Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Bit Rot Stalks Your Digital Keepsakes 535

axlrosen writes "The NYTimes has an article about the problems of digital archiving. How many of your digital memories will still be around 50 years from now, considering lost disks, incompatible formats, hard drive crashes, fading CD-Rs, etc.? Unfortunately Peter Briggs' solution won't work for most of us. The only real way to make sure that your grandkids get to see your digital photos is to make real photographic prints from them. (When I bought my Mom a digital camera I installed Picasa for her, and made sure she knows to order real prints of all the pictures she wants to survive through the ages...)"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bit Rot Stalks Your Digital Keepsakes

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:37PM (#10778298)
    Half of my 5.25" floppies don't work anymore!
    • Re:Tell me about it (Score:5, Informative)

      by kentmartin ( 244833 ) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:47PM (#10778427) Homepage
      I just had a bit of a google. According to this [manifest-tech.com] DVDs have a lifetime of 30-50 years.

      A better read though, is this [about.com] which is an article about who to best go about long term storage on CDRs.

      It includes the tip, amongst a load of others, that the top of CDR's is far more fragile and needs to be treated with great care.
      • by vasqzr ( 619165 ) <vasqzrNO@SPAMnetscape.net> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:38PM (#10779087)

        If you drop and scratch a DVD, you could lose ten thousand photos.

        If you drop a photo album, you'll scratch a picture or two.

        For anything I want to keep, I'll stick to a 35mm camera. For ebay or computer stuff, I'll use a digital camera.
        • ...and you certainly WOULD drop a photo album if it had ten thousand pictures in it! If you could lift it in the first place!

          Also, if you carry your ten thousand pictures around in a shoe box (a BIG shoebox), you will scratch a lot more pictures that way, even if you don't drop it. The shoebox is a better analogy than an album than dropping a bare DVD. If the DVD was inserted in a jewel case before it was dropped, it probably wouldn't scratch the DVD. A DVD in a jewel case is a better analogy to pictur
        • by dorsey ( 119963 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:06PM (#10779385)
          Depends on your priorities. For me, the risk that I might scratch the disc and lose those 10k photos is far outweighed by the hassle and expense of storing and/or transporting 10k pieces of paper.
        • So burn multiple copies then! Or try putting the disc in a jewel case! Or maybe even do something as crazy as making multiple copies, putting them in jewel cases, and storing one in a safe deposit box!

          Uh-oh, I think they heard me -- some men in white lab coats are knocking at my door. Gotta go!
      • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:46PM (#10779175)
        And when you replace those DVDs in 20 years with something even better, the photos will still be in 100% perfect condition. Try that with an actual print of the picture.

        This guy's advice is not smart. Bascially he's saying "take your perfect copy that might die at some point and replace it with an imperfect copy that is guaranteed to deteriorate with age." Heck, I'll just laser print all my documents for backup as well. We all know there's no way they could possibly be lost then. We all know going analog is much safer than backing up and refreshing the data on new media periodically because all those prints of movies, music and documents from 75 years ago look and sound so damn good.

        I'll take my chances with backing up and copying data periodically over my skills as a museum currator any day.

        • In 20 years will you have a picture viewer that can look at that pristine digital picture?

          Many cameras are taking pictures using camera raw - camera raw pictures can really only be read in a few programs right now - one of them is photoshop.

          Take pictures made on computers 20 years ago - can you read those pictures easily right now? You'd probably have a hard time reading pictures made with graphics app that dec, quantel etc made back then.
        • Better yet, don't put all your eggs in one basket!

          You can restore (or pay somebody to restore) a badly deteriorated, hundred-year-old photographic print, and get remarkable results. Imagine trying that with any digital media.

          And you say you don't want to be a museum curator, but you're choosing the option that will require exactly that. Digital image archival will require meticulously cataloging, inspecting, and duplicating your media library. If you make prints, you can stick them in a shoe box and

          • And you say you don't want to be a museum curator, but you're choosing the option that will require exactly that.

