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New Rules May Raise Cost of Buying Gadgets Online

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the in-their-infinite-wisdom dept.

Businesses 171

ericatcw writes "Buying your next laptop or smartphone online could suddenly get a lot more expensive if a little-known US Department of Transportation proposal to tighten rules around the shipment of small, Lithium-Ion battery-powered devices by air goes through, says an industry group opposing the move. The changes, designed primarily to reduce the risk from Lithium-Ion batteries, would also forbid air travelers from carrying spare alkaline or NiMH batteries in their checked-in luggage, according to the head of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association. The proposal is under review until March 12. It can be viewed and commented upon by members of the public."

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171 comments

Blame XKCD for this one (4, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044268)

Seriously. Look at it. Just look at it:
 
  http://xkcd.com/651/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (2, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044374)

And how many cases have we seen of batteries actually starting to burn by themselves?

Known cases have been when the battery has been in the device itself, or while it was charged. Not when it was alone.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (3, Interesting)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045498)

And how many cases have we seen of batteries actually starting to burn by themselves?

*raises hand* Mind you, I work in a building that tests lithium batteries for safety. It was quite a surprise to the others guys in the building when it started to smoke before we had even unwrapped it. Then again, we don't work with consumer batteries.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044378)

Usually technology advances over time.

But due to the paranoid delusions of many, many Americans, air travel is now less convenient than it was 20 years ago.

I'm just waiting for a sufficiently determined biochemist to lock herself in the airplane restroom, amputate her own leg, separate it into its constituent compounds, and synthesize an explosive charge. After that, they'll presumably decide to have everyone travel pre-dissected in little vials, maybe split up onto different flights just in case.

On second thought, I take that back. Nobody will ever do such a thing, or even consider it, but some petty official in the Department of Homeland Security will read this post and preemptively issue an internal memo. The memo will travel through the hands of ten other petty officials, becoming more and more terrifying to each, until it arrives at the desk of someone with more power and paranoia than the average public servant. He'll read it, scream into his Homeland Security terror blanket, and have his secretary pull strings to enact the dissection-before-travel rule.

Please don't blame me.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (4, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044476)

But due to the paranoid delusions of many, many Americans, air travel is now less convenient than it was 20 years ago.

It's true. Usually we drive from North Dallas to my mother's family's house an hour west of San Antonio. It's about 6 hours by car on average, since we only travel down there on busy holiday weekends. Finally with a good job I decided to "treat" us to a 45 minute plane ride. Between parking, security, waiting on the tarmac, picking up luggage and getting the rental car it actually took us 7 hours to get to our destination. I'm seriously looking at starting a PAC to get high speed light rail between Dallas and San Antonio (with a stop in Austin of course).

Better: Communter plane express security (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045580)

Far more efficient than light rail would be a "separate security envelope" for commuter flights.

Requirements:

*Plane too small to take down a big building even with full fuel tanks. Think no more than 20-30 passengers. Sorry Southwest.
*Domestic flights only.
*No checked baggage, only carry-on, and only 1 or 2 full-sized items or equivalent. BUT items normally checked for size like golf clubs could be carried on. No items like guns and such, sorry, ship those ahead.
*Pre-screened, green-lighted passengers only, ID verified with fingerprint or other biometric to prevent boarding via identity theft. This will be designed for the regular business traveler, not vacationers. People who are rejected in pre-screening will have administrative appeals and can sue in federal court if necessary. This is to speed up the line by virtually eliminating passengers who need to be pulled off for watchlist reasons.
*There will be baggage screening and a last-minute, expedited passenger screening to check for recent events (did a passenger suddenly land on a watch list after he got green-carded?).
*Takeoffs and landings are at commuter-only airports or terminals or in a segregated security zone. While you aren't supposed to connect to a "non-commuter" flight, if you do, you'll have to go through "regular" security, so plan a 2+ hour layover.

This should cut the "arrive before departure" time down to 30 minutes or less. You'll still have to worry about parking, waiting on the tarmac, and the rental car though. The latter can be addressed by express bus or rail service from the airports to major in-city destinations, such as convention centers, sporting arenas and other venues on event days, major hotels, and major businesses that generate a lot of commuter traffic.

Civil libertarians will have a fit on the pre-screening and fingerprint requirements, and I'm all for removing them if it won't defeat the purpose of reducing net travel time compared to the status quo. The alternative is keeping the status quo or very expensive new rail (which will likely have its own security- and security-theater delays).

By the way - I probably would not fly in the face of fingerprint requirements on general principles, but many people would and it would make overall air travel more efficient.

Re:Better: Communter plane express security (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045784)

I'd let them do full biometric scans if it would get me through "security" faster. I'd allow a full background check and ongoing monitoring of all my credit, debit, and asset accounts. They can put a tap at my ISP and on my voice lines.

What you've described is a little bit more extreme than what I've heard other propose but this idea of a "whitelist" has been around now for a while. For people who are willing to give up all privacy there should be a fast lane.

Re:Better: Communter plane express security (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045820)

You can get that sort of service already from small private airfields. The problem is it is a lot more expensive than flying in a 777 because the pilot's wages are divided between fewer passengers.

