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Welcome to The Digital Rag
Sunday, March 29 2015 @ 12:31 PM PDT

Richard Pitt's Facebook profileWelcome to my weBLOG. You'll find all manner of items from my personal side, including hobbies, activities and of course some internet and computer articles. I've published under the name "Digital Rag" since my time at our ISP,, in the early 1990s - the very beginnings of the World Wide Web.

Enjoy - richard

The Digital Rag - One of the longest-running webzines on the internet.


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The Digital Hereafter

Richard Pitt at my workstation - Photo by Colleen Flanagan/The NewsI spent the better part of an evening talking with Monisha Martins of the local Maple Ridge News a few weeks ago. Today, March 2, 2012, the article she was working on was published - here is their online version of it.

By Monisha Martins - Maple Ridge News
Published: March 02, 2012 6:00 AM
photo by Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS
Surrounded by four large monitors, Richard Pitt is aglow in a hazy blue. Clicking his mouse and punching his keyboard with break-neck speed, he brings up his blog on one flat-screen, e-mail on another while RSS feeds roll incessantly on the third.

The basement of his house in Pitt Meadows is a digital realm, littered with computer chords and stacks of hard drives.

“This has a beginning,” Pitt says as he scans the room. “But it has no end.”

Among the preeminent pioneers of the Internet, Pitt and his partner, Stuart Lynne, launched Canada’s first commercial ISP, From 1986 to mid-1993, Wimsey was the main gateway for e-mail and other Internet access in western Canada.

His own firm, Pacific Data Capture, was behind the live streaming cameras which began broadcasting a few years ago from inside the nest of a family of bald eagles.

“I type as fast as I think,” says Pitt, who began “spewing” his thoughts online via his blog The Digital Rag in 1994, making it one of the longest running diaries on the Internet.

An inventory of Pitt’s online presence includes two blogs, a website or two, a LinkdIn profile, Google + account, a Now-pages newsletter, Facebook profile and a lengthy electronic archive of emails and chats.

A self-described “rational anarchist,” online he rants about government, ponders the pros and cons of changing technology, champions open source software and, more recently, began blogging about his impending death.

Read the original for the rest

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The Elephant In The Room Gathering

March 3, 2012 - Instead of waiting until after I die to have a "wake" or "celebration of life" I decided that being around and being able to talk to people from all aspects of my life is much better, for both me and for those around me.

Part of the reason is also that I've been feeling particularly low the past few weeks. This gathering was put together fairly quickly because I really felt I didn't have much time left - then, this past Wednesdeay, I got 2 units of blood in a transfusion and as those who were there will attest, I was up and around the whole day (and the next too) with hardly any rest stops.

Please give blood - it has helped me - and I have many years to make up for since I've not been able to give since I was diagnosed with diabetes. Give while you can - you may need it later in life!



Rather than simply presenting people with the fact I'm dead at some point in the future, and in many instances shocking them and giving them rise to wish they'd somehow visited me more recently than XX years ago (a couple of people at the gathering I had not seen for almost 40 years - and they hadn't seen each other in that long either) - I thought I'd give all a chance to help me close out the books and deal with the problem preemptively. 

Thus, the "Elephant in the Room" gathering today. What a wonderful gathering!

Read on for more pictures - and links to videos, etc.

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Turning The Elephant In The Room Into a Pet

The elephant in the room is the subject that everybody knows about but is afraid to bring up and talk about. In this case, it is cancer.

I know people who simply don't want to talk about death.

A good friend of mine was literally kicked out of a home because he insisted a  bit too much in talking about me and my cancer.

Others I've spoken with recently find my attitude towards my impending death somewhat refreshing, and support me completely in my blogging about it.

Many people, many different attitudes, but mostly today far more open than as little as 10 years ago; and certainly more than when I grew up.

So, read on if you, like me, are willing to make the elephant into a pet and treat it to real discussion and information.

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Externalities are the Key to Environmentally Sustainable Development

The Environment

The key to any company getting the go ahead for their environmentally sensitive project and getting buy-in from the Canadian and world public is to identify all the externalities that concern the environmentalists (and governments) and deal with them as part of the cost of doing business. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, a new oil drilling area, or the placement of a wind-farm full of windmills, the problems have to be identified from amongst the rhetoric and dealt with reasonably and rationally.

Externalities - those aspects of the cost of an environmentally sensitive project that are not dealt with directly by the project funding, but instead are left for those "external" to the project to deal with; primarily the governments at various levels but in effect, the general population.

