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Entries from June 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010


Making the Most of Your Dumbphone

Dumbphones - more than just a high-tech doorstop. Image courtesy of Flickr user JSFauxtaugraphy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.Not everyone has a smartphone.

It’s true! Though they are excellent devices, and can even be productivity-boosters for the savvy student, they are expensive--and parents are unlikely to see the need for a smartphone to be as urgent as you see it.

Those of us who have yet to join the ranks of Androids and the iGeneration are not totally without hope, though. Even the dumbest of phones, so long as it can text, can be used as more than a pricey doorstop:

Google Calendar - Though most readers are probably aware that you can both create and be informed of GCal events via text message, dumbphone users have an added advantage: since there’s not a constant barrage of incoming messages from installed apps, the 15-minute warning the Google Gods text you about an upcoming meeting is much more likely to be seen.

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Twitter Contest: Win the Lenovo A63

Okay, remember this? Well, it's finally time for us at HackCollege to give away the behemoth Lenovo A63. We are having a Twitter contest. That means you need to Reply to this tweet on our profile with the hashtag #lenovoa63 and a suggestion as to why we should pick you as the winner. Examples include but are not limited to, a picture of your current computer situation, why you would need the computer and how you would use it. Most importantly we want you to be creative. 

The dates for this contest are as follows: it starts on Saturday June 26th and ends Wednesday June 30th. If you are seeing this after the dates in the previous sentence, don't worry. Some of our friends are giving A63s away, just like us! Here they are:

Gear Live: June 27th - July 1st
Bright Side of News: June 28th - July 2nd
ActiveWin: June 29th - July 3rd
Daddy Forever: July 1st - July 5th
Geek News Central: July 2nd - July 6th July 3rd - July 7th
Absolutely Windows: July 5th - July 9th
PlanetAMD64: July 6th - July 10th
Women Home Business: July 7th - July 11th July 8th - July 12th
TwentiesLife: July 9th - July 13th

So have fun and get creative with this thing!


Review: Asus G Series Laptop with Intel i5

Some aspects of this laptop were a bit disappointing, but you can't argue with performance.Full disclosure: Intel sent me this laptop as a part of their Youth Product Review program. I kept it for two weeks before sending it back.

Intel was nice enough to send me a loaner laptop for a couple weeks to get acquainted with their relatively new i5 processor, and I must say I came away pretty impressed.

The laptop I received was an Asus G-series gaming rig, so the specs were higher than you see on most college notebooks.  I'm spoiled by the build-quality, battery life, and operating system of my Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, so the Asus was in many respects a step down for me.  The materials used felt a little cheap, it was very heavy, and the battery life left something to be desired.  It was perfect for a gamer who would be keeping the laptop plugged in at a desk, but I couldn't see myself carrying this beast to class.  That said, the i5 processor onboard can be found in a ton of student-friendly laptops these days, and it shined.

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Guest Post: Hidden Changes in the Health Care Bill

The health care bill had some hidden goodies for students. Image courtesy of Flickr user Humbertomoreno and licensed under CC 3.0 Today's guest post comes from Brennon from  When Obama's health care legislation passed back in March, you may have read our take on how the changes to the health cares system would affect American students.  That said, there were several measures hidden in the bill that don't relate directly to health care, but are set to bring big changes to college campuses.

Remember that health care bill? Right, that one. Well, it included a somewhat overlooked student loan reformprovision that most American students ought to take note of.

Titled the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, it's the largest investment the country has ever made in higher education. President Obama hopes it'll increase the number of college graduates there are by the year 2020 by promising additional funding to some of the country's most needed scholarship programs. 

Some of the most crucial parts of the act include a $40 billion investment in the Pell Grant Program, which is a needs-based scholarship awarded to about 6 million students a year, according to the United States Student Association. This will result in a $1,000 increase per student per scholarship by the year 2019. The act also sets aside $3 billion for the College Access Challenge Grant, which funds mentoring programs, workshops and campaigns, among other things, aimed at preparing low-income students to go on to college. There will also be $2.55 billion set aside for historically black or minority colleges and universities.

And, much to the relief of FAFSA-applicants everywhere, the legislation reduces the number of questions on the FAFSA form. Sounds simple, but the USSA reports that 1.5 million students who were eligible for a grant in 2003 didn't bother applying because of all the arduous paperwork the FAFSA requires.

Other items included in the act range from the renovation of community college campuses that are in disrepair to providing loan borrowers with better customer service.

