Archive for the ‘open source’ Category


more on open source and digital preservation

October 23, 2009

My last post was a little toe-dip into some hardcore library school geek material and it seems that some of you are into it. Let’s continue then! You learn amazing things in library school all the time. And I am not being facetious! Open Source software is like an anti-capitalist’s wet dream. Open Source communities have created a world in which people work together towards a common purpose without getting paid for it – and as a result, the final product is often tighter, more user-friendly, and has fewer bugs than its proprietary version.

This week I completed an assignment wherein we were given a folder (a virtual folder) with 14 word processed documents in it, all created and saved in outdated formats with file extensions that microsoft word would not open. The two main programs we used to open these files were a program created at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) called Xena, a free software program that transforms files in outdated formats into new, open source formats. The NAA’s investment in creating software like Xena is for long-term digital preservation – it is backed up by the well-understood notion that open-source formats are digital preservationists’ best friend, as they are the most stable and most likely to survive long-term.

Xena did not work with all of my files, however. Some of the extensions were too old even for Xena to read. Miraculously, OpenOffice (the free software I told you about earlier this week) was able to open all of the remaining files except for one. The last one was a PowerPoint file, created and saved in an older version of PPT which of course PPT 2007 refused to open – thanks, microsoft, for preventing me from opening a program created with your own software. I had to turn that file into a PDF to make it readable.

Why should you care? Firstly, when you think of regular archives, it’s nonprofit professionals who are in charge. When it comes to digital materials, we have software and hardware that mediate our access to those materials. And we do *not* want microsoft or any other corporation controlling our access by controlling the software!

Secondly, those of you who are from or live in the US will not be surprised that the US is behind many other countries (mostly in the EU or former British colonies) in its plans and resources for digital preservation. That is why my school had to bring in someone from New Zealand to teach the course that I’m taking. It seems that the US’s penchant for privacy and individualism trumps the importance of managing the long-term survival of digital materials. And to be clear, I am not talking about people’s individual files, I’m talking about huge amounts of scientific and other scholarly research, as well as government records and other similar information.

Want to read more?
Ariadne is a free online magazine geared towards library, museum, and archives professionals but could be read (or at least perused) by anyone.
The Ten Thousand Years Blog is written in lay language – unfortunately difficult to find in the world of digital preservation. The author is an archivist and historian but writes about current digital preservation issues.
The LOCKSS program is pretty cool. LOCKSS stands for Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. It is based at Stanford and it is an initiative to provide libraries with the software they need for easy and cheap long-term digital preservation, and then saves the files on servers in multiple places. Pretty freaking great.

More useful OS stuff:
The Open Source Initiative – all about Open Source software. Contains news stories and other updated information. is an amazing website for finding Open Source software.

The Europeans also have humor in their education about digital preservation. I present the latest installment of…DIGIMAN:


a return, perhaps.

October 18, 2009
this food p*rn is here to lure you so you will keep reading.

this food p*rn is here to lure you so you will keep reading.

I took a little pause. And I may take another. But since I last posted (August 2007) major changes have occurred in my life and in the world and therefore, the content and format of this blog may be changing. Hopefully for the better. Here’s a brief overview.


  • has moved to another colder but friendlier city.
  • has started library science school and is currently in her third semester.
  • is writing the post with html, just because she can.
  • has not joined twitter, and is hoping to hold out.
  • has not joined twitter, though she does understand that shorter is often better and therefore will make a concerted effort to write shorter posts which hopefully will mean they happen more often.
  • has become a voracious fermenter and bread-baker and hopes to post about these things.
  • believes in wikipedia. And will link to it. It’s true.
  • is not using anymore. damn the man and his $15 a year charge for domains. is the new place to hang.

Today I am thinking about: digital preservation and file formats. Good god, how did we get here? Well, these are things we sometimes learn in library school. My digital preservation class is mostly folks who are learning to become archivists, which I have no interest in. I do have an interest in what digital preservation means for the masses – in a world in which more and more of the things we create and save are in a digital format, how are we making sure those things actually get saved and what does all of this have to do with CAPITALISM?

It has everything to do with capitalism. When you write a word document, you are probably saving it as a .doc or maybe even as a .docx. These are file formats that are owned by microsoft. Owned. That means that if tomorrow they decided they wanted you to use a different format, you could open your computer and find that your .doc files are unreadable. This is true of most file formats.

How can you avoid purchasing and therefore supporting such evil practices while simultaneously avoiding the potential havoc that proprietary file formats can wreak? Open-source software, my friends! Open-source is where it’s at. Many proprietary softwares have open-source equivalents that are either as good as or nearly as good as their expensive proprietary counterparts. So instead of going out and buying microsoft word when you get your new computer (or grabbing that disc from your office), consider downloading OpenOffice, the open source version of microsoft office. I am using it presently, and I love it. And best of all, its file extension (ODF, open document format) is compatible with many other word processing programs. OpenOffice is totally FREE. Hell yeah.