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Can You Hear Me Now? 319

squarefish writes "CNN has this story about a hiker stranded in South America's Andes mountains when a blizzard begins. He reaches into his backpack for his cell phone -- only to find his prepaid minutes are up. Out of nowhere, a phone company solicitor is calling on his cell phone, asking if he would like to buy more time. Is this convenient or what?"
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Can You Hear Me Now?

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  • a sales call came in handy.
  • by laymil ( 14940 ) <> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:38AM (#3791255) Homepage
    as far as i know, you are still able to make emergency (911) calls from a cell phone even if it has no service agreement. however, seeing as it wasn't the united states, more power to the sales guy or something.
    next we'll be hearing a story about how spam saved someone's life. (i don't care whether its the canned or electronic kind, would be interesting either way :))
    • by iamplasma ( 189832 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:52AM (#3791295) Homepage
      Yeah, but I think the mobile emergency number is 112 worldwide. Any phone can make that call, even without a SIM card, and it will be carried by any available network. He should have just done that.
      • You'd think this would be true, but in the UK at least you certainly can't make emergency calls without a sim, and I'm not 100% sure you can even make them with no credit. And you still can't make them on any network other than your own. I know that the gsm standards allow this to work, but it isn't done.
        • I'm in the UK and my Nokia 3330 on the Orange network will allow 112 and 999, without the sim but it's not obvious. On swithcing on, it says "insert sim" but if you type in 112 (or 999) as you hit the last digit, the display changes to "call"

          It doesn't work with 911 though.
      • Let me add, 112 is a so special number on GSM standard that, your phone rises its regular power (err, the antenna power) to 5x when you call that number.
        • And furthermore, if you're in a congested cell, emergency calls will kick people off to free up bandwidth for your call. Can't remember if it's last-on, first-off or some other scheme.

          It gets entertaining if the cell is full of people making 112 calls, though ;-)


      • by Rouven ( 515895 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:30AM (#3791394)
        I don't know about world-wide, but here in Europe 112 works without a SIM card. That's why most cities have places where you can donate your old phones (sans card), that they give to the elderly or homeless.
        I've dialed 112 once here in Germany. It seems to bypass the standard GSM call setup -- you're immediately connected to an operator, and it's got its own share of the available resources so you'll get through even when there's a network overload.
      • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:05AM (#3791543) Journal
        You're assuming he knew of the 112 emergency number. In the USA 911 is the only number which people are told about.

        I doubt he knew of local customs (assuming he's from the USA -- I don't know if BellSouth runs cell systems outside the USA). He's not very well informed.

        • He didn't know this blizzard was approaching -- or that conditions made it likely.
        • He packed brandy instead of more necessary equipment -- like cell phone batteries or something that might have helped him not become "stranded" or "lost"...or a sleeping bag.
        • He got "lost". At least we don't know if it was his fault (no GPS? no map? not watching landmarks on the way in? just went "up" and didn't know the way back to town? couldn't read the trail signs in Spanish? no guide?) or not (genetically unable to learn map reading? white-out blizzard hid landmarks? -- how did rescuers get to him, then?).
        • He thought brandy would help keep him warm.
        • He left his cell phone on after he thought it was useless, instead of making his only battery last longer in case he thought of a use for it.
        • He thought cold was charging his battery. More likely just letting it rest is what allowed it to work again for a short time.
        • He had been putting his batteries in the freezer without knowing why he should. (Because it slows the chemical reactions which discharge even an unused battery.) And in the time since he was a child he hadn't found out.
        • He chose prepaid minutes but didn't make sure he had some for the climb...and he reached for his phone because he thought it was usable.
        • He thought there was cellular coverage in the mountains.
        He certainly was more lucky than good.
        • Living in Boston, I frequently hear about stranded hikers who call 911 while hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Cell phones have became so common and these calls happen so frequently that it has actually become a problem. To discourage this behavior (unprepared hikers calling 911 to be rescued), the authorities came to a unique solution: Bill the caller for the cost of the rescue.

