We've been doing this Internet thing for a very long time, which leads at times to awkward situations where readers have become accustomed to some service that we started providing back in the mid-1990s, but which no longer makes much sense in today's Internet.
Two of those services came up for review recently after the hardware that ran one of them - an ancient machine hosted at our old ISP Northwest Nexus - needed some hands-on care to bring the ftp.tidbits.com archive back online. The computer in question, an elderly Pentium-based PC running Linux, needs rebooting or fussing with every few years, and while that's an impressive reliability record, we decided that it's time to put it out to pasture and move its files to a server we control.
The files in question are the setext-formatted versions of our weekly issues, which some people still like to collect for archival purposes. We also distribute TidBITS in an HTML edition via email, and those static HTML files have also long been archived, should anyone want to revisit an issue. The HTML files live on our older PowerPC-based Xserve, from which we're gradually removing services as well.
All this is by way of explaining that we are now providing static setext- and HTML-formatted files of our weekly issues in a new location on our db.tidbits.com machine. Should you want them, you can find them at:
Just for nostalgia's sake, we've left our old TidBITS logo graphic in place on those pages, so you feel you're back in the mid-1990s when you're browsing the archives.
Note that these static files aren't the primary way we provide back issues. That's all done from our database-driven Web site now. If you visit the Back Issues page (linked at the bottom of the Weekly Issues section of the navigation bar), you can see a reverse-chronological list of back issues, complete with their abstracts.
Click one, and the issue loads, displaying all the articles and their summaries; you can instantly show the full text of all the articles in that issue, show the full text of any individual article, or jump directly to an article's own page. Since these issues are built dynamically, not from static text files, you can click through to listen to the audio version, access the print view, and read any comments.
Why might you want the static setext- and HTML-formatted versions of our issues? We've heard from people who like to download back issues for offline reading in Internet-barren locations. Also, a few programmers have created tools - often for personal use - that depend on these formats.
There are undoubtedly other reasons as well, so as long as we can create these files easily, we'll continue to keep them available as yet another way you can read TidBITS, alongside getting it via email, subscribing to our RSS feed, using the TidBITS News iPhone app, and just reading it on the Web.