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What Happens To Your Data When You Die? 628

Posted by simoniker
from the charon-dot-com dept.
dacarr writes "Your data - that is, the personal web pages and projects you have worked on to make the 'net a better place - are presumably password protected. But sooner or later the time will come when you take that last breath, and with you goes your passwords, but not your data. It's still there for your benefactors to deal with. And while many famous people who are no longer with us (e.g., Douglas Adams or Chuck Jones) have a staff for this, well, many of us don't. As such, have you planned for the hereafter, and if so, how?"
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What Happens To Your Data When You Die?

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  • Rest In Peace (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:02PM (#9045498) Homepage
    When I was in college a friend from the rugby team killed himself. I noticed days later that his student computer account was still open and emails had been received after his death. It gave a strange feeling to "finger" his account (which was how we found out about people in the old pre-web days) and have it return status information about him almost as if he was alive. I guess I can't really describe how it felt, almost like in some way some part of his life was still going on even though he was no longer around. I wrote to the system administrators and asked them to close his account down, which they did.

    Not that it's relevent to the question at hand, but I never could understand what would cause someone to take their own life. Of course, logically I understand what causes it - complete and utter despair - but emotionally, I guess that I have never (thankfully) felt down enough to empathize with someone who commits suicide. It seems like such a waste. The summer before this he and I had decided to try to get into good shape for the upcoming rugby season, and we pushed each other at the gym and during runs and sprints. After he killed himself, I just had to wonder, what is the point of working so hard to get into good shape and then just ending your life?

    Personal anectodes aside, I don't really see much point to this Ask Slashdot question (which is usually the case as Ask Slashdot is the lamest part of Slashdot by far). Your digital files will be treated the same way as your paper files after you die, and people have been dealing with the question of how to ensure that their personal effects are handled in the way that they would want to for thousands of years now. My advice to anyone reading this would I guess be to keep encrypted anything that you don't want anyone to see after you are gone, and for anything else, don't worry about it.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:06PM (#9045551)
      > My advice to anyone reading this would I guess be to keep encrypted anything that you don't want anyone to see after you are gone, and for anything else, don't worry about it.

      "Dad. Mom. I'm only gonna say this once. For the sake of your children, please encrypt your pr0n. We really don't wanna know."

      • Re:Rest In Peace (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Azureflare (645778) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:12PM (#9045662)
        Seriously man. One of the freakiest things that has happened to me is administering my Grandfather's computer. He wanted some AOL settings moved over to another drive. Well, ol' hapless me not knowing much about AOL, I accidently happened upon some folders containing pictures.... Of old people pr0n. I don't know if he noticed that I happened upon it, he's a bit slow, but he didn't say anything, and neither did I. Probably the most bizarre and incredibly frightening thing I've seen on the computer (And yes I've seen goatse... that was pretty bad, but not as bad. That one with the fat woman was pretty bad too. But since then I've wised up and put all those damn domains into my hosts file routed to 0.0.0.0).

        Anyway, yeah. People, encrypt your pr0n. It can be quite nasty. Be nice to the sysadmins.

        If it's a close relative, I may just want the stuff on the drive for posterity's sake... But still, it can be tempting to just format the whole drive without looking at anything.

        Computers are such personal things. They're like an extension of your mind. Perhaps a little dirty extension of the mind? OK, now we're getting into mixed metaphor land. I think I'll leave it here.

        Ahem, just hope my grandfather doesn't read slashdot... Not much danger in that though.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:34PM (#9045909)
          Ahem, just hope my grandfather doesn't read slashdot... Not much danger in that though.

          That's what you think... sonny!
        • by cemaco (665884) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:42PM (#9045988)
          At least you didn't have to go to the video store with your hearing impaired grandfather and help him buy his porn. Now that was embarrassing. The guy at the counter yelling the titles to the dirty old man while the old ladies where eying him up and down. It got worse when the clerk whispered in my ear that my grandfather had great taste in porn.

          Good thing I wasn't the one who had to go through his personal effects when he passed.
          • my grandfather had great taste in porn.

            Good thing I wasn't the one who had to go through his personal effects when he passed.


            So, who did inherit his porn collection?
        • Re:Rest In Peace (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jc42 (318812)
          On the other hand, the last couple years of my mother-in-law's life, as she was dying of the usual effects of decades of smoking, we got her a computer and taught her to use email. She was able to communicate with most of her friends during those years. And when we got to organizing a memorial, it was very handy to have her address book on hand. We sent out the invitations from her computer, and most of the people showed up. We offered them any saved email that they wanted, but none took advantage of it.
    • Re:Rest In Peace (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BK425 (461939) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:12PM (#9045667) Journal
      "our digital files will be treated the same way as your paper files after you die"

      No, they won't be. I have a cousin who's been doing estate law for ~40 years and I've helped him on some extremely difficult cases where clients did not leave their passwords. You're personal affects and papers are accessible, unless you take positive steps you're digital affects probably won't be.
      A lot of folks may not want next of kin going through their hard drives, but there probably is stuff on there that an heir or executor will -need-. Give secure storage of these things and continuity of access real thought please.
    • Re:Rest In Peace (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cili (687222) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:40PM (#9045967)
      A friend of mine killed himself about a year ago an his family asked me to check his mail for facts that would lead to his depression. I emailed the admin of the very large webmail company my friend was using, telling him I need to see my friend's inbox, but first I would come with the official death documents, so he can see it's for real and his help is needed. I did not receive any reply. A couple of weeks later I stumbeled ACCIDENTALLY on a forum, where someone had just posted an exploit in that company's mail service that allowed users from a certain, much smaller webmail company to import unread messages from any mail account from the big company. Long story short, I got all mail from his inbox, including a password from another webmail service he was using... Of course, I mailed the admins from both company, but the problem was fixed a few days later.
    • Re:Rest In Peace (Score:5, Informative)

      by Landaras (159892) <neil@nOSpam.wehneman.com> on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:02PM (#9046195) Homepage
      Not that it's relevent to the question at hand, but I never could understand what would cause someone to take their own life.

      Most of the replies have been anonymous trolls, so I'll give you an actual answer with a name behind it.

