43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

What to Do With Old (Digital) Files

This is a pretty simple question, and I have a couple of ideas, but I wanted to ping you all to see what you're up to on this front.

My main documents folder (~/Documents/trunk for those of you scoring at home) is up to about 5.5GB. A lot of this is cruft. Some of it is from prior school semesters. Some of it is graphics files that aren't actively being used. Some of it is client work. (This should be moving to Subversion soon, however.) I'm sure some of it is even duplicate work. For instance, flat .jpg copies of a Fireworks PNG or Photoshop PSD.

I would like to weed out a great deal of this stuff as it has little to no bearing on my current work. In the interest of maybe giving back a little and not always taking, I'll discuss three possible vectors of attack for this problem. There is certainly a plethora of additional options, but here are some ideas I am toying with right now.

  1. Subversion

    I know at least one person that does this and this article at ONLamp.com makes it seem like a good idea. I'd better schedule some time, though, because uploading 5.5GB+ to my Subversion server could take a while.

    If I went this route, I think a serious reorganizing and more deliberate segregation of my filesystem will be in order. Maybe something as simple as creating folders for my various file "contexts," e.g. School, Work.

  2. Archive.dmg

    This would be a simpler path but in the long run I don't really think it's scalable in terms of disk space. It would work like this. Create a new sparse disk image named archive. Move all of my inactive files to this disk image. Unmount. Voila! One file that contains all my archived files.

  3. Burn to DVD

    Burning to DVD is the response I think most people have to archiving computer files, so I thought I'd include it and explain why I won't be embracing it as a solution for my needs. Most of the problems come from me. I seem to not keep optical media in stock at the house. The optical media I do have around, I don't keep organized in any coherent fashion. I end up looking at the data side of the disk to see if it's been burned yet. I don't recommend this as a best practice.

    There are, however, three limitations to using optical media apart from my own personal pathologies.

  • Optical media takes up space.

    Not only do the actual burned disks take up space, but the reserves take up space just waiting to be used.

  • You lose the ability to search.

    I know all about programs that mean to catalog your burned CD/DVD collection, but these are mostly done by filename with little or no metadata and surely no content searching. Disco has a feature called discography built in that supposedly does this automagically but I haven't been able to figure it out.

  • It is inefficient.

    I know there are programs out there that can append a new burn to a previous one if there is space left and that you can span a tarball over multiple disks if need be, but for most of us, this is simply too much trouble.

    All of this considered, I think burning is out.

The Question to You

How are you dealing with your archival type computer files? Delete with impunity, consequences be damned? Keep everything around to CYA/JIC, gigabytes be damned? Burning? External hard drive? Rsync to the cloud? Amazon S3? gDisk? iDisk? Something entirely different?

About Berko

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Berko is otherwise known as Jamie Phelps. He runs a web design business in addition to pursuing a degree at TCU. Jamie is married to his wonderful wife Ann Margaret and they have eight pets and a fish.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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