Thursday, January 28, 2010

Originality and Imitation


A Teaching Story – Gutei’s Finger

I always exhort my students to be original and not imitate (or plagiarize) especially while conducting dissertation studies, writing research reports, etc

In order to drive home this point I like to tell them one of my favourite teaching stories: GUTEI’S FINGER

Whenever anyone asked him about Zen, the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air.

A boy in the village began to imitate this behaviour.

Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei’s teachings, he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger.

Gutei heard about the boy’s mischief.

When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger.

The boy cried and began to run off, but Gutei called out to him.

When the boy turned to look, Gutei raised his finger into the air.

At that moment the boy became enlightened.

Do tell me if you liked this story…


Sunday, January 17, 2010



A Story

A seeker joined a monastery to learn meditation and the art of living.

Every evening all students and disciples assembled in the large meditation hall for a discourse by the Spiritual Guru followed by group meditation.

Just before the meditation session commenced the disciples would catch a cat, tie it up and place it on the lap of the Spiritual Guru, who would then start caressing the cat and begin the discourse and meditation session. After the event was over, the cat would be untied and set free.

This was the established daily ritual and the Guru would start the meditation session only after the tied up cat was placed on his lap, so much so that once when the cat could not be found, the meditation session was delayed and all the seekers launched a desperate hunt till they found the cat which was duly tied up and placed on the Guru’s lap and only then did he start his discourse-cum-meditation session.

The seeker was quite perplexed at the mystery of the tied up cat and the significance of this ritual and he also wondered is there was any correlation between this strange ritual of tying up a cat with the art of meditation.

He asked around but no one knew the answer till someone told him to ask a wise old man who lived in a cave up the hills, so our curious seeker trudged up the hills to meet the wise old man and ask him the significance of this time-honoured ritual.

“It is like this,” the wise old man said, “many years ago, when the then Spiritual Guru and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat that lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the Guru ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening discourse-cum-meditation practice. This practice continued, so much so that even when the teacher died, the next Guru continued this tradition and a cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session.

When the cat died, another cat was brought to the monastery to be tied up during the evening meditation session, and when it too died they brought another, and with the passage of time this has become such an established ritual that now no one dare start the meditation session without the tied up cat..."

Years later, our seeker became the Spiritual Guru and he wrote a scholarly treatise about the significance of tying up a cat during meditation practice.


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Monday, January 11, 2010


A Comprehensive Reference Book for IT, Electronic, Telecom and Electrical Engineering and Design Professionals

Title: EMC for Product Designers
Author: Tim Williams
Elsevier [Fourth Edition, 2007] 498 pages
ISBN – 13: 978-0-75-068170-4
ISBN – 10: 0-750-68170-5

