There are a lot of ways to estimate the amount of information stored on the internet, but we can put an interesting upper bound on the number just by looking at how much storage space we (as a species) have purchased.
The storage industry produces in the neighborhood of 650 million hard drives per year. If most of them are 3.5″ drives, then that’s eight liters (two gallons) of hard drive per second.
This means the last few years of hard drive production-which, thanks to increasing size, represent a large chunk of global storage capacity-would just about fill an oil tanker. So, by that measure, the internet is smaller than an oil tanker.
Image by nrkbeta under Creative Commons license
It’s been just over a month since Google unveiled its gorgeous and affordable $249 Samsung Chromebook only to surprise us days later with an even cheaper system, the $199 Acer C7 Chromebook. At first glance, these two laptops are very similar, both in purpose (cloud-based computing on a budget) and in specs (11.6-inch display, dual-core CPU, 2GB of RAM), but there are significant differences under the hood. Samsung’s offering achieves its svelte form factor, 6.5-hour battery life and attractive price via a fully integrated and fanless ARM-based design while Acer takes a more conservative approach — cramming standard off-the-shelf components like a 2.5-inch hard drive, small-outline memory module, mini-PCIe WiFi card, and Intel Celeron processor into a traditional netbook-like chassis. Does being $50 cheaper make up for the C7′s lack of sex appeal and short 4-hour battery life? What other compromises in performance and build quality (if any) were made to achieve this lower cost? Most importantly, which budget Chromebook is right for you? Find out after the break.
Gallery: Acer C7 Chromebook review
Owning a car costs an average of $8,776 annually, according to the American Automobile Association. That is based on 15,000 miles of driving and includes fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation.
Car rental companies will rent wheels by the month for as little as $589, according to Orbitz, which amounts to $7,068 per year — not including fuel, which is a major cost.
If you want to skip the bus, but still save on transportation costs, you could consider using a short-term vehicle rental service.
These vehicles are rented by the hour (or sometimes by the minute) and the rental company picks up all the usual costs of car ownership.
Short-term vehicle rental is an emerging trend that is currently only available in select big cities, but it is expanding. Here are the major operators:
This subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, rents tiny Smartcars for 38 cents per minute or $13.99 per hour. You also pay a one-time $35 membership fee.
Renters can book one of the two-seaters online, or use a membership card to open and drive off in any of the blue-and-white painted cars they find parked around town.
Car2go pays for gas and when renters are done using the car, they simply park in any designated space, usually located downtown or in heavily trafficked areas, and walk away.
Car2go currently operates in six North American cities and a dozen European cities.
This company operates like car2Go, except it rents more than 30 different types of vehicles.
Rates vary by location and plan, but in San Francisco, for instance, the occasional driver plan requires a $60 annual fee, $25 application fee and hourly rates of about $8.50.
Zipcar operates in 20 major U.S. cities as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Austria.
This is a joint venture led by BMW that features the German automaker’s all-electric ActiveE sedan.
Renters pay a one-time membership fee of $39 and, after picking up the car at a DriveNow station, $12 for the first 30 minutes and 32 cents for additional minutes for a one-hour rate of $21.60.
DriveNow is available in four German cities and San Francisco.
Modo is a car-sharing co-op that requires a $20 initial registration, fee plus $50 per year and $7.50 per hour for rentals.
Renters pre-book vehicles in half-hour increments and pay penalties for late returns, cancellations and no-shows.
Modo rents a variety of vehicles, but only in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Hertz on Demand
This service is an hourly offering of the world’s largest car rental company. It requires no annual fees and charges hourly rates ranging from $5 in Boston to $8 in San Antonio.
Renters pick up and drop off vehicles, which include Nissan’s Sentra, as well as Chevy Cruze and Malibu models, at designated Hertz On Demand locations.
Hertz On Demand is in a dozen U.S. cities as well as the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany.
This startup charges $10 to join and $5 per month, plus $5 per hour to rent two-wheeled electric scooters, complete with helmets.
The service is available only in San Francisco and environs, and the scooters are only suitable for single passengers traveling at less than highway speed.
Breaking Down the Cost
The average adult spends just under an hour driving daily, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Based on average short-term rates of about $12 hourly, the typical adult driver could spend $4,380 per year on short-term rentals, which is less than half ! the cost of owning a car, while still driving the same amount.
Hourly car renters sacrifice some convenience and still must pay for parking tickets, lost membership cards and other incidentals.
But, for people who live where short-term rentals are available, drive the average amount or less, and don’t need a car at their beck and call, short-term rentals appear to offer an inexpensive way to get around.
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If Kenneth G. Lieberthal were anything but a China expert at the Brookings institution, his travelling-in-China security procedures would read like the product of a paranoid mind that watched too many spy movies as a kid:
He leaves his cellphone and laptop at home and instead brings “loaner” devices, which he erases before he leaves the United States and wipes clean the minute he returns. In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery, for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, “the Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop.”
Talk about overkill, right? Well he’s not alone. The Times reports that these seemingly paranoid precautions are par for the course for just about anyone with valuable information including government officials, researchers, and even normal businessmen who do business in China.
But what about the rest of us? I may not have any valuable state secrets or research that needs protecting but that doesn’t mean I want the Chinese government snooping on my internetting when I visit my grandparents (especially when the consequences can be so severe). In the past, I’ve relied on a combination of VPNs, TOR, and password-protecting everything I can, but now it sounds like even that isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s totally overkill given my general unimportance in the grand scheme of things. Dear readers, I ask you, how much security is enough when it comes to the average person on vacation? [NY Times]