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CODE4LIB  January 2011

CODE4LIB January 2011

Subject:

Re: reading early versions of FrameMaker...

From:

Louis St-Amour <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 21:09:38 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (162 lines)

On Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 5:32 PM, Bill Janssen <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> At PARC, we have some digital documents from the early '90's in FrameMaker
> version 1 and 2.  But we have no versions of FrameMaker suitable for opening
> them, and re-rendering them in a more accessible format.  I'm wondering if
> others have faced this issue in making archives accessible, and if so, what
> they did about it?
>
> Bill
>

Well, initially I wondered--assumed--the files would be too old to be read,
but after Googling, it appears Frame Technologies, and later Adobe, has been
extremely good at preserving as much compatibility as possible, though the
files if not in an interchange format, can still be finicky to open. Which
then makes me wonder, is it the lack of FrameMaker software, itself, or have
you encountered errors opening such files? Reminds me of efforts in
preserving old video games, we really should try to preserve the ability to
run old software too, despite copyright, particularly where vendors don't
exist any more. (Unlike Adobe, in this example.)

Back to opening old FM files, we have to potentially deal with the change
from FrameRoman text encoding to Unicode in versions after 7.2, but this may
still be in the realm of possibility. Posts from 2010 on the Adobe forums
say:

Just today I found a CD-ROM with FrameMaker 3 demo files (for the
> Macintosh).
> The problem with seemingly missing fonts can be solved by editing the font
> mappings in maker.ini.
> But the problem with missing characters cannot be solved this way. Just
> last week I had a call from someone using very old fonts, which in part do
> not follow standard Windows codepage rules. My recommendation:
> 1) Open the files with any pre-Unicode version of FrameMaker (all versions
> including 7.2). Don’t care about missing fonts.
> 2) Make sure your system shows Fonts like Arial CYR in FrameMaker’s font
> list. If not, add the Russian keyboard setting (in Control Panels, Regional
> Settings) to your machine.
> 3) Try to apply Arial CYR to the text.
> a) all characters appear fine: lucky you!
> b) still missing characters: They have to be corrected.
> 4) Open the cleaned files with FrameMaker 9 and you should be all set and
> prepared for further work.


From: http://forums.adobe.com/message/3048805

Seeing FM3 files opening in FM7 or later versions, made me then wonder if
having a copy of FM1 or 2 would really be necessary to open such files. Sure
enough, if you get a message saying a file can't be opened with this version
of FrameMaker, that usually means it's a newer-version file:

FM is usually quite good about backwards compatibility. The message usually
> indicates that you've gotten files that are a newer release than the 7.0
> that you are using. You'll need to have the files sent to you in MIF format
> or saved with backwards compatibility to FM7 , if they are from FM8.

...

> If you you need to know the version that created the FM file, CAREFULLY
> open it in a word processor or text editor. The first line will be something
> like: <MakerFile 9.0H>. DO NOT SAVE THE FILE. In this case, it indicates
> FrameMaker 9.0.


From: http://forums.adobe.com/thread/440870

Again in 2010, this time on a thread involving errors in opening FMv3 files,
someone tried opening a file that failed to open in v5, in v4, but it didn't
work in either. Apparently this version also predates a "heroic open" option
which may try to bypass errors and read it anyway:

Got your files, but unfortunately I've been unable to open them in FM4. When
> I try I'm told that they are damaged. I tried using a heroic open, but that
> doesn't seem to have existed in FM4 (when I use it I end up with a "H" in
> the current document, which indicates that the Esc o H key sequence isn't
> defined).


> I suppose that it *is* possible that these files are in fact corrupt. When
> I open them in a text editor, they have the basic chunks of stuff that you'd
> expect, but there could be some extra binary bits at the end that may be
> causing the problem. FM4 doesn't have a "SaveAs FM3" option so I can't
> compare a "good" file against yours. You can open them in a text editor and
> pick out some of the words in plain text, but that's probably not terribly
> useful.


And later someone else named Frank Stearns chimes in saying:

I came late to the conversation, but sorry to say your files are probably
> corrupt.



I recall opening FM3 files with FM5.5, and I'm pretty sure those opens even
> worked with FM7. (Only had a second to look on our main system here just
> now; found some 16 year old FM4 files that open fine in 7.2; I know we have
> FM2.1 and FM3 files out on optical media somewhere but did not enough time
> to go look at the moment).



Frame has historically been fairly good about cleanly opening old version
> files with newer version FM, even skipping several generations, so that
> probably wasn't an issue in your case.



The side-topic question I have (given that we're in the middle of trying
> find the best "passive" solution for long-term *reliable* storage of data)
> is how were these files stored? Optical media? (If so, what flavor?)
> Harddrives? Tape? (What flavor?)



Did you have any initial difficulty copying those files from that original
> media?



Thanks for any data points; that's mainly what we're collecting at
> the moment.



Sorry to hear about the data loss. We all dread that!


Frank brings up valid questions, as does that whole topic -- what do you do
when the DVD you thought would last forever, dies perhaps before a VHS tape
due to sunlight? This reminds me of the 321 rule from http://thedambook.com/ -
3 locations, 2 different media, 1 offsite. It's on this Library of Congress
partnered website: http://dpbestflow.org/backup/backup-overview#321 - I
first heard of it in MacBreak Weekly 171 <http://www.twit.tv/mbw171> at the
7-10min mark.

Finally from that thread, someone suggests a possible cause for the
incompatibility:

One possibility I recall. Frame binary files must end at a 1K boundary. When
> they were sent via email, they often got a CR/LF added to the end, and then
> Frame would no longer touch them. We wrote a little utility that trimmed off
> anything after the last 1K boundary that fixed this. So if the file was 2050
> bytes, it truncated it to 2048. If the exact byte sizes are not a multiple
> of 1024, let me know and I'll see if I can find that utility someplace. Or
> you could do it with a binary editor.


Last three quotes from:
http://answerpot.com/showthread.php?185398-FrameMaker+3+files

So while it may not relate to the original question of making older,
archived files available in modern formats, I suppose we could definitively
say that so long as the data isn't in a proprietary format, or if it is, so
long as the software is still in production, you've a good chance at opening
older data -- as long as it's not corrupt.

That's a lot of ifs. ;-)


Louis.

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