A Tale of 3 Migrations

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Over the last few years we have faced three migrations in our computer deployment: the exit from the marketplace by Palm Pilot and their desktop software; and the hardware migration of Apple’s Macintosh computers from the PowerPC chip to the Intel chipset; the exit of GeoCities and any large scale free web hosting. In all three situations software sytems came to the end of their product life and migration paths were not overly clear.

Palm Pilot

Palm Pilot (as they were once known) at one time had something like 80% of the market place for Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). How they came to lose that position of advantage and eventually disappear into the bowels of the aggresively expanding Hewlet Packard is a story of its own. For us the lesser story was that our Palm Desktop software was ending and we needed to make decisions about retrieving or abandoning that data. We had used the Desktop for over a decade which meant that a comsiderable amount of information had accumulated there. The software was starting to look dated when placed beside current smart phones with their real time video and game playing capabilities. But it did work and had continued to work virtually without any bugs for over a decade.

AppleWorks

It’s been a few years since Apple “retired” the AppleWorks program without a proper replacement. Sure they were happy to sell you the Numbers or Pages programs from the iWorks package but what exactly were you supposed to do with all your drawings, database and paintings from AppleWorks. They didn’t even offer a conversion utility for these documents.

We like most other users had the majority of our documents in the word processing section. But the documents with the most time invested were the drawings, some of our drawings such as electrical schematics had hundreds of objects in them. They had been crafted over years as the systems they portrayed evolved, they were both documentation and audit trail. And Apple had decided that they were not worth keeping and that your purchase of AppleWorks (and ClarisWorks before it and all the upgrades) didn’t entitle you to a proper migration path by which you could maintain your investment made with a tool you purchased.

This is not the first time through this lesson, in the past Apple has “retired” MacProject, HyperCard, MacDraw and others without any warning or migration path being offered. Each program was purchased from them but in the end terminated when no longer suited to the business plans of Steve Jobs. Certainly our learned lesson has been to stay with open source programs (e.g. Google Android) and to prefer offerings that are not single vendor in nature. The effort required for migrating your data is something you must swallow if the data is necessary or valuable, Apple will not be offering you any assistance.

It had all started with Apple’s decision in 2005 to migrate from a CPU chip known as the Power PC which was made by a consortium of Motorola and IBM to the Intel chip set. As the instructions for each CPU were different, code written for one would not execute on the other. Apple solved this by one of the most impressive feats in modern technology when they wrote an emulation utility called Rosetta which allowed Power PC code to execute with the asisstance of Rosetta in the new Intel environment. For 99% of the programs this meant they could operate in the new environment as they did in the old – the users were often not aware such a process was going on underneath their applications. Rosetta was discontinued with the announcement of OS X 120.7 in 2011. As AppleWorks was written for the Power PC hardware and never updated, it was no longer runable after OS X 10.6.

Website Host

Our website (i.e. this website) has had a number of hosts over the years:

  • Compuserve – exited the marketplace;
  • GeoCities – exited the marketplace;
  • 110MB – hostile (to the customers) corporate take over.

Each host has exited the market place with little warning, in each case the reasons for the exit (business or otherwise) have been unclear. In each case we have had to re-create our website from backup files, convert to a new file organisation or format and recreate our website. Each host of our website appeared to have a dominant position in the field prior to their exit and so their exit was completely unexpected. Surely they weren’t loosing money? Compuserve controlled the majority of the publicy available information in their heyday; GeoCities defined what websites and (website communities) were – no one else ever provided website communities (surely they were the fore runners of social networking?); and 110MB claimed to have 1 million websites hosted, from which they got the advertising revenue. The Maringret website generates about 3 hits per day, that’s 3 viewers of their advertising and presumably the viewers of the Maringret wesbite are interested in the subject material if the host can only deliver appropriate advertisements instead of generic ones.

But to jump to the present, 110MB was the third host and were fine until they were bought by persons unknown. The new owners decided that all free hosting would be converted to commercial (i.e. you pay them to host your pages). A great idea except that we put a lot of time and practical knowledge into our web pages for the purposes of sharing that information with other boat owners. If the host runs advertising to cover their hosting costs we don’t care, in fact it sounds reasonable to us that they recupe their costs. But for us to contribute our time, material and pay them is one step too far.

This brought us to WordPress in the summer of 2012. Actually the 110MB host had gone “walk about” some 12 months earlier in 2011 but we were too busy with our boat projects to devote the necessary time to migrate our website. It is interesting that 110mb changed all passwords on the accounts (or at least our and those who we knew with 110MB hosted websites) but still kept our email addresses to send us advertising and suggestions that we “upgrade” to their commerical packages.

Palm Pilot

For a page detailing Maringret’s migration from Palm Pilot to Android click here.

AppleWorks

For a page detailing Maringret’s migration from AppleWorks to Pages, Numbers, and Easy Draw click here.

Website Host

For a page detailing Maringret’s migration from normal HTML based web site hosts to Word Press click here.

There are three different scenarios with our data migrations:

  • Palm essentially ceased trading in the area we used them (actually they were bought by Hewlett Packard who then exited them from the market place);
  • Apple simply decided that profit margins were not sufficient to keep offering a program;
  • 110MB was taken over by new owners who assumed they could extract additional revenue from their client base.

Regardless of the reasons for the migration, it is forced on you at a time other than that of your own choosing. In each of the 3 situations listed above we had to react based on the information that was available at that time.


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