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Dell Laptops Still Exploding

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the free-light-show dept.

Portables 186

bl8n8r writes "It 'looked like fireworks, which would have been cool had it not been in my house.' said Doug Brown of Columbus, Ohio. Brown, a Network Administrator, called 911 last week when the Dell 9200 laptop burst into flames in his house. Emergency response units included two pumpers, a ladder truck, a bamalance, the HAZMAT unit, and a battalion chief. When Doug phoned Dell to inquire about liability, he was asked if he had insurance. It's not clear if Doug's laptop is one of the earlier models recalled by Dell; a Macbook is cited in the article for allegedly burning down a house in Australia as well as another instance of a suspect Dell laptop burning out a pickup truck in Nevada. If the burning battery issues are going to continue to be a problem, who's going to be responsible for losses? Insurance companies, Laptop makers, Battery vendors, and consumer negligence could presumably be cited in all cases."

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Any word on... (4, Funny)

sugapablo (600023) | about 7 years ago | (#20376113)

...what MacBook model went up in flames? (He types from his MacBook.)

The following model numbers are vulnerable (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376175)

I'm pretty sure anyone who owns a MacBook is a flamer

For fucks sake, Mac fanboys make Catholic priests look straight

HAHAHAH!!! (0, Offtopic)

obry2000 (965511) | about 7 years ago | (#20376505)

That's gotta be the funniest news title I've seen in a while... Dell Laptops Still Exploding.... hahahaha - that made my day :-P

Re:Any word on... (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | about 7 years ago | (#20377459)

...what MacBook model went up in flames? (He types from his MacBook.)

With the mod points investd in me, I hereby label your post flamebait!

But I really wouldn't

Insurance (3, Interesting)

Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) | about 7 years ago | (#20376115)

This is what insurance is for though - the unexpected. Surely general household cover would be sufficient? As a matter of interest is it common to bill the houseowner for the fire departments response?

Re:Insurance - not the question (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 years ago | (#20376205)

insurance not the issue, liability is. anyway, silly of guy to call Dell and ask. You get a lawyer and you sue their incompetent labtop-firebomb building asses.

Re:Insurance - not the question (5, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 years ago | (#20376509)

Moon Crater, Afghanistan - Izur Abdul Bagdahallahabada carefully plugs in his newest incendiary device; a Dell 9200 laptop.

"By the will of Allah, the infidels have provided the means of their own destruction." Bagdahallahabada says. "We must be careful, of course, that it does not burn down our own houses." he cautions. "My brother, may Allah give him dozens of greased up virgins in heaven, was using a Macbook, and it sent him, his son and a funny little fellow with half a nose flying."

All over Afghanistan, crappy Dell laptops are being found, replacing chemical explosives and home-made gas bombs as the prime way to kill NATO forces. And it's getting worse, as this new, all-too-frightening technology is exported abroad. Just last week, three Iraqi politicians had their penises fried off when their Dell's overheated.

"We like to install WoW on them." Bagdahallahabada explains. "We give it the infidel soldiers, who play these gay, decadent fantasy characters. We wait in the bushes, and kaboom!"

NATO's current head of Afghan operations, Major General Sir Wilfred Ruck-sticks-oxbatten has seen it all too often. "We were enjoying a little porn at my command post, and the Mac laptop just exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions and burning off my bleedin' moustache. The chaps back in Edinborough claim they saw spikes on their seismometers.

Indeed, exploding Dell laptops are causing another problem. The countless number of explosions are making tracking earthquakes nearly impossible. "We had a tech convention in San Francisco last week." said Dr. Bob Underwear, USGS scientist. "Christ, we thought the whole San Andreas fault was making a bee-line for Anchorage. One of my colleagues actually shit his pants, all because seventeen Dells tried to render a 3d graph in realtime."

What the ultimate solution cannot be told. But Mr. Bagdahallahabada clearly feels there's no rush. "When all the world converts to Islam, then we'll make sure they buy HP."

Re:Insurance (2, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | about 7 years ago | (#20376435)

Sure, you can make a claim to the insurance company. Next time your insurance renewal comes up, suddenly you lose the discount for having a clean record. For myself, a claim like this would probably end up costing $2000 in deductable and increased insurance rates over the next few years.

