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Cell Phone Reception Hack 142

Posted by timothy
from the zooming-out dept.
New Breeze writes "Has this ever happened to you? Just when you need to make a phone call, the bars of reception are scant to none. But Graeme, who writes a blog called 'Earth: Mostly Harmless,' gives us hope. Succeeding where most would quit, he chronicled his ingenuity in a post titled 'How I got mobile phone reception where there was no signal.'" Update: 08/01 14:31 GMT by T : Note: Credit for this story belongs to Mike Yamamoto, who wrote it for CNET's News.com.
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Cell Phone Reception Hack

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  • Short version: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:55PM (#15820932)
    Use an external antenna. A lot of phones still have connectors for those, so no hacks required there.
    • Re:Short version: (Score:5, Informative)

      by ElectricRook (264648) on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:59PM (#15820969)
      I use the old three watt bag phone, gets great reception, costs US$19 per month, never rings unless I plug it in, which I never do. Clear as a bell, even if I'm out in the woods. Reception not too good in some canyons.
      • Do you know where to buy ancient phones and accompanying service? I'd be amused to have a bag phone or an OKI (they're really cool old hackable analog phones--remote controllable with DTMF, reprogrammable to display a list of other calls on the cell and let you select one to listen to, computer controllable, etc...), but I don't know where to buy them, and I don't know how to get service for them. (The cheapest plans most companies have now are around $40-$50.) Thanks for any pointers you can give.

        • Re:Where to buy? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Myself (57572) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:15PM (#15822052) Journal
          Carriers won't put new service on an analog-only phone anymore. I spent an afternoon trying in March. I have a bag phone with a POTS simulator, essentially it's a Cellsocket or Dock'n'talk built right into the phone. Generates ring voltage and dialtone, interprets DTMF *and* pulse dial, and generally rocks. I wanted to find a prepay plan with free incoming and run a BBS off that sucker, with a 300 baud modem on a C64, in the back of my car just for kicks ;)

          Verizon's counter-kids don't even know what the word "analog" means anymore. When I talked to the old guy in back, he laughed me out of the store.

          The folks at Cingular, who I had service through several years ago but let lapse, thought it would "kick ass" to see "that old beast" running again, so we spent 2 hours trying to get their online activation system to do our bidding. I downloaded motbib23.txt and broke out the screwdriver while standing at the counter, but we couldn't get their system to take the phone's ESN. In the end it was fruitless.

          None of the other places I called would even acknowledge that "analog" or "amps" or "brick phones" ever existed. Bastards.

          If you find one, let me know...
          • by schon (31600)
            I wanted to find a prepay plan with free incoming and run a BBS off that sucker, with a 300 baud modem on a C64, in the back of my car just for kicks

            You must be a devil with the ladies.. :)
        • Re:Where to buy? (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Yeah, pretty much you can't. Sometimes the prepaid cellular places are laxer about what phones they'll activate (I guess not an issue with GSM phones). But, the remaining TDMA (let alone AMPS..) ones were using Cingular AMPS.. Cingular's TDMA prepaid billing provider lost some lawsuit, and Cingular was required to stop new TDMA accounts as of January 1.

          As for prepaid cos using Verizon or the like... with newer requirements for locatable phones (your location's su
        • Sorry, I don't know where to find them, ebay? I've kept my old service.

          There is a wiki about analog service probably going to stay, as On-Star uses analog cel service.

          I moved to a remote area in 97, and kept the old phone for that reason.

          An old analog service is not a panacea, I pay dearly for the minutes I use, and have a roaming charge.

          I think I pay $1 per minute over 20 or so a month, and $1 per minute for long distance.

          My wife's service is $15.99 per month. So we pay $35 a month for two phones with ta
      • Re:Short version: (Score:5, Informative)

        by vonwilkenstein (817078) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:42PM (#15821233)
        Enjoy it now while it lasts. FCC is allowing carriers to pull the plug on AMPS soon. We ( as in the carrier I work for) are vastly de-growing the AMPS network to a barebones network with BARE minimum capacity. Also as this is occuring, there have been cells that were just removed altogether eliminating AMPS coverage altogether. I do agree however, three watt bag/install phones are the shit for voice calls.
        • Looks like Cingular is taking it a step further............... http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/31/news/companies/cin gular.reut/index.htm?cnn=yes [cnn.com]
          • Re:Short version: (Score:3, Informative)

            by plover (150551) *
            Hmm... from your FA:
            Cingular has been working for years to phase out these technologies in favor of GSM (Global System of Mobile Communications), a newer technology that is the world's most popular wireless standard.
            I didn't get the memo. When did the acronym GSM get hijacked by illiterate Americans? I always thought it stood for "Groupe Spéciale Mobile"?

