ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Manual Rescue: Take Two, And Please Help —

Short Story: An attempt to finish off this phase of the manuals (move from three storage units to a storage space down the road that costs 1/10th the price) is going to happen this Saturday, April 2nd, in Westminster, MD. I invite people to make the trip, and if reporters/students want to come to learn some of what the items are, they are welcome too. email me at jason@textfiles.com. The added costs are still here, so if if you send donations to jason@textfiles.com it helps a lot too.

I’ll make this one all text. You can read the previous entry if you want pictures – it all looks the same right now. (And if this is 100% new to you, you could read all the old entries about this.)

So, I had to call it on Tuesday, return the truck and pallet jack, lock everything up, and drive home. (It took six hours, because of crazy construction work on I-95.) I’d have liked to have emptied one of the three storage units, but it was just not going to happen. Three pallets of boxes are sitting in one unit, so they’re ready to be put on a truck, but it was down to just me being available on the Tuesday, and I saw an incredible safety and health risk, so I dropped it.

Let’s be clear; this one is on me. I had to spend a lot of time on other projects this year (and a lot of materials have gone out my door, as well as work over at the Internet Archive in general) but cutting things so close to the end of the month was a huge mistake – now I have to pay for these three storage units for another month, a significant cost. People who think I am taking on too much can definitely point to this project, although I still think it’s a matter of the learning curve more than the task at hand.

We learned a lot on the loadout this week so far – how to properly pack the stacks, wrap them, and get them onto the truck. We also know the job is at least one ofthreer people helping get the pallets onto the truck (relatively) safely and then two moving the pallets from the truck into the storage space. We learned that the boxes can go between 30-35 a pallet, That means that we will probably end up with having to hand-load additional boxes into the filled storage room and there might, still, be a small storage unit in use, but it would be really small (and frankly I’d like to avoid that). The cost savings will be enormous when these are in their new spot.

And again, I’ve got a home for about half of the manuals – the Internet Archive will take them, and then we’ll see about scanning them. The rest are likely to go to some candidate archives I’ve been in contact with – they move really slow and that’s been a problem too.

Therefore, the new plan is this Saturday, a weekend, when I hope I can get a bunch of people to show up. A dozen or more would be fantastic – one group setting up and wrapping the pallets to get them ready to go, while a second group is driving over the truck and moving the items into the storage. This could go really fast – the boxes are all ready to go, so they’re fine, and it’s just a matter of putting the stack of boxes into a room. No sorting, taping, labeling, nothing. Just move and move.

I’m open to reporters or students or studying archivists to come to the event – they can look through a few things to see examples of the materials, and hopefully lend a hand? Just a few boxes. That’s all I ask.

If you can’t make it, and want to help, paypal would really help. It’s jason@textfiles.com and the costs have been rather tough on me, personally. (Although folks have been helping a lot, let’s make that very clear.) The three storage units were $1000/month, and doing this into April means that it’s going to be another $1000 that way, as well as the $900 paid for the new space for six months (which is very good!) and renting a pallet jack and staying in a hotel near it all, and driving 500 miles round trip to be there and…. you see what I mean.

But it would really help if people could make it out there this Saturday, early, so we can get this thing stable and not costing so much. It would really help a lot. Please contact me at jason@textfiles.com if you can do it or need to put someone into contact with me.

Thanks.

Let’s put this thing to bed.

 

 


The Manual Rescue: A High and Low Day —

Short form is that I thought I’d be out of all three storage units with the manuals and in the new space, but we only had four people show, so at best I drop to one storage unit and possibly two. Anybody able to help by coming to Westminster MD on the 29th would be appreciated; otherwise, you could paypal to jason@textfiles.com if you want to throw money at doing another month.

Today went well, but it probably could have gone better.

imageWe had a rented 26 foot truck with liftgate, a pallet jack, and a bunch of pallets. I got to the mall early, and we signed all the papers and the contract so that there is now a 1,300sq ft. space in the mall I have for 6 months. It all went very fast, and as I was shown where the pallet jack could move stacks of manual boxes and where they’d go, I was very happy indeed.

