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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

Apologies and Penance Durable Link to this BLOG
Apologies and Penance

The Pope is on an apology spree (recently he has apologied to the Jews, the victims of slavery, and to the Chinese), Murdoch apologies to "War Slut" Amanpour, John Cooksey apologises to people who "wear diapers on head", Japanese apologize to sex crimes against the Korean women, ABC President apologises, and we all know Bill Clinton has apologized.

An apology without sincerity is like a prayer without devotion. The apologies in many of the above instances are made for political correctness, rather than in correction of the conscience. Such apologies do not heal wounds, and are just cheap talk that wastes away. IMHO a sincere apology is accompanied by corrective action, with a personal vow never to repeat the act.

In the Hindu tradition this is called as Prayaschitta -- I am really unable to translate it to English; the closest words I can find are penance, expiation and atonement. In some schools of Hindu thought, a sin cannot be forgiven, and must be paid for -- in this life, in a next life, or in afterlife. I am strongly attracted to this principle because it becomes a deterrant against comitting sins. The role of the apology then, is only to ask for liniency in the punishement.

In some ways, this is a deviation from other beliefs, where one is told that "All your sins are forgiven if..{Insert the religious sacrament here}"


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, November 01, 2001
Last Modified: 1/24/2003

Microsoft DoJ Durable Link to this BLOG
Microsoft and Dept. of Justice Settle

Compromising with Injustice is Cowardice -- Gandhi

I see no way in which the settlement US-DOJ has reached with Microsoft provides for justice. This is a classic case of making peace with injustice to avoid a conflict.

Of course, as an independent software developer there's nothing I can do to about the settlement. But the next time the Bush Administration talks about justice and freedom, I will say, "Yeah, Right", and swallow my anger.

I am not Anti-Microsoft

Most of my friends think I am anti-Microsoft. I am not. In fact I have advocated Microsoft software such as Access, Visual Basic, Active Server Pages, and Front Page for a long time in spite of severe criticism by peers. They have been key products that have made life easy for a lot of people. I used to maintain a Visual Basic Page in the early 1990s (see whom you find for Visual Basic Source Code on Yahoo!).

It is inferior Microsoft technologies that I am against -- like COM, or Outlook Express and the security holes in IIS and Outlook and NT.

I am also against hand-twisting business approaches of Microsoft like SmartTags, and XP licensing Manager. Time and again Microsoft has destroyed its competitors, a long list of which includes Borland, Netscape, Novell, Sybase, WordPerfect, and Corel, and the process of which I find anti-competitive, and immoral, and illegal.

BTW, when is the last time you heard of a PC-startup?

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, November 02, 2001
Last Modified: 11/2/2001

Cache = Cash Durable Link to this BLOG
Cache = Cash

Ever since Google introduced GoogleCache (an alternative, high-speed, and faithful storage of other people's content -- See Kamat's Potpourri in GoogleCache ), everybody is trying to catch up.

Content aggregators, Portals, Bloggers all have a need for caching, so that stories they link to are not broken when the content originator goes out of business, changes the content, or starts charging for the content. Caching solves that problem, but as Anne Holland mentions, what's the difference between caching and stealing?

It is indeed a very perplexing question with no easy answer. We all benefit tremendously from GoogleCache and the Way-Back-Machine; so did we from Napster. But at whose cost?

And where are we going to draw the line? Proxy servers cache content - is that stealing? What about the Internet clouds (like Akamai) that cache content to speed-up the delivery? Is that stealing?

One thing is certain though. There is tremendous interest, value (and money as Google has shown us with the Usenet cache -- Google is the only place you can relive the glory days of Internet groups, and read some of the finest writings of the period) in the caching servers and technologies. You can start caching such treasure houses of information like The New York Times, Fathom (both of which are free today after registration) and after two years, when they are no longer free, you can start charging money for accessing the cache.

My Computer Architecture Professor, while explaining Cache memory had exclaimed "C-A-C-H-E is good but C-A-S-H is great". The time has come now to turn the former into the latter. Money does not grow on trees, but it does on cache.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, November 03, 2001
Last Modified: 1/30/2003

RIP: Indya.com Durable Link to this BLOG
Madhu Menon: How to Waste 50 Million Dollars -- on the ugly rise and ugly fall of Indya.com

This is really sad, because US$ 50,000,000 would have gotten a very long way in India. For instance, with per capita income of $500 a year -- which is India's average -- it would have created enough work for 100,000 people for one whole year!

That's India for you -- on one side there is utter poverty, on another side there is abuse of wealth. See: Extreme Nation -- The Contradictions of India

BTW, Madhu calls himself a Usability Consultant, that's an unknown job description for most web companies. A usability expert is supposed to enhance the user-experience of a website, but sadly most websites pay little or no attention to this critical area of the web design/development. With the downfall of dot-coms, that's just another of the job descriptions you won't see in a while.


