Some back-to-school gift ideas

August 24, 2009

by Mark Ollig

The common question being heard by many is, “where did the summer go?”

Even though we still have weeks of summer-like weather left, the actual number of days until school opens for our students is down to a precious few.

This humble and forever investigative columnist was looking over the back-to-school gift ideas on one of my online sources for all things tech, called CNET, and I wanted to share a few of them with you.

Back in the day, before I returned to school (long live the‘70s), I would be shopping for “low-tech” items, such as ballpoint pens, pencils, folders, and notebooks. These particular notebooks, however, were not computers, but of the 3-subject spiral-bound variety and included 120 sheets of lined paper.

Of course, students today need to be safe, and what could be safer than having a safe external backup storage device for all of their school-related data?

There are so many to choose from. One is an external hard drive made by Western Digital which holds a huge 1TB (one terabyte) of data. If you remember, 1TB is equal to one-thousand gigabytes worth of disk storage.

This 1TB hard drive plugs into your computer via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port.

I still find it amazing to think how a terabyte of storage can hold 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Western Digital “My Book Essential 1TB External Hard Drive” is available at most of the popular electronic stores and sells for around $140. It works on both Windows and Mac Operating Systems.

If your student is looking to save space, either in their backpack or the dorm room, the smaller, more compact Netbook computer is worth looking at.

Today’s Netbooks are more powerful and cost less than ever before, and we are all for saving money these days.

The smaller Netbook computers can perform the same tasks as a larger laptop, and are easier to tow across a campus or down the school hallway every day.

One Netbook model is called the HP Mini 110. This Netbook fits conveniently on a student’s desk, which makes it much easier when typing out those lengthy and insightful lecture notes.

In looking at the technical features, I am very impressed with the HP Mini 110. It has a large 160 GB hard drive and a powerful 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor.

The HP Mini 110 Netbook has a large 10.1” LED antiglare widescreen display with a 1024 x 576 resolution, which is a good size for a Netbook computer.

There is also a built-in wb cam and a Wi-Fi connection for wireless access to the Internet.

The internal 3-cell lithium-ion battery will provide power for three hours before needing a recharge.

Windows XP Home SP3 is the bundled Operating System the Netbook comes with.

The HP Mini 110 weighs in at just a little over two-and-a-half pounds.

The HP Mini Netbook (Model 110-1025DX) is priced at around $330.

When I was in high school typing out a school term paper on my Smith Corona, (that’s a manual typewriter with ink ribbons, kids) I would be listening to the music from the stack of records playing on my stereo’s turntable. Today, we are downloading music and listening to it over iPods, iPhones, Zunes, and other mobile devices.

The popular music source called Napster (now owned by Best Buy) is still out there.

A person can legally download unlimited streaming music (including 60 MP3 downloads) from them and listen to it for only $60 per year.

One is able to listen to entire albums or individual artist catalogs, from all the major music labels and even thousands of independent musical artists.

Napster has an interesting program for MP3 credits which can be used to download any music track in Napster’s catalog and can be played on any compatible listening device, like the iPod, Zune player, and music-enabled cell phones.

I also liked how Napster can automatically add your MP3s to iTunes or Windows Media Player, which makes transferring music simple.

Napster has an online music catalog of over seven million songs, which probably includes tunes which are among some of our back-to-school student’s favorites.

For more information on Napster, visit them at http://www.napster.com.

Check out more high-tech back-to-school gift ideas by visiting CNET at http://reviews.cnet.com/back-to-school-gift-ideas/.

The Bits_blogger reports the Web Site of The Week will feature West Philadelphia’s “The School of the Future” so be sure to stop by the online forum and check it out.