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Pirate Radio Station In Florida Jams Automotive Electronics 315

New submitter titanium93 writes "For months, dozens of people could not use their keyless entry systems to unlock or start their cars when parked in the vicinity of the eight-story Regents bank building in Hollywood, FL. Once the cars were towed to the dealership for repair, the problem went away. The problem resolved itself when police found equipment on the bank's roof that was broadcasting a bootleg radio station. A detective and an FCC agent found the equipment hidden underneath an air conditioning chiller. The man who set up the station has not been found, but he faces felony charges and fines of at least $10,000 if he is caught. The radio station was broadcasting Caribbean music around the clock on 104.7 FM."
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Pirate Radio Station In Florida Jams Automotive Electronics

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  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

    by Urban Nightmare ( 147344 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:21PM (#42412275)

    If the keyless entry is in the 314mhz (thrid harmonic) range then it could possibly be interference. A poorly controlled oscillator can cause this.

  • by big_e_1977 ( 2012512 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:30PM (#42412313)
    The third harmonic of 104.7 is 314.1 Mhz. Keyless entry systems operate at 314.93 Mhz. The bootleg transmitter/antenna likely didn't have any filtering to reduce spurious emisions or harmonics.
  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:40PM (#42412353)

    Having been in the industry (broadcast) the issue was not with the FM band transmission. The illegal transmitter was most likely home built, improperly adjusted, and lacking harmonic filters and a narrow band tuned antenna. Most transmitters do not run class A or Class AB amplification like a low distrotion audio amplifier, but in Class C a clipped mode transmission rich in harmonics for high energy effeciency (like a switched mode power supply) and the output is filtered with a resonant tuned tank circuit. If the bootleg transmitter was not tuned, or lacked the tuned tank and tuned resonant antenna, then he was not only broadcasting in the FM band but also providing lots of energy on harmonics of the fundemental.

    Fundimental is 104.7
    2nd harmonic is 209.4
    3rd harmonic is 314.1

    My car remote is in the 315 MHZ range and would be impacted by this. The FM signal is not a narrow band frequency as it is Frequency Modulated. It could easily overlap the range used by car remotes. Not getting into the car is only one issue. The second issue is the problem with the chip in the key for anti theft immobolization.

  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:53PM (#42412431)

    Corrosion or a Class C power amplifier without an output resonant narrow band antenna or tuned tank. My bet would be home built transmitter with a Class C amplifier and lack of harmonic filtering.

    The rusty bolt can give some harmonic power but not nearly as much as an unfilterd power amplifier.

    Rusty bolt tends to be problems near a receiver such as a rusty downspout on a builting making a clean transmitter look bad to locals within a building. This is most often seen with Ham radio complaints where the ham is clean, but the TV in the apartment a block away is due to rusty guy wires or downspout on the apartment. IE the harmonic is generated in close proximity of the TV viewer a block away. []

    Class-C amplifiers conduct less than 50% of the input signal and the distortion at the output is high, but high efficiencies (up to 90%) are possible. The usual application for class-C amplifiers is in RF transmitters operating at a single fixed carrier frequency, where the distortion is controlled by a tuned load on the amplifier. The input signal is used to switch the active device causing pulses of current to flow through a tuned circuit forming part of the load.

  • Re:Very Impressive (Score:3, Informative)

    by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:59PM (#42412501)
    I think that the KA9DGX combination of characters and numbers that is the GP's screen name should ring a bell [] to any self-respecting /.ter.
  • Re:RTFM (Score:3, Informative)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:04PM (#42412545) Journal

    It's amazing how many people forget to use their key if the remote stops working for any reason

    Could that be because the remote also dis-arms the alarm system? Using the key alone will set off the alarm on many cars.

  • Re:RTFM (Score:5, Informative)

    by krovisser ( 1056294 ) * on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:10PM (#42412625)
    Negative. Unlocking the car from the inside sets off the alarm. Using your key on any OEM system will disarm the alarm.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:11PM (#42412651)

    There's different kinds of "keyless" systems.

    Most "keyless entry" systems are remotes that unlock the doors and disarm any security system the car might have. Otherwise, the car is as normal and has physical keys, physical locks on the doors and requires a mechanical key to operate the ignition.

