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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Ginormous Chat Log

Here's a slightly more advanced topic today.

I log my chat and IMs, because my memory is not as sharp as it used to be (and it probably never was, either!)  Besides, chat logs can be useful for determining if or when you met a person, when you went on line or offline, and for documenting Abuse Reports.

Your chat log files are kept on your local hard drive, in a directory that you can specify in your Preferences.  Exactly where in Preferences you do this depends on your viewer, so I'll leave finding it as an exercise for the student.  Besides, that isn't the main focus of today's post.

What I want to talk about today is one log file that can cause trouble if you let it get too large.

If you have opted to log local chat, it's stored in your chat log directory, and it will have the name "chat.txt."

Like any of your chat and IM logs, this file is added to each and every time you log on and send or receive chat...in this case, local chat.  Because you ALWAYS will have at least some local chat in every session on line, this file quickly grows much larger than any of the other logs.  If left unattended for too long, it will get too large to be easily handled by Notepad, the default text editor in Windows.

You can get around this somewhat by opening and editing it in a more powerful text editor (Wordpad) or a word processor (Word or Open Office.)  But even if the application you are using can handle a large file, having a couple of years' minute-by-minute chatter to wade through can be a total pain.

What I do is, once every few months, I open chat.txt and edit it.  I lop off three months' chat at a time and save each of these chunks in a new .txt file that I label chat_arc_XQ_YYYY.txt.  These quarterly chat archives are much more manageable.

I have no evidence that keeping the chat.txt file size down improves the performance of the viewer, but hey, it can't hurt!

On my last inspection of my chatlog folder, I also found that over the years I had collected well over 4,000 IM conversations.  That's every person I've ever spoken to in IM...not only close friends, but passing acquaintances and group chats too.  A great many of these were very short files, under 1KB in size.  Since I was in a housecleaning sort of mood, I deleted all these little mini-conversations.

I mean, sure, chat logs are useful, once in a while...but there's such a thing as being too much of a pack rat.  Just ask the NSA.

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