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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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Best of AnthoBLOGy

Unripe Revolution
Rooster's Dharma
Don't Know Jack
No Love for Condi
Blogger's Block
Father of  the Bride
TinTin's Diary - I
TinTin's Diary II
Hate Bollywood
Child Labor
M.F.Husain Guilty
Marathi & Konkani
Artist's Daughter
India's First IT Guru

 

Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

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Houses of Charleston Durable Link to this BLOG
Houses of Charleston

Charleston South Carolina

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- 2 -3 - 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 2, 2002
Last Modified: 12/2/2002

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Read Leaf, Yellow Leaf Durable Link to this BLOG
Read Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Red Leaf
Leaf from my yard, Dec. 03, 2002

Yellow Leaf
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 3, 2002
Last Modified: 12/3/2002

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Reinventing AOL Durable Link to this BLOG
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 4, 2002
Last Modified: 12/4/2002

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Connecting the Dots Durable Link to this BLOG
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 Joins Dots
Girl connects dots on a street in India

Links:
• Girl Practicing Rangoli Art
• Complex Mathematics of Common Folk


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, December 5, 2002
Last Modified: 12/4/2002

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What are other people upto? Durable Link to this BLOG
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 two months.

See Also:
• What People are Searching for via our Nosy Surfer

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 System. 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

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Talking of Photo-Blogs Durable Link to this BLOG
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 bob.gif".
  • 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 photograph published)
  • A PhotoCredit mechanism so the blogger can publish photographs not taken by self
  • A watermarking mechanism to protect the images.

Some Photo Blogs and Software they Use

Misc Links

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
Tags: metablog

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Who will Bell the Cat? Durable Link to this BLOG
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 thoughts:

  • 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):

http://newhome.weblogs.com/pingSiteForm?
name=AnthoBLOGy&
url=http://www.kamat.com/vikas/blog.htm

http://www.kamat.org/community/ping.asp? BlogURL=http://www.kamat.com/vikas/blog.htm

  • 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 india.weblogs.com 
  • 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 Kamat50 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
Tags: desiblogs

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Newsweek Loses a Customer Durable Link to this BLOG
Christmas Tips 
(How much to Tip)

The Dec 9th Issue of Newsweek Magazine has a list of suggested Christmas Tips. Examples:

  • 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

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You ping me, I will ping them Durable Link to this BLOG
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:

Ping Request via XML-RPC

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 Contact Kamats

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.

Links:
• 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
Tags: desiblogs

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The Games Men Play Durable Link to this BLOG
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), and hoping ;-- )

  • 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

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What's Coming Durable Link to this BLOG
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.

Muslims in IndiaIndian Muslims
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

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Vikas the Ombudsman Durable Link to this BLOG
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

  • A number of people ask me about importing elephant tusks or ivory crafts, but today I got a email from a patron who wants to import an elephant from India. Any idea how he can go about?
  • A lot of people get upset that I have not listed one deity or another in my list of Hindu Gods. My explanation that "Who can list God's names or forms?" is falling on deaf years.
  • Many people get upset that I have classified Saibaba and Sahajanandji as holy-men. They want me to refer to them as gods or reincarnations of God.
  • "I am a Chinese girl in love with a Malayali. His family hates me. Please help"
  • "I was a president of this Indian association in Texas. We abused your contents and pissed you off in the past. But now I got this really cool TV gig to do on India. Can I use your contents now with your permission?"

    See Also:
    • List of Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

    (Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, December 21, 2002
    Last Modified: 12/21/2002

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Call Police for Missed Deadlines Durable Link to this BLOG
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 for Indonesia.

Welcome to the global village.


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Sunday, December 22, 2002
Last Modified: 12/22/2002

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Merry Christmas Durable Link to this BLOG
Merry Christmas

A Lighted Christmas Tree

See Also:
• Send this picture as an e-card
• New Year e-Greetings
• New Year Greetings - 2003

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Last Modified: 12/25/2002

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Amma Gets a TV Durable Link to this BLOG
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 two-way!
  • 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

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Meanings of HumBlog Durable Link to this BLOG
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 performing.

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 Blog"
  • HumBlog sounds like "humbug", kind of a poke at the blog media
  • HumBlog contains the letters humbl (pointed out by Arnab), connoting humble, poor, or anti-rich.
  • 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.)

HumBlog Collage

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.

See Also:
• Digital Collages

Interesting People of The Year

  • Eliot 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

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Ants, Computers, and Stuff Durable Link to this BLOG
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 water".

Links


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Last Modified: 12/31/2002

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