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clickhappy
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How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:05 am

Interesting read.

One of the most interesting examples of a software "abuse case" came to me rather abruptly on an airplane flight from Las Vegas to Orlando in mid 2005.

http://blogs.csoonline.com/node/151

Sounds like a Song flight?
 
AirTranTUS
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:02 am

That's really interesting. Looks like it would be fun to try.
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MX757
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:08 am

Quoting Clickhappy (Thread starter):
Interesting read.

Very interesting indeed.

Quote:
The entire plane entertainment system goes down (and thankfully the cascading system failure didn't spill over to the plane navigation system)!

That would not happen. Even though newer IFE systems do receive information from the navigation system it's on a "one-way" basis. The Navs send info to the IFE, but do not receive any back.

This gentleman has way to much time on his hands.
Is it broke...? Yeah I'll fix it.
 
ikramerica
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:12 am

What maliciousness! It's barely even a bug. It's someone ACTIVELY trying to crash a system, and frankly, I've yet to find a system that does anything that doesn't have a way to do this.

What a jerk.
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:14 am

Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 1):
That's really interesting. Looks like it would be fun to try.

So are civil and criminal lawsuits
 
KELPkid
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:20 am

 rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 

Thanks, Royal, for lauging me to tears. You wonder how the IFE designers could have missed this in Beta testing...(if indeed they did it). If IFEMaster is around, he can share with us how poorly designed these systems actually are...that's what happens when companies bid low to bankrupt carriers, unfortunately.  Sad
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MaverickM11
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:21 am

God I hated Computer Science....but that's pretty cool. Not very nice but pretty cool.
E pur si muove -Galileo
 
Corsair1107
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:34 am

I'd be pissed if some computer nerd crashed the IFE on a long flight.
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avt007
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:00 am

I read through the first page of blogs, and had enough. IFE is a pain to maintain as it is, without some yahoo trying to crash it. Now the FA writes it up, the avionics guys try to fix a non existent snag, time and money wasted because this twit can't sit and watch a movie, no, he has to dink with the system.
 
AirTranTUS
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:33 am

Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 4):
Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 1):
That's really interesting. Looks like it would be fun to try.

So are civil and criminal lawsuits

The guy didn't do anything criminal. It's not like something bad happened. Is someone going to sue because they missed 10 minutes of 'A Baby Story' on TLC? I doubt it.

The programmers made a mistake, and this guy found it.
I love ASO!
 
TheCol
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:24 am

Quoting Avt007 (Reply 8):
Now the FA writes it up, the avionics guys try to fix a non existent snag, time and money wasted

Yeah, that's gotta be a pet peeve of every AME. It already happens enough with other systems on the plane.
No matter how random things may appear, there's always a plan.
 
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Tugger
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:43 am

I found this interesting, buried down in the follow-on posts:
"Also, should the person who came up with the idea of using a 2.5mm jack to supply power to noise-canceling headphones read this, you own me a new set of earphones for my PDA. Jacks are almost always audio - I assumed it was a 2.5mm in order to force people to pay for the airline headphones on the flight. As I happened to have a set of phones with a 2.5mm connector, I pluged them in, and they immediately exploded in my ears."

Anyone ever seen this?

Tug
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KELPkid
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:52 am

Quoting Tugger (Reply 11):
Anyone ever seen this?

Tug

IIRC, the old 2.5 mm plug was used for the "pause" switch on ancient (1970's vintage!) casette recorders...I think you get what you deserve when you go plugging things in to jacks that you have no idea what they are  Wink
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Tugger
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:06 am

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 12):
I think you get what you deserve when you go plugging things in to jacks that you have no idea what they are

Hey now! I always try to get the name of the person that I'm........ Oh, you said "what" not "who"...... Nevermind.  blush 

Actually the follow-on reply posts are pretty damned funny too. Reads just like our forum in some ways. Just imagine what someone from the "outside world" must think when they read through our postings!  Smile

Aviation geeks, meet Tech geeks!

