Southwest Brings Free In-Flight TV To Your iPad

These days, most of the news coming from airlines seems to herald the start of a new fee or surcharge, so it’s both a novelty and a relief to hear about a new service that will cost absolutely nothing. Southwest Airlines announced today that it will offer free television streaming for passengers traveling with their iPads and iPhones.

The service – known as TV Flies Free – is being offered in partnership with pay TV provider DISH, and will give travelers access to live television and around 75 on-demand shows.The TV programming is transmitted to your gadgets via the plane’s in-flight Wi-Fi, but the good news is you don’t have to cough up anything for the connection (which costs $8 per day) to be able to access the TV.

Streaming will work on a range of personal devices like tablets, laptops and smart phones. There’s no need to download any apps or jump through any hoops to watch shows – programming will run on your device’s regular browser.

Since the entertainment runs over Wi-Fi and requires the use of personal electronics, you won’t be able to watch shows during takeoff and landing, but hey, it’s hard to complain about free TV. You can access the service on any of Southwest’s 400 Wi-Fi enabled planes.

Smithsonian Channel To Air Special King Richard III Discovery

The Smithsonian Channel will soon air a documentary about the remarkable discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III in a parking lot in Leicester, England.

“The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed” premieres Sunday, April 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The two-hour show was produced by the only team allowed access to the scientists, the excavation and the lab tests used to determine the skeleton’s identity. The documentary has already aired in the UK and attracted five million viewers. This will be the first American showing.

Gadling received an advance copy of the show. For some background, read our article about Richard III and the discovery. Also check out these amazing photographs from the dig. Our review follows and contains some spoilers. Of course, everyone already knows how the story ends!

%Gallery-185896%The documentary follows the quest of Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society to find the king’s remains, said to have been buried the now-disappeared Greyfriars church in Leicester after he was killed by Henry Tudor’s forces at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Research with old maps revealed it to be under a municipal parking lot. Langley raised money from society members and spent years convincing the local council to allow an excavation.

Langley tells of how when walking through the parking lot she felt certain that she had found the spot where Richard lay. Remarkably, the letter “R” was painted on the very same spot. The documentary fails to mention that this R was a symbol for Reserved Parking. Once the excavation begins and a skeleton is found, there’s a sudden downpour. This normal English weather is given a spooky significance by the producers.

Once the paranormal silliness is dispensed with, we get to the real meat: the excavation and meticulous examination of the body. One interesting sequence is of an art historian talking about how later painters commissioned by the new Tudor dynasty made Richard look deformed, which then was considered a sign of moral corruption. This was the origin of the Shakespearean Richard with the hunchback and withered arm.

Then comes an interesting sequence where members of the Richard III society get their say. They’re dedicated to rehabilitating the king’s image, denying he killed his predecessor’s young heirs and denying he had a hunchback. Their main objection to his having a deformity is that he couldn’t have worn armor. Anyone with a passing knowledge of medieval warfare knows that knights and royalty didn’t go to Ye Olde Shopping Mall to buy armor off the rack; it was made to their specific measurements. Try wearing metal plates on your body that aren’t shaped to your dimensions and see how well you can move! This obvious rebuttal wasn’t mentioned in the show, although surely the producers were told this by their scientific advisers. It seems narrative tension is more important than historical clarity.

While I found some segments of the show distracting, historians and archaeologists get plenty of airtime and we learn a bit about how bones are analyzed and how a DNA match with one of Richard’s descendants proved it was him. There’s also some gruesome detail about all the wounds on Richard’s body, including demonstrations of some of the weapons probably used. The army of Henry Tudor repeatedly hacked at Richard and appears to have humiliated his corpse by stabbing him in the rear end. It was a grim end to a short reign.

My wife, a scientist with no special interest in medieval history and perhaps more representative of the target audience than a former archaeologist like me, commented that the documentary could use some more historical background to place Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth into context. This could have been easily done by shaving off some of the more frivolous segments.

