Friday, April 18, 2014

Taking care of grandkids one day a week helps keep grandmothers mentally sharp, shows study

Taking care of grandkids one day a week helps keep grandmothers mentally sharp, finds a study from the Women's Healthy Aging Project study in Australia, published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). That's good news for women after menopause, when women need to lower their risks of developing Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders.

On the other hand, taking care of grandchildren five days a week or more had some negative effects on tests of mental sharpness. "We know that older women who are socially engaged have better cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia later, but too much of a good thing just might be bad," said NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD.

The 186 Australian women, ages 57 to 68, took three different tests of mental sharpness and also noted whether they thought their own children had been particularly demanding of them in the last year. Among the 120 grandmothers, those who spent one day a week taking care of grandchildren performed best on two of the three tests. But those taking care of grandchildren for five or more days a week did significantly worse on one of the tests, which assesses working memory and mental processing speed.

That was a finding the researchers didn't expect. However, they also found that the more time grandmothers spent taking care of the grandchildren, the more they felt that their children had been more demanding of them, so maybe mood plays a role in the unexpected result. The investigators are already following up with more research.

Although other research has looked at the relationship between mental sharpness and being socially engaged, this is the first time that this type of research has looked at grandmothering. "Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for postmenopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health," says Dr. Gass. "This study is a good start."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Watching movies synchronises viewers' brains

When we watch a movie, our brains react to it immediately in a way similar to brains of other people, scientists have found.

When we watch a movie, our brains react to it immediately in a way similar to brains of other people, scientists have found.

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a method fast enough to observe immediate changes in the function of the brain even when watching a movie.

Researchers said by employing movies it was possible to investigate the function of the human brain in experimental conditions that are close to natural.

Traditionally, in neuroscience research, simple stimuli, such as checkerboard patterns or single images, have been used.

Viewing a movie creates multilevel changes in the brain function. Despite the complexity of the stimulus, the elicited brain activity patterns show remarkable similarities across different people - even at the time scale of fractions of seconds.

"The analysis revealed important similarities between brain signals of different people during movie viewing," said researcher Kaisu Lankinen.

"These similar kinds or synchronised signals were found in brain areas that are connected with the early-stage processing of visual stimuli, detection of movement and persons, motor coordination and cognitive functions.

"The results imply that the contents of the movie affected certain brain functions of the subjects in a similar manner," Lankinen said.

So far, studies in this field have mainly been based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). However, given the superior temporal resolution, within milliseconds, magnetoencephalography (MEG) is able to provide more complete picture of the fast brain processes.

With the help of MEG and new analysis methods, investigation of significantly faster brain processes is possible and it enables detection of brain activity in frequencies higher than before.

In the new analysis, brain imaging was combined with machine-learning methodology, with which signals of a similar form were mined from the brain data.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Targeting mosquito sperm can help combat malaria

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes are the main transmitters of malaria, which affects around 200 million people every year.

Scientists have discovered a way of reducing the fertility of malaria-carrying mosquitoes by targeting an enzyme that protects their sperm, potentially providing a new tactic to combat the disease.

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes are the main transmitters of malaria, which affects around 200 million people every year. The females mate only once during their lives.

They store the sperm from this single mating in an organ called the spermatheca, from which they repeatedly take sperm over the course of their lifetime to fertilise the eggs that they lay. The female needs the sperm to stay healthy whilst they are in storage in the spermatheca, so that they are viable each time she uses them to reproduce.

The new research shows that the sperm are partly protected by the actions of an enzyme called HPX15. When the researchers interfered with HPX15 in female A gambiae mosquitoes in the laboratory, the females fertilised fewer eggs and therefore produced fewer offspring. This is the first time that scientists have discovered a mechanism that preserves the function of sperm in A gambiae.

The researchers, from Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Perugia and Imperial College London, believe that their insight could ultimately lead to a new weapon in the fight against malaria. This would work by disabling HPX15 to reduce female fertility and through that, reduce the number of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in circulation.

