The slow demise of my laptop

yujiri8 profile image Ryan Westlund ・2 min read

I don't know how many months ago it was that my current laptop, a Lenovo ThinkPad T480s, first sustained enough damage to make me think I'd be replacing it soon. The trackpad stopped working. At first it just became incredibly slow, then within a day broke completely. The trackpoint and mousebuttons still worked.

The next phase of death was the poweroff problem: if I closed the laptop while it was on battery, it'd sometimes shut off. Not always, but often, and it definitely wasn't due to running out of power. I started carrying it around with the lid open all the time, and I still never close it when it's not charging.

More recently the trackpad healed - as insane as that sounds - it started working again, but only for a few days. Now it's broke again.

And in the last few days, the escape key has broken. It never registers. The brightness adustment keys have also quit, so I must use intel_backlight directly. (This laptop always had a quirk with keysyms where I needed to hold Fn to give the F keys their normal function, but until just recently the brightness adjustment keys worked with it, and I didn't make any conf changes.) Now they don't send anything in xev, with or without Fn.

I wonder how much longer I'll keep using this. I've never been keen to replace things before they're unusable. Just incase, does anyone have a pointer for a better FreeBSD laptop? Even before this one starting breaking and aside from the keysym issues, I had one major issue with it: I never managed to get trackpad tapping disabled. Boy did I spend a long time trying, maybe a 50 hour investment or something. It seemed to be that the device wasn't being detected as a trackpad, and it seemed hopeless to try to fix. I would definitely not want to buy a laptop where I couldn't get this working. I got it working on my previous laptop, a ThinkPad T430.

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Ryan Westlund


I'm a programmer, writer, and philosopher. My Github account is yujiri8; all my content besides code is at yujiri.xyz.


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Did you disassemble it?, sounds like it has a connector loose.

I don't know the T480 but if has some resemblance to the old T420 or X230, you can easily remove the whole front, including keyboard and all the things you mentioned, all the above usually is connected with a single connector with millions of contacts, well maybe is an exaggeration, maybe they are actually billions of contacts.

Try to disassemble it, thinkpads usually have very detailed manuals that show step by step how to replace everything, sometimes that billion contact connector get loose of some dirt get between the contacts (some of the billions of them), that would explain all of your symptoms, sorry, I've been watching House MD.

When you move the laptop the connector seems to reconnect some and lose some connections and as is slowly losing contacts, the symptoms increase and sometimes something get temporarily fixed, in the case that the connector is well put and still give problems, could be the cable, usually a thin transparent plastic "cable" with, you know, billions of lines. In that case you should be able to find the whole panel to replace, that would be a lot cheaper than a new laptop, and you'll get a new keyboard.

The symptoms are only inputs located in the same plane, and are multiple things located in opposite sides (i.e. touchpad and power button) that means that has to be some place common to them, the billion contact connector or cable, the cable is unlikely because shouldn't have much movement, but the connector on the other hand, maybe came a little loose and have been getting out or some dirt creep inside, maybe some beverages?.

Well is that or Lupus (or some other autoimmune disease).


and if that doesn't work, remember that a laptops is just a low-power server with WIFI and UPS, sometimes they even come with a screen, touchpad and keyboard. ;)