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Car Spy Photos – The Future Automotive Industry Right Here, Right Now

Car Spy Photos – The Future Automotive Industry Right Here, Right Now

Car Spy Photos – The Future Automotive Industry Right Here, Right Now

A picture is worth a thousand words. Such a journalistic cliché makes a lot of sense in today’s automotive industry, especially when talking about the latest project belonging to automakers across the globe. Regardless if we’re thinking about production cars, concepts, new projects, renderings or simply a sketch, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words because it shows much more than we’d be ever capable of reporting based on the existing rumors.

There’s no doubt that every single official photo launched by a car manufacturer, be it Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford or Tata Motors, helps fans all over the world get a glimpse into how a new model is going to look like months before it goes on sale, but there’s something much more attention worthy.

It’s called a spy shot, or a spy photo if you prefer, and has exactly the meaning suggested by its name: it’s a picture showing a car in prototype or even production form, often taken without permission. They have a single goal in mind: to let people see a future car that’s very likely to hit the market in the next few years.

Before going further however, let’s talk a little bit about the “without consent” part we mentioned in the previous paragraph. In some cases, taking a picture without permission is considered an illegal activity and sometimes can have serious legal consequences on the guy holding the camera. This time however everything is as legal as it gets because most, if not all cars are tested on public roads, so as long as you’re in a public place, nobody can sue you. Unless you’re breaking some special rules, but this isn’t the case with car spy photos.

The new F-Type will be powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 unit that will develop either 340 or 380 horsepower. Rumours has it that Jaguar is also preparing a much more powerful version baptized F-Type R with a maximum power of 500 hp. As you can see, the car uses quite an innovative camo, also supposed to show bystanders that they are looking at the upcoming F-Type.

Why are car manufacturers testing their cars on public roads? There are two reasons for this.

First of all, this is the easiest, the fastest and the most affordable way to simulate real-life conditions, which means the manufacturer gets to see how the car would behave in a traffic jam, on a highway or in a parking lot if it ever reaches production.

Second of all, it’s much, much cheaper than you’d ever think. Some companies, especially those building supercars or high-performance vehicles, test their new cars on tracks, such as Nurburgring, obviously paying a pretty decent fee. This however doesn’t mean that other people can’t see their concepts, so the only way to test a car privately is building your very own city. For testing purposes, that is. Obviously, plenty of manufacturers already have their own testing labs, but again, real-life conditions are the only ones that can help them determine whether a car is ready for production or not.

This is the new MG3, the new supermini developed by the Chinese-owned British carmaker MG. The car is expected to arrive on European soil soon, in an attempt to fight with German companies for the supermini category. As you can see, some manufacturers choose to cover only small parts of their cars, thus letting everyone know that these are actually the revised parts that will be introduced on the facelifted model.

Which leads us to another important chapter of our article: if car manufacturers agree to test their vehicles in a public place, how come they manage to keep new cars away from your eyes till the official unveiling? The answer is as simple as it gets: using special camouflage kits.

The idea of wrapping a car in camouflage isn’t quite new, as military forces adopted such a technique during World War I when they attempted to keep their vehicles away from the enemy.

This time however, car manufacturers come in peace and their only goal is to hide their new vehicles’ shape, lines and special elements from fans, press and rivals.

There are plenty of camouflage kits and types out there, some of them especially developed to better hide the new cars’ silhouettes. Are they efficient? Sometimes they are, but this is the moment when spy photographers join the play.

A spy photographer is, in essence, a photographer that takes spy pictures. Doh! But his job however is much more complicated than we’d be tempted to believe.

Every time we imagine a photographer we see one guy holding a camera and shooting photos all day long. He sometimes has perfect weather or studio conditions to take perfectly focused and crystal clear pictures. A car spy photographer however is a modern hunter.

Because car manufacturers are trying to test their cars in real-life conditions, you shouldn’t be too surprised if you see a camouflaged Porsche driven in the Sahara desert or at the North Pole. More, try to remain as calm as possible if you notice two eyes and a camera coming out of nowhere, just to take the perfect shot of the newly-developed Porsche.

