Last week, I reviewed the Planets PLATO Preservation Planning tool. The Testbed is another Planets web-service that can be used in planning preservation services/actions. Its purpose is to allow users to locate, select, and test services that can be used to undertake preservation actions, such as identification, characterization, and migration. It is a part of the Planets Interoperatiblity Framework, and should be available for download and local installation after the end of the Planets project, May 30th. In the meantime, users can register for an account on the public site.
The testbed includes areas to browse services, browse previous experiments, and conduct new experiments.
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As I noted earlier, the PLANETS project is a multi-year, EU funded project that aimed to develop tools that can be used to develop preservation workflows and services, alongside an existing repository application. Its main focus is on tools for large national archives, but there is a hope that the tools could be useful to many others. The main products are the PLATO Preservation Planning Tool and Planets Testbed (a controlled environment for experiments) can be conducted. Other software, such as a characterization tool (basically, a more powerful and complex version of JHOVE), which is intended to measure actual characteristics of the content of the document such as colors, fonts, etc, for selected file types; an emulator; etc. are also listed
The project is currently nearing completion, and final version of the tools are not yet available, so I could not test their ease of installation for local use. However, the PLANETS website indicates that the tools and services will be wrapped in an ‘Interoperability Framework’ (which is concisely described here by Ross King) which can be used to develop services and tie the tools together. The version of the IF that is available on the PLANETS G-forge site was posted last summer is a .jar installer.
I attempted to install on a windows workstation. Installation Manual recommends the use of an outdated version Java Development Kit. In my case, the installation appeared to work with a later version of the SDK, but when I tried to start the preconfigured PLANETS server, the batch file did not do anything. In any case, it is a process that would be best handled by someone with system experience, but not beyond an archivist comfortable with configuring system variables. In general, the process looks a bit more complicated that that used by Archivematica, but not as intense as the RODA installation.
Since not all of the PLANETS tools are available at this time, It is impossible to say how difficult it will be to install and use the individual tools. The PLANETS website contains a great deal of useful publications and technical information regarding how to configure the tools. My general impression regarding the G-Forge Software Repository, however, is that very little up-to-date software is available. Since PLANETS has recently announced that a successor Foundation has been established, I am hoping that software will be more immediately available for installation and testing in the near future (actually, this is a hope I’ve had since last fall.)
In the meantime, I am spending a bit of time using the sandbox versions of PLATO and the TESt on the project website. In my next post, I’ll give my impressions of the PLATO Planning Tool.
Later this week, I’ll be attending a Society of Archivists “Digital Preservation Roadshow” in Edinburgh, and in mid-November I’ll be attending a three day PLANETS training session in Bern, Switzerland. To prepare for both events, I spent a few days reviewing the PLANETS work in detail, reading general descriptions of the project as well as several of the more recent technical publications.
My general impression is that the PLANETS work is not very widely known in the US archival community, but there is a bit more awareness in the digital preservation and digital libraries arena. In any case, it has been useful for me to review the project outcomes to date, because the approach that this European project is taking toward digital preservation is very different from that of either the US National Archives (ERA) or the Library of Congress (NDIIPP).
The PLANETS project aims to develop an suite of services that national libraries and archives in the EU can use to plan digital preservation services and to manage the electronic collections. It is a four year project, ending in May 2010, with a relatively low funding level (€15 million) and a limited number of research partners (16, including state archives, university research units and industry/commercial).
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I’m at the Society of Archivists Conference (UK), in Bristol England this week. It is quite a bit more intimate than SAA, I’d say the attendance is around 200 altogether, which has made it quite easy to meet people involved in e-records and digital preservation projects. There is a good conference blog that is up and running.
My initial impression is that there is quite a bit of interaction between the digital preservation/IT and the archival community in the UK, including some really useful interaction between practitioners and developers. Malcolm Todd from The National Archives and Clive Billenness, Programme Manager for PLANETS project both provided quite detailed descriptions of specific ways that archivists can take advantage of recently developed tools and can contribute to the software development process. I was also really impressed by the talks by Viv Cothey from the Gloucestershire Archives, Steve Bailey from JISC, and Rachel Hardiman from Northumbria University (more on those later).
I’ll post my detailed notes later, but for now I’ll simply note that I impressed by several of the presentations. Not to provide too much prominence to this one, but the PLANETS work that Clive Billenness described in his talk on Tuesday holds a lot of potential. In the past, I’ve seen a lot of people nod their heads knowingly when other people mention it, as if they understand the very important work that the Europeans are doing. But I have to confess I knew a lot less about it than I should when I dropped the name into my research proposal, and I wonder how much of their work is really know in the US–I didn’t find any mentions of it when searching Kate T’s blog so maybe someone more plugged in than me can let me know. For example, did anyone talk about it at SAA?
Anyway PLANETS, which has received a nice kiss from the EU in the form of 15 million euros of funding since the project inception and which has the backing of major corporate sponsors, is in the process of launching a testbed where a repository (or any government agency or person), can process sets of electronic stuff through a variety of tools, then compare the results to decide which tools might be most effective for the repository’s local situation. It sounds like a really practical idea, so I’m all in favor.
The first tool they have released is PLATO, which is a preservation/decision support tool. I need to check it out a lot more closely, but I think you can run digital objects through it to make basic decisions as to the best approach to follow for the particular group of records you need to preserve. I’ll be giving it a try once I am back in Dundee and away from and this overpriced Marriott wireless.
Over the next several months, many other tools will be released by PLANETS. I think it may save me a lot of time and hassle installing software, since the testbed will allow you to actually use tools with records and compare results using standardized criteria (I really need to look into this). The approach the EU took with PLANETS really is very different than that which LC took with NDIIPP, and it is great that PLANETS is reaching out to the archival community at conferences like this. When I talked to Clive about it after the session, he invited me to their training session in Sofia, Bulgaria in mid-September and seemed genuinely interested to get input from me and other practitioners. I’m not sure I can make that since I have another commitment about that time, but it would definitely be worth attending one of their training sessions coming up in the near future.