Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat
|Myths about Gandhi|| |
| Great Archaryas of Hinduism|
No discussion of India's history, culture, or philosophy is complete without
the mention of the roles and influence of the three great sages of medieval
period. The three acharyas, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, and Madhvacharya
are primarily responsible for the survival of Hinduism, and I am very pleased to
add their biographies to our evolving section on Bhakti-
The Path of Devotion.
Myths Abouth Gandhi
I sometimes get hate mail from Gandhi-bashers about our Gandhi section. They blame Gandhi for
everything from Muslim appeasement to India's industrial backwardness to the
division of India. They are entitled to their opinion of Gandhi, but most of them are
misinformed or have misunderstood Gandhi.
Myth 1: Gandhi was anti-Hindu
Gandhi extended the hand of friendship to Muslim and Christian brethren,
which some people interpret as anti-Hindu. They even killed him for it. IMO,
Gandhi has done more to propagate Hinduism in the world than anybody else. The
Hindus must also be grateful to Gandhi for providing great leadership based on
Hindu ethos, philosophy and spirituality, and also cleansing Hindu society from
age old social evils such as untouchability.
Myth 2: Gandhi was against Science, Technology and Industrialization
Many people mistake Gandhi's overly simplistic lifestyles to mean the above.
Gandhi felt that freedom, employment, and basic hygiene was more important than
others. His Sarvodaya movement involved comprehensive development
of India, not in one particular area such as agriculture or science. Gandhi made
cloth not because he was against manufactured garments; he made cloth because
the garments manufactured in Europe enslaved a poor country where hand-made
cloth would provide employment for millions.
Myth 3: Gandhi Consented for Division of India into India and Pakistan
Absolutely wrong. Gandhi was vehemently opposed to division of India and
envisioned Hindus and Muslims living together as one nation.
Educational Links on Hot Conflicts of the day
NPR: Arab Israeli Conlift
BBC: Voices from Kashmir
|First Written: Friday, October 04, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/4/2002
|.NET or .NOT?|| |
| Links for the Day
Dot Net? or Dot Not?
I am meeting a Microsoft.NET Evangelist tomorrow. In preparation for the meeting, I have read up quite a bit on Dot Net stuff. I am looking for some specific answers, most importantly why I shouldn't abandon Microsoft completely and build Java apps instead.
If Dot-Net were to fly, much of my software will become obsolete. This is an issue that has occupied my mind for the last two years a lot, and I am eager to decide one way or the other...
My Requirements (really, our customers' requirements)
- Support for client heavy computing -- support for pictures, documents
(rich-text), and printing
- Easy deployment -- I do not want to ship binary runtime with my app. This
is my biggest problem with Java.
- Much of our software is rule-based. This means I want robust scripting.
Compilation, Just-in-time compilation is all meaningless in my domain. I
want to be able to specify code on the fly and execute it.
- My other requirements are same as that for other people - performance, cost, rapid development, durability of the platform, and reliability
|First Written: Tuesday, October 08, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/8/2002
|Notes from .NET School || |
| Notes from .NET School
I met with a Microsoft .NET Evangelist and I learnt a lot about
Microsoft .NET framework (Thank you Microsoft for enlightening me, and for delicious
I liked some of the features (the cache API) and hated some of them (
those darn design-time-controls are back). The claims/complaints that
.NET framework makes all existing investment in Microsft software obsolete, are indeed true.
See the following Q&A (my real questions, and his real answers) for education and humor:
(Demo of same code running on Windows2K, Windows XP, Web, Cell Phone etc)
Me: You are touting .NET as cross platform? Can I target Palm, or Unix?
The Evangelist: Mumble, mumble. Palm doesn't have the RAM to run .NET
(Demo of implementing custom Event Log)
Me: But this is a Windows feature, not a .NET feature!
The Evangelist: Yes, but we have now made it so easy for you to use them.
(Demo of storing Session data in a StateService, or a Database)
Me: Are you saying that I can't plug in a app server like BEA Weblogic or IBM
The Evangelist: Why would you want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars
? Windows makes a good app server.
(Demo of File upload component and FrontPage Extensions)
Me: Is there any way I can transfer files from one node in a web cluster (WLBS)
to another node in the same web cluster?
The Evangelist: I recommend that you put the file in a database as a BLOB (binary object, a.k.a. image).
