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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...

UK & World

BT ordered to free up Openreach network

February 26 2016

Broadband in rural areas such as Highland Perthshire could see new investment after a landmark ruling by the communications regulator. The regulator said BT must open up Openreach, which provides the final mile of network connection into consumers’ homes, to allow rivals to build their own advanced fibre networks connected directly to homes and offices. The regulator’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications its first significant review of the telecoms sector for a decade said evidence showed Openreach “still has an incentive to make decisions in the interests of BT, rather than BT’s competitors, which can lead to competition problems”. It has outlined a new strategy to promote large-scale roll-out of new ultrafast broadband networks, based on cable and fibre lines, as an alternative to the partly copper-based technologies being planned by BT. Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser broadly welcomed Ofgem’s report. He said: “What is absolutely clear is that the current system needs to change in order for rural areas to receive fast and reliable internet connections. “In recommending that Openreach allow other internet providers access to their network of poles, cables and tunnels, Ofcom is supporting greater competition and therefore more investment in rural broadband. “This move will allow the industry to have more input in decision making. I would also welcome the toughening up of penalties for providers who fail to deliver proper service. “However, if these recommendations fail to improve broadband for rural residents then the future of Openreach must be looked at again.” Perth-based SSE is among the companies that intends to capitalise on Ofcom’s decision. A spokesperson for the energy company said: “SSE has entered the broadband market, seeking to provide great deals for customers. “We support Ofcom’s proposed reform of Openreach to improve its transparency and give its customers a real say in investment plans. BT should not have an undue influence over the investment decisions made by Openreach. For many, broadband is now an essential service and it’s time we started treating it like one.”


MSP calls for more support for Dundee’s smartphone gaming industry

August 5 2011

Dundee's gaming industry must be given support to capitalise on the boom in smartphone use. New research published by communications regulator Ofcom has revealed more than one-quarter of adults in the UK (27%) and almost half of all teenagers (47%) now own a smartphone, such as an iPhone, Blackberry or Android device. As well as making calls, the phones can also be used to browse the internet and play games. Ofcom's research found that nearly half of all adult users (47%) have downloaded an app while 15% have paid for a game. Tech-savvy teenagers are even more likely to have paid for a downloaded game, with nearly one-third (32%) having paid for at least one. Dundee developers selling apps and games for smartphones are already cashing in on the growing demand. Dundee developer Tag Games has developed iPhone games based on Doctor Who and the recent Coen Brothers movie True Grit. Production manager Mark Williamson said, "It's quite clear that pretty much every device that people use now for their telephones has some kind of connectivity and the ability to play games and apps, so it is a growing market." Mr Williamson said that Tag has developed games for a range of platforms and this expertise will be vital as the smartphone market continues to expand. However, Dundee West MSP Joe FitzPatrick said more government support is needed to support the games industry in the city. He said, "With more people using smartphones than ever, Dundee's digital media industry has a real opportunity to tap into this expanding market. "Typically, the investment required to create mobile-based media is significantly lower than for multi-platform console games, which allows ambitious entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in this industry. "However, these small businesses require support from the UK Government to expand and thrive in a competitive international market. "That is why I continue to press the UK Government to introduce a targeted games tax relief like that found in Canada and perhaps soon Ireland too. "This kind of relief already exists for the film industry and it is only right that games developers in Dundee are able to compete on a level playing field with their international competitors who enjoy significant government support."

Business news

Everything you need to know about the proposed Ofcom reforms to Openreach

November 29 2016

Ofcom is pressing ahead with plans to force Openreach to become a legally separate company within the BT Group with the aim of providing faster and more reliable broadband across the UK. Why is Ofcom proposing reforms to Openreach? (Jonathan Brady/PA)BT’s Openreach division develops and maintains the UK’s main telecoms network used by telephone and broadband providers such as Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and BT Consumer. The current structure of BT was introduced by Ofcom in 2005, but the watchdog said it meant BT retained influence over significant Openreach decisions and has an incentive to make these decisions in the interests of its own retail businesses, rather than competitors. Ofcom chief executive Sharon White has called her proposals the “biggest shake-up of telecoms in a decade, to make sure the market is delivering the best possible services for people and business across the UK.” What are the specific complaints about Openreach? More than nine out of 10 households now have superfast broadband, but there are constant complaints that Openreach is too often slow at making repairs and new connections. Rival telecoms companies have long called for BT to replace its ageing network of copper wire. MPs claimed in July that BT has “significantly under-invested” in Openreach and accused the company of making strategic decisions that put the group’s interests ahead of customers and its Openreach business. What are Ofcom’s arguments for splitting off Openreach, rather than proposing it is sold off? (Lynne Cameron/PA)Ofcom said its plans would ensure the most independence from BT without the costs and disruption of a full break-up, with Openreach becoming a legally distinct company with its own board, including a majority of non-executive directors not affiliated to BT Group, its own branding and control over its budget allocation. It believes legal separation can be introduced quickly rather than in the years that a sell-off would require. But rivals still believe the plans do not go far enough. What will the proposals mean for consumers? Ofcom believes the move will make a significant difference to customers in the form of faster, more reliable broadband. It has said a more independent Openreach would mean the division is better placed to invest in “fast fibre to the doorstep”.

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.

