Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat
|Clouds of War|| |
Clouds of War in Middle-East
I have a deep fear that a war is about to break out in the Middle-East.
It can be triggered by Saddam Hussein attacking Israel, Pakistan breaking
away from coalition, or USA launching fresh air strikes on Iraq -- all of
which are definite possibilities.
Unlike most other wars, the Jew-Palestinian conflict has no
clearly defined, just and unjust causes. There is one completely non-violent
solution (Jews and Palestinians living as one civil nation), but it is
a solution unacceptable to either sides. I personally feel that the
time is ripe for a Palestinian state, although it will not solve
any of the problems.
I have always wondered which one is more important: living with
peace or living with honor. People who choose honor become
martyrs, terrorists, and soldiers. People who choose peace
become immigrants, converts, refugees, and diplomats. Gandhi's non-violence is
the only way to achieve peace with honor, because it provides a way to fight without weapons.
Most people demanding a Palestinian state have not thought about its future economy, the nation's core values, and especially its interactions with Israel. In the non-violent approach, you become friends with the enemy -- like India became with England, so peace is ensured at the end of the conflict.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Monday, December 3, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Server Migration Pains|| |
| Server Migration Pains|
While down with cold and fever, I am all set to turn the lights on the all new Kamat.com server. The fulltext search engine is working, so is the advertisement server. One email to Network Solutions later in the day should do it.
I did not quite realize that I was switching operating systems during this migration. The old site used a custom enhanced BSD (hence porting all the #includes was such a bitch), and the new one uses Red Hat Linux.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 4, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Why Open-source is Better|| |
| A Story and Why OpenSource Rocks|
I grew up knowing very little about the stock market. My father had raised me with a strong prejudice against investing in stocks, equating it with gambling. Some years ago, after I had my own company, a friend of mine, who worked at Cisco visited me. Cisco stock was a very hot then, and I asked him why should I invest in Cisco when I can invest in my own company.
His one line reply awakened and educated me -- "Vikas, your talent pool has three engineers; Cisco's has 30,000 !".
This is the same reason why OpenSource software (free software that people can enhance) is superior to any properietary software. Microsoft, with all its wealth can commit, say a thousand programmers to enhance their operating system. But OpenSource has a million people enhancing Linux!!
There is just no way a few brilliant men can compete against the collective ideas of a few thousand billiant men/women.
In my comparisons of Apache with IIS, PHP with ASP, or Linux with Windows NT, the OpenSource software certainly comes out the winner -- feature to feature.
Amateur Webmaster -- Choosing a Scripting Language
Choosing a Web Hosting Platform
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, December 5, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
|Remembering Disney|| |
| Remembering the Genius of Disney|
Walt Disney would have turned 100 today, and I bow to him for his cartoons, his creative genius, and most importantly for his vision. Everytime I watch a Disney cartoon movie
or visit a Disney park (I will be visiting again this Christmas), I am captivated by the imagination, and the
leadership of this pioneer.
TUDLP: Walt Disney's Biography
Server Migration Almost Complete
We are live on the new Kamat.com server. Expect to see a lot more content added a lot more frequently !
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 6, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Blog Analogies|| |
| While the luminaries are engaged in defining what are Weblogs, I want to
provide a context/horizon for the weblogs, and compare them to analogous entities I know.|
Weblogs and Karaoke
The Karaoke (Japanese slang for bogus orchestra) system
let people behave like rock stars and fulfill their secret dreams of
Weblogs have done the same for the people who dreamt of
becoming great writers.
Blogger and TeX
When Donald Knuth wrote the revolutionary software TeX, he wanted to cut the middlemen (typesetters,
copy editors, proof readers) and let authors
directly communicate with their readers. TeX (and later LaTeX) transformed the publishing industry.
Since Pyra created Blogger,
it has had the same profound impact on web publishing as TeX
did on traditional publishing. The idea is still the same --
no barriers between the writer and the reader, with the former
assuming all the intermediately roles (producer, publisher, editor etc.)
Amway and Weblogs
One of the most important ideas of MLM that Amway propagates is that every
distributor is also a consumer.
This is especially applicable to webloggers who not only write, but read other weblogs
Weblogs and Communities of Practice
Consider the research publications industry. Who but another
heart surgeon reads
The Journal of Congestive Heart Failure and Circulatory Support? Who but
another heart specialist can contribute to this publication ? and finally,
who do you think buys this periodical?
