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IamDave

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 10, 2015
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78
United Kingdom
Ok, I know there's a few of these threads kicking about but let me explain my problem.

I've recently been successful on a selection event and been accepted for a two year course studying paramedic practice at university. I'm currently an employee in the ambulance service in an assistant role so this is the next step.

The problem I'm facing is whether I can get through the course using an iPad (Air 2) and Bluetooth keyboard (BrydgeAir) that I currently own. The plan is the iPad would be used for doing work when not at home as we get released to attend university in two week blocks so I'll still be at home and have access to my iMac most of the time but I want to be able to work on any projects/coursework while staying at university or at work.

I used to own a 2014 12" (or 13"?) MBA which I used to do my level three diploma to access the university course through work but sold it at the beginning of this year as I missed having an iPad and only used the MBA for coursework so it was a bit redundant and felt like I had too many devices laying around!

Has anyone managed to use an iPad & Bluetooth keyboard combo with a desktop as and when required with few or no problems for doing university work?

I'm seeing a few options:

1. Stick with my current setup - iPad and keyboard for away from home working and desktop when at home (my top option at the moment as I won't need to spend money).
2. Sell the iMac nod possibly iPad and buy something like a base MBP (would want the retina screen if selling my desktop as well)
3. Buy another MBA either the 11" or 12" as an addition to my setup.

All advice greatly appreciated!
 

Night Spring

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Jul 17, 2008
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Hard to say unless we know what exactly is involved in doing "university work." Basic word processing? Spreadsheets? Do you have to access specific websites and/or programs for coursework or taking tests?

Also, not sure what you mean by "staying at university." Are you going home everyday so you can use your iMac? In American English, "staying" has the connotation of being somewhere for more than a day.
 
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IamDave

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 10, 2015
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United Kingdom
Sorry, should've been a little more specific. On top of the practical aspects the bulk of the work will entail researching subjects and writing essays (and referencing), presentations and case studies. There are no specific websites as far as I'm aware barring some online library portals I read about in some pre course information we received.

In reference to staying at university I mean during my two week blocks where I will be staying in a hotel or similar from Mon night to Fri mornings for a duration of two weeks every couple of months or so.

I do have access to a PC at work also but would be unable to transfer anything to/from it other than by email.
 

gtjeta

macrumors member
Mar 31, 2012
74
35
Writting with citations is perfectly possible using LaTex with Texpad app, for instance. Maybe too complex for your needs, though.

Just one suggestion, why not trying to go through the initial weeks of the course with the iPad and if it doesn't work buy a mba 11 or a rmb 12? You also may use the iPad for remote access to your desktop at home using apps such as splashtop or jump desktop.
 

IamDave

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 10, 2015
176
78
United Kingdom
Writting with citations is perfectly possible using LaTex with Texpad app, for instance. Maybe too complex for your needs, though.

Just one suggestion, why not trying to go through the initial weeks of the course with the iPad and if it doesn't work buy a mba 11 or a rmb 12? You also may use the iPad for remote access to your desktop at home using apps such as splashtop or jump desktop.
I have previously used a website and app called RefME on my last diploma which seemed to work ok and made life much easier!

Think that's probably a very sensible idea actually, see how it goes. Think I might do just that and see if I can manage with the iPad. I must admit I probably won't end up doing a huge amount on the iPad anyway as most of the work will probably get done at home on the iMac so in the end probably won''t be so bad but let's see. Thanks for the input, appreciate it
 

Altis

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My nickel's worth of free advice is to be careful not to spend too much time or effort trying to get around iOS limitations. It might be easier to just buy a used MBA or heck, even an inexpensive Windows laptop for the sole purpose of school work.

My experience with both college and university is that they kind of expect you to have either Windows or OS X. There are a lot of times when iOS makes it a pain to get something done.

For example, referencing a PDF, web browser, having videos playing in background, all while having your paper/presentations open. It just becomes a mess as iOS is really best suited for one task at a time.

Being able to plug in a mouse for much faster and more precise pointer input also helps a lot.

Finally, being able to use USB drives, printers, having a larger screen, etc, are all things you will likely come to appreciate or even need. Nothing worse than finding out that you need to do something that is either not possible or extremely tedious on an iPad when time is of the essence.

If it's just for school work, your specs needs are modest and you can probably pick up something for a few hundred dollars that will make your life much easier at school. When you consider the cost of your whole education, it's usually a pretty small piece but makes all the difference in your success (and sanity).

