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Cringely: Wi-Fi in the Sky

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the blackhawk-down dept.

Wireless Networking 158

Boiled Frog writes "In Cringely's latest article, he describes his plan to test a wi-fi connection between his house and his plane using two LinkSys 802.11g routers. He plans to experiment with various antennas to see which works the best."

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test (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715880)

testes

First Motherfucking Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715884)

Holla @cha BOI!!!!!!!

First Post (0)

bnewendorp (764839) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715886)

Sounds cool...I'm anxious to hear what antennas actually matter.

Re:First Post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716032)

He says "wi-fi in the sky", I say, "it's all pie in the sky". Guffaw. Snort. Snigger.

Wh000t! (0, Troll)

SaintBucky (791975) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715889)

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Cringe-ly (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715895)

Sometimes, this Cringely guy just makes me cringe...

He takes a rather quick review of the geek-unfriendly regulations in the sky, and then simply says that because he doesn't believe in them he's going to openly ignore them.

At least he'll be using his own plane, so the only life he's risking in this situation is his own and maybe one or two willing others. Part of the reason why the FAA is over-sensative over what's going on within commerical airplanes is because if the unthinkable random frequency collision were to happen, it might cause an instrument to give a wrong reading to the pilot and the result would be hundreds of people being killed. That's rather high stakes to be guessing...

Re:Cringe-ly (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715987)

At least he'll be using his own plane, so the only life he's risking in this situation is his own and maybe one or two willing others. Part of the reason why the FAA is over-sensative over what's going on within commerical airplanes is because if the unthinkable random frequency collision were to happen, it might cause an instrument to give a wrong reading to the pilot and the result would be hundreds of people being killed. That's rather high stakes to be guessing...

Yeah, I agree, but I think that we have much more to fear in drunken pilots and just plain retarded [kare11.com] ones.

Re:Cringe-ly (4, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715992)

The first thing that leapt to my mind was, "If he doesn't get a signal, is he going to turn around and try it again...only lower?"

And lower...

And lower...

And his next article is going to deal with how he pulled a wifi equipped plane out of his roof, using a common lawn tractor.

Re:Cringe-ly (5, Insightful)

PD (9577) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715996)

Wrong instruments shouldn't cause crashes any more than a broken speedometer in your car will cause a crash. Competent pilots can fly with their backups, or their eyes.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

AlphaFreak (646767) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716209)

Unless they are flying IFR in IMC conditions.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

Sevn (12012) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716333)

Somehow I seriously doubt that cringer is going to fly his plane in zero vis with a broken deck at 200 feet, or during a thunderstorm.

PS: Cringer was the name of the normal cat state of battlecat on He-Man. I think it's a good nickname for Cringley.

Re:Cringe-ly (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716658)

What if the broken instrument was the gas tank... leading the pilot/driver to think they have gas when they're really about to be out. That's a formula for a crash right there...

Re:Cringe-ly (5, Insightful)

RPI Geek (640282) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716069)

At least he'll be using his own plane, so the only life he's risking in this situation is his own and maybe one or two willing others. Part of the reason why the FAA is over-sensative over what's going on within commerical airplanes is because if the unthinkable random frequency collision were to happen, it might cause an instrument to give a wrong reading to the pilot and the result would be hundreds of people being killed. That's rather high stakes to be guessing...

Being a student pilot myself (35 hrs cumulative flight time), I really doubt that he's taking any significant risk at all. As it says in the article, it is up to the PIC (pilot-in-command) to decide whether or not to allow the use of personal electronic devices, and just looking over at his laptop while flying poses just about no risk. On a cross-country flights (100+mi), there's maps to be examined, air traffic controllers to contact, radio stations to tune into to verify your location, a flight computer to use (think complicated slide rule), passengers to talk to, and increasingly, GPS units to play with. He's been a pilot for 35 or so years, so I'm sure he'll set up everything on the ground and get it working before he ever starts the plane's engine, so just looking over to the laptop to check signal strength and connect to the internet shouldn't take any more concentration than looking at a sectional chart to make sure he's outside the local airspace.

