Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

« With BonesMainStop Me! »

MacBook Blinkenlights

297 words on

A while ago, I mentioned that my MacBook’s screen likes to flicker at times. But I couldn’t reproduce that reliably (if you are having a similar problems be sure to read the comments there which might help in your case). I still can’t and in fact I am seeing the problem less frequently these days (perhaps once per week or even per fortnight rather than almost daily). While I like not having the flickering, I still fear that this may come back to haunt me one day, so I’d rather have things break properly while there’s still warranty on the machine.

To make things even more fun, I discovered another really strange quirk in the machine: The lights in its Caps Lock and Num Lock keys sometimes start flickering as well. Flickering at a very low level, while they are off, that is. Usually this happens a while (a few minutes) after setting the computer up on my desk at home. When at my desk at home, the MacBook is attached to a somewhat elaborate network of devices via USB and Firewire. In particular, I am using an external keyboard and mouse, so the computer isn’t actually touched. And indeed the flickering does go away as soon as a key is pressed or the trackpad is touched.

As you can see in the video above (rotten quality thanks to digital camera filming in the dark and the compression wonders of Google Video), the flicker stops as soon as a key is pressed (or the trackpad is touched). While I doubt that this is a critical problem for the machine, it raises my doubts about the engineering skills used when creating it once more. Surely, an effect like this isn’t what you’d associate with top-notch engineering.

November 17, 2006, 16:11

Tagged as apple, apple defect, broken, macbook.


Comment by Maciej: User icon

Hi Sven,

The NumLock and CapsLock flickering happens usually when the backlight is switched off by the power management. Backlight flickering after stand-by should be fixed by the latest EFI firmware update, give it a try.

I enjoy very much your ramblings, keep up the good writing!!!

November 18, 2006, 12:06

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for those hints Maciej. If the EFI firmware upgrade really fixes the backlight flicker that’d be great! Although it does make we wonder what exactly caused the problem. Intuitively I would have thought that flickering is a hardware problem and I wouldn’t expect a firmware update to fix it.

November 18, 2006, 13:39

Comment by Jesde: User icon

I’ve got those symptoms too..

June 20, 2007, 19:44

Add your comment

« With BonesMainStop Me! »

Comments on




This page

Out & About

pinboard Links


Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.