“Malaria kills over 650,000 people every year and we need to find new ways of tackling it, partly because mosquitoes continue to evolve ways of resisting our efforts,” Dr Robert Shaw, one of the lead authors of the research, said. “We are interested in cutting the numbers of malarial mosquitoes by impairing their ability to reproduce, and our new study suggests a way that we might be able to do this.

“There is no single magic bullet for tackling malaria, but making mosquitoes less fertile could provide us with a valuable weapon against the disease,” said Shaw. The study suggests that HPX15 may protect the stored sperm against potentially damaging molecules called free radicals, which are particularly abundant after a female takes a blood feed.

Ensuring that the sperm are healthy after blood-feeding is important for the female’s fertility as she reproduces after each feed, fertilising her eggs with sperm released from the spermatheca. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Study warns kitchens may carry multi-drug resistant bacteria

Prefer spicy restaurant food over home-made delicacies? Get alarmed as hands of food preparers and chopping boards remain a source of transmission for multi-drug resistant bacteria such as E coli, a study warns.

"The spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria has been associated with the hospital setting, but new findings suggest that transmission of drug-resistant E coli occurs both in hospitals and kitchens," explained Andreas Widmer from University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland.

The findings emphasise the importance of hand hygiene, not only after handling raw poultry, but also after contact with cutting boards used in poultry preparation, he added.

To reach this conclusion, researchers collected and examined 298 cutting boards (154 from University Hospital and 144 from private households) after preparation of various meats - poultry, beef/veal, pork, lamb, game and fish - and before being cleaned.

These samples were tested for the presence of bacteria that includes Salmonella, E coli and Klebsiella.

In testing the cutting boards, researchers found that boards used in households had E coli on 3.5% of these surfaces.

They also found that 50% of the kitchen gloves were contaminated with this drug-resistant E coli.

The meat's country of origin did not play a factor in the presence of bacteria on any of the surfaces, said the study, published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Monday, April 14, 2014

'I will do it tomorrow' attitude hidden in genes

Those who procrastinate are also likely to be more impulsive and both the traits are linked to genes that one inherits, the study has found.

"Everyone procrastinates at least sometimes but we wanted to explore why some people procrastinate more than others and why procrastinators seem more likely to make rash actions and act without thinking," said psychological scientist Daniel Gustavson of the University of Colorado Boulder in the US.

The researchers found that procrastination is indeed heritable, just like impulsivity. Not only that, there seems to be a complete genetic overlap between procrastination and impulsivity - that is, there are no genetic influences that are unique to either trait alone, the study found.

For the study, researchers had 181 identical-twin pairs and 166 fraternal-twin pairs complete several surveys intended to probe their tendencies toward impulsivity and procrastination, as well as their ability to set and maintain goals.

The research appeared in the journal Psychological Science.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

'Red' letter day: India's Mars mission crosses halfway mark

Bangalore: Mangalyaan, India's maiden mission to Mars, crossed the halfway mark of its incredible journey today morning at 9.50 am.

Mangalyaan (Mars craft), which was launched on November 5, 2013 from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, has travelled nearly 337.5 million km till now.

It is expected to rendezvous with the Red Planet on September 24, 2014, when it will become the farthest any Indian object has ever travelled.

At Rs. 450 crore, India's Mars mission is the cheapest inter planetary mission ever undertaken.

Mangalyaan aims to look for signs of life on Mars. It also aspires to fulfill India's covert desire to beat China in the race to the Red Planet.

The mission seems to be on track thanks to the nature of planetary forces and the precise orbit injection by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

A team comprising nearly 500 ISRO scientists had worked tirelessly to ensure that Mangalyaan was ready for its launch within a record 15 months.

Of the 51 missions to Mars launched from across the world till date, 27 have failed so far.

If Mangalyaan manages to reach Mars, India will become the first country to achieve the enviable feat on a spacecraft 's maiden flight.

