Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat
|Houses of Charleston|| |
| Houses of Charleston|
See some of the pictures I took of the beautiful houses of Charleston in South Carolina over the Thanksgiving weekend.
From Here and There
- Christian Science Monitor: Banking
System of Street Kids -- Necessity indeed is the mother of innovation
- Kiruba: Interviews with Blog Royalty (1-
- 4) -- in the process, Kiruba starts a new
phenomenon: amateurs interviewing amateurs.
- Microsoft Secrets
-- (via vs babu) -- If you
have built a Microsoft based Intranet, you know how insecure it can be. What
we didn't know was how insecure can Microsoft's own Intranet can be...
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Monday, December 02, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/2/2002
|Read Leaf, Yellow Leaf|| |
| Read Leaf, Yellow Leaf
Leaf from my yard, Dec. 03, 2002
Leaf from the yard of the Middleton family, Dec. 01, 2002
Nov 06, 2002: My Search for Fall Colors
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 03, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/3/2002
|Reinventing AOL|| |
| AOL Disappoints|
Dave Winer: Business
Re-engineering Tips for AOL
Winer is right. Steve Case always maintained that AOL is a media company,
and here's great opportunity to reinvent. I'll say bring Ted Turner back, he's
brilliant (in strategy and vision).
Oh no, AOL so leaderless that the only thing they are doing is ripping off
customers and pissing off customers.
Some more ideas for AOL:
- Release a AOL/IM Server software that can be used by corporations to host
customized chat among employees, customers etc.
- Tune AOL-Press so members can publish blogs. How cool would be that?
- Whatever happened to AOL broadband?
Child Labor and Quality of Life
When Jay Bhatt pointed this story about a five year old obtaining Microsoft certifacation, I was reminded of a discussion I had with some of my friends on the topic. Definitely something to ponder.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, December 04, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/4/2002
|Connecting the Dots|| |
| Connecting the Dots|
Everybody is talking about
connecting dots. The president has created a whole new government department called Homeland Security just to be able to connect the dots.
The Indians know something about connecting the dots. They have been doing so for hundreds of years.
© K. L. Kamat
Girl connects dots on a street in India
Girl Practicing Rangoli Art
Complex Mathematics of Common Folk
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 05, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/4/2002
|What are other people upto?|| |
| What People are Buying at Kamat.com|
Like many other websites we also have many links to Amazon.com that pays us a
small fee when people buy goods after clicking on the link. Although
I don't know who bought what, Amazon sends me a report of which items were sold
and by how much. Here are the top five items that our patrons bought in the last
What People are Searching for via our Nosy
Merging Content with Commerce
Integrating third party products with content-rich websites is a pain,
since there is no easy way to keep the inventory, promotions, and prices in sync
with the production and scheduling of content publication. Many people have
implemented many solutions (remember AltaVista's much ridiculed idea?), but
there really isn't a content website that has succeeded in tight integration of
commerce with content.
IMO the solution lies in a combination of human intelligence and
sophisticated web-services technology. Before a story goes online, the
editor, a human, should perform a search of all possible products relevant
to the story and build a custom promotion that is embedded in the story.
However, this is a very, very expensive process without much ROI. Amazon
recently gave announced a $5000 prize for tools to make this process easy.
Meanwhile, I have added a custom predicate to our Content Management
If I write [[Amazon <ProductID>]] or [[Amazon <keywords>]], the CMS
will insert appropriate links after searching the catalog for any available products. Due to the nature of our site I do not insert
product pictures, prices, or reviews, but that is something plausible with
the new Catalog WebService that Amazon has introduced recently.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 10, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/10/2002
|Talking of Photo-Blogs|| |
| A Blog on Photo Blogs|
The Aperture Photo Blog at Kamat.com is quite a hit
with photo-blog enthusiasts. It does help that it's the top
match in Google for its keywords.
However, it is less of a blog on photography, and more of a blog on subjects
of photography. The newest entry, for example, shows use
of photographs to study the cultural anthropology of India.
220, 221. Whatever it takes
Requirements of Photo-Blogging Software
I am listing below what is required of a good software so that people can publish "push-button" photo-blogs.
- Ability to compute height and widths of images, as well as provide an
alt-text title. Without them, the pictures will render poorly and when you
hover the mouse over the picture you'll probably see "A picture named
- Ability to create stubs. If you work with lots of pictures, you know what
a pain it is to create them.