Most of us consider a number of factors, exoteric and esoteric, while designing [or selecting] our homes and in the configuration of the numerous modern technological devices and domestic appliances, most of them electrical and electronic, therein.
Recently I saw a programme on TV where a Vastu Shastra expert was advising viewers not only regarding the various aspects of designing and building living environments that are in harmony with the physical and metaphysical forces but also specifying optimal locations and layouts for various electrical and electronic appliances and devices in both residential homes and workplaces.
I listened with intriguing interest as he gave precise directions and specified exact locations for positioning of Televisions, Computers, Communication Devices, Microwave Ovens, Music systems and other appliances, and fascinated by the congruence between principles and aspects of Vastu and Electromagnetic Compatibility [EMC] and wondered whether the expert in reality was actually an EMC Design Engineer in addition to being a Vastu Shastra Specialist.
When you design or select or configure your house or office I am sure you consider various aesthetic, architectural, financial, utilitarian, geographical, interior and exterior design and other practical aspects, maybe even incorporate the principles of Vastu Shastra and Feng Shui, but do you give even a fleeting thought to EMC?
In today’s world with the increasing use of electrical, communication, electronic and information technologies we are under continual exposure to Electromagnetic Field [ EMFs ], both inside and outside our homes, in our workplaces and even in the open wherever we go, radiating from radiating from electricity power lines, household wiring, microwave ovens, computers, monitors, televisions, communication devices, cellular phones, electrical, electronic and IT appliances.
“Electro-pollution” is an increasingly serious form of Environment Pollution and merits serious consideration, as much as, if not more than, other well-known forms of pollution.
Electro-pollution seems to be omnipresent. Apart from hazards to our health, Electromagnetic Interference [EMI] is detrimental to the proper functioning of most electrical, electronic, IT, ITES, communication and technology-based systems and may cause malfunctions and even potentially disastrous and fatal accidents.
The book being reviewed – EMC for Product Designers by Tim Williams – is one of the most comprehensive reference books I have read on the subject of the Design Management aspects of Electromagnetic Interference and Electromagnetic Compatibility [EMI / EMC].
The book comprises sixteen chapters arranged in three parts [Legislation and Standards, Testing and Design] the author lucidly covers most micro and macro aspects of EMC Management in meticulous detail.
The logical sequence of topics, clear diagrams, tables and illustrations facilitate easy understanding of this complicated subject.
The Design Checklist, interesting Case Studies and useful mathematical formulae in the appendices and the extensive bibliography add value to this reference book.
Whilst the earlier chapters provide an excellent understanding of the EMC Standards and the basic theoretical principles of EMI / EMC, the “meat” of the book lies in the chapters on Systems EMC and EMC Management which encapsulate all relevant facets of EMC in a holistic manner.
I wish the author had included a detailed chapter on Electromagnetic Health Hazards and mitigation techniques. This most vital topic concerning all of us humans seems to have not been accorded the due importance it deserves and I hope the author presents a more holistic and systemic view of EMC and includes a comprehensive chapter on pertinent aspects of Bio-electromagnetics, Thermal and Athermal EMR Hazards and their mitigation in the next edition.
I commend this book – it is an excellent reference book for Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and IT Engineers and Managers, Designers, Students, practising professionals in the field and, with the increasing awareness and compliance requirements of EMC Standards worldwide, this book will prove a valuable addition to the shelves of engineering and technical libraries.

[EMC for Product Designers - Book Review by VIKRAM KARVE]


Wednesday, January 6, 2010






One of the greatest misfortunes in life is to be good at something you don’t like.

You may be proficient in mathematics, but you may hate it.

You may be competent public relations communicator, busy interacting with people every minute of the day, but may love a life of solitude and contemplation.

In order to be able to select the right career, one has to reflect, analyse, know one’s inner self, and be able to clearly distinguish between what one is good at (proficiency, competence) and what you like and want to do in life (interests, values).

When I was in school, in the 1960s, there was no concept of career counselling or vocational guidance.

All the boys were herded into the Science stream (unless one was very poor at mathematics) and all the girls were considered suitable for Humanities (unless she put her foot down and insisted on science).

Then, if you were in science and did well, the options were Engineering or Medicine, and most of us continued being good at something we did not like.

And later in life we discovered what we truly liked and pursued what we really wanted to do (our true métier) as hobbies.

Fortunately, nowadays things are different.

Young persons have plenty of choice and opportunity to choose what they want to do.

If you are on the verge of choosing your career, the first thing to do is to develop a concept of the person you would like to be.

Let your inner conscience be your guide and resist temptation and undue pressures from elders and peers.

Choosing a job you like which is not in conflict with your values and lets you realize your full individuality and creative potential will enable you to achieve a sense of fulfillment.

Do interact with career counselors, talk to your parents, elders, peers and take their advice, but remember to distinguish between the “hard” and the “soft” facets of career attributes.

Read some good books on career guidance.

My favorite is a book called What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles. It is updated and published every year. It is a fascinating read and will help you discover your true métier.

And why not take a few career tests?

You can either visit a career counsellor or psychologist who will administer relevant tests to you. Or try the online tests. My favorite one is The Princeton Review Career Quiz which is available online.
It is a simple, fast, interesting and effective forced choice test which presents you with interesting career options.

