Ex-tropical cyclone Owen may reform off Queensland coast

Ex-tropical cyclone Owen, dubbed a “zombie” cyclone, may reform off the Queensland coast after unloading wild winds and up to 200mm of torrential rain across the state’s far north. Two isolated aboriginal townships “dodged a bullet” as the Category 3 cyclone veered south early on Saturday to hit the sparsely populated western part of Cape … Continue reading “Ex-tropical cyclone Owen may reform off Queensland coast”

Ex-tropical cyclone Owen, dubbed a “zombie” cyclone, may reform off the Queensland coast after unloading wild winds and up to 200mm of torrential rain across the state’s far north.

Two isolated aboriginal townships “dodged a bullet” as the Category 3 cyclone veered south early on Saturday to hit the sparsely populated western part of Cape York.

Cyclone Owen still packed a punch in its compact core — just 30km wide in the most destructive eye — with 120km/h winds and dumping 200mm of rain in two hours in parts.

But by late on Saturday afternoon, Owen was a cyclone no more, with the Bureau of Meteorology downgrading it to a tropical low.

A map showing the path of ex-tropical cyclone Owen across Queensland.Source:The Courier-Mail

QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said it was one of the best-case scenarios emergency services had seen in a long time, but warned of heavy rainfall and flash flooding that could still follow.

“Please do not be complacent, particularly in that northeast tropics area where the rain will continue,” Ms Carroll said.

“As always, if it’s flooding forget it. And as always, listen to your warnings.”

There was a 50 per cent chance of Owen again spinning back up into a cyclone in the Coral Sea off Townsville on Tuesday.

Kowanyama Mayor Michael Yam said his community “dodged a bullet” when the cyclone veered south.

“We were right in the bullseye but then it dipped and went south,” Cr Yam said.

“It’s a bit strange, we got a bit of wind and rain overnight, but nothing much.

“There’s no structural damage, a little debris, we’re all good and in one piece.

“What I’m really happy about is the preparation.

“Everyone went into lockdown and took the threat seriously.”

Kowanyama “dodged a bullet”, according to Mayor Michael Yam.Source:Supplied

The State Emergency Service received 400 calls for help throughout Friday night.

State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee said it had been a long night without sleep for many in the state’s north.

“Two small indigenous communities in the Gulf asked for help, they received help, they were prepared, they did lots of hard work and it’s worked for them, and most importantly as a community they came together and opened their doors to each other,” he said.

“They were incredibly patient, and worked together well as a team and they should be congratulated.”

The weather system was expected to move back out over water between Innisfail and Townsville overnight.

Extra police had been deployed to Ingham as a “safeguard”, with flooding a major concern.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service executive director of medical services Dr Tony Brown urged people living across the far north to take care of their health and avoid contact with floodwaters.

Lewis Tyson, from Graceville, and Lucia Perry, from Tully, at Moffat Beach on Saturday. Picture: AAP/Meghan SladeSource:News Corp Australia

He said infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and ear, nose and throat infections could all be caused by exposure to polluted water.

“You should also consider avoiding flood water and mud if you have broken skin or wounds, especially if you have diabetes or other chronic diseases,’’ he said.

“And please see a health professional or your doctor early for severe wounds, especially if the wound is dirty or becomes red, sore, swollen or painful.’’

QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll at the State Disaster Management Centre. Picture: AAP/John GassSource:News Corp Australia

The bureau warned there was still a chance of heavy rainfall leading to flash flooding in the Gulf Country and Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders regions.

It was still predicting that large parts of the Queensland east coast would see significant rainfall of between 50mm and 100mm between today and Tuesday, with a chance of heavier falls around the Townsville area.

Further south, rough seas saw surf lifesavers perform multiple rescues of swimmers on the Sunshine Coast, including five children who were pulled from the water by a lifesaving jetski.

“Parents need to be with their child at all times in the water,” a spokesman said. “Lifeguards are not babysitters.”

Cyclone Owen drone video Kowanyama1:08

Cyclone Owen drone video Kowanyama

  • December 15th 2018
  • 16 hours ago
  • /display/couriermail.com.au/Web/CourierMail/CM QLD News and Photos/

    Originally published as ‘Zombie’ cyclone may reform

Hyundai’s popular and practical family SUV warrants attention

HYUNDAI’S ix35 SUV was a gangbusters seller for Hyundai — and its 2015 replacement, the mid-size Tucson, was a certified segment shaker.

Here was a model that struck at the heart of exactly what family SUV buyers wanted. Sharp good looks, impressive ride comfort, practicality, safety, technology and the assurance of a five-year warranty.

There was variety, too, thanks to a selection of engines, drive types and specifications. Tucson order books rapidly filled up. Over 20,000 sold in 2016 and nearly 24,000 in 2017.

Hyundai Tucson: Shook up the family SUV segment in 2015Source:Supplied

The model was updated in August this year, so satisfied buyers are upgrading as their cars turn three years old. Hundreds fill the classifieds and all have some warranty remaining.

The Tucson’s still young, so unsurprisingly it has proved reliable, with any problems fixed under Hyundai’s warranty.

Should you buy one? It’s an impressive all-rounder for those needing space for a small family and luggage; the diesel variant is ideal for those travelling greater distances, and you can seek an all-wheel drive version if you plan on mild off-roading.

Cabins are a tad plain but well laid-out and screwed together. Higher grades score some lovely features.

At launch in August 2015 there were Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander grades in that ascending order, with three petrol engines and a turbo diesel.

Active and ActiveX used a 2.0-litre petrol engine, tuned to 114kW and 121kW respectively. Both were 2WD only with six-speed transmissions, manual or auto.

Elites and Highlanders were dual-clutch auto and AWD (the exception being a 114kW 2WD Elite), with either a sportier 130kW 1.6-litre turbo or the torque-rich (400Nm) turbo diesel.

Standard on the Active were 17-inch alloys, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear camera with guidelines, rear park sensors, LED daytime running lights, auto lights and roof rails. The Active X brought 18-inch alloys, leather appointed seats and front fog lights.

Tucson: Numerous combinations of engine, specification and 2WD/4WDSource:Supplied

Elite alloys were 17-inchers, seats were cloth instead of leather but it gained a hands-free power tailgate, electric driver’s seat, electric parking brake, auto wipers, dual zone climate control, smart key, eight-inch screen with satnav and, for towing, trailer stability assist.

Impressively loaded, Highlanders gained 19-inch alloys, front park assist, LED rear lights, heated and ventilated electric front seats and panoramic sunroof.

The top grade added active safety — especially desirable for families — in the form of autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and lane keep assist.

Only the Active and ActiveX supported desirable Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Early cars needed an update to have it installed (at no charge), so make sure a prospect in this grade has had the work done.

In 2016 Hyundai celebrated 30 years in Australia with 300 “Tucson 30” special editions, all turbo petrol with AWD. These are worth seeking out for their beautiful Ash Blue body colour, matt black 19-inch alloys and sporty style elements.

For model year 2018, Tucsons got range-wide smartphone connectivity (finally) and the 114kW engine was dropped in favour of the 121kW job for Actives and Elites.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Most owners are very satisfied with their Tucsons. The most common gripe concerns the 1.6-litre turbo with dual-clutch auto.

As with dual-clutch transmissions in other brands, these tend to be hesitant and jerky at low speeds or when moving from rest. It takes some getting used to but some owners can’t stand it — if considering one, test drive it in traffic to see whether you can live with it.

Remember, smartphone mirroring wasn’t universal across all grades at first so check that it’s fitted before you turn up for a test.

