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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


Clouds of War Durable Link to this BLOG
Water Color  Painting by Vikas Kamat

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
Server Migration Pains

While down with cold and fever, I am all set to turn the lights on the all new 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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!!

Get it?!

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.

See Also:
• 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
Tags: bizwise


Remembering Disney Durable Link to this BLOG
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 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 stardom.

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 faithfully.

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 no leadership.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, December 7, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
Tags: metablog


Hoshitashi for the Economy Durable Link to this BLOG
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).

Hoshitashi TV

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!

• The Toshiba 578H1
• Jewish Virtual Library: Oskar Schindler
• Mahatma Gandhi

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, December 8, 2001
Last Modified: 12/27/2002


Bck in Update Mode Durable Link to this BLOG
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. on Ishtyle TV

Live in Toronto? Check out 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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.

Rawana in Indian Art


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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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, websites.

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

' Updates Durable Link to this BLOG
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 8-(

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


Complex Math of Common Folk Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Goddess Laxmi.

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.

See Also:

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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)

From Archives

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
Tags: indo-pak


Understanding the Illiterates Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 company's software.

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 frog-in-the-well-ness.

Wired Winer
  • 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.
Tired Winer
  • 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

BBC: 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


Greetings from Orlando! Durable Link to this BLOG
Greetings from Orlando!

I am on a vacation to the DisneyWorld.
Please enjoy these old blogs, if you have not read them.

Blogs on Content Management

• Content Rotation
• Content Heuristics
• Normalization of Content
• URL Management
• Content Classification

Blogs on Philosophy

• Apologies and Penance
• Feedback -- what a beautiful concept
• A Non-Violent Approach to Anti-Terrorism

Blogs by Date

 December 2001

See Also:
• Trees of Animal Kingdom

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, December 22, 2001
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Peace Vs Cowardice Durable Link to this BLOG
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 border disputes.

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
Tags: war


Updates Durable Link to this BLOG
The Mehendi (henna) on a Bride
Body Canvass

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.

More updates:

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! Durable Link to this BLOG
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.

Radha Awaiting Krishna
Rajastani Beauty
Only in India can the deities model for erotica!
Divine Love
Prehistoric Shelter Paintings
Prehistoric Dancers

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


E-Greetings Durable Link to this BLOG
More e-Greetings

The Bengal Tiger
Bengal Tiger
Lord Indra riding the Iravat, the eight trunked elephant
Eight Trunked Elephant
A Painted Stork near Ranganatittu in Karnataka
Painted Stork
Pained Face of a Bayalata Dance-Thearer Artist
Colors is Me
Elaborate make-up of a classical dancer
The Fish Eyes
Casting the Net

Some Upgrades to Kamat Content Crowbot

I am in a programming mood today and made some enhancements to the CMS What's This? 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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

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