More on the UAL PODS

Sunday, February 22, 2009 

I haven’t tried the iPod interconnect yet, but I will; I need to put some video on the iPod first. I’m not sure why they decided to use a proprietary cable. That was kind of stupid, there’s a USB port in the pod. The proprietary cable takes analog video and audio, but how hard would it to be to build a local decoder for MP3/MP4 content into the pod? Or just build a dock like the table radios at modern Holiday Inn’s that have an iPod dock built in.

The TV system is pretty good. It has a lot of content on it, but the TV shows they have are limited by source (NBC) and while The Office is pretty good, they only have two episodes. Air Canada has a lot more content and a wider variety of sources.

One of the best things Air Canada does is sponsor Canadian film makers and then showcase their work on the in-flight system. UAL should do this too, though internationally. If I was in charge of the UAL in-flight system, I’d offer an annual prize for films: the rules being if you submit, it may be shown on UAL flights as long as UAL wants, maybe $20k for first, $10k for second, $5k for third… for $35k they’d have some entertaining content. Almost every little twiddle on the Air Canada student collection beats anything by NBC.

Another problem, and this drives me nuts everywhere, is that now that there are about 2 standard aspect ratios (4:3 and 16:9) nothing is ever shown in the right one. Everything I see is squished one way or the other. The UAL system does not letterbox, so WTF? Why not blackbar the source? Is it that hard? It’s all transcoded anyway, do the black bars at transcode – they don’t take any space up in the compressed output and it would always play right. No squished faces. It really took away from my enjoyment of the cinematic experience that should have been Max Payne.

I find the lack of temporary storage space in the pods a bit irritating. It sort of sucks to have to put everything in the overhead, especially on takeoff, and then wait until the seatbelt sign is off to get it back, especially as the in-flight system can’t be enabled until a safe altitude is reached as it apparently “interferes” with the nav system. Just like iPods do… of course if the RF leakage from an iPod interfered with the nav system, what on earth are planes doing flying into urban areas with their multi-kilowatt radio and tv transmitters littering the landscape and god forbid airports with the radar sweeping around so that cell phones get knocked off their towers.

But the lie flat seats are very comfortable. This is the first long flight I’ve been on where I got to enjoy them. I was on a 767 from ORD that had the new pods and they were cool, but 4 hours is hardly time to experiment with the new features. Now they’re in 747s and I gather the 777s will be the last to be converted.

Which reminds me, I listened to the wonderful News Quiz podcast on the way and the following were two wonderful gems of many from the recent show:

“You know how the temperature is adjusted for windchill? Surveys should be adjusted for stupidity: surveys say that 1 in 3 Britons think the world was created in the last 10,000 years, but adjusted for stupidity, nobody does.”

“Instructions for sperm donors: on arrival ask for Mr. Hancock.”

Posted at 16:00:31 UTC

Category: planesPositivereviews

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