Thumb Drive Drive (Feedback Needed)

I was tending to some PCs at a women’s shelter yesterday. These PCs have 2 accounts as you might expect: an administrator account and a general purpose account that is not password protected. In the latter account’s “My Documents” folder there were all sorts of files that contained what I would call private information: resumés, references, biographies, contacts, etc. Many of the people who created these documents have even moved on. This seems like a bad situation.

The technologically savvy among us (probably you, if you found you’re way here) might suggest simply keeping that sort of information online somewhere, but the people that use public PCs trend towards the untrained. What might be helpful to them would be to have their own personal USB drive to keep with them and use wherever they are. I’m aware not all public PCs allow the use of thumb drives, so it’s not a perfect solution.

What I’m proposing then is to call for a collection of donated thumbdrives which we would wipe clean and hand out to nonprofits that serve these people. There’s plenty of demand for it, and there must be thousands of these sitting in drawers all over town. I can see four on my desk right now. They wouldn’t have to be huge; 256MB would be plenty for storing documents. USB Drive

Rather than giving them a blank USB drive we might even want to put a bit of free software on there for them to use. What do you recommend we put on there? I don’t want to get involved with training so if that’s too much they could just be blank.

I’d love some feedback on this idea and what software you might include on this. Thanks for reading.







8 responses to “Thumb Drive Drive (Feedback Needed)”

  1. Bob Curry Avatar
    Bob Curry

    Hi Eric,

    A perpetual problem. I’m not sure that thumb drives would change the situation much. Many people routinely save things to a public computer without even thinking about it. I used to work with a non-profit that had a policy prohibiting this and I had written a script that ran every morning when the computer booted that deleted all files in the “my documents” directory. As this was THEIR policy it worked well, but first you have to convince them that it is in fact a problem.

    My 2 cents.


  2. Dave Friedman Avatar
    Dave Friedman

    I think that’s a great idea. I bet you could get some big manufacturers to help out.

  3. Eric Avatar

    John Martin says “All they need is 2 or 4 gig. I picked a few up for 5 – 10 bucks. I am thinking they don’t need much for apps other than BOB or UBUNTU desktop. Maybe a photo viewer. Main problem is that it needs to be both cross platform apple, MS, UNIX, ROID. I would think links would be better than apps. Also a phone book of contacts in all areas they may need. Staying off the grid is not easy anymore. It should be multi lingual. After my trips to LA. It is amazing the nunmber of languages that are used in this country. I think the main use is to be able to keep stuff offline. Who ever they are avoiding may have computer knowledge. Documents would be copies of med records, Kids records, personal documents, pictures.”

  4. allgood2 Avatar

    Hey Eric-

    I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but I’m not certain if it would solve the problem you’re aiming for.

    My thoughts are that nonprofits have a number of needs for thumb drives and starting a collection of donated drives would be great. And if there was some type of group policy to enforce thumb drive use it might work with clients. But I kind of agree with Bob.

    The fact is that the average person hasn’t a clue to where they are saving documents—not even the staff of the nonprofit. So they would need to be trained on how to save to a thumb drive. I believe if they need to be trained its more beneficial to get them trained on “cloud” services than the thumb drive.

    This could be easy to implement at your client sight and hopefully spread as a best practice to collaborating organizations. Set up the generic login, the one without password protection to not provide easy access to Microsoft Office Suite, but automatically open a web browser to Google Docs. This may also require the nonprofit insure clients have an email address and if they are job training or hunting organizations then this would be highly beneficial to them.

    A policy could be:

    1) Set-up a GMail email account
    2) Connect GMail account to Google Docs
    3) All docs are saved online, staff assistance is provided for offline saving to thumb drive if required.
    4) Force user logout at end of session (this could be done with script or a dummy icon that or if the browser is set to delete cookies on close, this would take care of it)

    I believe interacting with cloud services will be a far more important job skill for the future than the desktop, but also is more readily transferable to the desktop than desktop to cloud. But also, drives are easily lost, damaged, etc. especially when people don’t see the importance on them.

    Besides from initial setup costs (the tech support costs), the cloud services are free, and won’t require ongoing donations of thumb drives (which admittedly are very cheap). The clients already need an email account and interacting with Google Docs isn’t that different from Microsoft Word when doing basic word processing tasks. Plus its accessible everywhere.

    The last probably won’t click for most clients at first but if two nonprofits joined together in their efforts, then all it would really take to make it click and become real for a client would be to have a case worker/counselor/etc from a second site have the client pull up their data there. The “I don’t have to bring a print out. I can edit from here too?” experience would drive the point home quickly.

    That said, I still think the thumb drives would be of value to the nonprofits and could be handed out to ‘graduates’ of their programs. A kind of ‘this is body of work you completed with us, deal’ but still with cloud copies.

  5. Eric Avatar

    Apparently “Thumb Drive” is a trademark, so I guess we’ll be calling it something else if we do this. Flash Drive Drive?

  6. allgood2 Avatar

    I’m so irritated with the Trademark, patent and copyright systems.

  7. Deanna Avatar

    I am the coordinator of a non profit and I am looking for a donation of new or used flash drives – only need 1G – do any of you have suggestions?

  8. Eric Avatar

    Deanna, if you put the word out that you just need one, I’m sure someone will come through for you. I went into Stapes and told them I was looking for a small flash drive and the guy reached behind the counter and handed me one that they couldn’t sell anymore (512k at the time). It was perfect for what I needed.

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