Monday, March 31, 2008

What Every Telecom Professional Should Know

Book Review by Vikram Waman Karve

TECH TERMS – What every Telecommunications and Digital Media Professional Should Know

Tell me, what is a zombie? No, no! It’s not the witchcraft zombie I’m talking about, nor am I referring to those automaton nerds, lost cases, you see around you. Okay, I’ll give you a hint – this zombie has got something to do with IT. Still clueless?

Did you know that Zombie refers to hackers’ use of other people’s personal computers to either conceal their online activities or to launch attacks on other computers? Once a computer has been turned into a “zombie” it can be used as a repository for illegal software, become a clandestine meeting place for hackers to conduct secret meetings, be used to send pornographic or other undesirable e-mail or spam, serve as the launching point for a denial of service attack, and so on – all without the knowledge of the zombie computer’s owner. So don’t let your PC become a zombie.

Did you know all this? Well, I didn’t – till I read a marvellous book, a splendid Technical Thesaurus, called TECH TERMS. This book is packed with a wealth of knowledge comprising must-know terms and concepts for every Telecom and IT professionals worth her salt. This book encapsulates an essential list of Internet, IT, Telecom, Digital, Broadcasting, and Computing terms one needs to master to remain current through thorough understanding of state-of-the-art technology and concepts – a sine qua non for survival and success in the rapidly advancing world of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Title: TECH TERMS – What every Telecommunications and Digital Media Professional Should Know

Author: Jeff Rutenbeck

Elsevier (2006) 280 pp

ISBN 13: 978-0-240-80757-7

The “tech terms” are arranged alphabetically and each term is assigned a “level” of 1, 2, or 3 indicating the degree to which a term or concept can be considered fundamental or foundational to a particular technological domain [level 1], those which require some understanding [level 2], and highly specialized or complicated concepts [level 3].

Cyberspace, Blog, Hacker, Byte, Broadband, iPod, Database are level 1 terms; Technobabble, TCP/IP, GPS, GSM, ADSL, ISDN, Cybersquatting, Wiki, Bluetooth, Blu-Ray, Ethernet, URL, Router, Zombie, Honeypot, WYSIWYG, Nanotechnology are level 2 terms, and terms and concepts like CDMA, NICAM, CPDP, XSS, DLL, ColdFusion are level 3 terms.

Hey, do you know the full form of URL? Or USB? Or FIFO? Or ISDN?

Why don’t you just go down to your nearest bookstore or library and get a copy of this book? TECH TERMS is an excellent reference book, a must-have for all IT Pros in today’s techno-centric world.


The Art of Living

Epictetus: The Art of Living
(a book review)
Vikram Karve

I’ve got a wonderful book in my bookcase. It’s called The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness, a new interpretation by Sharon Lebell. The compact book encapsulates in a nutshell the salient teachings of Epictetus, the great Stoic philosopher.

Whenever I buy a book I write my name, the date and place of purchase on the first page. I bought this book from one of my favorite bookstores Gangaram’s Bangalore on 18 August 1999. There was a time, in the nineties, when I used to visit Bangalore very often. I ensured I stayed somewhere near MG Road, and spend the evenings strolling in the delightful area around MG Road and Brigade Road. A delightful meal of the scrumptious Kerala delicacies like Stew, Appams, Parotta and the Ghee Rice at Imperial on Residency Road, baked delights at Nilgiri, Rosogullas at KC Das and Book Browsing at Gangarams Book Bureau were an absolute must. It’s been six years now, I cherish those memories and hope I get a chance to visit Bangalore soon.

Now let’s have a look at a few gems from this witty and wise book which delves on two basic questions pertaining to the art of living: How do I live a happy, meaningful, fulfilling life?How can I be a good person?

Approach life as a banquet, Epictetus advises. Think of your life as if were a banquet where you would behave graciously. When dishes are passed to you, extend your hand and help yourself to a moderate portion. If a dish should pass you by, enjoy what is already on your plate. Or if a dish hasn’t been passed to you yet, patiently wait your turn… there is no need to yearn, envy, and grab. You will get your rightful portion when it is your time.

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not... and once you learn to distinguish between the two inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Events don’t hurt us, only our attitude towards them does. Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible.

Create your own merit. Never depend on the admiration of others. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. There is no such thing as vicarious merit.These are a few gems from the book - every page radiates simple implementable wisdom.

Whereas society regards professional achievement, wealth, power, and fame as desirable and admirable, Epictetus views these as incidental and irrelevant to true happiness. What matters most is what sort of life you are living; a life of virtue, caretaking the present moment. Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions…your happiness can be found within.

