The planned Robot Science Museum in Seoul will have a humdinger of a first exhibition: its own robotic construction. It’s very much a publicity stunt, though a fun one — but who knows? Perhaps robots putting buildings together won’t be so uncommon in the next few years, in which case Korea will just be an early adopter.
The idea for robotic construction comes from Melike Altinisik Architects, the Turkish firm that won a competition to design the museum. Their proposal took the form of an egg-like shape covered in panels that can be lifted into place by robotic arms.
“From design, manufacturing to construction and services robots will be in charge,” wrote the firm in the announcement that they had won the competition. Now, let’s be honest: this is obviously an exaggeration. The building has clearly been designed by the talented humans at MAA, albeit with a great deal of help from computers. But it has been designed with robots in mind, and they will be integral to its creation.The parts will all be designed digitally, and robots will “mold, assemble, weld and polish” the plates for the outside, according to World Architecture, after which of course they will also be put in place by robots. The base and surrounds will be produced by an immense 3D printer laying down concrete.
So while much of the project will unfortunately have to be done by people, it will certainly serve as a demonstration of those processes that can be accomplished by robots and computers.
Construction is set to begin in 2020, with the building opening its (likely human-installed) doors in 2022 as a branch of the Seoul Metropolitan Museum. Though my instincts tell me that this kind of unprecedented combination of processes is more likely than not to produce significant delays. Here’s hoping the robots cooperate.
Watch out, starwhales. There’s a new weapon for the interstellar dwellers whom you threaten with …
Neither a global pandemic nor a supply chain crunch can stop Apple, based on the company’s Q1 2022 earnings report. Released today, the report showed Apple smashing many of its sales records once again, with $123.9 billion in overall revenue and $34.6 billion in profit.
A lot of that money was driven by the iPhone 13, as this was the first full quarter since that product line’s launch. When we reviewed the iPhone 13 lineup, we wrote that it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with flashy new features, but it does give the people what they say they want: better cameras and more battery life.
Cameras and battery life seemed to resonate with buyers. iPhone revenue for the quarter was $71.63 billion, up 9 percent year-over-year. Also, Apple achieved a new record for smartphone market share in the critical China market: 23 percent. That made the company the top-selling smartphone brand in the country for the first time in years.
Apple’s services businesses (like Apple Music, Apple TV+, and iCloud) have been a major focus of expansion in recent years, and that expansion continues to pay off. Services revenue was up 24 percent to $19.52 billion during Q1. Apple reports that it has 785 million paying subscribers in total across all the services it offers. That’s 165 million more than last year.
Mac revenue grew 25 percent since last year to $10.85 billion. That growth is thanks mainly to consumer interest in the M1-driven models that offer notably better performance and power efficiency than previous Macs with Intel processors. On the other hand, the iPad slipped 14 percent compared to the same quarter last year.
The company’s catch-all category that includes other products like wearables and accessories grew to $14.7 billion, mostly on Apple Watch and AirPods sales.
All of these gains came despite an ongoing pandemic and, perhaps more critically in this instance, major supply issues. Supply chain constraints have led to exceptionally long wait times to receive a new MacBook Pro, for example. But Apple wasn’t as adversely affected by these problems as many other companies, in part because it was able to leverage its size and success to ensure that suppliers prioritized the components needed for its products.
Still, Apple estimates that it lost out on $6 billion in sales because of supply constraints. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple expects supply to be less of an issue in the next quarter.
Apple still isn’t providing guidance to investors as to how it expects the next quarter to go, in contrast to Wall Street norms. The company stopped doing that in spring 2020, citing various pandemic-related uncertainties, and hasn’t said anything yet about when it might return to that practice.
As Apple continues to ship more and more iPhones, Macs, and wearables, its chief concern in the immediate future will be regulation. From right-to-repair to app store fairness movements, Apple is facing a great deal of criticism and government scrutiny, like many other big tech companies.
The company largely emerged victorious over Epic Games in a highly publicized legal battle over the future of the App Store. That wasn’t the only threat, however, and even that victory is not yet final as appeals move through the courts.
But barring a hypothetical court defeat or new regulations, it’s mostly business as usual at Apple despite the pandemic and supply chain woes—and business remains good.
If you’re using either Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive to sync files on a Mac, you’ll want to pay attention to the release notes for today’s macOS 12.3 beta: the update is deprecating a kernel extension used by both apps to download files on demand. The extension means that files are available when you need them but don’t take up space on your disk when you don’t. Apple says that “both service providers have replacements for this functionality currently in beta.”
Both Microsoft and Dropbox started alerting users to this change before the macOS beta even dropped. Dropbox’s page is relatively sparse. The page notifies users that Dropbox’s online-only file functionality will break in macOS 12.3 and that a beta version of the Dropbox client with a fix will be released in March.
