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Stop Cell Phones Without Stopping Pacemakers...

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the ass-hole-arms-race-escalates dept.

Communications 552

metoikos writes "A company based in Fairfax, Virginia, has come up with a subtler method of preventing cell-phone addicts from using the world as a phone booth than a faraday cage or even those little hand-held jammers. Cell Block Technologies (that name must go over well with law enforcement) is developing a smoke-detector sized device which sends signals of 'no service' to cellphone frequencies, prompting phone to send calls directly to voicemail. Admittedly this is better than messing with everything that uses the same frequencies cellphones do . "

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552 comments

it's too bad... (5, Funny)

Requiem (12551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806843)

It's too bad nobody's developed first-post blocking technologies.

Re:it's too bad... (2, Funny)

nametaken (610866) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807092)

Sure they have... it's usually called "Moderator Points". Not working today, though. :) Just kidding.

Thump thumb... (2, Funny)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806855)

My pacemaker just vibrated - I think I have a voice mail.

Re:Thump thumb... (1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806996)

Thursday must be leftover-crack day for the moderators - this post is "Informative" and one about doctors whose patients die because they can't reach them [slashdot.org] is "funny".

Re:Thump thumb... (0, Offtopic)

xzoon (728128) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806998)

Only on /. would a comment like that be modded "4, Informative".

I guess I lead a sheltered life... (3, Insightful)

ScottGant (642590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807111)

I've yet to be disturbed or annoyed by someone using their cell phone. I take mine with me everywhere, but then again, I turn off the ringer and just use the vibrate function when I'm in some place with a lot of people. Of course, I don't disturb anyone because no one really calls me...ever....(sob)

But are people really annoyed by cell phones so much? Also, what's with these draconian laws with driving and cell phones? They say it's because you'll get distracted. But then again, shouldn't they outlaw radios...and talking to others in your car?

Just wondering.

RTFA! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806858)

Block That Ringtone!
By SAM LUBELL

Published: April 8, 2004
T could happen on a train, in a restaurant or during an awe-inspiring aria at a performance of "Carmen": a neighbor's cellphone starts bleating the theme song from "Friends," disrupting the mood and setting nerves on edge. Wouldn't it be great, you think to yourself, if this couldn't happen?

Others are thinking likewise, including companies and researchers developing or already selling devices that render cellphones inoperable in certain locations. Methods include jammers that interfere with cellphone frequencies, routing systems that mute phones' ringers in specific places, sensors that detect active cellphones and building materials that block cellphone waves.
Proponents say that such measures are more effective than "no cellphone" signs, "quiet cars" on trains or even legal restrictions (like a law prohibiting cellphone use during performances, enacted by the New York City Council last year).
The concerns go beyond mere annoyance: casinos are seeking to stop phone-based cheating; prison authorities want to guard against phone use by inmates for drug deals or other forms of wrongdoing. With the rise of camera cellphones have come privacy concerns that have made locker rooms and other areas no-phone zones.

"At some point the American public will become so frustrated with the abuse of cellphones that it will rise up and yell that something must be done," said Dave Derosier, chief executive of Cell Block Technologies, based in Fairfax, Va., which is developing a transmitter the size of a smoke detector that relays signals of "no service" to cellphone frequencies, prompting them to send calls to voice mail.

Cell Block's products are slightly more sophisticated versions of what is probably the most widespread method of stopping cellphone use, called jamming, which renders phones inoperable by disrupting the connection between cellphone towers and cellphones. Jamming devices overpower phones' frequencies with especially strong signals and often with loud noise. Such devices can be found on eBay and at Web sites like globalgadgetuk.com.

That site says it has sold thousands of devices to theaters, businesses, military users and individuals. The jammers range from $200 for a rudimentary hand-held model to nearly $10,000 for suitcase-sized gear sold to governments and the military, with the price usually based on the signal range and the likelihood of disrupting cellular activity.

Other means are also in development, from devices that merely detect cellphone use (and prompt users to desist) to construction methods that render cellphones inoperable.

But not everyone finds this trend encouraging. Cellphone industry experts and federal regulators deride jammers in particular as unlawful, unethical and even dangerous.

"You're not allowed to barricade the street in front of your house because you don't like hearing an ambulance," said Travis Larson, a spokesman for the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, who asserts that blocking systems inhibit customers' rights and can block emergency calls. "Just like roads, the airwaves are public property."

The Federal Communications Commission points specifically to the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which says that "no person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications" licensed by the government.

"It is the F.C.C.'s authority and obligation to determine which transmissions are lawful," said Lauren Patrich, a spokeswoman for the commission's wireless bureau. "If the F.C.C. doesn't have that authority, then what's its point?" Fines for violations can reach $11,000 for a single offense.

Mr. Derosier said that devices like Cell Block's are "questionably legal" in the United States, but he added that with proper disclosure and provisions made for emergencies, there is no reason that they should not be used. The devices are legal in Japan, France and Eastern Europe, and in most of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, he said.

