As college students, our computing needs are often fairly simple. A laptop (either the PC or Mac variety) and perhaps some sort of external hard drive for back-up are usually sufficient. A laptop takes care of everything: we take it to class to take notes, then bring it back to our rooms for some quality Facebooking afterwards. Everything’s in one package, easily accessible and portable.
And so we all follow this seemingly infallible computing arrangement, dragging our 13-, 15-, or 17-inch buddies around to classrooms, libraries, dorm rooms. Our lives are bound to these machines, as if they were very extensions of ourselves. Imagine life at Yale without your laptop for a week. Don’t wince too hard! For most of us, it’d be an unimaginable disaster.
But what if it actually happened? What if your hard drive failed, or your screen broke, or your DVD drive suddenly became no more useful than an expensive toaster? You go to get it fixed, and they tell you it’ll take a week. Your life flashes before your eyes. How will you write that English 120 paper without your computer? How will you find that cute girl in your French class on Facebook without your computer? You can’t. And many people do feel helpless in those few days without their computer.
So why not diversify your computing across more than one machine? Why place all your proverbial eggs in one computing basket? Having more than one computer can protect you from possible technology failure — and we all know how common that is — while also improving your life in more ways than one.
The most cost-effective combination, in my opinion, is a desktop and a netbook. The netbook is lighter than whatever you have now, and most desktops on the market are more powerful and more reliable than whatever you have now. Together, they probably cost about the same as your current laptop. It really is a win-win situation.
Here’s a scenario. In the morning, you grab your three-pound netbook and throw it into your bag with your books and head to class. It’s lightweight, and its batteries last upwards of five hours. In class, you type your notes — and browse Facebook — on a computer that finally fits onto the miniscule surfaces in the lecture hall. The smaller keyboard and screen are pains at first, but you get used to them after a while. At lunch, you decide to work on your upcoming paper. Again, the netbook pulls through by fitting very easily on a very crowded Commons table as you add a few lines to your paper.
Later in the afternoon, you get back to your room and your desktop. Finally free of the power and screen-size confines, you have the power and freedom to work however you want to. However, your netbook has all the files you need. But luckily, you have Dropbox (Getdropbox.com). Dropbox is a fully-synced folder that can appear across both your netbook and your desktop. When you put files into your netbook Dropbox, they’ll immediately appear on your desktop. Within seconds, you’ve transferred your entire workflow to your desktop.
With this setup, it’s almost as if you have one computer that’s both powerful and portable at the same time. But you’re also protected from accidents. When one of the two fail, the other will be there to make sure your ever-important Facebook access remains uninterrupted.