Saturday, February 06, 2010

"Mind" -> Rubbing Out The Keyboard Mess

What happens when you spill green tea laced with pomegranate juice  into your laptop keyboard?

It will stick.  And in this post, I'm going to describe how to get it unstuck.

I recently bought a CULV laptop, which stands for Consumer Ultra Low Voltage, laptop.  In reality, I didn't buy one, I bought three:  one for my sister, one for whomever is working for us (Hillary), and one for myself.  If you aren't familiar with the CULV concept, it is a "thin and light" notebook much like a netbook, only on steroids.  It is much faster than a netbook could be.  However, it still features the lightweight of a netbook.  For instance, the weight of the one that I bought, which were the Acer 1410 model--the hot one on the market, was a little over 3 pounds.  Amazing how my industry continues to change.

The fact that I was able to buy these at around $390 per pop was all the more amazing.  

Now there are some things that are given up for such a light weight at such a low cost.  DVD onboard is one.  So add to the $390 another $50 for an external DVD, but still a good deal.  The other thing that you give up on these is a anything of a real keyboard.  These things have a "chicklet" keyboard.  Now if you look at the picture up above, you will see my hand.  What you might not recognize from this angle is that that wafer thin line that I'm holding is actually the keyboard on its side.  The keyboard is just a little thicker than 10 or 20 sheets of paper.

So, the other weekend, I decided that I was going to add a bluetooth module into the 1410.  (Although it has a switch for bluetooth, the module is not populated.)  So, after pulling the whole computer apart, and putting it back together again, which could be a post in itself, I sat at my desk happy that I was done.  As I booted up the machine, I grabbed my big glass of juice and tea morning mixture, and I accidentally slopped a little bit into the keyboard.  Now, I thought that I could take a paper towel and wick out most of it and I would be okay.  What I didn't understand at the time is how the wafer thin keyboard would impact the issue.  The gaps are so small in this keyboard that anything in it causes problems.  As the keyboard dried out, I had a bunch of keys that stuck.

I ended up order another keyboard off of eBay just in case I destroyed the current keyboard, then after I received and installed the new keyboard, I went down and I bought a big bottle of rubbing alcohol to try and fix the issue.  The issue is that you need something to dissolve the stuck stuff.  You could use water, but the obvious problem is that water encourages oxidation, or rust.  The other issue with water is that the vapor pressure is quite low.  Once you get water into something, it takes a while to get out.  As we all know, rubbing alcohol vapor pressure is higher, and it dissolves quickly.  Now, most rubbing alcohol is a mixture of water and alcohol, so you you want to get a blend of 90% alcohol so the residue evaporates quickly.

Once you have your alcohol, you need to removed the keyboard from the computer.  Can't help you for your laptop, but for mine the keyboard is only held in by a series of clips around the edges of the keyboard.  Once you have the clips undone, I could slip the keyboard cable out of the connector and disconnect it.  (I really like this design, as the guys at Quanta--the Acer ODM--are pretty clever.)

The next step is as simple as pouring.  You open up the bottle and you start pouring it into the keyboard.  Allow it to soak into the keys, then start to manipulate and press the keys.  The key, no pun intended, is to make sure that you have dissolved all of the gunk inside of the keyboard.  In my case, I need to dissolve the old tea and pomegranate juice that had caused the keys to start to stick.  However, once you've pour in the rubbing alcohol, you need to remember that the old gunk that makes the stuff stick has only been moved from making your keys stick to now being suspended in the rubbing alcohol in the keyboard.  So, you need to make sure to drain the rubbing alcohol out of the keyboard and down the sink. Now that you've rinsed your keyboard, you need to still allow it to dry out.  If you had 100% alcohol, this would happen immediately, but you have a mixture of alcohol and water, so allow the keyboard to sit in a warm space.  In my case, I had the laptop up and running with a different keyboard, so I let it sit for 3 days until the weekend.

So, the question you may have is "how did it work?"  The good news is that I'm typing this post on the keyboard that you see in the post, the one that is running over with rubbing alcohol.  I might feel just a tinge of stick in the keys, but it may also just be my imagination.  However, the keys are much, much better than before, and so far everything seems to work well.

I now have two keyboards for my laptop.  However, seeing how I have 3 laptops that I could use it on, I think I'll keep it.

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