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.

UPDATED: Repair of the Day, Black & Decker Belgian Waffle Maker on a 3D Printer

You might remember my post of April 12th, 2013 titled something like “repair of the Black and Decker Belgian Waffle maker“? It’s been my most popular post here at WordPress attracting a few views almost every single day since I posted it. I was quite proud of it too being able to not only showcase an elegant and inexpensive repair that just about anyone could do but selfishly I really enjoyed having that little machine working again.

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So here we are in 2017 and I’m going to revisit that repair with a new twist. I’ve purchased a 3D printer and started a user group to get my skills up for a big project. machine for I’m searching out little projects around the house. So far I’ve made mostly handles and knobs to fix broken ones and I’ve created a couple of new items and even designed some upgrade parts for the 3D printer itself, which I’m told is a right of passage in the digital world. I’ve even made some YouTube videos of some of those parts and repairs.

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Now that’s a funny looking waffle maker

Now first thing I want to start with is if you’ve already done my first fix and it’s holding up for you then stop right here and go back to making waffles. I’ve taken apart my waffle maker and inspected the pieces and have found them to have held up perfectly and do not require replacement. It is nice to be able to pull the pins and give the hinge a good cleaning once and awhile as grease does build up in the recessed areas that you can’t normally clean but other than that there is no reason to replace them.

Okay I guess you haven’t done the previous repair or want to see what I’ve come up with in the wide world of science and over design. Let’s proceed. With the pins out and the area cleaned of grease and pancake batter we can make some measurements to aid in designing the new part. If you still have an old pin it is easy to measure the depth and width of the locking tabs otherwise the hinge needs to be separated enough to get a caliper in. I couldn’t find any of the old pins and had to do the latter.

I like to start with a sketch so when I sit down at the computer I can just get to work. The sketch is done first then the dimensions are filled in as I measure the part.

This part was modeled in Tinkercad, a free online 3D design tool that is great for simple parts like this.

Here is the part being printed.

And here is the finished product.

If you’re interested I’ve made the model available at Thingiverse but you have to make sure you print this using a high temp filament because waffle irons get hot. If your printer can only print PLA then I recommend using my original method.

3D Printed Around the House

I bought my 3D printer to make parts for the CNC router I’m making, when I found out how expensive my local machine shop is to make parts I changed my focus and started to research 3D printers which I originally had little interest in. I’ve always had access to a machine shop and could make parts out of steel or use a mill and lathe to make what I needed but since I’ve moved I no longer have access to those tools.

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To get my skills up enough to make the machine parts I need I’ve decided I’ll make parts to fix things around the house, I’ve made brackets and knobs and a nice clip to hold the phone but today I needed to secure a patio door that had a broken latch. Last winter I found a bolt that fit and tightened it with a wrench but I had to leave the wrench hanging on the door incase I had to open it quickly.

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My new plan was to create a knob that fits over a 3/8″ bolt that I could tighten by hand. Since it is only a single printed part of a simple enough shape I’ve decided to use Tinkercad to design this part.

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The part needs no finishing after printing and fits tightly over the bolt. I use a heat gun to press the bolt in which locks the part on like glue

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I’m happy with the results,

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and so happy that I’m made another knob to fix a different door. The second knob is slightly different because there is less clearance and the knob comes near the jam at a small angle requiring that the edges be recessed, I think it also makes the part better looking.

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Here’s a view into how the part was designed in Tinkercad.

Of course I could have gone out to Lowes and picked up a plastic knob that was close enough then picked up the hardware to make whatever knob they had work which I figure would have costs ten bucks and would have taken less time but all I would have learned would be what parts my local Lowes has in stock.

Studio Lighting Improvements

This project cost around $10 and has improved the comfort and convenience of using the studio. How can a couple of strips of LEDs do that? The top keyboard contains scores of buttons and knobs and sliders that I wasn’t using because I couldn’t see them, actually I was using a few as the transport buttons are visible but the rest were gone. And that was causing problems as instead of just reaching out and hitting the right button or knob I had to mouse all over a 30″ screen again and again, it was killing me.

The solution involved a 5M roll of 600 warm white LEDs on 3M adhesive. 5M gets cut and placed all around the shelf almost twice with the single strip at the back. To secure the lights, I’ve had problems in the past with the lights falling off, with a glue gun a fine strip of glue is placed under each light strip. I don’t need to rush as it takes a bit of time to unroll the strips, remove the backing and carefully apply the strip. After the strips are satisfactorily applied a heat gun is used to remelt the glue, a small block of wood is used to press the strips on to the hot glue.

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Once applied the strips have to be connected, using a small soldering tip and wire each strip is connected to the next one. In my case I had 7 strips that needed to be connected, polarity must be observed! To power the strip a wall wart was pulled from my box of parts, for a 600 LED strip you’ll need a 12 volt power supply of about 2A. I found this one on ebay with the connector for $5.

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To control brightness a PWM control was used. I use these for a number of projects so I buy them in bulk but they aren’t expensive.

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Here is the shelf on my bench upside down. The shelf is recycled from some old upright piano parts. Sure takes a lot of tools to glue down some lights. Remember when joining the lights that polarity matters, I messed that up a few times and I’m blaming the small print!

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That’s about all it takes, look at the huge difference it makes.

