DVR box is dying, Woz's wisdom and other cool things learned at SNW

Wozniak says innovative projects, not tests, should determine a student's grade; the popular DVR follows your every move

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While the Flight Options IT shop consists only of 14 people, it is able do a lot of internal software development -- mostly custom apps that aim to make the lives of the pilots, crew and flight schedulers easier.

For example, aircraft crew are required to record a great deal of data about aircraft itinerary, passengers, mileage, fuel use and maintenance, which in the past amounted to three to seven sheets of paper that had to be filled out and faxed to the company's headquarters and then re-entered electronically into a database.

The paper-chase didn't just involve wasted time and long-distance telephone costs, but also led to the possibility that numbers might be transposed as they were hand-written, faxed and then re-entered electronically.

Dave and his developers created an electronic data entry system that eliminated one hour's worth of work for each of four flights per day per plane, for 50 to 100 planes (one-third of the fleet is always down for maintenance).

Dave would love to roll the electronic entry system out on the company's iPhones and iPads, but Apple won't release its mobile device manager code. "I have a team that could stand it up on its ear, and we can't get access to it," he said.

The Flight Options IT shop is now in the midst of rolling out iPads to employees, and Dave said he wants to develop a suite of user interfaces and applications that would let pilots and schedulers monitor trips "so don't have to fire up laptops. They want a more graphical interface for weather forecasts, flight charts and passenger info," he said.

What struck me as Dave talked to me across a white linen-clothed table in a small side room was how he chose the technologists who have come to work for him, many of whom have been there for eight or more years.

"They're attracted to the aviation industry," he said. "It's a bit of a romance industry, even if they're not flying or working on the aircraft. I can tell in the first 15 minutes of talking to someone if they're going to work out."

By the way, there are two IT job openings at Flight Options. Inquire within.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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