JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 166 : 26 October 2004

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

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E-Voting - the 2004 scenario

With the US election just one week away - November 2, 2004 - our primary concern must be the very close election in several marginal states. A new, unthinkable scenario may unfold: electronic machines with no means of providing a validating recount.

Many Americans felt that the 2000 Florida election ended unfairly - disenfranchised voters, hanging chads, Florida Supreme Court ruling for a re-count, and the US Supreme Court stopping that re-count, allowing GW Bush to win by a scant 500 votes.

This time, both sides have hordes of lawyers locked, loaded and ready. So, are we about to demonstrate to the world that US Democracy has been lowered to the level of legal loopholes?

In this election, some 50 million Americans will be using electronic voting machines, many of which make no provision at all for manual recounts. The rules are clear - if there is a marginal result, either side may request a recount. But, with some touch-screen voting machines there is no paper-trail, and a manual recount is impossible. It is far too late to make any changes, and Americans can only hope for a miracle - unambiguous results in all marginal states, and a clear electoral victory.

Earlier US elections that featured electronic voting did not inspire much confidence. To take just one example: in an election in Indiana in 2003, 5,352 voters produced 144,000 votes. Many people sincerely believe that Senator Max Cleland lost the 2002 Georgia election because the electronic machines, some of which had been stolen before the election, had been hacked. Several independent studies have found serious security breaches in the software of most commonly used machines.

Beyond the clear mistakes, last year during a Bush rally in Ohio, the CEO of Diebold (makers of one of 4 nationwide electronic voting systems) got carried away and declared to the cheering crowd that he would "help deliver the state of Ohio to President Bush". He was not prosecuted, and the media glossed over it as "over-zealous".

Election officials in California and Ohio were so worried about accuracy and security that they simply halted the rollout of electronic machines in many counties. This was wise, but it will be a pity if electronic voting is discredited by clear evidence of fraud in this election.

E-voting in itself makes sense: it is faster, more accurate, and easier than any alternative. The voting process has always been susceptible to fraud. But with e-voting, the problem is the possibility for very large-scale vote tampering.

Eventually, most people (including me) are sure that e-voting will be as secure, speedy and effective as any ATM financial transaction. But, for this year, we can all only hope for clean, unambiguous results.

Click Technology and Democracy

Click Florida 2000 - The Sequel

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Honeywell on a good track

Last week Honeywell reported an 8% increase in Q3 profits ($372m vs. $344m), with double-digit growth in sales for 3 of 4 business divisions. Sales were $6.4b for the quarter, compared with $5.8b for the year-ago period. For the first 9 months of 2003, revenue was $17.5b, up from $15.6b.

After a 5-year stretch of shrinking profits, this quarter marked the third in a row of an upward trend. "This is another quarter that just feels really good," said Dave Cote, CEO, who has lived up to high expectations.

Sales in the Automation and Control Solutions division (which includes commercial and residential Building Solutions, and industrial Process Solutions) increased 6% over the third quarter of 2003. Numbers were not quoted separately for the Industrial Process Solutions business, which (in my view) is the piece that Siemens is interested in acquiring. From the latest scuttlebutt, that ball is still in play.

The only item reported that relates to Process Solutions was that ION (Integrated Operator Node) was introduced, to allow industrial customers who use Honeywell's process control technology to continue to utilize existing infrastructure while upgrading to the latest Experion solution.

It is interesting to note that Jack Welch of GE delayed his retirement in 2000 to launch a bid for Honeywell. The merger was then dropped, ostensibly due to inability to get European approval. In the past 3-4 years since, Honeywell stock has advanced by some 10-20% compared to GE stock, indicating that departing CEO Larry Bossidy did well in selecting David Cote as his successor, after dumping previous CEO Mike Bonsignore. ,p. Stay tuned...

Click The complete Honeywell-GE aborted merger story

Click David Cote: The Sweet Spot at Honeywell

Click Log your own Honeywell comments on the weblog

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Automation - views of the future

Since the turn of the century, the global recession has affected most businesses, including industrial automation. The Canadian magazine "Manufacturing Automation" asked 5 key industry thought-leaders (including yours truly) for their views on the future of industrial automation. The article provides a good summary of development trends and is worth reading. Take a look.

Click Manufacturing Automation - Automation at a crossroads -
Industry experts weigh in on the state of the industry

In their next issue (November 2004) the magazine "Automation World" has an excellent article written by Managing Director, Wes Iverson, reporting on my recent keynote speech at ISA Expo in Houston. You might like to read this on the Automation World website.

Click Automation World - Global Shifts in Automation

Click Automation Unplugged - Global Shifts in a New Age -
Outline of Pinto presentation:

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Superior digital downloads with 'Swarming Distribution'

Despite the efforts to litigate away file-sharing threats, new peer-to-peer (P2P) programs are replacing older, lawsuit-targeted models. A new program called BitTorrent is now facilitating more downloads than any other P2P network worldwide. With several significant advantages, the use of this technology is growing fast.

