Keyboard cover removal crashed my iBook
August 14, 2009 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Removing silicone keyboard cover crashes iBook. Solution needed.

Since I fairly live over my iBook keyboard, eating, rolling cigarettes, etc. it gets filthy. After spending about two hours cleaning it recently, I decided to buy a keyboard cover. I ended up with this one:

It feels nice and does not interfere with typing in the least, in fact, seems to protect keys from the pounding I tend to give them. However, probably related to the fact that I live in a climate where humidity is high, I noticed some slight condensation building up under the cover after about a week. When I lifted the cover off, the iBook crashed: cursor froze, etc, requiring a restart. It took this happening twice, and having to repair Spotlight function damage before I realized that removing the cover caused it, and I've since found some posts on the net where others have complained about static discharge issues. BTW my iBook almost never crashes even under intensive use.
I typically run this computer 24/7 and only do restarts every 4 to 5 days. I never shut the case except on the rare occasions I take it away from home. I doubt my iBook has crashed 5 other times in its life. It's the last model iBook made, born mid-2005.

My questions:
1. If I shut down prior to removing the keyboard cover, would this be a risk-free method?
2. Is there a proven and scientific way to safely discharge this static without requiring shutting the computer down? I'm concerned that static is building up even if I don't move the cover, and that something unexpected could cause a discharge, just under normal use. Plus I'm concerned about the moisture/condensation issue. Would using an anti-static wristband solve this problem for certain?
3. Is this just hopeless? Keyboard covers are inherently risky? Give up and return the thing?

Personal experience stories welcomed.
posted by sugarbx19 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Some things to try:
Plug the iBook in before removing (on the theory that plugging it in will provide grounding)
Remove the cover more often (on the theory that the static charge builds over time)
Rub the inside of the keyboard cover with clothes dryer antistatic pads
posted by doctor_negative at 1:21 PM on August 14, 2009

Response by poster: The iBook is always plugged in, directly to a grounded outlet, no extension cord.
posted by sugarbx19 at 1:38 PM on August 14, 2009

The static electricity is probably being generated during the act of pulling the cover away from the keypad and there's evidently nothing conductive to dissipate it. To make this stop, something has to conduct the static charge away. Neither silicone nor the plastic of the keyboard can fulfill that need. People used to use a device called a Zerostat to get rid of static charges on LP records and the like and if you can borrow one you might try poking the 'nose' of the Zerostat beneath the cover and "pumping" it as you lift the cover off. If that works, then the permanent solution is probably finding a cover that has a little bit of conductivity. Googling "keyboard cover" "ESD safe" is not giving me anything useful so this item might not even be made. There are anti-static sprays available but I wouldn't put anything like that on a keyboard I liked.
posted by jet_silver at 2:06 PM on August 14, 2009

This is very weird. Static usually doesn't cause temporary problems. It blows holes through the insulating layers in the semiconductor junctions; which is a fancy way of saying it causes permanent damage.
posted by chairface at 4:28 PM on August 14, 2009

Nah, static can cause temporary problems. I've tested equipment with a static gun and can easily temporarily confuse all kinds of poorly shielded electronic equipment.

Static charges can build up really easily on rubber and silicone, which is why it is so easy to rub a balloon on your hair and make it stick to a wall (the charges built up on the balloon are attracted to opposite charges on the wall).

The antistatic spray can be sprayed on the underside of the cover before you put it on the keyboard. Those sprays don't last very long, but this is a different application than how I've used them. Maybe your experience would be better.

Or better yet, contact the company. Maybe they know about this and have a solution. If they don't know about it, they will after you contact them!
posted by eye of newt at 12:14 AM on August 15, 2009

I just had a thought. If you don't want to get anti-static spray, just rub one of those anti-cling fabric softener sheets on the underside before you put it on your keyboard.

I just did an experiment with a piece of plastic, rubbing it on my hair until my hair would stick out in attraction to the plastic, indicating that a static charge had built up.

It took a bit of rubbing with the fabric softener sheet, but afterwards no amount of rubbing of the plastic on my hair would make my hair stand on on end.
posted by eye of newt at 12:45 PM on August 15, 2009

Response by poster: @ eye of newt
Ack. The company claimed to have never heard of such a thing, and offered to refund for 30 days, already passed. I can't get into the idea of rubbing products on the thing and have set it aside as an artifact. Too bad, since it felt nice and would have helped keep my keyboard clean.
I wish someone had a miracle answer so I could keep using it.
posted by sugarbx19 at 4:07 PM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: Since no one has a definitive answer and I'm too cheap to discard the cover, I'm contemplating using it again on a test basis, part of the day, to see whether I crash again. Maybe it was a weird fluke or had somthing to do with other things. I hope so, because I really like the way it feels and my sense that I'm having less impact on my keyboard.
posted by sugarbx19 at 7:29 PM on October 24, 2009

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