6 College Dropouts Who Made Millions

Before I go on, I want to make sure we make this clear: I am in no way advocating that anyone drop out of college.

I am a  strong believer in the value of a college education, both in its contribution to personal development and to future success. And in monetary terms, the numbers bear us out: People who go to college, in general, go on to earn more money than those who don’t.

A 2002 U.S. Census, for example, found that someone with a bachelor’s degree earns, on average, over $20,000 more a year and nearly $1 million more over her or his lifetime than a high school graduate.

But then there are those few exceptions who defy convention, dropping out of college or graduate school and becoming gazillionaires anyway.

While I’m not in favor of dropping out of college, I do like a good story, and here I have a chance to tell five of them.

So here are the flukes, the statistical freaks, the six wayward college dropouts who went on to find computer-geek fame and make multibillion-dollar fortunes on some of the most innovative technology platforms of the last 20 years.

1) Bill Gates, Microsoft

Possibly the most world-renowned example of post-dropout success, Bill Gates made the bold decision to leave Harvard his junior year, in 1977. Long before Windows became a worldwide rampant technology, contested monopoly, and household name, Gates was just a slacker college student.

“I had this terrible habit of not ever attending classes,” Gates said.

Gates left Harvard to devote his time to what would later become the world’s largest software company in Microsoft, a venture he had started in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen.

Now 53, Gates is worth an estimated $50 billion. Forbes has ranked Gates as the richest man in the world every year for over a decade, and Gates has given millions to various philanthropic causes.

The foundation he and his wife created in 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has embarked on what some are calling the most ambitious charitable project in history, with an endowment from the Gates’ of more than $28.8 billion (as of January 2005) earmarked for global health and learning initiatives.

2) Steve Jobs, Apple

Just eight months older than Gates and the father of the Mac, that technological nemesis to Gates’ Windows, Steve Jobs followed a similar path to post-dropout mega-riches.

Jobs’ biological parents were dead-set on his getting a college education, and before Jobs was adopted, his adoptive parents had to promise that they would send him to college.

In the fall of 1973, Jobs’ adoptive parents spent their life savings to send him to Reed College in Oregon, where Jobs found the mandatory college courses pointless and uninspiring.

As he told Stanford University’s graduating class of 2005 in his commencement address, “After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out.”

Although he formally dropped out of Reed, Jobs hung around the campus for another year, showing up only at the classes that piqued his interest.

Jobs got his first job with Atari in 1974 and then in 1976 co-founded Apple Computer with his high-school friend, Steve Wozniak.

Jobs was ranked 49th in the Forbes 400 Richest Americans of 2006 list and has a current estimated net worth of over $5 billion.

With the trendsetting family of iPods and iPhones, sleek laptops and desktops, intuitive and user-friendly apps, and a series of visually stunning OS X operating systems, Apple continually sets the industry benchmark for innovations in hardware design, user interfaces, and digital entertainment.

3) Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

With a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion and believed by some analysts to be the country’s wealthiest man younger than 25, Mark Zuckerberg, like Gates, is a Harvard dropout.

After launching Facebook school-wide from his dorm room at Harvard in February 2004, Zuckerberg began devoting more and more time to his program, gradually spreading it to other schools.

By that summer, Zuckerberg and his roommate Dustin Moskovitz had released Facebook to nearly 30 schools, and the website was growing too popular to be run part-time. Like Gates before him, Zuckerberg dropped out to make his technology start-up his sole focus.

Since then, Zuckerberg has received (and turned down) a $900 million buyout offer from Yahoo and pushed Facebook toward overshadowing MySpace as the most popular and fastest growing social networking site in the U.S.

Only 23, he’s Facebook’s CEO and retains control of the company.

4) Shawn Fanning, Napster

Widely known as the man who delivered peer-to-peer file sharing to the masses, Fanning is the mastermind behind Napster, the first-of-its-kind music-sharing application.

In the spring of 1999, as a 19-year-old freshman at Northeastern University in Boston, Fanning wrote a simple program that would allow users to search for and share music files over a peer-to-peer network.

The test version of Fanning’s program was a viral hit, downloaded by thousands of users and with traffic quickly outstripping Napster’s capacity. By the fall of that year. Fanning decided to drop out of school to move to Silicon Valley.

Although Napster drew the enmity — as well as the many-headed legal team — of the Recording Industry Association of America and of member band Metallica, in particular, for allowing users to illegally download free music, Napster forever changed the entertainment industry, forcing it to contend with the advent of digital media.

