[plug] FOSS condemned for data archival - don't let it go unchallenged

Peter Sutter sutterp at sopac.com.au
Sun Dec 23 09:22:03 WST 2007

On Saturday 22 December 2007 19:33, William Kenworthy wrote:
> As far as I know, the formal term for data degradation over time is
> bitrot.  Its long been known and any software (OS or propriety) will
> suffer from this over time.  I doubt OS is any worse or better than
> prop. software though.
> google for: bitrot data storage
Data archival is and will always be a big problem, of which bitrot is the 
least of them. The problem is also _not_ the Operating system.

There are several components that have to play hand in hand in archiving.

1. You need to store the data somehow. Yesterdays media is different to todays 
and todays is different to yesterdays; so you have to migrate and store it on 
todays media.

2. Now that you have archived your data, how are you going to use/view it? 
What program(s) do you use? Preferably you will use the program originally 
designed to manipulate and view the data, so you have to archive the 
application as well.

3. Does the program run under any operating system? Probably not. So you need 
to archive an instance of the operating system.

4. On what hardware does that operating system work? You have to maintain at 
least one physical computer in working condition if the Operating 
System/application/data is to be of any use to you. The alternative is to 
create a virtual machine running under a modern operating system. And that is 
where I believe Linux/Unix offers more, and more reliable options to 
implement a virtual environment than most other.

Archiving is an ongoing task, each time a new generation of hardware/Operating 
System is around, you have to go through the whole procedure again. Under 
these circumstances, bitrot is not a problem, because you have to refresh 
your data every few years.

Taking this into consideration, it does not matter under which operating 
system you do this. If it does, you either do it wrongly or the operating 
system does not provide the functionality required for archiving. Linux is 
perfectly suited to do this. (i.e. I have old OpenVMS(Vax) and RT11/RSX11 
(PDP-11) applications archived under Linux running on emulators).


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