Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rail and broadband in place of second Sydney airport

A very high speed train from Sydney, through Canberra, to Melbourne would replace about 75% of flights on one of the worlds busiest air corridors. This is not a new or unexplored idea, from a high speed rail line proposed in 1981, to a "East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study" in 2008. But the mass production of very high speed trains in Asia, combined with advances in broadband and environmental pressures, makes it more feasible.

The Federal and New South Wales Governments are to conduct a joint study of options for additional airport capacity for Sydney. This follows a "National Aviation Policy White Paper" (16 December 2009). It should be noted that the paper is not just talking about an airport and mentions rail transport systems. I suggest that the study should look at a train in place of a second Sydney airport. A very high speed train from Sydney, through Canberra, to Melbourne would replace about 75% of flights on one of the worlds busiest air corridors. Provision of wireless broadband on the train would allow the passengers to do useful work and be entertained. In addition to passengers, a high speed train can also carry high high value freight, such as priority mail, currently sent by air.

Sydney airport already has two underground stations in place and a direct underground line to the Sydney CBD. Work would be needed on the rail corridor out of Sydney, but this is relatively minor, with work already underway for a rail freight corridor.

Very fast trains are now a proven technology, with China and Korea mass producing adaptions of proven European designs.

The cost of the line from Sydney to Melbourne could be covered by the sale of land in new greenfield environmentally efficient towns in inland Australia. These towns would also reduce the growth pressure on Sydney (politically the new towns would be attractive to the current NSW and Federal governments as it would shift the voting trends to the ALP in previously conservative rural electorates). Integration of the National Broadband Network in the new towns would allow rapid provision of services and jobs to the new towns and reduce the cost of infrastructure.

New towns could be built along the VFT route incorporating high environmental and planning standards. Buildings could be designed to use the minimum of water and power, then assembled from mass produced modules. Homes could be designed to accommodate the elderly. Broadband could bring jobs, education and services to the towns quickly. Both government and commercial telecommuting offices could be provided allowing office works to telecommute most days and perhaps have to catch the train only once every few weeks. Each town could have a university campus, as well as a hospital with advanced medical facilities, linked by broadband to specalists.

The pressure on Sydney airport will also be reduced in coming years due to changes in the aircraft used and environmental pressures. The introduction of larger aircraft, specifically the Airbus A380, will reduce the number of international aircraft movements needed. Added to this the Boeing 787 (and Airbus A350) will allow more direct international flights from other Australian airports, reducing the need for Sydney to act as a hub. Added to this, the need for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will increase pressure on airlines to have aircraft loaded to capacity to increase fuel efficiency. The requirement for passengers to pay the environmental cost of their travel will also dampen demand for flights.
Sydney is Australia’s biggest and busiest city and Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport is Australia’s busiest airport, with over 32 million passengers in 2008–09. To ensure the future aviation needs of Sydney meet the expectations of the community and are fully integrated into long-term growth strategies, the Government, in partnership with the New South Wales Government, will work together to plan for the Sydney region’s future airport infrastructure, including how it links to Sydney’s growth centres and its road and rail transport systems. This is the first time that the two governments are aligning their planning and investment strategies. ...

From: National Aviation Policy White Paper, Department of Infrastructure,Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, 16 December 2009

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

In-flight entertainment system for military briefings

According to Flight International, the United Arab Emirates air force will equip three Airbus A330 Tanker Transport aircraft with an in-flight entertainment system for each seat. This is a result of using the same fit-out for the aircraft as used by the national carrier Etihad Airways. One consequence of this is that the entertainment system could be used for military briefings during the flight. The entertainment system would be able to provide briefings via the audio and video on demand system. The system has 10.4 inch touch-screens for economy seats.

Singapore airlines A380 airliners have's office software available from passenger seats, with plug in USB keybards. This would allow the passengers to watch powerpoint type presentations, as well as read Microsoft Word format word processing documents and spreadsheets. With th seats equipped with in-flight two way audio, this would provide the aircraft with limited capacity to be an in-flight command centre. The cost of this would be far lower than a custom military installation.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Accident Report Finds Problems with Airbus Software