Weblogs provide a great way for like-minded people
to work together.
While creating a Scholar Exchange to facilitate peer-review,
criticism, and publication of research papers seems logical
-- it would eliminate the middlemen completely, IMO in the long
run it would work against the goals of the community. This is party
because this idea is pitted against the capitalist fundametals of our society ("How will I make money?"),
and because automated exchanges are no replacements for the rigorous
peer-review process the prestigious publications use to select the articles.
I still believe that the idea of Scholar Exchange (called Communities of Practice
in the industry), has a role to play in the coming years. Big publishers like Elsevier,
Kluwer, and Blackwell are especially positioned well to exploit these Scholar Exchanges, but so far have shown
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Friday, December 7, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Hoshitashi for the Economy|| |
| A Hoshitashi for the Economy|
A Hoshitashi (sounding like Hitachi and Toshiba) is a slang for a bad ass television set.
Today I did my part to boost the economy by spending a fortune on a 57 inch, wide-screen, High Definition Television (HDTV).
A part of me felt like Oskar Schindler ("If only I didn't buy this car, I could have saved another Jew!"), because the money I spent on the Home Theater System is more than it cost my family to send me to America for graduate studies. It is certainly more than the cost of my college education (1988) in India, and more than the cost of my parents' first house (1983). It has taken me many many years to draw the lines between sinful luxuries, and natural desires thanks to the complex and imposing ideals of my father and Mahatma Gandhi.
But as the market gurus tell us, if nobody spent money, there would be no economy. There would be no exchange of services, no innovation, and no advancements to the civilization.
So as shallow and insincere as it sounds, I will still say it. I bought the Hoshitashi for the economy!
BestBuy.com: The Toshiba 578H1
Jewish Virtual Library: Oskar Schindler
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Saturday, December 8, 2001|
Last Modified: 12/27/2002
|Bck in Update Mode|| |
| Back in Update Mode|
After almost two months of not updating the website (during which we moved the website, upgraded the hardware, and I helped with my mother's forthcoming book Education in Ancient India), I am glad to be in the AddNew mode.
For starters, I have compiled an archive of Picture of the Week selections from 1998 and 1999. The picture pages themselves have been updated with integrated hyperlinks.
There is new section on Body Canvass which showcases how Indians have used the body as a medium of artistic and religious expression.
Kamat.com on Ishtyle TV
Live in Toronto? Check out Kamat.com on December 13 on Ishtyle TV (CFMT-TV) at 14:00
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Sunday, December 9, 2001|
Last Modified: 12/9/2001
|King Rawana of Sri Lanka|| |
| King Rawana of Sri Lanka|
Rawana is a fascinating character from the Hindu mythology of Ramayana (topics - pictures). He is the king of prosperous island of Sri Lanka, a dedicated devotee of Lord Shiva (article - pictures), and a man of great character.
We see that Rawana is demonized in much of the Indian literature to glorify Ramachandra (an avatar of Lord Vishnu), but many South Indian poets have taken a more objective view in depicting Rawana.
He is depicted as brother to the ever sleepy Kumbhakarna, the diplomat Vibhishana who never dies (see Men Who Do Not Die),and the humiliated Shurpanakhi. He is a faithful husband to Mandodari, and a proud father to Meghadoot.
This week, we unweil a potpourri of pictures of Rawana. Some show him in nude, some show him with twenty hands, and some yet show him with just one head.
I learnt a new word today - Work-Safe-URL. Obviously it refers to
the address of a webpage that can be surfed to from your place
of work without getting into trouble.
IMO, all of the links on this website/weblog are work-safe; even
those that feature naked bodies and contain explicitly erotic language!
Beacuse ours is an educational website. Remember?
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 11, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|URL Management|| |
| On URL Management|
Out of curiosity, today I counted (with a tool) the number of inreconnected hyperlinks within our site Kamat's Potpourri. You won't believe that the count is over 140,000 (141,954 to be precise), not including links to search results. There's just no way I could manage so many URLs manually. I use a system called as URL Management.
Managing the URLs is very an extremely tedious, yet an important task. Not just beacuse they are likely to change, but because they are certain to grow in number.