As to the equipment interfering with the instruments, small aircraft have instruments based mostly on mechanical parts. Heck, some of them don't even use electricity to spin the gyroscopes. Additionally, I'm sure he's flown in this area before and therefore is familiar witht he terrain - every pilot I know has flown over his/her home numerous times :-) Commercial aircraft use more sensitive electronic gauges, but my opinion is that they're robust enough to handle the interference from PED's; even if there's a problem, though, teh pilots are trained to fly using much less equipment than the plane actually has. Most people don't realize how much redundancy is build right into the regulations.

Bottom line, I agree that the FAA is being oversensitive, and I'm very curious about how this all turns out.

Anywho, back to work.

Re:Cringe-ly (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716574)

Well, now that a student pilot has weighed in, I'm convinced.

Re:Cringe-ly (4, Interesting)

delcielo (217760) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716078)

For the most part, I agree with you.

He's poo-pooing research into the matter by saying that it doesn't prove anything; and yet he's not giving any evidence that it's not true.

He does have the priviledge under Part 91 to do this in his own plane, though. The thing is, his homebuilt small plane probably has better insulation on the wiring than a mid-80's airliner. Also, he probably doesn't fly his little homebuilt on autopilot much (if it's even equipped with one) whereas an airliner spends most of its time being flown by the flight director (fancy autopilot), which is the component that we're really worried about, as it will follow a failed instrument without question, as opposed to analyzing whether or not the indications make sense. So, in the end, he won't really have proven anything regarding the RF interference issue on aircraft.

Finally, I'm not going to spend $1000 having an A&P mechanic install my $100 wifi router in my airplane. If I could just slap it in myself, that would be one thing; but with an airplane you're going to need a Form 337 approval at least, if not an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate). No big deal on the 337. It just takes time and thus money. That's money I'll be spending just help the wifi cloud when I happen to be flying? Uhh, I'll pass.

Re:Cringe-ly (2, Informative)

mirio (225059) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716151)


Finally, I'm not going to spend $1000 having an A&P mechanic install my $100 wifi router in my airplane. If I could just slap it in myself, that would be one thing; but with an airplane you're going to need a Form 337 approval at least, if not an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate). No big deal on the 337. It just takes time and thus money. That's money I'll be spending just help the wifi cloud when I happen to be flying? Uhh, I'll pass.


Sorry, this isn't true. This is not required for homebuilt airplanes if the original builder installs the hardware. The builder of a homebuilt plane is given a repairman's certificate by the FAA that allows them to do all the maintenance on the aircraft. The builder is also designated as the 'manufacturer' of the aircraft, so he or she can approve any equipment as 'original' for the airplane. No A&P required.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

delcielo (217760) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716332)

Sorry, it is true.

My point is that I don't fly a homebuilt airplane. My airplane does require a 337.

Cringely noted that there were 1000 GA aircraft currently on ifr flights. How many do you think were homebuilt? I doubt even a dozen. His idea works only if production GA aircraft carry these things.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716501)

Do you need a license to carry portable equipment on the thing with you? I know lots of pilots take laptops (and they even have leg saddles and shit for them) up to do navigation, logging, computing, or what have you. You can take a wifi ap up that way too. You could even just buy one of the preconfigured mesh routers and bingo.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

mirio (225059) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716670)


Cringely noted that there were 1000 GA aircraft currently on ifr flights. How many do you think were homebuilt? I doubt even a dozen. His idea works only if production GA aircraft carry these things.


You care to explain why? He was just nothing the number of IFR flights because they are more easily tracked. There is no reason this system could not be implemented in homebuilts or spam cans on VFR flights. The only possible downside to putting them in VFR ships is that the mesh would obviously lose nodes during IMC. However, most GA IFR flights are not flown in serious IMC anyways....they are usually flown through haze, fog and overcast conditions, not serious storms so the mesh would still deteriorate during bad weather.

BTW: I was just reading this morning that 15% of the entire US singe-engine piston fleet is now homebuilts (although I'm sure that fewer of them are IFR-equipped than production aircraft).

Re:Cringe-ly (5, Insightful)

CatLord42 (657659) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716099)

... Part of the reason why the FAA is over-sensative over what's going on within commerical airplanes is because if the unthinkable random frequency collision were to happen, it might cause an instrument to give a wrong reading to the pilot and the result would be hundreds of people being killed.

