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What Kind Of Computer To Bring To College? 1154

Posted by timothy
from the just-lots-of-powerstrips dept.
Elfan writes "We've discussed laptops in education before and the importance of condoms and lockpicks. However, since its not to early to think about the Fall semester for incoming freshman, I was wondering what electronic devices people found most useful for college now. How do you keep yourself organized, a PDA of some sort or an old-fashioned calendar? What to take notes with, pencil and paper? Laptop? Palm pilot? Tape recorder? Or just too cool to take notes like in high school? One laptop for everything, with a docking station back in the dorm perhaps, or just a desktop? Both? All of this is made more complicated, of course, by the lack of funds most college students enjoy."
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What Kind Of Computer To Bring To College?

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  • For GVSU ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jmays (450770) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:06PM (#6098225)
    A Palm m125, a lighter and a Wi-Fi capable laptop seems sufficient enough for most students I know.
    • Re:For GVSU ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mattlary (595947) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:13PM (#6098343) Homepage Journal
      Unless you plan on wasting your 4+ years at college sitting in dorm room playing computer games, this is probably sufficient. I've also found that it's nice to run (or have access to) a server to throw your stuff onto while you're running around campus.
      • by rneches (160120) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:20PM (#6100658) Homepage
        My advice for incoming college freshmen:

        Get a laptop. An old laptop. Install the weirdest OS you can find that has a networking stack. Make sure you have a couple of battaries that hold a charge so you can take it to the library, coffee shop or lobby while your roommate is busy contracting and spreading chlamydia, or whatever STD is popular on your campus.

        Here's the reasoning: you want to make sure that you cannot play games on your computer. You know as well as I do that if you can play games, you will. Intead of doing your homework. I know whole Counter Strike clans that failed out of expensive private universty educations. You must avoid this fate at all costs.

        Sound lame? Yeah, it is. But think of it this way. You (or your parents, or the government) is/are paying tens of thousands dollars a year to send you to a place where you can aquire an education. It's very likely that this is the only shot you're going to get, and that if you screw up bad enough, you've got a rewarding carrear in burger flipping.

        That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have fun; on the contrary, you should have as much fun as you can. But, keep in mind that you are packed into a tiny, grubby place with thousands of other people your age, some of whom are worth getting to know. Keep in mind that there are proffesors and staff who've dedicated their lives to educating punks like you. Keep in mind that there is probably an interesting city or town to explore. Keep in mind that there is probably a gym that's flat-out better than any fitness company you could find that you can just use, for free. And you're probably miserably out of shape. Keep in mind that there is probably a world-class library crammed with books you should have already read by now. Exploit all of these things to the maximum extent permitted by hours in the day and callories in your diet, and maybe you'll get your money's worth.

        As much as I like video games, they are mutually exclusive with these goals.

        So, get an old laptop. Resist the urge to splurge on anything more ostentatious than a Pentium II 500. Your friends will laugh at it. Tell them you're poor, and that they should fuck off. Instead of playing games, amuse yourself with your creaky old hardware by hacking cool software. Or whatever you like, so long as you're creating something. You don't need fancy-pants graphics to run vim, screen, ssh, gcc, mutt, LaTeX and xterm. You might need a little more oomph for javac, or mzscheme, perl, or the like if your classes need 'em. Gaim, naim, or ICQ if it improves your social life. xmms, but don't go nuts on the P2P networks. It's a waste of your time. If your roommate wants to waste their time, mooch of of him or her.

        Trust me. If you think you need anything else, you need to re-evaluate your goals.

        • by iocat (572367) on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:14PM (#6101110) Homepage Journal
          This is great advice. While I miss the many cool videogames I didn't get to play at college, due to lack of a TV,ownership of a Mac, etc., I think that what I got in experience drinking, talking to girls, developing social skills that didn't involve posting on a BBS (I went to college a while ago -- 89 - 93), more than made up for the lack of a constant high bandwidth stream of games.

          It was easy to get back into games once I graduated, and even a shitty computer can play some games, but it's less likely that you'll get so addicted that you'll drop out.

          By the way, if you go to a pricey private school, do a break down on how much each class costs per period. Chances are it's more than $1 a MINUTE for in class time. So, ditching a class probably blows like $50. Consider that when you're trying to decide whether or not to watch Oprah or go to Biology -- it makes fucking off seem a lot less appealing! -Chris

        • by Yakko (4996)
          Sorry, but I have to disagree with the slant against video games, or at least against video games combined with education.

          When I have that evil performance review or testing document to write, and I've got writer's block, and I'm about to kick my screen in because Word wants to "think" for me for the 302nd time, a good session with Sonic is just the thing. Platformers aren't cutting it that day? No problem. Break out SOE, or play some GTA3 and run over people.

          Most any decent emulator (MAME, dgen, gens,
        • by LiberalApplication (570878) on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:31PM (#6101240)
          I tried that, but strangely enough, it didn't work. Well, it's not that I caved in to temptation, and it's not that it didn't work... rather...

          When I got into college was when the 486 DX2-66 was the hottest thing out there (okay, so that wasnt *that* long ago, but that still makes me older than some of you, right?). I went in with my old 286, some single-digit-clockspeed clunker without a case cover (it managed to get torn off at some point). I figured I'd use it just for typing things up and email. None of the current games would run on it.

          Strangely enough, I did have a copy of Wolfenstein 3d installed it, which I almost never played since it made me rather nauseous. However, a kid on the same floor happened to stop by one of the few times I had it loaded up.

          From that moment on, he would come a-knocking at all times of day, all times of night, sometimes even at four in the morning, asking if he could play Wolfenstein.

          "Can I play wolfingthing?!?"
          "Hey, you using your computer? I wanna do that pow pow yeah hahahaha thing you know, the guys some German thing! hahaha!"
          "Ah, you're not sleeping, are you? Hey, I'm gonna hop on your computer and play that Worfespang thing, don't worry, I'll turn the sound low and won't wake you up."

          ...and he would sit and laugh maniacally and smash on my keyboard for hours at a time. Sure, we tried to tell him we were busy, but he always found a way. Always.

          ...and that's how I got into computers. I spent so much time writing little executables to replace Wolf3d.exe that would make it seem as if my computer was having the most incredible, fantastic, epileptic conniptions that... hey, actually, it didn't teach me anything useful other than how to make a 286 bleep and freak out.

        • by seri goo (673894) on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:54PM (#6101413)
          Ever tried nethack or Angband-proof a computer? It's darn impossible it is, it'll run on anything!
        • You don't need fancy-pants graphics to run vim, screen, ssh, gcc, mutt, LaTeX and xterm.

          I think you misspelled "emacs" there.

          Seriously, pretty good advice, but the tinker factor even with an old laptop is pretty high. If I want to waste time with a computer, I'm going to waste time, no matter how old the thing is.

