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Old Jan 11, 2008, 8:51 AM   #1
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I've had CDs and DVDs that worked fine become unreadable after a year or less and I'm not exactly trusting of them.

Should I make multiple copies on them, or should I be using an entirely different medium? I was thinking of just using an external drive as a back-up.

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Old Jan 11, 2008, 10:13 AM   #2
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Well, you could try to find reel-to-reel tapes or floppies, but they are gone like the dinosaurs. That leaves you with three current choices for your digital images: optical storage, hard drive storage, and online storage. Solid state storage is not a choice at this time because of the extremely high prices.

I burn all original files to DVD-R and make two copies. Both go into safe storage, with one set kept off the premises. Never had one fail, but then I do not buy the off-brand el-cheapos. Even my name brand CDs remain good after 8 years and stored in a cool dark place.

I maintain my working backups on HD. In fact, Irecently ordered a 750GB external Seagate FreeAgentPro sata/usb/firewire as a secondary (and automatic)backup to my other externals. So photos are stored on CDs, DVDs, and at least two external large HDs at all times. Occasionally the HDs are refreshed by re-recording.
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Old Jan 11, 2008, 10:49 AM   #3
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For long term storage, carve it in stone. That's monochrome, but it lasts longer than anything else. After that, oil paint seems to last quite a long time, then watercolors and charcoal (also monochrome).

For computer images, good quality, brand name CDs and DVDs are your best bet, but they won't last for ever, so it's important to have multiple copies of those (on different brands of media) and make copies of them periodically.

Also, you shouldn't just store the RAW files either. Five or ten years from now, you may not be able to find a program that can read the RAW files you use today. You can store the RAW files, but save the corresponding JPEGs along with them, just in case.
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Old Jan 11, 2008, 11:46 AM   #4
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TCav wrote:
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Also, you shouldn't just store the RAW files either. Five or ten years from now, you may not be able to find a program that can read the RAW files you use today.
I disagree.

David Coffin (the author of dcraw.c) sent me some comments about it in December 2004, while we were discussing the pros and cons of Adobe's DNG format.

He said to feel free to quote him. For those of you that are not familiar with dcraw.c, you can read more about it at http://www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/

David Coffin Wrote:
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I think Adobe's DNG idea is well-intentioned, but suffers from two serious flaws:

First, why would camera makers want to change their raw formats? Compatibility leads to commoditization,and that leads to competition based on price alone. Great for consumers, terrible for producers.

Second, this format cannot anticipate innovations that haven't happened yet. When new sensors appear, the standard must be updated, along with the software that implements it.

There is only one way to guarantee that a digital archive will be readable in fifty years. For any non-text files, it must include decoding software as human-readable source code. If the decoder is written in a language other than C, it would be prudent to include an interpreter for that language, written in C.

Dcraw already fills this role. When the first DNG camera is available, dcraw.c will support it as one more raw format among many.
Dave later redesigned much of dcraw.c to support .dng (and it still supports the camera manufacturers' native formats as well). This is part of what he sent me in March 2005 about it:

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After four months of work, dcraw 7.00 is available for download at http://cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/ . It's a major rewrite:

* Not only is Adobe DNG now supported, the entire codepath has been redesigned for it. Adobe's XYZ->CAM matrices allow color science to replace black magic, whether decoding DNG or the original raw files.
Because Dave's code is ANSI standard C source, and you can find C compilers for virtually any major processor, it's unlikely you'd need to worry about not being able to convert your raw files (either the camera manufacturer's native formats or .dng) 10 years from now.

IMO, C isn't going away anytime soon, and because it's a well documented format, it could be easily converted to other languages later, too (especially since Dave keeps it simple and dcraw.c isn't reliant on any platform specific libraries).

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Old Jan 11, 2008, 1:56 PM   #5
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itsme000 wrote:
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I've had CDs and DVDs that worked fine become unreadable after a year or less and I'm not exactly trusting of them.

