When is a company not a company?

I’ve recently become aware of a couple examples of how much the world has changed while it tries to conceal this fact. In my first example is something I had know about but since not being an insider did not understand the implications. I believe we have huge portions of the economy that are basically false advertising and are getting away with it because it happened slowly over a long period of time.

I have a friend that I’ve known for likely ten years, we met at a blogging site but since have met in person a number of times. He worked as a highly skilled assembler of  aerospace parts, something he thought was safe until his company moved overseas. This move happened at a time that a number of other companies pulled the same move and suddenly there was a glut of highly skilled workers and he was forced to come to grips with his future being shattered and at the same time expected to recareer.

He took some time off and decided he’d like to drive a truck. Long range and complex loads were for him as he could pass the tests and acquire the licenses being a pretty sharp guy with a mechanical background. He did this quickly and was on the road but it soon became evident that the same big business ethics that dumped him on his ass in another industry were at play in his new role.

The company he works for is called a trucking company, they advertise the service of trucking but they don’t own any trucks. The modern way to operate is to put up a sign and hire a room full of office people that pose as a trucking company but when an order comes in they “hire” a trucker like my friend to move the goods. This way the company does not have to pay truckers as employees even though they are posing as a trucking company. They also don’t have to maintain any equipment since all that is the employee’s I mean “contractor’s” responsibility. You see what is going on here?

I was a little shocked to learn this as it came out slowly because this is an accepted practice, for now. When he posted about buying a truck I did not understand that he was reaching into his own credit to buy that truck that immediately was sent to the paint shop to have the company colors applied, his name and his first name only appeared in tiny letters near the door.

Later he wrote about how the company used numerous tactics to get out of paying him, like how he would be called for a pickup at a certain time and then made to wait hours that he would not be paid for. They also penalised him for not making connections that were impossible if not illegal to make. Since the company had divided the work over numerous small contractors they were able to take advantage of them being the big fish while the driver was the easily replaceable small fish.

Even though he owned the truck and made all the payments he was not allowed to take any jobs from anyone else which is odd as you’d think that being under the complete direction of one employer would instantly make you an employee.

You should not be allowed to present your company as something it is not. If you call yourself a trucking company you should not outsource your entire business, what they are is brokers and not truckers and deserve no exclusive rights without offering employment.

Here’s my second example in this early similar scenario that reared its ugly head about 18 months ago when I spoke to a local fellow who does groundskeeping. The fellow said he also worked as a roofer actually he said his main skill and trade was as a roofer but had to supplement his trade and chose to call himself a grounds keeper because there are laws that prevent him from calling himself a roofer.

We spoke more and he had an interesting story. It seems that the local industry of those who legally call themselves roofers are actually just roofing brokers with signs and business cards that falsely purported them to be actual roofers as they have no hammers and no trucks and worst of all no employees but they do have a lic. and those are limited and hard to get.

The trouble is his “boss” only calls him when he has a job, actually bosses as he contracts to a number of “license holders” who not only expect him to show up at a job site with one day notice but if you can’t because you are finishing another job they often penalize them for it by withholding future jobs. Worst of all with this new system of exploit the lowest is as a contractor he is no longer able to claim unemployment during the winter months as he used to when he started in this business as an employee.

He’s on his own for the bad times and it seems for the good times as well as the company scoops the bulk of the profits because they can. All these changes were know about in advance by those who perpetrated them, it was only a surprise for those who were negatively impacted.

 

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Lightning strikes, lights flash, Mac stops.

This is what now passes for my server room. Gone is the 200 square feet of serviceable lead acid batteries or raised floor and halon fire system but in return I have, well I have smaller problems.  Okay what I have now is two cable modems, one for internet (bottom) and one for phone service (top), a 24 port 10/100 switch and an Apple Time Capsule. The Time Capsule has three gigabit ports two of which go to my two Macs and the third goes to the switch to service everybody else in the firm and by firm I mean just a couple of boxes for mostly entertainment so there. I also distribute wi-fi to service the wireless devices on the network, you know stuff like a couple of phones and a tablet. There’s one more thing, it’s a UPS further down where you can’t see it and that pretty much makes up for the server room and not even a single glass wall in sight.