Fanning resigned from Napster in 2002 and went on to found SNOCAP, another music-sharing platform designed to let users access music inexpensively and legally.

5) Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were busy cooking up Google while they were still aspiring Ph.D. students in the computer science program at Stanford. The pair later went on leave from the Ph.D. program to make Google their primary focus.

Since its launch in 1998, Google has become the world’s dominant online search engine, a provider of popular free e-mail and Web tools, a cutting-edge innovator, a highly sought-after employer, and a profitable public company with stock prices reaching almost $750 a share at their recent peak.

Both just 33 years old, Page and Brin are now billionaires with net worths of about $13 billion each, ranked 27th and 26th on the Forbes World’s Richest People of 2006 list, and still pushing the Google monolith and fortune-making machine forward.

courtesy:  NextStudent.

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Free! College Software Guide

There is one thing college students don’t need when it comes to their software: another expense. With books, tuition and the million other expenses that come with going to college, the last thing you should have to pay for is some decent software.

Thankfully, there are many great free options to load up your computer with. While these might not be everyone’s personal preferences for the best free software for College students, I think that most people will find everything on this list useful, and being that the price is “free”, there is high value in all of this software.

OpenOffice.org

For those of you that can’t afford to pay the premium price in purchasing Microsoft Office, even with a generous student discount, you’ll want to look at OpenOffice.org. It is a free piece of software that works on any operating system, and includes access to software to write documents, create spreadsheets, presentations, and more.

For those of you using NeoOffice or other productivity software on your Apple Mac computers, you’ll now be happy to know that OpenOffice.org runs natively on Mac OS X, meaning that there is no need to load that strange X11 emulation software thus increasing the usability and usefulness of OpenOffice.org.

It also reads and writes Microsoft Office formats, meaning it is perfect for opening documents from school, or sending essays to your professors.

Download at OpenOffice.org.

GIMP

Don’t want to buy or use Photoshop illegally? No problem. GIMP is freely distributed image manipulation software that runs on all major operating systems (though with Macs you’ll need to install X11 emulation). GIMP is great for creating graphics and logos, photo tweaking, creating animated GIFs, etc.

While installing and running GIMP on Windows and Mac OSX are not as straightforward and easy as you may be used to, there are plenty of online tutorials that should make the process painless.

Download at GIMP.

Adium & Pidgin

If you have friends on MSN, Yahoo, AIM, and Google, you’ll want to find one piece of software to easily manage your conversations with all of them, and Adium and Pidgin will allow you to do that.

Both pieces of software allow you to combine your collection of friends and family into one long list, making it easy to communicate. Of course, you’ll be missing certain features that native applications have, like Google Talk’s video chat, but being able to be organized, and using fast and light pieces of software are worth any trade offs.

The choice on which multi-client instant messaging software to use is yours, and it really comes down to personal needs and tastes as well as which operating system you use. Adium is only for Mac OS X, while Pidgin works on nearly all operating systems. If you have a Mac though, both are free so give them both a try and stick with your favorite.

Download Pidgin and/or Adium.

Octave

Think Matlab is way overpriced? So do we. The good news is that there is a solid free replacement called Octave. Almost everything that can be done in Matlab can be done in Octave. Plus, if you used to have to go to a special computer lab to do your Matlab work, now you can do it on your own computer.

Just like Matlab, Octave is an ultra high-level programming language that is used to solve mathematical problems and plot their solutions. The nice thing about Octave is that it is modular and can easily be expanded to perform additional functions.

Download at GNU Octave.

Eclipse

For those of you who are computer science majors or just taking a few computer programming courses (which is becoming more and more common, especially for science majors) the good news is that you don’t have to buy an uber expensive C++ IDE package like Visual Studio. Instead, Eclipse gives you an amazing, fully featured development platform with all the plugins you could possibly want. Plus, Eclipse runs on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

Download at Eclipse.org.

iTunes

Listen to music? Want to be able to download movies, television shows, podcasts, and your favorite songs? Well, iTunes pretty much corners the market when it comes to legal downloadable media and the software is free.

For students on a budget, the myriad of video and audio podcasts available for free on nearly any topic or interest is a great way to pass the time, and iTunes has a radio section that allows you to listen to an unlimited amount of streaming music on hundreds of different stations.

Download iTunes from Apple.

Firefox

If you are still browsing the web on Internet Explorer, then you need to get with the program. There are many other web browsers out there that are better, faster, more secure and easier to use than Internet Explorer. One of the best is Firefox.

