Hacking a Pair of Pants

September 21, 2006

hacked pants

In an effort to save money, I have decided to use the Blackberry 7105 that I use for work as my only mobile device. Just recently, everything fell into place and I was able to make the transition over from my cell phone to the Blackberry. As a direct result, I will be carrying the Blackberry around with me instead of my cell phone.

For some time now, I have always made sure to purchase pants that have a pocket in the leg so that I have a convenient place to keep my cell phone. Normally these pants are called "carpenter pants" or "utility pants." The Blackberry comes with a holster that has a belt clip, but I feel like a total nerd if I have gadgets clipped to my belt (especially bulky ones). So, I decided to forgo the holster and carry my Blackberry in the same side pocket I have always carried my cell phone in. The only disadvantage in doing this is that the Blackberry is designed so that it knows when it is and isn't in the holster. Due to this clever design, you can configure the device to behave differently based on its position relative to the holster. For example, if you have the device on your person (in the holster) you may want the device to only vibrate and not make any noise. If the device is on a shelf in the other room, you would probably prefer that it make noise so that you do not miss any phone calls. I had thought that by not using the holster I was giving up this cool logic control. However, that was before I decided to hack my pants.

I set out to try and replicate the holster's effect on the Blackberry. Very quickly, I discovered that a magnet placed near certain locations on the Blackberry would have the same effect as placing the Blackberry in its holster. So, I decided to put a magnet in my pants pocket to turn it into a pseudo-holster. Here is the process I went through:

Since I never plan on using the holster, I cut it open and removed the two magnets from inside. In this first picture you can see one of the magnets next to my Blackberry. The magnet resembles a metal washer:

Magnet and Blackberry

Here is a second picture of the magnet, this time in my hand:

Magnet in My Hand

This is the pair of pants that I am going to "hack." You can see the side pocket I mentioned earlier:


A close up of the pocket with my Blackberry beside it:

Blackberry and Pants

The next step was to find the optimal position for the magnet with relation to the Blackberry device. The magnetic switch on the back of the Blackberry appears to be much more sensitive to the magnet than the one on the front, and this picture illustrates what I found to be the best location:

Magnet and Blackberry

Once I knew where I wanted the magnet to line up with the Blackberry, I had to find the corresponding spot on my pants pocket. I used tape to hold the magnet in place on the inside of the pocket so I could test out different positions. In this picture you can sort of see the tape on the back of the magnet:

Magnet and Tape

After awhile I found the best spot. The tape actually held the magnet in place pretty well, but I wanted a solution that would survive a trip through the washing machine. So, I pulled out a needle and some thread:

Needle and Thread

I sewed the magnet in place with the tape still on. I took advantage of the donut shape of the magnet and I sewed from the outside of the magnet and through the middle. When I was done, I was pretty surprised at how well the thread blended in with the jeans:


Finished Zoom

Finally, here is a picture of the finished pants with the Blackberry in the pocket:

Finished with Blackberry

Well, that's my hack. It wasn't that difficult, and it works really well. I normally alternate between two pairs of jeans and I have another magnet, so I'll probably be hacking the other pair, too. I'll keep everyone updated as to how it handles over time and being washed multiple times.

On a related note, I also have made a few new ringtones for my Blackberry. The ones the device come with are pretty lame, so if I was going to be walking around with it I needed to improve the noise pollution I was going to be putting out. So, I ripped a bunch of sounds from Homestarrunner.com and put them in the proper format for my Blackberry. I will probably do some more ringtones, but that's about all I have for now. If you have a Blackberry and would like to listen/download my ringtones you can get to them at: http://www.transmatrix.net/bb/. (Browse to this site with your Blackberry)

If you have any questions or comments about my pants hack, feel free to add a comment to this post.

Comments (3):

So having a holster makes you a dork.... but "hacking your jeans" doesn't???

heres a few adp tones the big site has gone down


Oh, I'm a dork, nerd, geek, whatever. I'm just saying I'd rather not look the part...

Thanks for the ringtones link, btw.

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