Smart set-up: Tucson packs plenty of safety and comfort itemsSource:Supplied

Some owners have reported infotainment gremlins, so check for flickering screen as well as for functioning navigation (where fitted), phone connectivity and Bluetooth. The navigation had a free three-year map update plan, so check that it’s been updated. The sole recall was in July 2016, for a bonnet safety latch.

The vast majority of Tucsons won’t have been off-road but be wary of any that have. Check underneath for dents, bashes or oil leaks. Favour pampered town cars instead.

Avoid diesel Tucsons that spend their life doing short runs or stuck in city traffic without any long trips; this puts the particulate filter at risk of blockage.

There is fixed price servicing for life so there should be a complete main dealer service record.

IAIN SAYS

4 stars

Still under factory warranty, the reliable Tucson’s a safe bet for those after a stylish family SUV that’s practical and drives well.

The 2WD ActiveX or pricier AWD Highlander are the picks for specification. Check you can live with the gearbox in the latter if you choose the turbo petrol engine.

OWNER SAYS

LAUREN AMBROSE: We have a 2017 Active X manual, bought after writing off our BMW X5. We wanted a car without the BMW’s price tag but still with some luxury like leather seats. The five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres was a strong selling point. It’s comfortable, nice to drive and service costs are only about $180. It’s not a big car, it’s a bit squishy when Nannie comes too but it’s OK.

THE EXPERTS SAY

Top-spec Highlander: Resale value remains highSource:Supplied

Hyundai revived an old name, Tucson, for the larger, safer and better driving replacement for the ix35. Sales reached nearly 58,000 for this generation, with almost 24,000 in 2017, when it was Australia’s third most popular medium SUV in the hotly contested segment. The year before that it was second only to Mazda’s CX-5.

Almost three-quarters of the Tucsons in used listings are petrol powered and the lion’s share are front-drivers. The mid-range Active X accounts for nearly half.

The base Active 2.0 manual 2WD from 2015 ($27,990 new) is valued at $20,700. The Highlander diesel auto AWD ($45,490 new) is still worth $35,450. This year’s pre-update Active ($28,590 new) is valued at $26,750 and the Highlander ($47,450 new) is $45,550.

The rival Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4 all outsold the Tucson in 2017. Only the Mazda from 2015 posts a stronger resale value than the Tucson, although for this year the mildly upgraded Nissan is marginally ahead of the Tucson.

HYUNDAI TUCSON 2015-18

PRICE NEW $27,990-$47,450

SAFETY 5 stars

ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 114kW/192Nm or 121kW/203Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 130kW/265Nm;

2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 136kW/400Nm

TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed man/auto, 7-speed auto; AWD/FWD

THIRST 6.4L-7.9L/100km

TELL US ABOUT YOUR HOLDEN TRAX

Write to cars@news.com.au or Motoring, PO Box 4245, Sydney, NSW 2010

Game Of The Year — a tough call to choose the best of the best for 2018

It’s a cliché to describe the current year as a high-water mark for gaming, but 2018 really has been an outstanding year for games, with several absolutely incredible titles released — indeed, this has been the first year in a long time where there’s been more than two extremely good and worthy games in play for my coveted Game Of The Year title.

Whether you’re a first person shooter, role-playing, strategy, puzzle, casual or narrative game fan, some excellent titles have hit the shelves and distribution services this year — something for everyone, regardless of your interest.

Picking the very best games that found their way onto my hard drive over the past year is never an easy task, but nonetheless, here are my picks for this year’s top games.

GAME OF THE YEAR — RED DEAD REDEMPTION II (Rockstar)

Rockstar’s masterpiece about the passing of the Golden Age of the Old West combined an excellent story, superb visuals and massive world into one incredible open-world experience.

The attention to detail is remarkable, and while the control system could use some work, Red Dead Redemption II offered a gaming experience which manages to be involved and dramatic, with plenty of action, humanity, humour and drama too.

It was hard to go past Red Dead this year.Source:Supplied

The game carries on the best traditions of Westerns, touching on a range of themes including the coming of civilisation, groups drifting apart and folly of chasing that elusive Big Score. It’s a brilliantly polished absolute must play that offers a truly epic gaming experience, and with the launch of Red Dead Online, the stage has been set for plenty more enjoyment to come as well.

Polished brighter than a lawman’s revolvers, a story worthy of the best Western film traditions, packed with more bullets than an armoury full of Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifles, and offering the chance to live out a form of your very own quasi-WestWorld fantasy (minus the psychotic robots) this game is so good that even if you don’t own a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One I would suggest seriously looking into buying one so you can experience it for yourself.

SO VERY NEARLY GAME OF THE YEAR — GOD OF WAR (Sony)

“Runner-up” doesn’t really do this title justice, in that it truly is an incredible game that’s only missed out on the shiny gold-plated top spot by the width of one my cat’s whiskers (and my fondness for Westerns).

A technical and storytelling triumph from start to finish, God of War (released by Sony on PlayStation 4 exclusively) is a shoo-in for pretty much every “Game you absolutely must play” list, and with good reason.

God of War is a seriously good game.Source:Supplied

The story is something truly excellent, encompassing grief, father/son relationships, great mechanics and even touches of humour.

Everything about the game comes together well, it looks amazing, and it’s one of those games that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.

All in all, it’s an epic of Titanic proportions and if you own a PlayStation 4 you absolutely must play this game.

BEST PC GAME — ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY (Ubisoft)

Given that both the game of the year and the also game of the year but not quite as much are console-exclusives, PC gamers might be wondering what the best game they can actually play has been this year, and the answer is Ubisoft’s Olympian Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

Moving the series away from a pure action spectacle closer to a fully-fledged role-playing game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey included branching dialogue, likeable characters, excellent writing, amazing worldbuilding and a truly vast amount of content and was just generally really good all around.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is another winning feather in the franchise’s cap.Source:Supplied

With Ancient Greece as its setting you get to explore a beautifully realised Greek world, interact with historical characters, travel the Aegean in your very own trireme, get into swordfights, Spartan kick people off cliffs, and generally live out your very own Sword & Sandal epic.

For PC gamers, this was a real highlight for the year and one of the few titles (alongside Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War) which I kept playing long after I’d filed the review — it’s an Epic game in the truest sense of the word and easily my PC game of the year.

BEST ACTION GAME — STRANGE BRIGADE (Rebellion)

Video games are supposed to be fun, and few games this year embraced that concept for me like Strange Brigade did.

A horde shooter with a 1930s adventure film aesthetic, Strange Brigade did not take itself seriously at all and went out of its way to ensure you as the player had a jolly good time shooting mummies in their undead faces with a variety of period-appropriate guns, unleashing magical amulet powers on cadaverous horrors, and searching for lost treasure which belongs in either a museum or your bank account depending on how you look at it.

Video games are supposed to be fun, and few games this year embraced that concept for me like Strange Brigade did.Source:Supplied

With top-notch tongue-in-cheek narration perfectly nailing the style of the era, a great cast of heroes, and plenty of old-school action in both solo and co-op mode, Strange Brigade represented some of the most straightforward fun I had this year.

Given it’s also a matter of public record I love Biggles adventures, ripping yarns, the Indiana Jones films, the Brendan Fraser The Mummy film, and pretty much everything else Rebellion used as source material for the game, it should come as no surprise that Strange Brigade comes highly recommended from me.

