Archive for June 2019

Hands on: Apple Maps turn-by-turn

Will turn-by-turn sat-nav directions help restore Australia’s confidence in Apple Maps?It really was amazing that Apple let a half-finished product like Apple Maps out the door without at least dubbing it a “beta” version as a disclaimer. It somewhat spoiled the launch of iOS6 and the iPhone 5 although, to be honest, if it wasn’t Apple Maps then people would have found something else to complain about. Looking for something wrong with the latest gadget, Apple or otherwise, is one of the new blood sports of the internet.As Apple works hard to improve Apple Maps, this week Australians finally got a taste of its sat-nav features. The phone issues turn-by-turn directions on the screen, read aloud in a Siri-style voice. Turn-by-turn navigation is only available on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPad 2 or later with cellular data capability. If you’re using an iPhone 4 then Apple Maps will calculate routes and display turning information, but it won’t update automatically as you drive. This is disappointing considering the iPhone 4 is clearly capable of running a full sat-nav app.There was a time when I considered spoken directions essential so you can keep your eyes on the road, but I’ve changed my mind in recent years. Pictures of complicated intersections are easier to interpret than spoken instructions and it’s much easier to take a wrong turn if you’re only listening to the phone. Having the phone constantly interrupting can also cause a certain level of tension during long family drives (especially when you’re testing some new gadget but supposed to be on a relaxing family holiday).Tested on my iPhone 5 review unit, on loan from Telstra, Apple Maps’ sat-nav features are spartan but functional. You’re given a choice of several routes with estimated travel times, but no way to edit routes or add extra destinations. Once you’re on the road you get big, green road sign-style notifications of turns, while Siri’s pronunciation is pretty good. It’s easy to see where you’re going because, unlike some sat-nav apps, Apple doesn’t try to cram too much information into the maps.When you’re weaving through the back streets, Apple Maps does a good job of explaining and displaying close turns. It also copes well when you take a wrong turn, quickly and quietly recalculating. You’ve got no advanced onscreen information such as your current speed, but you can tap the screen to see your ETA.As a regular user of the TomTom app, one of my frustrations is that Apple Maps’ 3D view isn’t as close to eye level as TomTom. Apple Maps does grow on you after a while, especially with the taller iPhone 5 letting you see further into the distance. The phone can tell which direction you’re facing and turn the view, which is good and bad. If you’re waiting at an intersection but the road on the other side veers off on an angle, the road ahead runs off the screen you can’t look ahead for the next turn.The TomTom also does a better job of indicating lane changes and exits. I do like the fact that Apple Maps makes it easy to search for destinations by name when you don’t have a street address, whereas TomTom is too reliant on Facebook data for these kinds of searches.As for the accuracy of Apple’s maps, so far I haven’t encountered any problems navigating the street-level maps but I’ve only been playing with it for a short time. You hear plenty of horror stories but in my experience the problems with Apple Maps are more big picture than at street level. For example many country towns are marked in the wrong location, but once you get down to street level the roads are accurate.If I ask Apple Maps to take me to Mildura I’ll end up in a national park more than 50 kms to the south. It even gets the name of the park wrong, to add insult to injury. But if I search for “Walnut Avenue, Mildura” it takes me to the right spot. You can see what I mean in the image above. Apple Maps is supposedly powered by TomTom, but if I ask the TomTom app to take me to Mildura it takes me to the centre of town. Take a look at regional maps and Apple Maps places quite a few towns in the wrong spot. Many of the towns on the Murray aren’t anywhere near the river according to Apple Maps. It’s simply unacceptable.Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn features aren’t too bad, considering that it’s free, but the inaccuracies in the maps means it still needs to rate a fail compared to something like the TomTom or Navigon app. If you’ve been using a paid app you’re very unlikely to abandon it for Apple Maps. Near enough just isn’t good enough when it comes to satellite navigation and there’s a long road ahead before you can have complete faith in Apple Maps.
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Big gains on small improvements

The AGM season must seem like a horror film for many investors. Seemingly every time a senior executive opens his or her mouth at one of these annual general meetings, there is a profit downgrade.
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Companies both big and small are being hit by either an underwhelming sales line due to depressed activity, or by lower profit margins as businesses all attempt to reduce costs at the same time.

The high profile downgrades at the big end of town have been builder James Hardie’s 35 per cent fall in its first half profit, chemicals producer Orica’s $367 million write-down. QBE seems to be in an endless cycle of profit warnings, Incitec Pivot says the soaring gas price is effecting production, while Origin Energy, which you would think is in a good position with the escalating price of electricity, flagged flat earnings.

Big and small are getting hit

At the smaller end it’s also been pretty miserable. Shares in market darling Webjet slumped after it warned of “very low growth levels”. In mining services, equipment leasing group Emeco said hiring rates were much lower than expected, and dairy products manufacturer Warrnambool Cheese is being hit by a pincer movement of low Australian dollar prices for its milk and declining profit margins due to intense competition.

