In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
How hackers could bring down Boeing’s new Dreamliner jet
It would usually be a fairly safe bet to assume new passenger planes would be protected from hacking attacks, however this may not be the case with Boeing’s new Dreamliner jet.
Experts have claimed a hidden “back door” in a computer chip used in the jets’ computer systems could be exploited by cyber-criminals in order to override and control the planes, the UK’s Guardian reported.
Researchers Sergei Skorobogatov of Cambridge University and Chris Woods of Quo Vadis Labs sent out a warning to governments around the world after reportedly discovering the hacking method.
“The great danger comes from the fact that such a back door undermines the high level of security in the chip making it exposed to various attacks,” they noted in a document cited by the Guardian.
“An attacker can disable all the security on the chip, reprogram cryptographic and access keys… or permanently damage the device.”
Woods claims the “back door” is inserted into a device for extra functionality, offering a secret way to get into the chip and control it without needing an encrypted channel.
The chips are used in areas such as communications and consumer products as well as the military, medical and automotive industries.
The Dreamliner made its maiden Australian flight on the weekend, flying from Sydney to Brisbane as part of its global tour.
Google+ Local combines searches and Zagat reviews for new online venture
Google’s latest launch uses Zagat data to refine searches, posing a threat to online review organizations everywhere.
After using its online prowess to build its own social network, it looks like Google is once again putting its own spin on already-successful online ventures. Google+ Local, an online review feature that made its debut Wednesday, appears to be the search giant’s in-house version of popular online review sites.
Like online review website Yelp, for which Google put up a reported $550m in an unsuccessful bid in 2009, Google+ Local users post reviews and photos which are made available to everyone on the web.
Unlike Yelp, Google+ Local uses old-guard expertise to augment its searches. Currently, about 35,000 place reviews feature a brief paragraph by the review and ratings service Zagat, featured prominently just before user comments.
Google bought Zagat in September for $125m, and its integration means that all of its subscription-only information is now available to everyone registered for Google+ Local.
In a September statement regarding the acquisition of Zagat, Google said: “Their surveys may be one of the earliest forms of UGC [user-generated content] – gathering restaurant recommendations from friends, computing and distributing ratings before the internet as we know it today even existed.”
Zagat has been around since 1979 and collects community reviews, which it coalesces into a concise summary. “We’re the first people to do user-generated content, and we have a consistent reputation for doing quality content,” Zagat co-founder and publisher Tim Zagat told the Guardian.
Shortly after Google acquired Zagat, it appeared before the Senate judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights to address whether it was using its search strength to unfairly promote its own entities like YouTube, Google Books and Google Travel.
In his testimony, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said he was “not aware of any unnecessary or strange boosts or biases” in search results.
Google continues to be criticized by groups like Consumer Watchdog, which believe its search dominance thwarts competition. “Google has been expanding its empire in every direction possible and often while using unfair practices,” Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director John M Simpson told the Guardian.
Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: half a million Britons to join celebrations in London
More than half a million Britons are expected to visit London over the weekend to take part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Association of Train Operating Companies said around 500,000 people would be travelling to London by rail, while a further 30,000 are due to travel with coach operator National Express.
Many rail companies will be providing additional trains and carriages to cope with the increased demand, while the majority of engineering work has been put on hold.
One route that will be affected is the Stansted Express service between the Essex airport and Liverpool Street station.
National Express said its busiest departure points for trips to the capital would be Bristol, Birmingham and Bournemouth.
Hundreds of thousands more will visit the capital from overseas – Heathrow alone is expecting to handle 780,000 overseas travellers between today and next Tuesday.
The west London airport is laying out red carpets in its arrivals halls and handing out Union flags to passengers.
Eurostar has also reported a 30 per cent rise in bookings over the weekend, with up to 30,000 passengers a day travelling between Britain and the Continent.
Not all Britons will be staying in the country to celebrate the Jubilee, however. Around two million are expected to head abroad during the coming days, with 115,000 due to fly from Heathrow on Friday. The most popular destinations for departing travellers are Dubai, Amsterdam, Chicago, New York and Dublin, according to the Association of British Travel Agents.
Meanwhile, Transport for London has warned motorists to avoid central London throughout the weekend, while a number of bus routes will be diverted due to road closures.
Berlin red light district turns into art hub
A shabby area of Berlin best known for its curb-crawling prostitutes and drug dealers is recovering some of the Bohemian allure of its glory days in the 1920s as low rents and its central location lure art galleries.
Art lovers are surprised to discover such a wealth of galleries on and around Potsdamer Strasse, a long artery stretching southwest from the revamped and now-glitzy Potsdamer Platz to the traditional gay stronghold of Schoeneberg.
The galleries, numbering nearly two dozen, are often tucked away in quiet courtyards or hidden in grand 19th century buildings.
“This creates the kind of intimacy art lovers appreciate. Visitors feel exclusive as if they were discovering secret places” said Sassa Truelzsch, whose eponymous gallery off Potsdamer Strasse focuses on contemporary art installations.
“I was the first one to move here (in 2006) and I felt as though I was the only gallery owner in Berlin. Visitors arrived by chance, surprised to find an art gallery in such a context while today we count almost 30 visitors daily,” she said.
Also helping to draw in both new galleries and visitors is the area’s proximity to such architectural jewels as Mies van der Rohe’s glass-and-steel New National Gallery and Hans Scharoun’s tentlike Philharmonic concert hall.
The process is typical of Berlin’s dynamism and capacity for reinvention, said Juerg Judin, a partner of the Nolan Judin gallery on Potsdamer Strasse which also has a base in New York.
“Berlin represents a unique case in the art world… The city constantly rediscovers its forgotten cheap areas, making them become in turn the main hub of the city’s art scene before disappearing again shortly after.”
During the Weimar Republic, when Berlin was a byword for Bohemian revelry and sophistication, the arts flourished in a neighbourhood where screen idol Marlene Dietrich had grown up and which was also home at different times to filmmaker Billy Wilder and to British author Christopher Isherwood, whose novel “Goodbye to Berlin” inspired the musical “Cabaret”.
On a darker note, the area is also home to the Sportpalast (Sport Palace), often used for political rallies in the Nazi era. Joseph Goebbels made his notorious call here in 1943 for ‘total war’ as the tide of World War Two turned against Germany.
Badly damaged by allied bombs, Potsdamer Strasse suffered a further blow with the postwar partition of the city and the erection in 1961 of the Berlin Wall nearby.
David Bowie and Iggy Pop provided some light relief in the 1970s but the area mostly struggled to forge a positive new identity. After the fall of the Wall in 1991 much of the artistic talent headed to the cheap, newly trendy former communist east.
Now, with the old East Berlin a victim of its own success and no longer a cheap option, the pendulum is swinging back.