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Inventor Open Sources "TV-B-Gone," and Why 340

Posted by kdawson
from the patents-b-gone dept.
ptorrone writes "Inventor Mitch Altman explains why he open-sourced his TV-B-Gone kit, the original stealth keychain fob for defeating TVs in public places. The title of the article is 'Patent-B-Gone' and perhaps the most interesting fact is that Mitch's brother is a patent attorney, but he still decided to release an open source hardware version of the TV-B-Gone, with pretty impressive results."
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Inventor Open Sources "TV-B-Gone," and Why

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  • Would be most happy to be owning an election-B-gone. Also, frist past the post!

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:20AM (#25624767)

    So many offensive television sets in inappropriate places...so little time.

    • by david duncan scott (206421) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:31AM (#25624841)
      OK, enlighten me. Are you bombarded by TV in public libraries and during funerals, or are you simply irked when a bar-owner decides to show a football game on his TV in his bar?

      Me, I carry my Customer-B-Gone, a pair of legs that allow me to absent myself from bars and other public places for a variety of reasons, without imposing my will upon others. Oh sure, it's not nearly as obnoxious as deciding for everybody, but we can't all be petty dictators.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:40AM (#25624905)

        I don't mind if a bar owner wants to put on a TV in his bar. That doesn't bother me. However, where I live (Orange County, Florida), there are television sets (with sound) in the following places that need not have them, and they are there for no other purpose than to show an announcement that could be served with a poster and no sound:

        • Libraries
        • Courthouses
        • Public Works Office
        • School Lobbies
        • University Common Areas
        • Hospitals
        • Waiting Room of the Morgue
        • Airport Baggage Claim

        There is NO REASON for this.

        • by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:48AM (#25624959)

          The Deaf.

          You can go now.

          • by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:02AM (#25625095)

            UGH! Coffee not working yet.

            That should have been THE BLIND!

            I'll go now...

            • by sukotto (122876) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:29AM (#25625383)

              bwa ha ha.... my Coffee-B-Gone works!

              • by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:37AM (#25625459)

                bwa ha ha.... my Coffee-B-Gone works!

                OK, now THAT little device is definately going to lead to bloodshed. :)

          • by billcopc (196330)

            Deaf people don't need sound. I think it's the sound that's most annoying. You can avoid looking at something, but you can't avoid hearing.

            • by turtledawn (149719) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:26AM (#25625351)

              Personally I find it to be the other way around- I don't like the slack-jawed, dazed fool I become when there's a TV in the room anywhere I can see it, which is why I try to avoid patronizing businesses that have them. Only hearing it is (usually) no worse than listening to any other inane conversation.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by st0rmshad0w (412661)

                This is something I have NEVER been able to understand. I have always been able to filter out or ignore just about anything I feel like. I can pick out an individual conversation from several feet away in a crowded bar, TVs or radios don't bother me, I just tune them out.

                I just don't quite get how seemingly everyone else CAN'T do this.

                • by DingerX (847589)
                  pretty thing with flashing colors and random images and sounds intended to draw your attention. How can you not look?

                  Oh wait, you really don't function at all without coffee, do you?
                  • Yeah, I will look at it, assess that it doesn't need my attention, and proceed to disregard its visual and audio squawking.

                    Its a box with noise and motion, nothing more.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by dave562 (969951)
                      Television is more than just a box with noise and motion. The programs and especially the commercials are developed in a way that they draw the attention. They are called "programs" for a reason. They program the viewer to pay attention. Most of the programming takes place on a subconscious level and has to do with alternating the volume levels (a simple example of that is that the commercials are always louder than the shows) and also with the frequency that the images are displayed and changed. You m
      • by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:40AM (#25624907) Homepage

        OK, enlighten me. Are you bombarded by TV in public libraries and during funerals, or are you simply irked when a bar-owner decides to show a football game on his TV in his bar?

        Me, I carry my Customer-B-Gone, a pair of legs that allow me to absent myself from bars and other public places for a variety of reasons, without imposing my will upon others. Oh sure, it's not nearly as obnoxious as deciding for everybody, but we can't all be petty dictators.

        We can't all spot sarcasm, either.

        (This is sarcasm, what that guy posted was deadly serious).

