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Widespread Keyboard Failures on OLPC's XO-1

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the gift-horse-dental-work dept.

Bug 264

otakuj462 writes "Many participants in OLPC's 'Give 1 Get 1' program of last November are now encountering what has come to be known as the 'stuck key' problem, in which one or more of the keys on their XO-1 laptop's built-in keyboard become stuck in an activated position, or are activated when adjacent keys are pressed. As of January 30th, the official word from OLPC is that the root cause of this problem is unknown because '[t]here are several manufacturers of the keyboards.' ('So far we don't know of any _reliable_ method of fixing the keyboard or the exact root cause.') It is unknown just how widespread this problem currently is, as the 30-day manufacturer's warranty has already expired for most G1G1 participants. However, the OLPC forums are full of reports. OLPC is currently deploying the XO-1 to children in Mongolia and Peru, as well as other developing nations. If OLPC is actively deploying units with known, critical hardware bugs, without a dedicated support infrastructure in place, to children who have never seen a computer before, should they still be considered to be a responsible organization? Did OLPC deploy their hardware too soon?"

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264 comments

you get what you pay for... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135646)

$100 doesnt buy much these days...there is a reason that laptops dont sell for under $450...they cost money

Re:you get what you pay for... (2, Interesting)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135720)

"$100 doesnt buy much these days...there is a reason that laptops dont sell for under $450...they cost money" My 4gb Asus Eee cost me £240 (about $490), I've been using it regularly for over 5 months now and it's still going strong, several scratches on the outside because I've not felt the need to be gentle with it because there's no spinning disc inside that's suseptable to shock damage, I find the keyboard absolutely fine to touch-type with and some of the keys are getting more shiny as they're used.

If the trend of manufacturers to keep coming up with the next best "Eee killer" is anything to go by then the prices will over time drop and one day you will be able to buy a brand new $100 laptop that performs as well as the Eee but I can't see that happening anytime within the next year or so.

Re:you get what you pay for... (1, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135966)

Which will have the same problem.

This sounds pretty much like the Vaio syndrome. It is a common design pattern in most laptops to position a big heatsink under the keyboard. If the heatsink runs too hot the keyboard membrane gets "nice and crispy" and these are the exact symptoms in that case. I would have expected this too happen in a year or two of heavy use (especially with a closed lid).

I have seen it on plenty of 1200$+ laptops so the price is not the deciding factor by any means.

Re:you get what you pay for... (5, Informative)

gradedcheese (173758) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136232)

For what it's worth, there's nothing under the XO's keyboard that gets hot. The motherboard is behind the screen, the keyboard piece is just the keyboard and touchpad.

I don't think that... (5, Insightful)

raving griff (1157645) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135652)

I don't think that it is so much a problem with not testing the hardware enough as it is a problem with how OLPC designed the laptops. These are computers that are being used widely by children all over the world, and, regardless of how you look at it, kids have a tendency to break things. Now, it is obvious that the XO-1 is designed to be a sturdy piece of equipment, but I find it downright silly that the keyboard is non-replaceable. The keyboard, of all things, should be easy to swap out for a new one--it is after all the primary input device on the computer, and if you lose that, you lose the computer. OLPC should have thought ahead to possible broken parts and made everything--from the touchpad to the keyboard to the LCD to the hard drive--removable and replaceable.

Re:I don't think that... (1, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135716)

regardless of how you look at it, kids have a tendency to break things.
Perhaps in consumerist societies, but I bet they take more care of stuff when they know it can't/won't be replaced.

Re:I don't think that... (4, Informative)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136004)

Perhaps in consumerist societies, but I bet they take more care of stuff when they know it can't/won't be replaced.

The summary does read like something out of a consumerist society -- "Product break, what we do now?" Well, you fix it [olpcnews.com].

I wonder if OLPC is regretting G1G1 at all, putting thousands of XO's into the hands of people for whom it was never intended. The XO is for children and geeks, and if they ever plan to release one to the general North American consumer public, yes, they've got a lot of work to do. In fact, I'm not even sure it would be possible in the near future at the price point they're aiming at.

Re:I don't think that... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136008)

Perhaps in consumerist societies, but I bet they take more care of stuff when they know it can't/won't be replaced.

Even the best care doesn't necessarily mean it's not going to fail. A single stray speck of sand might get into a key mechanism and wear them out in a blink.

I think the fact that it costs money to replace, as well as lost use while waiting for a replacement, should be enough. Somehow, I thought the XO was supposed to be designed such that it's field serviceable because of the projected circumstances that authorized service may be hard to get.

Re:I don't think that... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136064)

Not necessarily. Anything gotten for free instead of earned is more likely to be abused. That's human nature worldwide and will never change.

In fact, if the laptops tend to break easily, they will probably be tossed aside as just something else that can't be used, and may even engender resentment against whoever supplied them.