One fund manager told Under the Radar, in an air of despair: “This is what happens when you become one of the most expensive countries in the world to do business”.

Oh, and it doesn’t help that the high Australian dollar (promoting importing), structural industry changes (the internet), the depressed housing market, and rents that are very high by world standards, are all making life difficult for industrial companies, and in particular manufacturers and retailers. No it does not!

A stock picker’s market

But then, almost in the same breath, he added: “All you can do is pick stocks that are going better than the others.” Inspirational stuff for his unit holders, we are sure.

For what it’s worth, Radar believes he’s right: stock picking is always the way to make money, but we also think that depressed current earnings are a good thing for a stock price, especially (surprise surprise) in small caps.

Not only do many of the companies Radar looks at offer decent yields of 5 per cent plus, but their earnings are forecast to grow at a faster rate than the economy because they are not constrained by it. Most, if not all of the industrial companies we tip, are gaining market share at a fast rate – you just have to read our issue out yesterday to see this.

Look out for the mining minnows!

But in a twist, Radar believes that the place where the fastest growth will occur is the small cap resources companies that have secured a path to production through adequate funding. These companies are out there and they will be the big beneficiaries if commodities prices show any sign of life in the next 12 months.

In some cases, Radar is spotting these companies trading at big discounts to the replacement value of their production plants!

I hear what you’re saying: What about all the doom and gloom in Europe? Isn’t America, still the world’s biggest economy, going to fall off the fiscal cliff? Isn’t China’s growth coming off?

Radar has two words for you: priced in.

As another fund manager said, on the demand side, “if these economies muddle through, it won’t take much in terms of growth to see commodities prices maintain their current levels because there is so much despair out there.”

On the supply side, Radar hopes not to sound like a stock broker here, but it’s actually a positive to see the big resource giants like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto pulling or delaying big projects. This means that the supply of commodities such as iron ore and coal will remain tight for years to come.

Long before the stock broking analysts raise their commodity price assumptions and increase their net present values (NPVs) for the miners, it will be reflected in the share prices. And the big returns will be in the little miners. In the words of yet another small cap fund manager:

“The smaller miners are producers with enormous leverage. You’re talking about a 10-bagger if commodities move up and the production issues get sorted out.”

And yes, 10-bagger implies a ten-fold gain.

Click here to access the fortnightly newsletter Under the Radar Report: Small Caps, edited by Richard Hemming. Visit here for more Under the Radar articles.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

MOTORING: New BMW maxi-scooters

Think of a scooter. Odds-on you are thinking Vespa or similar, a cheery little thing with an engine capacity around 175cc and automatic transmission.
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Fun and desirability factors dissect at about nine on the scale and get higher as summer approaches. Just the thing for zippy tripping around town and across the suburbs.

Now think of a sports/touring motorcycle. Big, beefy, looks a little mean, lots of power, good handling, the sort of bike that makes a long ride easy.

Finally, think of a merger of those two extremes, a high-tech scooter with a big heart, sophisticated suspension, excellent brakes and ride comfort and handling that simply don’t belong on a scooter. Or, on the other hand, a mid-sized bike with a comfortable riding position, onboard luggage space and an automatic transmission as well as the ride, comfort and handling features.

Welcome to BMW’s new C600 Sport and C650 GT pair, the German company’s take on the increasingly popular maxi-scooter concept and arguably the best execution of it to date, drawing on its experience with big touring bikes and parlaying it into the parameters of the traditional scooter. Sort of.

Forget air-cooling and small-to-moderate capacity single-cylinder engines for this machine and think liquid-cooling for a 650cc (OK, 647cc to be absolutely correct) parallel-twin with double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and fuel-injection.

The engine (made by Taiwanese motorcycle manufacturer Kymco, incidentally) is laid almost horizontally in a complex tubular frame so that its head is approximately level with the rider’s feet, a move that necessitates a high bulge in the floorpan and negates the notion of scooters having a flat floor.

Power output is a hefty 44 kilowatts at a reasonably low 7500 rpm and the 66 Newton metres of torque is at full strength at 6000 rpm. That means a weight to power ratio of 5.65 kilograms per kilowatt for the Sport and 5.93 for the GT. Put another way, BMW’s popular and quite sprightly 320i sedan, with 135 kilowatts available, has a 10.92-kilogram-per-kilowatt ratio.

In one of those ‘‘by the way’’ things, BMW designed and tuned the engine to have an offset firing order in a bid to make it sound and feel like a V-twin. It doesn’t, by the way, except for a nice little snap, crackle and pop moment when the throttle is snapped from wide open to fully-closed. But it is a reasonably smooth and lively power unit and its continuously variable automatic transmission means it is never caught napping, even on a spirited ride.

