Does the OLPC XO-1 Children's Machine Smell?


Is the OLPC small and odoriferous?

Don't laugh, that's a serious question: Does the One Laptop Per Child XO-1 smell? Does it produce an odor when it runs? Or as Yoshiki Ohshima asked on the OLPC Developer Forum:

We've got three B-1 units. Thank you for all the work to make it happen to this stage!

We turned on them, and are playing with them... There is one thing that we can't help noticing: each of them emits some burning smell near the antenna or the USB ports. It smells like burning plastic or glass-fiber.

Has anybody else noticed this? Is it safe?

Whoa! A burning smell ain't never good coming from electronics, especially electronics meant for kids. Luckily, the OLPC developers sprang into action quickly. Mitch Bradley quickly asked a few questions to see what might be causing the burning smell:
Does it seem to come from one side in particular, or from both sides equally?

Also, does it change when you turn off the machine and remove the battery?

Does any part of the system feel significantly warmer than the rest of the unit?

And are you running them from battery or from the wall pack?

Thanks for the report. We want to get one of those machines back for
analysis. I'll send you the shipping details in a separate message.

Thanks for being a beta tester!

But answers never came. And so ended the public discussion of the mysterious OLPC XO-1 B1 laptop burning smell. Still a mystery to us, to you, to everyone.

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Its not uncommon to have strange smells in new electronics. I'd guess the circuit board and components are coated with an anti corrosion film to protect from high humidity problems and other factors.
This can often cause odd smells where the unit is fresh off a production line.

Although I have experienced first hand the problems that can occur with incorrect components on circuit boards. This type of fault is usually picked up during QA testing and typically affects less than one or two in a thousand.

So, does the XO-1 smell? (Whether burning smell, plastic smell, etc?)

I have been trying to help some people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) find computers. (People with MCS seem to react to various chemicals at concentrations so low that they don't bother most people.)

Typical computers have a lot of things that give off nastyish chemicals - plastics, circuit board coatings, etc. Plus they heat it up and blow lots of air through it - increasing ones exposure. So finding computers that folks with MCS can tolerate has been hard.

The idea of a fanless computer (like the XO-1) is quite attractive. But all that new plastic, and especially the soft plastic bumpers gives one pause. (Soft plastics often give off more plasticizers/etc.)

So do they smell? (Of new plastic, of electronics, of anything?)

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