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Dangerous Apple Power Adapters?

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the well-thats-just-no-good dept.


An anonymous reader writes "Even with all these exploding Dell notebooks and other notebook safety problems, Apple has seemed relatively immune. Every once in a while, some odd thing came along, but it seemed like relatively calm waters. Not anymore — Apple's notebook power adapters appear to be the source of some serious safety concerns. Every iBook and PowerBook user should read this and keep a close eye on their adapter — the adapters suffer from very poor design including wires that seem prone to short out and burn and zero short circuit protection."

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Not poor design (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898954)

Its low quality electricity causing the problems

Re:Not poor design (2, Insightful)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898965)

Which is why these little things called "fuses" were invented.

Re:Not poor design (0, Offtopic)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899000)

'fuckers are thinning it down with water to increase profit margins. =\

Re:Not poor design (2, Funny)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899019)

I couldn't agree with your post more!11!!!!11!!

The thought that one of Apple's many chinese hardware subcontractors could possibly have made a boo boo in a small batch is utterly inconcievable!11!!!!

I say anyone who questions the quality of Apple's hardware is an M$ shill.

Re:Not poor design (2, Interesting)

Nicholas Evans (731773) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899169)

So then, as somebody named Whiney Mac Fanboy, I understand very well that you know who is a shill and who is not a shill. However, the author states:

I spent time closely inspecting the original adapter that came with my PowerBook and caused the problem, comparing it to the model Apple sent me as a replacement and another Apple branded power adapter I purchased new from a local computer store. They were all identical. The reinforcing rubber "bootie" was the same. The cable appeared to be the exact same gauge. They even all exhibited the same lack of proper short protection and proved able to arc endlessly without tripping any breakers, fuses or GFCI outlets.

I am definitely not a manufacturer or an engineer or any physical products, nor am I a Microsoft and/or Apple fanboy (but I did order a MacBook Pro on Friday, hooah!), but from the information available it would seem as if Apple does have a potential safety issue.

Re:Not poor design (3, Insightful)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899064)

low quality electricity causing the problems
Or the reality distortion field.

Re:Not poor design (4, Funny)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899079)

This is closer to the truth then you could start to believe! I have recently seen pieces of heavy electricity literally falling off power lines. I can quite imagine that too much heavy electricity could easily crush an Apple power adapter and cause serious danger.

Look at Country of Origin (3, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899125)

Power adapters are low-tech, commodity devices. Since their profit margins are very low, Apple management probably subcontracted their design and assembly to a generic company in mainland China.

One thing that we know about China is that (1) it has few laws ensuring product safety and (2) that Beijing rarely enforces those laws. As a result, many products from China are just dangerous.

Consider the recent case of lead contamination of children's toys [chicagotribune.com] . The toys had 5x the amount of lead that is considered safe.

Now, consider the case of a bracelet that was 99% lead [bbc.co.uk] . A Chinese company made the bracelets for Reebok. A child who accidentally ingested the bracelet died.

Now, consider Chinese honey that is contaminated with a dangerous antibiotic [ens-newswire.com] .

Here is the summary reduction. The price of a product imported from China is $X. The price of a product made in the USA is $Y. Generally, $X is much less than $Y. The difference in price represents the "cost" that you paying for tough, enforced regulations and for higher ethical standards. Most American consumers do not want to pay this cost directly, so Walmart (a.k.a. the clearinghouse for Chinese products) prospers. Still, most Americans do pay this cost indirectly via, e.g., higher medical bills.

Re:Look at Country of Origin (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899143)

"The difference in price represents the "cost" that you paying for tough, enforced regulations and for higher ethical standards."

Not quite. That difference is enlarged by many other factors such as unions, bribery, and unenforced monopoly laws.

Re:Look at Country of Origin (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899199)

Apple management probably subcontracted their design and assembly to a generic company in mainland China.

As opposed to every other part of every computer?

Re:Look at Country of Origin (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899318)

Power adapters are low-tech, commodity devices.

Dispite just about every device using them coming with a lable stating that you should only use the right one...

Re:Look at Country of Origin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899340)

There are several problems with your analysis.

Apple is responsible for meeting U.S. safety standards regardless of where its components are made. Regardless of how Chinese manufacturers may stint on safety for their domestic market, it's clear that Chinese manufacturers are quite capable of producing quality components for export. After all, most power supplies are made in China (at least if the ones beneath my desk are any indication of the market as a whole).

I'm not saying that Apple was the one that made the design mistake here. It's quite possible they went to a bad supplier. But the idea that Apple couldn't find a Chinese manufacturer to do the job right is just ridiculous.

Apple adapter puts nasty load on inverters (1)

Been on TV (886187) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899233)

I don't know how dangerous Apple's adapters are, but they sure put a rather nasty load on the two inverters I regularly use my PowerBook on.

Both inverters will only start if only the Apple adapter is putting load on them. One of the inverters will crash and reboot if you put additional load on it together with the Apple adapter (1 kW inverter producing 220 volts from a 305 Ah battery.) I have never seen this behavior with any other load I have put on those inverters.

Missing last line... (5, Funny)

talkingpaperclip (952112) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898961)

"Is this the end for Apple?"