Re:I don't think that... (0)

woodrad (1091201) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136074)

I know I would rather be in a society where I had to wait 10 years for a car that never redesigned in 30 years that was extremely polluting and rejected the notion of a society of abundant goods. What we need is more makework, less capitol, higher prices, and inferior goods. You have to admire how much people care for a complete piece of shit. Go Trabi go. gtfo my political economy.

Re:I don't think that... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136532)

That doesn't even make sense. I read it twice, and both times my understanding gave up and left around the word "that". Perhaps you should concentrate more on your primary school education and less on posting to Slashdot?

Were you grown in a vat? (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136262)

Perhaps in consumerist societies, but I bet they take more care of stuff when they know it can't/won't be replaced.

In "non-consumerist" societies, kids are equally rambunctious and can easily drop or knock things over.

Long before I was a "consumerist" to use your venom-dripping terminology, I was breaking stuff. Haven't you ever heard a parent complain that kinds understand the value of nothing?

If a kid has no real concept of value anyway, what on earth would motivate him to be more careful than with anything else they are used to playing with?

Re:Were you grown in a vat? (4, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136386)

If a kid has no real concept of value anyway, what on earth would motivate him to be more careful than with anything else they are used to playing with?

I don't want to be seen to be defending your snarky reply, but it's relevant to note that the issue of caring for the XO laptop is a real one.

It is not, however, because of children's inability to see the value of such a device. I work in development, and I've tested the XO. I've also written about it [imagicity.com] a fair bit. The big challenge for children using this device will be the lack of ready infrastructure in the village.

When you have to walk several miles to school in the rain with nothing more than a banana or a taro leaf to cover you, the XO is vulnerable. When you have to wade across one or more small rivers on your way to school, the XO is vulnerable. When you live in a house with dirt floors, the XO is vulnerable. When you have to contend with the fact that your many siblings might well want to share the laptop, the XO is vulnerable.

BUT... I've tested a late prototype and seen for myself that, whatever its faults, there is nothing else available that even begins to approach the XO for robust construction. Try to imagine any other computing device surviving what I've described above. The XO laptop is the best available technology today, and that's why we'll shortly be deploying our first pilot project.

Re:I don't think that... (4, Interesting)

acidrain (35064) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135724)

Agreed. And the competition is going to make as much hay with this as possible.

While this kind of thing happens to the major manufactures, having had this happen right out the gate is going to be a permanent black mark that intel, asus and the rest are going to use in their advertising. OLPC should have been more careful to ensure that faults could be repaired. After all, these are going to the third world, and over there they fix all kinds of things we would throw away.

Re:I don't think that... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136508)

Does OLPC have "competition" in any meaningful sense? The Classmate doesn't compete directly with the XO, since Wintel is simply bribing its way into markets; technical problems with the XO won't have any effect on the "purchasers'" decisions. And among the beaten wives that consist of OLPC's first world sponsors, this is just a reason to give OLPC even more free money for fucking up. Again.

OLPC won't have any real competition until a Chinese cloneshop starts churning out identical units at 3/4 the price, in a nicer range of colours, running Linux or Windows Mobile.

Re:I don't think that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135766)

If keyboards have a half-life of 1 month, being able to replace them isn't such a great long-term solution. You end up discarding 12 keyboards per year and paying for them too.

Re:I don't think that... (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135984)

Well, it is easy to guess why it is not replaceable. It is designed predominantly for markets which require nationalisation of the keyboard which is usually country specific. If the keyboard is non-replaceable this goes a long way towards guaranteeing that they are used wherever they have been shipped and not reimported into the "Developed World".

Re:I don't think that... (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136496)

That's an easy guess, yes, and one I think is far from insightful.

The places which need these devices the most won't necessarily even have a national keyboard layout, and often multiple languages, so where there's different keyboards, being able to switch key caps becomes more important, not less.

Anyhow, changing key caps is one thing, but changing a keyboard another.
Easy replacement of keycaps and locale settings on a device doesn't help much if the problem is with the underlying keyboard mechanisms. Then you need to repair or replace the keyboard, which has diddley squat to do with the legend on the caps.

Re:I don't think that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136344)

don't they have USB ports? usb-keyboard anyone?

saw that coming (1, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135658)

Well I guess you get what you pay for. If you go for the cheapest of every single piece of hardware, you're going to eventually have something fail pretty quickly.

Re:saw that coming (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135690)

The real problem is it only has a 30 day warranty. That`s worse than game consoles.

Re:saw that coming (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136270)

No, the real problem is that you seem to be considering it a consumer product. It isn't. OLPC set the thirty-day warranty to give G1G1 recipients a chance to make sure the computer works. It's basically a DOA-prevention warranty. I paid in for G1G1, and I got my laptop, and then I got excited about the project and volunteered to help.

The XO-1 is not a consumer product. It is an educational tool, and the children who receive them aren't worried about comparing its warranty to that of an xbox they've never heard of.