Re:Insurance (1)

slazzy (864185) | about 7 years ago | (#20377151)

You got it - in 2003 my basement was flooded out by a storm, I discovered that the municipality was at fault, and after some arguing they re-embers\ed the insurance company for the damages and I am left with a clean no-claims insurance record.

Re:Insurance (1)

Moderatbastard (808662) | about 7 years ago | (#20376595)

Whose insurance? If I'm walking down the street and some dozy cowboy builder drops a brick on my head, he'd better have insurance, or the homeowner should - or sure as hell I'll make sure he doesn't own that home anymore. Because I shouldn't need insurance to stroll down the street and buy a loaf of bread.

Likewise, if someone's in the business of making laptops or components of them, they should do it properly or take it on the chin. Call it a cost of doing business. Frivolous litigation is one thing (50 million dollar pants, anyone?) - but it's not this thing.

Re:Insurance (1)

Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) | about 7 years ago | (#20376753)

You miss the point. You turn this case over to your insurers and they then recoup the losses from Dell/battery maker/etc. You don't lose out, your insurers don't lose out, and they pay. Since the insurers have no loss then your excess and rates don't go up. Least that's how it works in the UK, I suppose the US may have a very different model.

Re:Insurance (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | about 7 years ago | (#20376855)

This is what insurance is for though - the unexpected. Surely general household cover would be sufficient? As a matter of interest is it common to bill the houseowner for the fire departments response?
Point 1: Even if you have insurance, the matter of liability is always something that needs to be determined. If I have total coverage on my car, I may not care if you hit me or if I hit you, but I can assure you that my insurance company does.

Point 2: No, it isn't. Ambulance services, yes. But not "mere" fire prevention. OTOH, the homeowner does have to foot the bill for the damage to his house.

Re:Insurance (1)

mikerubin (449692) | about 7 years ago | (#20377319)

Billing the homeowner I think is only done if he/she were told "Do/Don't Do That".
ie: illegal brush burns and such, not accidents, or arson. The insurance company would have to go after Dell.

ban laptops from planes!!! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376125)

if my dell explodes on a plane, is that a suicide bombing? I'm assuming that I'd be dead, of course.

Re:ban laptops from planes!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376155)

You must be a terrorist. Hey, don't give them any ideas!

Re:ban laptops from planes!!! (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 7 years ago | (#20376421)

if my dell explodes on a plane, is that a suicide bombing?

It is for the laptop.

Re:ban laptops from planes!!! (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | about 7 years ago | (#20376735)

They definitely should ban laptops from planes... at least, until they can develop flying bamalances.

- RG>

A bamalance came to my house once (1)

solevita (967690) | about 7 years ago | (#20376131)

It was bucking bental.

Re:A bamalance came to my house once (1)

Stanistani (808333) | about 7 years ago | (#20376159)

Just don't try the same letter switching with 'firetruck.'

Or 'Friar Tuck.'

Rev. Spooner could tell you.

Re:A bamalance came to my house once (2, Funny)

guitaristx (791223) | about 7 years ago | (#20376603)

<singing>Whoa-oh, blackened notebook, bam-ba-lam! Whoa-oh, blackened notebook, bam-ba-lam!</singing>

Re:A bamalance came to my house once (1)

corifornia (995298) | about 7 years ago | (#20376647)

Was that Black Betty that is tuned too? If so you rule.

Re:A bamalance came to my house once (1)

thewils (463314) | about 7 years ago | (#20376729)

Did it go bamalama-ding-dong?

Editors?!? (2, Informative)

thehickcoder (620326) | about 7 years ago | (#20376149)

A) What is a bamalance?
2) This is Columbus, GA not Columbus, OH.

Re:Editors?!? (1)

dollar99 (922389) | about 7 years ago | (#20376247)

A bamalance is either an ambulance that came from Alabama, or what a 3 year old calls the truck that takes people with boo-boo's to the Hopsital. Geeze.

Re:Editors?!? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376273)

What are you new here? The editors don't do anything except make money off all you yahoos clicking ads. You really think they edit anything besides their D&D character sheets?

Re:Editors?!? (3, Insightful)

cooley (261024) | about 7 years ago | (#20376327)

There used to be this funny audio clip circulating around of a 911 call (or a comedian pretending to make one, I can't remember which) where a guy hits a deer with his car. He puts the deer into his car (he's gonna use the meat) but it soon wakes up and kicks the shit out of him. He calls 911 from a pay-phone to request a "bambalance" (the rest of the call is equally eloquent).