      I went through four years of clinical depression with suicidal intent. Eventually, you get to the point when all you really remember is pain, and you believe that all you ever will feel is more pain. You have difficulty getting up and out of bed, and if you're not showing up and interacting with people, your previous relationships get shot to hell.

      If there's going to be no end to the torment, why not leave it behind?

      You can contact me through my site if you have additional questions for a depression survivor. I'll close this with a poem I wrote in the midst of my depression that I think explains things a little more as well.

      - Neil Wehneman

      **********

      Depression Kills

      Do not let yourself be lulled into thinking that depression is simply a fancy way of saying that someone is "sad."
      Mere sadness does not last for weeks or months or years.

      Do not think that people with depression should just "snap out of it."
      Don't you think that if we could we would?

      And do not think that depression is simply a disease of the mind.
      It literally destroys your immune system, depletes your energy, leaving only fatigue, and decimates your ties with friends and family.

      Depression is not just an illness.
      Depression kills.
      • beating depression (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MolecularBear (469572) on Monday May 03, 2004 @09:45PM (#9047443)
        One of the key things my psychologist pointed out to me when I was beating depression was the idea of altering your brain chemistry. If you think a certain way, you can change the nature of your thoughts patterns. With depression you are constantly thinking negative thoughts. The negativity breeds more negativity and, as the parent said, you don't "just snap out of it".

        What helped me a lot was to recongize certain negative thought patterns as "cognitive distortions". Once you recognize it, you can work at changing it - retraining your brain. Or, translated into Geek: "You must unlearn what you have learned."

        This link describes the concept of cognitive distortions: http://depression.about.com/cs/psychotherapy/a/cog nitive.htm [about.com]
    • Easy... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @08:03PM (#9046688)
      Bury me with my hard drives.
  • by bobej1977 (580278) * <rejamison@@@yahoo...com> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:02PM (#9045500) Homepage Journal
    Don't overestimate the value of your data. When you pass on, the only person who probably cares about your data will be dead.

    That said, I have a little fire safe that I keep important stuff in, like car titles, contracts and cd-rom backups of my computer files. Some of it is sentimental stuff like letters and writing. I imagine if someone decides it is worth publishing, it may live on significantly past my life time. Perhaps none of it will, but I'm not too worried about that, I'm happy that my "important data" lives on in the only place that matters, in the memories of my family and friends.

    Basically, usefull and/or popular information has an indefinite life span because people will preserve, expand and share it. Call it the natural selection of information. We don't really need to do anything different to keep that going. Frankly, it's a good thing that useless and unimportant data dies, I'd hate to think that a future historian would be forced to search through petabytes of things like 100 year old Slashdot first-posts in order to find information about our recent war with Iraq.

    • That said, I have a little fire safe that I keep important stuff in, like car titles, contracts and cd-rom backups of my computer files.
      You are such a geek. I say that as a compliment though. I salute you.
      • maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

        by poptones (653660) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9045852) Journal
        But I think a "geek" would realize that a fire safe might protect paper - which burns at a relatively high temp - but might not protect CDs which can melt and warp at a much lower temp. I doubt the fire safe would do much good if the house were to burn down completely, as the fire would probably last long enough to heat the inside of the safe to a very high temp.
        • Re:maybe (Score:5, Funny)

          by Txiasaeia (581598) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:44PM (#9046012)
          That's why a true geek keeps all his important data on punch cards. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go rearrange my basement, the safe.
        • Re:maybe (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BeerVarmint (553698)
          That's precisely why I purchased a "media" safe. It's like a fire safe, but has much thicker walls (7 inch). It can outlast a fire, and will never go over 120F inside.

          Sure is heavy though, over 100lbs. and it only fits 100 dvd's.

        • by Big Bob the Finder (714285) on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:57PM (#9046642) Homepage Journal
          Fire safes (or containers, as they're called in the industry) come in many different forms. As has already been noted by fellow /.'ers, there are media containers, and document containers- the difference being that media containers are SUPPOSED to stay cooler than document containers. Here's how each one of them works.

          Document containers consist of two thin layers of steel, which have a hydrated compound stored between them; used to be plaster of Paris, or calcium sulfate hemihydrate (same as gypsum sheetrock). Upon heating, the hydrate gives up its water, flooding the inside of the container with water vapor. This serves two purposes. The first is that the heat of vaporization absorbs large amounts of heat, so the container heats up less rapidly. The second is that the water vapor displaces oxygen, making it less likely that documents will burn- unless, of course, the container fails. Remember- it's just two pieces of sheet steel. A fire safe is not necessarily a burglar-resistant safe, and most of the common safes on the market can be manipulated ("cracked") very easily by even a novice- they're not SUPPOSED to prevent theft. One needs to purchase a UL-rated burglar resistant container for that sort of thing. Safes can combine theft and fire resistance ratings; consult a security professional (like a SAVTA member) for the appropriate safe.

          Also important to remember is the location: If a safe is on the 2nd or 3rd floor, once that floor burns through, the container will fall. If it cracks open- there goes your contents. So- put it in the basement. BUT- make sure you don't have heavy objects located above it (refrigerators, etc.), which will crack it open. Put the safe on blocks if you can so that the contents aren't soaked from the firefighters flooding the basement!

          Media containers should follow the same general rules (be careful where you put it, etc.), but work on a different principle. Last I checked (it could have changed), media containers use wood as insulation. This keeps the contents at an acceptable temperature, provided everything works. Wood is a great insulator, and it burns relatively slowly unless it is divided in a manner than allows combustion.

          None of this means that every fire-rated safe will survive. In fact, a review of areas swept by wildfires in California in... 1991, IIRC, showed that even home-made safes worked as well in some instances as UL-rated containers. However, the best containers were all positioned in the slab, or in some other large, non-combustible heat sink. In-floor safes fare well, although exceptions (such as where the dial melted and dripped into the money stored within, causing most of it to burn) were noted.

