never overcook a computer

July 12, 2010

I have a chum whose sole purpose in life is to do fucked up things to perfectly brilliant computer hardware I assemble for him.

His most recent exploit is to keep his PC running throughout the heatwave, burning DVDs. How jolly!

How not jolly to be woken at 6:20am on Saturday by a text message: “PC won’t switch on, left it overnight burning DVDs, call me when you get this msg.” Well, bollocks was I calling at 6:20am. In fact, bollocks was I calling until about 11am. After all, it had been the warmest night on record since recorded records began being recorded, and I needed some bloody sleep.

“Mate,” he said, when I’d decided to phone. “Mate, the pc had been fine all day…”

“All day?” I said. “You left it on all day on Friday?”

“It was fine all day on Thursday, it ran OK all night, then all day Friday…”


“…And then when I went to bed last night, I left it burning a DVD because it takes so long…


“…But when I cam downstairs this morning, the entire box was dead.”

“And you are surprised by this turn of events?”

“Well… yes! What can I do mate? I need my PC!”

So I gave a few basic hints and tips; was it the fuse in the plug? Was it just needing a rest? Was he being a pleb? The usual sort of thing. But no, it seems the computer-box is dead.

“I tell  you what, mate,” (the emphasis was lost), “I’ll build up a spare Ubuntu box and have it to you on Monday, how’s that?”

“That’ll be brilliant, thank you!” And he hung up. Well, it was a hot day on Saturday, and you don’t want to risk your phone overheating and going bang, do you?

So what you can do here is imagine a montage section (you can supply the music, suggestions welcome in the comments):

  • Me finding the parts for a spare computer, digging in boxes.
  • Assembling the parts.
  • Switching the machine on for the first time.
  • The screen lighting up.
  • A wry smile across my face.
  • Taking off my glasses and wiping my arm across my forehead whilst drinking from a mug of coffee.
  • Watching a progress bar slide along the screen.
  • Typing at a keyboard and somehow the text on the screen is projected across my face as I type.
  • Clicking a mouse.
  • Finally placing the top of the computer on and wiping it with a piece of rag before patting it lightly and sighing to myself.

And now we are at this evening. I have just returned from installing the beast. And a beast it is too. It’s a Pentium 3, 733Mhz with 512MB of memory and 32MB of PCI NVidia graphics power behind it. It’s running Ubuntu 10.04.

I figured that PC-Boiling-Chum would want his DVD burner (I really don’t understand why) so thought I’d just slot that in. It would also probably be worthwhile sliding in his PCI-to-USB card too. He has a worrying collection of, ahem, webcams scattered about his desk which he likes to have plugged in.

My only problem was forgetting that his DVD writer is a SATA-based product, although luckily I had also installed a PCI-to-SATA card in the knackered PC. But what would be the chances of Ubuntu working nicely with:

  1. A 10 year old PC
  2. A PCI-to-SATA card it hadn’t known about on install
  3. A SATA dvd burner plugged into the PCI-to-SATA card it hadn’t known about on install

Obviously, it coped magnificently. Having opened the computer up and filled its amazing little riser card full with a video card, some USB ports and a SATA card, it then proceeded to boot and load in no time at all, perfectly happy with all the hardware. Webcams included.

So there we go. Unbelievers, start believing. Install Ubuntu Linux and enjoy.

(And for those of you that think something must have gone wrong somewhere, well, you’re right. The wireless mouse needed some new batteries.)

buz! buz! buz! buzza! buz! buzby! look! buz!

April 16, 2009

Buz! Looky! Look, Buz! Look!

oliver postgate

December 9, 2008

Obviously, kids these days don’t know they’re born. If they did, they’d probably be more bother than they are now, so don’t let on. It’s relatively quiet where I live.

I woke this morning with a funny sensation in my stomach. I’d been dreaming of Ivor the Engine, Clangers and Bagpuss. I stared at the ceiling in my room for a while before checking the time. It was 7:14. That meant I’d missed the news and I had overslept a bit (due to being up all hours last night cooking my Christmas cake. Delia, you’re a Goddess, but dear me, can’t you make your cakes cook in less than four hours?).

Slowly I realised I’d not missed the news, but had been in that half-awake/half-asleep mode and that Bagpuss and his pals had been featured on Radio 4. This could not have been good news. It could only mean one thing: Oliver Postgate had died.

These days, with so much computer-generated buffoonery, villages inhabited by every minority possible and seemingly drug-induced Midnight Garden-ing, kids telly is all very very high production values. I don’t mean that a lot of cash is necessarilly thrown at it (I believe it’s cheap enough that Cat from Red Dwarf and Terry Wogan will occasionally read a story), but that it must not appear to be anything less than shiny-perfect.