I'm sorry, I don't buy this. If planes are so reliant on all these telemetry signals that a bunch of electronic devices in the cabin could cause them to crash because the pilots cannot possibly look at the instruments, look out the window, and figure out something's wrong, I don't know how any airline managed to stay in business or keep any sort of plane in the air before, say, 1995. Without GPS and the (incredibly consistent) global air-traffic radar systems, why, you couldn't so much as fly a plane over a country with whom your at war to drop a bomb.

Oh, wait, they did, and radar hadn't even become useful or reliable, in the early 1940s.

One of my favorite "West Wing" quotes is from the opening scene of the pilot (I think...), where Toby gets a page and calls into the whitehouse, and the flight attendant tells him he has to turn off his cell phone because the plane is approaching the airport. Paraphrasing, his response went something like, "This aircraft is equipped with a $60,000 telemetry system hooked into a multi-million dollar national air traffic control system, and you're telling me that I can cause the plane to crash with something I bought from Radio Shack for less than $30.00? Do you know how stupid you sound?"

I don't know, but something just doesn't seem right.

Re:Cringe-ly (5, Interesting)

div_2n (525075) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716200)

It isn't too hard to figure out:

1) There are in-plane phones that charge your out the ass to use them. Cell phones kind of bypass that. It isn't surprising that they don't allow cell phones in-flight.

2) I have read that cell companies say that the phones would confuse the cell network due to being able to "see" so many towers. I don't buy that as I have used my cell on top of a 250ft tower on top of a tall mountain well within the range of at least 10 cell towers. No problem as far as I could see.

3) When the terrorists took over the planes in 2001, passengers were using cell phones to make calls while the planes were going. The pilots were NOT professionals. They had enough training to steer them into buildings and that is about it. They didn't crash because of cell phones being used. Hmmmm.

You can bet that cell phones are not a danger to make planes crash. That isn't the reason they are banned. You can bet on that.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716467)

They had enough training to steer them into buildings and that is about it. They didn't crash because of cell phones being used. Hmmmm.

First of all, they didn't crash because cell phones were being used, they crashed because they pointed the planes at the buildings as part of their mission. Case closed.

Second, the pilots attended flight schools in the U.S. and probably knew enough to take off and run the plane into the building. Just running it into a building can literally be done by anyone who has played a realistic flight sim or two (I.E. understands anything about stall speeds.)

Third, other than that stuff which was just a supporting argument anyway, you're right. Cell phones are not banned because they'll cause problems with anything, except maybe radar - what frequency does aviation radar use anyway? But just by nature of their design those systems are shielded, it makes it easier to get only the signal you actually wanted.

Re:Cringe-ly (1)

CatLord42 (657659) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716484)

You can bet that cell phones are not a danger to make planes crash. That isn't the reason they are banned. You can bet on that.

I try to leave your (correct) conclusion as an "exercise for the reader" and you go off and do all the work for everyone! Maybe next time I shouldn't be so subtle... ;-)

Re:Cringe-ly (4, Informative)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716510)

There is a difference between banning something because it is sure to make the plane crash, and banning something because it might make a plane crash. You assume that mobile phones are banned because of the first, but it might be the latter.

Ask yourself: If it were the case that mobile phone use would crash a plane every 10.000 landing, would you allow it to be used? Or every 100.000 landing? Especially in the US with the system of suing people for negligence?

(AFAIK, one reason for not being allowed to use anything during takeoff and landing is because mobile phones, electronic games and laptops are too good at playing projectiles if the plane has to make an emergency stop...)

Re:Cringe-ly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716633)

They dont want you making cell phone calls in airplanes simply because you are moving much too fast for the cell towers to properly track you (you switch from tower to tower every few seconds at that altitude/speed), so they cant charge you for the call :) No BS.

VFR NORDO? no problem. IFR? Safety hazard. (2, Informative)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716667)

I'm sorry, I don't buy this. If planes are so reliant on all these telemetry signals that a bunch of electronic devices in the cabin could cause them to crash because the pilots cannot possibly look at the instruments, look out the window, and figure out something's wrong, I don't know how any airline managed to stay in business or keep any sort of plane in the air before, say, 1995. Without GPS and the (incredibly consistent) global air-traffic radar systems, why, you couldn't so much as fly a plane over a country with whom your at war to drop a bomb.

