science | design | engineering | common sense

Saving s*@$

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Archiving. For some reason it appeals to me at a very deep level. The idea of things being gone forever vs the ability to go back and see your life, or someone else’s life, all the little bits and pieces, what you or they spent their time doing…  is fun and revealing and overall cool. Not to mention the historical interest.

I subscribe to the Jason Scott school of archiving – it doesn’t matter how you save, it matters that you save. All my personal experience has born this out – I’ve never regretted having something instead of deleting it. Someone can sort through it later. Just save what you can (convert if possible!), someone will probably be able to make something out of it. If you convert a file, store the original. If possible, store the binaries of the programs used to access the file, or go one step beyond and store a snapshot of the operating system itself. Even store the hardware, if you can (there are plenty of decades-old Atari’s and Sega systems still running; I once owned a TRS-80 Model 100, a laptop computer manufactured 20 years ago and it worked fine). Whatever you do though, don’t put it off – storage media degrades, online services shutter their doors and hard drives crash.

Nuts and Bolts. Save everything as text. Formatted text (html, xml, json etc) if necessary, but put it into a form which a text editor can read. ASCII text is better then Unicode (simpler, smaller, backwards compatible). If you can’t keep it as text, store it anyway – anything is better then nothing. Keep binaries of programs (installers, or save the whole installation directory; most programs can run this way). Ubiquitous formats (mp3) are good, open formats are better; bonus points if you save the specification documents for the formats you are using. Specific formats: pdf, mp3, flac, txt, rtf. Some commercial formats are ok if they are well documented (Microsoft Word .doc). I haven’t decided on the best video format, though ogg and mp4 and H.264 are top contenders; the technology here is changing fast.

Right now I have a huge hodgepodge of file formats. Multiple e-reader formats, for example. At least five different video formats. And I have little intention of doing much to bring them all together into a cohesive system. What is more important is wrangling the files so that I can manage them, and so all the stuff I throw onto storage will at least be more or less connected to metadata such as the time and context it was created/retrieved in. At the end of the day, it all comes down to whether you have the goods.

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Written by logand

March 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Posted in Archiving

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