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Patrick Marshall: Storing digital family history
Q: We are rebuilding a family cabin that is more than 100 years old. I want to put a time capsule into one rebuilt interior wall, including...
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Q: We are rebuilding a family cabin that is more than 100 years old. I want to put a time capsule into one rebuilt interior wall, including some photos taken of the original cabin and great-grandparents on the porch, etc., along with the current family, including those great-grandparents' great-great-great grandchildren — who will (I hope) be elderly by the time they have to dig into this wall and remodel again.
The old black-and-white photos have held up really well and I have digitized them. But I'm trying to figure out the best way to save these images, plus current ones. Would a portable hard drive be easier or should I just use a thumb drive or two? It's hard to guess where technology is going.
We will, of course, also keep and store all the original photos, along with some slides (taken in the '50s and '60s).
— Colleen Browne
A: Whatever you do, don't be tempted into storing them on CD/DVDs you burn on your computer. You can expect those to last only a few years before the dyes in them start to break down.
For archiving digital data, I'd opt for a solid-state flash drive. With no moving parts, you can expect it to survive a good deal longer than other media. In fact, if it's stored in climate-controlled conditions, there's no reason it couldn't be around for 200 years or more.
The question will be whether those who find the drive will also have the equipment and software to read from such a device.
For that reason, it's also a good idea to store the photos, too. If you print using archival papers and inks — and, again, if the photos are stored in a dark, dry and acid-free environment — you can expect those photos to last up to 200 years.
As for those slides, even under ideal conditions you can't expect them to last more than 30 years without losing quality.
If you're really intent on ensuring maximum survival, you can take your photos and slides to a service bureau for scanning and reprinting on archival paper with archival inks.
Q: In Internet Explorer 9, under Tools/Tracking, Microsoft has included the ability to prevent folks like Facebook from tracking your every move (supposedly). Does this feature really work, or is it there for placebo effect? If it does work, how does it work, and will it prevent some features on some sites from working?
— Larry Mammoser, Lynnwood
A: Some websites collect information about your visit, including such things as IP addresses, cookies and where you came to that page from. What's more, some sites contain scripts from third-party sites that pass information about your visit.
The Tracking Protection feature of Internet Explorer prevents this from happening when you visit sites on a Tracking Prevention List.
A number of organizations maintain such lists, and when you activate tracking prevention in Internet Explorer, you're prompted to download one of these lists.
By the way, you'll also see InPrivate Browsing as an option in Internet Explorer. Be aware that InPrivate Browsing doesn't shield you from websites. What it does is prevent cookies, passwords and visitation information from being stored on your computer.
Note: In a recent column (Personal Technology, Jan. 28), a reader inquired about using pens to mark CDs and DVDs. I replied that one should make sure to use pens specifically intended for marking CDs and DVDs because they have inks that will not damage the discs.
I also mentioned the option of using Lightscribe discs and drives. What I neglected to mention is that some inkjet printers are capable of printing directly to printable CDs and DVDs.
This is a far better solution than printing to labels that are then adhered to discs; such labels can come loose and muck up your drive.
Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/