It depends on your flight conditions. I assume Cringely is flying VFR (Visual Flight Rules), so if he is a competent pilot familiar with the aircraft, he should theoretically be able to fly his aircraft without any instruments (of course, landing without an airspeed indicator can get your pulse going a little).

However, an airline (or private plane) flying IFR (instrument flight rules) in the soup NEEDS a working attitude indicator and other navigational equipment, as well as communication with ATC, in order to fly safely. The AI allows you to keep the right side of the plane up when you can't see the horizon outside (had JFK Jr. not been such an arrogant, reckless imbecel and had the proper training, this knowledge could well have saved his life), the navigational equipment helps you go where you belong and avoid obsticles you can't see due to clouds, like radio towers and mountains, and the communications with ATC keeps you from hitting someone else flying in the same cloud.

His radio equipment isn't going to affect his gyro and vacuum gear at all (so he won't lose his attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, altimeter, or what have you), but it could very well interfere with navigational and communcations equipment (I've had my cell phone completely jam my comms on one occasion, and while that is rare, it does happen. It happened to me, on the ground while trying to get ATIS, before I turned it off). That could well be a problem if he's flying over a major city talking to ATC and doesn't realize he isn't hearing what they are telling him.

The upshot of all of this? If he's VFR and doing it in an area where he doesn't have to talk to ATC, then, assuming he's a competent pilot who has a passenger messing with the radio gear while he does what he is supposed to be doing -- flying the plane -- he shouldn't have any real trouble. Other than violating various FCC regulations, of course, but that is between him and the FCC.

If he's doing this while required to talk to ATC, he's being foolish. If he's on an IFR flight plan while doing this, he's almost as stupid as JFK Jr.

My bet is on the first scenerio.

Re:Cringe-ly (4, Informative)

Cecil (37810) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716725)

Also being a private pilot, I suggest you stick to what you know.

There are hundreds of thousands of reasons an instrument could give a wrong reading. That's why there are multi-purpose instruments and backup panels. You check one instrument against another, against how the plane feels, and if possible against what you see out the window. If they don't make sense, there are procedures you follow to figure out which to trust. All the instruments use different methods of operation to basically guarantee that you have at least some working instrumentation no matter what fails. Some run on the engine vacuum pump, some run on an electric vacuum pump, some use gyros, some are mechanical, some use atmospheric pressure, some are electric, some are radio. This is all covered in basic ground school training and every half-trained pilot could tell you that.

Electric and radio instrumentation is still, and likely always will be, the least trusted instrumentation on an aircraft not because pilots are luddites (we are, in some ways) but because it's the newest and most complex, and so much can go wrong with it. With something running on pitot static pressure, short of the linkages to the control seizing up, it's absolutely bulletproof. If you have come to trust GPS on cross-country flights to the point that you don't think it can be wrong and don't bother to set in a VOR or use your compass and map, then you're a bad pilot and shouldn't be flying. Those things need to be kept up to date and current so that if your GPS system fails, you can shrug it off and look down at your map and everything is just fine.

Oh, and finally: He's not breaking any regulations. Like most other things, the FAA says that the decision of whether to allow portable electronic devices to be turned on is left up to the operator of the aircraft. It even says this in his article. Cringley is clearly the operator of his own aircraft. He can choose to do whatever he wants. The FAA has some extremely important rules that all pilots MUST follow. But they have nothing to do with electronic devices.

Robert X. Cringely, Dead at 45. (4, Funny)

Cavio (217880) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715896)

In sad but related news, Robert Cringely passed away today in a private plane crash. Investigators blame bad weather and the fact that Mr. Cringely was Surfing The Damn Internet while aloft.

Re:Robert X. Cringely, Dead at 45. (0)

NETHED (258016) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715957)

The scariest part is that I LIVE IN CHARLESTON TOO!

Now I need to find him, or atleast take a picture of him flying like that.

It does explain that Cessna 172 (182?) flying low around Charleston.

Slashdot: All Cringley, all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715897)

I like hyperlinks on the intarweb as much as the next guy, but isn't this Cringely column stalking a bit excessive?

Thank you for flying Air-P0rn (0)

mustangsal66 (580843) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715911)

Nobody needs p0rn that badly... I hope

Re:Thank you for flying Air-P0rn (1, Funny)

Exmet Paff Daxx (535601) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715946)

He's looking to become the first person to join the Mile High Club... singlehandedly.