Re:saw that coming (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136494)

Tools are only educational as long as they work. If you cannot fix it, it's also hard to call it a "tool".

Re:saw that coming (1)

imamac (1083405) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135714)

Well I guess you get what you pay for.
Yep. I have visions of e-machines. Only worse.

Re:saw that coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135882)

Not really, see being the cheapest was the goal of this project. But there are also these little things called "research," "development," and "testing" that people are supposed to normally do to figure out these problems. This was a university project with a lot of thought put into it that tried to expand on a grand scale without having the experience from business and manufacturing that normally go along with such a broad multinational deployment. And thanks for pointing it out, but what do we do about it besides make armchair observations?

Live with it (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135668)

They can rip the key out and use a key remapping tool to get some other key used in its place.

Re:Live with it (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136056)

Not sure why this is modded funny, given that it is an option, especially since it seems that the alt key is particularly prone to stickage, so you simply map it to the xo's equivalent of the windows key which isn't used for much. The problem is that recipes I've seen for this use xmodmap, and sooner or later you're going to be trying to fix something in a shell pre X, and you'll be hooped if you haven't fixed the problem physically.

Re:Live with it (1)

conlaw (983784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136520)

There may be a simple solution: open the lid, hold the laptop upside down and firmly slap all over the bottom. If a stuck key is being caused by a lump of dirt, a crumb of food, or a couple of real bugs hiding out, this process will dislodge them thus magically unsticking the key(s). Obviously, those in "developed" countries could just use a can of pressurized air or a vacuum, but these kids probably don't have access to either.

Look how some retailers are treating the XO-1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135674)

While many wondered about the ultimate durability of the XO-1, it's at least a full-fledged computer at a small price. Just the other day I was wondering if mainstream Internet retailers even had listing pages for OLPC's offerings, even if they couldn't sell it themselves. Doing a search on Amazon for OLPC brings up a page [amazon.com] where you see some crappy toys that sell for $50 and look like a real computer, but with a tiny screen and very little capabilities. Have these companies convinced Amazon to bring them up automatically for OLPC searches? Isn't that illegal?

Clean keyboards (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135682)

It's not too surprising that they are having that problem. One has to keep the keyboard clean and the conditions where these laptops is not exactly clean.

Re:Clean keyboards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135792)

I don't know if that was insightful, or condescending.

Re:Clean keyboards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135884)

The XO is completely sealed such that dirt, etc. can't get in. The keyboard is basically a rubber mat, so keeping the laptop clean enough to function isn't that tough.

Re:Clean keyboards (5, Interesting)

roto3 (1160113) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135940)

The whole point of having the sealed membrane keyboard design is that it's a lot harder for dirt to get into it. The whole top of the keyboard is a rubber membrane with no openings, so there's nowhere for dirt to get in. Also, unlike other membrane keypad designs, the membrane itself does not provide one of the contacts for the key. It merely applies pressure to the underlying plastic layers that actually have the contacts. The top plastic layer also has very few openings. It would be very difficult to get enough dirt into the keyboard through normal use (even in dirty conditions) to cause the keys to stick.

Mine developed a sticky control key after a few months. Opening up the laptop (compared to most laptops, it's easy to get into) and peeling back the top rubber membrane (it's lightly glued down to the plastic layers), rubbing the affected area to make sure the contacts were not sticking together, and reassembling the laptop seems to solve the issue; I haven't seen the control key stick since.

Re:Clean keyboards (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136170)

It would be very difficult to get enough dirt into the keyboard through normal use (even in dirty conditions) to cause the keys to stick.

Mine developed a sticky control key after a few months.
This seems to be a bit of an apologist attitude on your part. At first you say it'd be difficult to get enough dirt to make the keys stick under normal use, and then the very next sentence you said the keys started sticking after a few months. Are you using them in a factory or in the desert or something? What is so abnormal about your environment that it makes the keys stick? I've had a half dozen laptops over the years and I've NEVER had a problem with any of the mechanical keys sticking so surely this is a defective design. I've got a 10 year old laptop that still works just fine, perhaps we should box those old 166 MHz HP laptops up and send them to the little kids in Africa?

Re:Clean keyboards (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136292)

If you or someone else would post a tutorial on doing that, other OLPC users could sort out theirs with less worry about breaking them.

It's a given computers are going to break, and the geeks-to-be using OLPCs need all the help they can get. Of course not all OLPC users will repair their own gear, but we can be sure that some of them will rebuild them from parts just as many of us learned to do.

XO review (3, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135692)

Dodgy keyboard. Less space than an Eeepc. Lame

Re:XO review (5, Informative)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135988)

Better text resolution, if you need to use it to read actual books.
Better battery life (3x) to read books.
Networking capabilities that the EEE doesn't have.
Preinstalled software suitable for learning, teaching and collaborating.
Available quality support in your country.

