Jeff's Amazing Web Site!

A page about me... and not much else!

It's my floating severed head!!

What have I been up to?

Final Update (for now)

Thu Dec 28 12:31:01 2006

This site won't change drastically from here on out. I'm just too busy to hand edit this page. I admit defeat and realize that blogging software can do a better job of managing my site than I can. My Wordpress blog will still be updated, and that's where all the action will be. There's an RSS feed there you can hit, then you'll never have to come back and check to see if I've done anything new. If you don't have an RSS reader, you might try Google reader. It works for me.

Not the King!

Thu Dec 28 12:19:20 2006

Oh the shame! I have slipped and am no longer the most popular Jeff Ratliff on the internet! My long held title has been taken! Oh well. That's the way it goes. My only wish is that those who really want to find me will. I may not be the most important Jeff Ratliff on the internet, but as long as Google will find me I guess that's OK.

Help for dork fish searchers

Tue Jun 27 11:45:42 2006

I'm still one of the top hits on Google for the search term "dork fish." Since people are almost certainly not searching for me, I built a little page to help people out. If you want the full story, look here.

In other news, my wife made some awesome potato salad. If you know what the dork fish and potato salad have to do with each other, you know too much about blue collar comedy!

More geek updates

Fri Jun 23 22:11:05 EDT 2006

I fixed more stuff to make it standards compliant here on the site. There are a couple new updates on the geek page. More stuff soon.

Learn to be a Geek!

Wed Mar 1 16:22:07 2006

There's been some discussion on the LUGRadio forums about how we as computer geeks learn our trade. Clearly these days it's a lot easier because there's so much available for free on the web. I've compiled a list of my favorite learning resources and put together a geek learning page. Have a look. It's far from complete, but you might find something interesting.

Darn you, Microsoft!

Mon Feb 20 08:01:02 EST 2006

I think I've finally worked around the Microsoft Internet Explorer bugs that cause my page to look weird. As I have mentioned, Microsoft isn't very good at supporitng standards so it's necessary to work around bugs in their browser. If you don't want bugs, get a decent browser.

To be completely fair, Internet Explorer 7 will have better CSS support, but it still won't be complete. At least that's what the developers say.

More podcast stuff

Sat Jan 28 20:41:40 EST 2006

I've decided to try to do some podcast reviews, so there's a new one here. Check it out.

Straight geekin'!

Tue Jan 24 20:05:23 EST 2006

I've written a completely new page - the geek page! Since I have lots of geek related stuff to report and some people aren't interested in that kind of thing, it's about time we geeks had our own page. Right now there's a list of the podcasts I listen to and a couple articles that might be of interest. I'm sure there'll be more before long. There's always more geek stuff coming down the pike.

Underwhelmed! - Top Ten Sources

Sat Jan 7 20:32:53 EST 2006

I was listening to Dave Winer's podcast the other day and he was talking to someone from a web site called Top 10 Sources. Believe it or not, this site tries to give you the top ten internet sources on any given topic. They've got an editor on each topic that compiles the list so you don't have to search the entire internet yourself. How well does it work? Well, I'm underwhelmed.

This site is more of an aggregator than an index. Rather than giving a list of the top ten sources with a brief description of each, it lists what looks like the formatted contents of the RSS feed for each site. There is a table of links to the 10 sites over to the right where you're sure to miss it, but nothing in the body of the page where people would be more likely to look. I found it confusing. They seem to primarily use blogs as sources, which I think is a bad idea. Looking at some of the topics I'm interested in, I fail to find much worth looking at. For me, at least, it fails to serve the purpose for which it was designed. That could be because the editors they have on tech topics aren't that good.

On the technical side, the site is not much better. I found it to be fairly slow to respond in general. I guess they're just starting out, but if they can't handle the load now, things won't get much better. I was also annoyed by the fact that when you click on a link, a new window pops up in a completely different size, shape and position from the original window. In Windows I got a new Internet Explorer window that was halfway off screen. Firefox on Linux wasn't quite so bad, but my Linux system has a bigger screen. I looked at the code to the page, and they're using a javascript subroutine to open pages that hard codes the window size annd onscreen position. It's very easy to open a new window in a link with plain old HTML that pops up the same size as the users default browser. Since the user has gone to the trouble of sizing their browser the way they like it on their system, why would you want to override it? Why would you waste Javascript on something so pointless? I tried to give feedback on some of the technical issues with the way the site was written, but when I went to send I got a message saying the site was down for maintenance. I tried all day with no luck. Hilarious!

