Foggy mornings have settled around Seattle, summer is slipping away, and the planning side of my brain is beginning to contemplate the coming...

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Foggy mornings have settled around Seattle, summer is slipping away, and the planning side of my brain is beginning to contemplate the coming school year.

My youngest is starting junior high and wants a computer of her own. She’s fallen in love with the Apple iBook notebook computer I’ve been using lately and wants one for doing homework (plus photos, music, e-mail and everything else).

The oldest is now in graduate school and wants to bring a laptop for taking notes, studying in the library and working with others on collaborative projects.

No parental promises, but the iBook would be an excellent choice for both students.

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Several years ago, when my two oldest were heading for college, I struggled with the choice between a desktop or laptop for campus computing. At that time, I concluded that a desktop was a better choice because it was less likely to be lost or stolen.

After the first year, my daughter left her desktop in campus storage and it was stolen. She returned in the fall with a laptop and has never wanted a desktop since.

There are plenty of good reasons to choose a laptop or desktop for a student and lots of excellent models from which to choose. I like the iBook because it’s affordable, easy to use, comes with wireless capabilities for connecting to a campus network and iLife software (with iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and Garage Band) for storing and processing music, photos and movies.

It also comes with AppleWorks, which includes word processing, spreadsheet, database, drawing, painting and presentation applications.

One of the best reasons to choose an Apple computer is they’re a lot less prone to attract spyware or be infected by computer viruses than Windows PCs.

Some say that’s because Apples are driven by an open-source Unix-based operating system, and some say Apples aren’t a likely target for virus creators because they make up such a small portion of the computer population.

The new iBooks are equipped with either a 12- or 14-inch screen, a 1.33GHz or 1.42GHz G4 processor, 40GB or 60GB hard drive, AirPort Extreme wireless network support, Bluetooth 2.0, one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive (that plays CDs and DVDs and burns CDs) or a DVD±R/CD-RW SuperDrive (that plays and burns both CD and DVDs). Pricing begins at $999.

The iBooks come with Apple’s scrolling TrackPad for multi-directional scrolling and the Sudden Motion Sensor, which detects sudden motion (such as falling off a table) and protects the spinning hard drive by locking it before it hits the floor.

I like how easy it is to get started with a new Apple computer. To transfer files, applications and preferences from my Mac desktop to the new laptop, for example, I simply connect them with a FireWire cable and move my stuff over.

In addition, the new laptop easily finds my wireless network, including the Internet, e-mail and printers. It’s even easier for me because I use iSync (with a .mac subscription), so my e-mail settings, Internet bookmarks, address book and calendars are transferred to the new computer when I enter my .mac password and activate iSync.

Quickie slide shows

By the way, iBooks aren’t just for students. I’ve been using this one to expand my adventures in photography. For example, I bring the iBook when my family goes to our cabin in the woods so I can transfer pictures I’ve taken by day and process them at night.

An iBook is also the right tool for creating photo slide shows on the fly — sort of like this project I heard about: The University of Washington College of Education held a two-day workshop for educators to share teaching and leadership strategies. Someone took photographs during the sessions that captured strategies in action, and then used iPhoto and iMovie to put together a slide show that was presented at the farewell banquet.

I can imagine many events that would be greatly enriched by a slide-show presentation, such as a soccer team’s final dinner, a family reunion and a variety of working conferences and workshops.

While using the iBook, I’m also trying a few laptop accessories:

Apple’s new Mighty Mouse ($49, Mac) marks Apple’s transition from offering only a one-button mouse to a two-button mouse with a tiny, multi-directional scroll ball on top. I also can squeeze both sides of the mouse to launch an application I’ve assigned. For everyone who uses Apple’s one-button mouse, the Mighty Mouse is a definite improvement.

More ports for portable

The Targus Super Mini USB 2.0 4-Port Hub ($30, Mac/Windows) is about the size of a saltine and enables me to plug in four USB devices, such as a USB keyboard, mouse, external hard drive and printer. Currently, I’m using it to plug in the Mighty Mouse and a mini hard drive.

The Targus 40GB Ultra Slim Pocket Drive ($250, Mac/Windows) is smaller than a Pop-Tart and easily plugs into the Mini Hub (or directly into the computer) to back up files or move them from one computer to another. No need to install drivers from a CD, but the drive does come with software that can automate the process of backing up and restoring a hard drive.

After using these handy devices for a while, I’ve become attached and have made a special place for them in my laptop tote bag.

As for the iBook, I think it’s a great laptop for students, and for me too.

Write Linda Knapp at lknapp@seattletimes.com; to read other Getting Started columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/

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