there was some issue to do with HDMI handshaking and turning the devices on and off in a different order would fix the problem. It would appear for me that if the TV is on HDMI input first, then the mac is booted up sound can work.

I thought that was good enough but I found I could do one better and fix the sound whilst the Mac was already on.

I also read about a MIDI control panel that could be used to change how the digital output is sent via HDMI. Eventually I found it in Applications->Utilities-> Audio Midi Setup (not System Preferences).

I found that the HDMI ‘LCD TV’ device was at Format 96000.0 Hz. When I changed this down to 48000.0Hz then I could hear a sound through my TV speakers again. (Another way to get sound working, was press ‘Configure Speakers…’ button on the same screen and do a speaker test which also triggered the TV sound again)

So after changing down to 44100, the sound seems to work consistently on each plugin.  And if I ever do loose the sound again, I can get it back through here without needing to reboot my mac, tv, etc.

Asus M51SN LCD Screen Upgrade

I wanted to upgrade the resolution of my laptop screen recently but couldn’t find any resources in the ASUS forums or elsewhere online of anyone who had done it previously.  The other requirement I had was that I wanted to not only go for a piecemeal ‘next resolution up’, I wanted to go all the way WUXGA (1920×1200) if possible.

The tech specs on the ASUS website for the M51SN only stated they supported screens up to WSXGA (1600×1050) but I did come across a laptop reseller p4laptops that was offering the model with an aftermarket WUXGA upgrade.  This got my hopes up that I could support the change.

Unfortunately the laptop LCD reseller websites I listed, only provided panels for the M51SN up to WSXGA if you were lucky.  Some were really bad only offering WXGA panels for this model – I certainly didn’t want that given I had a WXGA+ already.

I ended up contacting a panel vendor, Screen Country based in Canada who after explaining the situation of what I found were quite helpful in finding what they thought would be a compatible WUXGA panel.  It did come with some heavy disclaimers though – you do have to pay for the postage back if it doesn’t work and it has to be in new condition to return.  After telling them my existing panel number, which for my M51SN-AS037G, was an AUO2277 (B154PW02 V2), they advised me of a Toshiba panel (LTD154EZ0L), I soon put the order in and it took about a week to arive.

The first thing you should do before installing is unplug the power from the laptop and remove the battery.

As for pulling apart the laptop, I found the M50 disassembly guide.  The laptops are pretty close, the only difference is that they have 8 screws surrounding the screen.  The 4 pictures they had regarding LCD disassembly let me know what to expect.  The bits to know here was that I didn’t need to pull off one of the plastic hinges at the bottom of the screen.  It wont matter too much if they stay on during the LCD replacement.

Once the plastic surrounding the screen was unscrewed and snapped off, the existing LCD needed to be removed.  The other useful resource was the Screen Country support docs which explained how to disconnect the existing panel.  They do the disassembly on 2 laptops.  For this, the 2nd diagram more closely fit the Asus’ layout.  The key bit here is not to remove the immediate 4 screws that are on the edges connecting the LCD bracket to the laptop casing.  All you need to worry about are the smaller screws on the left and right side of the monitor connecting the casing to the monitor.

When pulling off the main video cable that runs along the back of the monitory, just take the tape off and use your fingernails and slowly edge out the video connector.  To remove the inverter cable at the bottom (white and pink coloured wires), its probably best to approach it from the right side and pull out the connector.  The inverter connector only snaps in one way too if u forget which way it is.

What tripped me up was putting the new panel in and plugging the video connector back into the laptop.  Its a very small bit of connectivity, and I didn’t push it in enough.  Its a bit counter intuitive but you have to apply a bit of force here.  Its probably best that once you line up the connector, you use the sticky tape thats goes over the connection to help push the connector in.  You’ll know the difference between partly in, and fully in when the connector slides in that couple of mm more.

Once that was sorted out though, I powered on the laptop and could see my windows boot up in new resolution glory.  A nice moment indeed.  Facebook, web browsing and IDE use are the apps that benefit the most from this change.

Recycling PC’s

I found, ready for throwing away, an old PC with an ASUS A7V-E motherboard. It was in our trash area in our block of flats. It had a 30gb disc, a Geforce 2 MX 440 gfx card, a Soundblaster Audigy, not a bad little rig.

One of the RAM sticks was faulty, and this was quickly diagnosed by Memtest. Once removed the random crashes disappeared. (something its previous owner must have not known about :-))

So rescued, this thing has been living in my bedroom, awaiting its transformation into an Entertainment center PC. My good friend Andrew lent me an old Pinnacle TV card (which finding drivers for has been a bit of a pain) and I just bought some speakers for it today.

The great thing to know is that the motherboard supports over 138Gb Hard disks with the latest beta according to here.

The next step would be to get the Pinnacle working correctly and install a DVD drive in there. This can then serve as the media center for the home. Finally a use for that 40gb laptop drive thats been hanging about.