Tug
I don’t know that I am unafraid to be myself, but it is hard to be somebody else. -W. Shatner
 
CXfirst
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:08 am

That would be fun to try, maybe right before landing so it doesn't annoy as many people Big grin

-CXfirst
 
KELPkid
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:25 am

Quoting Tugger (Reply 13):
Aviation geeks, meet Tech geeks!

Tug

Actually, I hear it is quite possible to be both...  Wink My Bachelor of Science on Computer Science I think puts me squarely into the Tech geeks category  Smile
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Tugger
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:30 am

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 15):
Bachelor of Science on Computer Science

I knew a few of those from my day days at Riddle! And they were definitely, squarely in "that" catagory. Kinda sad if you think about it!  Big grin But not much more so than when I try to explain to people why I got my Aviation Business Administration degree there when I am not a pilot type.  Wink

Tug
I don’t know that I am unafraid to be myself, but it is hard to be somebody else. -W. Shatner
 
SJCRRPAX
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 10:03 am

I think someone is pulling our legs here. Normally, the games are self contained. The movies and the radio run on what is essentially a cable-tv system and a tuner selects the program. About the only way you can crash your neighbors IFE system is by kicking their chair. Interesting story, but more likely the power was cut to the entire IFE system while the Pilot made an announcement about air turbulance, and the PAX assumed that programming Tetris for 128 crashed the entire IFE system. Call me a skeptic, but much more likely to be a random coincidence.
 
ikramerica
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:47 pm

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 12):
IIRC, the old 2.5 mm plug was used for the "pause" switch on ancient (1970's vintage!) casette recorders...I think you get what you deserve when you go plugging things in to jacks that you have no idea what they ar

They are clearly there for the purpose explained. POWERED headphones of various types. Currently they are used for noise canceling headphones, but they were also used for hi-fi headphones.

And they are spaced in a triangle with the twin 3.5 mm plugs, and the plug sure as heck looks like a single stereo jack with a smaller plug. Since many phones and PDA used this 2.5mm plug, you are going to get more people frying their headphones by sending DC power into them.

There is no indication on this jack that it is POWER not audio, and such an indicator should be there. It's dangerous not to label live power plugs in a public settings.
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
ptugarin
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:59 pm

I see 21st century terrorism as follows;
1) Terrorist A (Programmer) introduces an "Easter Egg" into an avionics program that never gets caught during QA testing
2) Terrorist B (Pilot) presses the secret key combination
3) No one ever figures out why plane crashed
 
sccutler
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:02 pm

I found that the IFE on the TN A340 could be crashed by playing a game on it for a while. Then, after about five minutes, it would reboot and back in play again. Irritating, but hardly life-changing.
...three miles from BRONS, clear for the ILS one five approach...
 
lincoln
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:04 pm

Quoting Tugger (Reply 11):
Jacks are almost always audio - I assumed it was a 2.5mm in order to force people to pay for the airline headphones on the flight

Well...that's what someone gets for 'assuming' especially when they note "Jacks are almost always audio" (uh... no. Come visit my world some day and you will cower in fear at the sheer number of things that you can find on a TRS jack... even more so when you broaden that out to jacks in general.

Lincoln
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haggis79
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:05 pm

Quoting Ptugarin (Reply 19):
I see 21st century terrorism as follows;
1) Terrorist A (Programmer) introduces an "Easter Egg" into an avionics program that never gets caught during QA testing
2) Terrorist B (Pilot) presses the secret key combination
3) No one ever figures out why plane crashed

with point 3) making the whole thing totally uninteresting for terrorists...

maybe you should stop seeing terrorists everywhere....
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rampart
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:53 pm

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 17):
but much more likely to be a random coincidence.

Though not nearly as funny.
 
symphonik
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:55 pm

This is only somewhat related, but back in the day on United, there used to be a great hack for the GTE Airfones. When I was but a young lad, travelling with my dad and his laptop, I discovered you could press "9" on the Airfone while it was still in the cradle, and all of a sudden it would say something to the effect of:

Please connect the data port

One time I tried it, and sure enough, free modem calls!

