College Survival Guide/Choosing Supplies

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Supplies for College[edit]

Suggested Supplies:

  • 5 Subject notebook
  • Multiple mechanical pencils
  • Bic 4-Color Pen
  • Eraseable blue pens
  • Jumpdrive (chain it to yourself or you WILL lose it)
  • Calculator [Texas Instruments]

Laptop or Desktop?[edit]

Do I need a laptop?[edit]

This question is rhetorical and primarily philosophical due to the word 'need'. Take away all that and you ask yourself, "Do I want a laptop?" That's a good question!

What does a laptop offer?

Well, that's easy to answer: a laptop offers almost as much as a desktop computer. Desktop computers have an equivalent degree of power and hardware that a laptop would have, but the desktop computer's parts cost about half as much as a laptop. Yet some students will choose the laptop because of its ability to be transported. Desktop computers are often neglected because they can't be transported. Since desktop computers lack the ability to be transported, many students choose laptops as their scholarly device. Furthermore, desktop computers are sometimes found around the school a student attends. A student can connect to the Internet and write reports while using the school's computer. Therefore, the idea of buying a desktop computer gets neglected more and more.

If there are already computers at school, then why does a person need a laptop? Does a person really want a laptop when other alternatives are around? After all, laptops are clunky, expensive, and can weigh around 5 lbs. The number one answer typically boils down to the ability to transport the device. Nonetheless, most students have this preconceived idea that a laptop will solve all of their problems. In other words, laptops seem like the holy grail when surfing the Internet and writing reports. Yet the "surfing the Internet" part seems contradicting. Unless a student is wardriving or the school has wireless Internet, then he or she will be sitting at a stationary location to be on the Internet. A student would be walking around the school, go into the cafeteria, and start using his or her laptop. However, the student would be in a stationary location to use the laptop. The student could have saved hundreds of dollars by going to a room with school computers and using those computers. With this incidence, laptops seem to be a convenience and most importantly a want.

During class some students may want to connect to the Internet. Some colleges and universities have cable ports located in different places; these outlets (also known as ports) allow a student to connect his or her laptop to the school's Internet server. Yet again, some of this seems contradicting. Hopefully, students wouldn't be searching the Internet in class, unless researching something. But most students research things after class; therefore, researching in class is quite odd and rare. Using the Internet in class could be seen as rude to some professors. In other words, it could be seen as deviant by some social norms. It all depends on the situation, location, time, etc. But nonetheless, most students don't use the Internet while in class. Therefore, a student could most likely use the school's computers for Internet research. Thus, a school computer would be a stationary one. Being that a stationary computer is most likely a desktop, then a student would save money if she or she doesn't buy a laptop.

Like cell-phones, a person could always go to a payphone. Then again, payphones aren't everywhere, but schools do have computers. Therefore, if a student is forced to be at a stationary location to use the Internet at school, then he or she ought to consider using the school's computer and getting a desktop computer for the home.

Now that the reasons for using a laptop for Internet usage have been eliminated (or to a degree), there is still one problem: writing.

Writing reports, notes, and other little tidbits that become important for class make a student choose the laptop. But hold up, other devices can do that too. These other devices can be transported, carried around like a laptop, are smaller than a laptop, and cost less than a laptop. Some of these devices can connect to the Internet and send email.

About Alternatives[edit]

So why do people buy laptops when there are alternatives?

I don't know, but I do know there are multiple alternatives: palm pilot, tablet PCs, PDAs, calculators with QWERTY keyboard, etc. If you're looking for a computer to transport, these would be your the type of thing. They are small and versatile. An example of the Texas Instruments keyboard can be seen at this external link: click here to view.

For a student looking forward to take notes in class and very little else, then he or she would do fine with a calculator and keyboard. A problem with choosing a calculator, however, would be the amount of Kilobytes and storage space on the calculator.

Math time!

A calculator, such as the TI-89, has about 700 Kilobytes of memory set aside for the user. A kilobyte is comprised of 1024 bytes. Therefore, 700*1024=716800 bytes. But it takes 8 bits (8 bits = 1 byte) to create a letter on a computer—a letter such as the letter A or B or a semicolon. And some people say an elementary word is made of five letters. Therefore, the calculator can hold approximately 143360 words or less. The complaint I've seen from people who use the TI calculators is that the calculators don't have an adequate amount of memory. This article section of Wikibooks (Laptop or Desktop?), however, has about 9000 characters.


  • (9000 characters) * (8 bits) = 72000 bytes


  • (72000 bytes) / (1024 bytes in a kilobyte) = 70 kilobytes taken up = (1/10 of the memory set aside on a TI-89)

In other words, a person may not be able to type of the next literary novel to shake the world based on its ethical and scientific revolutions on a Texas Instrument calculator, but it will do for an English paper or notes.

