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Laptop Explodes at Japanese Conference 531

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the glad-it-wasn't-on-a-lap dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A laptop reported to be a Dell burst into flame and was caught on camera during a recent Japanese conference. Guess this laptop could be a poster child to prove that laptops really can cause sterility if they are on your lap."
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Laptop Explodes at Japanese Conference

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  • by PSXer (854386) * <psxer@msfirefox.com> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:29AM (#15576048) Homepage
    Don't put batteries in laptops! They can explode!
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:30AM (#15576059) Homepage Journal
    laptops really can cause sterility if they are on your lap

    I've built balls of steel lugging that thing around. Not even an exploding Sunblade100 could sterilize my boys.

  • by aleksiel (678251) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:31AM (#15576064)
    ... hackers [dbeyr.com]
  • by MrSquirrel (976630) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:32AM (#15576066)
    Perhaps this is a sign that computers (through the mega-computing power of the internet) have become self-aware. This is just the start to their war against the fleshlings... I mean, what better way to take out your opponent than to get him to put you in his lap, then you detonate yourself -- even if you don't destroy him, you take out his ability to reproduce. Fear the machines!
  • by HardCase (14757) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:32AM (#15576069)
    From the article:

    Should you witness such an event, his advice is, "Don't try anything courageous/stupid, stay away, away, away!"

    But take pictures first!

    -h-
  • by mfh (56)
    Good thing this wasn't on the guy's lap.
  • by EnderGT (916132) <<ten.nozirev> <ta> <k2tgredne>> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:33AM (#15576075)
    While it's never caught fire, my Latitude D600 can get quite hot after several hours of World of Warcraft/Call of Duty/etc.

    The hard drive is right under the left palm-rest area, and it has quite literally burned my hand several times. It's not suprising to me to see one on fire.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:16PM (#15576911) Homepage
      You think the D600 get's hot?

      When the D600 battery goes defective they can get insane hot to melt the case plastic a bit when left on the charger.

      Of the fleet of D600's we have here (190 laptops) I have replaced about 50% of the batteries and of them 25% damaged the laptop case. (laptops were rolled out last year this time.)

      I'm betting the laptop in the photos is a D600 with a bad battery that was left on the charger for a long time causing it to fail dramatically.

      My D800 and D400 both get insane hot but the D600 is the only one that scares me.
  • Weird (Score:4, Funny)

    by linvir (970218) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:35AM (#15576088)

    Having just looked at pictures of an exploding laptop, and been warned to "avoid actually using a laptop on your lap", here I am happily typing away with my laptop sat in my lap as ever (with the usual book underneath to keep the CPU from burning out).

    But then mine is a fairly old thinkpad [linuxvirus.net] that runs quite cool, usually ~45 degrees. The one that exploded looks more modern (it is a Dell, after all).

    There, nicely rationalised away so as I can get back to my life

  • by scrabbleguy (980944) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:35AM (#15576094) Homepage
    'Liar liar, pants on fire."
  • can't wait (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:36AM (#15576097)
    I can't wait till we get hydrogen fuel cells in our laptops!
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:36AM (#15576099)
    It's on the Inquirer, but they have a picture. Who do I believe, my eyes or my head?
  • Actually... (Score:2, Funny)

    by DaSenator (915940)
    ...the Dell, being the subject of a long standing flame war, finally succumbed to the last battle of its painfully long life.

    (It'd be ironic if somehow I got modded down with a "Flamebait")
  • by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:36AM (#15576102)
    Guess this laptop could be a poster child to prove that laptops really can cause sterility if they are on your lap

    Am I the only person out there who thinks that sterility is a good thing? I can buy thousands of high end laptops for what one kid costs.
    • Laptops can't... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@pacbe l l . n et> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:46AM (#15576188) Homepage
      Mow your lawn
      Make your lunch
      Give you a hug
      Smile
      Hold your hand
      Carry your bag
      Laugh
      Get sick
      Cry
      Call you at work
      Run into you

      No matter how many laptops you buy, you won't be able to share your life, your lessons, your beliefs, or your ideas with a laptop. Though if you get sterilized, at least you can adopt a kid.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        wreck your car
        steal your money
        kill you in your sleep and run off with your daughter
        go crazy in high school and shoot a lot of people
        get pregnant
        get someone pregnant

        I for one would be happy to see more people sterilized, but voluntarily and not by exploding laptops.
      • Re:Laptops can't... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LinuxHam (52232) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:56AM (#15576752) Homepage Journal
        No matter how many laptops you buy, you won't be able to share your life, your lessons, your beliefs, or your ideas with a laptop.

