crashing waves

MacOS crashes looking for answers

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Well, I’m really confused, my most important mission critical application, Zoom, is hard crashing my MacOS, so this is a good lesson in debugging things like this, but here are the symptoms:

  1. I have an old MacBook Pro (2016) running Big Sur, it has a Logitech BRIO hooked up to it via USB 2.0 cables. that has been working fine, but suddenly today I have two symptoms on Zoom 5.6.0 (536), the machine has a machine check and crashes and does a full reboot. I have not seen this before.
  2. Originally, I thought it was the BRIO, but then the system just crashed without anything obvious running. The crashes were sometimes a full crash and sometimes a boot back to the login prompt.
  3. This all happened when docked and connected, using the machine tethered, it seemed to work fine and the problem is there are so many different things it could be that it is really hard to figure out what is going on.

I’ve been lucky so far and have never had this kind of boot cycle crash on MacOS, so time to figure out what is going on:

  1. Fruitlessly, I first though it had to do with the Logitech and the camera since that is the first thing I did.
  2. So first thing was to remove the Logitech utilities. It could be that these utilities called camera-settings and logitech-g-hub, but this didn’t help.
  3. Finally, I tried swapping cables as I was using a USB 2.0 cable accidentally, but moving to USB 3 didn’t help. Here going to About This Mac> System Report is your friend. Look in the USB section and see if the device is in the USB 2 or 3 section. See The Hell that is USB C Cables for picking cables, but the Logitech is a USB C 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) camera when you are using 4K, so get the right cable for it.
  4. So then I wondered if it would happen on another Brio I had on another desk station through a CalDigit hub, but it still kept crashing
  5. Then I thought perhaps it was settings with Zoom, but then when I completely uninstalled it, I was still getting full crashes and getting kicked to the Login screen!

So now it was time to get serious:

  1. I learned that ~/Library/Logs/CrashReport actually has the .crash files that tell you want is going on. I’m not sure why these are put into the console, but you have to search for it. Then I discovered the applications causing the Kernel panics were actually things that were doing file work like Backup and Sync for Google.
  2. Well that was really strange, so the next thing was to Reinstall MacOS. This was a completely different thing then what I had done in the past. Apple has made it much easier. Just hold the ⌘-R key while booting and select reinstall MacOS and I discovered that it won’t actually delete the data.
  3. Now the next step is to see how this whole thing behaves without the docking station. I’m now wondering if there is a problem with the docking station and the latest release

Overall, this goes to show how hard these crashes can be to diagnose, I wish I had known about the .crash files way before this!

One of the inconveniences is how the System Report doesn’t let you work from the command line, but the Mac CLI is available by download. So not quite sure what this is, so now off to search MacOS 11.2.3 (20D91) and see if there is some sort of OS problem as @lucas mentioned, but I don’t see any widely reported issues.

So I’m finding that a reinstall didn’t do anything and noticing that not plugged into the docking station works. I probably should have started there. Also reseting the NVRAM (with nvram -c and the reboot at the command line) and resetting the SMC which is a little (System Management Controller) by shutdown and restart holding down the Ctrl-Option-Shift on the left side of keyboard.


Final annoying thing is that sometimes, I’m in Vi and suddenly it says recording. If this happens to you have accidentally hit the quote q and then a letter, this records a macro in the letter key, so qa puts a macro in. It records all your keystrokes and then when you hit the trailing q. Then to rerun the macro it is @ and then the letter so @a reruns the keystrokes

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