Prevention via “Please”


On nearly half of the international flights I take, something bad happens with software. That’s not as scary as it sounds – I’m talking about the entertainment software that lets we watch edited movies on a 6 inch screen with sound on 2 dollar headphones. As far as reliability goes, in-flight entertainment software is pretty poor, but I suppose I should be glad that other software on the plane doesn’t have this problem.

What I find interesting is what the pilot tells me every time it fails. When the video system fails, the pilot (or someone on the other end of the microphone) says “It appears the video system has failed. We’re going to reboot the system to see if that fixes the problem. Please don’t touch your handsets or video screens for the next 15 minutes.”

Every time I hear this, the tester in me wants to run a stress test on the handset. I would, but I’m afraid that the guy next to me is going to punch me in the neck if my finger even gets close to the remote, so I’m just going to sit here and wonder why can’t I touch the handset? My only guess is that the vendor that wrote the software didn’t know that this would be a problem when they wrote their crappy software. Somewhere along the line, someone figured out that the system reboot didn’t work when people were fiddling with their remotes, so the “Please don’t” prevention method was born.

Until the entire system is upgraded, this will remain the reliability experience. It’s not great, but I suppose it’s better than losing entertainment completely (although that’s happened to me several times too).

Shhh… I don’t like the movies on this flight, and I have work to do anyway. The guy who I thought was going to punch me got up to stand in line for the bathroom. Let’s see what kind of damage I can cause if I press a few keys …


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