Good luck!
 

M. Gustave

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Jun 6, 2015
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My nickel's worth of free advice is to be careful not to spend too much time or effort trying to get around iOS limitations.

You see 'limitations' because you're approaching the iPad as if it's a gimped x86 machine. You need to change the way you're working, then many of those 'limitations' magically disappear.

My experience with both college and university is that they kind of expect you to have either Windows or OS X. There are a lot of times when iOS makes it a pain to get something done.

When did you go to school? If it was even a few years ago, your experience is out of date. I don't think it's at all bizarre to be using an iPad at school in 2016.

For example, referencing a PDF, web browser, having videos playing in background, all while having your paper/presentations open.

Are all those open windows active, and being attended to simultaneously? I seriously doubt it. Most people I've observed using a pc/mac, use every application full screen anyway.

Being able to plug in a mouse for much faster and more precise pointer input also helps a lot.

That's an arbitrary historical way of interacting with a computer, that you personally have grown accustomed to, but there's nothing about a mouse that's inherently more 'precise' than a touchscreen using software designed for touch input.

Finally, being able to use USB drives, printers...

Both of which can be connected wirelessly to an iPad. Or do universities require the use of wires?
 

Altis

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Sep 10, 2013
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You see 'limitations' because you're approaching the iPad as if it's a gimped x86 machine. You need to change the way you're working, then many of those 'limitations' magically disappear.

Spare me the philosophical sophistries. I've given examples of limitations, ones that are extremely common, and make the iPad a pain to use as your only school computer.

When did you go to school? If it was even a few years ago, your experience is out of date. I don't think it's at all bizarre to be using an iPad at school in 2016.

I'm in school now for Engineering, and my girlfriend is doing a masters program (in a social science). It's not bizarre to bring an iPad to class for note taking or reference (such as textbooks, in my case), but I don't know a single person who doesn't have a desktop or laptop that they use outside of class for school work.

She has a 13" MBA that she likes, but even writing small papers/assignments now she plugs in to my 27" 1440p monitor and mouse/keyboard as it makes it much easier and more comfortable. She would even take off with my 17" MBP if it didn't weigh 700 lbs.

Are all those open windows active, and being attended to simultaneously? I seriously doubt it. Most people I've observed using a pc/mac, use every application full screen anyway.

Yes, side by side often, or having a YouTube instructional video or lecture playing in the background. The iPad Air 2 does one thing at a time, and switching between apps is doable but it gets tedious -- especially when compared with how easily it's done in OS X. Multiple windows, tabs, and even full desktop instances are a piece of cake to navigate.

When you're working on papers, it's common to have tons of windows and tabs open. PDFs, web pages, Word documents, textbooks, class notes, videos, message forums, chats and video/screen sharing windows... this is not unusual at all. Having a desktop experience makes workflow a ton easier than having to use single apps one at a time.

Having a screen larger than 9.7" is also very helpful. You could even keep an external monitor at home and have a nice large workspace and much, much improved ergonomics, for less than $100.

That's an arbitrary historical way of interacting with a computer, that you personally have grown accustomed to, but there's nothing about a mouse that's inherently more 'precise' than a touchscreen using software designed for touch input.

A mouse is more precise than a finger on an iPad. If you want to very quickly select blocks of text, for example, it's much quicker to do with a mouse than your finger. OP doesn't have the Pro so the Pencil isn't an option. I'm not even sure you can select multiple blocks of text simultaneously on the iPad.

Both of which can be connected wirelessly to an iPad. Or do universities require the use of wires?

When your classmate hands you a USB drive to trade files with you... how do you do it on the iPad? A better question is, is it worth the extra hassle to have to worry about this kind of typical thing?

- - - - -

My point is not that it absolutely cannot be done on an iPad Air 2, only that you'll most likely save time by doing it on a laptop. School costs a fortune as it is, so spending another $500 on a laptop that allows you to work more quickly and efficiently, reducing fatigue, is absolutely something worth considering -- especially if it's for two years.

You can even sell it again afterwards and collect the difference. Buy a $700 laptop and 2 years later sell it for $400.
 

Night Spring

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Jul 17, 2008
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make the iPad a pain to use as your only school computer.

But the OP was not asking about using iPad as an only computer. They have an iMac at home. The only serious concern I see is their having to stay at a hotel for a week at a time. That could get a bit tricky, depending on what kind of work they need to do while away from home.
 