Then let the other WebServer pull it from the database.
(Demo of long code to draw a bar chart on the fly)
Me: What kind of image processing tools are there?
The Evangelist: We have awesome graphics API. You can use GDI.
Oct 27, 2001: Programming used to be fun once
Nov 2, 2001: My Love-Hate Relationship with Microsoft
|First Written: Thursday, October 10, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/11/2002
|Wireless Blogging|| |
| Wireless Blogging|
I finally got around to installing Wireless networking at home. I used the D-Link
router and thier AirPlus
network card. The networking part works very well, the wireless part works
occasionally. But hey, nothing like blogging and watching television at the same
|His Reasons for Wireless
||Her Reasons for Wireless
- Watch football and keep track of fantasy points at the same time
using the Picture-in-Picture
- Check email in the morning from bedroom without going to basement
- Send Instant message to wife saying "I can't find my belt,
where is it?"
- Play computer games and watch TV at the same time
- Print documents from study, sun-room, or kitchen
- Send Instant message to husband in the basement saying dinner is
- Check how much money we lost in the stock market today without
Once someone asked Jerry Seinfield (who has like 36 cars) how many cars he needs. "I don't need even one" -- was his reply.
In that background, why two of us need six computers at home is answered here.
|First Written: Sunday, October 13, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/13/2002
|Elephants of Mysore Dasara|| |
| Elephants of Mysore Dasara
My friend Mallikarjuna D.G. writes very interesting letters. He has unbelievably
beautiful handwriting (he writes in Kannada language), and a great interest in
things around him. This week he wrote to me about the elephants of Mysore Dasara.
I have excerpted the
letter, and translated it for wider audience.|
The letter also prompted me to open a new section on the Dasara
festival celebrated in different parts of India. BTW, the peak of the
festival, Vijayadashami is celebrated tomorrow.
Advertisment-Free Dasara Greetings
|First Written: Monday, October 14, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/14/2002
Tags: Dasara, Elephants
|Stories Behind the Switch Campaign|| |
| Stories Behind the "Switch"
First, the models in Apple "Switch"
campaign get cyber-stalked.
I don't blame them, Janie is so lovable.
Then Microsoft comes up with its own "Switch
testimonial (link to Google cache, Microsoft has since removed the story due
to embarrassment). The problem was that both the person in the photo, as
well as the testimonial were fake. ("Just like the the tapes Microsoft produced during their trial" someone said at Slashdot). Ouch!
Also, I noticed that one of the models of the Apple's Switch campaign is a Godse.
Apple now has the distinction of using both Gandhi
and a Godse in its advertising. (for the uninitiated, Gandhi was the apostle
of peace, and Godse was the name of the man who assassinated Gandhi).
Apple's Gandhi Campaign
Interesting Stuff I heard on National Public Radio Today:
75 years ago, on this day, oil was discovered in Iraq.
Chewing gum as a medicine delivery mechanism has lot of benefits.
Duct tape is an effective wart remover.
|First Written: Tuesday, October 15, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/15/2002
|Dear Saddam,|| |
| A Love Letter to Saddam|
Dear Saddam Hussain,
I am writing to you in the larger interest of the people of Iraq.
After all that has happened, I think you should consider retirement.
Relinquish the ruling powers to Tarik Aziz, take a long vacation, and spend your
last years in peace with yourself.
It is immoral to cling on to power forever. The human is mortal, but his
legacy is not. Your own personal safety, the interests of the Iraqi people, and
of Arabs in general, is best served by your retirement. This will avoid war, and
make you popular. More importantly, you will live, and will demonstrate
that you are wise. It will deny your enemies the opportunity to strike,
and in one brilliant move, you would have shut 'em up forever.
I also highly recommend Disney World as a vacation spot to take your
grand-children. All the dictators who hate America, vacation there secretly
Iraq and Pakistan
Both Iraq and Pakistan have weapons of mass destruction, both are ruled by
Whereas Iraq is not infested with Islamic fundamentalism, Pakistan is.
Whereas Iraq has no documented history of sponsoring terrorism, Pakistan has.
And Iraq is our enemy, and Pakistan, our friend?!
From what I hear, the forthcoming war is not about Saddam or terrorism. It is
about USA occupying an oil rich nation, and establishing a very firm foot in the
neighborhood of Israel.
