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We’re approaching another school year, so it’s time to start shopping for school supplies. I love the heat, but walking around on what feels like a frying pan has made me crave the coolness of air-conditioned classrooms.

Let’s talk about what tech tools to consider before returning to what I expect in a few weeks when school resumes.

We’ll close out with our product of the week, a new vacuum from LG that’s better than the Dyson, but by no means cheap.

choosing a pc

If you bought a PC during the pandemic, it should be fine with a few exceptions. However, if the PC does not have a discrete graphics card, it may not be best for students with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus in high school or college.

STEM courses that are important for software and hardware engineering, and for entertainment fields such as animation, require GPUs whose dedicated memory is not shared with the CPU due to the performance load of the respective apps. Applications that students usually run will consume a lot of power.

You can use a cloud instance to meet some of these needs in a pinch, but you may not always have the connectivity and bandwidth a student would need to work a GPU-intensive application. This will improve over time, but for now, it’s better to have some control over the hardware resources needed because you don’t want to find that they’re unavailable when the deadline approaches, and connectivity is iffy.

The need for GPUs again becomes more important in college and graduate school for STEM-related study areas, as students are more likely to access advanced programs there. However, active high school students want to master these tools before college, when they start college and have better, more impressive student teams.

If you’re mostly reporting and don’t have much in the way of STEM classes, a notebook with an integrated graphics card is fine, but if you’re preparing for a career in a field that requires computer performance, So get a laptop with a good GPU. You’ll thank me later.

Oh, and look for at least 12 hours of battery life. Many schools and colleges still lack enough electrical outlets to cover more than a fraction of the students. Screen size should be as large as possible, 17 inches or more for STEM-intensive students, 14 inches or less if you’re working mostly with text. Power for STEM, portability for everyone else. Oh, and stick with Windows unless the school specifies or requires something else.

It’s also helpful to talk to teachers, professors, and older students to see what kind of PC would work best in that new environment.

stay hot or cold

When I was in a dorm—and I think sorority and fraternity are alike—I was always either too hot or too cold, which reduced my quality of sleep and caused me to doze off in class.

The fight over the thermostat gets old quickly and if you’re in an apartment the expense of cooling and heating the entire space can be costly. It’s better to find a way to create a thermostatic sanctuary in your bed so you can sleep soundly.

The best thing I’ve found so far for this is Chillipad. It can be a godsend for a dorm, fraternity, sorority or shared apartment as it allows the user to cool or heat their bed, assuring a comfortable and sound sleep, whether the bedroom is a sauna or a freezer . Given the high cost of electricity right now, it’s also a good way to keep electricity bills down because you’re heating and cooling significantly less space.

I use a chilipad pro. We turn off heaters and air conditioning at night to save electricity and let Chilipad do that job more efficiently and at a fraction of the cost of gas or electric heating and cooling systems.

transportation

I am not suggesting that you get your child an electric car. In fact, I advise against it right now because most schools don’t yet have provisions for charging them. But any gas-powered car is going to have issues with theft (both the car and what’s in it), maintenance, and parking.

Consider a combination of an electric bike, which may be better protected, and an Uber or Lyft card, so your child doesn’t have to worry about their vehicle while in school. Given the paucity of automobile parts right now, it is a really bad time to buy a new or used car. Therefore, I suggest that you either wait until the supply chain returns to normal, and you can again pick up a good car at a cheap price.

If you must buy a vehicle, drive around the campus where students are going to school and where they will live to determine what type of car will best serve them. You may find that a bike will serve them better.

In the event this has to be a car, you want something that detaches easily, is large enough to protect the driver and passenger if a collision occurs, and a student will take care of maintaining it. If your student is not good with that kind of responsibility, then they should take the Uber route. A poorly maintained vehicle can be a death trap.

My personal view is that smart kids just can’t get a car because Uber and Lyft are good enough.

Bag

A large bag is a mistake and can unnecessarily harm your baby. They are going to school, not hiking trails in Alaska. Select a backpack that is easy to identify, minimizes theft, is large enough to carry a decent-sized laptop and a few accessories, but no more. Too many kids are hurting their shoulders, neck and back and with too many large backpacks filled with rarely used items.

Please share these guidelines for safe backpack use with your kids:

  • wear both straps
  • Keep the weight in the backpack less than 15% of the student’s weight
  • Choose a backpack with wide straps and a waist belt

On the technical front, consider putting a tracker like Tile or AirTag in the backpack as these things tend to get lost and stolen a lot. While losing a laptop is painful, losing a quarter or semester of school can be devastating. It also reminds me to suggest that students make sure to back up their computers regularly. This is very important as laptop theft is common across the world.

Oh, and remind them not to leave their backpacks in cars, especially in view. It only takes a moment to break the window and steal the backpack. One of my neighbors pulled over for a quick coffee he had pre-ordered; As he started running and grabbing coffee, his car window broke and his laptop was stolen.

wrapping up

The new school year is almost here, and the well-equipped student will have a leg up.

One more thing about PCs: If the student is into gaming, obviously a GPU would be preferred. But you want gaming to be a reward, not a distraction.

A desktop computer for gaming is not mobile and allows parents to better monitor machine usage in the student’s home. Having the desktop as a gaming machine might make more sense if you want to scratch that itch—and keep the laptop focused on schoolwork.

One final tip: If your child is going to study remotely, spend a week with them at that location before school starts to actively identify potential hazards in the area. Then figure out ways to ease those worries.

Some schools have major problems with substance abuse, others have problems, and some have racist and anti-feminist problems. Unfortunately, few have all of the above. Knowing what the key issues are, what policies and systems exist to protect your child, and making sure they know it can go a long way in ensuring that your student gets an education. , not a case of long-term trauma.

Technical Product of the Week

LG CordZero All in One Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum

We have three dogs and three cats, so vacuuming is one of our ways to stay in shape. We do this several times a day on top of having robotic vacuums and house cleaners. It amazes me how much hair our pets can shed in a day.

Dyson vacuums are awesome, and we have many of them, but dumping the trash seems like a cloud of the stuff always hitting my face, either from the outside or the inside. The LG CordZero All in One Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum (now has a mouthful) solves this problem by auto emptying after every use. Then you have to take the waste to the dustbin only once or twice a month.

The vacuum appears to function like our Dyson, but it’s far quieter, making the most noise when it empties on its own after about 15 seconds of use. It comes in an attractive beige, but I personally would prefer gray or black as they are more neutral, but it looks good, regardless.

Set up is fast and easy, and it comes with a powered mop function that’s helpful with hairballs (though you still need to pick them up and discard them first; otherwise, you’ll be painting the floor with them; Same with poop.

Currently Available at $999 – The LG CordZero Vacuum isn’t a cheap date. But it has almost completely replaced our Dyson since its arrival. In addition to auto emptying and mopping features it comes with two batteries so you can charge one while using the other – something the Dyson can’t do well.

In conclusion, the LG CordZero All in One Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum is my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.