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But.

We had a total of 5 people involved, not all of them all day, and as a result, we have bundled up one of the three storage units, but only got 9 of the 12 pallets of manual boxes out and on the truck and in the new space in one day. It’s just too much for such a small crowd. With luck, tomorrow, the other three will definitely get out of there and in the new home.

This is good! One storage unit down means no more $300/mo storage for that set. But if we can’t get rid of the other two units, that’s still piles and piles of material left to go, still being rented by the month.

I’ve already determined that getting all three will be impossible by tomorrow. It’s just not realistic. So I’m hopefully shooting for two of the three being empty, which will radically cut down the per-month cost of storing these. (The price on the mall storage is very, very low, which makes me happy.)

imageimageI had a meeting with Brewster at the Internet Archive about storing the manuals that are not HP and Tektronix (those are very common). He agreed! All the non-HP/Tektronix manuals have a home! I will have to deal with scanning and storage, but that will happen.

But meanwhile, it is costing $1000/month in the current location and about a tenth of that in the new. It’s really important to get as much over to the new location. That’s why a truck was rented, pallets acquired, and incredibly involved moving work was being done.

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This was not pleasant work, to be sure – heavy sets of pallets of boxes plastic-wrapped into towers of documents and loaded on a lift gate. We had to be very careful with them, which took quite a bit of time to get right. Eric and I were there all day, Matt was there a bunch of the day, and Elaine and her son helped. But that’s all we got.

It’s a Monday. Not everyone has a flexible schedule, obviously. And of course the worst that happens is that I or someone who helps me pays a little more money to keep the manuals somewhere for a month. That’s definitely not as compelling as them being thrown into a dumpster. So it just wasn’t possible to rile up the Corps to come.

imageTomorrow, pretty sore from today’s work, I’ll do my best from about the middle morning until the late afternoon to move as much of these things as possible, with whoever can show up. It’s what I do, it’s what has to be done.

Do I despair? Oh, sure I despair. It’s a lot of work to save some very old manuals, and when money gets spent this way instead of many other ways, it can feel like bad priority. I definitely feel that once in a while.

But I also know that once these items are in a safe place, and they begin becoming reference material and digital material, a whole host of information and culture will become available again that in no way is guaranteed to have otherwise survived. A lot is out there, of course… this is just one pile. But it’s a pretty big pile.

I’ve learned a ton overseeing this project. I definitely will come into others with wider eyes and background. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d do differently. And I know that spending a whole day doing this is not ultimately what I’d always be preferring to do.

But I’m in this. I’m big on follow-through. Follow-through will happen.

Since I am positive the third unit will not be emptying, I’m going to have to pay for it – and if people want to send money via paypal (jason@textfiles.com) noting it’s for that, it’ll help a lot. And it would be great if people came tomorrow – but I can’t count on it, not on a Tuesday.

But maybe soon I’ll arrange this for a weekend, and we can have more people involved as the boxes are sorted for final ship to the multiple homes I’m now negotiating for them to have. We can have a nice Saturday of it. We’ll picnic.

Until then, I’m going to go to bed and remember why I got into this all in the first place – because I refused to sit still and throw up my hands. And so much more is to come.

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The 2005 Podcast Core Sample —

A little over 10 years ago, I had this notion.

It was that the Podcasts of the time, growing as they were, were really self-initiated sociology studies; that they would represent a whole range of folks and voices recording ideas and statements with the world extending before them. I also could tell they would often be fleeting and would likely disappear.

So I started to copy them.

This weblog has been around long enough that I can point to my thinking at the time:

This project went on for about a year, I’d say, and during that time it collected many, many mp3 files. I then burned them onto DVD-ROMs and stored the DVD-ROMs away, for “later”.

“Later” is now.

Uploads from all the DVD-ROMs found (so far) in my shipping container are now up on the Internet Archive, in the 2005 Podcast Core Sample. It’s 540 different shows, and about (roughly) 14,000 episodes split among them. I suspect the number will grow as I find more stored DVD-ROMs, but 14,000 should hold people for now.

