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Discussing data storage elsewhere today. Last year, I tried to retrieve some files from a DVD-R that had been burned seven years prior. Three DVD readers in the house, and none of them could do it. Not a defective disk; I let the check run after every burn. I know I had got files off it a couple of years before.

And then there's my folks old floppies, and my own floppies and burned CDs, and so on. They die. They have a limited shelf-life. About 1/2 the shelf-life of a cheap (non-acid-neutral) paperback book, and that's being GENEROUS.

So now, I'm using a RAID-NAS, and I'll upgrade it to another RAID-NAS in three years or so. At least hard drives have a five year no-questions warranty, and one will be working when the second fails. But I'll more or less have to keep the hard drives around. But the technology for reading them is getting more and more abstract. I'm reminded of the crystal in Ultan's Library that contains all the books of the world if only somebody could find a way to read it again.

So thinking about how the last dark age was escaped: men labouring in bad conditions to save books whose shelf-life of 150 years or so made them unable to survive a millennium if nobody was around to copy them. This morning, watching a documentary online, there were two Nuba women singing in the field. The song they were singing went (according to the subtitles) something like "Omar Bashir and John Garang made a treaty. So that the Nuba people could live in peace."

The first thing that occurred to me is "what an interesting way of disseminating propaganda. I wonder who wrote that and why." But I have to rethink that. All of this sort of epic stuff was once propaganda. Was Roland actually killed in the way he was, or was that just anti-Moor propaganda. And who cares anymore, since Roland's name has long outlived the conflict.

It's a matter of cost of duplication sometimes. And if you have no electricity, or paper and ink, or typewriters, or server-cloud... You still have songs. I wonder if Omar Bashir will be remembered for as long as Roland? Probably not.

And that got me thinking about the two epics about Shaka Zulu. And how one was pro-propaganda and one was con-propaganda. And the same for Alexander. The Syrian oral tale about Iskandar is of a terrible, blood-soaked tyrant (with horns!) arriving from the west and destroying everything in his vanity and rage. Still sung in Damascus today (!)