Floppy Disk Becoming Relic of the Past

Blake sends "this Yahoo! News story about how floppy disks and drives are becoming much less widely used.

The floppy disk has several replacements, including writeable compact discs and keychain flash memory devices. Both can hold much more data and are less likely to break.

Rochelle wonders: How many libraries out there recognize this and have accessible CDRW drives or flash memory ports?"

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Floppies must die

About three to four times a week, I get to go over to the computers, attempt to help a patron who's having a problem opening something off their disk, and then I get the lovely job of telling them that their disk has gone bad. Yes I know it worked last time. Yes I know this is important. No, I'm sorry there really isn't much I can do about it. Why did it go bad? Well there's several reasons. Maybe you got too close to a magnetic source. Maybe some dust got in the disk itself. You might want to get some sort of cover for it. Maybe it was old. Maybe it was a manufacturing defect. Maybe, just maybe, the orbit of Saturn enhanced incoming cosmic rays from a supernova in M-31 and this refracted the bulk of the cosmic blast into your data and screwed you. Kind of a cosmic "up yours."

Or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you can buy 100 floppies for what, five bucks? Something so cheaply made should not surprise you when it so cheaply performs.

I've been trying to push the CD-RW idea here with little success. Turns out my IT folks actually know stuff about what a semi geeky patrons can do with a CD-R. Ever hear of Knoppix? It's a bootable CD that boots into a GNU Linux OS environment. From there, you have complete control. Sure it won't let you overwrite stuff on the hard drive, unless you insist that's what you really want to do.

What I think might be interesting is to try a sort of community network drive. Someplace sequestered from the mission critical network where patrons can save their data on an honest to goddess hard drive. As the drive fills up, a programme executes to clear old data not modified within a given time. Something like that would probably work for our library system since we're not too large. A 120GB drive would probably be too big, but who cares? They're not overly expensive and I'd rather have too much than not enough.

And for patrons who don't want to save to the hard drive, they can still brings their floppies and takes their chances.

not just floppies...

Our initial computer purchase for the library was a bad one, we bought Compaq Ipacs with removable drives which means they only have CD or floppy drives depending on what was selected for the computer. All the public ones have floppy drives and the fact they are removable seems to make them easier to damage. The upside is they all have USB ports in the front and makes flash memory easy to use.

I just bought a USB flash memory card and what amazes me is how easy it is to both save and rewrite data. All our new computer will have CD-RW on them but I am seriously considering promoting the use of the USB flash over the CD-RW. CD-R I believe is best for backup because its cheap for the amount of data a single cd holds. But to me I think CD-RW is already outdated if you want to be able to carry a variety of editable documents. No software is required for the USB memory which means a small learning curve. The memory stick I got holds 32Mb which is more then enough since I can add and subtract when I need it, and at $25 seems cheap and will no doubt get cheaper.

floppity-floppies..

We don't here. Somehow I doubt that it will happen in the near future either. One reason is that we don't have the money to modify our existing public (and staff) pcs to put in CDRWs. Also, some of our pcs are so outdated they'd probably implode if given a cdrw drive. Then there's the abuse factor, our (and I am sure your) IT department is so overwhelmed that I think they'd probably cry and quit if told they had to install 700+ cdrw drives.

That being said, I think that if your patrons are asking for cdrw drives in the public labs and you have the money, give it to them. I am sure that when and if people start asking for them here they will start appearing, it just hasn't happened yet.

Out of my own curiousity, if you have cdrws on public pcs, do you allow software that would allow patrons to copy copyrighted materials (music cds, etc...)?

Re:floppity-floppies..

"Out of my own curiousity, if you have cdrws on public pcs, do you allow software that would allow patrons to copy copyrighted materials (music cds, etc...)?"

I don't think you can have one without the other, its part of the software to be able to duplicate a cd.

Re:floppity-floppies..

"Out of my own curiousity, if you have cdrws on public pcs, do you allow software that would allow patrons to copy copyrighted materials (music cds, etc...)?"

If you don't have such software, then there's no point in having a CD-R drive. If it is possible to copy a file to CD-R, it's possible to copy copyright materials--particularly given the fact, in the U.S. and many other countries, that:

If it's in fixed form (and not done as government work, and doesn't carry a public domain dedication), it's copyright--not just "music CDs" but any text file, any PDF, any picture, pretty much anything.

Libraries can only take the same stance as with copiers: Post a notice.

Re:Floppies must die

I've been trying to push the CD-RW idea here with little success. Turns out my IT folks actually know stuff about what semi geeky patrons can do with a CD-R. Ever hear of Knoppix? It's a bootable CD that boots into a GNU Linux OS environment. From there, you have complete control. Sure it won't let you overwrite stuff on the hard drive, unless you insist that's what you really want to do.


