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Rimage Network Publisher 800

Josh McDaniel

Rimage Network Publisher 800
synopsis: The Network Publisher 800 is a solid and reliable machine, an effective recording arm for an NT network, and, of course, a joy to behold once in motion. It's easy to run and assemble, and combines top-notch components, including a 12X Plextor recorder, Primera Signature III printer, improved robotics, and, as an optional add-on, a dedicated high-powered PC. Desktop (non-network) units come bundled with the excellent Prassi/Veritas PrimoCD. The OfficeNet software bundled with the network model–though hardly a match for the Network Publisher 800 in terms of look and feel–still gets the job done.

price: $999

Rimage Corporation
7725 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55439
Fax 952/944-7808

June 2001 | When I last saw a Desktop Publisher, it was much taller, and it had Cedar Technologies' logo emblazoned on it. As a matter of fact, the day I received the evaluation unit, Rimage announced its acquisition of Cedar. It occurred to me then, after reading a couple of press releases, that anything I wrote about a Cedar DTP could be for naught. So, I decided to put in a few calls, and wait until I heard from either Cedar, Rimage, or some ranking figure in the editorial-industrial complex before I put pen to paper. I remember very distinctly what I saw on TV while I waited: it was an old man–one of the original Majestic 12, I think– breaking his long silence to tell us how our government secretly seeded industry with technology discovered aboard that hapless UFO that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Among those items, he said, was the laser.

From my understanding of its history, the appearance of the laser occurs naturally and logically in the progression of physics, unlike the idea of gravity, which does kind of appear out of nowhere. Gravity, therefore, could more plausibly be attributed to some fantastic creature (if it hasn't already–Newton: "If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."). Ascribing human achievement to otherworldly influence is nothing new, though, and probably nothing to be bewildered by. Technology is, by nature, alien and alienating in those several profound ways–an intrinsic opacity or unfamiliarity, a stolen job, an automaton rising against its creator, an instrument of exploitation, a historically unique possibility of total planetary an- nihilation. So, it's not all that bizarre to imagine that aliens actually made it to serve man. Believing a weird story is the easiest way to make peace with the machines–and the weirder the better–as a rational account doesn't typically jibe with experience.

When you have a review to write, you don't really have the luxury of bestowing a wild history on your subject matter, and that's too bad: it makes the already difficult task of writing more difficult, and you're still left with the mysterious naked machine. A hatchet remains to be buried. Here's how I do it: though the machine signals the end of the world, and tends to obfuscate the importance of humanity–labor especially–in its arrival, it also signals the death of some old, tired order. Without ships, no merchant class could have risen, and without Napster, some moldy notions about the nature of property might never have been publicly interrogated. Paraphrasing Frederic Jameson, we have to imagine our world as being simultaneously the best and the worst thing that ever happened to us.

Robotics and lasers, too, when all is said and done, are cool to watch: Rimage's Network Publisher 800 is, finally, a welcome visitor. The robotics of its former desktop incarnation have been simplified down into a single swiveling arm, which, on the one hand, makes for a more aesthetically efficient machine, but on the other, deprives us of the feeling of tireless productivity brought about by motile arms, reject bins, and drive trays. The Publisher has also taken a turn for the horizontal: it's more ranch house than skyscraper, making it slightly more obtrusive, spatially speaking.

metal machine music

Assembly of the Publisher is a quick, simple task, characteristic of the line in general. There are a total of four pieces: the Primera Signature III printer (future incarnations will presumably integrate the recently released Signature IV or the forthcoming Signature Pro), the duplicator proper, an input bin, and an output spike. The printer sits up top, centered on pins, and pegs on the input/output receptacles fit into holes on a plate jutting out of the duplicator. Out of the box, it's about one minute to a fully-assembled machine, ready to be wired.

Though I haven't seen it happen yet with the Network Publisher, there's always the danger with an output spindle– even a carefully fitted one–that robotics will miss the target, and instead of being impaled as intended, a finished disc might bounce off into oblivion. This particular area on this particular machine, I imagine, must be a tough spot for engineers: you either have an output spindle that will cushion a CD's descent with friction when, and if, it manages to catch a disc, or you have a bin guaranteed to catch discs, but at the price of a harsh landing or more complicated robotics. Ei- ther could be accom- modated, but they went with the spindle. If it happens that discs are refusing to be impaled, there is calibration software included with the Network Publisher 800 to fix that.

The Publisher optionally comes with a CPU (today, a Dell Optiplex GX 100, Celeron Inside), outfitted with Windows NT and duplication software, and all the peripherals except a monitor. While a virgin CPU is handy and, because it's dedicated, stable, Windows NT will do for an OS in running the Publisher. If you have a functional SCSI card in a relatively recent machine, there's no need to add the CPU to your order. The manual is pretty specific about what will be required of the machine running the duplicator: 400mHz and 128MB SDRAM running NT service pack 4; that is, anything you bought in late 1998 will likely suffice.

Hooking up is only slightly more complicated than assembling the machine. There are six connections, to be precise: two power lines to the wall, one for the printer and one for the duplicator, a SCSI and a serial connection between your computer and the duplicator, a DIN connection between the duplicator and the printer, and a parallel connection for the printer. That's about four minutes, three of which are spent locating the cables. The manual altogether fails to detail the most important connection–the serial connection that operates the robotics–so you might spend a few minutes trying to figure out why, despite the green status light on the Publisher, the robotics won't budge.

white light/white heat

For operation software, you get Rimage's OfficeNet, a program divided into a server package and a client package. OfficeNet Server must be installed on the machine hooked up to the Publisher; the OfficeNet client may be deployed all across a network, including whatever machine is rigged to the Publisher, running OfficeNet Server. OfficeNet looks to be Rimage's original creation: it doesn't at all resemble the usual software bundles, in appearance or function, to its detriment.

Where something like Prassi/Veritas' excellent PrimoCD (which still comes bundled with Rimage Desktop Publisher units) shows in plain view the format you've selected, the details of the duplication job, and whatever progress is being made, OfficeNet never offers any substantial assurance that things are going as you intended. Before I plumbed the remote depths of both the client and the server software, all I knew was that I'd added files to what I'd thought was a layout window. What's more, somewhere between the machines, it was decided that three copies of an ISO-9660-2 image would be the end result of my hitting the big red button. OfficeNet is vague, unfriendly, and dull. I could accept that if there were thorough documentation, but there isn't. The manual, though it has a nice cover, doesn't offer any job illustrations, and the Help documentation is razor thin.

growing up in public

Mechanically, everything runs smoothly, in a familiar manner. The picker grabs a piece of media from the input bin, drops it in the drive (a Plextor PlexWriter 12/4/32), waits, grabs the written media, drops it in the printer, waits, grabs, swings out about ninety degrees from its previous course with the finished product, and drops it on the spindle. The printer marks up rejects garishly, making them easy to spot in the column of finished discs on the spindle.

Although the OfficeNet software taints the otherwise satisfying overall experience with the Network Publisher 800, the fact remains that it's a solid and mostly reliable machine, and, of course, a joy to behold once in motion. Even OfficeNet, I suppose, has something in its favor: though it's hardly a match for the Network Publisher 800 in terms of look and feel–an exposed septic tank on the lawn of a mansion, really–it does get the job done. In any case, we can be glad that the Cedar line, as promised a year ago, has not been drastically altered, and continues to thrive in its new environs.

Josh McDaniel (josh@simulacra.to) is a freelance writer based in Glendale, CA.. He is also co-author, with Robert A. Starrett, of The Little Audio CD Recording Book, published by Peachpit Press.

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