TIL about cellphone jammers

There were seventeen different kinds of uproar last week at the State of the Nation address when journalists sent to cover the debacle event noticed that they were unable to use mobile communication to file their reports on JZ’s evasiveness and parliament’s generally appalling misbehaviour.

They blamed a device found near the media gallery:


…which obviously, no-one knows who put there. Although my money is on the man with the pointy shoes.

And yes, it turns out that this is what a (military strength) cellphone jammer looks like. But how does a cellphone jammer work? Well, given the high tech world we live in, it’s actually surprisingly crude.

Basically, it’s the airwave version of a Denial-of-Service Attack in that it doesn’t do anything other than flood the frequency which cellphones use to talk to the nearest tower with signal, thus preventing any mobile device from accessing the network. I’m guessing that it’s like the illegal version of what happens when you try to send a tweet from a concert. (Which you shouldn’t be doing anyway, you went there for the music, right?) Simply too many signals competing to try and latch onto one tower – except in this case, the vast majority of them are artificially generated.

Cellphones use two different frequencies to send and receive information, but if even one of them is jammed, then the device is fooled into thinking that it can’t get through at all. But fancy jammers like this one can block lots of different frequencies at the same time – just in case you think you have some alternative means of accessing the network.

If your cellphone is being jammed, the likelihood is that you won’t find it suspicious – it’ll just be like you’re in an area with no signal – we’ve all been there:

Yeah, I think we got cut off
Yeah, I got crap reception in my house
I have to stand in a certain spot in my kitchen or it cuts out

Such a Twat, The Streets

It was only because there were large numbers of people in a small area struggling to get any reception on Thursday that it became obvious that something a bit sinister was going on.

Depending on how strong the jammer jamming your phone is, you might only have to walk a few steps away to regain a signal. But with a big one like the one above, and with everyone in a defined space (the Parliament building), the only way to #bringbackthesignal was for somebody to switch the big box (which no-one knows who put there) off.

Once that brief hiccup was dealt with, we could get on with the rest of the circus, and deal with the hangover and recriminations of media freedom denied for weeks and months to come.

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Low level training

I spotted this image over the weekend and it was duly Pocketed for blogging. Because it’s incredible.

I believe that it shows a USAF F-15 aircraft doing low level flight training – I think – in Wales (although there’s some suggestion it may be the Lake District in Cumbria, England).


Shots like this are obviously incredibly difficult to take as the aerial vehicle in question is going quite fast. For most, just getting the plane in shot would be achievement enough, so this shot with the people in the foreground gives it depth and perspective. It’s simply amazing.

But the skill of the photographer is matched, if not bettered by the skill of the pilot. To take a 20 metre long plane with a wingspan of 13m and a top speed (at low altitude) of Mach 1.2 or 1,450 kph (Mach 2.5 or 2,665kph at high altitude) through the valleys of the Welsh countryside takes some ability. And some beeg balls.

Here’s a pilot’s eye view of a Typhoon doing the same thing.

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250 feet is 76 metres. About half the height of the Portside Tower in Cape Town. Wibble.

I remember family holidays to the Lake District being punctuated by the RAF Tornados doing this same sort of training, and was amazed to learn that most of the planes we saw (and heard) there had flown up from RAF Coningsby, some 300+km away.

Still, with the same sort of speed as the F-15, I guess that as a Tornado or Typhoon pilot, you can pretty much choose wherever you want to play and then be there fairly promptly.

2 Comments | Tagged , , | Posted in flickr, learning curve, uk

Riding to New York

We are freshly returned from the Passenger concert at Kirstenbosch, and it turns out that Mike Rosenberg (for he is it) is a great raconteur as well as a fantastic singer/songwriter. He kept the sold out audience entertained for 90 minutes with jokes, stories and music. A really great show.

Song of the concert was this one though – sung to 5 minutes of utter silence from the 6,000 people present; that’s a massive ask for the generally very disrespectful South African crowds and something I’ve only ever seen once before in SA with James Blunt’s No Bravery. Mike tells the story of meeting a guy near a gas station in Minnesota at 3am one morning, while heading out to buy cigarettes. They strike up a conversation after the man tells him that

This is best cigarette I’ve ever smoked

and from there it transpires that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer, doesn’t know how long he has left and has sold up on the West Coast, bought a motorcycle and is heading to New York to go and spend his remaining days – however many there may be – with his family. Riding to New York is the song that Mike wrote about that meeting and the man’s journey:

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It was one of several thoroughly depressing numbers, for which Mike apologised. There were many upbeat moments as well though, some really good banter with the crowd, some singing along and a whole heap of swearing.

Great evening. Make a plan to go and see him (although, as so many Cape Town gigs do, this marked the end of his current tour, so, sorry for you).

1 Comment | Tagged , , | Posted in music, positive thoughts, this is south africa

Tonight’s Menu

Friends round tonight, and it’s nice to try something a little different every now and then, so I’m doing a Sheffield-inspired menu for them.

Toad in the Hole (in the Road)

The infamous Slutty Rutty Butty: “molten cheese, spicy tomato sauce, bread, like some unholy marriage of bacon sandwich and chip butty (in a good way)”, served with mushy peas and without a glass of King’s Blockhouse IPA

Chocolate and Hendo’s mousse

Recipes to follow if stuff works out.

It could be great, it could be a disaster; it’s going to be fun either way. *looks up phone numbers for local takeaways*

5 Comments | Posted in positive thoughts, sheffield

Seafret – Oceans

I don’t know much about Seafret, nor about the actress who plays the bullied superhero schoolgirl in this video of theirs (apparently, she’s been in Game of Thrones), but fortunately that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this track:

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In more good fortune, there’s google, which tells me that the actress is Maisie Williams, and that yes, she played Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. It appears that Arya is still alive and well, which I believe is unusual for the series in question.

Seafret are a bit more difficult to find information on except to say that they’re from Bridlington on Yorkshire’s east coast (Yorkshire doesn’t have a west coast) and still “unfathomably young” and “are rooted in acoustic fare, songcraft which sounds both deeply traditional and immediately fresh”.


And yes, it’s more of that slow folk-rock stuff that was mentioned yesterday, albeit with a touch more indie than most, but it’s pleasant melancholy and another band worthy of further investigation.

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