Mr. Derosier said that prospective buyers in those areas included prisons, mosques, banks and embassies. Globalgadgetuk's owner, Michael Menage, said he believes that "people should be able to do whatever they want in their own spaces." He said his largest group of customers comes from the United States, which he said is evidence that there is a need for such technology here.

(Page 2 of 2)

Meanwhile, others have begun devising cellphone ring-restriction technology that is legal, at least until further notice. (The F.C.C. maintains no regulations against cellphone-blocking techniques other than jamming, but does not rule out the possibility that such techniques could be scrutinized in the future.)

Bluelinx, based in Charlotte, N.C., is developing a system called Q-Zone (the Q standing for quiet) that uses Bluetooth wireless technology - in transmitters and imbedded into cellphones - to put phones equipped with Q-Zone software into silent or vibrate mode when they are taken into a specified zone.

Jeff Griffin, Bluelinx's president, said he was trying to sign up wireless providers and establishments like cafes and theaters. He said he hopes to start using the equipment in the next few years. Unlike jammers, he said, his call-blocking system would be optional for cellphone users, who could turn it on or off.

"I was at church some time ago and a lady's cellphone went off and the entire church froze," Mr. Griffin said. "Meanwhile, she couldn't find her phone and was so embarrassed. It's that kind of circumstance we're trying to fix."

A similar system is being developed by Stefan Marti and Chris Schmandt, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab. Their project, called Autonomous Interactive Intermediaries, uses technology like speech recognition to screen calls to determine when a phone should ring, and even subtle, silent visual cues to replace cellphone rings or vibrations - say, an animatronic rabbit or parrot turning toward you in a room to signal that you have a call.

Mr. Marti pointed out that the technology can always be overridden by users. "People will get nervous if the cellphone starts to make decisions by itself," he said. "It will take some time for people to trust the technology," which could become available within four years, he said.
Mr. Larson of the cellular industry group said that while the industry objected to controls imposed on cellphone ringing, it did not oppose measures left to the customers' discretion. "They are certainly less odious than jammers," he said.
Another means of guarding against cellphone disturbance is the use of detectors, sold legally in the United States and abroad, that sound an alert when a cellphone is present. Zetron, a company in Redmond, Wash., makes the Cellphone Detector Plus, a $449 receiver that sounds an audio alert when it detects certain cellphone frequencies. The model, about the size of a thermostat, flashes a red light, beeps and plays a recording that urges people to turn their phones off. The devices are useful for hospitals, said Vaughn Entwistle, who edits Zetron's company newsletter.

An Israeli company, Netline, makes a detector called the Cellular Activity Analyzer, a hand-held device that is used to monitor and detect cellular communication activity in a given area. (It is offered at www.netline.co.il or www.spyshops .ca for $2,500.) Other smaller detector models include the RF Signal Detector from Suresafe Technology, about the size of a beeper, which costs less than $100. As with jammers, the larger the detector, the greater its range.

A different approach - by design or happenstance, but altogether legal - is to block cellphone signals through construction techniques. (An F.C.C. spokeswoman said the commission had no regulations dealing with building materials.) Like most cellphone-blocking methods, many of these ideas were developed long ago for military and espionage purposes, said Bill Sewell, senior vice president of DMJM Technology, who has spent years designing radio-secure areas for the United States government.

Mr. Sewell said the methods used by his firm are simple: metal mesh screens tuned to the frequencies of radio waves are mounted inside the wall. They are also inexpensive, at about $15 a square foot, he said.

Like Mr. Sewell, Deborah Chung, the Niagara Mohawk professor of materials research at the State University at Buffalo, has developed construction materials that block radio waves. Dr. Chung's "smart concrete" contains electrically conductive mixtures, like metal or carbon particles, that provide electromagnetic interference.

Her structures are designed for the military and hospitals, she said, but they could be used in other structures to keep cellphone users away. "It certainly would work," she said. "On the other hand, they might not be able to watch TV inside."

Some buildings have the blessing or curse of being cellphone-proof by accident, thanks to heavy walls. An example is the Frederick P. Rose Hall, the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, which is scheduled to open in October at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The building is designed as a box within a box, with two sets of walls - the auditorium wall and a separate lobby wall - to prevent sound from seeping in. This double-thick construction, said Walter Thinnes, the vice president of Rose Hall, prevents cellphones from working in the auditorium.

"This is an unplanned helping hand," Mr. Thinnes said.

Without such help, there is a last resort: personal responsibility. "There are always going to be rude people," Mr. Larson said. "We just hope they will learn to turn their cellphones off at the right time."

This is a bad idea (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806988)

As a top IT executive for a fortune 50, I spend a lot of time on global conference calls. I would be extremely annoyed, and would consider it an attack on both me personally, and me professionally (and, by extension, my company) if someone were to jam my cellular during an important conference call.

The courts would see it my way, as well. As would the service provider - after all, by interrupting their service, you are proving malicious intent to disrupt services, in much teh same manner as you would be if you cut the power lines to my building.

I recommend you not do this.

Re:This is a bad idea (-1)

PollTroll (764214) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807055)

I take it you're one of the idiots who ruined my movie last week by answering your cell phone in the freakin' movie theatre.

thanks bud.

