Equipment that jams cell phones will get its first federally sanctioned test inside a prison in Maryland this week, as state officials try to show Congress how the technology can prevent inmates from using the contraband devices to commit crimes, a governor’s spokesman said Tuesday.
The state wants to show the equipment can be used without interfering with emergency response and legitimate signals outside the prison perimeter, said Shaun Adamec, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s spokesman.
Communication Commission can only allow federal agencies — not state or local authorities — permission to jam cell phone signals. But a bill that passed the Senate and awaits action by the House would allow states to petition the FCC to block the use of cell phones from prisons.
The nation’s prisons are one big step closer Wednesday to being allowed to jam mobile phone signals to keep prisoners from using the phones to commit further crimes, despite strong opposition from digital rights groups that say there are better ways to fight the problem.
The bill — passed by a bi-partisan vote in the Senate Commerce committee — would create the first ever exception to the FCC’s ban on jamming devices.
The measure could be voted on by the full Senate as soon as early as this, before it takes its August break, according to Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the bill’s primary sponsor who is also running for Texas governor.
New York Times’ “ethical advice” columnist Randy Cohen gives his take on RF jammers (like, say, Wave Bubble) in NYT Magazine:
The Phone Ranger
By RANDY COHEN
Published: March 4, 2007
Each day people are more brazen and rude with their cellphones. My husband bought a device that can block the signals of cellphone users who annoy him, although he knows such gizmos are illegal. Isn’t his vigilante behavior worse than that of the rudest cell user? — Name Withheld, Connecticut
Your husband may not stifle someone’s behavior merely because he deems it annoying. So capricious a standard would mean constant peril for people who talk baby-talk to their excessively small dogs. Living among other people requires us to tolerate conduct we find vexing.
Or so my head tells me. But my heart says, Your husband is a hero, an acoustic Robin Hood who robs from the rude and gives blessed silence to the poor in spirit.
I propose these guidelines: If someone is yammering into a cellphone on the pavement and you don’t like it, walk away. It is open public space, and opinions vary about its use. Some people place a lower value on quiet than on prattling about what they saw on TV last night. (An immutable law of nature: The louder the phone voice, the duller the conversation.)
But if someone is using a cellphone in a closed space — on a commuter train, in a restaurant — from which you cannot escape, let the jamming begin. We properly limit our freedom when we harm others. It is the cellphoner’s jabbering that prevents you from reading your book or thinking your thoughts, not the other way around.
Those who control shared closed spaces — a theater, a physician’s waiting room — should jam and disclose. Post a sign that says “No Cellphone Service” so people know what they’re getting into. Anyone anticipating an urgent call can ask to use the land line. For decades, doctors on call did just that, and we all survived. Sadly, this solution — ethical, courteous and humane — is frowned on by the F.C.C., but tell your husband I’ll visit him every week in jail.
The concept is a wearable version of Conway’s Game of Life, that is controlled by the current state of your life. Essentially, a wearable extension of your heart, externalized in the form of Conway’s Life. A custom circuit includes an infrared EKG monitor that resets the Game each time a heartbeat is detected. Heartbeat data is analyzed by a hackduino which resets an ATMega48 chip, part of Adafruit’s kit controlling Life, which is embedded in the chest of a hoodie. Conductive thread is used to connect the 16 LED matrix to the circuit board which is kept in a pocket towards the bottom of the hoodie.
Even though they don’t make retail devices, the booths of component makers like Qualcomm, Broadcom, TI, and Marvell at trade shows are often great venues for actually seeing retail devices — these guys have to help showgoers make the connection between a boring chunk of silicon and an end product if they’re hoping to score orders, after all. Indeed, Marvell’s tent at MWC this year is a veritable cornucopia of Good Things, and we couldn’t help but notice that they’re showing what appears to be one of Chumby’s not-for-sale reference designs sporting an 800 x 600 display with an 800MHz Marvell Armada core (hence the appearance here in the booth). For the record, we’re told this is a successor to last year’s reference platform known as “Silvermoon” that had been running on a 1GHz PXA168 and that there’s a chance it’ll be available in retail form later this year. The UI’s attractive, but not really as multi-functional as Sony’s Dash — you can think of this as more of a giant Chumby One, really, with some extra screen elements designed to take advantage of the significantly higher resolution. There’s no guarantee this’ll ever be produced — or if so, when — so for the time being, our video UI tour after the break is about as close as you’re going to get.
But wait, there’s more! The Chumby guts (software guts that is) seem to be on a new Sony device…
Surprising attendees of CES 2010, Sony has dropped a $199 7″ color touchscreen device named “Dash” that is destined for the market in April. We originally spotted the Dash in a FCC filing referencing a HID-C10 model number in mid-December. It has built-in Wi-Fi, and an internal accelerometer which supports vertical flip, allowing for two optional viewing angles: upright, ideal for a table or nightstand; and tilted, perfect for a countertop. It also supports multiple user profiles and channels, allowing several members of the household to create and maintain their own customized view of the Internet. Did we mention free instant access to over 1,500 apps from chumby industries, inc, including popular social networking, news, weather, sports, live traffic feeds, and more? Sony has also integrated access to audio and video content from Sony’s Bravia Internet video platform, including YouTube, Pandora Internet radio, Epicurious, Crackle, Livestrong, Blip.tv, and many others.
Our prediction, Sony is not going to do “open source hardware” – they’re going to use all the software bits only for the Chumby, Flash stuff, server stuff, app stuff – but Sony is not and will not do OSH, ever. Sony, home of the: Memory stick duo pro plus extreme UMD format – they’re not going to do OSH folks, sorry
Making your own printed circuit board can be a truly satisfying process, tying together electronics and the handmade craft of etching. It’s the most accurate way to build a circuit short of sending away to a PCB manufacturer and it’s a lot more fun (+ cheaper too!).
One of the many kinds of machines that we have never made before is a cocktail robot. But recently, after being invited to participate in Barbot 2010, we put together this little drink mixer. Cocktail robots are a funny breed. No two seem to work the same way and many (like ours) have few enough moving parts to barely count as robots at all. The granddaddy cocktail robotics event is Roboexotica (for which you can read about last years robots here, but we’re showing off our machine tonight and tomorrow night, much closer to home at the DNA lounge in San Francisco. Our machine is named “Drink Making Unit.” (Descriptive, isn’t it?) It has three fluid paths, and can produce cocktails with up to three components. It has an integrated 8×8 RGB LED matrix that it uses for data display, and an ice bucket to chill drinks as they go through the system.