BitTorrent was created 3 years ago by Seattle programmer Bram Cohen. It relies on a concept called "swarming distribution", in which files (MP3 music, software packages or DVD movies) are not transferred in one piece from one person's hard drive to another. Rather, small bits of a file are pulled from many users' hard drives and reassembled by the program on the downloader's computer.

If you want to download a movie, a BitTorrent-related website such as Filesoup or TVTorrents, will allow you to click on the movie's link. Instead of that click facilitating a transfer of the file from any one person's computer to your own (which is how Kazaa and other P2P programs work), BitTorrent "swarms" its network to pull small pieces of the file from many, many computers, sometimes thousands. This enormous collection effort is invisible to the user. The only difference you may notice is that the file arrives a lot faster than on most file-sharing services, since it comes as a collection of short bursts instead of in one long, tedious transfer. It's as if thousands of jigsaw puzzle pieces were downloaded and magically put together on your computer.

Unlike Kazaa, or Napster before that, BitTorrent has no central user interface through which users can search for files. Instead of typing in the name of a song, or movie you wish to download, you simply search through BitTorrent-related sites. Once you find the right file, you start downloading it from multiple users at once.

The interesting feature of BitTorrent is that, as soon as you download a piece of a file to your computer, that piece becomes available for others to download as well. This increases the size of the network, and the speed of downloading.

BitTorrent's growing popularity, and the way in which it works, spells serious trouble the recording industry's efforts to crack down on file swapping. Perhaps most troubling is that BitTorrent is optimized to handle large files - which means movies and big software packages.

If the file you want is a 2-gigabyte movie, it can take an awfully long time to transfer from just one source. With BitTorrent, each user only has to upload a small segment of a file. This not only takes far less time, it is also less prone to interruption - like a user turning off his computer in the middle of a transfer, which ruins the file.

BitTorrent software has already been downloaded more than 10 million times. While the primary use has been swapping copyrighted material, legitimate uses of swarming distribution are also evident.

The music and movie companies have not yet launched any anti-BitTorrent efforts, as they had against Napster and Kazaa. But they'll probably start as soon as they discover the magnitude of the problem.

Click The official BitTorrent website

Click MIT Tech Review: Digital Movie Forecast: BitTorrential Downpour

Click BitTorrent frequently-asked-questions and Guide

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Pinto Editorial - making a choice

The presidential election next week is probably the most important US presidential election ever. Please allow me to give my final pitch before election day. It is probably the most important sales pitch I have ever made in my life! If it offends you, simply click it away. And, please don't bother to send me any complaints.

The debates, and the ensuing noise of the past weeks, have served to accentuate the stark differences between the candidates. No points have been left unsaid. Any strong points I have made in these columns during the past months have been amplified by others, many, many times.

Many Americans are strongly committed to getting rid of GW Bush. And, it seems that an equal number want four more years. But, there are still relatively large numbers of voters who don't like Bush, but cannot comfortably vote for John Kerry. They are acutely uncomfortable with the status quo and current political party polarization.

In the debates, Kerry presented himself as an articulate, informed and credible commander-in-chief, and answered all the questions with clarity and detail. But the critics immediately insisted that they felt he was too "wooden" or "glib". How could anyone argue against that "feeling"?

Bush frowned and scowled during the first debate. Those who know him well said it was because he was not used to anyone contradicting him. His cabinet and close associates have learned to be yes-men, and say that they have tried to work around the problem.

In the second and third debates, Bush didn't sulk, but still looked like a schoolboy and his responses matched. In the town hall debate, when he was asked directly what 3 mistakes he had ever made, he simply dodged. He still persists in saying that he never made any mistakes because he receives "guidance from above".

When asked directly about his views on gay marriage, Bush dodged again, saying he "didn't know". With all those non-responses, I found it remarkable that his supporters immediately claimed that he had won.

After each debate, the spin meisters all gave their biased views, and it took a couple of days for the results to emerge. After the first debate, Kerry wiped out the lead that Bush had gained after the coronation at the Republican convention. The debates ended with a neck-and-neck race. And now both candidates are out stumping around for uncommitted voters in marginal states.

Right now, Iraq is a terrible mess because of the criminal incompetence of the Bush administration. This week, about 50 US-trained Iraqi soldiers were massacred and the US was nowhere in sight. Just today, hundreds of tons of explosives are reported missing from a Baghdad site that was part of Saddam Hussein's dismantled nuclear arms program but never secured by the US military. Tell me this - who is accepting responsibility?

Conservatives say they care about the outcome in Iraq, but they dawdled silently for the last year as the situation deteriorated steadily. Instead, they participated in a shameful effort to shift the emphasis to what John Kerry did in Vietnam 30 years ago. It didn't seem to count that Kerry is a decorated veteran, while Bush dodged his service.

Where were the "conservatives" when both of our own senior Iraq envoys, Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, said that we never had enough troops to control Iraq's borders, keep the terrorists out, prevent looting and establish authority? They simply acted as cheer leaders for a president who insisted that God was guiding him, applauded his missteps and mocked anyone who challenged them. Gosh, I can't tell you how many "liberal" epithets I got!