Not only is it faster but it allows for extensions. Extensions allow you to add features to your web browsing experience, from adding the weather and your e-mail count to always display on the browser, to being able to look at the code of a website easily, there are a million different things extensions can do to make Firefox even better than it is “out of the box.”

Download Mozilla Firefox.

VLC

Trying to play video formats, and having issues? Check out VLC. An amazingly lightweight piece of free software that plays nearly any video that you ask it to. It can be used to play DVD movies as well.

It also is available for nearly any operating system, making it a great choice for everyone.

Download VLC.

Skype

If you are away from your family, or don’t want to pay crazy prices for a home phone line, take a look at Skype’s offerings. One of the highest quality voice over the Internet services available Skype has many great advantages over getting a traditional phone line in your dorm or apartment, and is easy to use.

Also, if your family and friends get Skype on their computers, you can have free chat, audio or even video conversations with your family and friends.

You can even purchase phone numbers through Skype so that people that don’t have Skype can call you. And if you buy SkypeOut credits, or service you can call regular phones from your your Skype account. Many people use this as a cheap long distance service, especially for overseas calling.

Download Skype.

Last.fm

Want another great way to listen to music, especially if you don’t know exactly which songs to buy or download, check out Last.fm.

Last.fm lets you create “stations” based on your search preferences, from things as simple as “alternative” to listing your favorite bands and having it try to find others that you may enjoy as well.

It is free, and totally worth using for parties and events where you want a wide variety of music.

Download Last.fm.

Vuze

Understand BitTorrent? Then you’ll want to get Vuze, a great way of managing torrent files in an easy to understand way. This will allow you to download movie trailers, open source software, and videos from sites like Revision3.com.

Vuze rounds out my list of the top free College software.

Download Vuze today.

15 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

One of the more underrated benefits of the internet era has been access to quality radio style programming at any time of the day or night. Just like DVRs have freed us from having to adhere to rigid television program schedules, podcasting has enabled us to carry excellent radio with us for listening at any time. I struggle with not having enough hours in the day to listen to it all, because there is truly so much quality out there. Here are 15 podcasts in particular that will make you a smarter, more well rounded, and better informed person. Enjoy, and please leave your comments!

15. EconTalk

Econ-Talk

Duration: Roughly an hour

Hosted by professor Russel Roberts, EconTalk is the number one podcast for economics. With “clear and thoughtful conversations about economics”, the show brings the theory behind economics to situations and subjects that a wide variety of people can relate to. The show is usually a one on one discussion between Roberts and another guest.

Check out EconTalk HERE.

14. The Naked Scientists

The-Naked-Scientists

Duration: 60 mins

The Naked Scientists is an interactive podcast covering topical science news stories as well as answering audience questions. The show has featured several distinguished guests such as Alec Jeffreys (the discoverer of DNA fingerprints) and James D. Watson (the co-discoverer of DNA structure). The Naked Scientists have won several awards during their run, including the European Podcast Award.

Check out The Naked Scientists HERE.

13. Common Sense with Dan Carlin

Common-Sense-Dan-Carlin

Duration: Roughly 1 Hour

Dan Carlin is one of those people that has the amazing ability to present all side of an argument but remain non-partisan while doing so. Common Sense takes no prisoners, making all aspects of government and politics fair game for Carlin’s quick witted criticism. Known lovingly as “George Costanza on steroids”, Carlin’s podcast will keep you on your toes and your brain in shape!

Check out Common Sense with Dan Carlin HERE.

12. The Writer’s Block

The-Writers-Block

Duration: 30 Mins

This weekly reading series is targeted mainly at 25-40 year olds, appealing to young, intelligent, edgy listeners. Distributed through NPR, The Writer’s Block features stories, essays and poetry by all kinds of authors, and all kinds of genres, from non-fiction to plays!

Check out The Writer’s Block HERE.

11. The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

The-Skeptics-Guide-To-The-Universe

Duration: 60 Mins

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is a podcast hosted by Steven Novella and his panel of “skeptical rogues”. The podcast discusses myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and paranormal discoveries with a certain level of disbelief and, well, skepticism. Novella and his colleagues have been instrumental in debating with anti-vaccine activists, “homeopathy practitioners” and those who debate the connection between HIV and AIDS.

Check out The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe HERE.

10. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Wait-wait-dont-tell-me

Duration: 60 Mins

This hour long “quiz game show” is hosted by playwright and actor, Peter Sagal. Every week, three panelists are chosen to compete on the show. Listeners are also encouraged to participate by phone or email, sometimes being chosen as contestants themselves. Prizes for winning often include Carl Kasell recording voicemail on contestants home machines!

Check out Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! HERE.

9. The Sound of Young America

the-sound-of-young-america

Duration: 30 Mins

Based in Los Angeles, The Sound of Young America is hosted by Jesse Thorn, who spends segments interviewing popular arts and cultural personalities. Guests have included Art Spiegelman, David Cross, Patton Oswalt and even Ira Glass. The Sound of Young America got it’s start as a college station back in 2000 and made the jump to podcast form in 2004. The show has been mentioned in TIME Magazine and Salon.com, who said, “If you’ve never heard of The Sound of Young America, The Sound of Young America is the greatest radio show you’ve never heard of”. Well, now you don’t have an excuse, you’ve heard of it, now you just have to listen to it!

Check out The Sound of Young America HERE.

8. Keith and The Girl Comedy Talk Show

Keith-and-the-girl

Duration: Roughly an Hour

Keith and the Girl is one of the most popular comedy podcasts to hit the airwaves in the past 5 years. Hosted by couple Keith Malley and his singer girlfriend Chemda Khalili, the show features the pair discussing the daily adventures of their lives as well as current events. The show has over 50,000 listeners and has been ranked in the Top Ten Podcasts by Podcast Alley.

Check out Keith and The Girl HERE.

7. NewsPod

Newspod

Duration: 35 Mins

This daily program presents highlights from other BBC news programs, including BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5, BBC Asian Network and many more. NewsPod brings the quickest news updates with a wide variety of topics and informed speakers.

Check out NewsPod HERE.

6. All in the Mind

All-in-the-mind

Duration: 30 Mins

All in the Mind host Natasha Mitchell presents one of the most unique podcasts, delving deeply into the human mind, brain and behavior. Topics include depression, addiction, consciousness and free will. This podcast brings educated, although unexpected, voices and themes to challenge the listener to take a closer look at the mind.

Check out All in the Mind HERE.

5. Material World

Material-World

Duration: Roughly an hour

Each week on Material World, scientists discuss and describe their work and projects. The program is split into two sections, spending 15 minutes on each topic, and interviewing scientists and engineers. Although this is one of the most scientifically informative podcasts, it’s only downfall lies in the abundance of cheesy science jokes and puns.

Check out Material World HERE.

4. The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast

Dave-Ramsey-Show

Duration: 3 Hours

The Dave Ramsey Show is a self-syndicated program that takes live calls regarding personal finance. Ramsey offers step by step guidance to listeners experiencing financial difficulties. The defining factor between Ramsey’s show, and other financial podcasts, is Ramsey’s willingness to take more than just the mathematical/statistical aspects into account. Ramsey relates to his audience through a spiritual and emotional connection, making him more like a friend or mentor than just a financial adviser. There are many roads to financial security and stability, but listening to Ramsey’s common sense proclamations is a great motivation for keeping on track to anyone who struggled with debt or their finances.

Check out The Dave Ramsey Show HERE

3. TED Talks

ted-talks-ideas-worth-spreading

Duration: Varies

TED talks is one of those rare shows that spans a large quantity of topics, without sacrificing the quality of discussion. This series of lectures features some of the best concepts (”ideas worth spreading”) as well as amazing speakers. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Jane Goodall, Al Gore and Bill Gates have all been noted speakers. By April of 2009, the talks had been heard over 100 Million times by over 15 million people.

Check out TED Talks HERE.

2. NPR Intelligence Squared

NPR-Intelligence-Squared-US

Duration: 60 mins

This NPR podcast brings an “Oxford-style debating to America”, your basic motion, one moderator and 3 on 3 debating. NPR markets this podcast toward a wide range of people, it’s discussions including American religions, Hollywood, and even terrorist organizations. The topics are timed with world events, but this podcast tends to shine a light on events you might not be hearing about on the nightly news.

Check out NPR Intelligence Squared HERE.

1. This American Life

This-American-Life

Duration: 60 Minutes

This hour long program, hosted by Ira Glass, is a journalistic non-fiction program, featuring essays, memoirs, short fiction and much more. The show, which first aired on the radio in 1995, is one of the most listened podcasts of our generation. The show’s incredible value was recently on display when it tackled the housing crisis and economic collapse with two episodes entitled “The Giant Pool of Money” and “The Giant Pool of Money Part 2″. TAL excels at taking the esoteric and making them understandable – relatable even – to the average Joe. Each week’s episode tackles one issue or topic in a variety of ways, ensuring that you will come away each week with a deeper understanding of the world.

