Dell TB16 vs TB15

A year and a few months ago, I picked up a Dell TB15 to use with my new XPS 15 9550. Since then, the TB15 was discontinued due to hardware issues. Last December, the WD15 as the only available replacement, even though its link was USB C, not Thunderbolt 3 like the TB15. However, Dell has since released the TB16, which officially replaces the TB15.

Since January, Dell has replacing existing TB15 units with TB16 for customers who open a support ticket requesting an exchange. Additionally, it appears that Dell is, as of late April, proactively sending out TB16 units to those who purchased a TB15 unit from Dell.com—this is how I ended up with a TB16. In addition to the TB16, Dell includes a letter explaining the exchange process and a shipping label for returning the old TB15.

The Hardware

As the official successor to the TB15, the TB16 is extremely similar to its predecessor. It contains the same assortment of IO ports, and is physically the same size. Externally, the only change is the addition of two thermal vents, one on each of the two sides without ports. Internally, there is a fan that spins up after being powered for a while when driving a monitor.

Linux Compatibility

In the case of the XPS15 (and other Dell products), make sure in the UEFI settings that Thunderbolt Security is set to “No Security”. This appears to be the only mode that works with Linux at the moment. In the other modes, only the monitor ports work. The Ethernet adapter and audio ports appear as USB devices. Frankly, it looks eerily similar to the WD15.

The Ethernet adapter is a Realtek RTL8153, which your kernel may or may not have a driver compiled in. If not, you can find it under Drivers > Network Devices > USB. The Audio adapters is a Realtek device. Again, this is a USB device (device ID 4014. This device appears to work with the snd-usb-audio driver.

Of course, the advantage over the WD15 is being able to drive more than just two 1080p displays. It definitely can drive a 4K display at 60Hz. Additionally, hot-plugging and hot-unplugging works.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Dell WD15 vs TB15

WD15 on Top of TB15 Front View

In the time since I picked up my XPS 15 9550 and TB15, Dell has introduced a new USB C docking station, the Dell Dock WD15 (450-AEUO). It appears that this dock has officially replaced the TB15. The product page for the TB15 is no longer available, searching for “TB15” brings up the wireless dock and the WD15, and on the XPS15 page the TP15 is listed as “Currently not available”. Additionally, from some quite harsh reviews, it appears Dell had some issues with reliability and drivers for the TB15.

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LED Turn Signals and the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK2)

One of the original turn signal bulbs in the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK2) burnt out last week. While getting into the taillight assembly is not too difficult, it isn’t something I really want to do again. So replacing the fragile incandescent bulb with a LED based bulb seemed like a great idea. Luckily, there are several options for replacing the 3057 flasher bulbs. I picked the Sylvania Zevo 3057R, which contains red LEDs that match the lens cover.

LEDs happen to be a double edge sword. They are more efficient, so they draw less current, which is cool. But, that reduced current draw can cause problems with turn signal flashing circuits—typically referred to as hyper-blinking. In older vehicles the flasher module can be replaced with a solid module that supports LED and incandescent bulbs. However, in the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, this functionality is taken care of by the vehicle’s computer system. Now, this should not be a problem, except there is current detection circuitry to determine if the bulb is burnt out (and then emulates the hyper-blinking of traditional systems). While this is good for alerting the owner that the bulb needs replacement, its current threshold is set too high for LED bulbs. Thus, I get the hyper-blinking issue.

There are two potential solutions to this. One is a hardware hack, the other involves hacking the vehicle’s computer. The popular solution is to place a high wattage, low resistance resistor in parallel with the LED blinker bulb. This will fake out the current sensor and will result in the normal blink rate. The issue with this is the resistor needs to sit somewhere, and this is incompatible with re-installation of incandescent bulbs. The other option is more ideal, though it requires hacking the computer responsible for the current sensing. Naturally, I am looking into this second option.

As an interesting aside, the hazard flashers blink at the standard rate with the LED bulbs. Additionally, when set to accessory mode, the first three flashes will be at the correct rate. There appears to be a delay in detection or communication of the ‘burnt out’ state. These two behaviors could possibly be exploited to deliver the expected behavior with LED bulbs via a module plugged into the ODB port.

It would be nice if Jeep made available the source code for the module responsible for this, and provided documentation for it. Modifications for off-roading are an integral part of Jeep culture, why can’t this be extended to the software running on its electronic modules?

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Seagate 4TB Expansion and Backup Plus

This is the first in a series of posts regarding a new server build one is working on. The current local server, a HP Proliant Microserver (Gen 7 with a N40L) is four years old. While it can still handle print and file serving, it is having issues with its newer tasks. Specifically, transcoding Plex streams to Chromecasts and Fire TVs is a stuttering affair.

To start the build, one needs to have a case. Finding a good quality rackmount case, with hot swappable drive bays, at a reasonable price leaves just one option, the Supermicro SC216. The problem with the SC216 is it has 24 drive bays for 2.5″ drives. Most manufacturer’s only have 2TB drives in the 2.5″ formfactor. However, there is the ST4000LM016 made by Seagate.

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