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HP & Dell Face Lawsuits From Exploding Hardware

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-something-you-want-to-wake-up-to dept.

The Courts 135

An anonymous reader writes "Dell and Hewlett-Packard are both facing lawsuits over catastrophic equipment failures that lead to fires and injuries last year. 'In one case, a North Dakota auto lube shop owner claims that a Dell monitor he purchased caught fire and burned down his business ... meanwhile, an Arkansas man has sued HP, claiming that an HP Compaq Presario PC he purchased from Wal-Mart burst into flames, causing a blaze that destroyed his house and seriously injured his daughter.'"

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Doesn't suprise me. (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050652)

HP Compaq Presario PC he purchased from Wal-Mart burst into flames, causing a blaze that destroyed his house and seriously injured his daughter.


Ah the price of shopping walmart. But on a serious note, these cases are so small and lacking airflow it doesn't really suprise me.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (2, Insightful)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050708)

Still, I assume many average users really don't think a computer is going to catch fire...if the PCs are pre-built, they should include some sort of failsafe.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (3, Funny)

morcego (260031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051566)

they should include some sort of failsafe


They do. That was the "self destruct" failsafe.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052740)

Time for slogan changes:

Dell could have "Dell's Hells"

HP INvent needs to be PREvent (fiery laptops; incessantly, infuriatingly jamming duplexer HPLJ 2340...)

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (2, Interesting)

trum4n (982031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22053018)

A girl i know brought a 19inch HP LCD over to my dorm room, saying "FIXIT!!!" No backlight, but the thing still had a picture, and it smelled like sulfur. "Erin, what happened when it quit" "it filled my room with black smoke" "oh...." *unplugs* so i popped it open, The transistor that does the DC to AC conversion in the back light inverter had exploded. I mean, really, like took out the Cap next to it, and cracked the PCB. The thing was 9mo old, with a 6 month warranty. BTW, it was nice and clean inside, no dust at all. She took good care of it. Is that even legal? i know for cars thats called a lemon if it lasts less then a year, and you get a new car, FREE.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

Ulven (679148) | more than 6 years ago | (#22053676)

In the UK you could take that back. Items have to be fit for purpose, and last a reasonable time. That obviously wasn't and didn't.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22053776)

In the U.S., Big business is always right. Like M$ and Verizon.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

jupraman (1218148) | more than 6 years ago | (#22054134)

Anyone know of a list of PCs known to have this issue? I own a Compaq Presario R4025US Laptop.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (3, Insightful)

qortra (591818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050766)

these cases are so small and lacking airflow it doesn't really suprise me.
The article isn't very clear on what exactly caused the fire in the presario, though it does use "electrical system to malfunction" in the case of the monitor that burned down the business. Suffice it to say, this might not be an issue of ventilation. More likely, they were severe electrical problems in all cases. I would bet money that the cause of the Compaq Presario "bursting into flames" was the power supply, and not a poorly ventilated processor. When they overheat, things just tend to melt. No low-voltage IC should ever "burst into flames", even in a poorly ventilated case. In fact, the poorer the ventilation, the fewer the flames.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051002)

And a properly-made power supply should never burst into flames. Normally, a power supply has a fuse in it that will blow to prevent the circuitry in the PSU from becoming overloaded. Sounds like there is a serious product liability issue with the PSU in the Presario in question.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

qortra (591818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051200)

I might be willing to acknowledge that, though it really is well outside my area of expertise. On its face though, it does seem possible for a few hundred watts of power to ignite something. As long as the power supply maintains a nominal power consumption, the fuse won't blow. Also, if you are right, there must be a very decent number of improperly-made power supplies out there. On several occasion I have experienced (or have friends who have experienced) power supplies that have literally flamed/sparked/smoked/popped as they died.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22055212)

In order to get UL approval, it is OK for your electronics to explode or burn up as long as it is contained inside the case. To burn down a building, either there was something on fire that dropped out of the bottom of the case, or somebody left flammable stuff blocking the air vents on top. If the former than the manufacturer is at fault. If the latter, then the user violated the manufacturer's instructions. Fire investigators should determine which it was. I know that monitor manufacturers will never make the top of the case flat to prevent users from stacking things on top of the air vents.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051010)

You are entirely correct. I've had two chip fans fail, and in both cases all that happened was that the PC stopped working when the CPU died from overheating. Nothing close to a fire.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22051116)

CPUs won't overheat anymore anyway; they cut their processing power until they reach an acceptable temperature. If they still can't cool down, there are failsafe mechanisms in place that shut down before any true damage can be done. Modern PCs won't even boot if they're too hot.

The PSU is the most likely culprit -- although its only job is to regulate power (which you'd think wouldn't be so hard), when things go wrong in the PSU, they go very wrong.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051564)

I have to agree. This applies at least to Pentium IIIs or IVs because I had an old PC that refused to boot up in summer because the fan wasn't working properly. It would go a little way and then halt.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

RattFink (93631) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051168)

No low-voltage IC should ever "burst into flames", even in a poorly ventilated case. In fact, the poorer the ventilation, the fewer the flames.

Heck no anything electronic should burst into flames. There is so much fire retardant in modern lectronics they have trouble 'bursting into flames' even from outside sources let alone themselves. What I have seen is counterfeit electrolytic capacitors vent flame, but never any amount that could start a house fire. Then again you never really know what they put in the counterfeits.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051232)

Likewise, even a power supply would smoulder for hours if not days before it stood a chance of bursting into flames. Silicon doesn't burn quite as well as, say, oil. And unless there's a massive overvoltage on a wire, even the plastic insulation will smoulder a while before it reaches its flash point. That smouldering would produce a distinctive smell that would have anybody who's even halfway sane calling tech. support. If there's a massive overvoltage on the line, good luck suing them for defective hardware.

