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Month: February 2015

Jensen Plans to Return!

Jensen Plans to Return!

Anyone remember Jensen Interceptor? The Italian-designed, British-built coupe from the 70s? Well, this week the company confirmed that they are creating a new car! Its called the Jensen GT, and is clear inspired by the fabulous Interceptor.


As you can tell, it is not quite ready yet, as it is still at the clay model stage, so a Geneva launch is out of the question. However, it is great to see this company back, and reproducing some great-looking coupes again.

Power will come from a GM-soured supercharged 6.4 litre V8, producing around 660 bhp, mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. The engine is properly modern too, with variable-valve timing, direct injection and dry sump lubrication. Unfortunately this will not be available in four-wheel drive like the Jensen FF Interceptor, but only rear-wheel drive.


This new car will be available as either a two-seat or a 2+2 when it goes on sale. This car is not being built by the actual Jensen company which created the original Interceptor, but  by Jenson International Automotive, who has made a business out of restoring and modifying classic Jensens.

Expect the Jensen GT to be reveal within the next few months, with more detail revealed at launch.

(Yes, those lights are from a Jaguar F-Type)

The Fire-Spitting Vulcan Set For Geneva

The Fire-Spitting Vulcan Set For Geneva


Aston Martin has decided to take on the big boys of Ferrari and McLaren, with the track-only Vulcan hypercar. In case you were wondering about the “Vulcan” name, its meaning is twofold. Vulcan is the name of the aircraft which used Aston’s headquarters in Gaydon as its RAF base. It is also the Roman god of fire, which explains this teaser video they released a few days ago. The flames are strong with this one.

The Vulcan is a limited production race car for Aston’s “special” clientele. This means that each car costs £1.8 million and only 24 cars will be built. If the number 24 seems a little weird and specific to you, it is meant to signify the 24 hour races Aston Martin competes in and it also marks the year of the 24th Bond film, Spectre. The very lucky individuals who get to drive this car also benefit from a special package to get the most out of their car.

Though Aston claim it is a track-only car, the Vulcan’s lights, wipers and handbrake are placed in such a way to be allowed on the road too.



Now down to the nitty-gritty powering this beast.It uses the One-77 variation of their tried and tested V12 engine, this time pushed to produce over 800 bhp. The V12 is mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox, which is derived from the Vantage GTE race car.

It also uses the carbon fibre tub first used on the One-77 hypercar, with a stiffer and lighter chassis. The Vulcan has pushrod suspension, keeping things very stable indeed. Both the dampers and anti-roll bars are adjustable. The brakes are equally impressive. Derived from Brembo, they are a carbon-ceramic affair with 380 mm diameter up front and 360 mm in the rear. It also has a variable traction control system and a limited slip differential. The car also weighs 1350 kg.


The obvious competition for the Vulcan is the Ferrari FXX K, and the McLaren P1 GTR. Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s design chief,  claims that this car has no competition because owners who buy these sort of vehicles usually own all three cars. However, to us mere mortals who spend hours analysing the specs and picking our favourite track-only monster, it is quite clear that the Vulcan is a competitor for the FXX K and the P1 GTR, even if these three will never be seen on the same track at the same time.

The design of the car is also meant to inspire future Aston Martins, which I find difficult to believe, considering how extreme this car is.


The Longtail Is Back!

The Longtail Is Back!


McLaren has finally taken wraps off their 675LT, after a series of teaser shots and videos. This is a harder, faster and lighter version of their 650S supercar, a car already known for being quite nippy.

The LT, which stands for Longtail, is a name which harks back to the 1997 McLaren F1 Longtail. The 675LT will sit alongside the 650S Coupe and Spider line-up, as the Ferrari 458 Speciale did with the 458 Italia and 458 Spider.

675lt side

The LT uses the same twin-turbo 3.8 litre V8 engine, thoroughly reworked to produced 666 bhp. McLaren claims that 50% of the engine is all-new, with titanium exhaust pipes among many of the modifications.

Externally, there has been extensive use of lightweight materials, resulting in an overall reduction of 100 kg over the weight of the 650S. Couple this extra 25 bhp with this lighter weight will push this car to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds. Top speed is 2 mph lower than the 650S due to the aerodynamic modifications.

675lt back

The 675LT will make its debut in the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.



New Skoda Superb Set for Geneva

New Skoda Superb Set for Geneva

For many years, Skodas have hardly been the cars of choice for those with petrol in their veins. This by no means suggests that the cars are in anyway bad, in fact they are quite dependable mules. But with the latest generation of Skodas, the Czech company is flexing their design muscles.


This is it, and it is a handsome looking thing. Its lines are sharper and more coupe-like than the previous generation, designed to take on everything from the Peugeot 508 to the Audi A4 and everything in between.

The new Superb makes use of VW’s MQB platform, with an extended wheelbase 80 mm longer than the old Superb and 90 mm longer than the new VW Passat.  This extended wheelbase ensures the Superb’s main selling point, that of fantastic interior accommodation and a boot to swallow up everything but the kitchen sink. The overall car is only 28 mm bigger than the previous generation and is still shorter than the current Ford Mondeo.