Re:Thank you for flying Air-P0rn (1, Funny)

b0r0din (304712) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715974)

Ahem...second person... ;)

Re:Thank you for flying Air-P0rn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716328)

Brilliant. Humour. I did it three times between London and Singapore once. Well, they would put Jennifer Love Hewitt in Heartbreakers on the in-flight movies, wouldn't they?

Is it even possible? (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715915)

Ignoring other physics aspects of this that would probably make my ass bleed, wouldn't the curvature of the earth become an issue at some point? How far from his home is he planning on taking his plane?

It seems unlikely that antennas would be sufficient from any significant distances, but it sounds like we're talking satellites here.

Re:Is it even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716040)

Uhm.. what?! Do you even have a remote suspicion what you're talking about or are you just rambling?

Re:Is it even possible? (1)

nycsubway (79012) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716212)

How much time will he be connected to the network? Assuming he's flying at 90mph, and the wifi router has a range of 1/2 mile, there will be a circle of 1 mile in which a signal can be found. That means he'll get a signal for 2/3 sec.

Assuming he manages to get a serious antennae to broadcast his signal, to a range of maybe 10 miles, he'll have a circle of 20 miles. That will be give him a signal for just over 13 minutes.

This might be nice and useful if there were several of these wifi points, then people in planes could actually use the network for more than a few minutes.

Re:Is it even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716275)

Almost, 40 seconds (I'm guessing you meant 2/3 of a minute)

Re:Is it even possible? (1)

Blorgo (19032) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716896)

Curvature of the earth? What heresy is that? The Flat Earth Society will come down on you like a ton of bricks!

Actually, you don't have to get up very high to have a line-of-sight to a house in a city. Probably most safe flying heights would be okay for your average cruise-around flight that lands at the same airport.

and so ? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715921)


really.. who cares ?

i'm planning to wash my car this weekend, anyone intrested ? i can write a plan too...

AC

Pringles Can? (1)

hoborocks (775911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715927)

I say he uses a pringles can with a GPS that tracks him and points the pringles can in the right direction.

Re:Pringles Can? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716579)

I say he first learns how attennas work enough so he can do the tracking manually. He'll find many of his questions can be answered without a test. It's not like air, radio and anttenas haven't been studied before.

Wi-Fi (5, Insightful)

Rethcir (680121) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715928)

Someday somebody's going to have to explain the whole war-driving/war-flying type thing to me... I really don't see the appeal in doing all this seemingly pointless stuff with wireless just to watch a few numbers fluctuate on a laptop. (I'm sure a lot of you think I should be banned from slashdot for saying that though). (Also, who names their kid "channing?" or "cole" for that matter? The quality of child naming has really gone down of late...)

Re:Wi-Fi (5, Funny)

goldspider (445116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715963)

"I really don't see the appeal in doing all this seemingly pointless stuff..."

You're new here, aren't you?

Re:Wi-Fi (0, Offtopic)

Walrus99 (543380) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716023)

(Also, who names their kid "channing?" or "cole" for that matter? The quality of child naming has really gone down of late...)

Yea, I know, I met someone named Trevor yesterday, sheesh.

Re:Wi-Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716305)

I met someone called Walrus100. His Dad was a freak.

from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (4, Insightful)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715935)

What an insensitive thing to say.

Learn some manners, michael.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716001)

Learn some manners, michael.

Manners are dead. The knife in the back hefted by our Prez and his Vice-Barbarian.

So fuck off.

Oh wait... Kindly fuck off.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (1)

Arial Sharon, 10pt. (784486) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716106)

Hey buddy, the Black Hawk Down incident took place under Clinton.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716160)

No, Black Hawk Down was a movie. A work of fiction.

Sure it was loosely based on actual events, but really, the OP is acting like Michael spit on the flag or something. He referenced a bit of pop culture as a joke and to call that insensitive and bad manners is hysterical overreacting.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0, Flamebait)

afidel (530433) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716321)

Actually Black Hawk Down wasn't at all loosly based, it does a pretty damn good job of telling the story according to all survivors I've heard interviewed. I agree that the OP was a bit oversensitive but perhaps he has a close friend or relative in the military who was recently lost. It's not hard to imagine with ~1,000 dead and many times that injured due to our president "correcting" dady's mistake.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0, Flamebait)

JPelorat (5320) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716172)

Hyperventilating like that all the time will damage your sinuses.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716180)

You talking to me fuck-o?