          -schussat

        • by Ryan Amos (16972) on Monday June 02, 2003 @09:42PM (#6102027)
          I really couldn't put this any better myself. Get the fuck out of the dorm room and go have some FUN, this is the best opportunity in your life to make friends, find a hobby you like, something. I rarely play computer games anymore. Console games are generally okay because those can be a hell of a lot of fun with friends, and most college guys, geeks or not, have a PS2 or an XBox (sports games are HUGE in college.) People in real life are way more interesting and enriching to your life than some dork you met on the internet playing UT2k3.

          This is why an iBook is a perfect college laptop. It runs a very pretty, very advanced OS that has all the unix stuff you'll need for class coupled with a great development environment all ready to go. And Mac OS X doesn't run that many new, hot games. Not to mention the fact that you look way cooler sitting in a coffee shop playing on an iBook or PowerBook than you do with some boring old Thinkpad.

          I spent my first year of college trying to be the perfect geek and I was miserable. One of the problems with CS is the misconception that people have that if you want to work in the tech industry, you need a CS degree. The reality is that if you want to program, you need a CS degree, anything else, well, any degree will do and job experience is more important anyway. I hate programming, but I'll probably work with computers once I get out of college and I'm a philosophy major now.

          CS is a whole lot of work for a boring desk job when you get out (that doesn't even pay very well anymore) and it'll eat up your social time in a big way. And yes, social time IS important, a good network of friends and social outlets is as important to living a happy life as doing well in school, if not moreso. Just remember you can still get a good job in the computer industry even if you're not a CS major. Being happy is the most important thing, and if you'd be happier as an auto mechanic than a programmer, be an auto mechanic.
    • by SpaceCadetTrav (641261) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:36PM (#6098751) Homepage
      From watching all of the college students that I know, it seems like most of them would benefit from an alarm clock more than anything else.
    • by devphil (51341) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:48PM (#6098930) Homepage


      I wish I'd carried one of these [thedaily.com] in my CS courses.

    • by arcite (661011) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:52PM (#6098993)
      IMO don't go for a Palm or any other expensive pda. You may thing that you will make good use out of it but you would be better suited to put that money into getting a laptop. Two years ago when I was still in uni I bought myself a Handspring VISOR and thought it would work wonders with my organisational skills. Truthfully it did help alot with keeping track of contacts and to plan my life.... but in all honestly I could have accomplished the same feat with a $5 paper organiser. My point is that if money is tight....spend it on something that will be TRULY useful such as an Apple iBook or some other laptop computer. You can still store your contacts and use calender programs on a laptop PLUS you can play better games than tetris on a tiny 3in screen. Laptops give you more features and will out last any PDA on an order of magnitudes longer. I have a laptop now, but I really wish I had one back then instead of a VISOR (as cool as it was) ;) So go for the Apple iBook!
    • Re:For GVSU ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by stefanlasiewski (63134) * <.slashdot. .at. .stefanco.com.> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:56PM (#6099063) Homepage Journal
      Wi-Fi capable laptop

      Great! When I want to copy your notes, I won't need to look over your shoulder any more. I'll just eavesdrop on your wireless connection, and slurp up your Documents folder.

      And if it's a really competitive class, I might just wipe your harddrive when I'm done.

      So, if you're going to use wireless, don't forget to use some decent Wi-Fi security [nwfusion.com].
  • Might sir suggest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gazbo (517111) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:06PM (#6098235)
    The lost art of paper and pen?

    You'll do well to find anything that can organise you better.

    • by archen (447353) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:11PM (#6098305)
      Better yet, take really bad notes with a paper and pen. Then find a really cute girl who pays attention and compair notes with hers. Of course if you're taking CS courses this might be easier said than done.
      • by Java Pimp (98454) <java_pimp@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:14PM (#6100033) Homepage
        Then find a really cute girl who pays attention and compair notes with hers. Of course if you're taking CS courses this might be easier said than done.

        I know this is stereotypically funny but when I was in college, most of the girls in my CS and math courses were not only cute, they were down right hot! I always considered myself lucky there. (not that I could have gotten lucky though... *sigh*)

    • by deadsaijinx* (637410) <animemeken@hotmail.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:14PM (#6098353) Homepage
      What I love about notebooks is observing the inevitablity of entropy. My history notes start out uber oraganized and informative and then slowly degrade to the point where there is one illegible sentence per day. Finally, the notes stop all together and I just sleep in class. Damn you third law of thermodynamics! you win again.
    • by muon1183 (587316) <`muon1183' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:23PM (#6098529) Homepage
      I wholeheartedly agree. While a computer is important (I suggest a laptop light enough that you can cary it with you but with enough features that you can use it as your primary machine), nothing beats a pen and a notebook for taking notes. I never took notes in high school, but I realized the first day in my first college math class that I would need to take notes. There is no way to remember all of the theorems their proofs without notes, and unless you can type latex at 80+ wpm, go with the pen and paper. The same applies to most other science/engineering classes. There is just no way to get diagrams/formulae/complicated notation down fast enough in a computer.
      • Re:Might sir suggest (Score:5, Informative)

        by MrResistor (120588) <peterahoff@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:41PM (#6099623) Homepage
        I couldn't agree more.

        A laptop would be nice for programming classes, but only because you wouldn't have to fuss with floppies and platform variations. Laptops are worde than useless for notes though. Partly for the reasons you list (diagrams and equations) and partly because you remember more if you physically write the stuff down. Don't rob yourself of that valuable few percent you get from tactile-kinesthetic involvement! Every little bit counts.

        I learned to get 1 thin 3-ring binder for each class. I like the ones with the cardboard binding, not the floppy cheap plastic ones, and make sure you get a different color for each class so you don't confuse them in your rush out the door. Don't reuse them, unless you're absolutely sure you will never need the info from that class ever again (hint, I wrote a research paper my senior year in high school that I reused, with some revision, in every English class I took in college). Also, get yourself a good 3-hole punch so you can get all the handouts, tests, quizes, etc. in there too. You can also get 3-ring pouches for floppies and CDs, which are handy.

        At the end of the semester I just make sure everything for that class is in there, take out any unused paper, label the spine with a Sharpie, and stick it on the shelf. Having class notes organized and easy to find like that has helped me a great deal when it's come time to finally apply the stuff in the real world.

        A PDA would be a waste, I think, unless you already are in the habit of using a dayplanner or something like that. It's much better to devote that carrying space to a good graphing calculator.

        • by anon*127.0.0.1 (637224) <slashdot@baudkar m a . com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @08:00PM (#6101447) Journal
          Actually, I didn't even bother with binders. My secret requires reading the text before attending class. Better yet, read it twice. Go to class with a couple of highlighters and a couple of pencils.

