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:

DeepMind’s Go-playing AI can learn the game for itself now

Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind believes it is one step closer to creating AI with general intelligence because its Go-playing software, AlphaGo, has been updated and can now teach itself how to play. AlphaGo Zero was only programmed with Go's basic rules, and from there it learns everything else by itself.

Source: The Verge

UK spies monitoring social media in mass surveillance tactic

The privacy rights group Privacy International says it has obtained evidence for the first time that UK spy agencies are collecting social media information on potentially millions of people. The discovery raises concerns about whether effective oversight of the mass surveillance programs is in place.

Source: TechCrunch

Blue Origin passes hot-fire test

Blue Origin, the aerospace company fronted and largely funded by Jeff Bezos, has released footage of its BE-4 engine's first and successful completion of a hot-fire test. The successful hotfire supports the idea that Blue Origin could in the future be used for orbital and deep space missions.

Source: Ars Technica

5G to be used by 1 billion people in 2023 with China set to dominate

Analysts at CCS Insight have predicted that 5G technology will be in place by 2020, with China being the main beneficiary. "China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development," said Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight.

Source: CNBC

Climate change makes it more likely to see hurricanes in Europe

Meteorologists from the University of Bristol have predicted that the likelihood of hurricane-force storms hitting the UK, much like Hurricane Ophelia did this week, will be enhanced in the future due to human-induced climate change.

Source: New Scientist

Russia to launch 'CryptoRuble’

According to local news sources, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the nation will issue its own cryptocurrency at a closed door meeting in Moscow. The news broke via minister of communications, Nikolay Nikiforov.

Source: Coin Telegraph

Human habitat located on the Moon that will shield us from its extreme elements

Researchers have discovered a potential habitat on the Moon, which may protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface.

No one has ever been on the Moon for longer than three days, largely because space suits alone can’t shield astronauts from its elements: extreme temperature variation, radiation, and meteorite impacts. Unlike Earth, the Moon also has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protects its inhabitants.

However, in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have claimed that the safest place for astronauts to seek shelter is inside an intact lava tube.

“It’s important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we’re ever going to construct a lunar base,” said Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan’s space agency.

Image courtesy of Purdue University/David Blair. Featured image courtesy of NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Lava tubes are naturally occurring channels formed when a lava flow develops a hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Once the lava stops flowing, the tunnel sometimes drains, forming a hollow void.

The Lava tubes located by Purdue University researchers are said to be spacious enough to house one of the United States’ largest cities, and while their existence – and in particular their entrance near the Marius Hills Skylight – was previously known, their size was previously an unknown quantity.

“They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn’t have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone,” said Jay Melosh, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University.

“Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system. By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are.”

At the first meeting of the US’ reintroduced National Space Council, vice president Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will redirect America’s focus to travelling back to the Moon.

Pence’s declaration marks a fundamental change for NASA, which abandoned plans to send people to the moon in favour of Mars under President Barack Obama.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the moon – not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.