Cycle more than you drive

When I bought my bicycle last year, I had a couple of goals for the new year. The amount of driving I was doing had gone down dramatically since moving to Tokyo, so it didn’t seem too ambitious to aim for cycling more kilometres than I drive by car.

I also wanted to cycle a weekly total of at least 100 km, a nice round figure. If I achieved that minimum and assuming I would sometimes do more than the minimum, a goal of 6,000 km for the whole year didn’t seem too ambitious. That would be a monthly average of 500 km. As it turned out, my monthly total was only significantly below 500 km in three months of the whole year.

After getting into longer rides (100 km or more) in February, I ended up doing at least one long ride every month except August, including 16 rides over 100 km and 11 of those over 160 km. The longest ride was a 300 km brevet. I am not fast, but I like to start early and to keep going.

While the year is not quite over yet, my total cycling since January comes to 7250 km (excluding any rides under 5 km which I don’t log), while our car this year has clocked up about 4,000 km being driven by my wife and me. About 1/4 of that driving distance was actually due to bicycle races that my son Shintaro competed in.

While cycling more than driving is not a realistic option for everyone, once you get used to it, the bicycle is a viable alternative more often than you might at first think.

Google Picasa web prices

Yesterday I was going to upload a set of pictures to Google’s Picasa Web from my bicycle trip the day before, only to get a surprise.

Picasa 3 popped up this message and asked if I wanted to upgrade to more space:

You are currently using 21849 MB (100%) of your 1024 MB

Was I suddenly unable to add new pictures? Why just now? It all turned out to be rather benign, see below.

Almost two years ago I had purchased 80 GB of storage space for $20/year, but then found that even after I uploaded gigabytes of images and videos, it was still only showing as using a fraction of a GB. I then found a post that explained that only images bigger than 1600×1200 pixels (2 MPx) and videos longer than 10 minutes counted towards the purchased limit. That resolution is fine for online viewing: The biggest monitors in practical use are 1920×1200, which is only 2.4 Mpx. Uploading at 3 Mpx or more would have no practical benefit and any prints I’d do I’d do from the full size resolution files on the hard disk anyway.

So in March of this year I downgraded to the free plan, which has a 1 GB limit. Throughout the year I kept uploading pictures no larger than web resolution and videos shorter than 10 minutes. So I was really surprised when I got this message. First I was shocked a bit, because when I checked prizes for subscriptions, I found that while the pre-April 2012 plans like the one I let expire had charged $.25 per GB per year ($5 for 20 GB, $20 for 80 GB), the new plans were 2.4 to 4.8 times more expensive (see Google’s own comparison of the plans). Google now charges monthly and the 25 GB plan works out as $29.88 over 12 months, about $1.20 per GB. That means the new 25 GB plan is about 50% more than the old 80 GB plan I had before. Yikes! 100 GB costs $59.88 per year, or $0.60 per GB per year. The 200 GB, 400 GB and 1 TB plans are proportional in price to the 100 GB plan. While existing users of the old plan can keep renewing their plan, free users can only sign up for the more expensive new plans.

However, all turned out to be a storm in a tea cup, because nothing had really changed: When I finally clicked “OK” to continue, it uploaded my photographs as before and I could view them. All that had changed was that they tell you that you’re over the limit, but the limit only applies to images bigger than 2024×2048 pixels or videos longer than 15 minutes. If you’re above the 1 GB limit as a free user, you only lose the ability to uploaded images bigger than 2024×2048 pixels (they will automatically be scaled down) or videos longer than 15 minutes, which I don’t really need.

I guess they decided to switch to heavier sales tactics to better monetize their service, as after all Google is a commercial company serving their share holders and not just their customers.