Yes (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899006)

I tagged the article "yes"

Re:Missing last line... (5, Funny)

Dlugar (124619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899013)

And the corresponding story tags:
yes, no, fud, notfud


Re:Missing last line... (3, Informative)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899182)

And the corresponding story tags:

yes, no, fud, notfud

Damn, this pisses me off. The correct tag is "!fud", RTFM. [slashdot.org]

They don't call em crapintosh (0, Troll)

flamelord (588383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899075)

for nothin.

Macs are good for toilet surfing, that's it.

Re:Missing last line... (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899116)

Apple--proudly dying for 30 years.

Re:Missing last line... (1)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899152)

Ah hah!

The hand's in the other shoe, now!

... ... or not.

Re:Missing last line... (1)

3mpire (953036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899161)

...or... "Power Adapters Next Apple Killer?"

Where are the circuit diagrams? (0)

linzeal (197905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898964)

Can someone put this in Orcad/Pspice [amazon.com] or something? This is really just a blurb of the problem with no technical details whatsoever.

Re:Where are the circuit diagrams? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15898975)

Why would you need a circuit diagrams when it's obviously a wear and tear problem? As described in TFA...

Re:Where are the circuit diagrams? (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898984)

What he is bringing up would not even be seen in OrCAD or even Pspice simulation. This is a physical design flaw. Orcad (which is just a schematic program) and Pspice (electronics simulator) won't even show this as an issue. The stress relief on the Powerbook Adapter is flawed.

Here are some technical details: (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899104)

The details you will need to know are: The gentleman, who complains about the problem, is a bubbeling idiot.

The power rating of these power bricks is 45W (for my iBook). Fourtyfive watts. If you concentrate that amount of electricity in a small volume, it is quite sufficient to set most synthetic materials alight. The possible exception being Teflon.

His comments (yes, I did RTFA) about the brick not having any kind of short circuit protection is groundless. He has experienced one type of SS protection, the type found in many large PC PSUs, which needs a power off to reset. Another type is the foldback, or current limiting SS protection circuit, which increases available power immediately after the short is removed. So it is no wonder that he could sense the power (by repeatedly shorting out the brick?! Asking for trouble, is he?) as soon as no short was present.

He would have a solid argument if he was able to draw an excessive current through the short, larger than, say, the 1.875A (45W @ 24V) the brick is specified for.

I just tried testing for this problem using the brick for my iBook, but failed miserably, since I don't have the proper connector to mate with the low voltage end: The thing won't even power on unless it is plugged into the iBook. This may be a design change since my brick is apparently of a more recent design as compared to the one shown in TFA.

So in summary the actual news items here are:

*) Frayed wire can short out.
*) A short may not be sufficient low ohmic to trip the power limiter in the PSU, yet the power you can draw through it may be sufficient to cause fires. (This is no different than for any other electrical appliance. AKA: Badly maintained electrical installations can kill you.)
*) Apple didn't employ sufficient strain relief at the point, where the power wire leaves the power brick.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Re:Here are some technical details: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899198)

Apple didn't employ sufficient strain relief at the point, where the power wire leaves the power brick.

Apple has improved this on subsequent adapters. The other things, of course, are not intrinsic to the Apple power adapter. I wonder at what point Slashdot can be sued for libel?

Re:Here are some technical details: (1)

Lactoso (853587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899211)

"His comments (yes, I did RTFA) about the brick not having any kind of short circuit protection is groundless."

Hehe, groundless short circuit protection. Everyone's a comedian...

Re:Here are some technical details: (5, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899278)

Just a technical addendum. The white bricks are no longer produced in the 45w range. All new white bricks are 65w. This is most likely because the latter g3/4 laptops were all requiring more power than the early G3s. The 65's work fine on all the older equipment, (watts are drawn on demand, a 65 won't hurt a machine that took a 45 originally) so we just carry the 65's. I have replaced maybe five white packs that had the wire broken at the strain relief where this fellow had the problem, and as many more where the wire went at the DC jack end. Apple does need to improve the strain relief at both ends. I find OP's claim that there was "no visible damage before the fire" to be laughable. When I look at the picture I note immediately, the wire always comes straight out of the pack when it's new, and there is a good inch of cord needed to bend it 90 degrees without excessive force. But when you look at the picture, the wire is almost emerging at 90 degrees right out of the strain relief. Good money says he tends to plug the pack into the wall a long way from his ibook, and the cord is always being strained and pulled hard to the side, and was a direct cause of the cord damage and the fire.

Also of note, the "ufo" power adapters that shipped originally on the ibook G3s are much much worse. They are known for failure where the DC cord meets the computer plug and where the AC cord meets the connector that plugs into the pack. We have replaced many of them for failure at one of these two points. Though for all the macs I've worked on, I have yet to encounter a single apple pack that caught fire. This sounds like an isolated incident and someone trying to make a whole lot of noise, stomping about and shouting "defect, recall, save me!"

Given 50,000 production units of electronics, a couple of them are going to be bad. There is no escaping that. And yes, one of them might burn down your house. But a meteor might hit it first, and has roughly the same odds, OP needs to get over it.