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has released an interim report into the accident involving a Qantas Airbus A330-303 off Learmonth Western Australia on 7 October 2008 ("In-flight upset, VH-QPA, Airbus A330-303, 154 km west of Learmonth, Western Australia", AO-2008-070, ATSB, 7 October 2008 "). It appears spikes in sensor data caused the aircraft's flight control computers to make the plane pitch-down violently, seriously injuring 12 people on board. This is an interim report, but will make interesting reading for those working and teaching safety critical software. The crew was unable to read some of the error message displays in the cockpit, as so many messages were generated they scrolled off the screen. The software of the flight computers is being changed to filter out spikes better. The cause of the spikes is still unknown. But other similar incidents have occurred in the same area of Western Australia and possible interference from the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station is being investigated.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headphones

Sony  MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Cancelling HeadphonesThe Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Canceling Headphones use digital signal processing chips to identify the type of noise and then attempt to cancel it out. Reviews are mixed, with Dan Warne saying "The difference was remarkable" (Review: Sony MDR-NC500D, SMH, January 5, 2009) while The Travel Insider said they're not appreciably better than the less expensive Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones (Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Canceling Headphones part 1, 26 Dec 2008).

One place where advanced noise reduction is needed is the Emirates A380 crew rest quarters. The engines on the new aircraft are so quiet that the crew have difficulty getting to sleep. Previously the sound of the engines would mask cabin noises, but the Airbus has such quiet engines the crew can hear the passengers outside. Regular electronic headphones would only cancel out the regular drone of the engines making the problem worse.

See also other Noise Cancelling Headphones available from
It should be noted that these headphones are not safety devices and are not designed to protect from dangerous noise levels. There is a separate category of product for that: Electronic Hearing Protection.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Computer control of in-flight refuelling

Cockpit layout of the A310 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker TransportThe tanker aircraft being built for the RAAF (Airbus A330 MRTT) have a fly-by-wire, refuelling boom (the CASA Advanced Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). This is controlled by an operator on the tanker aircraft flight deck looking at a synthetic 3-D image on a screen (the Remote Aerial Refuelling Station) and "flying" the boom with a joystick. As the boom is electrically operated with a computer relaying the operator's instructions, there is the potentially to further automate the system to make refuelling faster and lower the workload on the operator.

The Airbus system differs from that previously developed by the US Air Force, where an operator sits in the rear of the tanker aircraft and controls the boom while looking out of a window. However, even with the Airbus computer interface this is a complex process. The receiving aircraft has to be guided in using instructions via radio or lights on the tanker (similar to traffic lights). When in the contact position the receiving aircraft has to hold its position while the boom is locked in place and fuel is pumped. Much of this complex process could be automated to relieve the workload on the boom operator and speed the process:

Airbus operator's station

The AAR operator's station is equipped with a fuel control panel, with fuel pump controls and fuel quantity indicators, and a dual pod control panel. The AAR operator is responsible for control of the aircraft's rendezvous beacons and tanker illumination lights during air-to-air refuelling. The optional external video monitoring system uses infrared floodlighting for day-and-night monitoring of refuelling operations. ...

From: A310 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport, Europe, SPG Media Limited, 2008
USAF KC-135R boom operator view

Boeing operator's station

While in contact, pilot director indicators (two rows of lights on the bottom of the tanker's fuselage change in relation to the nozzle's up/down and fore/aft movement) aid the receiver pilot in remaining within the air refueling envelope. The air refueling envelope -- a roughly cube-shaped area within which the nozzle and receptacle must remain during contact -- is slightly different for each receiver. Its boundaries are based either on boom movement limitations, or to prevent the receiver from moving into a position where any portion of the boom might touch the receiver outside the receptacle while in contact. The boom's mechanical limits stem from the both the structural limitations of yoke and trunnion system mounting the boom to the tanker, and the maximum deflection of the flexible nozzle. Should receiver movement left, right, up or down exceed the nozzle's deflection limits the nozzle could become mechanically bound in the receptacle (like trying to remove a key from a lock while pulling sideways instead of pulling straight back) preventing nozzle/receptacle disengagement. The boomer follows the receiver aircraft's movement with the ruddevator control stick to maintain alignment between the inner fuel tube and the outer structural portion of the boom. He or she also monitors the receiver's position, via three boom position indicators, and commands the toggles in the receptacle to disengage the nozzle -- a disconnect -- before the receiver aircraft exceeds any published air refueling envelope limit. ...