That is, I *hope* the guy is alluding to the old clip, and not seriously trying to spell "ambulance". It's possible, though, that in regards to your post above "2" answers "a"....

Re:Editors?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20377289)

that is a scene from the movie tommy boy

I need a bambulance! (0)

Dahan (130247) | about 7 years ago | (#20377361)

I need a bambulance! [riverjournal.com]

I'm in the motherfuckin' phone booth at the Stop-n-Go.

Re:Editors?!? (3, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20377409)

You mean this one ... [dow-sniper.net]

Re:Editors?!? (1)

aquabat (724032) | about 7 years ago | (#20376381)

A) What is a bamalance?
"bamalance" is a slang term that refers to a bomb or hazardous material disposal truck. It looks a bit like a cross between an ambulance and an armoured car. The "bam" in "bamalance" refers to the explosive properties of a bomb being disposed of, i.e. the laptop.

Re:Editors?!? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#20377471)

"bamalance" is a slang term that refers to a bomb or hazardous material disposal truck. It looks a bit like a cross between an ambulance and an armoured car. The "bam" in "bamalance" refers to the explosive properties of a bomb being disposed of, i.e. the laptop.
You must be good at Balderdash [amazon.com] .

The linked page correctly spelled it as "an ambulance".

Re:Editors?!? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376579)

Dear editors,

actually the emergency response units included... ...two plumbers, an adder truck, a bamboo lance, a fuzz mat unit and a ... ahh forget it, I really wonder how you could get that wrong.

*ducks*

*...and goes to bed*

What in the world is a bamalance? (1)

A non-mouse Coward (1103675) | about 7 years ago | (#20376153)

Emergency response units included two pumpers, a ladder truck, a bamalance ... I tried to think of something funny to say here, but I was stumped ... and then I wondered "is this one of those things that seems so nonsensical that it was intended to be called something so irrational?" Then I read the article. Nope, it's just dyslexic fingers at the keyboard-- another day at Slashdot. ;)

Down South ... (5, Funny)

wsanders (114993) | about 7 years ago | (#20376233)

... a 'Bamalance is a pickup truck, a 3 x 6 foot piece of plywood, two EMT's named Jethro, and a bottle of moonshine for antiseptic AND anaesthetic.

'bamalance"?! (4, Funny)

solafide (845228) | about 7 years ago | (#20376157)

I want a ride in an bamalance, myself, I'll happily have my laptop explode to get a ride.

Not just a macbook (0)

rouge86 (608370) | about 7 years ago | (#20376179)

It is a macbook pro. Those aluminum enclosures always made the computer a little hotter. I think the aluminum enclosure helped fry my old powerbook. I had it on battery power when it died.

Re:Not just a macbook (3, Informative)

bkr1_2k (237627) | about 7 years ago | (#20376277)

Actually the enclosures were designed to specifically take the heat away from the components to a [metal] frame that had a larger surface area. It felt hotter to the user but kept the components inside cooler than a plastic case would have.

It wasn't the battery (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#20376193)

It's obvious the user here was overclocking his laptop.

Burst into flames != explode (4, Insightful)

Howzer (580315) | about 7 years ago | (#20376211)

Batteries (you know, those little packages of reactive chemicals?) have been bursting into flames ever since they were invented.

In TFA it cites a couple of modern examples. How many laptop batteries are out there?

Hardly a plague of battery burnin's.

Reminds me of SARS -- you remember, that disease that killed a couple hundred people in 2003 -- which basically shut down Asia for 6 months. Everyone suddenly forgot that the regular old "flu" kills 100,000 people every single year.

If we're gonna panic about "things that cause fatal fires" I'd be stomping on cigarette manufacturers before I went after the company that didn't even make the battery that caught on fire.

Cue 200+ comments to the tune of "I used to trust Dell but now..."

Can we get a new tune up in here?

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1, Insightful)

ookabooka (731013) | about 7 years ago | (#20376259)

Your logic is flawed. I certainly expect a cigarette to cause a fire, so I'm not about to leave a lit one sitting on my desk full of papers. However, I'd think it would be perfectly reasonable to let my laptop sit next to some papers. Basically, Dell's laptops have an interesting tendency to spontaneously combust. . .it's not a freak accident, and not something that all laptops do. That is the reason that this is getting so much attention, no laptop should emit a small fireworks show and then burst into flames spewing all sorts of nasty chemical fumes. . .

