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Installing a USB Keyboard into an OLPC XO Laptop, Phase I

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I don't know about you, but I can sure tell silicone from the real thing. Here's how to ditch the jelly and squeeze a normal keycaps-and-springs type USB keyboard into an OLPC XO laptop. This is "phase I" -- getting the keyboard into the lower half of the case, but leaving the USB cable connected to the external USB port (UPDATE: Phase II instructable now posted).

Radical surgery to the lower half of the XO is necessary, so your OLPC will never be the same if you do this. I did it because I had too many Dremel wheels on my hands and my XO was so much more convenient to cut holes in than my neighbor's car. Who wants to mess with an extension cord and the potential for bad weather? Also because my XO's keyboard failed -- the Ctrl key got stuck -- after the 30 day warranty period had already ended.

Things you'll need:

1. A new keyboard (see step 1)
2. Dremel tool or equivalent in sweat and pain
3. A jeweler's large phillips screwdriver, or one of those double-ended freebies they used to give away at IT-related conventions
4. Lots of cellophane tape (or hundreds of tiny helpers who don't mind being sealed inside your XO forever)
5. A desoldering iron (optional)
6. An XO laptop from OLPC, preferably one that has a keyboard problem.
 
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Sandisk1duo6 years ago
so um, where did you get the computer?
A magical land call Google.
it's more then just $100 like $235, i would rather get a athlon 64 x2 with motherboard, 80gb hardrive, power supply, case and dvd burner for the same money
Than, not then
I'm not an English teacher...
:) i speak spanish!
Good morning It is possible to have your opinion in spanish please??? regards
эта клавиатура даже не освещает, lol
well so do i , but i don't teach it
You're my hero.
kbhasi3 years ago
what about the special hotkeys on the keyboard and stuff like that?
labelreader (author)  kbhasi3 years ago
For the most part, the function keys do the same things, they just don't look as pretty!
ReCreate5 years ago
what kind of laptop is that what are the specs and what os does it run it looks awfully weird
labelreader (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
mwarren_us5 years ago
Has anyone found a white or green alternative keyboard?
I would just repaint the XO. I hate the color scheme.
I still haven't found a green or white keyboard, however, Brando's USB store has a Super Mini USB keyboard for just $22 + $3 S&H.
labelreader (author)  mwarren_us5 years ago
That looks like the same keyboard -- good pricehunting!
Raychaser5 years ago
Brilliant idea!!! Thanks. I did mine already and finished with a slick black paintjob and it looks great. I managed to get the LED lights for the caps/scroll/num lock in there too so it IS possible but I had to carve away a bit more of the frame to make it fit and drill holes so you can see the 3 lights. Also I got a cheap USB hub soldered into the top half and routed one of the 4 ports back to the USB port I stole from the OLPC so from the outside everything works as it should. I'll post pictures if I think of it later. Now my biggest worry: Airport security. I built this to travel but I'm seriously worried about how they will react when this thing goes through the X-ray. My soldering looks fairly professional and the wires are all neat but ... Does anyone have any opinions or experience with this?
Here are some pictures of the final layout and of the internal circuit layout
IMG_6066.JPGIMG_6058.JPGIMG_6056.JPGIMG_6050.JPG
labelreader (author)  Raychaser5 years ago
Very nice indeed! What sort of paint did you use? Was the trackpad sensitivity affected at all?
labelreader (author)  labelreader5 years ago
BTW, nice keyboard controller board placement!
yeah, I was worried about the trackpad so I did a little test first and no, it seems to work just fine. The paint is called Krylon Fusion and it was the only thing I could find. It doesn't stick to the rubber at all though and even though it says that it's chip proof it still chips. I might need to remove it all and actually go through the trouble of using vinyl dye. Re: keyboard circuit: thanks. it took quite a while to make everything fit. There's not much room in there so you're dealing with millimeters. First time I closed the case I heard a CRUNCH and the capacitor on the hub was toast and I had to replace it. .... luckily I had a spare.
labelreader (author)  Raychaser5 years ago
Cool! I'd love to see the paint job -- I hope you do find time to post photos! I haven't taken mine through security, so I don't know how they'll react to the modifications (which will definitely look curious on x-ray).
last_decoy5 years ago
they have been sending these off to 3-world countries en-mass! just cant wait to see osama using one. sweet tutorial dude!
pen_sq5 years ago
First of all, brilliant project! I tried going the easier route by doing minimum damage to the steel plate, and pushing the keyboard PCB deeper. I probably ended up taking longer than you for it, But if we were ever to joust with our XO's, I believe I'd win. On the plastic side, I made a hole in the case to accommodate the controller on the PCB, and ground away little divots for the capacitor, SMT parts, and taller solder points. Carbon paper would probably help with this, sadly, I didn't have any. Use a strong light to get an idea how thin you've cut into the plastic. I plan on plugging the square hole with Shapelock after assembly. I started out drilling the plate more randomly than through actual scientific measurement, and ended up with an oversized slot for the metal-can crystal to stick out of. I also made a more directed slot for the ribbon connector. The holes are made with a drill press, using dremel abrasion discs and conical grinding stones to smooth them out. At a first test fit, I found the crystal to be a little tall, so I wired it a bit off to the side, the keyboard still seems happy with that. I ground a shallow into the case for it, The stupidly large slot for it is something to be AVOIDED in the future. Finally, I haven't finished mine yet, I hope nobody else beats me to some fatal flaw in my little variant.
USB chiphole.jpgUSB Board in place.jpgSteel on top.jpgSteel in perspective.jpg
pen_sq pen_sq5 years ago
