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Dell Laptops Still Exploding 186

Posted by Zonk
from the free-light-show dept.
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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Dell Laptops Still Exploding

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  • by sugapablo (600023) on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:49PM (#20376113) Homepage
    ...what MacBook model went up in flames? (He types from his MacBook.)
  • Insurance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:50PM (#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?
    • by rubycodez (864176) on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:57PM (#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.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 27, 2007 @05:23PM (#20376509) Journal
        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."
        • by rubycodez (864176)
          and when the Iranian Republican Guard starts supplying Dell laptops to the Iraqi insurgents, then by Gawd, it's time to regime change Iran!
      • Better yet, file a claim with the insurance company and let THEM sue Dell to recoup their costs!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chirs (87576)
      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.
    • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:51PM (#20376125)
    if my dell explodes on a plane, is that a suicide bombing? I'm assuming that I'd be dead, of course.
  • It was bucking bental.
  • Editors?!? (Score:2, Informative)

    by thehickcoder (620326)
    A) What is a bamalance?
    2) This is Columbus, GA not Columbus, OH.
    • Re:Editors?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cooley (261024) on Monday August 27, 2007 @05:07PM (#20376327) Homepage
      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"....
    • by aquabat (724032)

      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.
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        "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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by haakondahl (893488)
      Now I know what the rock band Ram Jam was saying.
      Whoo-oa black betty, bamalance!
      Who-ooo-oa black betty ba,alance!
      [repeats a lot]
  • by solafide (845228) on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:53PM (#20376157) Homepage
    I want a ride in an bamalance, myself, I'll happily have my laptop explode to get a ride.
  • It's obvious the user here was overclocking his laptop.
  • by Howzer (580315) * <grabshot@hot[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:57PM (#20376211) Homepage Journal
    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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ookabooka (731013)
      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 fla
      • by Howzer (580315) *
        >>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
        • by ookabooka (731013)
          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 f
          • by Howzer (580315) *
            >>would you expect a car to spontaneously combust?

            Ah, you know they do, right?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto [wikipedia.org]

            Actually the analogy with the Ford Pinto is pretty exact. Read the "Safety Problems" part of that wikipedia page.
            • by ookabooka (731013)
              The pinto didn't explode under normal use but instead had a a low tolerance during a (rear-end) crash. If I fling my laptop at the wall I'd be much less surprised if it burst into flames. A more correct analogy would be a car that bursts into flames under normal use.
        • Yes, high-capacity batteries can fail.

          But AFAIK, I have yet to hear about any catastrophic failures of HP/Compaq laptop batteries. If the Dell/Apple/etc. battery fireworks were random catastrophic failures, I would expect failure count for each manufacturer to be roughly proportional to market share... but the failures are centered around specific product runs from select manufacturers, which hints at production problems in some specific Li-ion production runs at specific production plants in more-or-less s
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      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.

      • by Howzer (580315) *
        >>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, 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
    • by blhack (921171) *
      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.
      • by Howzer (580315) *
        >>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,
    • by Draek (916851) on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:07PM (#20377731)

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

      which is another reason to use Sony's sugar-powered batteries. If the thing bursts into flames, at least you'll get a nice dose of caramel =D

    • The mortality rate for flu is around 0.1%. For SARS it was close to 20%. Personally I'd think that was reason enough to panic. You must be really brave. How many times have you had the flu? Care to try out SARS for a change?
      • by bentcd (690786)

        The mortality rate for flu is around 0.1%. For SARS it was close to 20%. Personally I'd think that was reason enough to panic.
        We would also need to know the respective infection rates though. If flu infects 200 times more easily, then the two are about equally dangerous (which is to say, not very much). We should probably also take propagation into account, but that's about where my scant virology knowledge ends so we might as well not.
  • by RichMan (8097) on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:58PM (#20376223)
    seriously, it looks like they are more of a proven hazard than water
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday August 27, 2007 @05:00PM (#20376239) Homepage
    It's all about the Sony batteries. It's misleading to say "Dell" or "Macbook." They (and many other makers) are using Sony batteries.
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      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
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mundocani (99058)
        I think you're right that there could be many causes, but given the problems in the recent past with Sony's batteries (the problem of them having metal fragments in them causing internal shorts and subsequent flame-outs), I don't think it's too much of a stretch to start out assuming the battery might be the source of the problem.

