When I was a child I always had my classic "Knight Rider" Tin lunch box so I could carry my sandwiches to school, (X2 sandwiches, yoghurt and my drinking bottle) But these days I am all grown up (despite what my Girlfriend says) and I have a coffee and a panini from Starbucks. But I hope you will join me as I take a look at what the nerds of today call a lunch box....
Archive for the ‘technology’ Category
Tags: blue, car, coupe, french, jaguar, luxury, new, photos, reviews, supercar, uk, xkrs
Technology is addictive stuff, because when it works beautifully, you just want to repeat the experience.
Take the distinctive transmission button inside the Jaguar XKR-S. Push the `Start’ button and the silvery dial glides upward, like some kind of Smeg designer oven control. It’s just a tiny detail, but the way it works so effortlessly is a massive hint that the XKR is all about the technology of explosive, efficient and utterly ruthless speed.
HOW FAST DOES IT GO MISTER?
Have you ever ridden a modern Superbike, something like a Yamaha R1, Honda Fireblade, Ducati 1098 maybe? The XKR-S has that same immediate, gut-pulling punch of acceleration.
The spec sheet says 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, with a top speed of 186mph, with that kick-ass 550bhp performance delivered from a 5-litre V8. That plain description doesn’t really tell the story however. This is a car which can be transformed within a second, from a pleasantly burbling automatic around town, into a brawling street racer.
Just a flick on the paddle shift, or a simple jab at the throttle with your foot – it’s away on you. Full noise from those four exhausts, cabin full of V8 music, traction control keeping those enormous tyres stuck to the Tarmac.
The XKR-S overwhelms your senses. You just shut up and drive. Every idea you had about what made a car `fast’ vanishes, about as quickly as petrol through the injection system.
IS THE XKR-S A RACE CAR FOR THE PUBLIC ROAD?
Certainly there are race car touches. The brakes are big red calipers, mounted on discs the size of Thor’s shield. The XKR-S sits low to the ground, there’s a serious looking carbon spoiler on the rear of the car and vents in the bonnet to feed a fresh gulp of air to the fuel injectors at speed.
But the XKR-S has a genuinely luxurious interior, which is a million miles from the stripped-out, sparse brutality of a real racer. Touch the chrome seat adjustment buttons on the door and make everything fit you like a glove. Play with the music system. Make a phone call.
Try the reversing camera out, or freeze-dry your hair, Van Damme style, with the climate control.
The XKR-S does all things you expect. It’s got all the luxury lifestyle toys. It does live and breathe for Paddock Hill, not Primrose Hill.
CRAZY FAST, SUPER SAFE
Yes, it’s easy to end up going way too fast in the XKR-S, but if you do arrive at say a T-junction on a country road and need to scrub off about 60mph in 70 feet, this car can do it. No drama, no tyre smoke, just fearsome stopping power when you need it.
The car also handles with a totally focussed, but understated ability. The steering and suspension gives you all the feedback you need, so you push on just a little bit more on each corner. It doesn’t get twitchy, or `whiteline’ over ridges on the road, it just keeps everything feeling 100% spot-on.
Technology you see. Adaptive Dynamics they call it at Jaguar, which means the suspension varies its settings the harder you drive. It knows you want to press on, then firms everything up before you can say `pass me that C-spanner.’
If you can’t afford a private lake of unleaded petrol for your £97,000 Jaguar XKR-S supercar, then please leave this page for the Kia Picanto review on Mumsnet.
I guess I should mention the Smooth FM 6-speed automatic gearbox, which lets you play sweet soul music with that V8 engine. Naturally you can set cruise control if you need to save your licence on a deserted section of the M74 one night.
The XKR-S has a pedestrian sensor program for town driving, which is probably a good idea, as once you’re inside the XKR-S you really are set low to the ground and the view of the front end is a bit limited.
It’s got auto locking, plus a proximity ignition key with valet mode, so your Downton Abbey staff can buff up the leather interior sections without the car shouting `Help, poor people are stealing me!’
The central 7-inch screen on the dashboard lets you set up your sat nav, connect an iPod/MP3 and vary the mood lighting inside the car. I’ll be honest, it took a good ten minutes to relax in the XKR-S, it just feels like a coil-sprung, hard-as-nails kick-boxer, waiting to get into a cage fight.