        (Hey, no wait!, don't listen to that sentence, that was the real sarcasm).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Timmmm (636430)

        I once went to a very small bar in America that had ten TVs! Not only that, but one entire side of the bar (it was one of those long thin ones) was a mirror! Twenty TVs in a room that could fit maybe 40 people...

        Pretty insane; I can see why people would want this.

        • by cide1 (126814) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:01AM (#25625081) Homepage
          And we sell iPods in vending machines. We drive pickup trucks that get 12 MPG. We eat big macs like there is no tomorrow. We have shitty beer that you buy in 30 packs. Go on and criticize, but as long as people will spend their money on it, there is someone out there making money by selling them what they want. When it gets too expensive, this over-consumption will stop. In the meantime, there must be people who like to go to bars with lots of TVs. Personally, I prefer to eat somewhere with a TV when I am by myself instead of hearing people criticize what I consider normal.
        • by billcopc (196330)

          Insane, yes! But think of it as a distinctive mark, a way to sort business into two categories: Infidels, and Non-Infidels.

          I'm thinking million-TV-mirror-tardbox goes into the "Infidels" column. I mean come on, the american way is to buy a ginormous plasma, or a projector at the very least.

          Now am I suggesting we blow up the infidels ? /sarcasm?

        • by daem0n1x (748565)
          It's like when email appeared and everybody was forwarding stupid jokes and chain letters all the time. The basic instinct of people is to like flashing screens all around, but eventually people will find them annoying, i hope.
          • It's like when email appeared and everybody was forwarding stupid jokes and chain letters all the time.

            When it appeared? Email has been around for more than twenty years, and I'm still getting stupid jokes and chain letters forwarded to me.
        • by Toll_Free (1295136) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:48AM (#25625579)

          So, you basically went to a sports bar.

          There are also bars that have NO televisions in them.

          It's called freedom of choice and expression. Two of the things the American settlers left the old world for.

          We like having freedom of choice here. And our freedom of expression.

          The cool thing was, you could have gone to another bar, one you liked, instead of being in the "sports bar" style place.

          That's one of the things that makes our country a great place to live. We can actually make choices, and people with the drive to prosper can keep making (and I agree with you, I HATE the sports bar mentality, the TVs, etc) places the people want to go to.

          Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean it doesn't have it's place.

          --Toll_Free

      • by fredrated (639554) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:19AM (#25625263) Journal

        what I find is that they are mesmerizing. When I walk into a room with a tv on I feel the pull to look at it, as well as notice that everyone is looking at the tv like it had hyptonized them. It is much like a drug. Turning the tv off is more about breaking it's inevitable grasp on everyone's attention for at least a short time, so people look up and look around once in a while. It's not like you break the tv, it can be turned back on, and probably will be in short order.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by leomekenkamp (566309)
          It is your brain: it is wired to find anything moving interesting and therefor your eyes feel 'drawn' to it. I always ask for a television to be turned off when I want to engage in a proper conversation, else it would be too distracting. A cat playing with something has the same distracting effect on me.

          This focus-on-movement could be evolutionary be explained because a) you might eat what moves; b) it might eat you; c) it might be an interesting sex partner (in which case you might eat it and/or it might
      • by daem0n1x (748565)

        What annoys me more in public places are TVs and tobacco. That's why I don't get out much, I'm fed up going to bars where music is too loud to talk, people are staring at multiple TV sets spread around the place showing junk-TV shows and I get home with my clothes stinking like smoke so bad that I feel like puking.

        Nothing against football games. It's fun to get together with friends and watch the game at the local café. But having multiple TVs on all the time is annoying. And they're everywhere.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Within the last 10 years where I've lived, they have slowly outlawed tobacco in enclosed public places. Therefore, if you go out to the bar, the only place people can smoke is outside, on the patio. Ever since they did this, I've started to notice just how much of a problem the smoke was. It's really nice to be able to go into a restaurant, and not have to worry about smokers ruining the experience.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        The issue is that some of us have an extreme reaction to TVs placed where they shouldn't be. One TV placed in a reasonable place for watching TV at home isn't an issue. But TVs that are placed in the way that they are in public seriously affect my tinnitus. For years I couldn't go into the portions of electronics stores with the TV displays because the TVs were emitting something that caused a serious reaction in me.