            I'm not a photo geek. The pictures I take are snapshots, not art. When I print them out they end up in a frame from Target or a photo album from Wal-Mart or sometimes a shoe box on my shelf. These pictures will not last and I'm unwilling to go to the effort of to print them and store them in such a way that they do last.

            I am a tech geek though. I have more than a dozen functioning and used
        • Re:Tell me about it (Score:3, Informative)

          by Wavicle ( 181176 )
          This guy's advice is not smart.

          Amen to that. You know this same damned topic comes up on slashdot about every 9 months. And every time, I interject the same thing:

          The best method of archival storage of color images is an archival quality CD-R!

          The CD-R takes up so much less space than a rack of kodachrome slides (the only color archival quality film) and is orders of magnitude less expensive and an order of magnitude higher quality than a box of pigmented ink printed pictures, that it wins hands down.
      • Re:Tell me about it (Score:3, Interesting)

        by feidaykin ( 158035 )
        DVDs have a lifetime of 30-50 years.

        "In the digital world, we don't need back-ups, because a digital copy never wears out. It is timeless." -Jack Valenti, former head of the MPAA, 2002 interview with Harvard Political Review's Derek Slater

  • Every 2-3 years (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zeke-o ( 595753 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:37PM (#10778305)
    move your stuff to the next "permanent" media
    • Re:Every 2-3 years (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tet ( 2721 ) * <slashdot@astradyn[ ]o.uk ['e.c' in gap]> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:43PM (#10778377) Homepage Journal
      move your stuff to the next "permanent" media

      Or rather, dispense with the concept of permanent media altogether. I realised a few years ago that the only sane way to protect my data was to have it all online all the time. I store my data on redundant arrays of disks in two geographical locations (my house and my parents' house, synced nightly via rsync). This is IMHO a far better solution than backing up to tape or CD/DVD. LVM makes the process of moving the data to bigger disks trivial. Where it falls down is for really large volumes of data. Places like CERN that generate terabytes of data per day are going to struggle in the not too distant future. Archived data will become a real problem (even more than it is now).

      • I dunno (Score:5, Funny)

        by paranode ( 671698 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:55PM (#10778542)
        I don't think the basement really qualifies as being a separate house. I mean, what if the whole place goes up in flames?
      • I realised a few years ago that the only sane way to protect my data was to have it all online all the time. I store my data on redundant arrays of disks in two geographical locations (my house and my parents' house, synced nightly via rsync).

        What if somebody hacks your primary machine and erases your data? This would propagate to your backup server as well. I see at least two solutions to this: 1) make a WORM copy every so often and/or 2) write to the backup server is a journaled manner so that ol

        • What if somebody hacks your primary machine and erases your data? This would propagate to your backup server as well.

          The syncs are delayed, so I have an overnight sync to a local disk in my main machine, weekly backups offsite, and 4 weekly backups from that to another offsite machine. Thus I have 28 days in which to spot the deleted data and restore from backup (actually, I don't need to spot it manually -- AIDE [cs.tut.fi] tells me when a file disappears from my machine). Eventually, I'll get around to implementin

      • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:58PM (#10778603) Homepage Journal
        I store my data on redundant arrays of disks in two geographical locations (my house and my parents' house, synced nightly via rsync).

        Do you run rsync with --delete? If not, how do you deal with moved files? If so, how do you deal with accidental deletion?

        I grant that you've solved the decaying media problem, but I've lost more data to screwups than to bitrot.
        • by Megaslow ( 694447 ) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:16PM (#10778816) Homepage
          Do you run rsync with --delete? If not, how do you deal with moved files? If so, how do you deal with accidental deletion?
          Simple, keep multiple online copies using something like rsnapshot [rsnapshot.org].

          I keep several months worth of point-in-time "copies" of my home dirs, mail, /etc, and other stuff online and available on separate hardware.

        • Do you run rsync with --delete? If not, how do you deal with moved files? If so, how do you deal with accidental deletion?

