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Technology

I need a laptop that can handle CAD and has a good battery life

I’m an engineering student who wants to run professional design and manufacturing systems

I am an engineering student entering into either mechanical or ocean naval architecture. I need a new laptop able to run programs such as SolidWorks and some games, such as Civilization 5 and Stellaris. In addition, it needs to be portable and have good battery life.

I’ve started comparing laptops and think I’ve found a potential candidate: a Lenovo Yoga 730 with an eighth-generation Core i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX-1050 4GB graphics card. Are these good specs for what I’m looking for? Rhya

There’s still a clear divide between ultra-thin-and-light laptops that double as tablets and high-performance laptops designed for running serious software, and you’re looking at the wrong side of it! I like Lenovo’s touch-screen Yoga laptops, and I own a bright orange one. It’s great for email, word processing and web browsing on the move. It’s not really suitable for running heavyweight programs like SolidWorks, where “16GB or more” is the minimum recommended memory.

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Can I abandon a Gmail address that’s getting too much porn?

IMB is receiving explicit emails and is thinking of creating a new account

Someone has been using my Gmail address to sign me up for things online, and I consistently get explicit emails sent to my inbox and my spam box. I have decided to get a new email address, abandon my current one and delete it from my phone account. What will happen to my old email address when I’m not using it? IMB

It’s amazing how little progress we have made in the past 30-odd years. First, any company that still emails people – or adds them to mailing lists – without a “double opt-in” is run by idiots. If anyone signs up for anything, they should get an email that they must click to confirm they really want whatever it is. This remains true even for porn sites.

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Should I use Microsoft Word on a Mac or a cheaper alternative?

Ed doesn’t want to pay an annual subscription for Office 365 and he’s looking for a compatible rival

I chose Microsoft Word for Mac when I switched to a MacBook Pro some years ago. As a writer, I have a very large number of Word files, but with Microsoft moving to an annual subscription model, the cost of remaining with Word is looking prohibitive.

Is there is a cheaper way of carrying on with Word, or, failing that, an alternative word processor with which I’ll still be able to open and edit my existing Word documents?Ed

Microsoft would prefer both Mac and Windows users of Office to move to the online version, Office 365, but it’s still entirely up to you. In fact, you can already use some Microsoft Office programs online, including Word, without paying Microsoft a penny. All you have to do is create a Microsoft Account using any working email address – it doesn’t have to be a Microsoft email address – and you can use online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint with free online storage in OneDrive. This is exactly the same as Google’s online suite. The main difference is that Microsoft’s programs are better, except for multiuser simultaneous editing.

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What’s the best laptop screen size for poor eyesight?

Chris wants to know if a Windows laptop with a 17in screen would be easier for his ‘pensioner eyes’

For home use, would a 17in Full HD laptop screen be better or worse than a 13in or 14in model? Will the clarity and crispness be better for my pensioner eyes? Chris

According to my pensioner eyes, clarity and crispness are less important than size. And in one of life’s little ironies, increasing the resolution of a screen, to make things look crisper, leads directly to a decrease in size.

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New Book Out!

Happy spring!

Yesterday was the official publication date of Essential Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science, co-authored with my former CS20 teaching assistant Rachel Zax, now at Google. It's meant to be a quick trip through all the mathematical subjects students need to do computer science but wouldn't get in their calculus and linear algebra courses. The publisher, Princeton University Press, has done a great job holding the price down. They have made it available in electronic form at an even lower price than the print edition.

This project started when I designed CS20 almost ten years ago (see "Reinventing the Classroom" for the genesis of that course). I needed an affordable text that covered a variety of topics not usually packaged together. There wasn't one (remember, I said "affordable"). I made do with a variety of online materials, mostly designed for a more mathematically sophisticated audience. Rachel, who had worked with me on the course when I taught it for the first time in the spring of 2012, suggested we should write a book. Here's the end result, only seven years in the making!

The cover art illustrates a famous theorem treated early in the book. The English language statement of the theorem is that in any group of six people, there are either 3 who all know each other or 3 who are mutually unknown to each other. (Take your pick as to which of red and blue represents knowing and which represents not knowing.) It's a nice example of how to translate that into math-speak and then prove that it's always true--pretty typical of the material in the book!

The acknowledgements thank (by name) everyone who was a teaching assistant while I was teaching the course; a terrific group, mostly of Harvard math and CS undergrads. They really made it fun to teach this material, and I hope that comes through in the book!


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