        You obviously don't run an ALICE bot [alicebot.org] :) Its the closest thing to producing a digital "mini me", created after your own image. Learning from your lessons. Following your beliefs. Remembering your ideas forever.
  • ... and had been given conflicting data by windows XP. And in the tried
    and tested manner of computers from Star Trek in that situation, it blew up.
  • by Pink Tinkletini (978889) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:37AM (#15576111) Homepage
    ...I'd kill myself too.
  • I thought someome told Kusanagi to stop diving into random portables.
  • Imagine.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:39AM (#15576128) Homepage Journal
    ..an exploding beowulf cluster of these things!
  • Temperature issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThinkingInBinary (899485) <thinkinginbinary&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:39AM (#15576134) Homepage

    Perhaps this will convince manufacturers to start thinking about the temperatures that their computers run at. Sure, they make sure that the processor and hard drive run below their rated maximum temperatures, but in a practical sense, they've been letting computers run too hot. My Asus M2400Ne runs pretty cool most of the time, but the hard drive and AC adapter (both the power brick and the plug) can get so hot that they burn you a little if you hold them for a few seconds. This is ridiculous. You can't build a product that reaches insane temperatures, and then stick a little label that says "Do not use with less than 3 feet of space next to eachvent" on it! Let's see some better cooling. Personally, I think a laptop with one big (4 to 6 inches), slowly rotating fan in the middle of the bottom, plus exhaust vents on the sides and back, would actually look nice, keep the laptop much cooler (no more "hot spots" on the keyboard), and run quietly. (You'd need rubber feet to hold it up enough, but most bottom vents need them.) This would probably also help with blocked vents, since it's much harder to block a huge circle-shaped vent in the middle of the case than a small square vent near the side, where the laptop is likely to rest on your leg.

    • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker@gmDALIail.com minus painter> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:45AM (#15576180) Journal
      Let's see some better cooling. Personally, I think a laptop with one big (4 to 6 inches), slowly rotating fan in the middle of the bottom, plus exhaust vents on the sides and back, would actually look nice, keep the laptop much cooler (no more "hot spots" on the keyboard), and run quietly.

      Or just underclock it, most people don't want or need that much horsepower on the road. They should have a human adjustable clock (instead of the tech adjustable multiplier etc) so that the average user can keep their laptop cool. Then if they need to run heavy stuff, they can crank it up and take it off their lap.
    • the laptop probably had a li-polymer battery which i know for a fact will explode and catch fire if too hot or if improperly charged. I fly RC airplanes and the electric planes are coming with li-polymer and if you charge them wrong or apply too much heat they will explode and catch fire.
    • Personally, I think a laptop with one big (4 to 6 inches), slowly rotating fan in the middle of the bottom, plus exhaust vents on the sides and back, would actually look nice, keep the laptop much cooler (no more "hot spots" on the keyboard), and run quietly.

      Not gonna work unless the case is humongous for a laptop. The problem with a vent in the center is that of the air will flow from the side vent that is least obstructed (eg, not the one which would force air over the HD) -- you'd end up with pockets of

    • by treads_water (472573) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:35AM (#15576602)
      It's not the temperature of the CPU that I think is the issue. It's the amount of energy stored in the battery. A Lithium Ion battery has an energy density [answers.com] that is less than an order of magnitude from that of TNT!


      So, if your battery weighs two pounds, you have the potential energy of roughly a third pound of TNT -- more than enough to cause some serious damage.

      I for one don't want to be killed by keyboard shrapnel!

  • "It is only a matter of time until such an incident breaks out on a plane"

    Hmmm, sounds like a great idea for a movie...
  • The photographer says

    It is only a matter of time until such an incident breaks out on a plane

    I say that it wouldn't cause much harm to the flight unless it happened just next to the pilots or something. It _shouldn't_ cause much harm to the flight! Just a small fire, easy to put out, that's all. Imagine a large passenger flying machine, where this happens in the cabin. The pilots would probably not even notice until informed by the cabin crew afterwards. (Especially not nowadays with locked doors due to

  • Perhaps we need to find a new name for them other than "laptop." I'm certainly not putting my HP on my lap without a sheet of Space Shuttle tiles between me and it.

    • Those space shuttle tiles will protect your legs alright. Now, what about your chest, arms and face? Those will take the exact same amount of damage as if you were using it on a desk.

      The truth is that there is no point in worrying about this unless you happen to run a similar model to the one that went bang. Using your laptop on your lap or not is a mere detail (though sensationalised by the author of the linked page). The explosion itself is the real issue.

  • by Psykechan (255694) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:51AM (#15576228)
    I was going to make a joke linking this story and a recent story about an iBook catching fire [wcco.com] (on video as well) with Dell now listing Apple Mac OS X [tuaw.com] as a choice on their driver download page. This is serious though.