- Ability to point to similar images based on keywords or categories. Now we
are talking sophistication. More the meta data, the better.
- Some pictures look good with borders, and some without. The blogger (the
person creating the entry) should
be able to specify this.
- Ability to list pictures by reels, by dates (of photograph taken, or by
- A PhotoCredit mechanism so the blogger can publish photographs not taken
- A watermarking mechanism to protect the images.
Some Photo Blogs and Software they Use
BTW, until last week, I didn't quite get the meaning of "MovableType".
I had thought that it has something to do with fonts, type, and stuff. Then it occurred
to me that movable-type would be the opposite of "stereo-type", which
I thought is way cool. No?
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 12, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/12/2002
|Who will Bell the Cat?|| |
| Who will Bell the Cat?|
Srijith of The Third Eye asks "Why
not build a XML/RPC Server for Indian blogs?"
My first thought was "Who will tie the bell to the cat?". Then more
- If the purpose of Srijith's question is just to be able ping Blog
Portal or Weblogs.com, there's no need because both systems support
automation via http GET. For example to inform that this blog has been
updated, you can make the following two requests (automatically, if you know
how to do it):
- Dave Winer has indicated that if there are substantial blogs from India,
we will create a category for us in Weblogs.com. It might be like
- Mahesh Shantaram, Anita Bora and I worked on a project that would have
acted as a portal. My ideas for it included update tracking, Merged blogs
(one page that assembles latest entries from your favorite blogs; how cool
is that?! example), Blog Ping-pong (like a Trackback server for non-MT blogs),
a Yacc-like comments server, and a banner exchange program. We made some
progress, but since we all have lives to live, the project is stuck like a
car with square wheels.
What's Coming at Kamat.com
50 Years of Kamat
Photographs marking the 50 years of amateur photography by humanist Krishnanand Kamat.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Friday, December 13, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/30/2003
|Newsweek Loses a Customer|| |
| Christmas Tips |
(How much to Tip)
The Dec 9th Issue of Newsweek Magazine has a list of suggested Christmas Tips.
- For the postman -- a bottle of wine or a tray of cookies
- For the newspaper delivery man -- $30
- At the restaurant, after dinner -- $50
- For the valet parking person -- $100 (to be shared with his team)
I wonder to what percentage of Newsweek readers there tips were targeted.
Definitely not for me; definitely not for anyone I know.
I have a Christmas tip for you Newsweek, don't publish such crap.
Anyway, this "Christmas Special" issue was so bad that I've asked my wife not to renew the subscription. This particular issue also had 16 pages of back-to-back, full-page advertisements. That is, you turn a page and it is a full page ad,then you turn, that is a full page ad, then you turn, a full page ad, you'd have to turn eight times to continue reading your story (about AOL-TW). IMHO that is too much.
FYI, I even like advertisements, and for many years bought the WIRED magazine just to look at the print advertisements.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Sunday, December 15, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/15/2002
|You ping me, I will ping them|| |
| XML-RPC Server for Indian Blogs|
After listening to Srijith and Kiruba, I have added a XML-RPC server and a XML-RPC client to Blog Portal. I haven't yet documented it, but it will work just like Weblog.com's ping interface.
Use of XML-RPC Client:
Starting now, if you ping blog portal, the updates will percolate to weblogs.com.
Use of XML-RPC Server:
Here's a specimen request to automate pinging of Kamat Blog Portal:
Now I am taking name suggestions for this server.
I thought of reusing the name Narad, my retired crawler. So the XML-RPC path would be http://kamat.org/community/narad.
5:30 PM Some suggestions recieved: Makdee, Jal, BlogTrickle, BlogDalal, Remocon.
7:45 PM I have called the XML-RPC Server as Remokon. Here are more details on how to use it.
- The URI is http://www.kamat.org/community/remocon.asp
- It takes two parameters, both strings, first one is a blog URL, and the second one is a Pickup line.
- ping(BlogURL,PickupLine) returns a message whether or not the ping was successful.
- PickupLine is a oneliner you can use to entice readers to your latest entry. If you use a blog tool with BlogPostTitle property, it can be the BlogPostTitle. FYI, the Blog Portal already knows the Titleof the Blog, its keywords,and annotation. It is my belief that a combination of editor-reviewed blogs, and author-submitted pings would constitute a worthwhile portal.