Re:Better: Communter plane express security (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046050)

That sort of service already exists. I took a plane from Raleigh, NC to Havelock, NC (spitting distance from a military base no less) and you just walked right out on to the tarmac, onto the plane. The plane I was on seated as many as 50 although it was only about half full that day.

Re:Better: Communter plane express security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046086)

"Plane too small to take down a big building even with full fuel tanks."

This kind of thing is completely unneeded.

An attack like 9/11 will not happen again, because now passengers know to fight back. Before that, people thought they should comply with hijackers' demands in order to be safely released.

We could put airline security measures back to how they were before 9/11, and we would already be protected from the new threat presented by that hijacking -- because the passengers themselves will defend against it. In fact, even old-fashioned hijacking-for-ransom or hijacking-for-concessions will be prevented automatically by passengers defending themselves.

And that's why most of these security measures are simply nonsense. Lock the cockpit doors, fine. Add some plainclothes police, no problem. Screen for explosives, that is reasonable (though arguably useless, considering attackers can just choose other targets). The rest is BS to make gullible cowards feel safer, get politicians reelected, and make "security" profiteers rich.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046238)

> I'm seriously looking at starting a PAC to get high speed light rail between Dallas and San Antonio

Good idea, but wrong expression. "Light rail" == "trolley sharing right of way with cars". There's no such thing as "High Speed Light Rail". What you want is simply called "High-Speed Rail", or "HSR". It sounds pedantic, but at the end of the day, you're more likely to get what you want if you ask for the right thing :-)

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044420)

Am I the only one who finds the women in XKCD cartoons so damn sexy?

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044654)

No.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044710)

Ha ha! Me too!

It's comics at their best. Randall Munroe gives the audience only the most brief fragments of information and allows our minds to fill in the blanks. But overall, he's quite clear about the kinds of girls he's attracted to, so a geek guy who shares his taste can easily map onto his pictures the perfect archetypal form.

Quite the accomplishment for a stick figure!

-FL

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045256)

Randall Munroe gives the audience only the most brief fragments of information and allows our minds to fill in the blanks.

I think you are giving too much credit to the artist and not enough credit to the never-had-a-woman Slashdot experience. LOL Yes if you're locked in a submarine for 6 months, stick figures start looking sexy.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046234)

Randall Munroe is still suffering from that I-was-a-virgin-until-I-was-in-my-mid-20s syndrome. His comics smack of a nerd who recently discovered sex.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045040)

Am I the only one who finds the women in XKCD cartoons so damn sexy?

I've always liked slim women.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046306)

And I like them even more wearing those tight black pants! Kinky!

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045334)

Absolutely not. I love those skin-tight outfits she wears -- when she wears clothes at all!

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044682)

It's not about consumer safety as much as it is about putting a safety *tax* on imported goods.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (3, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044762)

Income taxes are a fairly recent invention here in the US. We used to pay for the entirety of the Federal Government's budget (including the military!) solely on import/export taxes. Chew on that for a bit.

Re:Blame XKCD for this one (2, Insightful)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046418)

Total annual value of all imports and exports is in the $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion range. Even at a rate of 10% , it wouldn't pay for half of the current military needs.

the article's examples are a pretty big range (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044274)

The proposed rule itself is pretty inscrutable (as usual, I suppose), but the article's examples are all over the map. Some of the examples seem like the small-scale sort of thing that would indeed cause inconvenience to ban: individual electronic devices sent air-freight from NewEgg to a consumer, or spare batteries in checked luggage. But it also mentions that existing regulations exempt "a pallet containing thousands of lithium batteries" from hazardous-material reporting and packaging requirements... and in that case the change doesn't seem too unreasonable to me, because maybe a pallet with thousands of batteries really should be subjected to the packaging and reporting requirements?

Re:the article's examples are a pretty big range (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045150)

So if you and a bunch of other travelers want to take spare batteries, get a REALLY large suitcase and stuff it with batteries. You just might reach the mass necessary to get an exemption. You may have to buy batteries specifically to meet this minimum weight. :)

Unscrewing the inscrutable (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045276)

The proposed rule itself is pretty inscrutable (as usual, I suppose),

.

But don't worry - we can rely on all those helpful and well-educated airport ground staff to correctly and consistently interpret the law and offer balanced and sensible advice to travelers.

We can also re-assure the check-in person that we haven't got batteries at the same time we're assuring them that our luggage has never left our side (even in the trunk of the bus, or when we left it behind the desk at the hotel while we went for lunch); avoiding asking whether the rules on flammable liquids applies to our bottle of "Jungle Formula" and assuming "has anybody given you anything to carry" only applies to ticking teddy bears and bags of white powder handed over by suspicious-looking johnny foreigners. (Seriously, in the entire history of air travel has anybody actually given the "wrong" answer to those questions?)

