Technology Column

5 tips for freshmen to stay plugged in at SU

Leaving behind the days of weak high school Wi-Fi and strict no-cell-phone policies for the technological jungle of college might be a culture shock for some. With so many academic, social and experiential opportunities and privileges, Syracuse University gives students brand new ways to interact with their devices while learning in the classroom, finishing work outside of class or just enjoying leisure time. Here are five tips for making the most of your time at SU with the devices you know and love.

Something wrong with your computer, phone or tablet? SU’s IT Services can help you out – for free.

It’s inevitable that at some point in your college career, something awful will happen to your computer during a time that you need it most. You can lessen the blow of these moments by heading over to the ITS Service Center, located in the Life Sciences Complex. Walk in through the main glassy entrance — you can’t miss it. The Service Center can provide support for issues like removing computer viruses, setting up your device with the school’s printing system or helping to diagnose any technology-related issue you might have. All basic services at the Service Center are included in your tuition at no extra charge.

If you have an Apple or Dell device, under warranty or past it, you can get more specialized help at ‘CuseTech, which is located in the SU Bookstore at the Schine Student Center. Unlike the Service Center, ‘CuseTech is authorized to make hardware repairs if a part needs fixing or replacement.

If you’re a more independent spirit or just can’t be bothered to walk all the way to the other end of campus, ITS provides support over their phone hotline for free, reachable from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays at 315-443-2677. If you need help outside of the usual hours, you’re welcome to leave a message via the hotline and a representative will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Support extends beyond basic tech issues, too; I had an issue while moving into my new place last year where the on-campus cable wasn’t showing up on the new television I brought to school. Working through the problem step-by-step over the phone with an ITS service representative, I was able to figure out the problem quickly and turn on the Yankee game in no time. ITS is helpful for pretty much any miscellaneous tech-related issue you’re having, and being a free service, it can never hurt to give them a shot if you need help.

Forget to buy a printer for your dorm? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other options.

Don’t let privileged upperclassmen tell you otherwise – you’ll be more than fine without a printer in your place. Included in your student fees is a mandatory $20 printing charge and you can use it to its fullest by heading over to any printing center on campus, from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to the Schine Student Center. Computer labs with printers are also conveniently located in or near every dorm on campus, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble locating them in whatever building you’re living in.

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of logging in to a school computer and locating the file you want to print, you can print wirelessly from your personal computer using the SURA utility. SURA, which stands for Syracuse University Remote Access, can connect you to whatever printing location is most convenient to you, and the cost of printing – 2 cents per page – will be deducted from your account. You can download SURA and learn more about it on its website.

If all else fails, one of your friendly new neighbors probably brought a printer. Just don’t mooch off of them too much.

Ignore the haters, AirOrangeX is a blessing

Any huge wireless network will have its weak spots, but SU’s campus-wide AirOrangeX is still one of the best perks you’ll get during your time here. Wireless speeds on campus are up to 12 times as fast as your average home Wi-Fi (according to my own speed measurements from Speedtest.net compared to national data from OpenSignal), so downloads will download faster, Netflix will buffer a lot less often and Blackboard will load in an instant.

But something worth investing in to improve your online experience is an Ethernet cable. Available for as little as $6 on Amazon, an Ethernet cable will make your web browsing experience in your dorm miles better. With an Ethernet cable, you’ll get internet speeds on your laptop up to twice as fast as wireless connections. Plus, your connection will never randomly drop out like the wireless network may tend to do at times.

And if you brought a gaming console to school, an Ethernet cable will be essential, since you can’t get online on any PlayStation or Xbox without it. Depending on how your dorm is set up, this might involve draping a 25-foot cable across your room to your television. Speaking from personal experience: duct-taped cable across your room might not be the most aesthetically-speaking tech solution out there — but life in a freshman dorm is full of sacrifices, after all.

Take advantage of the student services available to you

Besides the well-known service centers and computer labs, it’s also good to know about the additional resources available to you for whatever kind of project you want to get done.

Among those is a place you won’t find at many colleges: the MakerSpace. Located in the Kimmel Hall Computer Lab, this unique resource gives students access to tools like 3-D printers, laser engravers and embroidery machines. Machinery is free for students, but additional materials may be necessary depending on the project.

The Schine Copy Center is probably the best general purpose printing center on campus, with its high-quality printers and paper for any kind of project you want to print. Whether it’s a graphic design project, flyers for your student organization’s upcoming event or a cool new poster for your wall, the printing center can get it done, all for a very reasonable rate.

But beyond all the physical resources available, one that Bird Library’s Head of Learning Commons Lesley Pease says is most underutilized, is the experienced staff stationed at most tech centers around campus. She says that students often don’t realize “how much help there is available to them,” and that it’s “totally OK” to ask specialists for help if you need it. Pease, who is stationed at Bird Library on campus, notices how surprised students are when they learn more about the printing technology available there for free.

“Some students are surprised at how much tech help and resources there are at the library,” Pease said. She says students aren’t aware that “there is help for all kinds of printing, assistance with the plotters, that they can scan to email, and how many color printing options there are.”

No matter where you use your technology around campus, never forget to be aware of your surroundings. In a place as diverse in talents and interests as SU, you never know who could be of tremendous help to you next.

Use your technology responsibly

If you’re planning on using your on-campus internet connection to pirate movies, TV shows or music, you should be wary of some of the school’s restrictions on illegally downloading copyrighted material.

While the school doesn’t track any of your internet activity, torrents — the types of files distributed on sites like The Pirate Bay which often contain copyrighted materials — are completely blocked on the campus internet connection. You can try all you want to download that movie, but odds are the school won’t even let you.

And while there are ways around that restriction, doing so can come with some pretty steep consequences. ITS can trace any reported downloads to your device’s IP address. According to the Syracuse University ITS website, computers violating copyright laws will be quarantined from the network. After repeated offenses, students face loss of all network privileges at SU. These aren’t rules to take lightly, so be sure to be careful with how you use the network during your time on campus.

Beyond pirating materials, make sure to use your devices responsibly while in class. SU doesn’t have any rules on the books about using computers and phones in class — in fact, some professors even encourage using them sometimes — but you should exercise common sense when using them at all times.

It might seem harmless to check in on iMessage or Facebook in the middle of a long lecture, and in many cases you should be fine, but policies on technology use are up to the professor’s discretion. Be sure to look out on your new classes’ syllabuses for individual policies on technology, since some professors are a lot more lenient with technology use than others.

Go forth and make the best of tech on SU’s campus

Whether you want to be adventurous and experiment in the MakerSpace, want to figure out the easiest and most convenient ways to get your work done or want help when you need your computer most, SU provides plenty of options for you to take advantage of.

As a main takeaway, don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone with your devices. At the end of the day, your life will ideally be easier and more stress-free because of the new ways you’ll use technology — providing that you play all your cards right.

Brett Weiser-Schlesinger is junior newspaper and online journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bweisers@syr.edu.

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