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Slack gets hacked

Slack gets hacked

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Before I start my occasional chatter, you should know Slack is not just another start-up with security issues. It was said to be the ‘email-killer‘ by The Verge and rightly so, users can send any document type whilst communicating with their respective team-members via the oh-so cherished hash tag . It was valued at being worth $2.8 bn, so yeah it’s pretty important. Sandwich Video, another awesome start-up, pretty much summed Slack’s ease of use in this explainer video that they produced some months ago.

Cool, so what happened?

On their official blog, they recently confirmed that there was unauthorized access to their database storing user profile information. Thankfully they go on to mention that no ‘financial or payment information was compromised’ and also that a small number of individual users were affected.

The company said that it had introduced two-factor authentication as an additional security step, which requires users to type in a code sent to their mobile phone or tablet to access the app. A password kill-switch was also made available for team owners which according to the blog post allowed for both “instantaneous team-wide resetting of passwords and forced termination of all user sessions for all team members (which means that everyone is signed out of your Slack team in all apps on all devices).”

So, if you’re a Slacker head on to the help site to set up the necessary authentication and for the hackers I leave you with a GIF from one of my favourite TV series, the Office.

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EDIT: After learning what happened to Slack, I read an article stating that Slack weren’t the only victims. The others included British Airways, GitHub and Uber.  Due to my undying love for anything visual, here’s another GIF depicting how I feel about the matter. On that note, good day, reader!

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Ferrari FXX K Revealed

Ferrari FXX K Revealed

Ferrari FxxK Front

The FXX programme is back, with the FXX K. Based on the LaFerrari hypercar, the FXX K is a track-only machine designed for a few distinct clients, to test as-yet unseen technologies which could make their way to future Ferraris. Ferrari will only make forty FXX Ks, all of which are sold out.

The K in the name stands for KERS, the kinetic recovery system complimenting the 6.3 litre V12 engine for a total output of 1036 bhp and over 900 NM of torque. Weight is down too, by about 90kg over the standard LaFerrari. Ferrari has yet to reveal the official details of this car, but it said the FXX K is capable of reaching 62 mph in under 3 seconds and a top speed in excess of 217 mph.

Ferrari FXXK Side

The main thing though, is its design. It is designed with a specific purpose of obliterating any sort of track, but besides that, it just looks brilliant. It looks like it was designed by a nine year old, with giant splitters and massive wings everywhere. All those wings apparently improve downforce by as much as 50%, compared to the LaFerrari. All these modifications mean that the FXX K can lap Ferrari’s Fiorano test track a full five seconds faster than the LaFerrari.

The infamous ‘manettino’ switch, which controls the traction control on all modern Ferraris has been modified for this car to include four new settings. These are Qualify Mode, which provides the maximum power for a small number of laps, Long Run, which sets the car up for longer stints, Manual Boost Mode, which delivers maximum torque instantly, and finally Fast Charge which can recharge the car’s battery. Clearly, the new system has been designed specifically for track use, and it is not entirely clear how this will be translated on to future future road cars. The FXX K isn’t homologated for any race series, but is intended to be a technical showcase for future Ferrari road cars.

Ferrari FXXK Back

Price, you ask? An eye-watering 2.2 million euros. You spend all that money and you don’t even get to take the car home with you. Ferrari keeps the car and every so often it organises a race event for you to drive the car. That is to ensure that clients do not sell the car’s latest innovations to other brands.

While this will not technically have any rivals as the FXX K will be restricted to track use, this car is comparable to Mclaren’s P1 GTR, which produces 986 bhp, and is also a track-only vehicle.  Hopefully, one day, when neither Ferrari nor Mclaren are looking, someone will race them against one another. Here is to hoping.

What to do with a Company like Lotus?

What to do with a Company like Lotus?

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Is there even place for this company any more? I am talking about actual viability in today’s market, where it is a genuine competitor to today’s established brands, and not remaining the quirky sportscar of choice for those stuck in the past.

Let’s face it, Lotus cars are not up to the standard of  the established brands. Finding out someone has opted for a Lotus over a Porsche is not only surprising, but also a little silly. Sure, Lotus may be an undiluted driving experience, but look at what you are sacrificing in order to go round a corner half a second faster than everyone else. You’ve got no comfort, no in car technology, not even a proper cup holder!

This would be fine if the cars were relatively cheap, but they aren’t  cheap. You don’t even get bulletproof build quality. It still has the feeling of being built by  a couple of ex-RAF pilots in a shed somewhere in Norfolk.

