JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 137 : 13 November 2003

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

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Invensys expectations slide

I'm sorry if I seem to harp on Invensys' woes - but the debacle, started by Allen Yurko and now presided over by Rick Haythornthwaite, is getting to be almost funny, if it wasn't so sad for many good companies and employees. Hey! Perhaps I'll be stimulated to write a poem next...

Disappointing some and surprising few, this week Invensys reported lower than expected interim profits, and also lowered the expectations of total funds it would raise from its current company sell-off.

After failing to revive the ailing company, Rick Haythornthwaite insisted that he could raise 2.4 to 3 bn from selling off some of the best-performing Invensys companies. Now he has reduced the expectation to 1.8 bn. Ouch!

Baan was dumped at a fraction of the Yurko-purchase price. Then, a small company, $100m revenue Teccor, was sold for a paltry $50m. And then Metering, which was valued at about 600m was sold for 338m. Now Haythornthwaite says the remaining companies will not fetch the price he anticipated. Clearly he has NOT been living up to his reputation of being an ace company-salesman.

The company disposal program was supposed to have paid off bank debt of about 1.6 bn, leaving some surplus to turn around and grow what was left, making it a winner. But, now that surplus has dwindled, and profits are dwindling too. And Invensys is supposed to be moving its HQ to the US. And Rick Haythornthwaite is supposed to be exiting because he doesn't wish to move.

So, who will be running this once great company? Allen Yurko, aided and abetted by Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, pushed the company over a cliff with the ill-fated merger of BTR and Siebe. Yurko was booted, and Marshall (now himself booted) brought in Haythornthwaite, who presided over further plummeting. And then, bolstered by his track record, he came up with the brilliant idea to sell-off the best pieces and turn around the dogs. Now what?

Well, surprise, surprise! Allen Yurko appears to be coming back; but not to run the Invensys he destroyed. Yurko is apparently maneuvering to buy some of the Invensys pieces - probably Appliance Controls. The Invensys weblog reports that Yurko has been turning up in many different worldwide Invensys locations, with bankers in tow, viewing the facilities and inspecting the merchandise.

Stay tuned via the Invensys weblog, as the saga continues...

Click UK Financial Times - Invensys reduces expectations on disposals

Click Read the latest Invensys news on the Invensys weblog

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Electronic voting - security flaws

In the last eNews (3 Nov. 2003) I mentioned the clear and present danger of manipulation of electronic voting. Here is more startling news about security flaws in electronic systems that have already been deployed.

There are several instances where the software used by electronic voting systems were accessible on publicly available FTP servers. Source code (containing programmer notes and comments, showing how a system works) could have been downloaded by anyone. In some cases, only binary code was available, but that too can be figured out - it just takes a little longer.

Sequoia's AVC Edge voting machines were used in California's Riverside County for the 2000 presidential election, and for last month's California gubernatorial recall election. It has also has been used in some counties in Florida and Washington state.

Wired magazine reports that Sequoia's software was freely accessible on a publicly available server, owned by Jaguar Computer Systems, which provides election support to a California county for placing ballots on voting kiosks, and for storing and tabulating results.

The exposed code could have allowed someone to plant an undetectable "Trojan Horse" virus in the system's compiler. Also, it is clear that the Sequoia system relies heavily on Microsoft software, which is a frequent target of hackers. Even more amazing is that the files contain Visual Basic script and code for voting system databases. This would allow almost anyone to rig voting results.

This is the second time this year that voting machine code has been leaked via the Internet. In January, source code for the AccuVote-TS system made by Diebold Election Systems was found on an unprotected FTP server belonging to the company. Numerous security flaws were found in that system.

Click E-voting flaws risk ballot fraud

Click Wired Mag. - E-Vote Software Leaked Online

Click Electronic Voting Security Flaws

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Google the great

Google seems to be everything. It is Amazon, eBay, Reuters News and the Encyclopedia Britannica all rolled into one. It is the most popular Internet website, has low-end disruptive technology, an advertising model that works, and has been profitable for the past nine quarters. It has cleaned up the Internet cacophony. It even prompted NY Times columnist Tom Friedman to ask: "Is Google God?"