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Sunday, November 04, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003

Cheers to AZ Durable Link to this BLOG
Cheers to Arizona. Cheers to Massachusetts.

Yahoo!: DiamondBacks Win the World Series. What a series!! Congratulations!

BBC: Massachusetts Rejects Microsoft Deal Thank You.

If a Dalit becomes Buddhist, is he still a Dalit?

Salon: Thousands Convert to Buddhism

I have no problem if one voluntarily changes one's religion. But then they should give up the religious privileges they enjoyed in the former faith. For example, Muslims in India can have up to four wives. If they convert to Christianity, they no longer should be allowed to practice polygamy. Similarly, the above report suggests that all who converted belonged to the legally described backward communities (a.k.a. Dalits), who enjoy such governmental benefits as education, jobs, promotion (yes. It is called the roaster system; it is unbelievable), scholarships, pensions, and grants. IMO those who converted should be disqualified from receiving these benefits meant for the Dalits.

For those who do not know, the quota system (somewhat equivalent of the Affirmative Action in the USA, but designed for the majority of the population instead of the minorities), has taken a very ugly form in India. While many good things have emerged from it, but IMHO, the ill side-effects have outweighed the benefits. The quota system has become a synonym for incompetence (as in "Our new teacher just cannot teach. He must be a Dalit"), resulted in brain-drain (India's top students today migrate to Western countries, because it is the caste, and not merit that gets recognition), and in fact has worked to strengthen the caste divide.

I am against the Quota System because I am against the Caste System. Alas, many people find that a paradox.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, November 05, 2001
Last Modified: 11/5/2001

Content Managed Email Durable Link to this BLOG
Content Managed Email

If you've read this blog before, you know of Content Managed Websites, which use sophesticated software called the Content Management Systems (CMS) to massage, correct, and apply presentation (formatting etc) to the stories people write.

People also write email messages. Other than WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) formatting, and spell-checking, there really aren't many tools to support writing of email.

As I worked on Remocon What's This? , it occured to me that perhaps there is a lacuna in this area. I need it -- because I often need to point to contents on the Intranet and on the Web, and there's no way I can remember the URLs of all the files and pictures I need to point.

Most CMSes support scripts written in a fifth generation language (I call it 5GL, because they can go one level on top of SQL, which is a 4GL ), so if I had the same tools to write my email that I have to write this blog, I could use all my shortcuts (a shortcut is a global replacement; so if I write [[Vikas Kamat]], the CMS would show Vikas Kamat, inserting links, pictures, etc.).

Sometime ago, John Robb had an idea (scroll to last paragraph). He wanted a mechanism by which if you attach a file to an email, it would go to a website, and only a link to it will be inserted into the message. I think that is brilliant -- as long as one addresses the security (because by definition email is private and a website is public). What I am implementing a subset of his idea -- I am making it easier to point to a previously published file in an email message -- by using SQL. So hypothetically, if John Robbs' CMS and my CMS had an arrangement to talk, to point to the above URL, I could write a SQL in my mail message as follows:
[[Linkto Select URL, BlogTitle from Blogs where Author='John Robb' and BlogContent like 'E-mail attachments are dead']]

There are many advantages to a content managed email system:

• An opportunity for the the company or individual to automatically inspect an outgoing mail for - broken links, viruses, spelling mistakes, possible automatic translations, possible timezone changes (I could write a message saying the Monday Night Football starts at [[8:00 PM]]. For the recipient in California the CMS will output 6:00 PM PST and for the recipient in NYC it will show 9:00 EST), possible language translations etc.,
• Most importantly, this means less burden on the writer to remember pointers to referenced files, policies, and products. Imagine how much work this would save for project managers and tech. support staff, who constantly have to answer the same questions over and over again via email.

Content Managed Guestbooks, Content Managed Chat

Of course, the natual thought is then to extend the CMS features to other writing environments such as Guestbooks, Discussion forums, and Chatrooms. Why not?

Update on March 17, 2002

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, November 06, 2001
Last Modified: 1/30/2003

The Hawala System Durable Link to this BLOG
The Hawala System

Time.com : A Banking System for the Terrorists

The system, known as Hawala is widely used by terrorists and non-terrorists alike. It is a paperwork-free, Gestapo-free, and efficient money transfer system. It is a trustworthy mechanism used by millions of poor Indians working in the middle-east to send money to their illiterate families in India. While it is true that the Hawala system denies valuable foreign exchange deposits to the nations, that is the penalty for not providing an equally credible and efficient alternative.

