Dorothy Waugh

Dorothy Waugh

Last updated on 24 May 2017

Guest bloggers Dorothy Waugh (Emory University) and Shira Peltzman (UCLA) introduce us to the KryoFlux 

For those of us acquiring (or discovering) piles of floppy disks among our collections, the KryoFlux might just be a solution to our problems. Unlike modern USB floppy disk drives, this little floppy disk controller card can read and capture raw disk images of data stored using numerous disk encoding formats, including some that are especially early or unusual. What’s more, it handles media suffering from degradation or bitrot more effectively than most alternatives. Given these advantages, it’s not surprising that the KryoFlux is increasingly finding their way into archives and cultural heritage institutions.

But even as the number of KryoFlux entering the archivist’s toolkit is on the rise, a new challenge has emerged. Like so many of the tools and methods used in digital archives, the KryoFlux is a tool that has been borrowed and repurposed to serve a very context-specific purpose for which it was not originally intended. When the KryoFlux was first developed by the Software Preservation Society, the board was marketed towards computer enthusiasts and hobbyists keen to recover data and games from aging collections of floppy disks. As a result, the accompanying documentation and resources tended to be: a) Brief; and b) Written under the assumption that a sentence like “This is ugly, maybe your head azimuth is off” makes sense. As a result, practitioners from the digital archives community are frequently at a loss when it comes to implementing, using, and troubleshooting this valuable tool.

It has quickly become clear that this is a source of frustration for many archivists who have purchased (or are thinking of purchasing) a KryoFlux, hoping for a solution to all their floppy disk woes. Having observed that no digital archives-related conference, seminar or workshop could take place without someone bemoaning the lack of KryoFlux documentation relevant to the archives community, a small band of digital archivists from universities across the US came together in the spring of last year to create some. Our group included Jennifer Allen at the University of Texas at Austin, Matthew Farrell at Duke University, Alice Prael at Yale University, Shira Peltzman and her wonderful students, Patricia Ciccone, Victoria Maches, and Scott Reed at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dorothy Waugh at Emory University. We completed a first draft of The Archivist’s Guide to KryoFlux in March.

The guide, written specifically for archivists, is intended to help someone working in archives understand why and how they might choose to purchase and use a KryoFlux. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to install and use both the command line interface and the GUI, troubleshooting tips and tricks plus any additional resources that might prove helpful, and some background information on floppy disk technology. We decided to write the guide in two parts: part one provides what we hope is everything you need to get up and running with KryoFlux, while part two provides a more in-depth look at some of the features of KryoFlux and the floppy disks themselves. Our intention is that users can dip in and out of the guide as needed, get started quickly, and find pertinent background information as it becomes relevant.

Now that our draft is ready to share, we hope to get feedback from practitioners throughout the digital archives community to ensure that the guide is as accurate, clear, and comprehensive as possible. The guide is available here and will be open for comments until November 1st, 2017. During this time, we’re hoping to hear from both current and potential KryoFlux users about how well this guide meets their needs, and whether there are any errors that need correcting or useful information that has been omitted. If you are a KryoFlux user or have been giving thought to adding a KryoFlux to your digital archives’ toolkit, please take a look—we’d love to hear from you! There are two ways to submit feedback: you can make comments in the document itself or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Once the comment period closes, we plan to incorporate your feedback into a final draft of the guide, which we will make freely available on GitHub. We hope that GitHub’s model of distributed version control will allow for the continued development of the guide even after the comment period closes. If, for example, someone notices an error, they can contribute a correction. Or, if someone wants to add an entirely new section to the guide, the mechanisms are in place for them to do so. Ultimately, our hope is that by providing a system through which community members can continue to contribute to the project, the guide will remain useful, relevant, and up-to-date.

So, with that, we’ll wrap up this post with a request: please take a moment between now and November to take a look at our guide and let us know what you think. Again, you’ll find the current draft at goo.gl/ZZxxAJ. We hope you will give us your feedback, share broadly with your colleagues, and help us make it better. Thank you!


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