Factor Reviews: iStorage diskAshur² portable hard drive

It’s nice when you get something new and it’s exactly what you wanted it to be. And not trying to sound too corny or clichéd, but that’s exactly the feeling I got when I opened the iStorage diskAshur² portable hard drive. In fact, if anything, the iStorage diskAshur exceeded my expectations, but that’s really not saying much because I wasn’t expecting a lot from an external hard drive. I expected it to work, and its 500GB of space is massive so I expected to use it a lot, but that’s really where my expectations ended.

Let’s start with the way the iStorage diskAshur looks. I got mine in black; I’m assured it comes in other colours, but why do that to yourself? In black, it’s a sleek and stylish device, but unlike other external hard drives it feels solid and secure and, at around 20mm thick, retains a kind of impressive heft.

The device itself encrypts all data copied to it and can only be unlocked by entering a seven-to-15 digit PIN. To service its encryption feature, the hard drive has telephone-style keys on its front, which really adds to its look. I’ve read some criticisms that the finish can become marked with use, but that’s like saying my iPhone is at risk of getting scratched or my new trainers becoming worn through use. It may happen, but when your iStorage diskAshur, iPhone or new trainers begin life looking this good, who cares?

Setting up the iStorage diskAshur is so simple I’m not really going to dwell on it here, but basically get it out the box, plug it in, reset password/code and you’re done. Beyond that there are a number of optional features to take care of later, such as the ability to make the hard drive ‘self-destruct’ (not literally) whereby entering a passcode will reset all encryption and delete all data should this be necessary. Additionally, a Brute Force Destruct Feature is included in the device, which overrides the encryption key and locks the device if the passcode is entered incorrectly 15 consecutive times.

For anyone dealing with confidential data, the iStorage diskAshur is a product I’d really recommend. I got the 500GB version, which retails at £159.00 For the amount of space it has there are much cheaper models on the market, but they won’t come with encryption and may not be as sturdy, so it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth it. The range goes up to a 2TB version, so there’s plenty more space available if needed.

In all honesty, the iStorage diskAshur is probably better suited to a professional setting, but for anyone looking for a solid external hard drive that keeps all your personal files secure, then you’d do well to find any hard drive that does it better or more attractively  than this.

Factor’s verdict:

US wants to use the Moon as a petrol station

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the Trump administration aims to turn the Moon into a petrol station, which will allow for the exploration of deeper parts of the solar system. According to Ross, explorers would use ice from the moon's craters to refuel on the way to other destinations.

SpaceX’s first broadband satellites are now in space

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed the company's first broadband satellites – named Tintin A and Tintin B – have been deployed and are now "communicating to Earth stations". The satellites are being used to test SpaceX's future Starlink broadband service, which aims to provide gigabit broadband worldwide.

Source: Ars Technica

Nissan to trial self-driving taxis in Japan

Nissan and Japanese tech giant DeNA have announced field tests of Easy Ride, the self-driving taxi service they developed together, will begin on March 5 in Yokohama, Japan. The cars will take passengers along a 4.5km route between the Yokohama World Porters shopping centre and Nissan’s corporate complex.

Source: Tech Crunch

Elon Musk quits AI ethics group

Elon Musk has always been quick to urge caution when it comes to AI, but now he has quit the board of the research group he co-founded to look into the tech's ethics. OpenAI said the decision had been taken to avoid any conflict of interest as Mr Musk's electric car company, Tesla, became "more focused on AI".

Source: BBC

Beef companies file petition against lab-grown meat startups

The US beef industry is fighting back against tech startups who are creating meat in a lab using animal cells. The US Cattlemen’s Association has filed a petition arguing that lab-grown meat startups should not be able to call their products "meat," since they do not come from slaughtered animals.

Millions of dollars in Ethereum are vulnerable to hackers

Researchers claim that having analysed almost one million smart contracts stored on the Ethereum blockchain, 34,200 are "critically vulnerable". A sample of roughly 3,000 vulnerable contracts that the team verified could be exploited to steal roughly $6 million worth of Ether, Ethereum’s in-house cryptocurrency.

Source: Motherboard

Stronger in old age: Stem cell research paves way for muscle-building medication

It could in the future be possible to take medication that will allow you to build muscle, even when you are in old age.

This is due to the findings of research at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, which found that large, and wholly unexpected, amounts of mutations in muscle stem cells blocks their ability to regenerate cells.

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said Maria Eriksson, professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet.

With this knowledge, researchers could develop therapies that would encourage such regeneration, and so allow older people to rebuild lost muscle.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” explained Eriksson.

The landmark research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, involved the use of single stem cells, which were cultivated to provide enough DNA for whole genome sequencing – a medical first for this part of the body.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” said study first author Irene Franco, a postdoc in Eriksson’s research group.

While a significant step, the research is now being expanded to look at whether exercise affects the number of mutations – a potentially vital factor in understand why and how these mutations occur.

“We aim to discover whether it is possible to individually influence the burden of mutations. Our results may be beneficial for the development of exercise programmes, particularly those designed for an ageing population,” said Eriksson.

The research is one of a host of projects being conducted across the world that have potential impacts on ageing, an area that was long ignored by much of the scientific community, but is now garnering increased support.

If many – or even a fair minority – of these findings eventually become the basis of therapeutics, it could be transformative for old age in the future, allowing people to remain healthier for far later in life and potentially even leading to longer life expectancies.