Aside from that, EEE would not even exist without the OLPC project. Laptops exist since the eighties.

The OLPC was needed for this kind of machine to even exist. Even if their machine wasn't the best, their objective would be accomplished.

Apple has done exact same crap (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135694)

A real non-issue. Apple distributed laptops with a 75% failure rate but everyone still loves them.

30 days warrenty? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135706)

It is unknown just how widespread this problem currently is, as the 30-day manufacturer's warranty has already expired for most G1G1 participants.
Wow, that's crap. Is that normal for electronics in the USA? Maybe that's why the XO-1 isn't available in the UK or most other European countries -- the manufacturer is responsible for at least 3 years (IIRC) for a laptop under UK law.

Re:30 days warrenty? (4, Interesting)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135730)

No it's not normal. Almost everything here comes with at least a one year warranty. A lot of computers and computer parts come with a three year warranty.

They are not required by law to have a three year warranty here or even a one year but I have never seen a new computer have under a one year warranty.

Re:30 days warrenty? (4, Interesting)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135912)

They are not required by law to have a three year warranty here or even a one year but I have never seen a new computer have under a one year warranty.

Actually in Europe consumer goods are required to last for a reasonable length of time. Two years is the minimum period mentioned in the consumer sales directive [europa.eu] but member states are free to institute their own (longer) periods and higher consumer standards.

Perhaps this is the reason why the OLPC wasn't sold in Europe ...

Rich.

Re:30 days warrenty? (4, Informative)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135936)

(Replying to my own posting ...)

Actually in Europe consumer goods are required to last for a reasonable length of time. Two years is the minimum period mentioned in the consumer sales directive but member states are free to institute their own (longer) periods and higher consumer standards.

In the UK, the period is six years, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 [bbc.co.uk]

Rich.

Re:30 days warrenty? (1)

Phil John (576633) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136220)

Yes and no. If something develops a fault within the first 6 months the retailer has to prove that there was no fault/poor workmanship in the product (hard to do, unless you've obviously abused the item). After 6 months the onus is on you to prove that the defect was there all along waiting to happen which is a lot harder.

It's not impossible, I had two identical monitors (purchased at the same time) plugged into the same graphics card on the same computer (dual monitor setup). After about 2 years one of them diead and after an unsatisfactory warranty repair by Acer (which took over 10 weeks, and then broke again after I'd had it a week) I went back to the retailer. Due to the circumstances I was able to argue that the one monitor was obviously faulty from the start and got all of my money back.

Re:30 days warrenty? (4, Insightful)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136022)

It is.
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XO_Giving/Europe [laptop.org]

The OLPC is not a consumer product. They don't have the infrastructure to sell it as such. If you buy millions, they can sell support, including hardware, and warranties.

They are not iXO's. Their goal is not to sell laptops for everybody. They are making this for kids who might use them to learn. Both objectives don't have to be acheived together, and don't even need to be compatible.

Re:30 days warrenty? (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136054)

Erm, that page says to me that it's not being offered in Europe. They prevent you from paying with a non-US credit card and they stop your from shipping outside the US, undoubtedly because they don't want all the support and warranty issues with Europe.

Rich.

Re:30 days warrenty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136140)

Dell has often had it's cheapest models come with 90-day warranties.

Re:30 days warrenty? (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135774)

In the UK the manufacturer can be liable for repairs/replacment for up to 6 years, depending on various factors like what kind of product and how much you spent on it - for example you'd expect a fridge freezer, washing machine or cooker to last for many years, but not a laptop or PC.
Check out the Sale of Goods Act 1979: http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/wirral/Consnews09.htm [tradingstandards.gov.uk]

Re:30 days warrenty? (1)

Mornedhel (961946) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135778)

I *think* the UE (or maybe it's only the CEE) requires that electronics manufacturers provide a 1 year warranty. Then individual countries can enforce a longer warranty (eg 3 years in UK, apparently), and the manufacturers can of course provide an even longer one.

I'm nt hvng an prolems (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135728)

M kybr wrk fn

sticky-fingered geeks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135734)

It's the geeks playing with their new OLPCs and not cleaning the cheeto/mountain dew residue off their fingers that's causing this.

Re:sticky-fingered geeks (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135898)

"It's the geeks playing with their new OLPCs and not cleaning the cheeto/mountain dew residue off their fingers that's causing this."

Yeah! It's just Cheetos (fapfapfap), really, (fapitafpitafapita) and (UNF!!!) Dew.

Whew.

Cheeep a$& k3ybord....

Fix it yourself (4, Insightful)

Marcion (876801) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135750)

The idea of the laptop is to make schools and children responsible for and in control of their own technology, rather than being passively spoon fed technology.

Therefore the idea is that people fix things themselves. This is a good thing if things are built with this in mind. Repair your own thinkpad (no problem), repair your own ipod (no chance).