          So- in short, look for the UL rating. No, the $50 toy safe at the discount store isn't the same as the $500 media vault from a locksmith, even if they ARE both rated. No, the people who sold you the $50 safe will know nothing about how it works, or how well it will protect your data, or how to open it and retrieve your property if your house *does* burn down. No, the $50 safe will not come with a professional who knows how to open your container if something DOES happen to go wrong with it. A professional SAVTA member will be able to help you with all of this, as well as sell you the appropriate container.

          But, of course, if you want to try the $50 safe, go right ahead if it helps you sleep better. They have to meet the minimum standards from Underwriter's Labs (UL 72 for Class 125 and Class 150 containers). And it will depend upon where you live (across from a fire station in a Class 1 noncombustible structure, versus Uncle Marty's trailer home, 25 minutes from the nearest volunteer fire department), of course. But for GOD'S SAKE, don't assume that because the label says "FIRE SAFE," that they're all the same, or that they'll save your data no matter what.

          Disclaimer: No, I'm not a SAVTA member, and I don't currently work as a locksmith or a safe/vault technician.

      • by kfg (145172) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:42PM (#9045987)
        Well, I guess I'm an ubergeek then, because as I've posted before, he's only halfway there. He needs copies of all that stuff offsight as well.

        A safety deposit box can useful for such things, or even just a friend. He keeps yours, you keep his. The meatspace version of posting it to an ftp site and letting everyone mirror it. Hey, maybe he's got some pr0n you haven't seen yet.

        Keeping duplicates of such records in storage is also one of the traditional roles of the family lawyer, if anyone out there is still so quaint as to have one of those. If not maybe you should think about getting one, because he's going to be the guy who takes care of your will.

        Papers, passwords (in a sealed envelope to be opened in the event of your death), etc go to your lawyer. You also designate an executor. That's the family member/friend you wish to see carry out the provisions of your will. The executor gets the envelope of passwords and instructions for what to do with them from the lawyer, and carries them out.

        It's really all fairly standard stuff. The inclusion of computer files doesn't alter things at all really. People have been dying for years.

        KFG
    • Don't overestimate the value of your data. When you pass on, the only person who probably cares about your data will be dead.

      There is one group that would care, and that are future historians trying to understand us. All the written letters, document, newspapers, records of various sorts are what the historians have to work with. Future historians may in some sense have less to work with due to problems preserving digital data.

    • by ComputerSlicer23 (516509) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:27PM (#9045838)
      Just remember that CD-ROM's are very, very unlikely to make it thru a fire in a personal fire safe. Unless you purchased an electronic media rated fire save, you're CD-ROM's won't survive an actual fire.

      Fire safes are rated to keep the tempature during a a "standard" house fire, under about 300-400 degrees F. However, CD-ROM's are no good after about 150 or so if I remember correctly.

      It's a fallicy that a firesafe will save electronic media. I've seen a number of people make that mistake in the "safe my emergency documents" plans. Even worse, the CD-ROM is likely to melt and ruin the paper documents at those temperatures. I'm not sure what will happen, if you want to see, put it all in your oven, turn the temperature up to 300 degrees, let it stay in there for about 10-30 minutes after it gets up to temperature (do this with documents you don't care about, and possibly this could ruin the firerating of the safe, I'm not sure if they are designed to go thru multiple fires). That's like the status you'll get your stuff back in after the fire department lets you back into your house.

      My advice, go to a local bank, get a safety deposit box. Put your stuff in there, they only cost about $25/year. In the end, your stuff will be safe, when you die, the executor shows up with the key and a death certificate and your stuff is given to them. The only thing to be cautious of, is that I've been told that vaults can act like big magnets and screw up magnetic media. However, I've never had a chance to test that, and I've never read it from a source I deem "authoratative" to actually trust it.

      Kirby

      • by blitz487 (606553) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:50PM (#9046086)
        Firesafes are like motorcycle helmets, they are only good for one fire/crash. A firesafe is made of a chemical that absorbs heat in an endothermic reaction. Once the chemical is used up, so goes the thermal protection. This reaction is going on even at room temperature, so firesafes gradually lose their protective ability. Be sure and read the instructions before relying on one.

        The only reliable way to protect your data from fire is have offsite backups.

    • by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:37PM (#9045941)
      That said, I have a little fire safe that I keep important stuff in, like car titles, contracts and cd-rom backups of my computer files.

      If the safe is just one of those standard melt-to-seal-with-little-water-vapor-beads fire safes, you'll be disappointed to see your CD backups molten and warped into uselessness after a fire. I'm pretty sure those safes are designed just for paper and other things that don't melt and need a fairly high temperature before burning.

      The best policy is to keep backups somewhere else, such as another building separate from the house. If you have outbuildings that are not close to the house, that's one option. Bank boxes are another option for saps in the 'burbs. Just remember physical security, since pathetic teenagers just might walk away with your backups! In other words, put a lock on that barn door.
    • by kzinti (9651) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:51PM (#9046096) Homepage Journal
      Don't overestimate the value of your data. When you pass on, the only person who probably cares about your data will be dead.

      Wrongo. Example:

      When I was eight years old, my mother died. Many years later, I began to wonder what kind of a person my mother was. Oh, I have memories of her, but they are the memories of a child. I know little about what made her a full-dimensional person. What her politics were, for example. Or what kind of music she liked, etc.

      My mother was a prolific letter-writer. She was from a fairly poor family, and considered a long-distance phone call a luxury to be reserved for birthdays and holidays. Consequently, she wrote many letters to her mother, even up until her last days. Unfortunately, few of her letters survived her. My sisters and I eventually found ten or twenty of them, but I would give anything if her mother and my father had kept more of the letters.

      Yes, nobody will probably care about your extensive pr0n collection, or that flamefest you got sucked into on comp.windows.lusers, but much of the data that you consider to unimportant now might become priceless after you're gone... at least to the people who care about you.

      So save your e-mail (not the SPAM). Keep backups of your weblogs. Hell, make hardcopies and save them in a notebook. These things say more about you than you might realize, and somebody might someday be glad you kept them.
  • How about... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by errxn (108621) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:02PM (#9045501) Homepage Journal
    ...why do I care? I'll be dead.
  • Tim Maroney... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:03PM (#9045513) Homepage
    ...still has all his journals and so on online. Perhaps much to the consternation of the people who despise him.
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:03PM (#9045516) Journal
    Fuck you, you whiny douchebags! .. remember, this doesnt apply 'till I'm dead.

