Uh, oh. Now anyone can jam your cell phone

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Can you hear me now? No? Maybe that guy sitting on the other side of the restaurant is jamming your call.

Cell phone jammers, which scramble the signal of any incoming or outgoing cell phone call within a certain range, are illegal in the U.S. But that doesn't stop dozens of online catalogs from selling them to American buyers.

Although available for years, cell phone jammers are rare. You probably have never had your phone jammed. The reason is that, historically, jammers have been expensive, large and generally conspicuous looking.

Suddenly, all that has changed.

An online catalog called Brando, which specializes in all manner of USB gadgets and random peripheral devices, is now selling a very small and very inexpensive jammer. The jammer is actually smaller than a cell phone, costs only $166 and shuts down GSM 850-, 900-, 1,800- and 1,900-MHz cell phone calls within a 30-foot radius. The jammer holds a rechargeable lithium ion battery and comes with a charger.

The Palm Phone Jammer is the first cell phone jammer that I'm aware of that's priced, sized and created like a mass-market consumer electronics device.

Let's hope this product doesn't become a runaway hit this holiday season.

Microsoft unveils third-party 'extender' support

Microsoft Corp. today announced third-party hardware makers that support Microsoft's new Windows Media Center Extender. These Extender devices enable high-definition and conventional TV on a PC without a special graphics card. The devices transmit the TV signal from a TV to any PCs in the house over either wireless or wired home networks. Here are the products announced:

  • Media Center Extender with DVD player from Linksys
  • D-Link DSM-750 MediaLounge HD Media Center Extender
  • HP MediaSmart LCD HDTV, with built-in Extender support
  • Niveus Media Extender

Microsoft also launched a beta version of Windows Media Center Internet TV, which the company says will offer more than 100 hours of ad-supported videos.

New GPS gadget ideal for business travelers

Mio Technology unveiled this week a new $600 device that business travelers might find both fun and practical. The Mio DigiWalker C720t is a GPS with a 4.3-in. screen and built-in 2-megapixel camera.

The device lets you take a picture of any business card, and software in the device captures the details and loads them into a contacts list. The GPS also gives audible, turn-by-turn directions. Digital pictures can be "tagged" with GPS coordinates, so the locations of those shots are recorded. The C720t also comes with a Traffic Messaging Channel cradle and a three-month paid TMC subscription, which is designed to give you directions that route you around traffic jams. It supports Bluetooth and SD cards, and also works as a media player.

My Picks: Amazon competes with Apple in music downloads businesses

Called Amazon MP3, the newest competitor to Apple's iTunes, it offers digital rights management-free music downloads, which means the songs can be played using any player -- even Apple iPods. Also, another salvo has been fired in the war between Apple and iPhone hackers.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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