Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category

  • Installing ICA AtoM on a Raspberry Pi

    Date: 2012.07.18 | Category: Cataloguing, ICA-AtoM, Open Source | Response: 1

    The Raspberry Pi is the latest in ‘must have’ gadgetry so after receiving my £25 computer the size of a credit card, I set about finding out what it could do.

    Followers of the blog will know that I posted a video tutorial on how to install the open source archival cataloguing software ICA AtoM in Windows, so I wondered if I could do the same thing under Linux on the Raspberry Pi. Linux is an open source operating system that is free to install and can be run on any desktop computer, indeed I run it on my home PC alongside a standard Windows 7 installation. Unlike Windows, which utilises a graphical interfaces for installing software and other administrator level operations, Linux encourages you to use text based ‘commands’ to get things done.

    Whereas the instructions for installing ICA AtoM under Windows were fairly straightforward, there are a few more things to configure and install in a Linux environment, so I’ve put together what I hope is a comprehensive walkthrough of installing it on a shiny new Raspberry Pi.

    While it’s not the fastest thing ever, I can certainly see potential in a £25 server the size of credit card appealing to small repositories looking for a cheap and easy way of testing and tinkering with an open source cataloguing solution.

    You will need;
    A Raspberry Pi computer
    An SD card with ‘Debian Squeeze’ (operating system) installed on it
    A sense of adventure…

    NOTE – The instructions below are specific to Debian Squeeze, although I’ve noticed that there is a new recommended image (Raspbian Wheezy) available direct from the official Raspberry Pi website. I will try to replicate these instructions using the new image asap and update if necessary. In theory though, the instructions below should also work with Raspbian Wheezy.

    Installation Instructions

    1. Boot up your Raspberry Pi and Login

      login: pi

      password: raspberry

    2. Install the webserver elements required to run ICA AtoM – apache, php and mysql. do this by typing the following into the command prompt;

      sudo apt-get install apache2 php5 mysql-server php5-mysql

    3. The packages will then begin downloading and installing.
    4. You will be prompted to install packages and asked to confirm installation by typing y for ‘Yes’.
    5. Once mysql has been installed you will be prompted to provide to set the ‘password for sql root user’. Make a note of the password you use as you will need it when setting up ICA AtoM.
    6. Wait patiently for everything to finish installing and return you to a blinking cursor in the command prompt.

      NOTE – At the end of the installation, apache may throw up an error ‘bad group name www-data’. To fix this, create the group in the command line by typing

      sudo addgroup www-data

    7. Reboot the Pi by typing

      sudo reboot

    8. Once the Pi has rebooted and you have logged in again, navigate to the folder where apache looks for web files by typing

      cd /var/www

    9. Once you are in the folder (prompt changes to pi@raspberrypi:/var/www$) download the zip file for installing ICA AtoM by typing;

      sudo wget

    10. Wait for the file to download and then unpack (unzip) the archive by typing:

      sudo tar -zxpvf icaatom-1.2.1.tgz

    11. ICA AtoM will now install and a vast amount of text will scroll past you on the screen. Wait until you are returned to a blinking cursor.
    12. Once ICA AtoM is installed, change the permissions on the folder to enable changes to be made and files to be created. Do this by typing:

      sudo chmod -R 777 icaatom-1.2.1

    13. Now you’re ready to create the sql database that will contain all the data entered into ICA AtoM. To do this, type:

      sudo myqsl -p (enter the root password you created earlier)

    14. At the mysql> prompt type:

      create database [database name]; where [database name] is your chosen database name

    15. You are now ready to move to another computer to finish setting up your ICA AtoM installation. Before doing this, you’ll need to find out the IP address (web address) of the Raspberry Pi. Do this by typing:

      ifconfig and making a note of the number after inetaddr that should start in either 192.168 or 10.1

    16. Move to another computer, open the browser and navigate to:

      [IP address of Pi]/icaatom-1.2.1

      where [IP address of Pi] is the address you found in step 15.

    17. You will now see the installer working through system checks. Once it has reached 100% click ‘Continue’.
    18. Enter the root password you set up in step 5 and leave the rest of the fields as default.
    19. Click continue and wait.

      NOTE – I waited around 30 minutes before deciding the installation had crashed and rebooted the Pi by pulling the power lead. Ideally if you have this problem, you should return to the Pi and type sudo reboot rather than pulling the power, but I had ‘low memory’ problems so couldn’t reboot cleanly.

    20. Wait for the Pi to boot up again and then return to the other computer and refresh the browser. This should move the page onto the next screen where you choose a name for your site and input username and password details.
    21. This completes the installation and you can then click on the link to ‘visit your new site’.

    Admittedly, it isn’t the quickest installation of ICA AtoM ever, but it works! I’d welcome any additions to this walkthrough or suggestions on how to speed it up a bit, but I hope this outline is of use.

    And there you have it…a fully fledged archival cataloguing system running on a £25 computer :-).

