How Much Data Does America Consume?

How much data and information do people in the U.S. consume? What kind of data? Those were some of the questions researchers at the University of California, San Diego recently set out to answer. They turned up some eye-popping results.

How Bandwidth Caps Hurt Your Mac & What Apple Can Do About It

Bandwidth

As a responsible Mac user, I usually feel immune from most Internet threats…except for one. Using my Mac exactly as Apple (s aapl) intends it to be used sometimes renders my Internet connection virtually unusable for up to a month, and costs money to fix.

Could this happen to you? It depends on whether your Internet provider has a bandwidth “metering” policy (or “cap”). These caps are one of the most controversial topics for Internet users in 2009, and can put a significant crimp in your Internet use. Recently, Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY), who represents the Rochester area, introduced the “Broadband Internet Fairness Act” (H.R. 2902) (PDF). Massa got involved soon after Time Warner Cable (s twc) unsuccessfully used Rochester as a test market for metering. Under this bill, the FTC would have veto power over such caps and thus allow them only under certain agreed-upon scenarios.

In my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, the standard level of cable Internet service has a limit of 3GB of bandwidth per month. Overage is charged $2 per GB. Downloading a single movie from the iTunes store will blow through an entire monthly limit, and even the cable company’s most expensive “premium” service only allows 50GB of bandwidth. In 2009, that’s not really much bandwidth at all.

Once you’ve hit your limit, you have to severely restrict usage until the next month, or face a large bill. Your Apple TV remains stale without its new content, your iMac stops downloading podcasts, and your iPod weeps because it’s sick of the same old music you had last month. Read More about How Bandwidth Caps Hurt Your Mac & What Apple Can Do About It

How to Put Sustainability On the Books

Corporate social responsibility reports are often a company’s beachhead effort on sustainability, and most focus on relatively easy-to-achieve metrics, such as employee volunteerism rates, corporate giving and supplier diversity. Advocates say even this kind of transparency can spur companies to further action. That’s the logic behind the Global Reporting Initiative, which provides a framework for companies to evaluate their own CSR reports. The GRI Framework doesn’t give points for good or bad outcomes, however; companies earn points simply for disclosing information.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong. CSR data is notoriously complex. Putting together a report can mean pulling data from environmental health and safety departments, community and education programs, philanthropic giving records, supply chain partners and operations records. Historically, companies have pulled that data into Excel spreadsheets to create new data sets for CSR reports. But as stakeholders — and shareholders — show more interest in sustainability concerns, companies are beginning to eye more sophisticated software to help them manage and report that data.  Read More about How to Put Sustainability On the Books

IBM + Sun = Good, or Bad, for Green?

Ever since the Wall Street Journal reported last week that IBM was in talks to buy Sun Microsystems for $6.5 billion in cash, the tech media has tried to dissect every potential reason for — and outcome of — such a deal. But little mention has been made as to how it could affect the two companies’ green initiatives. IBM and Sun both have jumped into the green IT fray over the last few years, albeit from different angles. So would a combined company double their efforts in the world of green IT, or halve them?
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A Continuing Discussion of the Unibody MacBook 13″ vs. PowerBook 12″

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Charles Moore wrote a great article about the unibody 13″ MacBook compared to the much-loved 12″ PowerBook. A friend of Charles argued that until the dimensions were nearly identical it could never be considered a replacement. Charles feels there’s a little more to it than that.

I think they’re both right (yes, life is good sitting on top of this fence).

I don’t disagree with Charles’ friend that width is a big factor, and here the new MacBook is much bigger than the 12.” However, I would suggest that depth is the more critical (for use on a table, airline tray table, etc.) and here the new model is only slightly bigger. Further, weight is a big factor and the two are pretty much identical.

So you need to consider just what you’re getting for those extra couple inches of width. It’s more than just a much bigger screen (in resolution, not just size). The larger case allows a larger thermal envelope so they can pack all that power in there. Remember that Apple (s aapl) could never get a G5 in a notebook no matter what. The G4 in the 12″ initially ran at 867MHz, less than the 17″ introduced the same day.

