This month’s Internet and tech column explains how the role of cookies is changing and the headaches they are giving the publishing sector. There’s an update on the rollout of Windows Copilot a roundup of the latest moonshot news, and Alan gets a surprise spin in a Honda e:Ny1 BEV.
Some 40 or 50 years ago, the pages of Practical Electronics and Everyday Electronics were crammed with adverts for mail-order suppliers, and a few towns and cities often had a component or surplus shop tucked away that offered an invaluable postal service for hobbyists. Fortunately, component shops still exist and ESR Electronic Components (www.esr.co.uk), JPG Electronics near Sheffield (www.jpgelectronics.com) and London-based Cricklewood Electronics (www.cricklewoodelectronics.com), to name three, continue to offer a bricks-and-mortar store along with online ordering, backed up by traditional levels of personal customer service. Having a choice is a good thing, and hard-working independent stores like these deserve continued support.
Not every business felt the need to embrace the Internet, though, and I recall visiting the renowned J Birkett electronic component shop at the bottom of Steep Hill in Lincoln, a shop that was once a regular advertiser. The late John Birkett was content with word of mouth, which is often the best salesman. One radio enthusiast pays tribute at https://g5fz.co.uk/silent-key/john-birkett-1928-2022/ and you can stroll by the store on Google Street View at https://maps.app.goo.gl/75BvpfApDK83vXcf7.
Currently under development, the Privacy Sandbox is a Google initiative designed for Google’s Chrome web browser and Android that aims to make third-party cookies redundant in favour of more advanced techniques that will “reveal [a web site user’s] patterns of behaviour”, as they unashamedly admit. “The Privacy Sandbox [initiative] reduces cross-site and cross-app tracking while helping to keep online content and services free for all”, according to the campaign website https://privacysandbox.com/.
When surfing around, readers will increasingly see mention of ‘first party’ and ‘third party’ cookies, as my screenshot (above) from the Tefal UK website highlights: commendably, it’s one of the most user-friendly popups I’ve seen recently.
I explain this month the implications of blocking third party cookies and why web visitors will be seeing more of first-party cookies instead.
I mentioned in the August 2023 issue that Microsoft was replacing Cortana with Copilot, an altogether more user-friendly AI-powered chatbot that is set to change the way users and Microsoft Windows interact with each other. This month’s magazine column explains how to get the best out of Copilot in the Edge web browser, including a keystroke combination of CTRL + SHIFT + . (full stop) which opens up or toggles Copilot with Bing, where you can type in human-recognisable search expressions and Bing will respond with an uncanny chat style.
^^ The Menu key found on Windows keyboards is set to be replaced with a Copilot launcher in future versions.
It’s also understood that forthcoming Windows keyboards will incorporate a Copilot key in place of the Menu key (to the right of the space bar), a key that in all honesty I have never used in 30 years of computer ownership.
Advanced PC users can remap a spare keyboard button by using Keyboard Manager in the excellent Microsoft Windows PowerToys from the Microsoft Store. PowerToys has myriad handy tools and settings (including a useful cursor finder tool and more) to customise your Windows desktop. The legacy Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC) tool is another way of re-purposing under-used keys or re-assigning keyboard layouts or languages (Windows 2000 to Windows 10). A free download of MSKLC is still available from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=102134.
^^ Crumpled insulation pictured by an onboard camera on the Peregrine lander suggests a propulsion system failure. (Image: Astrobotic)
^^ Artist’s impression of the Peregrine moon lander
I was hoping to bring news of the first successful launch of a moonshot from Cape Canaveral since NASA’s Apollo 17 departed back in 1972. Astrobotic is a private US aerospace company that has developed two lunar landers so far, starting with the ‘Peregrine’ which it describes as a “small-class lander that precisely and safely delivers payloads to lunar orbit and the lunar surface.
Unfortunately the first lunar mission, a Peregrine lander carried by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket (itself a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, embarking on its own inaugural flight), failed to reach orbit. At the time of writing, because solar power could not be brought online, the rest of the aborted mission is likely to be dedicated to gathering as much data as possible before power is lost altogether.
There were high hopes of success and the payload included a lunar rover, Earthly mementoes and artefacts from various institutions – a full list of the manifest is at https://www.astrobotic.com/lunar-delivery/manifest/. The mission failure is obviously a sad and disappointing setback, but the next mission will use a larger ‘Griffin’ lander with five times the capacity, intended to carry a NASA lunar rover to the Moon’s South Pole. Space fans might enjoy the background YouTube video at https://youtu.be/wXzxKScQLjw and there’s a complete User Guide to the Astrobotic lunar lander at https://www.astrobotic.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/PUGLanders_011222.pdf, in case you ever want to send something to the Moon yourself.
NASA’s own moonshot plans revolve around Artemis (the Greek mythological twin sister of Apollo), as the Artemis program aims to land the first woman astronaut on the moon. An Orion uncrewed capsule, carried into orbit by the new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lifter, had its first successful test flight around the moon and splashdown at the end of 2022 (a 25 minute onboard video of Orion’s re-entry is at https://images.nasa.gov/details/art001m1203451716.) The next mission, Artemis II, will be a fully-crewed lunar fly-by, but development delays have seen this postponed to no earlier than September 2025.
^^ A quick snap inside the Honda e:Ny1 battery electric vehicle, with large centre touchscreen controlling many functions.
I had a spin in a new £45,000 Honda e:Ny1 battery electric vehicle this month – I reveal my first impressions in this month’s column!
Two more Chinese brands of electric vehicle are set to enter the UK market by the end of this year. The Seres 3 will go head to head with MG while the Skywell ET-5 is a mid-size SUV. The Skywell website made me dizzy, but you can look at https://skywell-europe.com.
Full details of this and lots more are in this month’s Net Work column in Practical Electronics magazine.