        If they would properly shield the TVs or use ones that didn't do that sort of thing it would

    • by Meest (714734) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:00AM (#25625079)

      I don't even know how many places this will work? Are there alot of places that do not have Professional grade TV's installed in their places??

      I just recently left a commercial installer and all the professional TV's we were installing had no IR/RF it was all RS232 control. If they did the IR was on the back, and we would cover up the sensor with a backup IR control eye with a patch so nothing else could controll it.

      Most places I've gone to have done it right and installed TV's that you can't mess with.

      There are a few bars that have normal TV's. But if you're in a bar why would you be shutting of someone else's TV's in the first place?? what gives you the right?

      I just don't get why you don't just move/leave/go to another establishment...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        But if you're in a bar why would you be shutting of someone else's TV's in the first place?? what gives you the right?

        Hey, the customer is always right. But then the other ten guys in there who are wathching the darn thing are also customers.

        So it's down to democracy in the end; let Diebold decide.

        • So it's down to democracy in the end; let Diebold decide.

          Every time I see "Diebold" I still think ATMs, and oddly, that seems to make your comment even more insightful.

          • by russotto (537200)

            Every time I see "Diebold" I still think ATMs, and oddly, that seems to make your comment even more insightful.

            My bank recently replaced their Diebold ATMs with NCR ATMs. I have to give the devil his due -- the Diebold ATMs were easier to use and faster. The NCR ATMs have a combination touch-screen and keypad interface with a horrible-feeling keypad and odd points in which you have to switch from screen to keypad and back.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by v1 (525388)

        Most of the places with these sets in them though are not installed by professionals, and most of them wouldn't know where to find the IR sensor on the unit anyway.

        Lets test you on something you are not familiar with, to level the playing field. Where would you put the tape to stop someone malicious from say, tampering with the IR remote on a 24" iMac doing a powerpoint presentation loop to a crowd or in front of the storefront window?

        • by Tink2000 (524407)

          Nowhere.
          I'd disable IR, or key it to just one remote. I think doing either of these actions is 4 clicks from the desktop or less.

  • Well done, sir. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by g253 (855070)
    A fantastic little device, and a very nice move.

    Thanks, Mr Altman.
  • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:27AM (#25624813) Journal
    I was watching a news report about this topic at the pub the other day. Well, I tried to watch it, but the fritzy TV kept turning off.
  • Brilliant! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:34AM (#25624863) Journal
    Great! Now there are technological aids to help people be annoying in public. Oh, and they're "open source", so anyone can build one. Beware Future Shop! Beware Best Buy! People can turn off your TVs by remote control. Ooooo! Scary!

    Now here's the brilliant part. On one hand, this guy can market his TV-b-Gone, and on the other hand, he can market to big box stores a special security device. A discrete little box that you stick on the IR sensor and block malicious signals. The box contains a couple of IR LEDs, and a descrambler chip. The chip decodes signals from the special remote control (which he also will sell) so that the stores still have control over their TVs.
    • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Informative)

      by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:45AM (#25624945) Homepage
      Have you heard about the discrete IR blocker they generally use in these stores? I believe it is marketed as "Black Tape". But don't be fooled. It isn't authentically black :)
      • Silly rabbit! Using that method, the store clerks would have to break out a step ladder and climb up to each TV, and pull off the tape any time they wanted to adjust the volume or change the channel, or turn the TV off at night. It would be far simpler to just install the IR scrambler... especially if it doubles as the anti-theft device.
    • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:46AM (#25624949) Homepage

      sorry but that little black box will not work.

      my 1W IR led version will turn off a set with black tape over the IR receiver sensor. the plastic around the sensor area carries the ir signal in to the sensor for me. SO unless you encase the entire set in a black box it will not work.

      and yes, it's good to be annoying when it comes to frivolities like TV. I wish more people were annoying in regards to frivolities.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        and yes, it's good to be annoying when it comes to frivolities like TV. I wish more people were annoying in regards to frivolities.

