(This post first appeared in 2010. I have updated it to reflect current technologies and practices).
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 free and/or open source.
- Use the money you save on open source software to buy an extended warranty on your portable computer or device. Portable devices are subject to more hazards and just the diagnostic charges for fixing a laptop or tablet are often more than the cost of the warranty. Cracked screens seem to be the biggest problem and are expensive to replace.
- 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 your 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. 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. Or…
- You can choose to always work in the cloud, such as with Google Docs. If you do this, I recommend that you backup your Google Docs using another cloud-based program such as Backupify, or download your files to your local device if your wifi-coverage is spotty.
- Some colleges and some programs within colleges have a definite bias towards Macintosh, Windows, or Linux, 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 don’t already know about Skype, Facetime, or other video conferencing options now is the time to explore them and, perhaps more importantly, teacher your parents how to use them.
- If you’re going to be flying to your college town, noise-canceling headphones are nice. And an extra battery or battery charging pack might be helpful for really long flights.
- 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.
- 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. (Um, go to class, don’t just listen to the podcasts….)