Re:RTFA! (1, Insightful)

hrieke (126185) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807121)

I would have to agree with the AC below (or above me), but for different reasons. If a doctor or some other professional needs to use the phone for matters of life or death, then I think I can be inconvenience for a bit while they take their call.

...stop fucking linking NY Times articles. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806867)

NO ONE wants to fucking register to read this shit. If you're gonna post an NYTimes article, have the fucking decency to post a login/pass or a mirror link instead. Asshole.

Your mom (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806868)

Third Post! (0)

abramul (739270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806869)

This is definitely a good idea, but can I get one shaped like a cell phone?

it should be illegal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806872)

to post an article with a NYT link that's not the free google partner one

Re:it should be illegal (1)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806916)

No kidding. Slashdot should automatically append the google partner arg when a nytimes article is submitted. Very annoying.

Um... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806874)

Just a thought, but wouldn't this be illegal somehow?

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807093)

If it is, it shouldn't be.

Cool! (2, Funny)

dsmey (193342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806878)

It would seem this has legal ramifications, but it seems like a genious idea. If only I could shut up all those damn chirping phones that go off in accounting class!!!

Re:Cool! (5, Interesting)

Throtex (708974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806933)

Is it illegal for a business establishment to 'fence-out' unauthorized carrier frequencies? Do you have jurisdiction over the entire spectrum within your own property?

800, 850, 1900mhz? (1)

dsmey (193342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807002)

Also, I wonder if it works on all the major cellular (800mhz SMR [Nextel], 850mhz cellular) and PCS (1900mhz) frequency bands, or just a single one?

Re:Cool! (1)

realdpk (116490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807100)

Yes, won't it be great when we're at the point that you can only place phone calls when you're a) out in the wilderness or b) at home. That is true progress!

Legality (2, Interesting)

DarthVeda (569302) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806879)

What is the legality of these devices? Isn't this sort of like wireless DOS?

Re:Legality (1)

wwest4 (183559) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807033)

They are illegal in the US and probably elsewhere. Listen to the latest episode of off the hook [2600.com] ... something about interfering with others' right to communicate. Though it's all relative - you have to accept destructive interference with, say, most 2.4 GHz devices (cordless phones & non-wimax wi-fi) because they are unlicensed under a certain output power. But due the the licensed allocation of mobile phone bw, you're technically protected by the good ol' FCC.

Lawsuit time (3, Insightful)

strictnein (318940) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806880)

with a subtler method of preventing cell-phone addicts from using the world as a phone booth

What about business people, doctors, police, etc. who need these devices to work?

And talk about lawsuit material. Someone gets hurt, but can't call 911 on their cell phone because it is being jammed by this (or a similar) device.

Hell, aren't devices like these illegal anyways?

Re:Lawsuit time (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806893)

"What about business people, doctors, police, etc. who need these devices to work?"

They don't need them to work in the concert hall where I'm playing piano.

No, they don't.

Re:Lawsuit time (1)

strictnein (318940) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806945)

They don't need them to work in the concert hall where I'm playing piano.

A doctor very well may, as many are frequently called at almost any time of day. People just need to turn their cells/pagers to vibrate.

Re:Lawsuit time (5, Informative)

andih8u (639841) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806953)

Typically, in other countries, devices like this (jammers)are already used in theatres, concert halls, etc to stop cellphones from ringing during performances. A device like the one in the article would not interfere with a pager, which is typically what doctors, police, etc use. If you have a grinding need for your cellphone to work, its typically posted that a jammer is in place, so you always have the option of not going to see that movie or that concert.

Re:Lawsuit time (2, Insightful)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806977)

That's a good point. I don't know why people have a problem with people receiving calls on cellphones when they're in restaurants, for example -- it's a public place, and there are all sorts of other potential irritants (screaming kids, cigarette smoke, someone yammering about the colonoscopy they had that morning) that there's simply no point in singling out the one irritant that could save a life in an emergency.

Besides, it is illegal to deliberately block radio transmissions as you point out. Jamming them with a signal is a pretty overt challenge. People need to relax.

Re:Lawsuit time (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807040)

I can see two sides of this - dire emergencies can happen anywhere, including a movie theater, opera, whatever. Need to call 911?

OTOH, a movie theater or opera or whatever is not an acceptable place to have your ringer on. I'm not going to "relax" and let some jackass answer his annoying ringer and chat it up. I'm a lot more likely to pluck it from his hand and crush the thing. Better the phone than his face, I say.

Re:Lawsuit time (2, Insightful)

prockcore (543967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807054)

I don't know why people have a problem with people receiving calls on cellphones when they're in restaurants, for example -- it's a public place, and there are all sorts of other potential irritants (screaming kids, cigarette smoke, someone yammering about the colonoscopy they had that morning)

Move to Tucson, where there is no smoking in any restaurant, and many classy restaurants will ask you to step outside if your baby is crying.

If you need to have your cellphone with you at all times, eat at home.

