Monday, 29 September 2008

iPres 2008 Preservation planning session

Starting with Dirk von Suchodoletz from Freiburg, talking about emulation. I’ve always had a problem with emulation; perhaps I’ve too long a memory of those early days of MS-DOS, when emulators were quite good at running well-behaved programs, but were rubbish at many common programs, which broke the rule-book and went straight into the interrupt vectors to get performance. OK, if you’re not that old, maybe emulation does work better these days, and is even getting trendy under the new name of virtualisation. My other problem is also a virtue of emulation: you will be presented with the object’s “original” interface, or look and feel. This sounds good, but in practice the world has moved on and most people don’t like old interfaces, even if historians may want them. I guess emulation can work well for objects which are “viewed”, in some sense; it’s not clear to me that one can easily interwork an emulated object with a current object. Dirk does point out that emulation does require running the original software, which itself may create licensing problems.

Gareth Knight talking about significant properties. We’ve discussed these before; conspicuously absent (is that an oxymoron???) from OAIS, an earlier speaker suggested the properties were less about the object than about the aims of the organisation and its community, than about the object. But Gareth is pursuing the properties of the object, as part of the JISC-funded InSPECT project ( They have a model of significant properties, and are developing a data dictionary for SPs, which (after consultation) they expect to turn into a XML schema. Their model has an object with components with properties, and also agents that link to all of these. Each SP has an identifier, a title, a description and a function. It sounds a lot of work; not clear yet how much can be shared; perhaps most objects in one repository can share a few catalogued SPs. It seems unlikely that most repositories could share them, as repositories would have different views on what is significant.

Alex Ball is talking about the problems in curating engineering and CAD data. In what appears to be a lose-lose strategy for all of us, engineering is an area with extremely long time requirements for preserving the data, but increasing problems in doing so given the multiple strangleholds that IPR has: on the data themselves, on the encodings and formats tied up in specific tightly controlled versions of high cost CAD software, coupled with “engineering as a service” approaches, which might encourage organisations to continue to tightly hold this IPR. An approach here is looking for light-weight formats (he didn’t say desiccated but I will) that data can be reduced to. They have a solution called LiMMA for this. Another approach is linking preservation planning approaches with Product Lifecycle Management. In this area they are developing a Registry/Repository of Representation Information for Engineering (RRoRIfE). Interesting comment that for marketing purposes the significant properties would include approximate geometry and no tolerances, but for manufacturing you would want exact geometry and detailed tolerances.

Finally for this session, Mark Guttenbrunner from TUV on evaluating approaches to preserving console video games. These systems started in the 1970s, and new generations and models are being introduced frequently in this very competitive area. It might sound trivial, but Lynne Brindley had earlier pointed out that one generation’s ephemera can be another generation’s important resource. In fact, there is already huge public interest in historical computer games. They used the PLANETS Preservation Planning approach to evaluate 3 strategies: one simple video preservation, and 2 emulation approaches. It was clear that IPR could become a real issue, as some games manufacturers are particularly aggressive in protecting their IPR against reverse engineering.

In the Q & A session, I asked the panellists whether they thought the current revision process for OAIS should include the concept of significant properties, currently absent. A couple of panellists felt that it should, and one thought that the concept of representation information should be cleaned up first! Session Chair Kevin Ashley asked whether anyone present was involved in the revision of this critical standard, and no-one would admit to it; he pointed out how worrying this was.

1 comment:

  1. A copy of the presentation on significant properties that was given at iPRES is available on Slideshare.

    It provides another wonderful example of the changes that can occur to data, in this case the change to font type and the wider decisions that need to be made on whether this should be considered significant.

    Gareth Knight


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