Delta’s New ‘Fly Delta’ App Lets You See The World Under Your Airplane

Ever dream of flying in a glass bottom jet? That technology may not yet be available, but Delta Air Lines‘ new iPad app might just be the best simulation.

The Fly Delta app for iPad was released yesterday as part of Delta’s new $140 million commitment to technology, which includes upgrades to its website, mobile apps and airport kiosks. The app includes new tools to ease the travel experience, from booking your flight to advance check-in to figuring out what’s next on your itinerary.

But the app’s most exciting feature is the “Glass Bottom Jet,” which allows passengers connected to Delta’s in-flight Wi-Fi service to view visuals of the ground below the aircraft, enhanced with maps, social networks and Internet content. Read about the history of Mount Rushmore as you fly through South Dakota, check out photos of the Grand Canyon over Nevada or reach out to friends as you pass their homes. For geography geeks, it’s a pretty nifty way to pass time in flight.

An improved Fly Delta app for iPhone was also released yesterday, which includes iPhone 5 support and integration with Apple’s Passbook feature. An improved Android app is scheduled to be released later this year.

[Photo Credit: Delta]

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]

The Kimchi-ite: 10 Differences Between South Korea And The Rest Of The World

There are countless differences between South Korea and the rest of the world. Even the casual traveler bouncing around Asia will notice how everyday culture differs. In many ways Korean culture is somewhere in between that of Japan and China, but in so many more ways it is unique to itself. Here are some of the more interesting and unique differences I have noticed.

Babies that are born in Korea today enter the world as 1 year old, as opposed to much of the rest of the world, where they would be 1 day old. Additionally, that baby will gain a year to its age on the lunar new year (usually in late January or early February), instead of their birthday. So, a baby born in December would actually be 2 years old within just a few months. Somewhat confusing, I know, but a general rule of thumb is to just add a year to your own age, and that is your Korean Age.

When you go to virtually any restaurant in Korea, your meal will be accompanied by at least one banchan, or side dish (seen above alongside traditional porridge); most likely, there will be many. They will invariably include kimchi or some sort of pickled vegetable. Best of all, they are unlimited and will be refilled without you having to ask.

When you are at a restaurant and you’d like some service, you don’t sit and awkwardly wait for some eye contact with the wait staff, you simply call out “yeogiyo!” which translates to “here, please!” Better still, more and more restaurants are installing call buttons on their tables.

When you sneeze, people say nothing, no equivalent of “Bless you,” nothing. You did an involuntary bodily function, no big deal.

South Korea has the fastest Internet in the WORLD. Downloads can go as fast as 5 megabytes per second. It’s truly awesome.

Porn is outlawed in Korea.

Job applications, especially for large corporations, are incredibly different and include a lot of information that most people in the Western world would find outrageous. Notably, your parents’ education and their current occupation is a part of your résumé. This is somewhat indicative of how Koreans see family ties. Many of the big corporations in Korea are family run and newly elected president Park Geun-hye’s father’s past as the former dictator of the country was a very big topic during the election.

South Korea has the world’s highest rate of plastic surgery, 35% more than number two, Brazil. It has become somewhat common for parents to give their children plastic surgery as high school or college graduation presents. There are ads all over Seoul like the one above, seen in Gangnam, for plastic surgery clinics with before and after pictures of what actually looks like two completely different people.

Not a big deal.

It is pretty risqué for a woman to show some cleavage. But never will you see such a display of legs than in South Korea. Everyday of the year and everywhere, short shorts are being worn. In the dead of winter accompanied by thick stockings, or mountain climbing accompanied by high heels, it’s simply the norm.

Everywhere in the world is different, even different cities within the same state can be drastically different. What are some eccentricities of where you live or places that you have been?

Be sure to check out more on Korean culture from the other Kimchi-ite posts here!

[Photo Credit: Jonathan Kramer]

What Hotels Have Free Wi-Fi Or Free Wired Internet Access?