And this is where it becomes interesting because, by definition, scooters are urban runners with storage for a backpack and a lunchbox, manoeuvrable lightweights that can be slotted into invisible gaps in traffic and tucked into tight corners for parking.

The new Beemers? They can do some of that. The storage issue is a given, the under-seat space generous but with a 249-kilogram ready-to-roll weight (Sport) and 261kilograms for the GT the maxis are not quite as easy to throw around and, coupled with the overall length (2155mm for the Sport, 2218mm for GT) means they don’t nip quite as easily into tight spots in traffic, nor are they quite as easy to walk into a tight parking space and the width doesn’t help.

Sport is 877mm wide and GT 916mm and while the measure is made at the handlebars, both scooters have reasonable bulk below the rider’s backside, about the point the feet are placed on the ground during parking. I stand 185.5cm and take that to 188cm in boots and even I was on tip-toe whenever I stopped.

No, the C600 is more at home on open roads, living for those moments when it can cruise happily or have its throttle cracked open for some serious acceleration (BMW claims 7.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash for the Sport and 7.5 seconds for the GT and after giving both bikes a bit of stick I have no reason to doubt those claims).

Suspension design of the C600 pair (for clarification, the scooters share frames, engines, transmissions, wheels, tyres, suspensions and brakes but vary on bodywork, seats and standard equipment levels) is extremely sophisticated for a scooter with 40mm-diameter inverted front forks and a rear aluminium swing arm that mounts to the rear of the frame (the usual motorcycle practice) rather than the rear of the engine casing (the usual scooter practice).

Its coil-over spring/damper unit lays almost horizontally and connects at the rear to an extension off the swing arm and at the front to the frame’s midpoint.

Riding on 15-inch wheels with quite beefy rubber both Sport and GT give good accounts of themselves and on a seriously good rider’s road are solid performers, even in the hands of a relative novice such as myself, the sort of rider, it must be said, at whom BMW is aiming this pair.

Firing a scooter down a tight, twisting road with lots of undulations, switchbacks, hairpins and a fair degree of poor surfacing is not something that would normally be contemplated. But doing so on, at first, the Sport before making the return trip on the GT, was a piece of cake and any apprehension over my inexperience decreased as the day wore on and the fun factor rose.

Both machines, it must be said, are extremely forgiving and respond beautifully to throttle control and slight touches on the brake levers.

The 270mm diameter cross-drilled brake rotors and four-pot calipers are more than capable and one huge emergency brake application going into a tighter-than-expected corner showed not only the practicality of putting anti-lock brakes on a bike but the massive stopping power available to riders.

And the price differences? Sport is moderately bare bones in terms of equipment and it is reflected in the price. Anti-lock brakes are standard as is the ‘‘flex case’’ storage unit for helmet storage when the bike is parked. It gets a windscreen but it is manually adjustable through three positions. Everything else is on the options list.

The GT, on the other hand, gets LED indicators, heated hand grips and seats, a tyre pressure monitor, 60-litre under-seat storage bin and electric windscreen adjustment.

After riding both I can say that the GT would be my cup of tea. Bigger and heavier, admittedly, but comfortable for long rides.

Riding in city traffic though would be a bit of a chore and that remains the difficult bit to reconcile.

BMW C600 SPORT (C650 GT)

PRICE:

$13,990 (Sport), $15,990 (GT). Prices do not include statutory and dealer charges or options.

DIMENSIONS:

Length: 2155mm (2218mm)

Width: 877mm (916mm)

Seat height: 810mm (780mm)

Wheelbase: 1591mm

Steering head angle: 64.6°

Weight: 249kg (261kg)

MECHANICAL

Fuel-injected, 647 cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. 44 kW at 7500 rpm, 66 Nm at 6000 rpm. Continuously-variable automatic with centrifugal clutch.

CHASSIS

Aluminium bridge frame with bolt-on rear frame, mid-mounted engine, chain drive, twin 270mm front disc brakes, single 270mm rear disc, floating double-piston calipers, anti-lock braking.

SUSPENSION

Inverted front fork with 115mm spring travel, single-sided rear swing arm with 115mm travel. 15 x 3.5-inch front and 15 x 4.5-inch rear alloy wheels with 120/70R15 front and 160/60R15 rear tyres.

OTHER

Fuel type/capacity: Premium/16 litres.

Efficiency: 4.8 litres/100km (claimed).

Like: Comfort, engine, ride/handling.

Dislike: Low-speed heaviness and manoeuvrability.

Main rivals:

Honda Integra, Suzuki Burgman 650, Piaggio X9 Evolution 500.

EASY RIDER: BMW’s new cross-over scooter.

RESPONSIVE: The new BMW scooter is extremely forgiving and responds beautifully to throttle control.

