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Christmas Cheer Media

What To Do With 78 USB Drives Next Christmas? 381

ArfBrookwood writes "Every year, I write a Christmas Letter and send it to about 50 people, and every year, it's different. One year it was just the word blah blah blah over and over with keywords, one year I made papercraft wallets with full color cards and money in them, another year I created a Christmas Letter writing contest that instructed the recipients to create our Christmas Letter for us and we awarded prizes to winners, last year, I took a fake retro photo of my family, Inkscaped/GIMPed in a chemistry set and some wall art, printed it onto CD covers, and burned retro Christmas songs onto digital vinyl and sent everyone in the family what looked like a miniature Christmas album. Last week, I came into the possession of 78 2GB USB drives. I have already taken the time to wipe them clean and reflash the memory so they are blank slates." Now, Arf's looking for suggestions for how to best use all these drives; read on for more.

"My first inclination was to remove the USB drives from their careful packaging and plastic enclosures, dump them into a slurry of glue and rock dust, sandpaper the USB port to make it look ancient, and then make some videos or include some oddly formatted numbered/whatever text files to make them look like they cam from some dystopian wasteland fallout-3 type future and then package them in envelopes that looked like they were from some central futuristic government post office. The idea would be that in the future, incidents that happened this year would have had a profound affect on the future. I never tell anyone what the Christmas Letter will look like, and I have only one rule — I have to outdo whatever I did the last year."
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What To Do With 78 USB Drives Next Christmas?

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  • by NervousNerd ( 1190935 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:21PM (#28154089) Journal
    Send them to me.
  • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:24PM (#28154107)
    If you're such a prodigy maybe you can come up with your own ideas.
  • Easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by XPeter ( 1429763 ) * on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:25PM (#28154117) Homepage

    Rick Roll on every one.

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:54PM (#28154689)

      Rick Roll on every one.

      Winner winner chicken dinner!

      For extra points, do a "12 days of Christmas" thing with 6 people (or get 6 more and do it to 7 people). Send them variants on rickroll every day themed to the song. Each day after the first, the card should swear it's not a rickroll. But, of course, it is.

      "...on the 11th day of christmas, this crazy guy gave to me, 11 pipers piping NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP!..."

      Can you imagine a Rickroll on bagpipes? That would be one awesome 11th day of Christmas. And then, for the grand finale, a 20-minute rickroll drum solo on the 12th day.

      You might have no friends left, but damn. Funny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      push them all up your ass. Take a movie of yourself pulling them out, and put the movie on the sticks and give them out as christmass presents.

  • Targets! (Score:5, Funny)

    by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:25PM (#28154121)

    They are just the right size to make excellent 200-yard rifle targets.

    Or you could build an array out of them or something productive.

    Shooting at them with a .308 would be more fun though.

  • by AnonGCB ( 1398517 ) <7spams&gmail,com> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:26PM (#28154129)
    Well, whatever you do, it's going to get out now, I'm sure at least one of these people read /.
  • Two things. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maeka ( 518272 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:27PM (#28154135) Journal

    1 - I would put a personalized "virtual advent calendar" (ha! the hard part is answering what that means) on them.
    2 - I would decorate them as a Christmas ornament (if not put them inside an actual glass ornament with only the plug exposed) so they have a use beyond the first year.

    • Re:Two things. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:57PM (#28154367)

      Virtual advent calendar: Pictures of your family for Christmas, home movies, etc, each encrypted with a different key you send to your recipients on each day in December leading to Christmas Day.

      • Re:Two things. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SpottedKuh ( 855161 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @10:19PM (#28154801)

        Pictures of your family for Christmas, home movies, etc, each encrypted with a different key you send to your recipients on each day in December [...]

        I would use password-based cryptography, instead of sending them actual cryptographic keys by e-mail. Not only is it easier for the recipients, but you could choose fairly weak, Christmas-themed passwords (e.g., "snowflake," "cookie," "Santa," etc.). That way, the "peekers" in the family could try to guess the passwords in advance!

        And I agree whole-heartily with the GP: make the USB drives into some sort of ornament. You could even use coloured pipe cleaners and those goofy stick-on eyes to make the USB keys look like reindeer. That way, the drives don't go to waste.

  • Album, eh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:28PM (#28154139) Journal

    You paid for the rights to those songs, right? Using the relevant authority for licensing in question?

    re: the USB dealies:

    Trade them up until you get a house (like the craigslist guy a while back), then write a regular letter with cryptic clues (but not too cryptic) to find the place, the first person who reaches it gets the deed.

