Posts Tagged ‘tegel’

The Tegel Comeback

I’m writing this at Berlin’s Tegel airport, waiting for my flight home to Heathrow. Only I shouldn’t be here. I should be in the new, gleaming Brandenburg International airport on the other side of Berlin. Only I’m not, because the 2nd. of June closure date for Tegel has come and gone and Brandenburg still isn’t finished or open. This isn’t the first time Tegel’s doom has been postponed, the airport was originally slated to close in November 2011, only it didn’t because Brandenburg wasn’t finished or open. Currently Tegel is slated to close sometime in March 2013, whether that comes to pass or not is a matter of speculation.

There’s a lot to like about Tegel; it’s small and efficient, each gate has a security and passport control section and you can get from plane to taxi in under a minute on a good day; try doing that at Heathrow.

As Hans Krause, an associate of David Chipperfield Architects in Berlin puts it …

It’s a unique concept that avoids so much of what irritates people about other airports. It has a clear structure, extremely short walking distances and makes great use of daylight. As a concept, it works incredibly well.

Amen to that sentiment and, coincidentally, the postponement of Tegel’s closure has caused Amen, one of Berlin’s many tech startups, to feature the airport in one of their ad campaigns, calling it the best comeback this year.

I also managed to get a very Tegel specific souvenir on this trip, from April’s Pro Race TXL, a speed walking relay race, with suitcases, around the airport. I kid you not. This is Berlin after all, where quirkiness is almost mandatory. In a nice twist on the I Heart style of tee-shirt, this is an I Hex TXL tee-shirt.

Which makes sense if you’ve ever been to Tegel and if you haven’t, a satellite view of the terminal will explain the hexagonal connection.

So whilst Tegel’s demise has merely been postponed, it’s good that the airport still lives and breathes, for now at least and as I wait for my flight home I can almost believe Pro Race TXL’s hyperbole laden pronouncement that it’s

astonishingly efficient and a structure of geometric beauty, Flughafen Tegel is known among Berliners and international travelers as the greatest airport of all time, space and dimension

Amen to that too.

Written and posted from Berlin Tegel Airport (52.5545447, 13.2899969)

At The Airport, Not All QR Codes Are Created Equal

Another day, another flight, another addition to the ever growing and increasingly arcane number of steps that you need to go through in order to get through an airport and actually take off on a plane. I’ve written before on the world of airport security, be it having your bags X-Rayed or searched and on engaging flight-safe mode on your mobile phone/tablet/e-book reader/laptop.

Last week, flying from London Heathrow to Berlin’s Tegel airport I found a new addition to the increasingly detached-from-reality world of airline security … the electronic boarding pass. In principle, the electronic boarding pass is a great idea. First introduced in 1999 by Alaska Airways, checking into your flight online and putting a QR code on a graphic of your boarding pass cuts down queueing and waiting at the airport. Some airlines either send you the boarding pass as an SMS message, as an email attachment or as a time limited web URL. Some airlines provide an app on your phone; British Airways falls into this category and their app covers Windows Phone 7, iOS, Android and Blackberry.

With this in mind, consider the following electronic boarding pass, taken from last week’s flight.

Berlin Boarding Pass - Original

This boarding pass gets checked three times between the time I arrive at the airport and the time my posterior makes contact with seat 11C. The first time is at security when the QR code gets scanned; if the QR code is valid, I’m granted access to the airside part of the terminal at Heathrow, but my passport isn’t checked so as long as the QR code says it’s valid, I’m through. The second time is at the gate. Again, the QR code is scanned and this time it’s cross checked with my passport; so not only is the boarding pass valid, but I can prove that the name on my passport and the name on the boarding pass matches. The third and final time, is when I actually board the plane and the cabin crew visually check that the boarding pass is actually for that flight.

Now consider this version of the boarding pass. The QR code is able to be scanned and it contains exactly the same information as the previous one. It will get me through the first two boarding pass checks but apparently it won’t allow me onto the aircraft. Why? When boarding last week’s flight the member of the cabin crew who checked my boarding pass told me she needed to “scroll your phone” and “check that your boarding pass isn’t a photo“. the underlying assertion here being that if I wasn’t using a boarding pass on BA’s own mobile app, I couldn’t board the flight.

Berlin Boarding Pass - Copy

If your eyes are crossing from concentration at this point, you’re not alone. I still haven’t been able to comprehend what the difference is between a valid QR code, which is itself a graphic image, in BA’s mobile app and a screen shot of the QR code, which is, err, a graphic image. I have an even harder time comprehending how this makes the theatre of airline security any safer for me or for my fellow passengers.

