Thursday, June 25, 2009

In-Flight Internet

I was on an old MD-80 last night, flying from LAX to the midwest with American Airlines. As soon as we got the "approved portable electronic devices" go-ahead I pulled out my ThinkPad and fired it up, and as I went to kill the onboard WiFi I was surprised to see a hotspot. I connected to it and sure enough, after clicking through the "try it on us!" greeting, I had a fully working Internet connection. At 30,000'! Gogo Inflight. It didn't appear to be restricted in any real way; I was able to SSH and FTP out, send SMTP messages, access my IMAP server, browse the web, etc. I'm a bad geek, in that I didn't run a connection speed test (instead I hopped on Facebook and posted a bunch of "OMG I'm FLYING and talking to you on Facebook!" inanity) or otherwise determine the parameters of the link...

It was (only?) a decade ago I was totally enamored with the 9600 baud connections available through cabling a laptop's internal model (or PCMCIA card modem) via the RJ11 port provided on seatback telephone handsets, billed at like $2.00/minute, that would at least allow me to check mail / SSH in to an errant server or whatever, while en route to Europe. (I couldn't find a lot of information on this, was kind of a flash-in-the-pan thing that didn't last very long. Here's a blog post with pictures, and someone else remembering that tech...)

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