  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:30PM (#28154157)
    rather than out-doing last year, some people could probably use a set of software tools, etc:

    Thing Drive Tricks [lifehacker.com]

    Give-away Drives [lifehacker.com]

  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:31PM (#28154165)
    Send out something like a video where you're recording your family and make like a UFO or monster attack. Since you have no problem with copyright, steal scenes from a cloverfield or war of the worlds dvd. Melt the cases a little and put in a manila envelope along with a letter from a fake law firm "In case of death".

    At the end of the video, show your dead bodies, laying in christmas sweaters on the ground with bits of fire all around and superimpose the text "Merry Christmas 2009!"
  • Put a (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:33PM (#28154177)
    Put a customized Linux distro on each one with people's names as login names, etc.
  • USB Christmas Tree! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:35PM (#28154195)

    Do the USB drives have usage lights?

    1.Remove them from their casing, exposing their green PCB organs.
    2.Buy a stack of USB hubs, and chain them together. Plug your usb drives into the hubs.
    3.Arrange the usb drives in the form of a chrismas tree.
    4.Set up a program to access the flash drives at random, causing their usage lights to flash.

    Et Voila, flashing usb christmas tree!

  • by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) * on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:35PM (#28154203) Journal
    This year, add an autorun file that uploads everything on their harddrive to your FTP server and then formats their filesystem. Next year, send them USB drives containing everything that was deleted, or since you won't be on speaking terms with anyone after that you not bother and save a lot of time making cards. Win-win situation really.
    • by anlprb ( 130123 )

      You can always pull a best buy on them. Especially great when you have freaks as friends.

  • Viruses! (Score:5, Funny)

    by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:35PM (#28154209)

    Teach them all a lesson about attaching strange USB drives to their machines: fill the drives with viruses!

    Christmas. Bah humbug.

  • Books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:39PM (#28154231) Homepage
    Maybe put some books [gutenberg.org] on them?

    I checked, Dickens' A Christmas Carol is on there ;-)

    I'm sure they'd appreciate a donation if you do. They do a great job.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:41PM (#28154251)

    Put the USB drives in an industrial shredder then eat them all. Die from heavy metal poisoning and internal hemmoraging. Then have someone send pictures of the experience to all these people who you send Christmas cards to, saying "Sorry for being such a gigantic, insecure shitlord and sending you gimmicky Christmas shit every year for no damn reason. As a token of the sincerity of my apology, here are pictures of me killing myself by ingesting metal scraps. It was extremely painful. I hope you will remember me in death as the attention-whoring sycophant I am, and tell your children about the dangers of mercury poisoning. God bless."

    • mod parent up (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      That's an awesome suggestion.

      Add to that the fact that the guy made me think about Xmas in May.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by broen ( 1197939 )
      Seconded. I came here hoping to read everyone rant about how his link to "fake retro photos" is an invitation-only private blog. Unfortunately, it looks like nobody cares enough to even follow the link.
  • by Hillview ( 1113491 ) * on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:46PM (#28154283)
    Puppy? Tinyme would probably be easier.. It comes with a PDF viewer. Write your Christmas letter, print it to a pdf, and stick it in the "startup" on the installed distro? dunno, too much work maybe.. but it'd be cool.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by moosesocks ( 264553 )

      Puppy? Tinyme would probably be easier..

      Why the hell would you give a linux distribution a name that could easily be confused with Windows ME!

      Just reading that name gives me horrific flashbacks of the worst operating system ever created.

      (Of course, if you hate your friends/relatives, I've just given you a deviously evil plan. Create an elaborate autorun.inf script that replaces their operating system with WinME)

  • Unetbootin (Score:3, Informative)

    by Goyuix ( 698012 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:46PM (#28154289) Homepage

    Yeah, I guess I am kind of boring that way. Hooray for utility over aesthetics!

    http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    • Remastersys (Score:3, Interesting)

      Along those lines, let me add these tips:

      1. Take an unused PC (or virtual machine) and install Ubuntu on it just the way you want to send it out.

      2. You must decide if your distribution will include any home directories, or otherwise will be a 'proper distribution'. You need to know this to continue your setup. If you include a home directory, you can setup themes, firefox extensions, everything in-advance really.

