Posts Tagged ‘IRs’

tv-dinnerFrom a learning and pedagogical perspective, I would not, not, not want to entertain the notion of downloading a prepackaged virtual machine. The most frustrating thing I can think of, at least in this IRLS672/675 realm, would be a black box experience. Of course I wouldn’t have known any better. But tech life is full of black boxes for the curious and uninformed these days. It’s Just More Fun Doing It Myself. Doing with my own ten fingers eyes glued to screen with held breath is how I learn, best.

These courses are, IMHO, all about understanding how to take the lid off the black box and at least burn the memory of having once seen the contents revealed, if not how to remove them and replace them each nut and bolt by nut and bolt in perfect reverse sequence. At least being able to talk to the doers, if not be the doer. I like the idea of getting in there from the beginning and building the thing, setting the stage for tweaking and downloading and unpacking to come. Given that there are always ways to retrace much further back, back to zeroes and ones in the end, so our VM is really itself an artificial starting point, but. It’s hard these days to get much further back than the web; that’s one of the reasons this program so appealed to me. And from a digital library standpoint, I can see saying to Customer A, Hey, I can show you what I mean, unpacking the laptop and firing up the VM. Possible without having built it, but probably not so I could explain to Customer A what a virtual machine is. Not that Customer A asked. That was Customer B who had some programming experience and questioned me about this DigIn experience listed on my résumé.

Then there’s the bounceback effect. The virtual machine is a lovely, harmless way of learning how the rather more easily harmed home machine works…can I count the ways in which I’ve learned how my Mac works from running the VM through paces? No I cannot. But they are many. Not just because of the Linux/Unix heritage. From the start, the idea that this is not my Mac, this is another entity cohabiting the aluminum casing, that would have been hard to get across to me without all the startup; by now I might have slipped into thinking of it as an application. Mystified by my inability to open a Word doc inside it.

Perhaps these are not generalized courses in computer science…but as archivist, librarian, information professionista, I would prefer to be able to say that I built a VM than that I’ve seen a VM. No doubt there would have been time for other things had we skipped straight in (that’s assuming the large file issue of a prefab was not an issue–got a feeling there’d always be something to troubleshoot, though). Maybe the time freed up (which I’m not persuaded would have been much) could have been spent more carefully preparing a collection for use and reuse across IR software so that we’d have, I don’t know, more experience with different file formats or import/construction of sturdy metadata. I wouldn’t trade it in.

Then again: I’ve had a pretty easy time with the VMs. Let those speak who have not.

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inbetweenThe current DLib article on DataStaR meshes with something we’re thinking about at my workplace. My topic is In Between Repositories (IBRs), where data bits may live, waiting, either forever or on their way to becoming something else. Granted DataStaR, and much IR work generally, emanates from scholarly need, need to share living work in stages, let work evolve groupwise; but really it’s all about beginning to use an IR as a memory stick. A little.

We’re embarking on a trial of an intentionally dark archive–a part of our institutional digital repository, up till now only for materials publicly described, that will take things fresh off the truck, electronic material (disks, CDs, DVDs, floppies…) we may not have appraised yet that needs someplace to live other than in a literal box. Accessioned, but not cataloged. Just dashed off into a form we know will be there when we, or they of the future, get to it.  We’ll park electronic files of potentially unknown content in this corner of the repository until we have time to sort them (and the rest of their associated collections) out. A dumping ground with a preservation angle. (Though I’m not entirely sure what the repository manager has agreed to. Migration?) Brings to mind the preservation track of IRs that we’ve been considering in school. It figures that shades of grey would begin to emerge in the business of digital holdings; once storage is cheap enough…no reason not to.

But a little concern about just starting technologically, which, even as I speak, we are, without really gaming this out. In a sense it’s no different than my usual practice of leaving the disks in place next to the folders in a Paige box that goes to remote storage…as long as we know where to find the preserved unwashed digital bits. But it’s kind of like the difference between the physical envelopes of mail piling up and your inbox filling with megs and megs…you might just toss everything out in either case, but in my opinion you’re more likely to empty the inbox without examination than to toss all the paper without a glance. Intentional dark e-storage isn’t quite preservation and it isn’t access. It is sure to be more expensive than storage in a very stable dry, cool box; we’ll be outsourcing conversion of things we can’t even read, no floppy drives for miles around, sometimes without knowing a thing about the contents. And we don’t yet have a plan for metadatification of the dark content.

I’m not arguing in favor of dry, cool boxes for everything…just musing before embarking. I will need to bring up some points and try to seem credible beyond my actual place in the foodchain.

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