Student Technology Survival Guide

It’s almost time for a new semester. Are you prepared to meet all the technological challenges waiting around the corner? Use this Student Technology Survival Guide to catch up, then get equipped to stay caught up!

By Jonathan Higdon
Jonathan-Higdon@mocs.utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) — It’s almost that time of year again. The holidays will soon be over, new calendars will be hung up on the walls, and resolutions will have been made—and broken—and we will be at the beginning of yet another semester. As the new school term begins, it might be a good idea to take a moment and evaluate the technological resources at your disposal—and as a student, those resources are virtually limitless.

Personal Computer

It’s safe to say that in the year 2011, most students are equipped with their own personal computer. However, the timeless debates of last decade still linger: desktop or laptop? Mac or PC? Everyone has his or her own opinions on these issues, but fortunately for the college crowd, most computer manufacturers have budget-friendly discounts for students and educators alike.

UTC students can order directly from manufacturers like Apple and Dell, but the University of Tennessee system has a computer store in Knoxville, which offers the same—if not better—discounts on technology. And this is not simply limited to personal computers, but includes software and accessories as well. The best part? UTC students don’t even have to travel to Knoxville. The Bookstore Technology Center will ship your purchases to Chattanooga.

Tablet PC

This is becoming a quickly growing market thanks to the popularity of the iPad. The emergence of competitors like Hewlett-Packard and Google have added further legitimacy to the market, and many students are adopting tablet PCs as alternatives to laptops for in-class electronic note taking.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab, a popular tablet computer.

As the iPad is currently the leader in tablet computing, many productivity application developers are focusing on the iPad’s iOS operating system. Several must-have apps for iPad-toting students include Pages for word processing, SketchBook Pro for drawing (much more practical than it sounds), and Dropbox for portable file management.

Media Player

Just a few years ago, an iPod would have been on the technology survival guide of any self-respecting collegiate news outlet. Thanks to the advent of the iPhone, the Android operating system, and now the Windows Phone 7, however, the iPod has gone the way of the Discman, the minidisc player, and the Walkman. Many students have traded in their scroll wheels for touch screens, opting for smart phones with media player capabilities instead of dedicated music or movie devices.

The HTC Surround, one of many new phones supporting the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

Like the iPad, an “iOS” device leads the smart phone market, and student iPhone users would be wise to take advantage of the iPhone counterparts to the SketchBook and Dropbox apps mentioned earlier. However, because the iPhone is not as viable an option for note taking as the iPad, it is important to explore other options. The Dragon Dictation app for the iPhone will transcribe recorded audio, and whereas its transcriptions might require a small amount of tweaking, the app works very well when no other means of note taking are available.

Calculator

I was surprised to learn that one of my friends was using her old TI-83+ from high school. Most of us remember these more for their game-playing ability than their power as a graphing calculator. However, the truth remains that graphing calculators still hold a place in a student’s backpack—even those of the more technology-savvy.

Most of the smart phones mentioned earlier include advanced calculator features—a far cry from the meager tip calculators found on cell phones from the early 2000s. There is almost no reason why a smart phone calculator would not be more than sufficient for an average college student, provided

  1. His or her professor does not object to calculating on the same device used to send and receive electronic messages
  2. He or she does not have to plot points or regression lines on a grid (but even then, one of many third-party apps can achieve the desired effect)
  3. He or she does not wish to play one of the many high-quality games popularized by the Texas Instruments platform

The iPhone calculator included more advanced functions when the screen is rotated.

Social Networks

You would be hard-pressed to find a student on a college campus who does not participate in some social network. Facebook is by far the most popular, but MySpace has maintained a following thanks to its dedicated musician pages. Either site provides an uncomplicated—and often more accessible—means of communication between students.

Twitter, however, is an interesting site that often gets grouped into the “social network” category. Tweets are as much a part of social networking as a blog entry; therefore Twitter is really more of a publishing platform than a true “social network.” UTC takes advantage of the publishing power of Twitter, including the handles @UTChattanooga, @UTC_Admissions, and @MocsNews, among others.

The Bottom Line

Students seem to be the most valuable consumers for technology companies. Computer manufacturers have exclusive deals and partnerships for students, developers appear to find a niche market in the student population, and students reciprocate by being among the first to adopt new technologies and innovations. In the ever-changing world of technology and the even more ever-changing world of technology sales and promotions, it’s important to stay abreast of new developments.

Websites like Wired, Engadget, and Gizmodo are excellent sources for technology news and information, but I have found one that stands above the rest for students. Lifehacker details deals (for students and non-students alike) and emphasizes free products, lending itself to be an invaluable resource for a college student operating on a college student budget. Wherever you look for student technology resources, keep your eyes open. The best is surely yet to come, and you won’t want to miss it!