Re:Lawsuit time (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806981)

Hell, aren't devices like these illegal anyways?

I'm thinking the same thing. Doesn't FCC certification (formerly known as type acceptance) prohibit a device from interfering with other electronic devices?

Re:Lawsuit time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807030)

What about business people, doctors, police, etc. who need these devices to work?

If they're in an unjammed facility, they can use vibrate mode or ringless mode. If it's a facility with a cell jammer, they can just realize that others before them have failed to act courteously towards the establishment's other patrons, and the establishment has reacted accordingly. Doctor or not, there is NO excuse for having your cellphone disrupt movies, plays, etc.

Re:Lawsuit time (2, Insightful)

Kainaw (676073) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807101)

You make the assumption that regular non-cell phones are never available. You also assume that pagers will be blocked by the same service. These devices are developed to combat human stupidity that keeps a large portion of the population ignorant of the fact that there are other people in the world too - and sometimes they like to hear the movie that they just paid over $10 to see.

I must admit, that is my answer after a lot of yoga-like deep breathing. My initial response is that all we need are more guns and less arrests for "attempted murder". Just because you shoot someone doesn't mean you attempted to murder them. Sometimes you just want them to shut up.

Re:Lawsuit time (1)

Sarlok (144969) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807105)

Hell, aren't devices like these illegal anyways?

Maybe we'll try reading this straight from the article. What a novel thought!:

The Federal Communications Commission points specifically to the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which says that "no person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications" licensed by the government.

"It is the F.C.C.'s authority and obligation to determine which transmissions are lawful," said Lauren Patrich, a spokeswoman for the commission's wireless bureau. "If the F.C.C. doesn't have that authority, then what's its point?" Fines for violations can reach $11,000 for a single offense.


As for the doctors, police, etc., (I don't really care about business people trying to make deals while at a theater) I guess these devices would be bad, but the main problem is that signs don't work, and people don't set their phones to vibrate. It's pretty funny when you're in a theater and someone's phone rings, and then 15 other people get theirs out to check it.

iirc (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806882)

wasn't there a broadway actor who once took a brief timeout from his performance to ask an audience member to "shut off that fscking phone"

Re:iirc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806903)

Yeah, that was Morpheus, [com.com] back in 2000.

Re:iirc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807029)

Hey, show some respect. His real name is Larry. ;)

Re:iirc (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807059)

IIRC, it was Al Pacino in Salome who, when a cell phone rang, stopped the show, broke character, and told the woman "We'll wait until you're finished."

--Stephen

No Service (2, Funny)

jmpoast (736629) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806885)

...sends signals of 'no service' to cellphone frequencies, prompting phone to send calls directly to voicemail. Admittedly this is better than messing with everything that uses the same frequencies cellphones do .

Does this mean my pacemaker will get 'no service' messages as well? That can't be good.

Department (4, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806886)

>> from the ass-hole-arms-race-escalates dept.

I guess somebody is having a bad day.

Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (-1, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806890)

Public airwaves. What part of public is so hard to understand? You have no more right to shut off someone else's phone for bothering you than you do duct tape someone who's talking too loud at the mall. This is incredibily self centered, and blatantly disregards other people who also have a right to free speech.

Let's look at the bad sides. Public events like fairs would use jammers to get people to pay exhorbitant payphone rates, hotels would use them to force people to use room phone, and on and on. Don't forget that emergency services use cell phones extensively as backup communications mediums. Many emergency radio systems, arguable most, are incompatible with each other.

They are also used for on call personal like plumbers, system admins, fire fighters, and meidcal staff. You know that nice doctor that helps out during a baby's delivery? They aren't standing by in the waiting room, they are out and about and get called in when they are needed.

Now I understand why people get frustrated with people talking loudly on cell phones, so the better question is, why haven't the mic's improved?

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806946)

Public airwaves. What part of public is so hard to understand? You have no more right to shut off someone else's phone for bothering you than you do duct tape someone who's talking too loud at the mall. This is incredibily self centered, and blatantly disregards other people who also have a right to free speech.

I wasn't aware that "free speech" meant interfering with those around you. I seriously suggest you rethink what you said about being "self-centered".

Letting your cell phone ring when I am eating a $100 dinner or watching a $10 movie is inexcusable. You know it's rude and you know how to disable it.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (4, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806987)

Free speech often means interfering / annoying those around you, just ask any protestor. Why should only people who can afford $100 dinners be able to eat dinner without cell phones? Sounds pretty discrimanatory to me. If someone is rude during a movie, they can always be asked to leave - the cell phone is a moot point.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807041)

it's a business. It's not a public place. I would choose to have you removed.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807116)

So does that mean they can refuse black people, or women? Of course not, it may be a business, but they are still subject to laws regarding the public. As you said, someone can always be removed, thus jammers are unneccasary.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806974)

Public airwaves. What part of public is so hard to understand? You have no more right to shut off someone else's phone for bothering you than you do duct tape someone who's talking too loud at the mall.
Sounds like they're not "shutting off" anything. They're broadcasting "no signal" messages. Like you say -- public airwaves. Don't like it, pick a different movie theater.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807034)

As long as the movie theater prominently displays warning signs to all that enter. However, the airwaves are still public. Why is that so hard to understand? That's like saying a movie theater should be able to prevent airplanes from flying in the airspace above it. If someone is being rude on the phone the theater can just ask them to leave. I have no problem with that, but they have no right to shut off access to public airwaves.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806990)

Using your analogy, wouldn't your statement that we don't have the right to "duct tape someone who's talking too loud in the mall" be similar to we not having the right to prevent some 'gizmo' from 'talking to loud in the mall' such that it "bothers" cell phones?

