Saturday, 12 November 2011

Newsletter Woes - Editor's Guide On How Not To Desktop Publish

Hi all,

If you read my previous blog, you will know that I should not be sitting here writing this one - I should be doing other things. 

So, after having done some important chores like cleaning out my handbag (and  remembering to have my breakfast), for at least the next few hours I am pretending that everything else doesn't exist and writing a blog.  If I have no clean clothes to wear next week and strange new life forms evolve in the kitchen sink - tough - today I just don't care (I will care tomorrow and probably have a panic attack about it all).  I have spend the whole of this week wrestling with a temperamental HP A3 colour printer which, as some electronic gadgets do, decided from the moment it met me that it did not like me.  Usually I don't have trouble with technology misbehaving as I generally talk kindly to it and treat it well.  However, this temperamental beast has cost me every spare minute of my time over the last week and resulted in a number of nights where I did not get to beddy-byes until well after midnight.  It has also left me with elevated blood pressure,  a headache, a huge pile of neglected chores and a house looking like Wingfield Rubbish Tip on a bad day.

I recently agreed to became editor  of the Port Community Arts Centre Inc. newsletter (yes, I do suspect  I have the word "sucker" emblazened on my forehead) but I was determined to give it my best shot.  I used to be a high speed typist with a 99.5% accuracy (and I mean "used to be"!).  Now I'm probably a 50 wpm typist with an accuracy of about 25%.  All my past word processing skills were developed to use only BASIC document skills, you know,  do a letter here, set out a table there, maybe make a heading in bold type face.  That was not going to be good enough to knock out this little epistle. 

The newsletter is both mailed and emailed so over the past few weeks I have been on a very, very, very, very, steep, sharp, learning curve (more like a hairpin shaped bend  than a curve) and on a number of occasions I reckon I slid backwards going up that steep curve and failed to take some of the sharp bends too.  The previous editor did an excellent job and used MS publisher.  I, of course,   own a Mac which does not have publisher on it.  It does however have a publishing element in Word so suddenly I found myself trying to learn to do a whole lot of things I had never even heard of, like using text boxes etc.  (text box, what the heck a text box?!).   All well and good if you happen to know what a text box was (I didn't).  When I started school we wrote with pencils and had pens with nibs and ink wells.  We didn't know what a biro was, let alone a computer or a text box.

I know some may feel I am ignorant and inept (yes, go on feel free,  have a quiet superior little snigger at my expense), but I think I have come a long way, especially in the last few weeks.  I now know what a text box is and not only that,  I know how to insert it, colour it, shade it, make it transparent, put lines around it, fancy borders around it, make it go front, back or somewhere in between, group lots of them together and link them to each other, make them give birth to another one.  I can also insert pictures and do word art and make curvy headings and insert funny shapes.  I have managed to put them on top of each other, layer upon layer upon layer like a Sara Lee cheesecake.  I also found out that like boats, they have anchors and if you don't do things right the stupid anchor thing stays put and the blasted thing won't go where you want it and I've learnt a lot of about what NOT to do (like insert lots of pictures that are 1 or 2mb in size).    I realize to some that this is all very basic, but to me it didn't come easy because I had to do a crash course in it all so quickly - goodness knows how many brain cells I have caused to die from the sheer overwork I put them through (yes, yes before you say it - yes I do have some brain cells (tired ones)).  

So, after I had created this newsletter I had to print it.   My Mac, being a sensible computer immediately sized up the HP printer for what it was and decided that it didn't want to communicate with it unless it absolutely had to.  After going nuts and searching the internet, downloading manuals, seeking advice and answers, I discovered that I could print 2 A4 pages on to 1 A3 page, HOWEVER, to stop it leaving an extra wide margin all around I needed to print borderless (more seaching, searching, searching).  Eventually I managed to do this but I decided that the fact that it took about 5 minutes to print one page was not going to be good enough to print 300 newsletters consisting of 3 double sided A3 pages (at that rate if I waited around for it to finish they would find my decaying body still slumped over it years later).   As editor I made the executive decision that the readers were just going to have to live with a bit bigger border and slightly smaller print and away I went thinking I would have them printed and in the post in no time flat (silly me).  