Though I don't deny he needs to post about it, because this is how you find out about real issues. Now if we saw a dozen "me too" followups immediately we might want to look into this more, but right now we just have a blowhard.

Re:Here are some technical details: (2, Informative)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899350)

Also of note, the "ufo" power adapters that shipped originally on the ibook G3s are much much worse. They are known for failure where the DC cord meets the computer plug and where the AC cord meets the connector that plugs into the pack.

That's true. I think it's something to do cracks or holes in the plastic. In every UFO PS at work, they'd die at the DC plug, and you can clearly see that the copper wire had oxidized and turned green.

Apple posted the schematics on their site! (3, Interesting)

5plicer (886415) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899223)

Apple provides full detail on how to build your own power adapter in this tech note [apple.com] . Guess what I'll be building over the next couple of weeks ;)

Re:Where are the circuit diagrams? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899258)

omg, this is the most "Im trying to fake Im intelligent" comment ever

sure sure, son, go put that in spice... if you know how to use it

and its modded +2...

why oh why (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15898969)

does my girlfriends pussy smell of fishes?

Re:why oh why (5, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899077)

"does my girlfriends pussy smell of fishes?"

No. She smells of inflatable plastic.

Re:why oh why (1)

flamelord (588383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899089)

you should post this in one of those sexual advice forums. most people here on ./ don't have a clue to what you re talkin about.

Re:why oh why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899097)

Quite true.

What's a "fish"?

Re:why oh why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899096)

Stop using fishoil as a lubricant!

No facts (4, Insightful)

wackymacs (865437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898988)

OK, so he cites that he himself had a problem with his adapter, and someone else. If this has not even happened to more than 5 people, I can't see how its dangerous by design. These seem like one-off individual problems, nothing wide-scale that would require a recall. I've had a PowerBook G4 since 2003, and the same adapter for 3 years, 0 problems.

Re:No facts (1)

akuykenda (994933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899023)

Also, even though he said he saw no visible damage, it looks like he treated it like shit.

Re:No facts (1)

Krisbee (644227) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899032)

So five fires would not be a problem?

When car manufacturers find a design problem that might cause accidents, they usually recall all cars that may have the problem, despite its huge costs.

Why don't you think Apple should do this? Imagine just one hotel fire caused by a faulty PowerBook adapter.

Re:No facts (1)

topham (32406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899086)

Actually; they usually ignore the problem until it makes the front page of damn near every newspaper in north america.

Or didn't you know Ford spent years denying various problems of their vehicles. (Not that they are the only manufacturer to do this, they are just the most obvious.).
(Ford Pinto; Ignition fires (I know someone personally who had his dash catch fire and destroy his car), Ford Explorer roll-over issues).
Many industries have improved how they handle recall issues.

I really wonder about the intelligence of someone (not you) who knows full well a power adapter is starting to fail but keeps using it for the next few weeks until it does. REPLACE IT BEFORE IT KILLS SOMEONE.

Do you drive you're car until the the brakes fail, or do you have them fixed/replaced as normal maintenance?

It is quite possible, and based on the article I think likely, that these people have consistently abused their power adapters. I am always carefull when wrapping up cords to not stress them. Some people aren't so careful and some people are down right abusive.
I'm not even disputing that Apple's design may have contributed to the issue; perhaps one of the power adapters was a very poor design.

Re:No facts (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899101)

No, to steal a quote from Fight Club, this is how a recall is done:

Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field (A) multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B) then multiply the result by the average out of court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of the recall, we don't do one.

However, with computers, there's usually no out of court settlements, as they can usually just replace the part, with no harm done to the user. Therefore, it's very rare that you will ever see a recall on computer equipment. It's almost always cheaper to fix the ones that come back with defects, and leave the rest in the field.

Re:No facts (1)

dvdave (175509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899168)

When car manufacturers find a design problem that might cause accidents, they usually recall all cars that may have the problem, despite its huge costs.

I'll assume you haven't seen Fight Club. Watch it and come back to the thread.

Re:No facts (1)

William Stein (259724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899095)

Something similar happened to me recently with my Macbook Pro.
The cable right by the magnetic connector suddenly became very
brown. The connector smelled funny, and when I touched it to
remove it, it burned my fingers and shocked me. I promptly
unplugged the adapter from the wall. The next day I took my
computer to the university of washington bookstore where I
purchased it, and they promptly exchanged my power supply
for a new one.

The power supply connector failed because I was wrapping and
wrapping the cable each time I used it, and the twisting caused
the connector to short out. My previous laptops have been
Thinkpads, which have much higher quality more industry grade
cables, so I wasn't used to being very careful with the adapter.
The mac adapter is nice because the cable is smaller
and lighter, but it is also correspondingly *vastly* more delicate.

  -- William

Not just him... (1)

sarcasticfrench (949383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899128)

I had this happen to me too. The adapter just suddenly started shooting sparks, and nearly set my bed on fire. I had to buy a new adapter from a different company, and so far I havn't had any trouble with it.
I think the adapter I had was even a different one, since he was using a snow iBook, and mine is one of the original 300mhz iBooks. The original adapter was the "hockey puck" style white thing. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one having trouble with this though.