This captivating book has had a profound effect on me; my way of thinking and living, and motivated me to delve into the life and works of Epictetus in more detail and it was heartening to see the congruence and harmony of the teachings of Epictetus with Eastern philosophical wisdom and precepts.

I’m glad I bought this splendid book. It cost me only ninety five rupees. Go down to your neighborhood bookstore and browse through it. I’m sure you will love to have a copy in your bookcase. And you'll browse throght it almost every day.



A Sense of Values - your values and your life





Values are core beliefs which guide and motivate attitudes and behavior. When you value something you want it (or want it to happen). Values are relatively permanent desires. Values are answers to the “why” question. You keep on asking “why” questions until you reach a point where you no longer want something for the sake of something else. At this point you have arrived at a value.

Let’s take an example – I was once teaching a Post Graduate Professional course at a centre of excellence and I asked a student, “Why are you doing this course?”

“To gain qualifications,” he answered.

“Why do you want to gain qualifications?”

“To succeed in my career.”

“Why do you want to succeed in your career?”

“To reach the top.”

“Why do you want to reach the top?”

“To get power.”

“Why do want do you want power?”

“To control people,” he answered.

“Why do you want to control people?”

“I want to control people.”


“I like to control people.”


“Just for the sake of it – I like controlling people,” he said and further why’s elicited similar responses related to control . [Control for the sake of control!]

I realized that control was one of his values and maybe he was a future megalomaniac in the making!

The same line of questioning of persons undergoing higher education may reveal values like knowledge, money, status, standard of living, ambition, achievement, growth, reputation, excellence, fame.

Values are our subjective reactions to the world around us. They guide and mold our options and behavior. Values are developed early in life and are very resistant to change. Values develop out of our direct experiences with people who are important to us, particularly our parents. Values rise not out of what people tell us, but as a result how they behave toward us and others. Remember, there can’t be any “partial” values; for example: you cannot be 50% honest (half-honest) – either you are honest or you are not.

Are you doing you MBA? Keep asking yourself why you are doing it, and you will ultimately arrive at your value.

“Why are you doing your MBA?”

“To learn management.”

“Why do you want to learn management?”

“To get a good job in a top firm as a manager.”


“To make more money.”


“To have a high standard of living.”

The guy I was talking to re-iterated here since standard of living was his value but you can go on and on till you find your value. In one case I was surprised to find conformance as a prime value in a student of MBA – she was doing MBA because everyone else was doing it!

With the rise and predominance of the utility value of education, the most important criterion for ranking B-Schools is the pay-packet their students get and not other factors like the quality of faculty and infrastructure, academic achievements and ambience etc. That’s why there is a rush towards IT and Computer Science as compared to other more interesting and challenging branches of Engineering and Technology – money seems to be the cardinal value amongst students these days! Some do prefer the civil services even after completing their Engineering from premier institutions as, for them, things like status, service, power may be important values.

Is a high salary important to you?
Is it important for your work to involve interacting with people?
Is it important for your work to make a contribution to society?
Is having a prestigious job important for you?

It is most important for you to find out your own values (by the “why” method) to avoid value mismatch. Value mismatch is at the root cause of dilemmas in your life. A conflict between your personal and organizational values may result in ethical dilemmas, while value mismatch between two persons may sow discord and cause stress and turbulence in a relationship.

Your values are possibly the most important thing to consider when you're choosing an occupation. If you don't take your values into account when planning your career, there's a good chance you'll dislike your work and therefore not succeed in it. For example, someone who needs to have autonomy in his work would not be happy in a job where every action is decided by someone else.

It is important to distinguish between values, interests, personality, and skills:

the things that are important to you, like achievement, status, and autonomy.

what you enjoy doing, like reading, taking long walks, eating good food, hanging out with friends.
a person's individual traits, motivational drives, needs, and attitudes.

the activities you are good at, such as writing, computer programming, teaching.

Of these, interests, skills and personality can be developed, but values are intrinsic core beliefs inherent within you which you must endeavor to discover by yourself.

Whether it is your work or relationships, value congruence is of paramount importance – your values must be in harmony for the relationship to tick. Value Dissonance due to mismatch between individual values and organizational values can cause great strain and trauma at the workplace.

Even within yourself, in order to avoid inner conflict there must be no confusion about your true values. Remember the saying of Mahatma Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Dear Reader, sit down in a quiet place all by yourself, introspect, ask yourself the “why” question and find out your own values. First know yourself. Then know others – try to ascertain their values (personal values and organizational values too!). Avoid value-mismatch and value-dissonance to the extent feasible. The mutual harmony in your values should determine your choice of work, activities, relationships, friends and partner.

