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Science

Graphene nanoribbons for ‘reading’ DNA

Nov. 17, 2013 — If we wanted to count the number of people in a crowd, we could make on the fly estimates, very likely to be imprecise, or we could ask each person to pass through a turnstile. The latter resembles the model that EPFL researchers have used for creating a "DNA reader" that is able to detect the passage of individual DNA molecules through a tiny hole: a nanopore with integrated graphene transistor.

The DNA molecules are diluted in a solution containing ions and are driven by an electric field through a membrane with a nanopore. When the molecule goes through the orifice, it provokes a slight perturbation to the field, detectable not only by the modulations in ionic current but also by concomitant modulation in the graphene transistor current. Based on this information, it is possible to determine whether a DNA molecule has passed through the membrane or not.

This system is based on a method that has been known for over a dozen years. The original technique was not as reliable since it presented a number of shortcomings such as clogging pores and lack of precision, among others. "We thought that we would be able to solve these problems by creating a membrane as thin as possible while maintaining the orifice's strength," said Aleksandra Radenovic from the Laboratory of Nanoscale Biology at EPFL. Together with Floriano Traversi, postdoctoral student, and colleagues from the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures, she came across the material that turned out to be both the strongest and most resilient: graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon molecules. The strips of graphene or nanoribbons used in the experiment were produced at EPFL, thanks to the work carried out at the Center for Micro Nanotechnology (CMI) and the Center for Electron Microscopy (CIME).

"Through an amazing coincidence, continued the researcher, the graphene layer's thickness measures 0.335 nm, which exactly fits the gap existing between two DNA bases, whereas in the materials used so far there was a 15 nm thickness." As a result, while previously it was not possible to individually analyze the passage of DNA bases through these "long" tunnels -- at a molecular scale -, the new method is likely to provide a much higher precision. Eventually, it could be used for DNA sequencing.

However they are not there yet. In only 5 milliseconds, up to 50'000 DNA bases can pass through the pores. The electric output signal is not clear enough for "reading" the live sequence of the DNA strand passage. "However, the possibility of detecting the passage of DNA with graphene nanoribbons is a breakthrough as well as a significant opportunity," said Aleksandra Radenovic. She noted that, for example, the device is also able to detect the passage of other kinds of proteins and provide information on their size and/or shape.

This crucial step towards new methods of molecular analysis has received an ERC grant and is featured in an article published today in Nature Nanotechnology.

Science

‘Mini-kidney’ structures generated from human stem cells for first time

Nov. 17, 2013 — Diseases affecting the kidneys represent a major and unsolved health issue worldwide. The kidneys rarely recover function once they are damaged by disease, highlighting the urgent need for better knowledge of kidney development and physiology.

Now, a team of researchers led by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has developed a novel platform to study kidney diseases, opening new avenues for the future application of regenerative medicine strategies to help restore kidney function.

For the first time, the Salk researchers have generated three-dimensional kidney structures from human stem cells, opening new avenues for studying the development and diseases of the kidneys and to the discovery of new drugs that target human kidney cells. The findings were reported November 17 in Nature Cell Biology.

Scientists had created precursors of kidney cells using stem cells as recently as this past summer, but the Salk team was the first to coax human stem cells into forming three-dimensional cellular structures similar to those found in our kidneys.

"Attempts to differentiate human stem cells into renal cells have had limited success," says senior study author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair. "We have developed a simple and efficient method that allows for the differentiation of human stem cells into well-organized 3D structures of the ureteric bud (UB), which later develops into the collecting duct system."

The Salk findings demonstrate for the first time that pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) -- cells capable of differentiating into the many cells and tissue types that make up the body -- can made to develop into cells similar to those found in the ureteric bud, an early developmental structure of the kidneys, and then be further differentiated into three-dimensional structures in organ cultures. UB cells form the early stages of the human urinary and reproductive organs during development and later develop into a conduit for urine drainage from the kidneys. The scientists accomplished this with both human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), human cells from the skin that have been reprogrammed into their pluripotent state.

After generating iPSCs that demonstrated pluripotent properties and were able to differentiate into mesoderm, a germ cell layer from which the kidneys develop, the researchers made use of growth factors known to be essential during the natural development of our kidneys for the culturing of both iPSCs and embryonic stem cells. The combination of signals from these growth factors, molecules that guide the differentiation of stem cells into specific tissues, was sufficient to commit the cells toward progenitors that exhibit clear characteristics of renal cells in only four days.

