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Travel Tech News, Sep 2019: The Follow the Arrows Edition

By Dave Dean NewsNo Comments

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VR headsets are starting to show up on flights, but don’t try taking certain models of Macbook Pro onboard. Google Maps adds augmented reality (and a really big arrow) for pedestrians, while now even your DSLR is at risk of a ransomware attack.

It’s a mixed bag of Travel Tech News this month!

Forget the TV Screen, Your Next Flight Might Have a VR Headset

We talked about the potential of virtual reality on planes late last year, and are now starting to see it show up. Alaska Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa, and Qantas have all trialed VR in some form or other, and now British Airways is getting in on the act.

For the rest of the year, if you’re flying BA first-class between Heathrow and JFK, you’ll be offered a VR headset with “a selection of award-winning films, documentaries and travel programmes in 2D, 3D or 360° formats.

More interestingly for anxious flyers, the airline is also including therapeutic programs like guided meditation and sound therapy. This is an area we see having real potential in the future, especially when headsets start being offered at the back of the plane where most of us sit.

Certain Models of Macbook Pro Banned from Planes

Macbook showing code on plane

Back in June, Apple announced a recall for certain models of 15″ Macbook Pro due to overheating batteries. Sold mostly between September 2015 and February 2017, the affected models are eligible for a free battery replacement. You can enter your serial number here to see if you’re affected.

If you’ve got one of the defective models and were planning to take it on a flight, you’ll want to get that replacement sorted sooner rather than later. As of last month, the US and EU airline regulators officially banned these models from being taken on board, either as carry-on or checked luggage.

Obviously there are a few issues with enforcing this ban. We can’t imagine gate agents and security staff distinguishing between an affected model (that may or may not have been repaired), and a visually-identical model without the problem.

If you send your Macbook Pro in for repair under this program, be sure to keep your receipt and other Apple documentation showing the battery has been replaced. You may well need to show it at check-in or security.

Not Sure Where to Go? Follow the Enormous Arrow

Google Maps Live View

While following Google Maps’ walking directions isn’t exactly difficult, there are still times it can be a bit tricky — like when you emerge from a subway and don’t know which way to start walking, or your GPS signal is weak thanks to tall buildings all around you.

A new beta “Live View” feature in the iOS and Android app aims to help with that. Available on devices that support ARCore and ARKit, it uses your phone camera to provide an augmented-reality view of the world around you.

After choosing walking directions and hitting the “Live View” button, you’ll be prompted to aim your phone at buildings and signs on the other side of the road. This lets the app figure out exactly where you are, and which way you’re facing.

Once that’s done, you’ll get a split screen with the usual map on the bottom, and a live view on top. A big arrow points you in the direction you need to walk. Rotate your body in the direction of the arrow, and you’ll be shown the next street name to look for.

It’s a beta feature, so expect it to improve and change over time. Even now, though, it seems to work pretty well. I’ve tested it out on a few walks around the city, and it was basically impossible to get lost with that enormous arrow pointing the way.

Canon DSLRs Are Vulnerable to a Ransomware Attack. No, Seriously.

Holding Canon camera

Ransomware has become big business for criminals of late. In this type of attack, all of the data on your computer hard drive gets encrypted, and you need to pay a “ransom” for the attacker to give you the decryption key.

Researchers at a security firm recently proved that it’s not just laptop owners who need to be worried about ransomware. If you own a particular model of Canon DSLR camera, guess what? It’s a problem for you as well.

The problem lies in the implementation of the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) that lets you copy photos between devices. Because PTP is unauthenticated and works over USB or Wi-Fi, it’s a very effective way of distributing malware.

The researchers tested on a Canon EOS 80D, and gave the example of someone setting up a Wi-Fi access point and an infected device at a popular tourist destination, and just waiting for people to connect their cameras to it.

The proof-of-concept attack installed malware on the camera, then promptly encrypted all the photos on its SD card. Canon has released a patch, along with a recommendation to turn off network functions when you’re not using them and avoid connecting the camera to public Wi-Fi.

Other Canon models may be affected, and it’s not impossible that other vendors could have similar problems with the PTP protocol.

While the real-world risk of this attack is very low, it’s a good reminder of how our devices are becoming increasingly complex. Because of that, they’re at greater risk of attack. Just because something doesn’t look like a computer doesn’t mean it isn’t!

Images via Nick Fewings (big arrow), Nick Morrish/British Airways (VR headset on plane), Marten Bjork (Macbook on plane), JESHOOTS-com (Canon camera)

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

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