OK, I have mine together, and found I got the keyboard centered wrong. The top row of keys binds up, so I get to take it all apart again. The top plastic edge is TREACHEROUS - I test fit the top panel many times, but it still went wrong on me. I have the keyboard well glued to the steel plate, so I guess I'll just skim a bit across the top edge with a dremel, and repeat. My drill press (+ XY table) died earlier, so keeping a straight edge will be a hoot. Since I'm on the hook for a re-disassembly, I get another chance to snap some more forgotten pictures of the insides. I found that putting a loop-de-loop in the ribbon is a nice way to shift the end sideways without making a mess of Horrible creases. I sandwiched a double-stick foam pad inside the loop to ease the creasing stress a bit, too.
stuck keys.jpg
pen_sq pen_sq5 years ago
I bet mine was a bit more difficult to get back together - the USB board has to be taped to the back of the plate just right before heaping/hooking/sliding the back panel into place. It was not fun the first two times, and I don't expect it to be better the third. After putting it all together, I found the keyboard to be a flake. Sometimes it would send lots of +++++'s, sometimes the shift key would be mysteriously stuck, and eventually clear. My first suspicion is that the keyboard really needs the ground spring connection to it's board, so I'll open it up and wire that. Another 2 possibilities are that the ribbon connector shifted crooked, or it isn't a full plastic sandwich and is shorting against itself. Aargh!
OLPC Folded Ribbon Cable.jpg
pen_sq pen_sq5 years ago
OK, I got around to attaching the ground, and YES, it is that important. I replaced one of the marked short screws with a regular one to hold my ground line, I'm glad they threw in extras! So, now the keyboard works fine. I updated the XO's OS to the latst joyride, and there are still issues with the kernel oopsing on resume from short-term suspends (see this bugreport).
labelreader (author)  pen_sq5 years ago
Cool! Looks like you found a better way to do it! Let me know how your case closes; it would be great if you get a better overall fit out of this technique! A little bit of putty never hurt any project. ;o)
agis686 years ago
where u get the OLPC from? I need one!
when u buy one, you will have to buy two. one donate to someone in africa and on to yourself. i got mine from fry. i saw one in best buy.
fhage agis686 years ago
Ebay. New, in-box are going for $300-400 + shipping. My XO had the Ctrl key stick. I tried the cleaning the back of the membrane and still had problems so I went for the fix in this article In fact, In fact, I'm using it now. The keyboard is much, much more usable. However,... 1. The new keyboard is still small for big hands, but is much better for touch typing. The action on the keys is excellent and reasonably quiet. 2. The parts don't quite fit in the spaces allowed. The circuit card for the keyboard has parts on both sides including a quartz crystal which won't fit without removing it from the circuit board, adding jumper wires and grinding off part of its metal case. Even then the circuit card is still about 1 mm too thick to actually fit. Thus, one has to be satisfied with a keyboard that bows up slightly under the space bar and touch pad. I can squeeze the extra mm out of the thickness, but it flexes the new circuit card and springs back into shape when released. 3. The keys also are a very tight fit. They stick up about 1 mm higher than the membrane keys and interfere with the case. In standard position, the case closes, but requires extra pressure to close. The pressure collapses the keys in the first two rows an along the sides about .5mm. As far as I can tell, the keys only touch the case, and are just shy of the screen. It's that tight a fit. In e-book configuration, the case hits the keys and causes the head section to naturally rest with about a 1cm gap between the head end and the front of the base of the XO.. It no longer lies flat without squeezing it together. The interference only partially depresses the keys; keystrokes are not registered. My guess is the new keyboard improves the durability of the XO as the keys act as a bunch of little cushions holding the head end tight against the base. Some building tips: I used a drill to make a series of small holes around the perimeter of the cutout for the new circuit card and cable, then used my dremel cutoff wheel to cut the bridges between the holes. Clamp the metal plate in a vise and file to make the edges smooth. This is much easier and produces much cleaner edges than trying to do the whole cut with small cutoff tools. Use a sharp wood chisel to remove the plastic parts on the back of the case that cause interference. The new circuit card fits between two ribs, but is an exact fit, the cross ribs must be trimmed to be precisely flush with the bottom of the case and sides of the ribs. Hold the chisel by hand and rock it back and forth as you apply pressure, the plastic will cut like butter and will finish up exactly flush. (PS. I never would have been able to enter this message on the original keyboard. I find this a dramatic improvement to the usability of the XO.)
agis68 fhage6 years ago
Thanks , i will try to get one.....and i will be in touch if i have any keyboard troubles
nish25755 years ago
i love the tone. makes me crack up
Aar000n3y6 years ago
Is that the new laptop for children that they're trying to spread around the world? Did your school sign up to use them or how did you get it? And how does the laptop perform? Sorry, I just haven't heard of anybody having one, so I've wondering about these... Anyways, good instructable. A couple pictures are a bit blurry, but they aren't too bad. I dislike those 'jelly' keyboards too, they feel so weird.
labelreader (author)  Aar000n3y6 years ago
I got mine through the now-ended give-one-get-one program. Here's hoping the production laptops for children in need don't have the same issue!
Thanks for this awesome instructable! The only reported keyboard problems were from some of the g1g1 laptops... not the newer keyboards.
labelreader (author)  Aar000n3y6 years ago
BTW, performance is okay. It boots very slowly, and applications launch slowly, but once up and running it's fine. It should be a great machine for composition, basic web use (Flash support is limited) and playing educational games. The really exciting stuff is the collaborative hardware and software that makes it easy to join in activities other kids are doing on the wireless network, but I can't really comment on that since I don't have more than one. =)
Sounds really cool. I'm interested to see how this developes over the next few years
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