Melchoir - Thanks for asking questions. My undergraduate studies were at an engineering university and I used to be a programmer, so I appreciate a practical, scientific approach.
The Records are an etheric (non-physical) repository of information. Just like our human bodies have etheric energetic lines which we use through acupuncture, the earth has a matrix of etheric energy that resembles a grid that serves as the network of the Akasha. Just as our soul's cells spread out all over our body, so the Akashic gridpoints are spread like a web all over the planet. Our memory is contained within our physical body's etheric body, and our souls' etheric body, and information from our etheric bodies uploads to the collective mind of the Akashic Records, like automatically uploading info from our computer to the internet. When we access info, it's like using our computer to download internet info.
Since this is an art and not a science, the issue with having a foolproof method would be that everyone would have to be the same. That would be like having one method that would make everyone enlightened. I would love that! That would be great! We're talking about shifting from waking consciousness to pre-conscious reality - becoming very relaxed and aware, and releasing the conscious mind in favor of what feels like a dreamlike, probable reality. Plus we need to release any conflict around accessing the Records, and be relatively free of conflict to get a decent interpretation of the information. Different things are going to work on different people. I use a combination of chi-building techniques, induction techniques, and visualizations that involve all the senses when I'm working with students because it offers more inclusive, possible paths for everyone.
What kind of information do you want to access? Personal information - purpose, karmic issues, unknown resources that you want to use? Career and work info? Relationships? Many people use Akashic information to make clearer decisions, gain courage, see themselves, heal relationships, change careers, etc.
I've heard the Akashic Records referred to as the Akasha, the Collective Mind, the Great Hall of Records. Not a real difference that I'm aware of. Hope that helps!
Rei - Most people have enough on their plate to ask about earthly lifetimes. You can ask to receive other information about lifetimes in other systems, and then you will be accessing the Records from those systems. Try it and see what happens!
Moxie - Similar. Our intuition can come in a body-oriented way, like clairaudience. We are hearing beyond our normal range of hearing, or hearing our guides/Oversoul. The Akashic Records can seem more detailed, like walking into a movie, and it can be a multi-sensory experience or even beyond the body's senses. And many people access the Records as snippets too.