What NOT To Do When Bored of Testing 2007

by Neptune

Yes, testing 2007 is boring, tediously, horribly boring. The darn thing just works. And where's the thrill there? So you're bored, and you notice something. A key on your laptop isn't quite right. Maybe it's sticking, maybe it's got a bit of pizza crust lodged under it - at any rate, for whatever reason, whether it be a genuine mechanical failure, or possibly some micro-stroke, or other cerebral vascular trauma, you decide to take apart your laptop keyboard. I can give you a bit of advice. Don't. Just don't. I'm not talking the polite Nancy Reagan "Just say no" don't. I mean, for the love of all you hold dear, for the sake of your sanity, for those who love and need you - DON'T!

Perhaps you feel the malfunctioning key is needed. I assure you, it's not. You can ype a perfecly inelligible senence wihou he use of mos of your keys. Hones. Alternately, you can just use the trick of changing keyboard layouts. Type your document, then go into your system configuration and switch the keyboard layout to Dvorak (which you should be using anyway) and fill in the missing letters.

Even better. Lock your laptop in the attic, and move away. Just sell the house. Ever see 'Poltergeist'? Trust me, once your laptop keyboard malfunctions, you're better off just walking away. Only evil can come of sticking around and messing with forces that are darker and more powerful than you can imagine. Let the next owners of your house unlock that fateful door one day. It's their problem.

"But", you say, "I used to take apart my old IBM Model M keyboard all the time, stick the bits in the dishwasher, and be back and running in thirty minutes!" Well, all I can say to that is...you poor deluded fool. First of all, the IBM Model M keyboard (possibly the finest keyboard ever conceived on this, or any other world) was a military grade, field serviceable piece of cold war digital combat equipment. It was designed to be field-stripped in the dark by Pentagon typists after a nuclear holocaust and built to outlast God while serving as a combination fallout shelter and self defense weapon.

Your laptop keyboard on the other hand, was conceived and executed by a tribe of mutant dwarfs, somewhere in the foothills of the Taiwanese Alps to do exactly two things - take up less than 1" of vertical space and weigh approximately three grams. To do that requires not engineering, but voodoo. I'm talking serious mojo here, and when the mojo breaks, you're just better off not messing with it.

But I see that, like Captain Ahab, you are intent on your doomed pursuit. Very well. You will need a few things. You will need a thin-walled plastic container, a slender implement, such as your average swiss army knife, some epoxy, and alcohol. The alcohol is not for the keyboard, it's for you. I suggest Jack Daniels, but some have reported satisfactory results with gin or rum.

You will also need some knowledge. Search the web for "replace laptop keys", and read carefully. Some sites will helpfully explain that you should pry gently on the right side of the key, unless you have a left-side-prying keyboard. Right. Others purport to show pictures of the disassembly, taken with scanning electron microscopes. Keep in mind that on the web, I have also seen pictures of Jimmy Hoffa flying a UFO into the world trade center. These photos are fakes, done in Photoshop (I mean the keyboard photos - the Hoffa photos are real). And there is no such thing as a "right-prying" or "left-prying" keyboard. This is just a cruel prank.

First, you will need to take the thin-walled plastic container and cut a few circles out of it. Mix up your epoxy, and use it to attach the plastic circles over every possible inlet or outlet in your bathroom, which is where we'll be working. Or, to be more precise, we'll be working in the bathtub. When those tiny plastic pieces start flying around, you'll be glad you listened. (Note: you don't have to epoxy your toilet - just wrap it in two or three layers of duct tape) While you're waiting for the epoxy to harden, pour yourself a shot of the alcohol mentioned above. You'll be glad you did.

Now that the epoxy has hardened, move your project into the tub, close the shower curtain and begin prying on the keys in question with your prying implement, mentioned above. Where you pry doesn't much matter; as I mentioned above, the notion of "left-prying", or "right-prying" keyboards is just foolishness. You will hear a slight click, as you apply pressure. You will next hear a naughty word or two as plastic pieces pop loose and fly all over the tub. The web-sites show the keycap neatly coming loose, leaving an ingenious little x-frame that supports the keycap and gives it it's "action". These websites, as I explained earlier, are lies. Actually the whole darn thing flies apart in four different directions.

Step out of the bathroom (did I mention you should be doing this without clothing, by the way? When those little pieces jump off your keyboard, they can be lodged in any piece of clothing, where you will not find them, and they will not dislodge until you are someplace where they can fall and never be found. So just work in the nude. It's a bathtub, OK? You've done this before) and pour yourself another drink.

Take a deep breath, march back into the bathroom and examine things. The first thing you will notice, in the vacant space left by the keycap, is enough hair to let a Tibetan yak join the Men's Hair Club. This is normal. I've seen a lot of keyboards and they all have it. I'm sure the manufacturers put it there for a reason, so it's best to just leave it be.

The next thing you will notice, if it's an "x-frame"-type keyboard, is that that among the pieces that popped loose, there are two tiny ladder-like parts and one flat piece. You will notice that each of these pieces looks as if it might be capable of being rotated in either the X or the Y dimension and still fit together. Some of you binary math types have already figured that means there are sixty-three possible wrong ways, and one right way to re-assemble things. I love you binary math types. However, you are wrong. Actually, there are sixty-four possible wrong ways, and no right way. So there.

What you need is an intact example. So go ahead and try prying a few more keycaps off. Heck, maybe one of them will pop off neatly, leaving a perfectly-assembled x-frame for you to use as a reference. Right. When you get tired of this exercise, your next best bet is to maybe get a good X-ray of your keyboard. This is easier than you think. Dress as Osama bin Laden, and try to board an aircraft at your local airport with no boarding pass. After the security folks quit chuckling, they'll be glad to give you a copy of the x-rays. And, after you get back home, and have another drink or two, the body-cavity search won't seem nearly as bad.

But you will discover a problem. No matter how hard you squint at the x-rays, it's just impossible to make out the structure of the plastic key bits against the much stronger shadows made by all the metal bits in your laptop. Which is why radiologists get paid what they do. So it's back to square one. Have another drink, shed your Osama costume and head back to the bathroom. Try prying off the least used keys, as they may be less likely to fly into bits. I suggest the F-11 key. It's only known purpose is to separate the F-10 key from the F-12 key. In all the history of computing, nobody has ever pressed this key, and in fact, on many keyboards, it's not even wired in.

When (if) you successfully get a key off that leaves the little x-frame intact, study it carefully. You will notice that there are remarkably few details that give a clue to the correct orientation of the pieces. In fact, there are no such details - but if you get it wrong, it won't work. So start trying to stick your pieces together. You may have to drag the bottle of alcohol into the bathroom with you, just to keep your hands steady as you work with the tiny plastic parts that are trying their best to fly apart. Keep trying. Remember, there's only a finite number of ways these pieces can go together.

Persistence may pay off. Or it may not. When after a few days, your friends or relatives have convinced the police to break down your door, and they find you, nude, lying in your bathtub, with duct-tape and epoxy over all the fixtures, bottles of Jack Daniels lying around as you drool over a pile of plastic pieces, you'll get the help you need. I promise. And by the time you get out of the institution, laptops will be smart enough that you can talk to them without ever touching a keyboard.