Monthly Archives: May 2014

A tale of two biscuits

Cookies

What is a cookie, some time ago a cookie was only a small biscuit that went very well with a cup of tea or coffee, but since the advent of the world wide web a cookie is a small file that is stored on your computer created by a website that you have visited.  The cookie contains information which is generally used to improve your experience of using a website.

These small files are designed to store data which is used by a website to tailor your experience on that site.  When a website that uses cookies is loaded on your computer, it checks to see if there is one of their cookies stored on your computer and it reads the information stored in it.  There can be advantages to this.

For example, if your user ID and password are stored in a cookie, it saves you from typing in the same information all over again when accessing that website the next time. By keeping user history, cookies allow the Web site to tailor the pages and create a custom experience for that individual.  Some web pages contain some script which reads the data in the cookie and so is able to carry information from one visit to the website (or related site) to the next.

Online shopping carts use cookies, during shopping when the user adds items to the shopping cart the cookie will hold this information allowing the shopper to visit other pages and other websites and still keep the items in the shopping cart.  Without cookies the items in the shopping cart would be deleted as soon as another webpage was loaded.

Cookies can be divided into two types depending on their life span, i.e. how long the cookie is stored on your computer.  The first type are short lived cookies which only exist as long as you have a session open on a webpage, the second are persistent cookies which expire after a specified time anything from a few hours to years.

A cookie in itself is not a problem, it is only a text file that can be used by the website that created it.

The problem with cookies is that they can be used by malevolent websites and programs to harvest information about you.  Keeping a good security system up to date on your computer will ensure that your cookies are regularly checked.

As they say an ounce on the lips is equal to an inch on the hips, cookies can provide a pleasant experience but they can also have a down side.  It is possible to check what cookies are stored on your computer using the tools in your browser. It is also possible to delete all cookies, but then be prepared to enter in your passwords when you login into your email and other accounts.

 

Storing emails

Many of us have very useful information stored in emails and would probably have to do a lot of extra work if our e-mails were lost. To backup or archive emails firstly check to see what type of email you have.

There are basically two types of email organised under two protocols POP3 and IMAP,  . POP3 is a protocol to download and locally store your e-mails. IMAP4 is a protocol used to access and manage your emails on the mail server.

 

With POP3 your emails are stored on your own computer When your email programme connects with your mailbox it downloads all the messages stored in your mailbox to your computer, and by default will delete the messages from the server. The messages are then only on your computer and will need to be backed up with all your other data. Programs that are used to process POP3 protocol emails include Outlook, Windows Mail, Apple Mail, Eudora, and Mozilla Thunderbird.

 

With IMAP You can open mails, create folders to store mails, delete messages from the server and otherwise manage your emails. The primary difference is that all messages are saved and stored on the server, not on your local computer. This in turn allows you to access the same email messages using different devices, such as your computer, notebook, phone or pad.  Gmail and ICloud are examples IMAP email accounts.

 

Emails as all other digital data need to be backed up, the following archiving tips from the by National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program of the Library of Congress provide a structure which can be used to set up email backup system

 

1. Identify all your e-mail sources i.e. Identify your personal e-mail accounts.

Within each account, find all folders or other separate groupings of messages; include any “archived” messages. Decide which messages have long-term value. Pick the messages you feel are especially important.  Save attachments that are part of the selected messages.

2. Export the selected messages

If saving a few messages, you can use the “save as” command in your e-mail browser or software program to export them as individual files.  If saving many e-mails, investigate automatically exporting them using the email program.  If possible, save messages in an open format. Save metadata for the messages, including the message “header” (the subject, from, to and time and date).Organize the saved messages

3. Catalogue the messages

Give individual messages and attachments descriptive file names. Create a directory/folder structure on your computer to put the saved messages and attachments. Write a brief summary of the directory structure and its files. Make copies and manage them in different places

4. Ensure you have more than one copy

Make at least two copies of your selected messages and attachments—more copies are better. One copy can stay on your computer or laptop; put other copies on separate media such as DVDs, CDs, portable hard drives, thumb drives or Internet storage. Store copies in different locations that are as physically far apart as practical. If disaster strikes one location, copies of your e-mails and attachments in the other place should be safe.

Put a copy of the summary description with your important papers in a secure location.

5. Review

Check your saved e-mail and attachments at least once a year to make sure you can read them. Create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss.

Then sit back happy to know that your emails are securely stored, under your own control.

 

Storing Personal Memories

A most useful initiative has been undertaken by Library of Congress under the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.  As part of this initiative, they have provided a guide on how to preserve your digital memories.

So many people have their correspondence, photographs , tapes and videos stored digitally at this stage, and each an everyone of us will know somebody who has lost digital data.  It is very helpful to have a system in place to create a personal secure store for your digital memories in an era of rapidly changing technology and in the face of a reality that the medium you choose for storing images could become outdated.

As we each have so many pictures and so much information on a computer, we need to have a personal archiving system and take our tips from the experts.  This is what this initiative has done.  The step by step procedure is outlined here. There is an amount of work involved in doing this, but it is time well spent and it will be worthwhile to know that you have a system in place for storing your digital memories.

The steps to be undertaken are:

1. Do an inventory of your photographs:

Identify where you have digital photos, include all your digital photos on cameras, computers and removable media such as memory cards, also include your photos on the Web.

2. Select the most important ones:

Pick the images you feel are especially important, You can pick a few photos or many. If there are multiple versions of an important photo, select  the one with highest quality.

3.Catalogue and Describe the Photographs:

Give individual photos descriptive file names, Use a picture management program such as Microsoft Picture Manager (available for download) or Iphoto to tag photos with names of people and descriptive subjects,.

4. Store the Photographs:

Create a directory/folder structure on your computer to put the images you picked.  Write a brief description of the directory structure and the photos in a word document and save it in the same folder.

5. Duplicate your work for protection:

Make at least two copies of your selected photos—more copies are better,  One copy can stay on your computer or laptop; put other copies on separate media such as DVDs, CDs, portable hard drives, thumb drives or Internet storage(e.g. Flickr, Picassa, ICloud). Store copies in different locations that are as physically far apart as practical. If disaster strikes one location, your photographs in the other place should be safe. Put a copy of the photo inventory with your important papers in a secure location.

6. Review your system and check for redundancy:

Check your photos at least once a year to make sure you can read them,  Create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss.

The full set of guideline contain information on how to archive a number of types of digital data, such as sound files, emails, and are  available at  http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/documents/PA_All_brochure.pdf