- For more details, read Weblog.com's API
- Report defects to me via email at
I also like Srijith's idea of an email interface to the blog portal. I have already implemented it, but I am not so sure if I should publicize the address, due to fear of spam.
Read my blogs on the blogs
New Contents at Kamat's Potpourri
Checkout my tacky new icon for Weblogs
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 17, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/30/2003
|The Games Men Play|| |
| Games Men Play|
Recently I became aware of two games that men (men, as in grown up males) play.
- The Software-Firmware Survivor.
Players required: Five or more. Length of play: Several months
Everyone playing this game goes on an eating-binge and puts on as much weight
as possible (eating all kinds of tasty food and guzzling major quantities of
beer) and their weights/waists are measured. The purpose of the game is to
find out who can lose most weight in comparison to what they started. Then
for a predetermined period, say, six months, they are measured periodically,
hopefully each reducing weight by dieting, and working out. The bottom-most guy who didn't show improvement is dropped out every month (hence the
name Survivor; the word software in the title of the game refers to the fat in the body).
Women never get this game. "Why do married men need to take all the
trouble?" they wonder. Firstly, they don't know that men can be stupid
when they are competitive. They also don't know that inside every married man
lives an unmarried man, fantasizing
(link to review of movie American Beauty),
- The Engine Night (a.k.a. LAN Party)
Players Required: Four or more. Length of play: One night, all night
Every player gathers in a predetermined house (whose lady is away) with
their PCs. The computers are then networked together on a high bandwidth
network and the men play
violent multi-player games. For relaxation, they play porn on
high-definition televisions or the digital projectors borrowed from offices.
Beer and Pizza is the staple food during the game.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Thursday, December 19, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/30/2003
|What's Coming|| |
| What's Cooking in Kamat's Kitchen|
The following are some of the projects I am working on. They are to be released in January.
There are 180 million practicing Muslims in India. A photographic exhibit depicting a cross section of Indian Muslim communities; includes pictures of Daldis, Navayatis, and Islamic mystics.
Auto Updates for Blog Portal
OK, by now you know that if you ping my Blog Portal, you can have the ping reach Weblogs.com. I'd like to do the opposite also -- if you ping Weblogs, the ping should get to me. We will periodically (probably once a day) query Weblogs.com's changes.xml file and update our database.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Friday, December 20, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/20/2002
|Vikas the Ombudsman|| |
| Meet Vikas the Ombudsman|
(A Profile of my InBox)
The emails I get via Kamat's Potpourri vary from raves to accusing to
amusing. They mostly fall in these categories: Requests for reproduction of
content, complaints of missing content ("How come you don't have this?"), Requests for help
(inter-caste and inter-religious relationships seem to be my
specialty, I also get a lot of questions about India), and Reviews (rants and
raves). I regret that I can't help all of them, although I try.
Some samples from this week :
I made up the quotes to simplify long messages
|Call Police for Missed Deadlines|| |
| Indonesia Arrests President of a Software Company for Non-delivery
Wow, I've never heard of such a thing. A software project gets delayed, and
the customer calls police.
That's what happened to the executives of the Polaris
in Indonesia (news links).
Apparently, there was a dispute between a vendor of software and a buyer, and
the buyer thought he would seek the help of the police since the vendor is a
foreign national. The executives were harassed and now it has become a big embarrassment
Welcome to the global village.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Sunday, December 22, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/22/2002
|Amma Gets a TV|| |
| Amma Gets a TV|
While it is nothing like the Hoshitashi
Home Theater System I bought last year, my mother bought a television (her
first) this week. The customer service at IndiaInfo.com
is excellent -- they even brought the TV home, installed it, taught my
mother how to use the remote control, and setup cable service for her.
The timing is perfect, because soon she will be on TV in the Namaskara show, and she can watch herself! We have been on TV several times before -- including BBC, TechTV (never got to see them) and an hour long interview on Uday TV (saw recording), but since we didn't have a TV, she never saw the broadcasts.
For those of you who wish to gift electronics to families and friends in
India, I recommend IndiaInfo.com service.