If so, you are right, since I do understand every part of "public", and using your analogy, I can blast what ever frequencies I like and disregard any "bothering" they do along the way...

Thanks, man. That needed clarification...

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (2, Interesting)

irving47 (73147) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807005)


They are also used for on call personal like plumbers, system admins, fire fighters, and meidcal staff. You know that nice doctor that helps out during a baby's delivery? They aren't standing by in the waiting room, they are out and about and get called in when they are needed.


That's the biggest argument that should settle the whole issue right there. This "I want it NOW" society has little business complaining about that which makes people reachable. Or would they like to pay two or three times as much for service X to have technician Y standing by at all times ON SITE? Didn't think so.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807012)

Mics have improved, people are just stupid. They're also trying to make sure they can be heard over the music or soundtrack that everyone else is trying to listen to.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807027)

Public airwaves. What part of public is so hard to understand?

Seeing as how many public places are located on/in private property, it is probably well within the rights of the owner of that property to do something like jam cell signals.

And as for 'the public good,' the public is a roomful of people who paid $8.25 to hear the dialogue of the movie, not some asshole talking on his cell phone.

If you're going to get angry, get angry at the discourteous fucks whose insistence on using their cell phones in inappropriate places have caused people to create devices to enforce courtesy.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

AEton (654737) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807056)

Now I understand why people get frustrated with people talking loudly on cell phones, so the better question is, why haven't the mic's improved?


The microphones on most modern phones work perfectly fine if you speak into them it a conversational level or even below what you'd normally use. They adjust to too-loud shouting, or you adjust by moving your ear away from the phone at the other end or by turning your own phone's volume down so low that they have to shout to be heard in future calls. In the latter case it's a self-reinforcing feedback loop: stupid, inconsiderate phone behavior produces more of the same.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807071)

While this does have some bad implications, "free speech" has nothing to do with being able to use a phone.

Also, I find it interesting that plumbers, fire fighters and medical staff were able to do their jobs before the invention of the cellphone.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807072)

oh and it is in violation of FCC regulation to interfear with radio communication. And they do have specific regulations applicable to cellular technology.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (0, Troll)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807076)

The mics have improved. They're good enough that you can whisper and the other person can here you fine. The problem is, people are such "incredibily self centered" that the rest of the world melts away when they're on a cell phone. But it's not just that. There's no reason why a phone should ring in the middle of a lecture or a concert. There's no reason to talk on your phone during a movie. You're right, you do have a right to free speech, but you don't have a right to be disruptive. And since most places that would impliment this are PRIVATE institutions, you have no right to free speech in their building anyway.

If emergency medical people are on the scene, I'm sure the system will be turned off. As for doctors, well they need to get a pager or find a non disruptive way of being notified. As for hotels, well that's too fucking bad isnt it.

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807086)

This is incredibily self centered

If we're going to talk about "self centered", then why don't we talk about the jerk whose cellphone interrupts crucial parts of a movie?

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807087)

Leaving your cell phone on in a movie theater is rude. Talking on it while you are driving is dangerous. Jamming rude, dangerous a-holes is fun. What's the problem?

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (3, Informative)

LS (57954) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807096)

Moderators, please mark the parent as overrated.

You are claiming that the airwaves are public, so people can transmit if they want. Well, what if I feel like transmitting "no service" signals? Also, this is a bad analogy, as a person's mouth is not public.

Anyway, I don't think the cell-phone specific airwaves are public anyway - this portion of the frequency spectrum is sold by the government to private entities.

LS

Re:Self righteous pricks controlling others lives (1)

scumbucket (680352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807107)

An owner of a theatre would probably argue that the airwaves inside the theatre belong to him, and as such they can be jammed.

Of course we wouldn't be talking about this if people would just turn off their cell phones when appopriate. But we've become a much too self-centered, rude society for that.......

Better idea... (2, Interesting)

lpangelrob2 (721920) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806892)

Can someone make one of these so that I can stop checking Slashdot every 5 minutes all day long? Thanks.

Now this is interesting. (2, Insightful)

Tuxedo Jack (648130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806899)

I can see churches and assembly halls getting them, as well as theaters and restaurants, just to lower the asshole quotient, but this raises issues.

What if an emergency call is blocked, or a call about something incredibly good?

What if it were Darl's call to Linus apologizing for the lawsuit that was blocked? (Hey, we can dream.)

This shouldn't be used except in controlled circumstances, although personal-sized models of this will be fun to play with.