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0, Flamebait)

JPelorat (5320) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716246)

And cultivating impotent rage will give you ulcers.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716343)

What makes you think I won't cut you?

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716319)

I used to think that overrated was a useless moderation.

Then I read the above post, the whiniest, most ridiculous post I have ever seen. Getting pissed because someone makes fun of the movie Black Hawk Down is the very definition of chutzpah. Yeah it was a patriotic movie based on real events... So what? The movie itself was more a slap in the face to the men killed in the real life events to which it makes reference than anything Michael writes could ever be.

Re:from the blackhawk-down dept.!?! (0, Flamebait)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716430)



The movie itself was more a slap in the face to the men killed in the real life events to which it makes reference than anything Michael writes could ever be.


How do you figure that? I haven't heard of any criticism towards the movie being inaccurate. Did I miss something?

Tragedy of the commons... (4, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715942)

Right now, many aviation headsets come equipped to work with your regular mobile phone, suggesting that at this moment there are probably hundreds or thousands of people flying around in little planes and yacking their heads off. Yet for some reason the mobile phone companies don't seem to be complaining. Have you heard any complaints?

A few rare rulebreakers won't have as much affect on the network as if the rule was repealed and everybody on the plane was doing it. If 200 people on a plane flying overhead are on their cell phones, that'll be a much different situation than what's never really been tested.

in other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715949)

Cringely found to be flying accidentally over Cuba as his instruments get messed up from the wi-fi signal...

Surprisingly... (1)

unikron (524813) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715961)

There is a european program called ATENAA which is trying to implement (amongst other things) a wireless connection with atm and adhoc networks.

See this link for more... Eurocontrol [eurocontrol.int]

Mesh in the Air (4, Interesting)

bromoseltzer (23292) | more than 9 years ago | (#9715964)

The interesting point here is that there are a lot of aircraft in the sky at any time. With a small WiFi-like box in each one, you've got a dandy mesh network. It is independent of land lines and satellites, so it is a new kind of connectivity. Whether there's any application other than aviation support isn't clear to me. The bandwidth wouldn't give you much video for the passengers, etc.

-mse

Re:Mesh in the Air (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716411)

Actually not there is not a lot of airplanes in the sky at any one time.
Find someplace away from an Airport and just look up. Odds are pretty good that you will not see any planes. No planes no signal no mesh.

I really like the idea of inexpensive datalinks to aircraft. It would be great if you could just add an 802.11b/g to each VOR station. Light aircraft could have the advantage of weather radar, voip, and even a display showing every other aircraft near them.
The idea of using them as an ad hoc mesh just will not work.

What I would like to see try is placeing 802.11b APs on rural TV station towers as a way to provid low cost Broadband.
Just an idea mind you but I wonder how far of a shot you could get.

Re:Mesh in the Air (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716904)

When I was growing up in Southern Utah I could look up and see two or three high altitude planes at any given time. There nearest airport would have been Las Vegas, about 100 miles away. Now I live across the street from an airport and a couple of miles from a Air Force base. Lots of planes in the air. But the important thing is, who cares. Who has a critical need for being online *AND* a critical need to be in the air at the same time? I mean for fucks sake, that'd be like insisting that each and every Grayhound bus have a surgical room and piercing parlor in the back.

Re:Mesh in the Air (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716531)

I have one word (well, four words, one acronym) for you: VoIP. A few mesh APs on the ground with sky-facing antennas and you should be able to get a good megabit or two if you have a sufficiently high-gain antenna as well. The only problem then is going to be running out of channels.

WiFi and Mu-metal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715965)

And you laughed at my tin foil hat.

Now I suppose I will be mocked again for my Mu-metal model Mark MM montera.

He will... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9715990)

He will discover that it doesn't work above 8000 ft.

A guy in Canada has already tried it.

ideas (1)

PacketScan (797299) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716007)

Why not install wirelles Ap's in traffic signals? There sure are enough of them around in urban areas but would be trouble some in some areas of the country where some towns only have a stop sign.