Microsoft’s documentation for OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature is more detailed. It explains that Microsoft will be using Apple’s File Provider extensions for future Dropbox versions, that the new Files On-Demand feature will be on by default, and that Files On-Demand will be supported in macOS 12.1 and later.
In addition to integrating better with the Finder (also explained by Microsoft here), using modern Apple extensions should reduce the number of obnoxious permission requests each app generates. The extensions should also reduce the likelihood that a buggy or compromised kernel extension can expose your data or damage your system. But the move will also make those apps a bit less flexible—Microsoft says that the new version of Files On-Demand can’t be disabled. That might be confusing if you expect to have a full copy of your data saved to your disk even when you’re offline.
This isn’t the only time Dropbox and OneDrive have been behind the curve in supporting new macOS features. Both companies only released Apple Silicon versions of their clients within the last couple of months.
The betas for macOS 12.3 and iOS/iPadOS 15.4 add a handful of other notable features, after releases earlier this week that focused mostly on security improvements and bug-fixing. The macOS 12.3 beta adds support for Universal Control, the feature that allows you to seamlessly use multiple Macs or iPads together. Universal Control was announced back in June 2021 at WWDC and was briefly present in the initial run of Monterey betas before being removed almost entirely from the final release. The iOS and iPadOS 15.4 betas add support for FaceID that can be unlocked by users wearing a mask with no Apple Watch required. Two years into a pandemic is a bit late to be adding this feature, but late is better than never.
There is hope for users of Google’s “legacy” free G Suite accounts. Last week, Google announced a brutal policy change—it would shut down the Google Apps accounts of users who signed up during the first several years when the service was available for free. Users who had a free G Suite account were given two options: start paying the per-user monthly fee by July 2022 or lose your account.
Naturally, this move led to a huge outcry outside (and apparently inside) Google, and now, the company seems to be backing down from most of the harsher terms of the initial announcement. First, Google is launching a survey of affected G Suite users—apparently, the company is surprised by how many people this change affected. Second, it’s promising a data-migration option (including your content purchases) to a consumer account before the shutdown hits.
Google Apps (today this service is called “G Suite or Google Workspace”) allows users to have a Google account with a custom domain, so your email ends in your website address rather than “@gmail.com.” It’s typically used for businesses. The basic tier of G Suite was free from 2006 to 2012—anyone could sign up for a Google account with a custom domain, and apparently, a lot of geeks did this for friends, families, and other non-business uses. Google stopped offering free G Suite accounts in 2012, but it was previously unthinkable that Google would go after its most enthusiastic, early-adopter users and kick them off the service. You trust Google and store a ton of data on a Google account, so the accounts are forever, right?
Users being hit by the shutdown faced two options: either suddenly start paying for their accounts, which had been free for years, or lose access to core Workspace apps like Gmail. Users who didn’t want to pay could only export data with Google Takeout, which would download some account data that would become a bunch of cumbersome, local files. Takeout was a terrible option because it makes it difficult to get your data back in the cloud, and you can’t export things like purchased content from Google Play or YouTube.
If you used your G Suite account like a regular consumer account and bought a bunch of digital content from Google, you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases. With no way to get all the data out of a Google account in a seamless and easy way, Google’s “pay up or lose your account” options felt like data extortion.
The support page detailing the shutdown has quietly been updated (for some reason, Google is not making a big deal of the changes yet). First, if (and only if) you’re signed in with a free G Suite account, you’ll see a link to this survey, which is aimed at free G Suite admins with 10 users or fewer using the service for “non-business” purposes. Google says users filling out the survey will receive “updates on more options for your non-business legacy account in the coming months.” It’s a sign that Google had no idea how many people this change would affect, and now, the company wants to hear from you.
The ideal situation, if the custom domain option has to shut down, would be the option to port your free G Suite account to a consumer Google account, with all the purchases, data, email, and other features intact. You would naturally have to pick a new account name and email address, but minimal disruption to other services would seem like the least Google could do, and it sounds like the company is building something like that. There’s now a new section on the support page titled: “If I don’t want to upgrade to a paid subscription, can I transfer my data?”
In the coming months, we’ll provide an option for you to move your non-Google Workspace paid content and most of your data to a no-cost option. This new option won’t include premium features like custom email or multi-account management. You’ll be able to evaluate this option prior to July 1, 2022 and prior to account suspension. We’ll update this article with details in the coming months.
This is the option everyone has been asking for, as it specifically references “non-Google Workspace paid content,” which presumably would mean all your app, game, and media purchases made through Google Play and YouTube. The support article doesn’t offer any additional details yet, only saying to wait for further updates, but Google promises the option will be ready before July, which is when the account disruptions start happening.