Sebastian Kirsch: Blog

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Paging Agent Smith!

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 16:00

If you are working in an environment where cell phones are used as pagers, you will be familiar with the problem: Everyone’s cell phone is going off all the time, and you cannot tell whether it was your own or someone else’s. This is made worse if everyone carries a company cell phone, since they are usually the same model and therefore all have the same SMS sound. Or if you can choose between several sounds, there is usually exactly one sound that is annoying enough to make sure you don’t miss a page – to wake you up during your first REM phase if needs be. (Not that I’m of much use when I’m paged during deep sleep, but that’s a different topic.) My personal phone (a Sony Ericsson K750i) does not have a single suitable ringtone.

I solved this problem by using Morse2MIDI, a web site that generates a simple MIDI file with the characters you type in in morse code. MIDI files can be played by most cell phones, and are ridiculously small in size (my current ringtone is 618 bytes.) Their generator allows strings up to 100 characters long. A space can be used to insert pauses; one space is ca. 1/3 of a second long.

So my cell phone now goes “bip-bip-bip beep-beep beep-bip-beep” three times in a row when I get paged. Which should be unique enough, since those are my initials – in morse code. And if I train myself to respond only to that sequence of beeps, I can safely ignore all other pagers in the area. It is pretty loud and annoying too, so I probably won’t miss it even if I’m in a different room.

The only remaining grudge is that the Sony Ericsson stops playing the ringtone after 10 seconds. Some older Nokias had a “pager mode” where a text message causes the phone to ring until you look at the message.

It’s the old lament – we now have cell phones that can surf the internet and play music, but you cannot use them anymore for useful stuff like making phone calls or receiving text messages …

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