Check out This American Life HERE.

Free! Microsoft Gives Students Professional Developer Tools

Are you one of those college students with a dream? Are you one of those college students with one of those technical dreams that end in some sort of world domination? Well then Microsoft has good news for you!

DreamSpark is simple; it’s all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and designer tools
at no charge so you can chase your dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology – or just get a head start on your career.

Software tools for you at No Charge! The Microsoft DreamSpark student program allows students to get access to the latest Microsoft developer and designer tools, such as Visual Studio® and Expression® Studio, at no charge. Take advantage of this program today and unlock your creative potential. Start exploring the power of software.

Check it out here.

13 Free Online Sources to Help You Through School

Whether you’re struggling with a particular class or just want to expand what you know, these 13 sites can give you a library’s worth of information right from your laptop.

1. U.C. Berkeley Webcasts

Get podcasts and webcasts of current and archived courses at the University of California, Berkeley, and both live and on-demand webcasts of notable appearances, campus events, and prominent speakers and lectures.

2. MIT Open Courseware

Choose from over 1,700 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum, and download free lecture notes, exams, problem sets, labs, video lectures, video demonstrations, and more.

3. Wikipedia

Almost every significant event, person, place and thing has a page on the Wiki. Just remember that Wikipedia is a user-generated and user-monitored site, so what you’re reading may not necessarily have passed a thorough review for accuracy. Wikipedia’s a great place to start when you want to know more about pretty much anything, but you may not want to rely on it as the main reference source for your term paper.

4. Podcast Alley

A directory of over 36,000 podcasts, Podcast Alley lets you search for podcasts by key words or by category. Find hundreds of language-learning choices in the Education section, Mac Attack weekly tips and tricks for your Mac in the Technology section, or The Naked Scientists’ plain-English answers to your science questions in the Science & Medicine section.

5. YouTube

Sure, you can kill time—and brain cells—watching Britney Spears going down in flames at this year’s VMAs, or witness what happens when you mix Diet Coke and Mentos. But you can also find an introduction to calculus functions, Arabic language lessons, and a series on how to create fire effects in Photoshop. Rely on other viewers’ ratings to help you filter out the YouTube junk from the truly useful.

6. Education Index

The Education Index puts a huge database of educational websites at your fingertips. Simply click on a subject like archaeology, political science, or military technologies, and instantly get a list of links to sites both general and specialized that hold a wealth of information.

7. HowStuffWorks

From the light bulb to a rocket engine, HowStuffWorks breaks down how almost anything works with diagrams and easy-to-follow explanations. Don’t have an engineering streak in you? Check out “How the Batmobile Works,” “11 Stupid Legal Warnings,” or “What if everybody in the United States flushed the toilet at the same time?” No matter what you’re wondering, HowStuffWorks probably has an answer.

8. The History Channel

Surf through video galleries, timelines, maps, celebrated speeches, significant moments, and “This Day in History.” Enter in your birthday, and learn what’s happened throughout the years on the month and day you were born.

9. Dr. Math’s Math Forum

The Dr. Math forum answers thousands of common math questions, from elementary school to college level problems. Users submit their questions to the forum, and Dr. Math will post a response. If you’re having trouble in math class or with a problem set, it can help to read through old posts on the subject—chances are someone else has had the exact same problem you’re having.

10. Science

Not just for science geeks, the online version of the popular Science magazine offers thought-provoking and easy-to-read articles on everything from advances in neuroscience and astronomy to the latest in HIV research to “did you know” conversation starters, like why it makes evolutionary sense for certain animals to eat their young or why broccoli rubbed on your skin can help prevent sunburn damage.

11. Google News

Why pick and choose between news websites when you can harness the power and variety of all of them? Google News is a news aggregator that pulls all the top stories from thousands of news sites. You can use the power of Google search to find specific news items, browse standard categories like Health, Entertainment, and Top Stories, or personalize your Google News homepage and add custom categories of your own based on key words you choose.

12. www.chemistry.about.com

Articles, diagrams, walkthroughs and Q&As at About.com cover both the chemistry basics for new students and more specialized questions for more advanced students.

13. Education Arcade

Home to educational video and trivia games suited for middle school to college students, Education Arcade is entertainment that works your brain. In one of their augmented reality games, you can use GPS-enabled handheld computers to interview virtual characters and conduct large-scale environmental analysis to try to uncover the source of a simulated toxic spill.