Re:Now this is interesting. (1)

solios (53048) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806958)

If the call was blocked, it would bounce to voicemail and would be exactly the same as missing a call on a land line- if you're in a disrupted area, you're "out of the office", so to speak.

Personally, these should be installed in movie theaters. Depending on price and portability, I'd buy one just for personal use, and keep it in my backpack. Nothing is more obnoxious than someone on the bus with an annoying atonal nasal whine bitching out their kids or their mother or their whatever on a cel while you're trying to get from point A to point B. :|

Re:Now this is interesting. (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806975)

What if an emergency call is blocked
If you're a doctor on call, or a businessman expecting a call about the deal of a lifetime, don't go into places like theaters where you are expected to muster the courtesy of turning your phone off. It is that simple.
...or a call about something incredibly good? What if it were Darl's call to Linus apologizing for the lawsuit that was blocked? (Hey, we can dream.)
That is why the phone companies invented voicemail. Use it.

Re:Now this is interesting. (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806982)

If you have an emergency, you shouldn't be calling someone out there in the world on their cellphone - you should be calling 911.

If it's important you be reached, put your phone in silent mode, or get a pager (with a silent mode).

It'd be the best of all worlds if the phones could be remotely PUT into silent mode while in theatres, restaurants, etc. Then all this nonsense could be done away with, and people truly in NEED of being reached anywhere still could. It's in the hands of the phone companies. You know, the same people who concentrate on adding more features rather than making sure the call stays connected. Yeah, those people. Hold your breath.

Unblocked! (1, Insightful)

abramul (739270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806999)

If you really need to make a call, walk outside. I suppose what you are more concerned with is incoming calls, so consider this idea:

As you go into a high-class opera house, you check your phone at the desk, give them your seat number, and relax and enjoy(?) the show. Partway through, an usher comes to your seat, and quietly tells you that a Darl McBride is on the line. You then walk to the desk, and take the call there.

It would probably be possible to temporarily reroute your phone number, too.

Re:Now this is interesting. (1)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807117)

Well here's the thing to consider, emergency calls didn't exist a few years ago. Did doctors get by then? If so there's no reason they can't now. There's still pagers, and if worst comes to worst, they can designate an emergency profession band.

Yay! A cellphone damping field! (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806912)

I've wanted one of these for a long time. Put them in classrooms, lecture halls, airplanes and movie theaters, PLEASE!!! I've long said we should have something like this.

It would be even better if this feature was built into GSM, PCS or whatever standard, so that you could further tell the phone to turn off. This would be useful on airplanes and in other environments where cellphone use is restricted or prohibited.

--Joe

Praise be! (1, Funny)

Dracolytch (714699) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806914)

So how soon can my movie theater get these things installed???

~D

Wow, bet doctors will love this one... (4, Funny)

ClippyHater (638515) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806918)

"Doctor, he could've been saved if only you'd have gotten the phone call!"

"That doesn't matter, nurse, the ring was destroyed and Sauron defeated!"


I truly hope folk don't use this on the sly. Should be law that where they're in use, HUGE signs in obvious-to-see places let you know you won't be getting any calls.

ObLink (5, Informative)

OldManAndTheC++ (723450) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806924)

No-reg link here [nytimes.com]

In Soviet Russia, link follows you!

Voice Mail Ring? (1)

djhertz (322457) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806932)

Would this also stop the cell phone from telling you there is a voice mail? I know when I am in my basement, I appear to have no signal, but I still get voice mails. I could be way off on this one, but then if you have a little chirpy message to tell you have a voice mail, you may still disturb people.

Send Incoming Calls directly to voicemail? (1, Insightful)

lake2112 (748837) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806942)

This is a good idea if its only for incoming calls. By only blocking incoming calls people can still make their emergency phone calls. And if someone is making an outgoing phone call at the Opera then that is an offense punishable by castration. So I say block the incoming calls.

Bad idea (1)

Lane.exe (672783) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806944)

This seems like the ultimate bad idea; for every annoying twit who abuses their cell phone, there are 5 responsible, sane people who need it for good purposes. Say I'm out eating at a restaurant and my boss needs to get ahold of me ASAP; if the cell phone signal is blocked, he's not going to be able to. It gets even worse -- what if the person next to me is an ER surgeon, and he needs to be called in? Cell phones provide both a convenience and a distraction -- if you want the positive benefits, you have to take the negative ones as well.

Only blocks GSM (4, Informative)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806951)

The NYT article (available here [nytimes.com] reg-free (thanks, guys [blogspace.com] !)) is short on details, but the manufacturer's web site has much more detail.

Some interesting notes:

* Their technology currently only works on GSM phones, so here in the US, it'll only block T-Mobile [t-mobile.com] customers. No more Catherine Zeta-Jones hollering "Stop!" in the middle of your bowling tournament. I hate it when that happens.

* The company is Canada-based, so they're outside the reach of Ashcroft & co. The NYT article quotes the company's founder as saying that the technology is useful in mosques... if the founder is indeed Muslim, he's probably wary of landing on Ashcroft's little Enemies List. Heck, I'm worried myself, 'cause I'm not sure what he thinks of Methodists [nwsource.com] these days!