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1)

Howzer (580315) | about 7 years ago | (#20376503)

>>Your logic is flawed. I certainly expect a cigarette to cause a fire, [but not a battery]

Your science is flawed. I certainly expect high-density batteries to cause fires. Both because they have and also because of simple, general, chemical principles, the kind we should all have learned in high school.

The question then becomes how many fires, and what I am saying is that the numbers are currently way too low for any conclusion besides that the technology has been, historically, extremely and almost flawlessly handled by the entire industry.

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1)

ookabooka (731013) | about 7 years ago | (#20377635)

Oh I know that laptops use harsh chemicals that can causes these fires (lithium is one interesting bugger), but then again, would you expect a car to spontaneously combust? I mean. . all that gasoline which everyone knows is flammable. My point was that it isn't unreasonable to assume that a laptop WILL NOT spontaneously ignite. Even though it certainly has the potential I think a consumer can realistically assume that there are enough safeguards in effect to make it virtually impossible. I don't know the figures for how many laptops have ignited, but if it is higher than the chances of my car/tv/cellphone spontaneously igniting then I think it's a problem.

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 7 years ago | (#20376315)

They don't explode they "vent with flame".
The problem is that as battery density gets higher the danger from a failure gets higher. Put a dead short accros a D cell and it is no big deal. Put one across a LiION without a protection circuit and it is a big deal.

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1)

Howzer (580315) | about 7 years ago | (#20376441)

>>The problem is that as battery density gets higher the danger from a failure gets higher.

Exactly correct. The problem is inherent in the technology.

Couple that with trying to squeeze that battery into a poorly ventilated laptop interior (where you also gotta fit your DVD drive, your CPU, etc. etc.) and you would think we'd see these things going off like bombs every week!

The fact that we don't is what I'm talking about...

Just because Dell didn't make the battery (2, Insightful)

Laebshade (643478) | about 7 years ago | (#20376413)

Just because Dell didn't make the battery, doesn't mean they're not liable. Dell sold him a complete unit, which came with the battery in question (assuming he wasn't using a replacement battery, DNRFTA). Continuing the bad car analogies that roam the savage wastelands of Slashdot: if you bought a used car, under warranty, from a dealer, and a part broke that just happened to be a third-party part (happens often on used cars), would you be ok with the dealer telling you you're SOL? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1)

blhack (921171) | about 7 years ago | (#20376493)

I think that the reason that SARS only killed a couple of hundred people was that Asia got shut down for 6 months. The point was to keep the number a couple of hundred, instead of having it get to the 100,000 a year that the flu kills.

Re:Burst into flames != explode (1)

Howzer (580315) | about 7 years ago | (#20376551)

>>I think that the reason that SARS only killed a couple of hundred people was that Asia got shut down for 6 months.

Not correct, but revealing that this is what you think. Revealing in a "one more example of what I am saying about hype" kind of way.

SARS only killed a couple of hundred because it was WAY HARDER to get SARS from another person that it is to get the yearly 'flu.

SARS managed the trick of being fatal (like the flu) but didn't manage the trick of being horribly infectious (unlike the 'flu, which is).

Does the TSA still let Dell laptops on planes? (4, Funny)

RichMan (8097) | about 7 years ago | (#20376223)

seriously, it looks like they are more of a proven hazard than water

Re:Does the TSA still let Dell laptops on planes? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | about 7 years ago | (#20376541)

We only ban things poor people can afford.

Concerned... (1)

Schnoogs (1087081) | about 7 years ago | (#20376227)

I just ordered a Dell Vostro 1500. My previous notebook was also a Dell and I was mailed a new battery as a part of a recall. I was under the impression that the problem had been addressed but now I'm concerned that I might have to wear a bomb proof suit while reading Slashdot from the comfort of my patio ;)

Re:Concerned... (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 7 years ago | (#20376461)

If you're not already wearing asbestos underwear while reading /., you're not doing it right.

Anecdote (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 7 years ago | (#20376235)

I have a Dell Latitude D810 and when I'm playing Warcraft if I don't limit the CPU speed to 1.6Ghz or lower the CPU temp climbs to 190F (according to gnome's CPU temp monitor).
I think this is a combination of the heat produced by the CPU and the ATI GPU, cause it doesn't get so hot when I'm not doing 3D graphics.
The nice thing is, WoW runs pretty well at very low CPU speeds. As long as I'm not trying to run around Shattrath I can limit it to 1.06Ghz with no problems.