          I'm not the person to whom this question was written, but I'll tell you my solution:

          My DB dumps are my biggest chunk of data. I dump each table (in each schema in each DB) to a separate stream and break the stream up into chunks of a specific size (configurable per stream). For each chunk, I maintain an md5. Every day, for every chunk, I compare the md5 against the md5 for the same
      • Re:Every 2-3 years (Score:5, Interesting)

        by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:04PM (#10778670)
        That is exactly what I do. Two seperate types of backups going to three seperates machines.

        A daily backup of important files (and stuff that is changed daily) goes to all machines in one shot at ~6am.

        A weekly backup of EVERYTHING goes to three different machines every Sunday at ~5am.

        Now, I realize that all three could be screwed simulataneously but at least I know that TWO of those machines have automated backup to CDRW daily.

        Yeah, it's paranoid, it's redundant, but it's my data and it's important to me. If I lost my 2300 pictures I'd be lost.
    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:02PM (#10778643)
      I've archived some of important documents onto clay tablets using Sanskrit, but I'm starting to run out of storage space. Even worse, the neighbours are starting to complain about the smoke from my kiln drifting across into their garden.
  • Umm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 )
    "REAL Photos" wear out too.
    • Re:Umm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) *
      While it is ture that they wear out too, But if you keep them in good contition they can easilly last for hundreds of years. The oldest Data I have seen is from the early 1980's and they are probably electronic data from a decade earlier too.
      • Re:Umm (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ford Prefect ( 8777 )
        While it is ture that they wear out too, But if you keep them in good contition they can easilly last for hundreds of years.

        Nobody's too sure how long inkjet printouts will last. My own printer's inks and paper are supposedly safe for a century (according to accelerated ageing tests using ultra-violet lamps, or something similar), but I'll still be keeping all the original JPEGs, regularly backed up on to some lowest-common-denominator medium (currently CDRs).

        Professional digital photo prints are likely
      • Re:Umm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pyro101 ( 564166 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:53PM (#10778523) Homepage
        Hundreds of years? Have you seen the fade on photos 50 years ago, 100 years ago? These are even supposed to be the cherrished chemical grail that will make photos last forever. Would you like to know what photographers do with photos/film that they want to last for years, put them in a pitch black room insde of binders in drawers, that are rarely opened. The room is controlled both for humidity and temp. I'll take buying a new HDD every 6 months to that. Then you can print new prints every 10 years and abuse them to hearts wishes, not have to place the photo over there since it is too close to the sunlight, or go rabid if a kid tears up a $.20 peice of paper.
        • Re:Umm (Score:3, Funny)

          by geoffspear ( 692508 )
          Sure, and Kodak hasn't made any improvements to their paper in the past 50 years. They actually spend their entire R&D budget on pizza.
        • Re:Umm (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wing03 ( 654457 )
          Hundreds of years? Have you seen the fade on photos 50 years ago, 100 years ago?

          Standard colour prints are made with organic dyes. Those fade in time.

          Black and white photos are silver

          Those don't fade but other factors like the underlying paper turning yellow or the underlying film being cellulose nitrate a close relative of nitro cellulose (AKA gun cotton) causes it to disintegrate.

          For the chemical holy grail, (and this goes back to my knowledge gained in the 80s and early 90s)you're looking at Kod
    • by vhold ( 175219 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:47PM (#10778430)
      The fact that digital data rarely goes from "Perfect" to "Ok" to "umm not so good" to "What is that?".. it tends to go from "Perfect" to "Gone/Maybe not gone but very expensive to retrieve," makes it's worth discussing the finer points of digital archival versus analog.
      • by shokk ( 187512 ) <ernieoporto.yahoo@com> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @05:37PM (#10781072) Homepage Journal
        In a billion years everything you observe around you is going to be blown away when our Sun becomes a red giant and engulfs our planet, making Mars the new Mercury. If I were you I would take all my CDs and DVDs of family photos and have them launched into orbit around Neptune. There they will chill for a huge period of time until the Arturians finally reach the source of all that bad programming that was radiated into space, our Solaris system, just in time to watch the fireworks. There they will find the pathetic works of a now extinct civilization that looked up the stars but kept getting distracted by his boot on his fellow human's head. The few remaining trinkets and images they discover will be taken back to a museum on their world along with various Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, only to be lost in a freak warehouse fire a month later due to faulty wiring. A hearty laugh they will give as they note to each other, "see, their little image makers stole their souls after all."
    • Re:Umm (Score:5, Informative)

      by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:48PM (#10778440)

      Properly cared for, black and white negatives will keep for a very long time. Nobody knows exactly how long "a long time" is, but negatives from the turn of the last century are still perfectly viable.