Till date, only the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency have successfully managed to send a spacecraft all the way to Mars.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced the Centre's decision to undertake a mission to Mars during his speech at the Red Fort on August 15, 2012.

From simply being an ambitious idea by the Indian government to an actual inter planetary mission that has crossed its halfway mark, it has been quite a remarkable journey for Mangalyaan.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Couch potatoes date back 7,000 years

Thought couch potatoes are the product of a modern lifestyle? They may have evolved 7,000 years ago!

Thought couch potatoes are the product of a modern lifestyle? They may have evolved 7,000 years ago!

A new Cambridge study has shown that couch potatoes have a history that stretches back 7,000 years when humans first picked up the plough.

Research into lower limb bones shows that our early farming ancestors in Central Europe became less active as their tasks diversified and technology improved.

Cambridge University anthropologist Alison Macintosh found that this drop in mobility was particularly marked in men.

Macintosh shows that after the emergence of agriculture in Central Europe from around 5300 BC, the bones of those living in the fertile soils of the Danube river valley became progressively less strong, pointing to a decline in mobility and loading.

Macintosh suggests that male mobility among earliest farmers (around 7,300 years ago) was, on average, at a level near that of today's student cross-country runners.

Within just over 3,000 years, average mobility had dropped to the level of those students rated as sedentary, after which the decline slowed.

Macintosh laser-scanned skeletons found in cemeteries across Central Europe.

The earliest skeletons she examined date from around 5300 BC and the most recent from around 850 AD - a time span of 6,150 years.

Using a portable desktop 3D laser surface scanner to scan femora and tibiae, she found that male tibiae became less rigid and that bones in both males and females became less strengthened to loads in one direction more than another, such as front-to-back in walking.

These findings all indicate a drop in mobility. In other words, it is likely that the people to whom the skeletons belonged became, over generations, less intensely active and probably covered less distance, or carried out less physically demanding tasks, than those who had lived before them.

"My results suggest that, following the transition to agriculture in Central Europe, males were more affected than females by cultural and technological changes that reduced the need for long-distance travel or heavy physical work," said Macintosh.

"This also means that, as people began to specialise in tasks other than just farming and food production, such as metalworking, fewer people were regularly doing tasks that were very strenuous on their legs," Macintosh said.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ethnicity has 'more impact on eye movements than culture'

Researchers studying eye movements have found that ethnicity rather than culture is the underlying factor in influencing patterns. The findings dispute previous research which suggested that neurological behaviour, such as eye movement, is shaped by cultural influence.
Scientists at the University of Liverpool tested three groups of participants; Chinese (70), British Chinese (45) and White British (70), to look at the speed of small eye movements called saccades.

Subjects looked at a white board and coloured lights would flash up on the board. The time taken for the eyes to react was then recorded by a headset.

The researchers found that from the three groups, subjects of Chinese ethnicity had faster eye movements than Caucasians, despite the British Chinese subjects having different cultural values to Chinese subjects – as measured by questionnaire.

Dr Paul Knox, the Neurophysiologist at the University of Liverpool who led the study, said: “Many scientists believe that the eye movement patterns you develop are due to where you live, the books you read and the influence of your family, peers and community – your culture.

“Our research has shown that this cannot be the case, at least for saccade behaviour. What this leaves is the way we’re made, perhaps our genetics. And this may have a bearing on the way the brains in different groups react to injuries and disease.”

The research was published in the journal PLoS ONE. HERE: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0094424

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Researchers reveal theory behind creation of Earth’s tectonic plates

Starting roughly four billion years ago, cooler parts of earth's crust were pulled downwards into the warmer upper mantle, damaging and weakening the surrounding crust. The process happened again and again until the weak areas formed plate boundaries.

"Over a much longer period, the same process could have created many tectonic plates. We have got a physical mechanism to explain how it could have happened," study author David Bercovici from Yale University explained.

The process began about four billion years ago and caused complete fractures some three billion years ago.
To investigate how the plates formed, Bercovici and Yanick Ricard of University of Lyon in France developed a computer model of earth's crust as it may have existed billions of years ago.

The model included a low-pressure zone at the base of the crust which caused a piece of the crust to sink into the upper mantle - mimicking conditions thought to have occurred early in the earth's history.

As the process repeated over time, it created a large tectonic plate with an active subduction zone.
Prior studies suggested the age of the plates - based on evidence of subduction gathered from minerals - preserved in ancient rocks.

In geology, subduction is the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate and sinks into the mantle as the plates converge.

The oldest such specimens are four-billion-year-old zircons found in the Jack Hills of Australia that appear to have formed at temperatures and pressures that are indicative of subduction.

"The subsequent movement of the plates has erased much of the evidence of their origin," said Paul Tackley, a geophysicist at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland in a report published in Nature.

According to Robert Stern, a geologist at University of Texas in Dallas, there is no firm evidence of plate tectonics earlier than one billion years ago, but the new mechanism behind plate formation is "the first interesting example of how it might have occurred".

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Microsoft rolls out Update 1 for Windows 8.1: Features improved app management, boot to Desktop, IE11

Windows 8.1 update 1 have been officially released by Microsoft and is now available for download from the official site. The company has made it mandatory for the Windows 8.1 users to install the Update 1 pack on their systems. This update comes just a day after Windows XP support was ended by the company.

This is the first update for Windows 8.1 OS, which was released late last year. The post from company’s official blog says, “Failure to install this Update will prevent Windows Update from patching your system with any future updates starting with Updates released in May 2014.” Most of these updates are aimed at making the operating system more user friendly for those who still prefer using a keyboard and mouse.

Windows 8.1 already have undergone changes prior these latest updates from Microsoft. These updates are a result of the user feedback that Microsoft claims to have paid heed to. It is no secret that the latest Windows 8.1 can be quite intimidating for any first time user. It is altogether a new ball game and has quite a steep learning curve. This is eventually ended up causing frustration and costing precious time.

Now users have the option of choosing which interface to boot into. You can pick between the traditional Desktop mode or the Windows 8 Start Screen. You can even open Windows 8 apps on the desktop for a more familiar experience.

With windowed mode for Modern UI apps users can open each app in a window, and move to the next app, without the need to completely minimise the current app and going back to the desktop screen. The familiar close and minimise icons are back for Windows 8 apps as well. In addition, shutdown options are presented on the Start Screen itself. The taskbar will also be visible on the Windows 8 Start Screen.

The updates also will give you an updated Internet Explorer 11 that will be free of compatibility issues it earlier had. Now IE 11 can now be installed on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 operating systems.

Monday, March 10, 2014

World's first 3D fingerprint developed by Indian-American scientist

A team of Michigan State University computer scientists led by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur alum Anil Jain have built the first three-dimensional model of a human fingerprint.

What Jain, a University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering, and his team did was develop a method that takes a two-dimensional image of a fingerprint and maps it to a 3-D finger surface.

The 3-D finger surface, complete with all the ridges and valleys that make up the human fingerprint, is made using a 3-D printer. It creates what Jain's team called a fingerprint "phantom."

"In health care, a 3-D heart or kidney can be created," Jain said. "Because the dimensions are known, they can be put into a scanner and the imaging system can be calibrated."

While the 3-D model doesn't yet have the exact texture or feel of a real finger, it could advance fingerprint sensing and matching technology.

"Tools like this would help improve the overall accuracy of fingerprint-matching systems, which eventually leads to better security in applications ranging from law enforcement to mobile phone unlock," Jain said.

Members of Jain's team include Sunpreet Arora, a computer science doctoral student, Kai Cao, a research associate in computer science and engineering and research collaborator Nick Paulter at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Jain, who has a B.Tech degree from IIT Kanpur and MS and PhD degrees from Ohio State University, has six US patents on fingerprint matching and has written a number of books on biometrics and fingerprint/facial recognition.

