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So, OK: I'm sitting at my computer reading my textbook. When I look up, I'll occasionally see a rectangle being briefly shown with a percentage; if I move the mouse, then the rectangle will reappear and the percentage will go to 100%. If the rectangle shows up with 0%, then the screen will blank and I have to reboot.
THIS IS DRIVING ME NUTS!!!
Sounds like your brightness control is having issues. What's the manufacturer/model of your PC?
You should be able to disable the screen dimming functionality outright in KDE's settings (System Settings -> Power Management, if I recall right; I don't have a KDE-running machine in front of me at the moment...).
Not sure about why it would drop permanently (until next reboot) to completely black, though. Next time it happens, let it go black, then press CTRL-ALT-F1 (to get out of the graphical mode and into a text-only mode), then CTRL-ALT-F7 (to get back into a graphical mode); does that correct the issue when it happens?
Well, this is positively strange. If I leave the laptop in the CLI shell, then everything is OK; it's when I attempt ALT-F7 that that the screen goes completely blank on me. Even though it's a mystery to me I'm tempted to label this as solved since I only need the CLI for my exercises.