My mouse and my cell phone make weird sounds come out of my computer speakers
March 3, 2004 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Two semi-related issues. Basically, both my mouse and my cell phone make weird sounds come out of my computer speakers. [more]

#1: I always know a moment before my cell phone rings, because my speakers start buzzing like a beehive. I have a Nokia 3630. What's happening and what kind of phone should I get if I want it to stop? I like to keep my clock radio and my cell phone on my bedstand but I can't because it makes the speaker in the clock radio chirp all night.

#2: My USB Microsoft Wheel Mouse makes a tiny "eek-eek" sound come out of the computer's speakers whenever I use the mouse wheel. Each step in the wheel turn emits a squeak. It gets louder as I turn up the speakers, so I know it's not mechanical friction. Any advice on stopping it? It gets distracting when I least need to be distracted.
posted by scarabic to Technology (15 answers total)
The background noise you've described can be caused by a number of factors. Device drivers, PCI/AGP cards and external drives can play a role,
as well as the type of audio speakers your system may carry.

The easiest workaround would be to lower Windows' Volume Control balance and raising the Wave Balance to compensate (the "Volume Control" function in Windows really acts more as a master gain for your system). If you aren't using a microphone, mute your Line-In balance and most of those annoying buzzes will disappear.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:12 PM on March 3, 2004

After reading about the US President's past trip to London where his wireless communication devices caused the Queen's Tv reception to be crappy, think this may be a problem for some time. Have the same problem involving my cell & TV. Add, my TV reception is fed by cable which I thought being shielded would not affect it, yet the vcr & tv are "antenna ready"(not sure what the proper description is).
posted by thomcatspike at 1:19 PM on March 3, 2004

And what you might not have noticed before is that your cell phone also makes an occasional clicking noise come from your speakers as well when you aren't about to receive a call. It's the signals being passed back and forth between tower and phone (so big brother always knows where to find you - LOL).

Solution to the phone problem? Either don't keep your cell near your computer or get shielded speakers. And yeah, it'll effect any sort of speaker. If I have my cell up on my dash while driving, it does it to my car speakers too.

And don't start thinking about the fact that those interfering RF waves emanating from your cell phone emanate through your head while you are on the phone. :D

I could have explained it more technically, I suppose, seeing as I asked my husband (who is in the industry) and he spent 30 minutes explaining it to me with words I didn't know the meaning of and have now completely forgotten.
posted by Orb at 1:41 PM on March 3, 2004

I get similar stuff- my cell phone periodically makes my monitor/speakers chirp, and a recent attempt to tape-record a conversation where my cell phone was on speakerphone mode resulted in a whole lot of static.
posted by COBRA! at 1:44 PM on March 3, 2004

i've had staticky sounding voices very briefly come out of my speakers that scared me half to death... but at the same time i could hear a car go by so i figured someone was using a cellphone and my speakers picked it up. or my 'puter is haunted.
posted by t r a c y at 2:29 PM on March 3, 2004

Response by poster: Ord - yeah I've noticed the intermittent chirp as well, which is the problem keeping it next to the bed all night. I agree... if it can hork my speakers from 3 feet away, what's it doing to my head while I talk on it??

I could have explained it more technically

I'd love it if you could try again. I don't know much about cell phone protocols (GRMS, etc) but this issue might be limited to only one of them. Any way you can ask your hubby again, or roll him up to your keyboard? If I can switch phones/providers and make this go away, I'll definitely think about it when the time comes for a new phone. My old Samsung from Sprint never did this...
posted by scarabic at 2:38 PM on March 3, 2004

Response by poster: Orb - excuse me
posted by scarabic at 2:39 PM on March 3, 2004

is your phone battery life ok (maybe it's stuck "full on" for some reason)? is the reception where you live poor (would explain why it is transmitting more power perhaps)? choosing a provider with good reception might help, since the phone will (i think) then transmit with less power.

you can reduce the interference with your computer speakers by getting a separate amp and traditional audio speakers, so that the amplification is done before the signal is transmitted to the speakers (the speaker wires are acting as aerials and the amplifiers in the speakers you (probably) have now are amplifying the signal (simplifying technical details)).

when i lived in leicester i had some small active speakers that picked up nearby radio transmissions. i got to hear all the radio traffic from the firemen when a house opposite had a chippan fire.

(wow - the largest spider i've ever seen in my life just walked past!)
posted by andrew cooke at 3:08 PM on March 3, 2004

Andrew, I have shielded speakers with a separate amp. The amp picks up the signal itself quite nicely. My phone has to be within a foot or two of the amp and facing the right direction (directional antenna in the phone), but it'll chirp its heart out when someone calls.