I did this for months and months until one flight I discovered they had fixed the hack. This was probably about 1993 or so.

These days, I'd be sent to Gitmo for something like that, I suspect.  Smile
 
noelg
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:14 pm

 rotfl 

That's hilarious - had me in stitches that you could bring down the entire IFE system with one button press!

At least the F/A reset the system and fixed it.
 
domokun
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:20 pm

Quoting Ptugarin (Reply 19):
I see 21st century terrorism as follows;
1) Terrorist A (Programmer) introduces an "Easter Egg" into an avionics program that never gets caught during QA testing
2) Terrorist B (Pilot) presses the secret key combination
3) No one ever figures out why plane crashed

4) Have a federal requirement that the source for all crucial systems be documented and archived. Same sort of situation, minus terrorists, can happen with voting machines.
 
runway23
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:23 pm

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 17):
I think someone is pulling our legs here. Normally, the games are self contained. The movies and the radio run on what is essentially a cable-tv system and a tuner selects the program. About the only way you can crash your neighbors IFE system is by kicking their chair. Interesting story, but more likely the power was cut to the entire IFE system while the Pilot made an announcement about air turbulance, and the PAX assumed that programming Tetris for 128 crashed the entire IFE system. Call me a skeptic, but much more likely to be a random coincidence.

They aren't anymore. What you are discribing is the old systems. Delta/Song's IFE is run on Linux with the music, films games being on demand. The system is quite easy to crash, I unfortunately made it crash twice in two hours (not on purpose, just normal usage). Fact is their system has a bit too many bugs in it and needs work.
 
corey07850
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:05 pm

Ok I'll bite:

"To give myself the biggest advantage in the game, I pressed the + control as many times as it would allow and got to the maximum value of 4."

What does this value of 4 do to give him an advantage? I'm confused as to what hes actually trying to do
 
starguy
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:21 pm

For anyone considering trying to crash an airlines IFE inflight, let me point one thing out, You are the very same people that come on this site an slate an airline to the ground because your entertainment crashed when you were in the middle of your favourite film/game/song e.t.c.

The guy who started this thread crashed it by mistake so he is let off, but to anyone who tries to crash the system, you are not the one who everyone onboard is going to moan at, it's the poor crew have enough services to complete without having to deal with little children breaking the IFE.

GROW UP!!!!!!!!!
 
JuniorSpotter
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 10:46 pm

Jesus H Christ...

I'm probably gonna get flamed now, but after seeing so many of you climbing the walls over this innocent prank, I ask myself how you ever managed to fly in the ages before IFE...  scratchchin 

We're talking about a simple thing like the IFE - TV, music and some simple games. A system which is easily resetted by the F/A. It's not like they shut down the avionics or locked and glued the doors to the lavs.

Get the broom-sticks out your behinds and relax a bit. There are way worse things to get upset over. If a temporarily crashed IFE creates such a disaster for you, I wonder who really needs to grow up...
If something can go wrong, it will.
 
DeC
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:00 pm

Seems that too many people watch too many movies on terrorism.
DEC
 
InnocuousFox
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:08 pm

What a riot! Being a programmer (who also happens to be working on an airline management simulation), this really strikes home with me! I love it!  Silly
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Daleaholic
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:21 pm

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 28):
"To give myself the biggest advantage in the game, I pressed the + control as many times as it would allow and got to the maximum value of 4."

You clearly did not read the article... He's saying how many pieces from the tetris game show up on his screen prior to falling  Yeah sure
Religion is an illusion of childhood... Outgrown under proper education.
 
StarGoldLHR
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:29 pm

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 17):
Call me a skeptic, but much more likely to be a random coincidence.

No, if you want a day to day example (for those non-avionics geeks) Using tetris on citrix in the same example can produce the same result.

