Hacking Airplanes

I’ve been following and reading Bruce Schneier for many years. He’s one of the most well-researched, articulate, and reasonable technology experts writing about computer and network security around.

I highly recommend reading: Hacking Airplanes. It’s a well reasoned and well written piece on internet vulnerabilities as we become more connected.

Imagine this: A terrorist hacks into a commercial airplane from the ground, takes over the controls from the pilots and flies the plane into the ground. It sounds like the plot of some “Die Hard” reboot, but it’s actually one of the possible scenarios outlined in a new Government Accountability Office report on security vulnerabilities in modern airplanes.

He’s not saying that the above scenario will happen any time soon, or ever, but he is worried that as “the internet of things” grows and our refrigerators, watches, cars, planes, baby monitors and medical equipment become more connected, our vulnerability to cyberattack grows.

Daniel Pink’s Travel Tips

Daniel Pink is an author, speaker and frequent traveler and he’s put together an entertaining series of videos that offer excellent tips for travelers.

You can find the entire collection of travel tip videos and more in Daniel Pink’s Videos on Vimeo.

Note: I use saline nose spray on airplane flights, in hotels, and at home to combat germs and dryness that comes from sealed airplanes and hotels and from winter heating with a woodstove. Between that and a yearly flu shot I haven’t been sick in ten years. Something must be working. Dan’s advice is good too although my variation is cheaper.

[via Boing Boing]

Plane Truths in Washington

Plane Truths in Washington

Photographer Jeffrey Milstein’s photographs of airplanes are currently being shown at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Mr. Milstein has been fascinated with the modern jet since childhood, earning his pilot’s license while he was a teenager. He loved hanging around the end of the runway at Los Angeles International Airport, feeling that he could almost touch the planes as they went by. He still loves spending time on the runway, and often shoots the aircraft as they are flying directly overhead at close to 200 mph. Mr. Milstein: “I shoot mostly at LAX, as the planes are coming in for landing. I hand hold a Contax 645 camera body with a Phase One digital back… After capturing the image I mask and neutralize the sky so as to show only the aircraft in perfect symmetry. This isolates it like a portrait.” “AirCraft: The Jet as Art,” is on view through Nov. 25.

Fantastic. I’d love to to see this exhibit.

How to shoot pictures from planes

A photographer up on flickr asked me how I get such nice images out of plane windows. Here’s the answer I just gave her:

1. Know the kind of plane you’re flying so you can choose a seat relative to the wing. Generally, these days most of us “plebes” sit in coach which means either over the wing or further back. Too close to the wing and you have not only wing but engine exhaust to shoot through (you have this anywhere behind the wing on most jets). The problem is, the closer to the tail you are in the plane, the worse the ride will be and you’re generally near a bathroom or a galley or both. How dedicated are you?

2. Know a bit about the route and decide which side of the plane to sit on to get the view you want. Consider time of day and the sun’s position over the time you’re flying. You want the sun on the other side of the plane so as not to flare the image or glare on the window. Knowing the plane will also give you knowledge of the seating layout. Most planes have a 3 and 3 layout which means that seat A is the left window and seat F is the right window.

3. The outside of most plane windows is a hard plastic which, over time gets scratched. If you get a heavily scratched window it will make things harder although not impossible as you’re focusing beyond the window. Also, go to the bathroom and wet a paper towel and clean the inside of the window. Between finger prints and god knows what else it can be pretty grimy.

4. Worst case, move your seat if you can.

5. Carry camera and an assortment of lenses to your seat: do not store them overhead and then bother people putting them up and down. Keep it all with you so you can shoot.

6. Many of my early aerials were with a Canon G3 which I set to “landscape” mode on the mode dial. I could do this with the 20D as well I suppose. The important thing is to not allow the lens to focus on the window and keep the flash off. The landscape setting will do this and more automatically for you or, you can do it manually.

7. If you can’t get a fast enough speed out of the lens on manual, push the ISO high. No need to worry about high quality here, you’re already shooting through plastic. You’re looking for decent quality.

8. I don’t think there’s much reason to shoot in RAW (see above) so I shoot all of this stuff in jpeg.

9. Stop down some from full open as you’re never going to be shooting perpendicular to the ground (unless the plane really banks hard, in which case you’ll probably throw up on the window.

I hope this is useful. Bottom line is that you have to put a bit of effort into planning and when you do of course there will be clouds the entire trip. But, clouds can be interesting too. I’ve also seen some fantastic shots on flickr of plane interiors and the backs of people’s heads.

I fly a lot on commercial airlines. Well, I used to fly a lot. I have a lot of lifetime miles on United which is not all that uncommon these days but hey, I can feel them in my bones.

I’m the kind of flyer who books window seats, even on trans-Atlantic flights. I still love flying. The airport process sucks but once up the view is great.

I read Patrick Smith’s “column” in Salon Ask the Pilot regularly and in it I learned about

Check out the photos in the left column. Click on most popular of all time and tell me it isn’t fun to scan through those. Amazing.