          Pay attention while Prof lectures, instead of blindly copying down everything verbatim. If he seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time on a particular part of the text, whip out your handy highlighter and mark the appropriate part of the text.

          If he covers something that's not in the book... well, every college text I ever saw has acres of white space. Fat margins, lots of space at the top and bottom of each page, tons of useless illustrations.... just find a spot that seems appropriate and make your notes right in the textbook.

          Advantages: More time spent in class listening and learning, instead of blindly taking notes. When it's time to study for exams, all your study materials are in one place, hopefully well organized.

          Disadvantages: You've got to read the text beforehand so that you know whats in the book and what isn't. For this reason, probably 98% of students won't be able to use this method.
    • Transcribing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:31PM (#6098676) Homepage
      Write notes by hand, transcribe them into a laptop or desktop PC later. Transcription is one of the best ways to get the content into memory at a pace that's good to learn by, and in the process you can stop and "flesh out" the contents of lecture by checking references, following interesting digressions, etc.
    • You got it brother. Pen and paper first, transcribe to computer back at the dorm/home. This way you "double-gel" on the info. I, and probably many others, can type "subconsciously" such that blah, blah goes in the ears and straight to the fingers, bypassing the brain altogether. You can imagine that that's not too conducive to actually learning anything. Also, I find that at exam time, reediting and summarizing notes (think writing personal Cliff notes) beats studying outright. For some reason, the editing
    • by GMontag (42283) <gmontag AT guymontag DOT com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:13PM (#6099292) Homepage Journal
      You can find pen and paper anyplace. Bring a VAX. They are getting harder to find.
    • I'll second this one. I'm going back to school in the fall, and my little black binder (three rings, uses 8.5" by 5.5" paper, pockets inside the covers) will go with me. There are things that a PDA is nice for, but I'll take the binder for real life. Looking at what's in here now, I find:
      • Reminder for doctor appointment that came in the mail, including phone numbers if I need to change the appointment.
      • Mapquest map and driving directions to interview.
      • Advertising brochure of possible interest.
      • Four
  • Argh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doomrat (615771) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:07PM (#6098238) Homepage
    I was SO tempted to spam the link to a laptop I'm selling on Ebay... but sometimes it's just not worth having the Internet hate you.
  • iBook (Score:5, Informative)

    by krisp (59093) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:07PM (#6098242) Homepage
    Personally, I bought an iBook half way through last year. Before then I had only a desktop. Let me tell you, having a laptop with 802.11b on a wirless-enabled campus is great. I was able to take notes in class, chat with my friends, and look up more information on an in-class topic in the event that I am confused about something.

    I chose the iBook because I liked it's look and its price isn't nearly as high as a Powerbook or high-end Dell laptop. It also has 6 hours of battery life.

    If I were you, I'd buy a laptop.
    • Re:iBook (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bobdinkel (530885) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:18PM (#6098420)
      Hey, That guy just stole my comment.
      But really an iBook with an Airport card is a recipe for success. The aforementioned battery life is excellent. And personal experience has proven to me that a mac is less likely than a PC to implode while you type a paper.

      No - I am not Ellen Feiss.

      PDAs are pretty tough to take notes on in my experience - plus you'd look like a collosal tool. Pen and paper do just fine for note taking. There's something to be said for actually writing the words and the effect this has on retention.
    • by ciryon (218518) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:23PM (#6098532) Journal
      And also Apple today reduced the price of their Powerbook lineup. The 12" model now only costs $1.599. That's not much for a really sweet computer. I've tried it and it's gold for any student, especially if you need to run Unix apps.

      Ciryon

  • by sulli (195030) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:08PM (#6098246) Journal
    So convenient to carry around to class!
  • tiBook (Score:5, Funny)

    by sporty (27564) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:08PM (#6098255) Homepage
    tiBook.

    You have unix and windows apps in one little box. AND you can pick up chicks /w it. Actually, the second is a lie. But I can dream.
  • You need (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tebriel (192168) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:09PM (#6098262)
    a phat 1337 gaming rig. Use that bandwidth, baby.
  • Laptops? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rorgg (673851) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:09PM (#6098265)
    Why, back in my day, we didn't HAVE laptops. We had clunky old XT machines that weighed about a ton and you were lucky if your desktop held them! You took notes then booted up your computer to put them in via edlin, and by the time you were ready, you were too drunk to care! Damn kids, get off my lawn! (Sorry, just realized new collegians this year were born in 1985. Caused a bit of a panic attack.)
  • Go Retro (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SanLouBlues (245548) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:09PM (#6098269) Journal
    Bring a pack of Bic pens, and a few notebooks with paper instead of silicon. Personally, I find my 59c wallet-sized notepad more useful than my friend's Palm.

    But if you do get a real notebook, try to make sure you get built-in wireless for the school network (or network-to-be). It's a lifesaver during finals when all the jacks in the library are taken.
  • by Pxtl (151020) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:10PM (#6098287) Homepage
    All the people with laptops stop bringing them to lectures damn fast, ditto palms. Just get some good (paper) notebooks and use a PC. You'll get less funny stares, and it doens't really help anymore to have it on disk.

    Software, on the otherhand, is different. Whether its Waterloo Maple (my recommendation), MATLAB, or Python with NumPy, get a good mathematical analysis tool onto your computer and learn it. They will not teach you, but the assigments may very well be impossible without it.

    And flip-flops. Bring flip-flops, or your feet will regret it.

    Fake-ID is a must. Doesn't matter if its good or not in most towns, as long as the bouncers see something its usually good enough for plausible deniability on their part.
    • by jafiwam (310805) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:33PM (#6098700) Homepage Journal
      I had trouble deciding to Mod up or add comment...

      HS Seniors, Pxtl is a wise person. Flip flops made the difference between sharing in the epidemic of foot-mold in the 32+guests shared bathroom and healthy feet in my case. If you live in dorms, count on walking through puke and broken glass in the showers some mornings. Flip flops protect the feet while allowing washing without removal, and are cheap in case you wreck them.

      They didn't have laptops when I went to college (seriously!) so I cannot say how useful they are as gadgets for new students. I will tell you though that hand-writing notes, then typing them in, then printing them, then markup and study for exams got me more than a few A's with little effort. The more times that information goes through your brain the better.

      So I say get a computer that suits your needs for the room or apartment, laptop or no and stick with paper for notes. Forget about carrying it around, you may not end up doing that and they are easier to steal that way.

      If you do not do games, then an old PC with your choice of OS will do just fine for browsing, papers, and a hookup to a PDA.
    • by madcow_ucsb (222054) <slashdot2NO@SPAMsanks.net> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:38PM (#6098783)
      I'm graduating this June, and I used a regular desktop PC (celeron 500 power, baby) for the first two years. The last two, however, I've gotten by just fine with my Dell Inspiron 4100 laptop. I never used it to take notes, but it was nice to be able to lug into labs (as a CE major doing mostly hardware design stuff).