Interference (1)

newend (796893) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716062)

I have been sitting at home using my hands free with my phone by my monitor and it totally jacks my display. It also tends to interfere with my speakers. A lot of the time I can see the interference on my monitor before the phone even starts to ring, although I think a lot of the time it ends up just being the phone checking to see if I have messages or anything. In any event, I really find it annoying when my monitor has sync problems, but if the navigational equipment on a plane starts acting up there are much bigger problems than not being able to play Counter Strike.

Re:Interference (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716091)

I've seen interference on CRT monitors from cell phones, but to my mind that's to be expected. After all, these are electromagnetic-wave-emitting devices, and cathode rays are directly affected by the resultant magnetic field.

Breaking news: Martha Stewart got 5 months in jail (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716088)

Martha Stewart has been sentenced [bbc.co.uk] to five months in jail by a New York courtroom over charges of conspiracy and obstruction.

Cell Reception? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716134)

I'm not sure about anyone else, but when I'm flying between Chicago and Boston I never have any cell reception on my phone when we're in the air.

Re:Cell Reception? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716236)

Most mobile base stations have antennas which are angled towards the ground (ie, directional) - hence maximising the radiated energy in a useful direction. I'm not surprised you can't get a signal in the air :)

estimating range vs. altitude (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716150)

The crude, fast, and suprisingly useful approximation for line-of-sight as a function of height: range=(sqrt(2*height)) where range is in miles and height is in feet. Inverse-square losses will eat into your link budget, but you'd be suprised... 2 watt satellites in orbits @ 300Km can be heard with handheld scanners. I suspect he'll want to use an antenna with modest gain and a hemispherical pattern... a K5OE patch feed for 2.4GHz ought to be good enough, but just don't expose that thing to 100 KIA+ airspeeds.

Is this guy for real ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716164)

"... symbiotic relationship where aircraft owners benefit from volunteering the use of their planes by getting free airborne Internet service"

As a proof of concept, sure ... but the cheese has slid off his cracker if he thinks pilots are going to volunteer their plane and/or their time to fly around so those below can surf.

Am I the only one to read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716222)

Wi-Fi in the sky with diamonds?

Numbers (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716287)

When those opposed to the FAA restrictions talk about potential interference it is always limited to a particular device. The odds of one device crashing an aircraft are I would agree, incredibly minute.

But on a commercial flight where you have the potential of 300+ people all using cell phones, PDA's, CD players, and computers I think the potential for disastrous consequences increases dramatically. That is why so rules are still in place.

Cheap Wi-Fi Internet: Signal Reflectors (3, Insightful)

william_lorenz (703263) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716292)

Towards the end of his article, Cringley seems to suggest that it might be possible to use ground stations aimed upwards, like AirCell, to provide airplanes with wireless network connectivity. Those airplanes, in exchange for the use of the network connectivity, could then bounce signals back down to earth from a much higher altitude to cover a much wider area. Something like an FM repeater [roars.net].

I must say, this sounds like an excellent idea, but what about those rural areas where planes don't always fly, and what about if an airport grounds flights for any length of time, such as happened on 9/11? It seems to me that a better solution must be found if we're to obtain reliable network connectivity from such a system, as opposed to just cheap spotty access. But if nothing else, I give credit to Cringley for some very interesting ideas about the possibilities!

Re:Cheap Wi-Fi Internet: Signal Reflectors (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716603)

Eventually just about every device will be able to function as a repeater due to the use of mesh networking, like cellular phones, game devices (imagine if your PSP had enough battery life to leave it on all the time), cars, planes, trains, buses, every personal computer, every cellular telephone tower could all use the same form of wireless network, or at least some of them could support multiple forms. Controlling how the traffic gets from point A to point B across a network like that will be complicated to say the least but such a future is necessarily coming.

Might as well start thinking about the hardware and signal side now...

Nice toys... (2, Funny)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716352)

plan to test a wi-fi connection between his house and his plane...

Yes, and I'm about to test my wi-fi roaming capability from my rocket car in the Bonneville flats. Next week, I'm going to test the reception distance of my Pringle's can antenna from the deck of my 75' yacht on my way to the Bahamas to my other beach house....