Check it out if you want. I think it's not quite ready.

Pandora eats my brain!!

Fri Dec 23 16:48:05 2005

Thanks to the guys at Radio WC I was directed to today, and it has taken over my mind.

Some folks at the Music Genome Project have spent the last few years analyzing thousands of songs and categorizong their musical cahracteristics using hundreds of variables. Pandora is a site that uses this information to create a custom streaming radio station to your personal specifications. Give it a favorite song or artist and it will start playing similar stuff. The difference is it doesn't care what genre or classification the music falls into. If you specify a song that has prominent male vocals, heavy syncopation, funk influences, and a tight kick drum, it will look for songs in it's database with similar characteristics.

As each new song plays you can give feedback (I like it, I don't like it) and the channel will continue to evolve and change based on what you tell it. What happens is you wind up running into music you like that you've never heard of before. I also found I started digging up bands I haven't heard of (or even thought of) in years. You can specify different channels (they call them "stations") for different styles, and share channels with friends. After a while it asks you to register with a valid E-mail address and create a password. It also requires a zip code because they're only allowing US listeners for now (apparently the licenses they have to stream the music are only good in the US).

So check it out. If you're at all into music you can easily waste hours playing with it. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Krusty Sushi

Wed Dec 21 16:56:57 EST 2005

Just happened to run into this site today. You may want to be aware that there's a bit of bad language in places. Still worth checking out if you're not easily offended.

I've decided to give up on Victor Cajiao at the Typical PC User Podcast. I've got over 30 podcasts on my list, and something has to go, so I made the cut today. To be fair, I'm not really a "typical PC user," so I shouldn't judge too harshly. I listened to hear what's going on in the mainstream Windows oriented world, but it gets tiring hearing about the endless problems involved with running a Windows system when the simple solution is to just wipe the thing and install Linux. Again, that doesn't work for everybody, but it's hard to sympathize with problems people bring upon themselves. So if you are a typical PC user and want a little help, check it out.

Remind me to do a podcast review page some day. I'll add it to my list of things to do.

Just Geekin'

Tue Dec 20 09:59:15 2005

Folks, I'm busy but not dead. I've completed my transition to my new web hosting provider. It was quite an experience and I want to write something up on it when I get a chance. The short version: stay away from Earthlink for web hosting.

I did post a short piece I wrote here. It's a guide to turning off useless features in Windows XP to make your system faster on older hardware. I no longer run Windows much, but I wrote this up for a friend and thought it was worth sharing. In other geek news I've started mirroring for the Linux Link Tech Show. They are a swell bunch of guys and are helping me get rid of some of my excess bandwidth.

In other news, a bad person broke into our house the other night and stole some stuff. They really didn't get much at all, and everybody is OK, but it is an experience you don't soon forget. The burglar was apparently going house to house and was able to get into ours through the back door. My wife had fallen asleep on the couch watching TV and didn't come to bed until hours after I did, so if they had come in earlier they would have run into her while she was sleeping. It's unsettling, but you also have to wonder what manner of desperation would reduce a person to wandering around in the middle of the night when it's freezing cold trying to break into people's houses. Obviously they were looking for quick cash, and weren't doing it just for fun.

Just stuff

Wed Nov 9 13:03:32 EST 2005

I've been slowly converting my site over from HTML 4.01 to XHTML 1.0. Only a true geek could get really excited about that. It's something that makes me happy, though.

Did an update to the blog page. Check it out if you're so inclined. And for something that might be interesting to the non-geeks, here's a picture of a happy cat.

Still the dork fish!