I’m just not convinced one must insist that every dimension be equal or smaller to be a true replacement. Given the near-equality of each dimension except width, and what you’re getting for that width — and its value — I’d say the 13″ kicks some serious butt. And I put my money where my text is, since I own one and love it.
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Satellite Collision Means Tiny Outages

logoThe collision of a decommissioned Russian military satellite with one of Iridium’s birds on Tuesday will likely have few affects beyond twice-daily outages of about 5-9 minutes until another satellite fills the hole in the satellite constellation. According to Tim Farrar, an analyst at TMF Associates who covers the commercial satellite industry, Iridium has a spare satellite orbiting the earth that the company can “raise” into position to fill that hole, so the outages should only last a week or two. Read More about Satellite Collision Means Tiny Outages

What’s Sexy In the Downturn: Smart Grid Software

For years, energy-management technologies have played second fiddle to energy-generation technologies such as solar power, wind power and biofuels. But in an economic downturn, the so-called “smart grid” sector, which often has been labeled “not sexy” by investors and analysts, is becoming ever more attractive.

On Monday, eMeter announced that Texas utility CenterPoint will use its meter-data-management system for a rollout of 2 million smart meters starting in March and finishing up in 2013. The system, called EnergyIP, will help CenterPoint’s Houston-area customers monitor and manage their electricity use and cost, as well as provide outage, restoration and connection and disconnection services for the company. While he didn’t say how much eMeter will earn from the contract, Chris King, chief strategy officer for the San Mateo, Calif.-based company, said that the IT system will make up less than 5 percent, or $32 million, of the cost of the $640 million program.

eMeter’s software essentially helps the utility’s older systems, like billing, work together with the new smart-grid systems, King says. The network includes automated controls for different appliances, and it will keep track of the appliances and report power outages. The software — and the smart meters it works with — enable peak-pricing and time-of-use programs, in which utilities charge more for electricity used during times of high demand, as well as demand-response programs, in which utilities ask a group of customers to reduce their usage during critical periods to avoid outages, in exchange for lower electricity bills.
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Cisco: Professional Content, Not YouTube, Leads U.S. Online Video Boom

YouTube has almost become a synonym for online video in recent years, but professional online video platforms like Hulu.com are dominating YouTube’s dancing babies, according to a new Cisco (s CSCO) study. The company just announced the results of its Visual Networking Index Survey (PDF), which compared TV and online viewing habits in the U.S., China, Germany and Sweden. The survey finds that U.S. Internet users spend 2.5 times longer watching professional content as user-generated video clips on their PCs.

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Video viewing devices used by U.S. Internet users. Chart courtesy of Cisco.

These results should be music to the ears of Hulu’s management, but the survey also shows that content owners have to play catchup when it comes to licensing their catalogs for overseas audiences. Germans spend twice as much time on their PCs and laptops viewing user-generated videos as opposed to professional content, most likely because there just is no Hulu.de yet. However, Cisco and other devices makers still have some work left to do, as well:  Many Internet users around the world don’t seem to be too excited about the prospect of online video on their TVs.

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Why Netbooks Are Greener Than Laptops

It was just over a year ago that small, low-cost netbooks hit the market, and since then they’ve become one of the hottest technology trends of 2008, with the top two vendors in the space — Asus and Acer — predicting they’ll sell 11 million devices this year. While the tiny laptops may be the computer equivalent of a second home for many of the early adopters, they also offer a greener alternative than most of the full-featured laptops available to on-the-go buyers, thanks to lower power demands, fewer toxic components, and a resource-efficient approach to computing. Read More about Why Netbooks Are Greener Than Laptops

Whatever Happened To P2P Set-Top Boxes?

myka2008 was supposed to be the year when Internet video finally reached the living room, thanks to a whole bunch of set-top boxes. Part of that mix was supposed to be P2P, either in the form of distributed streaming, or good old BitTorrent downloads. Well, guess what: It hasn’t really happened — at least not on a large scale. Most of us still watch YouTube and Hulu on our laptops, and file-sharing continues to be almost exclusively PC-based.

So whatever happened to all those P2P set-top boxes that were supposed to revolutionize not only how we watch video, but also how those bits reach our living room? With the year coming to a close, we decided to check back, report about progress (and failures) and give an outlook for the fate of these boxes in 2009.

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