      Colour materials are another matter. Because they are based on chemical dyes instead of silver crystals, they are subject to chemical change (i.e. fading). Current films quote longevity of 50 to 100 years.


      • Re:Umm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:05PM (#10778681) Homepage
        Colour materials are another matter. Because they are based on chemical dyes instead of silver crystals, they are subject to chemical change (i.e. fading). Current films quote longevity of 50 to 100 years.

        A minor fade can still be pretty bad. I found an envelope of 1980s-era colour prints as taken by my father - all seemingly of a number of people with cameras standing outside, near some flowerbeds and low fences.

        On closer inspection, I noticed the very faint, faded image of the Taj Mahal [wikipedia.org] in the background, near-indistinguishable from the sky.

        So, the photos are now useless, unless I scan them in and do some pretty heavy enhancement - but then what am I supposed to do with the results? :-)
      • Re:Umm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )
        real photos are more time tolerant than the low quality inks in printed digital photos.

        hell even the high end real exposed photos will not outlast the negatives.

        I have a very expensive 8X10 print of a digital photo a friend shot back 4 years ago when he had access to an insanely expensive digital camera for that time. (your 3MP canon point and shoot can do the same thing it can now)

        it is not exposed to sunlight directly and is behind UV protective glass in a frame and the yellow and cyan are already fadi
        • Re:Umm (Score:3, Funny)

          by ivan256 ( 17499 ) *
          it is not exposed to sunlight directly and is behind UV protective glass in a frame and the yellow and cyan are already fading. this was on "archival" quality printer from a "archival" quality printer with "archival" quality inks.

          "Archival" is probably code for "great for sticking in a lead box in a nitrogen bath in a sub basement for 1000 years without fading", but if you want the picture to be visible, well... You're not really archiving it now, are you? ;)
      • Color - B/W (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dexter riley ( 556126 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:10PM (#10778740)
        Is there a service where you can copy your color negatives to three b/w negatives, one for each color layer, so they can be recombined later to make a full color image? This strikes me as the best long-term analog solution to losing precious color pictures.
      • Re:Umm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lechter ( 205925 )

        It's not just a matter of the negatives, (color or b&w) so much as it's a matter of how they were developed. Masters like Ansel Adams & co. not only used better film, but they were also much more exacting in how the processed that film. Improperly stopped or fixed negatives (even when carefully stored) can deteriorate remarkably quickly....just ask a careless Photo 1 student. (not me, I was a careful Photo 1 student)

    • Re:Umm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by philbert26 ( 705644 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:49PM (#10778456)
      "REAL Photos" wear out too.

      This is especially true if you print them out at home. Which makes me even madder that I fell for that "here's a cheap printer with a gazillion DPI" scam that Epson was running a few years back. Once I added the cost of photo paper and cartridges, it was more expensive than developing the pics.

      • Re:Umm (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tenebrious1 ( 530949 )
        Once I added the cost of photo paper and cartridges, it was more expensive than developing the pics.

        Printing on the printer costs me more, yes, almost twice as much as printing at the store. However, if you consider 250 pictures taken on vacation, I might want to print 10 of them as 8"x10", total cost about $20. Developing 250 pictures would cost at least $80, and I'd only get 4"x6"s, plus an additional $10 to get the 10 I want blown up to 8"x10" *after* I get the original prints back. The cost comes fro
        • There's a photo shop in the mall around me that can take all or most digital media containers and print out only the prints you want. If you want more than eight or so pictures, it's something like 1/3 the cost of doing it on my home printer.

