Air France Crash Demonstrates Limits Of Technology

One would think in this day and age of high tech gadgets, that it would be a simple matter to locate a down jet in the Atlantic ocean. But the recent crash of Air France Flight 447 with 228 souls aboard shows the limits of what technology can do. As I watched the news reports of the missing flight I couldn’t understand how it could be difficult to locate the wreckage. With GPS and all of the tracking abilities we have, could a jetliner really take so long to find?

One can look back to the sinking of the Titanic back in 1912. The ship was located at a time when the only means of communication was the Marconi wireless system and navigational plotting. Now some 100 years later, with computers running the world, with satellites soaring overhead and Billions spent on technology, are we any better off?

According to an article at SF Gate it describes the problems:

Analysts were scrambling to figure out exactly what kind of satellite-enabled communication systems the plane was equipped with. Using the latest gear, airplanes can automatically transmit information such as the plane’s position, altitude, heading and speed. But not all airplanes flying across oceans are equipped with such technology.

Some experts say that given the vastness of the ocean, the crash site might never be pinpointed.

That could prove a major headache for safety investigators who place a high priority on finding the plane’s black box data and voice recorders. Typically, the black boxes have tracking beacons that activate when the boxes get wet. The radio signal works for about 30 days. Search teams will have to be within 4,000 to 5,000 feet of the black box location to pick up the signals.

Investigators from around the world will want to know precisely what went wrong on the flight. The A330-200 is a common jet in the industry. It specializes in international flying, especially transatlantic routes. Analysts say A330 planes have had an unquestioned safety record. Northwest, which recently merged with Delta Air Lines, has 11 A330-200 planes and 21 of the larger A330-300 models. US Airways has nine A330-300s, according to Airbus.

I am sure these and other questions are going to be asked in the coming weeks and months as the investigation proceeds. But one thing we do know. Technology did not help much in locating the wreckage quickly.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source SF Gate

Comcast Considers Broadband Limits

Over at Broadband DSL they have some secret information from an informant who is suggesting that Comcast may be considering limits on their broadband service. But when you read the article is states that this will only effect 14,000 of the estimated 14 million Comcast customers. It seems that these 14,000 download more than the average user and when one looks at the stats, may be charged more. In the article it states:

A Comcast insider tells me the company is considering implementing very clear monthly caps, and may begin charging overage fees for customers who cross them. While still in the early stages of development, the plan — as it stands now — would work like this: all users get a 250GB per month cap. Users would get one free “slip up” in a twelve month period, after which users would pay a $15 charge for each 10 GB over the cap they travel. According to the source, the plan has “a lot of momentum behind it,” and initial testing is slated to begin in a month or two.

“The intent appears to be to go after the people who consistently download far more than the typical user without hurting those who may have a really big month infrequently,” says an insider familiar with the project, who prefers to remain anonymous. “As far as I am aware, uploads are not affected, at least not initially.” According to this source, the new system should only impact some 14,000 customers out of Comcast’s 14.1 million users (i.e. the top 0.1%).

So here is the question. Should Comcast be allowed to charge band width hogs more? How about other ISP’s?

Comments welcome.

Full Comcast article is here.

[tags]comcast, broadband, limits, charges, system, limits, [/tags]