Ever Been To The Register?

Publishing a newspaper is still a dirty, noisy job with little that is anything less than immense.

Ever Been To The Register? That was the subject of an email received last night from Tom Powers. Tom often comments on the blog and we’ve run into each other over the years. He works at the New Haven Register, keeping its mechanical plant working.


I would guess if you are anything like me you want to go home after work. But, I have to go back to the Register late tonight as we are starting some new equipment that puts those little sticky notes on the front of the paper.

If you are up to it and have never seen the insides of the paper, the press run starts at around midnight. I hope to be out by 1 or 2.

This is the kind of invitation I can’t resist. If 50 years younger, I would have been the right kid to give that DVD with nothing but construction equipment at work!

I showed up just before midnight and Tom began to take me around. I’d been to the Register before a few times. When I first visited, the paper was being put together with the help of X-ACTO blades and paste.

I’ve written before about print journalism and my undying love for it. We really do need newspapers, or at least someone to do what newspapers do (the Internet does not). Every day newspapers print some things that interest a tiny percentage of their readers–a handful of people. It’s important to document these little bits of minutiae, though most readers simply turn the page and go on.

Last night’s trip was more about mechanics than journalism. Publishing a newspaper is still a dirty, noisy job with every piece of gear immense. The colored ink comes in cylindrical man sized tubs. The black ink is stored in a silo. Rolls of paper, handled by forklifts with mechanical pincers, are piled high in a warehouse. They are transported to the presses with a sub-floor railway in much the same way your car is pulled through the car wash.

It’s all done with machinery that seems “antique technomodern.” Just like those 1930s movies, spools of paper unwind into the presses while fully assembled newspapers fly overhead in a mechanized march to the delivery trucks.

Tom’s installation worked well. This morning’s newspaper was delivered with a little sticker affixed to the front page.

The Main PC is Too Quiet

I have waited over twenty four hours before writing this entry. I am distressed. I am upset. I have killed the main PC!

It would seem that the data is intact, so that’s not my worry. However, this was a custom PC, built on my kitchen table and office floor. I don’t want to start over.

The back story goes like this. My PCs were too noisy. As I mentioned a few days ago, I ordered some quieter cooling from Zalman. It’s an ingenious design, and my auxiliary machine is a few orders of magnitude quieter than it was. A very pleasing outcome.

Last night, I attempted the same surgery on the main computer. Since the main PC has a slower CPU, throwing off less heat, this technique should have worked even more efficiently. Everything went together with no trouble. It’s really a simple swap.

And then, I turned the PC on.

Instead of the series of beeps I normally hear, the computer set out a continuous set of two second beeps followed by four seconds of silence (I had originally written 2+2 but just actually timed it). The computer would not boot.

I have checked all the connections and reseated both the video card and memory. Nothing. I got the same result after resetting the BIOS.

If it were the new fan causing these problems, hitting the Insert key should have brought the computer to a state where I could work on it. It won’t.

At this moment, pieces of the computer are sitting on my office floor and I am befuddled. It could be the memory, or CPU, or the motherboard itself? I don’t know. And, though most of the motherboard beeps are documented, this one doesn’t seem to fit the patterns that are listed.

I’m not sure where to go – other than the state of denial I now sit in.

I could just order a new CPU and motherboard, giving myself a speedier, newer PC in one fell swoop. The problem is, this machine is built around a RAID. Without going into the technical minutiae, two disk drives are acting as one to allow speedier access for video. But, without the RAID controller the data on these two drives is useless and unaccessible.

Though a few years old, it’s still possible to buy this motherboard (Soyo SY-K7V Dragon Plus) and the dated CPU that plugs in. And, even though that would mean sticking with an older computer, that might be what I do.

At this point I can’t do anything, because I haven’t isolated the problem. Later today I will try and force myself into troubleshooting mode – though it really is painful.

There is a rule of modern machinery that fits this situation: “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.”