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The Town Where Wireless Signals Are Illegal

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Shhh! The scientists are listening to space!

Green Bank, West Virginia, is a tech-savvy teenager’s nightmare. In this tiny town in Pocahontas County—population 143, as of the last census—wireless signals are illegal. No cell phones. No WiFi. No Bluetooth. No electronic transmitters at all. Recently, a store even had to remove their automatic doors because they caused too much interference.

The remote town is smack in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square mile stretch of land designated by the FCC to protect two government radio telescopes from man-made interference. The rules, though, are most strict in Green Bank’s neck of the woods. So strict, actually, that someone roves the streets listening for verboten wireless signals.

It’s necessary, though. The town is home to the Green Bank Telescope, the largest steerable radio telescope in the world—and arguably our most powerful link to the cosmos. Scientists there listen to radio energy that has journeyed light years, unlocking secrets about how the stars and galaxies formed. A rogue radio signal could prevent potential discoveries, discoveries that could answer big questions about how the universe ticks.

Green Bank, West Virginia: A Visitors Guide

In Green Bank, finding cell phone service is the only thing harder than finding another human. A flip of the radio dial won’t reward you, either—it’s all a steady whoosh of white noise. If you’re lucky, though, you may catch a faint flicker of the only AM broadcasting from the area, hosted by the Allegheny Mountain Radio Network.

First responders are the only residents allowed to use communication radios, although they’re limited to short-distance CB radios. If you get lost, one pay phone is there to rescue you—a pay phone, mind you, that people actually use. And you can search the web there, too, but you’ll have to get used to the grating ping of a dial-up modem again. (Although some homes have ethernet, it’s generally not worth it for companies to bring in anything faster.)

Surprisingly, a ban on all things wireless hasn’t driven residents away; it’s actually drawn people all across the United States to settle down. Sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity—a disease supposedly caused by wireless signals, but dismissed by the scientific community—have moved into the electronic dead space.

If you're in Green Bank and desperately need to update social media, you’re in luck: Recently, engineers at AT&T brought cellular connectivity to the Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, which lies in the center of the quiet zone. Doing this was no easy task, because they needed to get the radio wave interference down to extremely low levels. In a post on AT&T’s website, the director of the site, Dr. Karen O’Neil, explained the problems involved. To get approval, AT&T installed 180 antennas around the resort and 3 miles of fiberoptic cable so that the signals don’t need to travel very far. Which is good, because they also had to lower the power—according to O’Neil, your phone ordinarily emits 500 milliwatts when you’re using it. But if you’re skiing the slopes, that goes down automatically to less than a milliwatt.

A version of this story appeared in 2013; it has been updated to add new information.

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Apple Is Offering Free Battery Replacements for Some MacBook Models
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iStock

Want to extend the life of your MacBook Pro battery? A new offer from Apple might let you replace it for free.

Some non Touch Bar, 13-inch MacBook Pros that were manufactured between October 2016 and October 2017 are eligible for the program, and you can see if your computer qualifies by entering your serial number on Apple’s website.

The company said some of the batteries in models manufactured during this one-year period may be faulty, which is what prompted the offer. Although it’s not a safety issue, a component in the battery could fail, causing the battery to expand. Affected customers who already paid to have their battery replaced can also contact Apple for a refund.

The service takes three to five days to complete and can be done at any Apple-authorized service provider or retail store. Computers can also be mailed in to a repair center.

Before sending it away for repairs, though, it's important to check for other issues with your computer. Apple notes, “If your 13-inch MacBook Pro has any damage which impairs the replacement of the battery, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement. In some cases, there may be a cost associated with the repair.”

[h/t The Verge]

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Amazon Will Now Deliver Packages to Your Car Trunk
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Amazon

Delivery drivers call them “porch pirates.” It’s a derisive term for people who take advantage of the fact that many residents aren’t home during the day and swipe packages from doorsteps. Bad weather, nosy neighbors, or general privacy concerns may be other reasons you’re not comfortable leaving shipments unattended. Now, Amazon has a solution: Today, the company is introducing Amazon Key In-Car Delivery, a new method for dropping off packages that virtually guarantees they’ll be in one piece when you get home.

When shoppers opt for Amazon Key at checkout and own a vehicle that supports app-based unlocking, the delivery driver will be able to pop open your trunk and deposit your items inside. Essentially, your car doubles as a storage locker.

Your car may be sitting in your office parking lot during the day, but that’s no problem. Drivers will be able to pull up to your car there and make the same drop-off. When you’re done with work for the day, your packages will be waiting. Your car can be parked anywhere within a two-block radius of the delivery address and still be eligible for the service.

But how would a driver find it? The In-Car Delivery program requires a few things in order to work. For one, you need Amazon’s Key app; you also need to give the company permission to lock and unlock your vehicle. Your car must support app-based access, like 2015 or newer GM cars with OnStar subscriptions or recent-model Volvos with a Volvo On Call account. These vehicles have partnership agreements with Amazon that make them compatible with the Key software, as well as GPS functioning that allows drivers to find them when parked offsite. You’ll also need to be in one of 37 markets where Amazon dispatches their own delivery staff.

If this delivery approach is embraced, it’s likely that other carmakers will help Amazon widen their distribution platform. Amazon Key also offers in-home delivery service in select cities, which allows drivers entry into your home to leave packages inside.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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