2012 in review

December 31, 2012


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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There have been several articles written lately prophesying the demise of the PC (personal computer).   After decades of monopolizing the home computing experience, the desktop PC could be on the way out.  Technology “experts” say the rise of second screen devices such as smart phones and tablets, represents a fundamental shift towards mobile devices; thereby, ushering in the “post-PC” era.   It is felt by some that within the next decade, less than ten (10) percent of the current PC-using population will still require a desktop computer.   (A bold statement, in my opinion, but a fascinating proposition at any rate.)    Generally, there are five (5) basic reasons given.  These are as follows:

  1.   CLOUD COMPUTING—   Many experts say one of the most definitive signs of post-PC arrival is the increase in the number of cloud computing services.  Using a web site or a program installed on a computer, a cloud offloads the labor of running an application from the user’s computer to a server to which they connect, usually via the Internet.   The benefits of cloud services include reduced demand on the user’s own computer hardware, automatically updated content and the ability to access files across multiple devices; i.e. PC, smart phone, tablet—anywhere there is an online connection.    Via the cloud, users can manage event calendars between devices, continue streaming a film on a smart TV they started on their tablet or upload and share pictures between a smart phone and a PC. 
  2. PC SALES SLUMP—This year has been really tough for PC manufacturers.  The Associated Press reported that third quarter global PC sales fell by about eight point five (8.5) percent.   For the same period, DELL reported a forty-seven (47) percent drop in sales.  Hewlett-Packard realized an 8.9 billion dollar loss which was the worst in the company’s seventy-three year history.  In its October report, International Data Corporation predicted PC shipments in 2012 will represent the first annual decline since 2001.  Most industry analysts blame the sluggish sales, in part, to rising popularity of tablets and smart phones.   During the third quarter of this year, worldwide tablet and smart phone sales rose by forty-three (43) and forty-seven (47) percent respectively from 2011. 
  3. CONVERGENCE—With the approach of the post-PC era, the line between a desktop PC and other devices is becoming increasingly blurry.   Traditionally, the computing experience was tied to a single location in the home—wherever the computer was.  In the post-PC era, a similar experience can be had on multiple devices, from an Internet-connected TV in the family room to a smart phone in a pocket.  The PC now lives in many places.  It does not stay anchored to the kitchen table or desk located in an office.
  4. NO MORE DISCS—After decades of delivering content to computer users via floppy discs, CDs, DVDs, and other physical media, many companies now are starting to rely exclusively on digital channels.  As a result, manufacturers are beginning to remove physical drives from their latest computers. .  Removal of the outmoded floppy disc drive from the original iMac in 1998 signaled the writing on the wall.
  5. JUST A TOUCH—For decades, the only means of navigating a computer was keyboard and pointer devices such as a mouse or a touchpad.  With the shift to the post-PC era, users now have ten more options—their fingers.   Although Windows 8 still can be navigated using a mouse and a keyboard, the announcement of a shift to a touch-based interface led hardware manufacturers to install touch screens in  many of the recently released Windows 8 equipped desktop PCs and notebooks. 

I personally don’t think the PC will completely exit the scene because of the ease in using a keyboard and mouse.  We are accustomed to these devices and thousands upon thousands of people, on a daily basis, accomplish data entry quickly and with more accuracy as a result of their existence.  Think of reservations clerks working for airlines, hotels, concert halls; medical practitioners’ logging test results into a data base; school administrators updating student records, etc.  Keyboards facilitate ease and speed when these processes become necessary; STILL, I do agree, we will see more and more mobility when the need to access existing data bases becomes necessary.  Just a thought. 

 

OFF-SHORING

December 27, 2012


Logistics Management, April 2012 was used as one resource for this posting.

