Tech Talk

• Spacewalking astronauts wrapped up months of repair work Friday on the International Space Station ‘s big robot arm.

The Canadian-built, 58-foot robot arm had both of its aging mechanical hands replaced on spacewalks conducted in October and January. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Japan’s Norishige Kanai quickly moved one of those old hands to a long-term storage location outside, and took the other one inside so it can be returned to Earth for a tuneup and then flown back up.

This last spacewalk in the series should have been completed long before now, but was postponed because of complications with the robotic hand that was installed last month. Ground controllers eventually solved the problem. Further delays were caused by this week’s late arrival of a Russian supply ship.

The old mechanical hands are original space station parts, in orbit since 2001.

Each hand — a bulky bundle of latches — is more than 3 feet long and more than 440 pounds.

Vande Hei and Kanai accomplished their main objectives so fast that they had time to tackle extra chores.

They breezed through those as well, allowing the spacewalk to end a little early, at the six-hour mark.

• Apple’s new internet-connected speaker is proving to be more appealing to the ears than to the eyes, depending on where the device is placed.

Some people who bought the just-released $349 speaker, dubbed the HomePod, are reporting that it leaves a white ring on the surfaces of wooden furniture.

In an explanation posted Wednesday, Apple said the problem occurs with speakers that, like the HomePod, are equipped with a silicon base to minimise vibration.

The company said the marks will often “go away” after a few days if you move the speaker somewhere else.

If they don’t, it recommends wiping wood tarnished by the HomePod with a soft or damp cloth, or cleaning the surface “with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process.”

The marks left by the HomePod threaten to stain Apple’s reputation for designing iPhones, iPads and Mac computers that are frequently prized as much for how they look as for how they work.

Though it’s still too early to tell whether the HomePod’s blemishes on wood will dampen the device’s sales.

If so, that could hamper Apple’s efforts to catch up to less expensive internet-connected speakers from Amazon and Google that had a head start in the still nascent market.


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