That's apples and oranges. Or apples and applesauce, for a slightly more accurate analogy.


CD-RW != bootable CD. Whether or not the CD drive can be used to boot the computer is a BIOS setting. Regular CD-ROM drives (not writable at all) can be used to boot computers that have a modern BIOS (presuming the BIOS is set to allow it). The fact of a patron being able to write to the CD media has NO impact on whether a (knoppix etc.) CD can be used to boot the computer


A set of completely different issues are the clunkiness and lack of standard interface among competing brands of CD burning software, the variety of media capacities (650M vs 700M) and formats (CD-R, CD-RW, credit-card sized), the variety of data formats (music, raw files, ISOs), etc..


Sure, a patron could come in and use the library's high-speed connection to download a Knoppix ISO and burn it onto disk, but if the BIOS is set to not permit CD booting, and is password protected against changes (as I would expect public machines to be configured), then there should not be an issue.


Of course, there IS the issue of downloading the 650 Meg ISO. But I can't imagine that would be much more of a bandwidth strain than any of the other patrons who are spending an hour on a flash-based site, or going through IMDB looking at movie trailers.

Re:Floppies must die

Believe me, I'm well aware of how boot options are set in the bios. I'm also well aware of how lax most library security schemes are. It's not unusual for many libraries to stick with the same passwords for long periods of time. If someone is observant, lucky, intelligent, or all the above, they can guess what a BIOS entry password might be. I wonder how many IISes out there use passwords like 'library' or 'books' or 'password' for entry into their systems? Or something similarly easy to guess like the director's name or something?

And you assumed that they would download the CD image right there and burn it? I make no such assumption. If someone wanted to hack into a library machine or network, they'd already have the tools, talent, and bootable CD with them.

Obviously there's no way to make a network totally safe. But most IT departments worth their paycheques will try and remove any avenue of assault. This is one such avenue.

And if we want to get really paranoid, do we really think that the RIAA won't try and hold libraries accountable under the DMCA if patrons go on a CD copying spree using our machines?

Re:Floppies must die

At our academic library, we just got new public terminals. Patrons can save data using both a floppy disk or a memory stick. However, there are still a few glitches with the memory sticks (you can't seem to save to them). None the less, I was glad to see that the library is looking towards the future.

Re:DMCA and CD copying

That's one fear you don't need to have.

Standard audio CDs--anything that legitimately carries the CD Audio Disc logo--don't have any technological copy protection. Period. (If an audio disc has copy protection, it violates Red Book standard and isn't a CDAD, and can't carry the logo).

Thus, there's nothing to circumvent.

Thus, DMCA can't come into play.

Otherwise, the library's no more liable for providing the mechanisms to copy CDs than it is for providing a copier: An appropriate posted statement on copyright should be enough. (IANAL, but...)

Anyway, the RIAA seems a good deal less concerned about people doing CD-to-CD copies than about people downloading MP3s of copyright material over peer-to-peer networks, whether those MP3s ever get burned to audio CDs or not. (Yes, the RIAA did sue to force the Rio, the first successful portable MP3 player, off the market. They didn't win.)

I won't even bother with the other question: Given the market penetration of cheap PCs, and since you probably circulate those CDs they might want to copy, why would patrons sit in a library using a probably-inconvenient copying mechanism? After all, unlike photocopiers, they probably already have a CD copier at home.

Re:The Answer: USB

Our library has been promoting USB drives for large storage. We have purchased USB port extension cables that are attached to the table top next to each PC that does not have a USB port on the front of the PC. USB drives can store so much and are so easy to use, much simpler than burning a CD.


Each time I help a patron with a floppy problem, I suggest a USB drive. They are small, portable, sturdy, and a 128 MB USB drive holds as much as 88 floppy disks. They aren't damaged by heat or magnets. I see more and more people using them all the time.

Re:Floppies must die

I realize that I went on for a bit back there, and maybe my point got muddled.


I don't see how a CD-RW drive is any more an avenue of assualt than a regular CD-ROM drive is. It lets you write to CD media, but that seems to be it. I don't understand what your IT department thinks someone could do with a CD-RW to commandeer the PC.


Unless you mean that they don't have any CD drives on the public machines, for fear that the BIOS might be altered to allow CD booting. That's a policy I could understand! But drawing the line between CD-ROMs and CD-RWs seems arbitrary; I can't see any security rationale there.

Re:The Answer: USB

I vote for the USB drives, no matter how big or small. In our school library, students are storing papers, editting and resaving them. A floppy really isn't too small for a whole semester's worth of papers. I think using a cd for their work is like putting an ant on a 747 to fly across country.

Time will tell if the USB drives will be as flexible as the floppy and yet more durable.

Syndicate content