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Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by ellen32455, Jul 9, 2011.

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  1. ellen32455

    ellen32455

    6
    0
    Jul 9, 2011
    Hi-

    I'm in desperate need of help with 'odd' things that are happening in my house in the middle of the night:

    1) My bedroom land line phone rings a few times in the middle of the night - it rings loudly and just once - just enough to wake me up. The number of the person calling doesn't come through on Caller ID and my service provider says they have no record of the calls.

    2) My portable home phone was doing the same thing

    3) My cell phone (from a different provider than my land line) would do exactly the same thing - once or twice even 'vibrating' even though I had that feature shut off. One night while it was recharging, it began ringing in a 'random' musical pattern - once I unplugged it from the wall, it stopped.

    4) I finally disconnected all my bedroom phones, and a few nights later my electric alarm clock began buzzing in the middle of the night.

    5) So I unplugged that and purchased a battery charged alarm clock. On the 2nd night I had that running, it rang twice in the middle of the night.

    6) And I know this one sounds really insane, but 2 or 3 times this past week when all electronics in my bedroom were unplugged, I was woken up by what sounded like music coming from my window air conditioner. ??

    Even if that last one is my imagination, it's pretty obvious that someone is harassing me - waking up several times at night is killing me. Not to mention the fact that I can no longer use an alarm clock - unless I can find a wind-up one (do they even make these anymore?) - so waking up in the morning is a big problem.

    The houses in my neighborhood are relatively close (about 50 feet apart). I suspect some kind of electronic scanner is being used (by a neighbor?) to target the electronics in my bedroom and then make them ring, but I have no idea what it could be. Does anyone know? Does anyone know what I can do to stop or block this from happening?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    ~Sleepless in New York
     
  2. Resqueline

    Resqueline

    2,848
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    Jul 31, 2009
    Powerful radio (or microwave/radar) frequency transmissions (intentional or accidental) can make devices behave like that.
    I'm not familiar with the names of radio authorities over there but you should be able to call someone about finding the source of these interferences as you may call it.
    A spectrum analyser (expensive measuring device) should be able to pinpoint the frequency being used.
    The short bursts in the middle of the night may be a challenge though.
    Triangulation using directional antennas should then be able to find the direction of the source.
    Radio amateurs in the area may also be able to help, even if they could turn out to be the (unintentional) source of the interference themselves.
    ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is an organisation that you could try, to get in contact with someone in your area.
    They really don't want to disturb/upset people so please be gentle towards them.
     
  3. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,387
    2,772
    Jan 21, 2010
    True.

    Approach this as a puzzle to be solved, and try to find someone that is likewise interested (and capable) of investigating it.

    Are you located near any obviously possible sources of radio transmissions? Even if you are, best not to apportion blame until you are certain. It could be your neighbour's microwave oven.
     
  4. ellen32455

    ellen32455

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    0
    Jul 9, 2011
    Re: Help

    First of all, thank you Resqueline and (*Steve*) for your help. You can't imagine how much I appreciate your serious answers... I've posted elsewhere and have only gotten answers about ghosts and tinfoil-lined rooms...

    Secondly - WOW. This is much more than I expected. I thought it might just be a simple purchased scanner or something. Interestingly, there's a pretty advanced AV guy who lives right next door....

    As far as these all being accidental, I really doubt it. This has been going on for just about a year now. I work out of the house, and so I know they've never happened any time of day except in the middle of the night (usually 3:30 am thru 5:30 am), and no where else in the house except in my bedroom - although I have plenty of electronics elsewhere. It's also bit odd that when one item starts ringing and I replace it with another, there's a 'silence break' for a day or two and then the ringing starts on the new item. Like they have to do some 'searching' to find the right frequency or something...

    I've copied your suggestions down Resqueline, and will try this week to get in touch with the people you've advised. And I promise you both, that although I'm ready to kill the moron who's doing this, I will be calm with these people. Actually I'd be happier if it turns out to be accidental...

    In the meantime, is there anything I can do to stop this? Is there any way to block them?
     