UK & World

Kremlin-backed TV channel sparks new Ofcom investigations

April 18 2018

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has opened seven new investigations, following the Salisbury poisoning case, into a Kremlin-backed TV channel.The regulator said that it was investigating “the due impartiality of news and current affairs programmes on the RT news channel”, formerly Russia Today.It said that since the Salisbury poisoning case, it has “observed a significant increase in the number of programmes” on the channel that should be investigated.“Until recently, TV Novosti’s overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters,” Ofcom said of the company that broadcasts RT.“However, since the events in Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that warrant investigation as potential breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.“We will announce the outcome of these investigations as soon as possible,” it said.The broadcasts all relate to the Salisbury incident or the chemical weapons attack in Syria and subsequent military action.Two of the investigations are into a programme called Sputnik, hosted by George Galloway.Ofcom previously announced it would consider whether the TV channel should broadcast in the UK if Russian involvement was proven in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.And MPs voiced concern in the House of Commons about the Russian news channel.The regulator previously said it had written to RT to explain that evidence of unlawful state interference would affect whether it was deemed “fit and proper” to hold a broadcasting licence.Prime Minister Theresa May previously faced repeated calls for the Government to take action against RT in the Commons.Labour former minister Chris Bryant said: “Can we just stop Russia Today just broadcasting its propaganda in this country?”Labour MP Stephen Doughty added: “On Russia Today, can I urge the Prime Minister to speak with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to look at reviewing Russia Today’s broadcasting licence, and to speak to the House authorities about blocking their broadcasts in this building itself.“Why should we be watching their propaganda in this Parliament?”The investigations form part of an Ofcom update, published on Wednesday, into the licences held by TV Novosti.The regulator said: “In relation to our fit and proper duty, we will consider all relevant new evidence, including the outcome of these investigations and the future conduct of the licensee.”RT said in a statement: “We are pleased to see that Ofcom has acknowledged RT’s compliance record has been in line with other broadcasters – putting to bed any of the salacious political statements and challenges made against our channel.“Our editorial approach has not changed since the events in Salisbury, and we will be directly addressing this matter with the regulator.”Ofcom also confirmed it is investigating “audience tweets” in The Alex Salmond Show on RT, which it said it had “provisionally found were not from audience members”.The watchdog is examining the first episode of the former Scottish first minister’s show to discover whether it broke accuracy rules.A spokesman for Slàinte Media, which makes the programme, said: “Ofcom are still in the process of investigating a single complaint about “viewers” tweets in the very first edition of The Alex Salmond show from last November.“However, it has never been Slainte Media’s contention that the tweets, emails or messages from the first show were from viewers or audience members of that first show given, by definition, the very first edition of a pre-recorded show (unlike every single Alex Salmond Show since that time) could not possibly present any messages or reaction from those viewers. This point is not in dispute.“There have been no complaints about the content of any show since. Until Ofcom complete their procedures their rules prevent us from disclosing further details.”

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

Angus & The Mearns

Sparks fly online between Angus MP and First Minister over broadband

November 23 2017

Angus MP Kirstene Hair and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have taken to social media to fight out a spat over Scotland’s broadband speeds. Ms Hair and north-east Conservative colleagues said a pledge from Prime Minister Theresa May that the next wave of broadband will be delivered by councils instead of the SNP Government was a welcome response to the “unacceptable” provision in many local constituencies. High-speed broadband access targets were set by the UK Government in 2010, but money and responsibility for delivery was given to the Scottish Government. In a Westminster debate, Minister of State for digital Matt Hancock said: “As a result of our experience of delivering superfast broadband through the Scottish Government thus far, we have decided that for the next generation of broadband technology, for fibre, we will instead deal directly with local authorities across Scotland as we do in England." After claiming the Scottish Government was failing Angus over broadband provision, Ms Hair was accused by the First Minister of showing "breathtaking ignorance of reality" as the two went to war on Twitter. Ms Hair said Digital Scotland had failed to match the speeds of any English local authority area. “Angus quite simply is being failed by the Scottish Government,” she said. “They will of course explain it is nothing to do with them, until of course fibre is connected to a cabinet and the minister will race out with his team for a photo opportunity.” Ms Hair posted a tweet saying: “Delighted that the Prime Minister confirmed that next stage of broadband roll out will bypass shambolic SNP Government and go straight to local authorities.” https://twitter.com/Kirstene4Angus/status/933311134358294528 In response, the First Minister said: “The ignorance of reality displayed by this tweet is quite breathtaking. @scotgov is going much further in broadband delivery than UK government - and will deliver in spite of any games they choose to play.” https://twitter.com/NicolaSturgeon/status/933312719243104256 The row continued with the Angus MP suggesting the First Minister was treating the issue as "a game". https://twitter.com/Kirstene4Angus/status/933319331932491776 Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Any assertion that Scotland is behind the rest of the UK is completely untrue. This has been recognised by Ofcom and by independent analysts such as ThinkBroadband. “Ofcom’s report stated that our Digital Scotland programme had increased coverage by 14% over the previous 12 months – the largest increase out of any of the UK nations. “As a direct result of our investment, more than 800,000 premises now have access to fibre broadband, while we are on track to deliver 95% coverage by the end of this year. “Moreover, this does not change our commitment to provide superfast coverage for 100% of Scottish properties – a target the UK Government have chosen not to match.”

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.