Some car manufacturers are using camouflaged cars in their commercials, with the same goal of showing fans that a new model is going to be launched very soon. This is the case of Honda, as the Japanese presented the new Civic in camo version before the official debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.

That’s the life of a spy photographer. Regardless if we’re talking about crowded cities, highway, deserts, mountains, hills, Brazil, Russia, China, Afghanistan or Zimbabwe, spy photographers need to be there to bring you the best possible shots. And they are. Regardless if they have to spend a few days all alone just because they received a tip that Ferrari is expected to test a new model in the desert or they simply tracked the engineering team down to a suspicious location.

But it’s not all just because of the passion for cars or photography. It’s a whole industry. Spy photographers, usually hired by larger agencies or companies, take photos of new cars and send them to their employer. The company in its turn signs deals with magazines, websites and TV stations from all over the world to sell these photos. In the end, the media shows you, the potential buyer of the car, these photos and, in exchange, it gets money from advertising. It’s a large industry segment that’s constantly developing these days.

This is the upcoming 2014 Range Rover Sport. Enginners dressed the car as a Volvo, trying to trick people into believing that it’s actually a Volvo model out for testing. Notice the grille which perfectly resembles the one of a Volvo.

Car spy photography also stands for sacrifices from both the photographer and the company, if there is one.

First of all, such a photographer spends days, if not month away trying to take a shot of a new prototype. They wait in the wild waiting for the car to appear or they follow a prototype with the speed of the wind in an attempt to get as close as possible. Just because of a tip they received from a partner, they sleep outside, which obviously brings a number of risks. They could get ill, attacked, robbed or hurt.

Then, there are the investments he or the employer needs to make. High-performance DSLRs, long-range lens, camouflage (to avoid getting noticed by the testing team), food and hotels cost a lost, but it’s all paid back in the end.

There is however an unseen and often untold part of this entire story: in some cases, car manufacturers, and testing staff in particular, chooses to be tracked down by spy photographers just to bring their latest projects in the spotlight. While some flip the finger in front of the cameras and swear the photographers, others push the brake and slowly drive on the road to let the camera guy take the best pictures. The result? Extensive media coverage, people talking about the new car and fuel rumors until the official launch.

On the other hand, there are companies that are trying to take advantage of this whole frenzy. In an attempt to mislead competitors, some of the manufacturers deliberately expose fake car parts, making everyone believe that it’s the production version. Instead, the company engineers installed the new engine, if there’s one, on a heavily modified chassis and body to test it in the same real-life conditions we were talking about.

Spy photographers can also capture car interiors, but this of course involves a better angle and much more advanced equipment. As you can see, some of the photos are quite crystal clear, but they still help us get a glimpse into how to new interior will look like.

Getting back to the camouflage we were talking about, there’s one important thing that needs to be mentioned. Besides the fact that it’s supposed to hide the most important parts of the newly-designed model, the camouflage is also an attempt to make photographers’ mission a bit more difficult. Some vinyl wraps, especially the swirly ones, are not only intended to hide key details, but also to block the cameras from focusing on the car.

Truth is, today’s cameras as so advanced that an autofocus feature could easily do this job, but a car that’s drive with more than 100 km/h (62 mph) and wrapped in such a camo is clearly hard to capture.

How hard is to wrap a car in camouflage? Not that hard, that’s for sure. And it’s definitely very affordable. A simple search on Google reveals prices ranging in between a few hundred dollars and thousands of dollars, obviously depending on pattern and quality.

With all these being said, let’s get back to our news section and enjoy the latest spyshots. And do you know what’s the best part? Anybody can be a spy photographer, just make sure you have a camera around whenever you get past a heavily disguised car.

Obama wants to repeat ‘success’ of auto industry bailout in other industries

Obama wants to repeat ‘success’ of auto industry bailout in other industries

 

The president gave an audience in Pueblo, Colo., a preview of coming attractions in the event that he is given a second bite at the apple. (Readers are referred to Charles Krauthammer’s Friday syndicated columnfor a thumbnail of the all the great stuff he has done to date.)