SPEED AND COMFORT: BMW’s C650 GT and C600 Sport pair are the same but different and represent the new upper limits of the scooter class.

Last word: our readers’ best comments, Letters, posts and Tweets this week

Cardinal George Pell has been told to resign as Archbishop of Sydney.Every week The Herald receives thousands of comments, Tweets, Facebook posts and Letters to the Editor. These are some of this week’s best. And join the conversation at smh上海夜网m.au; facebook上海夜网m/sydneymorningherald; twitter上海夜网m/smh and write to us at [email protected]上海夜网m.au
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Cardinal George Pell’s response to a royal commission into paedophilia

Just a point of clarification: Pell can only speak for his own area of control which is Sydney. He has no control over other church areas. For someone reason he has a higher profile than other bishops/cardinals in Australia, probably due to his right wing, protect the church approach. He is not the CEO of the Catholic Church in Australia. Having said all that he contradicts himself. If a priest suspects that another priest is guilty of paedophilia he should not only not hear confession he should immediately go to the police. The state laws need to reflect this so that the priest who suspects and takes no action, or only reports it to the church management should be charged.

The laws of the state must override the laws of a religion (any religion or sect of that religion).

Reality, smh上海夜网m.au

I fully support Pell. When will the nanny state interfereing with matters that should clearly be resolved by the religious organisations themselves. Every religion has its own traditions and culture. Be it poligamous marriage under sharia law, divorce procedures dictated by the Beit Din or enforced celebacy and subsequent child abuse by the Catholic church. People involved in these organisations are not beholden to the same laws as the rest of society. It should be recognised that ethical principles are not universal, but rather human constructs that exist within certain groups.

Matt, smh上海夜网m.au

#pell has put the church and himself in a position that is completely opposite to the teachings of Jesus

@visionpete, Twitter

Pell is resolute, priests who have heard pedophiles’ confessions should not answer questions at royal commission. People are leaving [Catholic Church]

@stingos2004, Twitter

Satan is speaking. It takes the Royal Commission to bring him out & talk to the general public. They have been covering these child sexual abuse cases for 70 years!! Whilst I have nothing against this religion (just don’t preach to me), I have everything against those who run the organization from top to bottom & involve in these cases including the cover-ups.

Ashley A. Ting, facebook上海夜网m/sydneymorningherald

Cardinal, if this disgusting behaviour hadn’t been covered up all these years we wouldn’t have to see this continually re run as you call it. No longer can we say what happens in confession stays in confession when we are dealing with this disgusting treatment of children. A few Hail Mary’s as penance is not enough. Surely you can see what harm this has done to the Catholic faith & Christianity in general. People turn away from the church and one day we may all live in a country where being a Christian you will be ostracised and in my opinion that will be a sad day!!

Mark Fitzgerald, facebook上海夜网m/sydneymorningherald

Will the recommendations of a royal commission into child abuse fare any better than those from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody or will we end up with another 339 recommendations no one has the courage to implement?

Peter Fyfe, Letters

It should be abundantly clear to all but the wilfully blind that the problems the Catholic Church faces regarding sexual abuse by priests and brothers would be greatly reduced if women were in positions of authority in that institution. Sadly, as the revelations of abuse in non-church organisations demonstrates, some men and some, but very many fewer, women will abuse positions of trust in relation to children. As tradition is the only reason argued against allowing women to share fully in the ministry of the Catholic Church it is long overdue for this tradition to be abandoned for the benefit of all but particularly children.

Robert McKenna, Letters

Accusations made against NSW Labor’s Eddie Obeid at ICAC

Even by the appalling standards of the NSW ALP Right Sussex Street tribe, the rise of Eddie Obeid to “he who must be Obeid” status is a wonderment to behold.

Can anyone cite one single, solitary thing that would associate Obeid with Labor values, philosophies and principles?

Keith Parsons, Letters

By the time the ICAC inquiry is over, I suspect the commission may owe an apology to the Rum Corps.

Frank McGrath, Letters

There just is no end to the organised “factions” in the ALP. I’m not sure if this was the case 50 years ago but the way its done both state and federally is the party’s greatest weakness. Truly able people miss out on the perfect job for them in government because they’re in the wrong faction. This is a mentality from a primary school yard, not thinking adults. The Libs sort of had it with the loony religeous Right in NSW (dead now under O’Farrell) but it was amateur hour compared to Labor.

wennicks, smh上海夜网m.au

The drawn first Test

During the first cricket Test, a great deal of airtime and considerable newspaper space has been given to the inequities of the no-ball law ( ‘Umpiring dramas sit firmly on players’ shoulders,’ Sportsday,November 14). Yet not a word has been spoken or written about the unfairness of the achaic rule which ruled out a replacement for South Africa’s J.P. Duminy, injured before he had a chance to strap on a pad, leaving his side a man short and without one of their key batsmen. In most other team sports, replacements for injured players are permitted. It allows for a level playing field and it is time cricket authorities followed suit.