Written and posted from Theresa Avenue, Campbell, California (37.2654, -121.9643)

Airport Security X-Ray Oddness

Since I started my role at Nokia in Berlin in May of last year I’ve swapped the daily commute from home to work by train to a weekly commute by plane. This means I have to pass through airport security at London’s Heathrow and Berlin’s Tegel airports around twice a week. I tend to travel as light as I can, with a hand baggage sized suitcase so I can get off the plane and out of the airport as quickly as I possibly can, something Tegel airport excels at.

Taking the law of averages into account, I should be subject to random additional security searches and although the law of averages is generally considered a fallacy, about once a month my hand baggage gets that extra special level of attention. But it always seems to be for the same thing.

These Are Identical ... To Airport Security

The security staff at Tegel are terribly polite and ask me in the nicest way possible whether I wouldn’t mind if they took a look in my suitcase (of course, although it’s phrased in a way that appears I have a choice in the matter, I really don’t). Whereas the staff at Heathrow are a lot more brusque, with the conversation much more along the lines of “open your suitcase please Sir“.

At Tegel, the security staff at least tell me what they think we’re looking for … “do you have a can of drink in your suitcase?” … something I don’t try to carry onto a plane as it’s not permitted under the current “100 ml of liquids and gels in a clear plastic ziplock bag” rule. At Heathrow, they merely frown and poke around in my luggage.

So at both airports, the X-Ray machine seems to show a can of drink in my suitcase. But why? Each time this has happened the root cause is the same; a small, rectangular plastic box which holds my spare business cards, which when found in my suitcase elicits a confused frown, a brief inspection and muttered apologies and I’m sent on my way, sometimes with a “have a good flight” (Tegel) or a curt “thank you” (Heathrow).

I wish I could understand why a small, rectangular object should be mistaken for a significantly larger, cylindrical object under airport security X-Ray, but I can’t. Oddly enough, this never seems to happen with airport security in the US; maybe they have different X-Ray machines.

Photo Credits: Vicchi on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Schönhauser Allee, Berlin (52.5308072, 13.4108176)

Cartographically Speaking; Data (Lots), Maps (Not So Much), Problems (Many)

In September I’ll be at the 46th. Annual Society of Cartographers Summer School at the University of Manchester where I’m lucky enough to have been asked to give a talk on geographic data. This topic should come as no surprise to anyone who’s come across one of my blog posts.

I’ll be talking about Welcome To The World Of The Geo Data Silo; Where Closed Data Is Open And Open Data Is Closed; the talk abstract is now up on the SoC web site and it’s reproduced below.

We’ve been mapping the world around us for centuries, even before the Mappa Mundi first appeared in Hereford Cathedral. But now, as location becomes ubiquitous (if you have a smartphone and you’re not in an urban canyon), as the major and minor players coalesce into the nebulous thing we call the “geo industry” and as there’s sources of geographic data everywhere, suddenly the map isn’t the important thing anymore. Now, it’s all about the data.

At this year’s Where 2.0 in the heart of Silicon Valley, a veritable geo-fest if ever there was one, the map was strangely absent. Instead we have data, lots of data.

data slide

Some of it commercial and authoritative (Navteq and Teleatlas), some of it niche and authoritative (Urban Mapping), some of it country specific and authoritative (Britain’s Ordnance Survey) and some of it crowd sourced and growing aggressively (OpenStreetMap). But there’s also data from unlikely allies, from geo-tagged photos (Flickr), from location based social networking services (FourSquare and Gowalla) and from forward thinking experimental authorities (Vancouver’s Open Data Catalogue).

Data, data everywhere. Some physical, some spatial, some subjective, some colloquial. But all of it locked in its own private little data silo. There’s much irony here as well, as previously proprietary data becomes unlocked and open (Ordnance Survey) and open, crowd sourced data become locked behind a well meaning but restrictive license.

You could call this Geo-Babel and we’re in the midst of it right now. How can we recognise this and, more importantly, how can we as part of the geo industry dig ourselves out of this hole?

… now I just need to write the talk and the accompanying slide deck in time.

Photo Credits: bionicteaching on Flickr
Written and posted from Berlin Tegel Airport (52.5545447, 13.2899969)

Berlin’s Tegel Airport; From Plane To Taxi In Under A Minute

According to that fount of online knowledge Wikipedia, an airportis a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps takeoff and land“. You don’t see that many blimps around these days but it seems simple enough. Airport. A contraction of the words aircraft and port. But not all airports are created equal. Take Heathrow for example, which, under the ownership of BAA is now less an airport and more a rambling shopping mall, spread over 5 terminal buildings, where hapless passengers (note to UK railway companies, we’re passengers not customers) are crammed into a small space in order to extract the maximum amount of cash out of them in overpriced shops, bars and restaurants and where the act of getting on and off a plane seems to be tacked on as an afterthought.

Even with travellators between the gates and the fun and games of immigration and baggage reclaim it can take anything up to half an hour from the moment you get off a plane to the time you emerge blinking into the outside world.

