How to program a new Toyota transponder key

In need of an extra key for your Toyota? Avoid the dealer, they charge an arm and a leg for a simple procedure you can do yourself for free. Searching the web turned up a couple of techniques, but the one that worked for me was found in a youtube comment by user Nazareth434.

My car is a Toyota Matrix 2005 but apparently this procedure is valid for all Toyotas. If it did or did not work for you please let me know in the comments. And if nothing including this procedure has worked for you, don’t despair, at least your copy can open Doors. Attach it in a concealed spot under you car and save it for the “oops I’ve locked myself out situation”.

Procedure

First, you need a blank key transponder key for your model and year. You can get one for 10$ or so through eBay or amazon. Then, have the key cut by your local hardware store and make sure it fits you ignition lock: you should be able to turn it all the way to the start position and hear the starter going without the engine turning on. With the master key (the black key, not the valet key, which is grey) and the copy in hand, install yourself in the driver’s seat and follow the procedure carefully. It took me about 30 minutes and many tries to get the steps right as there is timing involved. Persevere and and it should work.

  1. Insert the MASTER key in the ignition 5 times, leaving it IN the ignition on the 5th time. Do not turn the key. Don’t rush that step, do it slowly.
  2. Open and close the driver’s door 6 times, leaving the door closed on the 6th time.
  3. Remove the master key from the ignition. The security light should now be solid red to indicate programming mode. If it’s not, repeat from the beginning.
  4. Insert the new key in the ignition but don’t turn it. Do that step quickly as the computer only stays in this mode for a couple of seconds.
  5. The security light will resume blinking. After 60 seconds (maybe more, be patient), the light will stop blinking and turn off.
  6. Remove the new key, insert the master and turn the engine on and then off.
  7. Done! Test your new key. When you insert it, the security light should stop blinking and the car should start.

The theory

Its wrongly called programming a key but in fact, no key gets programmed by itself, its the car that gets programmed. Keys have an RFID emitter in them which outputs a unique identifier when prompted by the car’s anti-theft device’s reader upon insertion in the ignition. If that identifier is not in the car’s computer valid key identifier list, the car will not start.

What the procedure above does is putting the car’s anti-theft system in programming mode and then telling it that it should include the new key’s id in its list of permitted keys. This is done by doing a set of special steps with the master key in. If you possess the master key, chances are you are the master, but should you loose all you keys, there will be no way of starting the car again other than replacing the anti-theft computer; something the dealer will charge a lot for.

Fixing radeon display issues on Fedora 23

I had put off system upgrades for so long that I found myself having to go from Fedora 20 to 23. It took a while but everything was going smoothly until I hit Fedora 23. There, after the mandatory reboot, hooking up my secondary monitor would freeze the display and screen repainting on some programs (like Eclipse) had become problematically slow and CPU demanding. This being Linux, I scoured the web on a quest to find some clues on what was not configured correctly but nothing came up. I’m running an AMD A6-3420M APU and while AMD provides driver for that chip, they are according to reports very finicky and a pile of trouble to get running.

I resorted to simply downgrading the driver. It was working correctly in the past, so I could see no obvious reason an older version would not do it this time.

First find the version of the driver currently installed:

dnf info xorg-x11-drv-ati

Which should spit out something along the lines of:

Installed Packages
Name        : xorg-x11-drv-ati
Arch        : i686
Epoch       : 0
Version     : 7.6.0
Release     : 0.4.20150729git5510cd6.fc23
Size        : 151 k
Repo        : fedora
Summary     : Xorg X11 ati video driver
URL         : http://www.x.org
License     : MIT
Description : X.Org X11 ati video driver.

So the faulty driver is version 7.6.0. Now, run:

sudo dnf --showduplicates --allowerasing --releasever=22 downgrade xorg-x11-drv-ati

Here, we’re asking dnf to go look in release 22 of Fedora for an earlier version of the driver. If the problems you are experiencing appeared with a recent update, you could avoid the –releasever argument altogether to just revert back to the previous version.

If the downgrade does not work, you rerun the command to roll back the driver even further in the past, but if after a couple times you haven’t had success, the issue probably lies with another package so run a dnf update to and take your investigation elsewhere, maybe the kernel, wayland, X, the window composer or gnome-shell.

When you update your system in the future, you’ll have to run:

sudo dnf --exclude=xorg-x11-drv-ati update

Otherwise, dnf will reinstall the broken later version of the package. This command will also give you packages with broken dependencies. That’s normal, those are packages that share dependencies with the one you have downgraded and for all I know could actually have been the ones causing you trouble. Just let them be.

Make sure you check back from time to time if another version of the offending package has been released by issuing a simple dnf update and checking the version now available.