I like it. It gives me a second or two advance notice. Nothing wrong with that.

Scarabic. For what it's worth, I have a GSM phone. I doubt that the signal type makes much difference (though old-school analog might). Here's a post where some folks think it's only GSM, but someone pipes up and says TDMA does it, too. Now that I think about it, my old TDMA caused problems, also. The second to last post in the thread gives a decent somewhat-technical explanation.
posted by whatnotever at 3:43 PM on March 3, 2004

scarabic- I'll try to get hubby to sit down and type it out later. He lost me about 30 seconds after he asked if you had a Nokia and I said "yes". :D
posted by Orb at 4:53 PM on March 3, 2004

Response by poster: I'd love that. Thanks!
posted by scarabic at 7:29 PM on March 3, 2004

If you place your phone near the monitor, you will get a visual warning of an incoming phone call, as well. We have a digital phone system at work and incoming calls to mobile phones produce a brief static noise from the phones at times. We have a digital cordless phone at home and, if the base is placed next to the alarm clock, it hums continuously. Ignore what all these wave thingies are doing to your brain and learn to use the warning of incoming calls to your advantage (Some people think I am psychic because I always answer the phone before it rings).

The mouse problem is a bit more strange, as I doubt it is emitting any type of radio waves and is more likely to be an issue with drivers or resource allocations. Check in your control panel to see if the audio devices are sharing resources with the USB ports or try swapping to a non-USB mouse and see if it goes away.
posted by dg at 8:33 PM on March 3, 2004

For what it's worth, my CDMA phone does not make my speakers buzz, so I suspect it has something to do with the narrowband aspect of TDMA/GSM as opposed to the using of spread spectrum in CDMA, which since it spreads a signal over a wide band of frequency will lessen the amount of noise on any particular narrow slice of frequency, and therefore not interfere as much as TDMA/GSM.
posted by gyc at 10:35 PM on March 3, 2004

Lin got called out to a tower, how appropriately, so you get an artist/writer trying to explain it.

The transmitters in the cell phone have a tendency to transmit ever so slightly outside their intended range in harmonic side bands which is then the wire in your speakers acts as an antenna and picks those up (if they aren't shielded). So it's actually your phone that is causing the sounds when it's transmitting it's "phone home" message to the tower (letting it know where to find you, something they all do all the time). When you get a call, you get the loud buzz, or a continual buzz during the call in some cases, as the phone replies to the tower and makes it's connection for the call. How distant you are from your "home" tower can also make a difference, as a stronger signal is needed to maintain the connection. Though, some people disagree on this. Alignment to the tower may also be a factor (what degree are you within the range of the tower's antenna) because of increased signal strength in the maximum range area. Once again, there's disagreement on this too.

GSM operates in the 1700-1800mhz range, and it tends to happen less in that range. TDMA operates at the much lower 800-900mhz range, and it seems to happen much more frequently. Really, the bottom line is it can happen with any of them, and the the wiring acting like an antenna is the problem. Different speakers/TVs/whatever will react differently. Lin's speakers just "snick" even when his phone is sitting right by them, whereas my cheap $5 speakers will pick up his phone a room away and buzz loudly at every "call home" to the tower. Yes, I need better speakers. LOL! Before I got a better monitor, my cell phone could make the screen jerk from a few feet away. It was spooky.

Switching providers is highly unlikely to make any difference seeing as the phone is still going to be sending the same signals and the speakers are still going to act like antennas, but switching phones might make a difference. One of his staff uses a T720 (Motorola, I think), and he doesn't have the problem at all, but then he might also have really good speakers. Hard to tell without testing the theory (with my really cheap speakers for example).

Just from personal experience, Nokias seem to be worse about it, but we both love our Nokias. I guess a solution to the clock radio problem would be to use your cell phone as your alarm clock (we both do), but I gather you like to wake up to music in the morning. Lin actually likes that his speakers let him know he's getting a call a moment before his phone rings. I hate it, but then I am not all that crazy about cell phones anyway.

Hope that was a little better.

Oh, and I asked him if the mouse problem could be caused by the cell phone as well. He said it could be, and then he got that look on his face that means he's going to be muttering to himself about it (and to me) for at least a week trying to determine if it could or not. My life in hell begins now. :D
posted by Orb at 10:53 PM on March 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: hahaha - Thanks for the explanation, Orb. Funny how he thought "Nokia!" right away. I'm liking my Nokia as well, but I'll definitely keep this handy when it comes time to replace.

Thanks, all!
posted by scarabic at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2004

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