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Old 08-10-2008, 11:43 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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File rot? - NYTime's David Pogue wants to interview you for TV!

Well-known New York Time personal technology writer, David Pogue, is doing some interviews in advance of a CBS News Sunday Morning show about how people are losing important personal data. The reason? Always changing data formats and storage media issues. While he doesn't specifically mention DRM issues, I'm sure it will be deserving of a prime spot in his story.

Most likely, there are readers here with legitimate collections of personal files, pictures, music, home movies and of course e-books that have been lost because of various problems associated with storage and formats.

In fact, I've recently done what I could to try (unsuccessfully) to recover some lost photos and a memorial tribute video for a family member. He recently served overseas and lost someone he served with, and these are the surviving memories, as well as the tribute he had created. Unfortunately, the hard drive didn't survive the harsh conditions and professional recovery services run something like $1,000 even with military discounts. It's especially sad because I'm sure this sort of scenario happens to multitudes of people, and we're only on the "front end" of the danger curve. The average person doesn't go to the trouble to do backups of their files, and even those that try to do backups are still bitten by data loss.

Assuming he is still collecting stories, be sure to contact David if you have a significant loss that would be of interest for a news show. Every bit of publicity for this topic is a step forward. Here's the full blog entry "Casting Call!" from July 30...
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So, I’m preparing a story for CBS News Sunday Morning about data rot/format loss: how the never-ending succession of recording and data formats can leave important memories and documents unplayable.

I’m looking for someone we can interview. Someone who has recordings or data files that are COMPLETELY unplayable/unopenable. Maybe the data files are fine, but the software that can open them is no longer available. Maybe you’ve got films or tapes in some oddball format that you can’t play anymore because the playback machines don’t exist anymore. (16-millimeter film reels, Betamax tapes, 3.5 or 5-inch floppy disks and 8-track tapes don’t count; those aren’t made anymore, but they’re still findable if you’re determined.)

Also let me know if you have recordings that have completely deteriorated with time. VHS tapes of a wedding, maybe. Or important audiotape recordings.

If you’re up for it, and you live in NY, LA, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., or Dallas, drop me an e-mail at pogue@nytimes.com!
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Old 08-10-2008, 12:26 PM   #2
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In fact, I've recently done what I could to try (unsuccessfully) to recover some lost photos and a memorial tribute video for a family member. He recently served overseas and lost someone he served with, and these are the surviving memories, as well as the tribute he had created. Unfortunately, the hard drive didn't survive the harsh conditions and professional recovery services run something like $1,000 even with military discounts.
I don't know what you might have tried, but I recommend a free, open source program called Test-Disk.

Test-Disk does low level reads of the disk, bypassing the filesystem, and can do things like find and recover partitions. A companion program called Photo-Rec can search damaged drives for photo files.

I've used Test-Disk with a fair bit of success in recovering damaged drives, and I recommend it as a standard part of anyone's tech toolkit.
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Old 08-10-2008, 01:25 PM   #3
Ralph Sir Edward
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This is the downside of the digital age. So far I have lost nothing of great importance, but I have taken to treating the digital items I own like I treat mainframe data. I do triple level, off-site backup of all of it! Yes, it's expensive and time consuming. But I'll have it. And I rotate my media every 3 years. That's why, I keep most of my P-book library, it's more durable than electronic media.
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Old 08-10-2008, 01:35 PM   #4
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I keep most of my P-book library, it's more durable than electronic media.
Yes, I used to think that before the fire. Then my offsite backups restored my digital media, but the physical things were gone

In short, people suck at backing up digital media - but I can't blame digital media for that. From the article, this guy wants to tackle the problem of obsolete media (say that article you wrote on a Commodore-64 Word Processor) or even media created with obsolete hardware. Like that poem I wrote on punchcards

Last edited by acidzebra; 08-10-2008 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 08-10-2008, 01:53 PM   #5
Ralph Sir Edward
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Yes, I used to think that before the fire. Then my offsite backups restored my digital media, but the physical things were gone

In short, people suck at backing up digital media. From the article, this guy wants to tackle the problem of obsolete media or even media created with obsolete hardware. Like that poem I wrote on punchcards

But fires occur much less frequently that digital obsolence.

Yes, people suck at backing up, because -
1. It costs money, with no apparent gain.
2. It take time and work to do, also with no apparent gain.
and
3. People think that if the data is immortal, the hardware holding it is also. They just don't think that it deteriorates, just like food in a pantry.

That's why I like HTML for reading. Not Mobi, not LRF, not PDF, not Epub. There is so much art in HTML (non book) that being able to read HTML will be a required tool for computers for many years in the future.
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:05 PM   #6
HappyMartin
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I have not given this much thought as far as books go.

Two sides to it I suppose. Crashes that result in the loss of current data and evolution of software and hardware that makes older data difficult or impossible to access. The first is easy and is solved by a planned backup system. It is easy and cheap to implement with the tiny little book files we are dealing with here. The second is trickier and need constant planning in order to keep migrating your data to new generation media and software during the period when the old and new are both supported. Try not to get left 2 generations behind or you could get into trouble.

That is my plan with photographs anyway. It is helped with images in that it is a widely researched subject with lots of people contributing to working solutions. Not sure that exists for electronic texts at this point but the problem with images that we don't have with books is the huge files now used for images.
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Old 08-10-2008, 03:12 PM   #7
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Huh .... well, I bought a Mirra backup server, and have been blissfully using that for a few years now. It took maybe five minutes to hook up ... works in the background backing up everything on all of my networked computers, and I can even download files through the internet if I really have to have them and can't get to my laptop when I'm on the road.

Maybe it's because I have so many client files on my PC ... but I am as close to paranoid about data loss as it is possible for a person to be. I have, on rare occasions lost data ... but that was when I was setting up new drives on a system and just got stupid (had to reformat a drive before I had a chance to back it up ... lost a long piece done for litigation which I then had to recreate from scratch .... ick).

I also have redundant drives in my system (six 500 GB drives and one 200 GB drive that just holds system files). Those I have to actually push a button to back up (D backs up to E, F to G, H to I), and it's really more of a sync than a backup. My thought there was, if any program or data drive goes belly up on me, all I have to do is remap the twin and I'm back up and running.

Like I said .... paranoid.
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Old 08-10-2008, 09:30 PM   #8
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Huh .... well, I bought a Mirra backup server, and have been blissfully using that for a few years now.
Do you back up your Mirra to some offsite location? If not, your not as paranoid as you could be.

BOb
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Old 08-10-2008, 11:08 PM   #9
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Do you back up your Mirra to some offsite location? If not, your not as paranoid as you could be.

BOb
Nope ... and I have been thinking of getting some space on an online backup somewhere ... never too late to become more paranoid.
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Old 08-10-2008, 11:19 PM   #10
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Nope ... and I have been thinking of getting some space on an online backup somewhere ... never too late to become more paranoid.
Depends on the volume of files. I just went around this with a friend who is self employed, and has business as well as personal files. I recommended a Firewire or USB 2.0 external drive cage, with several hard drives. Do a complete backup to an external drive, remove it and put it in a safe deposit box at his bank, and swap another drive into the enclosure. Online backups are splendid, assuming the volume is reasonable and you have a fast broadband connection, but then your point of failure is your internet connection. Guaranteed your ISP will experience prolonged problems just when you need to restore something from that online backup...
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Old 08-11-2008, 04:43 PM   #11
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Nope ... and I have been thinking of getting some space on an online backup somewhere ... never too late to become more paranoid.
Totally agree. I was considering getting a Windows home Server which has a jundledisk version that backs up your backup. But, now that I have a Mac I have backed off on that idea. Will probably just got with straight Jungle disk running on my machines.

BOb
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Old 08-11-2008, 08:55 PM   #12
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I recommend a service such as Carbonite for off site backup. It's not free but at $50 US per year it's worth it to me and the data is encrypted. I have multiple redundant on site backups *but* I wanted something off site but not on media.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:14 AM   #13
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I recommend a service such as Carbonite for off site backup. It's not free but at $50 US per year it's worth it to me and the data is encrypted. I have multiple redundant on site backups *but* I wanted something off site but not on media.
Yep, JungleDisk uses Amazon S3 service. So, you pay actually by how much data you store/transfer. It's like $.15 /GB per month. Since I don't have alot to store it will be cheaper for me. Also, you can use it like a network/cloud drive. JungleDisk can encrypt everything before sending it to the servers if you want it to. It can also handle encryption key changes/versioning.

But Carbonite and Mozy are certainly good options... any backup is better than none, and offsite is better than local.

BOb
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