Manufacturer's web site (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807001)

Can't believe I forgot to link the manufacturer's web site [cell-block-r.com] in my post! Here it is again:

The NYT article (available here [nytimes.com] reg-free (thanks, guys [blogspace.com] !)) is short on details, but the manufacturer's web site [cell-block-r.com] has much more detail.

Some interesting notes:

* Their technology currently only works on GSM phones, so here in the US, it'll only block T-Mobile [t-mobile.com] customers. No more Catherine Zeta-Jones hollering "Stop!" in the middle of your bowling tournament. I hate it when that happens.

* The company is Canada-based, so they're outside the reach of Ashcroft & co. The NYT article quotes the company's founder as saying that the technology is useful in mosques... if the founder is indeed Muslim, he's probably wary of landing on Ashcroft's little Enemies List. Heck, I'm worried myself, 'cause I'm not sure what he thinks of Methodists [nwsource.com] these days!

but... (4, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806955)


... what if I want to stop pacemakers?

Re:but... (1)

DR SoB (749180) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807074)

Carry a Peace Maker.

http://knifecraft.freeservers.com/CowboyHolsters /g lossary.html

Emergencies? (0)

CaptainPinko (753849) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806956)

The problem with ever blocking cell-phone signals is that it will block emergency phone calls too, the kind that some people buy cell phones to recieve. If I'm in a theatre I want to be called if someone at home got stung by a bee and can't find an Epi-pen, or what about a hostage taking in a restaurant? And I don't think anyone else in the theatre/restaurant would mind my cell going off in such a case (just so that I could leave the room afterwards to carry the acutal conversation). In emergencies VoiceMail is NOT an option. The only place this might have any legitimate use is high security military type situations. In everyday life the only things that works is public shaming of assholes and the teaching of tact and courtesy (such as vibrate mode only).

Re:Emergencies? (1)

andih8u (639841) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807016)

In everyday life the only things that works is public shaming of assholes and the teaching of tact and courtesy (such as vibrate mode only).

The problem is, those things don't work. I didn't pay around $10 for a movie ticket to listen to some idiot's cellphone ringing, much less them picking up to tell the person they're in a movie and can't talk now, etc.

If I'm in a theatre I want to be called if someone at home got stung by a bee and can't find an Epi-pen, or what about a hostage taking in a restaurant?

I'd have them call 911 instead, frankly. I'm sure they're better equipped to handle an emergency than you and your cell phone are.

Obsolete (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806964)

Sweet mama! I've been waiting a long time for these!

uhhh (1)

nil5 (538942) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806967)

"Admittedly this is better than messing with everything that uses the same frequencies cellphones do . "

I seriously doubt there are any other publicly available devices that operate in the same band as cell phones. Sure, maybe a personal computer, but that does not "transmit or receive", i.e. it is shielded (uh oh lexan cases!) and doesn't transmit (FCC regs). So, while the person who submitted this headline made his/her final sentence "sound good", it is in fact meaningless.

So this is neat, but (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806969)

I hope that when such devices are in use, signs stating so will be publically posted in the area so that this does not unknowingly interfere with, for example, on-call doctors.

Rights (0, Flamebait)

Anonymouse Cownerd (754174) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806972)

Although I agree that there should be places where one should not use a phone, what right do you have to take away any of my legal rights? There are no laws that state I cannot place or receive a cell phone call out on the street or in a theatre for that matter. The ban on smoking here in NYC is different (whether or not I agree with it is another matter). This is analogous to someone walking up to you, taking your lit cigarrette from your lips and grinding it dead with their shoe. If I am paying for cellular service, you better not be denying me of what I paid for.

Wouldn't it be just as bad anyway? (1)

ro_coyote (719566) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806984)

I'm no expert on cells, but... if a cell can't establish a connection with its network won't it continue to send a signal out anyway in search of a new one?

prisons (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806989)

From the article:The concerns go beyond mere annoyance [snip] prison authorities want to guard against phone use by inmates for drug deals or other forms of wrongdoing.

WTF? I've been to prison (class trip for a criminal justice class). We were required to leave just about everything on the bus - money, credit cards, pack of smokes, car keys, etc. Cell phones were included on the list. (It would've been easier to list what we were allowed to bring)

Inmates are already prohibited from having a cellphone while locked up and while it might be possible to smuggle one in, it's damn near impossible to keep it hidden for an extended period of time. Why would prison authorities be concerned about phones?

phone companies (2, Interesting)

musikit (716987) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807000)

how long until phone companies start paying off contractors to use these special anti cell phone materials so they can sell more land lines?

DOS? (2, Funny)

alfal (255149) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807007)

You know someone will use this as some sort of Denial Of Service gadget.... Walk down Wall Street with one and watch the craziness begin.

Cell phone users (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807008)

I see lots of people (mostly women) walking, driving and shopping with their cell phone glued to their ear. Not only do I think this is rude, but distracted users could easily walk into oncomming traffic. WTF is so important that you cannot put down that stupid phone and pay attention to what you are doing?

