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I did some minor surgery on my laptop today to fix an annoying problem that I was having. Lately the left side of my trackpad hasn’t been working. It started first by not responding to clicks, so I trained myself to click a little further to the right. Then it started getting worse and I couldn’t drag over the bottom left corner of the trackpad. I also had to click even further to the right – and about a third of my left clicks ended up being registered as right clicks. That’s really annoying.

On the surface, it was pretty obvious what was wrong. The bottom right corner of the trackpad bulged over the case so it seemed as though the left side was permanently depressed (at least it couldn’t discriminate state transitions from unpressed to pressed). Originally I thought this was a manufacturing defect that had degraded due to wear-and-tear, but then I noticed that my laptop was a bit lopsided; it didn’t sit stable on the table. I realized that the right side of my laptop was thicker than the left.

Some research on the web revealed that I had a swollen battery. Apparently lithium-ion batteries can swell if they overheat, and I had a case of that. There were 2 remedies, you could either replace the battery or you could punch tiny holes in the battery to let the toxic gas out (it swells because there is a chemical reaction that changes some of the battery into a gas). The latter seemed kind of dangerous so I tried the first approach.

I ordered a new battery from HK, it cost about a hundred bucks. Surprisingly, it arrived in only a few days (with free shipping!). It was shipped via DHL as dangerous goods, unlike the other HK place I buy from. I had bookmarked this tutorial on how to change the battery, but honestly it was very straightforward. It was useful to see photos to know what to expect though.

The screws on the case were relatively easy to remove except for two of them right above the battery. By that time I had stripped my screwdriver so was using an eyeglass screwdriver (tough to get leverage). I think these two were extra tough because the battery was bulging on top of this area and causing a lot of resistance. Luckily I didn’t strip the screws and ended up taking them off once I found a longer screwdriver.

Unscrewing the battery was a similar experience. I got them all out except for the last screw. These screws were made of a softer material so I did strip the last screw and couldn’t take it off. I ended up just bending the old battery so that it snapped off the screw that was stuck on (and made the same mod on the new battery). Everything seems to work so far (laptop still works, case is flush, trackpad fixed itself and battery can charge). Not sure if my battery life will be affected with a non-OEM battery though.

Here’s what my battery looked like before surgery. You can see that there are 4 cells and the two closest cells are no longer flush. The closest cell is the most swollen and I think that’s because it’s the closest to the CPU (white sticker between battery and fan). It sure looks like it’s an overheating problem.

I quit my last job a bit over a year ago and I did it again last week with tomorrow being the last day of work for me. Compared to IBM, I was only at Echoworx for a little over a year, but I felt it was time to move on because a unique opportunity found me – getting to work at a new division that Samsung started, the Samsung Accelerator.

The opportunity sounds interesting as it is a startup atmosphere looking to build new products that leverage Samsung’s hardware stack. I start right away (i.e., on Monday) so there’s no break for me to catch my breath. I’m excited because I get to build some new products from scratch; but also because it’s in NYC so I’ll have to go down there every once in awhile!

I was in need of a laptop and after looking around, decided on a Samsung Series9 Ultrabook. I had first seen it maybe a year ago, and liked it as it ran Windows, and was thiner/lighter than a MacBook Air. I ended up picking up the 13.3″ mid-2012 revision that runs Windows 8 with 256SSD and 4GB RAM on an i5. I was also looking at the 15″ i7 with 8GB RAM which was only $250 more, but after seeing it in store, decided it was too big for my purposes. The 13.3″ is quite a nice form factor – the screen is not too small and the footprint is not too big.

The hardware design is nice, everything is solid but light. I had heard bad comments about the keyboard, but I found it to be OK for actual typing. The one gripe I had is the placement of the Enter button, which isn’t as horizontal (like an underscore) that I’m used to; rather it’s like a mirrored lowercase R, so I end up hitting the key on the left of Enter whenever I want a line break. Although I tried a bunch of other ultrabooks and their chiclet keyboard layouts are the same.

This is my first computer with Windows 8, and unsurprisingly, I ignored the Metro theme and popped back into the desktop as soon as I booted up. I don’t really understand how the Metro theme works and it’s been a frustrating experience so far. I had to manually uninstall each app I don’t want (there were many preloaded) and I can’t figure out how to restart the machine short of logging off and then hitting restart!