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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...


Abertay University is an international winner for game design

March 27 2015

Abertay University has been ranked among the world’s top 25 places to study game design. The prestigious Princeton Review’s 2015 lists of the top 25 undergraduate and graduate institutions to study game design has ranked Abertay as the 20th in the world on its graduate list and 21st on its undergraduate list. Abertay is the only non-US institution to make the list. Professor Nigel Seaton, principal and vice-chancellor of Abertay, said: “This is a great accolade and a wonderful reward for the hard work and dedication of our staff in creating and delivering world-class educational opportunities in games design. “It’s especially pleasing that the Princeton Review recognises our commitment to employability, helping our students to develop the knowledge and skills that will equip them for successful and fulfilling careers.” Robert Ranek, who is Princeton Review’s senior vp/publisher, said Abertay is a worthy new addition to the list. He said: “It has been our mission to help students find and get into the schools best for them. “For students aspiring to work in the burgeoning field of game design, we strongly recommend Abertay University and each of the other schools that made our 2015 lists. “They have exceptional professors and awesome, state-of-the-art facilities. “Collectively, these schools have graduated legions of the industry’s most successful video game designers, developers, artists and entrepreneurs.” The Princeton Review developed its “Top Schools to Study Game Design” project in 2009, with assistance from a national advisory board which helped design the survey and methodology. Board members deciding the list include administrators and staff from respected game design programmes and professionals from some of the top gaming companies. The Princeton Review ranks universities based on a survey conducted in the last year of 150 institutions offering game design courses.

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.


Abertay tops European games chart

March 14 2018

Abertay University has been named the best university in Europe for computer games education for an unprecedented fourth time in a row. It has been named as one of 12 universities worldwide offering the best education in computer games, according to prestigious academic journal the Princeton Review. Abertay was the first university in the world to offer a degree level qualification in games design, a course which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. Since then, it has gone on to win recognition for its role in building the games industry into a multi-billion pound enterprise, as well as making Dundee a "global hub" for games design – with the city being described as a gaming "Mecca" in a UK government report. Head of Abertay’s school of design and informatics, Professor Gregor White, said the announcement was "hugely pleasing" for all involved at the institution's games department. He said: "The Princeton Review is highly respected the world over by those in the games industry, so for our degree courses to be ranked best in Europe for a fourth consecutive year is hugely pleasing for all of us at Abertay. "This level of consistent achievement is only made possible through the academic expertise and commitment to excellence shown by colleagues within the school and across the university year after year." The Princeton Review is a college and university admissions company, which provides details on academic institutions the world over for prospective students. Robert Franek, the Review's editor in chief, said: "Game design is an exciting field and for students aspiring to work in this field, the schools on our list offer extraordinary opportunities to launch a career in this industry. "We want to help students find the best program for their needs and interests. "The top schools on our lists have outstanding faculties and great facilities which will give students the skills and experience they need to pursue a career in this dynamic and burgeoning field."


Princeton Review hails Abertay University as Europe’s best for video games study

March 17 2016

Abertay University in Dundee has cemented its place at the top of the European leaderboard for studying video game design. It is the only European university named in The Princeton Review’s prestigious ranking list of places to study, and launch a career, in video game production. Abertay’s School of Arts, Media and Computer Games is listed 12th out of the top 25 postgraduate schools and 22nd out of the top 50 undergraduate schools. In the postgraduate list, Abertay has scored a huge improvement on the 20th place it secured in last year’s ranking. Abertay is the only university in the postgraduate list not based in the USA, and one of only three schools in the undergraduate list not in the USA. As well as its courses, the university also hosts the world-renowned annual Dare to be Digital game design competition. https://www.youtube.com/embed/8TERvVEaT7Q?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0 The Princeton Review chose the schools based on its 2015 survey of 150 institutions in the USA, Canada and abroad offering game design degree programmes or courses. The 40-question survey gathered data on everything from the schools’ game design academic offerings and lab facilities to their graduates’ starting salaries and career achievements. More than 40 data points in four areas academics, faculty, technology, and career were analysed to compile the lists. Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s senior VP-publisher, said: “For students aspiring to work in game design, the 58 schools that made one or both of our 2016 lists offer extraordinary opportunities to hone one’s talents for a successful career in this burgeoning field. “The faculties at these schools are outstanding. Their facilities are awesome. And their alumni include legions of the industry’s most prominent game designers, developers, artists, and entrepreneurs.” Professor Gregor White, head of Abertay’s School of Arts, Media and Computer Games, said: “This is fantastic news and a testament to the hard work of my colleagues in the school and across the university in sustaining and delivering such a consistently high standard of learning experience for our students.” The Princeton Review has reported its games design rankings programme since 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

