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Is That Gadget Haunted or Just Broken?

Illustration for article titled Is That Gadget Haunted or Just Broken?
Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo
Undead TechUndead TechTechnology is constantly changing and sometimes things are left behind. This week we look at tech that's dying and tech that, for some reason, refuses to.

Ghosts. They’re said to haunt anything, even electronics. I’m sure the first people who put light bulbs in their homes thought they were being haunted when a power surge made their lamps flicker. But there are enough stories of kids’ toys stuffed away in a closet coming to life, even with the batteries removed, to convince you that ghosts can haunt objects. (If you were never woken up in the middle of the night by a screaming Furby, you don’t know what fear is.) Yet more often than not, there’s a perfectly logical explanation for why your gadget is acting weird.

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Just like ghost hunting equipment can produce false readings, your complex electronic gadgets can act as if possessed. Spirits boxes rapidly scan through radio signals, so that disembodied voice is most likely just a short word or phrase from a talk show or song. EMF recorders will pick up on actual electronic magnetic fields made from a circuit breaker box or something similar. The same is true of your more traditional gadgets. With a little troubleshooting, you can figure out if your gadget is being wonky, or if it’s gearing up to pull a Chucky on your cat and the rest of your family.

The Ghost in the Joy Sticks

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of your Nintendo Switch taking on a life of its own, you probably experienced Joy-Con drift. A ghost isn’t trying to control Mario, but it sure can feel like it when you’re trying to move your character one way with the thumbstick and it goes the other way instead. The issue can affect regular Switch and Switch Lite owners, and has been a problem for quite a while.

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Reports started surfacing near the end of 2018 when users started throwing out their busted Joy-Cons and purchasing news ones, only to be plagued by the same issue again and again. Understandably, this made a lot of people angry. Users filed class-action lawsuits, including one kid and his mom who are seeking a cool $5 million in damages. If you are experiencing this, unfortunately, a seance or a trip to a ring of salt won’t be helpful. There’s not much you can do right now besides exchange it or get a refund if it’s under warranty.

But if your Switch is using the Animal Crossing keyboard to spell out the name of deceased relatives or type out mysterious messages like “He’s coming for you...” fill your house with incense, pour a thick circle of salt around your bed, have a priest perform an exorcism—do whatever you have to do to rid the evil from your house, and then burn your Switch or sell it to Zak Bagans. Nintendo doesn’t cover demonic possession in its warranty.

The Case of the Cursed Battery

While it’s totally normal for laptop, cell phone, and other gadget batteries to lose their charging capacity over time, it’s not normal to have a relatively new device suddenly deplete of all its juice. Ghosts are most likely not trying to drain your gadgets of their energy to physically manifest beside you while you’re sleeping. I hope.

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Illustration for article titled Is That Gadget Haunted or Just Broken?
Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

If you recently took your phone, or a stand-alone voice recorder, on a ghost hunting trip to record EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) and the batteries completely drained without explanation...yeah, that was probably a ghost trying to show itself to you. I’d check your recorder for any unexplained voices, or orbs and black shadows in your videos. And maybe bathe in some holy water, just in case. Ghosts have been known to follow people home...

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But really there’s probably a perfectly logical explanation for this!

For instance, people have reported the latest iOS 14 update draining their batteries faster than usual and that’s most likely due to a few settings getting changed during the update. On iPhones there’s an option for Optimized Battery Charging under Battery Health that should be turned on. It’s also helpful to close any apps running in the background or change your display settings. Apple recently released a fix for the battery drain issues some its watchOS 7 customers have been experiencing recently. If you’re one of those people, download and install the update to see if that helps.

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The PC That Never Sleeps

You put your desktop PC into sleep mode, listen for the fans to wind down, for the RGB lights to turn off, and crawl into bed...only to hear your PC whir to life a few minutes later. You get up, put it in sleep mode again, but a few minutes later your PC turns itself back on. A brand new PC shouldn’t do this, so what gives? Is it a bug in the OS? Or maybe something far more sinister, something not of this dimension.