If we have any hope of saving the planet from being one giant landfill dump, then we really need to learn to fix electronic devices ourselves.

Re:Fix it yourself (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135800)

Until you find out it's a small mechanical SMT component that's probably custom manufactured, you can't even find a replacement for.

Not to mention the target audience doesn't exactly have an electronics store in their backyard. Or a soldering iron. Or perhaps even an outlet.

(Cue Kung Pow... "Let me know, if you see a Radio Shack")

Re:Fix it yourself (2, Informative)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136050)

In Uruguay, the first country where they are deploying, there are electronic stores as close to home as in any US town. I don't know about Europe.

Electronic technicians are very easy to find there.

Anyhow, I don't think they could be of much help.
The computers come with a very reasonable support contract with Brightstar, and they should be taking care of the repairs.

Re:Fix it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135810)

Where are the kids gonna get the new parts? Will they whittle a new keyboard out of bamboo shoots?

Re:Fix it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135878)

The idea of the laptop is to make schools and children responsible for and in control of their own technology, rather than being passively spoon fed technology.
What a cartload of steaming monkey spunk

Re:Fix it yourself (0)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135948)

The idea of the laptop is to make schools and children responsible for and in control of their own technology, rather than being passively spoon fed technology.

So are you saying that the laptop is defective by design?

If we have any hope of saving the planet from being one giant landfill dump, then we really need to learn to fix electronic devices ourselves.

What? How is filling the landfill with defective keyboards being Earth friendly?

Face it. It looks like the OLPC didn't have enough testing at the manufacturing level before settling on the cheapest keyboard supplier. The other strange thing about this is that despite the laptop's intended market being people who would normally not have access to computers because of cost or location they only provide a 30 day warranty.

By giving only a 30 day warranty and manufacturing the laptop as cheaply as possible, they may have unintentionally relegated their product as the first truly disposable laptop (again not as Earth friendly as you would like).

Push polling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135788)

Is it just me, or have Slashdot story postings adopted push polling [wikipedia.org] techniques lately?

The questions in the original post:

If OLPC is actively deploying units with known, critical hardware bugs, without a dedicated support infrastructure in place, to children who have never seen a computer before, should they still be considered to be a responsible organization? Did OLPC deploy their hardware too soon?

strongly and clearly suggest a particular answer ("no" to the first, "yes" to the second), and seem intended to influence opinions under the guise of honest questions.

Ditto for this story [slashdot.org].

Re:Push polling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135934)

You only provided a single link for one other story that utilizes this technique.

Lazy.

All you had to do was search for Microsoft and you could have included links to at least 23,543 obvious examples. Shame on you.

Easily fixed for many (5, Interesting)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135796)

Not quite sure what is meant by "we don't know of any _reliable_ method", unless perhaps it means something that works for everyone the same way 100% of the time, and there's some small number of units that can't be fixed by disassembly and wiping the area under the affected key with isopropyl alcohol. I didn't even go that far with mine, I just pried up the edge of the keyboard mat near my stuck alt key just enough to get the q-tip in.

The XO is designed to be like the old Volkswagen Beetle -- cheap and easily fixable by non-experts in the field. Yes, it would have been nice if they weren't prone to stuck key syndrome, but it's not the end of the world, and these are fricken amazing devices at twice the price.

Re:Easily fixed for many (1)

Gutboy (587531) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135942)

can't be fixed by disassembly and wiping the area under the affected key with isopropyl alcohol

Because we all know that third world children carry around bottles of isopropyl alchohol.

Re:Easily fixed for many (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136076)

Because we all know that third world children carry around bottles of isopropyl alchohol.

Good point. They might have to use spit.

Be realistic. (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135838)

Let's be realistic. First off, there is no information to show how common the problem is: 1 in 100, 1 in 1000, 1 in 10,000? Also, note that it appears that everyone on the forums complaining about this is someone in a developed country who bought one via give-one-get-one. The blog at olpcnews.com linked to in the slashdot summary seems to be saying that there needs to be a system for distributing spare parts. Well, actually that wouldn't do any good with the stuck key problem, because the OLPC folks don't have enough information yet to know which keyboard supplier or suppliers are causing the problem. They could ship spare keyboards to Mongolia, but there's no way to know yet whether the replacements would have the same problem. OLPC does have a plan for dealing with hardware breakage. The plan is that they're trying to get the defect rate very low, and then have people in the communities receiving the laptops take care of the small number of defects by cannibalizing machines. That seems like a very reasonable plan for a village in Mongolia where 100 kids have 100 laptops. No, it's not a very reasonable plan for an affluent adult in the U.S. who isn't part of a community that has received a pile of these laptops -- but, uh, sorry, that isn't the main mission of OLPC. Some of the buyers in developed countries seem upset that the warranty period is only 30 days, and that they have to pay for shipping. Yeah, sure, OLPC could extend the warranty to a year, and pay for shipping, but that would cost money, and they'd have to pass on those costs, driving up the cost of the laptops. The goal right now is to continue decreasing the cost of the laptops.