I just gave the test a few moments ago, and the results say that my interest color is Blue, which means I am a creative, humanistic, thoughtful, quiet type, and my usual style is Yellow, which means I tend to be orderly, cautious, loyal, systematic, methodical, solitary, and organized and will thrive in a research-oriented, predictable, established, orderly environment.

As per the test results, my career choices include Writer, Librarian, Philosopher, Teacher, Professor, Researcher, College or School Administrator, Human Resources Manager, Guidance Counsellor, and , yes, Career Counsellor.

Am I one of these?

Well, I am not going to tell you.

I wish you all the best.

Have fun, introspect and learn more amd more about your own self.

Take your time, think, discuss, read, experiment, reflect, and discover your true métier in harmony with your interests and values and inner self.

Choose your career wisely – remember it’s better to be good at what you like than be good at what you don’t like!


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Monday, January 4, 2010






“The map is not the territory!”

What does this mean?

Liehtse’s famous parable of The Old Man at the Fort is perhaps apt to illustrate this concept:-

An Old Man was living with his Son at an abandoned fort on the top of a hill, and one day he lost a horse.

The neighbours came to express their sympathy for this misfortune, but the Old Man asked, “How do you know this bad luck? The fact is that one horse is missing and there is one horse less in the stables. That is the fact. Whether it is good luck or bad luck – well that is a matter of judgment.”

A few days afterwards, his horse returned with a number of wild horses, and his neighbours came again to congratulate him on this stroke of fortune, and the Old Man replied, “How do you know this is good luck? The fact is that there are more horses in my stable than before. Whether it is good luck or bad luck – well that is a matter of opinion.”

With so many horses around, his son began to take to riding, and one day while riding a wild horse he was thrown off and broke his leg. Again the neighbours came around to express their sympathy, and the Old Man replied, “How do you know this is bad luck?”

A few days later a war broke out and all the able bodied men were forcibly conscripted into the army, sent to the warfront to fight and most of them were killed.

Because the Old Man’s son had a broken leg he did not have to go to the war front and his life was saved and everyone in the village who had lost their sons in the war were envious at the Old Man’s good fortune, but this time they did not say anything to the Old Man as they knew what his response would be.

This parable drives home the lesson that there are no such things like good luck and bad luck.

What disturbs you are not events but your attitude towards them.

You must learn to distinguish between facts and your attitude or judgment towards those facts.

It’s all in the mind.

Facts are like territory – ground reality.

But the way you interpret or judge those facts, your attitude towards them, depends on your mental map.

This mental map is formed due to your values, beliefs and experiences and you tend to view the actual facts or events (territory) through mental filters based on your values, beliefs, biases, prejudices and experiences which form your mental map.

Remember, just like the actual physical geographical territory exists on the ground and its map is drawn on paper, actual facts and events happen in reality and each one of us interprets them depending on the different maps prevalent in our minds.

Events, by themselves, don’t hurt you.

It is your attitudes and responses to those events (mental maps) that disturb you and give you trouble.

It then becomes your paramount duty to introspect and continuously redesign your mental maps to develop the correct attitude and responses towards external events.

When something happens the only thing in your power is your attitude towards it.

We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.

The secret of inner calm resides within you.

You just have to develop the proper mental “maps” and the correct attitude in your mind, so that you are not disturbed by the vicissitudes of external events which are akin to the outside “territory”.



Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

COGNITIVE RADIO - a smart communication concept


[Here is an article on Cognitive Radio compiled by my students Shijesh, Sibil, Shyju and John by browsing the internet, books and journals]

The Radio Spectrum – that segment of the electromagnetic continuum comprising the radio-frequency range – accommodates myriad communications devices today.

As the Radio Spectrum gets is gets more and more crowded and available frequencies become scarce the evolution of Cognitive Radio may be able to optimally manage the available spectrum.

The use of radio frequency bands has been regulated in most countries through the process of spectrum allocation in which the use of a particular frequency band is restricted to the license holders of the band. Within this framework, spectrum has often been viewed as a scarce resource in high demand. However, various studies carried out have suggested that most licensed spectrums are often under-utilized with large spectral holes at different places at different times.