It’s a wild, wooly and weird collection, to be sure.

It was not clear where Podcasts were going to go, back then. There’s some history of podcasts essays out there, and I won’t try to duplicate them – it’s the case that “make audio files available for people to listen to on a date-based basis” has tons of precursors before the term “podcasting” hits, and when “everybody” seems to be podcasting. General consensus is that 2004 is when it really takes off from non-insidery people, i.e. someone wants to talk about Hot Wheels or Wine and puts up a site RSS feed to let you hear the newest “episode”.

So, the machine I set up did the grabbing, constantly, from 2005 onward, and then, ultimately, the machine encountered issues and I stopped, having considered it a pretty successful project. I would have liked to have grabbed even more, of course, but I was doing a lot of grabbing on spec at the time and I had no idea what if any would hold attention going forward.

So, with the collection now up on the Internet Archive, it’s all accessible, at once, again. I idly checked a few and some of the podcasts have gone on to continue to have episodes, while others, as expected, have been crunched under and lost in the decay of time.

I’m just glad they’re off DVD-ROMs and that a mere 10 years later, people who study or want to understand early Podcasting have another collection from which to draw.

 

 


5 Years at the Internet Archive: The Party —

5th

UPDATE: The Party happened, and was well attended (dozens of people), the band was great, and we scanned a bunch of heads. Thanks to everyone who showed up, and here’s to five more years!

I’ve been at the Internet Archive for five years as of this month. I am sure I will write some very long, very large essay on here about all the ramifications of that, but for now, I think it’s a party that’s called for. A nice big party.

Sorry for the short notice, but if you’re in San Francisco, this Friday, March the 18th… I’d like to invite you to a party at Codeword, jwz’s newest club. The doors open at 8pm, the drinks are not free but admission is. I’ll be there all night, happy to talk with everyone and ready to dance.

Codeword is located at 917 Folsom at 5th Street, San Francisco.

If you can read this, you are invited.

Again, sorry for the short lead time, but arranging events has always been something I’m always doing on the spur of the moment.

Update: I’ve booked the Cantina Band to play live at the party!

See you there!


The Historical Laundry Conundrum (Find a Home for Shirts) —

Here’s a ponderable.

About 5 and a half years ago, I took delivery of a bunch of shirts from Randal Schwartz, he of Perl fame. The reason for this (as explained in that entry), was that he was doing a major cleanup of life and he wanted to donate them to charity, and I happened to see his “look at all these damn shirts” photo and offered to take them. He agreed.

A few years later, I took a small number of these shirts and photographed them. The collection is now sitting at the Internet Archive. Here is a link to it.

Fast forward to now. I’m in the middle of finally giving away some of the dragon hoard to proper institutions and locations that should have them, now that value is recognized, and that’s been going well – well over a thousand pounds of material have left my shipping container out back.

Now we’re back to the remaining shirts.

So here’s the situation.

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Current I have what can honestly be called “a whole heck of a lot of shirts”. They’ve been laundered and folded by a service. They’ve been taking up space in the cube for years, and it’s time for them to achieve some sort of conclusion.

I’ve begun photographing the remaining shirts, intending to have a pretty solid photograph of each one’s design, so the designs have a life beyond these shirts. Old cartoons, logos, events, and other information will exist on in a digital form to allow people to see them, refer to them, and so on.

But the shirts themselves.

I’ve tried a half-dozen locations, including the Living Computer Museum, Computer History Museum, and elsewhere, and nobody particularly wants the shirts. Everybody thanks me for asking, but they’re not overly interested. (My friends at the Strong Museum of Play will want anything with games, but there’s not really any game shirts here.)

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So, here’s the deal.

I’m going to photograph all these shirts across the coming days and maybe weeks, going through about 1,200 of them to get their images saved and uploaded. After that, if I am unable to have someone find me a home for them, they’re going to charities, which was their original goal.