BEST INDIE GAME — PHANTOM DOCTRINE (Creative Forge)

Basically a cross between XCOM and every really good Cold War spy thriller you’ve ever read, independent studio Creative Forge’s title Phantom Doctrine is a fantastic game about espionage in the 1980s, giving you the chance to led a team of KGB or CIA operatives against a shadowy cabal planning to destabilise the delicate balance of power between East and West to keep the Cold War going indefinitely.

The missions take place all over the world and involve everything from rescuing informers and obtaining information to eliminating agents, while the agency management aspects covers everything from assigning false identities to performing MKULTRA mind control programs on captured agents.

If you like turn-based strategy games or espionage, this is well worth a play.Source:Supplied

Incorporating everything from false identities to language proficiencies and different approaches to a mission, the game did a great job of capturing the Cold War tension and aesthetic.

I had a lot of fun with Phantom Doctrine and have no hesitation in recommending it to fans of the genre — if you like turn-based strategy games or espionage, you’ll want to intercept a copy of this one and investigate it thoroughly indeed.

BEST EXPANSION — WORLD OF WARCRAFT: BATTLE FOR AZEROTH (Blizzard)

Blizzard’s hugely popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft received a significant expansion this year in the form of Battle for Azeroth, further expanding the content and adventures on offer in the world of Azeroth.

Even as a relative newcomer to the world I was able to jump in and get involved without too much trouble, with a range of quests to undertake and places to explore.

The popular online game got a new look this year.Source:Supplied

If you’re a World of Warcraft fan, Battle for Azeroth is well worth getting — especially if you’ve been following the Alliance vs Horde adventure for a while now — and for newcomers, it’s easy enough to pick up your sword, wand, bow or staff and get into everything the world of Azeroth has to offer.

HONOURABLE MENTION — MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN (Insomniac Games/Sony)

Superhero games have proven surprisingly hard to do well, but Insomniac Games managed to bring everything that is good about Spider-Man to living rooms across the world with their excellent take on Peter Parker’s story as he matures into a young adult still finding his place in the world.

As a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the game does a great job of recreating New York City as a playground for Spider-Man to swing around and beat up goons in, and the story is solid and very relatable as well.

This one deserved a mention.Source:Supplied

The developers went out of their way to make sure the game was accessible to fans and newcomers alike, and succeeded very well indeed — as long as you know Spider-Man is Peter Parker and has super powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, you can jump in an enjoy this.

It’s a lot of fun and probably the best superhero game I’ve played — and as testament to its popularity, the game has one of the highest platinum completion rates (100 per cent of all story, side missions, challenges, etc) of any game on the PlayStation 4.

HONOURABLE MENTION — NINTENDO LABO (Nintendo)

Quite unlike anything else I’ve seen this year, Nintendo Labo basically manages to combine cardboard with video games in a spectacularly successful and innovative way, giving gamers of all ages the chance to assemble a range of accessories ranging from a remote control car to a fishing rod to an actual robot.

It’s a lot of fun, adds significantly to the versatility of the already extremely versatile Nintendo Switch, and helps bring gaming into the real world even further.

One of the great things about it is you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy it, as it expertly combines construction with gaming in an accessible way that will appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike, and give families and friends something to work on together.

What were your top games of 2018? Continue the discussion on Twitter @RoyceWilsonAU

Super storm lashes Sydney as cell cluster merges across the state

More than 100,000 people in New South Wales are spending their Saturday night in the dark after a supercell storm left them without power causing traffic chaos, flight delays and bringing trains to a complete standstill.

Residents along the length of the NSW coast are being battered with heavy rainfall, damaging winds and large hailstones as the storm cell lashes the state.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the state’s east with damaging winds up to 90km/h possible including in Sydney, the Hunter Region and the Blue Mountains.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned multiple cells were converging on Sydney and a particularly “dangerous thunderstorm” was encroaching on Newcastle.

Storms have also been lashing Victoria and Queensland.

Yesterday afternoon, Melbourne received a drenching of rain that saw the city receive more than 30mm in 15 minutes. The SES also received more than 720 callouts in 24 hours since Friday 9am.

Cyclone Owen, in far north Queensland, has also weakened but still has residents on high alert with emergency services warning some areas could be hit with flash flooding tonight.

Damage in Carlingford after the afternoon storm in Sydney. Picture: Yixiang GanSource:Supplied

Sydney’s storm cell has already caused heavy rainfall, destructive winds and giant hailstones with more wild weather expected.

Endeavour Energy is working to restore power to around 54,000 homes and businesses in Sydney’s north west.

“As the storm has brought down trees across the region, residents are reminded to stay well clear of fallen powerlines,” a spokesman said in a statement.

Currently over 54,000 customers without power after this afternoon’s storm in North Western Sydney. Please see https://t.co/n1Q6uJSQG9 or our outage app for updates if you are without power. Thanks for your patience.

— Endeavour Energy (@endeavourenergy) December 15, 2018

Ausgrid is also reporting blackouts through the Central Coast and Hunter Valley.

There is no clear timeline for when the power will be restored.

Parts of the city’s train network have ground to a halt again with a power outage and debris on the track stopping trains between Parramatta and Granville.

The Northern Line is also experiencing power failures which have stopped lifts and Opal card systems.

The Western Line is also down due to power failures.

⚠️ #WesternLine services still not running between Lidcombe and Blacktown due to power supply issues caused by lightning and debris on the tracks.

Crews are on site and working to clear the way for trains and repair damage.

Alternate travel arrangements recommended. pic.twitter.com/4KcZtlJdZi

— T1 Sydney Trains (@T1SydneyTrains) December 15, 2018

A spokesman told news.com.au passengers at Sydney Airport were facing flight delays of up to an hour as lightning filled the sky around the domestic terminal.

While flights are continuing for international passengers, those flying domestically are being urged to contact their airline for any updates before arriving to the airport.

Hail pelted down on resident in Campbelltown, with reports of power outages across parts of the Sydney metro area.

Absolutely crazy hail and wind in Campbelltown #SydneyStorm pic.twitter.com/JMReDbxDzL

— Mew101 (@Mewlovesu) December 15, 2018

Residents in the Hills district in Sydney’s north west reported dozens of trees had fallen during the storm, with some blocking major roads around Parramatta.

Multiple #warnings are now in place across #NSW, including Sydney metro, as #thunderstorms kick off up and down the state. Check now to make sure you’re not in their path https://t.co/1Mey9qWUXA pic.twitter.com/Pz2lfRsL7S

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 15, 2018

Severe #thunderstorm warning has been issued for Heavy Rainfall, Large Hail & Damaging Winds. Severe storms are likely for parts of eastern #NSW again today. Keep up to date with warnings at https://t.co/bvPF07eCrH #NSWStorms pic.twitter.com/9S9nVylxi9

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 15, 2018

On Friday, Dungong in the Hunter Region received 40 millimetres in just 30 minutes yesterday afternoon as heavy rains drenched much of NSW.

The stormy conditions around the east coast of the state, combined with a car crash on the Harbour Bridge led to peak-hour gridlock with lengthy delays on major arterial roads on Friday. Southbound traffic was queued back into the Lane Cove Tunnel while northbound traffic stretched over the Anzac Bridge to Rozelle, the Transport Management Centre said in a statement. Buses were delayed up to 30 minutes. Elsewhere flooding caused road closures and trains were cancelled due to the severe weather.

Impressive #SydneyStorm #Sydneystorms #sydneyweather pic.twitter.com/awWYQcUL7r

— Macka (@mightysharks) December 15, 2018

Northern lines trains were “bumper to bumper” between Milsons Point and Central, one guard said, after lightning strikes caused delays.