I don't speak for HP, but I do know that Dell has a trap policy in place. If you call them and say your computer is catching fire on its own, they'll replace it no questions asked. (they'll bill you if it turns out you're just lying to get a new computer, mind you)

Obligatory disclaimer: the above represents my opinion, not that of the people I work for.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

redxxx (1194349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052188)

Ehh... if the wire is mostly frayed, due presumably to improper installation, it could have the same result, without actually producing an over volt/amp situation. The power supply is putting out the right electricity(but the wire can't dissipate the heat generated by the added resistance(your effectively running a smaller gauge wire). The power supply would have no way of knowing where the load is coming from, and would not generate a fault.

Tied in with poor quality control and rough handling during shipping, and I could pretty easily believe it.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22052464)

*cough*Bad mix in the capacitors*/cough*
*cough*-Dell Servicing Tech*/cough

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052512)

When they overheat, things just tend to melt. No low-voltage IC should ever "burst into flames", even in a poorly ventilated case. In fact, the poorer the ventilation, the fewer the flames.

ICs are not immune to manufacturing defects and some manufacturing defects can lead to working ICs that develop into spontaneous combustion months later. One of my friends had a DRAM chip burst into flames in his (back then) year-old 486... the flame scorched the montherboard, second DIMM and the computer casing. The damned PC shop that built the computer refused to honor the in-shop 1-year guarantee on this "impossible" catastrophic failure.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22052060)

Something doesnt make sense with the DELL case. HOW EXATLY did they determine that the monitor was the cause of the fire? The name of the company was "Big Sky Batteries" implying they have a lot of batteries on premises. They also have a lot of oil there too. Any uncareful storage of oil and maybe electrical equipment maybe charging these batteries could have caused the fire. This case should be easily defended by Dell.

Another problem with "car shops" - I had to fix a computer for a friend of a friend owning a car shop once. These guys have everything so dirty its not even funny. And the dust is oily too. It could catch fire anywhere not only the monitor.

Power supplies, power supplies! (4, Interesting)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052456)

The problem is almost exclusively the power supplies.

Over the last few years, I had 5 power supplies fail, 2 of them with a giant bang. Heck, I'm sure that they would result in the place being burned to the ground if it wasn't for me pulling the cord out of the wall. The culprit in both cases was a cheap-ass power supply that came with the case of those $50 deals.

Scenario one. The box (P3-450) was powered off. Was changing the network card though I noticed the power supply was suspiciously warm even though it was off. When I plugged the box back in (didn't had time to turn it on), caps popped in the PS with 3 large bangs and 12V rail became 120V AC rail. Yanked the cord out of the wall within about 2 seconds but the damage was done. Everything connected to 12V was fried. Sound gone. CD/HD fried (CD drive opened spontaneously like in those horror movies and the CD that was in it flew out, hit the wall and shattered!). The mobo/CPU/ram survived as only the 12V rail was affected. Later, I plugged in the PS on the workbench and within 2 seconds there was a fire inside the power supply. I didn't wait longer to see what would happen, but I can image that the place would burn down if that PS popped in the middle of the night.

Scenario two. A different power supply. This was an old ATX power supply I was using for a different purpose - powering some equipment 5V equipment on stand-by power rail (yes, less power than it was rated for at that rail :). Was working fine for a long time. All voltages were fine. Then one day it just exploded in flames. Now, this PS was not in a PC at the time, so maybe not worthy of "burning the house down" scenario as it was only plugged in when someone was around.

The last 3 cases are power supplies that died or were about to die. One of a Antec 300W PS - that one worked fine then just stopped working. Another was an HP propriatory PS - working fine then not. Died the Right Way. And the third one was an unnamed PS that just stopped giving right voltages. The 12V went down to 9V over one year and system stability was gone.

So, at least 1 in 5 cases so far would result in "house burn down" scenario. Now, I do not keep any but the best PS boxes (Enermax) anywhere where a fire would destroy they house. The cheap ones are relegated to the concrete basement.

There is NO OTHER component of any electronic device but the power supply that can destroy your house. And yes, a monitor also has a power supply, though a bit safer than the PC box.

Of course, there is no 100% fire proof anything so the only way is to mitigate the problem, and also mitigate the energy waste problem at the same time. Unplug your devices when you are not using them. Unplug the TV/DVD/computer when you are not around. If you need the box up 24/7 (eg. server running your home phone system, bt, etc.), put that box in the basement on a concrete floor without flammables around it. For the rest, keep it unplugged when not using - surge protected works great here. This may save your house, and maybe $100+ in wasted "stand-by" power per year.

Re:Power supplies, power supplies! (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22054000)

Actually your motherboard would have been spared due to it being on a different rail.
Motherboards do get 12v.

I've had three explode in my care. All of them were rather old.
I never got any conditions you had though. They all went with one big bang and then they were completely dead.

The funny thing is I opened one of them up and there was nothing visibly wrong with it. :?
No dust, the pcb didnt have any scorch marks and the capacitors were all intact.
With that particular one blew with a massive flash of white light through the vents.

Re:Doesn't suprise me. (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052582)

Ironically enough, i've read that Walmart shoppers tend to equate size with computing ability. Bigger is better.

