What is Datinate?
A Windows desktop tool for viewing, comparing, and creating DAT files.
UPDATE (03 January 2016): DATinate RELEASED. Please read the README and accept the conditions presented there before running the application. Click here to download.
UPDATE (27 July 2015): Tutorial videos added below.
Please send feedback, feature requests, or any other constructive information, via the contact form on my homepage.
What's it look like?
Click an image to see more:
Got any Tutorials?
Check out the following videos.
The basics on viewing DATs
Comparing two DATs
Creating / Customising DATs
Why does Datinate exist?
Datinate is designed for people who are passionate about preserving computer software, and particularly those who seek to document (and increase their understanding of) the history of video games.
Unlike film, textual publications, and other media, computer software is innately preservable. Software exists in binary form, and needs no translation to be archived – it can be duplicated exactly.
Put simply: software lends itself brilliantly to preservation.
Humankind’s need to preserve its’ creations (particularly creative works) for prosperity is as acute with video games as any other medium. Every piece of software that is backed up, and logged in DAT files, contributes a valuable piece of information to the larger canvas of software history.
DAT files are not perfect – they offer only rudimentary information about a software collection. They also do not tell us which items of software are yet to be recorded.
Datinate does not propose to reveal rich semantics through its analysis of these files, but it does have clear goals for the end user (below).
What are the goals of Datinate?
Datinate is built to make viewing, comparing, and generating DATs (from existing DATs) easier. It focuses on enabling users in the following way:
- Verify the integrity of information recorded across DAT files (by offering detailed comparisons of two DAT files).
- Offer summary views on multiple DAT record sets (which clearly identify duplicate entries, or entries with alternative names).
- Provide powerful, but user friendly, filtering mechanisms to compile new DATs from existing collections.
Being able to view high level information about DATs, and make comparisons amongst different preservation groups’ DAT collections, is not as easy as it could be. There is a lot of duplicate information amongst these files – Datinate helps to remove the noise.
What does Datinate allow you to do?
The following tasks can be performed very quickly:
- See the total number of software items listed in a DAT file.
- See the combined size (in Bytes) of all, or a subset of software records in a DAT file.
- Compare two DAT files to find duplicate records.
- See the different extension files used by each DAT.
- Perform complex searches (via filtering) of the records in a DAT file, and compile a new DAT file from it.
How does Datinate work?
Datinate can exist because of information recorded for each item of software in a DAT file. Consistent naming conventions, along with checksums information for each record, allow us easily summarise and interrogate (through RegEx filtering) DAT files. In summary, the important aspects are:
1. DAT files
Lists of computer software names. People from all over the world have been compiling these lists since just before the new millennium. These simple record sets contain basic information on each software entry, including two very important components:
2. Naming conventions
The name of each piece of software recorded in a DAT is appended with information such as release date, publisher, and version number. Naming conventions vary amongst DAT groups, but are usually well documented. This enables Datinate’s DAT creation / customisation facility to be powerful: we can filter results.
Each DAT software record contains at least one checksum – often three. These may include SHA1, MD5, CRC32. These signatures are like fingerprints: uniquely identifying each piece of software.
What Datinate is not!
This project has no intention of stopping / demotivating archivists from continuing to produce and update their own sets of DAT files, and independently compiling software record sets. This is vital, as these new initiatives often scrutinise existing DAT record sets (sometimes worming out bad dumps, misinformation, etc.).
DAT files are the lifeblood of software preservation efforts. Datinate offers perspective on DAT collections as a ‘post-production’ tool only.