Despite these reservations, we both thoroughly enjoyed the show for its stunning imagery, clear narration and scientific detail. We recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the archaeological discovery of the year.

Airline Madness: Change fees vs. Lack of personal entertainment

Airline Madness is Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances. You can catch up on all of the previous tournament action here.

Our next Airline Madness first round match-up features #6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment. There was a time when you could arrive at the airport early (perhaps your meetings wrapped up quickly or there was no traffic on the way to the airport) and you could simply switch to an earlier flight. Or, you could at least get on the standby list. Now? That will cost you $100. Meanwhile, in 2012, there are still airplanes that lack televisions in every seat-back, forcing us all to watch some horrible Owen Wilson romantic comedy on shared screens. Or, perhaps worse, we’re asked to shell out $7.99 just to watch anything other than the map channel (side note: the map channel is awesome). We’d sooner player charades with with the people in our row.

Get to know these two annoyances better and then vote for the worst below.#6 Change fees/no free standby
The airline has an earlier flight with available seats. You have a ticket for a later flight and are already there at the gate ready to go. Seems like a match made in heaven. A couple of key strokes, some small talk with the gate agent and you should be switched over to the earlier flight with time to spare at the bar. This all makes sense up until they ask you for your credit card. If you’re at the airport, ready to travel and they have the empty seats, why shouldn’t you just be able to switch to another flight for free? It was no problem 10 years ago!

#11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment
With all the money that airlines have collected from us over the years, you’d think that they would update their planes once in a while. How are we still sharing screens that are tiny, antiquated and blocked by people in the aisles? And, when we do have our own screens, why do we have to pay to watch anything? We’re already getting ripped off by our cable companies at home. No one wants to overpay for television a second time!

Which airline peeve gets your blood boiling? Vote for the one that you think should advance to the second round and add your two cents in the comments!
First round voting ends at 11:59PM EDT on Friday, March 16.

More Airline Madness:
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #16 Disgusting bathrooms
#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures
#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets
#4 Baggage Fees vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats
#5 Lack of overhead space vs. Inattentive parents of crying babies
#7 Rude airline staff vs. #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing
#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
Hotel Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

I hate you, hotel advertising TV channel

I hate you, hotel advertising television channel. I hate that you’re the default channel every time I turn on the TV in my room. I hate it even more when you’re already on when I enter my room. Don’t you understand that if I hear noises in my hotel room when I enter, I’m going to think that there’s someone inside waiting to murder me and do odd things to my body? I hate that you advertise movies that I can purchase but that I wouldn’t watch if the hotel manager offered to pay me (I’m looking at you, 17 Again). I hate you for making it so difficult to navigate away from you and to other channels that may actually entertain me. I hate you so much.I hate that you default to a volume that drowns out jet engines. I hate that you make me find the strange menu buttons on the remote to navigate away from you. Don’t make me handle the remote anymore than I need to. It’s covered in bodily fluids!

I hate that you have spawned other in-house hotel television channels. Now there are hotel movie channels, hotel amenities channels (I do not want to see people with dead-behind-the-eyes expressions enjoying your spa), hotel restaurant channels (fact: bulk shrimp do not look appetizing on hotel televisions) and local attraction channels. Why are you pressuring me to do so many things? This is my vacation! This is my business trip! I don’t want to be bombarded by your nonsense when I’m in my room. I’m here to relax.

You know what I do want to watch in my room? The same garbage that I watch at home. Give me my basic cable channels. Give me a TV that works and displays high definition programming so that I can see rednecks running pawn shops and dudes mining for gold in Alaska in all their glory. I’m away from my DVR and need to stay caught up on my stories.

I don’t want to buy a movie. I don’t want to watch Carrot Top give me a tour of the Luxor (seriously, he haunted my dreams more than that asinine slanted ceiling did). I just want to see some sports highlights and Ron Swanson make dry-witted jokes about meat.

I hate you, hotel advertising channel. I hate you so much.