Smart tech tips for back to school

Another school year is coming, so it’s time to start shopping for school supplies. I love summer, but walking through what felt like a frying pan made me wish for the coolness of air-conditioned classrooms.

Let’s talk about what tech to consider before heading back to what I hope is cooler comfort in a few weeks when school starts back up.

We close with my product of the week, a new LG vacuum cleaner that is arguably better than a Dyson, but not a cheap date.

PC selection

If you bought a PC during the pandemic, you’re fine with a few exceptions. However, if your computer doesn’t have a discrete graphics card, it’s probably not the best choice for students with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) focus in high school or college.

STEM courses, central to software and hardware development and entertainment fields such as animation, require GPUs that have dedicated memory that is not shared with the CPU due to the performance burden of related applications. Applications that students typically run consume a lot of power.

Cloud instances can quickly solve this need, but you may not always have the connection and bandwidth that a student would need to run a GPU-intensive application. This will improve over time, but for now it’s better to have some control over the hardware resources you need, because you don’t want to find them unreachable as deadlines approach and connectivity is poor.

The need for GPUs is increasingly critical in universities and graduate schools, again in STEM-related fields of study, as students there are more likely to use advanced programs. However, proactive high school students may want to gain expertise in these tools before college to empower them when they enter college and land better, more influential student teams.


If you’re doing mostly reporting and not much in STEM classes, a notebook with integrated graphics is fine, but if you’re planning a career in a field that requires computing power, get a laptop. with a good GPU. You’ll thank me later.


Oh, and look for at least 12 hours of battery life. Many schools and colleges still do not have enough power outlets to cover more than a section of students. The screen size should be as large as possible, 17 inches or larger for STEM-intensive students, 14 inches or smaller if you work primarily with text. Power for STEM, portability for everyone else. Oh, and stay with Windows unless the school says or mandates otherwise.

It’s also helpful to talk to teachers, professors, and older students to find out what kind of computer works best in this new environment.

To stay warm or cool

When I was in college – and I imagine sororities and fraternities are similar – I was always either too hot or too cold, which affected my sleep quality and I ended up dozing off in class.

Fighting the thermostat gets old fast, and if you have one in an apartment, it can become expensive to cool and heat the whole place. You better find a way to create a thermostatic sanctuary in your bed so you can sleep soundly.

The best thing I’ve found for this so far is the Chilipad. It can be a godsend for a dorm, fraternity, sorority, or shared apartment because it allows the user to cool or heat the bed, ensuring a comfortable and restful sleep, regardless of whether the bedroom is a sauna or a freezer. Given current high energy costs, this is a good way to reduce your electricity bill as it heats and cools a significantly smaller room.

I use the Chilipad Pro. We turn off the heating and air conditioning at night to save energy and let the Chilipad do the job more efficiently at a fraction of the cost of gas or electric heating and cooling systems.


I’m not suggesting you buy your kid an electric car. In fact, I don’t recommend it yet because most schools don’t have billing options yet. But any gas car will have problems with theft (both the car and what’s in it), maintenance and parking.

Consider a combination of an electric bike, which is more secure, and an Uber or Lyft card so your child doesn’t have to worry about their vehicle while they’re at school. Given the auto parts shortage, this is a very bad time to buy a new or used car. So I suggest you wait on either one until the supply chain is back to normal and you can pick up a good car at a good price again.

If you have to buy a vehicle, it drives around

t the university where the student will attend school and where he will live to determine which car would serve him best. A bicycle might serve them better.

In the event that it has to be a car, you want something that is easy to share, big enough to protect the driver and passenger in a crash, and something that the student can take care of maintaining. If your student doesn’t handle this kind of responsibility well, you should go the Uber route. A poorly maintained vehicle can be a death trap.

My personal opinion is that smart kids don’t get cars now because Uber and Lyft are good enough.


A huge backpack is a mistake and can unnecessarily harm your child. They go to school, not hiking trails in Alaska. Choose a backpack that’s easy to identify, reduces theft, and is big enough to carry a decent-sized laptop and a few accessories, but no more. Too many kids hurt their shoulders, necks and backs with backpacks that are too big and packed with rarely used items.

Please share with your children the following guidelines for safer backpack use:

Wear both straps
Keep the backpack weight under 15% of the student’s weight
Choose a backpack with wide straps and a waist belt

On the technical side, consider placing a similar tracker Tile or AirTag in your backpack, because these things are often stolen. While losing a laptop is painful, losing a quarter or semester of school work can be catastrophic. It also reminds me to recommend that students back up their computers regularly. This is terribly important because laptop thefts are common worldwide.

Oh, and remind them not to leave their backpacks in cars, especially in plain sight. It only takes a moment to break the window and steal the backpack. One of my neighbors stopped by for a quick coffee that he ordered ahead of time; the minute he ran in and grabbed the coffee, his car window was smashed and his laptop stolen.


The new academic year is almost here, and the well-equipped student is dragging his feet.

One more thing about PCs: If a student wants to play games, they clearly prefer the GPU. But you want play to be a reward, not a distraction.

A desktop computer for gaming is not mobile and allows the parent to better monitor the student’s computer usage while they are at home. Keeping your desktop as a gaming machine might make more sense if you want to scratch that itch — and keep your laptop focused on schoolwork.

One last suggestion: If your child is a distance learner, spend a week with them before school starts to actively identify any dangers in the neighborhood. Then figure out ways to alleviate those concerns.

Some schools have serious problems with drug use, others with drug use, and some with racism and misogyny. Unfortunately, some people have all of the above. Knowing the main issues and what policies and systems are in place to protect your child and making sure they know can go a long way in ensuring your student receives an education and avoids long-term trauma.

LG CordZero all-in-one automatic empty battery vacuum cleaner

We have three dogs and three cats, so vacuuming is one way we stay in shape. We do it several times a day, in addition to our robotic vacuum cleaners and household cleaning machines. It’s amazing how much hair our pets can shed in a day.

Dyson vacuums are fantastic and there are several of them out there, but taking out the waste always seems to result in a cloud of the stuff hitting me in the face, whether outside or inside. The LG CordZero All in One Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum (now has a wall) solves this problem by automatically emptying itself after each use. Then you only have to take the garbage out to the bin once or twice a month.

The vacuum seems to work just as well as our Dysons, but is much quieter and makes the most noise when it automatically empties itself after about 15 seconds of use. It comes in a nice beige color, but I’d personally go for gray or black because they’re more neutral, but it still looks good.

It’s quick and easy to set up and has a motorized mop feature that’s useful for dealing with hairballs (although you have to pick them up and throw them away first; otherwise you’ll end up staining the floor with them; same with poo).

Currently available for $999, the LG CordZero vacuum isn’t a cheap date. However, since its arrival it has almost completely replaced our Dysons. In addition to the automatic emptying and mopping functions, it also has two batteries, so you can use one while the other is in use

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