Additionally, Jain has also received a number of prestigious awards for contributions to pattern recognition and biometrics.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Usain Bolt would be able to fly – if we could get him to Saturn!

Physics students have concocted a bizarre theoretical experiment involving one of Saturn's moons, a wingsuit and the world's fastest man – Usain Bolt.

The University of Leicester undergraduates have calculated that record-breaking Bolt could fly like a bird if it was possible to transport him more than one billion kilometres to Titan and strap him into a skydiving wingsuit.

It shows that the Jamaican sprinter would be one of a handful of humans fast enough to reach the speed needed for take off on the low-gravity moon.

Flapping his arms like a giant bird, the wingsuit would allow Bolt to generate enough lift to carry him into the sky and soar majestically through the air.

The surreal theory has been postulated before, but the Leicester students are the first to apply the science.

The work is part of their final year paper for the Journal of Physics Special Topics – a peer-reviewed student journal run by the university's Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Student Hannah Lerman, 21, said: "I had seen a lot of claims online that humans would be able to fly on Titan, but no one had given the physics behind it.

"I thought it would be interesting to try it with a wingsuit – something that you actually use on Earth.

"It is a really exciting idea that someone such as Usain Bolt could actually fly unaided. It would give a whole new dimension to travelling. I am really interested in the journal side of science, and it was fascinating to see how that was run as part of this module."

Titan is Saturn's largest moon and has a dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere with a surface pressure almost 50 per cent stronger than Earth's.

As a result, it has long been predicted that humans would be able to lift off into the moon's atmosphere if they were wearing wing-type devices on their arms.

But now, the students have shown that it would even be possible with a regular wingsuit used by skydivers here on Earth – provided you could get a fast enough run- up.

To calculate the speed needed, the group factored in:

The density of air on the surface of Titan.

The acceleration due to gravity.

An average wingsuit wing area (about 1.4 metres squared).

The ratio of the streamline path of the air above the aerofoil to that below the aerofoil.

They found that, for a normal-sized wingsuit, a run-up speed of 11 metres a second would be required.

That would be no problem for Bolt, who has gone faster than 12 metres a second.

Course tutor Dr Mervyn Roy, a lecturer in the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: "The aim is for the students to learn about peer review and scientific publishing.

"They are encouraged to be imaginative with their topics and find ways to apply basic physics to the weird, the wonderful and the everyday."


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fix for Nexus 5 battery drain due to camera bug coming soon, says Google

Google has acknowledged the battery drain issue in the Nexus 5 (our review) and is about to release a fix for it soon. The company claims the drain is due to high CPU usage of the ‘mm-qcamera-daemon’ process, which allows other apps to access the camera of the phone.

Once started, the process remains in the background, even if the app has been closed, thus consuming more power than it would otherwise. The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code discussion is buzzing with complaints about the issue. “Issue 60058: mm-qcamera-daemon cpu usage” has quite a lot of posts from developers and users who have faced the battery drain and there are quite a few solutions too, though we cannot vouch for how well they will work on all devices.

Explaining the issue, AOSP member Eino-Ville Talvala said, “We believe we have fixes for the current high CPU reports on N5 (Nexus 5) due to mm-qcamera-daemon, and they will be included in the next maintenance update.”

While there’s no estimate for when the fix will arrive, Talvala said that until it arrives “rebooting the phone is the only way to stop the high CPU usage/lack of camera function once it starts.” He also touched upon the latest update for the Skype app, which seems to have exacerbated the issue. While Talvala says that Skype itself has no bug, the app seems to “access the camera regularly from its background service in some way that triggers this bug”

“Other camera-using applications may trigger this bug as well, but that’s been relatively rare. Most applications also do not access the camera when not in the foreground, so they will only trigger issues when actively used,” he added.