The researchers then guided these cells to further differentiated into organ structures similar to those found in the ureteric bud by culturing them with kidney cells from mice. This demonstrated that the mouse cells were able to provide the appropriate developmental cues to allow human stem cells to form three-dimensional structures of the kidney.

In addition, Izpisua Belmonte's team tested their protocol on iPSCs from a patient clinically diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder characterized by multiple, fluid-filled cysts that can lead to decreased kidney function and kidney failure. They found that their methodology could produce kidney structures from patient-derived iPSCs.

Because of the many clinical manifestations of the disease, neither gene- nor antibody-based therapies are realistic approaches for treating PKD. The Salk team's technique might help circumvent this obstacle and provide a reliable platform for pharmaceutical companies and other investigators studying drug-based therapeutics for PKD and other kidney diseases.

"Our differentiation strategies represent the cornerstone of disease modeling and drug discovery studies," says lead study author Ignacio Sancho-Martinez, a research associate in Izpisua Belmonte's laboratory. "Our observations will help guide future studies on the precise cellular implications that PKD might play in the context of kidney development."

Latest Technology

LG-made Nexus 10 leaks in two images

A Reddit user claiming to be an employee at carrier Telefonica has leaked out two images of what is allegedly the LG-made Nexus 10 tablet.

The tablet looks pretty similar to the current-gen Nexus 10 that’s made by Samsung. The image suggests the model number of the upcoming Google table is LG-V510. Despite the poor image quality, you can see the a single speaker on top of the display – the Samsung Nexus 10 packed a dual-speaker configuration.

As the second image shows, the Nexus 10 by LG will be priced at £299 for the cellular version. The source claims, this will be the first Nexus tablet to be offered in black and white configurations. According to him, sales will commence on November 22 with both the Wi-Fi and cellular versions getting their launch at the same time.

Naturally, don’t take those leaks too seriously for now, as later in the summer we saw a report suggesting ASUS will be the manufacturer to make the 2013-edition Nexus 10. We’ll just have to wait for November 22 to see if those rumors pan out.

SourceSource (2) | Via

Latest Technology

Sony sells 1 million PlayStation 4 consoles in 24 hours

Sony managed an amazing achievement with its latest PlayStation 4 console topping 1 million sales in the first 24 hours. With the console being available only in the US and Canada for now, the figure sounds even more impressive.

The PlayStation 4 will have its wider rollout on November 29, when it’s going to hit Europe and Australia. Sony expects to sell as many as 3 million units of the console by the end of the year. Sony has reported to Bloomberg that it will have “adequate supplies” of the PS4 through Christmas and expects to hit the 5 million sales mark in March.

This is a marathon, not a sprint, but getting out to a nice start is a good thing,” , Jack Tretton, president and chief executive officer of the company’s U.S. computer entertainment division, said. “That hurdle has been cleared. We’re very, very confident we’re in great shape.

The Xbox One by Microsoft will have a much wider launch than the PS4 and will be available in 13 countries on the day of its release – November 22. We’ll see how if it manages to outdo the PS4 oppening sales.

Source | Via

Latest Technology

‘GT Racing 2′ for iOS and Android game review

Although Gameloft is known more for its Asphalt series of arcade racing games, there is also the lesser known GT Racing, which was more geared towards those who prefer simulation racing.

Several years after the launch of the original game, Gameloft has now released a sequel called GT Racing 2. The latest installment ups the ante in terms of cars, tracks, visuals and pretty much everything else and just like the original is free to play. It’s clear that this time Gameloft has EA’s Real Racing 3 in its sights. Let’s see how GT Racing 2 performs.

Title

GT Racing 2: The Real Car Experience

Developer

Gameloft

Platform

iOS

Android

November 13, 2013

November 13, 2013

4+

Everyone

Size

1.05GB

978MB

Price

Free

Gameplay

For those not familiar with it, simulation racing is the more grown up, serious sibling of the standard arcade racing genre. It involves racing on the track instead of on the streets and uses more realistic physics and vehicle dynamics, along with finer vehicle tuning options for a more realistic gameplay experience. Over the course of time, some elements have been transferred over the two genres but simulation racing continues to be where those who are serious about their cars beeline.

Over the past few years, there has been another genre of pseudo-simulation racing games that has come into existence. Although marketed as proper simulation racers, these games often lack the accurate physics and the breadth of vehicle customization options found on proper simulation racers. Some examples would be Need for Speed: Shift series or GRID series. And now we have GT Racing 2.

