Our Internet and technology column is optimistic about small satellite launching programmes in the UK despite recent setbacks, and we also rediscover the real historical roots of documentation and the Information Age.
^ Better luck next time: Virgin Orbit’s first launch from UK soil was unsuccessful after the rocket’s second stage motor failed.
This month’s Net Work column reminds us of the technical challenges faced by the micro-satellite launching programme, starting with Virgin Orbit’s failed launch of a crop of small satellites from Spaceport Cornwall in south-west England (see Feb. 2023 issue). They have previously successfully launched four missions in the USA so hopefully the next mission will succeed in restoring credibility in the Virgin Orbit launch programme.
More competition gunning for the UK’s emerging small satellite launching business includes Skyrora, who are planning to produce an intriguing range of small launch vehicles and space tugs, with more news available on http://www.skyrora.com
^ Space Hub Sutherland: Orbex Prime on the launch platform at the Orbex test site.
New satellite launching developments to look forward to include Space Hub Sutherland, located on the northernmost tip of Scotland. The site is being leased in its entirety for 50 years by Orbex, a UK-based small satellite start-up with design and production facilities based in Denmark. The Orbex Prime launcher, first revealed last May, will have unique 3D-printed engines after the firm commissioned Europe’s largest Additive-Manufacturing (AM) metal printing machine.
^ The Orbex engine will use 3D parts printed on Europe’s largest custom-made Additive-Manufacturing (AM) metal printing machine.
Orbex is supported by the Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) agency who write more about the project at https://www.hie.co.uk/our-region/regional-projects/space-hub-sutherland/, and readers can track developments at https://orbex.space.
Today’s Internet is seen as an essential utility, I write, and at least two generations of users have never known life without the web. The smart home relies on network and cloud connectivity, and controlling a ‘smart’ bulb or mains socket or two – such as TP-Link’s Tapo range described in recent columns – is second nature for a generation that has grown up with the web.
There is a project to restore the world’s first web address – info.cern.ch – at https://first-website.web.cern.ch/first-website and the first ever web pages can still be seen at http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html. The topic of Internet etiquette or ‘netiquette’, a subject that has vanished from today’s online vocabulary, was also thought about and early guidelines were signed off by Tim Berners-Lee himself, see http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/Provider/Etiquette.html.
Building a web presence soon became a must-have for industry, commerce and education, sectors that recognised the need to put their information online and generally interact better with web visitors. One example is Intel’s earliest spidered web page from 1996, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/19961022175209/http://www3.intel.com/. An Intel page from 1999 has another animated .gif and can be found at https://web.archive.org/web/19991013140543/http://intel.com/. Early on, the Internet’s low capacity bandwidth meant that static web pages were fit only for carrying text, raster images or lightweight cartoon-style ‘Flash’ animations. Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash was powerful but ultimately insecure and is now long obsolete (as detailed at https://www.kaspersky.co.uk/blog/life-and-death-of-adobe-flash/25109/).
^ Paul Otlet (1868-1944) co-founded with Henri La Fontaine the International Institute of Bibliography, which later became known as the Mundaneum. (Image: Mundaneum.org)
According to the book Cataloging the World by Alex Wright, an ardent Belgian bibliographer named Paul Otlet (1868-1944) could be considered to be the forefather of documentation and the Information Age itself. The book explains how, in the first half of the 20th century, Paul Otlet foresaw a system of networked computers— or “electric telescopes”— that would allow people to search through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. His indexing system would “unite individuals and institutions of all stripes—from local bookstores and classrooms to universities and governments. He named it a réseau mondial or a ‘worldwide network’.” The name given to this early 20th Century ‘web’ was the Mundaneum.
Today the Mundaneum (visit http://www.mundaneum.org) is an exhibition and archive centre located in Mons, Belgium, and travel and visitor information will be found at https://tinyurl.com/3pp6dy4b.
Amongst other things the fascinating book describes the creation by Paul Otlet and Belgian politician, pacifist and lawyer Henri La Fointaine of the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). This library cataloguing system is still in wide use today (see https://udcc.org/).
Cataloguing the World by Alex Wright (2014, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-993141-5), is available through Amazon, see http://www.catalogingtheworld.com for more information.
This month I cited how I nearly fell for an email imposter scam myself! Banks are very keen to highlight the risks of such fraud and will always warn customers not to rush when making payments, but stop, think and check details very carefully first. The best source of advice is the UK finance sector’s Take Five website at https://www.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk and a comprehensive list of all types of fraud can be found on the UK’s Action Fraud website at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud.
Last December’s holiday season saw owners of electric vehicles discovering the limitations of the UK’s nascent EV charging network. In the worst cases, queues of 3+ hours were seen in some EV pinchpoints as owners of Teslas and other marques (see the video on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pbrdFnqSBI) were forced to wait patiently in line.
The cute-looking Ora Cat EV from China’s Great Wall Motor (GWM) that I introduced in January 2022’s column is finally heading onto British roads, and you can reserve your own Ora First Edition Cat at https://gwmora.co.uk.
One alternative to a Windows laptop is a Chromebook, which runs Google’s ChromeOS and needs cloud connectivity for storage. Chromebooks have an end-of-life expiry date, after which software support and updates will cease. Chromebooks are manufactured by some well-known PC brands (eg Asus, Acer, HP, Lenovo etc.) and you can check their Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date at https://support.google.com/chrome/a/answer/6220366?hl=en. More general guidance is published by Google at https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/9367166?hl=en
The number of Google apps and hardware products that have been shelved has now reached 281, according to the website https://killedbygoogle.com Latest victims to find their way to the Google Graveyard include Google Stadia, YouTube Originals and $200 Google OnHub wireless routers.
For full details and more besides, check out my Net Work column in this month’s Practical Electronics magazine.