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Plane Crash



I recently flew from London to Austin, Texas and back. It's a tedious flight in both directions and despite my thick book, my lengthy podcast playlist, and a Kama Sutra of attempted sleeping positions, there were still times when I found myself at a loose end and decided to fiddle with the in-flight entertainment system. Here's a few of the fun things I found, where the pictures came out bearably ...

Zooming in as far as possible to the destination, it appears the plane's trajectory ends before the airport. (Gulp!)


There is some disagreement about how far it is to the destination (59km, 61km?) and, by zooming and rotating the view appropriately, Austin and Austin Airport (with the star) are apparently located adjacent to one another while somehow Austin also looks to be closer to the plane (just along the yellow path off screen to the right) and simultaneously further away (63km).


On the way home now, and we've reached the end of the flight somewhere west of Ireland. (Gulp!) But perhaps we're never arriving anyway. (Gulp again!) This, despite giving the system a few minutes to pick up the live flight data from wherever it has to ask for it.


There's a weird-looking squiggle on the globe. It's rendered much less attractively than everything else in the application, and also has no label. Initially I thought it might be some kind of rendering artefact, but after seeing how consistently it appeared at different views and rotations, I wondered if it might be intended.


It is. It's the international date line, according to the settings panel where I found I could toggle it on and off. Without access to an oracle at the time, I just filed that information for later reference. Could the date line really be as convoluted as that? Yes, it appears that it can. Wikipedia has a picture of it ...


... which matches reasonably well. I didn't find any image of the date line that has the little hump at bottom left on the in-flight image, though. Maybe there's still a problem here?

Clearly something is putting effort into layout of the various visible items, but it's not difficult to find cusps where a small adjustment to viewing angle causes a large adjustment to layout. Here's an example:



It'd be reasonable to expect that there'd be some optimisation algorithm here, perhaps one that seeks to limit the extent to which items overlap, or perhaps prefers not to overlap certain kinds of items (such as city names).

I didn't have the energy to explore that in enough detail to attempt to reverse-engineer it, at least not after getting wedged here for a while ...


... and apparently upsetting the system view of North.


There was no formal mission for this effort, just something like "Explore the flight path applications using the user-visible controls to look for interesting edges". I found more, but the photos were awful. My favourite was during the trip out when the program crashed with one of those amusing error dialogs: "The program has stopped. [OK]".

Is it OK? Well I suppose it was OK by me!
Images:Spectrum ComputingWikipedia

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