Some users were complaining of this issue even when using other phones that have Qualcomm processors. For this Talvala said, “Instances of high CPU use of mm-qcamera-daemon on other devices besides the N5 (Nexus 5) need to be reported to their manufacturers. While those devices also use a Qualcomm chip for their camera processing (and thus have a mm-qcamera-daemon process), each has differences in their software and issues with them do not necessarily mean the N5 has the same problem, and vice versa.”

Hopefully, all manufacturers will take note of Google’s word and roll out a fix for the issue as soon as it’s added by Google.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Cheatbook-DataBase 2014

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chesme Church

The Chesme Church (Russian: Чесменская церковь; full name Church of Saint John the Baptist at Chesme Palace, Russian: це́рковь Рождества́ Иоа́нна Предте́чи при Че́сменском Дворце́), also called the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, is a small Russian Orthodox church at 12 Lensoveta Street, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was built by the Russian court architect Yury Felten in 1780, at the direction of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. A memorial church, it was erected adjacent to the Chesme Palace between Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo to commemorate the anniversary of Russia's 1770 victory over Turkish forces in Chesme Bay (Turkish: Çeşme) in the Aegean Sea during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774.

The church and Chesme Palace were the earliest Neo-Gothic constructions in the St Petersburg area. Considered by some to be St Petersburg's single most impressive church, it is a rare example of very early Gothic Revival influence in Russian church architecture.

The church was named "The Church of the Birth of St. John the Baptist" as it was consecrated on the birthday of John the Baptist. As it was built to honour the Battle of Chesma which the Russians won in 1770, the church is also popularly known as the "Chesme Church."

The church is located in Red Village, which was a country estate of the Sergey Poltoratski family, friends of Alexander Pushkin. It is situated in an area that was known as Kekerekeksinen (Finnish: frog swamp) which is now in a housing area known as Moskovsky Prospekt, approximately halfway between Park Pobedy and the Moskovskaya metro station. While the church was built at a very ordinary location in 1770, over the centuries, it become part of the city of Saint Petersburg. Located between St. Petersburg and the Summer Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, it served as a traveler's resting place.

In 1777, King Gustav III of Sweden attended the laying of the church's foundation. The church was built between 1777 and 1780. It is a memorial church to honour the 1770 Russian victory at the Battle of Chesme. Empress Catherine II chose the site as it was here that she got the news of the Russian victory over the Turks. Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor was present at the church's consecration.

The knights of the Order of St. George were also in possession of the church at some point when it was given the third name, "St. George’s Church."

The church and the Chesme Palace became a labour camp when the Soviet government occupied it. In 1923, the church was closed and used as a storehouse. Between 1941 and 1945, the church suffered damages during the "Great Patriotic War". During the Second World War, the Institute of Aviation Technology took possession of the Church and the Chesme Palace. During 1970–75, it was fully restored under the supervision of the architects M.I. Tolstov and A.P. Kulikov. In 1977, the church became a museum of the Battle of Chesme (with artifacts from the Central Naval Museum). Religious control was restored to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, and regular church services have been held at the church since then.

The church, built in Gothic Revival style faces southwest. Painted pink and white, the church appears like a "candy cone, with long, vertical white stripes (embossed vertical string cornices drawn together with figured horizontal fascias) giving the impression that it’s rising straight up from the earth like a mirage and shooting upwards." The church was built by Yury Felten who was the court architect to Catherine the Great.
The inspiration for adopting the pseudo-Gothic style of architecture was a symbol of "the exoticism of the Turkish architecture but also reflected the Anglomania that significantly influenced the design of Catherine’s palaces and the parks surrounding them". While the Chesme Palace was built on these lines, the Church of John the Baptist was also built in a similar style. This style introduced during Catherine's time came in vogue in Russia in the subsequent centuries as well. It is also said that the choice of the Gothic Revival architecture style was indicative of "triumph for ancient northern virtues in the spirit of the crusaders."

