I’m not blocking your ad, it’s not your ad.

Web sites are starting to greet me with a message that they know that I’m refusing to be redirected to external sites that I did not surf to. Notice I did not use the word “ad”, that’s because adblockers don’t block ads they keep you on the site you’re viewing and ignore attempts to redirect you elsewhere, the ads happen to be hosted off the site you are on. Which means they aren’t their ads.

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Why is this an important distinction? For this part we’ll limit our discussion to ads only and not scripts and other bits of code that both advertisers and black hats employ. When you block an ad you are actually refusing to allow your browser to be hijacked by a third party you don’t know and didn’t ask for. Just by doing this you not only stop the ads but you stop most of the ad tracking and other and sometimes illegal uses of your personal information.

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I like how SOS (above) says they only run ads from trusted sources, I looked and they don’t list any sources but they do have a page to calm us down in case we read about companies like Cambridge Analitica who used advertisements to steal our info.

Hey web sites if it’s your ad why don’t you serve it from the same server that you serves your content? That’s because they sell out the ad creation and hosting to a third party and this is where most of the dishonesty of the anti ad block messages centers around. THOSE AREN’T YOUR ADS! You want me to open the door to people I don’t know and who’s identities are hidden. Yes I said hidden, you’ll notice the ads that tricked you into downloading do not identify themselves as such they sneak in and then they collect your information and use it to contact and trade with other advertisers or some mysterious firm that will generate new ads based on things they shouldn’t be looking at or know about. That’s why I break the chain, if you want to show an ad you don’t have to sell me out to do it.

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What is the solution? I don’t know as there’s too many problems but I do know that if the sites made and hosted their own ads my ad blocker wouldn’t work against those and thus wouldn’t be a problem to them.

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I don’t accept that your faulty business model should be used as guilt when you can’t even be honest enough to admit that you are making this money by screwing your customers. And about this business model I have a little notice for you about that. You didn’t create the internet, the US Government and its high tech suppliers did and they all used the public money so right off the internet is not yours. The web was created by scientists working for the government and they gave it away hoping that we would do good with it. Now you want to change the rules because you have a business model? How about this take your new rules and create your own internet until then leave ours alone.

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Here’s the worst offender for deceitful detection of an ad blocker, Yahoo. You see the ads are part of the overall experience at Yahoo and ignoring them is somehow interfering with “features”, yea sure.

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Don’t get me wrong I don’t want everything for free, I subscribe to a number of content services including a couple of news sites and a number of music and video sites plus we download quite a bit of paid content. We want art and journalism to continue but if you look at my images of the ad block screens you’ll see a number of sites like the one above actually steal all the content on their site, wrap it in ads and try to sell it back. Now there’s a business model worthy of Wall St.

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Raw Power Turns 45 Today So I’ll Write

Some little news tid bit popped up today telling me that as of this day forty-five years ago CBS released Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”. I don’t remember the day but I do remember that only a few months later I was to be exposed to this album. Thinking about this time brings back a flood of memories that I will try to capture here.

Another LA resident at the time

My family was living in the Los Angeles area and were friends with another family whose father worked for CBS Records, I don’t know what he did but his kids always had an amazing collection of records and it is at their house in the hills that I found Iggy in a pile of records the kids had. The family had two sons, one older was into the heavy metal so he would pick the albums first and pull the Black Sabbath and such out for himself. The younger brother was my age, we didn’t like to listen to the music his older brother so we picked whatever was opposite and that was just by looking at the album art because, who knew?

On the cover “Raw Power” featured a semi naked Iggy with makeup and a snarl, good start. The other album was the equally crazy looking  “New York Dolls” which was first released only two months later. We took the albums to the huge console record player and listened to both. They did not sound like the brother’s Black Sabbath and I knew both he and my parents hated them so we were good on the main points.

So both albums were only a few months old when I discovered them in a huge pile of promo discs and I immediately liked both of them as I do today. Good start if I do say so myself but sadly this was not my start as I already had a record collection and was allowed to use the family record player where my kid sister had to make due with her “close and play”.

The first record I bought with my own money and I think I bought it a J.C.Pennys was a 1960s live recording of the Beach Boys. I also had a copy of “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” by Paul Simon and quite coincidentally also released in 1973. This album is a classic and likely has sold many times the total of both previous one but not as raucous and revolutionary as either. I think this one was a gift from my grandmother who was living in California at the time.

I also got to go to a few concerts in those years in California, my friend and neighbor had his birthday party at a local amusement park with included a concert at the park. We got to see Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, yep that Kenny Rogers except all dressed in a pastel jumpsuit. Seeing “Just Dropped In” live must have done something to me, I know it did to the band as this was their last performance.