The storm front initially moved across parts of Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle early on Thursday evening.

Emergency crews worked through the night to restore power to more than 40,000 homes.

Some 470 homes remained without power on Friday evening mostly in and around Warragamba and Silverdale.

Tree down during a storm that lashed parts of Sydney on Saturday.Source:Supplied

The State Emergency Service received 1700 calls for help across NSW and responded to 866 jobs with leaking roofs and downed trees the most common issues.

The SES had to rescue three people from flooded cars in Sydney and four in Albury.

A spokesman warned motorists to avoid unnecessary travel on the weekend and to be vigilant on the roads.

Lightning strikes affected flights at Sydney Airport with 30 domestic flights delayed or cancelled by 5pm on Friday.

Sydney is set to cop another drenching today. Picture: Jenny EvansSource:News Corp Australia

Meanwhile, some of Sydney’s wildlife have been left fighting for their lives as storms continue to lash the state.

One moment, Lars, Kirk and James were nestled in the warm haven of their mother’s pouch — the next, their lives were turned upside down by a horror thunderstorm.

The ringtail possum joey triplets from Sydney’s southeast had only been just brought into the world and all they had known of it was the comfort of their parent’s pouch before tragedy struck yesterday.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, their mother had been going about its everyday possum business among the branches of Fitzpatrick Park’s trees in Kensington when an ominous storm began to loom overhead.

When the frightening storm threw lashing winds, driving rain and cracks of thunder down on the tiny park, she clung to branches in a desperate attempt to weather the onslaught.

But, somehow she was knocked from her perch and the three triplets were sent hurtling towards the ground.

All three joey siblings were discovered crying for help in Fitzpatrick Park. Picture: Ben GrahamSource:news.com.au

The tiny marsupials were left writhing in agony as their mother, presumably still terrified by the storm, fled, confused and alone.

It wasn’t until many hours later that I stumbled across one of the joeys screeching for help among the park’s vegetation as I was ambling home from work.

And, to my surprise, I could hear a similar high-pitched whining emanating from the ground just metres away from the distressed native mammal — where its brother lay in a heartbreakingly similar predicament.

Thinking I had gone insane and trying not to step on the helpless joeys, I heard the sound yet again and found the third sibling crying out.

All three were already dehydrated and life-threateningly cold — and, worryingly, I could hear another bout of thunder and rain creeping closer.

RSPCA NSW put me on to an incredible NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) volunteer called June, who remarkably arrived at the scene within minutes despite heavy traffic and driving rain.

With the help of my mate Tom, who christened the little fellas Lars, Kirk and James after the members of his favourite band Metallica, we shepherded them into a padded wine box and handed them over to June with our fingers firmly crossed.

We handed the little battlers over to WIRES with our fingers crossed. Picture: Ben GrahamSource:news.com.au

She told us that possum joey triplets were very rare and these guys were particularly young and vulnerable to be exposed to the outside world in such a cruel way.

We knew from the offset that their chances were slim.

The next day I looked at my phone to see a message from June. The triplets had been battling through the night on feeds of fluids and milk, and at midnight she thought they might survive through the to the morning.

But tragically, all three didn’t make it.

“They at least were warm and had full tummies,” the valiant volunteer told me, comfortingly. “We all wished for a happier outcome.”

MORE STORMS ON THE WAY

A severe weather warning has been issued for parts of Queensland’s north coast as tropical cyclone Owen will move over the northern interior today.

Six-hour rainfall totals between 100-200mm are possible, particularly with thunderstorms, are forecast, with flash flooding expected.

Tips to survive a power outage or blackout0:50

If you’re left without power, here’s some tips on what to do until the power comes back on.

  • November 1st 2018
  • a month ago
  • /display/newscorpaustralia.com/Web/NewsNetwork/Lifestyle – syndicated/

    You can stay across all the tropical cyclone Owen updates here.

Tropical Cyclone Owen strengthens ahead of landfall as wild weather continues in south

Melbourne has been hit with widespread flash flooding after the Victorian capital was drenched by a supercell storm on Friday afternoon.

Severe weather in Sydney also left a path of destruction, with State Emergency Service crews working through dozens of calls for assistance.

And in Queensland, the “back from the dead” Cyclone Owen has authorities on high alert as it builds and bears down on nervous communities in the north.

In the state’s southeast, a line of thunderstorms swept the sky earlier this evening.

Earlier, major cities across Australia’s east coast endured commuter and motorist chaos as the worst of wild weather struck late on Friday afternoon.

Glass Street in Richmond floods after heavy rains. Picture: Andrew HenshawSource:News Corp Australia

No trains running there! South Yarra train station flooded in Melbourne. Picture: Julian SmithSource:AAP

MELBOURNE

Melbourne copped the worst of it, with videos showing waterfalls of rain cascading down stairs in Flinders St as the storm swept through in just 30 minutes.

The CBD received almost 35mm of rain between 5 and 5.30pm. The havoc even took out Channel 9’s city camera.

BOM senior forecaster Richard Carlyon told The Herald Sun a millimetre a minute was very significant.

Traffic drew to a standstill on Kings Way with only one lane open.

Thousands of peak-hour passengers were stranded in the city.

The SES was called more than 200 times to areas across Melbourne between 6pm and 7pm and thousands of homes are without power.

But today’s rainfall is set to be less than yesterday’s deluge, which dumped more than a month’s worth of rain across the state including Melbourne and Wangaratta.

Maybe I won鈥檛 use that entrance into Flinders St station #melbweather #melbstorm #Melbourne pic.twitter.com/ukWXNMlaGu

鈥?Joanna Holman (@joannamuses) December 14, 2018

Friday night on Kings Way.

4 lanes down to 1. And even the one lane just getting through. pic.twitter.com/vhubKa7GXY

鈥?Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) December 14, 2018

Rain is causing havoc all over Melbourne.

This video was just taken in South Melbourne.

Stay safe out there! #MelbourneWeather pic.twitter.com/aAK8C8h9JK

鈥?3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) December 14, 2018

SYDNEY

In Sydney a man was killed and a woman injured in a head-on collision south of the city this afternoon as wild weather lashed the state.

The accident marked what has been a horror week of transport accidents around New South Wales.

Police said a silver Ford Falcon swerved into the northbound lane at the Camden Bypass near Narellan and collided with a black van.

The male driver of the Ford, who police believe is aged in his 30s, died at the scene.

The female driver of the van was also injured in the accident, which a police described as “a mess”, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Camden Bypass is currently closed in both directions and drivers are urged to avoid the area.

Elsewhere there was a 14km-long traffic jam at Eastern Creek westbound on the M4 following a truck rollover earlier today, 7 News Sydney reports.

On the Sydney Harbour Bridge, all lanes have reopened after an earlier car crash on the deck of the bridge.

A man has died in a two-vehicle crash on the Camden Bypass south of Sydney. Picture: 7 News SydneySource:Channel 7

Energy crews work to repair lines and a tree after it fell. Picture: Damian HofmanSource:News Corp Australia

Traffic remains very heavy — southbound traffic is queued back into the Lane Cove Tunnel, while northbound traffic is queued back over the Anzac Bridge to Rozelle.

At Oxford Falls, Oxford Falls Road is closed in both directions between Wakehurst Parkway and Avoona Road due to flooding.

At Roseville, one northbound lane of the Roseville Bridge is closed due to flooding.

In good news, all northbound lanes of the M1 Pacific Motorway have reopened on the Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge after earlier flooding.

