[FoRK] Computer for College Student

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jul 29 15:09:17 PDT 2010

Hi Jeff!

Get a MacBook, possibly a Pro, but not necessarily the best for a first 
year college student unless she's unusually responsible and 
party-computer-foul resistent.  Can't beat battery life, virus/etc. 
resistance, easy of backup / upgrade / local Apple Store maintenance.  
You can run VMWare Fusion for Windows / Linux as needed.  A good MacBook 
Pro is plenty powerful.  If you want to really deck out the set up, 
forgo a TV (maybe) and buy an HP LP3065 30" external monitor.  Can be 
driven, with an active cable, from all current Macs (or at least all Pro 
models).  Can't be beat, and has 3 inputs.  You can get refurb units 
with no bad pixels for about $1000.

The great thing about a desktop is that it is unlikely to be stolen.  
The MacBook, more of an issue.  For sync, set up a cloud storage account 
and keep the two computers in sync with it.  This can be a combination 
of a shared partition or replicated directories.  Have a portable drive, 
kept in the dresser or something, per system to plug into once a week 
for full bootable backup via Carbon Copy Pro or better.  (This basically 
does a versioned rsync to a drive that is bootable just by plugging into 
a Mac and booting with 'Option' held down.)

If theft or carelessness is a problem, get a iPad or netbook or cheap 
laptop to carry to class / library / home.  Either find long battery 
life or get a laptop with removable batteries, although college students 
don't seem to want to mess with that.

There is at least one good product for tracking and trying to recover 
stolen Mac laptops etc.  These are probably worth it.  Many things get 
stolen, lost, or broken at college.  Just plan for it.  Used cell phones 
aren't a bad solution for the chronically careless, except check the ESN 
with the carrier to make sure it isn't stolen before purchase.  I just 
created a working cell phone out of 3 dead ones and shipped it overnight 
to my daughter.

Why not a PC?  Short battery life, hard / expensive / slow to get fixed, 
Windows is not time effective (virus problems, chronic slow downs for 
most anti-virus software, updates, etc.) for anyone who isn't a 
self-supported IT pro, etc.  Even if she hasn't used a Mac, it is worth 
it overall.  You can buy in-person in-store instruction from Apple for 
something like $100/yr.  My daughter never used it once however.  She's 
maybe asked me about 3 questions in a year.

If you do go for a PC, consider Ubuntu, with Windows in a VM that is 
restorable perhaps.


On 7/29/10 10:05 AM, Jeffrey Kay wrote:
> Thought I’d ask my esteemed list members for some advice.
> I’m about to send my older daughter to college in the fall --- I’m a
> first-time college dad with half of the nest about to become empty (in 2
> years, my other daughter goes and then we’ll be empty-nesters :-).  I’m
> struggling with what sort of notebook to give her for college.  She’s
> intending to study architecture, but her first year will be mostly general
> education classes (architecture students don’t get to use AutoCAD until 2nd
> year) and, who knows, she may decide to study something else after a
> semester in the drafting lab.
> She currently has a Compaq CQ60
> (http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/hp-compaq-cq60-215dx/1707-3121_7-33496182.h
> tml) from a couple of years ago.  It’s a big, heavy laptop, but she likes
> the big screen because she uses it to run Photoshop (she’s something of a
> photographer).  Ideally I’d like to equip her with something that meets the
> following specs:
> 1)      Runs Photoshop well
> 2)      ~4 lbs or less
> 3)      ~6 hours battery life
> My choices seem to be:
> 1)      Let her keep her current laptop as a desktop system and buy her a
> netbook to take to class.  The challenge here is that I have to teach her
> how to move her files back and forth between her machines (Dropbox or
> similar is probably a good choice).  Also, the Compaq isn’t a great machine
> for Photoshop.
> 2)      Get her a new notebook computer meeting the above specs.  I’ve been
> looking at something like the Lenovo U450, but I’m not sure that’ll really
> do a good job with Photoshop.  Generally, the higher performance laptops
> chew up battery and I’d really like her to be able to go to class without
> carrying a brick.
> 3)      Give her a real desktop computer (probably give her my quad-core
> desktop system, giving me an opportunity to get something more powerful)
> with a monitor and a netbook to take to class for notes. Again, I’d have to
> set up networking between the two computers so she could move files back and
> forth, which might be overly complicated.  She also tends to like to sit on
> her bed and do her work, rather than at a desk.
> As is typical in these things, there are lots of conflicting specs :-) I’d
> appreciate any opinions on this subject.
> Thanks and hope everyone is having a great summer ---
> --- jeff | jeff at jeffreykay.com | www.jeffreykay.com (blog) |
> www.kayslens.com (photos) | kosherhog (twitter) | i'm a pc | החזיר כשר
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