      As for numerical analysis software, DON'T buy it beforehand. There is a strong possibility your school will have a site license for one or more, which may work. If not (and you'd prefer to keep it legal ;), most of them have MAD discounts for college students. Also, if you're in the college of engineering, there's almost a 100% chance they'll be installed on the lab machines. You may be able to run them over a remote X (I've done that with many an expensive program).

      For math classes, I was partial to Mathematica, myself. Did most of what I needed. Later on, Matlab was the shit (and required for several classes).

      I also have an old Handspring platinum that's served me quite well. I could get by without it, but it's damn nice for keeping track of homework and grades and such. All my classes are projects now so it's easy to keep track of without, but the first couple years where it's nothing but math hw, it was nice to have.

      Yes, definitely flip-flops. I go to UC Santa Barbara, and people where them year 'round here. Part of the uniform.

      About the fake IDs, yes, but (at least in CA) they won't typically work in bars or clubs. For liquor stores, however, absolutely. And I won't comment more on that subject than to say you would be very surprised at how easy it is to make a reasonable "novelty" california ID (even with the psuedo holograms). I swear, if we'd put the creativity we used for those things into our classes, we'd all be graduating with 4.0s...
    • flipflops (Score:5, Funny)

      by uberdave (526529) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:58PM (#6099092) Homepage
      Flip-flops? Does it matter if you have J-K, D, or S-R flip-flops? Can you get away with a flip-flop built from discrete components, or does it have to be a chip? If so, do you need dip, or smt?

      Oh, and what does this have to do with feet?
  • by TopShelf (92521) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:11PM (#6098289) Homepage Journal
    Why, back in my day, we hauled a 35-pound PC on our backs from class to class, hoping there'd be a wall outlet and a spare seat available to plug in and set up the monitor. We could only type up about 4K worth of notes, and stored the results off to cassette tape at the end of the day and weeeeee liked it...
  • by dnoyeb (547705) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:11PM (#6098301) Homepage Journal
    Do not bring laptops because they will be 'lifted.' Bring a big ugly honking computer. as long as it has a Ethernet connection, you wont need to move it. Strap it to some 45lb weights or something. if their going to steal it, make them disassemble it.

    You should not need a palm pilot or the like because your schedule will be the same for 3-4 months straight. If you cant remember to get to class, then you should drop out :D
    • Bring a big ugly honking computer

      The bigger the better. If your funding runs out due to excessive power and A/C bills, you can always live in it.

    • This is a good point - buy a security cable (or whatever those things are called) for your laptop and use it. Also, if you have a locker (some post secondary schools do) don't put your laptop or expensive things in it. We had a few laptops disappear at my school.
    • I've had good luck not having my laptop stolen -- I attribute that mostly to the fact that I keep it in an ordinary-looking (but laptop-designed) backpack from Jansport. Keeping it in a pack that doesn't scream "I have a laptop inside" and is indistinguishable from other backpacks surely helps.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:12PM (#6098310) Homepage
    Save your money and don't buy the hype. Just because you may look cool and all that with a $500 PDA, if you don't have any discipline, no chic gadget is going to get your act together for you.

    If college freshmen want to really get their shit together, take notes on paper, and write down due dates on a calendar displayed in a prominent place in your dorm. Once that has become a habit, technology might make it easier, but until then, you have an expensive paperweight.

  • Unless required to (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jonsey (593310) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:12PM (#6098313) Journal

    I strongly reccomend a desktop.

    While laptop thefts aren't a horribly common thing, college freshmen brainfarts (tm) are. I say this while enjoying my first year standing. However, having spent a great deal of time with small office/home office/home-use computer consultants, I can say that laptop theft is *much* higher first year, than other years combined. (Non-scientific data gathering, to be sure).

    Use common sense: If you make it portable, it is more likely to get stolen. It will also be more convienent, and probably better used. In my experience though, a desktop will be just as useful. If you need a computer on the other side of campus, you can probably find one to use.

    Disclaimer, I go to RIT, all comments should be taken as though they are from someone who goes to school at an Institute of Technology

  • by pokka (557695) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:12PM (#6098316)
    You need to get a feel for your college's environment before you know what computer you need. Some colleges are strictly Windows, others are strictly Linux, and most are somewhere in-between. I would recommend just bringing along whatever computer you currently have. It will be good enough for the first few weeks, and will give you time to find out what kinds of computers upperclassmen are using. That "standard dell package" that your school recommends might be overkill, or it might not be right for your major.
  • by RobPiano (471698) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:13PM (#6098330)

    I have an Apple 12 in Powerbook. I can recommend it without hesitation for most use.

    It has the advantage of being very portable, and will allow for most things you would need at a school. It can use common college things like Microsoft Word, but its also a great portable UNIX-like box.

    Basically it allows me to do everything I would with a PC, but also lets me use software that is traditionally MAC like MAX/MSP and Peak.

    Only disadvantage is alitte expensive and alittle hot.

    Get it with the extra memory and airport!

    Kind Regards,
    Robert Ferguson
  • K.I.S.S. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spray_john (466650) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:14PM (#6098359)
    1. Notes with a pen
    2. No palm - use your head.

    I (physics undergrad) use a biro and a pad of budget paper for notetaking.

    My computer is a big, completely unportable hunk of steel. It suits me fine. Laptops are useful for group work on campus though - it allows you to create an ad-hoc office anywhere. If funds permitted, I would like a laptop too, but my geekness demands that my computer be built with my own two hands.

    Here is the important part - I have two friends, one with a Clie, and one with an iPaq. They don't use them. They were carried around for around a month, and then ditched. They use them in their rooms for reading documents in bed. I save money, using xpdf instead :-)

  • by Millennium (2451) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:14PM (#6098371) Homepage
    Get a laptop. And if it's a Mac, get the Omni Group's excellent OmniOutliner software; that thing is a freaking godsend when it comes to taking class notes. Best money I ever spent in school. I still use it for all kinds of other stuff, now that I'm out of school.
  • Apple iBook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danrees (557289) * <dan@NOsPAm.dwrees.co.uk> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:15PM (#6098379) Homepage
    I got one of these in my second term at university and it really is a lifesaver. My 12" iBook [apple.com] is small enough to fit into a standard satchel and is light enough to carry around everywhere I need to take it (especially when much of my time is spent in the central library, particularly with exams coming up).