If you know an organization that wants them, get in touch with them and ask. Don’t just dump a pile of names on me – I’ve already done that. I’m looking for a place that wants technology t-shirts, 99% of them never worn, all laundered, all ready to go to a home, or to the donation bins down the road.

Act fast.

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So, on one level, there are people who think I would keep these items, forever and ever, unchanging, never letting the physical objects go away. I appreciate that reputation, but it’s not earned. I mostly keep things that I think need homes and that people either don’t have homes ready, or the world isn’t ready for.

In the case of these shirts, I was mostly concerned that the designs and information on the shirts would be lost – the graphics, the proof something happened, the logo and mottoes that have been buried by time and would otherwise be hard to find. People who want to make new shirts based on these designs would be drawing off the photographs anyway – making new shirts is extremely easy in the modern era, as are drawing graphics based on a provided image to trace over. I’m not worried that the information within them will be lost.

You start to run into harder use cases for the shirts as a whole – perhaps some production company wants vintage shirts for a scene taking place in the 1990s (but they’d just make new ones, frankly, and browse the web for design ideas). Maybe some of the groups within these piles would love old shirts again (but the matching of shirts to willing people who used to have these shirts is diabolically difficult). And, I thought, a computer museum or technology museum might want these materials, but they really don’t seem to.

But I have done my best, and I will be dedicating hours to this material being digitized and put online, so I’m doing what I can, and more than the original destiny of these shirts.

I’m interested in the debate about such things. Naturally the world is full of cases of people saying “If only I had glass marbles” and someone else going “what do I do with all these goddamn marbles”. This may be another one of those. Maybe the heretofore-unknown 100-year old Museum of Old Shirts is going to ask me about these in 3 years. But that’s the froth and weirdness of life. I’ve done my best. Everything else is gravy.

But let me know.

 


The Emularity Sounds Better —

The Emularity, which is the name for the emulation loader framework that the Internet Archive uses, has gotten a notable upgrade in sound performance.

While hanging around in the IRC channel, a relative newcomer, Grant Galitz/Taisel, mentioned doing lots of optimization work with sound on his own project, IodineGBA. I asked him to take a quick look at how JSMESS/Emularity did sound loading, and he suggested a few quick optimizations.

They worked handily.

All JSMESS-emulated operating systems on the Archive are now “better”. Better is, of course, relative. If your system is slow, we made it slightly better. If your system was fast, then little crackles are now gone. You’re probably somewhere in between.

Here’s one to test with: Jumpman, a truly amazing classic released by Epyx.

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It’s a beautiful classic, and the opening song is very charming. The only problem is that it previously sounded terrible, everywhere. Now it sounds pretty good, in a lot of places. (Bear in mind that all Atari 800 programs make that razzing noise at the beginning, as it reads off the “floppy drive”.)

Works best on Firefox. Likes heavy hardware capabilities. Is better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow.

What was nice about this, particularly, is that we made one change to the loader code and suddenly 25,000 items just sounded “better”. That’s the kind of easy upgrade I like to see.

Sound is a very big deal. When it’s not quite up to snuff, people really feel it deep. As time goes on, it’ll improve. Until then, try rediscovering some of the programs up on the Archive and see how much better the sound is.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Reboot Continues —

This one comes pre-formed without the ability to comment!

In late 2015, with my weight hitting a bothersome 245-250 and no end in sight, and with concerns about how much “stuff” is in my office and storage cube, I set off to shed both pounds and the additional stored items.

Since then, and as of February first, I’m at roughly 230 pounds. I’ve also shed 1,000 pounds (!) of materials I had stored in my office and cube. Neither of these trends is intended to stop.

In December, I stopped eating anything with sugar or significant carbohydrates. In early January, I stopped drinking anything with any sweetener (natural or otherwise), stopped taking in Caffeine of any sort, and stopped any non-natural flavoring. Basically, it’s been water and seltzer for over a month, nothing else.