Auto lube shop? (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050686)

'In one case, a North Dakota auto lube shop owner claims that a Dell monitor he purchased caught fire and burned down his business'

An electrical device starting a fire at a place loaded with flammable materials? I loathe Dell, but this seems like it could have happened due to any number of other reasons. Unless of course the monitor was in an office far away from the shop.

no actually (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051024)

people who work in those places keep hot things away from the flammable things. unless you want the standard of what 'a reasonable person would assume' about laptops to be modified so that they are banned in basically every area of public life (including the mail, UPS, and fedex), then perhaps you might want to reconsider your theory.

Re:Auto lube shop? (2, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051188)

You ever had a monitor with a bad flyback transformer? The sparks that some of those things make are insane. I'd easily believe that one could start a fire if you had something highly flammable located near your monitor.

Re:Auto lube shop? (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051964)

Not to mention, a "Dell" monitor is imperceptibly different in design than a monitor of same type and screen-size made by any number of other manufacturers. The LCD panels in Dell panels are made by companies like Ben-Q, for example. The supporting electronics are probably OEM'd from other vendors too.

One has to wonder if the shop would pursue a lawsuit with the same fervor if said display that caught fire was one of those Chinese off-brands like "Niko", with a far more difficult-to-contact business?

Re:Auto lube shop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22052000)

Any of the electrical device has to go through UL safety approval to be sold legally. All Dell need to do is point finger at the UL approval sticker.

Hello. (4, Funny)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050692)

I'm a Mac.
And I'm a Oh my God, I'm burning!

Re:Hello. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22050828)

It'd be even funnier if Macs didn't catch fire too [macobserver.com] .

Re:Hello. (2, Interesting)

Bo0bMeIsTeR (1066964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050956)

Same company makes your mac laptop that made my dell laptop. :)

Re:Hello. (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051790)

Same company makes your mac laptop that made my dell laptop. :)

laptop? *shudders*

I'm your genitals.
And I'm a Oh my God, I'm on fire!

"Shot" for the burning (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050978)

I am sure PC can get a shot for the "burning".. but if he doesn't pay his monthly recurring charge, he will most likely relapse and/or get something even worse!

Re:Hello. (2, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050990)

Mac:I'm a Mac
PC:And I'm a PC and I'm the hottest thing going.
Mac:Ah, PC you're on fire.
PC:Sales up 2% you bet I'm on fire.

Apple's power adapters are less than spectacular (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051332)

I'm a Mac. And I'm a Oh my God, I'm burning!

Aside from jokes about the prototype 5300 that caught fire because Sony fibbed about its specs (leading to a recall of a few dozen machines that had shipped- few hit customer hands, no "incidents"), Apple has a less than glorious reputation when it comes to power adapters.

I was on a business trip once when the black, pencil-case power supply for my G3 Lombard suddenly made a crackling noise and I smelled smoke. Turned out that the 2-prong AC connector (the one that kinda looks like an oval, used to be referred to as a "shaver" style connector) didn't have proper strain relief, so the solder on the PCB broke and the high resistance cooked the circuit board; there was a big charred section of the PCB. Apple veeeeery quietly offered up replacement "discus" power adapters to Lombard and Pismo owners (the discus adapters were great, aside from the huge "KRACK!" they made when they were plugged in. I hate cheap-ass power supplies that do that...)

Fast forward to about a year ago with my first-gen Macbook Pro. I smelled heated/burning plastic smell, reached down and burned my finger on the magsafe connector, or more specifically, the first quarter inch of cable coming out of it.

The "Genius" at the store tried to claim I had abused the adapter. I asked him how it was possible to "abuse" a magsafe connector given that they pop off so easily, and he had no real response, and rather peacefully gave me a replacement adapter. Gee, what a shocker- the cable strain relief on both ends looked nice and durable. Hmm, I wonder if there was a problem with their design... [google.com]

So, kids- if your magsafe adapter shows any sign of wear and tear at the connectors (for example, the cable jacket or strain relief showing any damage), get it replaced ASAP. These adapters are increasingly powerful and can easily start a fire.

Re:Apple's power adapters are less than spectacula (1)

coolGuyZak (844482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051576)

I had a similar problem with my MacBook recently. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck of having this problem over christmas, so they directed me to tier 1 instead of tier 2. They had me run Apple system diagnostics after I reported an ozone smell coming from the brick...

But hey, it's fixed now.

Re:Hello. (2, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051716)

I'm a Mac.
And I'm a Oh my God, I'm burning!
And even though he's scarred and disfigured like Freddy Krueger, 9 out of 10 people surveyed still find him more personable than that smug Mac twat.

(relax, mac jihadis. Due to vista, my next laptop is going to have to be mac. I'm just getting my snark out of my system now before I'm forced to convert.)

Re:Hello. (1)

delire (809063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052938)

Hehe, that's a good one.

Sadly I wouldn't get too smug, Apple, HP, and Sony portables are made by the same company [digitimes.com] and have almost identical parts in most cases.

Apple doesn't 'make' hardware, Taiwan does.

Do not play with HCF (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050698)

Chip vendors should disable the HCF [wikipedia.org] opcode unless either the GURU or IDIOT jumper is set.

Re:Do not play with HCF (1)

Lord_Sy (165528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22054016)

From Wikipedia:

[...] The expression "catch fire" is strictly metaphorical

Low price, low quality? (4, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050716)

It's my understanding that walmart habitually insists on lower prices from its suppliers than they provide to others--inducing a corresponding reduction in quality of the product at times, e.g. using plastic rather than metal gears in power tools and the like. I'd not be surprised if HP cut corners for the 'Walmart edition' of its computers.

That "made specially for walmart" logo on the box is more a warning than an endorsement in my mind.