So yeah, press `shuffle’ on the Eagles Greatest Hits and turn the mood lighting to deep indigo. Whatever gets you through the day…
IF I WON THE LOTTERY, WOULD I BUY ONE?
This wild, heavy breathing muscle car is just too much for the public road. Everyone stares at you, wondering if you might be Mario Ballotelli about to dish out free cash. Drivers in company BMWs hammer the throttle, just to make you nail the Jag and get past them – they feel they need to see, and hear, all that expensive engineering in action.
I just couldn’t be bothered. I’d hire the XKR-S for a trackday, then drive home in an XF, or a Merc S350S diesel maybe. Anonymous and happy, with a points-free licence too, hopefully.
But if you are a premiership footballer, hip Swedish DJ, or member of the Russian oil and gas mafia, then the XKR-S will announce to the world that you indeed fabulously wealthy, and a magnet for every gold-digging sex pest on reality TV.
The XKR-S is, like a Rolex, a statement of wealth and power, yet it’s also an utterly immersive, overpowering experience. It is something a driver could love, admire and enjoy using. It demands your total concentration and frankly, not many modern cars do, they’re too easy to drive.
I liked feeling nervous, edgy even, as I drove the XKR-S. The boys at Jaguar have built a car that reminds the rich they are mortal, on every 120mph corner. For that, they deserve a round of applause.
Tags: battery, congestion, drive, driven, electric, exempt, how, london, mercedes, much, prices, range, rated, renault, reviewed, road, smart, test, uk, what, zoe
Tested the Smart electric car recently, which looks like a refugee from a giant Lego factory, but might well make sense if you live in London, or another city which offers tax breaks and free parking for electric vehicles.
Like the Smart petrol, this is a 2-seater city car, with basic luggage carrying capacity, nippy acceleration, but a fairly unexciting top speed. In fact I reckon the electric version would struggle to hit the giddy speed of 73mph which I squeezed out of the Smart petrol about 10 years ago.
Time has updated the interior however, which now has air-con, groovy dials showing battery life remaining and the `regen’ zone, plus more racy semi-bucket seats. My memory could be playing tricks on the seats however.
On test, which was a distance of maybe 10 miles, the battery meter fell from 60% to 40%, so I would guess that city driving in winter would cane the battery into a gibbering wreck in about 50 miles.
In theory, if you brake, or coast downhill the regen gadgetry adds a little charge to the battery cells.
In reality coasting down a very long hill near the M62 raised the battery meter by 1%. Great. Except I was doing 28mph by the bottom of the hill and angry truckers were queing up behind me.
Is an Electric Car a Practical Everyday Vehicle?
For all the practical problems associated with electric cars; limited range, having a chargepoint installed at your house and the potential catastrophic drop in residual values, I became a fan of this car within 5 minutes.
It’s just like driving a battery powered go-kart. Acceleration is instant and the sheer nippiness of the Smart annoys regular petrol car drivers, with its whirring oomph away from the lights.
In London you avoid the congestion charge and get free parking in some locations. Obviously there’s no VED tax to pay. On that basis the £11,000 cost ( base model) isn’t too bad if you are saving say £15 per day in congestion and parking fees.
The battery pack in most electric cars will start to degrade in about 7 years, which means it won’t hold its charge for the same distance. After 8-10 years you will probably need a new battery pack and that cost – which could be around £3000 – is what hammers the resale value of electric cars. But Smart think that many customers may choose to lease the car, or the battery pack.
A similar lease deal is available on the Renault Zoe, which retails for £17500 by the way.
Plus points; Forget petrol stations, London congestion charges
Minus; You could lose £7000 in 3 years in depreciation, nobody in the car trade knows what a used Smart electric will be worth.
Tags: 2012, amg, best, bluetec, car, diesel, mercedes, new, photos, rated, reviews, roadtest, s350, v6
Some cars are like clothes; they define you to the world, offer clues about your income, your aspirations. This car is definitely one of them.
Just look at its rakish, gangster elegance. From the diplomat hush of the leather interior, to the dark, broad-shouldered hustle of its bodywork, like a Savile Row suit bursting with money, muscle and power, this car has real presence. You’ve arrived baby.
Sit inside this car and you sink into a gentleman’s club. The steering wheel feels like sculpted Italian marble, the buttons and switches work with a fluid, expensive grace.
Fire up the V6 common rail diesel engine and whisper your way along urban streets, and you will think it’s a petrol engine. Just so quiet. There’s no hint of clatter, just class.
