Virgin Laptop Airlines
Saturday, October 6, 2007 by Dave Winer.
I'm writing this from 35,000 feet, a few miles south of Interstate 70, and a few miles east of Grand Junction, CO. The airspeed is 527 miles per hour. I'm on a Virgin Atlantic flight from San Francisco to New York.
So here's the promised report on the experience. The networking features aren't live yet, it seems that will be the big differentiator. The only feature on entertainment system that's (imho) worth anything is the map that shows where the plane is at. Instead of the low-rez maps you get on international flights, which is a godsend on long trips, you get a beautiful Google political map, that you can zoom in and out on. It shows roads, cities and parks. It would be great if they also showed the terrain, esp since we're flying over clouds right now, and of course some of the most spectacular scenery in the world is below those clouds. No more guessing where you are, you know, with great precision, exactly where you are.
The chat rooms, the feature people were most excited about, while inspiring, aren't being used by the other passengers. I don't like that they can see my seat number. Maybe that's why people aren't participating. I'll check back later in the flight, maybe then people will be more bored and will be trying out other stuff.
They offer a rich selection of movies and live TV, but I'm not that interested. If there were any breaking news happening right now (the Mets in the playoffs, or an impeachment debate in Congress, as examples), I guess there would be value in it. But I spend a fair amount of time before a trip accumulating videos, music, podcasts, etc. I have a huge surplus of stuff I already want to watch or listen to, it's ahrd for the airline to compete with that.
The flight attendants wear black and are young and all male. The lighting in the plane reminds me of a W Hotel, that is, very hard on my old eyes. But this is a daytime flight and the window shades are up, so we're getting good light. If it were dark, I'd have trouble seeing.
The crew is friendly, and geeky. There are two wireless LANs on the plane: secretva1 and walrus. I'm connected to walrus just for the heck of it. I asked a flight attendant what it was for, he said it's an internal network they use for the kitchen. Not sure what that means. I suggested it would be cool if we could share files among the passengers. I have a funny feeling we can. I can't log into the other network, secretva1. Not sure how to share just part of a Mac on a network, but I may try to figure it out. A file-sharing network among the passengers. That's an idea.
BTW, now we're just south of Denver, and the clouds are gone. There are towns scattered across great distances. Pretty cool. Wish this were getting posted while I was writing it, as usual. Next year. Murphy-willing of course.