The church was built with brick and white stone. It has a "quatrefoil" layout in the form of four semi cylinders with barrel vaults. Filials, spires and lancet windows were built over it, and the edifice emerged as a fusion of Gothic and neo-Gothic motifs. The quatrefoil design was common in the late 17th century in many private estate churches and the style was known as the “Moscow baroque”. During the 18th century, its adoption during Catherine's reign was considered an experimentation reflecting "the increasing secularization of the upper nobility." The entrance to the church has a neo-Gothic Rose window and a round window above it. The entrance portal has sculptures of angels. The main tower and four small towers have small domes, which are replacements of the traditional onion domes commonly seen in Russia. The cross that was fixed on the central turret originally was substituted with the Russian proletariat symbol of toil in the form of a hammer, tongs and anvil. The walls are striped and crenellated. The impressive relief design on the top of the walls is also in the form of crenellated parapet with pinnacles. There is also a 100 kilograms (220 lb) bell in one of the towers. It also has lancet windows and doorways. The interior, which originally had Italian icons, was destroyed in a fire in 1930. However, it was restored when the church was refurbished. Inside the church, there are many iconic paintings and one particular painting of interest is that of Christ’s arrival in Nazareth. When it was a naval museum, there was a vivid painting, in rich colours, depicting the sea battle and Russian victory over the Turks, in place of the “Christ the saviour in the iconostasis-less altar apse”. Nothing remains of the original interiors.

The exterior views of the church are impressive. The lanterns on the roof are stated to be similar to those seen on the Gothic temple at Stowe House.

The church precincts have been used as a reliquary for war heroes since the time of its consecration and during the Siege of Leningrad. The cemetery is known as the "Chesmenskoe War Veterans' Cemetery", and contains unnamed graves dated 1812–1944 of those who died in Russian wars.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Windows 8.1 closes in on Vista among desktop OS users

The newest version of Windows is behind Vista by just a hundredth of a percent, based on the latest stats from Net Applications.

Windows 8.1 will soon outscore Vista as the fourth most common desktop OS, according to Web tracker Net Applications.

For December, Windows 8.1 sliced off a 3.6 percent share of all desktop OS traffic recorded by Net Applications. Just a breath ahead, Windows Vista snagged a 3.61 percent share. By the time February rolls around, 8.1 will surely have outpaced the 7-year-old and much maligned Vista.

Combined, Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 snagged 10.5 percent of all desktop OS traffic in December, up from 9.3 percent in November and 9.25 percent in October. A free upgrade to Windows 8 users, Windows 8.1 debuted in June as a preview edition before officially launching in October.

Windows 7 continues to gain more users, capturing a 47.5 percent share last month, up from 46.6 percent in November. And Windows XP continues to lose more of its audience, ekeing out a 29 percent share in December, down from 31.2 percent the prior month.

The distance in Web traffic between Windows 7 and XP will likely ramp up over the next few months. Microsoft has vowed to cut off support for XP starting April 8, 2014. That means no more security patches, bug fixes, or other updates. As such, businesses and organizations have been scrambling to upgrade from XP before the deadline arrives.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Who 'invented' the sound bar speaker?

Back in the day, budget-priced 5.1-channel home theater-in-a-box systems ruled, but that was before sound bars totally obliterated that product category.

The classic home theater setup -- with front left, center, and right, surround speakers, and a subwoofer -- was the de facto sound standard. High-end home theater buyers still use multichannel systems, but the multichannel home theater-in-a-box system is almost dead. Up until recently, I reviewed 12 or more home theater-in-a-box systems every year for CNET, but now sound bars are the most popular solution.

Altec-Lansing introduced the very first sound bar/subwoofer system -- the Voice of the Digital Theatre -- in 1998. Even today, it still looks like a fully contemporary design, but as far as I can tell, Altec didn't follow up with other models. I recently chatted with Zvox founder Tom Hannaher about the history of the category, and he recalled the Cambridge SoundWorks TVWorks 250 'bar from the late '90s, but that one also flopped.