Re:Unscrewing the inscrutable (1)

honkycat (249849) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046080)

Those questions aren't (or weren't, I haven't been asked in a while) to help find dangerous items, they are to ensure that the airlines/law enforcement can hold you responsible for the contents of your luggage should they find such an item. If you try to claim that someone must have slipped it in when you weren't looking, they have you on record as affirming that there was no opportunity for that. At least that's the idea, given that they seem to have abandoned the practice in the last couple years, I gather it was pretty ineffective.

and it's safer on carry-on bags? (3, Insightful)

cl191 (831857) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044276)

"would also forbid air travelers from carrying spare alkaline or NiMH batteries in their checked-in luggage" If it's so "dangerous" to be in the checked bags, then why is it safe to be on carry-on bags?

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044304)

One assumes that it'd be noticed quicker, and dealt with.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044466)

And how many people/stewardesses haven't seen/remember http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcd34tt8YPU and will try to smother the fire and just lead to bigger problems?

I think an automated cargo sensor + suppression system would be far safer than relying on humans to properly execute something. It just wouldn't be cheaper.

For the people who won't watch the FAA video they advise using a water extinguisher or other extinguisher and dousing the batteries with water/liquid to cool them.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044518)

And how many people/stewardesses haven't seen/remember http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcd34tt8YPU [youtube.com]

About the same number that can do hyperlinks properly.

At least it explains what happens to all the laptops that get confiscated by border guards.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044926)

.__.
I forgot I had extrans set from a previous post.
I died to an aircraft battery fire along with 138 other people.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045876)

You have to click preview before you can click submit. Take this opportunity to middle-click all the links in your post, then check the resulting extra tabs.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045180)

Watch the whole video. Some of the laptops in those videos would have been considered obsolete when Noah was deciding what laptop to take onto the Ark.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (4, Insightful)

mrjb (547783) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044430)

"would also forbid air travelers from carrying spare alkaline or NiMH batteries in their checked-in luggage" If it's so "dangerous" to be in the checked bags, then why is it safe to be on carry-on bags?

You're asking the wrong question. The right question is, "are spare alkaline or NiMH batteries in checked-in luggage are a safety risk?" The question can be answered objectively, rather than theoretically, because people have been stashing their batteries in checked-in luggage for decades. Right, batteries in checked-in luggage are an accident waiting to happen. We've been waiting, {and waiting,}* ... but nothing happened.

OT: I tried... (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046124)

Visit www.growingbettersoftware.com to download your free copy of the book

I tried... and was greeted with

This Account Has Been Suspended Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible.

You might want to fix your sig 'til you get that taken care of.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045200)

Flight baggage are written with the convenience of the rules enforcer. Not the passenger.

If you think that through, it makes sense to do it that way.

The laptop battery installed in a laptop is properly stored. The laptop battery kicking around in somebody's suitcase is not necessarily so. Most accidents are a compound of events people thought unlikely: it is unlikely that a laptop battery will explode due to redundant safety features (unless it is a cheap knock-off, which are sometimes produced in the same Chinese factories as the real thing). It is unlikely that something stored properly could cause a problem. We count on that redundancy in case one of the assumptions fails. Don't forget that the ValuJet crash way back in the 90s was due to shipping the same oxygen generators that sit over every passenger's seat. In that storage setup, a faulty detonation results in the mask dropping in front of the passenger. In a crate of oxygen generators down in the old, it was fatal to everyone.

Here is a cautionary tale about storing batteries properly. Just recently I took three dead button batteries and put them in my pants pockets rather than get up and put them in the trash. I forgot I had them there and the next day I was sitting at the table and was surprised by an explosion in my pocket. It was small explosion by normal standards, but there is no such thing as a small explosion when it happens in your pants. (Gee that sounds like an aphorism.) I felt the electrolyte leaking onto my leg and immediately pulled my pants down. Good thing this wasn't at work. Now I knew I shouldn't have put those batteries in my pocket, but you could walk around with button batteries in your pocket every day of your life and never have something like that happen. I counted on it not happening in the fifteen minutes I expected to have them there. Everybody does things like that they know they shouldn't do. Now multiply that by thousands of times, and put tens of thousands of lives at risk.

Anyhow, the point is that we could train TSA guys to be able determine whether a laptop battery was safely stored. It wouldn't be hard. But that's one of hundreds, maybe thousands of cases. What you *really* need to do is to hire people who've gone through the equivalent of an associate's degree program on engineering and safety, put them through stringent application tests and continually retrain and restest them. Then you'd get much better security and much less hassle.

But guess what? We as a people would rather put up with the hassle than pay for safety AND convenience. That's not an entirely irrational point of view either. You've got to draw the line somewhere, and no matter where you draw that line, somebody will be inconvenienced unnecessarily. Take model rocket enthusiasts. They *should* in an ideal world, be able to take most of their stuff aboard a plane if it is properly stowed. But a ruleset that encompassed all such cases would be so large that the people enforcing them couldn't know them by heart. They'd be sifting through the rulebook on every passenger.

