Mom, Dad, I need a new computer

It’s upon us, the marketing blitzkrieg of the back-to-school battle cry. School supplies vendors, including technology manufacturers, vying for your hard-earned cash. As parents we know the chaos of a new school year is less than four weeks away so let's do our homework while the children enjoy their last days of summer vacation.

Maintaining a household budget is high up on our list and purchasing technology such as computers for our children may stretch our household budget. Yet basing technology purchases solely on rock-bottom pricing may not necessarily make the purchase appropriate for your children’s scholastic needs.

Your homework is to be inquisitive. Asking “how is our school using technology?” instead of “should I get a Windows, Mac or Chromebook computer for my children?” may help you make a more appropriate purchasing decision.

Recent evolutions in technology and the disruptive innovation we know of as the internet have started to transform how schools use technology to augment curriculum. For example many schools have been embracing “1:1” (“one-to-one”) computing, a principle in education that, at the simplest level, equips each student with a computing device to access the infinite knowledge found on the internet; access to digital textbooks and replacements of other traditionally paperbound classroom resources that also save money.

Knowing how the school is using technology – such as whether it has implemented a 1:1 program and if so whether the school is supplying the devices or whether they implemented a BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) policy instead where students are required to bring their own laptop to use in school – should help determine what, if any, computer your children may need. There are different variations in how 1:1 programs are implemented and one of these options may be availability for students to also take home the devices to do their homework, which may in turn offset the need to purchase new computer in the first place.

In case your school is implementing 1:1 through BYOD policy and you need to buy a computer, you may first want to find out how they will be using it. Are the students required to turn in homework through the internet instead of hard copies? Do the new breed of affordable devices such as a Chromebook suffice or are traditional laptops based on Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX recommended? The form-factor of the computer, i.e. laptop for mobility, becomes a critical purchasing decision factor. Imagine buying a desktop computer based solely on rock-bottom pricing, only to find out that the school is embracing BYOD to implement 1:1 which requires mobility.

Bottom line is that whether your school has embraced 1:1 program or not, there is homework to complete before going out to shop for technology. Another example is that you may already have a capable laptop and you just need software. In this case you may want to ask whether the school has a “software volume licensing agreement” with vendors such as Microsoft that may also extend software to students at no or low costs. Be inquisitive. Don’t shop blindly. Do your homework!



How come there are lot of external hard drive choices for Microsoft Windows but not for Apple Macs? Also the ones I could find were selling at a premium for the same capacity.

External hard drives are agnostic so there is no reason to pay extra for a “Mac ready” external hard drive. Although modern Macs have had native read capability and hidden write capability to Windows file system, manufacturers still tend to cater to Windows users in their marketing/packaging materials, breeding confusion.

The key is to prepare, i.e. format, the external hard drive for the “Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)” file system using the Disk Utility within your OSX system. Think of formating as writing horizontal guidelines on a blank paper so you can write on it with even spacing and without being crooked. If you are not familiar with the Disk Utility application you may want to make an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar (closest Apple Store for our readers will be in Crocker Park) or seek help elsewhere.

Have a question for Tak about computers, software or other technology? Send it to

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart consulting, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 6, Issue 16, Posted 9:31 AM, 08.05.2014