For a student who would like to take notes with a laptop, some people have been turning to keyboards that connect to PDAs. (external link)

This method is often more versatile, affordable, and convenient. Laptop batteries can cost above $100 USD to replace, and the laptop batteries take a long time to recharge. The reason people have been turning to freedom keyboards and PDAs is because batteries can be bought at a store at a more affordable price. Finding a powersource for a PDA with keyboard attachment is easier than a laptop.

After having my own experience of "laptop vs. a desktop computer," I would have to say a laptop is futile compared to the keyboard and PDA setup. My laptop has saved me at times, but the amount of time the batteries offer has depleted. I find that using a keyboard with a PDA setup is more efficient and easier to deal with. Depending on the type of laptop someone buys, it can be heavy or light. Usually, the lighter a laptop, the more expensive it is.

With the PDA and keyboard setup, a person gets a very light setup for an affordable price. Laptops are nice, but I would highly suggest someone buys a very light and inexpensive one.

Desktops are easier to deal with, and they are often hard to steal without the thief being noticed. For a person living in a dorm, having a laptop stolen is a great expense compared to a desktop.

I have become more annoyed with laptops as new portable technology comes out. Laptops are good for viewing PDF files, webpages, and other materials in privacy, but a person can find ways to save money and view those things on a desktop computer at home or at campus.

If money was no object, I would probably choose the PDA keyboard console setup over a very light laptop. Getting batteries are charging a laptop can be annoying. The amount of power a laptop battery can hold over time depletes as the owner keeps recharging it; thus, the owner would most likely be using an AC adapter all the time for the laptop. Finding a power outlet in a college classroom isn't easy. Otherwise, go with a tablet pc.

A tablet PC is nice because of its ability to be transferred from one place to another. However, it does require an external powersource if it is being used for long periods of time. This can be a problem for students that do not have the ability to sit next to a power outlet in a classroom.

The other alternative that is like the PDA and keyboard setup is the TI-Keyboard by Texas Instruments. This keyboard hooks up to a TI-Calculator (certain series only) and can be an affordable choice. TI-Calculators can range from $30 USD to $100 and above. The keyboard costs around $40 USD and comes to a total cost of around $80 USD for a keyboard and calculator. The benefit of using the keyboard and calculator is that both will be necessary tools to the math student. A student that takes math courses can use the calculator for math, and he or she could use it when taking notes in a different course.

Both things end up being keepers in the long run and have many uses. However, the alternatives that take household batteries can be the better than other alternatives. Household batteries can be bought almost anywhere, and the lithium batteries give more power than alkaline batteries.

More External Links[edit]

MS Office or...?[edit]

If you bought a desktop computer or laptop, then a good office suite would be is more affordable than Microsoft Office. Actually, it's totally FREE. This program can be used on Windows, Linux, and Macintosh computers.

It differs from Microsoft Office and can be a little complex to get use to at first. The controls are a bit different than MS Office but a person can find help documentation for that. Overall, learning how to use is a very valuable skill.

  • allows a person to save in .doc format.

If a person is willing to use for home use, but wants to manipulate files at school that have MS Office, then this is how a person would go about it.

  1. Compile a file on
  2. Save the file on a floppy disk, jump drive, or other storage medium.
  3. Bring the file to school and load it into MS Office
  4. Manipulate the file with MS Office until you are satisfied.

Notes about the Jumpdrive[edit]

I've known people to lose these things extraordinarily quick. These things need to be chained around the neck or around keys. Either way, these things are the best thing around when it comes to transporting a storage medium. I love the things. I like the ability to store Pocket Firefox and other programs so I don't have to deal with the hassle of downloading programs the lazy administrators don't want to upgrade. If a person were to get the PDA console setup, he or she could put all the drivers and programs on the jumpdrive instead of carrying the original setup CD around. That way, a person can upload files from the PDA onto a computer and then onto the jumpdrive.

Learn FTP[edit]

FTP will save you a lot of grief. Learn to work on files and save them to multiple storage mediums: email, jumpdrive, CD, FTP server, etc.

Being able to upload to an FTP is a valuable skill. If a person were to lose a disk with schoolwork on it at the last moment, he or she could go onto the FTP server, download the document he or she uploaded, and then put it on a disk or send it to the professor's email.

Websites that offer FTP are free. I suggest all college students learn how to use FTP.

It's a lot more simple than the complexity people show.

  1. Go to a website that offers free webspace and FTP access
  2. Search around that website for information on how to use FTP for it
  3. Download an FTP program
  4. Start playing around with the FTP program, uploading, and downloading.