  5. ellen32455

    ellen32455

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    Jul 9, 2011
    Oh - and no, Steve, as far as I'm aware I'm not located near any obviously possible sources of radio transmissions. I'm smack in the middle of a residential area.

    How close would they have to be to be effecting me?
     
  6. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    13,585
    1,870
    Sep 5, 2009
    very hi power and very close

    with the way cell phones work there's virtually no way it could start ringing without the phone actually being called.... ie. some one that knows your number and is ringing you Thats because of the digital networks cellphones work on

    almost impossible to make any normal wired or cordless phone ring in the same manner. Normally local hi power transmitters can affect TV, stereo systems wired and cordless phones by having the transmitted audio coming over those other items whilst they are in actual use eg. your on the phone talking to a friend and you can hear other voices, music etc in the background

    cheers
    Dave

    PS ... talking as some one who has accidentally upset his neighbour a few times with one or two of my transmitters

    The thing is, to have the power levels to upset your gear like that, EVERYONE else in the immediate neighbourhood would also be suffering along with you. It would not be able to be directed personally at you.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011
  7. ellen32455

    ellen32455

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    0
    Jul 9, 2011
    Re: Help

    Hi Dave,

    But how could someone 1) make my cell phone ring in some weird ringing song (not found anywhere in my phone - I checked all my available ring tones), and 2) then have no caller ID come through? There was no record of the call at all - neither on my phone or with my carrier.

    The wired and cordless phone 'one ring' not coming through on caller id or with my carrier could possibly be explained by the caller letting it ring once and then hanging-up before any info had a chance to register I suppose...

    I don't think I've ever heard any 'background' noise (voices, etc) on my wired/cordless phones - I do seem to get a ton of static from time to time though. Sometimes it's so bad I can barely hear anything else.

    And that's interesting about not being able to gear it towards one person/place. You mean even if they're right next door to me and have the antenna pointed at me, I can't be specifically targeted? It would still effect everything within a certain area on that same frequency? Couldn't they, knowing that I'm right next door, turn their signal strength down?

    The question I have is, let's suppose someone is doing this intentionally. I keep replacing these 'ringing' items, but then within 2 days or so my new item begins ringing -- how does whoever is doing this know he's 'hit' the new item? Wouldn't he have to actually hear it ring? Or would he just know it worked because he knew he had the right frequency?
     
  8. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    13,585
    1,870
    Sep 5, 2009
    As I said earlier, because of the system that cell phones work on, I can see absolutely no way some one could make your phone ring without putting a call through a network

    As I said before, the power levels to do the things you are suggesting would be extremely hi... I cannot make a phone ring with 1000Watts !! of RF pointed at it
    and those sorts of power levels are without doubt going to cause other types of problems for you and surrounding neighbours. You would see the huge antenna pointed at you place from over your neighbours fence

    all the things you have referred to are ALL on different freqs.
    The standard phone is on audio freqs, no RF involved
    the cordless phone will have its freq of operation on it 40MHz, 900MHz, 2.4GHz etc
    the alarm clock may have a 32kHz or similar crystal oscillator in it.

    it would be pretty much impossible for anyone to know that you have changed gear and what the new freq may be
    I really have to conclude that there is something else going on here, what I cant say?

    As suggested in one of the earlier replies.... a spectrum analyser would specifically conclude if it was an RF interference issue. If I lived close, I would bring my unit over and do tests for you
    A spec annalyser is a very wide range receiver that gives a visual indication of all transmissions in the area, their frequencies and relative signal strengths

    The FCC, in the USA, are the ones responsible for all RF interference complaints

    cheers
    Dave
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011
  9. poor mystic

    poor mystic

    1,061
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    Apr 8, 2011
    Hi Ellen :)
    I think you'll probably find that nobody is person intentionally harassing you. They'd need too much talent to make your cellphone misbehave like that. But if something were to scramble the computerised system up a bit anything could happen.