Off-shoring is a word that has recently “popped up” in literature to describe moving jobs from one country to another, generally countries with lower cost of labor.   I retired from a Fortune 500 firm that mandated 33 % of all components and assemblies be purchased from LCCs; i.e. low cost countries.  The meaning was obvious, LCCs operated with labor rates significantly lower than those rates found “at home” and the company wanted to capitalize upon those low rates to increase profit.   The “going rate” for an engineer in India–$15,000, Mexico– $12,000, whereas in the United States—approximately $83,000.  Similar situations exist with CAD operators, draftsmen, assembly workers, etc.   This trend will not be reversed easily or soon.  Corporations in the United States and Europe will move an additional 750,000 jobs in IT, finance, and other business related services to India and other low-cost geographies by 2016, according to new research from The Hackett Group, Inc.   As noted in Supply Chain Management Review last year, researchers were trying to determine if levels of additional off-shoring in these areas would begin to decline by 2014.   That group’s off-shoring research, which examined available data on 4,700 companies with annual revenue over $1 billion headquartered in the U.S. and Europe, found that by 2016, a total of 2.3 million jobs in finance, IT, procurement, and HR will have moved off-shore.  This represents about one third of all jobs in these disciplines.  India is by far the most popular destination, with nearly 40 percent of the jobs being off-shored headed there.  The Hackett Group’s research sees additional off-shoring levels in business services, which are currently at around 150,000 new jobs each year, leveling off or declining after 2014.  They also found  that of the 5.1 million business services jobs remaining on-shore at U.S. and European companies in 2012, only about 1.8 million have the potential to be moved off-shore with  750,000, as mentioned above, moving by 2016.   Within the next eight to ten years, the traditional model of lifting and shifting work out of Western economies into low cost countries will cease to be a major factor driving business services job losses in the U.S. and Europe.  Automation and other productivity improvements will have caused the elimination of 2.2 million business services jobs at these companies between 2006 and 2016 and these factors are currently driving the elimination of round 200,000 jobs annually.  Companies must improve processes and to a great degree automate those processes in order to survive.  Our tax codes are not favorable to companies within the U.S. and companies must compensate for that fact.  “In the U.S. and Europe, off-shoring of business services and the transformation of shared services into Global Business Services, have had a significant negative impact on the jobs outlook for nearly a decade”, said The Hackett Group Chief Research Officer—Michael Janssen.  “That trend will continue to hit us hard in the short-term”.            

What we are saying—don’t’ look for much relief, if any, for the next few years.

BMW ALL-ELECTRIC CARS

December 26, 2012


Portions of this post are taken from a Design News article written by Mr. Charles Murray.  Charles is a Senior Technical Editor for Electronics and Test.

As we all know, the cost of gasoline has and will fluctuate from time to time and possibly in a very wild fashion.  Some parts of our country have already experienced $4.00 + per gallon, and with this being the case, alternative methods of propulsion and cost savings are being considered right now by automotive manufacturers.  Several methods to save gas mileage now in the design process are as follows:

  • Using light-weight composite materials to replace steel and aluminum where possible.
  • Producing a more “aerodynamic” structure to reduce air friction and drag.
  • “Re-thinking” engine design to produce better combustion efficiencies.
  • Redesign of drive train mechanisms to reduce friction.
  • All-electric vehicles.
  • Hybrid vehicles.

We will be discussing the BMW “offerings” that will appear in dealerships as early as 2013.  Please note, the photographs presented are “concept” and may not be completely representative of what BMW provides on a production basis.

BMW AG took another step in the direction of electrification at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show by rolling out a concept version of an electric, three-door and five-door coupe.

i- 3 BMW--Five Door

The five-door version of the i3, introduced as a concept in 2011, will reach production in 2013.
(Source: BMW)

 

The i3 Concept Coupe is the third electrified car BMW has announced in the past 18 months. It joins the racy i8 hybrid and a five-door vehicle (also called the i3) that is slated to reach production at the end of 2013. Like the five-door car, the coupe will be designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

 

BMW did not offer a production schedule for the coupe, but it did call the vehicle yet another sign the luxury automaker is earnest in its plan to bring electric powertrains to the premium car segment. “We’re very serious about getting real sales volumes from this,” Matthew Russell, a spokesman for BMW, told us. “It’s a car that will have an appeal to a huge number of mega-city residents, business people, and electric car aficionados. We’re expecting a real demand for this car.”

Famile Members BMW All-Electric

Family members: The i3 Concept Coupe joins two other vehicles in BMW’s i sub-brand. The i8 plug-in hybrid (right) will reach production in 2014, and the five-door all-electric i3 EV will come out in 2013.
(Source: BMW)

 

The i3 Concept Coupe is the third vehicle to be proposed for the BMW i sub-brand. All three vehicles will use a body-on-frame approach consisting of two functional units — a drive module and a life module. The drive module, made from aluminum, incorporates the suspension, battery, drive system, and structural components. The life module, which sits atop the drive module, is a high-strength passenger cell made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The plastic is said to offer a huge weight reduction, which is why the i3 Concept Coupe checks in at just 2,756 pounds.