From: Aerial refueling, Wikipedia, 2008

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Qantas Airbus Accident Caused by Computer Fault

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau in "Qantas Airbus A330 accident Media Conference" has reported that the aircraft's computers causing the aircraft to pitch down violently, injuring passengers on 7 October 2008. While the accident appears due to a faulty a Air Data Inertial Reference Unit feeding incorrect data to the computers, perhaps the computers should have been programmed to detect and reject the erronious data.
... The ATSB has scheduled the media conference this evening to coincide with the release of an Operators Information Telex/Flight Operations Telex, which is being sent by Airbus to operators of all Airbus aircraft. The aim of that telex is to:
  • update operators on the factors identified to date that led to the accident involving QF72,
  • provide operational recommendations to mitigate risk in the event of a reoccurrence of the situation which occurred on QF72.

... The aircraft was flying at FL 370 or 37, 000 feet with Autopilot and Auto-thrust system engaged, when an Inertial Reference System fault occurred within the Number-1 Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU 1), which resulted in the Autopilot automatically disconnecting. ...

The faulty Air Data Inertial Reference Unit continued to feed erroneous and spike values for various aircraft parameters to the aircrafts Flight Control Primary Computers which led to several consequences including:

  • false stall and overspeed warnings
  • loss of attitude information on the Captain's Primary Flight Display
  • several Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitoring system warnings.

About 2 minutes after the initial fault, ADIRU 1 generated very high, random and incorrect values for the aircrafts angle of attack.

These very high, random and incorrect values of the angle attack led to:

  • the flight control computers commanding a nose-down aircraft movement, which resulted in the aircraft pitching down to a maximum of about 8.5 degrees,
  • the triggering of a Flight Control Primary Computer pitch fault.

The crew's timely response led to the recovery of the aircraft trajectory within seconds. During the recovery the maximum altitude loss was 650 ft.

The Digital Flight Data Recorder data show that ADIRU 1 continued to generate random spikes and a second nose-down aircraft movement was encountered later on, but with less significant values in terms of aircraft's trajectory.

At this stage of the investigation, the analysis of available data indicates that the ADIRU 1 abnormal behaviour is likely as the origin of the event. ...

Related Documents: | Audio file of media conference, 14 October 2008 (18 MB)

From: "Qantas Airbus A330 accident Media Conference", Media Release, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 2008/43, 14 October 2008

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nomad Aircraft for Australian Defence Force

Australian Defence Force Nomad AircraftOne relatively inexpensive item the Australian Defence Force could add to its shopping list is 50 of the Nomad short take off and landing (STOL) aircraft. The Nomad was used by the Australian, Indonesian, Papua New Guinea, Philippine and Thai military, but production ceased in 1985. In July 2008, Gippsland Aeronautics announced it had purchased rights to make the aircraft.

When fitted with new generation turboprop engines the Nomad will have about three quarters the carrying capacity, in terms of passengers and volume of cargo, as the ADF's new NHI NH90 helicopters, at considerably less cost. The STOL fixed wing aircraft could be used where the vertical and heavy lift capability of a helicopter is not required, resulting in lower purchase and operating cost and lower crew training requirements. The Nomad will use about half the fuel of a helicopter, reducing the logistics burden on larger transport aircraft needed to bring in supplies. The Nomad will also require considerably less maintenance and less sophisticated support.

The Nomad cargo cabin internal dimensions are 6.2 x 1.22 x 1.6 m (l x w x h) this 3 m3 smaller than the the NH90 capacity of 4.8 x 2.00 x 1.58 m (l x w x h). The NH90 has a wider cabin and a rear ramp for easier loading. However, the Nomad's door is 1.32 x 1.2 m, so should be able to (just) fit a standard US DoD Joint Modular Intermodal Containers (JMIC). The JMIC containers, such as those made by Garrett, are 1.31 x 1.1 x 1.1 m, allowing five to fit in a Nomad, whereas only four would fit in the NH90. Australian pallets and ISO pallets should also (just) fit.

There was criticism by the RAAF of the STOL handling of the Nomad, poor single engine performance and critical centre of gravity for loading, but these problems may be corrected to some extent for the newly manufactured aircraft.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flying e-learning in Qantas's A380 Airliners

According to the Australian Newspaper (" Business school in all A380 classes" by Fran Foo, September 16, 2008), Qantas A380 Airbus airliners will be equipped will e-learning from the Melbourne Business School, Harvard and Stanford Universities for the seat back screens. It is not clear if the Quantas system will be as spohistaced as Singapore airlines A380 system which has's office software, a USB port and a mini-QWERTY keyboard for each seat. But is likely to be better than the disappointing Malayisioan airlines e-learning system.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Winged autogyro to make a comeback

Sitting in the cafe of the National Library of Australia today, I was flipping through copies of an Australia aircraft managzine and was struck by the simialries between the designs of lightweight fixed wing and autogyro aircraft. Perhaps by combining the two the winged autogyro will make a comeback and be used for UAVs.

