On Monday 28 January, the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) hosted a file formats day of action, creatively titled ‘Bring Out Your Dead (Files)’ at the Wellcome Collection. As The National Archives’ resident File Format Signature Developer, I was invited to deliver a presentation on DROID and PRONOM, our file format identification tool and file format registry, and a workshop on Developing File Format Signatures for PRONOM.
My own talk reviewed DROID and PRONOM developments in 2012:
- DROID 6.1 was released in August. DROID development has switched to Github, and we have a Google Groups discussion page open for support enquiries
- The PRONOM registry has grown considerably, with 100 new file formats, 177 new file format signatures, and a full time researcher appointed
- PRONOM has been able to grow this much in part due to the wealth of external contributors who continue to provide us with file format signature and research information. Over a dozen institutions and individuals contributed last year
- Finally I was delighted to announce that the download for our DROID tool now has a permanent home on The National Archives’ own website.
My workshop focused on demystifying the file format research and signature development processes I undertake and allowed willing participants the chance to try developing their own signatures. Continue reading »
In computing, emulation is the practice of creating a virtual environment in order to replicate a different, usually older computer system. I first encountered emulation in the 1990s, when I chanced upon a community of Sinclair enthusiasts who had created an emulator for my beloved ZX Spectrum. I could play the games of my childhood again! In the wider world, emulation has practical applications for computer science and digital preservation.
Microsoft Dos 6.22, Windows 3.11, and Word for Windows disks
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I think that was the quote we were looking for? Ok, maybe not but If I mention the word DROID you might figure the right one out!
Tenuous links over, in Digital Preservation today we’ve released a new version of the DROID (Digital Record and Object Identification) tool – version 6.1. We’ve spoken about the tool before when I blogged about the PRONOM and DROID user consultation we held at The National Archives last year. The day resulted in a consultation wiki where contribution is invited by all members of the public with an interest in a potential DROID 7. The wiki page lists requirements that users of the tool have for DROID 7 and all future versions.
DROID 6.1 User Interface
The best way to explain the title of this blog is to begin by quoting directly from the Hedgehog Street website:
“Through Hedgehog Street, we are asking people to become Hedgehog Champions to rally support from their neighbours and work together to create ideal hedgehog habitat throughout their street, estate or communal grounds.”
I saw this initiative on BBC Springwatch a while back, specifically, one simple thing we can all do to become Hedgehog Champions – link your garden. Again to quote the Hedgehog Street website:
“Hedgehogs travel around one mile every night through our parks and gardens in their quest to find enough food and a mate. If you have an enclosed garden you might be getting in the way of their plans. Hedgehogs have enough barriers to contend with such as roads and rivers that we can’t do much about. However we can make their life a little easier by removing the barriers within our control – for example making holes in or under our garden fences and walls for them to pass through. The gap need only be around 15cm in diameter and so should not affect your pets’ safety.”
The idea of doing something so simple to protect our cute friends is a nice one. We’re converting one garden into hundreds, and combined with more naturally occurring wildlife corridors, potentially thousands. This is what we’re doing when we link data, the gardens represent our data and datasets and the link we’ve created gives users and machines unrestricted access to navigate from one dataset to another. It’s an almost perfect analogy – an analogy which I hope will help to open up the concept to all our readers, technical and non-technical alike.
Linky - The Linked Data Hedgehog
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My name is David Clipsham and I have been employed as the File Format Signature Developer for a month, having previously worked as Customer Service Manager for the cross-government social collaboration tool, Civil Pages. My role is to improve the coverage of The National Archives’ PRONOM file format registry. The internal and external signature information contained in the PRONOM registry is utilised by our file format identification tool DROID, which is used to identify file formats so we can make informed decisions about the long term preservation of digital records.
My day is typically spent researching obscure and not-so-obscure file formats, picking through the internal code of each format and identifying the key characteristics that make the file format what it is, as described in Ross Spencer’s recent blog post. I then recreate the key byte sequences, test them against sample files and upload them to PRONOM, ready for our bi-monthly signature release.
How do I focus my research?
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Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be in Wellington, New Zealand as an invited representative of The National Archives at Future Perfect 2012. I was asked to give a presentation that focused on some of the technical work we do in Digital Preservation, with a nod to the strategy the department has adopted over the last few years and continues to pursue (energetically) in 2012 and through 2013 with the new work being completed on the Digital Records Infrastructure Project.
My presentation was entitled Survival of the Bits and focused loosely on what I perceive to have been an evolution in our work throughout the last few years. The presentation is online and can be viewed here. I received positive feedback about the talk over the course of the two day event, many of the comments praised the honesty of what was presented. The struggle we have in digital preservation is there is so much we have to do, or at least a lot we might want to consider doing to preserve digital records for future generations. We can either try and attack everything at the same time – ultimately this would result in spreading resource too thin and not achieving very much – or we can prioritise and achieve results with the most pressing of problems. Within the department we discussed the idea of an ‘unholy trinity’ of digital preservation: volume, ability to ingest, and knowing what we’ve got. With the aforementioned focus of 2012 and 2013 I suggested to the conference that we are really beginning to see an impact in addressing each of these challenges, but our work in format identification is the most advanced and a challenge it looks like we’re well on the way to beating.
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Greetings from Digital Preservation!
One of the challenges we face in our department is coordinating our efforts to satisfy the requirements of The National Archives, other government departments and a wider preservation and archives sector community that make use of our tools DROID and PRONOM. With such a diverse audience we work hard to listen to colleagues who visit government departments or who actively take part in discussions about preservation and digital continuity. We also maintain mailing lists and have an email address which allows users to contact us directly. This has allowed us to develop strong relationships with organisations across the pond in the US and in the antipodes. We rely on these relationships to help develop our content and improve our services.