Musings on technology, science, and literature concerning the same.

Digital Storage Update 2007

It has been well over a year since my last digital storage update, and though there has not been any earthshaking new technology announced within that time, there has nevertheless been some advancement in several areas that I would like to address.

The Future of the Hard Drive

On (roughly) the 50th anniversary of the invention of the hard drive, Tom's Hardware interviews Seagate's Senior Field Applications Engineer Henrique Atzkern (Quo Vadis, Hard Drive? The 50th Anniversary of the HDD). In it, we catch a glimpse of some of the ideas being explored for increasing hard drive density, speed, and reliability, among other things. Parsing through the acronym alphabet soup and surface technicality, one thing remains clear: hard drive manufacturers are not running out of ideas for increasing storage capacity, so we can expect to continue seeing dramatic leaps in storage capacities.

Musings on a Systems View of Digital Archives

As an outsider trying to grasp the bounds of the archival field at the same time that it is entering a period of unprecedented change, I frequently find myself attracted to discussions about this change. Not only do such discussion clarify for me the boundaries of the field, but they give me insight into where I might be of help in the future. In two recent bulletins of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), society president, Richard Pearce-Moses, initiated one such discussion.

Audio Encoding Project: Software Status Update

Last we heard, I was having problems with the Winamp/FLAC combination for ripping CDs. As it turns out, I was not only unsuccessful in figuring out what the exact issues were, let alone resolving them, but it turns out that the ripping process was not being entirely transparent about non-obvious errors. I discovered upon listening to some of the encoded files that there were occasional errors in the form of digital audio glitches, and, in some cases, truncated (prematurely ending) files. The ripping process did not inform me that there were any problems outside of the major errors that I occasionally encountered (and which prompted me to investigate in the first place). Fortunately, these hidden errors were not too frequent.

Frustrated by these persistent problems with Winamp, I began to look for a better solution. Some Googling and freeware searches later, I discovered dbPowerAMP, a free ripper/converter whose makers claimed to have been frustrated about error-prone rippers in much the same way as I. dbPowerAMP meets all of the specifications that I enumerated at the outset of the project, so I decided to give it a try.

New Mass Storage Technology and Research

In the CHAT digital video preservation plan I presented an overview of digital archives technologies that includes metadata, digital storage, file formats, and repository systems and software. Of these, digital storage technology is the most rapidly developing and changing area, with constant change in price per giga-(tera-, peta-)byte and media formats. In the plan I hint at the fact that optical storage media (DVDs, CDs, etc) fall far short of the storage capacities of currently available hard disk drives and arrays. The gap is quickly closing, however, as improved storage media are announced with increasing frequency. In preparation for a revision of the technology review as a standalone digital video technology primer, I'd like to document some of these recent developments.

More on Security vs. Usability

In my Systems Security article, I addressed one of two areas that affect systems security: the continuum between software usability and the ability of the software to perform securely. Scanning through Slashdot one day I came across a book review about an O'Reilly book about this topic.