    Aw, shucks.. You can have it now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:04PM (#9045523)
    Ximian's Ettore Perazzoli died last year but his site and blog are still up:
    http://perazzoli.org/blog.php
  • Simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:04PM (#9045524)
    I just use my first name and digit 1 for all the accounts I have that require passwords.

    Sooner or later they will discover a vulnerability.
  • Dead man's handle (Score:4, Informative)

    by mkavanagh2 (776662) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:04PM (#9045530)
    There's software out there to do any task you like if not deactivated in a certain time period. I think it's on arsware.org, or google.
    • Re:Dead man's handle (Score:5, Informative)

      by mkavanagh2 (776662) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:08PM (#9045586)
      I found it: http://daisyman.arsware.org/dms/ [ttp]

      This application was sparked by an Ars OpenForum thread about what would happen if one of us were to shuffle off to that Great Motherboard in the Sky. Software which would act as a proverbial "Dead Man's Switch" came up, which is basically a system that, if not reset by a given time, will automatically carry out a series of tasks, such as posting messages to websites like Ars, sending e-mails to loved ones (or hated ones), and encrypting or destroying sensitive files (*cough* pr0n *cough*). Interest was expressed for the creation of such software, and well, here it is.
      • Re:Dead man's handle (Score:4, Informative)

        by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9045854) Journal

        This would also be useful if you had the goods on some Maffia bigwig or high government official and wanted to make sure you stay alive. Simply arrange for the data to be transmitted to 100 newspapers (CRON process?) every week at a pre-designated time, unless you explicity logged in and told the server you wre alive every week. If the wrong password is given, (hack) the data gets fired out immediately.

        Alternatively, you could set up a CRON process to do a low level format on your hard drive if you failed to log in for xx days, to make sure nobody gets your sensitive data after you die.

        Rumor has it J. Edgar Hoover maintained his position by keeping a file cabinet full of nasty stuff on powerful politicians in his office. He ordered his assistant to destroy all of his "personal" files in the cabinet upon his death, which she did. I wonder how much history could have been re-written if those files had been retained.

        • by RedWizzard (192002)

          Rumor has it J. Edgar Hoover maintained his position by keeping a file cabinet full of nasty stuff on powerful politicians in his office. He ordered his assistant to destroy all of his "personal" files in the cabinet upon his death, which she did. I wonder how much history could have been re-written if those files had been retained.

          If one of the targets found out he'd told his assistant to destroy the blackmail material then that target would have a very powerful motive to have Hoover killed. If it wer

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) * on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:05PM (#9045536) Homepage Journal
    I can't speak for Douglas Adams but Chuck Jones' entire enterprise is handled by his lovely daughter Linda who literally busts her butt to run everything. That's hardly a "staff". Chuck would have been content to never have drawn another cel or market anything but thank heavens Linda suggested it.

    Timothy Leary [leary.com] is another good example of dedicated fans who keep the site running after he died and an even better example is Peter McWilliams [mcwilliams.com] who put the entire text of all of his books online before he passed on. I recommend Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do. The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country [mcwilliams.com].

    Frankly as far as data and death are concerned most of you /.ers reading this should be concerned with one thing: finding a porn erase buddy and give them a housekey and all of your passwords. The idea is that if you die unexpectedly your porn erase buddy will go into your machine, clear your machine of all the pornographic files. In addition you can also have him/her to clear out your conventional meatspace porn so your Momma will still highly of you even after you're gone.
    • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:20PM (#9045762) Homepage
      Linda who literally busts her butt to run everything

      Really? In the course of administering her father's estate, she's broken her pelvis or torn her gluteals? Wow. That's dedication.
    • by JonMartin (123209) on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:27PM (#9046380) Homepage
      The question is how do you give your buddy the access he needs after you have died (I will not give keys + passwords to ANYONE while I'm still alive) but before your family can act? This could be a very small window.

      No, seriously, this is an interesting problem to me. It can be generalized to "When I become incapacitated, how do I set certain pre-planned events in motion?" Maybe I die and I want my porn buddy to clean up. Maybe I get really sick (coma) and I want bills to be paid. Maybe I get amnesia while on a secret mission and I want my ex-CIA buddy to find me (and bring me a suitcase full of spy-toys, natch). Maybe I die and want my enemies smited from beyond the grave.

      The traditional method for this situation is a will (including living wills). But they do not cover enough situations, take too long to activate, require certain legal events to have occurred (death certificate, etc.) and are "public" ("...and to my brother I leave my DVDs. Now, a message for my ex-CIA buddy: SMITE!"). The mylastemail.com service mentioned elsewhere suffers from these faults. I want a system that I can secretly maintain that has flexible targets. Maybe it will give access to a safety deposit box to a trusted friend (I have a safety deposit box fetish, just ask my friends). Maybe it will forward info on an enemy's shady business deals to the government. It has to be fast, too. Ideally it will detect my demise and set things in motion well before my death/illness becomes public knowledge.

      I could ramble on for a while (I have spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking about this). But I'll stop (for now). Any thoughts? Implementations? Cool things that you would like to see done after you die?

    • Heh... I can't believe this is Insightful when it really should be Funny since it's a joke partially stolen from Coupling.
  • Wills are great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:05PM (#9045537)
    This is exactly why you make a will. Passwords...how ever you store them...should be left to the people you wish to have said information. It's that simple
  • Always be prepared (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stecoop (759508) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:05PM (#9045547) Journal
    Your data should be treated like what your mom said about underwear. She always said you better have a clean set just in case you get hit by a bus and have to go to the hospital; you better have a clean pair. Just like underwear being clean, you better not have anything you don't want her to see - at least encrypt the good stuff or even use those crazy alternate data streams [patriot.net] but don't leave it for everyone to find (especially anyone from RIA because you know they dig you up to get you into court).
  • Work vs Personal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ka9dgx (72702) * on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:06PM (#9045554) Homepage Journal
    At work, it's covered. I'm the entire IT staff for our small business, so I know it's important to keep this covered, no matter how remote the possibility is (I hope!!).