Garth Clarke, Letters

This South African side lacks desperation and a resolve to really want to win.The worst of the lot is their Captain,who is aimless and uninspiring.They hope for things to go their way rather than make things happen.They lost the initiative yesterday completely,that’s not the effort you expect from the world’s no1.ranked team.

Rod, smh上海夜网m.au

GABBA does it again. A batsmens paradise bad for cricket. They did it for the 2012 Ashes Test as well. Needs to be even

@SteveMitch2500 to @SMHsport

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

An oil junior set to pump

ROC Oil is an international oil company based in Australia. Its activities include oil and gas production, exploration and development, with exploration assets and activities located in the UK, Mauritania, Australia, Africa, China and NZ. (Check our scorecard here.)
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Financials and Management

Named after the mythical Persian equivalent of the phoenix, ROC’s share price, appropriately enough, has come back from the dead after the company produced a second consecutive net profit for FY12, even if adjusted earnings per share remained negative. While production is nonetheless down from previous years, better cost control and hopes for production from a second field in China’s Beibu Gulf should support levels from here. (Check the ROC Oil estimated value chart here.)

Allocation

ROC’s share price has been in a bear market until recently, with significant falls before producing tangible earnings. The trailing PE ratio cannot be used as a credible valuation proxy with a short period of earnings history, nevertheless it has “bottomed” only three times recently. (Check the price/earnings ratio chart here.)

FARMs proprietary positioning system has recently upgraded from “Hold” to a “Buy Half” signal as market sentiment increases regarding a more favourable earnings outlook.

With the current price slightly below this year’s estimate and well below next year’s estimate of value, there is a considerable margin of safety to justify a larger 4 per cent portfolio allocation. (Check the return on equity chart/earnings per share chart here.)

Macro and Risk

Though geographically diversified in its exploration portfolio, ROC’s focus is on the Beibu/Tonkin Gulf, between Vietnam and Hainan in the South China Sea. While a different area to the disputed Spratly Islands to the south, the region is not without sovereign or political risk considering China’s diplomatic troubles with its neighbours, not to mention the relatively opaque nature of China’s foreign investment and resource licensing systems.

ROC’s focus has upside however, namely in Asia’s higher-than-average oil prices and its close proximity to a burgeoning market. Experience in the Beibu Gulf also gives ROC a degree of expertise that could be leveraged in its Malaysian projects north of Sarawak and also in the South China Sea. ROC also has operations in Britain, Western Australia and Victoria. (Check the cash flow chart here.)

The bottom line

As it approaches first oil in the Beibu Gulf, ROC’s share price rally looks set to continue. And while the oil price outlook remains uncertain we also believe this will produce further upside in the medium-term based on the US recovery and a period of stability following China’s Politburo handover. With operations in the South China Sea, ROC is not immune from sovereign risk but this is mitigated somewhat by the company’s share price discount to near and long-term value estimates. (See a snapshot of the bottom line here.)

Michael Feller is an investment analyst at Macro Investor, Australia’s leading independent investment newsletter covering stocks, trades, property and trades. This week Macro Investor is doing a special edition on the future of the Australian oil and gas sector. A free 21 day trial is available.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

MOTORING: First look at luxury Lexus

It was a case of ‘‘look, touch and talk about it’’ but driving the newest big Lexus was not on the agenda. That will come later, closer to the car’s February national launch.
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So what is all the fuss about?

Well, Lexus has never been backward in coming forward, at least not where its LS is concerned. After all, Lexus served it up to Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi when it made its local debut in 1990 and, while the others have caught up in most areas (with the possible exception of pricing), LS has continued to be a thorn in their collective sides.

So what of the coming car? The numbers, if nothing else, are astounding and some of the technological wizardry borders on sheer overkill, but when it comes to ownership boasting rights, it will be hard to top this one.

For starters, 50 per cent of the car’s components have either been redesigned, re-engineered or replaced, with the changes translating to about 3000 (that’s 3-0-0-0 and not a misprint) mechanical and component changes, including four claimed world firsts and 13 Lexus firsts. How does a clock that matches the world’s official time zones sound?

The car’s debut early next year will also mark the arrival of the company’s most powerful F Sport model, the new short-wheelbase LS 600h F Sport with a 5.0-litre V8 engine, hybrid drive with a combined 327 kilowatts, and all-wheel drive.

The 4.6-litre V8 engines used for the non-hybrid cars are not exactly modest in output either, with 285 kilowatts of power and 493 Newton metres of torque developed at 6400 rpm and 4100 rpm respectively.

Lexus says engineering changes across the LS range have increased driving dynamics and overall refinement while cutting overall noise, vibration and harshness. It should come as no surprise, then, that the new LS is officially the quietest car in its class.

