I suspect the problem may be that the LiveCD is not correctly writing the Xorg config files, so your laptops monitor is being incorrectly used. I had this problem recently with a Mac version of Ubuntu, which was fixed by Ctrl+Alt+F1, then manually killing the GDM process, editing the Xorg config files and starting X again.
I realise this is probably not much use to you yet, but hopefully it will be later on. Just a thought - is the Fn key interfering with the F keys at all? I seem to remember there is a Fn function mapped to most F keys
. Only other thing I can think of is play with the bootup modes from the LiveCD, I can't remember what ther are now, but there should be a low-graphics mode if I remember correctly.