    I have a copy of the current server layout, (well, almost current) and ALL of the pertinent passwords WRITTEN DOWN, and kept in a safe. (Right next to the backup drives) My friend who covers for me when I'm on vacation is well known to my co-workers, and boss.

    So... if I kick the bucket, there will be a way for everyone else to pick up the pieces, continute business and move on with life.

    Now at home, it's a sticky wicket... I currently don't have anything up on our web site, so that's not a big deal. My wife gets to decide what to do... and I need to talk with her about this issue.

    For me, the big question then is what becomes of my 80,000+ photos? I've got some good ones, that I even managed to sell. I'd hate for them to just get pitched. (Thus returning to the main question)

    Odds are, if she wanted to, she could back all of my stuff onto a new spiffy $200 drive (200Gb now, and twice as much 15 months from now). I'm probably about to do something like this to save my late father-in-law's data.

    Gruesome topic, but it's good to plan ahead.

    --Mike--

    I'm Immortal, so far

  • by odano (735445) * on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:07PM (#9045567)
    MyLastEmail [mylastemail.com] offers a service somewhat similar to this.
  • software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Apreche (239272) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:07PM (#9045570) Homepage Journal
    Here's what you do. First get a cellphone, a must these days. Next, make sure your pc is always connected to the net. Next write a piece of software. This piece of software will erase absolutely all of your data completely and irreperably. Or at least anything you don't want getting out. You can also write it to send data to certain people/places. In fact, you can write it to do anything you want with your data. Just set up a thing where you contact your computer directly or via cellphone to prevent it from doing its stuff. In the event of your death your data goes to where it should. You could even have it IM/E-mail friends about your death and put up a website about your life and such.

    Heck, if you are really good you can write the program to simulate your daily digital life. In effect making it so people who only know you on the net think you are alive. He died on thursday? I IMed him on friday and he posted to /. on saturday!!!!

    Oh, just so you know, I'm actually dead and this is a program I wrote that is posting to slashdot. ph33r!!!!
    • Re:software (Score:3, Informative)

      by Phexro (9814)
      I believe the common term for this is a dead man's switch. [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:software (Score:4, Funny)

      by g0_p (613849) on Monday May 03, 2004 @08:37PM (#9046927)
      Heck, if you are really good you can write the program to simulate your daily digital life.

      Heck thats real easy on Slashdot. I am going to write a script that posts the following posts randomly in various discussions:
      1. Cowboy Neal jokes
      2. In Soviet Russia jokes
      3. 1-2-3-profit jokes

      My karma will keep improving (even after I am dead!). And with my amazing Karma I will be reborn as Neo in my next life.
  • Script (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:07PM (#9045577)
    I have a script that if I don't use my computer for longer than 5 hours it assumes I have died and sends / to /dev/null.
  • My solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by bigbbri (265021) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:09PM (#9045600)
    I eat a vial with all my passwords. In my will I state that the Medical Examiner has to remove it from my gut. Every few days I pass it, wash it and swallow it again. :)
  • Da Vinci Code (Score:3, Informative)

    by akiaki007 (148804) <aa316@nyu . e du> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:09PM (#9045601)
    That is EXACTLY what I am reminded of when I read this article. Perhaps that is what I would do. It'd be fun, and I'd get the last laugh if my relatives are too stupid to figure it all out. Plus, I love puzzles, so it would be a perfect way to have someone guess my password.

    For those that don't know what I'm talking about, Da Vinci Code is a book by Dan Brown that has been in the news quite a bit since it hit the market a couple of year ago because of it's questioning the Christian religion. The book is a murder mystery (thriller?) and the way to solve it is to follow a fairly cryptic path of riddles and clues. The guy that dies (this is the first thing you read in the book) is the curator for the Louvre (sp) and he died in a very weird way (which is where the clues start pouring in)
  • by RustyTaco (301580) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:09PM (#9045605) Homepage
    When you get busted, we split your warez.

    - RustyTaco
  • Easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by 0xC0FFEE (763100) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:09PM (#9045606)
    I don't have a life already and I'm doing just fine.
  • by buffy (8100) * <<ten.teparap> <ta> <yffub>> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:09PM (#9045607) Homepage
    Since very few (eg: 2) here have the main access passwords to the systems (root, administrator, dba, etc...) I have printed up a copy of the password card and have it in a sealed envelope stored in a safe. My boss, the company's CFO has the combination to the safe to get at it should either of us get whacked.

    I don't delude myself into thinking that someone cares about getting into my personal data, but I have another envelope in a safe at home, and the combination is left with my lawyer with instructions to give it to my beneficiary.

    -buf
  • Not just death... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JessLeah (625838) * on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:10PM (#9045613)
    When you die, your passwords die with you. (Unless you have them written on a note stuck to the bottom of your keyboard ;) ) But if you get Alzheimer's, they also go...
  • by Rapier (25378) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:10PM (#9045628) Homepage
    I've had to do this for a friend of mine that died a few years ago. We kept in contact, and sometimes I would help him out with server issues, so luckily I had the root password to his server. After his passing, I took over the job of transfering his domains to my control, informing email contacts of his passing as emails came in, and took over maintenance of the server to keep his memory alive.

    If you have family and friends that care, the data will stay alive. If you don't, then it will probably fade away and be forgotten.
  • by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:10PM (#9045630) Journal
    Don't worry, the Great Modem in the Sky will see to it that your data gets safe passage across the River Styx, so don't worry about your data.
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06 @ e m ail.com> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:12PM (#9045664)
    Become very, very, very rich.
    Adopt a favored staff member.
    Post-mortem involuntary brain transplants (IANAL, but this could be deemed illegal in your jurisdiction. One of the places where that fabulous wealth will help to smooth things over.)
    Use your new body as the plaything that it is.
    Repeat after it is worn and haggard.
  • Will (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:14PM (#9045677)
    One can put all sorts of things into a Will for the executor to deal with.