I am pro-war. But let it be known what the war is for. Let us have a war for
restoring of people's rule (hence the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan,
and Pakistan also need to be overthrown), and for long-term peace in the world (we have to squeeze in some kind of justice for the Palestinians).
|First Written: Thursday, October 17, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/17/2002
|Search Engine Implementation Notes|| |
| Simple Searches & Advanced Searches|
Some of you might know this: You can specify several additional parameters while searching Google.
Eg: Specifying Elephant Site:www.kamat.com will search for all occurrences of Elephant on this site.
If one were to call these options as advanced features, then you have to call the guided search as the "Simple Search" right? But Google calls it the "Advanced Search"!!
A friend of mine whom I admire greatly, felt that a system that holds your hand must be called a simple system, and system that allows powerful permutations based on human intelligence is a complex or an advanced system. So a point & click system would be a simple interface, whereas a Unix shell would be an advanced interface. By the same logic, he felt that the naming of the two is reversed in most search systems. We argued for a while, with me claiming one textbox search of Google is indeed perceived as simple. But you know, he is right. The Advanced Search as most people call them, where you can specify dates, categories, and other options, must indeed be called a Simple or Guided Search.
So, here's a rare suggestion for user-interface improvement to Google: Rename your "Advanced Search" as "Guided Search".
One Search Engine Vs. Many Search Engines
This is another dilemma Web designers of large websites are always against. "If Google can search the whole world with one search box, why are you implementing so many Search Engines?" -- they are asked. On Kamat.com alone, there are five search engines (full text search,
PICTURESearch, BLOGSearch, TOCSearch, and GlossarySearch). Does a personal site
need so many search engines?!
Perhaps not, but consider this. You are at a library looking for information
on, say, Alzheimer's disease. The type of resource that you would be interested
very much has to do with the scope of your interest. Are you a doctor? a
student? a relative? are you looking for a book?, a journal?, a newsletter?, a
database of citations?, news of the latest breakthroughs?, all of them? how much
time you've got? And no, Google cannot make that determination for you, you must
do it yourself. Consider that you are trying to locate a customer record,
you are not interested in the customer's home page at that time. This is
the reason why there are so many search engines. Hence, in a library, continuing
my example, there's the search facility for the books, a search for subscribed
journals, a search for non-subscribed journals available via Intra-Library loan,
a search for newspapers and newsletters, a search engine for citations (known as
database in the library industry), a search engine for abstracts etc.
Of course, there will be one day where you will be able to specify:
"Alzheimer's disease" type:Newsletters+NewsPapers-Books+Conference Proceedings date:after 2002
to get the most recent breakthroughs about Alzheimer's disease. And that will not be Simple search, but a very Advanced one!
|First Written: Friday, October 18, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/18/2002
|India's Working Children|| |
| Child-Labor in India|
My mother takes on a very delicate matter of Working Children in her blog. This is an important issue that brings a lot of negative publicity to India. While it is true that a lot of children are exploited in India, my mother has tried to separate out the causes, the history, and has tried to provide some insights.© K. L. Kamat
I have long felt that one of the reasons why there is dignity of labor in America is that the children work from a young age. Youngsters in USA wash cars, baby-sit, clean garbage, or wait in restaurants for pocket money, and it will be very hard for them to look down upon a task/profession they had carried out in earlier years. I truly believe that exposure to real life problems enriches
childhood, and makes one respect the fruits of labor.
India has also had this tradition of exposing children to the professions of
the parents. It is a tradition that has gone on for centuries. India always has
been the country of self-employed, and the children were always asked to
pitch-in for the family vocation*. The tasks included running
errands, watching out the merchandise when the shop-keeper stepped out to lunch
or for bathroom etc., It is absolutely true that the children who excelled
in this "helping", were asked to discontinue school & play and
instead absorbed into the family enterprise at a very young age. This tradition,
while might seem unfair to an outsider, was a vital link of providing employment
and sustenance of the family.
Unemployment and Underemployment
The unemployment numbers are very high in India, and especially disturbing is
the problem of underemployment (a person not earning enough to be above the
poverty level). To make the ends meet, more members of the family have had to
work, including the children.
As you can see, the problems of unemployment and child-labor in India have
entangled relationships. If the parents had adequate employment, perhaps they
wouldn't send their children to work. If so many children didn't work, perhaps
there would be more employment opportunities for adults. If the children didn't
enter the workforce at a tender age, they can command better wages. Even the two
scenarios of child-labor (one meant for child's development, and another forced
by the circumstances of economics) are interrelated.