What a refreshing change it is then to use (the soon to be closed and replaced with Brandenburg International Airport) Berlin’s Flughäfen Tegel, where checking in takes minutes and where the duration from plane to taxi rank can be measured in seconds not minutes. Sounds hard to believe but yesterday while waiting to disembark from a flight from Heathrow I idly set the stopwatch on my iPhone and started the timer running the moment I stepped off the plane. I then stopped it the moment my backside met the seat of a taxi outside the terminal building. Total elapsed time from plane to taxi … 52 seconds.

Berlin Tegel Airport. From Plane to Taxi In Less Than A Minute.

Fifty two seconds. Count them. 52. Fifty two. Less than a minute. Lovely and plush and modern as Brandenburg airport will be when it finally opens, allegedly in 2012, it won’t be a patch on Tegel.

Written at the Radisson Blu hotel, Berlin (52.519648, 13.40258) and posted from Berlin Tegel Airport (52.5545447, 13.2899969)

iPass Connect on the Mac; great service, appallingly designed app

I find myself travelling a lot for work these days and that means a roaming service for wifi hotspots and hotel internet connections really makes life simpler. I could maintain subscriptions to The Cloud, T-Mobile Hotspots, BT OpenZone and so on and so on, but fortunately Yahoo! provides me with an iPass subscription.

iPass is great; it allows me to connect to pretty much every hotspot and hotel internet service there is. I’ve been using it for over 4 years now and can only think of a single time when I haven’t been able to get a connection. I’m using it right now, sitting in the departures lounge at Berlin’s Tegel airport waiting for my flight back to London.
So far, so great, but the current, Snow Leopard supporting, version of the iPassConnect app, v3.1, seems to have been designed by someone with scant regard for anything approaching consistency and usability. Let me count the ways in which this app frustrates.
1. Quit iPassConnect? I see no Quit menu option.
From the Mac OS X GUI you can’t stop iPass running. The app lives in your menu bar and scans and rescans for wireless networks (which I’m sure reduces battery life) even when it’s connected to a wireless network. If I’m connected to a wireless network why would I want to look for another network, all the time, constantly? There’s a red and white animation going on in the menu bar which I’m sure someone thought was cute but which is incredibly distracting. But let’s overlook that for a moment. To quit an app, you simply select the menu bar and select Quit or press Cmd-Q.
Not that I’ve ever been able to find the mythical Quit command for iPassConnect. The only way to kill the damn thing is from within Activity Monitor or by the killall command from the shell within Terminal.
Simple resolution: Let the user choose when they want to run your app and when they don’t. Add a Quit command.
2. Install as a Login Item? Every single time?
It’s a simple, plain fact that the more apps you have in your account’s Login Items, the slower your login time will be. Like most people, I keep the number of Login Items down to a bare minimum and then start apps up as I need them. If I don’t use something all day, every day, it’s very unlikely that I want to make it a Login Item. Most apps are well behaved and ask your permission before inserting themselves as a Login Item but not iPassConnect. Run the app and hey presto you get a Login Item. Mildly annoying but at least you can remove it from your list of Login Items. Run the app again though and hey presto you get a Login Item. Each and every single time. It’s frustrating the first time it happens and induces psychosis after the hundredth such occurrence.
This is uncontrollable, un-configurable, totally unacceptable and verging on downright insulting. It’s an app designer’s way of saying to the user “I don’t care what your preferences are, I know better than you”.
Simple resolution: Act in a well behaved manner, ask the user for their preference, act on it and remember it.
3. Update? What update?
Most apps these days have a way of calling home and checking for an update. For those apps that run within a window there’s usually an Updates option in the application’s menu. For those apps that don’t run in a window there’s usually an option in their preferences pane. Note the word usually and let’s have a look at the iPassConnect preference pane.
There’s an Updates tab which is a good start. There’s an Enable automatic updates option which is also a good thing. But it only controls the hotspot dictionary that the app maintains. Want to update the app or know whether there’s an update available? Not with this app (and the iPass website is remarkably update free as well).
Simple resolution: Add an update option and ask the user if they want to check for updates.
4. Snow Leopard support. In 32-bits.
Snow Leopard continues Apple’s march towards a pure 64-bit operating system. A cursory glance at Activity Monitor shows that most apps running are Intel (64-bit) and this includes the System Preferences app. So let’s try to set some preferences for iPassConnect.
Ah yes, the iPassConnect preferences pane is 32-bit which means that you have to restart System Preferences in 32-bit mode and there it stays, running in 32-bit mode, until you manually restart System Preferences in the default 64-bit mode.
Simple resolution: If you say your app has Snow Leopard support then fully support Snow Leopard. That means 64-bitness across the board.
iPass is a great service, it deserves a great app; version 3.1 is not that app.
Written and posted from Berlin Tegel Airport (52.5545447, 13.2899969)

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous