Tag Archives: preservation

Preserving Yahoo Groups

Yahoo is sending out alerts on the transformation of Yahoo Groups into a list server. The spin is ridiculous. The changes “better align with user habits,” and “we are making adjustments to ultimately serve you better.” It’s as if users had been protesting against the existence of public groups and Web-hosted discussions and Yahoo were complying with the demand.

Yahoo, in case you haven’t been keeping track (I hadn’t), now belongs to Verizon. It makes economic decisions, and one was that running public Yahoo Groups was no longer worth the cost and effort. This is the result of changing user preferences, as well as stupid policy decisions over the years that drove people away. The attempts to correct those blunders may be part of the current problem.
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The tape obsolescence problem

An ABC News Australia article calls attention to the problem of archives on magnetic tape. Author James Elton clearly knows something about digital preservation issues, as the article goes beyond the usual generalities and hand-wringing.

Tapes, on the other hand, can only be read by format-specific machines.

And dozens of formats of magnetic tape were created through the last century — one-inch, two-inch, various versions of Betamax.

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Files that Last: 50% off!

Read an Ebook Week I’m participating in Smashwords’ “Read an Ebook Week Sale,” from March 3 to March 9, 2019. During that time, Files that Last will be available for 50% off! Don’t miss your chance to learn about “digital preservation for everygeek” at a low price.

Preserving Google+ content

I recently got an email reminding me that my Google+ account will go away on April 2. My first reaction was a yawn. Google has made the service steadily less attractive over the years. I just checked my feed for the first time in months, and it consists entirely of posts by people I don’t follow, on topics I don’t care about. Posts from this blog and my writing blog get links automatically posted to Google+, but otherwise I haven’t posted in a long time.

One of my posts got two comments from people I know, so it’s not totally dead, but it’s close. Google made the service as unattractive as they could. Posts by strangers keep showing up. Comments appear and disappear as you’re trying to read them. But there was a time when Google+ was somewhat useful. You might have material there which you want to save. Fortunately, Google provides a way to do this.
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Introductory JHOVE workshop, January 25, 2019

JHOVE is still alive and active! The Open Preservation Foundation is holding a workshop on “Getting Started with JHOVE” on January 25, 2019 in the Hague, Netherlands. The announcement says, “This workshop is aimed at beginners, or anyone who is new to JHOVE.”

OPF members get priority for registration.

The digital preservation song challenge!

Should there be songs about digital preservation? This is just a special case of the question, “Should there be songs about X?” For nearly all X, the answer is “Yes, and there probably are!” (Even — perhaps especially — if there shouldn’t be, there are.)

Someone in the Australiasian preservation community asked if AusPreserves needed a theme song. The first responses were existing popular songs, but then people started getting more creative. This led to the Digital Preservation Song Challenge!

One response was the Beyonce parody, “All the Corrupt Files” (“Put a checksum on it”). I think it’s the first song ever to mention JHOVE!

Naturally, I already have my own song on digital preservation, called Files that Last. I wrote it to promote my book of the same title, but it stands (or falls) by itself.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth singing about, and that certainly applies to digital preservation!

How to approach the file format validation problem

For years I wrote most of the code for JHOVE. With each format, I wrote tests for whether a file is “well-formed” and “valid.” With most formats, I never knew exactly what these terms meant. They come from XML, where they have clear meanings. A well-formed XML file has correct syntax. Angle brackets and quote marks match. Closing tags match opening tags. A valid file is well-formed and follows its schema. A file can be well-formed but not valid, but it can’t be valid without being well-formed.

With most other formats, there’s no definition of these terms. JHOVE applies them anyway. (I wrote the code, but I didn’t design JHOVE’s architecture. Not my fault.) I approached them by treating “well-formed” as meaning syntactically correct, and “valid” as meaning semantically correct. Drawing the line wasn’t always easy. If a required date field is missing, is the file not well-formed or just not valid? What if the date is supposed to be in ISO 8601 format but isn’t? How much does it matter?
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Files that Last — 50% off!

Files that Last coverIt’s been too long since I’ve had a special discount on FTL. For all of June, you can get Files that Last: Digital Preservation for Everygeek on Smashwords for just $4.00. That’s half off the regular price! The coupon code is KC49Z.

FTL is aimed at anyone with a moderate level of technical knowledge who’s concerned with keeping files from becoming useless over the years. It covers formats, metadata, media, file systems, and more.

The book is 100% DRM-free on Smashwords. I’ve done my best to keep it that way when it’s sold through other platforms but can’t always guarantee it.

Google Docs: Not a File Format

What’s the format of a Google Docs file? The question may not even be meaningful. According to Jenny Mitcham at the University of York, there is no such thing as a Google Docs file. What you see when you open a document is an assembly of information from a database. You can export it in various file formats, but the exported file isn’t identical to the Google document.

This makes them risky from a preservation standpoint. You can’t save a local backup of a document. If you lose your Google account, or if censorship in your country cuts you off from it, you lose all your documents.
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Preserving and losing tax records

When you offer expert advice on something, such as digital preservation, you have to admit your own errors. I very nearly lost my 2016 tax return. When I tried to open it in TurboTax, the application just did nothing. I hadn’t exported it to a generally usable format. The TurboTax file format is proprietary and opaque.
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