        You're an elitist ass. I'm not going to get in a pissing match about which of us is smarter, but statistically speaking there's a high probability you'd come out on the low end of that one. Still, sometimes I pry my attention away from fine arts and subtle discourse to watch "Bones" or "The Office". You say "frivolity" and I say "needed pressure release".

        Get off your high horse and accept that some people relax using other methods than yours. The ability to enjoy the occasional sitcom or sports event is

    • Or they could use a small piece of electrical tape, but you know, keep on smoking that crack...

    • he can market to big box stores a special security device.

      Here's a sci-fi idea: connect TV to internets. Connect cell phone to internets. Point cell phone at TV, display says "Now controlling TV model $foo", push the off button.

      Behind the scenes, all devices have crypto key pairs. The TV signs its IP address and identifier, broadcasts via something short-range [bluetooth, IR]. The phone does the power-down RPC to the broadcast IP address, signed by its key; the TV verifies the signature, shuts down.

      The attacker can still put a radio/light jammer nearby, or cut

    • Yah, I see big-box stores that hire people at near minimum wage putting devices in front of every display on the remote off chance that someone would (horrors!) turn off a tv with a remote. I guarantee you if they tried that half of them would be broken and the other half would be misplaced, not used properly, or have dead batteries.

      My biggest problem with the tv-b-gone is that the receivers on tvs doesn't have a very wide angle of reception. Makes it hard to get the tv over your shoulder to shut off.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:38AM (#25624891)

    Let's see. A device with no purpose other than to be malicious. Just because someone has the technical skills to create and sell a device, doesn't mean they should. If you don't like TVs in public places, don't be an ass. Just say something politely and maybe if they get enough feedback, they'll start shutting them off...or better yet, stop going.

    There are reasons why there are TVs in public places. Some people value them. Just because you don't, doesn't give you the right to start powering them down.

    • Land of the free, right?

    • Let's see. A device with no purpose other than to be malicious.

      It just turns off a tv, it doesn't break it.
      I think that the bgone appeals to the mischevious part of our nature. Certainly shutting
      down a video wall during someone's presentation IS malicious (I remember
      a youtube of someone doing this not too long ago), but there are plenty
      of instances that you could use this device that would not be.

      OTOH this is a great example of hacker thinking, doing things with
      a technology that were not intended.

      To be re

  • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:43AM (#25624929)
    TV remotes have been around for a long time, as have programmable remotes, as have remotes that cycle through different settings automatically, as have keychain remotes. In fact I own a keychain remote that cost me a massive one pound. I take it on holidays just in case the hotel remote is busted.

    Maybe TV-B_Gone is not patented for its TV remote abilities, but as a fight provocation device. I can see some novelty in a device which increases the chances of the user being punched in the face.

    • by jchawk (127686)

      So if I am understanding this new "face punching device" it's a little black key fob thingy that I carry around and when I press the button people punch each other in the face?

    • The keychain remote is quite handy. Though what I'd love to have is a device that shuts off those damned annoying yapping advertisements they're putting in gas pumps. It's basically a PC hooked up to a 15" monitor, and speakers turned up bloody loud shouting about car insurance and diet pills. And to make matters worse (though maybe it was coincidence) a couple of the stations turned down the pressure on the pumps, so it took over 5 minutes to half-fill the tank of a Honda Civic. 5 minutes of non stop comm

  • Televisions or Transvestites?
  • Publicity!

    People won't be bothered to make one themselves but will be interested in it after reading how he's been so generous releasing his design that they buy premade ones from him.

    I'm guessing all it is, is LEDs hooked up to a chip with all the common codes for power buttons and it just cycles through them when the button is pressed. Shouldn't imagine it's something that would have a patent granted.

  • by Muckluck (759718) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:53AM (#25625009)
    The cause of and solution to all of lifes big problems. Oh, no, wait... That should be alcohol. Won't somebody please think of the children?!
  • by GauteL (29207)

    I'm just waiting for a time I'm watching a football match in a pub and some arsehole switches off the TVs because he wants to drink 'in peace'.

  • by VShael (62735) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:57AM (#25625053) Journal

    Okay, yes, I know, I used to own the t-shirt too. ("If it's too loud, then you're too old.")

