James O'Neill's blog

Windows Platform, Virtualization and PowerShell with a little Photography for good measure.

Imagine having 580 Terabytes of data you can't access.

Imagine having 580 Terabytes of data you can't access.

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I've given some clue of the problems I have managing all the photos and Videos, but I realised my problems are pretty small when I read this

The National Archives, which holds 900 years of written material, has more than 580 terabytes of data - the equivalent of 580,000 encyclopaedias - in older file formats that are no longer commercially available.

Yikes ! That's a lot of documents.  Their Chief Executive calls it a "ticking time bomb",  and if modern PCs can't open old formats there's a risk of "losing years of critical knowledge", and their research suggests Europe loses 3bn euros each year in business value because of issues around digital preservation. Ouch.

We have to put our hands up and say this is partly our fault, and the roots of the problem go back to the 1980s. The designers of Word, WordStar, Word Perfect and Ami-pro didn't worry about these things. We  managed to stop mucking about with the formats after Office 97. But unless we stuck to that forever that wasn't an answer. One of the things about putting the format into XML is it makes it a lot easier for a future archivist to deal with.  IBM and others saw this with "Open Document Format" except that

  1. It doesn't have the richness to represent everything that we can do in word (never mind Excel and Powerpoint)
  2. Two applications which use ODF can render the same document in different ways
  3. Applications strip off tags they don't understand.

Points 2 and 3 rather defeat the objective an open format. So the office 97 format was no good. ODF is no good. Hence the need to come up with a new format for Office 2007 - Open XML. And it would be self defeating to produce an XML standard without publishing it and ideally handing it over to a standards; which we've done. As I've written before, IBM opposes the adoption of Open XML as an ISO standard and we have a petition for people to show support for adoption.

All that is great for the future.But what about the 580 Terabytes that the National archive has. We've just announce a memorandum of understanding with the National Archive under which we will help them to access old files - it's an elegant solution using Virtual PC to run VMs with the old Operating systems and the old applications. They're also contributors to the to the Open XML process. The National Archive isn't the only body to get Involved, Adam Farquhar, Head of eArchitecture at the British Library is co-chair of the Office OpenXML standards committee.

Gordon Frazer is the third MD we've had in Microsoft UK since I joined, but I can't recall either of his predecessors doing demos for the camera. He shows what the system is all about. I didn't expect to see my MD doing an Demo of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in 2007.

 

From BBC News

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