Two northbound lanes were closed across the bridge.

Northbound traffic remains very heavy so motorists are still advised to expect significant delays and allow plenty of extra travel time.

Motorists travelling on the motorway between Sydney and the Central Coast are also advised to slow down and drive to the conditions.

Ambulance Inspector John Williams urged motorists to take extra care on the wet roads this afternoon.

M1 PACIFIC MWY: Take extreme care on the mwy btwn Sydney and the Central Coast as a severe thunderstorm moves through the area. pic.twitter.com/hrss1eObK0

鈥?Live Traffic Sydney (@LiveTrafficSyd) December 14, 2018

Sydney traffic is chaotic due to bad weather. There鈥檚 long delays at Eastern Creek because of a truck rollover. Picture: 7 News SydneySource:Supplied

No trains are running between Hornsby and Gosford on the Central Coast and Newcastle line because of urgent power supply repairs caused by severe weather.

Buses are being organised to replace train services in both directions but are not on site.

Passengers are advised to delay their trip or allow plenty of extra travel time, listen to announcements and check indicator boards.

More than 30 flights have been cancelled while others remain grounded as people start trying to escape the city to kick off Christmas holidays early.

One stressed mum shared how there were no prams at the Qantas desk at Sydney Airport so she was “told to scavenge myself for prams at gates”.

She said she found a pram covered in mould and change tables that were urine stained before finding out her flight was delayed with a tired one-year-old.

And this is why the #humefwy Jas flooded and #sydneyairport has closed. #staysafe #takecare https://t.co/6iQYiaChxc

鈥?Alex King (@kalu_sar) December 14, 2018

@Qantas @SydneyAirport had no prams at desk, told to scavenge myself for prams at gates, was covered in mould, change tables urine stained, now delays due to electrical storms with a tired 1 year old pic.twitter.com/IMOKYPvxZz

鈥?Laura Pollock (@LozPollock) December 14, 2018

SPARKED BY A DANGEROUS SUPERCELL

In NSW it started when two “very dangerous" supercell storm warnings were issued for residents of Newcastle and the New South Wales Central Coast.

On Friday afternoon, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said a “very dangerous storm” was tracking towards Newcastle. Giant hail stones, heavy rainfall and damaging winds were predicted.

Visibility on the M1 Pacific Motorway was horrendous at 3pm as the storm rolled over.

Severe thunderstorms and heavy rain was tipped to hit much of the coastline and as far inland as Orange and Tamworth.

The BOM also said almost anywhere in Victoria could see storms on Saturday.

Supercell storms often bring giant hail, gusty winds and huge downpours.

Two ‘very dangerous’ storms are heading towards the NSW coast between Sydney and Newcastle at 2.30pm. Picture: BOM.Source:Supplied

A huge field of thunderstorms hovering over NSW. Picture: Windy.Source:Supplied

QUEENSLAND

While up in Queensland much of the state’s population is set to be deluged with Tropical Cyclone Owen.

In the last 24 hours it turned back towards Queensland sporting winds of almost 200km/h.

Having made the turn, it is now expected to make landfall early on Saturday morning around the south of the Cape York Peninsula.

Authorities are urging residents to head home and bed down.

Currently a category three storm, it looks set to build into a category four monster with winds of up to 280km/h over the next 24 hours.

Owen is currently sitting off the Northern Territory coast in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Increasing in power as it sucks up moisture, it will likely make landfall a at some point on Saturday morning and then head east.

A cyclone warning is in place from Port McArthur in the Northern Territory, to Aurukun in Queensland, including Mornington Island, Karumba, Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw.

The storm is expected to become a rain depression after making landfall, with authorities warning of heavy rain with the potential to cause flooding along much of Queensland’s east coast.

“On Saturday there will be heavy falls and still some gales despite it not being a tropical cyclone at that point,” said Sky News Weather channel meteorologist Rob Sharpe.

Cairns could see between 100-150mm of rain on Saturday as Owen passes over, with Townsville copping a similar amount. It all depends on the route Owen takes, as such there is still some uncertainty as to its exact impact.

Moving into Sunday, areas further south will likely feel the brunt with Mackay and Rockhampton forecast to see as much as 120mm of rain.

#SevereStorms have developed again today! Stay abreast of the latest information at https://t.co/kbEs0gFAZX pic.twitter.com/uMLp8ouW7U

鈥?Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 14, 2018

A very dangerous #Storm is tracking towards Newcastle. Giant hail stones, heavy rainfall and damaging winds are likely with this cell. The situation is evolving, so stay on top of the latest advice at https://t.co/VViWGNMQCo pic.twitter.com/3RVB90b4K9

鈥?Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 14, 2018

Mr Sharpe said it was a wild weather event in two parts heading across most of Australia.

“Tropical Cyclone Owen is about to lash a huge portion of Queensland while in the south east we have thunderstorms rolling across the country,” he said.

Severe weather warnings have also been in place for damaging winds in Adelaide.

Some homes in Sydney are waterlogged following a short but intense storm that passed over on Thursday evening while the State Emergency Service received 650 calls with power out to hundreds of homes.

But in Perth it’s glorious sunshine, nudging 40C on Friday.

Thursday night鈥檚 storm rolling into Sydney. Picture: Twitter/Margot Lloyd @MooglePuffSource:Supplied

“As it moves down the coast, there will be heavy falls further south but on Monday there’s lots of uncertainty as to where the system will stall,” Mr Sharpe said.

At the moment, it’s looking like the system will stall around the central Queensland coast. If it lingers there, rather than out at sea, that could see rainfall totals shoot up into the 300mm or even 400mm mark.

Speaking on Friday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pleaded with motorists not to attempt to cross flooded roads after hundreds became stranded in Victoria doing just that.

“Up in Far North Queensland, they are used to a lot of rain (but) if it is flooded, forget it.

Outside of Owen’s path, Brisbane is unlikely to see the concentrated deluge. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be absolutely sodden.

Friday and Sunday could see as much as 60mm of rainfall each day and Monday not much less with showers on Saturday too. Possible storms most days with a high of 28C.

Tropical Cyclone Owen’s likely position on Friday evening. Picture: WindySource:Supplied

WILD WEATHER TO KEEP LASHING THE SOUTH

Moving into the southern states, the low pressure system continues to swirl around several states bringing rain and storms. Its effects will be concentrated on the coasts.

“There could be wild weather on Saturday with further severe storms in eastern New South Wales and we’ll start to see the rain increasing in Tasmania with flood watches a possibility there,” said Mr Sharpe.

Up to 20mm of rain could fall on Sydney on Friday with the possibility of a storm. Heavy showers could be a feature of the weekend with maximums in the upper twenties.

A stormy Friday in Canberra could see between 30-60mm of rain. But come the weekend things will calm down with even some sun on Sunday. Highs of 28C.

#Sydney home full of flash flooding – Use #sandbags to protect your home

Learn more: https://t.co/8cIDKaVDie pic.twitter.com/WS6ntlk2Lt

鈥?NSW SES (@NSWSES) December 13, 2018

馃尒锔廡oday’s Thunderstorm outlook!馃尒锔?A low east of Mildura is drawing moist air in from the east, posing a threat for thunderstorms this afternoon & tonight. Large hail, heavy rainfall & damaging winds are all possible, especially in the east. Warnings: https://t.co/VdkiZhNUvd pic.twitter.com/02wZEgbLuG

鈥?Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) December 14, 2018

馃尒锔廡hunderstorm forecast for Saturday馃尒锔?Severe thunderstorms possible over much of #Victoria with greatest likelihood in Gippsland during the afternoon & early evening. Heavy rainfall, large hail & damaging winds are all possible. Storm safety tips at: https://t.co/qLSMylgaTq pic.twitter.com/65xMKnuaRP

鈥?Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) December 14, 2018

Melbourne is looking at up to 20mm of rain on Friday with showers then lessening. The BOM has said a low east of Mildura is drawing moist air in from the east, posing a threat for thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight in many areas of large hail, heavy rainfall and damaging winds.