Contrary to what Gameloft says, GT Racing 2 is not a proper simulation racer. The damage is only visual and has no effect on the performance, there is no option to tune vehicle performance save for upgrading it with a handful of preset parts and the vehicle physics aren’t exactly accurate and closer to arcade racing. Driving into a wall at 200mph feels like colliding with a pillow with the broken window the only indication of something gone wrong.

But is it fun? Definitely. The thing about simulation racers is that although they are great for those who know their cars, they can be a bit difficult to manage for casual gamers and it takes a lot of effort to be able to even keep the car going straight on the road. GT Racing 2 straddles the line between a casual racer and a serious simulation racer, which makes it easy enough for casual gamers and offer a bit more depth than your average arcade racing game.

GT Racing 2 comes with a wealth of tracks and cars to choose from. In terms of cars, as usual you start from humble beginnings and the game makes you work hard to get to the more expensive cars. You will be playing a lot of levels and earning a lot of cash before you are able to afford more expensive cars.

Thankfully, the game is fun enough to not make this a chore. The AI driver difficult is set so that it is not extremely easy to beat but offers enough challenge to make you put in some effort if you want to reach the podium. The game also has plenty of tracks and four weather settings so things don’t seem very repetitive.

Being an entirely free game, there is the now common in-app payment built-into the game. It’s limited to letting you purchase in-game currency to be able to purchase more cars.

Compared to Real Racing 3, GT Racing 2 is a lot more bent towards the arcade side of the spectrum. Although not a true blue simulation itself, Real Racing 3 does a better job with vehicle physics and the driving seems more realistic but also more difficult. If you enjoy more of that then you won’t like GT Racing 2 as much as Real Racing 3 but the latter has some annoyances such as repair times and repair costs that severely dampen the fun. Amusingly enough, Gameloft actually boasts of having neither of these in their game description on the store.

Graphics and Sound

Visually, GT Racing 2 looks very good. The cars look great, the tracks are quite detailed and the helmet camera view is also pretty good. The game also has these Gran Turismo inspired laps where the car goes around the track before and after a race and it is shot from different angles. Strangely, there is no smoke from the wheels on either version of the game and overall it doesn’t look as impressive as Asphalt 8 but it runs very well on both iOS and Android, which is something Asphalt 8 doesn’t do very well.

In terms of sound, the game does well with realistic engine notes, which can be noticed in subtle things such as the sound of the engine as it is upshifting from a low gear. Other things such as wheel spin noise and braking sounds are also done fairly well although bumping into things sounds curiously dull and undramatic. The background music is adequate without being particularly special.

Verdict

For a free game, GT Racing 2 turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. Although not quite a true simulation racer like it says on the tin, GT Racing 2 still manages to provide the thrills without being overly simplistic or complicated. If you want something different than your average over-the-top arcade racer then you should give this a try.

Rating: 8/10
Pros: Impressive roster of cars, plenty of tracks and races, impressive visuals
Cons: Not exactly a simulation racer

Download: iOS | Android

Tips & Tricks

How to Enable and Secure Remote Desktop on Windows

While there are many alternatives, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop is a perfectly viable option for accessing other computers, but it has to be properly secured.  After recommended security measures are in place, Remote Desktop is a powerful tool for geeks to use and lets you avoid installing third party apps for this type of functionality.

This guide and the screenshots that accompany it are made for Windows 8.1.  However, you should be able to follow this guide as long as you’re using one of these editions of Windows:

  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
  • Windows 8 Enterprise
  • Windows 8 Pro
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Windows Vista Enterprise
  • Windows XP Professional

Enabling Remote Desktop

First, we need to enable Remote Desktop and select which users have remote access to the computer.  Hit Windows key + R to bring up a Run prompt, and type “sysdm.cpl.”

Another way to get to the same menu is to type “This PC” in your Start menu, right click “This PC” and go to Properties:

Either way will bring up this menu, where you need to click on the Remote tab:

Select “Allow remote connections to this computer” and the option below it, “Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication.”

It’s not a necessity to require Network Level Authentication, but doing so makes your computer more secure by protecting you from Man in the Middle attacks.  Systems even as old as Windows XP can connect to hosts with Network Level Authentication, so there’s no reason not to use it.

