disktype: a utility to figure out a disk format
DiskType is a utility that detects the content format of a disk or disk image. It knows about common file systems, partition tables, and boot codes. Sort of a higher-level version of the Unix/Linux file utility. This is a key piece of a long-term digital preservation strategy.
Up to now I've been focusing on actual file formats, but this is just one piece of the digital preservation puzzle.
The first step is being able to read the bits off of the physical hardware.
Once you've done that, you have to convert the bits into separate files.
Then you can figure out what to do with the actual files.
In one sense, the disk formats are just another flavor of file formats: they are a way of organizing bytes. In many cases, a disk format can be a file format (.iso file for CD-ROM images or .dmg files on MacOSX). The only real difference is the level of abstraction: disk formats correspond to the layout of bits on a physical hardware device.