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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...

Gadgets & Games

Review: Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)

April 5 2010

Innovative touches mark this title out from the crowd, but a difficulty imbalance mars what is otherwise an enjoyable single-player experience. As advances in console processing power have seen the graphical gap between platforms almost disappear, the strengths of a game are most often to be found in what new things it brings to its genre's table. When a current-generation FPS goes down the linear route, it's often seen as a shortcoming and by console gamers in particular. PC gamers who consider themselves FPS players are hardened to accept a great deal of the Doom blueprint: shoot, get key, shoot, use key, shoot. This is a well-tested design philosophy but, by comparison, console ports of these games have not enjoyed the same kind of stoic acceptance as their PC counterparts. How, then, does a modern, cross-platform shooter like Metro 2033 stand out from its peers?New Kid on the Bloc4A-Games' March release Metro 2033 plants its flag firmly in linear territory, eschewing the branching plot of Fallout 3 and the sense of adventure felt in Just Cause or Crysis. Whether this is to its detriment or benefit depends on where the player sees themselves as fitting into a plot. When an apocalyptic event ravages Russia, around 40,000 people take shelter in Moscow's largely bomb-proof system of metro tunnels. Over the next 20 or so years, radiation causes mutations in the surviving wildlife and the subterranean Muscovites find themselves on the brink of extinction. The player character, Artyom, is tasked to leave his station and embark on a quest to save the tunnel dwellers' way of life. Looking at what Metro 2033 brings to the top table, I think what first struck me is its sophisticated phantom inventory system -- phantom as an item's use is often toggle-only. A gas mask and repeated filter changes add a sense of urgency to outdoor sections, and a failing torch with wind-up dynamo forces the player to multitask while under some stress. These and other mechanical elements prompt pauses, regrouping, and the player to take stock on a regular basis. A cynic might say that these punctuatory stops add to the game's length and the mask's limited oxygen supply stops the player from exploring much of Moscow's ruins, but I'd say the plot pacing they provide are a fair trade. Where levelled single-player games often fall down is in their loading times between each section, and Metro 2033 does have noticeable pauses. However, this is very neatly abridged by a small amount of text, accompanied by Artyom's thickly accented voice. It feels like the beginning of a chapter from a book, much as the game is an adaptation of a popular Russian novel of the same name. The levels, when they do begin, can vary in length and most definitely in difficulty. I found several to be overlong, and with too many enemies, or an uneven number: I counted 40 beaten enemies on one level and six on another. The animations for adversaries often seem to miss a few frames. This is most noticeable in the attacks of the "devil dogs", which also focus on the player's feet, making it impossible to keep tabs on where they are after their lunge. The weapon trading system gives an element of re-playability to the game, as I reckon it would be very hard to buy all the weapons on one run-through. The bartering units of the Metro underground are military-grade bullets, which are of a much better standard than rounds made by survivors. I found the amount of better quality ammunition to be very sparse on medium difficulty, so upgrading to the best example of a gun type was an infrequent occurrence. The inventory pacing mechanic is also applied to your armoury in the form of pneumatic weapons, where pressure is applied to arrows and pellets to create some of the game's most devastating ordnance. Pumping the "Van Helsing" crossbow several times before silently taking an enemy down is one of Metro 2033's high points.Warsaw im-pactWere there to be any cultural resonance of a Russian game imparted to the shooter genre, one of the easiest ways in which this could be judged is by listening to it. I was surprised by the rarity of generic "Steppe" music one would assume to be present, instead replaced by sombre, atmospheric acoustic guitar. The understatement of the soundtrack and ambient noise is comparable to Diablo, and is similar in its effortless ease in creating and diffusing tension. Perhaps the most satisfying encounters the player character has with his fellow tunnel dwellers are in the crowded marketplaces which are the hubs of most settlements he visits. It's only possible to discern snatches of conversation, if any parts at all. A proper enjoyment of these scenes only comes with the realisation that entire stories aren't intended to be told, and that's when the hubbub really brings the characters to life. If Metro 2033's colour palette looks familiar to fans of GSC Game World's series of Stalker games, this is no coincidence as parts of the game team worked on that franchise, whose promise I feel outstrips what has been made of it so far. There are commonalities in the textures and atmosphere of both games, although I would say this is a tribute to the work of texture artists in sourcing their materials. Metro 2033 will not win any awards for its graphics, but I like how solid the experience is and would liken it to Gears of War in its mongrel earthiness. My one audio/visual gripe is the absence of a Russian language option with English subtitles. While the accents seem (mostly) authentic, there are patches where the suspension of disbelief is hard to maintain. A Russian audio track would have given the game extra authenticity: it's crying out for a little more niche appeal. Stronger -- Arx Fatalis (2002) Weaker -- Stalker: Call of Pripyat (2010)

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

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.