          Let me be clear; not every hiker who calls 911 will be billed. If you have a genuine emergency, please use 911. But if you're stranded due to your own stupidity, you're going to pay.
    • by kormoc ( 122955 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:54AM (#3791300)
      I was sitting in my server room, watching all the blinking lights when a stranger entered the room.
      He pointed a gun at me and told me to empty my pockets. He was standing near the router when I noticed the lights turned solid. Strange I thought, but whatever, I had other things on my mind. As I was getting my wallet out, the router blew up sending shards of plastic into the stranger!!
      He was dead!!! I called 911 and the police came out and took the body away. I got a new router out of the closet and replaced the old one. When I placed the final cable in it, I went back to my desk and checked my email. I have 91532109672340969023 new messages!!! Wow. Spam and the linux kernel developers mailing lists saved my life!!!
    • Obviously you've never read my .sig...

  • But surely... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...Even a cellphone which has run out of paid minutes should still be able to make a call to emergency services? It is very poor if it can not.
  • full of holes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeff67 ( 318942 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:40AM (#3791261)
    ...surviving for 24 hours with his only warmth coming from carefully measured dozes[sic] of brandy.
    Alcohol only gives the perception of warmth. It does it by dilating blood vessels in the skin. The result is you lose heat faster. Drinking when you're really cold is a good way to get dead.

    Besides, chilling your battery will not revive it. It will only slow down power loss.

    What a stupid article!
  • Convenient? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Evanrude ( 21624 ) <> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:41AM (#3791264) Homepage Journal
    Convenient, maybe. But what if he hadn't been stranded. How annoying would it be having a solicitor call you and try to cell you more pre-paid minutes every time you run out. I thought it was against some kind of law that phone solicitors could not call your cellular phone anyway? (Correct me if I am wrong)
    • This might be me, but i would much rather have a phone company solicitor call to sell me minutes when im running out than a sales rep offering to sell me a "package" deal where i can consolidate my health ins, car, home, and school loans, not to mention my phone bill for a mere $250/month extra.

      But that's just my disposition...

    • Most likly it was the phone company, they are allowed to call you anytime they want and it is free. He also could have called the company and refilled them that way. Calling customer service is free (with any plans I ever heard of)
    • I thought it was against some kind of law that phone solicitors could not call your cellular phone anyway? (Correct me if I am wrong)

      Actually, I think it's only illegal because it costs you extra money (via the per-minute charges) when they call you - if it's your own phone company, and they don't bill you for those minutes, they may be able to get around that restriction.

      --The Rizz

      "Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two, but can't remember what they are." --Matt Lauer

    • It's illegal in the US, but since this wasn't in the US, anything goes.
    • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:17AM (#3791360)
      It's more convenient than you think. How did the hiker get stranded in the first place? My theory is that the phone company had a hand in getting him lost in the first place. Who benefits? Suddenly here is a heartwarming story that makes the phone solicitors look like benign life-saving angels rather than annoying pricks paid to disrupt our most precious moments of peace....
    • If you're out of pre-paid minutes, the only people who can call you are employees of the mobile phone network in question, and they are not calling you any money. In your service agreement for prepay cellular, you probably agree to this type of call.
  • by rblancarte ( 213492 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:42AM (#3791267) Homepage
    Hell, I probably would have died in his situation, I would have refused to answer the "OUT OF AREA" call.

  • Law of averages. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by crandall ( 472654 )
    Law of averages. They call so often, it's really no surprise that they'd call at a point where you'd need someone to call. Has to happen sooner or later.

  • by VirexEye ( 572399 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:45AM (#3791278) Homepage
    "...Ok Mr. Diaz you don't need to make up some stupid story about being lost in the Andes mountains. If you are not interested, you could just say so." *click*
  • I'm not an expert chemist, but according to the article, the mountaineer recharged his cell phone batteries be flinging them in to the snow.

