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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

Myths about Gandhi Durable Link to this BLOG
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? Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 lunch).

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 WebSphere ?
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.

See Also:
• 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 time!

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 ready.
  • Check how much money we lost in the stock market today without dialing out.

 

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
Elephants of Mysore Dasara

Dasara -- painting on the walls of Mysore palace
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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).

Related Links:
• Apple's Gandhi Campaign
• Gandhi Album

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, Durable Link to this BLOG
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 anyway.

-Vikas Kamat

Iraq and Pakistan

Both Iraq and Pakistan have weapons of mass destruction, both are ruled by ruthless dictators.

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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
Girl Fetching Water for Household Use

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! Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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.

Classifying Blogs

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 blogging, and 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 things.

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 intensely intimate.
The sound of a four year old heartily giggling, and a cute, "What are you doing?"
The sound of panicky search for sheets, heavy breathing, then "We are wrestling dear".
"he he he. I wanna resel !! I wanna resel!! "

The title of this blog inspired by the following controversial advertisement.

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!

Links
• Learn about Botox
• Learn about Clorox

First Written: Thursday, October 24, 2002
Last Modified: 10/24/2002

Culture Clashes in a Global World Durable Link to this BLOG
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?
    Invalid Date
  • 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 declared.

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
Tags: opposite

Static Sites Don't Need Database Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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:

Before   After
  • 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 million
  • 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

The Lamp of Diwali

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 fireworks.

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

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