Back-to-school backpack essentials
Along with your pens, notebooks, tablets and laptops, there are a few essential gadgets that will make life on campus a heck of a lot smoother.
No matter where you go to school or university, many students now are using personal portable technology. We've rounded up a few extra accessories that will make sure that you won't have to run into tech-based snags in your day-to-day school life.
To start with, you'll need a good, sturdy backpack that will protect your gear. Crumpler's Rampaging Mob was designed for the rough-and-tumble of commuting and cycling, so it's both comfortable and durable. It has an internal padded sleeve with velcro fastening for a laptop up to 15 inches, an extra large main compartment, an internal A4 document pouch, three internal pockets for bits and pieces and a vertical side pocket to hold a one-litre water bottle. Safety reflectors on the front and back make sure of high visibility, and a neoprene neck collar protects against chafing.
With a portable external battery pack, you can ensure that you always have enough power to make a phone call or save your work in a pinch. The Jackery Giant is close to the best value for money, with a massive 10,400mAh capacity. You'll have to charge it overnight, but that capacity will charge several smaller devices completely. If you want something a little smaller and lightweight, or available in Australian stores, Sony has a few available, but you don't get quite as much bang for your buck.
We cannot stress this enough: you should always, always, always back up your work and files. Always. That way if anything happens to your other devices, you don't have to start again from scratch. This is especially true for PhD theses, but it's a good habit to get into. The Western Digital My Passport Slim is, as the name suggests, slim and lightweight, and comes with one terabyte of storage, so that you can also have a backup of your music to carry around with you, USB 3.0, password protection, hardware encryption and a three-year warranty.
For transferring files, an external drive isn't necessarily the most efficient means. A USB flash drive will allow you to transfer documents quickly and easily between devices. They're all much of a muchness, and can be picked up relatively inexpensively from any electronics store in Australia.
This is being marketed to parents with younger children, but we imagine it would be useful for anyone who's a bit absent-minded. It consists of a set of labels, stickers and keyrings with a QR code and the owner's name that you can attach to your items. If you (or your child) then loses that item, the finder can scan the QR code, or enter an online code on the My Lost Property website, to notify you via SMS and email that the item has been found and that you can come and collect it. Of course, it won't work as well if the finder isn't honest, but it's a better safeguard than none at all.
Having a bunch of cables, gadgets, pens and other assorted sundries rattling around in your bag can lead to both a mess, and having to hunt through that mess to find the exact thing you're looking for. The Grid-It is an organizer that comes in a variety of sizes with overlapping elastic straps that fits into pretty much any bag. The versatility of the strap system means you can keep your gear neatly organised without wasting space.
With tablets seeing increasing use in the classroom, a good stylus could be a very useful thing to have indeed. Paired with an app, it allows you to sketch out diagrams or take notes. We quite like the, which, for all its size, offers quite a bit of versatility and comfort, but there are also available for those who are looking for a more pen-like experience.
A Bluetooth keyboard can convert a tablet into a good little machine for typing notes and other word processing tasks. We like the M Edge Stealth Pro, which is compact, comfortable to use, doubles as a case for keeping your tablet safe, and has compatibility with pretty much any 10-inch tablet on the market.
The Livescribe WiFi is more than just a pen. As you write, it records audio, making it the ideal tool for attending lectures. Its standout feature, though, is that it also links the words you write on the page to the audio, meaning that, post-class, you can tap your pen on a section of notes to hear the specific part of lecture when the notes were taken. All notes and audio are sent directly to your Evernote account, too, so that you can access them anywhere, from any device with internet access.