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

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.

Rocktalk

Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

Perth & Kinross

Culinary dimension added to Perth Show

July 28 2016

For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout  challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.

Perth & Kinross

Glenfarg landfill operator fined over pollution excess

May 1 2015

A landfill operator has been fined £20,000 for failing to deal with an excess of a potentially polluting liquid at its Perthshire site. SITA UK admitted two offences of breaching the conditions of its environmental permit for its landfill site at Binn Landfill, Glenfarg. They pleaded guilty to failing to control the levels of leachate, a potentially polluting liquid which could cause harmful effects on groundwater and surface water. Landfills may produce leachate that has elevated concentrations of contaminants such as ammoniacal nitrogen, heavy metals and organic compounds. To protect surrounding resources, however, such sites have specific limits set on the levels of leachate that can be reached. Perth Sheriff Court heard that within three leachate wells at the Binn Landfill site, levels were in excess of the two metre limit for four months between December 2012 and April 2013. The company, which operates at more than 300 locations throughout the UK, admitted that between December 2012 and June 2013 they failed to ensure that accumulation at the low point of each distinct leachate collection system was kept below two metres depth. SITA UK, based at SITA House, Grenfell Road, Maidenhead, also pleaded guilty to a charge that, on seven occasions between January 2013 and March 2013, they failed to notify the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) that leachate levels had exceeded two metres depth and failed to take effective steps to minimise the malfunction and reduce the levels of leachate. Peter Gray QC, defending, stated: “The breaches did not lead to any appreciable environmental damage.” Sheriff Simon Collins said: “The work may be complex and challenging but this is the work this company has carried out over many years on many sites. “This created a risk of harm rather than actual harm but if it had materialised harm was likely to be significant.” Sepa senior environment protection officer Calum McGregor said: “The two-metre limit for the leachate is required to ensure that the base and sides of the landfill provide a barrier between the landfill and the environment. “By failing to maintain the level below two metres, SITA UK put the environment at risk.”

Other sports

Marin Cilic suspended after testing positive for nikethamide stimulant

September 17 2013

Marin Cilic has been suspended for nine months after testing positive for a banned stimulant, ruling him out until February 1, the International Tennis Federation has announced. The Croatian’s doping violation came when he tested positive for nikethamide a stimulant at the BMW Open in Munich in May. The 24-year-old’s ban was backdated to May 1, the date on which he provided the sample, to end at midnight on January 31. The sample was sent to a laboratory in Montreal for analysis, where it was found to contain nikethamide, a prohibited substance. Cilic was subsequently charged over the doping violation under Article 2.1 although he argued the banned substance was in his system after taking Coramine glucose tablets that had been purchased for him from a pharmacy. A statement from the ITF read: “The independent tribunal found that Mr Cilic ingested the nikethamide inadvertently as a result of taking the Coramine glucose tablets, and did not intend to enhance his performance in doing so, and that he, therefore, met the preconditions of article 10.4 of the programme, which entitles him to a reduction of the period of ineligibility for specified substance based on an assessment of his fault.” As well as the ban “it was also determined that Mr Cilic’s results at the 2013 BMW Open event should be disqualified, with resulting forfeiture of the ranking points and prize money that he won at those events. “Mr Cilic’s results subsequent to the BMW Open, up to the time that he accepted a voluntary provisional suspension, are also disqualified and the ranking points and prize money forfeited.” Following the BMW Open, Cilic was knocked out of the French Open in the third round by Viktor Troicki, who coincidentally was banned in July for 18 months for failing to provide a blood sample. He then reached the final at Queen’s where he lost to Andy Murray before withdrawing from Wimbledon, where he was seeded 10th, prior to his second-round match.

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