          And they have 1/2 hour delivery, so they'd be done by the time you meander to the opposite end of the mall and back. For true convenience, there's internet sites that allow you to upload your pictures for printing, then they mail them to you.
  • Perpetual backups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gentoo Fan ( 643403 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:39PM (#10778330) Homepage
    Short of having titanium punchcards with your data bits punched in (and even then...) you are simply going to have to keep backing up and backing up. I'd rather have my data on 2 new hard drives than a dozen decade-old ones.
    • by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:47PM (#10778437) Homepage Journal
      Not only insightful, but also "duh" obvious. Guess what? All those photos your grandparents took? They're fading. They're not perpetual. You're going to have to have them digitized and reprinted if you want "prints" that last forever. Every medium degrades, some faster, some slower. Digital is not so much subject to decay as it is to obsolecense, but the same principles apply. Keep doing technology refreshes and you should be fine.
      • It's certainly "duh" for techies, but for the n00b crowd I think they hear "digital" and think "permanent". The way some things are marketed (like satelite TV, etc) they associate "digital" with high-tech, just-write-a-CD-and-forget-about-it. It's hard enough to get people to back up their data, it will be even harder to convice some that their media isn't permanent.
  • Permanent (Score:2, Funny)

    by RandoX ( 828285 )
    That's why I still use punchcards.
  • WWLD? (Score:5, Funny)

    by chris mazuc ( 8017 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:41PM (#10778349)
    "Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it."

    --Linus Torvalds
  • Just remember to move to a new PC every couple of years, and back up the most important data, and you'll be fine!

    I have files that are 15 years old purely because every time I move PC I copy all the data onto the new one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:43PM (#10778380)
    Saturday, November 6, 2004

    Alien v Predator script saved by Internet pirates
    Amazing anaecdote from Peter Briggs, the author of the screenplay for Alien Versus Predator.

    I wrote "A vs P" originally - oh, God...did you hear that? I actually said "A vs P". I hate that thing...it's like "T2" or "LXG"! Anyway, I wrote it on an Amstrad computer, which was about one step above a Univac Room Filler. In '92 I swapped to an Apple Mac, which I've used ever since. And I ended up losing the Amstrad disk, which was some weird, unreadable proprietary brand anyway. It wasn't until whoever it was transcribed it and pirated it onto the web years later, that I was able to cut-and-paste it into Final Draft and have an electronic copy again. So, thank-you, Internet Leaker, wherever you were!

  • Back when I had a bunch of floppy disks and also when I had an Amiga I used to think about what I would do with all the information to keep it from degrading. I thought that someday I would write the stuff from the couple hundred floppies to a CD-R. But I never got around too it. And now I've sold my Amiga, so I'll have to buy another one.

    I think the biggest problem for me is getting around to converting them from the old format to the new.

    If you think about the rate of growth in storage formats, you c
    • Most of those amiga floppies are probably bad now. There's just something about the way Amiga wrote DSDD floppies that makes them more unreliable than the same floppy used in a PC.
    • there isnt a problem with digital records so long as you keep your formats up to date and have backups. generally, it seems like you should revisit data that is two years old to check if the format needs to be brought up to date before its too late. another good idea is to avoid anythign proprietary, including weird Microsfot implementations of common standards. saving digital photos as simple .jpgs is a better idea than saving them as photoshop documents for example. also, dont forget that scripting can
    • by Myself ( 57572 )
      You should pick up a Catweasel. It's a universal floppy controller for old media [jschoenfeld.de] which can read Commodore, Amiga, Mac 800k, and other formats directly with modern floppy drives.

      The new Catweasel apparently also includes joystick/paddle ports and HardSID functionality. Yesss! :)

      As far as beating bitrot by multiplying the data: You can also use software FEC encoding to add check blocks to the data, growing it by less than an integer multiple. Repairing the errored bits is automatic, whereas storing multiple
  • I guess it's good news for at least one company [kodak.com].
  • 50 years?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oddwick11 ( 446434 ) <slashdot@vim-vigor.net> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:45PM (#10778400)
    I am going through similar problems right now. I have about 30 floppies containing drafts of my mother's first novel. She wrote it in the early nineties on an IBM, using some early version of wordperfect.

