Heading off to college this fall, or know someone who is? Here are a few tips that might help the newly-minted high school grad make a successful technology transition.
- If you are buying a new computer, check out your college bookstore for good deals. Colleges often sell computers and software and may provide substantial discounts based on deals they’ve struck with major vendors.
- Not sure of what to get? Check the Consumer Reports for their ratings of laptop computers, both Mac and Windows.
- Save money on applications by going open source.
- Use the money you save on open source software to buy an extended warranty on your portable computer. Portable computers are subject to more hazards and just the diagnostic charges for fixing a laptop are often more than the cost of the warrant.
- Check to see if your parent’s homeowner’s insurance policy covers theft and accidental damage to your computer. If not, check into optional coverage from a company such as Safeware.
- Consider purchasing an extra charger. One for home, another for school. Not having to take a charger with you on trips from home to school lightens the load.
- With memory and hard drive space the rule-of-thumb is more is better, especially if you want the computer to see you through to your college senior year.
- Water resistant keyboard covers. Dorm rooms are small, and you may find your desk pretty crowded at times. Help that spilled chai latte from ruining your computer with a water resistant keyboard cover, such as those available from iSkin. If you do have a spill, stop spitting expletives and follow the advice in this article. (Best read the article BEFORE the accident)
- Which brings us to backups. Backups can save your heinie, so get over it and start making backups. Mac users will find it a breeze with Time Machine and an external hard drive. Set it and forget it, until you need it. Whatever you do for backups, an external hard drive that is at at least the size of the hard drive is a good starting point. Get a larger external drive for longer life.
- Most colleges have wireless coverage across their campus. Whether you get a laptop or desktop, make sure you have a wireless card that supports supports the 802.11g or newer 802.11n standard.
- If you’re thinking of a Windows laptop, you may want to consider a tablet-style or netbook computer. Some students find the small size and screen annotation abilities of tablets to be compelling in courses such as math and science, while others find the ultraportability of netbooks to be convenient. I recommend a keyboard size of 11″.
- Some schools and some programs within schools have a definite bias towards Macintosh or Windows, while other are OS agnostic. Regardless of your own preference, it’s useful to know which way your school is leaning as it may affect the kind of technical support you can expect from them. Remember: Macs can run either Mac OS or Windows.
- If you opt for a Windows computer, before you do anything else with it be sure to enable all anti-virus software, spyware protection software, and firewall. Most Windows computers can be on the Internet for only a few minutes before some type of attack is mounted against it.
- If you’re going to be flying to your college town, a DVD player with noise-canceling headphones are nice options for your laptop computer. An extra battery might be necessary for really long flights. Otherwise, I suggest purchasing the extra battery only when the one in your laptop fails as batteries are expensive and contain toxic wastes.
- Get a backpack with that includes a protective laptop pouch. The pouch will cradle your laptop and provide it additional protection from your books and other paraphernalia that makes its way into your pack.
- When in the dorm, don’t pile your books on top of your laptop. The screens are fragile and very expensive to replace.
- Note that some schools now offer legal download music services that are very affordable. Check them out. Other schools have been sued for supporting illegal music downloading and as a result have instituted rather Draconian student policies in this area.
- Many colleges are podcasting faculty lectures. If you miss a class, check to see if there’s a podcast of it available to help you catch up.
Readers! What tech advice would you give to students heading off to college?