I hate paying for Wi-Fi or wired Internet access in hotels. If it were up to me, I’d add an amendment to our constitution guarantying free Wi-Fi in all hotels. The only thing I hate more than paying for Internet at hotels is forking over the money and then enduring connection problems. If you call down to the front desk at most large hotel chains, they’ll transfer you to an off-site help desk. My experiences with these off-site help desks ranges from problem solved in no time flat to “there’s not much we can do about it, sir,” after killing nearly an hour on the phone.

I recently stayed at a high-end chain hotel in Orange County, California, and my wife and I actually couldn’t bring ourselves to pay $13.95 each to get online. I complained about the price at the front desk and asked if there was free Wi-Fi in the lobby or any other common areas. I was told that there was not, only to find out after checking out that all we needed to do was sign up for their free rewards membership program in order to get completely free Wi-Fi. It would have been great to know that while I was there but the experience motivated me to check on the Internet policies of other hotel chains (see list of hotels with free Wi-Fi or wired Internet below).The good news is that the list of hotels that offer free Internet is growing. And if we continue to patronize these hotels and not those that charge for Wi-Fi, the trend will intensify. I can’t vouch for the quality or speed of service at these hotels but, in my experience, if you pay for wired or wireless Internet and the speed isn’t up to snuff, complain about it. Most hotels will give you a refund. Whether you bother with the off-site tech support depends on how desperate you are to get online and how much time you have on your hands.

Feel free to tell us about your experiences with wired or wireless Internet at various hotels in the comments section.

Hotels Offering Free Wi-Fi or Wired Internet Access

Ace Hotels
Aka Hotels
Ascend Hotel Collection
B Hotels & Resorts
Baymont Inn & Suites
Best Western
Cambria Suites
Candlewood Suites
Clarion Inn
Comfort Inn
Comfort Suites
County Inn & Suites
Courtyard by Marriott
Days Inn
Drury Hotels
Doyle Collection Hotels
Element by Westin
Fairfield Inn & Suites
Four Points by Sheraton
Gansevoort Hotels
Gem Hotels
Greystone Hotels
Hampton Inn
Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
Holiday Inn
Holiday Inn Express
Holiday Inn Resort
Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Homewood Suites
Hotel Indigo
Howard Johnson
Hyatt House
Hyatt Place
James Hotels
Joie De Vivre Hotels (most locations)
Knights Inn
La Quinta
MainStay Suites
Microtel Inn
Peninsula Hotels
Quality Inn
Radisson Blu
Residence Inn
Rodeway Inn
Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts
Sleep Inn
Sofitel (except their Washington, D.C. location, which is free only in lobby)
Soho House Hotels
Spring Hill Suites
Standard Hotels
Staybridge Suites
Super 8
Swire Hotels
Towne Place Suites
TRYP by Wyndham
Wingate by Wyndham

Sort of Free

Accor Brand Hotels– About 1700 of their 3,500 hotels have free Wi-Fi. Accor claims they are “working toward the goal” of free Internet at all of their locations. Come on guys, it’s not that hard, let’s do it!

Fairmont– Free Wi-Fi for members of the Fairmont President’s Club, which is free to join. If you’re too lazy to sign up or don’t know about this offer, the cost is $13.95 per night.

Hilton– free for gold or diamond Hilton HHonors members.

Hyatt– platinum and diamond members of its Hyatt Gold Passport program receive free in-room Internet access. (Travelers can attain platinum status after five separate stays or a total of 15 nights completed in a year.) For Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and at some Park Hotels (many Park Hyatt hotels in North America offer complimentary Wi-Fi in the guest rooms), the cost for Wi-Fi is generally anywhere from about $9.95 to $14.95 a day. These hotels also offer packages for 24 hours of service, two- to three-day packages, or seven-day packages.

Kimpton Hotels– free Wi-Fi if you join their free In-Touch guest loyalty program.

Loews Hotels– if you sign up for their You First Rewards loyalty program, you can begin to get free Wi-Fi in after two stays in a year.