DIY leather wallet

After 15 years of use and abuse in my sweaty jeans, my wallet had finally reached the end of its run. Looking at a worthy replacement, I started shopping around the web and found several canditates. However, either slightly too bulky or just out of my means, I finally decided to build my own. A tedious search on the web turned up this one, a template for a simple bifold wallet with slots for two cards on each size. Careful analysis of the design indicated that there was much more to leather work than met the eye and instead of cooking up my own design only to risk the wallet not folding properly, I opted to simply follow the instructions (for once). It’s sturdy, maintainable and looks good; hopefully, it will outlast me.

Wanting to offer some as Christmas gifts as well, I ended up making three. Here is abbreviated list of the challenges I encountered during the building:

  • leather is difficult to find, be thorough in you search for sources, call every fabric shop and cobbler in your region and once you find some, get there and feel the material for yourself;
  • sewing leather is long and tedious if you want to do it properly (with saddle stitching in this case), get the right needles and be patient, I ended up going through David Attenborough’s entire series on plants and birds in the course of putting mines together;
  • burnishing the edges of the leather (ie: make them smooth and shiny) is hard and appears to not work on vegetables tanned types; you also need a burnisher, which I build by cutting a section of a branch, hooking it up to a Dremel and then sculpting it to make a groove.

Printable recreational dive log sheet template

Having filled up the last page of my store bought dive log, I decided it was time I started printing my own log sheets. I wanted a template that could fit in a small binder (half letter (5.5″ x 8.5″) or A5), where there was enough space on the page to log two dives and that gave me ample space for comments while providing the standard diving data fields. Unfortunately, I could not find anything that suited my needs so I decided to put together my own.

Click here to download

Dive log demo

Printable dive log sheets full page

It features the following built in fields:

  • dive number
  • dive start time
  • visibility
  • air and bottom temperature
  • site
  • location
  • depth
  • air or nitrox (EANx)
  • gas consumed
  • weight
  • time under
  • safety stop
  • boat or shore dive
  • fresh or salt water dive
  • notes
  • buddy or divemaster signature and number

The layout is compact and text has been kept to a minimum: you write the units yourself. Once it has been printed (on good paper stock and double side preferably), cut the sheets in half along the dotted line, punch holes if you want to store them in a binder and go log some dives.

For those interested in the source, here it is. Suggestions for improvements are welcome!

Georgia, part 2

Georgia is small and can be traversed from one end to the other in a couple of hours provided there are not too many trucks: on a single day of driving, we departed from Yerevan in Armenia and made it to Stepansmida (formerly known as Kazbegi) deep in northern Georgia. Lauded as one of the best destination for hiking, Stepansmida lies close to the Russian border high in the Caucasus mountains but only a 2h30 drive away from Tbilisi  using the famous “Georgian military highway”. Our original goal was to spend two days there but due to unforeseen delays we only had one. Nonetheless, this would have provided us with half a day of hiking around as the rental car was not due until the middle of the afternoon.

The scenery on the way to Stepansmida

With hitchikers

With hitchikers

The drive up was spectacular, even more so than earlier mountain scenery we had been exposed to. The weather was noticeably cooler, the peaks higher, the valleys deeper and the terrain more abrupt. On the way there, we picked up three Ukrainian hitchhikers which we managed to cram in the car along with their backpacks and a guitar. Our vehicle, already struggling, was taxed almost to its capacity but it was worth taking our time as the view was worth it. Having dropped our guests at their destination, we kept going until we encountered some weird Soviet era monument a bit before the Jvari pass. The structure was curious, but it was the scenery that caught our attention the most. I might be breaking graphic design rules here but I think it’s worth two large photos in a row.

Monument on the way to Stepansmida

Monument on the way to Stepansmida

Going down into the clouds

 

We resumed the climb, crossed the Jvari pass and dived through a thick layer of clouds under which layed a large valley. However, something strange was profiling itself on the horizon. Trucks, and lots of them, stopped by the side of the road, with their drivers out just killing time with one another. What was wrong? Was the road damaged? The car we were following just kept going as if it was nothing important so we continued. For several kilometers and until we hit our destination we passed countless freight trucks stopped in the same fashion. Weird.

Having not booked any accommodation, we were turned down at the guesthouse we were hoping to sleep in. It was high season after all and that small town was one of the most popular destination in Georgia. After almost an hour of driving around to find beds, we finally had to settle for an expensive hotel that was offering us a (still expensive) discounted room. While eating diner that night, we asked the waiter about all the trucks lining the road. Turns out it was the lineup for the Russian customs. With the border in South-Ossetia and Abkhazia being closed to traffic coming from Georgia, that border crossing was the only one linking not only Georgia to Russia, but also Armenia and eastern Turkey.