* Unfortunately, as the caste system turned wicked, and problems of untouchability became prevalent, some of these professions lost respect. BTW, The loss of respect for some selective professions is one of the biggest problems of modern India. But that is a different problem.
|First Written: Monday, October 21, 2002|
Last Modified: 7/8/2004 2:25:29 PM
|Google Compute. No!|| |
| Google Compute|
Google wants to rent your
computing cycles. Don't let them. Not on your office computer, it might cost
you your job!
I recall a similar idea in the 1990s when a system administrator installed a
screen saver that did massively distributed computing when every employee of the
company went home. That was also for a scientific research project, but the
administrator didn't obtain any authorization from the management. The organization (IMO rightly) determined that it was abuse of company's computing resources, and terminated him.
I have nothing against Protein research. Do participate in Google Compute project if you own the computer, and if you are paying for the bandwidth. Please don't install it on computing facilities belonging to others (like libraries, universities, or customers).
|First Written: Tuesday, October 22, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/22/2002
|Blog Stuff|| |
| New Blog Words|
Link Slut is the blogger who provides a link to anyone who
asks (in the hope of a reciprocal link). I introduce a new term,
Link Bitch as the blogger who links to everyone, except you.
Here are some more:
DOS Blog -- The blog that mostly consists of text. Freebie blogs
hosted on BlogSpot (that doesn't allow image hosting) are examples.
Mainframe Blog -- The blog that mostly contains content in uppercase (like
those mainframes). From what I have seen, all corporate blogs end up this way
with product codes, and full of insider acronyms.
Blog Royalty -- The handful of bloggers who get all the publicity.
List Your Blog in Blog Portal
I have made it easier for Indian bloggers to ping the Blog Portal. The Ping
form now will now remember the URL, so you have one less thing to type.
If you have a blog related to India (blogged from India, or blog about
India), here's a pitch on why you should get listed in Kamat Blog Portal
- No registration, no password, no need to provide your email, no
botheration -- you won't hear from me.
- If you know anything about PageRank™, you know that when a highly relevant page links to
you, your rank goes up. The rank for Kamat's Potpourri is pretty high, so it
is a very easy way to accumulate some rankings.
- The Blog Portal is currently the top match for the keywords India Blog or
Indian Blogs on Google and elsewhere.
When a customer wanted to use blogs in their enterprise, one feature they
wanted me to add was Classification of Blogs into categories. I believe Movable
Type has it. I have added that
feature now to blogs at Kamat.com. Here's a list of my blogs on
here's the category of Photo-Poem-Duet
Blogs. A blog built with my software can belong to multiple categories, and
a category can have blogs from different bloggers.
|First Written: Wednesday, October 23, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/22/2002
|Kids Say Darndest Things|| |
| Mama's Got the Magic of BOTOX!|
(and other embarrassing kid stories)
My wife and I went to a party and complimented our host on her young
looks. Their child goes "oh that coz she got a facelift" !
Man, the kids do say the darndest
My wife and I were playing with a friend's daughter (age 4), and she asked me
"You know my dad?". I said "Yes, I know Dr. Oh very well".
Then she revealed a family secret -- "He farts!"
This happened to my colleague. Their four year old daughter walked in when they were
The sound of a four year old heartily giggling, and a cute, "What are you
The sound of panicky search for sheets, heavy breathing, then "We are
"he he he. I wanna resel !! I wanna resel!! "
The title of this blog inspired by the following controversial
Mama keeps our house sparkling like sunshine
Mama keeps our bathroom fresh like the springtime
Mama keeps whites white with the magic
Mama's got the magic of CLOROX!
Learn about Botox
Learn about Clorox
|First Written: Thursday, October 24, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/24/2002
|Culture Clashes in a Global World|| |
| Culture Clashes in a Global World|
The Wired has some examples of how the usage of words is causing conflict in
the globalized world. It narrates how the word intimation (meant as
in correspondence or notice, not as in intimidation or intimacy) was taken
in offense. I have made the same mistake before. Another example I find hard to overcome is
my usage of the term dress. See, the word "Dress" in India is
used as synonym for clothing -- for men and women. So to say "My wife
bought me a dress", is normal and not queer.
