Coffee

Last week I was involved in a MoLeNET ‘boot camp’. The premise was simple: we all get together and thrash out pedagogical issues which are to be included as part of a resource/activity creation tool, which is being developed on behalf of the MoLeNET community.

We spent two days sat around our laptops in a smallish room at the excellent Novotel in Leeds. Although this post isn’t about the food, it would be a crime to mention the hotel and not mention the food. As always the lunchtime buffet was a delight, with a huge variety of seafood, cold meats and salads to start with and the usual carvery type fayre for mains – but served up in an interesting way. The first day we also had bacon sandwiches (with croissant, ham, preserves and fruit), which was a delightful surprise. Thank you Novotel.

Anyway – they also brew a passable (not great, but passable) coffee. And there’s the rub: we were all free to get tea and coffee whenever we liked. Each morning we had a selection of biscuits to soak up the drink and on both afternoons we were presented with a selection of cakes and buns. So the tables in our small rooms gradually filled up with the usual long meeting detritus.

So let this story be a warning to everyone – cakes crumbs and coffee do not go well with laptops.

We’d almost finished our two-day meeting and I was returning from the bathroom to begin packing up, when a cup of coffee was accidently knocked over my (I still think of it as new) MacBook Pro. I think I went into an instant ‘oh it’s only a keyboard’ form of stasis. It had never seemed a big thing before, keyboards on college machines had always been the cheapest of the cheap and any lasting damage from spills could only be caused to the PC itself, often hidden right away under the desk or sat at the back of the desk – a fair way from potential damage. But the Mac (or any laptop) is much more vulnerable than that – potentially £1,200 of vulnerability.

Luckily, the MoLeNET Mentors are such a stellar team that they instantly sprang into action. Instructions were being shouted from all over the room: the main one being ‘remove the battery’. I’d already pulled the power cable and the machine was by now being held upside down so the ‘remove the battery’ instruction was probably a laptop saver, as I would not have thought to do that. Paper towels and serviettes were coming from all over the place as colleagues rushed to help and the mess was eventually cleaned up. Apart from one person’s ashen face, my otherworldly stasis and an upside down MacBook Pro with an overwhelming smell of coffee, things soon settled down to the normal goodbyes and see-you-laters.

I was advised not to use the machine again for a minimum of three days to let it dry out completely, before being allowed to cross the fingers of one hand whilst turning it on with the other. All the advice was coming from people I trust; long-term Mac users, so my stasis would continue into Sunday – only 48 hours, but my fingers WERE already very tightly crossed.

When I finally turned on the MacBook Pro, it worked. I opened as many windows as I thought fair and breathed a slow sigh of relief when nothing ‘blew’.

Then, later, I noticed that the keys were sticky. We’d wondered whether the coffee had had sugar in it, but not knowing whose it was made that impossible to know – I’d hoped not, as the sugar would have made it nigh on impossible to fix without some kind of surgery. But all of the keys eventually came unstuck and now, 24 hours later, they seem to be working fine.

I’d looked on the Internet for sticky keys advice and two helpful addresses were sent to me by Simon Finch on Twitter: http://bit.ly/6SATq8 and http://bit.ly/4qiBmw. Apparently you can carefully lift off the keys (which I didn’t do) – James Clay suggested cleaning them with baby wipes; Mick Mullane said cotton buds and distilled water. In the end I loosened the sticky keys by tapping them and then blowing compressed air across the keypad. I’m sure that this practice is frowned upon as it may move debris into more corruptible areas of the machine – but it worked for me.

LATEST NEWS – somehow, the video-out slot has become faulty. I’m not sure yet whether the coffee is responsible but at the moment, the only way of connecting to an external source is to keep pushing the plug right in – sadly there’s no way of keeping pressure on.

So three things to say as I wrap up this post:

· There are many sites out there aimed at helping you in times of technological stress:

· Thank you to all those of you who volunteer to help people in need – Simon, James, Mick – thank you.

and

Don’t leave coffee (or tea, or biscuits, or food/drink of any kind – and while we’re on it – all pets, young especially – but older are not immune to walking all over the keyboard) anywhere near your laptop!

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One Response to “Coffee”

  1. colhawksworth Says:

    I am guilty of spilling a coffee onto a Sun server keyboard – could’ve been a VERY expensive coffee! The server kept on working, which was handy – as it was handling all the college email & web services. I only had to replace the keyboard. Phew!

    Despite that – I still continue to drink coffee at my computers.

    Col


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