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Back to school tech tips

John Muyskens shares some technology tips for the 2012-13 school year. Photo courtesy Dropbox.

John Muyskens shares some technology tips for the 2012-13 school year. Photo courtesy Dropbox.

John Muyskens shares some technology tips for the 2012-13 school year. Photo courtesy Dropbox.

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Dropbox. There is no easier solution for keeping files backed up to the cloud, synchronized across your devices and accessible anywhere with an internet connection. Its also perfect for sharing a pesky powerpoint presentation that exceeds the email attachment file size limit. Laptop under the weather? If you keep your school files in your dropbox, you won’t get behind on schoolwork. Your flash drive will be gathering crumbs in the bottom of your bag from those sandwiches you’ve been smuggling out of Uppercrust.

External hard drive. They’re cheaper and faster than ever with 1 TB USB 3.0 models retailing for under $100. Be prepared for catastrophe by keeping your entire computer backed up. Give your system’s hard drive a little breathing room by finding a new home for your albums of amateur wedding photography (you’ll know by spring how much disk space you’ll need to allocate). Leave 10-15 percent of your drive empty for defragmenting, a process that optimizes hard drive performance and happens automatically in Windows 7 and Mac OS X.

Ethernet cable. No, you can’t all watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic at the same time over the WiFi. You can pick up an ethernet cable for free from C.I.T. There’s also the added benefit of seeing your floormates’ dubstep playlists in iTunes so you can find the track that’s been wubbing precisely at your hall’s resonant frequency.

Google Drive. Next time your professor assigns some group work or hands out a review sheet that’s longer than any of the reading assignments, fear not! A Google doc will make collaboration easy and fun. Watching your peers edit the document in real time is the closest you’ll get to a marauder’s map experience at Calvin. Recent updates have cleaned up the interface and added Google Web Fonts integration – now there are hundreds of fonts to choose from and annoy your friends with. I’m even writing this article with it!

Webprint. This will change your life. When you’ve added the final citation to your bibliography, given your paper a good luck skim through, and your professor is expecting ten pages in his hands in as many minutes, the last thing you want to do is waste half of that time logging on to a public machine and locating your paper. Webprint allows you to upload your file and send it to printers all over campus. Protip: I upload PDFs of my papers to webprint so it will get my font choices and formatting right. I’m a Caslon guy.

Turn it off. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, making it harder to get to sleep. Yesteryear this was OK as the chief source of light in a melatonin-inhibiting frequency was daylight and artificial lighting only gave off warmer hues, but nowadays, thanks to the ubiquity of glowing gadget screens, we can bathe our eyeballs in electromagnetic frequencies ranging between 460 and 480 nanometers at any time of day or night. Staying up late is a part of the college experience, which, unfortunately is oft at odds with getting enough sleep and not conducive to to producing the clear mind and well-rested spirit of the fruitful academe. Being the guiltiest (and most hypocritical party, having written this at two in the morning) I speak from experience. I’ll admit that staying up late deep into a fifth tangent orbiting a topic none of your friends can recall anymore is an essential part of college, but trust me on this one: those Doctor Who/Avengers cross fandom mashup gifs will be just as clever in the morning.

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