Red Hat Linux flies high with Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is adding bigger screens, more in-flight movies and a PC in every seat on its newest planes.


Singapore Airlines is adding bigger screens, more in-flight movies and a PC in every seat on its newest planes.

The airline is rolling out a new version of its KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system that significantly improves on its current fair of on-demand movies, television shows, games and music to passengers.

The system, which runs on Red Hat Linux operating system, was jointly developed by Panasonic Avionics and the airline. It consists of a central server that connects to a network of PCs installed in every seat on the aircraft.

The heart of the KrisWorld system is the main server, which is equipped with "terabytes" of storage capacity to hold the content that's made available to passengers, Eric Tong, senior manager of in-flight entertainment product innovation at Singapore Airlines, said. When passengers choose to watch a movie or listen to a CD, the content is streamed from the KrisWorld server to the seat's computer, which has 40G bytes of local hard-disk space.

Passengers can chose from 100 movies, 150 television shows, 700 music CDs, 22 radio stations, and 65 games, which will be refreshed monthly. In addition, the system offers Berlitz language lessons, travel guides from Rough Guides, and live text news, among other choices.

KrisWorld can also be used as a PC and includes Sun Microsystems's StarOffice application suite, which offers a word processor, spreadsheet, and a presentation program.

Every seat is fitted with a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port that lets passengers access documents carried on a USB drive or portable hard disk. The port can also be used to connect a USB keyboard or mouse, making it easier for business travellers to create and edit documents without having to dig out their laptops and power cords, Tong said.

The handsets installed in each seat that traditionally offered controls for the in-flight entertainment system on one side and a phone on the other, have been replaced with a model that offers user controls on one side and a QWERTY keypad on the other. If that does not suit, the cabin crew can sell you a full sized keyboard.

Unfortunately, since the demise of Boeing's Connexion service, Internet access hasn't been available on Singapore Airlines. But the carrier is looking for another way of providing Internet access, hoping to offer yet one more way to for passengers to spend all those hours in the sky.

"We are reviewing options and once we find that there are viable options, sustainable ones over the longer term ... we will certainly look at it," Tong said.

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