Re:Be realistic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135920)

Actually, I'm upset that the 30 day refund starts from the day of purchase, and four months out, mine still hasn't been delivered.

I have no laptop and no way to get my money back, and no idea when or if the laptop I paid for will arrive. In hindsight, maybe they'll fix the keyboard problem before mine ships...

Some people are simply delusional (4, Insightful)

zenyu (248067) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136120)

Some of the buyers in developed countries seem upset that the warranty period is only 30 days, and that they have to pay for shipping.

Some people are simply delusional. When I participated in G1G1 I assumed there was no warranty. My guess is the 30 day warranty is only there because of some stupid law. The way I see it, I made a donation to the OLPC Foundation, and got a neat little example of the technology I was funding. If mine had experienced any problems I would never have dreamed of draining OLPC's resources by returning it for replacement. I would have attempted a repair and reported on the success or failure of my repair, so that the knowledge could be disseminated to the children using the laptops.

I haven't experienced any problems, and I really wish commercial companies would adopt a technology like its screen or its ability to take falls and keep on ticking, and especially the power-saving technologies which makes this thing the only laptop that has never run out of juice one me; I carry around three heavy batteries with my regular laptop and run it in its maximal power saving mode and it still doesn't hold a candle to the OLPC.

The keyboard doesn't have the best feel, and I would only want commercial companies to copy it when making a keyboard for children. It is spill-proof. When I've spilled hot coffee and cold soda on it, I just had to wipe it off. Again, this is unlike my Sony Vaio and Lenovo T-61 keyboards which I've had to replace when even take-it-apart-deep-cleaning did not restore functionality post spill.

From what I've read, it appears the stuck key problem is fixable with a cleaning. Taking apart an OLPC is _much_easier_ than taking apart a commercial laptop, so I think this whole complaint is completely overblown. I'm not going to go so far as to say the article poster is an Intel sock puppet. I've seen they crazies who talk about having "bought" an OLPC right here on slashdot. Since the OLPC has never been on sale to individuals, you know these people are delusional right off the bat. The apparently large number of these folks either speaks to the success of the G1G1 program at reaching many many people, or it speaks to the sorry state of the war on drugs at it's goal of combating the crack epidemic. Either way, these idiots should be ignored, and I hope the folks at OLPC do not take these jokers seriously.

My only disappointment with the G1G1 program is that it wasn't G2G1, Give 2 Get 1. That could have resulted in more laptops in the hands of children, and fewer laptops in the hands of these complainers.

Re:Some people are simply delusional (2, Funny)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136376)

My only disappointment with the G1G1 program is that it wasn't G2G1, Give 2 Get 1. That could have resulted in more laptops in the hands of children, and fewer laptops in the hands of these complainers.
There's a G1G0 program [laptopgiving.org].

Cynical me or not, I hate to have to admit it, (1, Insightful)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135840)

..but the whole OLPC thing really does need a "What could POSSIBLY go wrong?" tag. Sad, sad, sad.

Re:Cynical me or not, I hate to have to admit it, (2, Insightful)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136238)

I don't understand how you are looking at it.

When Negroponte talked about a 100 dollar laptop, everybody was laughing at him, saying it could not be done.

They are selling under 200 dollar laptops, with a good chance of making them for 100 dollars in one year or two, or at least for the equivalent to that amount, taking into account currency devaluation.

Other people are selling cheap, good laptops now, and a new market has emerged. Their vision, that was far fetched, is now very close. I think the OLPC is already a success.

Their first computer model has some very interesting features, from an engineering standpoint, and is unsurpassed in many areas, as of now. Even if it has some technical issues (that the kids in Uruguay have not experienced, for example), it is still a great piece of technology.

Regular mainstream laptops fail all the time. Four team mates and I bought top of the line HP laptops an year ago, for work (we are software consultants). Mine has a non fatal backlight failure, that I couldn't fix it within its warranty period, because I was not willing to leave it for a month, the time they said it would take (I had to move to another country in less than a month).
Another one had its disk fail in warranty, and they are taking more than two months to fix it, and still haven't come up with a solution.
Yet another one, failed on monday, after the warranty period failed.

Some other guys bought Toshiba laptops, and half of them had memory modules failure, rebooting due to overheating.

Some other guys had Lenovo Laptops, and four out of six of them had failing power strips, or failing batteries, before three months.

None of them were refurbished, and all were paid full price.

I'm not saying that this is typical, it was just my first and only experience working with laptops, and it is obvious to me now that they are not that reliable. At least, if you use them seriously, and do not have a support contract.