Re:Not just him... (1)

Pfhor (40220) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899167)

The hockey pucks were horrible, the wires that attached to the base from the AC side would short out (too little insulation around a point that was very flexible) and then just cheap rubber around the point that plugged into your machine.

The problem with apple's first gen designs is they are developed in secret, and no one does any field testing (heaven forbid they see the mag safe connector before its announced) and then they don't want to admit fault for a bad design, since "it worked great in development" where development took place in a closed room on the apple campus with 5 different people playing with it.

These power adaptor fail all the time... (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899242)

These power adaptor fail all the time. I have already had one fray and or break in the same location this author was writing about (with the newer reenforced cord). Moreover, my art director has had this happen several times.

Although in all cases, our power adaptors simply stopped working. They did not spark. However, they did look fine on the outside.

As a matter of fact, this is so common that the Apple store replaces these things with no questions asked.

Re:No facts (1)

Gerhardius (446265) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899272)

I have a Powerbook G4 but on my power adapter the DC line does not have the same connection to the adapter as the problem model. The design change may have altered where the stress is on the DC line leading to the failures. Unfortunately there are knee jerk responses regarding every Apple related issue:

1) Kool-aid drinking Mac users immediately proclaim that the problem is completely irrelevant.

2) The anti-mac adherents once again proclaim that Apple is in trouble.

Stuff like this happens with all kinds of hardware, there is not a single manufacturer of mass produced laptops who has not had an issue with power in one way or another: overheating or exploding power adapters and batteries. When does it officially become a "problem?" There actually is a number that Apple, or any manufacturer faced with this possibility, will use to determine if a recall is necessary. They will do a cost-benefit analysis to determine at what point recalling the laptops makes the most sense with respect to losses and publicity. This is the same method used to determine automobile recalls and pretty much any other similar activity.

Re:No facts (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899356)

3) The Mac fanboys come up with some way to classify the faulty product as "first generation."

Example: "Well of course you're going to have problems! This is the first PowerBook power adapter that Gerhardius has owned. Subsequent generations will be much better."

Re:No facts (1)

iphayd (170761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899384)

My wife and I had some experience with this problem. My power adapters would not fail, but hers would. What it was is that my power wire would route relatively straight out of the back/side of my computers and to the floor. Hers would turn 180 degrees and do the same thing.

The problem is that it is very easy to unintentionally and repeatedly bend the wire where it connects to the plug, causing the wire to break. We've since solved the problem by using the clip that is on the wire to form a loop when the wire needs to turn 180. It's solved the problem so well that we haven't had to replace the power supplies, where we had to do almost annually prior to the behavior change.

RDF (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 8 years ago | (#15898998)

Apple has seemed relatively immune.
This is true. It's not like an iPod would ever expolde or anthing like that.

How many is "many"? (4, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899002)

I'm always curious to know exactly how many people are reporting issues when someone claims there's a major widespread problem. If a few dozen people complain of a problem it may sound like a lot. But if it's only a small percent of all customers it could be specific to only one lot of adapters or one specific subcontractor. He claims there's a design flaw but many thousands of people have been using these adapters for years with relatively few complaints.

Re:How many is "many"? (1)

echidnae (883638) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899031)

I've actually had a problem with my power adapter before, and I have a 3 year old Powerbook. Last year, the power adapter that I bought the Powerbook with began tearing at the rubber part where the adapter plugs into the laptop. The rubber tore so much that the wires underneath the rubber were visible, and I could see they were tearing apart as well. When I moved the rubber part just a little bit, the wires underneath began to spark and smoke. I unplugged it and ordered a new one...$90. Now, a year later, it looks like the rubber part on the new adapter is coming apart in the same place again. Sigh. Apple's new adapters for their MacBooks look like they are designed to not have this problem, though I haven't seen one in person.

Re:How many is "many"? (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899084)

If a few dozen people complain of a problem it may sound like a lot. But if it's only a small percent of all customers it could be specific to only one lot of adapters or one specific subcontractor

There's some rule about the number of reports versus the number of problems. I'm not going to give any numbers because I frankly have no idea what they are, but I remember it being some insanely small percentage of people actually bother to complain. Meaning, of course, that a "few dozen" complaints could mean hundreds of problems, and suddenly the problem seems considerably larger.

Re:How many is "many"? (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899100)

There is a correlation most likely, but it probably has a lot to do with what type of problem and so can't accurately be generalized to all product flaws. If my adapter stops working, I'm probably just going to get a new one. If my adapter explodes and plants a triangular piece of PowerBook shrapnel in my eye, I'm probably going to, you know, mention it the next time I'm in close contact with Steve Jobs or one of his many associates, perhaps weilding a knife of some sort.

What's Dell got to do, got to do with it? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899003)

In other words, the words you wanted to say...

Dell and other PC notebooks suck and blow, but mostly Dell, cause that Dell guy said something bad about Apple, which makes them the worst. So we all know that Dells exploding and killing puppies and children is just another Tuesday.

Of course Apple has always been perfect. Many people even actually sit around wondering just how it is they stay so perfect. I know because I'm in a club. That's why it just boggles they mind that somehow something isn't perfect with the power adapter. Probably because they got it from Dell. So just know it's less than absolutely perfect and keep an eye on it.

