An advisory committee is recommending that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ease its restrictions on electronic devices below 10,000 feet, finding current rules pointlessly prohibitive. The council's 28 members hail from the aviation industry and within the FAA.
Flyers today must shut down their phones, tablets, e-readers, and other gadgets to prevent interference with the plane's equipment during takeoffs and landings. Anyone who refuses to do so may be kicked off the plane, a la Alec Baldwin.
Maybe there's hope for Brittania Fisher after all. Fisher, the Dallas woman who lost her wedding ring in the surf in Miami earlier this month, might be happy to read the story of Lindsay Crumbley Scallan, who lost an underwater camera while scuba diving in Maui in 2007 and has gotten it back—plus a free trip to Taiwan to retrieve it.
Last week, Hawaii News Now broadcast a story about the camera, which was found last month washed up 6,000 miles away on the shore in Taiwan. The camera, a Canon PowerShot A520, was intact despite its casing being covered with barnacles. More importantly, its memory card still worked and contained clear pictures of its owner enjoying Maui. A China Airlines employee who found it on a beach in Taiwan set up a Facebook page looking for the woman in the photos. Hawaii News Now posted a slideshow of images recovered from the camera along with an appeal to help track down the people in the photos. Since it was posted on Friday, the story of the lost-and-found camera was passed around the Internet until it was seen by a high school classmate of Scallan's who recognized her and brought it to her attention. She's planning her trip to Taiwan now.
In an interview aired on HNN, Scallan, who lives in Georgia, said the discovery of her camera and its social media-aided return is "just unbelievable… It's pretty neat."
See: Best Digital Cameras for Travel.
Good news for flyers who hate putting away their e-readers or tablets while on the runway: The F.A.A. may be considering changing its rules about the use of electronics during takeoff. According to The New York Times' Nick Bilton, flyers may be allowed to put their devices into "airplane mode" and continue reading, watching videos, or playing games during takeoff as soon as next year.
As Bilton writes: "According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones."
This comes as welcome to news to some flyers, but probably none more so than Bilton, who has made "airplane mode" something of a crusade over the years. As the future-looking reporter notes, "The issue is only increasing in importance as more Americans board flights with wearable computers." Yes, it would be a shame if your seat-mate were forced to remove his or her Google Glass during takeoff.
See: The Final Say: Using Electronics on Planes
The ultralight MacBook Air is no longer the only option for travelers who want a real computer that fits in an airplane seat pocket. In the past six months, several major PC rivals have released an ultra-slim notebook—a class of laptops that are generally less than 0.8 inches thick, use quick-start solid-state drives (which means they boot up in almost no time), and have full-size, physical keyboards that are comfortable to use. Are these new models MacBook Air wannabes—or killers?
The Asus UX21 11.6-inch-screen Ultrabook (from $999) has a sexy aluminum alloy body and keyboard. It’s expected to power up in less than 30 seconds, and entry-level models are projected to sell for the same as a starter MacBook Air. Like its Mac rival, the Asus is available with a state-of-the-art, speedy i7 processor.
Who He Is: A Swiss designer with a passion for technology, Dominic Symons recognized early on that as our reliance on mobile devices grows, so does the organizational headache of storing and charging all these products. His Bluelounge studio offers a line of innovative and simple solutions for tech management.
His Big Idea: Symons began with the minimalist Cableyoyo ($5), a sleek, spool-like contraption that keeps power cords in place. His Sanctuary ($130) is a stylish box for organizing (and charging!) all your devices while keeping those cords neatly tucked away in a hidden compartment. Bluelounge’s latest invention is the MiniDock ($20), a charger that plugs into a wall socket and props up your iPhone or iPod, keeping it off the floor and out of the way.
Photo by Michael Ting
I once was a stubborn holdout on smartphones but now I’m a zealous convert. On a recent trip out of the country and out of my phone’s data network, I felt a little dazed and out of sorts without my constant handheld companion. I confess that I used some free, unsecured WiFi during the trip. While I was vigilant about the type of info I was sending and receiving, for all I knew, my smartphone (and passwords and bank info and all manner of personal data) could have been accessed during those brief, careful sessions. And when I read this chilling cybercrime report from Norton, I vowed to change my sloppy smartphone habits.
With the invention of the iPod and the digitalization of music, listening to the radio seems to be almost prehistoric. Whenever I start a sentence with the phrase, “I heard on the radio today…” my friends are at first confused, then immediately flabbergasted that I would partake in such a seemingly unhip activity (I guess it’s my nostalgic nature, or the fact that I’m too lazy to play DJ all the time).
But radio has been making a comeback, especially when Pandora Radio was launched in 2005, introducing the masses to the digital (i.e. cool) version of its dashboard predecessor. And now, with the iPhone spurring on the creation of a plethora of apps, radio is back.
I'm sure we've all had the same experience at one time or the other: a spur-of-the-moment road trip cooked up with the intention of letting loose and seeing a bit of the gorgeous country we call home, the thrill of it largely contained in the fact that none of it was planned. And then the inevitable happens. Your eyes start to droop, signs start to blur in and out of focus, and your car starts weaving in its lane slightly. You need to find a place to stay for the night. Problem is, you don't know of any around.
Well, now there's an app for that.
The Dutch government yesterday began circulating a commemorative coin that features a scannable QR code on one side and a 3D portrait of Queen Beatrix on the other. Scanning the QR code, one of those black-and-white squares that resemble Space Invaders, brings you to the website of the Royal Dutch Mint for a helter-skelter video tour of the building. The coins, available in silver-tone €5 and gold-tone €10 denominations, were minted in a limited run to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Mint building.
Ever wonder what happens to the bits and bobs of airplanes after they’re decommissioned? You can find them on eBay.
Universal Asset Management buys retired planes and strips them to recycle their components. The company runs an eBay storefront where you can shop for all your engine aft thrust fitting needs—from an entire A320 lavatory (!) to cockpit seats, galley carts, overhead bins, first aid kits, a row of luridly colored 747 seats, to more technical items like circuit panels, wheels, assembly valves, tail cones, and oil gauges. The products that make the eBay store are not longer flight-worthy, of course, except for flights of fancy. Those overhead bins would look cool mounted over a airplane-crazy child's bed...
Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of Universal Asset Management.