    How do frigid temperatures recharge Ni-Cad or Ni-MH batteries, which most cell phones use?
    • Simple... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ian Peon ( 232360 ) <ian AT epperson DOT com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:01AM (#3791317)
      they dont.

      I worked in a battery shop for a few months. Cooling batteries makes them discharge slower, and freezing them destroys them (expanding/crystalizing electrolite destroys the membrane between the plates). Last month I left my cell in the car overnight, it got a bit cold (in the 40s), and my phone wouldn't work until the battery warmed back up.

      ...also, as Jeff67 points out:
      "Alcohol only gives the perception of warmth. It does it by dilating blood vessels in the skin. The result is you lose heat faster. Drinking when you're really cold is a good way to get dead."

      So, fake longer battery life, and fake warmth. In short, this looks like a bogus story. I guess CNN is taking it's cues from the Chinese news media these days...
      • Possible, but not probable...

        I'm close to someone involved in low level local politics... What you'll find is that news such as this is about 40% fiction (They call it creative writing, or some such in journalism schools.)

        Most news agences embelish the truth, and often resort to such common argument falacies [] as taking quotes out of context as well as employing sensationalism and plain old fiction.

        In general, stories have seeds of truth; some are just larger seeds than others... Remember that the best lies are those based on reality.

        Side quote: "The US media is unique not in the ability to provide an un-tainted viewpoint; Rather, it is unique in it's ability to convince the american population that it is without bias."
      • Cooling batteries makes them discharge slower

        It also lowers the internal resistance on the battery, and therefore raises slightly the voltage at the terminals. When you are powering electronic equipment it is just possible that from a weak battery you don't have enough volts until the battery is cold. Although I really doubt it happened in this case - Phone batteries generally have very flat voltage curves (i.e. the voltage only varies slightly with charge level) and they also have a sharp cut off (so when the voltage drops below the level needed to run the phone there is very little power left in the battery).
    • See, what we have here is a large amount of SPIN, see. When SPIN gets around the story then things get EXCITING!

      And SPIN makes it possible to make things HAPPEN, see?

      So, like, this guy threw his batteries in the snow 'cuz he's retarded and got himself stuck in the mountains, see?

      Then people rescue him, see? (present tense, I'm telling a story)

      So he says, "I talked to this telemarketer and I also threw my batteries in the snow and my nose just fell off because I've been IN THE SNOW FOR THREE DAYS YOU FUCKERS!!!!"

      And, they, the reporters, say, there's a lot of SPIN here! Let's capitalize!
  • by fishnuts ( 414425 ) <> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:48AM (#3791286) Homepage
    At least in the US, cellphone carriers are required by law to allow all 911 calls through on any cellphone, whether it's activated or not. The law is pretty strictly enforced, too. It's reasonable to assume that wherever he was, a similar service or law exists.

    I can imagine that 1) there was some sort of equivalent service in his area, and 2) his service should have a number to call, like '0' or '611' to talk to someone about adding minutes to his calling plan. The guy was smart enough (and lucid enough) to know that chilling batteries rejuvenates them to some extent, but couldn't figure out how to get a hold of anyone on a service that doesn't require "charged" minutes? He's getting more credit than he deserves.

    Regardless, if such emergency services aren't available where he was, let it be a lesson to the carriers there. Someone could easily hold them liable for not permitting emergency calls to go through, where life-threatening situations exist.
  • The Colombian mountaineer slowly begins freezing to death, surviving for 24 hours with his only warmth coming from carefully measured doses of brandy.

    Do not do this. Alcohol dilates the capillaries, thus actually lowering the body temperature. You feel warmer because of the desensitizing effect, but booze will just make you freeze faster. Details can be found e. g. here. []

  • by rant-mode-on ( 512772 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:59AM (#3791314) Homepage
    ... is whether or not they made him buy the minutes before they would help him.
  • Good! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MonMotha ( 514624 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:02AM (#3791321)
    Can you hear me NOW? No? Hum, get a crew out here...we need another tower.