Is freedom an important value for you? Will the job you are considering (or the person you want to marry) give you enough freedom?

Do you value leisure? Oh, yes! Leisure is not only an important value but also a determinant of character – If you want to know about a man find out how he spends his leisure! It’s true in your case too – If you had a day off what will you do?Read a book, write a story, go hiking outdoors, play your favorite sport, adventure sports, chat with friends, picnic, see a movie, eat your favorite cuisine in a restaurant, or cook it yourself, socialize in your club, spend the day at home with your family, or see TV at home, or just spend the day in glorious solitude enjoying quality time with yourself? Or would you rather not “waste” your leisure time and spend the day doing something “useful” connected with your work, career or advancement towards “achieving” your “goals”? How you spend your leisure reveals your values too!

Do you value humor, fun, pleasure, food, enjoyment, sex, family life, quality of life, status, money, success, fame, power, prestige, security, nature, loyalty, love, affection, independence, privacy, togetherness, tranquility, adventure, leadership, followership, competition, contentment, creativity – find out for yourself, and in others who you want to relate with – match and harmonize your values, and be happy and fulfilled in your work and your relationships.

Remember, at any important milestone in your life, when you have to make a vital decision, whether you are on the verge of selecting a job or a marriage partner – trust your sense of values !

In conclusion here is a quote from the German Philosopher Friedrich Hegel:

“A man who has work that suits him, and a wife whom he loves, has squared his accounts with life”


Information, Systems, and Information Systems

Title: Information, Systems and Information Systems – making sense of the field
Authors: Peter Checkland and Sue Howell
John Wiley & Sons (1988)
ISBN 0-471-95820-4

[Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve]

Information Technology [IT] is the buzzword of today. IT is ubiquitous; almost everyone is connected with IT in some way or the other. A few years ago, till the nineteen eighties, there were courses in Electrical, Electronics, Communications and Telecommunications Engineering and later in Computer Science and Engineering, but now there are dedicated courses in Information Technology, and almost all Engineers, and even others, irrespective of their specializations, are rushing to take up jobs in IT and IT Enabled Services. The Management guys have also joined the fray and added a “management” dimension to IT by offering MBA courses in “IT Management”.

What exactly is IT? Maybe the phrase “IT” was coined to mark the convergence of two technologies that had been traditionally separate: “Computing” and “Communications” and the confluence of several streams of development including electronics, microelectronics, computer science, telecommunications, software engineering and systems analysis.

There are a large number of books and extensive literature on the content of IT. This book is a significant treatise on the context of IT. The principal author Peter Checkland is a pioneering researcher in the field of Systems Engineering and Management and has developed breakthrough concepts like Soft Systems Methodology [SSM] and written the seminal classic “Systems Thinking, Systems Practice”. The co-author Sue Holwell has a rich and varied professional experience in systems design and implementation, information strategy and communication networks.

This book has eight chapters arranged in four parts. In the first part on “The Field of Information Systems and its Problems” the authors deliberate on the basic concepts pertaining to Information Systems [IS] and Information Technology [IT], distinguish between the “Hard” (objective positivistic scientific) and “Soft” (subjective interpretative) schools of thought in the context of Management Information Systems [MIS], and introduce the reader to the fundamentals of Soft System Methodologies [SSM].

The “meat” of the book is in Part Two whose two chapters elucidate on the application of the developed Information System Management concepts to organizations and describe the “information continuum” – the linkages between data, information and knowledge. Parts Three and Four substantiate these hypotheses with experiential examples from as early as World War II and drives home the point that the evolution and development of the science of Information Systems [IS] owes nothing to computers which did not exist in 1940, makes it clear that IS is not the same as IT, reminds us that computers are a mere means of IS, and cautions us against falling into the trap of “technological determinism” resulting from the prevalent propensity to overly focus on computer-based IT and allow technology to take charge of our actions.

The book is aptly adorned with simple illustrations which facilitate ease of understanding. As the dust jacket says, the book is a work of conceptual cleansing and presents a well-argued account of IS and IT which is both holistic and coherent. I recommend this remarkable book to IT, Engineering and Management students and professionals – reading it will certainly enhance their conceptual understanding of Information Systems and Technology.

[Book Review by Vikram Waman Karve]

Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve





I have before me three books on Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve:

(i) His autobiography titled ‘Looking Back’ published in 1936.

(ii) Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar published in 1958 by Popular Prakashan Bombay (Mumbai)

(iii) Maharshi Karve – His 105 Years published on 18 April 1963 ( His 106th birth anniversary) by Hingne Stree Shiksan Samstha Poona (Pune)

Allow me to tell you, Dear Reader, a bit about these books which describe the life and times of Maharshi Karve and tell us about the monumental pioneering work of one of the foremost social and educational reformers of India.