At the end of the day, the IFE in front of you is not much more than a dumb terminal from the 1970s.
The computer is in the back,front or under neath of the plane.
Your terminal "requests" your "selection".
The server clones an image environment and delivers it to your seat.
If you crash the image.. its' the image on the server that crashes, not your seat.
If the server can handle it, then no one else will be affected. However if there is a memory leak (as what this guy suggests) then it can crash the memory space and hence the "hosting" application on the server.,, which is why everyone's went.

usually that applicatoin should be good enough to selfboot and start again, or the crew will need to reboot it.

Quoting Haggis79 (Reply 22):
No one ever figures out why plane crashed

when an applicatoin crashes.. there is always a debug log and trail.
If a plane was to crash due to software, even if the entire plane disintegrated without trace.. the source code and original test environment will exist on the ground in a data centre somewhere.
The guy who writes (and even compiles it) will not be able to physically adjust the code for every single individual, infact the closest he ever may get to the plane is as a passenger, aircraft making it near impossible to do.
So far in 2008 45 flights and Gold already. JFK, IAD, LGA, SIN, HKG, NRT, AKL, PPT, LAX still to book ! Home Airport LCY
 
IFEMaster
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:59 am

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 5):
If IFEMaster is around, he can share with us how poorly designed these systems actually are...that's what happens when companies bid low to bankrupt carriers, unfortunately.

Happy to oblige. It's not so much the design from a conceptual point of view, but the poor implementation of that design. I posted this in the tech forum a while back, but in a nutshell, many mainstream IFE developers cut corners all over the place to drive costs down; make a tidy profit while making the system affordable for the airline. It also doesn't help that the industry, especially for pt.121, is saturated with over-keen start-ups trying to beat the established entities at a game they know not much about.

Coding mistakes happen; my company find mistakes in our code every day by chance or by method. What this blogger describes isn't necessarily the product of a lazy developer or bad coding or poor QA processes, but one of those things that, frankly, your average traveler isn't going find or experience. If the right kind of support processes are in place, and the developers had been sensible in their error-trapping code, the cause of this system crash will have been logged, eventually found it's way back to the developer, and fixed.

Having said that...

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 17):
I think someone is pulling our legs here. Normally, the games are self contained.

I'm doubtful that this guy's tampering with Tetris was the cause of the crash because, as SJCRRPAX suggests, terminal-level games are not typically run directly from a server. The load on the network when you've got 250 people all playing games and watching movies etc. is just too high to operate that way unless the airline is willing to invest some serious moolah in an infrastructure to support that kind of traffic (and I've yet to see that in 7 years in the industry).

Based off of what he described in his blog, and not having any visibility of the type of system involved, my first guess is that the fiddling with Tetris at the same time as the system crashing was a complete coincidence.

Each seat has it's own thin client terminal box. When you select a game or a movie or a CD using an AVOD system, the data is either already resident on your seat's terminal (more so with games than video and audio), or it is sent from the server to the tclient, and the pause/rewind/fast forward functions occur completely locally to that seat. You want to crash your neighbours IFE? Don't sit there playing with Tetris, put your foot under their chair, locate the client box (typically situated above and behind the lifejacket), and give it a good hard kick.

Quoting MX757 (Reply 2):
That would not happen. Even though newer IFE systems do receive information from the navigation system it's on a "one-way" basis. The Navs send info to the IFE, but do not receive any back.

Correct. GPS data is a broadcast to the terminals only, and often sits in a completely separate subsystem from the rest of the AVOD system.

Quoting Avt007 (Reply 8):
the avionics guys try to fix a non existent snag

In my experience, the avionics guys don't get involved. Most IFE vendors provide dedicated support processes to support their own product. Certainly avionics get involved when we're talking about an integration issue, but for a user-end software bug, I've not seen them get involved.
Delivering Anecdotes of Dubious Relevance Since 1978
 
IFEMaster
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:01 am

Quoting StarGoldLHR (Reply 34):
If you crash the image.. its' the image on the server that crashes, not your seat.