            Of course, I hope the French are pissed. :-)

        • I used to work for US Cellular... we were told that 95% of our customers had to be into CDMA equipment within a few months, or the company would be charged large fees. US Cellular actually sent out memos telling customers that they would be charged a "substantial monthly non-compliance fee" if they did not switch to new equipment... it was a huge mess... and alot of customers were pissed [for good reason] .. they later sent out an apology letter, and said that switching was up to the customer... they calle
          • Yes, I have a question.

            Is that a 5 dollar one time credit, or is it reapplied monthly to all future bills?

            Secondly, how much is a new phone? And can these phones be used as a gps for getting long/lat coordinates?

            Grump
            (sorry, next time I'll call cust service instaed of bugging you)
          • "...they called it the E-911 initiative... they wanted GPS chips in everyone's phones...."

            I wonder...is there any way to hack into the modern phones, and disable the GPS chips in them, but, otherwise have a functional phone?

            From the story you told, it appears that a customer isn't required to have a GPS phone...so I'd take from that that even if you have one, there is nothing requiring you to keep that functionality working...

      • I just had a flash of nostalgia! ROFL
    • It says in the article that the external antennas he had looked at were either too weak or too expensive. This gets a strong, cheap antenna.
      • But check your distance to the nearest cell tower first before building that big antenna.

        GSM will not connect a call beyond 35km, due to delays due to speed of light and signal processing.
        There's a correction/delay factor built in, but it's only 6 bits from memory - 0-63. Once you get beyond that, it won't work. I used to drive through a spot which happened to be line-of sight to a tower about 40km away - no signal until exactly 35km, then 3 bars on the phone.

        All the antennas in the world won't help you aft
    • Re:Short version: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gfilion (80497)

      Use an external antenna. A lot of phones still have connectors for those, so no hacks required there.

      Obligatory karma whoring: Here's a good place to buy one. [wilsonelectronics.com]

      For CAN$50 I got myself a mag mount 5 dBi external antenna. [wilsonelectronics.com]

    • You can also just set the phone in the window and use a bluetooth headset.
    • Use an external antenna. A lot of phones still have connectors for those
      True, but doesn't any antenna hooked up to a transmitter need to be FCC certified? Isn't this guy opening himself up for a slapdown from the FCC?

      Furthermore, it doesn't appear that he tested the SWR [wikipedia.org] of his setup. He may be slowly frying his cell phone every time it transmits.
    • My experience has been that phones typically have more than one connector, and that all are undocumented, so it's difficult to know where to plug in an external antenna. When I tried to set up an external antenna to see if I could get EVDO coverage at home, I couldn't find the appropriate adapter hardware.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:57PM (#15820943)
    How I read a webpage from a server that had been slashdotted into oblivion.
  • site down? (Score:1, Informative)

    Is the linked site down for anyone else? Already?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:57PM (#15820951)
    I can't wait for: "How I got pages served when my server was Slashdotted."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      More likely "How Slashdot gave me a six-figure bandwidth bill for my birthday"

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, that's positively ancient. But it works. Without frying your brain cells... :-)
  • by saifrc (967681) on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:58PM (#15820958)
    I can't believe the site's down already. This means that Slaashdotters are actually reading TFA. Who knew?
    • by falsified (638041) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:03PM (#15821011)
      That's because it's a good old-fashioned "How to _________" written by an actual human being rather than a Vista/Wii/Apple/Linux/BSD press release via CNN.com or com.com. Hey editors, post more interesting things like this!
      • That's because it's a good old-fashioned "How to _________" ...and many of the trolls who just want to "me too" or comment without reading anything are too busy on Digg, where there are no filters, time limits between posts or accountability. Oh and anyone can (and does) moderate.

