Yet Another Computer Glitch Cripples Air Travel

from the too-long-without-one-of-those dept

It was an all too familiar scene at Los Angeles International Airport this weekend, as a computer glitch temporarily left 20,000 passengers stranded. This summer has seen a bevy of glitches and delays, as the civil aviation infrastructure gets stretched to the breaking point. This time, the failure was not on the part of the airlines, but on the US Customs service, which prevented passengers from properly getting screened. Obviously, glitches are going to happen now and then, and so it's not a realistic solution to simply eliminate them. But seeing as every minor ripple ends up creating such a calamity, costing millions in lost time and profits, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing systems that fail gracefully.


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  1.  
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    Poomer, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 12:08pm

    I always wonder

    Is it truely possible to measure "the millions in lost time"?

     

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  2.  
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    Trevlac, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 12:28pm

    Sure. You take measurements of the average profit made over 1 hour for several months (to get a nice balanced number). Average them and multiply that one hour's profit by the number of hours lost. There's your lost profit.

     

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  3.  
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    Beck, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 12:29pm

    Cyber Terrorism

    Maybe the terrorists hacked the system and crashed it, hoping that customs would just let everyone enter the country instead of making thousands wait for many long hours.

     

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  4.  
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    freak3dot, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 1:09pm

    "Maybe the terrorists hacked the system and crashed it, hoping that customs would just let everyone enter the country instead of making thousands wait for many long hours."

    Are the terrorists that smart? That's probably giving people who strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves up to kill a few civilians too much credit...

    freak3dot

     

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  5.  
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    Vincent Clement, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    "That system allows our officers to make decisions on who we can allow to enter the US"

    Why even have officers? Let the computer make the decision. Don't pass muster? The floor opens you up and fall down a tube to a room for a more rigorous interview ;)

    "Homeland Security officials blamed the malfunction on the fibre optic cables that support the system used to process international passengers"

    That would be a hardware glitch. So who severed the cables by 'accident'? Don't these people know anything about backup systems and redundancy? Maybe we should let Google handle the hardware side.

     

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  6.  
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    illegalprelude, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 1:46pm

    the thing is, that it wasnt just a minor glitch in terms of, many people were delayed for 4-7 hours. Some on the runway, some not. That is imho just an outrage for their computer systems to go down in such a manor and finally begin to work with only 2 laptops.

    Can anybody say next week "missing laptops, personal information of thousands leaked"

     

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  7.  
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    Michael Sewell, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 2:24pm

    Re:

    "Are the terrorists that smart? That's probably giving people who strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves up to kill a few civilians too much credit..."

    freak3dot even though they do have suicide bombers, many of the higher ups have at least a Masters in some computer related field so saying that is giving them a little to much credit is grossly underestimating them.

    They just don't do it because it would be too easy to trace with all the security in place.

     

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  8.  
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    Witty Nickname, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 2:48pm

    24

    Don't any of you watch 24? If Terrorosits lack skills they just break into CTU and kidnap the world's foremost computer people.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 5:11pm

    The more sophisticated the infrastructure, the more fragile it is.

    You can't have redundancy for every system - garbage collection, for instance. Imagine a week in NY City without garbage collection.

     

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  10.  
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    Vincent Clement, Aug 15th, 2007 @ 6:09am

    Re:

    But you can have redundancy for a computer system.

    Also, you have the ultimate redundancy in the Customs officers themselves. They could have processed people the 'old-fashioned' way: by asking questions, looking at ID and looking through suitcases etc. But hey, Customs has become a slave to the machines.

     

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  11.  
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    SailorRipley, Aug 15th, 2007 @ 6:50am

    Re: Cyber Terrorism

    yeah, that really sounds like a smart plan

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    SailorRipley, Aug 15th, 2007 @ 6:52am

    Re:

    yes...

    the grunts might not be (just like in any good army), but the upper levels are, often educated in the best western schools/universities.

    But, to think of that (particular hacking plan and the desired result of customs just letting everyone in as a result) as smart/intelligent, now that is stupid...

     

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