    My Volvo has what Volvo calls "Personal Car Communicator" -- a wireless proximity key that allows the doors to be opened and car started without any button press other than the starter button. The key can stay in your pocket.

    Now in the case of my Volvo, the "normal" starting process for non-PCC cars, the same keyfob fits a slot on the dash. There's no mechanical bypass, although I assume starting would work without any battery in the keyfob.

    The door locks are all electronic and unless you've read the manual, you might not realize that the keyfob's "key ring" is actually a slim metal key that can be removed from the keyfob and used to mechanically unlock the door.

    With a system like this, common to many high end luxury cars, I can see nontechnical people freaking out and saying their car doesn't work, either not letting them in because they don't know the bypass exists or not starting because they don't know the non-wireless starting method (ie, fob in slot or similar).

    Or they may just be really high strung people who figure that anything that doesn't work is Mercedes' problem and they need to get the car and give them a loaner.

  • by aevan ( 903814 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:19PM (#42412743)

    Four days after they removed the equipment, a man identifying himself as "Jay" left a message for a maintenance worker at the bank building, police say. When the worker returned the call, "Jay" asked if he'd taken his equipment. The answer: No, but the cops did. "

    ~From article

  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:22PM (#42412777)

    low-quality transmitters emit more on side-bands, IIUC

    "side bands" carry the information in the radio signal. They are created by the modulation of the carrier, and are what make the signal have "bandwidth". While a low quality transmitter may have some noise in the oscillator that appears as side-band information, it is probably not as much "in the side-bands" as a full power FCC licensed FM stereo radio station that has Muzak or other extended signals, also known as "SCA" [].

    It is the poor filtering of the low-quality transmitter that results in the emission of harmonics (third, fifth, etc.) from a non-linearity in the oscillator or the amplifiers. In this case, a third harmonic around 312 MHz, which is a common [] unlicensed [] control device frequency.

  • Re:RTFM (Score:4, Informative)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:25PM (#42412797)

    And putting said key in the ignition will turn it off.

  • Re:RTFM (Score:4, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:30PM (#42412847)

    Negative. Unlocking the car from the inside sets off the alarm. Using your key on any OEM system will disarm the alarm.

    Depends entirely on the car.

    My owner's manual specifically states:

    The driver’s door key cylinder cannot arm or disarm the Vehicle
    Security Alarm.

  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:32PM (#42412861)

    And we know its a "HE" because?

    As someone else pointed out, because TFA said so.

    But lacking that, "he" is still the correct word because in the English language "he" is both a third-person pronoun referring to "a particular person who is a man" and a third-person pronoun referring to "a person of unknown gender". This is why people who use the pronoun "she" to demonstrate their "cultural sensitivity" are just confusing, because they have forced a gender specificity on the antecedent when none really exists. How do they know it was a woman? Those who understand the language are left trying to figure out why there is something specific to women involved, or why it matters.

    And those who use "he or she" are really saying "any person or a woman..."

  • Re:RTFM (Score:5, Informative)

    by LinuxIsGarbage ( 1658307 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:50PM (#42413037)

    My new(er) Ford Fusion has a factory alarm, it also has a transponder key.

    If I open the door with the manual key, it will count down ~15 seconds before sounding the alarm. The idea is that in that time, you can insert a registered transponder key in the ignition, and turn it to on to disable. This is in addition to disarming if you hit unlock on the fob. And of course the transponder key keeps you from starting the car unless you have a registered key(as has been the case for about 10 years across almost all models)

    I would like to think that any FACTORY alarm would be smart enough to detect a registered transponder key in the ignition.

  • by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:00PM (#42413155)

    A number of the Japanese manufacturers use a similar system.

    Toyota use a dual NFC (RFID) / "far-field" radio system. The same transponder in the fob is connected to both an NFC antenna, and a battery powered MCU and RF power amp.

    With a working battery, a button push on the fob will cause it to transmit an appropriate radio signal to the car. When key-less starting, the battery will provide power to the RFID transponder, and power the RF amplifier to allow a successful authentication whenever the fob is in the interior of the vehicle.

    In the event of a discharged or removed fob battery, there is a mechanical key concealed in the fob which can open the vehicle doors. By placing the fob directly on top of the "push-to-start" button, then transponder will be sufficiently energized by the car's antenna (which is concealed in the button) to complete an authentication transaction.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982