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050822)

The Walmart box probably overheated because in place of what should have been the heatsink was a block of lead.

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050872)

Does this mean I should throw away my Wal-Mart© papier-mâché monitor? It only smokes occasionally...and it only cost me $4.88!

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

Bo0bMeIsTeR (1066964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050892)

Seeing as Quanta makes all notebooks for both these companies, i doubt a wal-mart version would be any different than that at best buy or online. Quanta makes most all notebooks available from these brand name companies. This includes you apple fanboys as well.

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051044)

True, Quanta makes them, but they are still built to the specs of the designer...HP, Apple, etc. It is still very possible for a computer company to ask their contractor to use a cheaper part for something destined for Walmart.

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051014)

I work in computer repair, although I haven't been able to tell which HPs are direct from walmart, and which ones are from different retailers, but the computers that I see the most quality problems on are the emachines.

People bring in a computer, say it's not turning on- so I suggest it could be a number of things, but typically a power supply problem. Except if it's an emachine from walmart. I instantly know failed motherboard. (and often times power supply as well).

I mean, they're priced to be disposable anyway, right?

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051084)

e.g. using plastic rather than metal gears

Hey ya old geezer, you might enjoy an article I wrote a few years back Useful Dead Technologies [kuro5hin.org] . From the article:

Steel gears
During the 1950s when I was a young boy, machinery was made of steel. Not just machinery, but almost everything. Even my toys were made of solid steel. I learned at an early age not to drop things on my foot.

All the mechanical parts in your automobile, your washer and dryer, your furnace, etc were made of solid steel. Good strong durable steel. If a gear broke, it usually broke within the machinery's warranty period, as a broken gear meant that its casting or tempering was flawed.

Nylon and other plastics replaced the steel for many gears, including in your washing machine, in your car's now obsolete distributor, and in almost all electric motors.

Now, some time after your warranty expires, your washing machine or dryer or dishwasher or other appliance will fail it. Old appliances' lifespans were in the decades. In the late 1960s when I worked in a drive-in theater, its refrigerator was a model made in the 1920s and still hummed along merrily. For all I know, it's cooling someone's beer today.

Today's appliances will give you a few short years - if you're lucky. Then, one of its cheap plastic parts will break, usually a part that cannot be replaced; a part that was designed to never be able to be replaced or repaired. If you're lucky you'll shell out big bucks to get your cheap appliance repaired. If not, and more and more often these days, it will be unrepairable and you will shell out even bigger bucks to replace it, as your old (but not very old at all) nylon-gear laden piece of junk goes into a landfill.

They don't make 'em like they used to. They used to make 'em solid, to last. Now they're made of materials designed and guaranteed to break. Get out your wallets, suckers!

Actually, round shoelaces work fine with knots (1)

arete (170676) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051476)

Actually, round shoelaces work fine. I agreed with you for a while, until I tried some alternative solutions. Specifically: If your flat shoelaces get all tangled up in any kind of knot that isn't a bow, they're very difficult to untangle. If your round shoelaces are tied in a bow, they will almost immediately become untied.

But if you put a square knot (two overhand loops in opposite directions) in round shoelaces, it's like magic. It holds tight and never slips. BUT they're so slippery you can still untie them whenever you like just by pulling really hard on either exposed end. And since that's PUTTING an actual knot into them and can get it out, you're showing it's basically impossible for them to tangle.

Re:Low price, low quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22054936)

Yes, because boat sized cars without smog control that get 8 miles to a gallon of noxious lead additive gasoline and energy inefficient refrigerators that deplete our ozone layer with freon are fucking awesome...

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22055614)

I believe you might prefer the followup article Good Riddance to Bad Tech [kuro5hin.org] :

The K5 article Useful Dead Technologies highlighted some older, now gone (or nearly gone) technologies I sorely miss.

"McGrew," the Kurobots squealed, "You're a geezer! A crazy old, ranting coot! A Luddite! Aren't there any technologies you're glad are gone?"

Actually, there are. Here are a few of them, and like the useful dead technologies, some of these inventions (like the power pile and gravity furnace) were before my time, and I only knew this technology from being in the possession of an antique something or other like a house, or just reading about them.

...snip...

The automobile distributor and points
Unless you are a classic car collector, or a geezer, you have no idea how much of a pain in the butt these things were. About every oil change or two, your car's performance and gas mileage would go down, and you would need a tuneup.

To tune your car, you could simply hire someone. That is, if you were a sissy.

A real man changed his own oil and tuned his own car up. You could tell a real man by the scars and scabs on his knuckles from working on his car.

First you had to change all eight of your spark plugs. What? You only have six? Pussy! Make sure you don't get the wires on wrong, or if your car will start at all, it will lurch and backfire and run like crap.

Then you had to take off the distributor cap, usually held on by two clips that would cut your fingers and were harder than a rubic cube solution to get clipped back on.

Under the distributor cap was the contact points. These had to be replaced. Then you had to adjust the gap on the points. Oh shit, I forgot to adjust the gaps on the spark plugs... do that all over again...

Now that the plugs are gapped and the points are replaced and gapped, you put the new distributor cap on... Come on... SHIT... GOD DAMNED PIECE OF SHI... ok, there it goes. Good. Gimme a bandaid, would ya?

Now you have to set the points' dwell. What's "dwell?" Beats the hell out of me, maybe it's the amount of time the points are closed. But you have to set it with a dwell meter or your car will run like it's powered by gerbils and will suck gas like Bush sucks at being President.