      3. Install and use Remastersys, which will create a large .iso file for the next step. : http:// [geekconnection.org]

  • put a bootable linux distro on it, add a startup script that opens a fun christmas flash game, maybe something from http://www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/ [ferryhalim.com] , i recommend winterbells.

    It fits a christmas theme, but i'm not sure how ya could fit it into the post-apocalyptic fallout3 story. Maybe santa became disgruntled and delivered a tiny thermonuclear device in everyone's stocking?
  • by Jamie's Nightmare ( 1410247 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:51PM (#28154337)
    On the link to the blog talking about the Christmas album, it says the cover was "Photoshopped". Here on Slashdot, to appease the FOSS freaks this slang gets changed to "GIMPed". That's real classy.
  • I reckon you should install them with Puppy Linux [distrowatch.com], perhaps modified with a Christmas-themed desktop and a short Christmas message and introduction to GNU / Linux that is displayed at login time.

    I mean, when was the last time you received a gift of a better operating system for Christmas? :-)

  • by Nitewing98 ( 308560 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:56PM (#28154359) Homepage

    I'd label each one "Do Not Use This Drive." I'd put a program on it labelled, "Do Not Open This Program." Create the program so that it causes their mail client to email you from their email account. See how many emails you get. This would be a good opportunity to teach them how they can protect themselves from data theft, trojans, etc.

  • by Zapotek ( 1032314 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (soksal.sosat)> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:06PM (#28154433)
    ...then read it and realize that it's still June (well almost).
  • Two Words: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:09PM (#28154441)
    Christmas Botnet. Not only are worms the gifts that keep on giving, but you'll always be that much closer to everyone you give them to!
  • RAID (Score:5, Funny)

    by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:10PM (#28154447)
    Stripe a 158GB drive across all 78, then distribute them such that drive can only be read when all 78 are assembled together. Of course, the contents would be a rickroll or similar.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That would be kind of hard since 78*2=156!=158, but if you figure out a way to do it, let me know.

  • With that much space, you could deliver an HD version of Miracle on 37th Street NW, or a claymation version of Owen the Red-Nosed Reindeer with your family's faces on the characters.
  • Be useful. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stego ( 146071 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:16PM (#28154493) Homepage

    Do something actually useful. Donate'em to an inner city middle school.

    • Re:Be useful. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jgordon510 ( 1566121 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:32PM (#28154569)
      We'll take them. Elementary school with 80% free/reduced lunch. We tried to buy flash drives for all our fifth graders so they could work on their state reports at home and the public library. We found a vendor selling 1gig drives for $3.00 each, ordered 75 of them, and were told that they only had 3 available at that price. Anyway, if you send them to us, I'll have the kids write your christmas cards for you. How's that?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bdo19 ( 992170 )
      Where are my mod points when I need them? This is probably the only actually "insightful" reply on this post. You have 78 of something useful that you don't need, and you're asking what you should do with them for Christmas? (And most of the other replies suggest, in one way or another, that you send them to 78 people who don't need them and won't appreciate them.)
  • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:21PM (#28154521) Homepage Journal

    Fill all of them with porn and the recipe for free beer [freebeer.org].

  • by wintermute000 ( 928348 ) <`ua.moc.sserpxetenalp' `ta' `redneb'> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:22PM (#28154523)

    And wait for the $$$ to roll in.

    I jest, of course (but it would work a treat).

  • This would probably be fairly tricky to do, but I would wire the drives so that they "burn up" when they are plugged in -- so that they emit red and green smoke. Bonus points if they still work after they emit the smoke.

  • by hack slash ( 1064002 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:31PM (#28154563)

    I never tell anyone what the Christmas Letter will look like, and I have only one rule â" I have to outdo whatever I did the last year.

    I fear I've fallen into that trap too, last year I made some edge lit christmas cards [evilmadscientist.com] but instead of using coin batteries I included twisted white wire with a soldered USB plug so the card will never run out of power (unless you switch your PC off). Just about everyone who received one loved it.

    This year I'm planning on doing another edge lit card but with several layers, powered by a SMD PICAXE chip embedded into the card for animation, flashing, sequencing or whatever I decide.

    The year after next I may do yet another USB powered edge lit card but include a flash drive for a christmas video or something *shrug* hopefully I'll get some good ideas from this topic :)

  • by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:57PM (#28154705) Journal
    Just put a .txt on them with the URL to this story.
  • Some ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orion Blastar ( 457579 ) <orionblastar@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @10:05PM (#28154737) Homepage Journal

    Fill the USB drives with DOSBox and some DOS Shareware games so they can remember what gaming was like in the 1980's when PC clones running MS-DOS were all the craze.

