PREFORMA Open Source Workshop


Free Software and Open Formats:
Virtual immortality and independence for digital archives


Stockholm, 07. April 2016

Hello ;-)

Well, what actually is "Open Source"?

Common misassumptions:

  • Open Source = Freeware
  • Must be non-commercial
  • Is nerdy and non-user friendly
  • This strange "Lunax" system...?

So Open Source is actually about YOUR user freedom...

Free Software

Free as in free speech!

Free Software

Defined by "The 4 Freedoms"

The right to:

  • USE it for any purpose
  • STUDY how the program works and understand it
  • SHARE copies of the software
  • IMPROVE the program and distribute these changes

So what?

Benefits for long-term preservation?

How long is "long term"?

  • 10 years?
  • 100 years?
  • longer?
  • or: 3-5 years?
    = market-lifetime of software

Virtual Immortality?

  • Archive your replayer
  • Including schematics
  • Building components
  • Exchange it with others
  • Make it work under future condititions

Why isn't it more widely used or known in archival domains?

Perceived professionalism and quality

  • Price = quality?
  • GUI = quality?
  • Professionals not using it?
  • Ongoing support?
  • Responsibilities?

Price = Quality?

  • You can get buggy software under all licenses: proprietary and free.
  • And within any price-range ;)

Price = Quality?

Quality of software is price- and license-independent.

Professional vs. Free?

Professionals don't use Free Software...?

  • BBC:
    • Dirac:
    • Ingex:
    • and many more:
  • GlusterFS: Used for Hollywood movies
  • Open EXR: Developed and used by "Industrial Light & Magic"
  • And GNU/Linux (which also powers the Internet) of course ;)


The archival domain

  • Relatively small market (niche)
  • Off-the-shelf products often focus on different use cases
  • Highly specialized demands
  • High potential for vendor dependence...

With Free Software

  • Reusability of existing solutions
  • Free choice of (local) support/suppliers
  • No black-box
  • Common tools/codebase = larger userbase
  • Less "forced" upgrades

The next step:

Professionalization of Free Software

Paying for Free Software:

The best of both worlds

Paying for Free Software


  • Better support/updates
  • Pooling resources
  • Improvements available "upstream"
  • Designed for your use-cases
  • Overall better cost-effectiveness
  • Public money = public solutions

Professionalizing Free Software:


  • Make support contracts
  • Paid installation/integration
  • Hire developers
  • Non-financial contributions:
    • Documentation
    • Testing / bug-reports
    • Helping others

Professionalizing Free Software:

Whom to ask?

Professionalizing Free Software:

A real-world example

The lossless video codec FFV1

How it all began...

  • Austrian National Archive (Mediathek) wanted to do lossless digital video archiving
  • Not satisfied with existing products (Interoperability issues)
  • Found FFV1 in FFmpeg
  • Excellent codec, but we wanted/needed more...

How we used the "4 freedoms"...

  • Contacted and hired FFV1 maintainer Michael Niedermayer
  • Other parties involved (pooled resources)
  • Budget calculated in reference to costs of proprietary alternatives
  • Had FFV1 improvements in progress...

How it continued...

  • FFmpeg forked: LibAV
  • Patches then submitted to LibAV, too
  • FFV1.3: faster and integrity-aware
  • Important: Published our experiences with FFV1
  • So: Other archives using FFV1 now profit from improvements, too!


  • Upcoming conformance/policy checker
  • Standardization of FFV1/MKV
  • Increased credibility of these formats
  • Reduced skepsis of users/vendors
  • Encouraging similar projects in the future

A growing Free Software ecosystem

for long-term preservation

Collaboration welcome

We archives have:

  • Common interests.
  • Common challenges.
  • Common solutions?

- Fin -

About myself

Peter Bubestinger-Steindl

  • Studied Media Computer Science at the TU Vienna
  • Developer and Tech-Consultant since 2000
  • Hands-on experience with archives since 2002:
    • Austrian Mediathek
    • University of Notre Dame Archives
    • The National Archives U.K.
    • ORF (National broadcaster, Austria)
    • VoV (National broadcaster, Vietnam)
    • RTV (National broadcaster, Slovenia)
    • SRTC (National broadcaster, Sudan)
    • Fonoteca Nacional (Mexico)
    • Memnon Archiving Services (Belgium)
    • SRF (Sweden), YLE (Finland), SRR (Romania), ...

License and Credits

This presentation is available under a Free License:

Creative Commons "Attribution-ShareAlike"

Peter Bubestinger-Steindl