    I decided to recover them and save the data on a CD, and I realized I didnt have a floppy drive installed on any of my machines! Somewhere in storage I had a USB floppy drive, but I cant get any software to read her files.

    My solution: buy antiquated hardware.
  • by rackhamh ( 217889 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:46PM (#10778411)
    I use Microsoft Word to print out all my MP3s, which I then store in a 3-ring binder. If I ever lose my digital copy, I can use text recognition to restore my MP3s from the paper backup.

    Let's just hope there isn't a fire or a flood.
  • You can still buy record players and any old piece of hardware. Even if 1,000 years passed and we needed to revive information from ancient media, we could at the very least easily manufacture a player to retrieve the data. Hell, in 1,000 years, we'll probably have some type of scanning device that requires no physical contact and can read data from all known formats. This is all assuming a media is lost for 1,000 years. The truth is that when it's digital, data can be easily transferred from an old med
  • Formats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:47PM (#10778424) Homepage Journal
    Digital content could be "refreshed", just copying it to newer, bigger, cheaper and with more far on time expiration date each time (i.e. when i bought my cd burner, made a backup of my old diskette-based info there).

    But the main problem is not the "end of life" of media used for storage, is the format in which the information is. In 50 years, will be an application that opens/process that information? One of the advantage of having information in open formats is that in the worst case, you can have all the information to be able to process them. But if you stored your information using an applicaiton with its own propietary/closed format, and the company just decided to not support that format anymore, or just closed, you could have lost your information, even if the media where it is stored still retains it well.

  • Meaningless (Score:5, Funny)

    by HarveyBirdman ( 627248 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:47PM (#10778431) Journal
    How many of your digital memories will still be around 50 years from now/

    Who gives a shit? I'm 39, and too mentally ill to attract a wife, so no kids. What am I going to leave behind? A collection of snotty and angry online postings? I just want to retire early and pursue my long denied hobby of global agitation.

    And why doesn't the posting preview here work reliably with Firefox?

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:48PM (#10778439)
    Phisical Data such as paper, stone, ... will demish the more that it is handled and there is often some loss when it is copied, but you can keep it in a safe box for hundreds if not thousands of years. Digital Data is the oposit, In order for electronic digital data to survive it needs to be moved around and each copy is the same as it was before. That is why the music indrustry hates MP3 way more then copying Tapes. With MP3 each copy is as good as the first. With tapes they can only be copy only a fiew times before the quality gets really bad. And there is only a limit on how many times the master tape can be played. But Data just as long as it is moving it is more protected.
  • by contrapuntalmindset ( 697143 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:49PM (#10778450)
    The link ( http://www.boingboing.net/2004/11/06/alien_v_preda tor_scr.html ) to the info on Peter Briggs has porn ads, for those to whom it matters. Couldn't you have warned us?
  • ...the way this world is going, Microsoft will own you and all your data in 50 years so they will keep your data safe for you...

    ...just sign on the dotted line and fill in your credit card number.

  • This just smells like some not so cleverly planted ad.

    I'll respond none the less... So far, I've managed to keep a good portion of my important information (writings, documents, pictures) that I want to keep around for a very long time.

    While most of our pictures are slowly degrading over time. Data I've had for the last 10 years is still pretty much the same.

    If its important, store it in more then one place...
  • The real issue here isn't physically storing data. The issue is, will anyone know WTF a JPEG is in 50 years, and how to read one? Or a Visio Diagram? Or a .xyz file? I was surprised at how little the article talked about the National Archives initiative to solve this very problem.
  • Kodak FUD?| (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:56PM (#10778554)
    Sounds like FUD put out by Kodak, or maybe Epson, and not "news".