13 Free Online Sources to Help You Through School

Whether you’re struggling with a particular class or just want to expand what you know, these 13 sites can give you a library’s worth of information right from your laptop.

1. U.C. Berkeley Webcasts

Get podcasts and webcasts of current and archived courses at the University of California, Berkeley, and both live and on-demand webcasts of notable appearances, campus events, and prominent speakers and lectures.

2. MIT Open Courseware

Choose from over 1,700 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum, and download free lecture notes, exams, problem sets, labs, video lectures, video demonstrations, and more.

3. Wikipedia

Almost every significant event, person, place and thing has a page on the Wiki. Just remember that Wikipedia is a user-generated and user-monitored site, so what you’re reading may not necessarily have passed a thorough review for accuracy. Wikipedia’s a great place to start when you want to know more about pretty much anything, but you may not want to rely on it as the main reference source for your term paper.

4. Podcast Alley

A directory of over 36,000 podcasts, Podcast Alley lets you search for podcasts by key words or by category. Find hundreds of language-learning choices in the Education section, Mac Attack weekly tips and tricks for your Mac in the Technology section, or The Naked Scientists’ plain-English answers to your science questions in the Science & Medicine section.

5. YouTube

Sure, you can kill time—and brain cells—watching Britney Spears going down in flames at this year’s VMAs, or witness what happens when you mix Diet Coke and Mentos. But you can also find an introduction to calculus functions, Arabic language lessons, and a series on how to create fire effects in Photoshop. Rely on other viewers’ ratings to help you filter out the YouTube junk from the truly useful.

6. Education Index

The Education Index puts a huge database of educational websites at your fingertips. Simply click on a subject like archaeology, political science, or military technologies, and instantly get a list of links to sites both general and specialized that hold a wealth of information.

7. HowStuffWorks

From the light bulb to a rocket engine, HowStuffWorks breaks down how almost anything works with diagrams and easy-to-follow explanations. Don’t have an engineering streak in you? Check out “How the Batmobile Works,” “11 Stupid Legal Warnings,” or “What if everybody in the United States flushed the toilet at the same time?” No matter what you’re wondering, HowStuffWorks probably has an answer.

8. The History Channel

Surf through video galleries, timelines, maps, celebrated speeches, significant moments, and “This Day in History.” Enter in your birthday, and learn what’s happened throughout the years on the month and day you were born.

9. Dr. Math’s Math Forum

The Dr. Math forum answers thousands of common math questions, from elementary school to college level problems. Users submit their questions to the forum, and Dr. Math will post a response. If you’re having trouble in math class or with a problem set, it can help to read through old posts on the subject—chances are someone else has had the exact same problem you’re having.

10. Science

Not just for science geeks, the online version of the popular Science magazine offers thought-provoking and easy-to-read articles on everything from advances in neuroscience and astronomy to the latest in HIV research to “did you know” conversation starters, like why it makes evolutionary sense for certain animals to eat their young or why broccoli rubbed on your skin can help prevent sunburn damage.

11. Google News

Why pick and choose between news websites when you can harness the power and variety of all of them? Google News is a news aggregator that pulls all the top stories from thousands of news sites. You can use the power of Google search to find specific news items, browse standard categories like Health, Entertainment, and Top Stories, or personalize your Google News homepage and add custom categories of your own based on key words you choose.

12. www.chemistry.about.com

Articles, diagrams, walkthroughs and Q&As at About.com cover both the chemistry basics for new students and more specialized questions for more advanced students.

13. Education Arcade

Home to educational video and trivia games suited for middle school to college students, Education Arcade is entertainment that works your brain. In one of their augmented reality games, you can use GPS-enabled handheld computers to interview virtual characters and conduct large-scale environmental analysis to try to uncover the source of a simulated toxic spill.

4 Cheap Brand-Name Laptops!

A new laptop for college doesn’t need to cost you $1,500. Don’t let the flashy ads and giant headlines fool you: You don’t need 4GB of RAM or a 2.4GHz dual-core processor to handle everything you need to do for class, even if you want to be able to download a video or blast your master playlist at the same time.

Save your money for food and rent; you can get all the college capability you need and all the digital entertainment center you want without the steep price tag.

Here’s a list of six relatively inexpensive yet powerful laptops from all the big-name manufacturers. Keep in mind that these come straight from the manufacturer’s website and can be found even cheaper elsewhere!