    My reasons for choosing the iBook over a PC laptop were various. There's the gorgeousness factor which is just hard to resist. More seriously though, Mac OS X is just a dream to run, and once you've got used to your iBook waking from sleep in about 2 seconds, you can't help but feel for those poor PC laptop owners. The 4 hour battery life is also very useful for studying out in the gardens. :)

    Desktop PCs are a real PITA at university since you will inevitably end up taking handwritten notes, and if you're writing is anything like mine, they'll be redundant by the end of the year. They're also a great pain to carry up and down stairs (inevitable).

    As for PDAs, I've certainly not felt the need for one since most of my contacts come in through e-mail and I'm near my laptop to check my calendar most of the time. That might just be the nature of our university network though...

    Get yourself an iBook!
  • Wait a bit (Score:4, Informative)

    by cethiesus (164785) <cethiesus@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:15PM (#6098380) Homepage Journal
    I've found it useful to wait a bit into the year before buying electronics. Two or three weeks into the semester you'll have a feel for your classes and college in general. You'll know exactly what you want/need to help yourself along, plus most large-ish colleges have a lot of good deals on not only computers, but a bunch of other electronics deemed "useful." If your college isn't big enough to have stuff like this there's always other students to buy second-hand off of like you do with textbooks. I'd bring a cheap-o desktop that can do the basics and save your money till you get your bearings.

    Any yes, lots of powerstrips.
  • Dorm Desks (Score:4, Informative)

    by mgaiman (151782) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:16PM (#6098385) Homepage
    My advice to you, is to see what kinds of desks your school provides. I go to GW [gwu.edu] and half the desks are exactly wrong for desktops. It's almost like somebody decided that they didn't like desktops (large monitors, etc) and made a desk to that it wont fit.

    Laptops are nice solely because it is easier to move them around (which becomes a big deal when you're switching dorms every year).

    Less is more in college.
  • by Eharley (214725) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:16PM (#6098391)
    Choosing a computer depends on what kind of services your school provides.

    My college (HMC) has deployed a great 802.11b wireless network in the dorms, academics (classrooms, labs, offices), and in most of the common areas. If a freshman asked me what kind of computer to bring to HMC, I'd say a laptop. You can escape your room without leaving your email.

    As far as Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux, I guess if you have to ask yourself how comfortable you are with computers and what you will be expected to do with your computer. If you are going to be writing a lot of papers and turning in documents electronically, Windows will be critical to run Microsoft Word. Frankly, AbiWord and WINE may be alright alternatives but when the deadlines come a barkin' things need to just work.

    However, if your college has a large Mac infrastructure (Reed, Dartmouth, etc) then a Mac laptop will probably be more appropriate. Here at Mudd they're making a switch over to Windows ActiveDirectory for application distribution, logging into the network, and file servers. Things will still work with the Mac but the IT dept. has other things on its mind right now.

    If I had it to do all over again I would not buy an old PC desktop from an eBay auction and instead spend a few hundred more on an Apple iBook. The size, reliability, and features of a Mac laptop are very attractive and price competitive.

  • by drdale (677421) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:17PM (#6098409)
    As a professor, I think I maybe had about 2 students using something electronic to take notes in class for the last two years (out of maybe 300 students total). One had a laptop, and one a Palm with folding keyboard. These were actually both students I had the year before last. I teach in the humanities, so I probably have fewer students who are really excited about computers than faculty members in other fields. I have to say that I wish students would stick to paper and pen, or at least find quieter keyboards; I could very distinctly hear the students in question typing, and it was sort of distracting. Although if a few tap-tap noises are the biggest problem I have to face in the next school year, I'll count myself lucky! I'd be satisfied if I could just get people to remember to turn off their cell phones.
  • a couple of tips (Score:5, Informative)

    by theflea (585612) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:17PM (#6098410)
    -- get a laptop with 802.11

    -- make your computing environment ubiquitous. Consider something web-based (or that syncs) if you happen not to have your laptop.

    -- make your computing environment conform to the way you arrange things in your head. I've watched people turn "productivity software" into something they copy just all their notes, addresses, and appointments into for no real benefit. It just becomes redundant.

    -- consider that some things might not be easier/faster/better with your computer.
  • Kensington Lock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrisd (1457) * <chrisd@dibona.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:18PM (#6098438) Homepage
    Whatever you get, spend the 25$ on a kensington lock [amazon.com] for your laptop, then if someone wants to steal it from your dorm then they can take your bed or whatever you've bolted it to with them.

    Also, whatever you get, make sure it has a burner so that you have a backup of your data up for when you dump a guiness on the keyboard.

    Chrisd (yes, I'm hard on laptops)

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:20PM (#6098471) Journal
    When I was in university, the 386 had just hit the stores so this is a bit out of date. Nonetheless, even though I type faster than I write, I find that stuff sticks with me MUCH better when I commit it to paper with my own cramped writing hand. If you want it on a computer afterwards, then typing it in from your own notes is a GREAT way of reviewing--if you have the time.

    However, try any note-taking methods that you can manage, until you find one that pushes data into your brain as effectively as possible. We're all built too differently to give anything more than rough guidelines.
  • PowerBook 100 (Score:3, Informative)

    by gsfprez (27403) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:20PM (#6098472)
    My first Mac [apple-history.com], my first post-Amiga computer love.

    6 hours on a single battery charge (longer if you sat with the sunlight hitting the screen directly... no backlight necessary) with the HD turned off running Word 5.1 with 8 megs of ram and a 80 meg HD on System 7.1 and a Stylewriter II in the dorm room.

    honestly, to write papers in college back in the day, there was nothing better... hell, there was nothing close. 15 pound Compaq not-so-compact 386 laptops? Puh-lease.

    if you're not surfing the net, then if you want a note taking machine with a nice and quiet keyboard that can go all day long without being plugged in, you want a PowerBook 100.

    then, go back to your dorm to a real computer of your choice and copy notes over from floppy or serial or docked SCSI connection.
  • As an Adjunct Professor I can tell you computers don't last long at colleges. In fact, it is downright amazing how many computer hard drives crash just before the end of the semester... and shucky darns the student didn't have a backup... so's they need more time to get the project in... yada, yada...
  • by davebarz (546161) * <`ten.yalezrab' `ta' `divad'> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:21PM (#6098495) Homepage
    As both a CS student and a geek, I spend a lot of time in computer related tasks, and I just finished my sophomore year. Before I went to college, I built what was, at the time, a really nice desktop system that I've been very happy with, mostly for one reason: Desktops are very upgradeable (what was top of the line then is still top of the line now thanks to upgrades of ram and processor and such), and suffer fewer problems than laptops. There are always deadlines and due dates, and there's nothing worse than an out of commission computer.

    Now, for that desktop, I highly recommend a flat panel monitor, because dorm rooms can be pretty tiny. I have a single dorm room, and with my CRT monitor, keyboard, and mouse on my desk, I literally cannot fit a sheet of paper on my desk surface. This summer, I'm gonna get a flat panel to remedy the problem, since they've come down in cost.

