back to article Microsoft proposes gadget feature disabling tech

Depending on your point of view, it’s either intensely annoying when someone uses their phone in a train’s quiet zone, or very annoying when you’re in one and want to use your phone. Microsoft has made itself mediator and hopes to patent technology to ensure that if you shouldn’t be using a gadget in a certain place – then you …


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  1. IR
    Gates Horns

    No one seems to have noticed

    It's a little known fact that Microsoft have the copyright to thousands of paintings, sculptures, and various other historical arts all around the world. They fund the restoration/upkeep in return for the rights of any pictures.

    Any surprise that they now want to physically prevent you from taking a photo of it rather than relying on lax security guards, so you have to buy the postcards and books (for which they get a big cut).

    So I'll have a choice, buy a camera I can use anywhere, or buy a camera I can only use in certain places because someone has decided they don't want me to use it there. Which should I choose? What is in it for any other manufacturer to make the latter?

    Wait for them to make it and then fall on it's arse like DVD region coding in the UK as everyone goes for the uncrippled products.

  2. Kanhef
    Thumb Down


    How do you make sure this only affects the area you want? Put it in the 'quiet car' of a train, and the signal will either affect other cars, or be too weak to be effective.

    As for the patent, it will keep other people from doing the same thing, but if it's such a horrible idea no one wants to, what's it matter?

  3. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    I could almost see...

    I could almost see a compromise solution -- not something that blocks functionality, but rather something that simply kicks your phone into silent or vibrate mode.

    What's more, make it configurable. That way you ultimately have control over what your phone does when it sees the signal. Including nothing if you're a selfish git. :) Once it's out of range it kicks back into whatever it's programmed to.

    Of course, this isn't what Microsoft wants to do, but screw Microsoft. I'm talking about practicality. I remember the time a school play had just started (I was in the audience) and I realized my phone was on and decided to turn it off. Damned thing played this wonderful little tune to let me know it was turning it off, which was really embarrassing. After that I'd just remove the battery instead. (Yes, he can be taught! :) With this function it would have just quietly gone into vibrate mode.

    (The amusing part of that story was seeing about 5 people around me immediately pull out their phones and turn them off. :)

    As for the blip-blip while texting, well, these days I disable it. But even when I didn't, if I was in a quiet public place I'd turn the phone silent anyway.

    Of course, I'm one of the people who at least tries to be courteous.

    For example, sometimes I like to do a bluetooth search and see how many phones are left discoverable, then punch in a random key so it'll pop the menu up on their phone. Lets them know they're vulnerable, and has nothing to do with my own amusement, right? :)

  4. marc

    Quiet Zones?!

    Quiet zones are stupid attempts by train operators to justify their high prices and turn them into starbucks on wheels.

    By definition trains are very noisy, so calling it a quiet zone is just misleading. What's wrong with making a phone call or listening to an ipod as long as it's at normal conversation level, or in the case of the MP3 player, so no one else can hear it?

    If this tech ever restricted my phone, out of shear detest I would hold my (non working) phone to my ear and shout "HELLO?! .......YEAH I'M THE TRAIN! .... SPEAK UP.. IT'S REALLY NOISY!!"

  5. Chris W

    Flawed idea

    > This makes as much sense as turning all NHS hospital sites into No-Smoking zones. I have seen patients refuse to have treatment because they thought they couldn't do the 5 hours with out a smoke and they couldn't use the patch or gum.

    How is this related? Anyway, it always seemed like a sensible idea to me - of all places to limit smoking the NHS should be the one to lead by example. OK, it's stressful enough having hospital treatment and having to give up smoking at the same time will only add to that, but I'd rather the NHS help people to give up (allowing smoking on site doesn't really give out the right signals) than pay for treatments that'll be undermined by the habit.

    Anyway - back to the subject - something like this always seemed like a great idea 'at the time', usually someone's phone ringing or watch beeping in a concert, but I'd agree it's potential for misuse would be worrying and it'd be far too easy to circumvent. Besides, I doubt they'd sell sweet wrappers that they can remotely stop rustling - there's plenty of ways beyond electronics that people can be a nuisance.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Why would you buy such a thing?

    ... because you won't have a choice.

    Every major brand device will have it in. You won't be able to disable it without disabling the device as future devices will use a single SDR transceiver for everything and you can bet your life that the law will require the firmware of the device to be digitally signed. If MS can swing that then it will be a major obstacle for open-source phones and rf devices.

    They'll probably sell the idea by making every playground have a transmitter and telling the people it will stop kiddy-fiddlers taking photos of their children. No manufacturer will want to be known as the paedo's favourite phone.

