Monday, November 28, 2011

Forgetful Filesystems


There is a slather of news and criticisms aimed at IBM for its recently awarded patent application for a document aging file system.

I'm going to come to Big Blue's defense here, and say that it makes some sense in certain contexts.

There is no such thing as a non-degrading media; digital storage simply reduces the error injection rate infinitesimal proportions and increases the rate at which refreshes occur by orders of magnitude.  Purposefully degrading the fidelity of the data stored on a system is a way to put the lifespan of the storage on par with the lifespan of pre-digital technologies, and thus be enabled to offer a similar value proposal.

Individuals, businesses, and governments generate a lot of junk data. Should this junk data be treated with such high fidelity value as the stuff we really care about?  As long as we get to chose between what constitutes the good stuff and the junk, I'm all for having forgetful filesystems.  They are inevitable.

There are a LOT of business and government records in particular that would be well placed into a round file.  I'm told that some of my tax records, for instance, should be kept around seven years.  Here is a way I can put such records, that to me are truly garbage, in a round file and know that eventually they'll be discarded just like paper copies, and the storage space can be reclaimed and sold to someone else.

We couldn't save such junk data when the medium was paper, but why maintain it just because it went digital?
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