    Now, recommendations about having a desktop aside, lately I've really been hankering for a portable machine, especially since my school (Vanderbilt) now has 802.11b access all over campus, so I think I'm gonna purchase a laptop. As far as the laptop is concerned, I don't need the latest Centrino or anything like that, I'm interested in a cheap system that will be portable and that I can use an office suite, a development environment, and to browse the internet, all during class and maybe extracurricular meetings. No gaming or heavy graphical work necessary.

    So, to sum up, if you've got the funds, desktop is essential, flat panel is more or less essential, laptop is very, very nice to have (many schools even require having them now, and CS professors sometimes assume their students will have one) but isn't essential. PDAs aren't that great cause laptops are much more robust and powerful, and you're carrying around a bookbag usually anyway, so it's not necessary to have something fit in your pocket. I could see maybe owning a PDA strictly for scheduling, but thats about it.

    Oh, and a cell phone. Every college student needs a cell phone, and you'll be left out if you do't get one.

  • Make sure you live with incredibly anal roommates who are in the same major. When it comes time to study exams, photocopy their notes - they'll be more complete and legible than your own would have been anyway. Not being able to leave dirty dishes in common living areas is a potential downside, but you can be assured that any shared bathrooms will remain clean, and you'll save hours and hours of sitting in lecture halls having information lectured at you (as verbal communication is horrendously inefficient).

    If your roommates are not accomodating people, make sure that you're also smarter than they are so they have to give you their notes so you can explain them to them. (Fortunately, propensity for anal note taking seems to be inversely related to propensity for understanding material.)
  • by aitala (111068) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:23PM (#6098530) Homepage
    Considering the most recent crop of Freshman/Transfer Students I have dealt with the two most important items to bring to campus are a functioning brain and a pair of scissors to cut the ever present umbilical cord...

    EMA

  • by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:23PM (#6098533)
    A Penny Saved [penny-arcade.com]

    Save your money, work on the cheap, you can get the same or more accomplished and have a lot more cash to blow on the weekends.
  • by dfj225 (587560) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:24PM (#6098544) Homepage Journal
    As I will be going to college as a freshman in the fall, I just recently made this same choice. I talked to people that I know are in college now and the result was almost always the same. I was told to get a desktop. Students said that a desktop gives you more bang for your buck and its not easy to steal. I've heard that the only time you really need a laptop is if you commute a lot, either from college to home every weekend or just to college everyday. Most colleges have computers anywhere that you really need them (ie: library, labs, etc.) Also, one of the professors at the university I will be attending in the fall said that hardly any students use laptops to take notes with. Well, I said that I just made this decision, and I think I made a wise one. I ended up getting an Alienware desktop. I just came less than a week ago and I love the thing. Sure it might be a pain to lug to the dorm, but I think its well worth it. Go desktop and I'm sure you won't look back. A laptop might seem cooler or whatever, but even people with laptops said they would get a desktop if they could make the choice over.
  • by pla (258480) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:25PM (#6098572) Journal
    Most bang for the buck, just get a PC.

    For $1000, you can get a reasonably high-end machine, suitable for research (if surfing porn counts as research), analyzing data (yeah, right, like you couldn't "process" that 15-point physics lab experiment by hand faster than you can enter it into the appropriate program), and of course, gaming.

    I did have a laptop in college. You'll never use it. Really. Professors tend to talk in a highly non-linear manner, go back and correct themselves, make heavy use of diagrams, generally lecture in a manner not friendly to taking notes on a laptop. And we won't mention the high risk of having it stolen (no joke, those things vanish faster than a Catholic priest at a NAMBLA convention when the press shows up).

    As for a PDA, if you can enter text quite a bit faster than most people talk, and use one of those spiffy progs that let you enter text or graphics with no effort to switch, you might find it useful. Personally, I can type faster than people talk, but even with practice, cannot enter text into a Palm even close to a normal human speaking rate. On top of that, I find using a PDA cramps the hands MUCH faster than just using a pen and paper.


    So overall, bring a PC, because you will get bored very often, and may even need to do the occasional research or computationally-intensive homework. But in the actual classroom, computers still have no place.
  • Whiteboard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slyckshoes (174544) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:26PM (#6098578)
    Spend $20 on a cheap whiteboard and some markers. Have a column for each class on your whiteboard. Update it daily with assignments and due dates. If you want, have another column for things that must be done by tomorrow/end of day. I discovered this process as a senior (in CS engineering) and it was more effective than a planner/iPaq/notebook. You also have the satisfaction of crossing/erasing things. It's also very easy to maintain and can be color coded.
  • Tablet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hirschma (187820) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:26PM (#6098581)
    If I were back in skool, I'd be looking at the Tablet PCs, especially the convertible ones.

    I'd think that the option to use a keyboard for text, but also be able to draw diagrams and equations on the screen would be a great combination.

    This is just a guess, since I've yet to try one yet :) I thought that the Newton with keyboard would provide the same benefits, but it was just too damn slow to switch from text to doodle mode.

    jonathan
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:26PM (#6098583) Homepage
    I just finished an MBA where laptops were required, so I was able to observe about 300 different machines on a daily basis over the course of two years. The school was fully wireless and we used them for pretty much everything.

    My thoughts are that any laptop will be lucky to survive 4 years of college. Most of our laptops limped through the end of the 2-year program - and it didn't matter whether they were cheap or expensive. Battery life will be zip after a year, and you will likely run into optical drive and screen problems. Of the bunch, I would say that the Dell Inspiron line was complete, utter, garbage. They were flimsy, fell apart easily and everyone's battery totally died within a few weeks of each other. I had an HP, which was comfortable but required repeated major surgery. Toshibas and IBMs (especially) seemed to fare the best. We weren't allowed to use Macs, but my little sister uses an iBook that developed screen problems after a few months.

    If you are going to go with a laptop, get the cheapest one with a decent screen and spring for the extended warranty. It won't survive, so don't blow tons of cash on it.

    I'm really torn on the desktop-vs-laptop issue. I really liked being able to surf anywhere in the building and take notes/run simulations etc... in class (but keep in mind that you need to plug in power which most lecture halls lack). A desktop is a lot cheaper, much more powerful, much less likely to break (chance of laptop failure comes close to 100%) and much less likely to get stolen. If you are a gamer, it's just not economical to go with a laptop.

    So in the end it boils down to whether you need the portability - if not, go with a sturdy, stable desktop for the four years.
    • by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:16PM (#6099320) Homepage Journal
      I went to an engineering college [rose-hulman.edu] where laptops were mandatory. They've done it for ages...I think the original laptops were 486/33's.