The financial world has great expectations for $20 bn Google public stock offering in 2004. Some are even hoping that the old dotcom dreams will be resuscitated.

Why has Google been so successful? In 2002 alone, humans and machines created 5 exabytes (10 to the 18th) of new, unique, storable data. That's the equivalent of 500,000 Libraries of Congress generated in just one year! Google is simply the best at finding relevant needles in this data haystack.

Google wins because of speed. The Google website contains just 35 words and the corporate logo. Search results and ads are similarly all text, guaranteeing quick results, every time. The relevance of the results generated by unique algorithms more than makes up for the lack of flashy graphics.

Of course, Google's success has brought competition. Amazon recently introduced "Search Inside the Book," a standard feature that takes your phrase and finds and displays scanned pages from more than 120,000 books. Amazon's entire catalog of several million books will soon be searchable online.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is embedding powerful search features in its next operating system, code-named Longhorn. Even as it seeks to emulate Google's functionality, Microsoft recently met with Google to explore partnership, or even an acquisition. Google is said to have resisted, but the nightmare of Netscape's annihilation (by the free Internet Explorer) remains an unspoken threat.

Stay tuned...

Click Excerpted from a November 4, 2003 Wall Street Journal article
by Bret Swanson, executive editor of the Gilder Technology Report

Click Tom Friedman - NY Times Op-ed: Is Google God

Click Handy Book - Google Pocket Guide

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The Matrix Revolution

This week, the third in the Matrix series - "The Matrix Revolutions" opened in 60 Imax theaters as well as conventional screens. It didn't do as well at the box office as the mid-chapter "Matrix Reloaded". The reviews were generally negative.

In my view, it's better than the second episode "Matrix Reloaded" but not much better. For me, the thrill of the original "Matrix" is lost. What began as an interesting intellectual and philosophical concept from Andy and Larry Wachowski, has degraded to pseudo-intellectual rubbish, with too much digital animation trickery that gets too long and boring.

Because the time to make money from this series may be running out faster than expected, "Revolutions" may be coming to home videos sooner than the usual time-lapse expected for a hit. Apparently, the DVD could even hit the shelves before Christmas. And, further fomenting the flop, the studio may even put together a 3-movie Matrix boxed set for Christmas.

"The Matrix" theme has pushed transmedia storytelling more than most. The world of The Matrix has been developed across not only the three feature films, but also several comics (first released on the web and now in print), a series of anime movies "The Animatrix", and an ambitious video game "Enter The Matrix".

Click The official Warner Brothers "Matrix Reloaded" website

Click Read the Google search of "Matrix Reloaded" Reviews

Click Why The Matrix Matters

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"Automation Unplugged" - Pinto's industrial poetry

To liven up the often humorless industrial automation atmosphere, I've tried my hand at poetic satire. A situation that is impossible to describe in prose is presented quite succinctly, with poetry; one can poke fun, without offending. All the staid industry journals have published my stuff, with good feedback.

I often like to use the poetic lilt of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". Here's a sample of my poetry on the automation merger mania:

    Where have all the Players gone?

    "The time has come," the Siemens said,
    "To speak of many things:
    Of purchase-price and market-share -
    Of cabbages-and kings -
    Why TI sold their PLCs -
    And whether pigs have wings."

The continuous confusion in the fieldbus arena is a prime candidate for my metaphorical musings:
    Net du Jour

    A little guy walked up the way
    Into the mighty ISA
    He walked along from booth to booth
    Looking for the Fieldbus truth
    The only thing he found for sure
    Was a variety of Net Du Jour!

My Bill Gates poems too are here for your amusement. And a few others which I hope you'll enjoy....

