Is our media wearing out?

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written October 23 , 1998

Ever think about media wearing out? I was cleaning out the basement the other day and I came across a box of 5.25″ diskettes. Lots of them. They date back to 1979 when I had a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III. The diskettes stored 80,000 bytes! Seemed like a lot at the time. Are these diskettes worn out? Well, who knows? Probably not but they are “effectively” worn out because I can’t imagine where I would find a diskette *drive* that could read them. I also found a box of cassette tapes that I had used as data storage on my Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1. Fat chance of retrieving any data from them. How about 3.5″ diskettes? Sure they are ubiquitous today but how about ten years from now? How about 35 mm slides? I don’t know the life of the slides themselves but like the Radio Shack diskettes, I suspect the limiting factor will be the life of the devices with which to retrieve the “data”. There will likely come a day when the slides will be fine but there will be nobody who knows how to repair the carousel or obtain parts for the projector. There are countless other scenarios of similar ilk.

So, what’s the answer? Let our children and grandchildren worry about it? No, I think we can do better than that. In fact I have been thinking a lot lately about an Annual Plan for Information Archiving. The idea is simple. It starts with an inventory of all media types in our possession: photographs, movies, slides, audio tapes, and CD’s. It also includes data which is already digital and stored on various media types: big diskettes, little diskettes, zip drives, tapes of various formats, writeable CD’s, and of course our system hard disks. Each year convert some of your “old” media to new media. I plan to start this myself with 35 mm slides that my mom and dad took in the 1940’s. I’ll move them to jpegs and store them on disk and tape. I’ll also scan some very old family pictures we have that go back into the prior century. Each year review the inventory of media and make a projection of what is “exposed” from a technical point of view. Look at new formats and media types which are emerging. It may also be a good idea to keep an eye on scanning and conversion technologies. It may pay to re-scan or convert files as compression gets better and scanning densities improve. If the oldest media gets moved to contemporary media in bite sized chunks on a regular basis and if we pass this idea on to succeeding generations it will hopefully get easier and easier (maybe automatic) to preserve our pictures, movies, music, and our very culture.

Footnote (thanks to my colleague David Singer )

There is also a distinction to be drawn between lossy and lossless conversions. Making a digital-to-digital copy is lossless (assuming you take precautions to avoid errors in the process), and so there is no reason to preserve the original medium. On the other hand, analog-to-digital conversions are potentially lossy (witness the debates about the virtues of vinyl versus CD, since CDs do lose any information above 22kHz), and so it’s best to continue to preserve the original and use it as the source for later copies. And on still another hand, some digital formats are inherently lossy (JPEG) and should never be used as the source for a later copy unless there’s no other choice.

There is also the issue of preserving more than the bits — even if you could recover the data on the Radio Shack cassettes, you wouldn’t be able to do anything with it, because you wouldn’t know how to interpret it. I think I remember reading that NASA has this problem — they have huge amounts of data to which they’ve lost the format, so they can’t use it.

Tagged with: ,

Motorcycle Riding: How It All Started

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written October 11 , 1998

It all started in 1970 when I was drafted into the U.S. Armyand was stationed at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Flordia. MacDill was the home of the U.S. Strike Command. STRIKE stood for “swift retaliation in any known environment” and it focused on preparedness for activity in the Middle East. The Strike Command was redesignated U.S. Readiness Command in 1972. My wife and I lived in an apartment about ten miles from the base. When she got a job as a nurse in the intensive care unit of the Tampa General Hospital we decided we needed a second car. This was not an affordable alternative at the time and so I had the brainstorm one day that a motorcycle would be a good idea. Warm climate, friendly terrain, economical transportation, etc.. Why not? So, I bought a Honda 90cc motorcycle. It was perfect. Or so I thought. Then I enrolled as a graduate student at the University of South Florida. The campus was 25 miles from the apartment via Interstate 75. If you ever rode a 90cc motorcycle on an Interstate highway being sucked along by passing tractor trailers you’ll know why I then upgraded to a Honda 160cc. It was bright orange and I loved it. By the time we moved back North from Tampa I had put over 16,000 miles of motorcycling under my belt. After a short 27 year break I recently decided it was time to get back to riding a bike!
So, what kind of motorcycle to buy? I was predisposed to Honda. My experience with the 90 and the 160 was great. Never a single mechanical problem of any kind. Low maintenance, high quality. I am sure that is still the case. Then I got talking to Carl Conti, a retired IBM executive with a very distinguished career at IBM and also as a consummate motorcyclist. He told me about his Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Yes, plural. I went to and began to learn about the “cult”. The decision was actually financial. Not the price of the bike but rather a review of Harley-Davidson stock (HDI). When I saw their stellar financial performance in terms of growth, profitability, return on equity, and stock price appreciation I knew there was something to the Harley movement. I also found that Harleys hold their resale value very very well. As final confirmation I went to a Harley-Davidson dealer and saw the crowds of people buying clothing, accessories, and admiring the new bikes on the showroom floor. I knew that this was a company and a product I wanted to be associated with. Seemed a lot like how I hope IBM is perceived; outstanding engineering, quality products, good reputation.
I couldn’t bear ordering a new one and waiting months to take delivery so I bought a 1995 Sportster 1200. It looked brand new! The Sportster has been a great bike for me to re-learn motorcycling on. I have been taking it very seriously from a safety point of view. I took a two day Motorcycle Safety Foundation approved class as part of getting my license. The instructor was outstanding and I learned a lot of things I wish I had known back in 1970! I think about riding much like when I was flying an airplane on instruments; constantly scanning the road ahead, rear view mirrors, speedometer, side traffic, and my GPS III.
Riding has been as enjoyable as I had remembered from 1970. Well actually more so. Back then it was a way to get to grad school classes. Now I think about it as a way to be out there in the open, explore roads I wouldn’t otherwise travel, meet new people, and enjoy the thrill of the curves.
If you visit the Harley and Guggenheim sections of the Photo Gallery you can see some pictures of motorcycles and motorcycling friends and, oh yes I can not tell a lie, a picture of the Harley I am dreaming about.