    Everyone over 18 should have one, not only does it protect what you own, you can reach out and exact revenge upon people after your death with a Will.

    Someone always mean to you? Will them a Nickel as a fuck you. Someone who betrayed me is getting a "bright shiny quarter" from me because "that's all they are worth." Have a friend with questionable musical tastes? Will them some CDs. I've got a buddy who is getting my classic rock collection so he "listens to something else".

    Have a beer, and dictate your will to someone, sign it and be protected. In many states if you kick without one, the State gets all your stuff.
  • My arrangements... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gerv (15179) <gerv@g[ ].net ['erv' in gap]> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:16PM (#9045699) Homepage
    My passwords are all stored in Keyring for Palm OS [sourceforge.net] in my Treo (with the database backed up to a PC), and the master password is written down in a "useful information" appendix to the original copy of my will, along with my bank account details. My original will lives in the walk-in safe in my parents house, and both my executors know it's there.

    The will contains a person nominated to take ownership of my machines and conclude my online affairs, including notifying interested parties and posting a message on my website [gerv.net].

    So don't worry guys, if the hit succeeds, you'll find out fairly quick ;-)

    Gerv
  • How soon they forget (Score:4, Informative)

    by poptones (653660) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:16PM (#9045704) Journal
    From a parallel universe comes that will [pcworld.com] complete a set of tasks automatically [arsware.org] if you forget to "reset" it peridically. And I know it works, as one fellow forgot to reset it and delivered an unexpected last will and testament top the discussion board one day. That said, this same community recently lost a member to suicide [arstechnica.com], and it's interesting to see how that person's online data becomes a virtual meeting place for the mourners.

  • by sPaKr (116314) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:18PM (#9045729)
    Isnt this one of the major reasons why you should plan on signing over you copyright to FSF so they can make sure that its available and that the protections are ensured even after death. Another option would be to setup a family trust and put the code as IP in the trust, this allows for all you anti-GPL swine to retain your rights. Of course if your family trust votes to GPL your work about all you can do is roll over and fart dust.
  • by Telastyn (206146) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:19PM (#9045747)
    Why aren't your passwords in your legally protected last will and testament? A trusted 3rd party can then divulge the passwords on your passing, along with all your other 'property'.
    • by DavidBrown (177261) on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:05PM (#9046221) Journal
      As an estate planning lawyer, I can tell you that this probably wouldn't work. First of all, the client gets a copy of his will, assuming the original will is kept in the attorney's safe. So the copy would have the passwords written on it and it wouldn't be safe.

      Second, most states require that original wills be lodged with the court within a certain amount of time after your date of death. Your will would then be accessable to the public (for example, you can buy a certified copy of George Washington's will, if you want one).

      Third if you're paranoid, telling the lawyer your passwords and have them kept for safekeeping by some other means would result in a situation where the lawyer's staff would probably have access to your passwords, even while you're still alive.

      What I think we have here is a business opportunity. A company can maintain a completely off-line registry of passwords in envelopes that aren't even opened by the company that are turned over only after your executor delivers your death certificate to the company. I'm operating under the assumption that any on-line registry of passwords is simply insane and cannot be truly secure under any circumstances.

      Of course, this company already exists: It's your bank. Just write down your passwords, put them in sealed envelopes, and put the envelopes in a bank safe deposit box. If the box is titled solely in your name, no one would have access to it except for your conservator (if you get put into a conservatorship), your agent under a power of attorney, or your executor/trustee after your death.

  • Memories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Afty0r (263037) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:21PM (#9045770) Homepage
    Reading this thread, particularly posts about the Dead Mans Switch software and others bring back memories for me.

    My housemate, Cip, passed away a few months ago suddenly due to a rare blood condition. I had to clean all "unsuitable" materials from his laptop before his family could have it, but his personal emails and other things - well, they never really occured to me.

    Perhaps the strangest thing is seeing old emails to/from him, forum posts by him, and the weirdest thing of all is still possessing "replays" of Strategy games we both played in - I can still see how he played.

    Such an interesting topic...
  • Death Certificate (Score:5, Informative)

    by boo pixie (452315) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:22PM (#9045784) Homepage
    I work at a domain name registrar, and if someone doesnt have the username and password and the registrant is deceased, we need a death certificate along with our normal info to get the log-in. It's not a foolproof system, but it's been a pretty rare occurrence. Most of the Internet crowd is pretty young.
  • Postmortem AI (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jamesmartinluther (267743) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:22PM (#9045788) Homepage
    I have this script which will pretend to be me if I do not pass it a secret value once per month. It will cause all sorts of trouble, including emailing old friends revealing messages from the ether.

    Actually, this leads to a more practical idea of creating an AI to make sure that your wishes be carried out. Your AI would be financed by a trust and would be legally protected by your last will and testament. The will would state that the AI should be maintained as long as technically possible, perhaps employing programmers to keep it running should no longer run on current systems.

    Who knows that use one would put their post-mortem AI to. Perhaps I should leave my old friends alone and program my AI to randomly send money to wacky startups!

    - JML
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:25PM (#9045818)
    i have a username and password for my windows server that is only in my will which is sealed until my death, it is a logon for a terminal server. after loggin into the server it prompt the user with a series of questions, which could be answered by a close friend or relative, and a few passphrases which are also in the will.
    if they answer all the questions correctly it sends an e-mail to their account with a list of all my usernames and passwords.
    there are accounts for all my family members. all they have to do to update the list of passes is send an e-mail to a special account with the username and password on two seperate lines and it adds it to their database.

    i wrote this program after my uncle died, he was a network admin at a local public college, and no one knew his passwords for his home network, needless to say he filed his taxes online and the family was left with a slight problem becuase no one else knew any of his passwords.
  • by sampson7 (536545) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:39PM (#9045959)
    For various reasons, I happen to know a lot about beads -- the jewelry type. And over the years, I've gotten to know many of the "big" names in what is a fascinating, if admittedly somewhat small, subculture.