The problem isn’t even that it is still a cottage industry. If it maintained some sort USP, like Morgan or Ariel, it would be fine, but as it stands the Lotus cars are a little anonymous. I, for the life of me, cannot come up with a reason, either logically or emotionally, to buy a Lotus. They are too behind the market to be considered relevant any more.

The last time we were wowed by Lotus was during the reign of Dany Bahar, when he showed up with five concept cars, proudly proclaiming that he shall be bringing Lotus up to the standard of Ferrari. That was over four years ago, and since then Bahar has been relieved of his duties due to a questionable performance. Then there was a minor crisis involving potential investors, which eventually died down, followed shortly by the appointment of ex-PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales.

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A Bahar future which never came to fruition.

Now, yet again, there is talk of new cars to go toe-to-toe with Porsche. There are strong hints of an SUV and a saloon a la Cayenne and Panamera. Which would be fine, if it weren’t for the choice of engines they seem to interested in. Basically, they are looking to Toyota for engines. Now there is nothing wrong with Toyota engines, but they are not comparable to Porsche’s engines. For them to be even remotely considered they have to either be backed by a big company willing to provide engines (like BMW does for Morgan), or follow Alfa’s lead, put their heads down and create an engine of their own.

But before they dip their toe into the premium market, they want to milk everything out of the current range, with endless special editions. Will it work? I doubt it. If people aren’t buying Lotus cars now, special paint jobs and automatic gearboxes will not tempt buyers. Their cars are sub-standard. Why spend £50k on a Lotus, when for the same money you can buy something as beautiful as a 4C or as technically perfect as the Cayman. It appears to me, that Lotus do not have a clear direction of where they are, and where they should be going. They are in a state of limbo, unable to progress with the current crop of cars , and unable to progress unless they sell some cars.

So what is the solution? Well a BMW-Morgan relationship would have some serious potential to Lotus.  A company like Mercedes could take Lotus to great heights, providing them with engines, gearboxes and infotainment systems, whilst allowing Lotus to grow and thrive in the sportscar market. As it stands Mercedes hasn’t got a share of the sportscar market, so a potential partnership with Lotus could be  beneficial to both. Mercedes would get a toe in the market,  as well as key knowledge from Lotus on weight saving and chassis development. Lotus would gain a sugar-daddy with enough resources to make them viable.  Then, Lotus may finally become a viable car manufacturer with a future.

The Audi Prologue Revealed

The Audi Prologue Revealed

Last week, Audi revealed a concept known simply as the Prologue. They claim it is merely a concept for now. Do not believe them. This is the new Audi A9, a coupe A8 to go toe-to-toe with the Mercedes S-Class Coupe. However, besides being a preview to a new  model, the Prologue is also a showcase. A showcase towards Audi’s new design language, and a whole new interpretation of in-car entertainment.

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The Prologue is 40mm shorter and 70mm longer than the production A8. The current concept is powered by a twin-turbo 4.0 litre V8  producing 597 bhp, and two torque figures. As standard it produces 516 lb/ft of torque, with that figure rising to 553 lb/ft using an overboost function, which works  during short bursts of full acceleration.

All this power is transferred to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, making the Prologue capable of hitting 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. So definitely not slow.

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Despite all this power, the engine has been designed to be as efficient as possible, with cylinder deactivation and a 48-volt electrical system. All this tech enables the Prologue to chieve a claimed 32.7mpg and emit just 199g/km of CO2. Most of this tech will not be limited to just the A9 but will also make its way to the next generation A8 too.

The most impressive part of this car, besides its design, is the interior. Audi have set the standard for premium interiors, almost overshadowing its rivals. The Prologue is no exception. The instrument cluster, as is the norm with most premium cars nowadays, has been replaced with a screen, displaying all the relevant information to the driver, such as speed, revs, and navigation. However, what makes this interior especially noteworthy is the fact the interior is a series of touchscreens along the rest of the dashboard. There is also a touchscreen which rises from near the gearlever. This rising screen acts almost as the command centre of the infotainment system. Overall its a somewhat different interpretation of a premium interior.

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Finally, this car is meant to usher in a new design language for Audi, which will find itself on the next generation A8, A9, A6 and A7. Audi are claiming that they want more differentiation in design between their models, in order for the general public to better distinguish between their models.

Holy Moly! It’s the New Mazda MX-5!

Holy Moly! It’s the New Mazda MX-5!

003-2016-mazda-mx5-miata-1“This is the best cheap sportscar around.” If ever there was such a thing as automotive cliches, this would be the biggest and fattest cliche around. Mention the name MX-5 ,(or Miata, if you’re American. I’m not, so I’m sticking to its European name) and everyone knows. You may not get gasps of excitement, or be considered an automotive god, but you get the respect of every petrol head in the room. It is a car with a massive cult following. Some appreciate it, some would love to own one, others live and breathe them.

