Saturday, March 31, 2007

A clear flaw with closed source: longevity

For longevity, one needs unencumbered (no patent issues) file formats at a minimum, and probably open source code ...
MacInTouch 3/07: Archival Issues (reader contribution)

... One of my fondest treasures is a 32 disk CD-ROM set in a mahogany box, "The Complete National Geographic" magazine. It was a searchable collection of every page of every issue of National Geographic for 109 years. I bought it in system 7.5 days and used it up thru OS 9. But support for this collection met a tragic death

National Geo had farmed out the development to a chain of third party developers...Mindscape, The Leaning Center, and Broderbund (of PrintShop fame) whom for whatever reasons had "difficulties" in sustaining the project regardless of its merits. Each company's edition under the National Geo brand came with a proprietary Reader/Searcher. The various versions were not compatible, not even in consecutive years... The series died about 1999 and support for it didn't last much longer. Some of those companies still exist but avoid all talk of the Complete National Geo debacle. I've tried. Even National Geographic customer service is curiously mute.

It's exasperating to think that all that historical data, all those articles, all those photographs, are sitting on my shelf and cannot be viewed with today's operating system. ( The Reader/Searcher looked to my naive eye like a kissing cousin to Acrobat.)

If only the source code for the Complete National Geographic CD-ROM set were available and could be updated to run natively on OS-X and other contemporary platform...
Let's learn from this. Don't invest in products dependent on closed source solutions. Speaking of FairPlay and every other DRM solution ... What do you think the chances are you'll be able to read a FairPlay DRMd file in 10 years?

Shame on National Geographic, btw. The best explanation is they didn't negotiate their contracts properly ...


cordyceps said...

At least with the mindscape version, I've had success using a combination of bootcamp/vmware/xp/nero imagedrive to use a window on OSX with shortcuts to all the disks (plus the 8 maps disks) as isos on the xp desktop - it works okay.

The mindscape version the pages are all images and can be viewed directly in quicklook, but you lack any search tools. This is not true of the maps as they are not jpgs.

For the magazine articles topic searches can be done using an online NGM site.

¯`·.¸.×±ËÑ Ð©×.¸.·´¯ said...

John and Cordyceps thank you for your posts. I inherited this excellent set from my grandfather who no longer uses his computer. I remember really enjoying them as a kid, and now I can't run it in OS X. Cordy's tips seem like a relatively easy fix, but it's unfortunate that you have to go through that many loops.