0P3R@TI0N: Linux Lappy

Target: Acer Aspire A315-41
Goals: Convert from Windows 10 to Linux Mint
Problems: Fried keyboard
Plan: Pry her open, replace the keyboard, install Linux.

What I've thrown myself into this week, is repairing my laptop. I have an undisclosed event to go to in a week or so, and I'll be out of my house for a full five days, and I just can't imagine not having a keyboard on hand for five whole days. I type to stim and communicate my best over text, so the loss of such an important piece of tech like my computer is heartbreaking. Luckily I have no shortage of project computers! Aside from this particular one, I've got an old guy from 2012 awaiting a new hard drive and display panel, and a chromebook that would be just darling with Mint + Xfce instead of the disgusting pit that is Gallium.

Realizing my deadline was fast approaching, I ordered a replacement keyboard, I prepared my Linux Mint 20.2 with MATE desktop environment boot media. And I prepared myself.

Poorly. I prepared myself poorly.

Once my keyboard arrived, we started prying apart the laptop case. This went mostly fine, and our spirits stayed high until we finished unseating the motherboard. In this particular laptop the proceedure is easy enough to open her up and get access to your motherboard, just unscrew and spudge off the back case plate. Unseating the mother Board requires more time, but really just amounts to unscrew everything and unplug all the cables and connectors.

Or it would, if the display panel's connection wasn't taped to the motherboard. We left it in place and left the motherboard connected to the display, it just meant removing the mother board required more care and finesse so as to not strain the cable or connectors.

The first problem was actually the integrated graphics chip. It's connections are soldered aside from the slot where it plugs into the motherboard; and it's wires ran under the motherboard, so it was tethering everything down. So we unsated the integrated graphics chip. With that done, we freed the mobo, and peeled up the plastic sticker/cable manager that was holding down our graphics chip. Little did I know that plastic cable manager was protecting me.

Plastic

Fucking

RIVETS

Yes, underneath the horrid cable management sticker, there they were. Dozens of tiny black dots. Tiny. Plastic. Rivets. Tiny Plastic Rivets holding my keyboard plate and keyboard to the face plate of my laptop. I wanted to scream; but really the excercise would have been fruitless and not even properly expressed my anguish. Anything short of a grotesque self destruction in public would have failed to express my anguish.

My girlfriend got a wood carving knife and we solidered on, carving off the tops of the plastic rivets. I'm fairly certain at least a few loose tops remain inside the laptop now. The plate securing the keyboard bears the scars of our efforts. It felt like ages it took to remove that plate, it was probably only 20 minutes. We knew, from the holes in the back plate, there would be more rivets securing the keyboard under it. But not that there were nearly just as many rivets under the plate as above it.

At this point both of our hands were sore and the wood carving blade was getting dull from scraping against aluminum. So we ripped it. We just ripped the keyboard off of most of its plastic rivets, twisting it into a mangled tangle of aluminum and ABS plastic.

So with the laptop mutilated and its old keyboard destroyed near beyond recognition, we installed the replacement. We struggled through the reassembly process; failing to document the disassembly in our haste. Eventually everything was placed correctly, cables and connections secured; back plate screwed into place just as it had been before we started this journey.

Now just to plug it in and boot it!

It fails to boot to windows for near 20 straight minutes. We can't access the BIOS because windows is already attempting to boot.

I may have a small break down about my failings. We escort the laptop back to the work area that is the kitchen table and go to bed.

The Next Morning

We procrastinate. We procrastinate on looking at the laptop for a while.

My dearest girlfriend fucks around with the BIOS for awhile before I finally ask, "Will it boot from live media?"

I have already made some Linux Mint MATE media, having chose MATE since its a touch lighter weight than Cinnamon, and my laptop has less RAM and VRAM than my desktop. With the laptop booting into BIOS just fine, we plug the media into the USB.

And The

Whole Thing

Looks Like

This.

I cry again.

Once I calm down from my second breakdown of this process, its just time to troubleshoot. I kind of hate troubleshooting but it seems to just dominate my interactions with tech now.

It is a fog, dearest gf comes in and out of helping and comforting me. I try booting Linux Mint in safe mode, compatability mode, whatever it is called.

It works. Perfectly. Sort of. My touch pad doesn't work. It's fine. I have a USB mouse and it works. I pause to back up data that I can salvage off of the corrupted windows install. Once I save a handful of movies I give up, I salt the earth. Maybe, by some grace of god, perhaps this weird graphical glitch is related to the corrupted Windows install that Linux took a very careful amount of time during the safe boot to tell me, it wants nothing to do with.

I take the chance. I install Linux Mint MATE to the SSD and purge the corrupted windows install and wash my hands of whatever I did to the poor thing.

And The

Whole Thing

Looks Like

This.

I cry again.

At some point during my third ranting and raving and tearing up and considering throwing the whole thing in the canal, my Dearest Girlfriend comes to me, speaking holy words.

"I found the same bug on this forum."

For the first time since we encountered those damnedable plastic rivets I feel hope.

"Apparently it's a known bug with MATE and some AMD cards?"

Salvation is possible.

I just have to re-write my boot media.

I do it. I sit anxiously for the whole process.

I restart the laptop again, this time with the boot drive being media for Linux Mint Cinnamon. I considered XFCE but was far too tired to risk further problems. I had significant faith that Cinnamon would work. Solely because it works perfectly on my desktop. I know that's silly, my desktop has an nVidia card in it. I don't care. I just hope that it works.

The boot seems to lag

The login screen launches slowly, yet flawlessly. Though, so did the MATE login screen.

I press enter.

Loading into desktop crawls.

FUCK YES IT'S FUCKING PERFECT THANK GOD I LOVE COMPUTERS

May this be a lesson to us all to check the compatability of every part of our Linux distros and our hardware. It is certainly one that will haunt and infuriate me for months to come. May my suffering save you from my pain.