 

The coupe will be propelled by a 170 hp electric motor developed by BMW that offers 184  ft-lbs of torque and works in conjunction with a single-speed transmission. A liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery (of unknown capacity as yet) will provide approximately 100 miles of all-electric range. BMW has said the i3 will offer an optional range extender — an on board generator coupled with a small gas tank. “It’s kind of an emergency-only feature,” Russell said. “It’s for people who have some range anxiety and are transitioning into an electric vehicle. It helps them relax by roughly doubling the range.”

 

Battery charging for the coupe takes about three hours. However, an optional, DC fast-charge setup (available only at public charging stations) can charge the battery in less than an hour.

i-8 BMW

The i8, also introduced as a concept car in 2011, will reach production in 2014.
(Source: BMW)

 

Unlike two other electric vehicles unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show (the Chevy Spark and the Fiat 500e), the BMW i3 vehicles will not be built atop another vehicle’s platform, Russell said. “It’s not based on anything. The aerodynamics, architecture, propulsion, battery, motors, wheels, tires — all of it’s brand new.”

 

Though BMW did not reveal a price for the concept car, Russell did say it would be positioned at the premium end of the electric car market segment. “We believe we are more in the category of the Tesla Model S,” whose base price was recently boosted to $59,900. “Like the Model S, it’s a unique vehicle. We see it as a key part of the future of mobility.”

 

I think one issue, maybe real issue, is the price of the i-3 cars IF priced above the $55K range.  Beautiful cars but, in the United States, we like to get our money’s worth and I’m not too sure the ROI will generate enough interest to make the car an “instant” seller.  Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

WILL ROGERS

December 22, 2012


William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor. He was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s.

Known as Oklahoma‘s favorite son, Rogers was born to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma).  He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 “talkies“), wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure. By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people. He was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era, and was the top-paid Hollywood movie star at the time. Rogers died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in Alaska.  

 His vaudeville rope act led to success in the Ziegfeld Follies, which in turn led to the first of his many movie contracts.  His 1920s syndicated newspaper column and his radio appearances increased his visibility and popularity. Rogers crusaded for aviation expansion, and provided Americans with first-hand accounts of his world travels. His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was readily appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended. His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Rogers even provided an epigram on his most famous epigram:

When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I did not like.” I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.  Some of the most memorable quotes he delivered are as follows:

1. Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men:

The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.

11. Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier’n puttin’ it back.

12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring.
He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him.
The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

ABOUT GROWING OLDER…

First ~ Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me; I want people to know ‘why’ I look this way.
I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.

Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

Sixth ~ I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.

Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.

Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.

Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

Tenth ~ Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft.
Today it’s called golf.

And, finally ~ If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.

 I think we could all use a little Will Rogers today. 


In writing this post, “Supply Chain Management Review”, March/April 2012 was used as one resource.

 Before I retired from GE, I supported a manufacturing facility and two distributors in Panama City, Panama.  As a result, I have several trips “under my belt” to this Central American country.  I can say with no hesitation, the people of Panama City were extremely hospitable, friendly and delighted in showing me areas of their country and city.  One of the very noticeable things about Panama City—its hot and very humid-all year. Cooler in winter but steamy hot in the summer.    One “must see” location is the Panama Canal.   My first visit to the Canal absolutely blew me away.  The Canal is a remarkable engineering accomplishment and is now in the process of significant change.   Let’s take a look.

 The Canal was build under conditions of extreme heat, remarkably high humidity and significant issues with malaria and yellow fever.    It was truly a daunting task to design and construct and, as you might expect, took not only years to complete but lives as well.    The need for the Canal becomes obvious when looking at the map of North and South America.

panama-canal0

As you can see, from the photograph above, a cargo ships going from the Atlantic to the Pacific, had to traverse Cape Horn at the southern-most tip of South America.    A 13,000 mile trip that ultimately was shortened to 5,200 miles by virtue of cutting across the Isthmus of Panama.   A tremendous saving in time and money.   The location of the canal relative to the Republic of Panama can be seen from the following map. 

panama_canal_map (1)

In 1899 the US Congress created an Isthmian Canal Commission to examine the possibilities of a Central American canal and to recommend a route. The commission first decided on a route through Nicaragua, but later reversed its decision.   The United States and the new state of Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty, by which the United States guaranteed the independence of Panama and secured a perpetual lease on a 10-mile strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial payment of $10 million and an annuity of $250,000, beginning in 1913. This strip is now known as the Canal Zone.

