Excellent “stay connected abroad” article from our friends at Engadget

Engadget (and Gadling) writer Darren Murph has posted an excellent overview of your options on how to stay connected when you travel. In the article, you learn about the differences between CDMA and GSM, how Google Voice and Skype can help when you travel, and just how insanely expensive international mobile data is.

Consider the article a “must read” if you plan to travel abroad and hope to be just as connected as you are back home.

Next week, we’ll have our own overview here on Gadling – but with a strong emphasis on how to pick the best travel smartphone. With so many new phones hitting stores this summer, being able to pick the one that will actually work when you are abroad is a must. In the meantime, head on over to Engadget for the article.

Plane Answers: Sudden acceleration on landing and lining up on final approach

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

Darren from Engadget asks:

Hey Kent!

Just got back from a LIR -> ATL -> RDU trip, and I thought of a question. When the plane (we were on a 737) is just seconds from touching down on the runway, it feels & sounds like the plane suddenly accelerates. For a few minutes leading to landing, it feels like we’re slowing down, and right before the rubber hits the road, there’s like a small burst in speed, followed by touch down and then massive wind as I assume the engines are thrown in reverse to stop us.

So, what’s that acceleration just before touch down for? Or am I dreaming? Thanks!

Hi Darren,

Nope, I’m sure you experienced this.

Occasionally if a pilot is a bit slow (say 2 or 3 knots below your ‘target speed’) they can add a small boost of power in the flare to cushion the inevitable thump of a landing. But it’s really not a very good technique to use regularly.

And some pilots don’t just use it when they’re a tad slow, but they use it as a substitute for a finessed flare on every landing.

It can lead to a very ‘flat’ and fast landing. Touching down like this eats up a lot of runway unnecessarily and puts more wear on the brakes and tires.

You’ll hear in this takeoff and landing video the instructor repeat “flare and squeeze” to the captain as he’s about 30 feet over the runway. He’s telling him to start his flare, or round out the glide path angle to allow for a smoother touchdown and to “squeeze” or pull the power back to idle before touching down.

And you’re right, the noise you’re hearing after landing comes from the reverse thrust mechanism which is simply a set of ‘blocking doors’ that divert the thrust out the sides of the cowl and forward, angled away from the engines.
Ainsley asks:

How important is a reference point in lining up for landing?

Hi Ainsley,

If the weather is clear, we are often able to make up our own final approach to landing in, for example, the Caribbean. At densely populated areas and in the weather (flying on instruments) we fly an approach that usually has a straight-in segment of about 10 miles. We’re almost never turned in any closer than 3 miles out.

As you can see from the video linked in Darren’s question above, while on the final approach it’s easy to tell if you’re lined up correctly with the runway.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, we line up for one runway (10) and in the last 300 feet make a turn to another runway (8) for landing. It’s a ‘charted’ visual approach procedure that’s rather fun.

The approach is similar to the ending of this video I took while flying in a small Diamond DA-20 airplane:

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for next Monday’s Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work.

GigaPan Epic 100 panoramic photo maker gets the Engadget hands-on

Back in January, we wrote about an absolutely astounding photo of the Presidential Inauguration. The photo was stiched together from 100’s of individual photos, made with a GigaPan device which controls the camera movements.

Our buddies over at Engadget just took the GigaPan for a spin and made some of their own panoramic photos.

The results are surprisingly good. They had some minor gripes with its weight, but were generally impressed with the unit and its amazing photo stitching software.

So, head on over to Engadget
to check out the GigaPan Epic 100, and the results of their panoramic shooting spree using this $449 robot.

Mobile phone + projector = The Logic Bolt

It seems like it was just a couple of days ago when I reviewed the 3M pocket projector, and predicted more devices with built in projectors (it was in fact 3 days ago). CES is here, so this means a slew of new gadgety goodness.

One of the first products to catch my attention is the Logic Wireless Bolt.

This mobile phone features a touch screen interface, quad band GSM, support for Powerpoint, Excel, Word as well as the ability to connect directly to most video sources.

The phone (and their press shots) make it clear that this is not actually their own development, but a rebranded version of a product announced last year by Engadget. Click the link for the rest of the article, and to read the most interesting part of the announcement.

The phone is scheduled to be released later this year, but what really caught my attention in the press release, is the news that T-Mobile has lined up to be the exclusive US carrier for the Bolt. The phone will retail for $600, or just $100 when purchased with a 2 year T-Mobile contract, which is astoundingly cheap in my opinion.

The Bolt supports video file playback and you’ll be able to use it to project movies or other content on a suitable surface. The device claims over 2 hours of playback on a fully charged battery.

UPDATE: All references to T-Mobile have now been removed from the press release web site. Someone either spoke too soon, or the deal has not actually happened.

First commercially available fuel cell charger appears online

Our buddies over at Engadget are reporting on the availability of a portable fuel cell designed to recharge your gadgets. The Medis 24-7 Power Pack was first announced back in 2005, but it has taken them some time to get the technology to a stage where it is reliable enough to sell commercially.

The 24-7 power pack contains a fuel cell using “a direct liquid borohydride technology”. I have no idea what that means, but it delivers enough power to keep your iPod playing for up to three and a half days, and that is really all I need to know.

The 24-7 Power Pack is currently available online for $39.95 which includes the Power Pack itself, a variety of charger cords and a user manual. The Power Pack is not rechargeable (or reusable), so once it is empty, you’ll need to spend $22.95 for the replacement pack. The Power Pack is scheduled to appear in Best Buy stores soon.

The manufacturer does not mention whether the fuel cell is approved for taking on a commercial flight, and knowing the TSA, I’m not sure they know either.
I asked Medis about taking their Power Pack on a commerical flight, and they got back to me right away letting me know that it is fully approved by the DOT, each package even contains the DOT permit number and is clearly marked “approved for carriage in aircraft”

I have to say I’m quite happy to see this technology finally appear in a commercial product, companies have been showing off their fuel cell products for years, but until now, none of them were actually made available for us mere consumers. I’m sure that the price will scare some people away, but being able to carry a 6.5 ounce backup power pack with the capacity to keep my iPod playing for 3 days is worth $23 to me. As the technology matures, I’m convinced that prices will drop.