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Media (Apple) Media Power

Japan Demands Probe of iPod Nano Flameouts 339

iminplaya sends in an item from TechNewsWorld that begins, "Several incidents of iPod Nanos bursting into flames have created consumer jitters in gadget-happy Japan. Apple is downplaying the problem, pointing out that no major injuries or damage have been reported. The problem is due to defective batteries, the company said, and only a tiny percentage of the devices have caught on fire." Japan has seen 14 such incidents so far, two in recent days. iminplaya adds, "I like that. Only a 'tiny percentage'... Is anybody beginning to understand why I would prefer that these devices not be allowed on airplanes?"
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Japan Demands Probe of iPod Nano Flameouts

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  • by XnavxeMiyyep ( 782119 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:44PM (#24668393)
    I'm sorry your honor, I only punched fourteen people in the face after taking their money. That's such a tiny percentage of the population.
  • by lindseyp ( 988332 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:45PM (#24668403)
    Because you have a poor grasp of the concept of probability?
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:47PM (#24668429) Homepage Journal

    Japan has seen 14 such incidents so far, two in recent days. iminplaya adds, "I like that. Only a 'tiny percentage'... Is anybody beginning to understand why I would prefer that these devices not be allowed on airplanes?"

    Yes, now I understand that you can be easily frightened into irrationally giving up reasonably safe conveniences just so long as someone says "airplane" near you.

  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:48PM (#24668439) Journal

    I'm sorry your honor, I only punched fourteen people in the face after taking their money. That's such a tiny percentage of the people I took money from.

    There, fixed it for you.

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:53PM (#24668469)

    At 0.001% of Nanos affected, it's probably more likely that your plane's engine bursts into flame than a Nano brought onto the flight.

  • by martinw89 ( 1229324 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:53PM (#24668471)
    OK, I know anecdotal evidence is easy to slip in to online conversations. But seriously, 14 devices over a 3 year percentage. From the article, that translates to 0.001 percent of all first generation Nanos (the ones afflicted with this problem). I think any reasonable person will definitely agree that's a tiny percentage. No reason to rip on Apple for saying it's a tiny percentage when it is; they have other problems that can legitimately be criticized.
  • Airplane fire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:01AM (#24668543)

    Yeah, the 'won't somebody think of the airplanes!' comment at the end isn't particularly rational. These are not big devices and the only way they will cause more than an inconvenience is if every one on the plane bursts into flame at the same time.

    That said, a large chemical fire like you could get from those big battery packs those desktop replacement laptops use would be a special kind of nightmare for any pilot. If they do ever ban lithium batteries and other related things on airplanes it will be very inconvenient but not necessarily stupid.

  • by sl3xd ( 111641 ) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:01AM (#24668545) Journal

    You're aware that Apple's "Pro" line is the one that's rated for unusually high quality, right? Not the consumer grade iMac or MacBooks...

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:06AM (#24668591) Journal
    iminplaya adds, "I like that. Only a 'tiny percentage'... Is anybody beginning to understand why I would prefer that these devices not be allowed on airplanes?"

    Yeah, sure - and when powerbooks were going off like poprocks and Dells were self incinerating like no tomorrow, did we ban them fro maircraft? No. Why? Wiser heads prevailed. If we went with "iminplaya"'s idea, the next thing you know - "Hey gramps - no batteries on board." "But they power my pacemaker!!!" Obviously, since unterfuhrer Cheney has a pacemaker, that would never happen...

    iminplaya's risk assessment skills are for crap.


  • by gerf ( 532474 ) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:11AM (#24668617) Journal
    I won't bring them on planes for fear of the DHS confiscating my stuff for no reason.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:21AM (#24668677)
    let's face it, Lithium-ion cells are unstable, intolerant of overcharging, and energy-dense enough to be a real problem when they fail. Combine that with poor quality-control and badly designed charge controllers, and you have a pocket-sized thermite bomb.
  • by Vectronic ( 1221470 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:22AM (#24668683)

    It would only be a nano-fire anyways...

    Besides, of the nearly 0% (0.001% according to BlueG3) of Nanos, of the far less percentage on airplanes at any given moment...

    Say one catches fire, what the hell are the odds of anything but "Shit, Not My Nano!" and a puff of smoke happening? Anyone holding/directly attached to one would notice really quick, and its not exactly a bonfire, dropping it would probably put it out, any in luggage, would probably just smolder a bit, but do nothing but wreck a shirt or two... hell, even in optimal conditions, I don't think anything of significance would happen, unless you happen to transport your nano wrapped in a bag of gasoline or something, and even then isn't the luggage compartments at atmosphere (ie: not pressurized like the cabin?)...etc...