Marriott– Gold and Platinum members receive free high-speed Internet.

Omni Hotels– free if you sign up for their free Select Guest loyalty program.

Starwood Hotels– free Internet for platinum reward members. Gold members can choose to receive bonus Starpoints, free Internet or a free drink upon check-in.

Wyndham Hotels– free Wi-Fi in the lobby and public spaces of all hotels, free Wi-Fi in rooms at some locations.

Not Free at All

Crowne Plaza– most locations charge $9.95 per day but many also offer free Wi-Fi for platinum Priority Club Rewards members.

Intercontinental Hotels

Mandarin Oriental

Motel 6– most locations charge $2.99 per 24-hour period, some offer free Wi-Fi.

Night & Dream Hotels (Wyndham)- Wi-Fi costs about $10 per day.

Studio 6– Wi-Fi costs $4.99 per stay.

[Photo credit: Mr. Theklan on Flickr]

Gadling Gear Review: NetZero 4G Mobile Hotspot

There was a terrible noise this morning at our house – the garbage truck ripped out our cable hub and left us without an Internet connection. This is, to put it mildly, a problem at our house where we have two work-at-home Internet junkies. I had been intending to test NetZero’s mobile hotspot for a while but with a fat connection at home, I lacked the motivation and I don’t have upcoming travel on deck. This unexpected accident gave me the incentive I needed to check it out.

Set up is very easy. Plug in the device to charge it and turn it on. You’re done. Like other mobile Internet devices I’ve tried, your success with the hardware doesn’t indicate success with connecting to the web. The hotspot works best near a window – walking around the house revealed that it picked up a stronger signal in some places than others. And my neighborhood, while it does, indeed, have NetZero service, is not very strong. Placement is key.

Connecting to the signal takes as long as it takes. At my house it took about five minutes to hook up to the network – your mileage may vary depending on where you live. Once you’re connected, you might want to look under the hood at the settings. My hub was set to the lowest transmission power by default and it was glacial, I could barely load my email in the basic HTML view. Not useful for a harried Internet junkie. It’s not hard to change the settings, but it’s also not that easy to find the information on how to change them, you’ll have to do some digging.Once you’re all up and running, you can connect up to eight devices to the hotspot. At my house, things started to bog down with two computers hooked up – if you’re in a location with a more powerful signal, you can support more gadgets. So, geographic limitations aside, this thing is easy to set up, easy for nerds to configure for a better experience, and easy to connect to.

The catch here is, of course, your data use, and that’s where the expense is. The hub hotspot is currently on sale for $49.95, but you’ll need a data plan, too. The top tier plan is currently $49.95 for 4GB of data per month. The hub itself costs $49.95 (it’s currently on sale, down from $99.95.) In our house, we use easily ten times that much data. Streaming video is our biggest burner, but I post high res photos, I move documents over a virtual private network (VPN) connection … I’m a data hog. I’d burn through that 4GB in no time.

Given my data excesses, it’s difficult for me to make a case for this device as part of my kit. It feels almost like it’s best for exactly what I’m using it for today – Internet backup. I could see throwing it in the car for camping trips or in my bag from places that charge extra for Wi-Fi. It’s cheaper than a data plan for my phone when it comes to international roaming, but the coverage is US only, so it doesn’t help me with data roaming.

NetZero is essentially offering pay-as-you-go Internet. This is handy for folks wandering the US who want to manage their own access and have it whenever they want, wherever they are (that there’s NetZero coverage). You don’t have to have a contract, so that’s an advantage as well. I’m not sold though, on the idea as a concept. Hotels and even campgrounds increasingly offer Wi-Fi, as does that coffee shop you stopped at on your road trip. A casual user can drop into a public library or even a McDonald’s to get free Wi-Fi.

I’m very happy to have this service to try out today, given that we’re unhooked from the grid at home. I’d file this under casual or emergency user and call it good.

[Image credit: NetZero]