    People, do not use your laptop on carpet or in situations where it may not get ample ventilation. It can burst into flames and harm people or property... well definitely the laptop at least. Read your manuals and follow the disclaimers.

    Warning: Do not place your iBook G4 on a pillow or other soft material when it is on,
    as the material may block the airflow vents, in particular the rear vents, and cause the
    computer to overheat. -Apple iBook manual (Page 70)

  • The Fresh Maker (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Rule 1: Do not put Mentos in laptop.
  • ...is shout "OPA!", and smash a plate! (Like they do in Greek restaurants.)

  • I have a Dell Inspiron 9100 (looks just like the one pictured, on fire), and that sucker pulls 90 watts just sitting there, and over 110 when watching a movie!

    It's a couple years old.

    My wife just got a Dell E1505, and it's a faster machine, but only pulls 28 watts sitting there and 35 watching a movie.

    Unless you wire it right into the car battery, I can't even run my laptop with my 600 watt inverter, the inverter just can't get enough juice from the cigarette lighter.

    The E1505 can run right off the cigarett
  • by foo52 (980867) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:02AM (#15576329)
    Does Dell cover explosions in their warrenty?
  • by LordSnooty (853791) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:05AM (#15576368)
    I like the way that in the second picture, the laptop is still burning, yet just in the shot you can see some geek typing on another laptop, just a couple of feet away. Not even a fire can stop a geek from bashing out some code! Or maybe he's on IRC: "d00dz, a laptop just caught fire in front of me!!! Freaky!! Its still burnin..."
  • by bigattichouse (527527) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:08AM (#15576396) Homepage
    Was that laptop was web server host to the previous slashdot story?
  • by dpaton.net (199423) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:40AM (#15576638) Homepage Journal
    Very obviously a LiIon/LiPoly/LiEtc battery explosion. They go off like small bombs when abused to an extreme (short circuit, overcharge). My guess is that something went terribly wrong with the charge controller, and fried the pack. The phenomenon isn't news, just that some other failure caused it. It's unfortunate that it happened, but it's a good lesson about why extra care is needed with volatile technologies. As a EE, I can say with authority that it's easy to design a very safe battery management system. It's when production cost reduction folks get involved and cut corners that things often go wrong, or when someone thinks they can optimize something without a full understanding
    • by NotQuiteInsane (981960) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @03:41PM (#15578463) Homepage
      Must have been a pretty catastrophic failure. There are usually at least three levels of protection on any lithium-ion battery:
      • PTC cutoff switch - there's an overtemperature cutoff switch inside each Li-ion cell. If the cell gets too hot, the resettable cutoff switch disconnects the battery from the others. If it gets really, REALLY hot, then that cutoff becomes permanent. This is a last resort protection device, and should NOT be relied on to work. It's there to try and limit damage if everything else fails.
      • Protection circuit - monitors state-of-charge, voltage, temperature and input/output current of the battery. If the battery voltage is too low or too high, or if you try to overcharge or over discharge the pack, the circuit disconnects the battery pack from everything else until the voltage, etc. returns to its normal 'safe' range. If you REALLY piss off the protection circuit, it will literally blow a fuse - most packs are fitted with an "SC-Protector", which is basically a fuse that can be blown by an electrical signal (a "self destruct input" if you will). Not only do you get the overcurrent characteristics of a fuse, you also get to blow it if something bad happens. SC-Protectors are not readily available in quantities less than a thousand or so, so once it's blown your battery pack becomes a brick.
      • Charge controller - the charging circuit should continuously monitor its output, and shut down if it goes out of range. Not all of them do...

      The problem with Li-ion (and to a greater degree, Lithium Polymer) cells is that they're so sensitive - charge them over 4.2V or discharge them below 3.2V and the cell will be damaged. Abuse it a lot and it will blow up. To get that to happen in a properly designed circuit, you'd need a chain of failures:

      • First, the protection circuit would have to fail in some way that would prevent it from protecting the battery pack. A shorted switching transistor (usually a MOSFET) and a dead SC-Protector drive transistor would do that nicely. The protection IC can see something's really, really wrong, but it won't be able to do anything about it. Bear in mind the switching transistor has to handle the power of charging and discharging - it takes quite a beating. Shorted MOSFETs really aren't that rare.
      • Next you'd have to have a failure in the charge circuit that causes the battery to be overcharged. For the sake of argument, let's say the charge IC has latched up. It no longer regulates its output voltage properly and - again, for the sake of argument - we'll say that there's 5V over each cell instead of 4.2V.
      • Now that fault condition has to exist for long enough that the cell electrolyte will break down (usually into hydrogen and other miscellaneous nasties). When that happens, the safety vent will fire and the battery ejects a hot stream of gas.
      • Now the final act. A little spark (say, from the PTC switch) and that hydrogen catches fire. That flame heats up another cell to the point where the vent fires, and you have a second cell joining in the explosive fun. In a few seconds, that cell will set fire to another, and the process will keep on repeating until the cells burn each other out, and the fire runs out of fuel.

