Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

Summary:Wherever you are - be it at home or on holiday - you'll need these to keep you ticking over through the summer months, from multi-protocol instant messengers to multi-device tools.

Summer it is, and July for most symbolises the start of the two to three month gap between academic years. Though regardless of where you are, what timezone you are in or the climate you have to suffer - the heat or the monsoon aside, you will be spending a good portion of that time with your eyes at a screen.

Nimbuzz or Palringo (instant messenger)

Both instant messengers are available to a wide variety of mobile devices, including BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Nokia and Java supported phones. With this, it allows anyone to use an instant messenger on the go regardless of device type. What's best is that they are multi-protocol, allowing you to connect multiple accounts to keep in touch with the largest number of people possible - including Facebook.

FarmVille for iPhone (Facebook game)

So many people are hooked on FarmVille, and with the new iPhone 4 features though lacking Flash, allows users to download a dedicated application to play as they go. Since getting my hands on the Maemo/Linux based Nokia N900 just before Christmas, and shown first hand the power of the device, so much so that it can run a memory-intensive Flash application like FarmVille, I've been dying to see it be ported to the mobile.

Well now it has. But, it's only available for iPhone 4 users which is still a fairly small minority in the grand scheme of mobile users.

WinFF (media converter)

If you're due to spend time travelling and on the train, bored out of your wits and crawling up the walls with need of entertainment, pop some downloaded videos or music on your phone. You can already use complicated device-branded media converters and spend half your time searching and installing specialist codecs, but surely there's a simpler way?

WinFF is a drag-and-drop utility which works for Windows and Ubuntu, where you select the kind of file (by device) you want to convert and it does it. Sure, for the duration it displays a daunting, confusing command line prompt with numbers and frame rate data, but it does it converts most file types simply, quickly and without a fuss.

FilesTube (media search engine)

On that note, music and video which others have uploaded to the web - in form of movies, television shows and albums - can be searched in Google-esque style through FIlesTube. You may have to wade through pop-up's and porn adverts, but you find what you want in an instant and it's more secure and less concerning than using torrents.

Twitter Mobile (social network)

Though many students still don't use Twitter as they are waiting for the influx of their friends to join and to follow, it can be a vital tool for keeping up to date with the information that you want. It's not just irreverent messages posted by celebrities, but news ranging far and wide, which is kept in a small, contained environment similar to an RSS reader.

With their open API and therefore wide range of varying third-party applications, useful for being on the go and not wanting to churn up your network data charges.

VirtualBox and Ubuntu 10.04 (virtualisation)

A few days ago I asked you, the reader, to experiment with something new other than Windows. This summer will give you plenty of dispensable time to allow you to get your head around a rather popular alternative.

Install VirtualBox on Windows (preferably on a relatively powerful machine), download the CD image of Ubuntu 10.04 client which is the latest version and appears more user-interface friendly, and follow this guide which, besides it installing a server version, is very much still the same process.

At least this way you don't replace your entire operating system, potentially screw your system up, and can come out of it back into your comfort zone just by hitting the bid red cross in the top-right hand corner.

BitMeter II (bandwidth monitor)

Those who are heading on holiday or into the next city along to visit friends, and are using a wireless hotspot with restrictions on bandwidth, it's a good idea to keep check of how much data you are using to ensure you don't get charged extortionate amounts by accident.

BitMeter II sits in your system tray and keeps a simple check on how much bandwidth you are using in graphical and numerical format. It uses practically no memory and is a free, small download.

BeeTagg (QR code reader)

As I found out a few weeks ago on my visit to New York, the use of QR codes - barcode-like graphics which embed information, text or web addresses which can be read by mobile devices - are used a fair bit in and around the busy city. Having an application which reads these codes is necessary to understand them. BeeTagg is free and available over a wide variety of devices

Bloom (Facebook photo uploader)

When you get snap-happy, you eventually remember that taking so many photos can be a burden - especially when it comes to uploading them on Facebook. The in-built uploader can be slow and regularly just not work, so having an image uploader for Windows, Mac and Linux systems can be very useful to have on hand.

What will you be using this summer that you couldn't live without?

Topics: Ubuntu, Hardware, iPhone, Nokia, Operating Systems, Servers, Smartphones, Virtualization, Wi-Fi, Windows

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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