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Urine luck: Dells may smell, but don’t blame the Intercats

November 2, 2013

Over the years, many people have written to me complaining that their Dell computers stink — but they’ve never been quite so literal about it as they have of late.

Buyers of the Dell Latitude 6430u seem united in their belief that their new $900 laptops smell distinctly like cat pee.

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Some see this as proof that not only did cats invent the Internet and operate it as one of their playthings like an enormous ball of digital yarn, they have now moved into the hardware business. The fact that this story suddenly went viral on National Cat Day (Oct. 29) is, well, kind of frightening, actually. I know that cats rule the Web but, come on.

All that litters is not gold
Dell swears no felines were involved in the manufacturing of its computers. Two days ago, a Dell senior technical consultant posted the following message on the company’s support forums:

As mentioned before, the issue was fully investigated and Dell has determined that the smell is not at all related to cat urine or any biological contaminate. Further testing revealed that there is no health hazard related to the smell.

The issue has been corrected on new units currently being ordered. We are currently finalizing plans for a full resolution for those who still have unit that exhibits the issue. I am hoping to post a root cause and resolution either this week or the next and am just waiting on engineering to finalize a few details.

Dell determined the problem has something to do with the solvents used in assembling the palm rest, and assures us that new model 6430 Ultrabooks do not not smell like Garfield’s toilet. It is also offering to replace the palm rests for free, though judging by comments on the Dell support forums the company appears to be out of stock in some regions.

Also: There is no truth to the rumor that Chinese contract manufacturers have replaced their armies of underpaid/overworked minions with prides of undernourished/overamped kittens. At least, not yet.

Tiger by the fail
Still, this was a golden opportunity for headline writers to trot out every possible variation on the feline theme, and they did not disappoint.

The Guardian: Dell users get claws out

Cnet: Pissed-off Dell laptop owners seek answer

CRN: A stink over laptops

The Reg: Nothing to sniff at

The winner, though, was Jacob Davidson at Dude, you’re getting a smell.

This is hardly the worse problem to ever befall Dell laptops. On more than one occasion Dell laptops have famously caught fire, some of them on camera. One incendiary Dell device exploded inside the pickup truck of a Cringe reader who was on a hunting trip in 2006; it ignited the spare ammo inside the passenger cabin and began spraying bullets in all directions.

The incidents back then prompted a recall of more than 4 million laptops. It’s unclear how many puss-scented models this one will entail.

So, really, a laptop that smells like the south end of Grumpy Cat is really not so bad on the fail scale. But it will linger in the memory long after the problem has disappeared. Like, well, you know…

What does your laptop smell like? Post your malodorous thoughts below or esmell me:

This article, “Urine luck: Dells may smell, but don’t blame the Intercats,” was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely’s Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely’s Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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