The 230 weight is a bit of a wall, so I’ll be increasing activity (I have more energy anyway) and applying some level of portion control.

My goal is to hit 195, which would make me 10 pounds less than I was when I was 20 years old. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m mentioning all this mostly as a marker in time. I’ve focused the same obsessive approach I do in everything else to my health, and while weight is but one measurement of health, it’s a sign of paying attention to important things. I have intention of being around a significant amount of time.

Updates once a month.

 


The Secret Feature of EM-DOSBOX on Internet Archive —

There’s been a secret feature on the DOS-related emulated programs on the Internet Archive. It’s been there for over a half a year now. I’ll explain what it is and why I didn’t trumpet it.

Internet Archive made thousands of games available on MS-DOS last year, it got an awful lot of press, and it got an incredible amount of visitors – well into the millions. Through the year of 2015, certain games got more attention than others, and many more got a few ardent fans, but most importantly, emulated programs bounced into the general populace in ways they hadn’t before.

Emulation was and is used by many, many people, both intentionally (by running Emulators they’ve downloaded) and unintentionally (using a lot of applications and systems that have little tiny emulators in them to run certain programs with little change). But we’ve not had as many people who are shown a program that runs in a window and then told “Just use it, it’s an emulator, we’ll work out the details.” They know or they don’t know much about the emulation system beneath it, but the knowledge is heavily optional.

It’s worked in droves – as the millions hit, many of them made use of the system for however they pleased, in the same way people use books for however they please.

But along with this explosion of use came an unexpected (except in retrospect) situation – people were unhappy they would lose their saved games.

They were unhappy they would lose their saved games!

To people who know exactly what’s going on (this is a Javascript application running an emulation of a system inside of a browser window), the sadness is understandable but also laughable as a solution set. Of course you can’t save your games! They’re not some actual thing playing on your operating system. They live inside a window. You might as well be sad you can’t crane your head to one side of a video playing and see what’s behind the left border of the player window.

But we got a lot of complaints about it.

So we fixed it.

Through the work of multiple people, including John Vilk, DFJustin, bai, db48x, and other contributions, the BrowserFS extension that JSMESS/Emularity uses can maintain filesystems across sessions, in the LocalStorage API.

It’s been doing this for six months.

Complaints about saved games have dropped to zero.

Every day, dozens (occasionally hundreds) of people are playing long-term role-playing games or ongoing arcade games and shooters, saving off their games where the system provides that as an option, and they they come back later and pick up where they get off. It just works.

Want to try it out? Here’s a nice weird one. Using VEDIT, a rather obscure DOS-based text editor from 1992, made by Greenview, Data, Inc. It’s the demo version of the word processing program, but that’ll be fine enough.

If you go to the page for the program, you’ll be able to boot the emulator.

Within it, you press any key to get to the editing window, enter anything you want, and then press F10, which will give you a glorious retro drop-down text menu. From there, you can save whatever you type into a file. (Or, you can press ALT-S and ALT-Q, which is the same thing.)

You have now saved a copy of the file away on the virtual filesystem of the emulated program.

You can now close the browser window, or close the browser entirely. You can reboot. But as long as you come back to the same machine, and the same browser, the file you wrote will come back.

Why not announce it?

Well, for one thing, it’s slightly confusing. Right now it only works on our EM-DOSBOX emulations, because the way that MAME/MESS handles filesystems is notably different (although who knows, we might come up with a solution in the future).

Another is that there’s no quality check, per se. The BrowserFS plugin has plenty of testing, but this whole environment is off the wall. We’ve done as much testing as we can, from a lot of different approaches, but I don’t believe in announcing this feature as a guarantee. You might still lose your games. You might have a blocker, run in private mode, or clear out cookies using some way you don’t know. Poof goes the saved data.

But I’m mentioning it, primarily, for one reason: There are still people who think Emulation is not a solution, or think it’s not ready, or think there’s some other magical, scalable, universal solution to having people interact with this old data.

No.

There isn’t.