    How many planes caught fire and crashed when smoking was still legal on planes? (still is on some airlines)... probably zero, and thats an open flame and/or ember... im sure a few seats, or maybe a curtain has caught fire from that... ive never heard of a crash or anyone dying from it though [Citation Please?] If it exists.

  • by maztuhblastah ( 745586 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:32AM (#24668759) Journal

    Anyone have suggestions on where to buy quality hardware i can load osx86 on?

    I'd recommend Apple because (despite your cherry-picked examples) they make high quality, reliable hardware which meets the performance and durability needs of most of their customers.

    Between their replacement of true color displays with crappy TN models which push their own calibration tools off the charts, their terrible all around macbook quality (mine's 1.5 years old and literally falling to pieces, including the graphics unit), and now these exploding batteries (again!, even dUll didn't pull the same mistake twice!), I say the days of apple as a quality brand are over.

    1. All consumer laptops currently on the market use TN displays. All of 'em. There were a couple Thinkpads that shipped with IPS displays a while back, but they were pulled due to supply problems (low yield.) Some of the first-run MacBooks had faulty displays (which really did suck quite badly.) That problem was fixed c. the switch to Core 2 chips, and Apple even replaced some of the affected screens on their own dime.
    2. First-rev MacBooks sucked in a lot of ways, no doubt about it. But that was _two years_ ago. Build quality now is quite good (if it weren't you can bet people would stop buying them.) There is a manufacturing defect that's caused some of them to develop stress cracks. Apple's responded to this by replacing the affected parts for free.
    3. It is incredibly unlikely that your graphics chip is falling apart. It's soldered to the logic board.
    4. I don't recall reading anything about exploding iPod nano batteries before. By 2007, there were over 100 million iPods sold. Assuming that only 5% of those were nanos, that that we're looking at a 15 / 5 million rate for this sort of failure. Maybe I'm a fanboy, but 15 exploding Li-ion batters out of 5 million doesn't really sound like the "end of a brand."

    Apple gets a hell of a lot of flack courtesy of their fanatical following of fanboys and fanatical following of trolls. The former crows everytime Apple does anything. The latter throw their hands in the air and cry that the sky is falling whenever any issue is reported, no matter how small.

    Frankly, the rest of the internet wishes you'd both shut the hell up.

    I've had Dell laptops separate at their hinges. I've had Sony displays with horrible color balance and atrocious response times. I had an IBM workstation that went through three power supplies in a year. Over the nearly two decades that I've been using computers, I have seen hardware from pretty much every manufacturer fail. Somehow, despite that, I don't feel the need to seek out a BBS, newsgroup, or website and bemoan that a few isolated incidents spell the end of "_____ as a quality brand."

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @01:06AM (#24668959)

    You don't have to be frightened to agree. If it's batteries from the first gen nanos sold between sept 05 and dec 06, then any nanos using the same batteries also have a chance of going up as they've come from the same place, many/most likely to have been made using same materials in same quantities, same equipment, and gone through the same QA. Maybe yours hasn't yet due to different usage patterns, maybe they were just a lot unluckier. Seems silly to push ya luck just to listen to some tunes for a few hours during a flight, esp when there are other options to be able to do that (small very cheap mp3 players which run on normal batteries for instance).

    Besides, low % per ipod * number of ipods on a plane * number of flights taken, the % chance of one happening does increase.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @01:15AM (#24669009)

    "handled 16,464 flights in March; 0.001% would be an engine fire every six months, just for Narita"

    No, it should be 0.001% of their planes not flights, unless you also multiply the ipods by the amount of times (or amount of time) they're used in the same way that you're multplying the number of planes by the amount of times (or amount of time) they take off and land. Remember, you have to do the same on both sides of the equasion.

    "consumer electronics are not supposed to be able to catch fire by their own failure"

    The electronics bits yeah, but we're talking a high energy chemical storage device, which makes things slightly different... okay, only slightly, it's still not meant to burst into flames, but it has been happening a lot over past few years in laptop, mobile phones, basically anythings that use lithium-ion batteries can be at risk if there are battery defects.

  • by DeadChobi ( 740395 ) <DeadChobi AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @01:20AM (#24669037)
    I'd imagine that a nano battery explosion would be pretty similar to this video [youtube.com], but on a much smaller scale. So a lot of smoke, and possibly even a violent explosion or two. It might even be enough to catch any number of plastic parts in the iPod on fire.

    It's certainly going to be a lot more violent than an ember from a cigarrette.

  • by XnavxeMiyyep ( 782119 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @01:23AM (#24669059)
    Not allowed to end a sentence with a preposition!? To quote Winston Churchill, that is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put!
  • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @01:52AM (#24669217) Homepage

    But considering how easy a risk it is to mitigate, it does seem silly not to.