Naturally, the rules *could* be made better. But it's not easy to come up with rules that (a) inconvenience nobody unnecessarily and (b) can be implemented everywhere with affordable personnel and (c) don't cause traffic jams at security gates. Oh, yes and (d) which keep people safe. It takes years. It's been almost a decade since 9/11, and even if rules hadn't been side tracked by security theater, you wouldn't expect the rules to be perfect.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

xmundt (415364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045282)

Greetings and Salutations.
          that was a stupid thing to do, indeed, but, it is an apples and oranges comparison with the batteries used in laptops. Those button batteries have NO protections against being shorted out, and, even a "dead" one has enough power left to provide an interesting moment - as you discovered. In the years I have been dealing with laptop batteries, I have yet to see one that does not have the contacts recessed into the body, such that the only way to short them out would be for a u-shaped piece of metal to be pushed in and held in there for a bit.
            regards
            dave mundt

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045404)

Of course it was a stupid thing to do. (Duh). But that's the kind of decision making you get when you have people who are in a hurry and thinking about something else.

And of course laptop batteries have multiple redundant safety measures. Except in the rare cases where they don't.

But what about batteries that look like laptop batteries but are not?

Is it reasonable to ask the luggage inspectors to look at a battery and see that it is a laptop battery and not some other kind of multi-cell battery pack? That it is properly designed to be thrown into a brief case with the keys and loose change (a use case for laptop battery packs but not, say, instrument batteries)? Do we want our inspection lines to be held up by debates about whether this particular battery has an adequate design for this method of storage?

I don't think so.

We're talking about the law of large numbers here, which is my point. If we take a low probability event and repeat enough trials, it becomes a high probability event. Take counterfeit batteries. They are (so far as we know) very, very rare. But they do exist. Even though they are rare there's probably a number of them in the air right now. The existence of knock-offs negates any kind of probability calculations you do based on a genuine battery with its redundant safety features. That's why defense in depth is key. The counterfeit battery when stored in a laptop is probably safe enough. Loose in the luggage maybe not safe enough.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

ShnowDoggie (858806) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045842)

LOL! If I had points I would give some to you.

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045844)

How many people have died in aircraft fires caused by batteries?

Re:and it's safer on carry-on bags? (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046212)

How is a pallet of Li-ion battery different from a pallet of oxygen generators?

Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044280)

Batteries can be dangerous if not looked after, especially in a flying aeroplane scenario.
An easy solution would be standardised batteries that you can buy from the supermarket. (strangely enough, we actually used to have these in the old days)
I can't see the need for special batteries for every single device. How is that progress? (And Apple and Logitech have one step stupider and made devices with irreplacable batteries).
Perhaps a battery size standard law is required instead?

Re:Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044414)

There are already standardized batteries. AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt. All standard battery sizes albeit with slightly varying voltages depending on the type of chemicals they contain.

Re:Makes sense (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044676)

I can't see the need for special batteries for every single device. How is that progress? (And Apple and Logitech have one step stupider and made devices with irreplacable batteries).

As far as I can tell, the specialized batteries are used to maximize the power density in small, power-hungry devices.

Example: I have two digital cameras from Canon. The older one (A80) uses standard AA batteries. However, it is a bit larger and less capable than the newer one (SD600), which uses a special Li-Ion battery. If the SD600 were made to use AA batteries, then it would have to be a little bigger.

It's all an engineering/design trade-off. Standard cells mean more battery space and weight but readily available replacements. Custom batteries mean less weight and more power, but require special chargers.

Why not make standard, box-shaped cells to save space? You could do that, but the casing would have to be made stronger (leaving less volume for the energy storage chemicals) to prevent distortion of the casing. A cylinder is better able to redistribute forces around it, where a flat surface caves in or bows out. What about that boxy 9-volt battery? I saw one cracked open once; it was six 1.5v cylindrical cells in series. Again, a set of trade-offs: energy per unit volume vs. structural integrity.

Re:Makes sense (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044750)

The older one (A80) uses standard AA batteries. However, it is a bit larger and less capable than the newer one (SD600), which uses a special Li-Ion battery. If the SD600 were made to use AA batteries, then it would have to be a little bigger.

If only they'd invent a standard battery a little smaller than an AA. They could call it an AAA or something.

Re:Makes sense (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045608)

"I can't see the need for special batteries for every single device. How is that progress? (And Apple and Logitech have one step stupider and made devices with irreplacable batteries)."

It's progress toward Vendor Lock, nothing else. Volume makes it cheap for vendors and easy to inflict on the public.

Desktop computing is the last holdout of standard form-factors, but desktops don't have batteries.

"Perhaps a battery size standard law is required instead?"

From the POV of economic production, replacement, and being able to re-use old notebooks whose dead batteries turn them into throwaways, that's a good idea.

Re:Makes sense (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046336)

Well, In any case, I always use ground shipping because it's cheaper, so why would that affect me?
Do you mean that cargo imports from China or other manufacturers locations are dangerous to cargo planes and they don't properly use bubble wrap to ensure these devices don't collide between each other?

What I don't get is, if they were dangerous, how did they become so widely used in the market and why just until now they figured out that it could cause an accident?

Suggested additional measure (2, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044300)

Ban humans on flights. The even present threat of spontaneous combustion threatens us all.

Ban crying babies . . . and their parents . . . (3, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044314)

. . . I find them much more annoying than exploding Lithium Ion batteries . . .

Re:Ban crying babies . . . and their parents . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044606)

Someone should start up Hell-Air, an airline where children are banned and you can freely smoke on the flight.