Now back to the story, last night after the light show and the noise and the flickering lights I went to the studio to shut down when I found the Mac on an endless loop of rebooting and restarting. Something had damaged the system format and it was unable to complete the boot cycle. After a few rounds of fsck and some disk diagnostics plus the old four finger startup and four “BUNG”s I determined that the drive needed to be reformatted and the system reinstalled.

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Normally this is a tragedy but I’ve been planning ahead, when we moved here I had to buy a cable modem for the new system, at the old house I just split the cost of internet with my neighbor and pointed my wifi antenna at his basement window & job done, worked great for years. Now I had to buy equipment. TWC wanted to sell me their “high end” wireless router but some research said it was an overpriced piece of junk and I’d be better off getting my own. Some writers even claimed that if you used the TWC unit they had access to your network and could read your rants and turn on your webcams. Time to put on my tin foil hat and crack the books.

Not wanting to wear the hat of shame I located a great deal on an Apple Time Capsule. It’s a router, a wi-fi connection point, a print server and had its own hard drive for backing up other computers. All you have to do is run Apple Time Machine as shown below and both my Macs will be safe. There were safe for almost three years up until last night. I do daily backups but don’t turn the machines on every day which gives me a pretty good snapshot to work with.

This is how Time Machine looks if you need it while the system is running which mine wasn’t. You can find lost files and draw things out of your archive if you need to.

My system is not functioning, I have a backup but I’ve never had to restore from that backup. I bite a bullet and reboot. Now comes the tricky part, I hold down the command key until this pops up. Tricky part over.

Clicking “Recovery HD” finds my backup on the network and all I have left is to click start that’s it, takes a couple of hours but no other input is required on my behalf. This article says what I just did dosen’t work, I beg to differ but I don’t have a fancy column in a fancy Mac trade paper turned web site. He actually describes a scenario that was totally unlike what I had just gone through. I check the date of pub and it’s barely a year old, could it have changed that much in a year? He sounds like some kind of crazy doom sayer.

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I wish I had more to say but I don’t, it just worked and I’m back to work. The machine that everyone says is too expensive just cost me nothing to fix, I didn’t have to call in the Geek Squad and my hardware is still good enough to do the job it was doing yesterday. I will replace the batteries in the UPS that supplies the sensitive gear in the studio but that’s it. -See you later.

What is the V-Machine?

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The V-Machine is a standalone VST player. What that means is that tiny box can run the same software that the big studios use to produce the sounds of just about any instrument. Same software is an important distinction because it allows someone who creates music on a computer at home or a big studio to have access to that same sound without the big computer.

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On the back are the connections, from left we have the power button and input then the USB jack for programming and next to that are two USB instrument jacks for keyboards and such, a headphone jack, two 1/4″ line outs and finally a stereo line in a mix knob.

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I bought this unit when I was playing out a couple of times a week and it cut down on the amount of equipment I needed to carry around. I often plugged a midi keyboard into it and used my VST piano/organ/Rhodes patches and it saved my bringing a computer and I/O device to access the same sounds I was using with the computer DAW. After I got the Fishman Triple Play midi to guitar system I would just plug the Fishman dongle pictured above into the back of the V-Machine and I wouldn’t even need to bring the keyboard anymore.

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Plugging in the Fishman guitar synth is really amazing as it gives you a wireless guitar synth and you still have full use of the normal function of your guitar. My band did a lot of classic rock and new wave covers and most of that music has some part that includes something that is not the basic guitar, bass, drums and this box can add that. As second guitar I could also play a couple of organ or electric piano notes when needed which allowed us to zoom in on the feel of the original song. So many of our tunes needed some kind of percussion or a few note synth riff and now I could have all those without taking up any extra stage room. What’s Sympathy for the Devil without congas or Centerfold without that cheesy synth? A midi foot pedal is nice to have as it makes changes easy and fits within the footprint of a mic stand but for simple operation the Fishman has UP – DOWN – LEFT – RIGHT buttons on the controller as well as a volume and mix control as seen in the above photo.

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Here is a photo of everything I have with the V-Machine. This one has all the original parts and pieces including all the registrations for the VSTs plus it has been expanded with larger ROM and more RAM.

I’m getting ready to put this one up on ebay and I may try the local social media groups for musicians, new owner gets everything. I don’t play out anymore and haven’t used this in over a year so it’s really just a waste to keep when someone could be enjoying it the same way I did.

I’ve made a few videos of the operation that I will link to here when they are uploaded.