The aircraft I was looking at are the Martin 3 Light Sports Aircraft from Silent Wings Aviation and the ELA-08 Autogyro from ELA Aviation. These are both pusher propeller aircraft with tricycle undercarrage, two seats and simialr engines. The Martin 3 has a high mounted wing just behind the cocpit in front of the wing, where as the ELA-08 has the mast for the rotor in that position. As might be expected the fixed wing aircraft is faster but takes more space to take off.


Martin 3 Fixed Wing AircraftELA-08 Autogyro

Empty weight

280 kg

244 kg

Maximum Take-off Weight

450 kg 550 kg
Min Speed at Level Flight 65 km/h 30 km/h
Cruise Speed 180 km/h 150 km/h
Take Off Distance120 m50 m
Rate of Climb5 m/s8 m/s

Some early autogyros had wings and recentircraft such as the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne have experimented with combining a pusher propeller and small wings on a helicopter. It might make sense to replace the wings of the Martin 3 with the rotor of the ELA-08, then reposition the landing gear on a small low mounted wing. The rotor would allow for a sort takeoff afterwhich the wing could take over some of the load allowing for a faster cruse speed. This might also be used for a UAV which could be launched from a ship or vehicle without the need for any runway.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

A380 Airliner One Tonne Lighter with E-documents

According to Flight magazine ("Weight Loss Plan Shapes up", Flight, 29 July 208) the publications provided to passengers on an A380 airliner weigh 2 Kilograms per seat. Emirates Airline are therefore planning to replace the usual magazines with an "online channel" on the seat back entertainment screen. This will save 1,000 kg (1 Tonne) per aircraft.

The entertainment systems on the A380 are new and so are sophisticated enough for such information displays. The problem will then be if compatibility has to be maintained with the systems on older aircraft.

Some A380 aircraft have a Linux computer with Open Office for each seat.

Qantas has also been reported as reducing in-flight magazines to save fuel.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Improved Air Traffic Control with Cooperative Surveillance Techniques

Stephan Schulz from Comsoft GmbH, Germany, will talk about Air Traffic Control, 2008-08-06 at NICTA in Canberra:


Improved Air Traffic Control with Cooperative Surveillance Techniques

Stephan Schulz (Comsoft GmbH)

DATE: 2008-08-06
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: NICTA - 7 London Circuit

Aircraft in controlled airspace are flying under the direction of air traffic controllers, which are responsible for safe, orderly, and expeditious traffic flow. In particular, maintaining proper aircraft separation is not left to individual pilots, but subject to air traffic control.

To support controllers in their task, surveillance systems are used to provide an air situation picture. The quality of the air situation picture determines both the workload of the controller and the safe separation limits of aircraft, and hence significantly influences the safe capacity of the air space. Most of todays surveillance systems are based on rotating antenna radars. However, radars are expensive to build and operate. They have a relatively low update rate and limited scalability.

New surveillance techniques rely on cooperative aircraft to overcome this disadvantage. Multilateration systems use a scalable array of small, low-cost sensors to determine aircraft position and parameters from the time difference of arrival of aircraft transponder signals. They achieve high accuracy, can provide updates several times per second, and provide secondary information about the aircraft based on the content of the received messages.

An even more radical departure from classical radar is Automated Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast. With ADS-B, the aircraft determines its own position using a global navigation satellite system. It broadcasts this position and auxiliary information, typically several times per second. The signal can be received by a low-cost ADS-B ground station with a simple omni-directional antenna. Thus, a small, passive sensor can provide a high-quality air situation picture.

Stephan Schulz studied computer science and physics at the University of Kaiserslautern and graduated (Dipl. Inform.) in 1995. In the same year he joined the Automated Reasoning Group at the Technical University Munich. In 2000 he obtained a Ph.D. in computer science for his work on learning search control strategies for first-order deduction. He has contributed to the development of several high-performance deduction systems. Dr. Schulz is best known for developing E, one of the most friendly theorem provers for first-order equational logic. He taught at TU Munich, the University of Miami, and the University of the West Indies.

In 2005 he joined Comsoft GmbH, a German provider of solutions in he field of air traffic control, where he now is responsible for research and development of future surveillance technologies.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

KLIA Airport

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is billed as the world's best airport. It is big, with the gates in a satellite terminal connected by automated trains. It is an unusual feeling to be accelerating out of the station while still in the terminal building, with people duty free shopping beside you. Free wireless Internet is provided, as are a few web terminals (I used the WiFi to post this while waiting for my flight to Sydney). Web access worked fine, but I was unable to get my POP mail.