Re:Ban crying babies . . . and their parents . . . (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045058)

Someone should start up Hell-Air, an airline where children are banned and you can freely smoke on the flight.

Even cigars? I would gladly pay double for this. It sounds more like "Heaven-Air" to me. But I want to be the only one smoking. I hate enclosed smoky rooms.

But I'd settle for reasonably-sized seats...and no children or young men on their way to Vegas to get crazy.

Re:Ban crying babies . . . and their parents . . . (-1, Redundant)

Quarters (18322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045210)

Spoken like someone who is too self-important and socially inept to ever get to the point of being a parent.

Re:Ban crying babies . . . and their parents . . . (2, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045662)

"Spoken like someone who is too self-important and socially inept to ever get to the point of being a parent."

Spoken like a parent who cannot control their screaming snot monsters and thinks that having them around is a blessing for bystanders.
If it screams, stop it from screaming.

pain profit (2, Insightful)

Jesus_Corpse (190811) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044332)

This would result in all the gadgets I use in flight (Nintendo DS, iPod, Laptop) to be stocked away, making airtravel an even bigger pain in the ass.
How many incidents with batteries occur anyway? The figures suggest that a small percentage of all batteries are potentially dangerous, and I've never seen figures of how many people die of these batteries. Small fires can be put out by the cabin crew, and it certainly sounds it's going to cost a lot more than it will generate in terms of safety

Re:pain profit (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045540)

How many incidents with batteries occur anyway?

It seems obvious that planes are falling out of the sky daily because of the innumerable detonating batteries but it's all hushed up by people in dark suits. Presumably so that the public won't panic.

Thankfully I've converted all my gadgets to using a steam-engine attached to a little turbine. Carrying a few bottle of highly flammable alcohol is much safer than those unpredictable batteries.

Re:pain profit (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045548)

Not sure about alkaline and NiMHs, but the cabin crew is not going to be able to put out a lithium battery that's on fire. They self oxidize. And what would you think they could do? Pour water over it?

Re:pain profit (2, Informative)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045702)

Not sure about alkaline and NiMHs, but the cabin crew is not going to be able to put out a lithium battery that's on fire. They self oxidize. And what would you think they could do? Pour water over it?

From TSA: Primary lithium batteries cannot be extinguished with firefighting agents normally carried on aircraft, whereas lithium-ion batteries are easily extinguished by most common extinguishing agents, including those carried on board commercial aircraft.

Primary lithium cells are non-rechargeable cells (what devices use them?); most cells carried on board would be lithium ion. Given that a fire from one could be extinguished it seems that since it would be more easily discovered early in the cabin vs in cargo a cargo ban seems reasonable. I fly a lot and can carry all my battery needs in carry on luggage; in fact I never check luggage unless absolutely necessary.

As for cargo flights, where significant amounts of batteries would be carried, figuring out how to safely do it seems reasonable. Given the lack of problems so far it would seem that significant changes would not be needed; but one can never be sure of what a change in regulation will cause. Perhaps fire suppression systems in containers carrying batteries? Then again, that will take space away from goods and result in higher per item transportation costs.

One more reason not to fly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044372)

Just one more reason not to fly.

Yes, let's all listen to the battery lobbyist. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044384)

Pardon me, but when the second sentence ends with "argues George Kerchner, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Portable Rechargeable Battery Association," I tend to think that article doesn't have much credibility.

Would we pay attention if an article said something like:

Tobacco good for your after all

Your health may not be in the kind of shape you think it is, according to some little known aspects of human biology. Cancer is actually caused by a lack of cigarettes, argues National Tobacco Federation spokesman John Doe.

So, some lobbyist for the battery cartel (Big Battery?) says new regulations will make batteries costly. I don't buy it. Sounds that Energizer Bunny's gotten too fat on his wide margins.

oh my, that's news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044436)

Since over 20 years i wasn't allowed to put ANY kind of battery inside check-in luggage for flying .... really a big change! oh wait....

Hmmm (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044456)

Forbid forbid forbid, that's all I hear coming out of the "land of the free" lately. I went to the US 2 months ago, and I have never heard "you can't" as often as I did when I was there.

Re:Hmmm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044740)

Trouble is new rules in the US tend to propagate to the rest of the world. Soon tourists will be banned since they are all on potential reconnaissance missions. Your camera will be confiscated when you arrive and if you buy a new one it will be confiscated when you leave.

Re:Hmmm (2, Funny)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045368)

You can't be serious!

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045838)

Very much this. Same experience here: I move between the US, Canada and Italy for work... in one country it's "you can't", in one it's "you shouldn't", in one nobody cares. Guess which is which?

Re:Hmmm (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046176)

Wait until they learn how firewall rules work... ^^

Then they can even brag about that “the only thing they do”, is allow things.

Looking forward to the fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044468)

There's an obvious way to solve the problem: Don't package the battery with the gadget. The Li-Ion batteries can be shipped by sea. Additional benefit: Standardizing Li-Ion batteries would make this more economical and user friendly.

Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044526)

"Sec. 173.220 (d) Lithium batteries. Except as provided in Sec. 172.102, Special Provision A101 of this subchapter, vehicles, engines and machinery powered by lithium metal batteries that are transported with these batteries installed are forbidden aboard passenger-carrying aircraft."

Laptops, cell phones, iPods, etc. are all "machinery powered by lithium metal batteries". And it doesn't say anything about shipping or checked luggage, it says they shall be forbidden aboard passenger-carrying aircraft!!!

One could argue that they are not "machinery" in the conventional sense, but this is far too vague. In my experience, when the language of a law allows it to be enforced in some way, eventually it will be.

Re:Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045310)

I just looked up Sec. 172.102, Special Provision A101; your laptop, ipod, etc is fine.

Re:Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045396)

Did you miss the part in your quote that states "Except as provided in Sec. 172.102, Special Provision A101"?

A101A primary (non-rechargeable) lithium battery or cell packed with equipment is forbidden for transport aboard a passenger carrying aircraft unless:

a. The battery or cell complies with the requirements and limitations of 173.185(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4) and (b)(6) or 173.185(c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3) and (c)(5) of this subchapter;

b. The package contains no more than the number of lithium batteries or cells necessary to power the intended piece of equipment;

c. The equipment and the battery or cell are packed in a strong packaging;

d. The gross weight of the package does not exceed 5 kg. Packages complying with the requirements of this special provision are excepted from all other requirements of this subchapter.

A102A primary (non-rechargeable) lithium battery or cell contained in equipment is forbidden for transport aboard a passenger carrying aircraft unless:

a. The battery or cell complies with the requirements and limitations of 173.185(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4) and (b)(6) or 173.185(c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3) and (c)(5) of this subchapter;

b. The package contains no more than the number of lithium batteries or cells necessary to power the intended piece of equipment;

c. The equipment containing the battery or cell is packed in strong packagings; and

d. The net weight of the package does not exceed 5 kg. Packages complying with the requirements of this special provision are excepted from all other requirements of this subchapter.

Re:Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (2, Informative)

BoogieChile (517082) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045530)

Or some bright spark could, I don't know, go and look up this "Special Provision A101" of which they speak?

Tell you what, I'll save you the trouble, shall I?

A101 A primary lithium battery or cell packed with or contained in equipment is forbidden for transport aboard a passenger carrying aircraft unless the equipment and the battery conform to the following provisions and the package contains no more than the number of lithium batteries or cells necessary to power the intended piece of equipment:
(1) The lithium content of each cell, when fully charged, is not more than 5 grams.
(2) The aggregate lithium content of the anode of each battery, when fully charged, is not more than 25 grams.
(3) The net weight of lithium batteries does not exceed 5 kg (11 pounds).
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?YEAR=current&TITLE=49&PART=172&SECTION=102&SUBPART=&TYPE=TEXT [gpo.gov]

So, unless you've got one of those weird mutant Nintendo DSes with the REALLY big battery back, that's the end of our little panic fit, OK?

Sheesh.

Re:Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045760)

Those are primary cells, not rechargables. The line is just before the one you list

A100 Primary (non-rechargeable) lithium batteries and cells are forbidden for transport aboard passenger carrying aircraft. Secondary (rechargeable) lithium batteries and cells are authorized aboard passenger carrying aircraft in packages that do not exceed a gross weight of 5 kg.

The interesting bit is that it's the packages that can't weigh more than 5kg. What's a package? Could be the battery shell, could be your laptop, could be your laptop plus laptop bag. The TSA will decide, you will not have input. Since laptops are generally less than 11lbs it will be a problem mainly for people selling instruments, equipment and other (slightly) larger items.

Re:Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046428)

The word "packages" is very likely defined somewhere in that section of the law. It's not ambiguous if you find that definition.

Re:Not just alkaline and NiMH but Lithium also. (1)

KiahZero (610862) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046054)

In the rule-making actually at issue (PHMSA-2009-0095) [regulations.gov] , rather than the one incorrectly linked by this page and others, the following paragraph is added to 49 C.F.R Section175.10:

Sec. 175.10 Exceptions for passengers, crewmembers, and air
operators.

        (a) * * *
        (17) Except as provided in Sec. 173.21 of this subchapter,
portable electronic devices (for example, watches, calculating
machines, cameras, cellular phones, laptop and notebook computers,
camcorders, etc.) containing dry cells or dry batteries (including
lithium cells or batteries) and spare dry cells and batteries for these
devices, when carried by passengers or crew members for personal use.
Each installed or spare lithium battery must be of a type proven to
meet the requirements of each test in the UN Manual of Tests and
Criteria, and each spare battery must be individually protected so as
to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or
by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g., by taping over exposed
terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or
protective pouch) and carried in carry-on baggage only. In addition,
each installed or spare battery must not exceed the following:
        (i) For a lithium metal battery, a lithium content of not more than
2 grams per battery; or
        (ii) For a lithium-ion battery, a rating of not more than 100 Wh,
except that up to two batteries with a watt hour rating of more than
100 Wh but not more than 300 Wh may be carried.