I also remember getting taken to other shows, we went to the Hollywood Bowl for a Classical performance but can’t place the piece or players. Then there were the Christmas performances of the opera and ballet at the Shrine Auditorium but it wasn’t until we returned to Canada that I started to go to concerts of my own choosing.

Five years later in 1978 my dad moved us to the country where I rode the school bus with pig farmers kids and went to a high school with more pregnant kids than I’d ever seen in my life. I had two friends and a girlfriend the whole year. One of the friends was a kid who reconized me from the school I went to the previous year, he knew it was a bad scene and he spent every moment trying to get back to Toronto so I didn’t see much of him. The girlfriend was crazy, and the other friend was totally into rock and roll.

I got myself a job at the local record store that had just opened, my job was to assemble the displays and hook up the stereos. The owner knew nothing about such things and paid me off in records and promo items. I also was in charge of the weekly hit lists, a large poster would arrive in the mail which I’d tape to the front window and a stack of smaller printer ones I’d put half on the counter and half take to school which the other kids liked and brought business to the shop.

It was this year that I got to go the first concert of my own choosing and boy what a choice. The school had an open arrangement where if enough students wanted to go to a concert they would set up a ride, on the list I saw that they were willing to take a group to see the Tubes. I signed up with only three other students and a teacher drove us down and dropped us off in front of the Maple Leaf Gardens with the instructions that we were to meet him parked on the street a block north of the building.

The Tubes were amazing, the band was in their super theatrical stage with many costume changes for this highly sexualized show. Warnings were issued about the show too but luckily none had filtered down to my rural school, the singer was said to appear naked and to have simulated sexual acts on the stage. The dancing girls would appear for one number in cheerleading costumes and the next in leather bras and panties, Fee splashed himself from a bucket and rub it all over one of the girls it was crazy and I loved it. I was bitten and had to see more live shows.

The next year we moved back to the city where I had access to the subway and a myriad of clubs and concert halls. Being a fan of CFNY from living in Brampton two years ago I knew what kind of music I liked but being on the fringe of the antenna could no longer hear them and had to make due with some late night shows on CHUM-FM until they got a stronger antenna.

It was listening to these late night shows that I won tickets to the two most important shows to hit Toronto. This is going to sound crazy but I called in both times and answered questions live on air for the tickets and I remember how it went in both cases. Announcer says they have tickets, in this case the Clash at O’keefe Center. First person who guesses the current album gets them. I shout out “Give ’em enough rope” and run for the phone, about twenty minutes later and dozens or wrong answers I win them. Totally crazy show, imagine the Clash at a fancy opera house? I’d call it a DIY mosh pit where the fans try to make a pit from rows of seats. There’s video online of the aftermath, my radio station seats were close and I could see it but it didn’t look like the damage afterward. All I have to say is the band was encouraging it to happen by being so damn good.

The other show was The Ramones at the New Yorker on Yonge St. Now the Ramones had been to Toronto a number of times by now and the New Yorker a few times plus they had released a few albums so you’d think the biggest rock and roll station would have some knowledge of what and who they were but no. Announcer, “First three callers with the right answer gets pairs of tickets to the Ramones, What do the Ramones and Paul McCartney have in common?” Same thing, a bunch of callers get it wrong for like half an hour. I get the second pair and the announcer gets tired and gives the third to a joke answer about the amount of grease in their hair. McCartney also used the last name Ramone.

I must have won a pair of tickets but I went alone, I don’t remember anyone at the time liking this music, I don’t even remember selling the extra ticket. I just remember the Ramones and hanging this poster on my locker door in high school.

There was one other kid in my high school who liked to talk about strange and unknown bands, he was two years older and we only met during his last year there but he had a great influence. I’m sorry I don’t remember his name but he was not a punker, he was more into progressive and art rock and spoke about other bands like Gong, Soft Machine and David Allen.

This high school was a tech school and had a lot of different shop and music and art classes which made it fun to go there but it drew kids from a wide area so there was not the closeness of a school where everyone lived in the neighbourhood. This student was also a real oddball, he was known as the smartest kid in the school and he openly spoke about LSD making you smarter so he was a real pain in the ass to the school who wanted the grades but not, well everything else about him including the way he dressed only in black and wore a long coat everywhere.


