Chromebooks have some things to figure out in order to make their docked experience better, as evidenced by the fact that windows don’t remember their position after a restart. However, the Works with Chromebook team at Google has done some incredible work making the way that peripherals integrate into the operating system more natural. In fact, I would go so far as to say that to accommodate accessories and users alike, they’re willing to change the very DNA of the OS itself!
Back when I met with them in California during my previous job, I asked if there was a way to power on my Chromebook while having it docked without lifting the lid. I wanted my desktop experience to feel more like a Chromebox without having to sacrifice the portability of laptop and tablet mode. There was no solution to this at the time, but I was told directly that they were working on it. Now, I’ve discovered a Chromium Repository commit that details this feature and the fact that it may one day become a reality!
power: Handle input device wakeup as dark resume if lid is closed
Currently, a power button press is ignored when the lid is closed because the EC ignores it. This prevents a device in docked mode (a.k.a. presentation mode) from using the power button in any way (to wake up the device or to shut down the device).
This behavior is for preventing the EC from waking up a system when the lid is closed. This patch makes powerd handle an input device wakeup as a dark-resume if the display mode is ‘CLOSED’. This allows the EC not to block a power button press even when the lid is closed. Hence, the power button can be used in a docked mode.Chromium Gerrit
In plain English, you can see from the commit above that this capability is being dubbed ‘Dark Resume‘. Normally, you have to lift the device’s lid to disengage the sleep magnet and turn it on before it can detect your external displays, but with this, pressing the power button will wake the device regardless.
Because there’s no mention of powering on a clamshell device from an off state with the top shut, I don’t think this is a complete solution. I’m not even sure if it’s possible to bypass the embedded controller (EC) without there being an electrical current initially, but my guess would be that such a thing goes against the laws of nature.
We may never get a full-fledged workaround for users who dock their devices, but Dark Resume is an awesome and useful feature that I’m looking forward to. The only problem is that the commit lists a merge conflict, meaning there’s something preventing development from continuing smoothly at this time.
As Google has been attempting to crack this nut since 2017, I have no doubt that it wants this to come to fruition as much as I do, but there are clearly many obstacles before that can happen. I believe we’ll see some significant strides soon though since most of the relevant commits surrounding Dark Resume are from this year alone.