Essential tech tools for students

Welcome to a new academic year. Below are some important tools for students. Employers will expect their new recruits to have technology knowledge and skills. Your first year on the job should be about how to do your job the best, and be first for a promotion. Instead, many new recruits struggle in their first year learning how to do their job, and learning how to use a computer. Elementary, junior, and senior high school students in Australia, the UK, the US, and many other countries learn using computers, but not Japanese students. Really, you must have technology skills to help you do well in university, and for your career. Here is a simple list to get you started.

A Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, in front of an Apple. CC Kārlis Dambrāns 2014,

A Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, in front of an Apple. CC Kārlis Dambrāns

1. A real computer

What: Get a cheap laptop or Windows Surface tablet. An Apple iPad is a toy, but a laptop is a tool, get the right device.

Why: I use my three computers many times every day. You will need to:

  • Access the university website at home
  • Work on assignments
  • Do research for your assignments
  • To communicate with classmates and project members

2. A real email address

What: Use Gmail, Live, or ProtonMail.

Why: Never rely on mobile phone email addresses. Never share an email account with friends or family members; email is your personal private communication. You would never share your smartphone with your parents? Never share your email account either. Use an online company like those above, because you can access your email on your smartphone, any tablet, and on any internet connected computer.  Don’t use Yahoo, because it will share all your personal information and content with other governments. Note, ProtonMail is the safest and most secure email service in the world, and it will protect your privacy.

Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

3. Storage

What: use Cloud like Dropbox (the most popular), or safest and most secure are TeamDrive (free) and Tresorit (free, safest, most recommended).

Why: One day, you will lose or damage your hard work. You also will use computers on campus and at home. Your files will need to travel with you. So, use both a USB Memory Stick and Cloud; get a USB memory stick from any convenience store, but you could lose it. Note, Tresorit is the safest and most secure cloud storage in the world.

4. Software

What: Use either Microsoft Office (Word), or Word on Office 365 (online), or Open Office (free download).

Why: To write your essays, assignments, job applications, etc.

For presentations, I already have a lot of options here at Presentations. Some presentation options are online, and so you can work with group members simultaneously.

5. Security & Safety

I’m surprised at how little Japanese people know about security and safety on the internet. It’s actually easy to do. You need these things, a good password, and protection for your computer.

Password: Easy to remember, but hard for computers to break. Example, choose your favourite words from a song you like, Katy Perry’s Firework, “Drifting Through The Wind, Wanting To Start Again?“, and take the first letters, add puncuation, and a number: Dttwwtsa?1 It’s almost impossible to break, but easy to remember. Then add the name of the service you’re using, like “Nanzan” > nanDttwwtsa?1, or DropBox > droDttwwtsa?1, so you have a password that is unique to a service, and easy to remember. It’s not the safest or best, but it’s better than “password123”.

Protect your computer: Use anti-virus and anti-spyware like ESET and S&D Spybot. Don’t use Microsoft Internet Explorer, it’s actually dangerous, use Firefox or Chrome, and add HTTPS Everywhere and Blur to protect your privacy. Also, never store your passwords in the browser or on your computer. Finally, don’t use Google Search, as it stores your search data, use for private searches.

For more advice on good safety, see Privacy Tools on the Internet.

Person on Apple Laptop. CC 2014,

Person on Apple Laptop. CC 2014,

Bonus. Websites

These websites are now really useful, and you should be using them. Visit these and press Ctl D to save them in your browser. More websites will be added later.

And more to come.

Laptop ergonomics and staying healthy

I don’t see anything like this in Japanese universities, which seems strange to me. In Australian and British universities there is information for students on how to stay healthy whilst using a computer. If you don’t follow some basic rules, you can seriously injure your body. Problems can include eye strain, weakening of vision, back strain, spine compression, repetitive strain injury to hands and wrists. Also, bending forward crunches up your digestive organs causing other problems. You need to have a maximum of 30 minutes of computer use, and then take a 5 minute break, including standing up, walk around, and refocusing your eyes on distant objects.

Animated gif, Laptop Ergonomics - Basic Tips

Animated gif, Laptop Ergonomics – Basic Tips

Gif found at,, also found at

Also see Berkley University info,