FAA Says Some Electronics Can Now Be Used Throughout Your Flight

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.

Turn Your Phone Into A Subway Card

If you’ve ever visited one of the more technologically advanced Asian metropolises like Tokyo or Hong Kong, you’re probably already familiar with the easy-to-use technology called RFID. It works like this – instead of paying cash for a bus or subway fare, you hold up a simple plastic card (or a chip embedded in your cellphone) to the ticket gate, and voila! You’ve paid and gotten on your way without pulling a dime out of your wallet.

Wouldn’t it be great if that same technology worked back in the USA, dear reader? Well, now you too can embed an RFID reader inside your fancy iPhone, thanks to a little creative hacking and a DIY company called Adafruit Industries. Using a relatively inexpensive tool kit sold by the company, they’ve put together the nifty video above showing how to install your very own RFID card for use with your iPhone. Not all cities have RFID payment systems, but an increasing number of American cities accept it on their mass transit systems. Care to give it a try? Check out the video above for a tutorial.

10 Photo Musts For Any Travel Plans

Taking photos of important documentation that we might need later as a backup is quickly becoming a part of everyone’s travel plans. Stored in our cell phone, critical data can be recalled easily when paper versions of the same are misplaced, lost or stolen. Taking that idea another step further, creating other images along the way can be quite helpful for a number of reasons.

We don’t like to think about it but getting lost while traveling is something that happens, even with the most careful planning. Rare but tragic, kidnapping is something we don’t like to think about but that happens too. On a long trip, recalling the exact path we took later can be difficult when traveling quickly, covering a lot of ground in a short period of time.

These are all good reasons to focus a little attention to photos that might be helpful later. Here are some must-take photo ops you won’t want to miss.

  1. Enable location tracking– Be sure location tracking or a similar feature on your phone is enabled, secretly adding your location, where and when the image was captured.
  2. Where you are right now– A good idea to make part of what we do when traveling is to take a photo of where we are right now. If you are one of those travelers who back up digital images to a laptop computer along the way, have a folder on your desktop that has one photo from each place visited.
  3. When I die” file photo with location captioned- This is one nobody wants to think about but critical to have someplace when traveling. A “When I Die” file will give relatives or close friends the location of important documents you may have in secured places, website URL’s and passwords that can be helpful for those handling your affairs after your death and more.
  4. Places you visited- Simply having a photo of every place you visit can be a great benefit (see #2) down the line when writing about your adventures, recalling your travel itinerary in the future or matching up faces of those you meet along the way to their location on the planet.
  5. People you met– Later, instead of “Remember that singing guy we met in Spain?” it will be, “Here’s a photo of Ricky Martin,” if tagged/captioned accurately.
  6. Forensic Travel Folder- When viewing, editing or sorting photos, copy some that show your location, places you visited and people you met into a folder intended for family members or law enforcement people that will give a good idea of where you have been.
  7. Your Passport and other identification– a no-brainer these days, having an image of your passport, drivers license or other identification can go a long way to satisfying those who need to verify your identity.
  8. Back up to cloud/have remote back up– besides having another copy of photos taken along the way, granting a close friend or family member access to your remote backup can be a huge aid to someone trying to find you.
  9. Receipts of purchases- Maybe not all, but for sure any receipts received when buying foreign currency, buying items along the way that may have a warranty or receipts that can be used to dispute a fraudulent transaction later.
  10. Prescription medications– simply having an image of the bottle your prescription medication came in can be helpful if your medication is lost or stolen. If nothing else, it gives a pharmacist in Africa a number to call for information about your prescription in the U.S. Better yet, take a photo of a prescription before having

[Flickr photo by Evil Erin]

In-Flight Cellphone Calls To Be Allowed On Virgin Atlantic Flights

Passengers on Virgin Atlantic will soon be able to make in-flight cellphone calls, send texts and browse the web on their way home from Europe, it was just announced. The new service is part of the airline’s upgrade to the Airbus A330, which will also provide expanded in-flight entertainment, USB ports and a very spiffy upper class. Cellphone service will initially be available only on London to New York flights, but will be expanded to more cities by the year’s end. There are a lot of caveats, however: you’ll need to be on a Vodafone or O2 network, only 10 calls will be allowed at one time and service won’t be cheap. Calls will cost 1 GBP per minute and texts 20p each. You’ll also still need to turn off your devices for takeoff and landing, and turn them off within 250 miles of US airspace, so no flight-long games of Words With Friends.

Gadling readers: would you use this service? Do you think it’s any improvement over the old-school in-flight phones? Or will it just be another amazing innovation that no one appreciates?

[Photo courtesy Flickr user Highways Agency]

Gadling gear review: Supertooth HD Bluetooth car speakerphone

One of the best accessories for any road trip these days is a good handsfree Bluetooth device that allows drivers to take and make phone calls while keeping their hands firmly on the wheel. An increasing number of new cars come equipped with these systems, but for those of us not fortunate enough to own such a vehicle there are a number of options available that deliver similar functionality. Take for example the Supertooth HD, which packs a lot of features into a small, easy to use device.

The Supertooth HD comes with a built-in clip that securely fastens the device to a vehicle’s sun visor. This keeps the unit conveniently close at hand for when the driver needs to access the controls and helps to more clearly pick up voices when on a call. The device also features a powerful speaker, which makes incoming calls sound loud and clear, while two integrated microphones help to reduce background noise for the person on the other end of the line. A large jog-wheel makes it a snap to adjust volume without taking your eyes off the road and several well-placed buttons grant access to some of the Supertooth’s more advanced features with just a click. Some of those advanced features include the ability to voice-dial contacts, announce incoming caller ID and read texts and emails.

On paper the Supertooth HD seems like the perfect handsfree device for those looking to get the most out of their smartphone while on the road. It does feature good sound quality, both incoming and outgoing, and is a breeze to pair with a phone. It took me just a minute or two to connect with my iPhone, for example, and I was making calls shortly there after. Some of the other features are not as easy to use, however. For instance, to get the most out of the voice dialing system you’ll have to program it with specific numbers ahead of time or rely on the built-in voice dialing on your specific phone as a fallback. The device also has the ability to read incoming text and email messages for you, although that particular feature is only available on Android and BlackBerry devices, and not the iPhone.One of the other big features of this device is that it can compose and send outgoing texts, emails, tweets and Facebook status updates using just your voice. It is a useful feature to have at your fingertips while driving, although it does require the Handsfree Assistant subscription service, which comes at an added expense. Using the service can take a bit of getting use to, and at times it can be slow to respond, but in my testing I found that it was accurate and reliable, for the most part.

Powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, the Supertooth HD is good for 20 hours of talk time and a thousand hours of standby. Those numbers seem fairly accurate from my use of the device, which can be recharged with the included USB car charger. Supertooth has even included the ability to inquire about the status of the battery at any time through a simple voice command.

For the most part, the Supertooth HD is easy to recommend for road warriors looking for an inexpensive and easy to use handsfree speakerphone for their vehicle. It offers excellent sound quality, easy set-up and the ability to connect two phones at the same time. Android and BlackBerry users will get a bit more functionality out of the device, although iPhone owners will find a lot to like as well. It even works well with Siri, which can trump some of the features that are a part of the subscription service.

If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speakerphone system for your car, then the Supertooth HD should be on your shopping list. It delivers a lot of value for the $129 suggested retail price.