Mazda knows this, and each and every iteration of the MX-5 since the original has had an incremental design change and mechanical tweaks, to make the newer version better than the model that went before it, whilst at the same time maintaining the character of the original.

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So what is new here? Well, first is the design. It is following Mazda’s current design language, known simply as KODO. What is KODO? Well, according to the Mazda website,  it is “the muscular beauty one sees when an animal pounces”. Quite.

Basically, for us normal folk who don’t have a degree in Japanese art, their designs are meant to be more muscular and more aggressive looking than previous Mazdas. Their cars also have this new signature grille, which was first revealed on the Mazda6 in 2012, which further adds to the aggressive aesthetic.

On the MX-5, Mazda’s designers have mixed the principles from the KODO design language with the raw simplicity of the original MX-5 to produce a car which, to my eyes at least, is quite the looker. It is 10mm wider than the car it replace  but is 105mm shorter than before too. It has also shed 100 kg off the previous model’s weight.

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Engines will either be a 1.5 l producing 140bhp or a 2.0 producing 180bhp. Not a massive amount of power, but remember it is very light, and it has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. I think I would still go for the 2.0 l though, because you know, POWER.

Inside, things have taken a monumental leap forward. The previous generation car had an interior reminiscent of a Casio calculator. This one is more minimalist, and with the right colour leather, classier. All the buttons have been removed and in their place is a large screen controlled with a rotary knob near the handbrake. Behind the rather lovely steering wheel are 3 conventional dials, which are clear and easy to read.

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Looking for a fun little roadster? Look no further.

 

 

Images From www.autoblog.com

 

 

 

The Maserati Alfieri Concept

The Maserati Alfieri Concept

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Last week the Geneva Motor Show opened its doors to the public, and while I was not expecting much from the Italian automakers, other than the Ferrari California T and a couple of hotter Alfa Romeo hatchbacks, Maserati has gone and created another masterpiece to replace its aging GranTourismo.

Aging? That gorgeous two-door, four-seater coupe cannot be more than three years old! Well much to my surprise, the GranTourismo was actually unveiled to the world in 2007. It is seven years old! I honestly had not realised, the car still looks as fresh as the day it was unveiled to the world.

So, despite its looks, its time to start thinking about a replacement, and come up with something that will add a fresh dose of excitement into the line-up.  A new coupe, to usher in its latest crop of engines and gearboxes, something to keep the kids interested in Maseratis.

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Here is what they have come up with. The Alfieri Concept. Yes, unfortunately still a concept, and the only unfortunate thing about it. However, do not fret, because having watched the press launch of this car, it is clear that all the heads of the Fiat group want this car to make production, most of all the head of Maserati himself, Harald Wester, a sharp suited, unassuming German who clearly knows what makes a Maserati, and knows how to push the brand forward.

If you have a spare twenty minutes, I suggest you watch the entire press conference. He shows off the car with a certain style and elegance that is not seen outside the Fiat Group. Anyways, here is the car. It is a a sharp looking thing, with its long bonnet, low front, short tail and gorgeous headlights, this machine just begs to be driven.  There is not a single line which I do not like about this car.  The man himself, Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the same man who penned the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Peugeot 406 Coupe, and the Ferrari 456. Clearly, this man knows his way around a pen and paper. His latest design shows the world, that this guy is still churning out some great designs. Ian Callum may be good, but Ramaciotti is better.

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Now lets get to the technical bits. What exactly is powering this bad boy? Well the actual concept uses the same underpinnings as the GranTourismo MC Stradale, with the same 4.7 litre V8 engine and ceramic brakes. It also has the same gearbox as the MC Stradale.  If this car does see the light of day, expect it to be powered by the latest generation of V6 and V8 engines currently powering the Ghibli and Quattroporte, probably using the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox too. However, it might be the case that they will use the MC Shift from the MC Stradale, to make it feel a little sportier.  Insiders are also claiming that if this car does make it into production, they want it to weigh about 1400 kg, which is about 300 kg lighter than the GranTourismo, and about 150 kg lighter than a Jaguar F-Type, one of its key rivals. Pricing will be around the region of £60,000, again F-Type money.

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All I will say is, this car needs to go into production. As soon as possible.

Citroen C4 Cactus; Simple but not Budget?

Citroen C4 Cactus; Simple but not Budget?

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Citroën is set to embark on a new strategy for their C-line cars, that of creating good everyday cars with useful features for everyday use, without any frills .