How Fast Does it Go Mister?
That’s not important. This is a V6 diesel, so true petrolheads will simply shrug and look elsewhere. The full spec S350 Blue Tec costs £95,000 (base model is £65,410) and for that kind of money you can get some insane, V8 powered, Mad Max refugee, that drinks unleaded and impresses boys who know what a dump valve is.
No, what the Mercedes six cylinder, three litre engine delivers is a deceptive, velvet smooth punch of power.
The seven speed autobox selects gears like a maitre’d choosing your favourite table. The Merc simply wafts along, but with enough grunt in reserve to humiliate any uppity lettings agents from Surbiton.
Handling and Braking
I wasn’t going to mention the S350’s ability to handle the twisty stuff, because it isn’t the type of driving an owner would do. But when you brake late, the S350 just shrugs and goes ‘try later next time.’ It corners with grace, aplomb and lots of other old fashioned words.
When you do corner hard the driver’s seat firms up by your shoulders, using some electronic magic to keep you firmly supported. It’s a nice touch, the car is reminding you that driving fast is a serious business, so do it properly. Sit up straight.
Is It Really Worth The Money?
The standard model has a rear parking sensors, all the iPod/Bluetooth/DVD blah-blah gadgetry you could ask for and driving aids like electronic suspension, headlamp assist, anti-skid control and more.
If you want extras there are 19 inch AMG alloys, a panoramic sunroof, rear view parking camera, infrared pedestrian detection in your windscreen and a small fridge for the rear passengers. Nice touch.
The short answer is that the three pointed star on a Mercedes is the gun sight of your personal ambition. It says to the world, `I’ve made it, now I’m spending it.’
So a Mercedes like this – a proper Merc, as my Dad would call it – is perhaps a brutally simple way of announcing all that monied success.
But the S350 isn’t as in-your-face as many other rich people’s vehicles, it has more restraint, fewer delusions of grandeur than say a Popemobile white Range Rover, or a footballer’s City Blue Bentley. Some people might think you’re not really that wealthy if you drive the S350 – maybe that’s a good thing?
In the end, for me, the S350 lacks the low-slung, muscular beauty of the Jaguar XF coupe, or the sweet soul music an Alfa V6 Brera makes on a track day. The S350 BlueTec is a curiously emotionless car to drive, for all its deft handling, impressive brakes and bullet train power.
The S350 is like Schumacher; great driver, clinical, ruthless and a champion too.
But he’s not Senna. And never will be.
Tags: apps, best, brightness, contrast, depth, editor, field, free, instaeditor, ipad, iphone, iquikdof, photo, rated, reviews, saturation, top
There are lots of free photo apps you can download, but one of my favourites is InstaEditor for iPhone and iPad.
Just like Instagram, it has a basic range of colour filters you can apply, but the extra bonus is that InstaEditor has Brightness, Saturation, Sharpness and Contrast settings that you can dial in.
Once you have your image – you can take a photo or choose from your library, then choose a colour filter, add backlighting, or night settings, then swipe the dashboard menu at the bottom of the screen.
Tap Brightness if you want to enhance a night time photo, or if you have something that’s looking a little washed out, dial in some extra colour saturation.
You just click Apply after adding each effect, the app saves your tweaks as you go along.
You can dab away things like Red Eye, or add a splash of white to sections of the photo too.
When you’re finished, tap Done and the photo is automatically saved to your iPhone photos. You can share it immediately, or put the tweaked image through something else like say iQuik Dof – this lets you use your fingertip to choose which section of an image is in/out of focus.
Basically this app is easy-peasy, lemon squeezy to use, costs nothing and apart from a message inviting you to play a game each time you use it, has no annoying features.
Get snapping smartphone lovers
Here are two pics from my iPhone 4, taken at night. First has no filters, next has InstaEditor and iQuik DoF applied.
Tags: 2050, city, computers, futurology, hammond, ideas, IT, manchester, media, predictions, ray, salford, smartphones, tablets, technology, tedx
I like Ray Hammond. He thinks about the future as a kaleidoscope of the past – as a DJ might say, history remixed.
Ray’s talk at TEDx was the highlight for me.
A glorious sweep through human history, bookmarked with our quantum leaps into virtual existence. Speech, writing, the invention of money, settled agriculture and so on.
“Money is virtual, it isn’t real. It only exists if you believe in it.” says Ray.