URL Management is nothing but maintaining your content URLs in a database and using SQL to effectively utilize them. When they are in a central place, they can be grouped, altered and shared. Companies like TDNet and Serials Solutions have built their entire businesses helping the customers manage their content URLs.
Managing URLs of pictures especially has had a great benefit for me, because when multiple sections of the site share the same picture, the pictures need not be duplicated
in each sections, and can be referred via the managed URL. Thus these three pages (1, 2, 3) share the same picture saving valuable hosting space, bandwidth, and upload time.
URL Management is the also the essense of cobranding and syndication services.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, December 12, 2001|
Last Modified: 4/4/2003
|Attack on India|| |
| Indian Parliment Attacked|
Pakistani terrorists tried to
bomb the Indian parliment
and kill the top elected officials of the Government in
a dare-devil attack today.
The attempt was foiled, through the sacrifice of the
security personnel which included a woman, but the tension in the region
now sprirals to a war-time level. Perhaps this is a good thing, forcing the usually ineffective Indian administration to act.
Review of CityDesk
Summary: What it does, it does well. (But it doesn't do much.)
CityDesk by FogCreek Software is about three years late
to the market. By that I mean not they have missed the
opportunity, but that the need for such a tool was most
felt about three years ago when everybody started creating
websites, and Geocities was still free.
CityDesk (I tried the free, personal edition) is a simple point and click
website creation and publication tool. It is a great tool
for creating websites of the kind hosted on Geocities -- small, personal,
The coolest part is that it is a Windows application (fast, no net connection
necessary, data stored on your hard disk), has a WYSIWYG editor and FTP
built into it. Templating, content scheduling (publish this on...),
spell checking are other features I liked.
I also like the Variables feature, which is allows for separation of form
from content, as the variables can be changed at any time.
CityScape has other stuff like support for RSS, and MLI (Multiple Language Interfaces),
that I personally do not care about.
Now the Rants
- The import doesn't fix up relative URLs. CityDesk has an import feature, but it is no
more than the save as feature found in the browsers. What good is that?
- How can you update the site while away from the desktop? You can't.
This is a severe limitation of the product especially since it is being
marketed as a tool for rapidly changing websites such as weblogs.
Most competing products let you update the website from anywhere as they are browser based.
So the best feature of the product (that it is Windows based) is also its biggest shortcoming.
- Unlike their other product FogBugz, the source for CityScape is not available. This is a
real shame because I would have loved to integrate my content management solutions with CityDesk
and use it for what it does best. The scripting interface is just too limited to consider
extensibility. There is nothing in this product that cannot be achieved by a custom
written addin for Microsoft FrontPage.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 13, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/23/2003
|Kamat.com Updates|| |
| Lot of new pictures added, including new sections on Indian Money, Kamasutra, and the town of Udupi.|
BTW, have you noticed how fast is our
new full-text search? Nice.
But the PictureSearch has become unacceptably slow during peak traffic. Unless I port the PictureSearch to Unix and PHP (from Active Server Pages), there is no hope for it
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Sunday, December 16, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Complex Math of Common Folk|| |
| Kolams - Complex Mathematics of Common Folk|
Kolam (a.k.a. Rangoli, Alpana, Hase and by other names) is an
ephemeral art form in India practiced by women in devotion to
The longer the women practice the Kolam, the more sophisticated patterns they can master, create and execute. One cannot but admire
the geometrical and analytical skills of these women, many of whom
are not educated at all.
Dr. Marcia Ascher
explores the mathematical ideas in the tradition of Kolam
in this month's issue of the American Scientist.
Indians and Mathematics
I do not know why, but Indians have a natural appetite for mathematics. The Indians invented the
concept of the zero, the decimal number system (called
Indo-Arabic system), algebra, the game of chess etc.,
I continue to be amazed by how many people in India
take up mathematics over other fields of education.
When I was in high school (11th and 12th grades), many people in my
class knew the logarithmic tables by heart! (Log tables reduce the
complex multiplications and divisions to simple additions and subtractions,
so with the help of pencil and paper you can compute anything).
My uncle Tulasidas Kamat, is
gifted with amazing arithmetic abilities. He is the checkout
counter in our busy cloth shop in Honavar, and has never
needed a calculator even when the number of items run into
hundreds. He is never wrong! Customers and family members
who don't trust his computations often list out the items
only to find out that he's right to the last decimal.
