[Beowulf] Interesting

Christopher Samuel samuel at unimelb.edu.au
Wed Oct 27 21:14:25 EDT 2010


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On 28/10/10 04:03, Sarma Tangirala wrote:

> What I'd like to know is, is it possible to have a our
> history captured in its entirety so that none of the
> future generations have to run around (like Hari Seldon)
> because information from waaaay back is corrupt and not
> take care of?

For a lesson in the dangers of digital preservation the
1986 BBC Domesday Book project and the battle to be able
to read it again after 15 years is a very good case in point.

Here's the situation in 2002:

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/mar/03/research.elearning

A background on the original project, and a bit about
the recovery efforts:

 http://www.atsf.co.uk/dottext/domesday.html

The project that started to recover access to the data:

 http://www2.si.umich.edu/CAMILEON/domesday/domesday.html

For a while the data was available on a website here:

 http://www.domesday1986.com/

But in another lesson the owner of that site died in 2008
and the site went away (there's a small site about it there
now, but none of the content).  You can see the original
front page courtesy of The Wayback Machine but it appears
the owner (ironically a company called Long Lived Data)
pointed to another server via javascript and so the
javascript window that appears to access it just pops up
a hosting company website now. :-(

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.domesday1986.com/

Finally, and probably most instructively, a message from the
RISKS digest from one of the originators of the BBC project
about the choices they made and what went wrong:

http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/25.44.html#subj7

# In sharp contrast to the way we are portrayed now by
# some commentators, we were always acutely aware of the
# volatility of the hardware and software we had used to
# implement the Domesday Project and the need to preserve
# this unique archive for the future.  Knowing that our
# project was coming to an end we transferred the master
# tapes and server files for everything we had compiled,
# including all our working documents and enabling software
# to the National Data Archive under the supervision of
# Professor Newby.

But 18 years later, when the recovery project began:

# I immediately went to the National Data Archive website
# to assure myself that our original masters had been
# preserved, only to find no record of them!

Worse still, it appears that the records of the recovery
project have also gone missing from both the UK National
Data Archive and the UK National Archives. :-(

Depressing really..

cheers,
Chris
- -- 
 Christopher Samuel - Senior Systems Administrator
 VLSCI - Victorian Life Sciences Computational Initiative
 Email: samuel at unimelb.edu.au Phone: +61 (0)3 903 55545
         http://www.vlsci.unimelb.edu.au/

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