Storing your digital self
Christian Lindholm had an accident with his digital media archives and now he's asking how other people deal with it.
My answer is simple: never rely on proprietary software. I don't use Lifeblog, or any other "digital life management" solutions. While I do use iPhoto, and iTunes, I only use them as a viewer. I don't add any metadata - if I do add something, I just usually just name the picture. Other than that, it's plain, basic JPEG or PNG, AAC or MP3 with metadata in the file or the filename itself.
The problem with proprietary software is that they always try to keep you as a user - and therefore they mostly never provide export functionality. Switching away is a problem, and it is also a problem if you ever lose that software, it is broken or you cannot use it for some other reason. I use Windows, Mac and Linux and keep switching between them all the time. Therefore there's no way you could use the same software on each. So you quickly learn not to rely on a particular piece of software, but try to keep yourself as agnostic as possible.
Same thing, obviously, goes for text documents (UTF-8 or Latin1 plain text, thankyouverymuch; or Word97 [it is really rather universal these days]). Incidentally, that's also one of the reasons JSPWiki ships with a plain file text repository as the default - it's really easy to move away from it, if you really need to. No weird-shit database schemas; just plain, unambiguously named files.
As a backup solution, I use a three-way synchronization solution with Unison - one replica on my laptop, one on my desktop and one in a remote server. Since hard drive space is so cheap, it's far easier to manage these automatically than it is to keep making physical DVD backups or drag around USB hard drives. Replicating is the best backup solution I've so far figured out. If I really needed to, I guess I could buy some HD space from a hosting company as well to store an additional replica.
I've had a couple of crashes, and so far I've been able to restore everything that I care about. My replication needs are not as difficult as Christian's (I only got about 30 GB of data I don't want to lose), but this works well for me.
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