Wednesday, June 15, 2011

EeePC 901 showing signs of life after near-fatal collapse

Yesterday, I posted about my netbook's near-death experience.
Today, I used Parted Magic to delete all partitions on both ssd's and then installed Haiku (nightly r42125) on the 4GB disk and this went smoothly.
In addition, it added a boot sector to /dev/sda1 (rather than the mbr) which allowed it to boot as no other OS was present.
Booting went fine and the BIOS pages did not show up.
However, just when I thought my luck had changed, I found the keyboard didn't work as nothing whatsoever would type.

OK, nothing for it, but to remove the keyboard as I'd seen many posts and threads mentioning that many times keyboard problems in the EeePC may be resolved by reseating the ribbon cable that connects the keyboard to the computer.
Now as this short video shows, when the three tabs just above the F1, F6 and F12 keys are pushed towards the screen, the keyboard pops up.
However, this does NOT work on my machine and, believe me, I have tried.
First, I removed the battery and all cables and then help the power button down for 30 seconds to discharge the computer.
So, with somebody to help me, I prised the upper right corner up with a jewelers screwdriver while the other guy pressed on the nearest tab.
Eventually, with much persuasion, it came loose of whatever was holding it in place. Then, maintaining the upward pressure on the part of the keyboard already loose, I continued to the other tabs and finally the whole thing came loose.
Now I have to admit that my method to get the keyboard of included a fair amount of brute force. Indeed, the upper right corner of the keyboard was noticeably bent as a result so this is not to be recommended.

I was surprised to find that the keyboard, once removed looked very thin and, even, flimsy. Underneath was a metal plate which I had also not expected. See the shot.

Then I pushed the two clips holding th ribbon cable in place upward (towards the screen) and took out the cable.
Next, I vacuumed everything exposed by removing the keyboard including the connection point for the ribbon cable.
Then I cleaned the end of the ribbon cable which fits into the connection point and replaced the cable.

Without refitting the keyboard, I rebooted and now the keyboard worked. So, looking good, so I downloaded the latest rc of Haiku R1A3 and created a usb key from which I upgraded the version of Haiku on the netbook (to r42159)
This went fine, but the keyboard stopped working and, additionally, the BIOS started appearing once again early in the boot.
However, this is not really a problem.
But, I had to remove, clean and reseat the ribbon cable before the keyboard started working again.

Some further observations:
--The touchpad seems to work ONLY when the keyboard is functional. I don't know why there should be this coincidental behavior but I have a feeling that perhaps it's not truly a keyboard problem.
--The BIOS shows up at times, without being asked, whether or not the keyboard is about to function.
--Although much reduced over what it was yesterday, the strange symbols still show up in the Haiku terminal.
--Pushing and clicking the keyboard into place with the power still on is perhaps not a good idea. On both occasions I did this the power was shutdown and even the red power light on the bottom right goes out. I got it back by, removing the battery and and power cable and holding the power button for 30 seconds, then re-inserting the battery and power cable.

Although the Haiku Live USB works perfectly without any indication of problems, the other two USB's I tried didn't work perfectly.
Parted Magic shows very much of the usual ^[[[B that I mentioned yesterday but, nevertheless, if works enough to remove partitions.
However, Ubuntu didn't work well even though it was less "troubled" than the previous day.
I tried a few variants (11.04 and 10.10, created using either Unetbootin or StartUpDisk Creator) and got three different error messages:

i) Can't umount /cdrom: Device or Resource busy
ii) Sudo: unable to resolve host (none)
iii) (process: 204): Glib-WARNING ** get pwuid_rf: failed due to unknown user id.

After about three hours of use, the keyboard and touchpad stopped working. I try cleaning it again tomorrow.

In any event, I've purchased a new keyboard for my machine from Ebay which cost €13 including delivery. I'll get this in about a week so I have another go at resurrecting this little machine that has served me well for more than three years.

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