Should I make multiple copies on them, or should I be using an entirely different medium? I was thinking of just using an external drive as a back-up.
I don't know you should consider any type of electronic media as "long-term". Periodic backups andcopying to new media as needed mostlikely progressivly drops off in terms of the number of people who start out with good intentions and actually follows through with the plan.

If you want to be sure you have a copy of an image, long-term....get prints made and put them in an album.
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Old Jan 11, 2008, 2:05 PM   #6
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I like hard disks for backups.

I've got multiple copies of my data on hard disks now, including internal and external drives.

I just finished ordering new hard drives about 30 minutes ago, since I'm out of space (again).

I'll simply copy the partitions from the old drives to the new drives, and put the old drives on a shelf, letting them act as an extra backup.

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Old Jan 11, 2008, 2:12 PM   #7
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My photos are VERY important to me and the people I work with. I use DVDs and CDs as one part of the back up storage plan. The other part is to use a netgear storage central device with 2 hard drives in it attached to my wireless router. I use and swear by Seagate hard drives. Currently I have a 500GB hard drive in their for photo storage.

If the dive becomes full it goes into a fireproof gun amo box on a shelving unit in my storage closet in a room that has AC/heat so the tempature doesn't get too cold or too hot.

I also have an external USB hard dreive enclosure with fan that I can hook old drives into and use them on my computer.

I currently have a 500GB hard drive filled in storage and I get it out every 4 weeks and use it to keep it active. The 500gB drive holds about5000 scansof old film that I did with a umAX scanner in 2005/06and all my digital photos from 2001 -- June 2007.

The key is have more than one backup copy on different mediums in case one goes bad - say the hard drive fails or the DVDs get too cold and they all won't read. also storage all DVDs in cases.

dave
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Old Jan 11, 2008, 2:16 PM   #8
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JimC,

Sony now has two different RAW file formats available in the A700. What happens if everybody likes the new format, and Sony doesn't include the old format in future cameras? What happens when software developers get tired of developing for two SOny RAW formats and decide to only support the newer one.

What about NEF files? Nikon had a RAW file format for it's early dSLRsm, but then introduced a new format in a new camera, and the RAW file was encrypted? Public pressure caused them to provide SDKs for the newer, encrypted format, and now everybody supports it. But what happens when all those software developers get tired of supporting the older format?

This kind of stuff happens all the time, but it takes years to see the actual effect. There are still software developers that are distributing software updates and license keys via floppy disk! That had its advantages and its disadvantages, but since you can hardly buy a PC with a floppy disk drive anymore, someone else has made a decision for you. Now, you can't consider the advantages and disadvantages of floppy disks any more.

If you back up your photos on mulitple media, why would you not back up your photos in multiple formats as well?
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Old Jan 11, 2008, 2:27 PM   #9
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Dave Coffin's dcraw.c source code (which is able to process raw files from existing cameras) is open source.

Unless Nikon decides to be really stupid from a PR perspective, and tries to prosecute the developers of raw converters that can process .nef files under the DMCA (Digital Milleninum Copyright Act), you really don't have anything to worry about.

I compile newer versions of dcraw.c on a regular basis, and use a variety of products that include libraries based on dcraw.c (which are easy to recompile on any platform that has a C compiler available as newer versions of it become available).

I don't think the vast majority of third party developers are going to suddenly stop supporting older cameras (although camera manufacturers have pulled that stunt in the past).

As for storage media, I do upgrade. I copy older data to newer drives each time I upgrade. That way, I have a lot of disk drives with my data on them (including older floppy disks, MFM drives, IDE Drives, SATA Drives, etc.).

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Old Jan 11, 2008, 11:35 PM   #10
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Well, gosh, now I'm confused. Doesn't everyone who does backups include an installation file of their raw converter and a viewer on the backup medium? Maybe the concept is just too simple and only a simpleton like me would think of it?

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