  7. Raife Edwards

    This is just another part of Microsofts ongoing DDIS program...

    - DDIS (Digital Dictatorship Imposition System)

    Why is anyone surprised? This is simply a continuation of Microsofts long-standing, general, attempt to forcibly impose, and maintain, complete control, and insinuate itself [Microsoft], as ultimate gate-keeper (and, thereby, toll-collector) of everything digital. This has always been Microsofts plainly-stated goal. In fact, it goes all the way back to Microsoft trying to get Intel, and IBM, to individually identify each, and every, PC (way back in the early 1980s, check the history of the IBM-PC).

    The plain truth is that Microsoft has never wavered, one-bit, in this goal. And, year after year, Microsoft has successfully imposed step, after step, after step, in achieving this obscenity... Look at "Product registration/activation", "Trusted Computing", "DRM", "WGA", etc. Every one of these elements was opposed by the vast majority of customers, yet, Microsoft has simply continued pushing-forward (and eventually gotten) everything that they ever wanted. And, when you realize what a WHORE Microsoft is... hopping in bed, so readily, with any powerful interest that will pay them (or, let them off the hook for repeated criminal-violations)... then, youd have to be an idiot to think that the final goal isnt complete, and total, control of every single "user".

    And, for those that think that, mere, "consumers" could stop this... You really are ignorant. Microsoft has ALWAYS simply used the tried, and tested, method of integrating, or retrofitting, each new step of this long-term plan, irremovably, into every MS-product... whether customers approved, or not (just look at 2/3rds of the actual function of XP-SP3 for very a recent example). And, then, Microsoft inevitably manages to work several back-room deals with "hardware manufacturers" (to irremovably install compliance with Microsofts, self-serving standards, directly into the devices itself). And finally, various political, and commercial, interests then effectively make acceptance virtually mandatory (through Laws, regulation, guidelines, and policies).

    So, do you really think that Microsoft is going to stop now..? The only bright-spot, is that Microsoft is so incompetent at actually producing products... that they usually dont work worth a damn.

  8. Goat Jam
    Paris Hilton

    Quiet Carriage?

    Where I live we are thankful to find a "Can squeeze in the door" carriage.

    Paris, because, um, something about squeezing in . . . . <sigh>

  9. Snail
    Paris Hilton


    Why do people always moan that Microsoft are evil, when they are just trying to cure problems with modern society?

    All the DRM stuff is in place because people try and steal.

    This is exactly the same thing. If people turned their gadget off, when they are told to, then Microsoft wouldn't need to propose this stuff.

    Paris, because she'd welcome the ability to stop cameras on demand.....

  10. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Where do I begin?

    I have often found myself behind someone engaged in telephone conversation at stop lights and department store queues. Only the price of the gadget has deterred me from purchasing a cell phone blocker; that and the fact it is not legal in the U.S. to disrupt a wireless call. Microsoft, I assume, is above the law.

    I would find it a great convenience if the ringer on my phone would automatically switch to vibrate upon entering a theater - in case I forget to do it myself; but, I wouldn't put such absolute control in the hands of someone else.

    If we continue to enforce social behavior in this fashion, society will not evolve. In fact, I suspect we will de-evolve.

  11. Mike

    Take off the tin foil hats ppl

    Typical knee-jerk anti MS reaction as always. I personally welcome the idea I can sit in a restaurant and eat my meal without some jerk shouting down his mobile to someone so loud that he doesn't even need the mobile, or watch a whole film without someone giving a running commentary of it to a friend outside.

    For those making the case of the wife/friend/dog dying in front of your eyes and not being able to phone up, please try thinking rationally - it won't be MS who sets the policies of what you can or cannot do, it'll be the particular institution installing the feature. Chances are that "emergency calls" will be always on (like with your mobile phone keypad: even when it's locked, 112 can still be entered and dialled - try it... NO, NOT REALLY!). All that will be blocked is Mrs Smith from being able to phone hubby in the library for the vital task of picking up a bottle of milk en route home.

    For those sky-watchers worried someone will hack in and (shock horror) stop you using your mobile, I am sure once the design is in progress, they'll find ways to secure/validate the signal being sent to ensure it is valid for the site in question (a challenge-response system with a public key sent from the mobile phone relay antenna and responding to the wi-fi network would allow the mobile to check the signal was genuine - if not, ignore the restrictions, could be a possibility but I'm not spending hours working it all out - that's their job)

    C'mon though, it's just a patent at the moment - wait til there's some meat on the bones before you start rubbishing the idea.

  12. Chris Cook


    If this was an opt-in technology, I would be very interested. The number of times I've forgotten to turn of my mobile in a lecture or church service until half way though...


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