Then you have to get out your strobe and set the timing. You loosen the distributor, point your strobe at the mark on the... wait a minute... I can't see the damned mark. Stop the engine, would you?

Damn, it's all rusty and... to hell with it, start it back up and I'll time the God damned thing by ear, piece of shit...

Thank God and modern electronics for electronic ignition!

As to the "boat sized cars that get 8 mpg", those are newer tech. SUVs are a modern vehicle and are far bigger and gas hoggish than even the biggest car on the road in 1970. The small SUV my roommate had [slashdot.org] only got 12 mpg in the city, her BF's bigassed Dodge pickup gets 7.

My Concorde gets the same mileage in the city as my '74 LeMans got on the highway. It, however, had a V8 350 cubic inch engine and was a bit quicker and faster than the Concorde (which is damned powerful for a six cylinder).

One thing I hate about new cars is you can't work on them, while one thing I love about them is I don't have to work on them.

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051480)

I can back that claim up having been a programmer for Wal-Mart in the past. All salaried employees in Bentonville are considered management, and are required to attend 2 Saturday management meetings a month.

Starting with the corny cheer, management meetings move on to Billy Mays styled new product demonstrations, which end with how much they got the vendor down in price and how. The large number of "hows" are how they convinced the vendor to set up shop in China. More often than not, they also include details about using lower grade plastic, shorter wires, etc...

That's not to say all products coming from China are crap. There is a huge difference in regulatory control over manufacturing though.

All this from the "Made in USA" company when Sam Walton was still alive.

Re:Low price, low quality? (1)

EMCEngineer (1155139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22053132)

There are a number of issues here. Power supplies and electronics are required to conform to certain standards for safety to be sold in Europe. In the US, there are almost no requirements for off the shelf equipment(barring FCC Part 15). There is UL marking(and other companies that provide the same testing) that covers issues like this.

There are a few problems with this. As stated above, the US doesn't have requirements for this. Also, many products that have the CE mark are in fact improperly certified due to fraud, mistakes in testing, or ignoring failures.

The third issue is manufacturers. Some manufacturers, especially in China, will substitute the cheapest part they can find while ignoring any issues this causes with other hardware. They only worry about it if there are complaints.

Dude! (1)

TheMidnight (1055796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050740)

Dude, you're getting a hell! (Fire that is)

Sued by hardware? (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050860)

HP & Dell Face Lawsuits From Exploding Hardware

I hate it when my computer sues me!

Wow (0, Offtopic)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050870)

All jokes aside(sorry) these are some serious bullshit lawsuits. This is kind of like sueing a car company for being seriously injured when you crashed into the pole. Any high electric-use device is "likely" to cause an electrical fire. I don't see how these irresponsible homeowners can sue HP? Should I go buy some laptops and place them on top of venting gas tanks and then when it explodes, sue sony?

Re:Wow (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051130)

Any high electric-use device is "likely" to cause an electrical fire.

It depends. If the fire came from having too many devices plugged into a wall outlet via ordinary splitter cables or the machines were covered in a layer of dust, then it is a stupid lawsuit.

However if the fire was caused by a faulty component or design, then I'd say they're within their right to sue. I'm not saying they'll win, but depending on the cause I'd say it's OK.

It's the duty of these companies to make sure their electronic products are up to snuff. They need to be designed well, manufactured well, and each one needs to go through testing before going out the door. Any modern electronic device is not "likely" to cause a fire, far from it. Any modern mass-produced electronic device should have a low chance of setting ablaze as long as it's used to spec.

Sure, you can say where there's current there's potential for destruction. But it's the responsibility of these companies to keep their products safe within a tolerable limit.

Re:Wow (1)

rant64 (1148751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052920)

They need to be designed well, manufactured well, and each one needs to go through testing before going out the door.

I haven't seen any of the big manufacturer's production lines lately, but I can imagine that many millions of dollars are spent on research that should lead to compatible and supportable products. HP and Dell don't just smash together a few components and call it a new product line; though this is probably more true for the server products than desktop products. How many DL380s have you heard of going up in smoke?

So, assuming that they didn't just skip the design, manufacturing and testing phase, you'll have to quantify "well" for your argument to hold. If they have shipped 50,000 of these systems (I have no idea) and 2 of them are technically 'not up to spec', then can the manufacturer be blamed for negligence?

Re:Wow (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22055224)

So, assuming that they didn't just skip the design, manufacturing and testing phase, you'll have to quantify "well" for your argument to hold. If they have shipped 50,000 of these systems (I have no idea) and 2 of them are technically 'not up to spec', then can the manufacturer be blamed for negligence?

Where safety's concerned, certain products have a fuzzy line and some are crystal clear. This one falls into fuzzy, and personally in this situation I don't know if I'd go through with it. But I can see why someone would.

Let's say I purchase a new car, and after a week of proper usage either the brakes fail or the rear differential freezes while I'm on the highway which results in a bad accident. After investigation it's found that a manufacturing defect amplified a major design flaw resulting in a major error. Perhaps I'm the first of many, perhaps others occurred and nobody connected the dots, it doesn't matter.

Should the the responsible company (Ford, AC Delco, whoever) be exempt because they shrugged their shoulders and said they did their best? Or because I'm only #2 out of 50,000 cars? I'm not saying should they be sued, that's a judgment call on the wronged party, but is it unreasonable to consider a lawsuit? It's their responsibility to make a safe car, and if there turns out to be a flaw that negates the safety they should address it. A penalty shouldn't be out of line, if for no other reason than to ensure that they take more care in the future.