Fri Nov 4 23:26:27 EST 2005

I was looking at the server logs today and found out that I'm still getting search engine hits on the term "dork fish." I checked out Google and I'm currently the number 4 hit for "dork fish." I guess you have to be famous for something. If you are searching the web for "dork fish" and you run into my site, could you do me a favor, click the link to the left and send me an E-mail to tell me why? I don't know why people are looking for dork fish, much less why they come to me to find it.

While I was searching around on Google I found out that as of this moment, I'm the top hit for "jeff ratliff." It's really hard to say why, but it seems to me if I'm going to be that popular I should probably create something worth reading. Oh well. The internet is a funny thing. I'll try to be here for all your Jeff Ratliff related needs. If there's something I can do for you, just send me some mail and let me know. I'm the only Jeff Ratliff you'll ever need!

I am a programmer!

Thu Nov 3 2005 at 14:29:38 EST

So I've been working on learning Perl (the programming language) for a while now, mostly to do web stuff. Most of it I can't really post here for security reasons (there are bad people on teh intarweb, and they use Google too) but I'm finally to the point where I can do interesting stuff.

I wrote an application to keep track of cell phone minutes used for the people who live at my house. I can log in and update the numbers every day, and they can hit the page and see how many minutes we have left in the plan. It's a bit of a tricky problem for a new web programmer, but it was fun learning.

If you're interested I wrote a test script you can check out here. I've also posted a commented listing of the code for the example script which you can check out here. If you're a good programmer and want to laugh at me or give me suggestions, feel free to mail me. If you're an even worse programmer than me, hopefully you might learn something from the script.

New LUGRadio!

Mon Oct 31 11:23 EST 2005

After a brief hiatus, LUGRadio season 3 has started. The first episode of season 3 is out today. If I had to pick a favorite podcast, this one might get my vote. If you're a big fan of Linux, swearing, or the British, you might want to check it out.

Meet Radio WC

Mon Oct 25 08:10 EDT 2005

I live in Warren County Ohio, which is not only one of the fastest growing areas in Ohio but also one of the most conservative, right-wing areas in Ohio (if not the country).

I consider myself mostly an independent thinker, but whenever I take a test to rate my political views I wind up a little left of center. Believe it or not, it can be difficult to have non-mainstream views in a part of the country where it's just assumed that you are a Republican, conservative, and worship everything President Bush does. Sometimes it's worse in the Christian community because people asume if you have the same religious beliefs, you have the same political beliefs.

I've discovered a podcast called Radio WC that's done by a couple guys right here in Warren County, and addresses some of this tension between reality and the prevailing opinion. Uncle Dan and Abu Snookums (not their real names) do a great podcast and I find it really entertaining. Their sense of humor really appeals to me, and their take on political issues is more balanced and fair than I hear from any mainstream media source. Even if you don't live here in the WC, it's worth checking out.

While I'm thinking about it, I saw an interesting story in a local paper. You can see it here. Apparently a local bar had a sign hanging up that said "For service, speak english." There are a fair number of Mexican people around here, and some people got pretty upset. The story is worth checking out, but I'm not sure how long the link will work.


Tue Sep 13 23:29:17 EDT 2005

Just spent a little time while I'm on vacation updating the site. I rewrote the site to use only HTML and CSS. There are no more tables or any old style stuff. It's not perfect, but if you can't see any difference I did a good job. If you're using Internet Explorer, things might not be quite right. That's because Microsoft doesn't support standards. Write them to tell them to get on the ball.

I'm still here

Fri Sep 9 12:21 EDT 2005

Just another small update. Things at home are settling down a bit, although being married still takes work. I'm getting more exercise and not having so much free time to eat so I'm losing weight. I'm enjoying being able to do things around the house. For instance I fixed a broken vaccuum cleaner yesterday. It's a lot more enjoyable to fix stuff when someone else benefits. When I was alone it didn't seem worth the trouble. I'm also teaching Theresa's son to drive, which is pretty cool. We're working on refinancing the house, which is a whole new experience. Looks like we'll save a lot of money, but the finance company is making her jump through lots of hoops.

I'm married!

Thurs Aug 18 2005

Believe it or not I'm now a married man. It's probably the best thing I've ever done, although it's not without pain. After being single 38 years, it's kind of an adjustment. It's worth the trouble, though. I feel like in order to progress as a person I need to learn to care about someone else in a way only marriage can teach me.