(ATI x600 GPU and a 2.13Ghz Pentium M CPU)

Re:Anecdote (1)

harrkev (623093) | about 7 years ago | (#20376351)

I have a Dell Latitude D810 and when I'm playing Warcraft if I don't limit the CPU speed to 1.6Ghz or lower the CPU temp climbs to 190F (according to gnome's CPU temp monitor).
I think this is a combination of the heat produced by the CPU and the ATI GPU, cause it doesn't get so hot when I'm not doing 3D graphics.

That doesn't matter, dude. The CPU is made of sand. Sand won't burn no matter how hot it gets. In fact, some people use sand to put out fires. This problem is related to the batteries.

On the other hand, I wonder how much heat from the CPU makes it to the batteries. The heat sink is usually fairly close to the battery comparment, with the exhause air port usually begin in the back (where most batteries are).

Re:Anecdote (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 7 years ago | (#20377115)

Of course sand burns. Burning is just the chemical reaction of a material and oxygen. S+)2=SO2. Sand is used to put out fires by smothering it- physically preventing O2 from reaching the hot material.

Re:Anecdote (1)

cnettel (836611) | about 7 years ago | (#20377407)

You forgot the part where sand is already SO2. (But, true, not all silicon in a chip is oxidized, so the problem in the original post was the assumption that a chip is sand or quartz. But I would dobut that the die itself will burn well compared to the thermal paste or just about anything else.)

Re:Anecdote (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376835)

Two things to prevent overheating on your Dell laptop.

1 (easy) Make sure that the rubber feet have not fallen off. If they have, replace them. Don't use your machine on a soft surface - make sure there is adequate ventilation on the underneath.

2 (more difficult). Clean out the heat exchanger. Here's how. Turn machine upside down. Remove battery and ac adapter. Remove all screws underneath. Turn machine right way up. Flip off keyboard bezel. Remove keyboard. Remove lid assembly (take care unplugging antenna cables). Remove palm rest. Remove processor heatsink (don't handle copper bit). Clean out any fluff. Reverse procedure for re-assembly. Don't over-tignten screws.

Re:Anecdote (1)

Arterion (941661) | about 7 years ago | (#20377381)

In addition to this, I think one of those little USB fan mini-desk things wouldn't be a bad idea. It would keep the laptop on a flat surface at all times, and help it with ventilation.

Let's be CLEAR on this (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#20376239)

It's all about the Sony batteries. It's misleading to say "Dell" or "Macbook." They (and many other makers) are using Sony batteries.

Re:Let's be CLEAR on this (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20376339)

Yeah, let's be CLEAR. I mean, it can't be that the laptop drew too much current, or that the charger malfunctioned, or a thousand other things that can cause any battery to catch fire. And it's certainly not Dell's fault for not putting some safety circuitry in the system to shut down when the temperature started to go up. It's IMPERATIVE that we place blame solely on Sony even though there were likely dozens of factors, any one of which could have prevented the fire if were modified. After all Sony is the devil.

Re:Let's be CLEAR on this (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376469)

Sony are fucking chingers. It's their fault. Period.

Re:Let's be CLEAR on this (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20376539)

Thank you for confirming my point. Objective analysis not required. Prejudicial judgments are always better around here.

Re:Let's be CLEAR on this (1)

arivanov (12034) | about 7 years ago | (#20376383)

It is not just Sony it is the technology itself. It is inherently dangerous and all manufacturers so far have had recalls and safety incidents. Sony is simply the biggest manufacturer of Li-polymer cells so we get to hear about it most.

All I can say is... (2, Funny)

Ub3rT3Rr0R1St (920830) | about 7 years ago | (#20376241)

Thank God no one actually had them on their lap.

Re:All I can say is... (1)

dryueh (531302) | about 7 years ago | (#20376393)

Actually, most manufacturers, as far as I know, no longer refer to them as "laptops." "Notebooks" are the new tag for the computers that formerly sat on one's lap. I believe the change in name is to actually discourage users from using the notebooks on one's legs b/c of heat issues.

