Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

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, Wi-Fi, Virtualization, Smartphones, Servers, Operating Systems, Nokia, iPhone, Windows

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  • Odd collection...

    Okay, I'm no student, but I wouldn't call many of those essential.

    I use Trillian on my Mac, Windows and iPhone (plus web interface) as my IM client of choice. I also bought a lifetime Astra account, which allows me to define my IM accounts once and wherever I log in, I just need to log on my Astra account and the rest is downloaded automatically.

    Farmville? Are you serious? I pity the youth of today! ;-)

    WinFF - I download more podcasts each week than I can generally listen to, so I don't need extra videos or music, but a good tip.

    I've tried a lot of clients for Twitter and must say, I keep coming back to Tweetdeck, even if the desktop version is reliant on the awful Adobe Air platform.

    Having deleted my FaceBook account (a few weeks before it became fashionable to do so), I don't need any apps for that. I also have much more time for my real life.

    I'd add Evernote and Dropbox to the list (or MS Skydrive).
    • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

      @wright_is Well, being a student, I'd say these areas are pretty essential and necessary. If you don't know first-hand, you can't comment. Everyone's different - these are just suggestions.
      • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

        @zwhittaker Farmville? Why not go and work on a real farm over the summer, you could earn a few quid at the same time (as opposed to giving it out for virtual items) and actually grow real crops! ;-)

        As I said, the Farmville thing is bizarre as an "essential" app. I offered some useful alternatives in many of the other areas, it wasn't just a bashing. ;-)
    • For "essential" it sure looks like a list for the lazy azz student.

      I was wondering the same as you.

      This list looks more like a list for students that don't have a real life and just waste their the time in front of the computer talking / bragging about their non-existent social life.
      • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

        @wackoae You know it's... the summer, right? As I pointed out, it's when students are NOT at university :)
      • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

        [i]This list looks more like a list for students that don't have a real life and just waste their the time in front of the computer talking / bragging about their non-existent social life. [/i]

        LOL. But ain't it the truth, with Farmville serving as a fitting case in point. Dude, take to the hills and get some fresh air now that summer has arrived. Get out of that academic igloo and self imposed pooterville you're in around the clock. It'll do you some good, trust me.

        You can thank me for the 2c later.
      • PS

        Oh, and leave your electronic toys and gadgets (aka albatrosses) behind! Yes, every last one of them - except say your cell phone for emergencies. Now go get lost.
  • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

    As a "student" you feel necessary to have a frontend to a bunch of IM Services, encoding media software, being aware of your bandwitdh and Facebook junk?

    What kind of students the institutions are preparing for the World?

    Another Suggestion for the author: 's/Student/Lazy Student/g' from the title.
    • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

      @wyatt77 Well just think the power that social media has in the world nowadays. It's an important, powerful skill to have and to know.
      • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer


        I don't think it has any power, other than to addict the masses. Being popular doesn't make it powerful.
      • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

        @zwhittaker I agree with you about the so-called power of the social media (taken in a self referenced way from social media).

        But talking about skills: which skills? Skills for posting stupid comments about our mood, putting pictures on the Net or even worse playing to a nonsense farming game? Are those skills a student needs? We both know the answer: NO.
        Didn't mean to criticize all the article, Zack, I was just really mislead from the title: I was expecting useful stuff for studying :D (Being a student, I never quit studing, even during summer).

    • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

      @klumper Personally, yeah I do. I'll take my crappy Nokia 5130 as a phone... just in case I need it, but I'll usually head somewhere like the Lake District where you can't get a phone, radio, TV or Internet connection for miles :)
    • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

      @wyatt77 +1 purely because of the vi reference ;)
  • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

    "Nimbuzz or Palringo"

    I suppose if you're looking for a phone app. Trillian or Pidgin on a PC.

    "FarmVille for iPhone"

    Meh, those Facebook games tend to cripple your experience if you don't have a large network and/or you don't pay for premium items. No thanks, I think I'll stick with Plants vs Zombies and other PopCap games, as well as some more serious games like Civilization and WoW.

    "FilesTube (media search engine)"

    No thanks. Especially if you have to wade through porn ads. I pretty much gave up on the idea of file sharing and went legit.

    "Twitter Mobile"

    Bah, don't even use Twitter on PC.

    "VirtualBox and Ubuntu 10.04 "

    Meh, not in the mood to try a failing OS again. It's been the "next desktop OS" for the last 10 years. For me at least, it's long past time for the verdict to be in, and I've made my verdict. If I want to try an alternative to Windows, I'll try Mac OS X.


    Never seen bar codes in places beyond store bought products. Also sounds pretty useless rather than a "crucial" app.


    If you're on Windows, Windows Live Photo Gallery is much better. The current Beta has upload to Facebook (And Skydrive) built in.

    "What will you be using this summer that you couldn?t live without?"

    Office 2010. Especially since I'm taking summer classes, OneNote 2010.



    Windows Live Photo Gallery.

    Steam. (games)

    Xfire. (IM for gamers)

    ToDoList by AbstractSpoon.

    TealAuto. (Why does something like this not exist in a newer, more modern format? It's a Windows 9x app, although it works in Windows 7)





    • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

      @CobraA1 Why not just set up your own blog and just write that instead?
      • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

        @zwhittaker Because I'm not interested in having an audience or a following. It would just be one more thing to worry about.

        EDIT: And, frankly, I've tried, but without much success. I'm just not good at turning out new material often enough to hold the interest of an audience. It takes a lot of effort to maintain a blog.
    • RE: Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

      @CobraA1 Thanks for the list. I downloaded about half after doing some reading on what they could do. THis was more handy than the original list ;)
  • Essential

    I think the word "essential" was a, "OMG, I will die if I don't get a pair of those is ESSENTIAL that I get a pair". My question is, why is the virtual box/Ubuntu on there and why is that essential? Is just to learn Ubuntu? (which is useful, I am just curious)

  • Hold on

    Where is

    Trillian (Trillian 5 is going to own all IM clients)
    MS Office
    Windows Live Mail
    Windows Live Photo Gallery
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Crucial apps for surviving the student summer

    I was wondering the same as you