        I am not trying to be mean, but Digg has helped /. by thinning the herd a bit. It also woke /. management up. I don't even bother with the comments area on digg unless I feel like trolling.

        And yes, me too, more articles like thi
        • by liquidpele (663430) on Monday July 31, 2006 @07:04PM (#15821354) Journal
          You can always find some stuff on hackaday.com [hackaday.com] like this /. story.
          If you wern't already aware anyways.
          • Actually, I wasn't aware of it, so thanks! I guess the reason I like (or rather, my hope for) slashdot is actually the editing process, to present the "best of the best" of what is on the other sites as well. This is so my lazy ass can go to one site often, other sites less frequently, and get the info I want and some I need. Besides, I only have limited time to hack around due to constrains of "The Real World"(tm).

            Theoretically, that is the whole purpose of other media outlets, to filter it down to what
          • Yeah, and they're always slamming people's servers as well. Two days ago they posted a link to a current limiter for a stepper motor and within five minutes the server was offline, which it still is. sigh.
      • That's because it's a good old-fashioned "How to _________" written by an actual human

        Haven't had a chance to read it yet, have you?

        Unfortunately, it's just a "How to _use an antenna_" article.
        .

        For my next slashdot article, I'll talk about poor radio reception, and ways to fix it.
        • Yes I know, but it's a start! Besides, it had some impressive-looking Greek characters in it. Lambda?! That's pretty far into the alphabet. No alphas or betas here!
        • It's far more interesting than your typical boring slashdot casemod article. It's applying high school physics, rather than applying a dremel. And it took a bit of detective work for him to figure out the correct (or near enough to correct) specs, since up until now, no one else has built their own UTMS antenna and published the details on the web.

          If you have a novel approach, why don't you write and submit that article. I dare say it would be more interesting than half the crap that passes for news around
        • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@NOsPam.xoxy.net> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:50AM (#15822967) Homepage Journal
          Unfortunately, it's just a "How to _use an antenna_" article.

          Yeah, pretty much.

          I don't want to be too hard on the guy, because it sounds like this was his first antenna project, but the whole article just makes me a little sad. What he did isn't even all that hard, and if he had done a little more searching around he would have found literally thousands of pages and hundreds of articles, complete with formulae and schematics, on how to build antennas of this type.

          There's an amateur radio band located just above (and IIRC overlapping slightly with) the 2.4GHz ISM band. There's tons of antenna construction resources; the American Radio Relay League has two volumes written about the topic [arrl.org]. (Although it covers a lot more than just antennas, admittedly.) Although I don't own the book, I'd bet that most of those articles probably have equations for scaling the dimensions to particular frequencies, so it would be trivial to do what he was attempting. (And a quite likely a violation of FCC rules, but that's another story.)

          On a more general note, it's a little sad to see how little of a connection there is between the radio "hacking" community and the computer one. Perhaps it's due to there being a generational gap in there, but I've never met two groups of people that have as much in common, philosophically, as computer hackers and ham radio tinkerers. When I read articles like TFA, where the author says "To my knowledge no-one has built a homebrew biquad UMTS antenna before..." it just really underscores how poor a job the amateur radio community has done in connecting with computer geeks. The topic at hand here isn't something breathless and new, it's well-understood to the point of probably being boring. But because of the lack of connection between the two interest groups (even though, as in this case, they have a lot of common interests even if they don't realize it), we have computer geeks painfully reinventing the basics of antenna design, and we have ham radio operators who haven't in some cases even figured the Web out completely, much less how to use it to collaborate.

          That's not to say that there aren't computer geeks who are into ham radio and vice versa -- the number of radio-related software projects is testament to that (as am I, and others here on /.), but it's a lot less than you would think given how much each group could stand to gain and benefit and learn from the other. There's some stuff being done that honestly is breathless and new, on the cutting edge of both radio communications technology and information/computer technology, but there's a shortage of people with the combined background to contribute. How much further along would we be, if both groups were't wasting so much time reinventing each others' wheels?
          • Well... a long time ago, when I first got my hands on a Sinclair 1000 personal computer with 2K of RAM and started learning about computers and programming, I also got the "itch" to learn more about HAM radio. I can defiinitely see where the potential "crossover" is with the two interests/hobbies.

