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.

IBM Unveils the World's Smallest Computer

The latest piece of technology to be zapped by the shrink ray of progress was recently revealed during IBM Think 2018, the computer giant’s conference that offers a sneak preview of its latest hardware. According to Mashable, IBM’s newest computer is so small that it could disappear inside a salt shaker.

An IBM computer on a motherboard and atop a pile of salt

That tiny black speck on the right? That’s the one. (It's mounted to a motherboard on the upper left of the left photo.) IBM claims the computer has several thousand transistors and has roughly the same kind of operating power as a processor from 1990. While that may not sound impressive, any kind of artificial intelligence in a product that small could have big implications for data management. IBM believes it has a future in blockchain applications, which track shipments, theft, and non-compliance. Its tiny stature means it can be embedded into materials discreetly.

As an example, IBM noted that the processor could be injected into a non-toxic magnetic ink, which can then be stamped on a prescription drug. One drop of water could make the ink visible, letting someone know it’s authentic and safe to take.

The tiny little motherboard and its processors are still in the prototype stages, but IBM predicts it could cost less than 10 cents to manufacture. The company hopes it will be commercially available in the next 18 months.

[h/t Mashable]

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]


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