Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Kids Today Have No Idea

One of the downsides of getting old is that every so often something triggers the Grumpy Grandpa. You kids have no idea what it was like back in the day! You need to watch Rob Pike's video to learn where the hardware and software you take for granted came from!


I'm eight years to the day older than Rob, so I got to work with even earlier technology than he did. As far as I know, Rob never encountered the IBM1401, the PDP-7 with its 340 display, the Titan and its time-sharing system, 7-hole paper tape and Flexowriters, or the horrible Data General Nova mini-computer.  I never used an IBM System /360, but we did both work with CDC machines, and punch cards.

I think Rob and I started on PDP-11s at about the same time in 1975, me on RSX-11M at Imperial and Rob on Unix at Toronto. Rob was always much closer to the center of the Unix universe than I was in the UK, but the Unix history he recounts was mine too, from Version 6 on. Rob's talk is a must-watch video.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What's Happening To Storage?

My only post about storage since May, was October's Betteridge's Law Violation, another critique of IDC's Digital Universe, and their constant pushing of the idea that the demand for storage is insatiable. So its time for an update on what is happening in the real world of storage media, instead of IDC's Universe. Below the fold, some quick takes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Making PIEs Is Hard

In The Four Most Expensive Words In The English Language I wrote:
Since the key property of a cryptocurrency-based storage service is a lack of trust in the storage providers, Proofs of Space and Time are required. As Bram Cohen has pointed out, this is an extraordinarily difficult problem at the very frontier of research.
The post argues that the economics of decentralized storage services aren't viable, so the difficulty of Proofs of Space and Time isn't that important. All the same, this area of research is fascinating. Now, in One File for the Price of Three: Catching Cheating Servers in Decentralized Storage Networks Ethan Cecchetti, Ian Miers, and Ari Juels have pushed the frontier further out by inventing PIEs. Below the fold, some details.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ithaka's Perspective on Digital Preservation

Oya Rieger of Ithaka S+R has published a report entitled The State of Digital Preservation in 2018: A Snapshot of Challenges and Gaps. In June and July Rieger:
talked with 21 experts and thought leaders to hear their perspectives on the state of digital preservation. The purpose of this report is to share a number of common themes that permeated through the conversations and provide an opportunity for broader community reaction and engagement, which will over time contribute to the development of an Ithaka S+R research agenda in these areas.
Below the fold, a critique.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Controlled Digital Lending

Three years ago in Emulation and Virtualization as Preservation Strategies I wrote about Controlled Digital Lending (CDL):
One idea that might be worth exploring as a way to mitigate the legal issues is lending. The Internet Archive has successfully implemented a lending system for their collection of digitized books; readers can check a book out for a limited period, and each book can be checked out to at most one reader at a time. This has not encountered much opposition from copyright holders.

A similar system for emulation would be feasible; readers would check out an emulation for a limited period, and each emulation could be checked out to at most one reader at a time. One issue would be dependencies. An archive might have, say, 10,000 emulations based on Windows 3.1. If checking out one blocked access to all 10,000 that might be too restrictive to be useful.
Now, Controlled Digital Lending by Libraries offers libraries the opportunity to:
  • better understand the legal framework underpinning CDL,
  • communicate their support for CDL, and
  • build a community of expertise around the practice of CDL.
Below the fold, some details.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Syndicating Journal Publisher Content

There's a lot of good information in Roger Schonfeld's Will Publishers Syndicate Their Content?. It starts:
The scholarly publishing sector has struggled to address the problems that users face in their discovery-to-access workflow and thereby stave off skyrocketing piracy. The top-line impact of these struggles is becoming clearer, starting with Elsevier’s absence from Germany. This makes the efforts to establish seamles single-platform access to all scholarly publications — equal in extent as Sci-Hub but legitimate, and which I term a Supercontinent of Scholarly Publishing — all the more urgent. The technical solutions are challenging, and at the STM meeting in Frankfurt last week it became clear that, although progress is being made, policy, governance, and competition issues may complicate the drive to consensus.
Schonfeld asserts that providing a seamless, uniform view of the publisher's content, whether paywalled or open access, requires two services:
First, it requires an ability to authorize appropriate access in a decentralized distribution environment. A Shared Entitlements System, as it is sometimes called, would be a kind of common authorization service for all publishers. As I will discuss below, there are at least two options for how Entitlements can be addressed. Second, it requires Distributed Usage Logging, which is to say the ability for all usage, wherever it takes place, to be “counted” in measuring the value of articles on behalf of authors and licenses on behalf of publishers.
Below the fold, a rather long explanation of why I think Schonfeld's analysis doesn't go far enough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Gini Coefficients Of Cryptocurrencies

The Gini coefficient expresses a system's degree of inequality or, in the blockchain context, centralization. It therefore factors into arguments, like mine, that claims of blockchains' decentralization are bogus.

In his testimony to the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Community Affairs' hearing on “Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem" entitled Crypto is the Mother of All Scams and (Now Busted) Bubbles While Blockchain Is The Most Over-Hyped Technology Ever, No Better than a Spreadsheet/Database, Nouriel Roubini wrote:
wealth in crypto-land is more concentrated than in North Korea where the inequality Gini coefficient is 0.86 (it is 0.41 in the quite unequal US): the Gini coefficient for Bitcoin is an astonishing 0.88.
The link is to Joe Weisenthal's How Bitcoin Is Like North Korea from nearly five years ago, which was based upon a Stack Exchange post, which in turn was based upon a post by the owner of the Bitcoinica exchange from 2011! Which didn't look at all holdings of Bitcoin, let alone the whole of crypto-land, but only at Bitcoinica's customers!

Follow me below the fold as I search for more up-to-date and comprehensive information. I'm not even questioning how Roubini knows the Gini coefficient of North Korea to two decimal places.