Last week Sunday I was sitting on the couch using my little laptop when it ‘seized up’ for a few seconds. And after that, I could not use the keyboard nor the trackpad, but the touchscreen was still working. That’s pretty odd, of course. I tried hooking up a keyboard through USB, and that still worked ok.
So was the keyboard & trackpad broken? Well, I let the machine run for a while and it put itself in sleep mode. But when I then pressed a key, it would wake up again. So it couldn’t be a mechanical defect. But when booting the machine, the machine did not react to function keys to get into the boot menu…
Perhaps it was a (residual) driver issue? I did run Ubuntu instead of the Windows that came with it, and searching for these symptoms indicated that some issues could be solved by letting the machine select a different keyboard driver. So I (re-)installed Windows on the machine, but to no avail: still these same problems.
You can imagine that I was not best pleased and started doubting the wisdom of getting this machine: I had only been able to use it for one and a half day!
Then I happened upon a forum post where someone describes the precise symptoms I had. It turns out that there is a chip in the machine that turns off the keyboard and trackpad if the screen is positioned at an angle of 180 degrees or more relative to the keyboard. And that makes sense: you don’t want accidental keypresses if you fold the screen over, right? Apparently it had gotten into a state that it believed that the screen was folded back, and it would not get out of that. It was all consistent with the behaviour I saw.
The solution to let this chip reset itself was to completely drain the battery. So I put a video on loop with the highest brightness on the screen and let that run for multiple hours. Usually, it’s a good thing that batteries for laptops last a long time, but this time it was a bit of a bummer. And then I found that the system shut itself down before the battery was drained completely. You’d press the button and the system would refuse to boot, but would blink a LED — so there was still juice in there!
Then I got so fed up that I hooked it up to the power brick and booted to verify if it had worked — and I still had this problem.
So here’s the real solution: Unscrew the bottom of the laptop and pry it open. You see the battery (which is screwed onto the motherboard). It connects to the rest of the system through a connector with five (or six?) separate wires going into a single flat connector. Unhook that, wait half a minute, hook it up again and close the laptop again. Problem solved!
I put Ubuntu on it again (because I prefer that), and have been using it pretty intensely. I haven’t had any problems since.