            The reason *I* didn't pursue HAM radio and did pursue computers, BBSing, and later the Internet, is because I didn't need a government-issued license to use my computer!

            To this day, it still keeps me away from doi
  • Standing on top of the roof works fine for me. Except I wouldn't do that during a thunderstorm. Lightning strikes, you know.
  • Mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by andyring (100627) on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:59PM (#15820970) Homepage
    It's getting pretty slow. Here's a mirror [andyring.com].
  • ghetto (Score:5, Funny)

    by grapeape (137008) <.moc.rr.ck. .ta. .7epopm.> on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:02PM (#15820996) Homepage
    Nice solution I guess if you want a ghetto antenna next to your window, but it reminds me of my friends little brother. He was unhappy with his remote control cars range so he took a backpack and mounted a huge CB whip antenna to it and wired the antenna of the remote to the backpack. Dipole be damned, he claimed it made the car's range better. Of course he looked like a complete tard running around the street, but that wasnt unusual for him.
    • He was unhappy with his remote control cars range

      Eh? Hobby-grade R/C plane gear has a range of about 1.5 miles -- about 3x further than you can even see a 2 meter wingspan plane (at 1/2 mile, a 2 meter plane is a speck in the sky. If you have good eyes, you might be able to tell what direction it's pointed, but little more.)

      Hobby-grade R/C car gear is similar, but the cars are a good deal smaller -- I'll bet you could barely see your car at 1/8th mile. So what would he need all this extra range f

      • Toy-grade R/C gear is significantly worse than hobby-grade. The $20 Radio Shack Ferarri would barely get to the end of the driveway before it got hard to control. The kid with the CB whip was a genius!

        And anyway, when your plane gets too far away for you to see it, you need a video downlink from it. It's about time for hobbyists to get serious about this stuff, and I vote we refer to video-equipped R/C planes as "aliens". Just so we can one day have a giantic air battle with the military version and call it
  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:04PM (#15821013) Journal
    All he does is use an external antenna, maybe if it fiddled with some of the phones internal settings I might call it a hack.
  • Article text (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How I got mobile phone reception where there was no signal
    Posted at 20:30 by Graeme
    Categories: Uncategorized

    (Or, to be more accurate, where 20ft of solid stone was blocking line-of-sight to the nearest transmitter.)

    I just got a Nokia E61 on T-Mobile. When I signed up, I knew that the signal was really weak in the back of our house - the building forms a large square, and my bedroom faces into the centre of the square. I could get a signal in the living room (just), but wouldn't it be great, I thought, not
  • by LqdSlpStrm (464344) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:09PM (#15821055) Journal

    GSM phones here operate on 850/1900Mhz. 3G is not really deployed yet.

    • Actually,

      Although I no longer work for them, Cingular soft launched 3g in 2004, and then 13 markets in 2005, and if you go to this link.

      http://www.cingular.com/business/3G_cov_maps_pop

      You will see they are stringing it together pretty fast.

      I am not a huge fan of the company, but they are doing it, and it works well.

      Puto
  • Bars (Score:2, Insightful)

    by booch (4157)
    Mmmm, bars.

    Sorry, got distracted there. I'd like to know why it is that there are 4 bars right before I dial, and only 2 bars (or worse) right after I hit the SEND button. This has happened to me multiple times. I'm pretty sure it's even happened to me on 2 different carriers.
    • Re:Bars (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jerry Coffin (824726) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:20PM (#15821118)
      I'd like to know why it is that there are 4 bars right before I dial, and only 2 bars (or worse) right after I hit the SEND button. This has happened to me multiple times.