    But goddamn it, when I'm in a bar chatting with friends, everywhere around is also buzzing with laughs and good times, why does the barman decide to pump his crappy music up to 110 decibels?

    Because people don't drink as much if they're talking. It's to increase his bottom dollar, not to make your night out better.

    I would love to be able to remotely reduce the volume or kill the music all together. Somehow, I doubt there'd be a massive outcry from people who were talking to their friends and can now hear them without shouting.

    • by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:14AM (#25625205)

      "But goddamn it, when I'm in a bar chatting with friends, everywhere around is also buzzing with laughs and good times, why does the barman decide to pump his crappy music up to 110 decibels?"

      Because you're in the wrong bar. Bars do exist that provide a good atmosphere for conversation. I always make it a point to seek those bars out. In the US, most places that claim to be an English pub have reasonable volume levels but that's far from universal. I also look for bars that focus on drinks like wine or cocktails. I'm a beer drinker myself but the atmosphere is usually better in those places and they do usually have some sort of decent beer handy.

    • But goddamn it, when I'm in a bar chatting with friends, everywhere around is also buzzing with laughs and good times, why does the barman decide to pump his crappy music up to 110 decibels?

      Any decent bar or restaurant (i.e. one that doesn't cater strictly to college students or rabid sports fans) uses closed captioning on its TVs and doesn't even attempt to turn up the volume. Every place I frequent is a place where everyone can have a conversation without yelling over the TV.

      If you find that your desire

    • by Otto (17870)

      You're in somebody else's place. If you don't like how that place is, you can get up and LEAVE.

      Enforcing your will on other people by turning off or down the TV is worse than what anybody else in that entire bar is doing, you self-righteous prick. Get off your ass and make an adult decision to go to a bar that caters to you and your kind instead.

  • I picked one of these up a few months ago and used to carry it every where I went. Here is some fun you can have with the bitch.

    I was in the local best buy near the dvds across from the Wall of TV's and waited for the sales droid to turn every one of them on. I pulled this little toy out, pointed it, and all the tv magically went off. The look on the sales monkey's face was worth the price of admission. The real joy is seeing how many times the dumb ass will turn them back on before he catches on.

    • by saintm (142527)

      Well done, a pat on the back for you.

      I'm glad you found such merriment in making someone else's day that much shitter.

      Go you.

    • by Kenshin (43036)

      If I were the clerk, I would have clued in right away and immediately started looking for the dorky looking guy with "cat who ate the bird" look on his face rapidly retreating from the area. Then I would have called-in security, and let them give him a hard time.

  • The geek walks up to the bar...

    and discovers that he is not Eddie Murphy:

    Well the men they took to fightin
    And when they pulled him from the floor
    This geek he looked like a jigsaw puzzle
    With a couple of pieces gone

    [with apologies to Jim Croce]

  • In high school my friend had a watch that he could program to control TVs (had to know the code though, etc.) and he would use it during class to turn on the TV, fast forward videos, generally be a jerk to these poor 70 year old teachers. He did get caught though and all the teachers stacked a ton of punishment on him. It was really hilarious when he would use it during class and even better after he got caught.

  • So, basically, asshole number one decides he doesn't want the TV in a public place, and turns on his jamming device.

    What a great way to enforce your want and will upon others.

    Also, what a great way to get fined. Jamming devices are illegal in this country.

    I HATE people that come up with this shit.. Although maybe if he did just a channel 5 one, I'd be OK with that... Just something to jam the channels that show Maury, Montel and Jerry Springer. :)

    But seriously, this is a device causing other people to not

  • The real reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HEbGb (6544) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:30AM (#25626531)

    .. because it's just a goofy novelty, with a minuscule market, and isn't worth the $10-$20k it costs to patent the stupid thing?

    He needs to get over himself.

  • People have been sharing plans for electronic toys like this for years. How does it become news when some guy slaps an "open source" moniker on it?
  • by sherriw (794536) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:06PM (#25629711)

    I'm curious how avoiding patents, and open sourcing his product would protect this guy from a big company, that say... has a good partnership with Best Buy, making a copy of this product and due to it's bigger marketing power and retailer deal, taking all the potential profits away from the guy? Would his open source license protect against this? I'm not being rhetorical- I really don't know.

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