Cognitive Radio (CR) systems have been proposed as a possible solution to the spectrum crisis. The idea is to detect times when a specific licensed band is not used at a particular place and use that band for transmission without causing any significant interference to the transmissions of the license holder.

Built on the foundation of the Software Defined Radio (SDR), Cognitive Radios will learn and autonomously perform “cognitive” functions as a form of intelligence that comes from their ability to be defined and upgraded using software.

To examine the concept of cognitive radio consider the example.

Let’s say you walk into an empty café called Spectrum. Since all of the tables are available, you position yourself at the best one and settle down for a meal. [Let’s assume all tables have four seats and you occupy one seat].

A few minutes later, another person comes in and sits on a seat at another vacant table.

Soon, if all the tables are full [but there are a few vacant seats on some tables], a new patron must negotiate with someone already at a table to be allowed to share the table. [Maybe she may request you to let her occupy the vacant chair at your table, and you may agree].

This process of negotiation is the concept behind a technology called Cognitive Radio, a way to share and optimally utilize unused spectrum. Cognitive Radio is sometimes called Smart Radio because it senses its environment and reacts to it.

The present paucity of radio spectrum is primarily due to the cost and performance limits of legacy hardware established during the past century. Traditionally, radios were hardwired to operate at a particular power and frequency, and once a station was assigned a frequency, no other station could use it. Over the years, as engineers built radios in cheaper and smaller packages, it became possible to build intelligence into them, making the idea of sharing frequencies possible.

Engineers are now working to bring flexible operating intelligence to future radios, cell phones and other wireless communications devices. During the coming decade, cognitive radio technology should enable nearly any wireless system to locate and link to any locally available unused radio spectrum to best serve the consumer. Employing adaptive software, these smart devices could reconfigure their communications functions to meet the demands of the transmission network or the user.

Cognitive Radio will intelligently know, by sensing, adapting and learning, what to do based on prior experiential knowledge, by building an internal database that defines how to best operate in different places and at specific times of day.

As Cognitive Radios send and receive signals, they will nimbly leap and bound in and out of free bands as required, avoiding those that are already in use. This lightning-fast channel jumping will permit cognitive radio systems to transmit voice and data streams at reasonable speeds.

This efficient use of existing Radio Frequency resources will alleviate spectrum-availability traffic jams and wireless communications may become far more dependable, convenient and, perhaps, considerably economical than it is today. Indeed, if Cognitive Radio technology progresses as its developers hope the airwaves will never be the same again.

SDR - Software Defined Radio


[Here is an article on SDR compiled by my students Shijesh, Sibil, Shyju and John by browsing the internet, books and journals]

The rapid growth of technology and changing trends in the Communication techniques has paved way for the introduction of many telecommunication devices, many of which are not feasible to modify cost effectively due to lack of flexibility in their implementation. Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology mitigates this problem by providing the flexibility through software.

Software-Defined Radio (SDR) is a rapidly evolving technology that is receiving enormous recognition and generating widespread interest in the telecommunication industry. Over the last few years, analog radio systems are being replaced by digital radio systems and programmable hardware modules are increasingly being used in digital radio systems at different functional levels. SDR technology aims to take advantage of these programmable hardware modules to build open-architecture based radio system software.

An SDR system is a radio communication system where components that have typically been implemented in hardware are instead implemented using software on embedded computing devices. In other words SDR is a Radio in which some or all of the physical layer functions are software defined.

A Radio is any kind of device that wirelessly transmits or receives signals in the radio frequency (RF) part of the electromagnetic spectrum to facilitate the transfer of information.

In today's world, radios exist in a multitude of items such as cell phones, computers, car door openers, vehicles, and televisions.

While the concept of SDR is not new, the rapidly evolving capabilities of digital electronics are practical enabling many processes that were once only theoretically possible.

In the past, radio systems were designed to communicate using one or two waveforms [waveform here refers to any specific standard like Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) or it can be as simple as Frequency or Amplitude Modulation (FM or AM)].