The length of the Panama Canal is approximately 51 miles. A trip along the canal from its Atlantic entrance would take you through a 7 mile dredged channel in Limón Bay. The canal then proceeds for a distance of 11.5 miles to the Gatun Locks. This series of three locks raise ships 26 meters (85 feet) to Gatun Lake. It continues south through a channel in Gatun Lake for 32 miles to Gamboa, where the Culebra Cut begins. This channel through the cut is 8 miles long and 150 meters (492 feet) wide. At the end of this cut are the locks at Pedro Miguel. The Pedro Miguel locks lower ships 9.4 meters (31 feet) to a lake which then takes you to the Miraflores Locks which lower ships 16 meters (52 feet) to sea level at the canals Pacific terminus in the bay of Panama.  The Panama Canal was constructed in two stages.   The first between 1881 and 1888, being the work carried out by the French company headed by de Lessop and secondly the work by the Americans which eventually completed the canals construction between 1904 and 1914.

The ships for which the canal was designed are now long gone. Modern shipping has increased the size of most ocean-going vessels.   The increase in the tonnage which can be carried has thus caused problems for the canal.  It can only accommodate ships carrying up to 65,000 tons of cargo, but recently ships which are able to carry 300,000 tons have been introduced.

The problem of the ever-increasing size has caused discussion into the construction of a new canal joining the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. There have been discussions on three alternative routes for a new canal, through; Columbia, Mexico and Nicaragua. The Columbian and Mexican routes would allow for the construction of a sea level canal, whereas the Nicaraguan route would require a lock system.

The size of the locks determines the maximum size of a ship that can pass through. Because of the importance of the canal to international trade, many ships are built to the maximum size allowed. These are known as Panamaxvessels. A Panamax cargo ship typically has a DWT of 65,000–80,000 tones, but its actual cargo is restricted to about 52,500 tones because of the 41.2 feet (12.6 m) draft restrictions within the canal. The longest ship ever to transit the canal was the San Juan Prospector (now Marcona Prospector), an ore-bulk-oil carrier that is 973 ft (296.57 m) long with a beam of 106 ft (32.31 m).

Initially the locks at Gatun had been designed to be 28.5 meters (94 ft) wide. In 1908, the United States Navy requested that width be increased to at least 36 meters (118 ft), which would allow the passage of U.S. naval ships. Eventually a compromise was made and the locks were built 33.53 meters (110.0 ft) wide. Each lock is 320 meters (1,050 ft) long, with the walls ranging in thickness from 15 meters (49 ft) at the base to 3 meters (9.8 ft) at the top. The central wall between the parallel locks at Gatun is 18 meters (59 ft) thick and over 24 meters (79 ft) high. The steel lock gates measure an average of 2 meters (6.6 ft) thick, 19.5 meters (64 ft) wide, and 20 meters (66 ft) high.  It is the size of the locks, specifically the Pedro Miguel Locks, along with the height of the Bridge of the Americas at Balboa that determine the Panamax metric and limit the size of ships that may use the canal.

The 2006 third set of locks project will create larger locks, allowing bigger ships to transit through deeper and wider channels. The allowed dimensions of ships will increase by 25% in length, 51% in beam, and 26% in draft, as defined by New Panamax metrics.  This massive project is now underway.

panama-canal-expansion-image7

What makes the Panama Canal remarkable is its self sufficiency. The dam at Gatun is able to generate the electricity to run all the motors which operate the canal as well as the locomotives in charge of towing the ships through the canal. No force is required to adjust the water level between the locks except gravity. As the lock operates, the water simply flows into the locks from the lakes or flows out to the sea level channels. The canal also relies on the overabundant rainfall of the area to compensate for the loss of the 52 million gallons of fresh water consumed during each crossing.

Despite the limit in ship size, the canal is still one of the most highly travelled waterways in the world, handling over 12,000 ships per year. The 51-mile crossing takes about nine hours to complete, an immense time saving when compared with rounding the tip of South America.