In the Indian bazars you will see illiterate merchants
perform multiplications, compute compound interests
with no tools whatsoever (they cannot read or write).
How do they do it?
Meanwhile, Call for Action on Terrorist Front...
BBC: India Considering Attack
India better act fast before the thugs from Afghanistan infiltrate the borders as suggested in some media. Pakistan really cannot do anything at this time.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Monday, December 17, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/26/2003
|India and Pakistan|| |
| India and Pakistan|
Those who have a troublesome brother understand
the complex sibling rivalry between India and Pakistan.
On one side, you have the duties of the brother, on
another, you have a need to descipline him for his
own sake as well as yours.
The Indo-Pak Infinite Loop
(Nothing ever changes)
Cobras Bite Dust
My fantasy football franchise, the Dancing Cobras
couldn't make it to the playfoffs and are out of the BAFFLE (Birmingham Area
Fantasy Football LEague) Bowl. In the nail biting finish of yesterday's
Rams Vs. Saints game,
I needed a touchdown from Tory Holt, which did not happen. Nevertheless, it was a good performance by
the Cobras who won the toilet bowl last year
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 18, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Understanding the Illiterates|| |
| Understanding the Illiterates|
Context: A couple of days ago I wondered how the
people in India who cannot read or write, compute
and conduct business.
Many years ago, Saver Fernandes was an employee (we called him a servant then,
but that's another story) in my family's cloth shop in rural India.
One day Saver showed me the label of a garment and asked me to read the brand name, which I did
and asked him why he had asked me to read.
He smiled and told me that he didn't know how to read!
It blew my mind. Saver had been with us many many years and constantly
had to deal with brand names, product names, sizes, and reading of packaging (without
opening them). There's no way he could do his job without being able to
read. But amazingly, he was able to cope up with the job without anyone
ever suspecting! I then asked him how he distinguished a Bombay Dyeing suit
from a Raymonds Suit (or size 8 from size 6 for that matter). He told me that it was
all intuition and experience.
At that time I thought that he was kidding me and had asked him to read numerous printed matter in the
shop (brand names mostly), which he could, but could not read the newspaper except
for the name of the newspaper.
Few days after this incident, we received a large consignment of undergarments from
Erode in Tamil Nadu (topics), all of them packaged with instructions (product names, sizes)
in Tamil language. What was the supplier thinking? No one can read Tamil
in the town of Honavar!
But see, for an illiterate, Tamil language is same as English or any other language!
Saver had no problems whatsoever in dealing with the different
product names or sizes. It was only then I believed that he couldn't read.
BTW, in the later years Saver did banking errands (he used a thumb-print instead
of a signature) for the shop. He also could measure (length of the cloth) and compute (how much it
will cost for 70 centimeters -- the cloth required for a typical blouse worn
by Indian women -- of cloth that sells for 16.50 a meter etc.), without being able to read or write.
Education and intelligence are two different, unrelated entities.
See also: The Bengali Dhobi
-- Righteousness and education are two different, unrelated entities.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, December 19, 2001|
Last Modified: 11/27/2003
Tags: desitale, honavar
|Blogging Awards Controversy|| |
| The Blogging Awards Controversy|
As you know, blogs (also called as weblogs and personal
publications) are regularly updated notes
compiled by individuals on the web.
Dave Winer, the patriarch of bloggers, announced this week
that he would recognize excellence in blogging, and instituted
The Scripting News Awards.
He also opened a can of worms, by nominating sites
without their consent, excluding those whose ego clashed
with his own, and weighing heavily those that use his
I find the Blogging awards analogous to the
Hollywood's Academy Awards -- rigged, incestuous,
and yet having some value because the merit is judged by one's peers.
I neither use Winer's software (here's why),
nor do I agree with all his nominations. But I do not
understand why they are such a big deal.
Perhaps Dave Winer is indeed a man everyone loves to hate.
I both like and dislike Winer. I like his ideas and dislike his
- His stance on Palestine, Bush, Microsoft, and Jews are similar to mine.
I believe he created the outliners. Outliners are cool.
- He talks a lot of about technology, has great vision,
and (sometimes) provides great links.