Mission Accomplished (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044550)

The changes, designed primarily to reduce the risk from Lithium-Ion batteries, would also forbid air travelers from carrying spare alkaline or NiMH batteries

Well, that there should do it!

The key to fighting this ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31044572)

The key to fighting this idiocy is to hit the bureaucrats back, HARD and where it hurts! Just make sure the rules are applied to the battery operated sex toys that their hookers bring with them on their junkets.

Maglevs (1)

xerent_sweden (1010825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044652)

All the more reasons to build a planetary maglev transit system. Unless Tesla's going to come out with some kind of electric airbus, we better start building the future now. Heck, it'll even create jobs and save the economy.

Stop those terrorists!! (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044706)

Because you never know when the next flight might be threatened by lithium-powered underwear

Hawaii will be especially hurt by this (2, Insightful)

screff (1201383) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044708)

As a resident of Hawaii this proposal causes me great concern. The majority of the people here buy electronics items online that come by air shipping. The price is generally 10-20% cheaper online due to the high cost of living out here. It sounds like a real boon to the local merchants but it sucks for the consumer looking for the best prices. I know we're small but I hope they think of us before they enact this ban.

Re:Hawaii will be especially hurt by this (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044768)

I've never bought an item that arrived with the battery charged. Where's the energy to start the fire in a flat battery?

Re:Hawaii will be especially hurt by this (-1, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044814)

My latest cellphone, a Nokia 61... something with two more digits :) had a full battery when I bought it from Mas Movil in Panama city. It's a piece of garbage though, the keypad makes it horribly easy to hit the wrong number and there's a big gap around the connector block that permits hair and lint to get behind the screen trivially.

Re:Hawaii will be especially hurt by this (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045128)

The new Sanyo Eneloop's and a line of Duracells come precharged.

War on Lithium's Terror (1)

ipX (197591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044924)

While he acknowledged the department's figure of 40 air transport-related incidents since 1991 involving lithium batteries and devices powered by lithium batteries, Kerchner said it is a small number in the context of the 3.3 billion lithium batteries transported in 2008 alone.

This is a pressing matter. 2.105263158 "incidents" per year is obviously unacceptable.

...the battery inside an already-padded box for a new notebook PC might need to be packaged in an additional fiberboard box along with extra shipping documents, he said.

Obviously this is a ploy set up by HP's packaging engineers [theregister.co.uk] .

You're now limited to a maximum of two batteries with between 8 and 25 grams of lithium in them. They ... must be carried now in plastic bags... If you carry on three such batteries, security will take one of them away.

So forget bringing multiple 9-cell batteries on a plane. FedEx'ing the whole thing sounds better and better every day now, since TSA can sieze anything [upi.com] they want, including your data and now your expensive extended batteries.

shipping by air (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#31044962)

So when buying stuff with batteries in, check the cheapest and slowest shipping option. If it comes by USPS or UPS Ground, it won't be a problem.

Nonremovable batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045084)

An obvious risk mitigation would be to ban carrying in the cabin of any device where the battery is not properly sealed and cannot easily be made open circuit.

As an electronics engineer aware of corners cut, tolerances reduced, and the plain immense amount of energy in a modern battery, it makes me cringe whenever I see a device which cannot simply be "turned off" if something malfunctions. It's like having a gas hob and never being able to stop the flow of gas completely: you can implement safety measures to reduce the risk of explosion, but if the circuitry of pipes is always live, you have no option to isolate the source of danger.

Of course li-ion batteries should not be carried in the hold of a passenger plane, but neither should they be carried in any sealed piece of equipment which makes electrical contact with the battery.

Batteries in security scans (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045126)

What do batteries look like on security scans? Can the scanners not penetrate them? If the scanners have trouble with them, then I submit that this is a veiled attempt at stopping terrorists from hiding bombs in or behind lithium-ion batteries.

Re:Batteries in security scans (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045278)

What do batteries look like on security scans? Can the scanners not penetrate them? If the scanners have trouble with them, then I submit that this is a veiled attempt at stopping terrorists from hiding bombs in or behind lithium-ion batteries.

One of the cheapest materials known to blind security scanners is lead, and somehow, I seriously doubt a $200 netbook that weighs in at a "hefty" 20 ounces has that much damn lead in it.

Quoting the regulations from TFA (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045136)

(d) Lithium batteries. Except as provided in Sec. 172.102, Special
Provision A101 of this subchapter, vehicles, engines and machinery
powered by lithium metal batteries that are transported with these
batteries installed are forbidden aboard passenger-carrying aircraft. *

Are electronic devices part of "vehicles, engines, and machinery?" I hope not. Else you can't use your ipod. 172.102 isn't in the linked article so I don't know what the special provisions are.

Re:Quoting the regulations from TFA (1)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046258)

You can find 172.102 at 172.102 Special provisions [setonresourcecenter.com] .

It reads, in part:

130 For other than a dry battery specifically covered by another entry in the 172.101 Table, "Batteries, dry" are not subject to the requirements of this subchapter when they are securely packaged and offered for transportation in a manner that prevents the dangerous evolution of heat (for example, by the effective insulation of exposed terminals) and protects against short circuits.

cpap (1)

madhippy (525384) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045202)

I sleep hooked up to one of them darn fangled cpap machines ... planning a trip soon and bought a 222Wh lithium-ion battery to allow me to go camping etc.

found out I can't use the bloody thing now!

