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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Parkinson’s discovery ‘may improve diagnosis for patients’

August 29 2016

Scientists are a step closer to developing a test for early-stage Parkinson's disease. A molecule linked to the brain condition can be detected in samples of spinal fluid, research has shown. The discovery may pave the way to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson's, improving treatment prospects. Parkinson's disease causes the progressive loss of neurons involved in movement, leading to uncontrollable tremors, rigid muscles and poor balance. An estimated 127,000 people in the UK have the disease, most of them over the age of 50. The test molecule is a protein called alpha-synuclein which forms sticky clumps known as Lewy bodies within the brain cells of people with Parkinson's and some types of dementia. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used highly sensitive technology to differentiate between healthy and harmful forms of the protein. In early studies the technique accurately identified 19 out of 20 samples from Parkinson's patients, as well as three samples from people thought to be at risk of the condition. Dr Alison Green, from the National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We have already used this technique to develop an accurate test for Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (CJD), another neurodegenerative condition. We hope that with further refinement, our approach will help to improve diagnosis for Parkinson's patients. "We are also interested in whether it could be used to identify people with Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia in the early stages of their illness. These people could then be given the opportunity to take part in trials of new medicines that may slow, or stop, the progression of disease." The findings are published in the journal Annals Of Clinical And Translational Neurology. Dr Beckie Port, from the charity Parkinson's UK, said: "Parkinson's has no definitive diagnostic test - leaving an urgent need for a simple and accurate way of detecting the condition, particularly in the beginning stages. "Although early days, the fact that researchers have developed a new test that is able to detect abnormal alpha-synuclein in the spinal fluid of people with Parkinson's with remarkable specificity and sensitivity, is hugely promising. "Further research is needed to test more samples to see if the results continue to hold true, but this could be a significant development towards a future early diagnostic test for Parkinson's."

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Gaming firms fear a ‘brain drain’ from Dundee

September 1 2011

Half of the companies in Dundee's computer games sector fear a "brain drain". Research has found more than half of Britain's mid-sized technology companies believe their skilled employees could be lured abroad. The technology hazard warning report is an in-depth study of owner-managers in the mid-market sector "companies with a turnover between £5 and £300 million" which highlights the key concerns for UK technology companies. Although it found 77% of companies are more optimistic about the future than they were last year, failure to retain and recruit the right staff is the biggest concern of technology companies. The report claims the lack of tax breaks for the games industry is a key factor in British workers heading overseas. It states: "Portability of skills, coupled with higher salaries and the chance to enhance lifestyle are cited as the key reasons for considering a move abroad. "Experts warn that the lack of students opting to study technology-related subjects, coupled with tax breaks offered by other countries to entice business, means we are compounding problems further for the future." Geoff White, a senior market underwriter for Zurich insurance, said: "From the television to the computer, the UK has always had a strong foundation in technology, and the companies within this sector are of great importance to the growth of the UK economy. "This sector provides the opportunity for us to make Britain a highly competitive or even leading, business nation on a global scale. "However, the research shows that employers in the technology industry are suffering from brain drain and fear this even more for the future, losing skilled employees to overseas competitors, which provide a richer, more challenging environment for them to work in."Incentivise subjectsComputer games trade association, TIGA, said the report backs their calls for the government to introduce tax relief for games developers. Chief executive Dr Richard Wilson said: "This report confirms three of TIGA's long-standing arguments. "First, that the UK is at risk of a brain drain of highly-skilled IT workers. "Second, that relatively low numbers of students studying technology subjects such as computer science in turn creates recruitment difficulties for businesses. "Third, that tax breaks such as those for games production are fuelling the brain drain and associated skill shortages." Dr Wilson said more must be done to encourage children to study subjects that will benefit the UK's hi-tech industries. "To surmount the challenges posed by the brain drain and skill shortages we need to incentivise students to study subjects such as mathematics and computer science," he said. "Additionally, we need the coalition government to enable UK high technology businesses to compete on a level playing field. "Many of our key competitors benefit from generous tax breaks. The UK games industry does not. "TIGA will continue to make the case for a tax break for games production and for improved R&D tax credits." Although the previous Labour government had intended to introduce tax breaks for games firms, these plans were scrapped when the coalition government came into office last year. Photo by Flickr user Mykl Roventine.

