Could Patriot unjam US garage doors?

Plus, universe theory gets butt kicked

Letters This week we have seen Europe's Council of Ministers push through a bill on computer implemented inventions that could drastically change how software patents are awarded; it has become apparent that the UK's police forces lack the skills they need to use technology in pursuit of criminals; Cisco's source code was stolen and made public; legal Napster arrived in the UK... and yet, the burning issue for you, our beloved readers, is that the US Air Force is jamming the frequency that garage door openers operate on:

Mr. Haines,

In your recent article regarding the US Air Force jamming people's garage doors, you sarcastically say "Alternatively, we suggest that they could exit their vehicles, walk six feet and operate the garage doors manually." Aside from ignoring the issue that these people have paid good money with the expectation that there garrage door openers will work, you convieniently ignore the fact that many garages, at least here in the States, do not have easily accessibly exterior entrances to the garrage aside from the garrage door itself. In addition, most garrage doors equipped with openers use the opener as the locking mechanism, and require you to be inside the garrage to operate the emergency disconnect.

For example, if my garage door opener doesn't work, I have the option of forgetting to get into my garage, or walk around the far side of my house, unlock the padlock on the gate to my backyard, dig out the key I almost never use, and go through the backyard door into the garage. This isn't that big of a hassle on a nice, warm spring day, but in sub-zero temperatures, torrential spring rains, 4 foot snow drifts, and other climatic unpleasantness, this is not what I want to do every day when I get home from work. Of course, I could always spend more of my money (and not a small amount - most people will have to replace their entire opener, and many, if not most, have at least 2 doors) to fix a problem caused by the US Air Force. Frankly, I think the residents of those three towns are perfectly justified in being upset.

Next time, maybe you should think a bit, before assuming Americans (or any other group, for that matter) are just so fat and lazy they don't want to walk 6 feet.

-Daniel Brown

RE: "Alternatively, we suggest that they could exit their vehicles, walk six feet and operate the garage doors manually."

Lester, what you don't realize is that most garage doors in the US cannot be opened from the outside if the door opener is malfunctioning or the power is off. You must enter the house through the front door, walk through the house and disengage the opener and then you may lift the door.

Don't think that we Americans use the opener because of laziness. Some doors are quite heavy and the elderly or infirm cannot lift them. I've got a bad shoulder and might have trouble if I tried to open mine. My wife enters via the garage to save having to find a specific key for the front door in the dark if the porch light is not on or when returning from the grocery store. The garage leads right into the kitchen on most houses in the US. Openers have become common in all new houses and most older ones have been retrofitted.

Brian Kelsay

In your story, you say "Alternatively, we suggest that they could exit their vehicles, walk six feet and operate the garage doors manually." This clearly shows that you have never had a garage door opener yourself.

Once installed, the only way to bypass the garage door opener is to go into the garage and pull an emergency release lever or cord. Otherwise, the garage door will be held shut by the opener mechanism.

Just some info for you. Sorry to have to disabuse you of your flippant implication that owners of garage door openers are just lazy and whiny.


Stephen Cochran

Hmmm. There do seem to be some serious design flaws in them there garage doors. Also, we were wondering, can one be disabused of an implication? It sounds painful...

I read your article on regarding the problem with garage Door jamming Trials and noted the sarcastic finishing comment of "Alternatively, we suggest that they could exit their vehicles, walk six feet and operate the garage doors manually."

The reality is that housing construction is not the same from city to city, state to state or country to country.

Two specific issues in response to your comment:

1. Any modern garage door purchased here in the USA does not have a handle on the outside since the mechanism to automatically open a garage door is so cheap and popular. If you do need regular access to your garage door from the front, you may be inclined (like me) to purchase a fixed security keypad which mounts on the garage door frame. This also uses RF to open/close the door and would also be inoperative if the signal was jammed.

2. Many US city developments separate the garage access from the house. It is quite common to have an alley way running behind the house for garage access so that it appears from the front of the house that all the houses in the neighborhood do not have garages. If the garage does not open, you have to drive "around the block" to access your house from the front. Again many of these alley ways do not have an area to leave your vehicle parked and/or access to the house from the alleyway without going through the garage.

Also need to consider issues of heat (40C+ days) and attempting to manage/move children between house and vehicle/vehicle and garage.

The UK is not the USA.

Regards Dwayne Sinclair Dallas, TX

Amen to that, Dwayne.