And people playing endless games and programs all throughout the world for half a year, without giving one thought to the fact they’re saving their games “somewhere” and coming back to play later, is a very large army of proof.

 

 


Archivebot and Automatic Betterment —

One of the most successful (and ongoing) projects that Archive Team has done is Archivebot. It’s a crowdsourced archiving operation that goes after anything that needs archiving, be it webpages, tweets, videos and other online scrapings, and allows them all to be captured in a competent, useful manner, 24/7. It has grown over the years and is ridiculously flexible now, with a command language so variant that it has this unbelievably high quality manual for all it can do.

Archivebot is at its best with on-the-ground shifting-sands events, like tragedies/celebrations, they-said/others-said controversies, and capturing things the way they “are” just before the new news flattens the pages before they’re taken down. If you watch the Archivebot Twitter account, you can see the bot in action, in real time.

As it goes along, generating these WARC’d pages, it stores them in 100 gigabyte chunks. (Yes, Gigabytes.) Usually between 100-300gb of this data comes in a day. The chunks are then uploaded into a collection, where they are then absorbed into the Wayback machine within a day or two, meaning the world benefits from the data almost immediately.

ArchiveBot has two mascot images. They are both accurate:

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Looking at the Archive’s statistics, some of these pages are called up through the wayback machine hundreds of thousands of times. (One of them has gone past 600,000 recalls.) Many, many more are called “merely” tens of thousands of times.

Occasionally, Brewster gets an idea in his head, and I hear of it, and fly with it. (It’s nice to have a boss that inspires.) One of them was that the new Internet Archive interface is rather visual in nature (by default), and so it would be nice if some of these more data-heavy items in the collection had some sort of visual component to them, if possible.

I set off on that work last year. The idea was to use a WARC playback mechanism (WebArchivePlayer) to bring back pages out of the WARC files, take screenshots, and then upload those screenshots into the items as “previews” of what’s inside.

It’s taken a while, because these have to be downloaded, then played back, then screenshot, then checked if the screenshots are any good, and then removing the ones that don’t have any data in them, and so on.

But it’s coming along really well.

news.ycombinator.com-shallow-20150322-124509-4t3kz-00000.warc.gzwww.cubcentral.org-inf-20150322-141813-3c758-00000.warc.gz

The played-back WARC files work remarkably well. Naturally, if something is a Javascript or embedded-object nightmare, it doesn’t look good at all. But many do.

I’ve got the script working chronologically right now, so it’s doing the oldest items first and then moving on from there. It takes it anywhere from a half-hour to a couple hours to make the preview images. Most of that is because I’m giving every single grab a chance to produce images, and some of those grabs go into the gigabytes.

archivebot

The result, which is now 99% automated, are pages after pages of beautifully rendered, verified-as-historically-relevant or at least gawkishly-fascinating web pages and sites. The thumbnails look good, and going to the individual chunks will give you an interesting (and potentially disturbing) slideshow of events and strangeness.

I mention this all for two reasons. The first is just to put a line in the sand at a point in Archivebot’s journey to reflect on how far along that amazing project has come. It continues to innovate, thanks to the efforts of an all-volunteer force, and addresses the ever-changing aspects and requirements of being a chronicle of the archiving of the web.

But the other is the template that this thumbnail and slide-generating aspect represents at the Internet Archive, which is heavily machine-augmented human work. I go through the items that come out of the contraption, pulling out the sideways-broken ones and the weirdly-off rejects, leaving thousands of screenshots with no human intervention whatsoever. It’s grinding away 24/7, doing something both useful and not worth throwing a person at. It’s how I think a lot of the work will continue to be handled with an ever-increasing workload.

And it’s fun.

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Even Just the CD-ROMs —

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The joke, which I used in a lot of introductory speeches about the Internet Archive Software Collection, was that we are the largest collection of downloadable software on the planet, period. Find us a bigger one, and we’ll download it and add it.

The reason I can make that declaration is because the first few years I got involved, it was a binge of acquisition both online and off, including downloading of FTP site collections, CD-ROM sets, floppies, and all sorts of online collections. It’s very big. It’s somewhat problematic to step through it all, but it’s all there, in one form or another.