Politico writes that Obama told prospective voters that he wants to do for (to?) other industries what he did for the auto industry. “I said, I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back,” he said. “Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.”
Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler on war of words between Obama and Romney on auto bailout

Needless to say, he used the opportunity to slam Mitt Romney, who was opposed to the auto bailout, explaining, “I don’t want those jobs taking root in places like China, I want those jobs taking root in places like Pueblo.”
So how successful has the auto bailout been? It depends. If you ask the left-leaning DrivingGrowth.org, they will fill your head with dazzling numbers. They will tell you that the American automotive industry has added nearly a quarter million jobs (236,600) and that manufacturing of motor vehicles and parts is up 26.4% since June 2009 when the industry hit bottom.
It does all sound pretty terrific … till you have a look at the Treasury Department stats on where the bailout stands as of the end of May. Here are some specifics: Of the $79.69 billion directly paid out by the federal government, $35.18 billion has been recouped, $37.14 is still outstanding (and unlikely to be recovered), and $7.37 billion was written off as a loss. General Motors received an additional $45 billion special tax subsidy after filing for bankruptcy.
Adding up all the negatives and subtracting them from the positives, taxpayers are out more than $82 billion. Meanwhile, Ford Motors Co., which the Obama administration didn’t bail out, posted profits of $8.8 billion in 2011.
And now Obama wants to repeat his “success.” All he needs to do is reach into his bag of fairy dust again and sprinkle it over other failing industries so that they, too, can “come roaring back.” Here’s a thought. Before “saving” other parts of the private sector through lavish “investments,” how about doing something about the U.S. Postal Service, which has been hemorrhaging an average of $42,335,766 a day in fiscal 2012? CNS News reports that “on Thursday, the service reported a third quarter (April 1-June 30) net loss of $5.2 billion, bringing its fiscal year-to-date net loss to $11.6 billion.”
Here’s an even better thought: How about let’s turn the reins of leadership over to someone with fresh ideas that are financially self-sustaining and give the president—who has been campaigning hard for four years—a much-need rest?

6 Tricks to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill by $1,000 a Year

6 Tricks to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill by $1,000 a Year

Good news for those of us feeling trapped by our cell phone plans: It is possible to eliminate certain fees and even score some freebies.

We spoke with Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine for some lesser-known strategies. Altogether, the advice is worth a savings of close to $1,000 a year.

Also See: Common Money Traps to Avoid
 
Don’t Pay For Text

If you have an iPhone or Android, you can easily save $240 a year by downloading the “Textfree app, which allows you to send and receive texts and picture texts for free over a data or Wi-Fi connection. Of course, it may require you to watch an ad or two.

Also See: 7 Ways to Score Free Stuff
 
Prepaid Perks

If you’re a light caller and hunting for a new plan, consider switching to a p repaid calling plan. For example, Virgin Mobile, which now includes iPhone plans, start s at $30 a month for unlimited text and data, as well as 300 minutes. To determine whether prepaid is right for you, review six months worth of bills and tally up how many minutes you’re actually using. You can also use a free website like BillShrink.com to help with the math.
And despite the stigma that they’re for unsophisticated or low-end phone users, Bodnar explains that prepaid plans are actually rising in appeal. The quality gap among cell phones is becoming nearly non-existent among the major players, she says, so pre-paid is becoming a more popular way to go.
 
Also See: Save $1,000 on Monthly Bill

Eliminate the Activation Fee

Major national carriers often charge an activation fee — ranging from $18 at T-Mobile to $36 at AT&T and Sprint — for each new line you open. Major carriers may even try to slap an activation or upgrade fee when you’re simply extending your contract – as if you purchased a new phone. But threaten to buy your phone from another carrier and you’ll often get th e salesperson to waive that.
 