Great idea (2, Insightful)

DanielMarkham (765899) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716354)

Some guy in his own homebuilt plane, flying in unrestrcited airspace VFR trying to work out answers to questions a lot of pilots have.

If the Wright brothers were alive today, they'd still be completing the paperwork to build an airplane.

Seems like I remember Boeing taking up one of their planes loaded with electronics equipment, trying to test out this interference issue. They got zero interference. But it is always possible. Somebody needs to put this whole line of fear-mongering to rest. Godspeed to the guy.

Why keep citing Cringely? (2, Insightful)

eggboard (315140) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716368)

Cringely consistently discusses radio with inaccurate technical descriptions. I've been on email threads in which he responds to critics who try to get him to be more accurate with statements about how he's trying to popularize technology and that people should just try interesting, weird things. From his never-again-discussed passive billboard antenna -- against the laws of physics and he never provided promised details to the Bay Area Wireless User's Group -- to his Why-Fi proposal (completely prima facie unrealistic and contradictory) to his "stick an antenna up at maximum gain and serve a neighborhood" essays a few weeks ago...

Well, why does he get Slashdot's attention any more?

Oh, I forget. As he said in that string of email I mention, he has 200,000 readers, thus making him an expert.

B34t|L35 (4, Funny)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716451)

Picture yourself as a packet on a signal,

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody SYNS you, you ACK quite slowly,

A Port with kaleidoscope eyes.

LCD flowers of yellow and green,

Towering over your head.

Look for the Port with the sun in her eyes,

And she's gone.

WIFI in the sky with diamonds.

WIFI in the sky with diamonds.

File Under "Too Much Time On Hands" (1)

LazloToth (623604) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716556)


. . . . Of course, I'm still trying to cool my overclocked Pentium 4 with a Nissan Sentra radiator - - but THAT'S worthwhile.

mesh network range (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716618)

He mentions that there are up to 1000 small IFR aircraft in the air in the USA at any one time and that these could have a mesh network between them and this could provide a cellular network for planes. I think not somehow, as he states in the article mesh networks only work effecitvely with 3 hops or less and that a reasonable range is 10km using directional antennas.

Firstly all 1000 planes aren't going to carry signals and the ones that do will need to be in range of a base station on the ground. In order to keep a connection going these planes would have to be constantly adjusting their antennas to point at ground stations and at the other plane.

Secondly at certain times of day/certain (most) places there won't be enough planes to give the range. Perhaps above major cities you can guarentee coverage most of the time, but elsewhere you won't be able to.

Thirdly, I doubt 1000 planes (flying their usualy patterns) could provide anywhere near 100% coverage of the air corridors in the USA. And you'll still need a base station every 30km, isn't this about what the current solutions use if not more?

I love the way Cringely always takes concepts like this over the top strecting them far beyond what is pratical.

Useful HighWiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716762)

I actually have been looking for the capability to network a laptop in the air with a base station on the ground. Something that a search group that I work with would love to be able to do is pass imagery from the plane (low and slow planes with fair to good pilots) to the base, preferably without having to fly all the way back. Some of the newer protocols that are coming out soon sound very promising.

who allows PEDs and why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9716820)

The FAA does not prohibit airborn cell phone usage, the FCC does. (The FCC does this because an airborn cell phone ties up channels on MULTIPLE cells like a denial of service attack.)

The FAA does prohibit anything that can interfere with aircraft systems. For VFR the pilot (PIC) can determine this, for IFR the equipment has to pass other tests and the PIC does not have as much discression.

Handoff (2, Interesting)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 9 years ago | (#9716827)

A few years ago, I was doing some contract work for a company that does the installs for some of the GSM base stations here in Australia.

During a conversation with one of the techs the subject of the ban on mobile phones came up. His comment was that the phone transmitters are too low powered to affect the plane's systems, but that if 300 passengers on a plane travelling at 400kmh+ all had phones on, the handover process from cell to cell would be swamped and there would be a trail of crashed cellular base stations behind each passenger plane.
Better than crashing the planes, but still enough of a problem to insist on a ban on phones, and if you want people to co-operate, linking their cooperation to their own safety is about as good an incentive as you're going to get.

A light plane travelling at 200kph won't cause the same problem, so nobody worries about enforcing the ban for them.
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