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

UK & World

Pioneering technique helps people with schizophrenia control brain activity

February 12 2018

Scientists believe they have made a breakthrough in treating schizophrenia by helping patients train themselves to control verbal hallucinations using an MRI scanner and a computer game.A pilot study by researchers at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the University of Roehampton has suggested the new technique can help patients who experience hallucinations but do not respond to medication.They said their research shows sufferers can learn mental strategies to help ease their symptoms.The study, which is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, involved 12 patients who experienced verbal hallucinations on a daily basis.Around 70% of people with schizophrenia hear voices, which can cause a high level of distress and disruption to daily life, and medication is ineffective for around 30% of patients in treating these verbal hallucinations.Brain imaging experts targeted a region of the brain which is sensitive to speech and human voices, and is hyperactive in people with schizophrenia and verbal hallucinations.They designed a “neurofeedback” technique, where patients in a MRI scanner could monitor their own neural activity in the speech sensitive region of the brain.Neural activity was represented by a computerised space rocket, and patients were instructed to land the rocket by bringing it down to earth.No explicit instructions were given to patients about how to move the rocket, instead patients were asked to develop their own mental strategies to move it.After four visits to the MRI scanner, patients were able to reduce neural activity in the speech sensitive region of the brain and were able to control their brain activity without the visual feedback from the space rocket.After training, patients had learned lasting strategies which they could apply during their daily lives.Researchers said it is the first time neurofeedback techniques have been investigated for schizophrenia and verbal hallucinations.Dr Natasza Orlov, of King’s IoPPN, said: “We encouraged our patients to use the same control strategies that they learnt in the MRI scanner at home.“The patients know when the voices are about to start – they can feel it, so we want them to immediately put this aid into effect to lessen them, or stop the voices completely.“Our study has shown that people with schizophrenia can learn some sort of mental strategy to help their symptoms – something which several years of medication has not helped with.“Although the study sample size is small and we lacked a control group, these results are promising. We are now planning to conduct a randomised controlled study to test this technique in a larger sample.”Professor Paul Allen, from the University of Roehampton, said: “The results of this pilot are astonishing as almost everyone in the patient group was able to control the space rocket, successfully bringing the rocket in the game back down to the ground.“What this means is that by using this technique, patients learnt to control brain activity in the area of the brain that responds to voices – an area we know is hyperactive in people whom experience auditory verbal hallucinations.“These are still early days in our research, however, patients who took part in the pilot study have told us that the training has helped them to calm their external voices down, so that they were able to internalise them more.”


New strategy warns Dundee must stop creative brain drain

October 17 2017

Finding new ways to utilise empty  properties and ensuring graduates remain in Dundee could be key to boosting the city's creative sector. The first Creative Industries Strategy was launched at DCA on Tuesday night and unveiled a series of strategies to develop Dundee's creative industries over the next five years. The key recommendations within Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy include broadening routes into the creative industries from school, college and university to stop people leaving the city to set up elsewhere. It states: "A significant challenge for Dundee is encouraging its students from the local schools, universities and college to have the confidence to base their professional practice in Dundee upon completing their studies." The strategy also wants to see greater collaboration with other sectors such as health care and tourism to create greater impacts. Its third key recommendation is to find innovative ways to share "underused" spaces and resources across Dundee. The strategy document highlights places such as The Fleet Collective in Panmure Street and The Tin Roof Arts Collective in Matthew Court as examples of where previously vacant buildings have been brought back to life by the creative sector. The report states: "The creative sector has made great progress in bringing to life redundant spaces in the city, but needs real effective partnerships with the public and private sector to continue this work. "Fleet Collective is an important example in the city of a collaborative space initiated by a creative collective with a landlord which is working well – case studies like Fleet should be amplified to increase the understanding of the value of these partnerships for both creative communities and property developers." The creative industries are one of the fastest growing industry sectors in the UK. Posters featuring quotes from people who helped develop the strategy have been put up in 12 locations across Dundee city centre. Gillian Easson, director of Creative Dundee, said: “The creative industries are critical to Dundee increasingly being recognised as a global creative city, particularly as a UNESCO City of Design and as a city bidding to be European Capital of Culture 2023. "Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy is important to ensuring that we all work together to ensure our creative industries sector underpins our vibrant city and ultimately contributes to creating a healthy and positive place for everyone to live.” John Kampfner, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation said: "I'm excited to play a part in this striking initiative. "The creative industries are worth £87bn to the British economy and I'm delighted that Dundee's taking a lead in using them to help define its economic, cultural and social future. "Later in the week we'll be releasing the first-ever analysis of post-Brexit employment across the creative industries and Dundee's Creative Industries Strategy is absolutely right to identify harnessing young talent as one of its key goals."  

Gadgets & Games

TIGA report says tax breaks abroad are helping firms ‘entice’ UK video games developers

July 12 2011

Dundee's computer games industry will be damaged by a brain drain as staff leave the UK to work abroad, it has been warned. A new survey has found that one in five computer games companies lost staff to developers based overseas, where tax relief for games firms allows them to offer higher wages. The survey, by trade association TIGA, found Canada was the most likely destination for those moving abroad. A recent report by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada revealed the country had been "notably successful in attracting investment and skilled personnel from jurisdictions like the United Kingdom." TIGA chief executive Dr Richard Wilson said, "The UK games development sector has an excellent workforce. Unfortunately, some of our overseas competitors, powered by tax breaks for games production, have the financial resources to entice some development staff away from the UK to work in their studios. "This is not just damaging to the UK video games sector it is damaging to the UK economy." TIGA chairman Jason Kingsley added, "A brain drain of developers exacerbates skill shortages within the games industry and in the long term hurts the UK." Photo courtesy of Flickr user wodi.