I for one welcome our new cell phone jamming overlords

I like it... (1)

Vexler (127353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807010)

What I like best about these jamming/countersignaling devices is that the person with the cell phone, unless told otherwise, really has no idea that he/she is near one of these devices and thus has no way of retaliating. One of the posters below insists rather vehemently that we "better not take away my rights [to use cell phones]". Well, we can take it away, and he won't know about it, and there is nothing he can do about it either.

This is a bad idea... (1)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807014)

Who is going to draw the line of where these jamming devices can, and can't be used. What if the next step is to have devices that broadcast a "free" advertisment on your cell phone inside stores. It seems to me that someone else using what I own is stealing. In this case they are stopping me from using a product I own. Same thing, theft by denial of use.

The proper way to regulate cell phones is for buisnesses and private properties to develop policies, and post them. Most theaters I go to have signs that say "turn off cell phones". If someone does not, they get thrown out. It is simple. Or, if you want to be savvy, you can set your cell phone to vibrate, when it goes off you can quickly see the caller id, and if it is important you leave and go to a washroom or step outside. What's the problem?

What will happen one day if your mom/sister/brother gets sick, and they try to call you to come to the hospital, but you are out at some fancy resturant or theater that uses this device?

oh no the horror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807017)

"A company based in Fairfax, Virginia, has come up with a subtler method of preventing cell-phone addicts from using the world as a phone booth."

What a great idea..now calls to 911 won't work...pages to doctors won't work, meeting with long lost relatives won't happen. Lets see the twin towers gets hit a despreate husband tries to call his wife but no he just gets her voice mail. What a friggen great idea. anyway people talking on the phone in public places annoy me buts nazis telling me that all jews should be killed annoy me even more. But they should still have that right. The alternative is far worse.

cops use cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807023)

cops *everywhere* in the US use cellphones as 1.) a backup to the radio systems, which increasingly have issues as they switch to trunked systems and 2.) a way to have more secure communications than the radio systems which, even trunked, many of which can be listened to by anyone with a scanner and 3.) quite frankly, a way to say certain non-politically-correct things that might get them in hot water back at HQ

its simple... the first time a cop can't make a cell call and realizes its because of one of these devices, 1.) somebody's going to get a trip downtown and 2.) national legislation will be made against them

No lawsuit needed, just a complaint will work... (2, Insightful)

n()_cHIEFz (203036) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807025)

This device would be illegal in the US (unless they've somehow received FCC aproval).

The FCC will crack down hard on people using this device. All it takes is one complaint from a cell customer or provider to the FCC, you don't have to file a lawsuit.

The fines for transmitting in unauthorized bands are pretty hefty and I doubt that anyone who is attempting to block cell traffic would be willing to put up with repeated large fines and/or jail time for not complying.

They don't let you bring guns in the symphony hall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807047)

I wish symphony halls would just treat the cell phone as precisely as inappropriate as a handgun.

I wish that the responsibility was placed on the venue to prevent their clientele from bringing one of these things into the hall.

I wish that when it did happen (which is pretty much *always*) that patrons would become irate and ask the venue for a refund because the performance was ruined (due not only to the cell phone, but to the riot, and the unfortunate killing that ensued.)

I attended a performance of La Bohème. During the intermission, some woman was sitting there in the auditorium talking on the phone. I'm thinking "how can you even bring that thing in here?"

Sure enough, towards the end of the show, I hear some fancy ringtone. I really, truly, literally, wanted to kill the person responsible.

Doctors (3, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807053)

And what about the doctor, who is always on call, but had his pager/cellphone on "vibrate" to avoid disturbing those around him. Is he not allowed to go in these areas, or perhaps he will just miss the call that a 12-year-old-girl is dying at the hospital while waiting for a transplant.

Yes, cellphones disrupting public events are definately a growing problem, but you know what: the last movie I saw was more interupted by the girls talking/swearing a few rows up than by cellphones. The solution to either problem: kick 'em out.

Disruption is not the solution to disruption... especially if this device were to become to everyone who has a grudge against cellphones.

what about the reverse? (1)

trmj (579410) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807070)

Ok, so they are developing something that can be seen as acceptable in an otherwise unacceptable field of technology: a device that makes cell phones not recieve calls so they don't ring. So, what stands to question, is can the cell phones still make outgoing calls? Remember, from the description in the article, it's not a normal jammer, although those are mentioned.

ATTENTION ALL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807081)

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"no service signal" gibberish (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8807091)

"sends signals of no service"??

That's crap. Jamming is jamming. There is no such thing as a "signal of no service".

all restaurants and movie theatres should buy one (1)

Oo.et.oO (6530) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807106)

or two!

yay! peace and quiet!

Collateral damage? (1)

EvilStein (414640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8807118)

So, it's going to cover 850mhz, 1900mhz, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, etc?

Isn't it likely that this thing will whack more than cell phones?

It's probably easier to just give theatre patrons a big stick. That way they can just beat the shit out of any moron that whips out a cell during the movie.
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