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Linux-based airline seat-back entertainment system is a winner

By Mike Ho on October 05, 2007 (9:00:00 PM)

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The Linux-based eX2 in-flight entertainment system (IFE) from Panasonic Avionics was the big winner at this year's Avion Awards, sponsored by an IFE trade group. The Best Overall IFE awards went to Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways, all running variants of eX2.

This Red Hat-based system also is installed on Qantas Airways and on Boeing 777s operated by Delta and Continental. eX2, the newest version of Panasonic's in-flight entertainment systems, offers not the canned radio stations of yesteryear, but rather audio and video on demand, games, and even online books, depending on the carrier.

With all three top vote-getters running Panasonic Avionics IFEs, one could argue that it was really Panasonic that ran away with the awards. Headquartered in southern California, Panasonic Avionics says its systems are installed on more than 3,000 aircraft worldwide.

"We're very proud of our customers," says Paul Margis, CEO of Panasonic Avionics. "Each one has a very unique system."

Although all of the winners use the same core eX2 software and share similar hardware platforms, Margis says, the user interfaces are heavily customized to provide a different look for each airline.

The Red Hat operating system needed "a fair amount of tailoring" to work with Panasonic's hardware mix, Margis says. The open source nature of Linux, he says, made this tailoring possible. Most components of eX2 run Linux variants, he says, though the company uses Wind River's VxWorks in a few components that require high-performance streaming of content.

Virgin America also uses components of Panasonic systems in its Linux-based RED system. RED was built in-house "from scratch," says Charles Ogilvie, Virgin America's director of in-flight entertainment, using components of various IFEs including Panasonic's eFX.

With wireless access throughout each airplane that's integrated with the IFE, Ogilvie says, it's possible to play games or order food from your seat using your laptop. If you choose not to bring one, there's a keyboard at every seat as well.

Because RED is considered a beta product that's continually being updated, RED also incorporates a suggestion box. "It should always be a moving target," Ogilvie said.

Virgin America was not eligible for the Avion Awards this year because it did not begin operations until August, but Ogilvie says Virgin America will contend for the award next year.

Also fielding Linux-based IFE systems is Thales Aerospace. Its TopSeries systems provide seat-back entertainment on several carriers, including Air China, Air India, and Iceland Air, with an additional rollout on Japan Air Lines scheduled for next year.

About the awards

The World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA), based near Washington, DC, sponsors the Avion Awards. This year's winners were chosen based on a worldwide poll of 36,000 air travelers, says Elinor Kinnier, public relations manager for WAEA. Poll-based awards were given for overall and regional excellence -- a change from prior years, when a panel of judges chose winners in a variety of specific categories as well as an overall winner.

"What was missing, essentially, was the passenger experience," Kinnier says. Accordingly, WAEA turned to London-based Skytrax Research for a worldwide passenger survey. This Internet poll was conducted over two months earlier this year.

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on Linux-based airline seat-back entertainment system is a winner

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form fuction

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.122.165.195] on October 05, 2007 09:52 PM
The web brouser page with forward and back arrows and at times up and down, is very simmilar to umpc tablets with the 4 way button with the enter key at the center. I will guess that this will remain a very standard interface. And, suggest if not redundantly, that automobiles provide a standard mount for a reasonable range of sizes of pcs. A dash mount could provide diagnostics and, dashboard functional operation of heaters door locks and window position, radio tunning, access to wireless services as well web apps. and a telecom interface for speaker phone, gps and vehicle tacking, black box flight recording tech. used for sevice/maintenance records and accident reporting. A umpc simmilarly could mount to a refridgerator or a preasure pad on a dinning table to identify food consuption to help make a grocery list, eventualy ordering dillivery in areas and circumstances were available. As well, diatary coaching. The web brouser interface allso suggest an inevetability by way of effective functionality of tree taversal and modularized interfacable content separating policy from mechanizm. So concerns about what direction a development project should take is resolved be forking versions and allowing them to be promoted on there merits creating a neural path that is strengthened by its usability and effectiveness. Such a tree traversal should make documentation easier. (Personaly, subjects that are vailed in one button applications because they are to tricky for anyone else to implement, such as binaries and package managers, would seem at least in theory to be contray to open philosophy since difficult practices are usually more easily traversed once an understanding of the process is aquired allowing one to block the info. and beter understand and apreciate the one button aproch and to be able to break the one button approch into components for debuging should problems arise.- so many stories about dificult myth tv apps. unless they involve illigal applications should be able to be resoved by adequate documentation- is stupid not knowing or not wanting to know when the opportunity is available?- an article about macros on this demonstrates the value of effective documentation and allows others to benefit from those who have gone befor.)