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Dubai in a dust-storm

Something they don't mention in the real estate and tourism brochures is that Dubai has dust-storms. At present I am sitting in the Dubai airport transit lounge happy to have the air conditioning. Outside it is 35 degrees Celsius and there is a brown haze. But then Melbourne has dust storms occasionally.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dubai International Airport

Dubai International Airport is not quite as large as Shanghai, but has the same feel of "lets have something big and impressive". These is free WiFi which works well. The coffee is better than Malaysia, but not much. Apart from that there was little to see while in transit. Perhaps there are some shops elsewhere in the building.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

e-Learning in Mid Air

Singapore Airlines Airbus 380 at Sydney AirportThe new Singapore A380 airbus is equipped with a Linux computer in every economy seat, but traveling Malaysian Airlines, I had to bring an ASUS EEE PC. Even so I noticed that the entertainment in the Boeing 747 economy seat came with e-Learning, along with interactive games.

The interactive system did not make a good start. The system crashed with a segmentation fault and I had to wait a minute while it rebooted itself. This was useful in that the diagnostics showed the screen was at 640 x 480 pixels. Newer systems such as the airbus have a higher resolution, but even with the maximum practical screen of about 9 inches, there is only so much that can be displayed.

This is the second time within a few weeks that I have seen a problem with an airline entertainment system. The previous was on a QANTAS 747 to Perth which had to be rebooted. It is a little disconcerting to see the aircraft rebooting Microsoft Windows 3.0 in mid-flight, but then that is not running the flight controls. The report of a software failure which could have brought down a Boeing 777 flight out of Perth was released recently.

But back to e-learning; the system offers: Travel guide, Berlitz languages, b-Wise (business topics) and Soundview executive book summaries. The display showed an email address at and so presumably is from Panasonic Avionics.

The travel guide is a little out of date, having been last updated in December 2005. There are a few seconds delay after selecting a city guide, while the next module is loaded. Modules were offered for Asia, Europe, America and the Pacific. The interface makes good use of the limited screen size with simple graphics and menus operated by the hand controller's games buttons (up down, left right, select). Selecting the city guide for KL, I was disappointed to be confronted with a frozen menu bar as the system crashed again:
“galib: Signal 11: Segmentation fault received. ... System is going down NOW !! Sending SIGKILL to all processes. System is halted. Press Reset or turn off power.”
But then this was an old aircraft. Some of the panels in the toilet are, quite literally, held together with adhesive tape (Polyken 290FR aircraft cargo compartment tape to be precise). No doubt newer aircraft have newer entertainment systems.

While the system was rebooting (again), a little about how the EEE PC goes on an aircraft. What makes the EEE PC difficult to use on a desktop: the small screen and keyboard, is very useful in an economy class seat. The notebook sits firmly on the tray table (some larger notebooks tend to tip over). There is plenty of space around the computer for coffee, seat controllers and the like. The keyboard is less difficult than on a desk and the tiny touch pad is easier to use than a large one.

The language package for the in flight entertainment system is from DTI Software . This offers a large range of languages to learn in and from. However, the disappointment is that this is not multimedia: the system shows you images and words, but there was no audio pronouncing the words and so making it of limited value.

One interesting aspect is that the language package uses the controller in landscape (games) mode, whereas the travel guide uses it in portrait (telephone) mode, thus the up-down/left-right keys are rotated 90 degrees, which is confusing.

b-Wise was also also developed by DTI Software . This was the most disappointing of the e-learning packages. It provides a few paragraphs of text per screen, with some maps and photos. However, the screen resolution is so low that the text is all but unreadable. The resolution of the text generator does not appear to match that of the screen, the anti-aliasing is not set correctly, or perhaps this is a JPEG image, complete with text, but for whatever reason it is not usable.

Soundview executive book topics provides very abridged versions of business books. These have such titles as “Putting the Moose on the Table”, “Leadership Lessons from Lewis and Clark's Daring Westward Expedition” and “The Wisdom of Crowds” (TWOC). I selected TWOC and found it consisted of 50 pages (screen fulls) of text, plus 23 minutes and 40 seconds of spoken book. As with the business guides, the screen text is not really readable, but the audio worked well. The screen text is more abridged that the audio, but is useful reinforcement, however, the screens do not automatically update to keep up with the audio, the pages have to be changed manually.