If people put up with this kind of issues with big brand laptops, I don't see why a keyboard failure is such a big issue on a laptop that is not intended for unsupported use. The difficulty in getting your hands on one, and the 30 day warranty should be a good enough warning.

Re:Cynical me or not, I hate to have to admit it, (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136534)

All of that doesn't matter, really. OLPC's ability to deliver the laptops at twice the target price, the availability of EEE, you anecdotes of failed HP laptops, and pretty much everything else. What does matter, though, is whether or not the laptop does anything useful for the kids. The keyboard failures alone do not make it useless, of course, but it's still a problem. Remember, the keyboards were supposed to be designed to withstand some abuse, which is why they suck to type on. If the keyboards have to be serviced or replaced every week, not only does it raise support costs in terms of parts and labor, but also kids' time with the laptops.

I'm not claiming the OLPC is a failure (or success, for that matter). If the goal was get cheap laptops to the kids in poor countries, then yeah, it's somewhat of a success. But then, if that was the only goal, we could just send them some laptops bought off ebay.

At least as responsible as Microsoft (0, Flamebait)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135856)

Frankly, I'd guess that the OLPC organization signs contracts with their customers (or customer nations, anyway) which resemble Microsoft's EULA's. In other words, the customer agrees to the fact that there is nothing resembling the support infrastructure which commercial companies supply.

Last time I read an EULA from Microsoft, it said that Microsoft had no obligation to patch any particular bugs which would be found in its software. Very similar to this situation.

The first takers for the OLPC are, in reality, beta testers, even if they are not officially. I don't find it particularly scandalous that there would be some problems with the hardware which only large scale use would uncover. I would think it unscrupulous if no action would be taken to fix the (major) problems which are discovered (that is, just as I would look at Microsoft leaving major known security vulnerabilities unpatched).

Guess what? You're not our mission, slashdot (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23135890)

Amazingly, there IS a support mechanism in place for the target countries. There isn't one for the people who received laptops in return for a charitable donation. Support for the G1G1 program is volunteer-based. Sorry we're not as quick to fix everything as the billion-dollar companies you morons keep comparing us to. The manpower we have is being devoted to target countries, so forgive us if we seem to be neglecting the rich white demographic who has time to harass us on Slashdot. Posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

Re:Guess what? You're not our mission, slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136224)

Your post is a useful reminder of why Communism doesn't work. If you don't feel accountable to the people who pay your salary, you don't feel accountable to anyone.

Re:Guess what? You're not our mission, slashdot (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136328)

Your post is a useful reminder of why I shouldn't try to explain things to the internet. I don't receive a salary, jackass. The OLPC is a not-for-profit, and I am a volunteer.

We feel accountable to our target nations, and we behave accordingly. We don't feel particularly accountable to Slashdot. Sorry.

Thanks - MOD UP (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136314)

I thought I remembered there being support for countries that had bought in to buy the laptops for children.

You are right I think that the people purchasing laptops here misunderstood the nature of what they were buying and the arrangement that went into it. But sadly you'll find that many people do not ever read the fine print, and will crucify your company for not being just like every other electronics maker even though you are not trying to be.

I'd recommend starting off with a public plea noting that resources are devoted to support for other countries, along with instructions to service it yourself - and a program that lets people exchange affected units, but explain that takes away from resources that can be used to support other countries. Most people will simply fix the issue themselves then, and you'll get a few laptops back from the more vociferous people who will then have no cause for complaint and will be won over by good service.

Preperation (1)

Lunatrik (1136121) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135916)

I think it can be said now: the OLPC program is really just getting these children ready for the frustrations they will imminently face when they finally get to deal with "bug-free" large scale "western" software and hardware. Vista, anyone?

Seriously, though, the legal concerns of this are what really strike me on an Ethical level. If the OLPC company does get sued, it will certainly be by the individuals that live in the richer side of things, citing faulty development etc. And who benefits from that? Certainly not the people this organization is out to help (or, at least, purports to be).

Jealousy (1)

Falkkin (97268) | more than 5 years ago | (#23135976)

Hey, at least these people have one :) I ordered my XO on day 1 of the Give One, Get One program and it's still not arrived yet.

Do you have a confirmation number (2, Informative)

karmaflux (148909) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136066)

If you received an email confirming your order, and you have not received a Fedex Tracking Number, we recommend:

1) Try the Order Tracker at http://laptopgiving.org/ [laptopgiving.org] using your original email address, OR your 10-digit reference number.

2) If that fails to clarify, please send:

        * Your 10-digit Reference / Order Number

(or PayPal confirmation number if you have no such records)

        * Order Date
        * Order Method (PayPal/Phone)
        * Shipping Address
        * Day and Evening Phone numbers

to Help [at] laptop [dot] org with SHIPPING and your Reference/Confirmation Number in the subject line of your email

Re:Jealousy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136112)


SSSorrry, I may hhhhavvvve misstyppped the shiiiippiiiinggg lablee, IIII haveeee been geeettttinggg llllotssss of "nnno succch addresssss" returnnns latelyy.