Circuit_City_Games_CD_Bonus_from_Advantage_Protection_Plan_Circuit_City_2004 Delphi_Programming_Unleashed_SAMS_Publishing_1995 developerWorks_Speed-Start_your_Linux_App_-_3Q_2002

It was important to me to gather as much software as possible as quickly as possible because I was very worried we were going to fall into a “too late” situation, be it one of original media dying, or previous (excellent) attempts to gather software fading away into obscurity. There have been some pretty amazing large collections in the past; but then again, most of them ended up on CD-ROMs, so it’s been a case of just gathering CD-ROMs and getting the data off them. Which I did, by the thousand.

The Archive now has something on the order of 8,000 CD-ROMs at least, contributed by myself and dozens of other people. They range from installation disks for modems to entire collections of software from various historical sites. They are companion CD-ROMs to magazines, driver compilations, and promotional one-offs. In some rare cases, they’re CD-Rs acquired from collectors that have very rare material indeed.

They are rather difficult to search.

Dr Duke_Nukem_3D_Complete_Version_3D_Realms_1996 Estate_Planning_Adr_Research_Institute_of_America_June_1996

In the Archives “Biz”, there’s various schools of thought about willy-nilly acquiring “stuff”. All acquisition comes at a cost, be it large or small, and it comes with ongoing issues of maintenance, accessibility, and resource draw. That’s all to be expected, but the approaches have variance and there are some hard-core beliefs and policies out there that, when encountering someone not going in that direction or following those policies, gets a little bit of shade thrown.

I get a lot of shade thrown.

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2015 was the year that, getting a few articles about me in various rags, and URLs being available towards those articles, that I stumbled on the most scintillating subtweeting that had been going on (for some time!) about the work I do and how I approach it.

Now, I assure you, not a tear was shed on my part, mostly because I’ve been involved in tight-knit communities, and their little paper dramas and kabuki theater of outrage and nose-raising. It was mostly a surprise because my whole thing of “Archive Guy” had been, generally, a positive one – folks either liked what I’m doing (I thought), or had no particular opinion and a kind of “well, it’s your shitpile” approach. Not so! The anger is palpable out there, in a small and delightful crowd of archivists and librarians who think I’m doing actual damage.

I listened thoughtfully to the arguments, engaged a few folks, got the lay of the land with regards to criticisms.

And then? Well, full steam ahead.

Games_Machine_CD-ROM_Total_Annihilation_1997 Graphics_Blaster_RivaTNT_Creative_1998 HP_Application_Server_8

Related to my 2016 goals, I’ve gone ahead and have started shoring up a small choice I made some time ago, and which had some interesting outcomes.

In the rush to get CD-ROMs online, I chose to rip them as fast as I could and get the ISO images up into the Archive, while not scanning any of the CD-ROM covers or discs and certainly not going into any excessive metadata work.

This is a mortal sin in some circles. I did it willfully and gleefully, knowing that materials would be harder to find, but they’d be up somewhere, ready for people who really needed to know it was there, and where to send their own collections. It was a gamble, and it paid off.

Now, I’m in the process of scanning in those CD faces, as the images in this entry can attest. They’re weird as art, and very helpful as reference points. I’ve been intrigued that for many people, the art alone is giving them visual alerts to the materials inside. That means that it’s one thing to have a CD-ROM of old computer art, another entirely to have the hand-drawn label on the CD-ROM that people remember clearly from the past.

The collection, in other words, did the important thing first, and the next-important thing is happening. I am digitizing these sleeves very quickly, at about 500dpi, and taking these TIFF files, uploading them, then running a script that makes a nice JPG image that you can look over quickly.

As I finish a pile of CD-ROMs, these discs will be going to the Internet Archive’s physical storage, where they are available for reference and access in the future, or even rescanning.

Of course, they don’t have an indexing system there, yet.

That’ll happen later.

Onward!