Am I reading this right? (4, Informative)

Diddlbiker (1022703) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045206)

This was discussed ad nauseum at photography forums last year. Key is to read the actual proposal and not depend on the warmongerings of a journalist trying to attract more traffic to his site:
Cartridges packed with equipment to be packed in intermediate packagings together with the equipment they are capable of powering.
The fuel cell cartridges and the equipment must be packaged with cushioning material or dividers or inner packaging so that the fuel cell cartridges are protected against damage that may be caused by the shifting or placement of the equipment and the cartridges within the outer packaging.


All the rule is basically doing is requiring that batteries are transported in such a way that they cannot short out. Either by putting them in the device they are made for (so your gameboy is safe) or by putting them in a special container (the big Li-Ion batteries for SLR's come like that in the box anyway).

After the Great Battery Scare last year with all those laptops combusting spontaneously their was little choice but to start with at least some regulation regarding the combustable nature of these batteries. The requirements are minimal and reasonable and quite frankly I have yet to see anything shipped commercially that doesn't meet those standards.

Are you referring to the same proposal? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045934)

Googling the quoted text got one hit, Hazardous Materials: Revision to Requirements for the Transportation of Batteries and Battery-Powered Devices, etc.; Correction [vlex.com] .

I don't speak bureaucrat well enough to be sure, but this seems to be a year old rule, one that is already in force.

Re:Are you referring to the same proposal? (1)

KiahZero (610862) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046028)

As someone fluent in Regulatese, I can tell you that you're entirely correct. The correct rule-making is at PHMSA-2009-0095 [regulations.gov] . I'm wondering if I should write the editor to see if a correction can be made, but I'm thinking that Slashdot apathy will prevent too many people from submitting comments to the wrong docket entry.

Carry-on Safer? (1)

IcePop456 (575711) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045534)

Sure people could use batteries in a dangerous way, but at least there are others that could do something about the fire/damage. Down with the checked luggage, I assume the plane would not react until things were much worse...

Well, there's another reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045550)

Not to go to the US of A. This country, wow, it's moving with amazing speed from last remaining superpower (Bush sr, clinton) to facist dictatorship (king bush II) to truly insane "strip before you even consider flying across our border" country.

It's important as a US citizen ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045602)

To go and leave your comment on the proposal. That way you'll know you did your part when the public's comments are ignored and it happens anyway ...

Just another way to discriminate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31045898)

Much like other "safety" laws, this one will not be enforced on anyone but Arabs. But heavens forbid an Arab carries a spare camera battery and off to interrogation he is! FOX NEWS ALERT: TERROR IN THE AIR! Accordingly, most of you dont have to worry, until it is your turn to be the bad guy.

Wrong Rulemaking is Linked in Summary (1)

KiahZero (610862) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045972)

As anyone who can read could tell you, the rule-making linked in the summary is for a final rule. The final rule isn't open for comment anymore - it's already published, already effective, and would require a new notice-and-comment cycle in order to change.

The rulemaking PHMSA is proposing is at PHMSA-2009-0095 [regulations.gov] . PHMSA is not required to listen to any comments posted on the link above, because that docket is closed. Therefore, if you want your comments to be read, you should use the above link.

Because the analysis of many people has been on a rule that's only tangentially related to the rule-making at issue, much of what's been posted in this thread is 100% wrong. For instance, many people are saying that the rule would prohibit people from carrying spare batteries with them.

Sec. 175.10 Exceptions for passengers, crewmembers, and air
operators.

        (a) * * *
        (17) Except as provided in Sec. 173.21 of this subchapter,
portable electronic devices (for example, watches, calculating
machines, cameras, cellular phones, laptop and notebook computers,
camcorders, etc.) containing dry cells or dry batteries (including
lithium cells or batteries) and spare dry cells and batteries for these
devices, when carried by passengers or crew members for personal use.
Each installed or spare lithium battery must be of a type proven to
meet the requirements of each test in the UN Manual of Tests and
Criteria, and each spare battery must be individually protected so as
to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or
by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g., by taping over exposed
terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or
protective pouch) and carried in carry-on baggage only. In addition,
each installed or spare battery must not exceed the following:
        (i) For a lithium metal battery, a lithium content of not more than
2 grams per battery; or
        (ii) For a lithium-ion battery, a rating of not more than 100 Wh,
except that up to two batteries with a watt hour rating of more than
100 Wh but not more than 300 Wh may be carried.

Not only can you continue to bring your electronics on the plane, you can bring spares for the devices as well, so long as you take the reasonable step of taping over the terminals.

Exploding batteries? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31045990)

So, the NSA finally classified Sony as terrorists?

From now on... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046156)

...I will only fly completely naked.

Let‘s see how long they can stand that, before they overturn the laws. :P

But I can raise the bar too, by employing this technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9yLKnC5bho [youtube.com]

No fly zone. (1)

OFnow (1098151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046224)

Lets call the US the "No Fly Zone".

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