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Linux-based airline seat-back entertainment system is a winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.15.112.90] on October 05, 2007 10:27 PM
This must be the system which is commonly observed as crashing. I've stumbled on many different posters which have had pictures of the systems crashing. This is just one I happen to remember. http://www.flickr.com/photos/niltonb/269637263/ In the provided link, it looks like something happened to its NFS mount.

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Re: Linux-based airline seat-back entertainment system is a winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.9.236.73] on October 14, 2007 03:43 PM
This concept shartsoft require the system about them system shat is burn to require char,char,
can be.

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Dubious endorsement

Posted by: Starky on October 06, 2007 12:43 PM
As a longtime Linux user and enthusiast, I was pleased to see this system in use on a recent flight from Chengdu (China) to Amsterdam.


Unfortunately, I can't offer an unqualified endorsement, as the reason I recognized the use of Linux was that the system rebooted every few minutes, displaying the following message to every passenger as the system hung:



c00e6
svgalib: Signal 4: Illegal instruction received.
svc: bad direction 1718580590, dropping request


Not to cavil at our generation's relative notions of luxury and necessity, but the passengers were, shall we say, distressed that their in-flight entertainment system was non-functional on a 10+ hour flight.


On the flight back, for the record, it performed flawlessly and was quite impressive.

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Re: Dubious endorsement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.113.2.158] on October 07, 2007 09:52 AM
I was using the IFE on USA cross-country flights on Delta and it worked well. I was surprised to learn it was running on Linux when I watched it boot up on the second flight. It worked flawlessly for me, but the flight attendants said that they often had to "reset" specific seats or rows. Amazingly there was some great music available and I bought two of the CDs on-line (from Amazon) after the flight. If there had been a "buy now" option for a good price I would have purchased them from my seat.

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Linux-based airline seat-back entertainment system is a winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.42.208.182] on October 09, 2007 02:45 PM
Sorry, but I just took a Delta flight to Las Vegas and, as supportive as I am for open source software and Linux generally, the in-flight system DID NOT WORK AT ALL. The crew tried several reboots, and the pilots did, as well, but the system continued to crash. There were no TV options, no Movie options, and when the system was up for brief periods, the only options that worked were SOME of the games and the normal music channels (jazz, classical,& rock). I was COMPLETELY dissatisfied, especially on such a long flight. All the customers were refunded their headset fee.

This needs serious debugging. Worse, when the system rebooted, the "Redboot" copyright and program running lines were clearly visible on the screens, as was the Linux penguine -- so passengers no doubt saw the penguine and may in the future associate the bad experience with the brand.

For the sake of future passengers, and the success of the brand among a broader populations, I hope this gets fixed soon.

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LOSER seat back system

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.42.208.182] on October 09, 2007 02:47 PM
Sorry, but I just took a Delta flight to Las Vegas and, as supportive as I am for open source software and Linux generally, the in-flight system DID NOT WORK AT ALL. The crew tried several reboots, and the pilots did, as well, but the system continued to crash. There were no TV options, no Movie options, and when the system was up for brief periods, the only options that worked were SOME of the games and the normal music channels (jazz, classical,& rock). I was COMPLETELY dissatisfied, especially on such a long flight. All the customers were refunded their headset fee. This needs serious debugging. Worse, when the system rebooted, the "Redboot" copyright and program running lines were clearly visible on the screens, as was the Linux penguine -- so passengers no doubt saw the penguine and may in the future associate the bad experience with the brand. For the sake of future passengers, and the success of the brand among a broader populations, I hope this gets fixed soon.

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Airline seat-back entertainment system is a tux?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 167.78.4.18] on October 10, 2007 04:55 PM
it was freaky to see the tux in front of me on a recent Delta flight from AZ. I was taken aback not just because it was Tux, but because I could see him. I shouldn't know anything about what systems are running on the plane, entertainment systems or any other types for that matter. Even though it was jus t the boot screen. Had I been less engaged in my book, i would have used my camera phone to record the boot messages to take a peek at later. I hope that the developers will consider moving the display to another device or at least employ a timer o something to keep the messages off the screen. Asisde from that, i enjoyed poking around the menu to see the options available.

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