Dr. AIX's POSTS — 22 May 2016


No, I’m not talking about the David Byrne song today. I’m going to write about something that happened here in my office a couple of days ago — that might have resulted in a real disaster. I’m feeling very fortunate that my office, my studios, and my building didn’t burn to the ground when the DVD-ROM drive in one of my PCs caught fire in the middle of the night. I would never have imagined that a single space optical disc drive could spontaneously erupt in flames. But it happened. You might think twice about leaving your equipment running when you’re not around.


Figure 1 – The back of the DVD-ROM drive that burst into flames inside my Sony Vaio computer.

My office is not large. It’s in the front of the building and provides a view of the McLaren repair shop across the street and my driveway. But it’s got a couple of windows and I like having the light. I have three computers located in strategic places. I have an aging Mac tower under my desk that feeds two large displays on my main desktop and there are two PCs on another desk behind me. I use these machines to edit and process audio files (in Nuendo), prepare and upload soundfiles to iTrax, and encode and author Blu-ray discs.

The authoring system was custom made by my former engineer and still functions quite well for a 6-year-old machine. Then there’s the Sony Vaio machine — another older machine with a couple of DVD drives and a few hard drives mounted inside. After all of the dust from the recent studio construction, I decided to organize and clean the desk with the PCs, which I did. It’s always nice to work in an area that’s organized and uncluttered. However, anyone that has viewed my office knows that I’m not a neat-nick. I like to be organized but there never seems to be enough time to find a place for everything and put everything in its place. It’s a problem — especially when I’ve had to downsize a lot to make room for the new studios.

I’ve never made a habit of turning off my computers or audio equipment when I leave the office or studio. I don’t subscribe to the whole “burning-in” idea; I just find it easier to start the next day from where I left off the previous day. And I’ve never had an issue until two days ago.

I had been editing the demonstration tracks for the “Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound” at the close of Friday. When I opened the door to my office on Saturday morning, I smelled a very familiar odor — the smell of burned electronic components. It was quite strong but I didn’t notice any obvious problems until I returned to my Vaio to continue editing. The machine was dead.

After disconnecting all of the external connections, I pulled the case off of the machine and was shocked to see the DVD-ROM drive and power supply severely burned. Take a look at the image at the top of this article — this is not a simply fried cable or two. The whole unit was toast.

And the inside of the computer case showed a large amount of burning as well. There was a major flame up inside of the computer. Something must have shorted out inside the DVD-ROM drive and the dust inside the unit accelerated a brief fire. Thankfully, there damage was contained inside of the computer. But I shutter to think how close I came to losing the whole place.

So I turn off all of my computers when I leave the office now. The audio equipment (amplifiers, console, outboard processors, and interfaces) all stay on, but the computers get rebooted every morning. I thought you might like to know. Fire inside of computer or electronic component can happen — it happened to me.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

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