It would be apt to start with his autobiography – Looking Back, and let Maharshi Karve describe his life and work from his own point of view in his simple yet fascinating style. I am placing below a Book Review of his autobiography (which I had reviewed a few months ago) for your perusal:

Book Review of The Autobiography of Maharshi Karve: “Looking Back” by Dhondo Keshav Karve (1936)

Dear Reader, you must be wondering why I am reviewing an autobiography written in 1936. Well, till recently I stayed on Maharshi Karve Road in Mumbai. I share the same surname as the author. Also, I happen to be the great grandson of Maharshi Karve. But, beyond that, compared to him I am a nobody – not even a pygmy.

Maharshi Karve clearly knew his goal, persisted ceaselessly throughout his life with missionary zeal and transformed the destiny of the Indian Woman. The first university for women in India - The SNDT University and educational institutions for women covering the entire spectrum ranging from pre-primary schools to post-graduate, engineering, vocational and professional colleges bear eloquent testimony to his indomitable spirit, untiring perseverance and determined efforts.

In his preface, Frederick J Gould, renowned rationalist and lecturer on Ethics, writes that “the narrative is a parable of his career” – a most apt description of the autobiography. The author tells his life-story in a simple straightforward manner, with remarkable candour and humility; resulting in a narrative which is friendly, interesting and readable.

Autobiographies are sometimes voluminous tomes, but this a small book, 200 pages, and a very easy comfortable enjoyable read that makes it almost unputdownable. Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve writes a crisp, flowing narrative of his life, interspersed with his views and anecdotes, in simple, straightforward style which facilitates the reader to visualize through the author’s eyes the places, period, people and events pertaining to his life and times and the trials and tribulations he faced and struggled to conquer.

Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve was born on 18th of April 1858. In the first few chapters he writes about Murud, his native place in Konkan, Maharashtra, his ancestry and his early life– the description is so vivid that you can clearly “see” through the author’s eye.

His struggle to appear in the public service examination (walking 110 miles in torrential rain and difficult terrain to Satara), and his shattering disappointment at not being allowed to appear because “he looked too young”, make poignant reading.

“Many undreamt of things have happened in my life and given a different turn to my career” he writes, and then goes on to describe his high school and, later, college education at The Wilson College Bombay (Mumbai) narrating various incidents that convinced him of the role of destiny and serendipity in shaping his life and career as a teacher and then Professor of Mathematics.

He married at the age of fourteen but began his marital life at the age of twenty! This was the custom of those days. Let’s read the author’s own words on his domestic life: “… I was married at the age of fourteen and my wife was then eight. Her family lived very near to ours and we knew each other very well and had often played together. However after marriage we had to forget our old relation as playmates and to behave as strangers, often looking toward each other but never standing together to exchange words…. We had to communicate with each other through my sister…… My marital life began under the parental roof at Murud when I was twenty…” Their domestic bliss was short lived as his wife died after a few years leaving behind a son… “Thus ended the first part of my domestic life”… he concludes in crisp witty style.

An incident highlighting the plight of a widow left an indelible impression on him and germinated in him the idea of widow remarriage. He married Godubai, who was widowed when she was only eight years old, was a sister of his friend Mr. Joshi, and now twenty three was studying at Pandita Ramabai’s Sharada Sadan as its first widow student.

Let’s read in the author’s own words how he asked for her hand in marriage to her father – “I told him…..I had made up my mind to marry a widow. He sat silent for a minute and then hinted that there was no need to go in search of such a bride”.

He describes in detail the ostracism he faced from some orthodox quarters and systematically enunciates his life work - his organization of the Widow Marriage Association, Hindu Widows Home, Mahila Vidyalaya, Nishkama Karma Math, and other institutions, culminating in the birth of the first Indian Women’s University (SNDT University).

The trials and tribulations he faced in his life-work of emancipation of education of women (widows in particular) and how he overcame them by his persistent steadfast endeavours and indomitable spirit makes illuminating reading and underlines the fact that Dr. DK Karve was no arm-chair social reformer but a person devoted to achieve his dreams on the ground in reality.

These chapters form the meat of the book and make compelling reading. His dedication and meticulousness is evident in the appendices where he has given datewise details of his engagements and subscriptions down to the paisa for his educational institutions from various places he visited around the world to propagate their cause.