    Whether you were talking about 90,000 year old beads from Africa [nationalgeographic.com] or ancient Sumarian seal beads [thebeadsite.com], one of the great resources available to us bead collectors was Dr. Peter Francis, Jr. and his website -- The Beadsite [thebeadsite.com].

    Now Peter was a somewhat odd character, even in a world populated by odd characters, and people argue all the time about many of his theories -- some of which, I much admit, seem a bit unlikely. But many years ago he was kind to a young kid interested in beads, so he's always had a special place in my heart. And so over the years we've kept in sporadic touch mostly via his web site and the occasional conference where we'd run into each other.

    Long story short - he unexpectedly passed away (on a bead collecting trip of course!), and no one quite knew what to do with his site. Still, it is full of detailed information about beads that is available nowhere else in the world. Rather than take it down and allow that information to be lost, his website remains up - as he left it - to serve as an online repository of bead information, as well as a place to solicit donations for causes that he cared about.

    I can only imagine that for someone who devoted his life to study and research, this is as fitting a tribute as anything. I would hope that when my time comes, people think my electronic "voice" is worth preserving....
    • Most interesting. Hang around on Slashdot long enough and you're bound to run into people who share your non-technical interests. I collect beads, and I also make things out of beads.

      I've relied on Peter Francis' site (and his printed works) for years, and I was very much concerned when he died--and heartened that his friends maintained his body of work on the Web. I've noted the same thing when scientists or engineers of note have passed on. Their friends or the institutions to which they belonged have kept the legacy going.

      How much better it would be for people with a legacy of that nature in any discipline if pre-planning could be done. Maybe it should become an adjunct to making a will.

      Regards,

      Anne

  • by the_greywolf (311406) * on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:40PM (#9045965) Homepage
    I hereby bequeath all my posessions to crackers.

    just try and get my passwords, bitches.
  • My father's data (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zaffir (546764) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:41PM (#9045976)
    My father passed away due to a sudden heart attack in 2002. He hadn't prepared for something like this at all - he was in his mid 50s and in great shape. Outside of his main Mac desktop, i have no idea where his stuff is. His work machine was wiped when he was laid off about 6 months earlier (he worked in IT). I have tried to access any accounts of his that i knew of - ebay and paypal were the only important ones, the BBS accounts didn't matter so much - to see if there was anything that needed to be taken care of. But i didn't have his password, and the hint was "same as password." I still haven't been able to access either of those accounts, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some money in the PayPal - he was really into ebay.

    he might have had some information stored on his Palm, but the battery died and everything was lost before i even thought to check it. That still irks me.

    It is weird whenever i stumble upon an archived forum post made by him. It's like he's still alive, but nowhere near me physically. That's a little piece of his mind, words said and recorded. The same goes for his email. When I was making sure to tie up loose ends, i was reading mails he had sent and recieved just a few days earlier, when he was in seemingly perfect health.

    Data, especially communication, is much like a photograph. Only instead of archiving some physical thing or event, it's a snapshot of someone's brain or personality.
  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:49PM (#9046075) Homepage
    It is entombed along with me in gold CD-Rs, along with my wife, secondary wives, concubines, treasure, and guards in a vast pyramid of my own design. They shall all accompany me to the afterlife.
  • PKI nightmare (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday May 03, 2004 @06:52PM (#9046106)
    Facts vague to protect the innocent (and dead):

    A small company with a large E-business element had a guy who was the chief IT guru, a greybeard who did pretty much everything. He died.

    Well, they didn't outsource PKI, they ran a Root CA. The Root CA was created and promptly taken offline. To the guy's house. Actually, the whole server wasn't taken - just the hard drive. The house was a pigpen, and that's being nice. They didn't know if he had stuck the drive in a safety deposit box, nothing.

    To make an ugly story short, they pulled all the certs they used, and re-issued new ones, updated the CRL list to all their business partners, asked them to delete the imported cert. PITA.

    The irony was, they didn't need to be doing PKI. They just had a few SSL web servers. Shoulda just bought em.
  • Diverse reactions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rjamestaylor (117847) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:00PM (#9046180) Journal
    My first thought was this entry in our cvs doc directory commited by the project architect while I was away in FL at the MySQL Users' Conference:
    // $Header: .../cvs/###/docs/how_to_survive_after_robert_dies. txt,v 1.1 2004/04/16 17:26:50 n#### Exp $
    Wherein I am to detail my duties with our application clusters. We've been running full press for a few months scaling from a couple self-hosted boxes in the closet to dozens of servers over at EV1^W (kidding, Joey) RackSpace. So, it's time to step back and write it down so that other people can read the scribbled notes and carry on once I do.

    But then I recalled last summer when my father had a heart attack and, due to a string of complications was going to have more than usual risky surgery. If all went well, then it would be considered a minor surgery, but if not... Sunday evening before the Monday morning surgery my family gathered with my alert yet sober dad and began to have "the talk." Eventually he began to tell us the financial arrangements he had made for our step mother and finally he told us his passwords and password methodology. Something about disclosing the initimate, closely held passwords made me realize he might really not make it.

    After a few somber minutes my brother broke the silence and said that, strangely enough, he had developed a similar way of creating and remembering passwords as had my dad. I, wanting to try to keep things serious relunctantly gave out my methodology, too, which was coincidentally similar to both my dad and my brother's way. The laughter not only broke the tension, it strengthened our bond.

    Everything turned out well; we are quite thankful.

    I wonder if Dad changed his...never mind...

  • Leave it online... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EvilStein (414640) <spam@pbRASPp.net minus berry> on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:11PM (#9046268) Homepage
    Remember Joel Klecker? (espy) - the Debian developer?

    http://www.espy.org/ [espy.org]

    IIRC, his parents are keeping his webserver & stuff online for as long as they can.
  • It's ok (Score:3, Funny)

    by skinfitz (564041) on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:14PM (#9046291) Journal
    It's ok - someone once came up with a "dead mans switch" that automatically deletes your pr0n collection if you don't reset it periodically. The name escapes me.
  • by menscher (597856) <menscher+slashdot&uiuc,edu> on Monday May 03, 2004 @07:57PM (#9046646) Homepage Journal
    I confronted this issue a while back, when I realized my servers were nearly impossible to get into without screwdrivers, reference manuals, and lots of time. Ended up writing down passwords along with my will, and storing them in a sealed envelope with my signature over the flap. Instructions on the envelope say it is only to be opened in the event of my death, and it's left in the care of a trusted third party.

