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Five useful Apple accessories for students heading off to college


Whether you're on your way back to college, or you're the parent or friend of a college-bound Apple fan, there are a lot of great items on the market this summer that are both functional and fashionable.

Back in the prehistoric 1970's when I was a civil engineering student at the University of Colorado Boulder campus, I made the mistake of rooming one year with two high school buddies. One of them, Chuck, was a real stoner and was impossible to wake up (even a stereo with the volume turned up to 11 didn't work). His 2009 counterpart would hopefully wake up on time every morning with an iHome iP9SR iPhone alarm clock (US$99 MSRP).

It's an iPhone charger with shielding to prevent that annoying buzz from GSM transmissions. It's an alarm clock that can play tunes from your iTunes library, AM/FM radio, or just blast out an annoying noise to wake you up. It also has some pretty nice speakers for listening to your music while charging your iPhone prior to your next class.

Now if you're like Chuck was, you don't let a class get in the way of snoozing even more. In the 70's, sleeping through classes was usually a one-way ticket out of the university. That was Chuck's fate. Since we're in the enlightened 21st Century, students have iPhones that can record lectures using the built-in Voice Memos app or a number of other apps. There's only one problem, though -- if you oversleep and you're the last person to make it to class, all of the power outlets in the lecture hall are probably taken and you won't be able to plug in your iPhone. Actually, that's not a problem, since in your party-induced haze the night before, you did remember to plug your Ecosol Powerstick (US$60 MSRP) USB charger into one of the USB ports on your MacBook Pro and it's fully charged up.

As the sonorous voice of the professor's lecture lulls you back into dreamland, your Powerstick is plugged into your iPhone 3GS and will automatically begin to charge the iPhone if the battery level gets too low.

All too soon, you're awakened by your fellow students scrambling to get to their next class. You decide to slam a couple of Red Bulls and a triple-shot espresso to get your heart pumping, then get to work on some homework. Unfortunately, the campus Wi-Fi is down again in your favorite study area and since AT&T hasn't yet come up with a tethering solution to use with your iPhone, you're without connectivity. Not to worry, since your parents naively decided that you'd get better grades or keep in contact with them more if they bought you a Novatel MiFi 2200 (price varies, usually about US$99 with a qualifying plan) and Wireless Broadband Service from Sprint. Note - MiFi is also available from Verizon Wireless in the US.
Being the nice guy that you are, and trying to hit on the four best-looking women in the study area, you share your broadband connection with them. They're grateful, which is sure to help with your popularity in the party crowd you hang around with.

After actually completing a few homework assignments, buying books for one of your classes through, and successfully inviting three of the four women to a party, you decide it's time for lunch. Since you lost your license last year, you're keeping yourself fit and helping the environment by riding your bike everywhere. One of your buds wants to meet you at a new brewpub for lunch, so you fire up the Navigon Mobile Navigator app on your iPhone for turn-by-turn directions. You won't be holding the iPhone in your hands while you're riding; you have an Arkon IPM127 bicycle handlebar mount (US$19.95 at Amazon) for your favorite phone.

About a block away from the brewpub, as your iPhone is telling you to turn left, you're run off the street by a resident of your quaint college town driving a bumper-sticker emblazoned Subaru wagon. Sure, you're a bit beat up after going through a set of rose bushes, down a rocky slope, and into a creek, but at least your 17" MacBook Pro is well protected. After all, your kindly uncle sent you a SwissGear Carbon Backpack for 17" MacBook Pro (US$100) before you headed off to college this year.

There's my take on what useful accessories might make college life a bit easier for at least one student. What do you think would make a great back-to-school gift for a university-bound friend (or yourself)? Make your suggestions in the comments section.

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