You may get a warning about your power options when you enable Remote Desktop:

If so, make sure you click the link to Power Options and configure your computer so it doesn’t fall asleep or hibernate.  See our article on managing power settings if you need help.

Next, click “Select Users.”

Any accounts in the Administrators group will already have access.  If you need to grant Remote Desktop access to any other users, just click “Add” and type in the usernames.

7-addusers

Click “Check Names” to verify the username is typed correctly and then click OK.  Click OK on the System Properties window as well.

Securing Remote Desktop

Your computer is currently connectable via Remote Desktop (only on your local network if you’re behind a router), but there are some more settings we need to configure in order to achieve maximum security.

First, let’s address the obvious one.  All of the users that you gave Remote Desktop access need to have strong passwords.  There are a lot of bots constantly scanning the internet for vulnerable PCs running Remote Desktop, so don’t underestimate the importance of a strong password.  Use more than eight characters (12+ is recommended) with numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and special characters.

Go to the Start menu or open a Run prompt (Windows Key + R) and type “secpol.msc” to open the Local Security Policy menu.

Once there, expand “Local Policies” and click on “User Rights Assignment.”

Double-click on the “Allow log on through Remote Desktop Services” policy listed on the right.

It’s our recommendation to remove both of the groups already listed in this window, Administrators and Remote Desktop Users.  After that, click “Add User or Group” and manually add the users you’d like to grant Remote Desktop access to.  This isn’t an essential step, but it gives you more power over which accounts get to use Remote Desktop.  If, in the future, you make a new Administrator account for some reason and forget to put a strong password on it, you’re opening your computer up to hackers around the world if you never bothered removing the “Administrators” group from this screen.

Close the Local Security Policy window and open the Local Group Policy Editor by typing “gpedit.msc” into either a Run prompt or the Start menu.

When the Local Group Policy Editor opens, expand Computer Policy > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Session Host, and then click on Security.

Double-click on any settings in this menu to change their values.  The ones we recommend changing are:

Set client connection encryption level – Set this to High Level so your Remote Desktop sessions are secured with 128-bit encryption.

Require secure RPC communication – Set this to Enabled.

Require use of specific security layer for remote (RDP) connections – Set this to SSL (TLS 1.0).

Require user authentication for remote connections by using Network Level Authentication – Set this to Enabled.

Once those changes have been made, you can close the Local Group Policy Editor.  The last security recommendation we have is to change the default port that Remote Desktop listens on.  This is an optional step and is considered a security through obscurity practice, but the fact is that changing the default port number greatly decreases the amount of malicious connection attempts that your computer will receive.  Your password and security settings need to make Remote Desktop invulnerable no matter what port it is listening on, but we might as well decrease the amount of connection attempts if we can.

Security through Obscurity: Changing the Default RDP Port

By default, Remote Desktop listens on port 3389.  Pick a five digit number less than 65535 that you’d like to use for your custom Remote Desktop port number.  With that number in mind, open up the Registry Editor by typing “regedit” into a Run prompt or the Start menu.

When the Registry Editor opens up, expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control > Terminal Server > WinStations > RDP-Tcp > then double-click on “PortNumber” in the window on the right.

With the PortNumber registry key open, select “Decimal” on the right side of the window and then type your five digit number under “Value data” on the left.

Click OK and then close the Registry Editor.

Since we’ve changed the default port that Remote Desktop uses, we’ll need to configure Windows Firewall to accept incoming connections on that port.  Go to the Start screen, search for “Windows Firewall” and click on it.

When Windows Firewall opens, click “Advanced Settings” on the left side of the window.  Then right-click on “Inbound Rules” and choose “New Rule.”

The “New Inbound Rule Wizard” will pop up, select Port and click next.  On the next screen, make sure TCP is selected and then enter the port number you chose earlier, and then click next.  Click next two more times because the default values on the next couple pages will be fine.  On the last page, select a name for this new rule, such as “Custom RDP port,” and then click finish.

Last Steps

Your computer should now be accessible on your local network, just specify either the IP address of the machine or the name of it, followed by a colon and the port number in both cases, like so:

To access your computer from outside your network, you’ll more than likely need to forward the port on your router.  After that, your PC should be remotely accessible from any device that has a Remote Desktop client.

If you’re wondering how you can keep track of who is logging into your PC (and from where), you can open up Event Viewer to see.

Once you have Event Viewer opened, expand Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > TerminalServices-LocalSessionManger and then click Operational.