Seriously though, in his defense, Haines would like to point out that he's never owned a garage, with or without a door, radio controlled or otherwise. He then put on his Union Jack print coat, kissed a photograph of the Queen that he carries in a locket and swept out of Vulture Central in typical style, grabbing the final word on the subject: "Of course, they're entirely unnecessary in the sun-kissed paradise of the United Kingdom".

Sticking with the really important news stories of the week, we have bad news for the inventors of the butt-kicking machine. Seems like a man called Ian Flemming may have got there first:


One question springs to mind (much like the boot springs to butt I imagine), why would you patent something like this? The world has surely gone mad.

Anyway, this patent should never be allowed due to the well documented prior art in this case. Witness Le Chiffre's method of torture on James Bond in Casino Royale (the book, not the movie). Bare behind, chair with a hole and the application of, in this case, a carpet beater if I recall correctly.

Once again, there's no originality, just things we've forgotten we've done.

Regards, Ian Lucas

On a slightly more serious note, this week also saw an unusual victory for common sense in a domain name dispute when the US arbitrator ruled that normal punters could distinguish between "Carcass" and "Marcus".

Wonder how MS views the Nieman Marcus case? If 'carcass' isn't confusable with 'Marcus', surely that blows 'Windows' = 'Lindash' out of the water?

Although I expect I'm being impossibly naive...

-- James Pickett

It seems this is something to do with a little known law of physics: the presence of a sufficiently high concentration of lawyers creates a field impenetrable to common sense, so that things start sounding, well, odd.

War games next. Software problems got fingered in a recent Patriot missile targeting problem. We covered the story, you filled in the backstory:


That was a fine article on PATRIOT's problems, but failed to point out that it is the total system that fails. Why do you think that Bush's Missile Shield is such a turkey? This is a complex problem. This missile system was designed to shoot down aircraft originally and used a 24-bit computer system. After Desert Storm a militarized VAX 8000 series computer replaced the 24-bit turkey. Oh, the Japanese never bought the Raytheon electronics and built their own.

Of course the software had to be modified to change the warhead fusing on PATRIOT missiles to allow them to kill TBMs after the Desert Storm debacle. Then Raytheon lost the PATRIOT upgrade contract to LockMart for the missile replacement system using a hit-to-kill system. The original design used a fragmentation warhead. The newer system uses a much smaller missile with an infrared terminal guidance system.

The missile is not the problem nor is the robustness of the electronics. Ft. Bliss, TX, is the home of air defense with climate and topography similar to the middle east. It is the fire control system and software. What seems a long time ago were the Red Flag exercises in New Mexico and Nevada. It was at these places and events that crews and equipment worked out their kinks. In order to save money, depsite the profligate spending of the USA, these live exercises were eliminated. I'll bet most folks don't know that Top Gun disappeared a long time ago.

As a former member of the ADA community, IFF and track ID problems have existed forever. PATRIOT exacerbates the problem because of its hair trigger, automated response.


I've just read the opening to the article on The Reg where you state that the performance of the Patriot Missile is highly controversial. There is no controversy, the Patriot's success percentage roughly approaches 0%. Everyone knows this, the military lied about its performance and tried to weasel their way out of congressional hearings by defining a success as the Patriot getting close to the enemy warhead or passing through the warheads trajectory. Actually hitting or destroying the warhead was optional.

Alistair Hutton

Provocative stuff. Moving swiftly on...

A group of boffins reckons they've worked out that the universe is least 78bn light years across. You asked: but, but, but how?


The Universe is apparently between 10 billion and 15 billion years old. If it has been expanding spherically at the speed of light since the big bang, then I can't see how it can be bigger than 20 billion to 30 billion light years across.

Register readers deserve an answer, or am I missing something?

All the best


Funnily enough, this had occured to us too. Cosmic speed cameras are much more effective than the ones on the A3 after all, so things don't go faster than c. This does indeed beg the question: how could all the universe edges get that far away?

A regular correspondant has a suggestion:

'Faster than c' may well be possible since there is some doubt now about the constancy of the physical constants. Just suppose that these were not only time-dependent but also depend on the seven(?) nine(?) dimensional relativistic velocity at which we make the determinations.

The more I think the less I comprehend,


Now we've all got headaches from thinking about changing constants and multi-dimensional roll-ups. But before we go all analgesic on you, the following arrived in the mail bag in response to the news that BT and The Number are quarreling over who has the best directory enquiries service:

Honestly. Who gives a sh*t?

M. Matt Reynolds

And that's a wrap. Chicken for me, go easy on the mayo...®

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