Finishing with moving, getting settled in and trying to figure out what life looks like now has kept me busy. I've also been glad to be able to spend time with my wife and have fun with her. I'll try to update more at some point in the future. For now you can go to the wedding page if you want.

Hell freezes again!

Mon Aug 1 09:41 EDT 2005

Yes, friends, I have a cell phone. I am kind of geek, but have never seen a reason until now to get a phone. I'm also no longer living at my house/trailer/hell hole, so if you don't have my new info and want it (including cell number), give me a mail.

In other news, I've hacked the CSS for the site, so it looks a little different. I think it's better. Also I've updated the blog page.

Too busy for words

Thu Jul 21 09:14 EDT 2005

So deadlines are looming, things need done, and it seems there is more responsibility every day. I want to be moved out of my house and into Theresa's place by the end of the month. I'm still working on securing the title to the mobile home where I live so I can give it to someone else when I move (yes, I'm giving my home away). Then there are wedding invitations to worry about, details to take care of, and I'm working an extra 10 hours per week.

I'm reasonably good at handling pressure, but my lovely fiance is not, so she's concerned as to whether I can pull all this off. When it comes right down to it, what's the worst that can happen? I'm still getting married in less than three weeks, and the rest I'll sort out later.

Highlights of my week? Sat with the insurance agent last night for over 2 hours to get her house and car on my policy. It wasn't too bad, and she wound up with what she wanted, which is OK with me. I wrote out $200 worth of checks to bind the policies, and we went out to dinner.

Dork Fish!

Thu Jul 14 14:25 EDT 2005

I was switched to Microsoft Outlook as my E-mail client at work today. One wonders how a company with any brains could decide to switch to Outlook considering it's miserable security record. We are switching from Lotus Notes, though, and if you've ever used Notes all will be made clear. I can not remember using anything ever that was as confusing and obfuscated as Notes.

So I was looking around and found another Jeff Ratliff today. He's apparently a real estate agent in Virginia. So I guess if you're buying a house in Chesapeake VA you could look this guy up. He can't be all bad, right?

Lastly, I was looking at my server logs and saw a strange thing. Go to MSN and search for 'dork fish pics' (no quotes) and I come up in the first handful of hits. I thought it was pretty hilarious.

Hell freezes, part 2!

Wed Jul 06 10:04 EDT 2005

It seems the long, hard fought battle against software patents in Europe is over. Here's an article from the BBC with a few details. So why is this a big deal? I'm not an expert, but basically a patent says "I own this idea." This makes a certain amount of sense for an invention, but not much sense for software. To say that I came up with an idea and no one else can come up with the same idea is counterproductive. Bear in mind that copyright and patents are different. A copyright says you can't sell this particular implementation of this idea, because I came up with it first.

There are people who believe that ideas shouldn't really belong to anybody because there is greater good for everybody if an idea is shared than if it's hoarded for personal gain. Also advancement in software techonology is so rapid that a new idea doesn't stay secret for long. Being first to market counts. A patent is pointless for protecting innovation because by the time it's in effect you either have a successful implementation that makes money, or you never will. Patents only make sense if you want to squash competition because your product can't compete on it's own.

Anyway, I'm no expert, but this is kind of a big deal. We still have software patents here in the litigation happy US, of course. Microsoft apparently is trying to patent anything they can, if they invented it or not. Some say they'll use these patents to attack smaller companies and squash them out of business. Most of the software I use every day is free to use, free to copy and free to modify. It works for me, and plenty of people are still making money off of it.

Happy Holiday!

Mon Jul 04 2005

If you're American (of the US variety at least), July 4 is Independance Day. We celebrate the birth of our country in various ways. A quite popular way is to drink a lot an blow things up. Others go to fireworks displays, drink a lot, and watch others blow things up. Then of course there are cook outs and parades and other ways to celebrate.

Today I've removed the toilet from the floor in my bathroom and am running a snake down the sewer line so the water will flow again.

