Fun with Delta’s Linux-driven Entertainment system

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Recently, a manager of mine had to fly Delta Airlines.

…on a small side note, the darn in-flight entertainment system on this plane wouldn’t work and the flight attendants couldn’t even do the safety information ‘speech’ before we took off – not that I need to hear this for the 500th time this year – but the funny part was she said they had to “re-boot” the system & it would take 5-7 minutes. Well as we’re taxi-ing, they re-boot the system – I’m not paying attention – but then a mother behind me says to her little child – look a little PENGUIN! So I looked up at the screen & wouldn’t you know it – the entertainment system was running on Linux.

Blah..Blah…Blah, long story short, then the guy next to me complains that his system won’t work, either and the flight attendant politely tells him she apologizes & that these things are the “bane of their existence”.

I had to laugh because I too have seen this “reboot” problem on Delta’s Linux-driven In-flight Entertainment system easily a half dozen times on different flights to the east coast.  It’s one of many reasons I avoid Delta like the plague. 

Above is the photo I took of the Linux boot sequence.  The common excuse I hear on the discussion boards is that “it’s the software – not the OS.”  Seriously?  I know we don’t have that great a reputation when it comes to things like system stability but even zealots have to admit that installed software crashing Windows isn’t a common, everyday occurrence these days.  This isn’t a PC that changes on a day to day basis that we’re talking about here.  This was an Embedded System and that gives this solution even less of an excuse for crashing.  Having a system that NEVER CHANGES on-board a closed system like an airplane should give this product even less of an opportunity to go belly-up.

So after digging around, I discovered that Delta’s Linux driven in-flight entertainment system is apparently notorious for its instability & crashes.

A while back, heat dissipation from these very systems was recognized as a serious issue.  So much so that some units caused burning and smoke from the heat generated.

“The FAA doesn’t track how many planes have in-seat entertainment systems. But Delta Air Lines (DAL) has filed the most incident reports (92) since August 1998, according to available FAA data through mid-February. More than 230 of Delta’s approximately 1,000 planes have in-seat entertainment systems, says Betsy Talton, the airline’s spokeswoman.”
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2009-03-22-electronics-fires-airlines_N.htm

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