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Working on a Budget With WANG Disks and Other Obscure Formats

2h workshop for 16 in-person

Published onMay 22, 2024
Working on a Budget With WANG Disks and Other Obscure Formats
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Memory institutions are grappling with the challenges posed by digital carriers in their collections. While solutions for more recent carriers like hard drives, optical discs, and flash storage are readily available, the landscape becomes trickier when dealing with older formats such as floppy disks. It is becoming increasingly difficult to source the hardware, such as 5.25”floppy drives. There are many boards that can read flux streams, including the KryoFlux, and the Award-winning Archivist’s Guide to KryoFlux can help to get started. But KryoFlux is somewhat limited in the disk formats it can interpret and might be too expensive for smaller institutions. We came together as practitioners because we encountered disk formats that required additional efforts to read and extract files. We explored hardware such as Greaseweazle and using FluxEngine software to read less common disk formats. Sharing the knowledge we have gained, this tutorial and workshop present an opportunity for participants to delve into these formats, examining them from both hardware and formatting perspectives.

The session will start with a tutorial designed to showcase various options and tools (FluxEngine, GreaseWeazle), demonstrating how to make aging equipment compatible with contemporary machines. At the end of the tutorial, participants should have the knowledge to build their own forensic workstation for 5.25”and 3.5”floppy disks.

Commencing with case studies, the workshop in the second half of the session will unravel the complexities of dealing with obscure formats and share valuable lessons learned. Participants will be equipped with practical tips and tricks for identification and handling, including utilizing Hex Editors and using tools for specific obscure disk formats (such as WANG). The aim is to empower participants with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the challenges associated with older formats.

Intended audience

Encouraging an interactive environment, the workshop invites participants to share their experiences in tackling obscure formats. Whether seasoned professionals or newcomers to the field, everyone is welcome to contribute, fostering a collaborative exchange of insights. The inclusive nature of the workshop ensures that participants, regardless of their level of expertise, will find value in the discussions and practical demonstrations.

No prior knowledge of this topic is needed, but there is a preference for attendees who may have tried a number of solutions and may be stuck either transferring floppy disks or configuring disk images. There will be an opportunity for the audience to share their own examples and experiences during this session.

Come prepared

Before the workshop – Attendees will be asked to install and have a look at a hex-editor before the workshop. We would ask attendees to share digital forensics challenges they have encountered in advance, especially around obscure floppy disk formats. During the workshop there will be an opportunity to work through specific relevant use cases.

During the workshop – Attendees will be asked to bring along their laptop, this is not mandatory but will make it easier to try out software and tools, including the hex-editor. Workshop organizers will be bringing along a number of boards and floppy drives to make it possible to have a hands-on experience of working with different options to create disk images.

After the workshop – A handout with resources and other useful links will be shared with attendees.

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