Table of Contents for "Automation Unplugged" Section 5:

  • Introduction: Greg Hale, Editor ISA InTech magazine
  • Where have all the Players gone?
  • The Fieldbus Raven
  • Open Saysa Me, Closed Saysa You
  • The Fieldbus Quadrille
  • Microsoft Takes Over Fieldbus
  • The 8-part Fieldbus Voting Fiasco
  • Net Du Jour
  • You are Rich Brother William
  • Saint Bill

Click Here are links to ALL the Pinto poetry

Click Read "Automation Unplugged" - Complete Table of Contents

"Automation Unplugged" is now available online from the ISA website and several others (see web links below).

Click Buy the book on the ISA website

Click Automation techies, buy from AutomationTechies.com

Click Amazon.com - buy with 1-click

Click Readout - UK and Europe shipments

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In counter-point to my item on "The Ominous Chinese Puzzle" Dr. Ted Mohns [tedmohns@yahoo.com] writes:
    "I believe it important to think, and talk, about China absent an a priori assumption that the future US-Chinese relationship will necessarily be antagonistic. While China has its significant problems, such as the explosive spread of HIV and questionably- adequate capitalization within its banking system at present, China is now the leading destination for foreign capital and is obviously becoming more and more competitive.

    "The only necessary threat which results from that, however, is a threat to world domination by the USA. If we profess to be democratic, then we cannot also insist on having some imagined right to perpetual world domination. Neither can we rightly undertake to protect that imagined right.

    "Some who disagree with this point of view often tangentially fall back on pointing to human-rights violations in China. They do bad things, so the argument goes, so the US is right to view the Chinese as antagonists. In reply, I suggest that before pointing the finger so readily elsewhere, the US needs to take a long look at its own present actions in this area.

    "Worth noting is that the neocons in the Bush administration have long considered as ominous any nation which might become competitive economically. A paper written in 1992 by one of Bush Sr.'s staff concluded that military force would be appropriate to use against a nation which began to pose an economic competitive "threat." A number of the people from the Bush Sr. era are now senior in the present administration. Despite their trumpeting of free-market capitalism, several neocon think-tanks have developed actual proposals for balkanizing China, in order to protect the US from China as an emerging economic competitor. The Chinese are well aware of this.

    "If the Bush administration puts such a strategy in play, such an action may, paradoxically, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. China will surely defend its national sovereignty if the US obliges it to do so. Rather than reflexively fearing China, our national security interest will be best served by strengthening our relationship and by defining commonalities of interest with China."

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Mary Lee Coleman [OCALADY@aol.com] gives us her own view of the confusing differences between Democrats and Republicans :
    "Yes, it is hard to get a definition of the Republican point-of-view versus the Democrat, but that doesn't mean there is no difference. I certainly know where I fall, although I don't agree with everything on the current Republican platform or with the current Bush in the White House. For instance, I am strongly opposed to making abortion illegal, and I don't think it is a subject for political debate, either.

    "One of the difficulties is the shifting spectrum. As a Republican, I am always more comfortable with the Republican point of view, but over the decades the political landscape changes, as the world and everything around us changes. There has to be an overlap of agreement between the parties for anything to get done, and that overlap is not always on the same subject or to the same degree. On some subjects everyone is somewhat on the same page, at least, but on others the divide is wide. I've lived under many administrations, made up mostly of honest public servants, and most of them worked pretty well, but there really are differences.

    "Those differences are vitally important to our country. Without two parties presenting two points of view, we have no freedom to vote for different pathways. One party, with one choice, is no choice at all."

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Regarding the founding fathers' view on the threats to Democracy, Gary Witt [GGWitt11571@aol.com] comments:
    "John Adams was a Federalist. He wanted to expand the governmental powers that Jefferson thought would corrupt the freedoms contained in the Constitution. The "Alien and Sedition Acts" was written into law under Adams' watch. Hamilton authored it and Adams and the congress put into force. Jefferson and Madison tried to counter the acts by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions - giving the powers to decide such things not enumerated in the Constitution back to the states. It worked but only because of careful planning and the fact that Adams was a hot head whom even Hamilton couldn't control.

    "For those interested in the history, I suggest another good book: "Jefferson and Madison" by Adrienne Koch, Palladium Press."

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