Going back to school in the cool

Science & Technology/Student Living by

Coming back to Montreal after a long summer can stir up mixed emotions. It’s great to see friends and roommates again, and there’s OAP and Frosh. However, nobody likes the inevitable late nights at McLennan or midterms in September. We’ve compiled a list of toys and tools to help ease you back into the scholarly grind.

Dropbox is an online utility for reading, writing, and modifying files on multiple computers. It saves these files to a central repository, your Dropbox, so that you can access them from any computer that is connected to the internet. No more fumbling for your USB key in the computer lab, just download your work and go. You can get 2 GB for free when you sign up, plus an additional 0.25 GB if you use your McGill e-mail. More space is available at a small cost.

Tablets of all shapes and sizes have been flying off the shelves at Futureshop and Best Buy since the iPad came out, and this year is no exception. With the HP Touchpad’s firesale in late August, prices on that model have dropped to a somewhat more affordable $300. While they might not prove useful in class, their portability and convenience make any tablet a cool toy.

Docuum and Smart Minerva are websites designed by McGillian Alex Daskalov. Docuum is a course material sharing site. Users can upload their notes, assignments, and exams (no solutions, though), for others to use. The site sometimes contains old finals or midterms that professors don’t release to current students. Smart Minerva attempts to help students through the torturous McGill registration process by displaying clashing courses and a sample schedule.

Netflix offers unlimited streaming of TV and movies for a small monthly fee. After becoming wildly successful in the U.S., the service has migrated north to Canada. Now, for only $8 per month you can get your own Netflix account and stream videos on your iPad, Wii, XBOX 360, PC, or Mac. With an ever-growing library of content, it’s a great way to blow off some steam after a tough midterm. While the selections are weak compared to the American site, the first month is free.

Ebooks are the first new technology for the literary market since the printing press. Amazon, Indigo and many other vendors carry their own models, but they all do basically the same thing. Even if you don’t spend your spare time leafing through Tolstoy classics, many textbooks can be purchased, or otherwise obtained for use on your e-reader, potentially saving you the effort of even stepping foot in the McGill bookstore.

Headphones are a must-have for any student. Whether you want to splurge on brands such as Bose or Shure, or opt for a more affordable brand, there’s really no reason not to have a pair. They’re great for blocking out sniffling in the library, noisy roommates, or just listening to some tunes. If you want all the silence with none of the music, pick up a set of earplugs, a necessity during exams.

iTunes U is a project started by Apple in 2007. It allows professors at other schools to upload their recorded lectures to iTunes for you to download for free. MIT has taken this to another level with Open CourseWare, which provides assignments, tests, and quizzes, too. You can even enroll in an Artificial Intelligence class at Stanford this semester, complete with your very own certificate (that is, if you pass). For bookworms and other curious minds, these are invaluable resources, and a great way to learn just about anything you can’t or don’t want to at McGill. If you can barely manage to watch the recorded lectures for the classes you registered for, don’t sweat it, attendance is optional.