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Portables Hardware

Dell Laptops Have Shocking New Problem 475

dapsychous writes "A friend of one of my coworkers has noticed a problem in Dell notebook computers (also covered in this engadget article about a problem that has been popping up lately in Dell 17" notebook computers). It seems that these computers are putting out between 19 and 139 (65 according to article, 139 according to him) volts of AC power as measured from any chassis screw vs. earth ground. This has led to several problems including fried ram, blown video circuits, and a stout zap on his left hand. According to him, Dell has tried to keep him quiet about the problem and has even gone so far as to have him banned from a few websites, and threatened him with legal action if he tells people about the problem."
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Dell Laptops Have Shocking New Problem

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  • Non-repro? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gcnaddict ( 841664 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:24PM (#17921860)
    I'm running an E1705 (manufactured in May of last year) and I'm not seeing this. Maybe his unit just sucks at grounding. (They're called manufacturing defects for a reason, and last I checked, they're covered by warranty and by law.)
  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <.ardrake79. .at.> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:28PM (#17921918) Homepage doesn't get much more reliable than that!
  • Re:Non-repro? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tongo ( 644233 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:31PM (#17921982)
    I don't think the story is about the shock. The story is about how Dell tried to shut him up.

    Maybe the guy should be carefull so that he don't sleep with da fishes.
  • Re:Oh shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:31PM (#17921986) Homepage Journal

    *sigh*, Is there not a company we can trust anymore?
    Has there ever been?
  • Right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EveryNickIsTaken ( 1054794 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:31PM (#17921992)
    Sounds like someone broke their labtop and is pissed that Dell won't replace it for free.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:32PM (#17921996)
    Why are individual gripes making it to /.? What is the statistical significance of this observation?

    A single manufacuring defect (if that is the problem) isn't worthy of /.

    Also, did the "friend" modify the laptop at all? Perhaps disassemble it or otherwise "improve" it?

    We've all gotten a lemon at one time or the other.

    Stop griping... get a life.
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:32PM (#17921998) Homepage Journal
    The articles are rather light on details, but I'm wondering if some of these people are using their laptops on a couch and sliding a bit when they sit down? I've had an Inspiron 6000 for a bit over a year now and I've learned in the winter to be careful to set it aside when I'm getting on or off of the couch, lest the static electricity give me a nice zap.

    The fact that he's measuring AC (which is very surprising since the laptops don't have any ready access to AC outside of the power brick AFAIK) make it less likely though.
  • You trust them? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:35PM (#17922050) Homepage Journal
    i will be calling Dell ASAP to see if I am affected.

    Um, and why would you expect them to give you a straight answer? They'll probably just play dumb and say they've never heard of the problem. (Which will probably be true, at least for the drone you'll be talking to.)

    Get out a voltmeter and test it; that would seem to be the easiest solution, and less likely to lie to your face than some Customer Service rep. Probably faster, too.

    Until a problem like this becomes terribly public -- and by this I mean more public than just being covered on some technology websites -- I suspect Dell will deny it, except in cases where people absolutely insist that they have a problem, and demand a replacement. In those cases, they'll get a replacement machine just to shut them up.

    So I'd just get out the old multimeter, measure the AC voltage from one of the chassis screws to the nearest good ground, and if it's more than a few millivolts, call Dell and tell (not ask) them that you need a replacement unit.
  • Re:Oh shit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:40PM (#17922122)
    I know it's fashionable here to bash corporate America and all, but not all companies are big bad corps with a will to shaft you out of your hard-earned money. I trust many big companies because they provide quality products and never tried to screw me, and I trust even more small companies, and if you think about it, I'm sure you do too.

    That said though, Dell isn't in my white list, that's for sure. Michael Dell is in for the money, period...
  • by technoextreme ( 885694 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:41PM (#17922128)
    This guy is measuring a voltage that is higher than our main voltage by twenty volts. Ten volts is plausible but twenty????
  • by Baron Eekman ( 713784 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:46PM (#17922228)
    How does static electricity get you an AC current?
  • by trailerparkcassanova ( 469342 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:56PM (#17922354)
    He needs to have a good ground. He's using the metal case of another PC as ground so he might just as well be measuring the voltage off the PC case.
  • Ummm....what?