Sheet-metal changes are extensive, with the doors and roof panel the only carry-over items from the present car. The new look brings the LS interpretation of the corporate spindle grille and the aerodynamic package is almost obsessive, with tiny spoilers engineered into such diverse areas as the rear-view mirror housings and tail-light lenses.

Inside, the car gets a new dashboard, and a complete re-work of the interior design improves usability and visual appeal.

The display screen for sat-nav, audio and the like is now, at 312 millimetres, the biggest of its type in any car, and the operating systems have been simplified, a welcome move away from what has seemed like years of ongoing complications by car makers.

Even the console-mounted systems controller has been styled to emulate a computer mouse.

Lexus Australia chief executive, Tony Cramb, said the new LS range was proof of Lexus’s desire for continual improvement.

‘‘When Lexus launched its first LS in 1989, it redefined what was expected from a luxury vehicle,’’ he said. ‘‘In 2007, Lexus was named the world’s best luxury vehicle and in 2012 we’ve made the world’s best even better.’’

When the car goes on sale here in February, it will be available in three guises, LS460 Sports Luxury, LS460 F Sport, and LS600h F Sport, all built on the standard 2970mm wheelbase. A long-wheelbase variant, the LS 600hL, will be available to special order.

WHAT IT COSTS

LEXUS LS460 and LS600h:

Lexus LS460 F Sport: $189,900

Lexus 460 Sports Luxury: $192,400

LS600h F Sport: $217,900

LS 600h long wheelbase: POA

Prices do not include on-road costs

WHAT IT’S GOT

LS460: 4.6-litre V8 with double-overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, four valves per cylinder and dual variable valve timing. 285 kilowatts at 6400 rpm, 493 Newton metres at 4100 rpm.

BIG END OF TOWN: Lexus has reworked its LS luxury sedan for 2013 with more road presence, a revamped model range, and a mind-numbing 3000 mechanical and component changes.

LS600: 5.0-litre V8 with double overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, four valves per cylinder and dual variable valve timing plus AC synchronous electric motor. 327 kilowatts (combined) at 6400 rpm, 520 Newton metres at 4000 rpm.

Budget deficit an option for Australia: IMF

The economy would grow by 3 per cent next year, though this would be ”narrowly driven by a mining investment boom”, the IMF forecast.The International Monetary Fund says abandoning a budget surplus this financial year is an option for the Gillard government if the economy worsens significantly this financial year.
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With much of the economy straining under the high dollar, the fund also says there is room for more cuts in interest rates from the Reserve Bank.

In its latest report on Australia, the fund is broadly supportive of the government’s plan to return the budget to surplus this financial year through a mix of spending cuts and tax changes.

However, it adds: ”in the event of a sharp deterioration in the economic outlook, and hence revenue underperformance, delaying the return to surpluses could be an option, given Australia’s modest debt-to GDP ratio.”

On interest rates, the fund said the Reserve Bank’s move to cut the cash rate to 3.25 per cent was ”broadly appropriate”, but there was ”scope for further easing if warranted by economic circumstances”.

The comments come after a recent softening in the government’s rhetoric on the surplus, which is forecast to be just $1.1 billion this financial year.

Since the government announced $16 billion in spending cuts in last month’s mid-year budget update, it has avoided reaffirming its promise to post a surplus, instead referring to a ”plan”.

The IMF backed the government’s broad approach to reining in the budget, saying this would bolster the government’s finances against future shocks and the cost of an ageing population.

The economy would grow by 3 per cent next year, it forecast, though this would be ”narrowly driven by a mining investment boom”, leaving Australia vulnerable to external shocks.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the report represented a ”big tick” for Australia’s economic management.

”The government understands that not everyone is doing it easy, but reports like these demonstrate why all Australians can be proud of what we have achieved working together in the face of acute global challenges,” Mr Swan said.

Mr Swan also seized on the IMF’s comment that the budget changes announced so far struck a balance between ”the benefits of reducing public debt and the need to contain any adverse impact on economic growth”.

While the fund commended Australian authorities on their economic management, it also highlighted some weak points in the economy.

The dollar, which has stayed above US$1 despite a slump in commodity prices, has squeezed non-mining exporters, causing the current account deficit to widen, it said.

Household debt levels – which remain near all-time highs – should also be key priorities for regulators of financial system, it said.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

‘Not within a bull’s roar’: judge criticises KFC poisoning appeal bid

Permanent injury … Monika Samaan suffered crippling salmonella poisoning.The attempt by KFC to overturn an $8 million damages decision in favour of a young girl who contracted severe salmonella poisoning from a chicken twister has suffered a setback, with a Supreme Court judge criticising the company’s grounds for appeal.
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Monika Samaan became seriously ill after eating the twister at the Villawood KFC in 2005 when she was seven years old, suffering brain damage that has left her confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.