    I'd want to check the earthing in the building for a start. Another big thing I'd wonder about is domestic microwave ovens, which I have seen with big holes rusted in them so that they were completely unshielded in some directions. I have known people to say that they have been using such dangerous appliances for months. That would be a good candidate for the cause of such a fault.

    Yes, get onto the FCC. The fault history is complex and involved so I think you might write them a letter so they can get all the facts in your own words. Otherwise you're at the mercy of whoever takes the call, and since you neither rave nor ramble your report should be good enough.

    I'm sure that we're very interested in the outcome of this so please keep us posted.

    Mark
     
  10. duke37

    duke37

    5,361
    767
    Jan 9, 2011
    I suggest getting some recordings as proof.
     
  11. ellen32455

    ellen32455

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    Jul 9, 2011
    Re: Help

    Thanks Dave, Mystic and Duke for your answers and suggestions. Perhaps the FCC is the route to take...

    As far as a 'soil problem' is concerned, my house was built in 1901 and I've been living here for 26 years with no problems up until a year or so ago. It's an old, established residential neighborhood, with no new construction in the area over the past few years that I can recall. So I doubt it's a soil problem. I'm going to go down and check my microwave now, but wouldn't it have to be turned on to be doing anything? I live alone and never have my microwave on when I'm sleeping... :)

    As far as getting recordings goes, I'd considered doing that before (to prove to myself I wasn't insane) but didn't know the best way to do it:

    1) keeping a recorder on all night - are there recorders (at a reasonable price) available to record for 6-8 hours straight?

    2) Using a noise or voice activated recorder - being noise activated, I'd be afraid it would turn on after the single ring and miss the event totally.

    Which would you suggest?

    Once again, I really do hope that this all turns out to be accidental. I don't want any problems with neighbors... But now that I think about it, even if it wasn't accidental, would it even be possible to prove?
     
  12. duke37

    duke37

    5,361
    767
    Jan 9, 2011
    In the UK the authorities need a log of the problems and any other proof that you have before they investigate. If the problem occurs at 3am each day, there is little point them sending out someone after they have had their coffee.
    My computer fan makes enough noise as it is and I do not use sound but it should be possible to attach a microphone to the sound card and record all night. Then you need a program to listen to any loud sounds detected. Someone out there can probably help
     
  13. poor mystic

    poor mystic

    1,061
    30
    Apr 8, 2011
    Hi Ellen

    I like Duke37's idea about using a computer to make your recordings of the fault. If you set it up in the same place as your alarm clock was (use is as an alarm clock!) it should be sensitive to the same problems.
    The noisy phone is an important clue. I don't know what it means yet. Phones are usually FM and fairly noise-immune, it takes a lot of random noise to make them unworkable.

    This will turn out to be non-malicious. But like weird symptoms everywhere it'll take patience and persistence to get it sorted out.
    My favourite theory is still the microwave. A faulty unit could be a few houses away and cause trouble.
     
  14. ellen32455

    ellen32455

    6
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    Jul 9, 2011
    Thanks duke and mystic for the microphone/computer suggestion. I already have a microphone - figuring out the rest shouldn't be too difficult.

    I'll let you know if I find anything out over the next few weeks...

    One more question. If it turns out that it's RF interference from some sort of broadcasting in the area, would there have to be an antenna involved? Davenn was talking about that last night. Anyway, my question is, with an antenna, does it have to be this huge thing sticking out into the sky, or could it be sheltered - i.e., in an attic or chimney or someplace similar?
     
  15. poor mystic

    poor mystic

    1,061
    30
    Apr 8, 2011
    :)
    Someone has told us he couldn't scramble his phone with a thousand watts so if you think there might be a million watt transmitter somewhere handy check next door. (Sorry I can't find the reference)
    So, more realistically, have you had the earth on your house checked? While it might not solve the whole problem it needs attention because, as any noise mechanic will tell you, a good Earth is the first thing you need, and noise comes down power lines often enough.

    There's not an old fridge somewhere that could have developed a fault?

    The only RF that I know of that could cause the other part of the fault is high-power microwave.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2011
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