2005 Hugo Nominees, Total Recorder for Audio Books, Archiving Data Notes

by Mike Shea on 2 June 2005

The 2005 Hugo nominees have been posted. Nearly all of the Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories are available to read right off the site.

I had two obsessions this week. First, I found out how I can record my DRM-locked audiobooks (that I rightfully payed for) from both Audible and iTunes into raw mp3 using a tool called Total Recorder. I don't trust propriatary formats that either lock you out or require your attachment to the internet in order to listen to them. What if I want to listen to it in 20 years and Audible isn't around anymore? What if I want to listen on a computer not attached to the net? What if the Net goes away and gets replaced with something different, something Audible's client doesn't understand?

I want to backup my purchased music and audiobooks in a format I can trust to be around, open, and convertible for the next twenty to fifty years. Open formats have a much greater chance of survival than closed DRM-protected encrypted formats.

So I found out that Total Recorder, loaded with the Lame opensource mp3 DLL, will record your machine's existing audio output as if it were a soundcard. Now I just have to convert all of my books to mp3 at the rate of about two books a day. It can take 14 to 16 hours to record a book this way but the end result is a compact 200 meg file in a format compatible with nearly every audio player in existance.

Orson Scott Card, ironically enough the author of the five books I am slowly converting to mp3 this week, wrote an excellent article titled Mp3s are Not the Devil. I hope he's right. I just converted Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, and Shadow of the Hegemon. I feel a lot better about paying $40 for an audio book if I know I can turn it into an open format, back it up onto a hard drive, DVD, flash ram drive, and my iPod.

This leads back to an obsession I have had for a while, long term archival of meaningful data. I wrote up a bunch of notes on it that I thought I would post here in their raw and chaotic format:

The Mike Shea Data Archive

What do I want to keep?

What are the long-term lifespans of data archives?

Factors to the lifespan of the data: - Format changes over time (will mp3s be around in 100 years? could anyone read one?) - Media changes (can anyone read a DVD or CD? What about repairing one if its partially decayed?) - Interfaces change. Will USB, Firewire, or E-IDE still be in use?

What are the criteria for a good data archive solution?

What would a Mike Shea Time Capsule contain? - USB / Firewire / IDE hard drive backup of everything - DVD backup of everything - CD backup of everything - USB drive with everything - Flash card with everything - Paper copies of stories and websites - Paper copies of images - Self-contained solid state MP3 player with speaker

Unknown Questions: - How long can DVDs last? TDK Armor Plated DVD rated at 100 years - Is it likely that people will be able to read a DVD in 50 years? 100 years? 1000 years? - Which I/O, if any will be able to be interfaced? CD, DVD, Firewire, USB, Compact Flash, E-IDE - Are CDs more likely to survive and be readable than DVDs? - How long can Flash ram hold state? - What formats will still be readable? Ascii (likely), .jpg?, mp3? wma? Multiple formats increase reliability. - How long could a battery last if a digital device is self contained like one of those portable media players?

Cheap Mike Shea Time Capsule: - Copy of Mike's Stories $12 - Copy of Loral Ciriclight $12 - Printout of Mike's Photos .20 cents each, x 100 = $20. + binder $10 = $30 - Printout of Loral's Photos .20 cents each, x 100 = $20. + binder $10 = $30 - DVD of Audio Books with copy of text data $2 - DVD of Music with copy of text data $2 - USB Flash Drive of text data $25

Some key lessons: - Include redundancy between different formats and different media companies. - Include redundancy in interfaces. USB, Firewire, E-IDE may not all be around but maybe one of them will be. - The only good way to archive data these days is to refresh it every 2 to 5 years. Most high capacity media including DVDs, Flashram, and Hard Drives, will last two to five years as long as there is a redundant backup. - A good backup and archival system is as important as the technology. What will I do with all of those burned DVDs and removable drives? - Automate as much as possible, keep the automation simple, validate it regularly. - Store data away from your primary area. Don't keep your backups near your mains. - Incremental backups ensure you don't replicate bugs across all of your backups.

DVDs are a fine choice for backups. They are cheap, high capacity, and can be archivally safe. Here are some lessons for DVD archiving:

Links: http://tinyurl.com/8qrn4 http://www.tdk.com/recmedia/dvd/armorplateddvd.html http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/09/11/0351214&tid=198&tid=185 http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/11/08/043254&tid=198