I was just reading Slashdot today (http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/09/10/10/1823232/Software-To-Diagnose-Faulty-PC-Hardware?from=rss), and an idea occurred to me. Why not let the kernel or boot loader do hardware diagnostics and inform the user if something is awry? For the boot loader it could do a spot check of the non bottlenecking component (so CPU if harddrive limited or RAM if CPU limited) during boot. For the kernel, double check every thousandth operation or so, or do some low level checking (not enough for the processor to step up) when it won’t impact performance.
There are several benefits. First, it grants the possibility of an early warning to the user before they have a catastrophic hardware failure. Second, developer time won’t be wasted on hardware problems that present as software errors. Third, if a user suspects trouble or is asking for help the first step might be to use a boot option to test hardware for errors. Fourth, if your laptop has problems while you’re traveling then having good diagnostic tools built-in would help tremendously (“oh, RAM stick #2 has errors, I’ll remove it for now and replace it next time I see a computer store”).