An exchange of emails with a reader on the subject of falling prices for large storage drives, led to an inevitable question: What are they good for?

In short, once you get past a few gigabytes – which you can buy as thumb drives for less than $10 – just what are you going to store? We know that the general notion is that bigger is always better, and at these prices why not go nuts and pull up the truck?

Terabyte drives are now common. That’s a thousand gigabytes, a million megabytes, a big number. Let’s talk reality here. According to Britannica, all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica would take up 4.7 gigabytes. That’s all the words and pictures, including an index. Throw in a World Atlas, the Webster Collegiate Dictionary, half a dozen reference books and you might get up to using ten gigabytes.

That’s one percent of the capacity of one of the new terabyte drives. So what do you do with the other 99 percent? You could store all your notes and letters. That wouldn’t take much, really. Every column we’ve ever written can be stored in one-tenth of a gigabyte. (A sobering thought.) So, saving words doesn’t take much of that digital space. There must be something you can do with what’s left over.

We know two people who have terabyte drives and use all that space. What do they use it for? Movies. A one-terabyte drive can hold around 700 movies. But who on Earth can watch 700 movies? How many movies could you watch more than once? Five? Six? Even recording them is a bit of stunner: If you did it for eight hours a day, five days a week, it would take five months. That’s dedication. Which brings us right to our next topic.

Recording Streaming Video

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video let you download streaming video to watch offline on a plane, a train, or anywhere you’re not connected to the Internet. Now you can use that big thumb drive!

Netflix makes it easy. Tap the icon on your phone, then tap “Downloads.” You’ll be taken to an area called “Find Something to Download.”

It gets tougher with Amazon Prime videos (free movies for Prime members). Whether you use an Android phone or tablet, or an iOS device, such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple TV, you’ll need the Amazon Prime Video App, from your phone’s app store.

When we looked it up on our Android phone, it came with a warning about damaging our phone. But we trusted Amazon, so we chose the option to open it with a “Package Installer.” Then we got another warning, “For your security, your phone is not allowed to … blah, blah blah, etc.” Lawyers. Heaving a sigh of resignation, we tapped on “settings” and chose “allow from this source.” Phew, that was a lot of work.

It’s much easier on an Amazon Fire tablet. We tapped on the already-included Amazon Video App, then tapped “Movies” and “included with Prime.” Then we chose one and tapped “Download.” It informed us that we didn’t have enough storage space for the movie. An extra SD card solves that, and they’re cheap – 32 gigabytes cost $13.

For offline music, there’s “Audials,” a free app for recording radio stations from all over the world. It has over 100,000 radio stations, as well as podcasts. We tapped the classical genre, found a station, and tapped “record.” Worked great, but it also recorded the commercials. We tuned in a station from an autonomous region of Finland called the Aland Islands, and then stations from Bosnia and Bhutan. Not every station gives you an option to record, but if there is one, it’ says so right on top.

We found the computer version of Audials to be a clunky disaster, and it costs $3.49 a month.  It’s supposed to find the best version of a song, movie or TV program. We searched on “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” by the Beatles, and the first five versions were either from Beatles clones or worse. One was in German, another had someone singing along in an amateurish way.

Amazon Discounts at Whole Foods

Nearly every time we go to Whole Foods, now owned by Amazon, we see someone who doesn’t have the Whole Foods app on their phone but still wants an Amazon prime discount. They’re app-less.

The checker always says, “just link your phone number to your account.” The young woman ahead of us today was totally confused. “My bank account?” No, it’s your Amazon Prime account, if you have one.

Here’s how. Go to and click “update mobile phone number.” Then look for blue price signs at any Whole Foods store for member savings. If you see a yellow “sale” sign, you get an extra 10 percent off.

App Happy

  • Wolf+Friends” is a free app for iPhones, iPads and iPods. It’s for moms who want to connect with like-minded women who are raising children with special needs such as autism, Down syndrome, attention deficit disorder or other issues.
  • Google Translate, a free app for Android, iPhone and computer, now supports 50 languages after adding 13 new ones this month. It works offline or in real time, translating what the person is saying to your language, and translating what you are saying into theirs.
  • Tor Browser” is considered by many to be the most secure browser in the world, and they’ve just come out with a version for Android. It’s in the testing phase, so you have to install “Orbot,” another app, to make it work.



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