Web

Now Boarding: JetBlue updates old planes with new seats, Air Force One gets upgrade

now boarding jetblue updates old planes with new seats air force one gets upgrade a320 2
From passport renewals and return of free snacks, to refreshed cabins and new paint jobs, here are the latest news from the world of aviation and travel.

State Department: renew your passport now

Those traveling internationally this year should renew their passports if they are expiring soon, even if it’s still valid for a few more months. According to the New York Times, the State Department “anticipates a surge in passport demand throughout this year, and officials hope to avoid a crush that could leave some Americans fuming in frustration with no passport in hand of the day they planned to travel outside the country.”

The department is hoping to avoid the deluge of applications it encountered in 2007, when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was implemented. It required passports from Americans returning to the U.S., by air, from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Millions found themselves needing a passport for the first time, which overwhelmed the department.

One reason why the State Department thinks there may be an influx of applications this year has to do with the Real ID Act that calls for stricter requirements from driver’s licenses and other identification cards. Five states have yet to comply, but the deadline isn’t until January 22, 2018. Still, residents in those states worried about the status of their IDs cards are rushing to get passports, the Times reports, “adding to congestion in the system.”

Another reason: Many countries are requiring passports with at least six months of validity before they can be accepted. The department says it has received calls from Americans because they have been denied entry, even though their passports haven’t expired yet.

JetBlue refreshes cabins of older planes

jetblue-new-a320-1

JetBlue is redesigning the cabins inside its older Airbus A320 planes, bringing them in-line with the newer, larger A321s. Some of the upgrades include power outlets and USB ports in every seat, as well as larger, high-definition touchscreens and high-speed Wi-Fi. The display is increased from 5.6 inches to 10.1, while the number of DirecTV live TV channels is up from 36 to more than 100. The Android-based system allows for custom apps and device pairing, and it’s capable of features like closed captioning and separate audio tracks. Unfortunately, there’s less leg room, too: To accommodate extra seats, JetBlue decreased the amount of seat pitch in some rows. The airline claims, however, that it still offers more legroom than most airlines.

Snacks are back

©Terry Halsey No third party use without written permission
United Airlines
United Airlines

As the result of events like the September 11 attacks, the 2008 economic downturn, and high fuel costs in recent years, we saw airlines cutting back on free amenities, while implementing fees for everything from baggage check to priority boarding. But United is bringing back one freebie for coach passengers: snacks. The move is part of an effort to improve customer service, United says, but it also demonstrates favorable economics airlines are enjoying – from lower fuel prices to profits from aforementioned fees – that allow them to reinvest into services. (Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue have never stopped handing out free snacks.) But don’t expect to see free bag checks and hot meals to return anytime soon. Update on February 1, 2016: American Airlines announced that snacks will also make a comeback in its coach cabins, as well as more free entertainment options.

Alaska gets a new look

alaska-airlines-redesign

Alaska Airlines’ planes are getting new paintjobs, while a new visual identity will be rolled out across the board. The new branding updates the font in the logo, and adds new colors to the exterior of the planes. One feature that hasn’t disappeared is the iconic Eskimo on airplane tails. While it’s the same as before, it looks more modern thanks to cleaner lines.

No surprise, president’s new plane is a 747

747-8I Delivery flight
Boeing
Boeing

The Pentagon announced that it has selected the 747-8 as the president’s next Air Force One. Like the president’s existing plane, a special version of the now-aging 747-200 (there are two of them in service), the 747-8 will be modified with equipment to safely transport the U.S. leader and anyone accompanying the president. The latest variant of Boeing’s “jumbo jet” has a lengthened upper deck and other improvements. But it’s not a surprise that the Pentagon would select the 747: For consideration, a plane must have four engines. The only other capable four-engine plane is made by France’s Airbus, and it is highly unlikely the Pentagon would pick a non-U.S. manufacturer. (Although the Air Force One moniker is usually associated with the 747, technically, any plane that carries the president receives that call sign.)

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Web

Shutdown makes dozens of .gov websites insecure due to expired TLS certificates

The US government shutdown is causing trouble in internet security. As the shutdown enters day 22, dozens of government websites have been rendered insecure or inaccessible due to expired transport layer security (TLS) certificates.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.
Business

Cathay Pacific messes up first-class ticket prices — again

A couple of weeks ago, an error on Cathay Pacific's website resulted in first-class seats selling for a tenth of the price. On Sunday, January 13, the airline made the error again. The good news is that it'll honor the bookings.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.
Computing

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.