Re:What's Dell got to do, got to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899012)

I wish I had mod points :)

Re:What's Dell got to do, got to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899042)

Nobody knows why Dell is in this article. Especially since some Macs apparantly also catches fire [rixstep.com] .

What you wanted to hear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899316)

I think that Dell was mentioned because they are a large company that has recently had problems with their laptops. I don't think it's all that out of line, and I don't think that mentioning a recent news item that relates to this one is grounds for fanboydom.

Not exactly new (5, Interesting)

pvera (250260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899005)

Anyone that has owned powerbooks or ibooks knows about the crappy power adapters. I have personally lost three, of which only one was covered under warranty. The two biggest weak points:

1. the connector that plugs into the laptop did not have enough ribbing material, so it frayed easily.
2. the thin cable that runs from the laptop into the brick had zero ribbing, it just simply ran into a hole. Frayed easily, I even had one catch fire.

After three Apple laptops I even started noticing how Apple tried to attack these problems. If you look at the last power supply shipped before the magnetic connectors came out, you will see that the "thin" cable is almost twice as thick as the one that shipped with iBook G3s and Titanium Powerbooks. You will also notice much thicker ribbing at both ends of that cable.

The worst of this is that the apple branded adapters were $79 apiece, while a perfectly working replacement, with much sturdier cables, could be had for $35.

Re:Not exactly new (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899041)

After 3 Apple laptops, I've had no problems, I've had a G3 iBook, a G4 Alubook and now I am on a G4 iBook.

Re:Not exactly new (2, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899122)

"After 3 Apple laptops, I've had no problems, I've had a G3 iBook, a G4 Alubook and now I am on a G4 iBook."

I owned a Dell laptop that never caught fire.

Re:Not exactly new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899194)

I've owned 4 apple ac adapters and one dell ac adapter. Guess which one broke.

Re:Not exactly new (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899225)

"I've owned 4 apple ac adapters and one dell ac adapter. Guess which one broke."

I had 3 AC adapters for my Dell, none of them broke. My cousin had a Mac that came to life and demanded he spend a bunch of money on an OS upgrade, but his Windows 3.1 machine is still going strong.

Are we done playing Anecdote WarsTM? I've got all kinds of unverifiable yet ultimately meaningless claims to share until you get my point.

Re:Not exactly new (1)

clarencek (146670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899261)

I dunno - I've been using Powerbooks since the mid-90's - starting with the Duos and all the way up to my MacBook Pro. Never once had a problem with my adapters and I usually had two or three which each machine.

Re:Not exactly new (1)

pvera (250260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899317)

That's one of the reasons I did not break them more often.

After the third adapter (and the second time I got stranded with no power on my work laptop) I made sure I always had at least two adapters per laptop.

The other thing is I kept an adapter exclusively at the office and one at my desk at home, a third one in my bag. The third one was my roaming adapter for whenever I went to work at a wifi cafe, or I had to travel.

None of these three ever wore out.

I am positive that you will find more failures in people that are (a) very mobile and (b) have only one adapter.

Blogs = Science? (4, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899009)

So a guy writes an article on his personal website, and its data? Geesh, what's next, people using the # of Slashdot posts about a topic to judge its validity?

Re:Blogs = Science? (2, Informative)

crashelite (882844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899054)

well he did say he inspected it. so that means he took all 3 adapters apart right? cause if he really wanted to he could put a fuse in there somewhere....

Re:Blogs = Science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899265)

Geesh, what's next, people using the # of Slashdot posts about a topic to judge its validity?

Nah, they go to Digg for that. :D

Re:Blogs = Science? (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899375)

Nah, for that you use Google.

Example: Did Iraq possess weapons of mass destruction? Iraq had WMD [google.com] returns about 1.3 million results. Iraq did not have WMD [google.com] returns only about 11,000 results. Therefore, Iraq had WMD!

Universal Adapters. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899010)

Does anyone know of a universal* (AC) adapter that can go from the low all the way to 30VDC, and 500ma to 3.5A, both in variable steps, that'll not cost an arm and a leg?

*All the appropriate ends with polarity

Re:Universal Adapters. (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899153)

A large range like that sounds like it's probably going to be a large device, and is probably going to cost a bit. I know I've seen some models that can go up to 20V, and had all the bits and pieces.

Re:Universal Adapters. (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899256)

Frequent-flying coworkers of mine recommend the iGo [igo.com] . It costs more than any one power adapter, but the idea is that you can replace all your power adapters with it. They sell it online and at Radio Shack.

Re:Universal Adapters. (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899287)

Can't help directly but here's some backup. The power jack that apple uses is a modified headphone jack. if you remove the outer metal shell, it's a headphone jack plain and simple. My PBG3 cord failed at the plug, so I tore it apart, stripped back the cable, and reattached it. Worked fine, minus the metal shell. it is not required for power or charging, it's just a ground I suspect.

Finding an actual apple jack with the metal cowell around it could be very difficult. I don't think they sell them. (admittedly, apple would much rather you pay them $80 for a new pack than $2 at radio shack for a new end and repair it yourself)

Lots of FUD... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899021)

... not much in the way of actual numbers.

This quickly attracted many thousands of visitors, some of whom contacted me to share similar stories with me.

Talking to a few people associated with some Apple Authorized Resellers & Service Providers found they had seen this failure many times before.

"some of whom", "many times" ???

How many millions of these things were sold, how many had problems? Until we know those numbers, this is nothing more than someone sitting in a room by himself and starting a fight so he has something to blog.

Re:Lots of FUD... (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899320)

Apple Authorized Service Provider. hey, that's me :) Certified to work on everything apple sells, warranty repair.

I have yet to see a single pack catch fire. And I've replaced quite a few of them. Damaged, yes. They definitely need to improve their strain reliefs, and magsafe is brilliant. But defective by design? Not from a safety perspective. They DO need to improve the strain reliefs though.

If one tire in 20,000 started to bulge on the sidewall after 30,000 miles, and the owner didn't notice it until 2 months later the tire blew, you can't blame that entirely on Goodyear. All products break, and the consumer does have a reasonable responsibility to identify a product that has failed and may create a safety hazard.

Now take the ibook g3 logic board recall. Now those I have seen maybe 4 dozen of. THOSE are defective. But THIS, this is just a blip.

Actually now that we have magsafe, I don't expect this to even happen once in a blue moon. The power cords are 2x as thick, and if you are a total yutz trying to use your macbook 5.95 feet from the wall using a 6.00 foot power cord, POP and out releases the magsafe before you can jack up your cord. Something tells me OP will just glue it in, break another cord, and cry for us some more.

Cheap Build Quality (0, Flamebait)

segedunum (883035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899024)

That's what happens when a manufacturer starts getting obsessed with cutting corners and costs. It's the sort of quality you might expect if you bought something like a cheap 400W power supply churned out in the Far East, only to discover it produces nowhere near 400W and it then goes pop after a short period of time. And I've never seen one of them do this.

Makes you wonder what you're paying Apple good money for.

Re:Cheap Build Quality (1)

greatcelerystalk (981442) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899250)

Apple's notebook build quality seems to have gone down the drain since the clamshell iBook. I had to have my white iBook G3's power adapter replaced because of fraying as well; I really don't think this article is FUD.

Style over Substance? (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899377)

Seriously...is Apple becoming the Old Navy of computers? Stylish, but not designed to last? Perhaps even engineered to fail early because you want the new style anyway?

I think I already used this analogy, but here it might not be so good...Apple isn't cheap. Hmmmm...

All? (0, Troll)

gilberry (973422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899040)

Why I remember just yesterday a whole Dell plant blew up, their inventory spontaneously erupting. You have no idea how huge a bite in the ass it is when all that resolution becomes debris in a wound. In the civil war they had to use maggots in fresh wounds contaminated by pixels, and that was back when resolution was 4x4. Now with new LCD technology, it has become a real nightmare. Do you think the average Malaysian hospital has the ability to properly treat (with modern methods, not maggots) a pixelated infection? Of course not. Until these companies realize that they need to grow an infrastructure beyond a frikking railspur in these developing nations, WE ARE ALL CRIMINALS.

Even worse, as a result of the same explosion, there has been significant contamination in the local water system. Huge quantities of "all" were already seeping into the groundwater, but now it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of gallons of "all" spilled directly into the Pahang River (look it up, bitches...I take my satire seriously). Soon we will have an "all" saturation of 1,000 pph (parts per headline).

What are the consequences? Well "all" is the natural enemy of "one" and its cousin "always" is the most common and numerous predator of "occasionally." "All" has already gotten rid of "one" and most occurences of "few" on the internet. Physical contaminattion of the Phahang Delta and neighboring reef environments will kill "all" local fauna...dammit. Now I got it. I got a big pile of "all." Thanks /.

In other news, an anonymous reader wants yoou all to buy my book http://www.lulu.com/content/221164 [lulu.com] .

caveat emptor (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899094)

There is no warranty on anything, only legal devices to recoup losses. Quality workmanship and products are expensive, and there is a reason they are. All of this outsourcing of manufacturing will come back to bite the company that does it, this is but one example of how it will do so. If you want a brand name associated with quality, you have to build quality products/services, and they will always cost a bit more. That is the normal manner of things anyway. Honda proved this wrong in the auto market, several MP3 players have shown to be more rugged and usable then iPods (no hate mail needed, its true) and so on.

Basically, if you have a clue, you can look at electronics equipment and know that its either made well, or cheaply. That smell that many people associate with new electronics gear is the result of cheap manufacturing processes. You should also be aware that there are dangers to using replacement equipment not made by the original equip. manufacturer, especially with batteries and power supplies. If Apple, or anyone, wanted to sell you the last laptop that you will ever need (and they don't want to) it would be of a very high quality. Designed obsolescence has been the way of the western world for several decades. I'm not sure why a story like this is any kind of surprise to anyone.

Zink? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899099)

I'm sorry, who is Zink? And why should I believe the things he has written? Is he some kind of expert in the field of AC to DC converters? Does he source any of the people who have shared the same experiences as himself? I tried to look around his website, but could find nothing except for a few "Digg this!" links. Of course, it's on the Internet, so it must be true. Why question his motives?

