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Practical Advice on Saving Digital Photos

Most of us (okay, virtually all of us) have tons of digital photos floating around -- many are on our computers, some are on photo-sharing sites, some might even be printed (imagine that) and hanging on a wall or pasted in a book. But what happens if your computer, or your photo-sharing service, goes away? What happens if you save the images on a proprietary format, then want to look at them in 40 years, but that format can no longer be read by computers of the time?

The answer is complex, and deserves a longer article, but it boils down to these elements:

1. Store photo files in a simple, open format. The simplest "format" is an archival grade paper print, since you know paper will be readable for a longish time, and you don't need a computer to do it. Other formats like TIFF and JPEG are good choices, since they're likely to be supported in the future (and a TIFF- and JPEG-reading programs could always be written in the future, since the specification for the file formats are widely available)...but the future lasts a long time.

2. Store photo files in multiple locations. What if your house burns down, and your carefully collected hard drive melts? Make an offsite backup, either by literally copying stuff to a hard drive and mailing it to your friend; or by using an online backup service (I've used both Mozy and CrashPlan). Note: online photo sharing sites like Flickr may count as a place to store photos, but you can't count on these existing forever. Remember Geocities?

3. Store photo files on different kinds of media. This is the hardest one, and you might skip it. The thing is, it's unclear how long things like DVD-R discs will last, once they've been burned. I have CD-R's from 1998 that are still readable, but a few that are not -- that dye in a burnable disc basically melts over time; and then there's the problem of finding a computer that will still read an optical disc down the road. Today, optical drives are still common. Will they be in 40 years? (Remember floppy drives?) Similar issues exist with hard drives -- what if your hard drive is exposed to a big magnet, or is accidentally dropped? Your data may be toast. So ideally you'd have different kinds of storage for your important files, to insure that at least one of them survives.

Below is a video from the Library of Congress's "Personal Archiving Day" discussing some simple ways to archive your own digital photos. Check it out, if your photos are valuable to you.

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Carol Munro // Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The End Is Near for Microsoft Paint
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Carol Munro // Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Microsoft Paint is one of the few programs that has come standard in every Windows operating system since the tech company was founded. Now, after a 32-year run, The Telegraph reports that MS Paint is set to be discontinued.

When the program was introduced as part of Windows 1.0 in 1985, MS Paint allowed users to sketch doodles with their cursor on a blank canvas. The low-tech concept hasn’t evolved much since then, but MS Paint still maintains a loyal fan base, attracting 100 million users a month in 2016. Now, those artists will have to go elsewhere to create their digital masterpieces: In its recent announcement of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft listed Paint as a “deprecated” app, which means the company will no longer support it and it will probably disappear from future Windows versions.

In place of Paint, Microsoft is launching a more advanced art-making app called Paint 3D. Like the original program, Paint 3D allows users to create quick drawings using digital pens and paintbrushes. But the new feature is geared more toward creating 3D art, something that was never offered in MS Paint.

When the Fall Creators update comes out in September, it may mark the end of an era for Windows users. But don’t count on MS Paint being out of the game for good—Microsoft has been known to revive classic features, as was the case with Clip Art in 2016.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow
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fun
Play the Sneakers Computer Press Kit from 1992
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Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow

In September 1992, the computer hacking movie Sneakers hit theaters. To correspond with its launch, members of the press received a floppy disk containing a mysterious DOS program that, when launched, asked for a password. Once the reporters "hacked" their way in, they found the Sneakers Computer Press Kit. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can play at being the film press of 1992.

It's hard to characterize exactly what this electronic press kit is. Is it a game? Sort of. It's essentially a very gentle computer hacking simulator, in which the "hacking" consists entirely of guessing passwords (complete with helpful prompts from the program itself), and the payload you discover is silly stuff like mini-biographies of Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, and Sidney Poitier. Still, it's a good match for the film itself, which helped set the template for Hollywood depictions of computer hacking.

A paper folder lies open on a wooden floor, with a black floppy disk on top. The folder is labeled SNEAKERS in giant red letters, as is the floppy. Inside the folder is printed material. On the right flap of the folder are instructions on how to load it.
Inside the Sneakers Computer Press Kit's paper folder. (The right flap contains installation instructions, along with a note that the studio will FedEx printed material if the user doesn't have access to a printer.)
Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow

Always remember: "My voice is my passport. Verify me." Now, get cracking on this press kit and don't be flummoxed—if you can't figure out a password right away, just wait a moment.

(Incidentally, Sneakers did also include printed materials for the press, in case they lacked a computer and/or the patience to deal with this approach. But who in the world would look at that, when they could play with this? There's also a method in the Computer Press Kit that allows the user to print out more detailed materials—provided they have a printer, and it's attached to a particular printer port on the computer.)

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