Free Information

If you own a smartphone, you’re probably no longer dialing 411 for phone numbers or addresses Your phone’s web browser can often get you answers on the go – for free. But for consumers with simple phones, toll-free numbers such as 1-800-FREE-411 will do the job at no cost. All you pay for is airtime.
 
Local Only

Another way to save on your bill, though not for everyone, is to switch to a local-only plan. It’s available through some carriers and best for those who only use their cell phone for local calls.
 
Bypass Early Termination Fees

For those of us who simply want out of our contracts, you may be able to avoid the hefty cancellation fee, which runs as high as $350. If you’ve moved, lost your job, or can legitimately argue that your carrier’s service isn’t satisfactory in your area, you may have a case. Also, if the terms of your original contract suddenly change – for example, your carrier starts charging customers more for texts or data and that’s pricier than you initially agreed – you can try to argue you way out of the fee.
Otherwise, check out third-party web sites like CellSwapper and CellTradeUSA that play matchmaker between unhappy cell phone customers and those seeking less-expensive cell plans.
 
Block Third-Party Charges

Finally, unless you buy a lot of ringtones and games, you can fend off unexpected or hidden fees – sometimes even fraudulent fees – by asking your carrier to block third-party charges that come from unauthorized sources. “Look for anything unrecognizable on your bill,” says Bodnar. “If you’re unsure of anything, call your carrier and ask the rep to go through the bill line by line to explain all the charges to you.”

http://shine.yahoo.com/financially-fit/7-tricks-slash-cell-phone-bill-1-000-205800716.html

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First ‘fast charger’ for LA electric cars unveiled in Arts District

First ‘fast charger’ for LA electric cars unveiled in Arts District

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, August 10, 2012, at 11:00AM
Zan Dubin Scott
  Chargers in the Arts District parking lot.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Officials unveiled the first “fast charger” for electric cars in the city of Los Angeles on Thursday — and it’s located in a downtown L.A. parking lot.

The Blink DC fast charger can reportedly charge most electric vehicles (EV) in about 30 minutes. Although charging time varies greatly depending on the type of car and battery. EV chargers typically need at least a few hours, most overnight, to completely charge the car.

But Yuval Bar-Zemer of Linear City, a development firm that’s working on the Arts District parking lot and also created the Biscuit Company and Toy Factory lofts across the street, said the EV charger itself isn’t the news — it’s the “change of lifestyle” it indicates.

“We want to make sustainability look fun and sexy and available,” he said.
Along with the new chargers, Bar-Zemer cited a new ride-share program and an incoming neighborhood market as key indicators of changing lifestyles for Downtowners.
Paul Scott, a DTLA Nissan salesman who specializes in the electric vehicle the Leaf, said that although many people still buy plug-in hybrids (that run on gas and electricity), he has many customers who don’t want to be a part of the oil industry at all.

“There’s a lot of people who never ever want to buy gasoline again,” he said. “The desire, the need, for fast-charging has grown quite a bit.”

Scott admitted that he had a vested interest in electric cars because that’s how he makes a living, but insisted his commitment to the environmental cause was more than just financial.
“I want to sell these cars — but I want to get the gas-burners off the road,” he said.
At the press conference on Thursday, Councilman José Huizar said L.A.’s first “fast charger” signaled a “great day” for DTLA and the city as a whole.

“Today is about celebrating and embracing innovation, about shifting the paradigm in how we think about transportation and how we align our lifestyles with our beliefs in creating a cleaner, greener environment for ourselves, our children and our City,” he said.

This single speedy charger joins 10 standard chargers in a parking lot on Mateo Street, next to a large metal shed currently in the process of becoming re-purposed as Urban Radish — an upscale grocery store.

Radish will include a grocery section, a deli counter, a curated selection of meats and freshly made juices. Owner Carolyn Paxton told Blogdowntown last month that a portion of the store will sell “highly perishable,” locally sourced staples, such as produce and dairy products.

“It’s a grocery store for people who live here, in basically a food desert,” said Paxton, referring to the restaurants and cafes that surround the area but the absence of grocery stores.

