How to make a useful USB thumb drive that won't get dumped like TMFA
December 14, 2014 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I have about 100 brand new very high quality USB drives (between 8gb and 256GB...most of them are the larger end). What can I do with them? I bought them thinking they were going to fail, and I was going to go through them. But I found out that high quality shit doesn't fail within 6 mos.

You can read below to see exactly what I'm looking for, or just post your ideas now.

I have looked up previous questions(link for rabbit hole of USB knowledge on mefi), but the times have changed, and I think a lot more stuff can be done with larger capacity USBs than before.

Is there anything I can put on there (some kind of software, etc) that would make it really useful to somebody? Could it be considered a stocking stuffer or even a full blown gift?

1. I don't want to sell as it is not worth the hassle. Too much of a hassle for selling individually, and most of the people who want to buy in bulk, want their logo on it for their business. This is not possible unless they are ok with stick figures drawn on paper, then cut out and applied via scotch tape.

2. I don't want to do any "art" with it. Lets use the USBs for data retention as intended rather than a bust of Harry Styles.

3. I'm not at the "donate it to a good cause" stage, yet. I did initially purchase the drives to use and use as gifts, so I'm not going to consider it a loss at this stage. If I do get there, there is a local school that can use them, so I'm covered there.

I AM in a lot of circles where people give each other small gifts on a regular basis because of the recognition of birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, babies being born, and shit like that. This happens about twice a week (Might not seem like a lot, until you realize that its about 100 slices of cake, for a year...). I'm HOPING that I can put something useful enough on there to make it "worth it" for them to use.

I am not going to violate any intellectual property law, or any other enforceable law for this. So I don't need to know how to put the U2 album on there, or a live version of Adobe Photoshop. If there is a commercial program which is supposed to be used on a thumb drive, I'm not opposed (as long as I'm not breaking any copyright/IP laws).

There's a lot of different demographics here, so I was hoping something "general" would work. But I'm also not going to give an elderly couple celebrating their 77th anniversary a 64GB USB with a live version of fermi linux.

I don't really use physical data anymore because of how cheap cloud services are in the States. But there has to be something for which USBs are still really useful, right?

I have a Mac, but am not opposed to putting Windows shit on it, as most people use that. Definitely not against Linux (but is it useful enough to use?).

Is there something in your life that has made your high quality USB indispensable? Maybe even something practical rather than a useless accessory?
posted by hal_c_on to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Gifts of the greatest mix tape ever. 2000 hours of your fav tunes!
posted by sammyo at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2014

For someone at least moderately tech-minded, a pre-packed set of portable applications through PortableApps would be handy.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:34 AM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Load 'em up with PortableApps and give them to any friends or family who travel or use public computers (e.g., students, adjuncts). These have come in really handy for me several times.

You could also dig up a bunch of public domain books from Project Gutenberg, etc., massive hi-res images from NASA, and that sort of thing (and there must be public domain films out there somewhere). You could give a potpourri to whoever might enjoy killing some time.
posted by wintersweet at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe load them up with podcasts? Perhaps NPR shows (I like Planet Money and Ask Me Another, or maybe Serial once they've released the Season One finale), or a collection of the Stuff You Should Know podcasts, for example. I'm thinking anything that's generic and common-interest enough to appeal to a wide audience would be best here, but you could also personalize them to a particular person's interests as well.
posted by cgg at 12:14 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness, these are absolute gold for getting information into remote communities where internet access is poor. Just the other day I heard an interview with a young Indigenous transgender man who has been using USB sticks to get videos and resources to trans* people in remote communities who are unable to access reliable internet. (Check out Sisters and Brothers NT if you're interested in donating the drives to them - the interviewee did mention that the drives were a significant cost for the organisation). You could also contact Indigenous education or health promotion organisations in your area and ask if they can make use of the drives. A USB drive loaded with, say, text books, or local environmental data, or peer support videos about health, for example could make an enormous difference to people who would otherwise face high costs accessing such information. (But don't take it upon yourself to load the USB keys up with content - let the communities themselves decide what they need most).
posted by embrangled at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Gifts of the greatest mix tape ever. 2000 hours of your fav tunes!
Can't. I/P stuff...people will get offended.

Maybe load them up with podcasts?
This is a good idea, and I'm going to do this for my own personal self. But a USB with podcasts seems more like a usb full of grandma's music rather than an indispensable tool. I'm afraid that a 64GB key would just get tossed if I don't put something valuable on it for the recipient.

Oh my goodness, these are absolute gold for...
I know. I already have places lined up that would need it. But I'd like to personally benefit from the purchase I made if possible...And it is possible.
For those who really think this is a wonderful idea, and would like to do it themselves, go and buy yourself a lot like this, and donate. I think its an excellent way to give.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:10 PM on December 14, 2014

I give people live Linux distros and rescue stuff on USBs sometimes, which I guess is a little like giving someone a first aid kit or something, but I know they've saved at least two different people's bacon in the past. The Live distros are also really nice for people who are interested in trying Linux out without committing to it, and I know at least one person who used hers to repurpose an old laptop with a bad hard drive. So yeah, I think those are pretty useful.

I also have a personal wiki that I keep on a USB stick, which I use to store things like a backup of my contacts in case of emergency, owners' manuals for my crap, frequently used recipes and reference material, personal things I don't want to store on a cloud, etc. The downside of that is that you could load up the software, but the recipient would need to do a lot of work themselves to make it useful, so it's maybe a little like assigning homework.

Things I've never done but might be ideas anyway:

This is a live Puppy Linux retro arcade game distro.

An offline Wikipedia, which could be cool for people who sometimes have little or no internet access. This looks like it'd do the job.

And, of course, you'll want to get some sort of modeling putty or something and sculpt little busts of Harry Styles to attach to the casing.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:26 PM on December 14, 2014

At least a few people you know would probably appreciate bootable rescue systems.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:16 AM on December 15, 2014

I'm afraid that a 64GB key would just get tossed if I don't put something valuable on it for the recipient.

I guess it depends on your peer group, but I'd be pretty happy with a 64GB key on its own, since my biggest (and treasured) one is just 32GB. I get lots of free ones as swag from various places but they're always something totally useless like 512MB.

One gift idea that would probably be really popular with your older relatives is if you can somehow collect digital copies of family photos into one organized album, and give a copy to everyone on their own USB stick. Even better if you can collaborate with siblings/other relatives and combine albums. Warning, lots of work, especially if you're scanning film photos. But a lot of older relatives would love that, I bet. Even better if you combine it with a cheap digital photo frame or some other way they can view the pictures very easily.

The gift angle aside, maybe you could approach charities or schools/clubs for kids and see if they'd be willing to buy a set of them off you? They're useful enough that they might be able to find room in their budget for them, especially if you give them a discount for buying in bulk.
posted by randomnity at 2:51 PM on December 15, 2014

64 GB is a decently usable USB stick size, and it still goes for around $20 on Amazon (same as in town). What's wrong with just "Here's a useful empty USB stick"?

I use a 128 GB stick to play all my kids' movies on our BluRay player, and it works well enough.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:50 PM on December 16, 2014

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