I'm curious about the M Disk mentioned by Andrew in the Featured Comments to the previous post...does anyone out there use these? Has anyone researched the best read/write drive to use? Does anyone know of expert discussions about the veracity of the company's claims? Has anyone experimented and had problems? What pertains in a choice between DVD and Blu-Ray?
Thanks for any solid information!
(Thanks to Andrew)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Robert Hudyma: "I worked in optical disk R&D in the 1980s so I am familiar with the design of these products. An optical disk (one you can burn at home) has several layers (a bit simplified): a substrate (the base), a recording layer, a reflecting layer and a protective overcoat (that may have printing too).
"It is common to use an organic dye in the recording layer and aluminum for the reflecting layer. The organic dye is easily ablated by heat to record information and will fade with repeated reads or over a long period of time since these dyes are fugitive. The reflecting layer, if made from aluminum, will easily corrode if exposed to water and oxygen or will react to atmospheric pollutants (think car exhaust). The protective overcoat is supposed to prevent this from happening, but it is very thin, not perfect and may deteriorate from the marker that you use to write information. And so optical disks that have a gold coating instead of aluminum will be less prone to deterioration of the reflective layer over time.
"The big advance that the M-disk offers is that the recording layer is, according to their Patent disclosure, made from a 'glassy-carbon,' which should be inherently stable over a long period of time. There are experts that can offer an opinion to the longevity of images and image making technology such as Wilhelm Imaging Research. What is often missed in these sorts of analyses is the lifetime of the device that reads and writes the disk. These devices have exposed metal parts that will corrode and plastics (like Nylon) become brittle within a decade. I doubt very much that any of these DVD readers will be working 50 years from now, and that, I believe, is the much greater concern."
Ctein: "I, for one, would love some solid information on M disk lifetimes. I haven't been able to dig up any other than what is on the company's websites and links therefrom. That's not what I consider reliable source.
"I do have some answers to the lesser questions. Any drive whose specs assert that it is M-disc write-compatible is sufficient, so just check the technical specs. It's extremely common today—the supercheap LG USB external drive I bought does M discs. The discs are supposed to be readable on any drive, which is really the more important thing.
"Regarding DVD vs. Blu-ray (and even denser formats), I've seen little penetration of Blu-ray et al. into the data storage markets. Like CD (and JPEG and uncompressed TIF formats), DVD is robust against obsolescence—there is so much data stored in that form in so many different venues that devices/software to read it will be available for a considerable length of time. I don't see Blu-ray having shown that kind of universal adoption. The higher density formats that M disk is offering are so specialized that I wouldn't trust them at all for long-term archiving. The problem is not how long the disc lasts, but being able to get a device and driver software that can read it."
David Dyer-Bennet: "They seem just a little vague on storage conditions. One of the big questions is, do M Disks need a normal paper-grade fire safe to survive a fire (350°F and very high humidity), or do they need a media-grade safe (125°F, humidity limits). (Film negatives, and probably darkroom prints, need a media-grade safe, which is completely unfeasible for most of us.)"
John Krumm: "I was curious what the Library of Congress said about this issue (long term digital storage) and came across their preservation website."
Mark McCormick-Goodhart: "The M disk appears to solve only one issue, i.e. the degradation rate of the embedded data layer. While 'etching a mark into stone' may lead to a respectable longevity figure for that layer itself, it's no guarantee (check out some old graveyard markers to see how legible some of those 100+ year old grave markers are today)...and the other plastic layers in the laminated stack will have their own perhaps more rapid degradation pathways as well.
"Also, given the fact that one also has to have the decoding device handy at all times to retrieve the data, unless the manufacturer creates a significant trust fund or endowment that will ensure new read machines will be built well into the future, the whole optical disk archival storage concept is seriously flawed.
"Notwithstanding those issues, there are other really practical problems with write-once optical disk technology...4–25GB disk capacity is already impractical for many photographers given the fact that a single shooting session with a Nikon D810 can eat up that digital real estate very quickly. Who wants to curate a collection of hundreds of optical disks? Moreover, unless you are incredibly fastidious and add all metadata immediately after ingesting a new batch of images, then the process of record annotation often requires a step-wise process of human activity. This means that one will have to burn and reburn a disk every time just one file on that disk gets a slight update or change of any kind to the metadata. Metadata (e.g. keywords, descriptions, etc) are often just as important to the archival record as the source file itself.
"My two cents."
Herman: "I have had doubts about the durability of disks since my back operation."
Waqas Farid: "I work at a Museum and for us M-Disk made a lot of sense. It's too expensive to get the type of tape drives the Library of Congress specifies—specifically the type that James Snyder (one of the leaders in the field) lists. Obviously no storage medium is perfect, and one of the commentors is correct in assuming that our Blu-ray drives won't be working in the future, but if we can make a gramophone using modern parts and processes why can't we do that for a Blu-ray/DVD drive 100 or 1,000 years from now? Personally in the short term (i.e. our lifespans), something like the M-Disk makes sense. As long as you burn it properly and use CRCs to check for copy errors.
"To me, having a passive way to store a medium, something that doesn't require magnetic fields or electrons, makes sense. For our museum we have a lot of digital artwork, primarily video installation. These files come to us from the artist on flash drives or DVD discs. Both of which are incredibly unreliable. The M-disk is a good (not perfect) storage solution until something wonderful like holographic storage comes out."