This does not mean budget like Dacia, the cars will be reasonably priced and supposedly have the range of features expected in today’s world, such as air con, electric windows, satnav and so on, but no extra features like lane departure warning and radar guided cupholders. Fair enough, a car for people who want a car. A thing which takes you from A to B, comfortably. So not a car to set the pulse racing then.

 The C-line needs to be something different to the hugely popular DS-line , but still be interesting and relevant enough to sell.Citroen argues that there is a market for cheap cars which are honest workhorses for those individuals who see cars as white goods. They regard cars as a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. They do not go out for drives, they do not take the time to get to know their car. They use it like a washing machine. When it works they use it, when it stops working, they replace it. There is no emotional involvement.

It therefore makes sense for Citroen to tackle this segment of the market in the same way that Volkswagen does with Skoda. Outside the world of petrolheads, the DS, the 2CV, the SM, the Mehari and the Traction Avant mean nothing. Probably to those outside the car world, Citroen means nothing, and I am willing to bet that Citroen want to utilise that to their advantage, and create another image for themselves.Time will tell whether they prove successful or not, but as ideas go, this is an interesting one.

So how does this strategy start? The first car to attempt this new milestone in Citroen’s history is the C4 Cactus. Silly name I know, but bear with me. As I just said there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the car,no massaging seats, no massive turbocharged engine. it’s just a car. As my dear mother likes to say, four wheels and an engine. It does have these bumpers with air pockets, designed to protect the car against rebellious trolleys in supermarket car parks, and the back pillar resembles that of the DS3. Both these details are quite interesting I suppose, though not interesting enough to make me want to buy this car.

Dig beneath the surface, and things become rather interesting. This car weighs 965kg, or 60kg less than a Ford Fiesta. Citroen is on a mission with this car to remove any unnecessary stuff within the car. The dashboard is designed with simplicity and elegance in mind. There is no rev counter, no centre console, the rear seats do not split and rear windows don’t even open. Why have they done this, you might be asking. All in the pursuit of saving weight. The engine line-up is quite a modest one, with the most powerful petrol engine producing 108bhp. However, because it is so light, the power-to-weight ratio is quite high. Also, in keeping the power output low, costs will be kept at a minimum too. In the UK, this car will have a starting price of about 13,000 sterling, about the same price as a mid-range Ford Fiesta.

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The Citroen boss also said that the C-line will not have powerful engines like the DS line, in a bid to keep costs low. He argues that a more powerful engine would require bigger brakes, re-tuning the suspension and so on, adding to the costs, and thus raising the showroom price, and price is key when you want to attract customers.

Another fascinating feature is that this car might also introduce a new method of car ownership, whereby one may rent the car for a period of time at a fixed rate. Whether this will work or not, I have my doubts, I want to own my cars, not rent them. Then again I am not exactly the type of buyer they are looking for, so my opinion on this particular matter does not really count.

I am quite fascinated to see how this new direction pans out for Citroen. It is quite a no nonsense approach to cars, something that Citroen used to do brilliantly with cars like the 2CV. I do hope it works out for them, and then the money they make off these cars can be put to making wacky cars.. Like say a Citroen DS5 Coupe with the Hybrid four-wheel drive system and a retractable glass roof maybe? I would very much like to see that.

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Google Maps 7 Released on Google Play UPDATED

Google Maps 7 Released on Google Play UPDATED

Update 1: Google’s updated the app to make the work around in the previous paragraph clearer. At the bottom of the Search history tab is an option to “Make the map area available offline”. Still not as useful as caching a map area, but it’s something at least.

It’s been a couple of months since a Google Maps refresh was announced at I/O 13 but it’s finally here! The new directions are there, as is a brand new interface and other optimisations. In a few words, it looks great, works great, and is simply fantastic.

There are a couple of issues, however. Firstly, the option to cache a map area for offline use is gone. It’s not there. There’s a bit of a hack that kind of does the trick, but it’s almost pointless unless you really need to save what you’re looking at in a pinch.

The second issue might not be that big a deal for many, but for some it’s been a deal breaker. Lattitude is gone from Google Maps, indeed Google have now released a statement that says that the service will be killed on the 9th of August, 2013. A Google+ service will replace it at a later date.

I’ve played around with it a little and I’m writing a hands on/review mashup (the service is still in beta on the PC, and I feel a full review might be unfair. Still undecided). The app looks fantastic and works great, but the features it lacks make travelling abroad nearly impossible using the service. Hell, any travel without a data connection is out of the question entirely.

If you haven’t got the update on the Play Store yet you can grab the APKs that Android Police has mirrored. Do read the post first, there are a couple of versions out there: one for 4.1 and another for 4.2, the 4.1 app won’t parse on a 4.2 phone and vice versa. There are also different APKs for other form factors. Be careful. You can get it here.