August 1, 2010

2010 College Survival Guide

Techtips - 279 2010 College Survival Guide

2010 College Survival Guide

By Mark Tiongco – August 1, 2010

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.

Academic Rigs

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’ 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

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.

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February 3, 2009

Should federal government go open source?

January 24th, 2009

Posted by Richard Koman

Could the federal government be going open source? The BBC reports that President Obama has asked former Sun CEO Scott McNealy to report on the relative benefits of open source software. Imagine that: a president who has heard of open source software.

And McNealy will report just how large those benefits are.

It’s intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software. Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money.

And he wants open source mandates.

The government ought to mandate open source products based on open source reference implementations to improve security, get higher quality software, lower costs, higher reliability – all the benefits that come with open software.

Coming from McNealy, the opinion is hardly a neutral analysis. Sun is a vigorous proposal of open source and Unix; cofounder Bill Joy was a primary author of BSD. During his tenure as CEO, McNealy’s hallmark was his constant attacks on Microsoft and Bill Gates.

In his inaugural speech, Obama said:

those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

The question is how much longer spending huge amounts of taxpayer money on proprietary solutions can be justified as “spending wisely” or something other than a “bad habit.”

Michael Tiemann, VP of RedHat and head of the Open Source Initiative, estimated the global waste in using proprietary software at more than $1 trillion annually.

This is the kind of change we need if we are ever going to see the government reform its operational capabilities and cost basis. If they fail to do this, it’s one more stick in the mud. The capital markets are telling us today we can no longer afford much more status quo.

At TruthOut, Dean Baker has called for a $2 billion investment to further development of open source for the desktop.

This money can be used to further develop and simplify open source operating systems such as Linux, as well other forms of free software. The payoffs from this spending would be enormous. Imagine that every computer buyer in the world would be able to get a computer for which the operating system was free, as was almost all the software that they would ever use.

This would surely save consumers an average of at least $200 per computer. With sales at close to 20 million a year, cialis usa the savings in the United States alone could easily exceed the cost of supporting software development. Adding in the benefits (and presumably some contributions) from the rest of the world, we will be way ahead by going the route of publicly funded open software.

I think Baker probably misses the ball on this one. I fully support expanded government funding of open source developments. But the real benefit is not in demolishing Microsoft’s market for Windows but in developing more and more robust database, cloud and distributed computing solutions. Cost savings for government and business would free up money to invest in R&D, expand into new markets and increase hiring.

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November 8, 2008

Code execution flaws haunt OpenOffice

October 29th, 2008

Posted by Ryan Naraine

OpenOffice security has shipped a new version of the open-source desktop productivity suite to patch a pair of highly-critical vulnerabilities that could expose users to arbitrary code execution attacks.

The flaws, which affect all versions prior to 2.4.2, could be exploited via manipulated WMF and EMF files in StarOffice or StarSuite documents.

The skinny:

  • CVE-2008-2237: A security vulnerability with the way OpenOffice 2.x process WMF files may allow a remote unprivileged user who provides a StarOffice/StarSuite document that is opened by a local user to execute arbitrary commands on the system with the privileges of the user running StarOffice/StarSuite. No working exploit is known right now.  There is no workaround.
  • CVE-2008-2238: A security vulnerability with the way OpenOffice 2.x process EMF files may allow a remote unprivileged user who provides a StarOffice/StarSuite document that is opened by a local user to execute arbitrary commands on the system with the privileges of the user running StarOffice/StarSuite. No working exploit is known right now. There is no workaround. described the bugs as file-handling heap overflows.   cialis 20 mg dosage Patches are available in OpenOffice 2.4.2.

OpenOffice 3.0 is not affected by these vulnerabilities.

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