Technology top tips for students

Jump straight into the deep-end with some money recovering and time saving tips to ensure you get what you need as efficiently as possible.1.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

Jump straight into the deep-end with some money recovering and time saving tips to ensure you get what you need as efficiently as possible.

1. Use your university network to download on-demand television
Many universities have very high-end network bandwidth running into the campus. We're lucky as we have a 1GB line into ours, and it's bloody fast. In many cases, you can almost guarantee that your campus network speeds are a lot faster than your home broadband, so you may as well use it to your advantage.

For where you can get on-demand television, take a laptop up to a public PC area in your university and start downloading. For those in the UK, you need a television licence only to watch live broadcasts; provided there is at least a 15 minute delay between something being broadcast on television and you watching it, you're safe. In the case of BBC iPlayer and 4oD, downloading and watching previously broadcast material is perfectly legal.

When possible, use Ethernet instead of wireless as most university wireless networks use WPA-TKIP for enterprise networks, meaning you have to login with your university account before access is granted. High peaks of bandwidth use can be traced to your account, whereas Ethernet shouldn't identify you too easily, especially in public PC access rooms.

2. Invest in a Rapidshare account So many wonderful things out there are hosted on Rapidshare, a data farm full of storage and wilful people uploading their files, wares, films and media and other fantastic things. For around £5 ($10) a month, you can upload and download as much stuff as you want, provided you can find the links for them.

Most links are for TV websites which allow you to download television, films and things like that. However, many programs and developers upload to Rapidshare as a simple, stable form of online storage. I've downloaded over 26GB in two weeks, but then again, I have been without the Internet at home.

3. Consider alternative printing If it costs to print on campus, consider buying a printer. If you can be arsed to work out the printing costs, you may find it's cheaper overall. Consider it more of an investment, and even though you'll have to keep buying cartridges and toner, you can still nick huge wads of paper from the back of printers on campus.

You can see my printing usage over the last year of being at university, and it's not that great - even though I've spent over £20 ($41) in printing costs. Having said that, when I got my printer through (free with extra cartridges), it would have saved me over £300 ($605) altogether.

4. Dodge the mobile phone, wherever possible
The mobile phone is a wonderful invention, spearheaded by battlefield commanders in the trenches of some ghastly war of some description. You can tell I haven't researched this one; it's 25°C on the south-east coast of England, and sure, you may think that's nothing compared to Texas this time of year - but we're not used to it. It's hot, I'm tired, and can't think straight.

Mobile/cell phones cost money, especially the "money saving pay-as-you-go" tariffs. Considering most university campuses have a wifi-cloud all over them, use the free wireless vibes around you to your advantage. Use your webcam to communicate, Facebook messages or wall posts, instant messenger, these sorts of things. Most students are closer to their laptops than their cell phones nowadays; use what's available first before spending money calling someone.

5. Wifi-cell phone Again with the wifi-cloud, using the technology which is readily available, buy a phone which has wireless capabilities, beyond those of the ordinary cell network. With added technologies included like VoIP, Internet telephony, SIP etc., this allows you to keep in touch for free by setting up accounts with SIP and mobile VoIP services.

Think about it, where are you going to be? On campus, in your house (which will most likely have wireless broadband), or a pub/club or somewhere with other people. The chances of these not having wireless broadband is slim to none. Use what's already around you to your advantage.

6. Add your network share to the cloud
Some establishments are kind enough to offer your network shared files anywhere; you may be able to view them on a read-only web server format, or you may even have VPN access. Sometimes this is "too much of a security risk" and can't be done. Why not share your files with yourself, and yourself only then?

By setting up your network share to the cloud, you can access it anywhere, when VPN isn't possible. Whether you use Live Mesh, Foldershare or another program/service; if you have the permissions to perform it, it's a great time saver for the future.

7. Record your lectures, screencast your class sessions
Again, not every university records lectures for their students, thankfully many do though. By recording your lectures with a dictaphone, or using low-tech - your cell phone "voice recorder" function, you'll be able to listen back to them at a later date.

When you're in the classroom working hands-on with a technology or product, as part of your ordinary lecture schedules, you can have the same principle by recording what you're doing on screen. By screencasting what you're working on, if you're developing and learning a programming language as you go, you can see at a later stage how you've done something.

Not only that, it's a better way of revising when you get down to your exams.

8. Run an enterprise from your network share Most university networks have FTP/HTTP servers set up for multimedia students, linked in closely with a specific folder on their network share. Most likely, they're actually available for everyone, you just need to find the information to get it set up for you, presumably not a multimedia student.

This isn't guaranteed as every university network is different and some support certain things whereas others don't. However, if you can get your own web server set up from a folder on your network share to hold your web page files, you could start your own enterprise with next to nothing start-up costs.

9. Keep your music library online; listen anywhere
Instead of lugging around your music everywhere on a flash drive (I made it sound like such a chore, haha!) or wasting your limited quota space on your network share, search and store your music online.

Here's what I did. I created an account on FilesTube, which searches ordinary websites for media. I searched for all the music that I've got in my ordinary playlist; The Smiths - Panic, Paul McCartney - Band On The Run, a bit of Fleetwood Mac of course, and added them to an MP3 list.

Your music is stored online on many different web servers, belonging to many different people, and it's pulled together in one place so you can listen online without going over any quota space. Cool really.

10. Take what's rightfully yours, but don't push it Be very careful with this one. You pay between $6k-$40k (£3k-£20k) a year to be at university, depending on whether the Government steps in to help you out. For that, you don't just get an education, you get network access, resources, connections, social friendships and relationships - the list goes on. However, if you can pinch a university-branded flash drive here, a spare semi-broken router left behind a cupboard there, the occasional mouse-mat to boost your self esteem after your partner runs off with the course convenor (it's happened), then you should.

Don't get caught, don't do anything illegal, and for Christ's sakes, don't tell them that I said to do it; I'll deny all knowledge. It's the same principle as raiding the office stationary cupboard, but remember that kleptomania isn't the most attractive quality people look for, and it could be a one-way ticket to being marched off of campus for good.

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