These externalities can be directly economic (costs money now or in the future for something like infrastructure; roads, water, etc.), indirectly economic (creates situation that will have to be dealt with at some time in the future at a cost to be born by others than the investors/customers), social (displacement of people or other direct impact), or simply annoyance of some sort (installation is ugly and not in keeping with the general surroundings)

The typical struggle between business and the environmentalist movement obfuscates the fact that it is all about externalities. Only if we can lift the discussions from the morass of almost religious ferver to properly address the core problem will we be able to come even close to dealing with the real problems this world has in terms of coping with our population growth, earthquakes and tsunamis and other aspects of Mother Nature's effects on our planet.

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SOPA - Continuation of Law Stupidity From the 1990s

Our Masters (government)

Back in June of 1995 I wrote a piece for our Wimsey's Digital Rag online magazine (the forerunner of this site) titled Community Standards and the Internet. At that time the article notes that there were about 4.5 million+ computers and about 30-50 million people on the internet, and that with even this few, the cost of vetting the content that passed through the typical ISP would be so onerous that "we should all sell shoes instead."

At that time various legal jurisdictions were threatening (or had actually done so) to impose anti porn and hate laws that would have made the likes of Microsoft leave Washington state rather than face the prospect of the legal consequences of having customers on its network systems.

At that time it was almost reasonable that the legislators didn't understand the technologies they were trying to deal with - it was so new that the paint was not yet dry.

Today however, the fact that legislators propose such stupid laws as SOPA and then turn around and boast of the fact that they don't have a clue about the technology is not only unforgiveable, it is down right criminal. Our governing legislators should be held personally accountable for their wonton ignorance of such a basic piece of today's infrastructure as the internet now is. 

Here in Canada the same goes for the Conservatives and their unprecedented bullheadedness over the Digital Rights Management aspect of the new Copyright law and for the stupid concepts contained in the "Lawfull Access" portion of the new crime bill. 

If no other way, then they should be held accountable at the polls - "none of the above" works for me. 

Let your MP, MLA, Senator, Congressman, etc. know your feelings - email, snailmail, phone - whatever - but tell them you will NOT vote for them no matter what if they continue to be so ignorant.


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Dealing With Stress Related Intestinal Disorder

I thought I had an ulcer, so I was on an ulcer diet. Two weeks later this will be moot, but for now I've got a problem. This is a bit of an aside to my battle with the cancer that eventually was shown to be the real problem as opposed to the ulcer, but I'd written it as part of one of the stories, then edited it out for a bit of brevity. Here I present it as a stand-alone story of how I dealt with what I've been told is not an uncommon problem, in a way that is novel and as far as I'm concerned, effective. The alternative is surgery if you can't untwist the bowel somehow; either that or death.

The problem in this case started because the ulcer diet has not much roughage so I got constipated - and with my otherwise fairly sensitive stomach I've always shied away from laxitives. Now, here it was the 3rd day in a row that I'd done myself some harm by "pushing" too hard. I'd caused my intestines to fold back on themselves and stop the flow from my stomach to my bowels; this is not good.

I've had this malady before, but in the earlier cases it was caused by stress and simply cramping up my stomach "in knots" to the point where things started backing up and not working. This is similar to what I'd had at age 2 with a "bowel intussusception" that required surgery - and in my case the invention/creation of the tools and techniques to perform it on an infant; the reason that it was written up in the medical journals of the time.

I present here my method of dealing with this problem in hopes that it might help someone. I've discussed it with nurses and doctors and they at least say "it doesn't appear to possibly hurt, and if it helps then that is a plus." I'm not a doctor. I'm just a person who tries things and tells people what I've found that works, in case it might help them too.

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Perspective on Remote Access To Your Documents Today (updated)

Computers in Use

This article has spawned a request for me to speak at VANLUG (Vancouver Linux Users Group) technical meeting on Monday, January 16, 2012. See the notes at the bottom for links about this.

My lawyer phoned me the other day and asked me my opinion on using one of the "cloud" services to access his files when he is out of the office - using his cell phone or his laptop. "Is this a good idea?" was his question. "A bunch of us are sitting here talking about one such service and it sounds pretty good - what is the catch?"

It's like he enjoys feeding me the straight lines just because he likes to see me bat them out of the park, to mix a few metaphors so to speak.

My first response was "why do you want something that you've already got? You have your files on a server that has an internet facing link. All that is needed is a bit of security setup on your laptop and you're good to go."

Of course that's not the only thing that needs setting up, but it is almost that easy, at least for him. The question is, why isn't it a good idea for his friends if they don't already have such facilities at their own offices? Lots of answer if you read on.

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Musings on Life and Living it to the Fullest

Musings on life

Concensus is that the first person to reach the age of 150 is already alive, and that the first person to reach the age of 1000 will be born some time in the next 30-50 years.