I started printing them Monday night and didn't finish the last of them until Friday night.  I have just finished throwing out about 3/4 of a ream of A3 paper which was wasted due to the antics of this printer.  For some reason it took great delight in not picking up and feeding the paper properly (no matter how much I fanned it and I'm going through menopause hot flushes and believe me I can fan with the best of them).   It would pick up more than one page at a time (anywhere between 2 and 20), it would also feed them through slightly crooked, it would dog ear the corners so when you had to feed them back to print on the reverse side they would not feed correctly.    It would pick up 2 or 3 pages and feed them through a little bit out of sync so that part of the first page would print on the second and third pages, making them ruined.  And it was not a fast printer - compared to my little laser Brother printer it was slow, slow, slow. 

In short, it was an evil machine and it waited until you had printed a run on one side and then it would mess up the reverse side ones in any way it could, petulantly spitting them out in some way as to be unusable.  Firstly, it  reduced me to simple swearing, then screaming and eventually tears.  In addition, the printer did not like the ink cartridges they had given me for it.  I spent another 2 hours on the net trying to figure out why the  *@!*+  thing was still telling me it had an empty cartridge in it when I had just put a full one in.  Ron (who has an IT degree with Honours) looked at it, swapped cartridges and after about 5 minutes got bored and pronounced it as fit to be a boat anchor  and left me to it.  I discovered that when that little drip shaped LED is flashing your printer will be totally unco-operative and stubborn and will not print anything (screaming at it in total frustration has no result).   Once upon a time when things didn't work, you could pull them apart and sometimes fix them but these days we have computer chips and there's nothing you can do about fixing them. 

I frantically started swapping to another new full cartridge and eventually we got it to stop flashing (it just stayed on and tried to tell us it was running low on ink, but we refused to be fooled by its evil scheming).  I had got it going with new cartridges (low ink lights still on and low ink error messages flashing on screen) when it decided to pick up about 20 pages all at once and misfeed just as the phone rang.  It was Mick our secretary ringing to tell me that the email version was refusing to email.

Apparently it had something to do with the fact that the file size was 7.5mb.  Apparently you are supposed to change the resolution on photos to 72 pixel thingys (well I didn't know did I?!).  It was then that I wondered if perhaps a nervous breakdown, or at least a good size panic attack would not be in order.  I burst into tears again (stress + menopause + HP printer = hysterics) and proceeded to try to resize the images using photoshop (which I have not yet learnt and that is a whole other story - aaaaghhhh). Eventually after a number of attempts (emails, phone calls, re-emails, profuse apologies and sobbing on my part, etc.)  the file was vastly pruned down in size to about 1.6mb and was able to be emailed.  Tranquility finally reigned supreme on the email front - not so on the hard copy side of things as meanwhile back at the printer, chaos was still reigning supreme.

The previous editor Helen had warned me the printer could be a "little temperamental" and not to do more than 50 pages at a time but she had neglected to tell me I would spend hours re-printing pages that had been skipped and sorting through the misfeeds trying to find some pages I could salvage. I could have just wasted more paper but it was now late at night and I was, of course, now running low on paper.  Eventually, enough of the ink cartridges were empty or wouldn't work that I had to stop printing and wait until the next day to buy some more.    Naturally the colour I needed most was not available at the local store and had to be shipped across from another store.  Eventually I concentrated on getting enough done to post and decided to worry about the spare copies they needed later.

Finally, sometime after midnight on Friday I did them all and was maybe 1 or 2 short (but by this time it was "care factor zero").   I can see now why people do not like to be editors for newsletters.  I am surprised that Helen stuck at it so long with such a printer.  I suppose it is possible that the printer has suddenly developed paper feeding issues or cartridge chip reading problems, or maybe it was the paper that was at fault - I don't know and now I am past the point of caring.

I went to the board meeting on Friday, tired and exhausted with a boot load of newsletters to post on my way to work, thinking that I really don't want to do that exercise again any time soon.  Muttering darkly, I handed Mick a bag of empty ink cartridges and the bill for the ones I had bought.

Anyway, I am very happy to report that due to the costs of ink and paper involved  and possibly that word of my hysteria may have filtered back, at  the Friday's meeting the Chairman and board voted to get them printed in future (yyaaaayyyyyyyy!).  All I have to do is apparently get a BSB stick thing and hand it to them and they will print AND COLLATE it for me.  So cool!

So today, even if I achieve no other chores, the one that I am going to do is to pack up the nasty evil temperamental machine and first thing Monday return it to the Port Community Arts Centre, which is where it can reside from now on until its wicked little computer chips disintegrate and waste away (Mick is going to use it and I just bet the little @*%! of a thing behaves perfectly for him!)

One thing I do have to say for it though, as the owner of a black and white laser printer - playing with all that colour has spoiled things for me... now I want to print in beautiful, beautiful, colours....  

Cheers all

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