    Ah, can you hear me NOW? Good!

  • by chamenos ( 541447 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:02AM (#3791322)
    "Then suddenly, at above 12,500 feet, Leonardo Diaz hears a familiar ring."

    was his girlfriend by any chance named Cameron Dicaprio?

    anyway can someone shed some light on how cellphone batteries get recharged by cold temperatures?
  • ...people have to get stranded in the Andes before the world realizes that telemarketers are a viable part of the harmony of the world?

    If you prick a spammer, does he not bleed?
  • This is probably the one and only time someone was completely glad they got a telemarketing call in all of history.
    • Re:Wow! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Maserati ( 8679 )
      I was sitting on my couch taking a sick day (sick of work) when the phone rings. It's the PBX I said, I gotta go in. Maybe someone forgot their password (bonehead, no - that's what I reset their password to last time).

      So after some quick agonizing I take the call, hoping it isn't my boss in a panic. It's Pacific Bell. The nice lady wans to know if I'm interested in signing up for CallerID.

      I couldn't have been more interested !

  • They have cellphone coverage at the top of a mountain? I find that someone difficult to believe. Also why would anyone take their phone climbing with them and not have any credit on it? Ok, so I'm sure they didn't just make it up, but it does seem stranmge
    • They have cellphone coverage at the top of a mountain?

      Yup. Just due to the sheer height you have line of sight and it can work over a long distance.

    • They have cellphone coverage at the top of a mountain?

      No, they usually put the towers into the well-occupied areas of the valleys. But as a lot of people already pointed out, being high up at 12000+ feet you have a good view and clear line of sight to the towers. The normal radius for a gsm cell (dunno if the value is for 900/1800MHz or both) is 37,8km (23,5miles), so that is baically the max distance they can bridge. In theory the handset itself only needs that range to stay in touch at all times, but I suppose (depending on battery strength, antenna gain, atmospheric disturbances, whatever) the phones range might be a good 40-45km (24 to 28miles). This is the raw theory, in reality (or urbanity) most GSM cells are designed to be way smaller and generate a decent amount of overlap so handovers from one cell to another go well. That way the handsets don't have to beam away at full power. I think GSM usually send with 2 watts output power, but on the pretty old Siemens S4 GSM phone you could just extract the antenna and close a circuit which would boost the phone to 4 watts.

      Also why would anyone take their phone climbing with them and not have any credit on it? [...] but it does seem stranmge
      I am not very knowledgeable of the climbers scene, but I tend to think that most serious climbers would value someone who a) goes alone despite unclear weather conditions and b) brings booze instead of gear and c) won't carry a fallback security device (2nd phone or battery) and d) doesn't even check the functionality of his security device, well, they would probably value him "wannabe" or something.

      • Sorry, just got up and still tired - kinda confused radius with diameter (or viceverse?).

        So, radius of a GSM cell is 37,8km, therefore handset range must be at least that, probably +5%.

        Correct it for yourself, gotta shower and try to wake up...

        Too bad you can't drink coffee and take a shower at the same time...
  • I am using GSM standard phone here. If you turn it on and call emergency number (better not give it,people know it already), even if you don't have a SIM card installed, it will rise the power like 5x (antenna) and call it.

    I have read that same there in USA (911) too... So, who the heck he tried to call I wonder? Its well documented on ALL mobile phones as a part of standard.
  • by vrassoc ( 581619 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:45AM (#3791418)
    I don't even get decent reception at home! Which network covers the Andes??
    • High mountains make for really good cell phone reception. In many places in the remote areas it is easier to setup a bunch of cell phone stations than it is to bring in copper
  • by olethrosdc ( 584207 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:47AM (#3791425) Homepage Journal
    Contrary to popular belief, it is easier to get signals on top of mountains. Why? Because at the top of the mountain you have line-of-sight with many different ground antennas. It is the same reason that you get a good 'view' :)

    Also, from my personal experience in the Alpes, phones seem to work pretty well at high altitudes - so much, that I even get signals from neighbouring countries' networks sometimes. The major problem with large height is that your cellphone might appear in many cells simultaneously and the networks might become confused. (And this could be one of the reasons why you can't use a cellphone inside an airplane)

    As far as the batteries are concerned.. I am aware that lower temperatures lower the reaction strength => the internal resistance of the battery increases => it becomes unusable very quickly. However it works again when it becomes warm. This does appear bogus...