    Photos, slides and negatives don't last forever, just one look at the slides my Dad had in his house in Hawaii will illustrate that. But moving them to a new form of media is a lot more cumbersome moving 5 CD-Rs to a single DVD.

    "Printing" is a bad way to save a picture, inkjet printouts degrade faster than true photos. You'd need to output to a real photo to get the same lifespan as a photo. Oh, and if you do, keep the digital copy, it's going to be better than a scan of the photo that's been sitting on the mantel.

    Are there many consumers out there with more than 120GB of family digital photos? A spare hard drive is cheap these days as an additional place to store a copy.

    Want to have your photos at home as well as somewhere safe in case of fire? It would be pricy to made dupes of all your slides or photos, but a second set of CDs pretty cheap.

    There might be people who saved digital photos on floppys ( like those who got the cheesy Sony floppy cam ), but that media is not opsolete yet and for $20 you can have a USB floppy drive to let you move them to a CD.

    Old media meant that the cost of the dupe was pretty much the same cost of the original. This doesn't lend itself to redundant copies at multiple locations for most people. Digital lends itself to duplication, just ask any movie pirate.

    There are films from the 20's that are lost forever. Thanks to DVD pirates, we have enough redundant copies of Star Wars that it will never be gone.
    • Re: Kodak FUD?| (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:43PM (#10779144) Homepage
      This becomes a bigger problem when you have more than a handful of vacation photos.

      NASA filled several volkswagens worth of magnetic tape with images and data from the 1976 Viking missions to Mars, but lost more than 20% of it due to tape decay. You can't just run out and buy a new hard drive to back that all up on, although they did try.

      At one point during the effort to preserve old data, it was remarked that the tapes were degrading faster than they could be copied.

      But what do you do with all that data once you have rescued it from disaster? You throw it on a shelf and wait until it is about to expire again while you move on to collect even more data. Eventually you will wind up as the modern day equivalent of medieval archivists who spent their entire lives trying make copies of books before they rotted away, only to start over again at the beginning as the first copies they made start to fade away.

      What happens when you slip? What happens to a set of old CDs that get lost during a move, only to be found by your children when they are sorting through your attic after your death? Or what happens when the government decides that they can save some money by cutting back "wasteful" spending on data libraries?

      It's all gone. Welcome to the Library of Alexandria. Please, no smoking in the stacks.

  • by DamienMcKenna ( 181101 ) <damien@nOSPam.mc-kenna.com> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @01:57PM (#10778574)
    Does this make the case for parity archiving [sourceforge.net]?

  • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:25PM (#10778913) Homepage Journal
    For those of you who really need permant storage, drop whatever you want preserved into a black hole. The gravational waves produced will carry information (heavily encrypted!) into eternity...

    Retrival may be a challenge.
  • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:30PM (#10778981) Journal
    Every couple of years I buy a new computer (10MB -> 500Mb -> 10Gb -> 60Gb -> 120Gb) and copy everything over.

    I make a backup of everything important once a year and take copy to my parents and the cottage. I take an incremental backup with me anytime I go visiting.

    My kids will have bigger computers and any digital photos will just live on by being on their computers. And their grandkids computers and ...

    Recently one of my aunts scanned in and touched all my grandmothers photo album. Now that album lives on CD and Hard-Drives of most of her 13 kids and 35 grandkids. Now nobody really cares who gets the original album.

    Digital medium is SOLVING the problem of the loss of this type of heirloom data -- not introducing a problem.

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @02:37PM (#10779081)
    On it's original media, even! My second PC was, luckily, a Mac 512K. I've still got the system disks for it, with the original MacPaint and MacWrite disks. I've still got the first doodle I've done in MacPaint on 3.5" 400K diskette, and my PowerMac 6100/60 still reads it fine. When my all-singing, all-dancing Linux-based windows/appletalk/NFS/novell server is up and running, I'm going to back up everything onto RAID, then optical. As long as I keep cycling backup strategies, and keep offsite backups in a safety deposit box, all my data should be secure for quite a long time...

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain