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Friday, February 15, 2013

Please, DON'T Share!

My Facebook feed gets an all-too-regular feature: "Please share this to everyone you know, you might save one's life." Really? Are we talking about "save you from something that's really likely to happen", or is this more "please forward my spam"? 99.99% of the time, it's the latter. I wish more of my friends, family, and Facebook acquaintances would take just a few seconds to search Snopes -- or Google -- for details before sharing such "important" information. Here's one for you, though, including an awesome picture (note that all typos have been preserved -- FYI, bad grammar and spelling is another sign that something might not be entirely factual):
A couple lost their 25 year old son in a fire at home on June 4th. The son who had graduated with MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison two weeks earlier had come home for a while. He had lunch with his dad at home and decided to go back to clean up his hostel room. His father told him to wait, to meet his mother, before he went back for a few days. He decided to take a nap while waiting for his mom to come back home from work. Some time later their neighbors called 911 when they saw black smoke coming out of the house.

Unfortunately, the 25 years old died in the three year old house. It took several days of investigation to find out the cause of the fire. It was determined that the fire was caused by the laptop resting on the bed. When the laptop was on the bed cooling fan did not get the air to cool the computer and that is what caused the fire. He did not even wake up to get out of the bed because he died of breathing in carbon monoxide.

The reason I am writing this to all of you is that I have seen many of us using the laptop while in bed. Let us all decide and make it a practice not to do that. The risk is real. Let us make it a rule not to use the laptop on bed with blankets and pillows around. Please educate as many people as you can.
While a fire in the house is no joke, the likelihood of it being cause by an overheating laptop is dubious. Yes, it could happen, but hopefully we all have enough common sense to not try to suffocate our electronics. ever been to a data center with the massive AC units? That's all in the interest of keeping the servers running cool. If you're dumb enough to put a laptop on a pillow running full tilt and have it set to not go to sleep or hibernate, well, good luck with that. I doubt it will catch fire, but there's a good chance it will crash or perhaps even kill off some of the electronics and make it unusable. (Technical note: I haven't heard of a CPU or GPU catching fire since about 2003 or so, as AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and others have all implemented thermal protection.)

The above image looks to me like someone was frustrated with a Dell laptop and took an acetylene torch to it rather than a laptop that caught fire on its own. (It definitely didn't go through a house fire, as the rest of the plastic would also be melted.) It's possible that the battery on that particular model was near the front and caught fire, though -- it's just attached to a message with a story that may or may not have been caused by a laptop.

Anyway, I mentioned Snopes before, so let me show you how it's done. Go to and pick out some prominent key words that are likely to only show up in a few places. For this particular incident, how about the school name and the event (University Wisconsin Madison Fire). Boom! Ten seconds and we've found this page. Now, this one is marked "undetermined" because it's possible that the laptop did cause a fire, but as Snopes points out, a bad battery or faulty wiring is the most likely culprit -- not a blocked vent caused by putting a laptop on your pillow. The latter might end up ruining your laptop, and in some extreme cases it's possible (though unlikely) that your battery might explode.

If you happen to not like Snopes, there are plenty of other places to search. Try Google, for example, and we get a bunch of other hoax and urban legend sites basically reiterating what I and Snopes have said. Maybe this is a bad example, but we can drum up any number of other options -- I just used this one since I happen to work with laptops on a daily basis (and have yet to have any catch fire, despite plenty of torture testing).

The key takeaway is this: if something asks you to repost and share to everyone, please take a second to think about why you would want to pass it along. Chances are, it has already been shared plenty, and even more likely is that it's mostly fabricated information, perhaps with a kernel of truth but a bunch of cruft getting in the way. Sharing half-truths only makes you look uninformed at best, or completely stupid at worst. And no one wants to look stupid, right?

(For the record: this laptop scare showed up more than once on my Facebook feed in the not so distant past. Considering that the event described happened over two years ago -- and the actual cause still wasn't listed as the laptop last it was updated -- I chose it as my target for this rant. The fact is, this is one of the least annoying spams going around; many are far worse. And let's not even get into the whole "please repost this to your FB page so that I'll know I'm loved" angsty posts.)

BTC: 1JSrAuxPUhD2rS6yYLiPPT6X8fvz7c7k1W

1 comment:

  1. I checked snopes it says Undetermined it does not say fake and bad grammar has nothing to do with something might be fiction or fact.