1) Dell Inspiron 15

Starting Price: $399*

click image for specific specs

This modest laptop packs all the processing power and entertainment capability most students will need all in an awesome outer shell! With an Intel® Celeron® 900 (1MB cache/2.20GHz/800Mhz FSB)processor,  2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive,  Windows Vista pre-installed, a 15-inch display, and a CD burner. With its integrated wireless network card, the Inspiron comes ready to jump on your school’s wireless network. Best of all, you can make this laptop yours for monthly payments as low as $15.

Avg Customer Rating 	4.3 of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.3 of 5

2) Compaq Presario CQ60

Starting Price: $399.99*

Click image for more info

Click image for more info

Think of this bargain laptop as “the little computer that could.” It isn’t quite as powerful as its HP Pavilion cousin, but with a 2.1GHz Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor, a healthy 3072MBMB RAM plus 250GB hard drive with built-in protection, and built-in wireless card and mic/webcam, this Presario is more than enough for the average student’s needs. And $15 a month is all you’ll need to take it home.

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

3) HP G60t

Starting Price: $499.99*

click image for more info

click image for more info

I am a proud owner of a HP laptop and I ooze nothing but praise for this brand, as I have put my laptop through the worst (coffee spills, drops, random coaster usage) and yet it has never failed me…not once! For a slightly higher price tag than the Presario, this laptop from HP offers an even better educational bang for your buck. With an Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor cruising at a speed of 1.6GHz (with the option of upgrading up to a blazing 2.50GHz), a full 1GB RAM, a 15.4-inch display, built-in wireless, and a FireWire port plus 3 USB ports, built-in 5 digital media card reader, the Pavilion puts power and speed at your fingertips for about $20 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

4) Toshiba Satellite Pro A210-EZ2202X

Price: $670*

click image for more info

click image for more info

With the AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core mobile processor on this Toshiba laptop, you’ll plow through your assignments at 1.9GHz. Your barrage of PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, 20-page term papers, embedded videos, and multi-tab Internet research won’t stand a chance against the Satellite’s arsenal of 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, DVD burner, 4 USB ports, 15.4-inch display, and built-in wireless — all yours for about $24 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

* Manufacturer prices as of October 14, 2009

10 FREE Online Services: Free E-mail, File Storage, and File Sharing for Students on a Budget

If you’re a college student on a pretty tight budget, you’ve probably already mastered the gourmet Ramen-noodle dinner and the art of interior decorating with crate-box and garage-sale furniture.

But while you’re limiting how much your offline lifestyle eats into your budget, make sure you’re not spending your precious food or rent dollars on online services like e-mail, file storage, or file sharing. You can get every single one of these services for free, with features comparable to or even better than the paid versions.

With all these free options, you should be able to satisfy your online communication and file sharing needs without ever dipping into your wallet. Heck, with the money you’ll save, you might even be able to upgrade to macaroni and cheese.

Top 5 Free E-mail Services

Sure, free e-mail has been available for years, but not with the kind of storage, features, and security you can get these days.

Every one of these five major e-mail providers offers really decent basic service that won’t cost you a single penny. Some of them also feature POP3 or IMAP capability (or both) so you can access and organize your webmail using your favorite desktop e-mail application, like Outlook or Mail.

1.  Gmail

Google’s webmail service, this is probably the best free e-mail out there. It’s super-easy to use, offers good technical support, and comes with great features, awesome spam control, tons of inbox space, and a lot of extras.

  • Inbox Storage: Virtually unlimited (6+ GB and growing every day)
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Google Talk, message notifier, language support, no pop-ups or banner ads

2.  AOL Mail

Long the butt of jokes for mass-mailing CDs offering their online service, AOL actually offers pretty decent free e-mail, with super spam protection. But beware: Customer support can be difficult to contact.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 16 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with AIM, integrated text messaging, message notifier, language support, personalized domain, games

3.  Yahoo! Mail

A great user interface and e-mail organization make this a strong choice, but no POP3 or IMAP access will be a problem if you want to use your own e-mail application instead of your Web browser.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Yahoo! Messenger, integrated text messaging, message notifier, games

4.  Inbox.com

Inbox.com has some pretty standard features, but lacks a phishing filter, which might bother some people.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB, or 2 GB if you want POP3 Access
  • File Attachment Max Size: 20 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: POP3
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, message notifier, 5GB online data storage, photo sharing, games, e-cards

5.  Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft’s new-and-improved free webmail (formerly MSN Hotmail) provides some nice integration with your operating system, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. This is a distinct improvement over the old Hotmail.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Windows Live Messenger, message notifier, games

Top 5 Free Online File Storage and Sharing Services

Instead of eating up your hard drive space, you can store some of your bigger files, like videos and MP3s, online with one of these five providers.

