The guys at Compaq think my batteries are in ship mode, a special mode designed to make sure they don't drain themselves during shipment. To get them out of ship mode, I need to run a battery calibration. This is done from the BIOS setup screen. Only gotcha: the BIOS setup screen doesn't want to come up. So, it's time to flash the BIOS in the machine. Whee. While I was downloading the BIOS SoftPaq, I discovered a battery test utility for Windows. I tried it. Start test. "Unplug AC adapter and wait 3 seconds." Unplug AC adapter. Boom. Plug AC adapter back in, power up machine. BSOD at boot. "Cannot load driver".
A wearying several reboots in and out of safe mode later, and the driver is recovered. Forget that utility, and update the BIOS. Need a floppy to write to. Grab one, and put it in the floppy drive in the expansion unit. Disk isn't recognized. Argh. (Get tired of OS X's built-in spelling checker complaining about the word "argh". Teach it that that's a valid word.) Shut down, remove the expansion unit, connect floppy via parallel cable. Boot system. This time, it sees the floppy drive correctly. Maybe my expansion unit is bad, since the CD-ROM doesn't work either. Good thing I'm bidding on another one on eBay. Un-write-protect disk. Format disk. Rerun disk creation SoftPaq yet again. Disk builds correctly. Huzzah.
Boot from the floppy. Update the BIOS successfully. Discover that getting into the setup screen requires hitting F10 multiple times at the right point in the boot sequence. Finally get there, only to discover that there's no battery calibration option anyway. At least the BIOS got updated to one that was nearly two years newer.
Install the updated Compaq Power Management stuff. Reboot. The Compaq Power Management tab in the Power Options control panel now has a calibrate button, whee. Click it. Get a warning about how the battery does not require calibration and am I sure I want to proceed? I tell it to go ahead. System goes into battery charge mode, discovers the battery is fully charged, and switches to battery power. Poof! Power off. Argh.
Now what? That M300 off eBay is looking better and better...