  • Digital Preservation at Hull – Archives and Society Seminar

    Date: 2012.05.07 | Category: Digital Preservation, Open Source | Response: 0

    On Tuesday 6 March, I went along to the Archives and Society series seminar given by Simon Wilson on the ‘Early Steps and Early Lessons’ in digital preservation at the University of Hull. I was interested to see how an organisation developed from having no knowledge of digital preservation as a discipline to having the confidence to encourage deposits of digital material from both internal and external sources. Simon was keen to stress that the talk was base of early steps and early lessons; there is still plenty to learn and develop and the processes covered in the talks were very much a ‘work in progress’.

    The first part of the talk addressed the first steps taken by staff at Hull, including reading around the (rather overwhelming!) amount of material on digital preservation and getting an idea of the challenges that digital material face. These have been documented in great detail elsewhere, so I hesitate to repeat them here, but  needless to say ‘obsolescence’ and ‘format’ featured prominently!

    The next part of the talk introduced the AIMS project, of which the University of Hull was part, along with the Universities of Yale, Stanford and Virginia in the United States. The AIMS project was looking to develop and ‘Inter-institutional Model for Stewardship’ of digital collections, and the full white paper detailing the projects findings can be found here. There’s no need to go into detail here, but the rest of the talk did highlight a few simple steps taken by the staff at the University of Hull that could be developed and used by other repositories.

    1. Do a collections survey. Work out what you’ve already received in digital format and consider any challenges concerning format and/or content. What do you need to be able to retain access to it in the long term? This can be as simple as a basic excel spreadsheet.
    2. Build a forensic workstation. Basically, nab yourself an old computer and add bits to it to deal with a wide range of different formats. See the blog post from the University of Hull. It definitely pays to make friends in the IT department for this. Get them to hold back any old floppy or zip drives to replace broken ones.
    3. Utilise free software. There are increasing numbers of programs out there that can aid with the management of digital materials. The National Archives file profiling tool DROID is useful in identifying what file formats you are looking at, and Karen’s Directory Printer will provide a detailed list of files, formats, dates of creation and modification and attributes. This list will prove useful at all stages of processing, but particularly so when assessing the material prior to deposit and as part of the accessioning process.
    4. Work with others. Relationships are critical to the management of digital materials, from relationships with potential outside depositors to internal users, information professionals and IT staff. Utilise other professionals ot discuss issues and bounce ideas around. You are not alone!

    The key message that I took from the seminar was that, when faced with digital materials, do SOMETHING. Even if it’s something as small as a collections survey, anything is better than ignoring the problem in the hope that it will go away.

    Digital materials require the Archivist to develop some new skills, but the traditional processes of accessioning, arrangement and description are still relevant to the management and preservation of digital materials. The main difference is that the process for managing digital material is more intellectual than physical – you do not have the files and folders in your hands, just representations of bits and bytes on a screen.

    The seminar highlighted the need to tinker with available tools in order to gain confidence, something that I’m a great believer in. I’ve been installing and playing around with a number of these tools and hope to write up some of my experiences.

    In the meantime, check out these links from the Hull History Centre to get you started;

    Slides from the Archives and Society Seminar

    The Born Digital Archives Blog

    Hull History Centre page on born digital records

    Forensic Workstation ‘Idiot’s Guide’

    DROID ‘Idiot’s Guide’

  • ICA AtoM Cataloguing Software

    Date: 2012.01.30 | Category: Access, Cataloguing, ICA-AtoM, Open Source | Response: 3

    ICA AtoM is an example of archival cataloguing software, used to provide readers with access to archival materials. Cataloguing software is widely used in the information and heritage sectors to provide access to collections, but ICA AtoM is something a little different, that is is open source, meaning, most importantly to organisations, it’s FREE.

    The term ‘free’ when discussing open source software, refers to both the concept of ‘free as in free beer’ and ‘free as in free to edit, update and improve’. Any repository looking for a fully functional, ISAD (G) compliant system need look no further, provided you have a little confidence and willingness to experiment.

    I think the key thing when learning anything new, is to just jump right in and give things a go. In the spirit of encouraging people to try things out, I’ve put together a video stepping through the installation and configuration of ICA AtoM for people to have a look at. Notice the total time of the video, 9 and a half minutes. This is REAL TIME  i.e. it takes less that 10 minutes to get ICA AtoM up and running on a PC. Granted, it’s a bit more complicated if you were installing it on a large scale, but the principle is the same.

    I should note that the process is a little slower than it would otherwise be as I was running it on a virtual machine. The video is best viewed in full screen.

    The basic steps for installation shown in this video are;

    1. Download and install WAMP (Windows Apache MySQL and PHP – the software that allows the computer to act as a webserver)
    2. Download the ICA-AtoM software from
    3. Install ICA-AtoM by unzipping the file and copying the contents to the ‘C:/wamp/www’ folder (or the ‘www’ folder wherever WAMP was installed)
    4. Type ‘localhost’ in the browser to navigate to where ICA AtoM is installed
    5. Follow the prompts (using WAMP to create a new database when you notice the error message)
    6. Configure a name and login details for your site and Voila.

    This video will step you through setting up the software on a standalone computer for tinkering purposes. The process will be different for a full blown installation on corporate servers (but not that different!).

    Go on, have a go!


    Louise Pichel



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