How do you keep the XO laptop keyboard clean?



When Danishka went to an OLPC deployment in Sri Lanka, he found a dirty XO laptop keyboard. Now you would think that a dirty keyboard is a good sign - kids are surely using it! But there is a problem lurking just below the keyboard - the trackpad.

Let us hear from Jeff Patzer's experience with dirty trackpads:

The trackpad has a serious issue that causes it to not track. Rather, and this is due to the kids being dirty and not washing their hands causing the pad to get dirty, the pointer will jump from side to side and not function in the least. To help solve this problem I can clean the trackpad and reset the pad (press the four buttons in the corner of the keyboard at the same time), but it will only temporarily solve the issue before it reappears. The only real solution is to use a USB mouse.

Since Danishka's and Jeff's experiences, has there been any advancement with the trackpad? Is it still useless when dirty? Or has the XO-1.5 solved these issues?


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The image shows this is the original keyboard/trackpad. The newer ones used in the XO-1.5 were also provided with later runs of the XO-1. These trackpads have proven more stable (less resort to the four-fingered salute).

There is nothing in the description that links the performance of the trackpad in this case to the dirt on the keyboard. Mine actually look much the same.

I have seen a number of children in Rwanda whose parents have invested in a usb mouse; however, even at less than $10, a mouse may be beyond the means of many families.

I clean my keyboard and touchpad with a damp cloth (or Q-tips)and "Ivory" soap (liquid or wetted bar).

I assert the same as Tony:
"There is nothing in the description that links the performance of the trackpad in this case to the dirt on the keyboard. Mine actually look much the same." Futhermore, I assert that a dirty touchpad is not the cause of erratic touchpad, but a static charge caused by the rubbing of the finger across the plastic surface (or moisture on finger or pad). I assert that simple rubbing of the hands together briskly and touching a large object will return normal operation for a period. An improvement on this to tape a metal ribbon (aluminum foil) from the "pressure pad" area and down over a rubber foot so the ribbon is in contact with the desk surface. Touching this periodically dispels the charge.

You can cover the touchpad suface with a thin material to keep it clean (and this improves control). I use "painter's" tape that has a easy release and non (slow) hardening adhesive such as 3M blue or "Frog" tape (available in 2 inch wide rolls).

Empirically, a wide range of materials work: shelf contact paper, stick-on decals, "Hello" name badges, disposable glove finger tips as a cote, paper stuck down with chewing gum, etc. -- any film (nonconducting) with a easy release, nonhardening, adhesive.

The secret is to not leave anything stuck to the touchpad too long (months)-- any adhesive will eventally harden and may tare the touchpad when it is removed.

If you need painter's tape as you go to a deployment, leave me a personal message.

This article made me go back and look for an alternative to painter's tape, which could conceivably damage a touchpad if left on for several months, whereby the adhesive hardened.

Of common materials, copier / printer paper appears to be the best when the shiny side is placed up.

Cut a 1 7/8 inch by 2 1/2 inch rectangle from a sheet of copier paper. Place a pin head size dot of removable mounting puddy (Scotch brand is widely available in the office supplies area of department stores)on the back at each corner. Place the paper over the touchpad area and press each corner to seat the puddy on the margins around the touchpad. (Chewing gum also works, but not as well.)

This different surface material reduces the incidence of the jumping cursor and improves control of the cursor. It keeps the touchpad clean as a bonus !!

Periodically touching a grounded surface will help if there is a lot of finger movement on the touchpad (paper).

I recommend this instead of painter's tape.