The next day, I woke up to find out that my girlfriend had been sick all night from the a sketchy kebab we had eaten for lunch in Armenia. Some medication I gave her managed to improve her condition slightly, but she was in no shape to go on a hike. Anyway, the weather was foggy so in all cases our morning was ruined. The drive down from the mountains back to Tbilisi was not as spectacular so we went as fast as possible and managed to return the car on time but not without me informing the rental agency about all the issues the vehicle had. Independent rental agency tend to offer lower prices than franchises, but their cars are often in a rougher shape.

The first time we had been in Tbilisi, we had opted for a dorm in an hostel but given my girlfriend’s condition, we had booked a proper hotel. However, they had an unpleasant surprise waiting for us on arrival: the prices advertised on the booking site were inaccurate so they wanted to charge us way more. Wanting to explore other options, we walked around for a while trying to find an alternative but soon realized rooms in the old town were pricier than expected. In the end we ended up taking the room we had booked. The owner, feeling very sorry, excused herself many times and explained that the price discrepancy was due to the booking site (hostelworld.com) not working properly. Feeling she was the problem rather than the site, I offered her my help so while my girlfriend was catching a nap, I painstakingly rebuilt her hotel’s page on the booking site.

It was easy and contrary to her belief, everything was working as expected. Her issue was a case of failing to RTFM (read the f*cking manual). It took two hours but I was enjoying the experience of guiding here through the interface and giving her marketing advice for her establishment. Immensely grateful for my aid, she offered me coffee and snacks while I was working, charged me the price we had originally expected to pay for the room, promised me free beers that night and a ride to the airport the next day. I had wanted to use that time for work, but instead I got to discover how to set up and hostel on hostelworld.com. For the remainder of the day, not much happened, she went to bed early while I caught up on blogging and work, sipping on my well deserved free drinks.

Inside Tbilisi Sameba cathedral

Inside Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral

Tbilisi Sameba cathedralThe following day, our last, she was doing much better so we checked out, left our bags at the hotel and proceeded to walk around Tbilisi. The Sameba Cathedral was our first objective. Built in 2004 to bolster faith and unity in a post-Soviet Georgia, nothing was spared in making it one of the most impressive structure in this corner of the world. It was immense, on many levels and took easily an hour to explore. The rest of the day was spent walking as far as we could and catching the metro back to the old town. We went through nice parts of town and some more popular ones, reminding us that Georgia is still a developing country and that our standard of living is the exception rather than the norm.

In the old town

In the old town

Our time in Georgia was almost over. We were leaving at 6h30 the next day and wanted to arrive at the airport around midnight to sleep there. There was however one more thing we needed to do: have a proper taste at Georgian wine and buy bottles to bring back home. That was what our last evening was devoted to. We visited a couple of shops which offered us cheap samples and poor service but settled on one that was a bit out of the way but about which I had a good feeling. I was right in my intuition, samples were plentiful, we got freebies and excellent service. Extremely satisfied with our experience and slightly inebriated, we decided we would give them the extra alcohol we had brought into the country but could not take back home. I had a bottle of Ouzo and some Quebec made Chic Choc spiced rum. I hope the gift was appreciated.

Tbilisi’s airport was small and crowded but we scored a pretty decent spot with an electrical outlet. She slept while I killed time on the computer until check-in started. After connections through Kiev and Amsterdam, we landed home at the end of the afternoon. It always takes a bit of time for the brain to switch out of traveling mode.  As we were gazing in amazement at cars and houses, It felt like Montreal, a city extremely familiar to us, was new and exotic. That was obviously not the case, but it was certainly much different that what we had been used to seeing over the last few weeks. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia had been feast for the eyes. Similar to each other in some aspects but very alike in others; it’s amazing how much diversity was packed in such a small area. The last weeks had been filled with amazing landscapes, amazing food and amazing encounters and our minds, not yet weened off the drug, was still craving for more even if a huge part of us, exhausted and in need of a rest, was happy to have arrived.

Our great disappointment was not having spent enough time in the region, but two weeks was all we could spare. In that time, we have barely brushed the surface of those three countries. We do not regret the ways we organized our time. It’s not like we can easily come back there; this may have been only chance to see that part of the world so doing a quick tour was in our opinion the best way to make the most of that trip. It’s hard for me to say what I enjoyed the most but I would most definitely put food and scenery at the top of the list so if I do come back, I’ll certainly orient my trip towards hiking expeditions, urban exploration of abandoned Soviet infrastructure and spend a bit of time in the wine making regions.

Oh yeah and if I do rent a vehicle, it’s going to be a 4×4.