MacBook power supply designs are different (1)

cwilly (888621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899111)

They may not have changed the design of the iBook/Powerbook power supplies, but having just set up 20-30 new MacBooks, I noticed the cabling for the power supply is much thicker. I wonder if they added more insulation to them to prevent this sparking issue.

Fuss about nothing - not just apple laptops. (2, Interesting)

mpcooke3 (306161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899113)

I have a HP omnibook 6000 and the connection near the laptop started to short. There is a lot of pressure on this part of the connector as you move about with your laptop. Probably the inner wires can rub bare before you notice any damage to the exterior.

I was wearing boxers and the shorting wires were against my naked leg when i discovered the problem, so I have limited sympathy for this guy with his burnt paper.

Re:Fuss about nothing - not just apple laptops. (2, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899342)

Not just that. When my wallstreet (g3 powerbook) started failing to charge, I noticed I could wiggle the cord where the DC jack was in the computer and it would work.

So I tore it apart to repair/replace it, and I was amazed that when I removed the plastic jacket of the cord, the outer braid (the ground conductor) of the cord fell to the desk in a pile of a milllion little 3mm long pieces of copper strand. The braid had just shattered from repeated bending, and when I just shook the cord there was NO copper at all left for a 1" span of the cord, it was all just in a pile on the desk. Sort of like when you take a coat hanger and bend it enough it breaks. Same thing happens to these adapters.

Moreso, the white insulating material between the braid and the inner (power) conductor was cracked all the way around in three places. If any of the bits of copper had found their way into any of these cracks I suppose I would have had the same problem the poster did.

In that case though the design was defective... they put that huge balun 1" down the cord from the computer jack, separated by a 3mm thick wire, what did they expect? They don't do that with any of the new cables thankfully.

So let me get this straight... (1)

Dash16 (844616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899142)

And let me preface this with a quote from the article (emphasis mine):

"Like many Mac users, I don't roll my adapter cable around the small feet and have been very careful with my adapter, yet it still managed to short, spark and burn."

So what you are saying is you are not using the adapter in the way that Apple's engineers intended you to do so, and yet you cry foul play and "dangerous by design"? Are you at all surprised that the cable wore down due to misuse? Did you even bother to read the owners manual that came with your Powerbook?

I hear that bad things happen if you throw your adapter into a swimming pool with the other end still plugged into the wall too. Is this "dangerous by design"? There is no arguing that this individuals power adapter could have caused serious damage if that happened unattended. But come on, misuse any electrical product and you could cause serious injury or perhaps even death. Knife in toaster? Scissors to vaccuum cleaner cord? Open the back of your CRT television and lick the anode cap?

Re:So let me get this straight... (1)

Kiaser Wilhelm II (902309) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899284)

How exactly is what this guy is doing equivalent to opening up your CRT and licking its energized components?

Apple is shipping flimsy AC adapters and you dont want to admit it.

Count me in, I'm one (3, Interesting)

X43B (577258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899155)

Whoa, I thought my incidident was isolated. My power supply for my iBook shorted right where wire goes into the connector that plugs into the computer. Some magic smoke was released and the connector/power supply was inoperable. Apple sent me a new power supply under my AppleCare plan. I don't know if they would have charged me otherwise.

About a month later my motherboard died. Again everything covered under AppleCare.

Guy is not an EE (4, Informative)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899160)

I don't think he's qualified to say that his adapter has zero short-circuit protection.

Here's what he says: Meaning, I can short the adapter on the DC side, generate a spark, and repeat again and again without causing the adapter to power off or any circuit breaker/fuse/GFCI outlet to cut the power.

He's expecting the wrong results. Sure, shorting any supply with output capacitors will generate a spark -- that's typical good design. The spark doesn't last long and it isn't indicative of the total energy released.

Now, if his circuit breaker or fuse triggered, I'd be concerned. That means the adapter is shorting out the mains voltage -- very bad, very dangerous. But, it apparently is not. It's good that this doesn't happen, but the guy seems to think it should. And a GFCI wouldn't trigger due to a hot-neutral short [wikipedia.org] -- he would have to throw the adapter in a bathtub to have a chance of it tripping.

I'm not saying there are no problems with the adapter, but his assertion is unsupported by his evidence. I suspect that the adapter has an internal short-circuit protection that kicks in milliseconds after the spark is seen. He would need to use a current meter to detect if the circuit exists.

(why, yes, I'm an electrical engineer)

Re:Guy is not an EE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899267)

The problem seems to be that the power adapter is (necessarily) designed to deliver a strong current. I'd expect at least 2A (50W). So any defect which doesn't cause a significantly higher current will not trigger a short-circuit protection, if one exists. 50W of heat is certainly enough to start and maintain a fire. The actual design flaw is the cable which apparently isn't sufficiently durable. It's too thin, because thin and flexible is the way Apple likes it.

this is very true. (3, Interesting)

jeffehobbs (419930) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899162)

I'm on my second Aluminum PowerBook AC adapter after the first one crimped, then frayed, then went up in a literal puff of smoke. The worst part is I had to buy another of the clearly faulty adapters. You'd think they'd beef up the design a bit around the part that breaks for everyone, but no... Read the reviews on Apple's own page on store.apple.com for this adapter (average rating: 1.5 stars out of five), and it becomes clear that there's a very specific reason they redid the power connector ("MagSafe") for the new MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

Shameful -- and doubly a shame because this PowerBook (one of the original Aluminum PowerBooks) has proven to be a champ for over two years.