      I used my laptop every day, 16 or even 24 hours per day, for 4 years. The vast majority of classrooms had network ports and power outlets at every seat. Many professors required in-class laptop use.

      I didn't find it useful for taking notes. If tablet PC's were around at the time, it would have been great: I can type as fast as the professor can talk, but I can't draw a picture or complex formula as fast. There was one kid who did everything in Maple, and would jump into Paintbrush, draw a diagram, and insert it into the document in realtime...but he was insane like that. But a tablet PC...if you can switch instantly from typing to drawing...would be excellent. One approach I found useful was to type notes on the computer, and use a notebook to draw formulas and diagrams. Then you can use the day's date and a reference number to link your text to your drawings easily.

      Get a laptop. And...do NOT cheap out on this...the best four-year warranty you can buy. My laptop (an Acer Extensa 710T) used up a hard drive, a motherboard, a screen, a power supply, a power regulator, and multiple plastic parts including the entire top of the case and LCD bezels. Strangely, the battery did not die, and I can still get about 1.5 hours out of it. That's because I didn't succumb to the stupid "memory effect" myth that doesn't apply to Li-ion batteries. I simply read the user's manual where it said the battery was good for a couple hundred full-discharge cycles, and about a thousand partial-discharge cycles. So I only used the battery when no power was present.

      People will say that a laptop can get stolen from you very easily. Never happened to me. Unlike a desktop, you can take a laptop with you! So the desktop is far more likely to be left unattended than the laptop...and yes, people do break into quiet dorms or apartments and steal computers. A cable lock is a good investment, if you want to leave the laptop in your room with the door open while you chat down the hall. I've known people to lose their computers that way. First few weeks every year are the most dangerous, because no one knows who everyone is on their floor.

      I did have a desktop during the last year of school. The laptop was showing its years and was beginning to drag in the areas of MATLAB simulations and code compiling. So I used a mixture of VNC (laptop:Linux, server:windows), X (laptop and server Linux), and Remote Desktop (laptop:Win98, server:WinXP) to use my laptop as a terminal to my main computer depending on what OS was running.

      You could get a better laptop, but figuring in resale value after two years, you'd spend another thousand+ to get a laptop that will still be two years old when you get out of school. Better to spend $500 for a new desktop, and have two computers to use.

      PDA's are not useful until you get a job, where you have rapidly changing schedules and meetings to attend.
  • My Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peatbakke (52079) <peat&peat,org> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:29PM (#6098631) Homepage
    I took notes with old fashioned paper and pencil. I recorded my lectures on minidisc. I wrote my papers on an iBook.

    All things considered, a computer is necessary. One could use one of the provided computer labs, however, the convenience and freedom of having your own computer (particularly with a scientific course of study) is extremely advantageous.

    I choose an iBook because laptops are frickin' convenient (writing your papers in the library, and being able to take your laptop to study sessions is very handy), and because I've had good experiences with Mac hardware. I've studied in three different countries, all of which have Apple support, and all of which honor Apple warranties. iBooks are also reasonably durable, and they're great to self-decorate. :)

    The minidisc recorder was also a good choice -- tape is nice, but with a single minidisk you can store a week's worth of lectures and tutorials for one class (w/ MDLP), and set break points for important information. Small. Convenient. Efficient. Not too terribly expensive.

    I've never had success with note taking on a laptop, so I had good ol' paper and pencil. I can type faster than I can write, for sure, but when the professor starts drawing diagrams ...

    All things considered, I spent under $2000 on my setup, and it worked great ... and I'm stil using my laptop and minidisc recorder after several years, so I think I'm getting my money's worth.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to the development of the tablet-based platform. It's everything in one -- computer, audio recorder, and note pad. I'd like to see them a bit less expensive, and a bit more rugged before I'd recommend 'em to anyone.
  • Atari 2600 (Score:3, Funny)

    by chimpo13 (471212) <slashdot@nokilli.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:29PM (#6098641) Homepage Journal
    You'll need an Atari 2600 so you can learn BASIC [atariage.com]. Otherwise, hell, you might as well be programming for a Commodore 64 or something insane like that.
  • I've tried this pretty much every way possible. I got a Palm V as a graduation gift and while it's very helpful it isn't essential and I don't take notes on it. Back in high school I was part of a program for a semester where they assigned students laptops (decrepit Macs of some sort... mine started physically shredding floppies) and while it was good for some classes (Latin Poetry where we were doing mainly translation) it utterly failed for almost everything else. The main problem is that no matter how fast you type you won't be able to get equations, diagrams and so forth down fast enough without a tablet pc or something else. I'm currently a senior heading back for one final year to complete degrees in biology and microbiology along with a computer science minor and while I view it as more or less essential to have a good computer (be it laptop or desktop) at home or to carry onto campus if you live off-campus direct classroom applications and especially notes are of very limited value.
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:33PM (#6098710)
    Your brain will hold more when you've been forced to process things in *two* areas of your head one wile listening and the other when writing it down.
    Typing is much to linear for actuall notes, unless you have a mindmapper running and are top-notch at operating it.
    • ...type notes) (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Qbertino (265505)
      Touched enter key, sorry.
      Allthough that actually emphasises what I'm just saying: Keyboards and screen suck at emulating paper. They're a whole different thing with different advantages and disadvantages alltogether.

      The computer is unmatchable at written dialog (email, slashdot, you name it (imagine /. via letters!!!) and at writing, assembling and 'retouching' worked-over text (or layout for that matter).

      BUT: The computer *sux* at notes!

      Notes you *allways* do on paper.

      For the lectures and courses get y
  • Save your money. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBooty (215489) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:52PM (#6098991)
    Honestly, if you're going anywhere but the community college, the school labs will most likely have all the computing power you'll need.

    I was a computer science major, and after freshman year I left my desktop at home for my parents and just used lab machines. The school bought new machines for at least one lab each year, so it was just a matter of heading to that particular lab if you really needed the computing power.

    Using lab machines has the added benefit of getting you out of your dorm room/apartment. I knew very few people that could work effectively for any period of time with their roomates trying to tempt them into a game of beer die/pong/whatever.
    • by CrayzyJ (222675)
      Interesting comment. I partly agree with you - it comes down to your roommate selection. My sophomore year I incorrectly chose a friend of mine who was a Spanish major as a roommate. He never had homework and was constantly challenging me to a game of beer. My GPA suffered badly (though I had loads of fun!) From then on out I roomed with other CS majors to help maintain focus.

      I found the labs to be much to noisy/busy to work in. Having a room computer, IMHO, was much better.