Click on any of the events in the right pane to see login information.


    






Latest Technology

LG G Flex clears FCC and goes on sale in the US

Eager for some curved screen action? Why don’t you have an LG G Flex? It will still cost you dearly, but at least you don’t have to travel to Korea to get it any more. The smartphone has just gone on sale in the US for a few dollars north of $1000.

Overseas Electronics has the LG G Flex in stock and asks for a cent under $1050 for it. The listing mentions LTE-A support on the 850 and 1800 bands, which means that it won’t work on any carrier in the US. Of course that was to be expected given that these are imported Korean units, rather than a tailor-made US version.

Negri Electronics also has the LG G Flex listed on its website, but it's a pre-order and there's no delivery date mentioned. The e-tailer priced it at $1109.50 and gives you the choice of KT Telecom and SK Telecom versions. The former has some limited compatibility with LTE networks in the US, but you better not count on it.

Curious as the curved smartphone might be, it’s really hard to recommend spending so much money on a version not even meant for sale in that market. The LG G Flex has just cleared the FCC, which aligns nicely with previous rumors, which suggested that it will be officially hitting AT&T, Sprint and Verizon in January. So unless you absolutely have to have a curved smartphone for Christmas, you are better off waiting for a couple of months more.

Latest Technology

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update for Samsung Galaxy Note II leaks

The Android 4.3 update should be hitting the Samsung Galaxy Note II pretty shortly, but if you don’t feel like waiting any longer you’d be interested to know that a leaked ROM is available for flashing right now. It’s reportedly a build very close to the final ones, so it will have no trouble serving as a daily driver.

Along with incrementing the Android version number to 4.3 and bringing the core features of the last of the three Jelly Bean releases, the update also brings several changes to the Galaxy Note II UI. It now looks much closer to the Galaxy S4 and the Note 3, which already received the Android 4.3 treatment. Samsung Knox and Samsung Wallet are debuting on the Note II as part of the Android 4.3 update. Here’s the complete changelog:

  • OpenGL 3.0 Support
  • ANT+ Support
  • Samsung KNOX Implementation (KNOX bootloader and dedicated application)
  • Samsung Wallet comes pre-loaded
  • Improved RAM management
  • Improved Display colour reproduction (Display looks much sharper than before)
  • Improved TouchWiz Launcher (Much less launcher redraws and less lag)
  • New Samsung Keyboard
  • New Samsung Browser (Full screen by default, new tab interface and more)
  • New Reading Mode (Optimises display for reading, used by only a few specific applications)
  • New Camera firmware
  • Minor UI tweaks (Contacts app, Flashlight Widget, dialog boxes etc)

The leaked ROM is only compatible with the N7100 version of the Galaxy Note II, so if you happen to have a N7105 LTE unit you are unfortunately out of luck. You can download the necessary files and find the instructions on how to flash them by following the source link below.

Source

Latest Technology

Octa-core Ascend P6S confirmed by Huawei president

The Huawei Ascend P6 is not only one of the slimmest, but also among the best looking smartphones around. It is also a pretty decent smartphone with the only part of its hardware that wasn’t quite impressive being the chipset, which tended to deliver more heat that actual processing power.

The Chinese manufacturer has obviously acknowledged that as it’s now preparing to release an upgraded version of the smartphone featuring a new chipset with an octa-core CPU. The news was delivered by the company’s president Xu Xin Quan through the Weibo blogging platform.

Powering the upcoming Huawei Ascend P6S will be another custom designed SoC that will come to replace the K3V2 on the company’s products. It will come will a true-octa core processor, meaning that all cores will be able to operate simultaneously, unlike the current crop of Samsung Exynos chipsets which only allow up to four cores to work at a time.

The rest of the Ascend P6S specifications remain unknown, but the naming suggests that it won’t be a huge upgrade over the Ascend P6 (pictured above). We also have no information just yet on pricing and launch dates for the new smartphone.

Source (in Chinese) | Via

Latest Technology

Download : The Bat! Home Edition 6.0.4

The Bat! mail client has a lot of vital benefits and useful features that make your email experience simple and convenient. All these features perfectly fit any Windows OS. Moreover, The Bat! is the first and only email client Certified for Windows V...
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Latest Technology

Download : AIMP 3.55.1324

AIMP is a free audio player with support for large number of formats and playlists. It works with multiple playlists immediately, allows creation of bookmarks and also has a playback queue.