For the next few weeks EV owners can charge their cars for free at the DTLA station, but must pay to park in the lot. Scott said that by the end of 2012 he expects to see at least a few more fast chargers throughout the city. Chicago has 29 of them, he added, and L.A. has thousands of more electric cars.

http://blogdowntown.com/2012/08/6950-first-fast-charger-for-la-electric-cars-unveiled

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Top Toyota executive predicts more US factory jobs

Top Toyota executive predicts more US factory jobs

Over the past eight months, Toyota has announced it would hire 3,500 workers in North America and invest $1.6 billion in its factories here. Even more jobs could be added in the region as a way to hedge against a strong yen. ‘With the yen where it is today, I think it’s only a matter of time,’ said Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 1:54 PM

 Currently, around 70 percent of Toyotas sold in North America are made in the region.

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

Currently, around 70 percent of Toyotas sold in North America are made in the region.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Toyota’s top U.S. sales executive predicts that his company will add jobs and build more models in North America as a hedge against a strong yen.
Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said Toyota already makes around 70 percent of the models sold in North America in the region. He sees that percentage continuing to grow.
“With the yen where it is today, I think it’s only a matter of time,” Lentz told reporters Wednesday at an auto industry conference outside of Traverse City, Mich.
Toyota Motor Corp. has been hammered by the strong yen, putting extra pressure on the automaker to stay lean and come up with new innovations. A strong yen cuts into overseas earnings for all Japanese automakers, and makes it harder to offer products at cheaper prices abroad. It takes just 78 yen to buy a dollar, fewer than the 100 yen it took in 2009. It’s a sign of the currency’s growing strength against the greenback, and a tough trend for Japanese manufacturers.
So in the past eight months, the world’s top automaker has announced it would hire 3,500 workers in North America and invest $1.6 billion its factories here.
“The hedge against currency is to build cars where you sell them,” he said.
Lentz said further investment depends on the value of the yen, sales and the ability of Toyota to engineer and design vehicles in the U.S.
Toyota isn’t alone in moving research and production to North America. Honda announced at the conference that engineers in the U.S. would lead development of the next-generation of Civic compact cars.
Honda builds in North America more than 85 percent of the vehicles it sells in the region. About 30 percent of its North American model lineup was developed here, said Erik Berkman, the company’s president of research and development for the Americas. North America leads development of all Acura vehicles and all light trucks, including the Honda Ridgeline and Pilot, he said.
The company has a product development research center in Raymond, Ohio, near Columbus.
Toyota already builds 12 Toyota and Lexus models in North America, including the top-selling Camry and popular Corolla. Its new Avalon large sedan was engineered and designed near Ann Arbor, Mich., and the company expects more models to be designed in the U.S., where it employs about 30,000 people.
The company doesn’t have firm plans to shift production of more models from Japan to North America, he said. But one model Toyota would consider building here is the Lexus ES series.
Toyota, like other manufacturers, would make changes to squeeze more production out of existing plants rather than building new buildings, he said. A new plant costs about $1 billion, Lentz said.
Toyota still thinks automakers can sell 14.3 million vehicles in U.S. this year, he said, even though sales have slowed the past two months, and some analysts have cut their forecasts. But Lentz said pent-up demand should prop up sales. The average vehicle in the U.S. is nearly 11 years old, and people have to replace their aging rides.
Toyota, he said, has fully recovered from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hobbled its
Japanese factories and caused model shortages worldwide. In the U.S., the company’s dealer inventory dropped to around 120,000 vehicles last summer. Now it’s back to 299,000, which is near the 300,000 that Toyota considers optimal.
Lentz also said discounts are starting to surface in the luxury market, which has dropped to around 10 percent of total U.S. sales this year. Normally it’s around 12 percent, he said. But although discounts may rise, Lentz doesn’t think an all-out price war will break out.

Starbucks and Square to Team Up

Bye bye credit card processing companies!!  No one will miss you!!!!