We talked about music, I didn’t do LSD and I finagled meeting up with him for a few shows he was going to and these mark my first trips to The Edge in Toronto. I don’t remember which was the first show but we went to see Pere Ubu and on another night Mink DeVille. We didn’t drink, well he just didn’t drink and I was two years underage and without him ordering beers I wasn’t going to risk getting kicked out which I only later found out was pretty hard to do there. The one time I was with a group of guys who got kicked out we had to get caught pulling down and ceiling and breaking up the pieces and even then they were strangely reticent and only officially kicked out one guy and we mostly left to give him his jacket since it was snowing.

The next year I met my now very dear friend Jeff, at the time we’re still underage but bold enough to try to get in to the clubs. Places like The Edge were open all day and served food so we’d go early buy food, make sure there were beers on the table at shift change and we not only get served but we’d dodge the cover charge which went to buying more beer. Wayne County was one of my favorites. There weren’t a lot of people going to these shows so very quickly you’d recognize people and they’d recognize you so if there was a question of your age you could quickly shout out and people who didn’t know you would vouch for you, like community.

I’ve seen all the acts in the above poster. This particular Viletones show is the one were Jeff almost got beaten up by Leckie because Jeff was trying to talk to him while the guy was pissing. Leckie grabbed him and said “Why are you trying to look at my dick?” then the band rushed in and said he couldn’t beat up Jeff because they had to go on stage and off they ran with Lecking shouting that he wanted to meet him there after the show. We didn’t.

Here’s another show we were at, opened by the Demics who we liked as they were formed from another band we would go to see at Larry’s and that was Crash Kills Five. The thing about these early shows was that not only were the clubs run down and stank but you weren’t always sure you’d get a show at all. The Viletones would often cause fights and just not play but not this night, they were killer. “Oh there’s no hope for me!”

If I think of anything good I’ll write more, maybe something about this and the cops…

Me with Joey 1979

When cancer comes home

I haven’t mentioned this here because I don’t like to talk about it but now that the worst of it is over I’m feeling a bit more able to not only put my words down but to be able to read them. My wife was diagnosed with cancer one year ago today. I’ve been with her every step of the way supporting her and holding her hand and doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. Scary things too but not only did I manage to do them I somehow excelled at it as all the compliments from doctors, nurses and generalists attested to.

Okay I kind of made up that last part but at the start of this I did almost pass out a couple of times when they were drawing blood. I didn’t know it was going to happen as the room slowly turned grey and the nurse said I should go for a walk and get some air, I didn’t even know she was watching me!

I quickly got used to seeing them poke needles into her but it brought up some thoughts about myself and how I have never taken care of anyone before. I hadn’t even done a very good job of taking care of myself up until now. As a full grown adult I was not proud of this but now I’ve come to terms with it and have moved on.

Theresa is feeling much better now and has returned to what we believe is normal or is going to be the new normal. You know she’s a writer and has kept a pretty through blog about the events of the last year but a warning to those who are easily disturbed as she pulls no punches, you get the real deal here. Well you have been warned. Happy-Cancerversary!

The Big Fish Eat Everything

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I just got a lesson in free market economics. My local garbage collection company was bought up by a huge multinational corporation. We’re told that economies of scale and market forces determine costs, while this may be true if you are operating the company it has little to do with what the consumer pays for services.

The first change we noticed that our pickup time started to move all over the place and we have two collections, one for recycle and one for waste and they could pick up one early in the morning and the other in the late afternoon. There was suddenly no consistency which forced a change in my schedule as I used to put the cans out when I took Theresa to work in the morning but now I had to put them out Sunday night to make sure wouldn’t miss the pickup.

Next change was the sudden arrival of a new recycle wheelie bin, it’s nice to have a clean new bin but this one also happens to be slightly smaller and since in our area we are limited to using this bin only it is a reduction in service or in other words an increase in our cost.

Finally I notice a couple weeks back that they have neglected to empty my new smaller recycle bin. A week later the bin is emptied but not the next week. I dig out a flyer they sent us and it stated that from now on we were only getting recyclables picked up every other week.

These changes mean that we’re getting more than a 25% reduction in service while paying the same fees. If this were an isolated event I might say it was just the unintended side effect of merging two systems but this happened when our local internet provider was bought out by a huge national carrier and when our local cable provider was bought out by a huge corporation.

Huge corporations are only more efficient when it comes to making money for themselves but when you’re a customer they take every advantage to leverage their huge size against you the tiny individual customer in what can be easily compared to a mafia style shakedown. There are few other advantages to companies growing this large, they don’t support my local area as the head office is way down in Texas and all the good paying jobs are there too all we have is the labor and they take the profits and things like the local professionals that used to service the old company are moved elsewhere.

 

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.

 

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.