I mean, notebooks today have a tendency to get H-O-T. Also explode.

Re:All I can say is... (1)

dryueh (531302) | about 7 years ago | (#20376527)

No laptops for sale here. [dell.com]

I got paranoid and had to take a look. You'll see, from the linked page, that Dell no longer sells laptops. Lawsuit avoided!

Re:All I can say is... (1)

StikyPad (445176) | about 7 years ago | (#20376613)

They have Linux laptops [dell.com] though.

OMG, it's a plot to kill all Linux users! Quick, tell everyone you know before it's too laaaarrrghhh, my legs!

I spent some time at a Toshiba Call Center... (1)

Jon.Laslow (809215) | about 7 years ago | (#20377069)

...and we were instructed during training to *never* refer to them as Laptops, only as Notebooks, for just that issue: Toshibas tend to run hot, and the result is anything from a sweaty leg to threats of legal actions due to near-burns.

Fragmented Drives Contributing to the Overheat? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376249)

A client of mine asked me to fix his Dell laptop, which was overheating and shutting down to fix the problem. This was before the exploding batteries were in the news.

First of all DO NOT turn off the automatic shut down of the laptop when the processor reaches a certain temperature to fix this problem.

Deleting enough off the drive to defragment it fixed the issue and it stopped overheating. First I had to put the laptop on a metal barbeque frame so it would be cool enough and stay on long enough to defragment it.

Kind of a scary task for your boss to give you now that I think about it... but this was months before it was on the news. I don't know if this is the same issue exactly but I wanted to bring it up.

Re:Fragmented Drives Contributing to the Overheat? (1)

BUL2294 (1081735) | about 7 years ago | (#20376831)

Good point... And 7200rpm 2.5" HDs definitely put out more heat than 4200 or 5400rpm ones.

Re:Fragmented Drives Contributing to the Overheat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20377117)

Well I bet the drive is fragmented *after* the laptop has exploded.....

Re:Fragmented Drives Contributing to the Overheat? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20377491)

Its a laptop - you could have just stuck the whole thing in the fridge and let it run for a couple of hours next to all the lunches you coworkers brought in and abandonned if excess heat was keeping it from defragging.

just sue 'em... (1)

neurocutie (677249) | about 7 years ago | (#20376251)

If the burning battery issues are going to continue to be a problem, who's going to be responsible for losses? Insurance companies, Laptop makers, Battery vendors, and consumer negligence could presumably be cited in all cases.
In these cases, it seems it would be an easy lawsuit. I would personally refuse to have my own insurance cover it as it is so clearly a product defect. And since both Dell and the battery manufacturers (Sony? Sanyo ? etc) all have deep pockets, it doesn't matter so much who to sue. Mind you, I'm not talking about a big suit, unless there were really serious damages ( I doubt it would ever go to trial, as long as the request for settlement was reasonable... In fact, I would ask (nicely but firmly) for a reasonable amount from Dell first, before taking real legal proceedings...

Re:just sue 'em... (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20376405)

Why bother having insurance then?

If it were me, I'd file a claim with my insurance company, and then let them go after Dell/Sony/Whoever. The whole point of having insurance is to insulate you from the expense (both monetary and temporal) of dealing with unfortunate mishaps like this.

Believe me. The insurance company isn't going to foot the bill for your claim if somebody else is responsible. They'll fight the battle. And since you're paying them to do that, why would you do it yourself?

insurance co lawyers will be more experienced too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376715)

The insurance company lawyers are also likely to be a lot more experienced at this type of liability litigation than any you can find unless you can turn it into a class-action suit.

Re:just sue 'em... (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 7 years ago | (#20376799)

The problem is that if you let your insurance company handle it, you have now filed a claim, so your rates will go up, or they may drop you. The insurance company will happily reimburse you for the laptop, then sue Dell or Sony or somebody and collect from them, then raise your rates or drop you and due to the claim on your file you will have a hard time finding a reasonably priced policy now.
Insurance is not for small piddly things. Insurance is for catastrophes where the risk of getting dropped afterwards is eclipsed by the cost of the claim.
It probably didn't start out this way, but insurance companies pretty much are giving us the "don't file a claim" price. In other words, they will charge us X, but with the understanding that they won't actually cover any claims, or will drop us if we make one. Oh, you want to actually be covered in case of accidents? Well, that price is 3X.