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Illustration for article titled Is That Gadget Haunted or Just Broken?
Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

Okay, it’s probably because one of your pets walked on the keyboard or sat on the mouse. But if it’s not that, it’s still possible one of those things is triggering your computer to wake up without anyone or anything touching it. I recently had this issue with my PC, and while it takes a little bit a detective work to figure out what’s wrong, it can be easily solved. If you’re running Windows 10, you can type ‘cmd’ into the search bar to bring up the command prompt. From there, type in ‘powercfg -lastwake’ and it should tell you what is waking your PC up from sleep mode.

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If it’s your keyboard or mouse, type ‘device manager’ into the search bar. Bring up the Device Manager window, find the name of your keyboard or mouse, right click on it, and go to properties. Under the Power Management tab, uncheck the box that says “Allow this device to wake the computer.” You shouldn’t have any more issues after that.

There’s a lot of other things that can make it seem like a ghost is trying to gain access to your computer. Your Ethernet port can be to blame, wake timers, cloud backup programs, or scheduled maintenance. But I’ll be honest...while I’ve solved the problem with my desktop PC waking up from sleep, I haven’t solved the problem on my laptop. I’ve looked into all these issues, but they aren’t causing my laptop to wake itself up from sleep mode. Could it be paranormal? Could a spirit be trying to contact me through Microsoft Word?! No, that’s silly. Ghosts can’t type...can they?

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The Always Hungry Trash Can

The thing about gadgets that open with the wave of your hand, other than making you feel like a Jedi, is how they can sometimes take on a life of their own. I’m specifically talking about trash cans with automatic lids. The kind that opens for several seconds once it senses your palm, and then close to keep the bad smell of the sushi you left out on the counter overnight from further permeating the kitchen.

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Townew’s self-sealing, self-changing automatic trash can. Ghost not included.
Townew’s self-sealing, self-changing automatic trash can. Ghost not included.
Image: townew

There’s many a tale of these opening on their own, laughing like the crazed furnace from Home Alone. It’s tired of being fed your garbage. Now it wants to feed on you!

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Okay, I’m 99.9% sure your trash can is being triggered by something in your kitchen, or where ever you have it in your house. Not a ghost.

The sensors on automatic trash cans detect infrared radiation, or heat, not necessarily the motion of you palm waving over it. If you were to put your hand under a thermal camera, you’d see just how much heat it gives off. That’s what triggers the lid to open. But lots of things give off heat. Pets. Stoves. Ovens. Heaters. If it’s not a faulty sensor, any heat source like those could be triggering it, not a ghost. We all know ghosts are cold entities, so there’s no way they could be making your trash can’s lid open on its own.

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Now, if your trash can’s lid is opening and closing rapidly in unison with your kitchen cabinets and drawers, while stuff is literally flying in all directions...you probably have a poltergeist. Those things don’t care if something is a gadget or not. I have no advice for you. I’m sorry. You’re screwed. Just abandon your house and never come back.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

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DISCUSSION

I have had what I believe to be hackers take remote control of my pc twice in my life. Once like 10-15 years ago and then most recently a few months ago. The first time someone took control of my mouse and went to a word document I had opened and started typing cryptic messages. The second time I was in the browser window and it started entering auto text populated by Google, then deleting part of the sentence, then populating, then deleting, before populating a full sentence generated by google, almost like my systems was lagging but I wasn’t pressing any buttons. I thought maybe it was my Logitech software going bonkers. Either way I formatted both times. I still though today wonder if it was hackers, ghost, or if I’m just a simulation and its end users fucking with me from outside the simulation. Which makes me question would it be ethical if you created a simulated life form that thought it was alive but then you torture it with demented games? Not sure what was going on both times since my Antivirus Software and Malwarebytes didn’t detect anything, it just remains a mystery to me.