Hey there folks, it’s that time of the year again called Back to School! Whether you’re a returning college student or a newbie freshman in the funky and crazy lifestyle called higher learning, we have some tips and tricks that can help you cash-strapped college students make the best of your academic experience.
Let’s face reality, notebook computers are not only ubiquitous, they’re virtually a necessity for today’s college student as much of the learning and studying involves either online course work. and/or research or writing papers. The most important thing to look for in a notebook is to first viagra alternatives consider what exactly you are going to use the notebook for. For example, if you’re an engineering, computer science or architecture major, a 15.6”-17” notebook with a quad-core CPU and a generous screen resolution (at least 1680 x 1050) will really help with computational-intensive tasks. The extra screen space and resolution works wonders for simultaneous file/web page viewing. For the majority of students who need a mobile rig on the go and to check mail and write papers, a 10-12” netbook should be sufficient for several reasons. First, they’re light enough and small enough to be carried like a textbook in your hand. Second, netbooks are designed for endurance and should at least give you 4-5 hours before you have to find a power outlet. (For you Mac fans out there, Apple’s current notebook lineup boasts average battery run times of 8-10 hours.) Third, netbooks won’t weigh down your backpack, messenger bag or man-purse. Also look for HDMI and/or VGA outputs so you have the option of plugging in your notebook to a classroom projector screen for presentations.
Super Awesome software
One of the benefits of being a college student is that you’re eligible for academic discounts for popular software such as Microsoft Office. You can pick up the new Office 2010 for $79.95 here as long as you meet the academic requirements. Tired of Vista or XP? You can pick up Windows 7 Professional upgrade for $29.99 if you’re a student. Check with your college or university as many of these organizations have specific business relationships with Microsoft and can often provide software at a generously reduced price. Another important software that can help students is either Microsoft Office One Note (included in Office) or Evernote. What these two applications have in common is that you can take notes, messages and important events on your computer which is handy during class or study sessions. If you’re looking for even more savings, you can opt for open-source alternatives. For example, Sun Microsystems’ OpenOffice.org office suite is a free MS Office alternative and is compatible with .DOC and .XLS formats. One really neat and super-useful free application is PDF Printer. If you need to save an important web page for later viewing and are not sure you’ll be in a place with Internet access, PDF Printer can virtually print and save it in PDF format instead of having to bookmark or saving the entire web page. In addition, instead of paying for anti-virus software, you can utilize free AVG Anti-Virus free or Comodo Internet Security. You can also find tons of useful software that can be used for school at www.filehippo.com.
Back Up & Security
Just as it’s important to have anti-virus software on your notebook, it’s also crucial to have certain back up and security measures in place. First, you’ll want to have a USB flash drive that can be used to store term papers, notes and music. You can secure your USB flash drive (and notebook) with a free open-source program called True Crypt. While you probably won’t be keeping CIA classified documents on your academic flash drive and notebook, having an encryption program is still crucial as it minimizes the chance of someone stealing your work and possibly passing it as their own. (plagiarism) Picking up a second flash drive or small 2.5” external hard drive is also wise for redundancy reasons. For example, if your notebook hard drive (or USB flash drive) malfunctions due to wear and tear, you can keep your important school work archived and ready in case of such emergency.
The Gmail Cometh
If only Gmail was around when I was a freshman back in college (circa 1998). Gmail is a perfect academic complement for several reasons. First, it functions as standard email for communication between friends, family and instructors. Second, it has built-in text, audio and video chat so you can video-conference (like Skype) (or just standard chat) with your classmates, friends or loved ones from far away. Third, it features Google Docs which is Gmail’s word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software in case you don’t have a copy of Openoffice or Microsoft Office. In addition, Gmail gives every account about 7.5 gigabytes of email storage space. While you’ll probably never eat up all 7.5 gigs with email messages, you can utilize this space as a virtual dumping ground. So you can back up important documents, papers, small programs and thus complement your flash drive and/or external hard drive. The beauty of Gmail’s awesome features is that you can access all this from anywhere with Internet. So whether you’re in class, at your dorm, at home or traveling, you have access to your saved notes, papers and emails.