Before:

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After:

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The under shelf lighting adds a lot of light around the rack and on the floor which increases the amount of indirect lighting in the room.

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Even from behind it is now well lit allowing easier access to cables and equipment.

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All in all I’m totally happy and look forward to my next project.

My new 3D printer

After much deliberation, research and youtube watching I’ve finally picked out, purchased and started using my new 3D printer.

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That’s not mine, it’s the photo from the manufacturer but it looks like mine well except for I have the newer model that uses solid couplers for the Z axis and I didn’t apply the bed mat as I prefer to use painters tape oh yea and the Y axis uses LM8UU instead of the nice sealed units pictured here. One more thing my bowden tube correctly passes underneath the cross support because going over the top would cause it to jam against the frame and not work.

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Here’s mine with the blue tape making my first print. There’s nothing to look at just yet.

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Now this is the first print after I did the calibration, this file came with the machine as the only printable file on the memory stick. It turns out it’s just a part I don’t need as the machine has be upgraded to a proximity sensor from a mechanical switch which this was designed to hold.

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Here’s the first part I designed and printed. It’s the hinge part bolted to the case, the original broke about eight years ago and I’ve been carrying this case around by its edges ever since.Fantastic Waasa.png

This view is from Tinkercad. I didn’t end up using the hex nuts as the plastic threaded nicely. Tinkercad is an online 3D design program, it’s really simple to use but you can only use if for simple objects as it lacks most advanced features but hell it’s good enough for the quick and dirty jobs plus it works nicely with my 3D printer software and with Thingyverse the online 3D object sharing website, here’s my project on Thingyverse.

Speaking of Thingyverse I’ve set up a profile for myself there, you can check out my work if you like. I have five designs there already and plan on uploading a lot more.

Another thing I’ve done is to set up a forum/user group page for this 3D printer, it’s called The Dp5 3D Printer User Group. There wasn’t much information about the DP5 when I bought it and I figured a forum would be a good idea since I’m totally new at this. Actually the first time I ever held a 3D printed object was only a couple of months back at a local maker group meeting.

I really had no intentions of getting a 3D printer. I like to work with metal and build things that are strong and solid and big which you can’t do on a small printer like what I bought which only can work with objects smaller than a cubic foot. What brought me to 3D printing was that I’m making a CNC router that can cut objects about four feet by four feet and over a foot tall, and I’ve spend over a year collecting parts and making tests and now at the point where the metal and electronics can come together except for a lot of small things I need machined. The problem is I don’t have access to a machine ship anymore, I could buy time but that get expensive and since a few hours time would have cost me more than this printer I went with the printer and I plan on making all the small bits I need to finish the CNC machine.

Projects like the case handle hinge is just to build up some skills before I start needing things like bearing mounts, motor flanges, electrical boxes, etc. Which brings me back to my second print.

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This bracket holds a Galaxy S6 in a rubber case and attaches to a standard tripot. I call it Smartphone Tripod Mount and if you click it you can see another Thingyverse project. The mount works nicely and allows me to have some hands free photos.

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Another quicky is this Knob for speaker stand while not as fancy as the original knob it’s not broken and won’t cut my hand anymore.

Initially I wanted to make my own 3D printer from parts. I did my research and found the type of machine that best suited my needs and desires. That machine is called a Core XY and it looks like a cube with motors and belts inside. My favorite version of that machine was built by a youtuber called Tech2C he calls his version The Hypercube and builds an entire machine over 18 videos. It was in these videos that I decided that this was the machine for me.

Now I had to go over all the specs and locate the parts. This very long list of parts plus a few I substituted came to over $500 and I still wouldn’t have a working printer until I was finished! I contacted Chris at Tech2C and asked him if he would sell me a set of printed parts since I wouldn’t have a machine to make them on and I really wanted to show some support for all his fine work which he was freely giving away without asking for money or anything. It turns out he did make and sell parts but he didn’t feel right about pushing  to get paid, I really liked that about him and sent him some funds via paypal and within a week or two I had my parts fresh from Australia!

Okay I have a box of plastic parts and a list. I keep going over the list thinking of ways to get my price down and an old Johnny Cash  song comes to my head, “One Piece At A Time” It’s about an auto worker who makes an entire car by taking home one piece at a time, the problem is it takes so long that he has parts from multiple years and nothing fits right. Let’s hope I don’t have that problem.

Next automotive related tid bit I’m reminded of is how the parts for a car are always more expensive than just buying the car for parts. This give me an idea, can I find a machine that uses all the parts I need for the new machine. This would have the advantage of giving me a working 3D printer before I strip the machine down for parts.

The DMS DP5 is this 3D Printer. After searching on multiple sites and going over specs until I was blue in the face I found it. Everything seemed perfect, Bed= 200*200*270, Auto leveling, 24V power supply, metal remote feed extruder, 200W hot bed, metal base, aluminum extrusion frame, all this and a 10 min. install due to the fact that this machine comes almost fully assembled.

I have an order ready for the majority of the final parts that will allow me to assemble the new frame without disassembling the old machine. Once I get to this point I’m sure there will be a small order needed but for so far I’ll be about $200 under my first estimate which is pretty damn good for a build your own project where things usually go over budget.

This is machine is pretty close to what I intend to build.