Re:just sue 'em... (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20377287)

That's fine when the only thing that got damaged was the laptop. When there is a serious amount of property damage, are you really going to wait for the outcome of a lawsuit to, say, rebuild your home?

Re:just sue 'em... (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 7 years ago | (#20377363)

Well, no, that would be catastrophic enough to involve the insurance company.

Re:just sue 'em... (1)

BUL2294 (1081735) | about 7 years ago | (#20376925)

As other posters have pointed out, your rates go up and so on. The problem is that if the insurance company does recover their losses (and trust me, they have armies of lawyers to ensure they do), you don't see a dime of that money. So, in addition to the fact that it's "unfair" that you've got a higher insurance rate because Dell made a defective product, the insurance company is now getting money from both parties--you and Dell.

Real fair, huh???

Insurance (1)

HPNpilot (735362) | about 7 years ago | (#20376261)

If you have fire insurance (homeowner's or renter's) then they should cover the laptop and any damage to your house or other belongings, subject to the deductible. The insurance company may go after (subrogate) Dell.

Most companies play hardball and tell you to get lost, the only thing you can do is sue them, and then they will complain about people suing them. As they say, shit happens, but if it turns out the manufacturer knew, or reasonably should have known, that the batteries pose an undue hazard, they may be held liable in court. In the USA, there is basicly no more consumer protection so you are on your own. Some other countries (and a few states) will hold the manufacturer's toes to the fire (so to speak) so they may act a little more responsibly.

IANAL and all that craziness.

Re:Insurance (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 7 years ago | (#20376471)

As I mentioned in reply to another post, the insurance will certainly cover it. However, the deductable and increased insurance rates for the next 5 years or so could easily be a couple thousand dollars.

Dell and Sony are clearly negligent here...so why should the laptop owner suffer financially?

Huh? (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 years ago | (#20376263)

Consumer negligence? How is the consumer negligent if these guys keep manufacturing batteries that go supernova? I own a low-end HP laptop, and it can get incredibly hot as well. It now has to be sent in for servicing, I suspect that the temperature eventually fried the board. It's under warranty for another couple of months, but I have to fork out over $200 for a year's extended warranty on it. For those kinds of prices, I ought to be leasing them. The growing popularity of laptops have made the manufacturers lazy. They're cutting corners, producing substandard products that are not only more prone to failure, but may very well be dangerous. They'll argue "We're trying to keep the prices down", but that's the same argument Mattel uses for using substandard Chinese factories to produce toys that can potentially poison millions of children. Frankly, I think the time has come to seriously bone-up consumer protection laws. Massive fines, the industry paying for government inspections, and the like. Manufacturers have proven incapable or unwilling to adequately protect the consumer, and we should start nailing their bottom lines severely, so that the fucking shareholders, who seem eager to profit from the crap their companies produce, aren't feeling more directly the pain. Fining Dell or Apple a few hundred million dollars the first time, and then quadruple the second time, will probably raise the price of laptops, but at least we won't be sent out overheating crap.

Re:Huh? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | about 7 years ago | (#20376827)

Aren't MacBooks already "more expensive"?

- RG>

NiMH batteries, anybody? (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 7 years ago | (#20376331)

all the flameout issues are with lithium ion batteries.

it may just be that we can't manufacture these things more than one at a time with the care required to keep all that energy density safely in the case.

it happened to Edison, too... only I think it was something like an iron/sulfur battery they couldn't make more than one of.

I hate to nitpick but- (1)

shinehead (603005) | about 7 years ago | (#20376395)

This happened in Columbus, GA. Not Ohio.

This site gets gheyar by teh minnut (1)

BUTT-H34D (840273) | about 7 years ago | (#20376411)

Like, what the cunting fuck is a bastarding "bamalance"? Is it like a ramalamadingdong or something? Those old musics like totally suck.

Batteries are bombs in disguise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376489)

Someday a laptop is going to take a plane out. I hope I am not on it when it happens.

Re:Batteries are bombs in disguise (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 7 years ago | (#20377325)

It already happened. Luckily, so far the airplanes have all been successfully landed despite the fire or had not taken off yet when the batteries caught fire.

A particular issue with MacBook sleep problems (1)

THotze (5028) | about 7 years ago | (#20376627)

This seems to be even more of a pointed issue considering the number of MacBooks that may still have problems with waking up from sleep when the MacBook is still closed.