Gadgets & Games

University researchers harnessing online chat to improve artificial speech technologies

October 1 2011

Experts at St Andrews University believe social media could transform the lives of people unable to talk. Researchers say the widespread study of sites such as Twitter and Facebook could result in synthetic voice systems, such as that used by Stephen Hawking, becoming ''faster and easier.'' The work was carried out by Dr Per Ola Kristensson, of St Andrews' school of computer science. He used crowdsourcing a new method of obtaining large amount of statistical data through the monitoring of social media sites to inform his findings. Together with colleague Dr Keith Vertanen of the department of computer science at Princeton University in the USA, Dr Kirstensson used the sites to create a unique dataset that provides predictive text more like real speech. Previously only small amounts of data were available for users of Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC), a device that enables those with communication disabilities to participate in everyday conversations. Speech devices rely on statistical language models to improve text entry by offering word predictions. These can be improved if the language model is trained on data that closely reflects the style of the users' intended communications. However, until now these was no large open dataset of AAC messages available. Dr Kristensson's work at St Andrews, titled The Imagination of Crowds and published by the Association for Computational Linguistics (PDF link), demonstrated how ''crowdsourcing'' can be used to create a large set of fictional messages. He revealed the work, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was sparked by his interest in online sites dedicated to sourcing information from the public such as Amazon Mechanical Turk. The site uses online volunteers to carry out simply tasks computers can't, such as transcribing scanned documents or rating the quality of photographs. However, the tasks are often very simple and Dr Kristensson wondered if there might be greater potential. He said: ''We wondered if we could also use these services to harness the creativity of the crowd. Can we design a task for these services that provides us with a large surrogate dataset of AAC messages?'' The initial collection of crowdsourced messages was then expanded by intelligently selecting similar sentences from Twitter, blog and Usenet data. The end result is a dataset much larger and of higher quality than anything that had previously been used. Dr Kristensson and Dr Vertanen have released the data collection, word lists and best performing models for free. The hope is to use these models to design and test new interfaces that enable faster communication for users with communication difficulties. ''The work demonstrates that we can tap the creativity of users of social media and crowdsourcing technologies to help improve the lives of people unable to speak," say the researchers.

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

Angus councillor inspired by great-granny’s essay on the suffragists

February 9 2018

An Angus councillor has unearthed a fascinating insight into men’s views on the suffragists as the nation commemorated the centenary of some women winning the right to vote. Brenda Durno, SNP member for Arbroath and East Lunan, has been so inspired by an essay written by her great-grandmother in 1904, she is hoping to donate it to a museum in the north east. The amusing reflection was written in the Doric language by Isabella Moir, a 12-year-old pupil at Belhelvie School in Aberdeenshire. She was the eldest of 10 children and had two sisters and seven brothers. Councillor Durno said: “The celebration for the 100 years since women won the right to vote made me think of the essay. “My great grandmother was born in September 1892 and died in May 1992. “She latterly lived in Potterton with my aunt and uncle who ran the shop there and I found the essay when she died.” Mrs Durno chose to enter local politics in the footstep of her father, the SNP councillor Alex Shand, but admitted her great-grandmother was a Liberal supporter. “She was right into politics and was a great friend of Lord Tweedsmuir - the SNP wasn’t around then.” The essay relates to a conversation between a brother and sister as he reads a newspaper article on ‘The Suffragists’. As he works his way through the article, his views become apparent. He berates the efforts of the “limmers of suffragists” claiming “weemans place is at hame” It reads: “They canna mak an men their men’s sarks, keep a clean fireside an have a vote. “Gie then an inch an they wid tak an ill (mile).” The essay goes on to say there a was a time when women were happy “tae tak the chance o’ the first man that socht them, an thankful tae leave the voting an the rulin o the nation tae him”. It was on February 6, 1918 that women aged over 30, those who owned property or had a university education were granted the right to vote through the Representation of the People Act. Mrs Durno is hoping to donate the essay to a museum which specialises in the Doric and would welcome suggestions as to who to contact.

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.