    ... what do you expect from a story related with telemarketers and reported by Journalists working in US Media Conglomerate B]

    • "(And this could be one of the reasons why you can't use a cellphone inside an airplane)"
      Officially, you're correct: cell phones in airborne planes are seen by too many towers. Also, again officially, they're moving too fast between cells.

      I use the word "officially" because, as we saw on Sept. 11th, people can and do get decent though oft short-lived connections on cell phones on planes in flight.

    • The major problem with large height is that your cellphone might appear in many cells simultaneously and the networks might become confused.

      Confused because the the network dosn't think the cells are adjacent or possibly even the handset is trying to roam back and forth between different networks.

      (And this could be one of the reasons why you can't use a cellphone inside an airplane)

      The major reason is that the avionics systems arn't certified to handle cellphones, in the cabin. Apparently people sucessfully made calls from the planes hijacked on September the 11th using cellphones.
      One possible approach would be to install picocells in aircraft.
  • Aw CRAP! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rhinobird ( 151521 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @06:11AM (#3791444) Homepage
    Now we can't even DIE in peace, without some ($*%&$ing phone solicitor bothering us.
  • Urban legend ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mathness ( 145187 )
    It sounds like a urban legend to me.
    To give the story some credibility it should have stated where he was found.
    This fact could be compared with known base stations, and verified the claim or if it was possible.

    On a side note, the ad on the page was for prepaid phone cards!
  • I'll admit to not having very much of a clue how cell coverage works outside my region, but if someone told me that a cell phone was reachable on top of a fucking mountain, I'd take some convincing.

    If I'm wrong, I'd like to know. Is this something along the lines of Iridium? I don't gather so from the article.
  • Fake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lord Bitman ( 95493 )
    Well the posts seem to all say the same thing, here's a summary:
    In most places, Emergency Calls are free.
    An obscure mountain path durring a blizzard doesnt seem like the most likely place to get cellphone coverage.
    Soliciting on Cellphones is illegal in many places, just like soliciting on Fax Machines.

    so is it real?
  • by ericvids ( 227598 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @07:22AM (#3791514)
    .. who claim that you shouldn't drink alcohol in extreme hypothermic conditions?

    Alcohol dilates the blood vessels and the rush amplifies your body heat. True, you lose heat faster and in 'normally' cold conditions you shouldn't drink alcohol. But if you're stuck in a freezing mountain, you need to keep comfortable to keep awake, which is essential to your survival. And the article says the guy is relying on carefully measured doses of brandy. Limiting intake is essential.

    Alcoholic beverages are actually present in most hikers' backpacks for this purpose (and also for treating wounds, due to its antiseptic nature).

    And what's up with "you shouldn't drink anything at all in hypothermic conditions"? In fact, you should drink adequate amounts [] of liquids. Water, as most liquids, preserves your temperature. The only time you shouldn't intake liquids is when you're already victimized by hypothermia (in other words, you're already unconscious or near unconsciousness so you can't really do anything anymore, but this is handy advice for people who encounter hypothermia victims -- don't give them food or drink).
    • Keeping awake is based on your core temperature, not that of the skin.

      Not drinking:

      Low skin temperature with decent core temperature - awake, uncomfortable (which tends to keep one AWAKE), won't go into cardiac arrest.


      Not so low skin temperature, but dangerously low core temperature: stupor, impaired judgement, and eventually, cardiac arrest, i.e. you are dead.

