Pop

Over the last couple of days and perhaps weeks1, I've been working my computers pretty hard to get a number of "high priority" tasks completed on time. As one would expect, this means that machines are running quite hot for most of the day as information is processed, massaged, and organized in the manner it needs to be. One of the nice things about working with computers is that you can tell them what work needs to be done, give them a staggering amount of it, and just let the machine go on its own until everything is complete … or there's an error. Just like people, though, our digital tools do have their limits and I think my MacBook Pro today hit one. While busy processing a bunch of data from a notoriously petulant vendor API, the machine had a very distinct pop! sound, as though something that hit the aluminum body hard. Given that the notebook generally doesn't move and I wasn't typing angrily2, what could have possibly caused the typically silent machine to make a popping noise?

A cursory inspection of the machine revealed no damage. There has been no smoke, nor has any sort of electrical burning smell been noticed. Perhaps I imagined it?

Just in case, I made sure that all my files were saved and that any uncommitted files were pushed up to GItHub. If something were to happen it would be better to have important information saved off the machine so that work can carry on with a different device.

Everything continued to work just fine afterwards and, an hour later, I stood up to have dinner with the family. Shortly after leaving the machine the pop sound happened again. There is nothing else on the desk that could possibly make that sound. Not the printer. Not the 24" monitor. Not my coffee cup. It must be coming from the notebook. It could be an expanding battery, a capacitor that's about to give up, or some other expensive problem that I can neither entertain nor afford right now. However, another cursory glance later, nothing out of the ordinary was found. The notebook is hot on the bottom3, but nothing out of the ordinary. Again, there's no sign of smoke or the distinctive smell of burning circuits. So that the heck might be causing this sound?

There was a time long ago when I would look forward to any excuse to open a computer. That time has long since passed, which is why I'm using a notebook with a  logo for my most important work rather than something else4. I just want the machines to work. Given that I have a rather important series of meetings and demos to deliver in Tokyo on Monday, a dead notebook is not something I'd like to contend with. Hopefully the popping sound is just thermal expansion forcing some glue loose or some other trivial matter.


  1. The days are just a blur lately. What separates one from the next? It's hard to tell.

  2. I'll admit that I do sometimes hammer the keys pretty hard when responding to email. When I notice this, the message is generally left as a draft for an hour or two … unless I opt to burn a bridge or five.

  3. I raise the back to improve airflow. The machine gets noticeably hot when sitting flat on the desk.

  4. I still have Lenovos doing important work. They're just in the background rather than under my fingers