Internet pioneer says software and hardware used to display our documents and images could disappear.

Vint Cerf, one of the people who helped build the internet (and who's now been assimilated by Google of course), is warning about a digital Dark Age.

Cerf is worried that old software and hardware used to create and display documents and images will become obsolete and disappear - and with them, the ability to see for instance pictures of your kids when they were little, or important business records that the IRD insists you produce. (

So much of our culture like music, pictures, movies, writing and games are now in digital format, but we haven't really thought through how to ensure that future generations have access to it as well.

He is right to be worried about obsolescence, but that doesn't even begin to cover the whole issue of how fragile our digitised culture is.


Some of the deadly threats to your data I can think of at the tip of a hat include:

Bit rot. Have you ever tried to load a picture, and only got half of it on the computer screen? Or tried to play a music file that seems fine, but just refuses to make a sound?

That could be due to bits in the files being silently flipped as data traverses computer memory, and being written to disk after.

Tiny errors that are impossible to correct in files with lots of random data, like pictures. Bit rot is insidious and can cause even your backups to fail.

There are file systems that can correct errors and stop them from being written into the files, but they're not yet in common usage.

As our data archives become bigger, we will need to pay more attention to bit rot or end up with large numbers of corrupted files.

• Physical media damage. Hard drives wear out and go bust and optical discs scratch and grow fungus. I never got around to digitising my CDs and expect most are jiggered now (no unkind words about that being a good thing, please).

Analogue media will generally do better here, although I wouldn't get my hopes up for magnetic tapes and floppies.

• Digital rights management. Some content is licensed only, and needs a key to unlock it. If the key's gone, then so's the access to your content.

• Fat-fingering. That "oops" moment when you press the wrong key, or unplug the computer when it's running, and lose everything. We've all been there, done that and not had back-ups.

On the positive side though, with a bit of effort (read: lots of backups in many different locations around the world and data error checking), our personal and shared digital culture could be safer than any time in history, as there is no single point of failure.

Jeb Bush doxes his electorate

I go on about privacy issues like a broken record (actually, what's the modern version of that expression?), but they're hard to ignore really.

People's accounts and databases are being hacked and the information in these is spilled all over the internet on a regular basis - that's no news.

How about someone powerful voluntarily releasing information as-is, warts and all, you name it? Unheard of maybe, until 2015 when former Florida Governor Jeb Bush does just that in the spirit of transparency.

Bush dumped thousands of his emails, received and sent between 1999 and 2007 while he was in office around Christmas last year, a move that backfired spectacularly.

The first mistake Bush staffers made was that they released the emails as-is, with no redaction.

That meant personal details like birthdates, social security numbers and more of around 12,000 people were published for all to see and identity thieves to misuse. (

Second, the raw email archives contained everything, including old viruses. (

Luckily, the email archives have been taken off-line but the embarrassing shambles is probably not helping Bush's fortunes as a Republican presidential candidate nominee.

Check your Google security

If you use Google, you should tighten up your security for the service.

Links and instructions are on the Google Drive Blog. (

It's relatively simple to add improved and more secure authentication methods that should keep your personal data somewhat more secure, and worth doing as you'll get another two gigabytes of storage for Google Drive by the end of February.