He’s spot-on there.
So now we live in a virtual world, where we are all connected on social networks, mobile phones track our movements, we all learn via Google and Wikipedia, transfer money without paper – all currency ultimately becoming just zeroes and ones on a screen.
Odd thing is, Ray predicted all this back in 1984. When computers were still basically dumb adding machines, with some graphic bells and whistles. Since then computing power has skyrocketed at an exponential rate. The internet connects these ever more potent, versatile computer chips and applications.
Where is it going?
Ray Hammond reckons that sometime around 2050-2060 computers will be as capable as humans. Think about that for a second. Anything we can do, dream, desire, invent or design in precise, visionary detail, will be a Da Vinci code for the Intels of tomorrow. An Apple that Newton could never foresee…
Ray makes the point that in the past Victorians called cars ‘horseless carriages,’ railway engines were ‘iron horses.’
They couldn’t truly define the new technologies they were inventing as they progressed. It was impossible to name them because they were signposts on the road to an unknown future.
We are at the same point with smartphones, tablets or computers. We will not recognise the smartphone of 2050 and we won’t call it that either.
“This century marks the turning point for the virtual ape,” says Ray, “we will soon have the capacity to invent new systems of money exchange, healthcare, transport and communications. What we do with that power is up to us.”
When Ray finished speaking I could sense almost everyone in the Lowry theatre turned to each other, and thought much the same thing;
‘What are we gonna do when Skynet becomes self aware – run for it??’
Tags: 2012, adventure, Atlantic, Deborah, leadership, rower, salford, Searle, speakers, Taljs, tedx
Deborah Searle is incredibly honest, obviously determined woman, who carried on rowing across Atlantic when her husband pulled out of the adventure challenge after 2 weeks.
She took three months to make it from Tenerife to Barbados, but did it single handed. True grit.
She’s talking about coping with fears, stopping the scary scenarios in her head. Plus the embarrassment of nearly being sunk by sea turtles. They nibbled the seaweed on the bottom of her boat and almost capsized her.
Deborah talks about how close she got to giving up on the voyage. She admits that she had to learn to ask for help, and combat the isolation of just endlessly rowing the ocean.
But also how peaceful it was to battle just the sea, and yourself.
‘This infection that was loneliness.’ Says Deborah. A telling phrase:
How many people feel that living in a city, not just alone at sea?
Deborah talks about how she developed mental strategies to cope with feeling utterly alone. Imagining conversations with her family when she returned, missing her father who died just before Deborah set off in the boat.
A tough, very personal story, a snapshot if how the human spirit can drive us to achieve great feats.
Deborah reminded me of many Team GB Olympians. She’s worked out how to gauge success on an individual level, what makes us tick deep down.
Ultimately, the medal that counts is the one you give yourself. That’s how we define ourselves.
Tags: 2012, Ian, salford, science, tedx, Wilmot
( Updated and corrected 22.10.12)
Leader of the team which helped create Dolly the sheep, Sir Ian Wilmut, comes across as a typical academic, but his quiet manner hides a profound determination to discover, to improve the sum of human knowledge and find elusive cures.
During the TEDx talk, Ian briefly explains the basic process of cell cloning. But more importantly, how manipulating the DNA of the sheep embryo means the function of the cells can be `reprogrammed.’
Ian then moves on, explaining Transcription Factors: it’s all about determining the function, the nature of the cells, understanding a code within a DNA code. This is what goes on naturally within an embryo – stem cells are the building blocks which instruct other cells to bond into nerves, muscle tissue, bone, eyes…
Stem cell research means scientists can now recreate the type of natural skin repair the body does itself, as in say the slow healing a wound.
For me, this is life changing science:
The treatment of illness, from the common cold, to slow, horrible conditions such as motor neurone disease, or burns injuries, could be revolutionised by decoding – and regrowing – the cells which seem irrevocably damaged within our frail bodies.
If you’ve ever watched a relative suffer as their heart has slowly lost muscle tissue, and failed to keep pumping precious life around their body, then you’ll understand what stem cell research could lead to one day.
An enhancement of both lifespan, and the quality of that life.
The audience are gripped by Ian’s description of how cell treatments can treat medical conditions. This isn’t just about copying sheep, nor is it about playing God.
It is a small step in scientific terms, yet a profound moment of human possibility.
Great talk and very inspiring.