A high of 27C on Saturday and 24C on Sunday. Much of the state could see rain with some storms in eastern parts on Friday. A severe weather warning is in place for much of Gippsland, Alpine areas and south of Geelong for heavy rainfall.

As Victoria dries out, Tasmania is just getting wetter. Hobart could see rain all weekend with storms on Sunday and highs of 20-26C. Launceston could see 35mm on Saturday.

Adelaide has a severe weather warning in place for damaging winds averaging 55-70 km/h with peak gusts in excess of 90km/h on Friday, but by the afternoon conditions should calm down.

Some downpours are a possibility on the weekend and maybe even some sun with highs in the mid-twenties.

A scorching 38C in Perth on Friday then 30C on a stormy Saturday then heading into the mid-twenties on Sunday. Storms and some rain in Darwin but the city will likely escape the worst effects of Owen.

New Audi Q8 review: Is it more fashion accessory than car?

LAUNCHING the X6 in 2008, BMW introduced the concept of the SUV as a pure fashion accessory. A gargantuan beast based on the X5 wagon, the X6 is the Kardashian of SUVs.

All bum but no talent.

BMW has since sold more than half a million of them, which just goes to show that not all SUV buyers are pragmatic, intelligent people.

Imitators inevitably arrived, the latest to follow the formula being Audi’s new flagship SUV, the Q8.

It’s derived from a spacious, versatile family wagon — the seven-seater Q7 — and comes with a sleeker, sharper suit, a coupe roofline and a few dimensional adjustments to give it a sportier stance. For the finishing touch, whopper 21-inch alloys fill the wheel arches and make the body appear smaller that it is.

The Q8 is based on the seven-seat Q7.Source:Supplied

It’s the work of Audi design chief Marc Lichte, the first Q SUV with his signature shallow, framed octagonal grille that will define the brand’s future models.

Audi’s Q wagons to date have been stodgy looking devices but the Q8 is a muscular, edgy thing, with blistered guards, frameless side windows and a much trimmer set of glutes than the BMW.

Unlike the Q7, it’s a five-seater, with a shorter, lower, wider body sitting on the same wheelbase — the same VW Group platform underpins Porsche’s Cayenne, next year’s VW Touareg, the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus.

The more compact body doesn’t compromise interior space for five. Seating is luxurious and in the back stalls there’s ample, adjustable legroom and decent headroom. Boot volume is about 15 per cent less than Q8 ??? in five seater mode, but still expansive.

The Q8’s styling means it could only ever be a five-seater.Source:Supplied

The Q8 launches solely as the 55TFSi quattro, priced at $128,900. It runs a 3.0-litre V6 turbo with 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque, powering all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic.

It’s a mild hybrid, with 48V electrics, lithium-ion battery and starter motor that, when you plant the accelerator, can also give the engine a high voltage boost of up to 6kW and 60Nm for five seconds.

The engine is also switched off and decoupled from the transmission in “coasting” mode, on a light throttle between 55-160km/h, yielding fuel efficiency gains on the highway. It restarts when you press the pedal and the whole stop-start process is imperceptible unless you glance at the tacho.

The Q8 is loaded up with advanced tech features.Source:Supplied

The driver faces Audi’s latest all-digital centre stack dash, with a 10.1 inch touchscreen for infotainment, plus an 8.3 inch screen below it for vehicle settings, heating and cooling.

Both screens use a haptic interface, which gives subtle feedback and a muted click when you touch an icon, mimicking a conventional switch. You have to give the icons a serious poke — sometimes two pokes — to get a result but at least they’re big, clear and easy to hit.

Audi ups the safety tech ante in a big way on the Q8 — there are 39 driver assistance features to look after you.

A 3D virtual image of the car on the infotainment screen can be rotated 360 degrees, so you can see any obstacle nearby before you begin to move, while autonomous emergency braking extends to stopping the car if it detects you’re about to be T-boned at an intersection.

Standard equipment includes power tailgate, adaptive suspension dampers, adaptive cruise, LED headlights, three zone aircon, head-up display, Audi’s 12.3 inch Virtual Cockpit instruments, heated and ventilated front seats upholstered in supple Valcona leather, navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

The cabin is a truly luxe space.Source:Supplied

For $11,000, the Premium plus option package includes 22-inch wheels, air spring suspension, matrix LED headlights, four zone aircon and customisable LED interior lighting.

Variable ratio steering is packaged with rear-wheel steering for $4500. Metallic paint is a $2300 gouge.

Arriving mid-year at the same $128,900 price and specification, the 50TDi quattro will pack a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel (210kW/620Nm).

On the road

Giant wheels help the body look smaller than it is.Source:Supplied

Audi claims a seriously rapid 5.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. Seat of the pants says the Q8 isn’t that fast. The beautifully smooth 3.0-litre V6 is certainly potent but peak torque doesn’t kick in until a high 2900rpm, so it’s not particularly strong at low revs.

The eight-speed automatic is very slow to respond when you want a lower gear, even in Dynamic mode, the most aggressive of seven selectable settings.

It’s a shame that adaptive air suspension is available only in the $11,000 Premium plus package, because it allows you to tailor the ride-handling compromise to suit the road, the load and your speed.

I didn’t get to drive the standard steel-sprung variant but colleagues who did reported that the ride was much lumpier and harder than the air sprung examples I drove, which ironed out a rough road with grace and authority.

The Q8 isn’t a sports SUV. It weighs 2265kg. Enough said. However, it’s stable at speed, takes corners in a flat, well-balanced manner with the adjustable suspension turned up to taut, and has powerful, progressive brakes.

The Audi’s rear end is up for much debate.Source:Supplied

A notable dynamic demerit, common on Audis, is imprecise, inconsistently weighted, uncommunicative steering. I can’t say I noticed any real benefit from rear-wheel steering, either.

If you want a big SUV that really handles, get a Porsche Cayenne, priced at $115,900 for what is basically the same running gear, minus the 48V set-up. Or wait for the SQ8 or Q8 RS hotrods, yet to be confirmed but odds-on within a couple of years.

Verdict 3/5

Audi combines high-end luxe, dazzling tech and bombproof safety in a slick stylish package but as a drive the Q8 is competent rather than class leading — and it’s pricey, too.

Audi Q8 55TFSI vitals

Price: $128,900

Warranty/servicing: 3 years/unlimited km, $1900 for 3 years prepaid

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo, 48V mild hybrid, 250kW/500Nm

Safety: Not yet ANCAP rated, 8 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, 360 degree virtual imaging

Thirst: 9.2L/100km

Spare: Space-saver

Magic the Gathering moves into e-sports

AUSTRALIAN card game players have a potential shot at $US10 million in prizes following a new competition announcement — and it’s not a poker or blackjack tournament.

It was announced last week that card combat game Magic: The Gathering was making a bigger push into the world of e-sports, establishing a $US5m tournament for its online game Magic: The Gathering Arena and a further $US5m for its traditional tabletop game tournament.

First released in 1993, the fantasy-themed card combat and trading game has more than 20 million players worldwide, including a sizeable and passionate Australian fan base.