    No no no no no.

    You could get a paper cut tomorrow from a newspaper in a subway station, and it could get infected, and you could die of gangrene! Easy to fix: ban newspapers in subway stations!

    What about that keyboard you're using? Did you know there are springs in keyboards? Did you know that a spring could pop out and go directly into your eye? We'd better ban springs in keyboards, it's easy enough to make horrible springless ones.

    The proper way to tell what should be fixed is not how easy it is to mitigate. It's how expensive it is to mitigate versus the value of doing so. And note that neither of those are measured in dollars - they're measured in a much more abstract concept, "worth".

    Weigh the chance and danger of an iPod bursting into flame on a plane (extremely low, and extremely low, multiplied together) versus the compounded irritation of every traveler in America being unable to bring the most popular music player on the planet with them on a plane (extremely high, times a huge number.) Sure, it would be easy to fix . . . but it's just not worth it.

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:01AM (#24669273) Journal

    If something's not essential, even if the chances are low of things going wrong, the risk (potential mass loss of life) usually dictates that the chance is just not worth taking.

    Depends how low.

    I would actually file this under the pseudo-Ben-Franklin-quote: "Those who would trade essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither."

    Ok, it's overkill -- iPods on planes is not essential liberty. But my point is, absolutely everything is a risk, and trying to cover every risk misses the point. For example:

    Now what airplanes could do with is lil USB ports to plug memory sticks in with lil headphone jacks so you can copy a bunch of mp3s to listen to during the flight if there really is demand for it.

    So now we'll find that there's both faulty and terrorist-created memory stick which burst into flames -- or which launch a virus which somehow makes its way into the navigation system, flying you into a building.

    If you're paranoid enough, everything's a risk. Since everything's a risk, the only way you know which risks you should care about is by calculating them -- what's an acceptable loss, which is the greater of two risks (and thus deserves more attention), and so on.

    By the way: You can't say "acceptable loss is 0", because then the math won't work. What you can do is start at, say, 99% probability of safety, and keep adding nines until you're happy -- realizing that each nine is going to cost you a fuckton of money and convenience, while providing no visible benefit -- after all, people don't notice when things work, they notice when they break.

    Again: If it's more likely that your plane's engine bursts into flame, knowing how much rigor they put into making sure that doesn't ever happen, I think you're pretty safe from your nano. If those odds scare you, you probably shouldn't be flying in the first place -- or going outside.

    Also, considering that there have been no major injuries or damage... How much of a risk is this, even if it did go off? How big of an "explosion"?

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:12AM (#24669329)

    "or you use a reasonable metric"

    Such as a list of high risk models to be excluded, you could request battery disconnection and provide a usb port that can power it instead for example.

    "I feel that all li-ion batteries have a small risk of bursting into flames"

    Yeah, but where there is known to be a higher chance of defects in certain batches, it seems silly to ignore that knowledge. I'm sure solutions could be found to leave people on both side of the argument happy with a little bit of thought.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:26AM (#24669427)

    A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:30AM (#24669741)

    Entirely false. Vehicles are always recalled if there is a recurring problem. It's not just lawsuits, it's reputation at stake.

  • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:30AM (#24669999)
    The worst thing that could happen would be if one of these Nanos caught fire in luggage...


    The worst that could happen (and quite possibly will now) is that the airlines seize this opportunity to make passengers' travel even more unpleasant than it already is by banning or confiscating people's iPods. I wouldn't put it past them at all.

    It would be amusing to see a mass boycott of all the airlines by all travellers until they learn to stop being such officious pricks. The way they behave towards passengers is not much better than animals might expect from the live cattle export trade.

    The sad thing is that we have largely allowed ourselves to be cowed by this treatment.
  • by Sebilrazen ( 870600 ) <blahsebilrazen@blah.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:50AM (#24672697)

    I find your thoughts fascinating, Mr. Durden and would like to know more. Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

    Technically that wasn't Tyler Durden, it was our unnamed narrator. Some people (me) speculate that Edward Norton's character's name was Jack, hence I am Jack's raging bile duct, and all of the diaries of Jack's organs, but you never actually find out his real name. Tyler was just a more realized manifestation of his persona, much more so than Rupert or Cornelius. Then again Jack could just be a general moniker similar to John Q. Public or Tom, Dick and Harry.

    On that note - Wanna buy some soap?

  • by Scudsucker ( 17617 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:44AM (#24673633) Homepage Journal

    Like when Ford and Firestone sat on the problem of tires blowing out on Explorers while people were being paralyzed or dying, and even after the lawsuits started coming in?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982