He then describes his world tour, at the ripe age of 71, to meet eminent educationists to propagate the cause of the Women’s University, his later domestic life and ends with a few of his views and ideas for posterity. At the end of the book, concluding his autobiography, he writes: “Here ends the story of my life. I hope this simple story will serve some useful purpose”.

He wrote this in 1936. He lived on till the 9th of November 1962, achieving so much more on the way, was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters ( D.Litt.) by the famous and prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1942 followed by Universities of Poona in 1951, SNDT in 1955, and Bombay(LL.D.) in 1957.

Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve received the Padma Vibhushan in 1955 and the India’s highest honour the “Bharat Ratna” in 1958, a fitting tribute on his centenary at the age of 100.

It is an engrossing and illuminating autobiography, written in simple witty readable storytelling style, and it clearly brings out the mammoth contribution of Maharshi Karve and the trials and tribulations he faced..


I (the reviewer) was born in 1956, and have fleeting memories of Maharshi Karve, during our visits to Hingne Stree Sikshan Samstha in 1961-62, as a small boy of 5 or 6 can. My mother tells me that I featured in a Films Division documentary on him during his centenary celebrations in 1958 (I must have been barely two, maybe one and a half years old) and there is a photograph of him and his great grand children in which I feature. It is from some old timers and other people and mainly from books that I learn of his pioneering work in transforming the destiny of the Indian Woman and I thought I should share this.

I have written this book review with the hope that some of us, particularly the students and alumni of SNDT University, Cummins College of Engineering for Women, SOFT, Karve Institute of Social Sciences and other educational institutions who owe their very genesis and existence to Maharshi Karve, read about his stellar pioneering work and draw inspiration from his autobiography.

Book Reviews of two books on Maharshi Karve

As I have mentioned earlier, two other good books pertaining to the life of Maharshi Karve which I have read are:

Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar, Popular Prakashan (1958)


Maharshi Karve – His 105 years, Hingne Stree Shikshan Samstha (1963).

The biography ‘Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar’ was commissioned and published by the Dr. DK Karve Centenary Celebrations Committee on 18th April 1958 the birth-centenary of Dr. DK Karve (Thousands attended the main function on 18th April 1958 at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai which was addressed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister).

The author, GL Chandavarkar, then Principal of Ram Mohan English school, has extensively researched the life of Dr. DK Karve, by personal interaction with the great man himself, reminiscences of his Professors, colleagues and students, and his two writings Looking back and Atma-Vritta.

The author acknowledges with humility: “This is the story of the life of a simple man who has risen to greatness without being aware of it in the least. It is being told by one who can make no claim to being a writer” and then lucidly narrates the story of Maharshi Karve’s life in four parts comprising twenty four chapters in simple narrative style.

Part I, comprising eight chapters, covers the early life of Dhondo Keshav Karve, from his birth to the defining moment in his life - his remarriage to Godubai who was widowed at the age of eight, within three months of her marriage, even before she knew what it was to be a wife. The first chapter vividly depicts the life and culture of Murud and Konkan in a brilliantly picturesque manner and is a fascinating read. The narrative then moves in a systematic manner encompassing the salient aspects of Maharshi Karve’s life till his birth centenary in 1958. The biographer comprehensively cover Maharshi Karve’s marital and work life, but does not throw much light on his relationships with his four illustrious sons, who were well-known in their own respective fields of work.

The author avoids pontification and writes in friendly storytelling style which makes the book very interesting and readable, making it suitable for the young and old alike. I feel an epilogue covering the remaining years of his life would make the biography more complete.

There is a reference index at the end and I found this book to be quite a definitive biography which could serve as a source for knowledge and inspiration to readers interested in the life and work of Maharshi Karve. The 233 page book was published by Popular Book Depot Mumbai in 1958 and I picked up a copy priced at rupees forty at the International Book Service at Deccan Gymkhana in Pune a few years ago.

Maharshi Karve – His 105 Years, published on his 106th birth anniversary, is a pictorial album depicting the life and activities of Maharshi Karve. In today’s parlance it may be called a ‘coffee table’ book, but it is a memorable reference book of lasting souvenir value which is a must for every library. The chronologically arranged sketches, photographs and captions tell Maharshi Karve’s life-story in a seamless manner. There are photographs of historical, heritage and sentimental value highlighting important milestones in his life and work. (If you want to see my picture, turn to page 98 and have a look at the small boy holding Maharshi Karve’s hands and looking at the camera. I may have been just one and a half years old then and barely able to stand!).

This book is indeed a ‘collector’s item’ and was priced at a princely sum of rupees ten at the time of publication.

If you wish to learn more about Maharshi Karve and draw inspiration from his life and work, do read these three books. And please do let me know if you come across literature on Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve.


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