SoundMatters introduced the MainStage in 2003, and when I reviewed it I wasn't terribly impressed with its sound. Another company, Niro, made a few 'bars starting in 2003. They were very expensive and sounded pretty good, but Niro dropped out of sight after a few years.

Home theater-in-a-box systems were big sellers, so the market wasn't ready for a single speaker solution in the early 2000s. A lot of HTIB owners of the era lined up their five tiny satellite speakers in a row, making do-it-yourself sound bars!

The first 'bar to eventually catch on was the $199 Zvox 315, and in 2003 that speaker sounded amazing. It was a breeze to hook up; bass power was so good a sub wasn't required; and dialogue intelligibility was excellent. Sales were slow, so Hannaher's startup faced rough times early on. But since he was the company's only employee, and he wasn't drawing a salary, Zvox stayed the course. Looking back, you might wonder why it was so hard -- all of the 5.1 channel HTIBs came with a bunch of wires, and hooking up those systems was always a time-consuming ordeal.

Zvox went on to introduce a range of sound bars that were favorably reviewed here at CNET and elsewhere. Zvox is still in the game, and still making superb 'bars.

In retrospect, it looks like it was Zvox's winning combination of easy setup and excellent sound that separated its speakers from the competition's. I'm amazed that, even today, most TV buyers put up with the lousy speakers built into their sets. And thanks to the market's insatiable appetite for ever skinnier TVs, their built-in speakers are worse than ever. Apparently buyers never choose TVs based on sound quality, so manufacturers have zero incentive to make better-sounding displays.

I'll credit Altec with inventing the sound bar, but Zvox was the first to perfect it. If you have memories of early sound bar systems, share them in the comments section.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

RIP Symbian! Nokia ends support for apps, updates

Months after selling its mobile business to Microsoft, Nokia has officially ended support for Symbian and MeeGo apps. The Finnish company has abandoned the two home-grown mobile operating systems in favour of Microsoft's Windows Phone.

The Symbian Signed Team announced the end of support for Symbian and MeeGo apps via Twitter. The tweet said, "That was it; we are officially closed. Thank you all for the past years!"

Following the agreement with Microsoft in October, Nokia had posted on its developer blog that Symbian and MeeGo content in Nokia Store will remain available for download to customers and developers would continue to receive download and revenue reports and payouts for downloaded content. However, developers would no longer be able to publish new content or update existing content for Symbian and MeeGo operating systems from January 1, 2014.

Nokia had said that it had decided to focus its support and investment in new content towards Asha, the company's feature phone platform, and Windows Phone.

With this move, Nokia has finally bid farewell to its old software platforms.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Saturn's Rings are 4.4 Billion Years Old

Researchers using data from Nasa's Cassini spacecraft have found that Saturn's rings formed around 4.4 billion years ago, shortly after the planet itself took shape.

The origin of Saturn's ring system remains hotly debated, with some researchers arguing that it's a relatively young structure and others holding that it coalesced long ago, at roughly the same time as the gas giant's many satellites.

The new study, using data gathered by Nasa's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, strongly supports the latter scenario, researchers said.

Cassini's measurements suggest that "the main rings would be [extremely] old, rather than hundreds of millions of years old," said Sascha Kempf, of the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Saturn's main ring system is huge but razor-thin, measuring about 280,000 kilometres across but just 33 feet or so in the vertical direction. The rings are composed primarily of water ice, but they contain small amounts of rocky material contributed by micrometeoroid bombardment, 'LiveScience' reported.

Kempf and his colleagues used Cassini's Cosmic Dust Analyzer instrument to measure just how frequently such tiny particles cruise through the Saturn system. They found that a surprisingly small amount of dusty material comes into contact with the rings.

After measuring the low rate of dust recruitment, the team calculated that the rings have likely existed for about 4.4 billion years. "It would be consistent with an old ring system," Kempf said.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

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