While we don't know all of the facts, this could turn out to be a similar situation. But the safety of an electronic consumer device that's typically made to be on 24/7 and in many environments should be made reliable.

Re:Wow (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051136)

You used the wrong like imo. Its more like your driving along and crash into a pole and die because the seat belt failed and came undone smashing your face into the windshield. Faulty PSU or any other hardware that might have caused this SHOULD be held responsible for their low quality. Plus you must remember we live in a world where coffee cups say warning contents might be hot.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22051868)

Correction, you live in a country where everyone supposedly have to be warned about everything. But anyway, PC's should not blow up in the first place, not just mention on a sticker "This PC might blow up" :)

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051186)

This is kind of like sueing a car company for being seriously injured when you crashed into the pole.

No, it's like suing Ford when your ignition system catches fire and burns your house down while parked in your garage. In fact, this happened to Ford; a design defect in the ignition actually did burn some houses down, and Ford settled without a suit and recalled the rest of the product; going to trial when you are at fault is stupid. And if your merchandise catches fire without its owner doing anything stupid, YOU are at fault.

Any high electric-use device is "likely" to cause an electrical fire.

Only if it is poorly designed and/or built. They've been doing electrical engineering for over a hundred years and there is no excuse for ANY appliance to catch fire.

Re:Wow (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051780)

Only if it is poorly designed and/or built. They've been doing electrical engineering for over a hundred years and there is no excuse for ANY appliance to catch fire.
I bet the only product Dell could manufacture that wouldn't catch fire is a holocaust cloak. Of course, if we only had a wheelbarrow, we'd really have something.

Yup. I'm repeatedy amazed ... (1)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051848)

I'm repeatedly amazed at how successful corporate media et al have been in demonizing the whole idea of lawsuits, especially "consumers" suing corporations. I wonder if some media-savvy gang member got the idea for the "Stop Snitchin'" campaign from this.

I suppose they were both inspired by the various forms of the "code of silence" encouraged by other criminal elements in society.

The parallels are rather striking.

Re:Yup. I'm repeatedy amazed ... (2, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052196)

What has me scratching my head is the recent bankrupcy "reform" that one of my Senators voted for (Obama, Senate campaign bankrolled by bankers) and how the (corporate owned) media has everyone thinking that awful law is a good thing.

All my life (I'm 55) if you declared bankrupcy you got to keep your primary residence and one automobile. Now they can leave you homeless and without transportation, and people think this is a GOOD thing.

The corporate owned media has us thinking that bankrupcy is primarily caused by bad financial decisions, but personal bankrupcy is almost always caused by divorce, job loss, or medical bills, none of which can be controlled by the person whose bankrupcy is caused by them.

In the US people don't like safety nets, it appears. Score one more for the corporations and the media and government they control.

The same with lawsuits. Take the infamous McDonald's suit. "Oh a lady sued McDonald's for spilled coffee". What the corporate-owned media doesn't stress (or even mention) that the coffee was boiling hot (not drinkable) and all the woman wanted was the medical bills for her THIRD DEGREE BURNS paid. The McClown's McLawyers refused to settle. I don't know about anybody else but if I have to sue you because you're an evil bastard who won't face up to your responsibilities, I'm going to take everything I can get!

If a monitor you sell me burns my house down it's not likely to be me that sues. More likely it will be my insurance company that does the suing.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22054520)

Only if it is poorly designed and/or built. They've been doing electrical engineering for over a hundred years and there is no excuse for ANY appliance to catch fire.

Well, maybe if it's a BBQ grill.

RTFM? (0, Troll)

evilklown (1008863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050902)

Knowing the "typical" computer user, I can't help but wonder if either/both of the incidents mentioned are RTFM errors. Maybe the autoshop guy thought his monitor ran on gasoline and the other guy thought he could turn his computer from air-cooled to water-cooled by submerging it in an icy bathtub... It's possible.

Re:RTFM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22051352)

submerging it in an icy bathtub
Yeah, I'm sure that is adding more fuel to the fire by having it in icy water in the first place.

1960s science fiction (1, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22050936)

Any other geezers out there remember how computers in movies and TV shows from the '60s (Star Trek, The Prisoner, James Bond) would explode and burn at the least provocation? A phaser shot would cause a Star Trek computer to explode and burn, and in one Prisoner episode a computer was made to explode and catch fire simply by asking it "why?" (rather than having it give the correct answer, 42).

It seems that Dell and HP are making the 1960s science fiction a reality!

-mcgrew
(latest journal is in 5 parts)

but computers are so warm and fuzzy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22050982)

the new economy is so much different than the old! how can genius digital people possibly be responsible for anything bad happening in this crazy, mixed up world?

strange brew that's good for you, free to copy too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22050988)

That would be Kombucha.

Re:strange brew that's good for you, free to copy (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051092)

The Kombucha Mushroom People?

New line of PC's (1)

lancelotlink (958750) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051008)

Walmart is releasing their new line, the Adobe PC - C4 edition

First Read that as... (2, Funny)

TheKubrix (585297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051022)

HP & Dell Seek Patent For Exploding Hardware

Re:First Read that as... (3, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051744)

HP & Dell Seek Patent For Exploding Hardware
Starfleet counter-sues, claims prior art.

Don't think of it as burning computer... (1)

superatrain (842910) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051042)

...Think of it as free heating! Not so much if your the owner, but imagine how the neighbors must feel: Toasty and warm! Then again, they wouldn't be too happy if these events occurred during the summer.

That's ok... (1, Flamebait)

sinthetek (678498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051100)

if there's one thing society continues to prove, it's that endangering the general public is completely justifiable as long as it is done by a big business.