I don't know how many people that have MacBooks still have this issue, but I really suspect that I'm not the only one. I've got an earlier MacBook, but bought it form an Apple Store in August of last year, so its really not one of the 1st ones off the assembly line.

Periodically, the MB will wake up and stay on while closed and in say, my bag or out on the desk, etc. etc. - enough that, based on battery drain, its got to be awake at least 1/2 the time that the MB is closed. Needless to say, this makes the MB (and everything around it) hot. I can easily see how if the MB is in a backpack or other carrying device, it could easily overheat - and thus make any battery fire issues that much more likely.

Issues like this one - and inadequate airflow, heat dissipation issues - etc. aren't just nuisances or cosmetic given these battery issues.

Tim

I know who should pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20376699)

The batteries were marked with the CE and UL logos right? These leeches on society should pay.

iraq... (1)

markowen58 (917436) | about 7 years ago | (#20376709)

could these batteries be used as a weapon in Iraq?

Simple question (1)

Zatchmort (1091857) | about 7 years ago | (#20377029)

Ok, there's something wrong with this picture. Here the guy's laptop is on fire, in the middle of his floor. He calls in 2 fire trucks, a HAZMAT team, and I forget what else. Now he said in TFA that the 911 guys overreacted, but still. Why on EARTH would he not just put it out himself, rather than calling 911? Heck, even if he didn't have an extinguisher... you beat it out with a blanket, or something. I guarantee that's less damage than the firemen will do to your house...

Re:Simple question (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | about 7 years ago | (#20377599)

Because the Lithium Ion battery contains... HAZardous MATerials?

Longing for the good old days (1)

eneville (745111) | about 7 years ago | (#20377079)

Does anyone know of a laptop that is safe to use on the lap? I think I may have posted an 'ask slashdot' some time ago asking for opinions on laptops that operate suitably cool. Back in the day I used a Compaq 6400, but the screen broke. What I'm after is something that operates relatively cold, has a good battery life, and doesn't make much noise. This would make an ideal travel companion (for when I finally get my passport that is). I'm not that bothered about how much RAM/HDD/MHz, just enough to run OOo/gvim/perl/ff2 etc.

Re:Longing for the good old days (1)

cnettel (836611) | about 7 years ago | (#20377493)

Undervolting, underclocking both CPU and GPU, and ideally a SSD (or 4,200 or MAYBE 5,400 RPM drive) would go a long way. A metal case would probably be best as well. Yeah, you're conducting the heat more, but you're also increasing the surface area. Considering what these things together will do to the total power used (down far below 20 W, more like 10 if you dim the light enough), I think most modern machines would do.

Self Destruct Could be a Useful feature... (2, Funny)

MrSteveSD (801820) | about 7 years ago | (#20377147)

as long as long as you can control it, and as long as it has a cool sounding countdown.

laptop battery engineering to marketing criteria (2, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | about 7 years ago | (#20377507)

cheap powerful non-exploding, pick two



Really, is it that hard to carry an additional one pound and have a safer and probably better battery in a laptop? Has society gotten that wimpy? The great race to see who can have the thinnest lightest laptop causes problems like this, along with cost cutting in quality and emphasis on bling factor. It needs to stop, maybe a few multi million dollar lawsuits might help, who knows, but there has to be something to get their attention on this generation's "pinto".. Lithium ion batts are cool tech, but they apparently need a lot more work on the stability issues and it would help if engineering dictated the size and weight and config, not marketing.

You say that like it's a Bad Thing (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 7 years ago | (#20377583)

Personally, I like explosions.

How about we are all responsible. (1)

MorpheousMarty (1094907) | about 7 years ago | (#20377661)

When did we sign the social contract that nothing we use can have a negative impact without a payout? If I'm going to have a power source that can run a full computer for several hours I'm going to have to accept that that amount of power may get out of hand. If I have a blade sharp enough to cut a steak I have to accept that it is sharp enough to cut me.

Please, all of us, understand there are physical limitations to things and they are sometimes dangerous, and sometimes you just have to take the risk implicitly. If 6 batteries in the world caught fire that makes them about as safe as anything I've ever heard with that much power. They should be recalled if there is a reasonable expectation we can do better but I think you need to accept certain things are what they are. Fire cooks, fire kills. Chemicals react to make electricity, chemicals react period.
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