This is not universally true. While there are systems out there that use this method, there are plenty of systems out there that isolate the image to the seat terminal.
Delivering Anecdotes of Dubious Relevance Since 1978
 
blueflyer
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:06 am

Quoting IFEMaster (Reply 35):
Each seat has it's own thin client terminal box.

Why is this the preferred type of architecture, is it related to the limited capacity of the server, or of the network connection from the server to the terminals (I'd pick that if I had to guess) ?

In the future, as plane manufacturers are installing ethernet on board, could it not be used for IFE as well ? If I'm not mistaken, a single 10 Gbps Ethernet connection would comfortably allow for 400 separate video streams in 720x480 4:1:1 format, a much better quality than any airline offers today.

We'd finally get rid of these annoying boxes under the seats!
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has no clothes.
 
IFEMaster
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:38 am

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 37):
Why is this the preferred type of architecture, is it related to the limited capacity of the server, or of the network connection from the server to the terminals (I'd pick that if I had to guess) ?

It's not necessarily the preferred. Preference is dependent on design brief. However, it certainly is one of the most efficient and error-trapping ways of doing things in modern AVOD systems.

Look at it this way; what's more efficient - a bank of a few servers all trying to handle 300 concurrent connections, serving video, audio, games, maps, and SMS all at the same time, running the risk that if any one of those connections errors fatally that it could bring down the entire system, or more simplistic server architecture 'feeding' data to localized terminals that then handle the playing/rewinding/pausing functions independently? If an error should occur at client level, it's trapped and isolated to that terminal, letting the rest of the system function. It also removes loads from the server and lets servers do exactly that - serve data. My removing a lot of the control functions from the server, the seamlessness of the system becomes more fluid and efficient, and the server doesn't have to have a bunch of prioritizing functions to prevent the system from going belly up.

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 37):

In the future, as plane manufacturers are installing ethernet on board, could it not be used for IFE as well ? If I'm not mistaken, a single 10 Gbps Ethernet connection would comfortably allow for 400 separate video streams in 720x480 4:1:1 format, a much better quality than any airline offers today.

My company provide custom system to private and corporate sector, and we're already doing this. The issue is one of weight and necessity. The problem with Ethernet over the length of, say, a 747, is attenuation - you'll lose data the further away you are from the data source. Also, with standard UTP cable, amongst all the other cabling and frequencies involved in the aircraft, you're open to interference. So get around it using STP Cat5e, and then you've got a weight issue - STP is significantly heavier than UTP.

We install in much smaller aircraft, so it's not so much of an issue. We have systems that use both server-to-screen and server-to-client systems, and both work well, but those that we use server-to-screen, we use a very light weight but very expensive fibre cable; an expense that, when you think like a major carrier fitting their 744, becomes significantly more than going the thin client route.

It's all swings and roundabouts and I honestly can't say there's one method better than the other, but for as long as commercial airlines pull the financial drawstrings around major IFE vendors, the thin client route will continue to exist. It's cheaper, it's easier to develop, it's easier to support, and when airlines are trying to save as much money as possible these days, it becomes the more attractive option.
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blueflyer
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:48 am

Quoting IFEMaster (Reply 38):

Thanks. Very interesting reply, especially for someone (me) working in a "traditional" IT field where "a bank of a few servers" is the preferred solution and attenuation and weight are rarely a concern (that's what switches and cable runs are for). If all else fails, we go wireless...
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has no clothes.
 
IFEMaster
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RE: How To Crash An In-flight Entertainment System

Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:07 am

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 39):
in a "traditional" IT field where "a bank of a few servers" is the preferred solution and attenuation and weight are rarely a concern (that's what switches and cable runs are for). If all else fails, we go wireless...

The weight issue is really the major factor with my clients. They're paying for their fuel out of their own pocket, so need to keep weight down. More often than not, during the sales process, we have to go through a detailed cost/benefit analysis with the customer to help them make a decision on our proposed solutions. 90% of the time, they opt for the more expensive but lighter systems as they know they will save more than the cost in fuel over the course of the product's lifecycle.
Delivering Anecdotes of Dubious Relevance Since 1978

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