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Altis

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But the OP was not asking about using iPad as an only computer. They have an iMac at home. The only serious concern I see is their having to stay at a hotel for a week at a time. That could get a bit tricky, depending on what kind of work they need to do while away from home.

Fair enough. I suppose I'm unclear on how much time is spent away from the Mac:

The plan is the iPad would be used for doing work when not at home as we get released to attend university in two week blocks so I'll still be at home and have access to my iMac most of the time but I want to be able to work on any projects/coursework while staying at university or at work.

Two weeks is a long time to be away from your main computer, and I would wager long enough that you'll have a ton of work to do in between trips home.

I'm only offering my advice from my perspective... OP can conclude what's best. :D
 
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Night Spring

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I'm only offering my advice from my perspective... OP can conclude what's best. :D

And I think many of the points you bring up is quite valid. And only the OP can tell for sure if two weeks away from iMac with only iPad is doable or not. Maybe there'll be some frustrations, but if it's only for two weeks, it might be worth it to save the money. If it was for the entire semester, then I'd definitely advise against going iPad only.

Another thing is, I do wish I had an iPad while I was going to college. It would have helped a lot doing library research, and also for carrying all my textbooks with me, if they are available in digital format. So to anyone going to school today, I'd advise getting BOTH an iPad and a computer, if you can afford it.
 
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IamDave

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 10, 2015
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Appreciate all the advice and comments so far it's lending a bit of perspective.

To try and clear up my time actually at the university itself is a week at a time (home on weekends) but for a 2 week (occasionally looks to be three) period if that makes sense. After this I return home and to work to do my clinical placements then another month or so down the line I'll be back at university again. So I'd be without the mac during the week but will be able to use it on the weekends and then during the week when I'm home.

I'll be honest it all boils down to me not wanting to spend money and wanting to avoid having an abundance of devices around (previously had an MBA as well as the iPad and iMac and it felt like too much).

As for the iPad having the digital textbooks I had the same thought but unfortunately none of the texts from the reading list I've been given are available in such a format from what I've seen.

The more I think about it the more I agree that although working on the iPad could work with the keyboard it may become difficult. It's given me food for thought anyway and I've looked at even going down a refurbished route or getting a cheap windows laptop that'll do the job.
 

M. Gustave

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I'm in school now for Engineering...

Which, along with CS, are the two least likely fields of study to be adaptable today to an iPad. So I get your resistance, I really do, but you have to realize that your usage patterns are not typical of the wider public, or even of other university students.

The iPad Air 2 does one thing at a time...

No, it can do two at a time actually.

A mouse is more precise than a finger on an iPad. If you want to very quickly select blocks of text, for example, it's much quicker to do with a mouse than your finger.

No it isn't. My experience is the exact opposite of yours.

When your classmate hands you a USB drive to trade files with you... how do you do it on the iPad?

Seriously? Kids are passing around thumb drives still?? In 2016? If true, I'm very surprised. Please mention OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, and iCloud to them. You'll be doing them a favor.
 

boogiedout

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Nov 6, 2014
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i did my degree from 2099 to 2012. from 2010 to 2012 i used my iPad, 1st gen, for all my work. i was studying a social work degree, which involved a lot of research and a lot of typing, over 60,000 words on each work placement. I didn't even have a bluetooth keyboard, all on the on screen keyboard. I was able to access online journals, PDF's, websites and university specific websites with no problem at all. Now its 2016 and the iPad air 2 is a much better machine. you will have no issues with using the iPad air2 as your main computer, won't even need the iMac. save your money for enjoying your life and just use what you have to hand, it'll be fine as is ;)
 
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Altis

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Which, along with CS, are the two least likely fields of study to be adaptable today to an iPad. So I get your resistance, I really do, but you have to realize that your usage patterns are not typical of the wider public, or even of other university students.

Go to your local colleges/universities, go to the library and see how many people are using iPads. I'm in Engineering, but I'm on campus all the time and sit in on other lectures with friends. It's not uncommon to see Surface Pros in lectures, some iPads but not many, but for taking notes. In the library, study areas, dorms, labs, etc, you simply don't see people using them beyond casual browsing/media. At least, this is the case for Ottawa's two Unis and main college. I use mine for textbooks and light reference, but anything more I bust out the MBP.

Like I said, my girlfriend is in the social sciences (arguably the most tablet-friendly area) and she finds even her 13" MBA to be too small to be efficient at normal assignments.

No, it can do two at a time actually.

