If it’s Monday, it must be time for the Bulletin publishing machine’s hard drive to crash

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

What a great way to start the week – sipping on coffee on a Monday morning, leisurely turning on the computer to begin another week of exciting publishing.

And, there goes the hard drive. Right before my eyes, ladies and gentlemen, it decided to fail without giving me a clue – not even that dreaded blue screen.

That’s just great. There it went, to a dark place where there are no ones and zeros, just a blank screen in place of The Bulletin. The drive that until the night before was carrying out its duty without any problems, remained dormant. No spinning, no blinking of the light that indicates that it’s doing something, no Bulletin.

When it comes to computer problems, I have been around the block a few times, learning a little each time.

For example, when my daughter Stephanie was 4 years old, she decided to stick a pencil in my floppy drive (it was a long time ago) that I used to read all the Bulletin’s text files for the week.

“Daddy, I fixed it,” she announced.

She fixed it, alright, and fixed me on deadline. I have written about this before, so I won’t bore you with details. Needless to say (but I’ll say it, anyway), it was panic time. But, after installing a replacement drive, the words intended for the paper were safe and sound.

It would have been weird otherwise -- just printing white space between the ads.

Another time, I managed to sort of blow up the computer’s power supply. After putting out the fire, I set a new record installing another power supply, and the paper was once again saved.

Each step of the way, I learned a little more – like keeping the text on the hard drive and backing it up to a floppy; and not blowing up the power supply right before deadline.

There have been other emergencies, but these two stand out in my mind because they caused the greatest problems.

Until now.

The Bulletin publishing machine sat dead in the water. But hey, it’s a Monday. These things happen.

It was time to think about this, and finish my coffee. Why so calm? Because the Bulletin was safe and sound inside two other hard drives backed up the night before.

All those boring times I spent making sure that everything got backed up had paid off.

Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of hassles, but the fact that you are reading this column proves that everything turned out fine.

About a year ago, I started being concerned about the age of the hard drive on the main Bulletin computer and bought another computer as a backup.

Over time, I installed all the essential programs needed to put out The Bulletin. There were some font issues, but those are not a major deal. The rest seemed to work.

Then I waited because switching production computers is no fun. There are lots of glitches and surprises, and the whole process is like a giant root canal.

And when was the last time you got one of those unless you absolutely needed it?

Out came the slave drive from the fried computer, and a few minutes later, it was doing its job in the backup machine. It was a sight to behold, only to be fully appreciated by geeks like me.

The rest of the crew could not care less. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I didn’t want to worry them with the possibility that if this does not work, we may be -- screwed.

That may be too strong. Here are some alternative idioms: Up the creek without a paddle; Spinning our wheels; On a slow boat to China (it’s far from here); Taking no steps forward for every two steps back (I altered this one).

There was no reason why the new production machine should not work just fine. But, there are always a few problems to hold things up, like loading in an earlier version of a program by mistake and then wondering why the “restore from backup” function is not doing anything.

I may be getting too technical here. To make a short story even longer, it’s suffice to say that little by little, all the glitches were overcome by the self-taught house geek.

I learned a long time ago that in this business, computers can make you or break you. And no machine will ever break me or my people. I will stand up to any square-headed ones and zeros and show them that humans still rule the world.

That’s pretty dramatic, but I was just thinking about the “Matrix.”

So, dear readers, after a few hours of dedicated geekdom, your favorite reading material while consuming that delicious lunch was made safe again by yours truly.

Man, it’s late. Better hit the sack. I’ll back everything up in the morning.

Just kidding.