Continuing the discussion from How to preserve Sketchup creations & keep them viewable indefinitely?:
I started this as a reply to the above linked thread, but as I wrote, I went off on a few tangents (stream of consciousness - that’s how my mind works!), so I thought it better to start a new thread. I’m also not happy about the title I’ve given, so suggestions - especially shorter ones - are welcome!
This caused me to do a bit of research. Long ago (at least 10 years) I’d heard that WORM (Write Once Read Many) disks were the most “stable” form of physical media. So I set out to update my knowledge.
While I didn’t find any current comparisons on the longevity of physical media (at least not ones that appeared either well researched or even well linked to source material), I did find a good, relative succinct and well written summary of the general long term data storage problem:
While it is over 4 years old, nothing written more recently contradicts the advice given therein, nor does it appear that any new solutions have appeared since.
What I find most intriguing - and perhaps problematical for we SketchUp and Layout users – is the recommendation to convert your data to open source formats, on the assumption that the ability to use data in open source formats is likely to continue beyond proprietary formats. – and to continue as hardware, software, and apps evolve. (last bit added by me as an assumption - it’s not explicit in the source I quoted!)
I’m thinking that there can be multiple purposes for archiving our models (and I don’t claim this list is exhaustive):
- Simple desire to preserve a snapshot of your work. Doesn’t include an intention to be able to manipulate/change it a generation later. Think of this as a portfolio of your work.
- As an updateable reference to something, most likely a real world something. For example: The Tiny Home on Wheels I’m still designing. Someday I’ll build it. I’ll want to preserve a record of how I designed it, but I’ll also want to preserve a model that I can use to keep a current “as built” model. Should I do a remodel a few years later, I’ll want to change the model to reflect the real world.
Almost all of the advice I found in my research was addressed at the hardware. What I’m worrying about is the software: Regardless of its intentions, there’s no guarantee that some form of SketchUp/Layout will endure to continue be able to access and manipulate our .skp/.layout files. Over generations, I tend to agree with the expectation that open source formats are a better bet than proprietary ones. Which brings me to the biggest question I have:
Which open source formats for CAD/CAM models are likely to last? And continue to have a means for manipulation? For that matter, is there even one now which can preserve the details we care about in our models in a way that we can be confident we can manipulate in 10-50 years?
I’m less worried about the documentation (Layout) side of things. No matter what happens on the CAD/CAM side of things, I’m fairly confident that construction documentation will be needed - and that there will always be a way to create construction documents from models. And I’m comfortable with long term preservation as PDF (which is the proprietary form I think most likely to endure) or image files (.jpg or .png)