-- Nichholllaassss Negroooponttteeeee

Who cares?! (2, Funny)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136034)

<sarcasm>At least they are trying to make the world a better place! Results don't matter!

Now, let's all drop our pants and have a circle jerk to the Powa of Da Collective! w00t!</sarcasm>

Of course, right now, some poor little kid in the middle of some hellhole is cursing his America POS computer. :)

No problems here even with a 2-year-old owner (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136062)

My 2-year old son uses his XO several times a week and we haven't had any failures. It has been dropped a couple of times and has lived up to its rugged design promises for us.

New Rule! (4, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136082)

Stop pointless speculation in the summary. This isn't CNN or Fox news. Just give us a summary of what the topic is about, give relevant links, and allow us to form opinions. Thank you.

Re:New Rule! (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136294)

Stop pointless speculation in the summary. This isn't CNN or Fox news. Just give us a summary of what the topic is about, give relevant links, and allow us to form opinions. Thank you.
You're new here, I take it?

As a G1G1 buyer...typing on an XO-1 (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136098)

To say that there is "no dedicated support infrastructure" is rather misleading. When my Thinkpad keyboard glitched out, I sent it in for repair, a depot tech swapped in a new keyboard module, and sent it back to me. The only difference in the XO-1 case is that the user will have to swap the keyboard module out rather than have a tech do it.

If it turns out that a significant number of keyboards are dying in the field, they may well end up having to ship a few boxes of replacement keyboards to the various deployment sites. Not ideal; but not exactly insurmountable. I suspect that they'll be bumping the revision number on the keyboard module in the near future, as well.

From the perspective of an XO-1 owner in the US, the prospect is slightly worrisome; because we aren't a deployment site in that sense and there is not much tech support architecture in place. Frankly, though, that isn't a huge surprise. Buying a G1G1 XO-1 is rather like buying an OpenMoko dev kit. You don't do it because you want time-tested enterprise grade hardware, you do it because it is cool hardware, a very interesting project, and because you are a geek. My keyboard is ok so far, and I hope it remains so; but I knew what I was getting in to.

They meant in other countires (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136284)

To say that there is "no dedicated support infrastructure" is rather misleading.

Not if you are talking about the other poor (I mean in the sense of income, not that they are getting these laptops!) countries that are receiving the laptops - if a lot of keyboards break there, and there's no easy means for people in those countries to get repairs, then there is a problem.

I had thought though that with large government contracts that some of these countries are purchasing, that support came along with ti.

Re:They meant in other countires (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136316)

My understanding is that the various contracts generally included hardware above and beyond the amount required, to account for breakage. Depending on exact failure rates, they may well need to ship more FRUs of one type or another to these locations. The laptops are designed to make replacing parts easy, so support beyond new parts shouldn't be necessary.

Paid for a commodity, designed a specialty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23136188)

Part of the problem with the OLPC design and sourcing methodology was that although they wanted to leverage common commodity items to bring down cost, they often ended up specifying specialty items. They didn't have the paranoia or experience of a "good" OEM.

Although they are using older/cheaper technologies in the display, user interface, networking etc. they have not used off-the-shelf implementations or well tested reference designs and have instead requested very non-standard designs. Some of these changes were intended to make the OLPC more reliable, or useful, or easier to fix.

The problem is that on an ultra-low margin/price product with very tight schedules the suppliers had little incentive to do full testing. The OLPC designers also didn't have the experience of a standard OEM to fully test and specify the parts they were getting.

Hopefully, the core CPU/RAM/Disk won't have the same problems. They pretty much had to use commodity specs for those, but low cost providers could still bite them.

At least the software can be upgraded remotely and easily... if they have net.

P.S. Qualifier- Yes I would have loved to work with the OLPC project on a low cost/margin commodity, but when I saw the design specs after we knew the pricing, I recommended a no-bid.

Unfortunate state of affairs (1, Troll)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136272)

The OLPC project is a shining example of a great idea, implemented apallingly badly. They started out as an idealist business, and turned into a mismanaged charity.

It has been a total fuck up from start to finish, and their cause should be taken up by a competant company.

Re:Unfortunate state of affairs (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136300)

I think it was a flawed idea with a mediocre implementation: among the Slashdot crowd, however, the assumption that it is a great idea has something to do with things looking like nails when you're spending all your time in a hammer factory. $100+, in the economies to which these things are being deployed, can be used a lot more effectively in education, and in such a way that it circulates locally, rather than going to a US-based business.

How come we don't see anything now? (4, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#23136326)

Okay, there were some problems. NOTE THE DATE: As of January 30th. Nothing has been posted since March in there. I think it's safe to say the situation may have changed since january, seriously thats almost 4 months ago.

Really why is this even a post today that far back?
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