Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Virtual

298 words

Non-material things have been with us for a while now. Computers absolutely rely on them. The most important stuff in computers, our data, are in a way non-material [yeah physically they will be ‘material’ in some way but they are hardly tangible]. This keeps scaring me.

For example the job I’m currently doing involves getting some teaching material into an ‘e-learning’ system. Which means loads of time are invested in battling some crappy software into putting our valuable data in some database. We have no idea how that work is secured. Could a power failure ruin it? Could a fire destroy it? Will the software still work in two years’ time or will it the bad decisions those freetards made when writing it mean that it won’t run on the Linux flavour du jour then and that its database format is so convoluted that people will have no reasonable way of rescuing the work.

There are so many points of failure and so many uncertainties for us as end-users that it’s really scary. I’d even consider it insane to use such a system. Compare that to notes on paper or even to the somewhat more ‘tangible’ way of storing a document in a TeX file (of which you can easily make duplicates, which has a strong record of backwards compatibility).

What’s the ‘practical’ half-life of data? By which I mean not the time until half of the data is theoretically unrecoverable but the time until it’s not feasible to recover it because software changed or simply because the people trasferring them over from one system to another didn’t recognise it and it was ‘forgotten’? I’d say such accidental deletions seem much more likely in the digital world than throwing away a book would be in the physical world.

May 29, 2008, 23:32

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