  In 2014, the Canal will celebrate its centennial.  It will also celebrate the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, according to Alberto Aleman Zubieta, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority.  The new locks, which are currently under construction, will expand the canal’s ability to handle ships nearly three times the size of current ships—an estimated 14,000 containers versus 5,000-container capacity today—and double the throughput capacity.  More importantly, said Aleman, the expanded canal and the logistics capabilities of Panama can serve as the logistics hub of the Americas.   “Panama is the only port with terminals in two oceans.  It’s just 80 kilometers from ocean to ocean and there are more port cranes in Panama than Chile, Mexico and Brazil combined.”

In that sense, the new canal is not so much about capacity, but connectivity.  You can use Panama as a platform to connect the Americas and the Caribbean and the Pacific.   That is important if you want to conquer those markets and expand our supply chain and your procurement capabilities.   These new locks will greatly aid all efforts in promoting that continued connectivity. 

If you are ever in the country of Panama, you must visit the Canal.  As I mentioned previously—it is an engineering marvel.               

 

PRPIVACY PROTECTION

December 3, 2012


Portions of this posting are taken from the following source:  “INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ADVISER” ; Information Technology Adviser – Progressive Business Publications 370 Technology Drive – P.O. Box 3019 – Malvern, PA 19355

My grandkids, especially my granddaughters, think I’m paranoid, really paranoid.  I come by this condition in a legitimate  manner.   Over the past six (6) months, my business account has been hacked into twice.  Over the past three (3) months, my personal bank account has been hacked into once.  My bank has fraud protection so I was reimbursed for the losses but it is a real pain;  close the account, reassign card numbers, etc etc.   You get the picture.   I have been very lucky with my e-mail account although I’m just waiting on the “other shoe to drop”.   In the past few weeks we  have read and heard about General  David Petraeus and the difficulties he has had with e-mail, and other issues.   The Internet is replete with horror stories about invasion of privacy truly harmful to unsuspecting individuals going about their daily lives and thinking all is well.  I think company e-mail accounts should and must be sacrosanct, in other words untouchable and not for public consumption.   Your eyes only.  OK, that seems to be a pipe-dream.    While your users may not be interested in hiding an illicit romance (or maybe they are), it’s not unheard of for IT managers to be asked for help keeping information private.

Users at all levels often want to be able to segregate their professional and personal communications.

The e-mail drop-box trick is an old one.   This is what General Petraeus and his “girlfriend” tried, which was a resounding failure.   A January 2005 PBS special on al-Qaeda identified the tactic as one of several “terrorist tricks,” alongside logging in from public Internet cafés.  The same trick is also used in a 2008 spy film “Traitor.”

Of course IT managers have to worry about compliance and the demands of e-discovery, but as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile and dispersed, the demands for security and confidentiality are likely to increase for everyone in IT.

5 TOP TIPS FOR SECURITY:

Here’s how you can help educate your users on how to keep private communications private:

1. Don’t write it down. The first rule of communication is to do it in person if possible and in written form only when necessary. If you don’t create a “paper” or electronic trail, there’s nothing to follow.

2. Keep personal and professional communications separate.  Emails, instant messages, texts and photos that are personal need to be exchanged only using personal accounts on personal hardware.  Don’t access your personal Facebook or other social media accounts from your office.  Keep those private.

3. Don’t trust even prominent Cloud providers to protect messages.  vE-mail services like Google’s are susceptible to hacking, and there are well-documented cases of users having accounts broken into, emails deleted and bizarre unauthorized emails sent.

4. For uber-secure email, try using an encrypted service.   Hushmail and Tigertext are some examples. Hushmail, uses encryption keys to ensure that only the sender and receiver can read a message.

Then there’s “10 minute mail,” which provides disposable email addresses that expire.

Tigertext messages have a limited lifespan. Vaultletmail encrypts emails in transmission. But be warned: All emails, even encrypted ones, leave a metadata trail minimally skilled techs can trace.

5. The basic rule of privacy. Your information is only as safe as the recipients’ email or texting services.  Make sure the individual or company receiving your e-mail is as well protected as you.

I’m sure there are others such as:

  • Change passwords frequently
  • Use passwords that exhibit a significant degree of difficulty.
  • Have separate user names and passwords for differing accounts.  ( Granted, I have to make a written list of my user names and passwords but at least that keeps me somewhat safe.)
  • Be very careful about giving your user name and password to anyone and I MEAN ANYONE.

I would recommend you go online to the Information Technology Adviser and search for other  tips and tricks that will keep you and your e-mail safe and functioning.  Being “hacked” is not fun.

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