I interact a lot with customers from Europe, and I am guilty of ridiculing them behind their back for their bad English, mannerisms and habits. Some examples.
- I think the exclamation marks are on sale in Switzerland! They use them unnecessarily, and meaninglessly!!
- Have you noticed how many times the German executives will say "I appreciate your sentence." What the heck is that?
- Some Europeans write the date as 10.10.2002. On my computer that is a bad date. Guys, I understand the stuff about day and month order, but what kind of computers do you use over there?
- So many different people in so many different countries can't be misspelling "Which" as "Witch". I think they are being anti-English.
|First Written: Friday, October 25, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/25/2002
|Case Against RSS Feeds|| |
| The Case Against Public XML feeds|
I know that people have been talking a lot about RSS (XML feeds) for the last two years or so, and every now and then I consider providing them, always deciding not to.
Once I was narrating to my father, a
computer-illiterate, on how I am trying to optimize the search engine for
Kamat's Potpourri.. "Bappa, currently it takes over a minute to find
something on our website, and I want to reduce it to a few seconds".
My dad told me not to sweat. "If the people are so impatient as not to wait for
even a minute to find what they want, they better go somewhere else." he
You must pardon my father, he didn't know anything about the Web at that
time. But the importance of his opinion is not lost on me. I do not want
to serve computer robots, or those who are impatient. I want to serve
only those who are interested in our work.
That's the real reason why there's no public feed of our site. Here
are some more:
- HTML is designed for use by humans, while XML is designed for use by
machines. It is my opinion that XML feeds belong only in an automated B2B
environment. They are of very little value in a public domain ever since the
failure of the more eyeballs = better funda.
- When I researched some of the RSS feeds to write this blog, I found that
most of them were invalid, or broken, and were irrelevant in general.
- Exposing the XML feeds to public tremendously decreases the
Readership/Traffic ratio (not good).
|First Written: Monday, October 28, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/23/2003
|Static Sites Don't Need Database|| |
| Database Outage|
Our Database server has been down for sometime. Hence the durable links to the blog and the Blog Portal are down. Much of the website is still up, thanks to the beauty of the Static Rendering.
Update at 10:00 P.M. The database is back up.
|First Written: Tuesday, October 29, 2002|
Last Modified: 10/30/2002
|More Page Views Not Necessarily Good|| |
| More Page Views Not Necessarily Better|
The other day I argued my case against
public XML feeds. I continue my logic that more page views is not
necessarily better, with a real example.
In the early part of year 2000, one of my customers used to provide a great
aggregating service on the web, free of cost to anyone
who asked. All one had to do was fill up a form or call. During one of the discussions,
a manager argued that more
traffic to the website is not necessarily better for business, while a
more dedicated audience is. It was a radical thought then, and it took a long time to convince
the top management,
but we implemented exactly that, and here are the stunning results:
- Free access to about 10,000 accounts, free set up, free everything
- It cost the company about $100 to setup each account, and about $1
million a year in other expenses
- A lot of unused accounts wasted human efforts, and company didn't
benefit anyway in return.
- End of the free
- About 2000 accounts paying about $2000 per year
- Instead of losing a couple of million, the company earns a couple of
- Since only those who are interested are using the service, it
is allowing the company to understand the needs better, and fulfill
the objective of why they started the service in the first place.
Of course, some of you might feel that having a base of 10,000 allowed the
company to identify the 2000 paying customers. I am not so sure I subscribe to
that theory, because by the same logic, they could have continued to offer the
free service to recruit the next 2,000 customers. No?
I am not the only one who follows this logic. Alan Abbey, the new vice president of electronic publishing
at Jerusalem Post is about to do the same.
This is a very popular source of news from Israel, getting a lot of page views,
but not resulting in adequate percolation of brand, or increase in growth of
their business. What
is he to do?
Deepavali Picture Album
Over at Aperture Photo Blog, there is a variety of Deepavali festival
pictures -- from a greeting card I made as a six year old, to Rangoli, and
FYI: This festival is known by several names and people use different spellings.
I have tuned the search engine to accept the varieties by defining
synonyms for them.
|First Written: Wednesday, October 30, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/1/2002
|This is how I surf the web. Turns out
creating your own start page beats all portals, back-flipping,
personalized corporate pages, and book-marking tools.