The audio has a tinny quality, as if it has been decompressed and re-compressed several times, but is adequate. The controls for the sound are limited to pausing, there is no fast forward, rewind, or chapter skip. Overall Soundview is the most useful of the e-Learning units. The simplistic nature of business books particularly suits this summarising and presentation style. Books such as TWOC present a few simple ideas which can be summarised in a few pages; the books tend to repeat examples of these few simple points to reinforce the lesson (almost to the point of being indoctrination, rather than education). However, there was not test, or review at the end, so this is not really e-Learning anyway.

Also it is a little worrying that if it books such as TWOC are what the average business person can cope with, then then more sophisticated techniques for online business now being developed may be beyond most people in business to understand. ICT professionals, myself included, may be vastly overestimating the ability of business to absorb new online developments. One problem might be testing these ideas on university students, who are not be representative of the average business person. My ANU students in particular are far above the average. I had to get that plug for the ANU in, as they paid for the EEE PC. ;-)

But while criticizing the features of the in-flight system, it is worth keeping in mind how remarkable it is to have such systems while traveling over the South Australian desert at 756 kph (courtesy of iXplor moving map system a .On a previous trip aboard a RAAF C130 transport aircraft, things were a little more primitive. When I asked the navigator on the flight deck where we were, he gave me the longitude and latitude.

ps: After the flight,
Malaysia Airlines sent some details of their systems:
The following is what we gathered from our Inflight Services Dept. Further information can be found on our corporate website at

We update our movies title monthly .

B747/777: 3000i system which gives the passengers audio/video on demand (AVOD). More than 300 hours of inflight entertainment, including 50+movies, over 100 tv shows, 70 games, and 200 CD albums.

A330-200: Inseat Video System for Business and Economy Class. More than 3 movies and 10 TV programs are available.

A330-300: Overhead video system for Economy Class. For Business Class, it is the portable media player that carries 100 hours of on-demand movies, tv shows, and 10 games.

Portable Media Player : PMP available on A330- Business Class only with 10 latest Hollywood movies playtime for 02 months. ...

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Open Source Office in the Sky

Singapore airlines Linux in-flight entertainmentThe Singapore airlines A380 airliners have's office software available from passenger seats. The passenger plus a flash drive into supplied USB socket with their documents, then uses a thumb board and the LCD screen to look at the documents. This must make the A380 one of the biggest mobile offices ever built. ;-)

A380 thumb keyboardA380 USB socketThe only images I could find of the setup were in a Singapore airlines video. Here are two still images from the video of the thumb keyboard and the USB socket on the seat back. There is also a larger keyboard in the video which appears to be plugged into the USB socket.

The eX2-branded upgrade of the Krisworld in-flight entertainment (IFE)
system running on Panasonic Avionics’ S3000i platform will provide 100 movies,
more than 150 TV programmes, 700 audio CDs, and 22 audio programmes – all on

Passengers will be able to access files on thumbdrives via the IFE by
plugging the drives into at-seat USB ports and using the ‘QWERTY-thumboard’
provided to run documents, spreadsheets and presentations on a system based on
Sun Microsystem’s StarOffice.

From: Singapore
Airlines unveils A380 and lays out service plans
, By Kieran Daly, Flight,

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Web better than airport to find flights

Greetings from Melbourne airport where I am trying to find out how to get to Tasmania. It turns out that Melbourne Airport is a remarkably difficult place to find out about flights.

My flight from Newcastle from Influence Forum 2007 was delayed by fog and rain and, more unusually, a power failure at the airport causing the arrestor cables used to stop military aircraft possibly being armed, so I missed the connection to get to give talks in Tasmania.

At Melbourne Airport, the check-in counter of the airline I was booked with could only tell me when their airline had the next flight, not which other airline flew there or when. Their primary concern seemed to be if I wanted a refund (which was not a priority as a room full of people were going to be waiting in Tasmania for a talk).

So I had to go from counter to counter asking each airline. Even finding an inquiry counter was difficult: I had to queue up just to be able to ask where to queue up to ask. By a process of elimination, walking from counter to counter, airline to airline, in two domestic terminals (separated by the international terminal), I found that several flights had closed. What I should have done was sit down and fire up the wireless web, then I could saved a walk and several queues, by checking each airlines web site. Also on the web there are consolidated travel services which will tell you which airlines fly to which cities. Perhaps Melbourne Airport should put in some kiosks for this.

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