After an extended court battle, KFC was ordered to pay $8 million to Monika’s family to assist with the intensive day-to-day care she will require for the rest of her life.

The fast-food giant elected to appeal the decision, including seeking an order that the Samaan family pay its legal costs – likely to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the appeal hit a stumbling block in the NSW Supreme Court today, with Justice Clifton Hoeben ordering KFC’s lawyers to rewrite their grounds of appeal because they were simply a restatement of the company’s failed argument in the initial court hearing.

“They don’t come within a bull’s roar of complying with the rules [relating to appeals],” Justice Hoeben said.

“They really read as submissions that should have been or probably were made at trial … there’s hardly any law there.”

KFC denies that the Samaan family purchased a chicken twister from the Villawood store on the day in question, and thus maintains that it was not responsible for her infection. This argument forms the backbone of the appeal.

Lawyers for the Samaan family say this argument was effectively rejected by the hearing judge, Justice Stephen Rothman, in April this year.

Generally, a successful appeal will be based either on fresh evidence, a demonstration that a judge erred on a matter of law, or proof that a hearing was not conducted in accordance with the proper administration of justice.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Car that steers itself on sale in 2013

The self-driving car will be a step closer in 2013 when Mercedes-Benz begins selling its new flagship limousine, which can steer itself.
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But like autopilot on planes, the pilot – or driver – will still have to pay attention and be expected to take control when required.

A network of 26 cameras, radars and sensors will help the $200,000-plus S-Class limousine steer itself, reducing fatigue and potentially avoiding collisions.

The new Mercedes-Benz limousine is still 12 months away from going on sale, but the company has already begun an extensive pre-publicity campaign designed to cement the brand’s flagship limousine as the world’s safest – and most advanced – new car.

A lot has been made of autonomous driving in recent years, and it was expected that the new S-Class would push that barrier further than ever for a production car.

While it won’t drive itself or join a “platoon” of cars in a queue, it will be able to do a bit of both, by maintaining a set distance to the car in front by using a radar-based cruise control system Distronic Plus.

The system has received the added functionality of steering assistance, which means the car can take control of the steering with the aim of following the car in front.

However, there is a catch – driver’s of the new flagship sedan will be told they must keep their hands on the wheel at all times. A torque sensor in the steering column monitors pressure on the wheel, and if there isn’t any, the dash will flash and beep warnings and then cancel the steering functionality if the driver doesn’t react.

It’s a move that Mercedes says will help “relieve motorists when driving is more of a burden than a pleasure – on the monotonous daily commute, for example, or in stop-and-go traffic”.

The system works by monitoring the cars in front and also watching lane markings on either side of the car. The company claims the system will work at speeds between 0-200km/h, though its cornering ability is lessened the higher the speed rises.

It’s not designed to take the control away from the driver, but as company spokesman Andrew May told Drive, it’s enough for “the driver to delegate control to the car” as a “gradual introduction to autonomous driving”.

Mercedes-Benz functional safety expert Dr Heike Schonerstedt says drivers will still need to have full control of the vehicle and that the enjoyment of driving is a serious consideration.

“We are on the way to autonomous driving … but we don’t want to do autonomous driving [for the sake of saying we can] … we want to do it in situations where driving is more a hassle than fun,” Dr Schonerstedt says.

“Nobody would like to drive in the south of France on a nice street autonomously. But in stop-and-go traffic, in commuter traffic, it’s more of a hassle.

“So we will support driving in those situations. I think we will go step-to-step to more autonomous driving, but … we want to support the driver. And we want, always, the car with the automatic functions to be better than without.

“We are also on the way to accident-free driving,” she says. “We are working very hard on functions that help to prevent accidents and of course to mitigate them if it’s not able at the moment to prevent them.”

Some such accident proofers include the new pedestrian detection system as part of Benz’s PreSafe Brake system. The system will initiate an autonomous braking situation at speeds up to 72 km/h, and the company claims that it will avoid a pedestrian impact completely at speeds up to 50km/h.

A new brake assist system can also potentially help avoid T-bone accidents. If the driver fails to react in time to a car crossing its path, the S-Class will boost the braking power and possibly prevent an impact at speeds lower than 30km/h. If the speed is higher, the severity of the crash will be cut by about 30 per cent, according to Mercedes-Benz.

The company’s seatbelt systems have also been tweaked. A rear-facing radar will monitor traffic and, in the case of a potential rear impact on the S-Class, the car will trigger for the active seatbelt pretensioners to prepare for an impact, and the brakes of the car will tighten up if it’s sitting still. This increase in brake pressure aims to reduce whiplash injuries.

Rear seat passengers will potentially be protected by a new airbag seatbelt. The Beltbag unit inflates a wide airbag across the rear seat passenger’s chests. The airbag triples the width of the load that spreads across the body, particularly the ribs, in turn spreading it across a wider area and lessening the severity of the impact on a regular seatbelt.