      Obviously you're driving by the bars when you decide to dial. Your phone is trying to tell you to stop in and have a drink instead of just driving by. It won't make your phone work any better, but it'll help you realize the futility of caring about it. :-)

    • by Skater (41976)
      I've heard that phones only update so often - they aren't continuously monitoring the strength of the signal, but instead check it a couple times a minute to save battery life. If you've moved since the last check, then the signal strength may have changed, and it updates when it goes to contact the tower to complete your call... Just a theory. IANAWE (wireless engineer).
    • Re:Bars (Score:3, Informative)

      by steveo777 (183629)
      I get that kind of crap too. I live in the middle of a metro area and I get almost no signal in my house. I had to buy a bluetooth headset just so I can leave my phone in an ideal position for signal. Pisses me off. Not like the phone companies care. Half the time when I dial it says 'connecting' for 15 seconds and then the bars dissappear and I get the main screen on my phone back like nothing happend. This has happened to me with three seperate phones, Two Motorolas and a SonyEricson. Also Verizon
      • A friend of mine just moved into a new building and he receives almost no signal on his cellphone; fortunately he has a Cisco SIP phone too. I suggested attaching an antenna to a ballon and floating it to the top of the building (his only window faces an alley and he's basically surrounded by brick and concrete), but I like the article's solution better.

        Half the time when I dial it says 'connecting' for 15 seconds and then the bars dissappear and I get the main screen on my phone back like nothing happe

        • Consider yourself lucky. I have a Samsung i500 with service through Sprint and if the thing doesn't have a signal, it jacks up the power and keeps trying to connect until the battery is drained. I discovered this after a few times of driving to my parents' house and spending the night only to find my phone dead the next morning.

          I think my Motorola v600i does similar stuff. Started a new job in June, and the building got zilch for Cingular reception. Lots of Verizon phones in the company (people love the

    • I have this happen to me too. I suspect it has to do with the angle that the cellphone is at. When it's lying on the table, the antenna aims out the windows usually. Whereas once I pick it up to dial, the signal has to go through much more building material. I think I can see a pattern when I change the angle of the phone, but it's hardly scientific. It could be that I have a metal plate in my head that I didn't know about. :)

      FWIW, my cell signal at home is marginal. It's pretty good on the south
    • Or why I can dial and get perfect reception with no bars? The bars only display the signal for the frequency the phone is currently on. If, to complete the call correctly, it has to jump to another band, then it will. If you drive from in town like I do, where the phone towers are all 1900Mhz, your phone will show the signal for 1900Mhz on the antenna display. Out where I live, the tower is 800Mhz, and there are no 1900Mhz towers in range. So, it shows 0 reception for 1900Mhz. Only when it's prompted will
    • Re:Bars (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:36PM (#15821870)
      I get the same thing, and judging by the other replies, it's fairly common.

      Last week, my T-Mobile Motorola phone would show 4-5 bars, and when I tried to make almost any call (including voicemail), it would sit for 5-10 seconds, then simultaneously drop to zero bars and show the "Call Failed" message. The interesting thing is that there were two numbers I could call that worked flawlessly: my house's landline, which is probably on my T-mo records, and the tech support number (I think I just dial 611 on my cell to get it). Further investigation on my own led me to believe that my phone was receiving a "fast busy" signal, but that the phone itself would just give the "Call Failed" message rather than let me hear it. Further investigation found that my friends who had been trying to call me received "fast busy" signals. -Further- investigation found that my sister's phone, which is also on T-Mobile, was having the same problem.

      I calmly told all of this to someone at support. The frontline person asked a few script-type questions which seemed to want to blame it on my phone or the local weather. Luckily, the weather was flawless that day and my sister's phone was having an identical problem. Since she couldn't blame it on either of those, she forwarded me to an actual -tech- support. The actual tech support person was also very polite, and seemed to be able to check network status for any sort of regional problems...unfortunately, she couldn't really do anything to help. The final answer was something like "we've had some reports of problems and the engineers are working on it"...I could tell that was the best I'd get. She did give me 50 extra minutes, which is at least something (although I also found out that there was now a plan identical to mine at the same cost except with an additional 300 anytime minutes...so I guess I just got ripped off less this month).

      Further research on fast busy led me to believe that some part of the local network was saturated...seeming to me like the kind of problem that would have been anticipated in advance if there was any actual hope of it being solved.

      Anyways, my main advice:
      1) Don't be afraid to call tech support. If you do, be calm, be ready to wait a few minutes if need be...but first make sure that you do a few things:
      2) Before you call, try to verify that the problem is not your phone. Power cycle your phone. Try a couple numbers: cell phones, landlines, voicemail, and see what works or doesn't. Have a cell phone and landline call your phone. The more specific you can make your information, the less troubleshooting they'll try to talk you into on the phone, and the faster you can get things done.
      3) Don't expect anything major in return.
      4) Be nice!