Engines will focus predominantly on diesel engines, beginning with a 1.6 litre 118 bhp and, in manual form, emitting just 103g/km of CO2. When equipped with the dual-clutch gearbox, emissions rise to 106g/km of CO2. Later on, this engine will also form the basis for a Greenline model, with emissions expected to go as low as 96 g/km.


The biggest seller, the 2.0 litre diesel will be available in two guises, a 148 bhp model, emitting 106/116 g/km of CO2 (manual/dual-clutch respectively),  and a more powerful 187 bhp, which emits 107/119 g/km of CO2. If buyers opt for the four-wheel drive model automatic model, those emissions rise to 131 g/km of CO2.

Petrol engines, which will only be made available in the UK, will be made up of a 1.4 litre 148 bhp and a 276 bhp 2.0 litre engine. These engines will produce 115 g/km and 164 g/km of CO2 respectively.


As standard, the Superb will come with a 6.5 inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, City Emergency Braking, and a pair of umbrellas concealed in the front doors, a la Rolls Royce Phantom. Part with more of your hard earned cash, and you will get parking sensors, Mirrorlink functionality and satellite navigation.

Order books open in the summer. Taxi drivers rejoice.

Facelifted DS5 Set for Geneva

Facelifted DS5 Set for Geneva


Notice I have not used the name “Citroen”? Citroen would rather I didn’t. They would like to reposition their DS brand as a more premium product than other Citroen, so have “separated” them, much in the same way as Lexus is a separate entity from Toyota.

As you can tell from the images released, they have completely removed the Citroen double chevrons, making use of the DS branding all along the car. Besides removing Citroen badging, they have also updated the design, making it even more better looking than before. The new design is classier and incorporates a new corporate grille. The rear is largely unchanged, but overall the car seems fresh and retains its French quirkiness.


In addition to the updated design, they have also added new engines. There is the 90g/km Hybrid 4×4, which was known as the Hybrid 4 in the previous model. In addition to the hybrid model, there are three diesel engines, with 120 bhp, 150 bhp and 180 bhp. There is also a 165 bhp petrol engine. Later on a 210 bhp petrol engine will be added to the line up. All engines will be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox initially, then midway through 2015 the six-speed automatic version will be made available.

The interior also gets a thorough going over. Many of the buttons controlling infotainment have been removed and everything is controlled via a touchscreen. With this new touchscreen infotainment, CItroen has also launched a new app for Android and iOS, called MyDS, which displays important information about the car to the owner.


This is only a mid-life facelift, to keep things fresh until a new model comes along in a few years.


Dare to Zlatan for the World Food Programme

Dare to Zlatan for the World Food Programme

Image courtesy of Forsman & Bodenfors

Why is everyone talking about Zlatan Ibrahimović’s tattoos? Well, on the 14th of February, Paris Saint-German played against Caen in a Ligue 1 match at the Parc des Princes.  In the opening two minutes came a cross from Yohan Cabaye to Serge Aurier who whipped the ball in for the big Swede to plant the ball in the back of the net with his deadly right foot. Now, for non-football (please don’t call it soccer I beg of you) enthusiasts, what I just said may have been just a regular goal in a regular football match.

The action that followed after that peach of a strike, was what got the press talking.
Zlatan celebrated by taking off his shirt to reveal a host of new tattoos. Now to do such a thing in only the second minute of a match seemed irrational, but the reasoning was quite touching.

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Developers in Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus, and more can sell apps on Google Play

Developers in Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus, and more can sell apps on Google Play

Screenshot 2015-02-18 at 9.09.20 AM

Early this morning Google announced that it has expanded Google Play Merchant registration to 12 new countries from Europe, South America, and Asia. These are:

  • Bulgaria
  • Lithuania
  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Panama
  • Dominican Republic
  • Honduras
  • Bolivia
  • Bahrain
  • Jamaica

Developers here can now register to receive funds through Google Wallet in their native currency, allowing them to sell apps in their respective countries. This brings the number of countries whose developers can sell apps on Google Play to 76.

Source: Google via Android Central

Robot Wars ’15: Low Action, High Tension, Damn Emotional

Robot Wars ’15: Low Action, High Tension, Damn Emotional


Robot Wars on campus (and as covered last year), organised by the IEEE Malta Student Branch, is one those rare opportunities allowing students to show off talents they’ve developed either as a result, or despite of, their academic studies.  It’s hard, with our academic system, to really let students shine, but events like these really do bring out the best of students of all academic paths and ages. Seriously – some of these robots are insane.

Let’s meet them.

Editor’s note: While some photos are part of the text, larger galleries can be found on Page 2 in a section for themselves, and organised by setting.