With certain apps you can do split-screen, but they become so narrow it's difficult to use either on the 9.7" screen. The larger iPad Pro is much better suited for this.

But even then, you haven't addressed any of the usage scenario where OS X would be tremendously more versatile and efficient. I can wash my car with a toothbrush but I don't because it's inefficient.

No it isn't. My experience is the exact opposite of yours.

A mouse or stylus with active digitizer are most quick and accurate. The Air 2 has neither. Are you seriously trying to say that the non-digitizer iPads with just your finger are more accurate than a mouse/active stylus? Why did they even bother making the Pencil if your finger is more accurate?

Do a quick test where you have to copy 5 partial sentences from a PDF to a word document on the iPad, then do it on a computer with a pointing device (even iPad Pro with Apple Pencil). It's much longer with the iPad and a finger than keyboard and mouse. I can't think of anything that can be done more quickly with an iPad when it comes to school work.

Seriously? Kids are passing around thumb drives still?? In 2016? If true, I'm very surprised. Please mention OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, and iCloud to them. You'll be doing them a favor.

You're acting as though everyone adopted and absolutely should adopt your workflow.

Is it possible to get by with an iPad Air 2? Probably. Heck, you could probably do the whole thing on an iPad Mini, or iPhone 6, or iPhone 4, right? At what point do you say "hmm, this would be much quicker, easier, and more ergonomic if I just used a laptop?"

And for what, the want of a $600 laptop that you could sell for half that at the end? iPads are great for lots of things, but aren't best suited for everything.

- - -

OP, you can always see how you manage and when the need arises, consider your options. Just be conscious of wasting time with tools that slow you down. Students can never have enough free time as it is.
 
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SDColorado

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Nov 6, 2011
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When your classmate hands you a USB drive to trade files with you... how do you do it on the iPad? A better question is, is it worth the extra hassle to have to worry about this kind of typical thing?



That's where I would run into trouble with an iPad only option. I don't need to trade USB drives with classmates so much as I need to hand USB drives to instructors with assignments on them. Being able to go home every day, it could be worked around, but spending 2 weeks at a hotel, as the OP must do, could present a challenge.

Some hotels have business centers, with a desktop PC he might be able to use, but certainly not all of them
 

M. Gustave

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Are you seriously trying to say that the non-digitizer iPads with just your finger are more accurate than a mouse/active stylus? Why did they even bother making the Pencil if your finger is more accurate?

I didn't say it was "more accurate". I said that a mouse isn't inherently more precise than a touchscreen and software written for touch input. I really don't think you can argue about this without getting into specifics of apps and usage.

And Apple made the Pencil for drawing and writing, they've made that very clear. The point of it is feel and pressure sensitivity, which is extremely important for illustrating. They did not make it to be a mouse substitute.

I can't think of anything that can be done more quickly with an iPad when it comes to school work.

Note taking, drawing, recording lectures or projects on video, reading, are all easier on an iPad. And with cellular it can work anywhere, unlike a laptop.


You're acting as though everyone adopted and absolutely should adopt your workflow.

No, I'm not. I specifically said it might not work well for engineering and CS. You're the one stating unequivocally that a pc is the better choice for every student.

And nobody, in any of these iPad vs pc threads, has ever said iPads are "best for everything". That would be a ridiculous assertion.
 
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Altis

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I didn't say it was "more accurate". I said that a mouse isn't inherently more precise than a touchscreen and software written for touch input. I really don't think you can argue about this without getting into specifics of apps and usage.

And Apple made the Pencil for drawing and writing, they've made that very clear. The point of it is feel and pressure sensitivity, which is extremely important for illustrating. They did not make it to be a mouse substitute.

Note taking, drawing, recording lectures or projects on video, reading, are all easier on an iPad. And with cellular it can work anywhere, unlike a laptop.

Like I say, the iPad is commonly used for note taking (although much more versatile with the active stylus in the Pro) and reference (textbooks, etc). As before, I'll fully acknowledge that it's good enough for those.

But the moment you start working on things like papers, research assignments, collaborative projects, etc... you have to put more effort into making the iPad do things that are a piece of cake on a Mac. The libraries at school are just a sea of glowing Apple logos for a reason.

We need to stick on topic for OP here. OP already has an iPad Air 2; given the options presented, I'm simply recommending spending a few hundred dollars on a second-hand MBA, get through school, then sell it for minimal loss.