      I've pretty much resigned myself to defeat as far as cellphones go. Only once have I ever felt like my cell plan was a good deal (and it was when I first started with T-Mobile). Before and since that time, I've always felt like I was getting ripped off in various ways that I couldn't control. I've never had service in my house/room, but I've almost always had perfect service in my friend's homes/rooms. And, it's pretty obvious that whoever is designing phones and their menu systems has never used a cell phone in their life: it takes at least a full half-second for any button presses to cause action on the screen. The menus are a mess. Several years ago, in about a 12 month period, ringtones went from being something that anyone could make their own and easily upload to their phone to a $1 billion industry. A $1 billion industry created in a year at the expense of consumers.

      Nothing anyone can do, because the convenience of a cell phone is still too nice to pass on, and they keep the prices just low enough that we'll still pay. Someone submit a story if some investors ever get together and offer relief somehow. :(
      • Just a note to try to prevent this comment being lost.
      • it's not all about the signal strength: that's only part of it. For GSM, each cell tower can only make a limited (and surprisingly small) number of simultaneous voice and data calls. This means you can have perfect reception, but not be able to make a call. In cases where the contention ratio's been reached and you're already on a call, you may find your call dropped if someone else tries to make a new call to the emergency services - all part of the GSM specs.
    • When you're not using the connection, then the bars are a battery-friendly estimate. When you're on the phone, then it's maintaining an active connection and as such has a more accurate measure of the signal.
    • If the phone was away from your body, and you picked it up to use, your body will absorb some of the signal and cause the signal strength shown on the phone to go down. Possibly you noticed it only after hitting send.
  • Sitefinder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jarg0n (882275)
    Is there a US equivalent for "Sitefinder"?

    http://www.sitefinder.radio.gov.uk/

  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:19PM (#15821112) Homepage
    Not to rain on this guy's parade, but well duh! If you put up a bi-quad antenna, a circular polarized quad bay or 8 element yagi you would get a better signal. Of course he could have used a pringle can [oreillynet.com] for a 12db gain.
  • by tacokill (531275) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:20PM (#15821120)
    So, I get to /. and I start to scan the articles. The usual stuff...12 dupes and a few new stories. I get to one called Cell Phone Reception Hack

    Cool. I'll check that one out.

    I pull up the list of comments and I click on the link to the article. I read the article from start to finish and having consumed the literary words on the page, let me be the first to post...

    ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
    Read my lips: Antenna != hack

    This is in no way, shape, or form a hack. It is a guy building an antenna. It's only been done by thousands of other ppl over the last 50 years. But yea, let's run the story anyway and call it a 'hack'.

    Well, it's not.
  • I saw a commercial version of this "hack" that you plug into the wall. I think it was just a repeater. Can anyone confirm this?
  • High quality cable? RG-58?? He is kidding right? I know it is 'Radio-Grade' and balanced at 75ohm...but it is definitely not high quality. RG-6 is the bare minimum I would use for this...and that is if I was hacking it to pieces. Seriously...he could have spent $10 (or pounds or whatever) on a decent length of cable.

    • by IvyKing (732111)
      RG-58 is high quality cable when compared to RG-174 - but a better choice in that size would be RG-223. RG-6 is 75 ohm, and coaxial cables are usually referred to as unbalanced lines as the outer conductor is usually at ground potential.
  • by Sathias (884801) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:16PM (#15821768)
    I managed to hack my electricity so it reached areas it never did before. I used this hacking device called an "extension cord".
  • The article's writer says things like "this antenna has a good gain, and is quite directional".

    However, the gain is the efficiency times the directivity, so a high gain implies a very directional antenna; and, the only parameter that matters (AFAIK) is the gain, because the gain alone is enough to specify how much power you get from a given electromagnetic wave (not counting the losses in the cable and the impedance mismatch, but these are not affected by the directionality of the antenna anyway).

