JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 162 : 27 August 2004

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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Electronic Voting - continued concerns

Sorry, folks. I must bring this up again. This is NOT partisan politics. This does not concern Republicans or Democrats, conservatives, or liberals, left-wing or right-wing. It concerns ALL Americans.

As we approach Election Day 2004, serious concerns continue on the dangers of electronic voting. How do you warn people about an approaching disaster? People think you're a crank. If I stood on my roof-top and shouting out at mid-night, someone would simply call the police, and I'd be carried away, I suppose. Hey! Don't think I haven't thought of that approach too....

In recent elections, it's NOT just coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots. But, in any case, there's no paper trail to prove it.

In an open democracy, you would suppose that government agencies would program, repair, and control the voting machines. You'd think the computers that handle voting ballots would be open, and their software and programming would be available for public scrutiny. You'd expect there to be a paper trail of the vote, which could be tracked, counted and audited if a there was evidence a all of voting fraud.

You'd be wrong. On all counts. After Florida's hanging chad debacle, the commission created under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, began funneling $3.9 billion to states to upgrade voting systems. The paperless voting terminals which will be used by some 50 million Americans in the coming November election are all made by several large US manufacturers.

The manufacturers all insist, of course, that the machines will work flawlessly. But several studies have shown that serious flaws exist, and the machines are susceptible to fraud - not just the old local-precinct ballot-box dumping, but significant wholesale electronic hacking. And, there will be NO way to verify the results.

After thousands of touch-screen voting machines malfunctioned during California's March 2004 primary, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley banned the problem machines and ordered all counties that use similar systems to provide paper ballots as a backup.

Other similar challenges are now going on around the country. This week, opponents of touch-screen voting machines launched a broad attack on Maryland's system, arguing that it is riddled with flaws that must be fixed to assure an accurate vote count in November.

In San Francisco, California, electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold is being sued under a whistle-blower law, alleging that the company's shoddy balloting equipment expose California elections to hackers and software bugs.

While many states now are balking at switching to paperless electronic voting, about 25% of America's ballots will be cast on 100,000 paperless voting machines in 31 states plus DC on Nov. 2. Please, please tell me that this number has been reduced by the recent protests!

Sadly, the rhetoric surrounding the controversy immediately becomes partisan finger-pointing.

How much more noise can anyone make before the American people sit up and take notice? Or, will this simply be called a disaster after it has happened? What terrorist shall we blame? So, will the Supreme Court decide this next election too?

Here's what YOU can do:

  1. If you expect to vote on an electronic machine with no paper-receipt, ask for a paper-ballot, or at least an absentee ballot.
  2. Visit the Verified Voting website for the latest news and updates and campaign to demand verifiable voting results.

Click VerifiedVoting.org

Click Hindering America's Vote

Click Chasing down flaws in electronic voting

Click Johns Hopkins University - Avi Rubin E-voting Security Studies

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TORI - The art of engineering leadership

If you're an engineer, whether you're a senior engineer or raw recruit, whether you're an instrument technician or maintenance mechanic, you can enhance your job, your results - and your pay - by acquiring some leadership skills.

I like the T.O.R.I. concept: Trust, Openness, Respect & Interdependence.

  • Trust: A good leader trusts, which engenders trust.
  • Openness: Don't hide mistakes. When there are setbacks, share the problems openly and get the team involved in solutions.
  • Respect: Mutual respect builds teamwork. Respect peoples differences and needs, their weaknesses and their strengths.
  • Inter-dependence: Depend on people for their skills; and provide teamwork where experience is lacking.
Celebrate small successes. Give credit when it's due. Get the team involved in recognition of jobs well done. When extra effort is put in, recognize and reward it appropriately. Don't bribe - motivate.

Leaders have confidence in themselves, and the people working for them. No matter what the situation, when a problem comes up the leader takes responsibility. The best way to solve problems is to resolve it by focusing 100% on the solutions. And after the problem has been resolved, review the lessons learned.

Failures are valuable lessons. My colleague Stan Mintz, who was very successful while he was at HP, relates this insightful story: He was product manager for a calculator which developed keyboard reliability problems. He was called to CEO Dave Packard's office to explain the problems, the reasons for failure and the solutions. After he presented the truth, expecting to be chewed out, he was told that he was promoted to lead the product management team on the next major product. When he asked why he was chosen, Dave Packard said simply, "You failed on your first project; it's unlikely that you'll fail on this next, more important project. Someone new would not have your experience." Stan's next product turned out to be a best-selling HP calculator.

Good leaders don't need status to inspire support and best efforts. More money and titles follow good results. What counts most is the ability to bring out the best in others. Leaders rely on good people, and good people deliver because they know that they are relied upon.

If you like these ideas and suggestion, you might like to read my latest article on the AutomationTechies.com website. Hey! Marketing, sales and manufacturing people can read it too!

Click The Art of Engineering Leadership

Click IEEE - Leadership, or Something Like It

Click Read Andy Grove's book - "Only the Paranoid Survive":

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Robot servants

All kinds of robots are now becoming available, from mechanical dogs that can learn new tricks to automated vacuum cleaners that avoid furniture. But the real robot boom, with real applications that will create a demand beyond techy-toys, is still coming.

The Japanese are already showing how elderly patients enjoy being served by robots - apparently their faces light up when they see robot servants approach. These robots are not just helpers (carrying out simple chores and reminding patients to take medications) but also serve as companions, carrying on a real dialogue and providing entertainment.

There are robot-therapy sessions at Japanese hospitals and senior citizens' homes, providing a real answer to caring for the elderly. In other countries too, a BIG need will arise when the surges of baby-boomers advance to old age. Robotic nurses will be common, reducing the burden on families and caretakers, providing better health for old and sick people, offering huge savings in medical costs.