It doesn't matter how low Walmart demanded the prices, it is no excuse for distributing dangerous products. Either take the drop in profit or tell Walmart to find someone who can/pay more. Can beef distributors start shipping mad-cow meat because grocery store/shoppers demand lower prices? How about if Valvoline starts watering down their brake fluid because Autozone wants something cheaper?

Believe it or not, not everyone who shops at Walmart or risks buying something cheaper does it because they are retarded, it's because they are deluded into believing big businesses/governments won't try to completely exploit them and because their resources/needs leave them little other choice. Walmart has been selling PCs for years, I remember seeing them for $500-700 a long time ago... apparently they didn't sell that well. I guess poor people don't deserve computers

Re:That's ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22051538)

Alternately, the message I get from people these days is that it is ok to sue, tax, and regulate, but only as long as it is only big businesses you're hurting. I'm not saying the particular big businesses in this case don't deserve it -- I'm not familiar enough with the whole 'exploding computer' story to understand it in the propper context -- but just because a business is big and a business does not mean it's evil. Internet sacrelige, I know.

Re:That's ok... (1)

sinthetek (678498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052264)

From a logical standpoint, any crime/misdeed becomes more immoral/unethical as the necessity decreases. That necessity decreases as other resources increase. In other words, the more resources available to an entity, the more wrongful it is to abuse them. A great man once wrote "With great power comes great responsibility".

Bigger business are, and deserve to be, criticized more for their misdeeds. They have more resources at their disposal to mitigate any problems they encounter and their misdeeds harm way more people than any individual or small business. Bigger and more powerful entities deserve more criticism because there is more potential for harm.

I know if I sold something that burned someone's house down, I would very likely be in jail regardless of if it was a mistake. It would be considered irresponsible/negligence and they would probably be right. Noone would care how poor the victims are. Even if I had inexperience/debt/desparation in my defense, I would still be held in disdain by everyone and prosecuted/sued despite having no money and a much worse chance of ever recovering. Large companies have no such excuses. Multi-million dollar budgets, experienced/educated staff etc...

The only reason in many cases against large companies is negligence and/or greed -- err... "responsible business practices" which is A-OK with many people. IMO, even if they are on the verge of bankruptcy, intentionally neglecting to properly test equiptment and/or endangering lives unnecessarily is atrocious.

P.S. This comment was supposed to be a reply to someone else's statement that it's walmart's fault for 'demanding' lower price PCs. That is not an excuse to exploit your customer, only to reject/deny them. The only way Walmart could be at fault here is if they were warned that they could be a fire hazard and didn't relay any such warning to customers (which could be the case for all I know)

Jackie Childs says: (1)

notgm (1069012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051104)

If the monitor hasn't lit, you *must* acquit.

Two monitors burnt (4, Interesting)

All Names Have Been (629775) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051126)

In our office, we've had two monitors burn - one just with smoke pouring out of it, and one with nice flames coming out the top. They were both old, and it looks like dust inside was the culprit. Unplugging the monitors in both cases pretty much stopped the fire. I'm actually surprised this doesn't happen more often.

Re:Two monitors burnt (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051756)

Funnily enough, back when our company ran on green screen Wyse 60 terminals (sadly this side of 2000), the most likely way for one of them to die was with a very loud *bang* and a significant amount of smoke pouring out the back for some time.

Chinese Fire Drill (0, Flamebait)

Ranger (1783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051190)

I do wonder where those components were made. I wouldn't be surprised if those burning exploding items were made in China. It's not like they don't sell us poison dog food, lead coated or date rape drug toys.

Tinfoil Hat time (1)

HunterZ (20035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051224)

Works out good for Sony, whose batteries were the ones exploding in their competitors' laptops.

Re:Tinfoil Hat time (1)

Reigo Reinmets (1035336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051292)

Damn, you beat me with that idea in just under 1 minute :)

copyright infringement! (1)

Reigo Reinmets (1035336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051244)

I'm sure Sony lawyers could think up a way to Sue them for this also! After all, they are the most leading and on the cutting-edge on this type of ... ee... Technology :)

The RC Airplane Hobbyists found a solution... (1)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051466)

I saw a video for something called a "LiPo Sack", a bad that people who use these high-density batteries can use to keep the batteries in while they're charging. Cool video of batteries exploding! [youtube.com]
--
Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

More common than you might think... (2, Interesting)

codegen (103601) | more than 6 years ago | (#22051580)

I have a friend who had a monitor catch fire. In his words: "There was a pop, a cloud of smoke, and a little flame inside my monitor last night." It was not an old monitor either.

Unlike Dell or HP, Microsoft Immune (1)

AppleTwoGuru (830505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052068)

This is why Microsoft has a lot of money. While I don't like Microsoft for most of the reasons of their existence, in pure business dollars, they were smart to offload the burden of hardware onto other companies, early on (while they "owned" the distribution and development channels.) Then they would not have to deal with cases such as the ones that Dell, HP, and Apple have had to deal with in the past. In recent years, trying to market the XBOX, they soon realized why they didn't want to get into the hardware side in the first place. You can hide imperfections easier in closed source software. (In open Source software, any knowledgeable person can see and even fix the imperfections.) The imperfections these other companies have to deal with are obvious. And of course, I have never seen software explode. Oh wait... BSOD.

MS should also be named as a defendant.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22052892)

Because whenever an airplane crashes, every vendor who supplied any component of that aircraft gets sued and loses, regardless of whether or not the component had anything at all to do with why the airplane crashed, even in cases where pure pilot error was the reason, because every component on the aircraft influences how the pilot flies the aircraft.

MS supplies a component for those computers and the Windows operating system definitely influences the power consumption characteristics of the hardware, so it shouldn't be too hard at all for a lawyer worth his weight in dirt to be able to explain to a jury why MS bear shoulder a portion of the blame.

The "Q" in compaQ (1)

mediapassword (1019998) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052172)

I worked in their former support department in Ottawa. For us, the "Q" in Compaq stood for "Qombustible".

I've seen monitors in auto shops.... (2, Interesting)

eth1 (94901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052562)

...and the are filth-captial-E! I'm sure the thick layer of dust mixed with oily residue inside the monitor had NOTHING to do with this.

I'm willing to be the other one is similar... cat or dog hair, maybe?

I can think of a couple of good ones (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052826)

Fight Club:
A computer leaves a Wal-mart going 40 mph. Once home it bursts into flame, destroying the house and "Fluffy," the family dog. My job is to apply "The Formula." X, the number of cases of this happening times Y, the average lawsuit payout. If X times Y is less than the cost of a recall... we don't do one.
Which PC manufacturer did you say you work for?
A major one.

Or visual:
User switches on PC (*Click*)
Cut to stock footage of Atomic bomb exploding.

UL Listed/CE Approval? (2, Insightful)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22052930)

Anyone know if the equipment in question has been tested by Underwriters Laboratories or the equivalent Canadian/European counterparts?

I'm wondering if the problem is strictly a design flaw or a manufacturing quality issue (though I would suspect a combination of both). If it's the primarily the former, then I would have to say that the testing firms that put their logo on the case just lost some credibility.

But then again, I can't say that I know anyone that specifically looks for the UL/CE/CSA logo on the box before they purchase something that they plug into their wall nowadays.

Re:UL Listed/CE Approval? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22054130)

That doesn't matter much. I've seen systems go up in smoke and everything was perfectly in order from an approval standpoint. One was caused by one of the infamous electrolytic capacitors we had fun with a few years ago, and one was a manufacturing defect in a backplane that caused a slow short between a power layer and ground.

I can see a simple solution: Develop a cable that either opens or shorts out hard when it gets too hot. String that next to some of the high power components and in the area where airflow would cause flames to go. Run the power to the device through that wire. When the power is off the flames will go out - that's a UL requiremnet for all materials.

Fireprotection (1)

einar2 (784078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22053950)

Well, although I would not expect an off-the-shelf PC to catch fire, I always felt strange about my self assembled PCs. Let's face it, there are components in my server which were never certified to work together. And this machine runs day and night.
However, there is a simple solution: a small Cyprian company (FirePro http://www.firepro.info/products.php [firepro.info] ) offers aerosol fire extinguishers. You can basically have a protection solution like it is used in data centers; --- but on a shoestring budget.

So far it was not put to the test but it feels like proactive insurance.

Where's the UL (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22054038)

Where's the UL [ul.com] while all this is going on? Or the NFPA [nfpa.org] ?


Its possible that these incidents are statistically insignificant given the number of products sold that don't explode. Or there would be new rules proposed in the codes to address these problems. These folks just live for writing new rules. In fact, there are some pretty strict rules covering electrical installations in hazardous locations like gas stations. Its just that no construction code can keep someone from running an extension cord and plugging in a PC around gas fumes.

What a sue happy society.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22055668)

Yeah, so what, a computer and a monitor caught fire. Considering all the computers out there, two lawsuits are minuscule. Probably even more minuscule are the numbers of computers that have caught fire...

How many televisions have caught fire? Toasters? Extension cords? Hair driers?... I think you get the point... Electronics fail, and some times that creates fire..

Geezzzz... nothing to see here.... OLD NEWS, but a couple of money hungry people.

(It is a shame the girl got hurt, and I can understand wanting compensation for that, but LIFE HAPPENS!)

Coming soon to a cheap piece of hardware near you! (3, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22055688)

I've seen a desktop PC or two ignite - not just smoke, but a nice flamey burnout. The source of the problem in every one I've inspected was an electrolytic capacitor failure. Those components are under a lot of stress when they're used in switch-mode power circuits - such as the main power supply or the CPU voltage regulator.

Fortunately, these fires self-extinguish very quickly when you disconnect the power - if your PC (or whatever random piece of tech) starts smoking / burning, pull the plug. These failures are only really dangerous in unattended machines - then this failure can and does result in a fire.

Those little capacitors are relatively expensive, and manufacturers who are doing everything they can to shave costs discover they can replace the low-ESR computer grade electrolytics with cheap aluminum electrolytics - and then take it another step by sourcing the cheapest cheap caps they can buy. They manufactures know that this choice will result in a much shorter life for the equipment but those failures will occur after the warranty has expired so it's OK with them.

Remember this next time you buy yet another power supply for your computer. It could have lasted 10 or more years, but the manufacturer saved a couple of bucks on the components so it died after a year or two. A fire caused by these cheap parts is actually fairly rare - less than one in a thousand machines (probably much less).

The way to eliminate the majority of these fires? The manufacturers should spend the money it takes to use the right components - capacitors designed and rated for high temperature / switch-mode operation. That would also make power supplies last the life of the machine, slightly reduce power consumption, etc. But as long as consumers insist on the lowest price for products the manufactures will continue to give them what they are asking for.

Imagine a shelf at the computer parts store: there's two different 400 watt PC power supplies for sale. One sells for $40 and the one next to it speaks of high quality parts and long lifetime and sells for $60. Which one do you think most consumers would buy?

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