Change and Persistence in Digital Media

I recently bought my first Mac, an iMac, after using Windows forever.  And I still have Windows machines for my home and office desktops.  And I’m facing more than ever the dilemma of new versus enduring in digital media.

My Mac has a newer version of Word than my old machines (so I have to remember to save docs in the compatible format — which one of my older machines still won’t open).

On the Mac, I’m trying out EverNote — I’m always looking for something better than a simple wordprocessor for managing research and ideas.  I tried OneNote on my Windows laptop, but I found it clunky.  I was always having trouble getting things to format correctly.

I’ve long used Reference Manager for citation management, but haven’t been able to upgrade from RM 10 to 11 on my desktop, for reasons no one, including the RM tech support team, can figure out.  Now, not only is there not a Mac version, but it’s clear that the company is putting its creative energy into another product, EndNote (EndNote and RM used to be competitors, but one company now owns them both).  (Yes, I can migrate the db from RM to EndNote.  And yes, I KNOW I can run windows on the Mac, if I’m willing to give up the memory and deal with all the complexities.)

I’ve used TiddlyWiki for notes which are saved as HTML files– but Safari can’t save those files.  I have to use Firefox.

I’ve used Picasa, Photoshop Album, and Lightroom to manage photos.  When I moved images from Picasa to Photoshop Album to Lightroom, and then moved Lightroom images from my desktop to my external hard drive, each time I lost all the metadata. Either it can’t be done, or the correct way to do so is obscure — and I only learned this by losing my data.  (I haven’t used iPhoto for much yet.)

I have an archive of several hundred — maybe thousands — of historically important files — not mine — created in Wordperfect 5.0.  The only way I’ve found to convert them to current Wordperfect and/or RTF files is to open them one by one, and save them in a new format.  One of those jobs I keep thinking I should do, but have barely made a dent.

The last time I upgraded my mobile phone — within the same brand — I thought I had successfully transferred my contacts. When the new phone asked, “Do you want to update [sic] your contacts now?” I answered “no,” meaning, “I’ll do it later.” And when I went to install my contacts on the new phone, they were gone. I had missed my one and only opportunity.  (The time before that, I managed to transfer them but the metadata was lost — for each contact, the labels for mobile, home, and office numbers were gone.)

The point is:

  • I need to be able to access data consistently over time; and I need to be able to use newer and better tools as they become available.
  • I need to migrate data across systems: easily, with formatting and metadata preserved.
  • I need to update software and hardware without losing my previous work.
  • When software or hardware becomes obsolete, I still need to access those files.
  • And this all needs to be seamless, or at least low effort.

Until we accomplish this, our personal and collective digital memories are at considerable risk.  But clearly this is not the companies’ priority — just want to sell us the newest stuff. But how can they expect us to keep buying the new when it means that we lose our digital memories?

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One response to “Change and Persistence in Digital Media

  1. I am thinking that you could write a fairly simple AppleScript to manage the rtf-ing of the old WP files. Or turn one of your RAs loose on said script.

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