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Processes not tools

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Posted by Amontillado
Sep 25, 2018 at 02:25 PM

 

Pixelpunker wrote:

>> Amontillado: On the other hand, even papyrus and dry desert caves
>> aren’t perfect.
> >Sure, but the timeframe of this digital stuff is a joke. I can’t even
>read 10-year-old files.
>

Nor can one always read 10 year old newsprint. It’s not an archival medium. Neither are old word processor files good candidates for forever.

On the other hand, 40 year old files are perfectly readable with anything, if they are plain text files.

tightbeam wrote:
Stephen Zeoli wrote:
>>I’m not criticizing that choice, but I would be uncomfortable relying
>on
>>Microsoft.
> >How come? Are you also uncomfortable relying on Apple? the Scrivener
>folks? any home-brew, cottage developer?
> >
Apple Pages’ native files are in a proprietary, closed format. That detracts from the value of Pages, but who cares? You can export to plain text.

Scrivener stores everything you write in individual files, all either plain text or RTF, and you can export to plain text. Or epub, that’s just plain text, too. Epub files, like docx files, are just zip archives. Unzip an epub and you’ll find xhtml or html files carrying the payload (plain text), and CSS files carrying the formatting.

Ulysses stores plain text files, but they are a little hard to find. That would bug me, but it’s ok. It will export to plain text and other formats.

There are trivial differences in plain text “format” files. There’s not really a format, it’s just a series of characters, but there is inconsistency if you look really close.

Unix set a standard for text files where line endings were done with a linefeed character, called a newline in Unix circles. Microsoft decided on carriage return/line feed pairs at the ends of lines, and a (unenforced) control-Z at the end of files. Apple went, initially, with just carriage returns for line endings. Apple has since mended its ways.

That’s inconsistent, but hardly a big deal. The Unix (or Mac) tr command (transliterate) will convert files whichever way you want.

More important, though, is to keep refreshing your archive media. Not only would Apple II diskettes likely be long gone from deterioration and constant magnetic influence, it would be a chore to find a working Apple II to read them on.

We know plain text ASCII will be around for a long, long time, because since the dawn of BNF all program source code has been plain text ASCII. Vi and emacs are not going away, whether they work well for you or not.

So, can you read 10 year old files? Of course. Your mileage varies according to how well you supported your future self, 10 years ago. Or 40 years ago.

As far as changing software like undershirts, I’m somewhat guilty. When I find something that really works for me, I stick with it. I wouldn’t have de-installed Ulysses, but I got into a snit over subscriptions. For me, Ulysses works so well I made my peace with their subscription model.