Just fixing my stuff

Thu Jun 30 01:32:53 EDT 2005

OK, I'm trying to get this site in shape. Everything from the old site I'm keeping is now here. If you want to see the old site, click the link at left. I'm also trying to get the menus uniform from page to page. I've also started a new blog page. Not much, but at least it's updated. Just about every page has been touched or updated in some way, although it may not be apparent. I guess I'm getting something done with my vacation.

I'm about to vacate

Wed Jun 29 01:05:30 EDT 2005

So things have been pretty rough at work this year. We're usually busy at the beginning of the year then thing get back to normal. This year, though, someone important up the chain of command came up with a new program that didn't work and pushed it through on an impossible deadline. Since my job is basically to fix things that are broken, that left our department with too much to do. To make the long story short I've been working overtime (except for a week or 2) since the first of the year. Our manager is really, really, cool though, and I will be on vacation (that's "on Holiday" if you are from Europe) for 6 days straight starting tomorrow. I put together a schedule to keep myself on track, and plan on getting lots of stuff done.

If you don't know already, I'm getting married on August 7. This means there are lots of details to take care of, and lots of things to get done. We're not in any way planning a big or fancy cerimony, but I'm moving into her house, so there's a lot to do. So I will also be "vacating" the home I've lived in for the past 9 years. It can't happen too soon, as I have a lot of bad memories from this place. I'm much happier with my life now, and it looks like things keep getting better. God is in charge of my life a lot more these days, which is good because I've never done that well on my own.

I'm famous!

Well, I guess it's inevitable. The Google robots have found and indexed my site, so now I'm known by the biggest and best search engine in the world! Currently if you do a search I come up as hit number 4. I guess it's time to get some content, eh?

In other news I sent an E-mail to the guys at the Linux Link Tech Show and they read it live on the show (Episode 87, June 8, 2005). They said my name a couple times, so I imagine that's why I actually got some hits from people searching for me on Google. If you're curious enough to listen to the show, My E-mail starts about 6 minutes 45 seconds into the show.

It's all about free information

I've added links to LUGRadio and The Linux Link Tech Show to my links page. These are my two favorite interet radio shows. The Tech Show is streamed live over the internet on Wednesday nights (then archived for download), while LUGRadio is recorded then released for download. I'm of the opinion that internet radio will eventually almost replace broadcast radio. I don't believe this because I'm really smart or have a keen sense of social trends. I believe this because other people have said it and I trust them.

Essentially, trust is the key issue. The internet brings us much, much more information than we can possibly consume, all practically free. The bloggers have replaced broadcast news, there's more free music available than you'll ever hear on the radio, and podcasting allows you to download audio content to your personal audio player while you sleep, so you've got a day's worth of listening when you wake up.

Overwhelming amounts of free information spells doom for radio stations, TV stations, and record labels. If people are willing to give away music and news for free, who is going to pay for it? Information has no value when you can have it for free everywhere you look. What's worth something is an opinion you can trust. Who is going to tell you what to listen to? Who will let you know what is worth your time and what is a waste of time? We're all far too busy to check out everything for ourselves. That's why I say trust is key. We're moving towards an information age where what is the most valuable is the opinion of someone you trust to help you wade through this mess. At least that's what I think.

A boring update

Not much exciting, but I'm trying to keep working on this site and adding new content. I added a link to Creative Commons on the links page, mostly for my own reference. It's worth checking out.

I've gotten into playing a MUD called Ark of the Covenant. It's a MUD based on Christian principles. If you're not familiar with MUDs, they're online multiplayer computer games from the days before graphics were common. This game is pretty solid and pretty extensive. I played a while a few years back and decided to pick it up again. They've got a page up, but it only covers the basics and hasn't been updated in a while. If you like RPGs, be cautious as MUDs are addictive.

Theresa and I also spent some time on yard work this weekend. I trimmed bushes and she weeded and planted flowers. Since I'll be moving into her house after we get married, it was nice to be able to work on something together that will benefit us both.

Hell freezes over!

In the current climate of Christian thought, there are 2 immutable facts:

I'm not going to take the time right now to argue about whether I believe these 2 things, but I found something interesting today. From NPR (not a notorious supporter of traditional Christian values), comes an article called There is Such a Thing as Truth. See what you think.