- Dave can articulate his ideas well and I've found inspiration in them.
- He is confused between non-violence and pacifism.
Worse, he thinks they are same!
- He also created XML-RPC. XML-RPC is a solution in search of a problem.
He doesn't distinguish between his company, and his person. Winer thinks old code base is
good code base. He has some ego management problems. (What kind of narcissist gets an ISSN for a weblog?)
Links for the day:
Stories behind the stories:
Photographing Muslim Women
FAQ on the Argentine Crisis
NDTV : Interview with a terrorist -- "Ghazi Baba just has to tell them and they start competing amongst themselves (to go
on suicide missions)"
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 20, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Peace Vs Cowardice|| |
| Differentiating between Making peace and Cowardice|
The Indian Express: Making peace, not war, is India’s true strength
Mahatma Gandhi: "To make peace with evil in order to avoid conflict, is cowardice."
In my mind, there is a clear difference between
cowardice and diplomacy. The conflict between
India and Pakistan now is beyond diplomacy because
any solution will be at India's cost. Any talks
will be unfair to India.
Action (military or non-violent) is necessary to
set right decades of Pakistani mischief. Unfortunately
due to the rise of fundamentalism in both countries,
non-violent action is not possible at this time.
I believe that there will be armed conflict between
India and Pakistan. It is in the best interests of India
to wage the war now. An armed conflict between two countries decides
who is the winner (as opposed to a war on drugs and war
on terrorism), and puts to rest the fifty year old
The Indian Government needs a war to stay in power. By not waging
a war, it appears weak, and will collapse for not honoring
the wishes of her people.
It is the Pakistani people with whom I sympathize. In an anti-India
hysteria that spanned decades, they have supported an grossly unjust
cause. They cannot get a Government or a military rule that represents
them, and they have been the victims of cold war, and its after-effects.
But where was their consciousness as they bred the terrorists?
Think about it. The Pakistani government just cannot arrest or act against
the very infrastructure it created.
These terrorists are the same men who have been honored
as freedom fighters and heroes for a long time in Pakistan.
So where does that leave us? Really nowhere. Except that we know for certain that restrain on the part of India does not work.
Reuters: Comparing the military mights
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 27, 2001|
Last Modified: 10/20/2002
Everybody knows Leonardo Da Vinci painted human bodies. But not everybody knows that Indians, for centuries, have used the human body as a medium of art and religious expression.
Clouds of a Fourth Indo-Pak War
BBC: Pakistan fears a major war -- yeah, like they didn't see it coming.
Many leaders are now saying that the conflict be resolved through talks and dialogue. That is same as suggesting dialogue with Osama bin Laden. I say no talk, no mediation, no compromise. Let's settle this matter one way or the other.
Pakistani citizens in India panic (the last time a war broke out,
it took seven years for them to return), New war tax of 5%
imposed in Pakistan,
Loose Pakistani terrorists in India pose new danger in important locations,
India to go to war with or without allied help, Meanwhile
more violence breaks out in Kashmir.
NY Times: The Last Bus to Pakistan (free registration required)
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Friday, December 28, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|Happy New Year!|| |
| Happy New Year!|
Wish you a very happy new year in 2002.
BTW, I hear Blue Mountain Arts e-greetings is no longer free, so here are some ad-free greetings you can use to send to your friends and family.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Saturday, December 29, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
| More e-Greetings|
Some Upgrades to Kamat Content Crowbot
I am in a programming mood today and made some enhancements to the CMS to ease my blogging/webmastering job.
Added FTP mirroring, so entire staging websites can be moved to production with just a click.
Modified the [[Link]] predicate to accept partial URLs. This way the CMS would complete the long URLs without me (a human) not having to remember lengthy hyperlinks.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Sunday, December 30, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
|Greetings || |
| No Advertisements with Greetings Please|
We never send advertisements with greeting cards, do we?
So why send e-advertisements with e-greetings?
For those of you who sent me ad-accompanied greetings, I did not get them, because my super cool email-agent deletes anything that looks like an unsolicited commercial message. Also as a personal policy, I do not accept greetings that I have to go somewhere to fetch.(You have my best wishes anyway.)
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Monday, December 31, 2001|
Last Modified: 12/31/2001
|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.