The game is owned by Wizards of the Coast (who also own the iconic Dungeons & Dragons pen-and-paper role-playing game and the Axis and Allies tabletop game), and the company has said the massive new prize pool is part of a plan to transform the Magic e-sports program into something which is more lucrative for professionals, gamers, sponsors and e-sport partners than ever before.

For 2019, there will be a new series of Mythic Championship tournaments in 2019, and Aussie Magic: The Gathering Arena players will be able to qualify by playing at home before testing their skills against players in the new Pro League.

Magic Gathering has a big following around the world. Picture: David CairdSource:News Corp Australia

The new Pro League will feature the top 32 professional players from around the world, based on their performance in the 2017-2018 season. It will feature seasonal weekly competitive matches and regular tournaments for the online Arena

It is understood players in the pro league will be ranked based on points earned via high finishes in the Mythic events, and challenger players who do well in those events will also be ranked based on their finishes — meaning there is room for newcomers and potential for Aussie players to take the spotlight if they perform well.

Magic’s 25 years of competitive gaming history has been rich and we’ve learned so much on our journey. We know that Magic digital e-sports, as well as tabletop, needs to adapt to the desires of both players, partners and fans,” Wizards of the Coast e-sports vice president Elaine Chase said.

E-sports is much different than when we first started; as we evolve our organised play program into a structure that takes the legacy of our pioneering tabletop system and integrates Magic’s new digital platform, (Arena), 2019 is set to be the biggest year in competitive Magic gaming yet — and massive for e-sports gaming as a whole.

“We’re incredibly excited to remind everyone why we’re the greatest trading card game in the world. It’s our purpose to provide great support to Pro players by giving them platforms to build their brand, as well as bring Magic to a broader audience through streaming content, events and tournaments.”

The a new Pro League will feature the top 32 professional players from around the world. Picture: Lawrence PinderSource:News Corp Australia

Magic The Gathering has a strong following in both its tabletop and online forms in Australia, but reaction to the announcement has not been entirely positive, with some Australian tabletop players in particular upset at the cancelling of 2019’s Sydney Pro Tour tabletop championships in favour of the online game.

Some players had expressed concern that it was already difficult for Australian tabletop players to get onto the international circuit, and the loss of the annual Sydney event was going to make it even harder.

However, Wizards of the Coast have said in addition to the newly announced Mythic invitational and championships events, there is also a “significant prize pool” being set aside for independent organisers who want to host Magic e-sports and tabletop competitive gaming events — and that prize pool was available to Australian organisers as well.

Whether it’s online or on a tabletop, a $US10 million prize pool is not to be sneezed at — and further proof that e-sports continue to be a growth area with an ever-increasing appeal both internationally and Down Under.

Why you should delete these apps from your Android phone now

Android phone owners are being warned about 22 dodgy apps that drain your battery life — and could land you with a big phone bill.

The “click-fraud” apps pretend to be normal apps on the Google Play Store, but secretly perform criminal actions out of sight, reports The Sun.

Experts at security firm Sophos found 22 such apps that have been collectively downloaded more than 22 million times.

This includes one illicit flashlight app that had racked up 1 million downloads — before being yanked from Google’s Play Store.

The apps create invisible ads, and trick advertisers into thinking you’ve clicked, to make money.

RELATED: Smartphone chip security flaw makes 900 million phones and tablets open to hackers

RELATED: Global market share reports show Aussies lead in ditching Android for Apple

RELATED: HummingBad: Chinese malware infects 10 million Android devices, experts warn

The dodgy apps appeared to have perfectly normal functionality, but were actually ‘criminal’, researchers say.Source:The Sun

Sometimes the ads will even pretend you’re clicking from an Apple device, in hopes of making more money.

The ads never actually appear for the user — which means they’re not annoyed by them

Instead, the ads appear in a hidden browser window.

The malware then simulates a user interacting with the ad, tricking it into thinking the interaction was legitimate.

This means the people running the dodgy apps make more money.

One dodgy flashlight app had more than a million downloads.Source:The Sun

It’s also bad news for users.

“From the user’s perspective, these apps drain their phone’s battery and may cause data overawes as the apps are constantly running and communicating with servers in the background,” researchers said.

But for normal users without technical knowledge, it would be very hard to spot something was amiss.

Warning signs would be increased data usage and fast-draining battery life — but pinning those to the dodgy apps would be hard.

This creates another big problem — user reviews.

Many of the apps had barely any negative comments, because users don’t know anything is amiss. This means more people are likely to download the apps in future.

The apps contained fraudulent code that tricked advertisers into handing over cash.Source:The Sun

APPS YOU SHOULD DELETE

There are the apps you should uninstall right now:

• Sparkle FlashLight — com.sparkle.flashlight

• Snake Attack — com.mobilebt.snakefight

• Math Solver — com.mobilebt.mathsolver

• ShapeSorter — com.mobilebt.shapesorter

• Tak A Trip — com.takatrip.android

• Magnifeye — com.magnifeye.android

• Join Up — com.pesrepi.joinup

• Zombie Killer — com.pesrepi.zombiekiller

• Space Rocket — com.pesrepi.spacerocket

• Neon Pong — com.pesrepi.neonpong

• Just Flashlight — app.mobile.justflashlight

• Table Soccer — com.mobile.tablesoccer

• Cliff Diver — com.mobile.cliffdiver

• Box Stack — com.mobile.boxstack

• Jelly Slice — net.kanmobi.jellyslice

• AK Blackjack — com.maragona.akblackjack

• Colour Tiles — com.maragona.colortiles

• Animal Match — com.beacon.animalmatch

• Roulette Mania — com.beacon.roulettemania

• HexaFall — com.atry.hexafall

• HexaBlocks — com.atry.hexablocks

• PairZap — com.atry.pairzap

Reviews for the apps were positive, because users didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes.Source:The Sun

“The only effects a user might notice is that the apps would use a significantly greater amount of data, at all times, and consume the phone’s battery power at a more rapid rate that the phone would otherwise require,” researchers said.

“Because consumers would not be able to correlate these effects to the apps themselves, their Play Market reviews for these apps showed few negative comments.”

Google removed the dodgy apps from the Play Store on the week of November 25.

But the apps can still operate if you’ve already got them installed, so we recommend deleting them now.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

Hi-tech Russian robot at tech forum turns out to be a man in a suit

Fake it until you make it, they say. But if you’re going to embrace such a strategy, you need to fake it better than Russia’s latest effort.

A “hi-tech robot” on show during a televised Russian state-sponsored event meant to promote the technological prowess of the nation has turned out to be a man in a suit.

Robot Boris was on display at the annual Proyektoria technology forum (held for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”) and was apparently able to walk, talk, do maths and dance.

But when it appeared on TV screens it was clear that something wasn’t quite right.

“It’s entirely possible one of these (students) could dedicate himself to robotics,” the TV anchor said, referring to the young schoolkids in the audience as the robot jived on stage.

“Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

На молодежном форуме в Ярославле чувака нарядили в «робота Бориса». Танцевать его уже научили.

Вот это прорыв. Вот это я понимаю.. pic.twitter.com/mIo07Wvmjp

— Советский! (@Soviet_flag) December 12, 2018

However, many people’s suspicions were confirmed when photos were later posted to social media which showed a clear neck line, and a person underneath.

As it turns out, the suit was a $5000 outfit made by a company called Show Robots, The Guardian reports.

Pretty sure these kids aren’t falling for it.Source:Supplied

A picture of an actor inside the suit was posted online before the event by a media network founded by an opponent of Vladimir Putin.