        Would over-temperature detection/shutoff prevent those shorts from destroying the battery, or is it a purely internal thing such that it would continue even if you took the battery
    • by arivanov (12034)
      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.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Headcase88 (828620)
        Compounding this, most /. editors and readers hate Sony (with good reason), so any time they fuck up in any department (except maybe games), you can expect to see it on the front page.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Headcase88 (828620)
      So in effect they outsourced their battery production to Sony. They're still responsible for the final product and they have chosen to continue using Sony batteries after several have exploded.

      I don't recall people having much patience for companies whose games used particularly bad DRM made by other companies, I think this falls in the same category. Similarly, If x outsources their tech support to shitty company y (to reduce costs), people will still blame x for providing shitty tech support.

      That said
  • Thank God no one actually had them on their lap.
    • by dryueh (531302)
      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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2007 @05:01PM (#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.
    • by tomhudson (43916)
      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.

    • by Zaphod-AVA (471116) on Monday August 27, 2007 @11:06PM (#20379823)
      I'd be willing to bet it has more to do with the fan optimization then the 7200 drive. Granted, they produce more heat, but the cooling system in the laptop should be able to tolerate it.

      This fellow has written some decent, small footprint software that lets a user directly manage the fans and Intel Speedstep settings on many Dell laptop models. Anyone using a Dell laptop that gets a bit warm should check it out.

      http://www.diefer.de/i8kfan/index.html [diefer.de]
  • 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. Mi

    • by ivan256 (17499)
      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?
      • by tompaulco (629533)
        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 afterward
        • by ivan256 (17499)
          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?
        • by Ajehals (947354)
          I assume that the situation you describe is in the US, mainly because outside of car insurance, I have not seen an insurance policy rise after a claim has been made against it, both personally and anecdotally. I seems that if insurance companies are not having to pay for small items (well items whose replacement value is greater than any excess you may be required to pay) then their cover is pretty much worthless.

          The amount you spend on contents insurance is typically enough that you cover the any one clai
  • 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, the
    • by Chirs (87576)
      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?
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Yes, you are correct. You collect from your insurance company. They pay you, and it is now their problem as to whether they can collect from Dell. If they do, it becomes Dells problem as to whether or not they can collect from Sony. This goes down the chain until someone decides the cannot collect enough money to make it worth while, or there isn't enough responsibility left to collect from the next person down the line.
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 27, 2007 @05:02PM (#20376263) Journal
    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.
    • When you drop a LiPo battery you are supposed to stop using it. I wonder just how many people do that?

      I bet... none.

      That's called "Consumer Negligence".

      Same with charging laptops buried int the blankets on your bed or immediately after retreiving it from the car where the temp was 140 deg... the list goes on and on and on.

      LiPo's and older Li-Ion batteries are SO amazingly unstable outside a very VERY narrow range of temps and charge states not to mention physically "fragile", they probably really shouldn't
  • 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.
  • 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
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:20PM (#20377147)
    as long as long as you can control it, and as long as it has a cool sounding countdown.
  • 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".. Lithi

    • by bentcd (690786)

      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?
      Intentionally carrying around a ticking time bomb and keeping it on your lap, all just to be fashionable, isn't exactly what I would call "wimpy" . . .
  • ...you're getting a desktop.

    (as a replacement)

    Right?
  • For over a month I tried to get a replacement for my D820 - which isn't on the recall list.

    They told me 3 times it would go out overnight but didn't. Finally, I had a "manager" on the customer service chat swear she would get it resolved and it would ship overnight. HOWEVER, when I tried to pin her down to when it would SHIP, she wouldn't give a date at all and claimed it could take up to 8 days to get it "in the system".

    08/25/2007 03:38:40PM Agent (Khushboo Sharma): "The replacement order will be sent to
  • I find the 1st link under the story very apt:

    Firehose:Dell laptops still exploding
  • Apparently Laptop Batteries are the new Thermite or now made of thermite...
  • When someone asks if you have insurance, you say YES! Then go to your renter's/home insurance agent and give them the FULL story. If they behave anything like the auto insurance industry, they will use all their legal muscle to recover costs.

    Imagine a headline saying "Dell sued for exploding battery insurance company payments" for all those users who called their insurance companies.

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