We often see back to school, or in this case, back to college guides and well — they tend to offer the same advice. Sure some of the products will change but for the most part they always contain the same goodies. You know, the sturdy backpack and good all around notebook computer. Simply put, those guides are feeling boring and outdated. That being said, here we have the GadgeTell guide for going back to college. Of course, some of this advice would also apply to others, (hint, the part where we talk about backing up) however we put this forward as something for those who are college bound to consider.
Anyway, some of the considerations we took into play here — the space and luxuries are often limited in a dorm room setting, you likely have lots of high-dollar items stored in said space and hopefully you are working hard on things other than partying. You know, school work that will get you somewhere later in life. And for that last one, backups are important. More to the point, almost real-time backups are more important.
First, lets begin with the limits to space and luxuries. And by luxuries we are talking about power. The power outlets are probably at a minimum in lots of cases so we have the obvious — a power strip. In this case we suggest going with something good, something quality as opposed to your basic dollar store power strip. After all, why cheap out on the strip when you are trusting it to power hundred, or thousand dollar items. Another item that we deem just as important and one that I use myself — a multi-port USB plug. Speaking personally, I like Scosche for these. In particular, the reVIVE h4, which is a wall charger with 4 USB ports. This is running $29.99 and will charge four USB powered gadgets at the same time. The one catch with this one, while it will charge an iPad, that charging is rather slow. On the positive side though, Scosche does have some alternatives available, some that have less USB ports but ones that will charge an iPad faster.
Next up on the list — something to help safeguard some of those tech goodies that will be filling your dorm room, a Dropcam. I suggest this because the price is fairly low, $149. But perhaps more important, they are simple as could be to set-up and use. They use an existing Wi-Fi connection and will allow you to monitor what is happening from a wide variety of devices to include a computer, iPhone or Android smartphone. They record video at 720p, have the ability to send an alert to your smartphone when something happens and stream the video in an encrypted form using AES 256-bit. And on top of those, there are Dropcam DVR plans available for those willing to pay a bit monthly. Bottom line here, you can never be careful enough and this could potentially help you recover your goodies should something happen.
Following up on the Dropcam, how about something to automate your room a bit. This product is the Belkin WeMo and again, I picked it for the simplicity. As for the price, you have two options here, the WeMo Switch for $49.99 or the WeMo Switch + Motion for $99.99. The WeMo Switch plugs into a wall outlet and from that point, you simply plug in the gadget that you want to remotely control. The WeMo works with just about anything including a light, fan or stereo, just use your imagination. The + Motion item adds in a motion detector. That means you can have the motion sensor placed so that when you walk into the room, your light will automatically turn on. Again, use your imagination. Another nice point with the WeMo Switch, the ability to control the item with your iPhone. Yup, the Belkin WeMo has an iPhone app. But sorry, no Android love here. Otherwise, the WeMo also has integration with IFTTT, which brings me to the next item.
This item is free and on the web. In fact, it will let you control the web. Well, to an extent anyway. The service is a free one called IFTTT which touts itself as allowing you to “put the internet to work for you.” In this case the possibilities are almost endless. From the time you set up an account you can then creating or using existing “recipes” that will allow for some web automation. I have talked out IFTTT here on GadgeTell quite a few times and while the use cases can be almost anything, here is one college situation where this may work. Create (or use an existing) Evernote account and you can automatically backup important emails from your professors or classmates. Bottom line here, if you take some time to think and get creative, IFTTT will eventually save you quite a bit of time. Especially on repeat tasks.
While I touched on the topic of using IFTTT to backup important emails, we should dive further into backups because well, they are super important. In this case I suggest two backups — one local and one cloud. Or better yet, two in the cloud. Me personally, I use Time Machine and a Western Digital USB drive for my local backups. This is nice because (assuming the drive is plugged in) it backs up in real-time as I work. As for the cloud backups, I use two — SugarSync and Carbonite. SugarSync keeps my important files backed-up, goodies such as my documents folder and my desktop. SugarSync pricing will vary depending on the plan you choose, however they offer 5GB for free and they are available Windows and Mac and on a wide variety or mobile platforms which means you will be able to access your data easily while on the go. In terms of Carbonite, this is $59 per year and backs your data up in real-time. Carbonite also has mobile apps allowing for on-the-go access to your data. Bottom line here, when working with computers it is not a matter of if, but when it will crash and having a backup means you will lose little to no data should something go wrong.
Finally something for a little fun, a little downtime. In this case I actually suggest two — a tablet and an ereader. Personally, while you can read on a tablet using a (enter your favorite) reader app, I prefer the display and free of distractions experience that you get on a dedicated ereader. And because I am suggesting two devices, I am going to avoid the iPad. I say go with a Nexus 7 and a Kindle Paperwhite. The Nexus 7 is $199 or $249 depending on storage (8GB or 16GB) and is running the latest in Android — 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Nexus 7 is great for all around entertainment to include audio, video, web surfing and even gaming. Finally, while I am still sporting a previous generation Kindle, if I were buying today it would be the Paperwhite for $119. Of course, if money is an issue, the lower priced Kindle (for $69) will still provide a great reading experience.