Not only will there be more funding to go around, but the act hopes to make the process of paying back loans more pain-free by putting a decreased cap on monthly loan payments. Loans will also be forgiven after 20 years of steady payments instead of the current 25 years. Now if only Obama could make midterms and finals a little easier...



Stay Focused with "SelfControl"

Have serious attention issues and want to block out the world? This may just be for you.By and large, we here at Hackcollege think that doing your college work on a computer is generally preferable to older more traditional methods.  This of course isn't always the case, but bear with me.  The problem is, if you spend most of your study time on the computer you'll be coping with all sorts of distractions.  

If you get easily sidetracked from your school work, and are the kind of person who would be willing to cripple your own computer to narrow your focus, well then SelfControl may be just the Mac application for you.  The premise is simple: you tell SelfControl what websites and email accounts you want disabled on your computer, and for how long.  For example, I could have used SelfControl at work the other day to keep myself from filling out the pre-order application for the iPhone 4 seven million times.  I didn't, but I probably would have gotten a lot more work done if I had if I had.

If you find yourselves two hours deep into a writing session and suddenly get desperate to watch a Youtube video, you're just totally out of luck.  Restarting the computer, or even deleting the program won't make a difference.  Obviously there are better ways to stay focused (true self-discipline being chief among them), but for the student on a deadline with some attention span concerns, SelfControl may do the trick.


Carry a Small Notebook for Better Idea Capturing

Photo by flickr user Constance Wiebrands and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0After purchasing my first fountain pen (Orange Lamy Safari), I needed an excuse to carry it around. So naturally, I began carrying a small Moleskine notepad in my back pocket. All very pretentious, I know. What began as an excuse to write turned into a fantastic organizational tool. Although my iPhone and Omnifocus handle the bulk of my data acquisition tasks on the go, the always accessible notepad allowed me to capture more complete ideas. Some examples include rough sketches, impromptu work such as blog posts and that perfect thesis for a philosophy essay. I also pull out my notebook for quick notes when a cell phone may not be appropriate. Although the barriers are eroding, I still find it rude to take notes on your cell phone when you are speaking with a professor or colleague. Cal Newport suggests carrying a piece of paper for daily planning and for marking down any information that may need your attention at a later time. At the end of the day, the way you choose to capture information is up to you. I do suggest giving the small notebook a trial for a week or two, you'll be amazed by the convenience and the interesting scenarios when your cell phone simply won't do. As technology advances, we sometimes take for granted the analog methods we used to rely on. Newer isn't always better.    


HackCollege is Looking for New Writers!

As I'm sure many of you are aware, Kelly and Chris have graduated, both from LMU and from their writing duties on Hackcollege.  As with any school, it's necessary to replace our graduating seniors with a new freshman class to keep pumping out quality content for all of you.  If you're a strong writer with an engaging voice, possess a keen interest in our brand of undergraduate efficiency, and are a current college student (duh), then you may be just what we're looking for.  

If you're interested in becoming a writer for us, shoot us an email at Be sure to include the following in the email:

  • Some contact info (Skype, preferred email, cell phone)
  • Your current school and expected graduation date
  • A resume (don't worry about fixing it up or anything, it's not really that necessary)
  • Ten story ideas you think would work on Hackcollege
  • A fleshed-out, spit-shined, ready-to-publish guest post on one of those ten ideas

Submissions are due by Saturday, June 26 at noon Eastern time.  Can't wait to hear from you guys!


Treat Your Wounds with a DIY Hotpack

Have some rice and an old sock? Of course you do.Injuries happen in college.  Maybe you were exercising during finals, or even involved in a fender-bender. Hell, sometimes you may wake up with one you don't even remember getting. Unfortunately, the typical dorm room doesn't have the fully-stocked triage kit that mom was so good at maintaining.  I recently banged up my leg a bit, and I guess my girlfriend got a little sick of my whining and melodramatic limping, so she whipped up this brilliant little hotpack for me.

You'll need a small bag of dry rice, which should be easy to find at just about any campus convenience store, and a sock... that's it.  Use an old elastic tube sock if you have one, but if shorter socks are all you keep, find a rubber band.  All you need to do is empty the rice into the sock until the bulge feels about the right size, tie off the end (either with the rubber band, or a simple knot), and pop it in your microwave for two minutes or so.  

Your room will smell like rice pudding for a little while, but the hot pack can hold its temperature for a surprisingly long time, and can be used again and again.  Just apply it to your injury for about twenty minutes at a time, and be sure to wrap it in a paper towel or something to protect your skin.