Android phones have users ‘doing the robot’

In October 2008 a new phone operation system hit the mobile market and changed connectivity as the world knew it forever. It was called Android, personified by a friendly green robot avatar and seemingly endless opportunity. Experts lauded its coming, comparing its technological relevance to the groundbreaking Apple iPhone, and named it one of the top 10 greatest inventions of the 21st century so far.androiddroid

It all started in 2005 when Google acquired Android, Inc., a small start-up company based in Palo Alto, California.This began rumors that Google was planning to enter the mobile phone market, although it was unclear what function it might perform in that market. At Google, a team soon developed a mobile device platform powered by the Linux kernel operating system which they marketed to handset makers and mobile carriers on the premise of providing a flexible, upgradeable system.

“There is tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner’s location and preferences,” Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms at Google said. “If people are smart, that information starts getting aggregated into consumer products.”

Android phones all have a nice touch screen interface like the iPhone, but that’s only the beginning. There are a couple of features that distinguish the Android phones from other touch screens. One is that Google built Android as an open architecture. That means anyone can create and develop applications and enhancement for the phones, making them infinitely customizable. To date, there are over 10,000 applications in the Android Market.

“One of the reasons why I want to get an Android phone with my next phone update is because they’re very user-friendly and super customizable, so you really feel like its ‘your’ phone in every aspect, ” Siam Greco, a Verizon customer said.

Other touchscreen phones like the iPhone let you add apps, but users can’t really change the core interface. For example, if a user doesn’t really like the way his/her Android phone handles text messages, he or she can download a different text messaging application, which is free.

“If less money is being spent at the Android app store versus Itunes and others, developers must deal with price constraints due to competition. Users do not want to pay for things if they don’t have to, ” Walter Hooper, a Verizon Droid owner said. ” Android users are not forced to use a credit card on their account unlike the iPhone app store. iPhone users have to have a credit card on their account to even be able to use their phones.”

Google predicts there are now or will soon be Android phones on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The phones themselves are manufactured by a variety of companies such as Samsung, Motorola and HTC. The phone units vary in size; some are pure touch screens and others have keyboards as well, but every Android phone will work in a similar way. So in the future, a user will be able to switch phones or carriers and never have to learn a new set of menus.

Android has seen a number of updates since its original release. These updates to the base Operating System typically fix bugs and add new features.
On 30 April 2009, the official 1.5 (Cupcake) update for Android was released.   There were several new features and updates included in version 1.5 including:

  • Ability to record and watch videos with the camcorder mode
  • Uploading videos to YouTube and pictures to Picasa directly from the phone
  • A new soft keyboard with an “Autocomplete” feature
  • Bluetooth A2DP support
  • Ability to automatically connect to a Bluetooth headset within a certain distance
  • New widgets and folders that can populate the desktop
  • Animations between screens
  • Expanded ability of Copy and Paste to include web pages

    A cupcake was placed beside Android at Googleplex to commemorate the 1.5 release of Android.

    A cupcake was placed beside Android at Googleplex to commemorate the 1.5 release of Android.

On 15 September 2009, the 1.6 (Donut) SDK was released. Included in this update:

  • An improved Android Market experience.
  • An integrated camera, camcorder, and gallery interface.
  • Gallery now enables users to select multiple photos for deletion.
  • Updated Voice Search, with faster response and deeper integration with native applications, including the ability to dial contacts.
  • Updated search experience to allow searching bookmarks, history, contacts, and the web from the home screen.
  • Updated Technology support for CDMA/EVDO, 802.1x VPN, Gestures, and a Text-to-speech engine
  • Speed improvements for searching, the camera.

On 26 October 2009 the 2.0 (Eclair)  was released. This is currently the most recent version of Android. Among the changes added were:

  • Optimized hardware speed
  • Support for more screen sizes and resolutions
  • Revamped UI
  • New browser UI and HTML5 support
  • New contact lists
  • Better white/black ratio for backgrounds
  • Improved Google Maps 3.1.2
  • Microsoft Exchange support
  • Built in flash support for Camera
  • Digital Zoom
  • Improved virtual keyboard
  • Bluetooth 2.1

 

The first US marketed Android phone, the G1 was released by T-Mobile

The first US marketed Android phone, the G1 was released by T-Mobile

Google has also participated in the Android Market by offering several applications for its services. These applications include Google Voice for the Google Voice service, Scoreboard for following sports, Sky Map for watching stars, Finance for their finance service, Maps Editor for user’s MyMaps service, Places Directory for their Local Search, Secrets for safely storing passwords and My Tracks, a jogging application.

Android phones that include the ‘Google Experience’ also have Google Search, Google Calendar, Google Maps and Gmail integrated.

With estimates to have several phones on all carriers by this time next year, Android projects to be the #2 phone operating system worldwide by 2010 second only to Nokia’s operating system.