Tagged with:

History of this site

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written September 24 , 1998

In late 1993, I wrote a paper called “Get connected“. It was about how companies could open themselves up, become more accessible, and generally increase their communications capabilities dramatically by using the Internet. The ideas would seem trivial today but back then they were somewhat controversial. I first talked about these ideas outside of IBM at Internet World in early December 1994. The response was heartening. I was flooded with emails from people (outside and inside of IBM) asking me for copies of the presentation. That is when I got the idea to create my own Web site. The motivation was two fold initially; to share the presentation materials and to facilitate a discussion. A discussion in the Internet space. With people who would subsequently inspire me, help me, critique me, and generally provide really valuable input which I in turn could use to inspire others inside of IBM.

The initial was modest. A home page with a link to download the presentation, a few links to IBM Web pages and “my top ten favorite Web sites list”. That was in vogue in 1995. The initial site was just plain old HTML that I created and edited with a text editor. I don’t even remember which one. Then along came John Landry from Lotus . He had a small group at Lotus doing some work they called InterNotes. John was somewhat of a renegade in Lotus as some people characterized me in IBM. He had a conviction about how Lotus Notes could ultimately be the best way to publish information to the Web. Our relationship with Lotus back then was tenuous. We re-marketed Notes but there was not strategic development relationship. I was enthusiastic about InterNotes because I was an avid Notes fan (since early 1992) and also because I saw it as a way to simplify and expand my Web site which was beginning to become modestly popular.

I asked the Lotus InterNotes team for a copy of the code and they happily obliged. That was the end of me being self-sufficient with my Web site! It turned out that creating the content was in fact significantly easier. I no longer had to use an HTML editor. I could simply create Notes documents. As simple as doing an email.

This is where the simplicity stopped. Behind the scenes InterNotes was a cobbled together variation on Notes which looked simple to the Notes document creator and simple to the Web visitor but was a nightmare for the person who had to make it work on the server. This is where my colleague Mary Keough came in. Mary was (and is) an expert in Notes and she painstakingly figured out how to make my Web dreams come true. In particular, I had this crazy idea of expanding my “top ten” list to a “top fifty” list. It went on to become a “top 100” list and then I got the idea of creating “categories” of my favorites. Mary figured out how to make this work and I renamed it “My Favorite Places”. 

As InterNotes evolved into what it now known as Domino, the process became easier and Notes began to really shine on my Web site. Adding a new “Favorite Place” became trivial thanks to a form formula created by another colleague, Dipen Mehta. Now all I had to do was copy a link to the clipboard, click a SmartIcon on the Notes action bar, and then enter a category, and a description of the URL. Notes would then automatically place the link in alphabetical order, place it in the right category, and put a “new” or “update” icon as appropriate. “My Favorite Places” is currently over 1,000 links!

As the site evolved I got all sorts of ideas for things to add. I was encouraged by the many emails from visitors and constant feedback, ideas, and consultation by other colleagues including Dave Grossman, David Singer, Jane Harper, Jennifer Kilian, Todd Watson, and of course Mary and Dipen. I added sections about my hobbies: gadgets, running, gps, music, and technology. Then I began to write short stories I call “Reflections”. The site continued to escalate. Dipen expanded the technical capability and Mary expanded the Notes ideas. The biggest changes were the addition of the Photo Gallery (now nearly 1,000 high quality digital pictures) and the addition of high quality graphics by Bette Herod. I had always wanted to keep the site simple without too much glitz and Bette has done a masterful job in helping me maintain a down to earth yet at the same time sophisticated graphical look and feel. 

I get a lot of questions about “who does your Web site?”. In the beginning it was just me. I still call this my Saturday morning hobby, but as you can see, I’ve been lucky enough to get a terrific team behind the scenes to help me keep it going. The truth is the technical and graphical underpinnings are done by Dipen and Bette and the content and organization are done by me. But its still my hobby. I enjoy writing content and adding links. People say they like it so that inspires me to keep doing it. I hope you enjoyed this brief history of the site.


Tagged with: , ,

The Art of the Motorcycle

Art MuseumIt was quite a trip! Started out at Carl Conti’s house in South Salem, NY at 7:30 AM and went down to Banksville, NY to meet up with The Riding Club of Greenwich (Connecticut). From there we went to Bear Mountain Inn to meet up with the Ducati Club of Morristown, NJ. The combined groups then went to New York City to visit the Guggenheim Museum exhibition called “The Art of the Motorcycle“. It was very a worthwhile visit. There are pictures from the trip in the photo gallery.

Tagged with:

Electronic Commerce

Electronic commerce means different things to different people. To many it means electronic shopping. I think over time it will mean much more than that and will include things like certified mail, transfer of medical records, applying for mortgages, loans, and life insurance, and perhaps filing a will. All these things and others will be made possible by the widespread use, understanding, and trust we will learn to have in public key cryptography. One of the technologies that I believe will make this happen is the X509 V3 certificate.

Tagged with: ,
Page 380 of 386
1 378 379 380 381 382 386