"Conservatives" have failed their own test of patriotism. In the end, it has been more important for them to defeat "liberals" than to solve the mess that this president has got America into in Iraq. And all the while, arch-terrorist Osama bin Forgotten remains free.

In the debates, and in all his follow-on rhetoric, the president did not answer these concerns. Instead, he keeps trying very clumsily to focus all his energy on fanning doubts about whether or not John Kerry really understands "the enemy". And, "we're fighting terrorism there, to keep it from coming here". Huh? Most people agree that US involvement in Iraq has multiplied terrorism 100 times!

America is on the wrong track. The thought of four more years of GW Bush terrifies me. I prepare for the worst by philosophizing that perhaps significant change can come only after things get worse.

Americans will elect the President they deserve. We deserve better.

God bless America!

Click NY Times - Tom Friedman - Hunting the Tiger

Click Electoral Vote Predictor

Click Pinto Poem - Read it again! The ballad of GW Bush

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Ted Mohns [drtedmohns@yahoo.com], well-known San Diego psychiatrist and management/business consultant to several corporations, gave his own perspectives on the coming presidential election. I respect his opinion greatly, and it is included here in its entirety:
    "Nearly two years ago I said to friends that Bush had one chance in three of being re-elected. Reasoning: (1) The war which Bush clearly was gong to start was obviously never winnable, could only become a quagmire, and only played straight into bin Laden's hands. (2) At a policy level, the neocons had gotten too far out in front of not only the country generally but also their own base. (3) A president telling lies obliges those who work for him to lie, and there becomes an extraordinary compounding effect. That course inevitably implodes. It's just a matter of when.

    "For many, trying to understand otherwise bright/reasonable people voting for Bush is a very tall order (and vice versa, admittedly). Some generalities can be made, however. Too many Americans are lazy about citizenship and prefer to not think. Many are child-like, and cling to the notion that an imagined Daddy-like figure in the White House will surely make everything OK. Others, for insecure ego reasons, simply refuse to believe that they have been fooled and that they could have been wrong about Bush. Many others are more or less radical religious fundamentalists, which I consider a semi-functional but impaired state. 17% of US citizens believe that the world is going to end in their lifetime, for example. Still others, offended beyond words that America could have proven to be as vulnerable as other countries, want even more revenge for 9/11. More "Shock and Awe." Yet another group sees financial advantage.

    "Part of US history is the electorate belatedly and sometimes fairly abruptly waking up and acting on their own behalf. The trigger for this seems to be when the gap between leadership rhetoric and the flow of plain facts becomes too wide, e.g. the Vietnam Tet offensive.

    "A lot of recent news stories, e.g. Bremer, Jay Garner, Reservists refusing orders, Pat Robertson's report of Bush's pre-war assessment of "no casualties," etc. are progressively undermining Bush's increasingly delusional assertions about reality. The sense of desperation within Bush himself is increasingly apparent. How much the US public has now come to understand will only be made clear on 11/2."

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Jim Hetzer [Rezteh@aol.com] suggests incentives to regaining competitive advantage:
    "America is losing jobs because we are not making the investments to maintain productivity. It is easier to close down a factory in Ohio and ship the jobs to China, India or a third world country than to make the investments needed to allow our workers to compete. The automotive industry in the USA proves that US workers can compete when the technology that they are using is sound. Paper mills in the USA with 50 to 100 year old equipment cannot compete with 10 year old mills in Scandanavia where the machines are 50% wider and 100% faster. The same is true for steel mills.

    "America's wealth came from adding value to raw materials through manufacturing. That approach has not changed. Pushing numbers around in a computer does not add value beyond the support it provides for someone to actually make something. We have a skilled and hard-working labor force. To bring back manufacturing to the USA we need investment incentives. I suggest that the following would work nicely:

    "Roll back the capital gains to the levels of the Clinton administration. Use the available revenue to then provide a 10% investment tax credit for investment in new machines and retraining people, with 5% additional credit for energy efficiency improvements and 5% additional credit for pollution reduction. The energy and pollution would be on a 2-for-1 basis, i.e. for every 2% reduction in energy usage, a 1% credit would be done. The same would apply to pollution reduction.

    "The overall impact of the investments in new production equipment, pollution control and energy efficiency would be a stimulant to the American economy and help us to regain some key advantages in the global market. As we have discussed before, the energy equation requires more efficient usage of renewable resources, as well as less waste in how energy is used. For 5,000 years, the Chinese have sold hot water for tea and soup on the street corner. One fire is much more efficient. We have a lot to learn about not squandering our resources and not fouling our own nests."

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Bob Erickson [bserick@yahoo.com] on manufacturing job losses:
    "You really hit the nail on the head: 'The well-intended but job-inhibiting laws are disincentives for employers to create jobs'. The bigger we make government, the worse we make the business climate.

    "I worked for myself for a time as a one-man system integrator. I did OK, but the hassle, confusion and expense of FICA, Fed and state withholding, FUTA, sales taxes, corporate taxes etc. makes me happy I'm back with a traditional employer. I may try it again in the future, perhaps with some partners. But I think small employers especially need to get some kind of break."

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