Some of these services come with unique interfaces to share specific things, like photos, and even to host videos, websites, blogs, and other stuff. But you’ll need to be running Windows to get all the benefits each provider has to offer — sorry, Mac-heads.

1.  MediaMax

Huge storage, plus lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 25 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access, Windows desktop software

2.  Xdrive

Provided by AOL. Small storage, but lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 5 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows desktop software

3.  ripway

Lots of storage and good features, including lots of hosting options.

  • Online Storage: 30 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access

4.  box

Limited storage, but neat extras and awesome Web 2.0 interface.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, browser access, mobile access, desktop widget

5.  OmniDrive

Limited storage, but smooth integration with Windows and the ability to edit spreadsheets and word processing docs.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows and Mac desktop software, integration with Windows OS and with Zoho office applications

Free! Google Book Downloader

Thanks to Google’s drive to add more and more books to the Google Books project, including thousands of public domain volumes, you’ll find quite a nice selection to choose from. Google Book Downloader helps you download them to PDF.

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start. Google Book Downloader will not let you pirate books. It will however let you download books that are flagged as full-access such as books in the public domain and books with limited-preview—although you’ll only get the preview parts, not the entire book.

While using the application isn’t as simple as say right clicking on a file and saving it, the difficulty level isn’t high. Once you’ve installed the application, fire it up, and feed it some books you want to download. Although the instructions for the Add dialogue box indicate you can use ISBN numbers, we didn’t have much luck with that. Since you’re already searching Google Books to find the books you want, you might as well cut and paste the URL for the book at Google Books—that method never failed.

Once you’ve added your books they’ll appear in the download queue. From there start the downloads and let it go. Occasionally as the application pulls down data you’ll need to enter a captcha to keep the pipeline open, but other than that it’s an unattended process. Check out the tutorial available here to get a more in-depth overview of the process and make sure you get off to the right start.

Google Book Downloader is freeware, Windows only and requires .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 or above.

GoogleBookDownloader [via HackADay]
Courtesy LH.

5 Online Tools to Help You Cite Your Research Papers

There’s nothing like MLA or APA citation formatting requirements to add even more tedious hours to your research paper that’s already dragged on for weeks. But with these easy-to-use online tools, you can get picture-perfect bibliographies and Works Cited pages at the click of a button.

1) Citation Machine

Citation Machine offers free, automatic formatting for MLA, APA, Chicago, and Turabian styles. From the left-hand menu, choose the style manual you’re using, then the type of source you need to cite (book, journal, website, etc.). You’ll get an online form to fill out with information like author name, page number, and publication date. Simply plug in the info, click “Submit,” and your formatted citation pops out, ready for you to copy and paste into your paper.

2) Source Aid

Source Aid works almost the same as Citation Machine. Select the style guide you need, and click “Start Citation Builder.” Choose the type of source you’re citing, then fill out the form with the necessary publication info. Click “Next” to get your fully formatted, rules-compliant citation.

3) Easy Bib

EasyBib is a free MLA citation tool for sources of all kinds. Just select your type of source from a drop-down menu, specify what form you found it in (print or electronic), then click “Next.” Fill out the citation info (just like in Citation Machine and Source Aid), click “Format Citation,” and you’re done! You can even view your formatted citations online or save your Works Cited list in a Word doc format as you go along. For $7.99 a year, you can upgrade to MyBib Pro to get access to APA formatting as well.

4) Knight Cite

This citation tool on the Calvin College website is possibly the simplest tool of the bunch. The entire page is nothing but fields asking for author, title, page numbers, and basic publication info. Type in the info, click “Submit,” and out comes your citation. Choose from MLA, APA, and Chicago styles, and a variety of print or electronic sources.

5) Carmun Easy Bibliography Formatting

This handy tool formats citations for five different standards: MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, and CSE. As with the other tools, all you have to do is fill in specified fields with requested source info. Then click the green “Format Bibliography” button at the bottom of the form, and voilá — a quick, painless, standards-compliant citation for your paper.

As you’re probably noticing, these online citation tools are all very similar. The one you end up using the most will depend on what style guide your professors require, your input and layout preferences, and the interface that you find easiest and quickest to use.