    Ideally, I'd like to have a method for cleaning up certain things. There are probably files I wouldn't want others to see, in addition to files I *do* want them to see, but only after my death. Might be interesting to write a script that they would be told to execute, that would clean stuff up and print out my will. Of course, I'd have to put in protections to keep it from being run before my death....

    I did some work on this a while back, dealing with splitting up passwords among N people such that any M people could recover the password (MN, of course). That way they all have to agree I'm dead, which prevents cheating.

  • by constantnormal (512494) on Monday May 03, 2004 @08:07PM (#9046720)
    ... for this to be relevant.

    Here's a hypothetical situation -- you keep all your finances (check register, bank balances, etc) in Quicken/M$FT Money/et al, as well as policy numbers, loan payment schedules, yada yada yada.
    Your home directory is encrypted (via something like Mac OS X's FileVault) when stored, and decrypted only upon a successful login.

    You're in a car wreck and are comatose for 6 months.

    During that time, your car is repo'ed, your home is put up for sale due to lack of property tax payments (I think there are probably things to protect one from the mortgagor, but not from your friendly local gummint) -- you get the idea.

    It's a good idea to have someone you trust (Fox Mulder notwithstanding) know how to get in and manage things in your absence.

    If you're fortunate enough to have TWO people you trust (or almost trust), you might devise some sort of digital equivalent (this IS Slashdot, right?) of the old "2 halves of a dollar bill" key used in the movies. It would seem like a variant of the RSA scheme would work nicely. Maybe a large number that is the product of two (or as many trusted folk as you have) large primes could be the key to your digital castle...

    Otherwise, recovering from a coma could be one of the most unpleasant surprises you'll ever have.
  • auto-erase (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cwolves0 (640284) on Monday May 03, 2004 @08:15PM (#9046772)
    I had a friend who worked for a gov't agency. We went on vacation for about 2 weeks once and every morning at 9am he would send an e-mail from his cell phone, wait a few minutes for a confirmation and then continue his day. After a few days of this I asked him what the hell was going on. He informed me that if he didn't log-in to his computer daily by noon, it would auto-wipe a few gigs of encrypted data and inform his supervisors that he was either dead or captured. Now I'm not sure if it was his paranoia or if he really was doing something -that- important (he would never say anything about it), but I've taken up the same idea, although to a lesser extent. If I don't check my e-mail at least once every two weeks, I have some scripts set up that will e-mail someone my passwords, delete some info off my computer and encrypt a lot of data with a 512bit key so that I -can- get the data back if I happen to not be dead :-)
  • by egarland (120202) on Monday May 03, 2004 @09:11PM (#9047228)
    My father died suddenly about a year ago. He maintained 3 different web sites, one personal, one for a sailing club he belonged to, and one for his cousin's business. He was the sole contact for two of the registrar, plus there were web hosting passwords, ftp server passwords, isp account passwords, email account passwords. Luckily, my mother and I knew all his passwords and have been able to keep everything running. Security is important but it's not a bad idea to have someone else know how to get in to certain things just in case. Email is probably the most important thing because you can usually get people to change your password and email you the new one.

  • by br0d (765028) on Monday May 03, 2004 @09:14PM (#9047249) Homepage
    Use a master password and have at least one other person you trust implicitly, who knows it. "Security risk," blah blah. If you don't even have one person in the world who you can trust with your passwords while alive, then there really isn't anyone important enough to need your data when you're dead. I trust pacts more than passwords. Pacts can't be cracked.
  • by kbahey (102895) on Monday May 03, 2004 @11:32PM (#9048055) Homepage
    Most posts discuss what happens to the data, and most mention porn, others mention software, ...etc.

    All that is good and all, but there is more than that. Think about your accounting records for example (Quicken, GnuCash, ...etc.). What about your emails that you meticulously kept for 10 or 15 years.

    That is the stuff on your computer. What about the stuff you put on the net in one form or another? For example that blog you setup? Or that web site?

    Once you die, the PC eventually becomes obsolete or unusable. Chances are, your spouse of kids are not interested in what is the computer, and it is gone. Your web hosting account will probably be terminated due to non-payment.

    Before archeology, our only sources of data on past civilizations was from historians. These were often porfessional people writing for posterity, and had some bias or other.

    After archeology came into play in the 19th century, our knowledge of past civilization had a quantum leap, after we found fragments of daily life from average people (like you and me and him). Whether it was Greek ostraca, or baked clay tablets with list of goods, or pottery shards with writing practice in hieroglyphs.

    Which brings me to the point of this post: the bigger picture, not individuals, or families, but societies and civilizations.

    All this meta data about humanity in the last 2 decades of the 20th century, and the 21st century is on perishable and fragile media. It is even volatile (web hosting account?)

    How would people several centuries from now view this entire civilization? How would they guage the reaction to say Sept 11, or invasion of Iraq? Would they see the US population as pro or anti war, or divided evenly? How would Bin Laden and Bush be assessed? Blair? Aznar? How would they get a glimpse into people's daily life.

    Remember that as things are happening, it is easy to think that the information you gather on the event/person/concept are always clear and available. However, if you give it a decade or two, you yourself will not remember much details. How about people from a different culture/mindset/civilization/society? What would they think and how would they perceive you from the little they manage to recover?

    The only hope here is the wayback machine at http://www.archive.org But will it endure? Is it enough?
  • by vanyel (28049) * on Tuesday May 04, 2004 @03:19AM (#9049044) Journal
    A very good friend of mine had an account on my system when he was killed (hit by a bus while bike riding). That was almost 9 years ago, and it wasn't that long ago that I finally removed the account. Though it was only the first couple of years that I really couldn't bring myself to do it, after that, I pretty much forgot about it until I was doing some housekeeping. But I still had to tell myself "get over it already".

It's time to boot, do your boot ROMs know where your disk controllers are?

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