    Look, I was in charge of IT at this company. My job was to keep people running and give them the tools they needed to do their jobs. The user in question could not have cared less if I had given her a ThinkPad, an exact-same replacement Dell, or an OLPC. was used for email and looking at pr0n. At least that's what the majority of the people in her department did all day.

    So she got a brand new laptop and I got to use one that was somewhat more powerful and useful than the ones most people there had at the time. So freakin' what? I didn't defraud anybody. I didn't put it on eBay. The only (admittedly misplaced) trust violated here was that I trusted the readers of this post to understand WTF I was talking about.

    I know it must be hard to live in a world where everybody wants to give you a wedgie and makes fun of your lack of personal hygiene. But rather than just lash out randomly at people as a way to vent your frustration, maybe you need to look in a mirror and see if you can figure out what's wrong with you and try to do something about it.

    See that? I just called you a goober and don't even know if you are. I just inferred it from your post. I expect I'm probably right, but it's still not an exact science.

    So go back under your bridge or wherever trolls live these days and STFU until you have something constructive to say.
  • by Kismet ( 13199 ) < minus painter> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @02:43PM (#17923930) Homepage
    Let's see... Here are the elements required for achieving front page on Digg:

    3rd-hand rumor, preferably from a newsgroup post or blog (check!)
    Personal gripe (check!)
    Conspiracy against the accuser (check!)
    Some sort of advocacy for or against a vendor or company (check!)

    It's the four-point-proof of adolescence!

    And it's coming to Slashdot.

    Or maybe I'm just now noticing.
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @03:21PM (#17924460) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that even if the current is miniscule, humans can feel as little as 1 mA. The LED lighting incident commented on earlier shows that the current is at least 1 mA, if not more.

    The issue is that a laptop shouldn't be leaking any current. None. A circuit designed as you suggested is a potential lawsuit - if a capacitor shorts, the user gets full line current - not a very good idea. A person can be electrocuted well before a circuit protection device trips.

  • Re:Paraguay too! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gnavpot ( 708731 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @03:57PM (#17924946)

    Last year while visiting my parents in law in Paraguay, I touched their desktop PC chassis, and got a nice shock. I had a test light in my laptop bag, and sure enough, enough current going from the case to ground to light it up.

    They told me this is quite common there.
    It is quite common, also in the western world, and there is a perfectly good explanation:

    Many countries require by law that an ungrounded metal chassis has a "fake ground" which is made by connecting the chassis to both phase and null through capacitors. This way you will get an electric potential of the chassis which is half the phase voltage.
  • Ever? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:53PM (#17925618) Journal
    Of course they can fail. Solder joints can come loose, the capacitors themselves could have a undetected defect that becomes more apparent over time. As for factory testing, in a perfect would we could be sure that every one of the millions of units sold had every component that should be tested checked out properly, but the facts of life say that sometimes this doesn't happen, either due to accident, equipment issues (faulty testing/manufacturing equipment), human error if applicable, and even due to *gasp* cost cutting (like let's test every 1 of 3 and call the rest good).

    There is no absolute, and no "doesn't fail, ever."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @05:00PM (#17925696)
    On what grounds would this be a valid case? Once you sell something to someone that they own (not license), you cannot tell them what they can and cannot do with it so long as you do not cross any other lines and violate someone's privacy[.]

    That's not the case in the USA, or anywhere else with DMCA-style laws. Buy an XBox and you own it, not just license it - at least the hardware. Add a mod chip - to the hardware, don't touch the software in the ROM - and you've broken the law. You bought it, you paid for it, you own it... but actually, you don't. Sure, it can be argued that it's really the firmware that is "protected" by the DMCA, and you license the firmware instead of buying it, but that's a smoke screen: for all practical purposes, what is being restricted is your use of the hardware which you bought outright.

    Refilling printer cartridges is a similar situation, though the case law there is less clear because the courts have sometimes (not always) made the right decision.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:14PM (#17928948)
    So from the huge discussion off the originating site we have: Dell is improperly grounding some laptops with a 2 prong cord which may cause buildup of electricity which is harmful to the laptop in the longterm. It may even "tingle" under use in some situations. In typical large corporation fashion it is very good to rubbish in how it handles the situation depending on which person you happen to talk to.

    From the slashdot blurb we have: A Big Evil Corporation is Keeping The Little Man Down by threatening him with lawyers and black helicopters if he mentions anything to the public about how the laptops can turn humans into Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    Come on Slashdot.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?