Had One Burn Me A Month Ago (1)

FuzzzyLogik (592766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899180)

I had one have a few broken wire locations due to wrapping the small cord around the clips when traveling. During the summer I don't need to carry the cable to school so it sits behind my desk. Well, I noticed my power cable going from green to orange to green to orange randomly... grabbed the power brick and burnt my hand. The small cable managed to break in a few locations and in those locations it turned a nice dark yellow. They replaced it out of warranty but I was pretty pissed they merely replaced the already busted ass design with the same adapter that would merely do the same thing again. Even getting burnt, it was a priority for their safety team but all I got was a replaced adapter, not even a sorry. As a recent switcher (almost two years now) and have spent a pretty reasonable amount of my tiny income on apple products I'm pretty unhappy with the resolution.

My own poor experiences with Apple power adapters (1)

TomMorrisey (912581) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899201)

Apple has indeed sold some truly awful power adapters. My own first-gen iBook G3 went through 3 Apple puck-shaped adapters that all had problems with fraying and shorting. To Apple's credit, the 2nd replacement was sent out-of-warranty after I griped and complained a bit with Apple tech support. After that one died, I bought a plain-looking BTI replacement adapter which served me perfectly from 2002 to 2006, and as far as I know the iBook's current owner is still using it. My iBook G4 has not had any problems yet, although I've tried to minimize stress on the adapter by buying a 2nd adapter that I use whenver I take the computer out my home, and having the Apple-supplied one always live at my home computer desk. I would recommend all Apple laptop owners invest in a 3rd-party second power adapter even if they've had no problems. Believe me, from personal experience, the last thing you want it to suddenly have an adapter die on you and finish a major school or work assignment with the brightness turned way down, praying that your charge will hold out long enough to get the thing edited and printed out. To be fair, I know that Apple themselves probably didn't have anything to do with the design of these adapters; they just wrote up the power requirements and farmed it out to a 3rd party. But still, 3 power adapters in 3 years was a pretty major annoyance... I'm glad that Apple seems to be going with better suppliers now.

Cables/Connections should be checked regularly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899234)

It is a good idea to regularly check these cables as it is easy for them to be cut/ripped/etc. through normal use... especially for those who transport their laptops regularly.

Umm, yeah. (1)

kennyt (617950) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899247)

The power adapters have been garbage since the first white iBook. They spark when you plug them in, eventually have to be held in just the right position to connect to the wall socket, often fray at the laptop end, or simply burn out. The Macbook adapters might be better, but they spent years with this square adapter design that just doesn't work.

Just look at the product comments [apple.com] at the Apple store.

Why America? (1)

lowededwookie (844199) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899257)

It seems most of these problems happen in America. I've asked around people here in New Zealand and not one occurance of all the problems posted on the Net have happened here. I've also asked people in Australia as well and still nothing. I'm not saying it doesn't happen but if anywhere is going to have big problems it's going to be New Zealand and Australia because we have 240V systems as opposed to America's 110V. I think a number of issues need to be looked at such as whether or not these people are using multiboxes with surge protectors.

Re:Why America? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15899274)

Maybe because New Zealand is a much smaller sample of people than America?

Its not like everyone's laptop is blowing up here in the US..

Dell Laptop Power Cords (1)

70Bang (805280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899302)

I bought a laptop for my wife about a year ago and we're on our fifth power cord.

The first place where there's an accordion-like piece of rubber bends a lot, particularly as I sit on the couch with it sitting on a decent size of plexiglas I've used as a lap desk for twenty-five years. The rubber starts fraying, the cover of the electrical cord becomes open to the outside, then it becomes a matter of moving the cord just so until it's in place and we see the icon in the system tray whilst calling Dell for a replacement. Because it's under warranty, we get a new one within two days, they never blink an eye.

Because the cord isn't moving that much, something has to be wrong, yet they never blink an eye (I'm certain some of that is they just do what they're told on the support line). I'd think if was a problem on a bigger scale something would happen to fix it but every cord has been the same (and had the same problem).

An anonymous reader? (4, Insightful)

Lifix (791281) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899306)

From his website:

"I'm currently starting up an exciting new company, Zink Foods. We are poised to revolutionize your perception of "healthy food" by combining taste and nutrition in a completely unprecedented way. Finally, real food, real taste, real nutrition!"

This sounds like a real expert that we should listen to? I guess it's not that hard to use slashdot to drive up your pageviews afterall.

Fud (4, Interesting)

John Nowak (872479) | more than 8 years ago | (#15899336)

I work in a lab where we have dozens of these bricks. We lend them out to students all the time, who do god knows what with them. Over the course of several years, we've not had one problem. No shorting out, no signs of wear, nothing. I personally have one as well, going on three years now. I take it with me every day, usually just throwing it in my bag. It looks the same as the day I got it and shows no signs of wear upon serious inspection. Mac users are a VERY VOCAL bunch. It is impossible to gauge the severity of a problem by listening to the Mac community.
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