Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas 2009 is almost here

The 2009 holiday season is almost here. Time for gift giving and gift getting, I suppose. As the semester draws to a close let's take a short look back at what's hot in in tech on campus.

The Flip camera or other small video camera is hot. The HD version of the Flip is now about $150. The standard definition version is about $100. Both are very effective as cameras which create web ready video. The quality is much better than your phone and they are probably worth putting on your Christmas list. There are other makers of these little cams. Kodak and Panasonic offer options. We are seeing students majoring in marketing, social work, education and physical education stop in to borrow these almost every day.

Smart phones (Blackberry or iPhones) are not making a huge splash yet. Only about 10% of our students own them, but as these models become cheaper and a part of base phone plans you will see more of them. In the next 3-4 years you will see phone apps that are designed to present campus level services, not just movie listings and sports scores. Keep an eye on a Smart phone option when it's time to renew your cell phone contract.

In an earlier post I talked a little about Music services. We have seen a large increase in the use of the streaming service Pandora.com . This is free for the first 40 hour per month. You can then pay 99 cents to finish out the month. This customizable "personal" radio station has really taken off. You can buy and extended Panadora service and take the music with you on your phone or MP3 player. This costs $36 a year. We really want students to "stay leagal" so we suggest you look at Pandora, Imeem, or some other music service.

Windows 7 is out, as you may have heard. About 90% of SU students are running Windows. Microsoft is really making this new operating system attractive to college students. Students can by it for $29. This offer runs out on January 3rd, so jump on it. You can look at the Microsoft site, but here is another option http://www.win741.com . The early reviews are very good. Since most students are using the now "old" Windows Vista, they might want to make the move.

Two stocking stuffers that you never have enough is are iTunes cards (again, stay legal) and Flash drives. The iTunes cards are everywhere. The Flash drives can be found almost anywhere. You can now by an 8GB drive for about $12 and a 16GB for about $25. These will hold almost every digital thing you will every own, except movies.

For movies, look at a BluRay player for your room. These have dropped way down in price. Most laptops will show HD now. Look for an HDMI slot on you laptop. You can buy a Bluray player for around $125.

Just some ideas for Christmas. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Digital media creation

Wait a minute, this seems a bit off topic. Perhaps so. I have been writing about the tech things that college freshman and upper classmen need to meet the needs and challenges of college life. Now I am going to talk about the creation of digital media.

Digital media includes audio and video. You probably watch and listen to a great deal of digital media, but may not have created too much. Of course if you post video or audio to YouTube or Facebook you are involved in digital media creation, and you should be. I think that ALL students should learn to create at least simple audio and video. Certainly for fun, but also for life after graduation. If you can do this you will have a key skill for ANY career field you choose. You also make yourself immediately useful and a little more distinctive than the mass of college grads.

You do not need to be Stephen Spielberg or some talk radio super star. There are simple tools which will get you there. Let's look at a few:

Flip cameras - whether standard definition or HD, you can buy a camera with excellent audio quality for well under $200. You may be able to borrow one from your campus media center for FREE. Make a short and informative clip to beef up your in class presentation. Think about doing a "man on the street" segment to lead discussion in any class. This seemingly simple skill translates to the world of work in almost any discipline.

Marantz audio recorders - these run about $500 and can often be borrowed from your media center. They are very high quality and easy to use. You can also use lower cost devices that can do the same thing. They generally produce crisp MP3 audio and this is what you need.

Editing - you can get FREE video editing software from Avid.com . Their Pinnacle product is free and can do most of what the average person needs. You can also use MovieMaker which is free with any PC or iMovie which comes with any MAC. If you want to do audio editing looking at Audacity. It is also FREE off the web. There are tools that cost a little more (than free), but offer more features. Adobe offers Soundbooth, Apple offers Garage Band, and Avid offers a light version of Pro Tools.

This is not rocket science, but give you and edge as a student and in the job market. They are also fun. Jump in.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Last minute tech gadgets to bring to campus

It's almost time to start the fall term. There are many lists on the web that tell what you what tech tools you "must" have to in college. Well, I would like to offer my version and these are pretty basic things that will make life easier and more secure.

Laptop bag - most students will have this, but I suggest either a messenger style bag or a backpack that has been designed to hold a laptop. Thes can be bought to fit any laptop size. They distribute the weight better than a briefcase style bag. They will also allow you to pack in a few books, notebook, or even extra clothes for the weekend. You should be able to get something nice for about $50.

Laptop lock - most students leave their laptops in their rooms and do not lug them around campus. Therefore its a good idea to lock it down when its on your dorm desk. Residence halls are social places with many friends or others just stopping by. A laptop is attractive and easy to pick up.

Portable storage - whether you are using a large external hard drive or a large "flash drive", you should have extra external storage to back up your files. Please back up assignments, papers, photos, and other personal digital stuff. You can buy an 8-16GB flash drive for less than $50. If you need tons of storage, you can buy an external hard drive and store millions of documents and photos. An external hard drive will cost about $100.

USB hub - this is not required, but can be useful. Most laptops will have 3-4 USB ports. The hub lets you add to this number and may make it easier to connect cameras, printers, music players and other devices.

Headphones Most students have ear buds from their music player and this may be fine, even when you need to connect to your laptop. You might want to upgrade to noise cancelling headphones if outside noise really bugs you. Residence halls can get noisy. BTW, students also use their heaphones to connect to computers in the library, computer labs, computer kiosks around campus.

Music services - this is free!! I use Pandora (www.pandora.com), but there are others. These allow you to listen to all of the music you like, legally. Streaming services can be used comfortably on the wired and wireless networks.