However, Mercedes-Benz says the Beltbag system will be an added cost option on the S-Class.

Other innovations include extended functionality of the company’s driver drowsiness system Attention Assist. The updated version will actively monitor how attentive the driver is, and can even display how their attention levels fall over a period of time.

The lane keeping assistant will now be able to recognise when a car is overtaking and will actively drive the car back into its lane – by braking the outside wheels – if the driver hasn’t seen the other vehicle. And, while in previous iterations the system only worked to keep you in your lane if the centre or side markings were solid, it will now operate on broken lines such as open overtaking sections of road.

The parking helpers have also seen some changes. The S-Class’s Park Assist system will now be able to park in both parallel and perpendicular spots, and will brake and steer the car for the driver (provided the correct gear is chosen and the driver controls the accelerator).

Other advances include improved lighting technology, with the new S-Class set to be offered with LED headlights and tail-lights.

The new lights cut energy use significantly compared to halogen or bi-xenon bulbs, but they will also be able to do some tricky stuff depending on the time of day.

The tail-lights, for instance, will be slightly dimmer at night because the surroundings are darker, and much brighter during the day for better intensity. And if you’re sitting in another car behind the S-Class, its brake lights will be brighter when the car is still moving, but will dim when it comes to a complete stop; it’s designed to stop annoyance to drivers behind from bright tail lights in traffic.

The headlights have a neat trick, too. When high-beam is engaged the lights use a sensor to pick out oncoming cars or cars ahead in the distance and dim only that section of the light beam, meaning the surroundings will remain well-lit while “masking out other vehicles in the beams’ cone of light”.

A camera system will also monitor the road ahead, and if it detects a human on the side of the road, the headlights will point a beam of light at the person and flash several times, alerting both the driver and the pedestrian of the oncoming vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz claims the new S-Class will be the first car ever sold that won’t have a single traditional light bulb inside or outside the car. Instead, the car will have 190 LEDs (light emitting diodes) illuminating the road, the inside of the car, the luggage compartment and even the number plates.

The headlights alone are made up of 55 individual LEDs per light assembly. Mercedes-Benz says that using LEDs to see the road ahead equates to a saving of 0.05L/100km of fuel, or 2.1g/km of CO2 per kilometre compared to a car with halogen headlights.

The new S-Class arrives in Australia from November 2013. Follow Drive上海夜网m.au on Twitter @Drivecomau Like Drive上海夜网m.au on Facebook

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

REVIEW: A Day On The Green

A DAY ON THE GREEN
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Bimbadgen Estate

November 10

DURING my teens I was a dead-set top 40 tragic. The Angels, Hoodoo Gurus and Boom Crash Opera sang anthems of my youth, and James Reyne was an absolute spunk.

Not surprisingly, I leapt at the chance to attend last weekend’s Oz rock marathon at Bimbadgen Estate’s A Day On The Green concert.

Soon after claiming my tickets, reality set in. The tunes and I were all a quarter of a century past their heyday. Bimbadgen was a long way away. There were going to be lots and lots of people, many well lubricated with alcohol. Car parking was a potential nightmare and there were bound to be banks of portaloos involved.

The headline act was the Hoodoo Gurus. I’d last seen the Gurus at the 2003 NRL Grand Final when they were riding the wave of their That’s My Team remake of the 1986 hit What’s My Scene and I was a bit underwhelmed, truth be told. So the drawcard for me was The Angels.

However, I was more than a bit put out to learn that Doc Neeson wasn’t fronting. I knew Dave Gleeson could belt out a song but it didn’t hold the same allure.

Boy, was I wrong.

Gleeson channelled Doc’s growl while articulating lyrics so clearly I heard stories I’d never heard sung before.

And when Gleeson sheepishly admitted on-stage during Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again that he couldn’t help feeling affronted by the bogan chorus of 9000-odd people shouting ‘‘No way, get f—ed, f— off,’’ I felt for him. I’d often wondered.

Likewise, my heart soared when he told the audience he’d ‘‘never been prouder to be a boy from Newy’’ fronting his teen legends, The Angels, in front of a home-town audience. From the audience, I felt a similar sense of being star-struck.

I also got an unexpected amount of pleasure from Boom Crash Opera. I thought I’d know one or two of their radio songs. Like Great Wall. But the whole set played like a hit parade. I never knew (forgot with age?) that BCO were also behind Dancing in the Storm, Onion Skin and The Best Thing.

I also didn’t expect car park guides who directed traffic with military precision or the excellent sound quality, the reasonably priced and varied food options and the heavy, well-organised security presence.

All in all, an excellent experience, and I can’t wait to go to another.

SCENE: Hoodoo Gurus perform at A Day On The Green. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers