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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...

Sage shares sink as French business and training costs drag on revenues

January 24 2018

Shares in business software firm Sage sank more than 5% as investors worried over weaker than expected first quarter sales weighed down by training costs and its underperforming French business.The company reported a 6.3% rise in organic revenue for the three months to December 3, amid strong performance from its North American business which was more readily adopting cloud software.Across the group as a whole, Sage said software subscriptions grew 26%, while organic software and services revenues rose 4% thanks to strong performance in training and services as well as in its Enterprise Management division, helping to offset a decline in other licences.Its figures were also held back by its French division, which the company said “continues to significantly underperform relative to the rest of the group, weighing on both organic revenue and recurring revenue growth”.However, the company expects a recovery in the second half of the year.Sage shares were at the bottom of the FTSE 100 in morning trading, down around 5.2% or 42.6p at 778.8p.Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, said: “Software giant Sage reported another strong quarterly rise in sales, but the shares fell since the figures came in slightly below expectations.“An increase in sales training costs seems to have distracted from the business of selling software. Investors aren’t convinced by Sage which has kept FY 2018 guidance despite the blip.“Sage may be reaching the twilight of investor optimism about its conversion to a cloud-software business.”The company also noted currency headwinds as a result of the stronger pound, which resulted in a weaker translation of US dollar and euro-denominated income.Chief financial office Steve Hare said first quarter results were in line with the company’s expectations.“As we outlined at the time of the full-year results, we have invested heavily in sales training in Q1 to set up the business for success, particularly in Sage Business Cloud, resulting in the delay of some revenue into Q2.“Quarterly phasing of organic revenue growth is therefore expected to be similar to prior financial years.“We expect acceleration throughout the year including a stronger Q2 and we reiterate our full year guidance of around 8% organic revenue growth and around 27.5% organic operating margin for FY18.”Mr Hare said the company would detail plans for how it would “accelerate” revenue growth at its capital markets day on Thursday.

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

UK & World

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.

Scottish politics

Kezia Dugdale insists Labour ‘really upbeat’ as campaign enters final days

May 3 2016

Labour's Kezia Dugdale insisted she is "immensely proud" of the campaign her party has fought as the race for Holyrood entered its final 48 hours. The Scottish Labour leader said her party is "really upbeat" and "really focused on the final few days of the campaign". She was speaking as she took her campaign, which has focused on using new tax powers coming to Holyrood to raise additional cash for public services, to a softplay centre in Glasgow. Her visit came as another poll put Labour and the Tories neck-and-neck in the fight to be the official opposition. While the SNP are comfortably ahead and expected to win another majority at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Ms Dugdale said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon may regret posing with a copy of The Sun newspaper. https://twitter.com/TheAnfieldChat/status/726710543873114113 The paper has been boycotted by some Liverpool fans for its original coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy, in which 96 football fans lost their lives, and an inquest ruled last week they were unlawfully killed. In the same week the Scottish Sun gave its backing to the SNP, with a front page picture showing Ms Sturgeon holding a copy of the paper. Neil Findlay, a former Scottish Labour leadership candidate, tweeted : "To pose like this in the week of the Hillsborough verdict is breath-taking." Ms Dugdale said: "I think given the response there has been on Twitter, she will be regretting it." Labour argues Scotland would be £3 billion better off under its plans, which would see the basic rate of income tax increased by 1p north of the border, while the top rate, for those earning £150,000 a year or more, would go from 45p to 50p. "We've got a simple, honest message that the Labour Party has a plan to stop the cuts," Ms Dugdale said. "We're prepared to use the powers of the Parliament to raise enough money to increase public spending in Scotland. If we choose not to do this we're going to face £3 billion of cuts to come in Scotland." That could see £336 million more spent in Glasgow, according to Labour, with an additional £276 million for Edinburgh and £137 million for Aberdeen. Ms Dugdale said: "I'm immensely proud of the campaign Labour has run because we are the only party that has actually been talking about ideas about Scotland's future, about how to transform the country with the powers the Parliament has, and we've done that by being bold and honest about tax, and asking the richest people in society to pay a bit more tax. "I'm immensely proud of that and I will continue to make that argument well into the future."

Business news

Dundee firm uses augmented reality to help improve efficiency for oil and gas workers

February 6 2018

A Dundee tech start-up has secured a contract to develop an augmented reality (AR) app to improve efficiency in the oil and gas sector. Mozenix, based in the Vision Building in Dundee, was established last summer to test the commercial validity of AR technology. Led by Michael Brown and Michael Romilly, who is a co-founder of Dundee mobile agency Waracle, they teamed up with Aberdeen software company Return to Scene to develop the mobile app for the energy sector. The software uses the camera on a smartphone or tablet to recognise oil and gas structures and then bring up identification tags and information about them on screen. Return To Scene’s head of product development and support Martin Macrae, explained: “Offshore oil and gas assets are complex, adaptive structures with a constant flow of actions being undertaken by international teams. “The systems which enable these actions are underpinned by asset registers which are represented by physical tags attached to equipment. “The location of these tags and the ability to visualise data in a certain way, is crucially important. “This is where AR technology, and specifically Mozenix unique software delivery capability, can solve a myriad of challenges.” Since Mozenix launched the company has secured a number of contracts with blue-chip clients throughout the UK. Mr Romilly, the company’s CEO, said: “We’re delighted to be working with R2S on such a highly innovative AR initiative. “What we’re seeing with new mobile AR apps is very similar to what we witnessed over a decade ago when Apple launched the first iPhone. “AR technology leverages untapped value by using the smartphone’s camera to create new immersive experiences and solve complex process efficiency challenges. “It’s a great time for innovative companies such as R2S to be investing in these types of projects, as the rewards for early adopters in certain sectors can be significant.” Return To Scene counts global giants such as BP and ConocoPhillips as among the clients for its visual asset management and data solutions.

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

Farming news

Aberdeen-Angus DNA test hailed by Victor Wallace

February 13 2015

The adoption of a new DNA test to authenticate the pedigree of all Aberdeen-Angus calves will put the breed in the vanguard of genomic technology, retiring Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society president, Victor Wallace, told a packed annual at Stirling. The society has decided to collect blood samples using special ear tags which incorporate a small uniquely identified receptacle. As the tag is inserted soon after birth the small amount of displaced tissue and blood is captured ready for future DNA testing. Responding to criticism of the society’s decision to use only one company, Caisley, for the collection of samples, Mr Wallace insisted Caisley was the only ear tag company which had the technology to meet the society’s required specification. “We invited a number of ear tag companies to tender and some didn’t bother to reply while others couldn’t meet the spec,” said Mr Wallace. “It is a simple and inexpensive system which most breeders are finding easy to use.” The aim is to collect blood samples from all bull calves to enable the sire of all calves to be verified in the case of any uncertainty or dispute and to authenticate beef being sold as Aberdeen-Angus.” The move by the society has been welcomed by major supermarkets selling Aberdeen-Angus beef. Mr Wallace added: “This process was extensively and rigorously tested with management and council visits to the manufacturers in Germany and the completion of field trials. After this process it was brought back to council and unanimously approved. “Like all changes, there has been some resistance but I am convinced that putting the society in a position to be leading in genomic testing can only be a good one. “We should be leaders, not followers.” Mr Wallace admitted that a £34,000 re-branding exercise carried out over the past year, which included the dropping of the society’s long-established black, green and yellow colours, left room for “significant improvement”. The issue, particularly improvement to the website, would, he said, be addressed in the coming year. The decision to prop up the pension fund of chief executive, Ron McHattie, by £120,000 in four tranches was defended by new president, David Evans, who explained that it was a “catching up” operation as the funding of the pension had not been addressed for 11 years and annuity rates had halved in that time. Mr Evans, who works as a financial adviser, runs a 60-cow pedigree herd in Cleveland with his wife, Penny, and has been chairman of the society’s breed promotion committee. He is planning a series of open days throughout the country this year to promote the commercial attributes of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. “There is a huge and growing demand for certified Aberdeen-Angus beef with the active involvement of most of the leading supermarkets in the UK and registrations in the Herd Book are at a record level and continuing to increase,” said Mr Evans. “But we can’t stand still and it is important that the breed adopts all the latest technology to take the breed forward in the future.” New senior vice-president is Tom Arnott, Haymount, Kelso, while Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, was appointed junior vice-president.

Motoring news

Rising repair costs and whiplash claims behind insurance rise

February 11 2017

Vehicle insurance premiums hit a record high last quarter, rising by more than five times the rate of inflation in 2016. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that tax increases, rising repair costs and increasing costs arising from whiplash injury claims were to blame. According to the ABI’s Motor Premium Tracker - which measures the price consumers actually pay for their cover, rather than quotes - the average price for private comprehensive insurance in Q4 2016 was £462. The highest figure recorded before this was in Q2 of 2012, when the average price was £443. The Q4 figure for 2016 was up 4.9% over Q3, equating to a £22 rise in the average premium. It was also found that the average premium for all of 2016 was 9.3% higher than the average premium for 2015. ABI’s assistant director and head of motor and liability, Rob Cummings, said: “These continue to be tough times for honest motorists. They are bearing the brunt of a cocktail of rising costs associated with increasing whiplash-style claims, rising repair bills and a higher rate of insurance premium tax. “While we support the Government’s further reforms to tackle lower-value whiplash costs, it must not give with one hand and take away with the other. The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums. “Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system and urge the Lord Chancellor to engage with the industry about setting a rate that is fair for both claimants and customers.” Meanwhile, the RAC has released research that suggests not indicating when turning is our number one annoyance on the roads. Well over half (58%) of the survey’s respondents said failing to indicate was the top inconsiderate behaviour. It was narrowly ahead (56%) of those who thought middle lane hogging was the greatest driving sin.

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.

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