No, I'm not. I specifically said it might not work well for engineering and CS. You're the one stating unequivocally that a pc is the better choice for every student.

And nobody, in any of these iPad vs pc threads, has ever said iPads are "best for everything". That would be a ridiculous assertion.

Making it out to be the other person's problem when you can't work with a USB drive is acting as though others shouldn't be using these things (which aren't in any way unique to Eng./CS). OP won't have control over things like this so it's best to be confident you can deal with common tools people use at school. The laptop (Mac/PC) is the standard -- it will have you covered and require no extra work to get everything done.

You're right that the iPad isn't best for everything, and neither is the Mac... However when it comes to school work, the Mac can do everything you can throw at it -- it covers all of the bases and will ensure OP gets work done as efficiently as possible while away from their desktop for 2 weeks at a time.

In any case, it's up to OP. They'll find out soon enough if the Air 2 works well enough or if a laptop would be helpful. Having asked specifically if anyone does it with few/no problems, I'm only giving my perspective and what I see with others on campus.

I'll let you have the last word as I think I've given my personal advice to OP.

Good luck with the school OP and be sure to report back your decision and experiences -- it'll add to the pile of food for thought here at MR. :D
 

ilman92

macrumors newbie
May 5, 2016
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23
I have previously used a website and app called RefME on my last diploma which seemed to work ok and made life much easier!

If I’m not mistaken, RefMe recently released a plugin for MS Word for iOS that allows cite-while-you-write capabilities. It’s a premium feature that requires subscription. I haven’t tried it, but worth a look.

Edit:

I’m a student currently using only iPad for school work, though I have an MBP at home, which I am considering selling. I’m in the health sciences. Once I purchased a wireless USB stick, the iPad became sufficient. One might consider a wireless hub to do USB file transfers. Everything else is solved by apps.

It’s the all-in-one factor plus the ergonomics of using the iPad, direct manipulation etc. that made me favour the iPad over the Mac/PC, even though currently the latter is more than enough for school work.
 
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SDColorado

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Nov 6, 2011
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Note taking, drawing, recording lectures or projects on video, reading, are all easier on an iPad. And with cellular it can work anywhere, unlike a laptop.

I use the personal hotspot on my iPhone, when I need to connect my MBP in a situation where there is no available WiFi. Generally it works, except a handful of situations where I was traveling and didn't have cell service either, but the iPad doesn't work any better in those instances.
 

bensisko

macrumors 65816
Jul 24, 2002
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And for what, the want of a $600 laptop that you could sell for half that at the end? iPads are great for lots of things, but aren't best suited for everything.

- - -

OP, you can always see how you manage and when the need arises, consider your options. Just be conscious of wasting time with tools that slow you down. Students can never have enough free time as it is.

If you buy a computer for $600, no one is going to give you $300 for it after two years (no matter how pristine). MacBooks rarely hold that value anymore.

I'd agree with M. Gustave on this. Given the OP's stated needs and the fact they have an iMac at home, the iPad will be more than sufficient. As far as "wasting time with tools that slow you down" statement, it doesn't sound like it applies. If you're inflexible in how you get things done, then Altis is right and it would be a waste of time to try to use the iPad. If you like the iPad and you're not squeamish about adapting, then the benefits FAR outweigh any minor inconviences you"really going to encounter.

Altis is pointing out that you could get a new computer and be prepared for any possibility that will ever come your way (even though, more likely than not, it probably won't). If you ARE going to go this route, don't cheap out as suggested. Take the time to find something that really works (especially if you're going to be stuck with it for two years or more). Figure out what you like about the iPad and what you don't like - then look at the options that fit that. If you like the form factor, there are MANY tablets on the market at varying entry points. Do you want hand-written notes? A Surface 3 (or clone from Dell, HP, or Samsung) might do well for you.

Personally, it sounds like you're well covered with the iPad (especially with the iMac at home and access to other PCs if the need arises).
 

oldmacs

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Sep 14, 2010
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I'm in 3rd year uni and my iPad has become annoying for uni work, so I went back to using the Mac - less mucking around. The iPad is great as a textbook machine, much prefer it to a laptop, but a laptop was more flexible for most other things, especially since writing an essay almost always requires 3 windows (minimum) to be open (source list, document, at least one website/document) So I still take the iPad with me, along with the laptop for the textbooks, sometimes some note taking and safari, but mostly take notes on paper or on my laptop. Lets put it this way, if I had to choose one device to have with me, it would have definitely be the Macbook.
 
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