According to The Guardian, the organisers of the tech forum have since denied they tried to pass the robot off as genuine technology despite the TV segment seeming to do just that.

New Ford Focus review: Small brings Euro flair down under

Ford’s Focus has been on sale in Australia for 20 years. It’s one of the better hatchbacks to drive, courtesy of its engineering DNA from Ford of Europe — but it has never sold in sufficient numbers to trouble class leaders such as the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.

Australian hatchback buyers tend to favour the Japanese and Korean approach to small cars, which prioritises price, durability and reliability via conventional, proven technology, over European contenders.

The Ford Focus is engineered by the brand’s European outfit.Source:Supplied

Among these are the Focus, VW Golf and Holden Astra, with pointy end engineering — such as small capacity turbo engines and automated manual transmissions — and a stronger emphasis on performance, fuel efficiency, handling and safety.

Focus sales also suffered from the lingering stench of Ford Australia’s attempt in 2015-16 to blame customer driving habits for serious problems with its Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission. That earned it a $10 million fine from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and spooked buyers away from Focus to the extent that it now languishes in 10th place on the class sales ladder.

So there’s really nowhere else to go but up for the new fourth generation Focus.

It arrives from Germany as a four model range, kicking off with the Trend hatch, priced at $25,990. That’s big money for a base model in this class but Ford hasn’t skimped on drivetrain hardware, safety tech or standard equipment. Each is comparable with rival mid-spec versions at the $25-$30K pricepoint.

The Focus has always been one of the better driving small hatches on the market.Source:Supplied

The standard engine across the range is a new 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, matched with an eight-speed automatic — a conventional torque converter job, not the troublesome dual-clutch design. There’s no manual option.

Ford’s infotainment is as good as it gets in this class, with an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation with traffic monitoring, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio, stand-alone voice control for all functions — and talks to you in a ’Strayan accent — wi-fi hotspot compatibility and automatic emergency services dialling, via your paired phone, if you have a prang.

The Trend’s driver assistance runs to six airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist/departure warning, adjustable speed limiter, 180-degree view reversing camera and automatic post impact braking.

Ford has packed the Focus with gear to justify its higher entry price point.Source:Supplied

Ford’s MyKey allows you to program functions such as disabling incoming calls, restricting top speed and audio volume — and disabling the audio altogether if occupants haven’t used the seat belts — into a specific key, which you can then give to the young, inexperienced driver in your family.

The ST Line, at $28,990 for the hatch and $30,990 for the wagon, is a sports-flavoured variant with body kit, rear spoiler and honeycomb grille, along with stiffer suspension, 10mm lower ride height, tyre pressure monitoring and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, it adds wireless phone charging, dual-zone aircon, keyless entry and start, metal insert pedals and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

Top-spec and available as a hatch only, the Titanium costs $34,490. As you’d expect at this price, the full suite of safety tech includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise, speed sign recognition, automatic lane centring and evasive steering assist. Also standard are automatic parking, head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, 18 inch alloys, heated/powered front seats, premium audio and leather upholstery.

Ford gives parents peace of mind with its MyKey feature.Source:Supplied

The 2019 Focus rides on Ford’s all new architecture, known as C2. It’s a larger hatchback than the previous model, particularly in its wheelbase, so rear legroom is more generous than the Corolla, Golf, i30 and Mazda 3 and boot volume increases.

The lighter, stronger body has slippery aerodynamics (0.27cd) in the pursuit of fuel efficiency and quietness.

From the Trend driver’s seat, the view is surprisingly dated and down-market, with monotone grey plastic trim, an ancient-looking analog instrument panel and precious little design flair. The touchscreen looks out of place, like a hi-tech aftermarket accessory in an otherwise impoverished, low-tech cabin.

It all works fine, which is what really counts. The driving position is comfortable (apart from head restraints that intrude if you prefer the backrest upright), vision is clear around the car, there’s enough open and covered storage close at hand for bits and pieces and there are a couple of USB sockets and a 12 volt plug as well.

The Focus comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.Source:Supplied

The relatively large glass area and low window sills give the cabin a pleasant, open, spacious feel that kids in particular will appreciate.

Early next year, the Focus Active arrives, priced at $29,990. It’s basically a jacked-up hatch with 34mm extra ground clearance, faux SUV styling and interior decor, plus a couple of extra selectable modes for improved traction in slippery or off-road conditions.

On the road

The Focus’s 1.5-litre turbo is one of the more energetic triples around, with a willingness to rev that often eludes three cylinder engines, though it doesn’t spin up as quickly as a four and can vibrate intermittently in cruise mode, a characteristic of the genre.

Peak torque kicks in from 1600rpm, so it’s also responsive and tractable in the lower half of the rev range, assisted by the eight-speed automatic, which has a rotary selector dial rather than a lever on the centre console.

The Focus is powered by a feisty three-cylinder turbo engine.Source:Supplied

Paddle-shifters are also standard, as is stop-start. Shifts are generally smooth and timely, though you can sometimes feel the transmission shuffling down through the gears as you come to a stop.

Driving modes are Eco, Normal and Sport, with little difference in performance between the latter two.

The Focus has always been one of the better handling hatchbacks and the new model is still an engaging, enjoyable drive, even with torsion beam suspension replacing the independent rear set-up of the previous generation.

In corners it feels light and agile, with super sharp, intuitive steering and reasonably confident roadholding. It lacks the composure and poise in bumpy bends of, say, a Corolla and there is a slight twitchiness, amplified by pretty stiff springs at the rear.

Continental Eco tyres on the Trend’s 16-inch wheels aren’t particularly adhesive, either; premium Michelin Pilot Sport rubber on ST-Line’s 17 inches has much stronger grip.

The Focus stops well enough but the transition from light to heavy braking is too sudden, and disproportionate to pedal pressure.

Has the Focus done enough to keep up with its most polished rivals?Source:Supplied

The ride is almost hot-hatch firm, even on the Trend, and much less compliant and comfortable than the Corolla and Golf.

Verdict 3/5

This fourth-generation Focus has more space, infotainment and safety for your money but on the road it isn’t the most convincing model to wear the badge. Rivals Golf and Corolla have set the bar high in this class and Focus doesn’t quite get there.

What’s new

Price: Starting money is $25,990 plus on-road costs for Trend grade, an increase of $1600 on the previous model. The VW Golf 110TSI Trendline is $27,490 and Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport is $24,370.

Tech: Standard safety spec includes AEB and lane keep assist. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise are bundled into an optional Driver Assistance Pack, at $1250, on Trend and ST Line.

Performance: The 1.5-litre turbo triple produces similar numbers to its four-cylinder predecessor but the new eight-speed auto, replacing a six-speeder, gives it stronger acceleration and more refined cruising. Fuel consumption rises slightly and it requires premium.

Driving: Ford has taken the low-cost rear suspension option. A torsion beam replaces the previous model’s independent set-up, bringing the Focus back to the pack in terms of handling. Stiff springs make the ride a bit too firm for an everyday drive.

Design: New ST-Line variant looks pukka sporty. This fourth-generation body is now one of the most spacious in the class. The dash looks like something out of a 10-year-old model.

Ford Focus vitals

Price: $25,990-$34,490 plus on-roads

Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs/unlimited km, $897 for three years

Engine: 1.5-litre 3-cyl turbo, 134kW/240Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, lane keep assist, speed limiter, My Key

Thirst: 6.4L/100km

Spare: Space-saver

Boot: 341L