      Do I really have to say which of the above is better?

  • I know you can get pretty thoroughly lost in a small area, but if you're in the mountains AND you're within range of a cell tower it seems like you would be close to getting out anyway.

    Just experiment until you get more bars on your signal indicator. And hope like hell there is no cell tower on the summit of K2!

    • Stick the phone antenna in a tube of pringels and scan around. When you have the most bars, you'r pointing at a tower. That's what it seems like anyway, i could be wrong.

      So a /.'er should always be armed with a phone with an external antenna. And some potato chips.
  • In Canada we use CDMA [on a tri-band xmitter no less]. You can dial 911 if the phone is user-locked [e.g. enter code] or just locked [hit two keys to unlock]. You have to pay 0.25$ a month for a 911 "connection fee". Without a service plan I'm sure the phone will call 911 but I have never tried.

    Another little tidbit. If anyone has ever dialed 911 on a phone its somewhat interesting. My motorolla v120 will sit in "emergency mode" and do a funny beep. You can't dial any other number until you reset the phone [e.g. power down].

    • Another little tidbit. If anyone has ever dialed 911 on a phone its somewhat interesting. My motorolla v120 will sit in "emergency mode" and do a funny beep. You can't dial any other number until you reset the phone [e.g. power down].

      Having called 911 on my cellphone (a Nokia 6120) before, they display "EMERGENCY xxx xxx xxxx" during a 911 call, where xxx xxx xxxx is your cellphone number. You also don't have to power the phone down to return it to normal...just hit the End key like you normally would.
  • by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:34PM (#3792308) Homepage Journal
    One of the two huge forest fires in Arizona (which have now merged into one) was set by an equally clueless hiker who decided to set a signal fire to attract a rescuer. It worked - a TV helicopter rescued her. But it also set a wildfire (the Chediski fire) which is now part of the record-setting Rodeo-Chediski fire which has been in world news lately. It is burning the largest stand of Ponderosa pines in the world, not to mention hundreds of structures.


    If people are going to get lost, they oughta at least prepare for the fact! Of course, if they were prepared, they probably wouldn't get lost in the first place.
  • by SysKoll ( 48967 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:15PM (#3792487)

    The guy was lucky he wasn't a crusty, battle-hardened American consumer. Otherwise, here is what would have happened:

    Man, I'm freezing... This brandy is good (Hiccup)...



    Hi, maybe I speak to Mister Diaz?

    Leave me alone, you f&@*$%ing telemarketer bitch! Click. Hey, wait a sec... Hello? Hello? Oh crap...

    That's right, boys and girls, telemarketers are not only a nuisance, they also create deeply ingrained reflexes that can hamper your survival if you happen to be drunk, stranded and out of minutes at the same time...

    Did you hug a telemarketer today? Good! Keep hugging him until he chokes.

    -- SysKoll
  • Well, too bad he forgot the number for 911. or 112. or 611, and hitting 0 to talk to an operator. Or 0 for that matter!
  • Ironic... (Score:2, Funny)

    by NTmatter ( 589153 )
    Funny...if you hit reload enough times, you'll eventually get an ad for 50% more phone minutes on the right side of the page.
  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:43PM (#3793030) Homepage Journal
    To the (apocryphal) telemarketer of this touching story:

    QUIT WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD! ;) You may be the only (fictional) telemarketer to have inspired more gratitude than raw, stomach-churning hatred, so get out of the business right away! And live the rest of your life on cat food and talk show appearances :)

  • Every prepaid cell phone I've ever used has allowed emergency calls, and/or calls to order more minutes, even when expired. Certainly, it would be in the phone company's interest to have an order line for more time, even if it wouldn't take emergency calls. Why didn't the hiker call it earlier? Or did he forget he had his phone?
  • In other news, there has been an upsurge of telemarketers calling, even unintentionally on landline phones, asking if the user is stranded on a mountain and would like to buy minutes...

The best defense against logic is ignorance.