As a result, two groups of people with different types of traditional radio were not able to communicate due to incompatibility problems. The need to communicate with people using different types of equipment can only be solved using software programmable radios because of its flexible architecture.

Traditional hardware based radio devices limit cross-functionality and can only be modified through physical intervention. This results in higher production costs and minimal flexibility in supporting multiple waveform standards. By contrast, software defined radio technology provides an efficient and comparatively inexpensive solution to this problem, allowing multi-mode, multi-band and/or multi-functional wireless devices that can be enhanced using software upgrades.

The primary goal of SDR is to replace as many analog components and hardwired digital VLSI devices of the transceiver (radio) as possible with programmable devices.

Some of the advantages of SDR are:

Multifunctionality. The same piece of hardware i.e. the radio set can be used to transmit, receive and process different communication signals that adhere to different air interface standards. This can be done simply by reconfiguring the software.

Global Mobility. The same piece of hardware i.e. the radio set can be used in different parts of the world that endorse different air interface standards. This can again be done simply by reconfiguring the software.

Compactness and power efficient design. Unlike traditional non-SDR systems, which require multiple hardware sets for multi-functional communication, the same piece of SDR hardware can be reduced for such a purpose. This results in compact and power –efficient design, especially as the number of systems increases.

Ease of manufacture. A SDR comprises of fewer hardware parts than a traditional radio since most processing is done in software within a general-purpose microprocessors or special purpose microprocessors like the DSP, or in reconfigurable hardware including FPGAs. This eases the production cycle for the manufacturer with lesser parts to standardize and produce.

Ease of upgrades. Any service upgrade can be easily introduced through the release of new software versions without the expense of recalling or replacing the hardware units. A user can simply download the software off the internet and load it into the SDR.

The most significant asset of SDR is versatility. Wireless systems employ protocols that vary from one service to another. Even in the same type of service, for example wireless fax, the protocol often differs from country to country. A single SDR set with an all-inclusive software repertoire can be used in any mode, anywhere in the world. Changing the service type, the mode, and/or the modulation protocol involves simply selecting and launching the requisite program, and making sure the batteries are adequately charged if portable operation is contemplated.

The ultimate goal of SDR engineers is to provide a single radio transceiver capable of playing the roles of GSM phone, CDMA phone, Wimax terminal, wireless fax, wireless Web browser, Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, and other functions still in the realm of science fiction.

Friday, January 1, 2010


An Apocryphal Story

Here is an apocryphal story I had read long back about Alexander the Great and his encounter with the Greek philosopher Diogenes. I wonder what is the inner meaning, the moral, of this story.

Alexander the Great, the emperor of the world, who had conquered all lands and seas and considered himself the “son of a god” and before whom all knelt in veneration and reverence, one day early in the morning, was riding with his army through Greece.

Suddenly he saw a man lying naked in the sand by the side of a river basking in the early morning sunlight.

Curious, Alexander rode towards the naked man, who seemed to be totally indifferent to the distinguished visitor and his entourage.

The stranger remained prostrate, made no attempt to get up and ignored Alexander the Great sitting majestically on his horse.

An angry soldier shouted at the naked man, “You there – do you know in whose presence you are?”

“Who is he?” the prostrate man answered lazily, without the stir, making no move to get up.
The astonished soldier proclaimed, “Wretched man, you are in the presence of His Exalted Highness Alexander the Great – Emperor of the World.”

“Oh,” the naked sunbather said impassively, continuing to lie down. He casually looked up at Alexander the Great mounted imposingly on his horse and said, “I am Diogenes.”

“Ah, so you are the philosopher Diogenes!” Alexander exclaimed, “I have always wanted to meet you – I have heard so many stories about you. Diogenes, I am impressed. I will grant you anything you wish. What do you desire? Diogenes, ask for anything in the world and it will be yours.”

Still lying prostrate on the sand, Diogenes said to Alexander, “Please could you move a little to the side and get out of my sunlight, because you are blocking the sun and spoiling my sunbath. That’s all I want from you…”

Dear Reader, please tell me the moral, the message, hidden in the story.