Status Report on Kamat Blog Portal
- Bug: There was a defect in the caching logic that prevented some sites to report updates. I believe that the same bug exists in Weblogs.com's cache comparison logic because I have seen the same behavior there. The
problem is this: To verify that a blog has changed, the portal will look at certain part of the page (so it can bypass dynamically inserted timestamps
and advertisements), and in some instances (in my case when the page had
very large, static left hand sides) the new copy is identical to the old
cached copy and causes the portal to lose the update. Corrected.
- Reverse Ping Integration: I have added a script to periodically look at
Weblogs.com and import relevant pings into Blog Portal. So
the ping synchronization between Blog Portal and Weblogs.com is
- Introduction of a new bug: Since Blog Portal accepts only one ping
per hour, if a ping was imported from Weblogs.com, it no longer honors the PickupLine
submitted by the author during the same hour. I will fix this.
Bad Weather is Good Business
My company sells Emergency Response Management software that helps
governments and utility providers (power, gas, telephone, and cable service
providers) respond to natural calamities such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and
blizzards. Hence, in a twisted way, bad weather is good for my business.
Our software does not rely on public networks (for obvious reasons -- you
can't send email if the email is down), and instead makes use of private
networks (such as those owned by military and telcos).
I am not the only beneficiary of nature's wrath. Have you noticed how the
stocks of Home Depot
and Lowes go up every time
there's a storm and homes get damaged?
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Friday, December 27, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/27/2002
|Meanings of HumBlog|| |
| Multiple Meanings of HumBlog|
I just love the names that convey multiple, and complex meanings. The name of our
archives, KälaRanga is one such name. The word Käla means
both time as well as death, depending on context. Ranga can mean a color or a
stage. So KalaRanga (also the title of a book by my father) means "Theater
of Time". It can also mean "The Colors of the Time". It also
connotes that the world is a stage where a deathless entity (God, or time) is
When Anand suggested the name HumBlog for a new
blog portal the blog
enthusiasts are building, I was immediately drawn to it. Here are the multiple,
and complex meanings it connotes:
- Hum means "we" or "us" in Hindi language, so it would
mean "We Blog", or "Blogs are Us"
- HumBlog would be the English translation of the title of the book "We
- HumBlog sounds like "humbug", kind of a poke at the blog media
- HumBlog contains the letters humbl (pointed out by Arnab), connoting humble, poor,
- HumBlog sounds like "Hum Log" meaning "Our People", also the
title of a TV show in India.
Nilesh has done a very nice prototype of the HumBlog page layout, which was
debated. Someone suggested a collage,
and while I am not sure how helpful or relevant
a collage is to a portal, I took the cool HumBlog logo and rendered it through
our PhotoEngine. It is shown below. (The way to enjoy a PhotoQuilt is to see it
from far and the watch it closer.)
If you are seriously into photo-quilts, download a much
larger (1.1MB) rendering of this collage. Or enjoy many other PhotoQuilts
in our Online Amusements section.
Interesting People of The Year
Spitzer, New York's Attorney General, and a true friend of the people. I
hope he runs for President one day. For those who don't know, he single
handedly busted a lot of malpractices in the big money business.
- Film Maker Elia
Suleiman of Divine Intervention
- Indian Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayee (link to Rediff Photo album) -- For the first time
since Nehru and Shastri, India has a prime minister to be proud of.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Monday, December 30, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/30/2002
|Ants, Computers, and Stuff|| |
| Ants Don't Know Pythagoras Theorem|
This morning over breakfast Kim pointed out to me something that I never
thought of before. Once the ants find a source of food, they don't follow
the same path to carry the food home, but instead find a new one. Typically,
this new path is neither shorter nor easier.
I am pretty sure she was talking about my haphazard way of doing
things -- disorderly, and relying more on instinct, feel, and common sense, than
on foresight and planning. Oh Well.
Talking about ants, check out the English translation of an interesting essay
my father wrote about ants in Ants
and I that I translated. He dwells on topics such as health of the ants, beauty of the ants,
and erecting memorials for ants. Also read about the tribal boy who avanged the bites of red ants in Ants, Adults, and Tribals.
Why India Needs Computers
Read my essay on experiences of introducing computing for common people in Revolution
Slightly Ahead of its Time. I have quoted a visionary on the proverbial
debate on "Why India needs computers, when what it needs is drinking
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, December 31, 2002|
Last Modified: 12/31/2002
|This is how I surf the web. Turns out
creating your own start page beats all portals, back-flipping,
personalized corporate pages, and book-marking tools.