There are other robot applications too, which will soon become practical. Robot soldiers could help determine the outcome of wars, without waste of human life. Office buildings too could use lots of robots to control access, test heating, cooling and security systems, do menial jobs for workers.

Stay tuned. Or better yet - dispatch your web-robot to keep track of these developments as they emerge.

Click Robots offer devotion, no strings attached

Click We, Robots

Click The Coming Robot Revolution

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Dilbert's delightful deliberations

If you're an Engineer (like me) - and even if you're not - surely you follow the daily exploits of Dilbert. There are now 619,000 members of DNRC (Dogbert's new ruling class). Non members are called in-duh-viduals.

In the typically boring and unimaginative advertising of industrial magazines, Omega Engineering stands out with it's very successful advertising that features Dilbert cartoons. Nice!

I thought you'd enjoy some gems I've culled from the latest Dilbert Newsletter.

Induhvidual tales

  • A friend's girlfriend seeing her first sunrise over the ocean. "That was great. Does it come up here EVERY morning?"
  • A coworker noticed a "funny" pattern on one of his socks. He insisted his socks were the same color, but the pattern of one was not right. He just couldn't figure out what was wrong. After a few minutes, I had to tell him that he was wearing one sock inside out. He is director of quality.
Iduhvidual quotes
  • "A little pain never hurt anyone."
  • "Make sure you cross your p's and q's."
  • "Perception is 99% of the law."
  • "I hate to throw cold water on your bubble."
  • "I think you play a little harder when you can taste the light at the end of the tunnel."
  • "The squeaky wheel is the one that makes the most noise."
  • "My arms were knee-deep in mud."
  • "That's not my bag of game."
  • "That's going to be a tough animal to crack."
  • "He could talk a dog's ass off the hind leg of a mule."
  • "I've been chasing this rabbit for years and it finally came home to roost."
  • "For this to work, you really have to be out there humping the bushes."
  • "Isn't leather made out of wood?"
  • "You know, I think the sun may be the biggest thing in the world."
  • "You're only smart on the outside."
  • "I am not the woman I used to be, and I never was!"

Click Read the read the latest Dilbert Newsletter

Click Request your own subscription to the Dilbert Newsletter

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Poem: The ballad of GW Bush

I have been having discussions with many friends who are Bush proponents, with no effect. They seem to dodge all my sincere questions, or answer with faith-based responses - e.g., "They'll find WMD sooner or later."

For them, here is a poem I wrote, written with the lilt of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". Feel free to copy, clip and forward to your favorite right-winger.

Hey, I'll be happy to field logical rational, protests. Please, don't respond with "beliefs" and "feelings".

Click Read: "The Ballad of GW Bush"

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Mitch Carr [mitchcarr@msn.com] kindly provides employment-search tips:
    "Times are getting pretty lean. Hire a job search company to do your resume barrage. Look for a company that has a good database search utility - it really makes a difference.

    "Big problem: The market is so saturated with resumes that sending resumes has stopped working. Larger companies get over 1000 resumes a day. The Internet is largely to blame. A few clicks and you have applied. What makes this worse is that it has jaded hiring managers. Even when you use some creative approaches to sending your resume (like inserting magazine clippings, or using personal notes) they ignore them.

    "The search company could generate very good cold call lists but this too has gone the way of telemarketing - people shut down. The only way to get in front of someone is by personal referral. This happens in two ways. I have found LinkedIN (https://www.linkedin.com/ ) is an excellent way of contacting people directly.

    "The second is a word I hate: "networking". There are networking venues in most metropolitan areas, and most are free. Look for trade organizations, entrepreneurial groups and the local Chamber of Commerce. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many people spend their free time to introduce people and help them find each other - many good people are still nice to strangers.

    "I have had meetings with people based on personal referral and when I said, "Hey! I sent you my resume three weeks ago" they told me they throw resumes away without even reading them. Personal referrals are the only thing they spend time on."

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Mike Marullo [MAM@oncfari.com] expostulates on electronic voting:
    "The electronic voting controversy is bordering on ludicrous. I just cannot believe that venerable companies like Diebold are actually trying to convince us that their equipment will never fail, making any kind of backup or audit trail superfluous. (Did these folks somehow miss both space shuttle disasters?)

    "Oh, pleeeez, get real! Anyone who has ever used a computer for any length of time knows that the one thing you learn early on is to expect is the UNexpected. That usually involves either some weird set of circumstances that no one could have possibly imagined would occur in their failure mode analyses or, a simple component failure that was overlooked as being in the critical path.

    "The bottom line is that there is no such thing as 100% reliability; I don't care who designed it or who made it or how well it is supported. EVERYTHING fails, eventually. When (not IF) it does, you'd better have a backup plan.

    "For these voting machine companies, trying to convince us that they are making 100% reliable machines is, at best silly, and worst case, downright insulting to anyone with even the most basic grasp of what technology can and cannot do!

    "And all this does not address the deliberate hacking and undetectable fraud that can take place!

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Ian Huntly, [ian@rifle-shot.com] [irhuntly@iafrica.com] from S. Africa thinks that gas guzzlers will be the most serious environmental problem in the future.
    "The key question on dwindling oil reserves issues is whether anyone in the US has the political will to challenge the gas guzzler SUV issue. I have one of these beasts, which is used only for recreation. My small euro-box which is used daily, consumes less than a quarter of the gasoline per mile than the SUV.

    "In my mind, the 'green' movement is barking completely up the wrong tree in complaining about CO2 production. Excessive energy consumption in many sectors - SUVs, air-conditioners, jet engines, etc. are much more likely to be serious environmental problems.

    "The political will to address these issues will be the key."

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