    PS: Forgiv
  • When I've been in the sticks and had to use my phone, I always seem to find a useable analog signal. I may have to stand on the roof of my car, lift my left leg, and hold head at a certain angle but it will eventually work. Odd thing on that though. I've never had an analog signal greater then 1 bar. My question, where the hell are these analog transmitters that I always have a usable signal but never a good one. Freaky.

    A trick I've used to get better range from my car alarm transmitters, hold the tran
  • If the only need was SMS and you're in front of a computer, I can't help but think it would be much easier to just use SMS over IP. I know that bluebottle provides this (for a fee), and I'm sure there are others as well. I think I recall ATT having a free SMS over IP service for messaging their customers - I can't recall if it could receive though. Anyone know of any free two-way SMS services online?
  • So, not being as inclined to go build my own antenna, can anyone recommend a ready-made device that I can install in my car and home that will increase my gain? I've seen such things advertised but have no idea which are gimmicks and which are real.

    What I imagine is some antenna that I can plug into an outlet which will then boost the signal for my cell phone within an immediate radius. I'd like one for my car (which has AC power) and home.

    I'm using Cingular and whatever frequency they have. I'd be great
    • Wilson Cellular sells "boosters". They have mobile [wilsonelectronics.com] and fixed, both wired and wireless repeaters. But they're a touch spendy -- I think between $400 and $500.

      A buddy of mine who lives in BFE Wisconsin has looking to buy one for his house for about six months now -- he only gets cell reception while standing on his western porch (presumably on one leg, with the opposite arm raised high into the air.) The price has been a bit of an issue with him; but this weekend his wife was out there making a call and

      • If you are just marginally out of cell phone range, you can just buy an antenna and appropriate connector cable from Wilson Antenna or from Radio Shack. I've had "2 bar" situations go to 5 bars, and went from "no service" to 1 to 2 bars in a basement of a concrete building. The antenna and connector cable will set you back about $30-$40, but is probably plenty good enough if you know that the signal is just barely making it.
        • I don't think I made my point very well. He's a senior developer, and his wife is a V.P. at a bank. They've got money coming out of their orifices, they're just being too cheap to spend it. :-)

          Anyway, he's a gadget freak and they're both convenience freaks -- hooking up an antenna is soooo third millenial. They'll get a repeater soon enough.

  • bad sumary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:14PM (#15822302) Journal
    "Has this ever happened to you? Just when you need to make a phone call, the bars of reception are scant to none. But Graeme, who writes a blog called 'Earth: Mostly Harmless,' gives us hope. Succeeding where most would quit, he chronicled his ingenuity in a post titled 'How I got mobile phone reception where there was no signal.'"

    Such a bad intro. He basically made a mobile phone into a not so mobile phone connected to a highly directional antena. That will not work for me or anyone else while I'm driving, walking down the streat or in a train. Which, is basically the only time it happens to most people. While I appreciate his predictimant and commend him on "solving" it. It really won't help many people, and wasn't that novel of a solution. It reminds me of undergrad research. Do something everyone has done before, but in a trivially different way and claim its ground breaking.
    • by iMaple (769378)
      It reminds me of undergrad research. Do something everyone has done before, but in a trivially different way and claim its ground breaking.

      I think u accidently added the extra word 'undergrad' :)
    • It solves a problem doesn't it? I know plenty of people who are off net due to having the misfortune of living in a valley without a nearby base station. Phone are designed to be omnidirectional, but if you don't need it, why not!

      Tucking a phone antenna into the body of a phone is very popular these days, but it isn't much good for signal. Someone like a backpacker who needs omidirectional can easily take a car antenna with them.

      Note that many underground railways in Germany seem to be equipped with som

  • Hey buddy,

    You don't need a fancy antenna. Just type in your SMS, press "send" and immediately throw the phone straight up as high as you can.

    It'll get through.

    -Thetan.

    ps Make sure you catch it again!

    • ROFL I love it. Reminds me of the yupster I witnessed climbing the fence of parliament house in Sydney trying to get better signal, while shouting "are you there? can you hear me?". This was in the days before vast coverage, and earned a few very strange looks.
  • About 2 years ago West Marine started selling a wireless version of a cell repeater meant for RV's and boats, now available through West Marine for about $500. No connection to the phone required, no license required either.
    WM Model #:5903380 [westmarine.com]
    Phil

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