December 2008

RIAA and Campus Music

Since 2003, the RIAA has sued thousands of college students, faculty, and parents across the U. S. for what it asserts is illegal file trading of mp3 tracks via P2P networks. They also send "pre-litigation" letters to users asserting illegal music downloads and demanding a settlement that, typically, is in the thousands.

In many cases, the RIAA has sued the wrong people. They sued an elderly woman who exclusively uses a Macintosh, and accused her of using a Windows-only application, Kazaa, to download many mp3 files of explicit rap music. Eventually, the RIAA withdrew its suit. Part of the difficulty in the RIAA's approach is that it attempts to force ISPs, particularly those at universities, to identify individual users by IP numbers. This is less than reasonable given that most ISPs and campuses use temporary IP leases. Any number of users use the same IP number, at different times. It's expensive, and sometimes impossible, to identify an individual user in the past. You can read a summary here of the RIAA's litigation efforts.

News Flash: College is Expensive

In a highly publicized report released recently by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the forecast for college tuition rates was grim. Last year, the net cost of attending a four-year public college rose to 28% of an average middle-class family's income. For poorer families, the net cost rose to 55% of annual income. Ouch! Here are five "big picture" ways to manage your finances as a college student: 1. DON'T APPLY FOR CREDIT CARDS. Credit card company representatives slither onto campus in the dead of night and wait, lurking at their folding card tables, for unsuspecting students to wander past. Or perhaps they nest there overnight, curled up near the bases of trees and shrubs. Either way, the credit card reps are not your friends. Even though they have glossy smiles and come bearing candy bars and free promotional Frisbees, they are the enemy. The worst thing you can do as a college student is apply for a credit card.

Campus Hardware Basics

I'm going to be blunt about this, right up front.

I'm a die-hard Macintosh fanatic. Given a choice, I'll choose a Mac, even an outdated pre-OS X Mac, over any version of Windows ever. And for most users, I'll choose any Mac over any other Unix flavor.

I'm not going to talk about that today. Today I'm going to talk about non-platform specific digital needs for Campus life. Go with the OS and hardware manufacturer of your choice.

Most campuses now strongly urge all incoming freshmen to bring a computer with them. I agree, whole-heartedly. You do need your very own computer; yes, I know, there are labs on campus, but honestly there are times—frequently where you wait an hour or more to get to a lab computer, and then your time is strictly limited to, well, an hour or so. So even an outdated computer, as long as you can still connect it to the campus network (yes, that is crucial; either Ethernet or WiFi are required), is going to improve your life, and, more importantly, your chances of success.

Dorm Necessities

There're a lot of little things about living in a dorm that can make you nuts—and no, I'm not talking about your roommate(s). There are lots of lists, and articles about dorm room essentials; you can go look at those if you want a check list. I'm going to talk more about general principles about living in a very tiny room without a lot of space, but with roommates, and where you'll likely have to spend a lot of time studying, even though you might really want to be sleeping.