That's about it. If you are wondering whether campuses are moving toward e-books, they are not. We are just seeing this and it is not on a grand scale. I would hold off on buying the e-book reader. We do use MyClasses, our web based campus learning management system. This is free to students and usually contains lots of materials for a given class. Ask you instructors more about this.

Have a great start to the semester.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So what does the CIOs son bring to college?

My son will be a freshman at SU in the fall 2009. This is an exciting time for him. He is our youngest child and so we have been through the orientation and registration processes before. His sisters are 8 and 10 years older than he, so the technology scene was not even an issue in their day. The landscape has definitely changed.

As mentioned in my last post, almost all students come to campus with a computer these days and most of these are laptops. Oddly, at least to me, we are not seeing students walking all over campus with their laptops. We do see some, but not a large number. Students say that they don't need them in most classes, they are heavy to carry around, and they are concerned about damaging them. This leads me to think that for most students the laptop is a desktop replacement computer that is portable. Great for taking home for the weekend or to the library on special occasions. Note that the library already has many computers and so students generally use these.

With all of this in mind went for a large screen laptop (17") with a CD/DVD drive for listening to music or recording/playing video. You can also get a Bluray drive if you want HD movie capability. The larger screen makes the computer great for work, surfing the web and even watching movies. You could also buy a TV tuner to enable cable TV plugin. We did not go this far. One other note, make sure you have 3-4 USB slots for printers, campers, music players, etc. The weight for this is about 7.5 pounds. You would not want to run all over campus with it, but it provides mobility and large unit features. You might want to consider some inexpensive external speakers or headphones. Laptop speakers are generally poor.

We did not spend a great deal of money. We bought an HP for $649. It has an AMD chip which brings the price down a bit. It has 4MB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. For software, we are buying it all through the campus. SU has programs with Microsoft to buy the full office suite. SU also provides the McAfee security suite for FREE. BTW, the choice of the HP had a great deal to do with price at the time. We also bought through a local store so that we could return it if something went wrong and it did. I did not buy the extended warranty because at this price I could replace the laptop for only a bit more. It came with 30 days parts/labor warranty and another 90 days on parts. Your choice.

Graduation is over and many may already bought the laptop. I am sure you made a great choice, but if not I hope this was helpful.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Looking back at freshmen tech use for 2008 class

We recently completed our annual student technology survey. The results are always interesting as we try and determine what technologies students are using and what new services we might want to consider. This year, we had over 800 responses of which 165 were from freshmen. I want to share what they thought and the decisons they made with regard to technology. Perhaps this will help the class of 2009.

Freshmen respondents lived on campus for the most part (82%). Over 99% of the freshmen owned a computer. Of these 89.7% had laptops. This is a big change from just a few years ago. We are seeing growth in number of MAC laptops (17), but PC laptops still hold the lions share (74%). Netbooks, those new super small and light wight intenet devices, are just making an an appearance with freshmen (1.2%). These "super lights" are pretty limited in storage and computing power, but they are very easy to carry around. As more applications and services are available through the internet, these new devices may grow in popularity.

If you are wondering which manufacturers students are purchasing from, the survey revealed that Dell (40%), HP (24%) and Apple (17%). Other computer makers represented less than 10% each. SU does not have a computer requirement and does not endorse one maker over another. We are seeing the trend towards toward laptops which serve as both work machines and multi-media entertainment computers. With wireless access all over the campus, this makes sense.

Cell phone ownership is ubiquitous with over 99% of freshmen surveyed owning a cell phone. Freshmen are most often using traditonal low cost cell phones (91%) over Smart phones like the iPhone or Blackerry (7.8% total). In additon to making calls they are texting (98%) and taking pictures (90%). We are watching mobile use closely. It is expected that univerities will need to be offering more and more services for the cell phone in the future.

One other interesting stat, the class of 2008 is using the internet as a core part of their classes. Over 94% of this year's freshmen use the campus web based learning management system to supplement their in class activities. Faculty and students have embraced the web as a virtual learning space.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So how about storage in the cloud?

Last month I talked about storage and the need to backup your work. It is critical that you save copies of papers, photos, and presentations. After the assignment is done, you may think that you don't need it anymore. You may be right, but you never know when you might want to refer back to this information for a future paper or project. These days, there is no reason not to save it. Digital storage is so inexpensive and accessible, you really should hang on to things.

Last month I talked about thumb or flash drives. These have gotten very inexpensive and are super portable. For large projects, like videos, a separate large hard drive may be worth the investment. If you are a film or music major, this may be a good idea.

These are good options, but how about cloud storage? You are just starting to here about cloud storage and cloud services. These are internet based services which enable you to access the storage or software, in some cases, from anywhere. Of course you need to be able to get to the internet, but once your stuff is stored there you don't need to worry about losing your thumb drive or have your hard drive die on you.

Here are some amazing, and free, services.

www.acrobat.com allows you to save up to 5GB of content for free. You create an account and save away. This service also includes a free collaborative word processing application and even allows you to video conference.

Yahoo has offered a small amount of free storage with their free email services for years. At briefcase.yahoo.com you can have 30MB of storage for free. This does not sound like much, but is convenient if you already use the yahoo email service.

Microsoft offers 25GB of free storage as a part of their Windows Live offering. This is huge. You just sign up at skydrive.live.com . You can store documents, music, videos at other things. The one downside is that each file uploaded cannot exceed 50MB. This is still very large unless you want to upload a movie.

If you need a super huge amount of storage, say 100-500GB, you can by it inexpensively from Google. You pay an annual fee.

The beauty of these options is that they maintain your content and they back it up. You need to get to the internet to retrieve it or storage more.

Most campuses limit your network storage to 100-300MB or less, so all of these options are pretty solid. Think about it.