I am beginning to dislike the criticism of all non-western means of infrastructure (see my notes on the Madrassah system of education). The Hawala system is no way more evil or guilty than the secretive Swiss accounts popular in the western world. I standby the Hawala system beacuse it serves the underprivileged.

Ayatollah Lankarani: The Rules of Hawala


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, November 07, 2001
Last Modified: 1/26/2003

Remembering NeXTStep Durable Link to this BLOG
Remembering NeXTStep
(and how Windows XP Compares)

Press and people alike are heralding WindowsXP as the greatest operating system ever.

A frog in a well knows not of the ocean.

IMO the honor belongs NeXTStep, the operating system built for the Next computers (the super cool cubes and the super cool pizza boxes, and later PCs) in the early 1990s. In yet another example of Microsoft terminating its competition, we no longer have the hardware or the software, or the company, although remnants of NeXTStep have been salvaged in many products today such as WebObjects, OS-X, and Visual Basic (you won't believe this, but VB was a copy of the NeXTStep App Builder).

NeXT Computer Logo

People are making such a big deal about ClearType. IMHO the Display PostScript the NextStep supported was far superior. As a programmer, I could write the same code to display as well as print. (FYI - The WinTel world still cannot display PostScript files on screen out of the box, and the programs to display on screen continue to be different than programs to print).

And everything was an object! The inter-process communication (IPC -- whose implementation is still poor in Windows XP), was reduced to reading and writing to a process as if it were a file! FAXing, Video handling (including capture), Voicemail, Pantone colors, was all built in, and was available to the developer for further customization. Try that with XP...

Ten years ago, in NeXTStep, I could define an icon for every folder. This is year 2001, and I cannot. They all look same. The editors, games, debuggers, graphic tools that came bundled with the NeXTStep operating system were all superior to what come with Windows XP.

Oh, and let us not forget who gave us the wonderful thing called as the World-Wide-Web.

Irish Times: Homelessness Breeds Prostitution -- Women (again) are the first victims of war

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, November 08, 2001
Last Modified: 8/1/2003

Kamat Calendar Durable Link to this BLOG
Kamat's Photographs in 2002 Calendar

The non-profit educational initiative Asha-for-education has released a year 2002 calendar featuring several of Kamat's photographs. Buy one today and help educate a child.

• Asha for Education Website
• Snapshot of the Calendar


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, November 12, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003

Festival of Lights Durable Link to this BLOG
Festival of Lights
Lamp of Deepavali

Diwali greetings to our readers!

• Festival of Lights, Deepavali
• Send a Deepavali e-Greeting Card

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, November 13, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003

Bandwidth Stealing Durable Link to this BLOG
Bandwidth Stealing

Bandwidth stealing occurs when a website publisher serves content without hosting it. It is stealing because he/she is serving someone else's content without credits or acknowledgements. The blogging community is particularly guilty of bandwidth theft.

Bandwidth stealing typically happens with images. To illustrate my point, I am showing here a bandwidth-stolen image from Yahoo.

Reuters Photo
Harry Potter - Stolen Image, Stolen Bandwidth

One might argue that I didn't steal it at all; I have not copied it or modified the picture, in fact I am serving it right from Yahoo!'s website. But as you can see, it is indeed unfair to Yahoo and Reuters.

For further illustration, in the example shown below, I copied the image from Yahoo and uploaded it to my site, which most people agree is an offense. Right?

Reuters Photo
Harry Potter -- Stolen Image

Violation and Fair Use

IMO, bandwidth stealing is worse than simple copyright infringement because the content originator has been violated twice.

A more appropriate use of the said image would be as follows:

Reuters Photo
Picture Courtesy: Yahoo/Reuters
(served locally; with credits)

More Bandwidth Stealing Links

• Internet Tips
• FAQ on Bandwidth Stealing
• Tomorrow -- Preventing Bandwidth Stealing for Apache servers
• Topic of a future blog -- preventing Bandwidth Stealing for IIS servers

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Last Modified: 2/15/2002

List of Indian Spammers Durable Link to this BLOG
List of Indian Spammers

Spam is the unsolicted email messages sent by organizations to promote their own cause. Spammers are those who send them.

The Indian portal Rediff used to send me unsolicited email. But after I wrote to them that it shows their company in poor light, they stopped; but not to everyone as Madhu Menon points out. Apparently they do not have a delete mechanism to their email list management system.

SiliconIndia is another evil spammer. They add me to their mailing list without my permission, but to unsubscribe, apparently I have to double-opt-out -- first send a message saying I no longer want to receive messages, then confirm it via yet another message. Scumbags.