Scary thought - what do you do if you get 75 years of good health and 925 years of dementia?

Or if you get 800 years of good health and 200 years of living with a colostomy bag and leaking fluids in all directions, beholden to nurses and friends and loved ones for everything for longer than most of us would ever dream of living totally.

The quality of life makes the difference of whether life is worth living at all.

Morbid thoughts about the elephant in the room.

I started writing this because I'd just found out that I didn't have an ulcer. What I did have was not at that time determined (it has since been confimed as cancer) but I figured whatever it was was likely life threatening.

Since then, my youngest brother has gone into the hospice for the last time and may not last until his birthday in a few days. Lots to think about. Some of it is here - maybe not as organized as I'd hoped but maybe you can find something to take away that will help you in your daily life.

I write because I must - I hope what you read is worth it but just writing it is worth it to me. Thanks for being a reader...

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Emergency and Me - The First Few Days in Hospital

The ongoing story of my discovery that instead of an ulcer, I have cancer. Here's part one.

I left off part one as I hit the front door of the emergency department at Maple Ridge Hostpital.

I'd been here myself before only two weeks earlier. I'd also been here with my wife, Shirley, only two days before, and she was still here in the hospital somewhere. 

It was about 4:30AM and I was being taken into emergency at Maple Ridge Hospital by a pair of paramedics after a brief ride sitting up in the back of the ambulance.

I'd met them at the door, and, after cautioning them not to step on "Tracy's lawn," refering to the new lawn installed recently for me by my neighbour and their compatriot paramedic whose side-business is spraying new lawns with seed and mulch mix from a neat little trailer she keeps in her front yard here in Pitt Meadows, they came and we walked back to the ambulance.

I was groggy from lack of sleep but otherwise really in pretty good physical shape. I just didn't trust myself to drive even the few blocks to the hospital for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. In previous weeks I'd noticed this tendancy if the road was too unbroken by stop lights and traffic for any more than a few minutes, and by now I'd had no sleep for over 30 hours, not just the average 3 hours sleep per night I'd been pretty much existing on for the previous 6 weeks or so.

So instead of having them struggle with the gurney, I simply got into the back of the ambulance and sat down in the jump seat behind the driver. They strapped me in, we were off, and here we were. I was about to enter the world of British Columbia's medical system with a real problem, not just one that needed a bandaid, and along the way I was going to deal with all aspects of such a visit, from food to cleaning to nursing to facilities and all. So come on, let's go...

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A Pain in the...

Another in the series on my cancer. I'm up at 1:30AM after having had to deal with pain, so it is fitting that I start this article on pain and how I think I've finally come to an understanding of the medical peoples' view of it versus my view of controlling it.

Over the now 16 days I've been here in Maple Ridge Hospital, I've been on several different regimes of pain controlling medicine. Initially I was on Intravenous (IV) drip with a bag of morphine every 4 hours added to the base fluid system. This is what allowed me to sleep finally after all the nights I'd spent simply having back pain from trying to lie down, and it worked well for that.

What I have to remember and to tell the medicals about my particular pain trials is that it is, and at least for now really will always be, about the pain that manifests itself as back pain, growing when I lie down, and keeping me from sleeping. As I had to explain to the nurse just now, the pain of the incision and surgery really is secondary to this other pain, and that the surgery, while absolutely having done good in and of itself, didn't relieve me of the whole initial pain.

More than that, I've noted over time that this "base" pain is growing where I fully expect the surgical pain to lessen and eventually go away. This is likely not typical. My cancer seems (and for now I'll simply say is, as I don't yet have any definitive info on overall progress from the biopsy, nor on it's actual type or prognosis - you may learn that in one of the articles that shows up prior to this one being finished and published - but at this point I simply don't know) to involve an interaction between the liver and colon and/or lymph nodes that is the root cause of this base pain. I'm presuming that the surgery did not "get it all" since in fact the surgeon said as much just afterwards. Whether or not chemo and/or radiation will do the trick is yet to be seen or even offered. 

So the base pain is not going away, and yet the medical staff want me to go home - and so for that matter do I. I just want to know that at home I'll be able to deal with this pain well enough that I don't end up back in emergency, having relinquished my bed to someone "sicker" than I am on the theory that I am well. I'm not well, but the question really is, am I well enough to continue my eventual therapy as an out patient to the cancer clinics, etc? Or should I stay here in direct touch with those who can change things as and when necessary to at least keep me sane enough to make rational decisions on what is next? That's my goal in this initiall stage of pain management as you'll see...

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