    Put in some family videos in AVI files on the USB drives, make them Christmas themed or if you recorded prior Christmas days of kids opening up presents you can use those videos.

    Fill it full of PNG and JPEG Christmas photos.

    That CD you made, convert the songs to MP3 format and put them on the USB drive so they can load them onto their iPods, Zunes, iPhones, Blackberries, etc.

    Don't listen to the people telling you to put viruses and email programs on the USB drives, that is not what Christmas is all about.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...filled with pirated movies and music, then place 78 anonymous calls to the RIAA and MPAA.

  • Collect and link up a wide array of USB hubs and plug all the drives in. Then string them together using your favorite form of RAID or JBOD.

  • by SpottedKuh ( 855161 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @10:36PM (#28154883)

    One possibility would be to create a family "treasure chest" of sorts. Well in advance of the holiday season, ask everyone in the family to contribute something (according to a theme). Then, you collect all the submissions and put them (along with your letter) on each USB drive.

    As a concrete example of a theme, one year an aunt of mine asked everyone in the family to contribute their favourite recipe. Then, she typed all of them up and sent everyone a collected-effort recipe book. It was such a simple thing, but everyone in the family loved it.

    You could do this with any number of themes: recipes, old photographs, favourite stories from the past, etc. Then, put your Christmas letter along with this treasure chest on the USB drives.

  • Mystery (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 75th Trombone ( 581309 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @10:39PM (#28154903) Homepage Journal

    Create a puzzle that will require the cooperation of all the recipients to complete. The contents of each drive should be tailored to the individual. Computer-savvy people could have an encrypted document or image on their drive; computer dunces could have a simple text file that says "Call Joe at 870-555-1234 and tell him to give the password on his drive to Mark at 901-555-4567." Put hints on some drives, and images, and text files, and passwords, and instructions that, if all are followed, will result in the final unveiling of something cool.

    The "something cool"? I don't know. If you have some money laying around, it could result in uncovering a bunch of $10 iTunes gift certificate codes on some web site somewhere. (But it'd have to be done in such a way that each person involved can claim exactly one certificate.)

    Ideally, build some redundancy into the puzzle so that even if 10 or 20 people don't participate, the remainder can still get something cool in the end.

    If you choose to do this (and I must say I think my idea is pretty awesome), keep me posted on what you do. My contact info is on my /. profile.

  • If anything, I think the best idea is to have - as gifts for family members - a video or videos of the family celebrating together. I have vague recollections and pictures as a kid. They always bring back great memories (even if I was acting silly). My family mostly has developed Kodak and polaroids photos. I only wish we had a video cam in the early 80's.

    For friends - keep them all to yourself. After all, what are friends for?

    And if you have a wife, no family or friends and you want to use these drives all

  • goatse (Score:5, Funny)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:05PM (#28155027)
    can't believe it hasn't been brought up yet. shame on you all.
  • by gkearney ( 162433 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:16PM (#28155073)
    We would be happy to have USB drives as a donation. We use them to send out digital talking books to the blind and print disabled. Please feel free to contact me.

    Gregory Kearney
    Manager - Accessible Media
    Association for the Blind of Western Australia
    61 Kitchener Avenue, PO Box 101
    Victoria Park 6979, WA Australia

    Telephone: +61 (08) 9311 8202
    Telephone: +1 (307) 224 4022 (North America)
    Fax: +61 (08) 9361 8696
    Toll free: 1800 658 388 (Australia only)
    Email: gkearney@gmail.com
    • Giving the USB drives to a worthy cause (like the Association for the Blind) that can use them is the best idea. But if you couldn't find a worthy cause that needs them, consider selling them on eBay and giving the money raised to a worthy cause. Hey, you could even buy one of those OxFam / World Vision / etc gift cards and send that to your mother in lieu of an Xmas present. (Depending on your mother of course ...)
  • Put a good AutoRun virus on them and build your own botnet.
  • Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SleepyHappyDoc ( 813919 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @12:24AM (#28155523)

    Don't link your blog on Slashdot, then make it invitation only to read. Stupidest thing I ever saw.

  • Next time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:05AM (#28156667) Homepage Journal

    Next time you post a story, put links that actually work without a fucking password, mmmkay?

    ArfBrookwood? More like Arfwit.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.