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Is Your Computer Ready?

The following are PC/MAC recommendations from the office of Technical Support for students at Thomas University. The recommendations are based upon the analysis of the average use of computers by students as well as the minimum requirements for using Blackboard and Collaborate. The recommendations do not take into account additional specialized equipment or software that may be required by a student’s academic program. Students are advised to check with their individual programs and their instructors for any additional computer requirements. The recommendations will list a minimum, recommended, and advanced system to prospective students and are separated into two sections: System (the computer itself), and Software (needed programs).

Overall recommendations

Although there is a computer labs in the university library, it is not open 24 hours a day is closed on Sundays and most holidays. Students will find it very convenient to have their own personal computer. Computers have become an integral part of our education system, so much so that a course in computer literacy is now required from most institutions. At a minimum, students will routinely be required to write various types of papers and presentations, search databases the Internet for information, correspond through email, obtain assignments and homework from course web pages, and run applications required by their specific curriculum.

Should I buy a new computer?

If you have a computer that was purchased new within the last two years it should be more than sufficient to meet your needs. Even high-end computers purchased 3-4 years should still be useful. If you need to purchase a new computer, we would recommend that you try to buy the most capable system you can afford (Recommended System). Systems with more memory, disk space, and processor speed tend to remain viable for a longer period of time. The typical useful life span of a computer is 3-4 years.

Should I buy a printer?

Students are afforded a printing allowance of 30 pages per day at no charge when printing in the computer lab. Additional pages cost 10 cents per page for black and white print. Color printing is not available at all. Most desktop printers are relatively inexpensive and if you can afford the space we would recommend that you purchase one for the sake of convenience and cost effectiveness.

Why a digital flat screen monitor for desktops?

Most new computers come with flatscreen monitors. They take up less space, are lighter and easier to move, use less electricity, generate less heat, and are not that much more expensive than the older CRT monitors.

What kind of Internet connection should I have?

If you live in the residence hall you will have access to a high speed Internet connection. Wireless hot-spots are available in several places on campus, including the Library. Most computers come with a wireless card capable of connecting to the campus network without any problems. If you live off campus we would suggest some type of high speed (DSL or Cable) Internet service. If you don’t have access to a high speed Internet connection and have a modem with your computer (this is commonly called dial-up access) you will need to subscribe to an on-line Internet service provider (ISP). 

Laptop versus Desktop

There are specific advantages and disadvantages to both laptop and desktop computers. This section will briefly address these differences and leave the selection up to the individual:

Laptop Advantages
Laptops are very portable systems that allow student to carry their own personal computer throughout campus. There are several hot spots where students can connect to the campus network. This requires that your laptop computer have a wireless Internet card. Laptops also take up less space which can be an important consideration. Some students may find a Netbook perfectly adequate to their needs. These are smaller, inexpensive, lightweight laptops. Be sure to check with your program head or department director: Netbooks may not be capable of running some required programs.The convenience and portability of the systems are the primary advantages.

Laptop Disadvantages
Higher cost and some hardware limitations are the major disadvantages. Price $300 - $3,000 (Source: Consumer Reports). If you purchase a laptop you may want to consider purchasing an additional warranty because of the shorter expected service life.

Desktop Advantages
A similar Desktop both in speed and storage capacity is less expensive than a comparable laptop. Parts are less expensive and more readily available. If needed, peripherals can be added to the machine (such as additional CD/DVD or hard drives) easily. Normally you only need either a wireless card or a 10/100 MB Ethernet card but not both. They are less likely to be stolen and the desktops often come with more USB ports than a laptop. Desktop systems Price $300 - $3,000 (Source: Consumer Reports). Cost and flexibility are the major advantages.

Desktop Disadvantages
Desktops are not portable and they take up considerably more room than a laptop even with a thin LCD Monitor.

What operating system should I get?

Choosing an operating system is a decision based upon personal preferences and intended use. Windows XP and above or Mac OS X 4.11 and above will work equally well for nearly everything you will need to do in your college career. For some specific uses one system may be superior to another. Consumer Reports along with many other organizations routinely evaluates both Mac and Windows computers. An Internet search for computer ratings will provide results which may help make an informed decision. A third operating system, Linux, is available in many different builds. TU does not recommend the use of Linux operating systems for any but the most advanced computer users. Neither Blackboard or Collaborate provide support for Linux systems, and TU does not possess the capacity to provide any technical assistance to Linux users. Linux users should consult the Linux group forum for their particular build for support and assistance.

Programs (software)

Computer programs can be very expensive, but there are sometimes alternatives. The Software Recommendation page discusses various operating systems and programs in detail.

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