    • by Hal-9001 (43188)
      School machines are the most economical and for the most part the most convenient computing solution, but one thing about college is that everyone tends to have papers or projects due at the same times. When paper or project times roll around, availability of school computers can be a problem. This is the fundamental reason for owning one's own computer--it's always available for you to use when you need it. At large universities, owning your own computer can be a lifesaver.
  • Apple! (Score:3, Informative)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:31PM (#6099510)
    If you have the money to spare, get a nice Apple Powerbook. If you need to get something cheap, get an ibook. Either way you have a solid *NIX box with lots of cool bells and whistles.
  • by Brett Johnson (649584) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:34PM (#6099535)
    12" iBook. Powerful enough for taking notes, writing papers, and writing software. Remember that OS X comes with a full development environment, so if you will be writing software, your set. I usually take notes in class with pen and paper (its quieter and quicker), then type it up afterward to reinforce. Most of the campus has wireless access, so the built-in 802.11b kicks ass. Long battery life usually means I rarely need to plug in. The iBooks seem to be less fragile than the G4 PowerBooks at a fraction of the price. If your dorm room is anything like mine was, there just won't be enough room for a sizable desktop machine ( let alone 2 or 3 - roommates too) unless you get a flat panel display.

    20GB iPod. Don't laugh. I listen to tunes walking to/from campus. It's also a very small external firewire drive. If I'm using a lab/classroom with available macs, I can shuttle data back & forth on the iPod. It's much lighter than a laptop, and gets power over firewire, so I don't need to carry a power cable & transformer. I wowed a class as a guest lecturer when I just pulled my iPod out of my pocket, plugged it into the professer's PowerBook, and launched my presentation. It also replaced my Palm Vx, holding contacts and calendar.

    Cellular Phone. Cheaper than a landline and statewide or nationwide free long distance packages are a dime-a-dozen.

    Pens & Paper. Still a neccessity. Number 2 pencils for filling in those little circles.

    PDA - NOT. I have a Palm Vx that sits unused. It had degraded to just holding my contacts. After moving them to my iPod, I found I just stopped carrying the Palm around.

    Remember most Universities sell hardware to students at a moderate discount (5-10%), and software at a steep discount (70-90%), so check it out before buying on the open market. Apple also has educational discounts that aren't that great - the Apple discount is usually less than the sales tax you can save by ordering from the right online retailer. Look for bundles that add memory for free. If they offer you a crappy printer bundle, decline and ask for even more memory.
  • by rhood (559906) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:50PM (#6099738) Homepage
    I teach philosophy courses. I have had one or two students with laptops (I think it's because I teach at a state school where most students don't have enough cash for laptops, unfortunately). I encourage students to use them, and to bring them to class. I figure: getting them used to computers and developing good skills--this is more than worth a bit of keyboard noise. I have had students do video projects, and submit term papers as web pages. I encourage all of this--because all of this technology is part of what a liberal arts education is supposed to do--*liberate* you, free you (or in another kind of jargon "empower you"). If every college student I taught left college able to write a simple web page (or operate a web design program or blogger) I would be pleased. Increasingly I just see knowing how to post things to a webserver as a basic skill like typing.

    The problem, in my experience, is that many faculty *don't* have these skills. And they are scared of them--because it changes the classroom dyanmics. When 20 students have laptops and huge databases on them, then I no longer "own" the information in the room--I have to show students some other kinds of value: like an ability to think, to reason, and to help them ask questions about what their values and where their assumptions lead them in their inquiries. I just see this as making the classroom what I always thought it was supposed to be about anyway: less about "facts" and more about reasoning skills, critical thinking and sorting out the deeper questions.

    Bring on the laptops!

    Now if we could just find a way to fund them and address the issues of equality and justice (not everyone has the money for a laptop).
  • old skool (Score:3, Informative)

    by briancnorton (586947) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:09PM (#6099984) Homepage
    I just finished college in a high-tech major. I can say first hand that for the most part, a laptop is useless. Either get a cheapo desktop or just use lab computers. Palmpilots are for people with important things to do, not school. You will probabally be happiest with paper and pencil in class, and the desktop is just nice for internet/email/etc. If you want a game system, get a playstation. It will bring people over to you to play games instead of making you a hermit loser playing quake with people in craplakistan.
  • by igotmybfg (525391) <`ten.nospmohtleinad' `ta' `todhsals'> on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:11PM (#6100576) Homepage
    If you really want to get the most out of your college experience, you'll leave all your gadgets at home. Those commercials you see on television in which people buy new mobile phones and suddenly get beautiful friends - that's a lie. I just finished my first year of college. I have a TI-89, a PDA, a mobile phone (with camera), an mp3 player, a minidisc player, a laptop, and two desktops. Although I am a computer science major, I can truthfully say that most of these gadgets serve one purpose - to annoy me - and have actively played a role in preventing me from socializing with other people, which is a HUGE reason (if not the only reason) to actually go to college instead of staying home and reading textbooks. Are you really going to keep an electronic calendar? If so, do you realize that everytime you have to schedule an 'appointment', you'll be fishing one of the above gadgets out of your rucksack and messing about with it? As for a laptop in the classroom - don't do it! All it does is distract you. The best thing to do is to take a notebook and a pen, and NOTHING else. Trust me on this. Your fellow classmates do NOT want to be interrupted because you forgot to turn your mobile phone off. Besides, anything you take in there, you'll be playing with. You may not believe this, but consider: On a recent day in one of my CS classes, about 30% of the students brought a laptop to class. I casually took a visual survey of what they were doing - only one was actually typing something that looked like notes. The others were surfing the web, chatting on IM (severe affliction - the prime reason NOT to bring a gadget to class), and several were even playing Counterstrike! The electronic classroom is a myth, folks - don't believe the hardware companies when they tell you it's the future. It's not, if you want to learn anything. So, as I've said - if you want to make the most of your college experience, leave the gadgets at home. They aren't worth it.
  • by cjsnell (5825) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:32PM (#6100765) Journal
    Hint #1: Don't waste your money on a laptop. Spend your money on a good desktop and a high-quality monitor.

    Hint #2: Resist the (strong) temptation to install computer games. During my freshman year at Vanderbilt [vanderbilt.edu], something like 1/5th of the guys on my dorm did not return for their sophomore year due to bad grades. Nearly every one of these guys (and I was one of them) spent hours a day screwing off on pointless games like SimFarm and Quake and this was back before dorm rooms were networked.

    Hint #3: If it's crap, don't bring it to college with you. You'll find that certain dorm rooms tend to be centers of social life. If you want your friends to hang out in yours, make it sophisticated and tasteful. If you can fit it in your room, buy a couch and some cool lighting. My RA built a really cool elevated bunkbed thing above his couch and it held a 40 gallon freshwater aquarium at one end. It was sweet. Invest in a good stereo and TV if you can afford it.

    Hint #4: Drink with your friends but not to extreme excess. Stay away from drugs. You'll probably regret your choice someday if you choose to use them.

    have fun and work hard.

Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future. - Niels Bohr

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