This Jain webmaster thinks I am interested in his spam and adds me to his mailing list on Yahoo! When I protest, he writes about how great are email lists to propagate Jainism. (Do you know what is common between Jain spam and porn spam? -- both feature naked people). I wrote to him that sending spam is a form of violence and hence a non-Jaina activity, but he doesn't listen and keeps sending his crappy Jain propaganda that I don't care about.

Oh there is this WebRishta. They built a list of all email addresses from our guestbook and started sending spam to our friends. I complained and got their website disabled, but they have other avatars (like rishtaa.com, and ValuePay.com). Beware of them.

Cross-tab -- "Cross Tab is India's first online Market Research agency". I hope they are the last. Mofos.

If you know of other spammers of Indian origin, let me know. Let us unmask/deface them with the hope that they will stop.

Names of Indian Spammers (domain names)

• Zindagi

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, November 15, 2001
Last Modified: 2/15/2002

Reciprocal Links Durable Link to this BLOG
Reciprocal Blog Links

Many fellow bloggers are responsible for publicizing this AnthoBLOGy weblog, and I hereby recognize them with my sincere thanks.

• Cameron Barrett
• Mahesh Shantaram
• JD Lasica
• Peter Scott

Reciprocal links add great value to the web not only beacuse they increase the PageRank value of a page (a page is considered more important if many people point to it), but also indicate to the surfer, the location of similar content.


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, November 16, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003

Previnting Bandwidth Durable Link to this BLOG
Preventing Bandwidth Stealing on Apache Servers

The other day I wrote about how some people are not only stealing our pictures, but also our server bandwidth. Today I will tell you of a solution I have implemented on Kamat.com. Many people write scripts (in languages such as Perl, PHP or ASP) to prevent unauthorized linking to websites. However, Kamat.com is not a dynamic website, but a statically rendered website designed for high-performance, so I did not have that luxury (see Amateur Webmaster: Static Rendering of Websites). However, Apache server has a very powerful feature called Rewrite Rules by which the server behavior can be changed dynamically with the help of rules. The end result is same as that implemented by scripts performing the same functions, but with this approach I did not have to change any of our content production or publication system. Without further ado, I present the solution:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$ RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://kamat.com/.*$ [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://kamat.org/.*$ [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://www.kamat.org/.*$ [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://www.kamat.com/.*$ [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://216.122.12.236/.*$ [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://216.122.207.82/.*$ [NC]

RewriteRule .*\.(gif|GIF|jpg|JPG)$ http://www.kamat.org/illegal.gif [R]

Commentary

In line 1, tell the server to alter (or rewrite) its rule for serving. In lines 2 through 8 I define all the authorized server linking. This is necessary because people might be entering the website via different naming conventions (upper case, lower case, IP, with and without the www sub-domain). In line 9, I redirect the unauthorized request to a Copyright Violation Notice.

Just put the above rules in your WebServer configuration file, and you are done. I couldn't believe how simple it was. Do not try to do a similar thing with Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), because you simply can't -- a solution with IIS requires that your website is dynamically served.

The Amateur Webmaster: Tips for amateur (and professional) webmasters.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, November 17, 2001
Last Modified: 11/16/2001

Sick and Tired of Cricket Durable Link to this BLOG
Sick and Tired of Indian Cricket Scandals

I have officially given up my interest in Cricket.

First there was the drought of wins. Then the shameful bribing scandal. Then the accusations and counter-accusations (We still don't know who's engineered the match results to suit the gambling mafia), and now accusations of un-sportsmanship.

It pains me to say this, but I hereby relinquish the game my generation of Indians identified themselves with.

Cricket Links

  • Score-Kya-Hai (What's the Score?) -- Download the live Cricket scoreboard I wrote for ThatsCricket.com

  • CrickInfo -- The home of cricket on the Internet.


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Last Modified: 1/23/2003

Kamat Downloads Durable Link to this BLOG
Kamat Downloads

First a clarification -- the live feeds for the Score-Kya-Hai live scoreboard I wrote for ThatsCricket.com are provided by them, and all credits should go them rather than me.

Here are some more free downloads that I have developed over the years:


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Last Modified: 1/26/2003

Lessons from the Reunion Durable Link to this BLOG
Lessons from the Reunion

Despite our busy schedules, some of my friends get together for a reunion every year. These are very old friends, and I've known them since their fresh-out-of-college-and-unemployed days in India. They are now spread all over North America. We meet to pull each other's legs, exchange jokes, recipes, and real life dramas, and learn.

My lessons from this year's reunion:

• Don't catch a falling knife
• Becoming rich is easy, remaining rich is difficult
• You can cook the potato in the microwave
• There are indeed people who enjoy crappy Indian movies
• If you forget where you came from, you will forget where you are going
• If you are considering a new television, get HDTV
• If you need a home theater, do not buy home theater in a box


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, November 30, 2001
Last Modified: 8/27/2003

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