Starbucks and Square to Team Up

By
Published: August 8, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Cash moved one small step nearer to its deathbed with the announcement on Wednesday that Square, the mobile payments start-up, would form a partnership with the Starbucks Coffee Company.
Eventually customers will be able to order a grande vanilla latte at Starbucks and charge it to their credit cards simply by saying their names.
Multimedia
This fall, Square will begin processing all credit and debit card transactions at Starbucks stores in the United States and eventually customers will be able to order a grande vanilla latte and charge it to their credit cards simply by saying their names.
Though smartphone payments have a long way to go before they replace wallets altogether, Starbucks’s adoption of Square will catapult the start-up’s technology onto street corners nationwide, and is the clearest sign yet that mobile payments could become mainstream.
“Anyone who’s going to break the mobile payments barrier in the U.S. has to overcome the resistance to try anything new when everything we have works really, really well, even cash, which is very convenient,” said Bill Maurer, director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine.
“But if a big merchant jumping into some mobile payment solution signals to other merchants that there is an opportunity here,” he added, “that might change the psychology for other merchants.”
Starbucks is also investing $25 million in Square as part of its latest round of financing, which values the company at $3.25 billion, and Howard D. Schultz, Starbucks’s chief executive, will join Square’s board.
Starbucks has offered its own mobile payment app since last year and processes more than a million mobile payments a week. Customers will continue to be able to use it, but they will also be able to use Pay With Square, Square’s cellphone app, which eliminates even having to take the phone out of your pocket or sign a receipt.
At first, Starbucks customers will need to show the merchant a bar code on their phones. But when Starbucks uses Square’s full GPS technology, the customer’s phone will automatically notify the store that the customer has entered, and the customer’s name and photo will pop up on the cashier’s screen. The customer will give the merchant his or her name, Starbucks will match the photo and the payment will be complete.
Even though Square’s app has been well reviewed, it has not caught on with shoppers, which has been Square’s biggest challenge as it tries to expand. That is in large part because of the limited number of merchants that accept payments that way. Most of Square’s users are small businesses, like farm stands or cafes that also use Square’s credit card reader.
Starbucks, which will be far and away the largest business using Square, could change that.
“Starbucks is one of the largest organizations in the world, taking technology like Square — simple, fast and focused on customer experience — and bringing it to a massive scale,” said Jack Dorsey, Square’s co-founder and chief executive.
Square, which was introduced in 2010, is one of many businesses — like Google, PayPal, Sprint and Microsoft and start-ups like Scvngr and GoPago — that are trying to offer mobile payments. But they have been slow to catch on because they require the cooperation of many players, including retailers, credit card companies, banks, cellphone carriers and phone makers. And Americans have been just as happy to pull out their credit cards as their cellphones to make a payment.
Denee Carrington, a Forrester analyst who recently wrote a report on mobile payments, said that mobile payment providers would need to offer a compelling, safe and convenient experience for shoppers, and that the applications would have to make good use of their personal data, like spending habits, to offer valuable services.
Forrester estimates that 30 percent of American mobile phone owners are interested in using mobile payments, based on a survey polling about 7,600 adults in the United States. It found that younger consumers are the most amenable to using mobile wallets. Still, it predicts that it will take another three to five years before mobile payments reach critical mass in the domestic market.
“We are still in the early days of mobile payments specifically, but the market is accelerating, especially the amount of innovation that’s happening in the marketplace,” Ms. Carrington said.
Square has so far been most popular in small coffee shops, but Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Schultz said that even though the start-up was now doing business with the nation’s biggest coffee chain, the partnership would benefit those small businesses. More customers will have the app, they said, and it will show small businesses near Starbucks stores.
“My hope is that by creating a national footprint for Square technology in all Starbucks stores in the U.S., that it will be a catalyst for Square to get access to tens of thousands of other small business and democratize payments,” Mr. Schultz said.

Brian X. Chen contributed reporting from New York.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/technology/starbucks-and-square-to-team-up.html

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