      The big problem with Li-ions is that they're inherently unstable. The nickel-based batteries tend to be much more forgiving of abuse. They usually don't blow up unless you really, really abuse them. You might damage them and reduce their capacity a bit, but you usually won't be able to make them explode or spontaneously combust without some serious work. They do have a lower energy density and terminal voltage than Li-ion and Li-Polymer, though, which might partially explain why they're more stable.

      • Specifically, LiPoly packs explode in a shower of burning electrolyte propelled by gas (O2). This is a pretty well known phenomenon among the model airplane and helicopter guys that fly the little electric 'park flyers'. Overcharge a pack by even 200mV, and they start to heat exponentially. Keep going, and kabang, no spark needed (see overcharge explosion videos here [google.com] or here [google.com].). Something as innocuous as a bad aftermarket charger (with the charger and pack management in 'fast charge' mode) or a partially fai
  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:42AM (#15576646) Homepage Journal
    caption that picture "revenge of the RIAA."
  • Warning! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cleon (471197) <cleon42.yahoo@com> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:42AM (#15576649) Homepage
    Caution - laptop may run a little warm. ;)
  • y2k? (Score:3, Funny)

    by bryan_is_a_kfo (976654) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:52AM (#15576719)
    isn't this what y2k was supposed to be like?
  • "Somebody Set Up Us The Bomb".

    Ta-da! :) *Bows* Thank you, thank you.
  • by delire (809063) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:07PM (#15576841)

    How is it possible that even images of their own device on fire could look so boring. They're so devoid of composition, of sensitivity.

    In this other example, the victim has taken time to place the burning device against a backdrop of roughly hewn rock, and has done so at a time of day deserving of the generous tones cast by the flames as they lash, even swagger about the white plastic.. [wcco.com]

    Dell, here this: even in death, one should look positively gorgeous.
  • Apparently... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@OOOopto ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:54PM (#15577237) Journal

    ...this happens more often than Dell admits [consumerist.com].

  • Why the Dell hate? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retro128 (318602) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:56PM (#15577257)
    Man, there's a lot of hate in here for Dell. Just curious, why? My GF and boss both have a Dell 700m and I've got to say those things are solid. Small, light, battery life of 3+ hours. Light years better than Vaios, IMHO. I've experienced few problems with their desktop systems as well.

    As far as the exploding laptop, is it really the manufacturer's fault? This question would apply regardless of who it is. It would seem to me that if it were a manufacturing defect in the laptop, say in the charging circuitry, those models would be exploding left and right. It was very likely that the battery pack on that thing was made by a third party and sold for half the price of an OEM pack.

    That's not to say that OEM battery packs can't blow up. The battery cells are procured from outside manufacturers. Of course, laptop manufacturers will (hopefully) only buy batteries made by reputable firms, but right now there's big business in counterfeit batteries over in China. I remember awhile back Kyocera had phones coming with counterfeit batteries that were exploding in peoples' pockets and hands, inflicting some serious injuries. [signonsandiego.com] The thing is, don't just eye Dells with suspicison - I imagine it's possible for any manufacturer to get a bad batch of batteries if they're not careful, but I imagine that's rare and they are, indeed, careful. Big laptop manufacturers probably have direct accounts, anyway.
  • Our competition's computers get so hot, no wonder their name rhymes with hell.

    ... or something to that affect.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:37PM (#15577571) Homepage
    Apple Commercial

    Opening shot: Boring White Dude and Sarcastic Babe Magnet Skaterboy

    BWD: Hello... does it feel hot in here to you?

    SBMS: Yeah. But it always is a little warm. You just have to dress right... are you okay?

    BWD: Ahhhhh... you might want to stay back -- ARRRRAAAAGHHH! I'm BURNING!!

    SBMS: Stopdropandroll! Ah, man that has to hurt!

    BWD: I'm okay. It's just the epidermis.

    SBMS: [leaving for Japan with Kevin Rose] Old people suck, and they're also pretty flammable. Don't hang out with them. I rule. Macs get laid. JAGERMEISTER SHOTS! Line 'em up, and show me the Japanese chicks!

    Alex: [shot of him passed out on floor next to toilet] ooohhh goddd.

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