The Robot Wars 2015 Competitors

Robot Wars - DrobilkaDrobilka

Definitely the most intimidating of the bunch, Drobilka was built to deal, and receive, a great deal of pain. Some specs:

  • Armour: 3mm thick aluminium.
  • Two motors: 120W and 150W, one powering the rotating drum, one powering the robot itself.
  • Invertible – Drobilka can still fight if flipped upside down (assuming it survives the flip. More on that later!)
  • Weapon: a single massive rotating drum up front. Despite the intimidating “teeth” I was told by the team that the drum is meant to catch on the bottom of other robots and flip them. They didn’t exclude total destruction if Drobilka was up against weak competition.
  • Participated in the 17KG “Heavyweight” category

Robot Wars - Team RynoTeam Ryno

The inspiration behind this robot is pretty obvious. It was the Rhino, nature’s battering ram. Strength, power, and durability were the core principles behind this robot, with ramming being its originally intended offensive ability. However a rule change during development meant that an active weapon had to be present, leading Team Ryno to add a simple saw in the front and a bumper made of PVC piping to protect it. Some specs:

  • Built to ram and last longer than the competition in a battle
  • Features a wooden base for strength, an aluminium chassis, and additional aluminium sheeting for armour. Half a PVC pipe lines the front to protect Ryno’s weapon.
  • Armour: Sheet aluminium
  • Weapon: front-mounted spinner
  • Participated in the 17KG “Heavyweight” category
  • Cost: ~ €600


Built by a team of Masters students, PX-1 was the most mysterious of the bunch. During preparations I heard rumours about it having been overweight by a kilo and a half at the previous day’s weighing. The other teams wondered about what these Master’s students had come up with, and when they did show up and show off the robot in battle, the concepts didn’t disappoint. PX-1 was a large black circle, wrapped in a rubber-like covering, and small protrusions along its circumference which were actually the tips of blades embedded within the robot. Its offensive ability was pretty clear: the blades would extend then the robot would spin rapidly.

It was the most impressive concept present, but electric goblins and a malfunction early in the battle meant execution didn’t live up to the potential. Some specs:

  • Round body, covered in a tough rubber-like coating.
  • Weapon: extending blades along circumference, robot would then become a “spinning top of death” in battle.
  • Participated in the 17KG “Heavyweight” category


Named after the brilliant Nokia phone, the 3310 more than lived up to its name. The only wedge-shaped robot in the competition, the 3310 was low, squat, heavily armoured bot whose pneumatically operated flipper stole the show. The Team was manned by veterans of at least last year’s Robot Wars. Some specs:

  • Armour: aluminium diamond plate sheeting
  • Weapon: pneumatic flipper
  • Participated in the 17KG “Heavyweight” category


The most compact of the bunch, I first thought Dicer was fighting in the 5Kg “Featherweight” category. Despite its tiny dimensions Dicer weighed in at 17Kgs and was the most powerful of the bunch, as shown below. Unfortunately it was plagued by drive-train issues from before the event began, but gave a good show nonetheless. Some specs:

  • Armour: sheet aluminium
  • Weapon: rotating blades powered by a 1hp motor
  • Twin 350W motors for propulsion
  • Participated in the 17KG “Heavyweight” category
  • Cost: ~ €1000

20150208-IMG_6851Darth Invader

One of only two “Featherweight” contestants, Darth Invader’s machined aluminium hull and razor-sharp spinner make an impressive sight. Norbert Bonnici and Alison Baldacchino won last year’s Robot Wars with Chewie, another Star Wars reference.  Darth Invader was also the only robot that was invertible – had it flipped it would definitely have been out. Some specs:

  • Armour: machine aluminium
  • Weapon: top-mounted spinner running along Darth Invader’s circumference at high speed
  • Participated in the 5Kg “Featherweight” category
  • Cost: ~ €1000

Robot Wars 2015-14Lucky Devil

The other “Featherweight” contestant, Lucky Devil was definitely the underdog in this competition. I will personally admit to not expecting much out of its battle with Darth Invader. I thought its polycarbonate shell and foam interior would be its downfall but Lucky Devil was great in the arena.

The most notable fact about Lucky Devil isn’t the robot or its impressive durability, but the team members: John and Theresa Fiott, a father daughter team! Now, onto some specs:

  • Armour: polycarbonate panels, foam interior, with protruding spikes
  • Weapon: rotating spikes on the front of the Lucky Devil
  • Participated in the 5Kg “Featherweight” category
LULZ: Uber Seize Takes The Share Out of Rideshare. By Car-jacking.

LULZ: Uber Seize Takes The Share Out of Rideshare. By Car-jacking.

Screenshot 2015-02-10 at 11.13.56 AM

Uber, despite its futuristic vision of the future of public transportation, hasn’t been devoid of controversy, ranging from sabotaging its competitors to spying on journalists using a “God View”. Controversies aside, Uber’s usefulness is beyond question. And now it’s gotten even better!

This is, of course, a The Onion parody of Uber services. Instead of simply hailing a car an Uber user can choose cars and steal them from their drivers instead. Uber goes so far as to let user choose which cars to swipe based on the car or even the driver’s strength. Real disruptive technologies right there.

via Engadget