In a list of things in life (blind dates, new sports cars, Spotify playlists, etc.) that should be “fire” (latest slang for “hot”) your laptop and its battery should not be named. Unfortunately, if you happened to have purchased certain HP laptop models between 2013 to 2015, you might be re-introduced to the literal definition of “fire”. Technology manufacturer HP announced a worldwide, voluntary recall of certain batches of batteries that “pose a fire and burn hazard” that have shipped from the factory in 35 different laptop models, and may have been installed after-market in 38 other HP and Compaq models. HP has a full listing of impacted models on their website, and offers both software and physical means to determine if your battery is affected by this recall.
What this means for you:
If you’ve purchased an HP laptop anytime between now and 2013, I recommend flipping it over and checking the battery’s serial number on HP’s site. While you’ve got it upside down, visually inspect the battery and laptop for warped plastic, bulging or discoloration of any surrounding materials. Carefully check if the battery is hot to the touch. Warm is OK, but if it’s too hot to touch with your finger, you may have a problem. Keep in mind that certain laptops may run quite hot during CPU-intensive activities, including working with very large documents, playing video games or watching streaming video, and more so if the laptop is resting on insulating materials like blankets, cushions or even your pants or dress. It may also get hot if vents on the sides or bottom of the laptop are blocked for even short periods of time. Don’t panic if your laptop doesn’t have vents – the manufacturer only puts them in if the design calls for it. If your battery is not part of this recall, shows no signs of warping or heat damage, but still seems unusually hot to the touch even after working with it on a cool, flat surface, consider replacing it, either under warranty if still applicable, or by purchasing a replacement, preferably from the same manufacturer as your laptop. Cheaper, off-brand batteries might be an option, but check reviews as the knock-offs tend to have more problems with reliability and longevity.
When it first occurred, connecting things to the internet seemed more like a gimmick than anything practical. Remember that fridge that was supposed to know when you need to buy more milk and would email you a reminder? Even though that particular concept still hasn’t really caught on (though it should!) plenty of other things in our houses and workplaces are connected to the web, to the point where we don’t even consider it gimmicky anymore. Cars that can be started via an iPhone app? Sure! Security cameras that text you when they detect motion? Why not? How about thermostats and lighting that can be adjusted via wifi? Done! Except for a “little” problem: this growing “internet of things” is just as bad (if not worse) at security as the rest of the internet. A security study by technology giant HP took a look at the 10 most popular internet-enabled devices and discovered each device had at least 25 security vulnerabilities that could lead to terrible things.
What this means for you:
Most of my clients have a healthy respect (if not fear) of the internet and its tireless ability to invade your privacy, and typically make more informed choices than the general public, but as more and more devices come “connected” right out of the box, it’s easy to fall into the convenience trap of plugging the thing in and moving on to the next item on the to-do list. What this will eventually mean is people are surrounding themselves with devices that, taken as a whole, can provide an incredible amount of detail about their supposed “private” life. And those devices are all connected to the internet. Unless manufacturers starting upping their security standards (or the market forces them to), we may all find ourselves living a rather exposed existence. So the next time you are considering a device that is “internet” enabled, consider whether or not you are ready (and willing) to understand exactly how that device secures itself from hacking, and whether its worth the convenience.
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