FAA Says Some Electronics Can Now Be Used Throughout Your Flight

Flickr/Jetstar

If you’re tired of shutting off your gadgets during take off and landing (or you’re one of those passengers who surreptitiously leaves them on) then get ready for some good news. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is loosening restrictions on the use of electronics in-flight, meaning some devices can now be used the entire time you’re on the plane.

Under the changes, travelers will be able to use e-readers, play games, and watch videos on their portable devices throughout their journey. Bluetooth devices like wireless keyboards can also be used on flights. Cell phones will still face some restrictions, with passengers required to keep them in airplane mode. And as is currently the case, no phone calls will be allowed at any time onboard. The FAA says passengers may be asked to stow some heavier devices during takeoff and landing for safety reasons, but in general, the new rules reflect much more freedom for fliers.The FAA says it came to the decision after receiving input from pilots, electronics manufacturers, and passengers, and that the new rules balance safety with travelers’ increasing appetite to use electronics during flights.

The new rules won’t necessarily apply immediately, and exactly how they’ll be implemented will probably differ from one airline to the next. But the FAA believes most carriers will have the changes in place by the end of the year.

Galley Gossip: Can Passengers View Pornography on the Airplane?

From time to time I get questions from readers who want to know what the rules are regarding viewing pornography in flight now that Wi-Fi is available on board most airplanes. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much of an issue (knock on wood). But planes are crowded, personal space barely exits, and when passengers do things they shouldn’t, well, they usually get caught.

Last week on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale, a coworker had to ask a 10-year-old boy to turn off the erotica and to fasten his seatbelt. On either side of him sat his younger brother and sister. Across the aisle were his parents who had no idea what was going on until we informed them why he may have been holding the computer screen so close to his face. On a different flight another passenger was caught reading a Playboy Magazine. Next to him sat his young son. What gave this man away was the opened centerfold he was eyeing up and down. When a flight attendant politely asked him to put it away, he yelled at her for embarrassing him.

How common is it to see someone watching something rather risqué on a laptop, iPad, tablet or even the in-flight entertainment system in the air? I can only think of a few instances I’ve seen something that might raise a few eyebrows. When this happens, I’ll gently inform the passenger that there are children on board and remind them that other passengers seated nearby might find what they’re viewing distasteful. Nine times out of ten they’ll either fast forward through the scene or turn it off – end of story.Do passengers ever complain about the content of something that a different passenger is watching? I’ve never had anyone rat someone out for watching pornography in flight. But I do get a lot of complaints about kids watching movies or playing video games that are too loud. Most parents forget to bring headphones for their little ones. I always hate having to tell a nice family to turn it down, but rules are rules and they apply to everyone, even those under 2 feet tall.

Is there a firm policy on how to handle passengers who are watching adult content openly? Pornography is not allowed on the airplane. If a flight attendant does come across it, we’ll discreetly ask the passenger to put it away. If that doesn’t work, we might issue a written warning. The warning informs the passenger what will happen if they choose not to comply. Refusing to obey crew instruction is a federal offense.

[Photo courtesy: Bekathwia
]

Boeing Improves In-Flight Wireless With The Help Of Potatoes

If you’re going to take a stab at improving your in-flight wireless capabilities, then you’re going to need to test the signals. But when testing, you have to ensure that the plane is exactly the same as it would be 35,000 feet up in the air, which means you need passengers. Any travelers out there willing to sit still in a plane for a few days without ending up in an exotic destination? Didn’t think so.

Unsure of where they would find people willing to sit still for days on end in an airplane to endure wireless signal testing, Boeing engineers employed potato sacks instead. According to the Associated Press, because of their water content and chemistry, potatoes absorb and reflect radio waves in a very similar way to how people do. To fill their test planes the Boeing engineering team invested in 20,000 pounds of potatoes.

Those potatoes, plus the usual high-tech research and statistical analysis that Boeing is known for, resulted in a proprietary system for fine tuning Internet signals so that there would be a strong connection no matter where a laptop was in the plane.

Which means that next time you’re surfing the Internet above 10,000 feet, thank a potato.

[Image: jamonation]

Gogo Unveils New In-Flight Wireless: Boasts 3X Improvement In Bandwidth

Gogo’s jet-propelled test lab took flight yesterday with several reporters and one very important fin added to the underbelly of the plane.

On the quick flight across western Illinois, CTO Anand Chari showed off the significant speed increases and signal stability of their new ATG-4 (Air To Ground – 4) wireless system. Initially using the current ATG wireless, pages loaded slowly or timed out completely when a crowded plane was simulated. Switching to the new technology showed speeds reaching closer to the estimated max of 9.7 Mbps. When an additional 15 users were simulated on the plane, loading of pages slowed, but never stalled.

“This is a significant tech advancement,” said CEO Michael Small. “We can serve considerable larger number of passengers – over half the plane [before degradation of the service]. The sky is going to keep growing. We’re on a path to getting full service to a full plane of users.”

Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are still too big of a burden for in-flight connectivity, but the company’s recent release of Gogo Vision offers a nice compromise – 100+ titles to watch streaming on your wireless device for $4.99 a movie or 99 cents a show.

Over 40 planes are already equipped with the ATG-4 technology, with Virgin, Delta and US Airways on board (launches for service on American Airlines and United are expected next year). The company plans to have over 500 planes equipped by the end of 2013.

How do you tell if your plane is equipped with the latest tech? If possible, look under the first third of the plane, near the door – if you can see two fins, the smaller will be the old ATG modem, and the larger will be the ATG-4. In addition, two directional antennae and a second modem will provide another clever bonus – by checking for signal in several directions, the plane will choose the strongest one to use, while the other keeps searching for the next best signal.

[Photo Credits: Dan Morgridge]

10 Great Wi-Fi Cafes In NYC’s Lower East Side

88 orchard

As a freelance writer without an office to call home, it was probably inevitable that I would become intimately familiar with the cafes in my neighborhood. Thankfully, the Lower East Side of New York City offers dozens of options, each with different atmospheres but all with great gourmet coffee and blazing fast Wi-Fi.

In recent months, I’ve fallen into a steady rotation of these establishments, with the selection of each day’s “office” based upon a careful calculation of that day’s assignments, my budget, food cravings, the weather and my mood. Do I have to hunker down with my laptop for the entire afternoon? Berkli Parc has tons of electrical outlets. Is it focus time? Bruschetteria’s free Wi-Fi has a block on social media sites. Do I feel like being transported to Mykonos for the afternoon? The white walls and open windows at Souvlaki GR do the trick.

Hopefully, this roundup of my favorite Lower East Side Wi-Fi cafes will assist you in finding the right spot for you.

Berkli Parc
Run by a UC-Berkeley alum, this cafe successfully invokes the laidback organic spirit of northern California … without all the tree huggers.
Pros: laptop-friendly, plentiful outlets, daily happy hour with $4 craft beers and $5 wines
Cons: pricy sandwiches, few breakfast options
63 Delancey Street

Bruschetteria
If you really need to focus, take advantage of Bruschetteria’s Internet ban on social media. Your deadlines will thank you.
Pros: super attentive staff, great natural light, $12.50 two-course lunch special with wine
Cons: very small, few outlets
92 Rivington Streetsouvlaki gr

Souvlaki GR
Feel like an escape? Head to popular gyro spot Souvlaki GR, where the white walls, pink bougainvillea and smell of grilled meat will instantly transport you to Mykonos.
Pros: unique atmosphere, delicious food
Cons: limited outlets, only coffee options are Nescafe and thick Greek “Elliniko” coffee
116 Stanton Street

Konditori
Located under the trendy Thompson LES hotel, Konditori combines Swedish coffee tradition with a Brooklyn sensibility. The space is light and airy, if small.
Pros: opens early, delicious Swedish pastries
Cons: few tables, uncomfortable seating
182 Allen Street

88 Orchard
A neighborhood anchor, 88 Orchard offers an extensive menu and two levels of seating, though the sunnier upper level is more suited to conversation than computers.
Pros: rustic atmosphere, locally-sourced food options
Cons: outlets only available on dim underground lower level, weekend no-laptop policy on upper level
88 Orchard Street

D’espresso
Spend enough time at D’espresso and you’ll see why it’s a neighborhood favorite. The coffee is on the pricier side, but the friendly staff makes up for it.
Pros: extensive beverage options, plentiful outlets, minimalist decor
Cons: high prices, no bathrooms, heavy foot traffic
100 Stanton Street

earthmatters

Earthmatters
Founded more than a decade ago, Earthmatters is a true community hub, offering a place where people can gather, shop, eat, talk and yes, use the free Wi-Fi.
Pros: low prices, great community, large variety of organic and natural foods
Cons: laptops only allowed upstairs with minimum food purchase
177 Ludlow Street

Teany
Originally co-founded by Moby, Teany is one of the city’s best known vegan teahouses. Though it’s changed management multiple times over the past few years, it’s still a good bet for great tea, though the food and service can be hit-or-miss.
Pros: hundreds of tea varieties, outdoor seating
Cons: few outlets, inconsistent food and service
90 Rivington Street

Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop
Huge glass windows and a corner location make Tiny’s the perfect place for people watching when you need to take your eyes off your laptop.
Pros: great natural light, cheap coffee, inventive sandwiches
Cons: no outlets, hit-or-miss staff
129 Rivington Street

The Bean
Technically over the “border” in the East Village, The Bean’s three new locations offer sunny window seats and free doggie biscuits for neighborhood canines.
Pros: friendly atmosphere, plentiful outlets, open late
Cons: always crowded, often difficult to find seating
Three locations at 54 2nd Avenue, 147 1st Avenue, and 824 Broadway

Explore the Colorful History Behind the Lower East Side

[Images: H.L.I.T., Robert Barat]