There is no room for torn-edges or washed out colours. It’s sharp and primary or nothing. And whilst you’re about it, we need a pop band to sing the theme  – and release it on iTunes too.

Indeed, earlier this year, a bunch of feckwads with the terrible name of Coolabi bought the rights to Bagpuss and announced with the omnious and over-enthusiastic blah-speech of people who just don’t know when to leave stuff alone, that they were going to “introduce Bagpuss to a new generation”.

Anyone notice that they’ve done this to Postman Pat this year? No longer Greendale for bachelor-boy Pat. Oh no, dear god. Pat’s got a helicopter, a wife, a kid and probably a jet-pack, some rollerblades and an expensive cocaine habit.

Let us consider what, perhaps, this will mean for Bagpuss:

  • Will it be out with the simplistic animation and the folksy-songs?
  • Perhaps we’ll say so long to Bagpuss’s rather slothful and rotund attitude?
  • Will know-it-all Professor Yaffle no-longer be bossy and no longer know-it-all? (Bossy know-it-alls aren’t acceptable in modern-day kids’ telly, unless at the end of the episode the bossy know-it-all has been taught a lesson and has befriended a lesbian in a wheelchair).
  • The mice will be on Ritalin and will have calmed down a lot.
  • No remake of the infamous chocolate biscuit from butterbeans and breadcrumbs episode. Well, not without the next episode focussing on how good fruit, veg and organic farming are.

So my normal friendly attitude has been wearing thin today under the thought that more of my childhood is about to be presented back to the world as a bowl of vomit from some independent production company’s crazed minds.

The wonderful thing about the original stories, written, drawn, animated and told by Postgate and Peter Firmin was that they were so beautifully handmade and simple.


That wasn’t the thing. That was a good thing, an excellent thing. It is something that should be taught in Media Studies courses and in art lessons.

The thing about Pogles’ Wood, about Ivor the Engine, about the Clangers, was Oliver Postgate’s narration. His voice is not just the voice of Noggin the Nog, or Bagpuss, it is the voice of the entirety of children’s television from the ’60s and ’70s.

I’m sorry if that annoys you Trumpton fans. Brian Cant was good. Roobarb and Custard’s Richard Brier’s was ace. But only Oliver Postgate had a voice which could make your soul cry with wonder and happiness.

Purchasing the Noggin The Nog DVD a few years back, I watched it all in one sitting. On my 31st birthday. It made me cry.

Thank you Smallfilms. Coolabi, beware.

burning question of the day

March 5, 2008

Was Bod a boy or a girl?

for the guy looking for the manic miner walkthrough

October 10, 2007

Just type 6031769 whilst playing the game and then use cunning combinations of the number keys to get you to the various levels.

Peasy, see?

lovin’ all things retro

August 31, 2007

This brings new meaning to the words “rug” and “muncher”.

further spectrum zx wonders

April 27, 2007

I was up all hours last night. Mainly due to two things, one being very cold feet.

In my reverie, I finally replied to a mail sent by J Nash ((Meat butcher to the gentry)(Funerals arranged on request)) and, as I’m still celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the ZX Spectrum, I did some research on emulators* which work under Vista and cheat modes for Manic Miner.

I came up trumps on both accounts and have acquired a 30 day trial of Spectaculator 6.3**, as well as the cunning secret code which allows free access to any of the 20 lethal caverns in MM.

It was during my search for the cheat code that I found out about the ZX Spectrum Orchestra. They are on a site called You Tube. Look them up. They also have an album totally created on various pieces of hardware associated with the rubber keyed wonder. Music played by the beeper of the 16/48k, or the AY chip of the 128k models, vocal talent supplied by the Currah [micro]Speech add-on.

Indeed, at 12:30 this morning it seemed to me to be a totally fabulous thing, the video for the track “$^” being online to view, so I bought it.  I’ll review it presently.

Further related You Tube watching discovered: a video of a Speccy running at 14Mhz; a walkthrough of Manic Miner; the “secret” desert island screen on Jet Set Willy 2; various videos of games loading (who is more sad? the person videoing it or me for watching it?); and more! Why not check out your favourite retro machine on Goofle’s ubiquitous billion dollar law-suit attractant?

* I also saw a picture of emulator genius Gerton Lunter. Who knew?
** I may even register the damned thing.

silver anniversary

April 23, 2007

Can it really be 25 years since I first met you, oh Speccy of my heart?

Edit: And a telly-thing too.

Edit #2: Bertjammin sayeth:

Quote from Matt (who has the dubious privilege of sitting opposite me):

“I wet myself with excitement when I saw that the speccy was 25 years old, then cringed with discomfort when I realised I was only allowed one sheet of tissue to clean myself with afterwards.” (For thems not in the know, it’s a mash-up of the previously mentioned sexy Speccy news and Sheryl Crowe’s easy-clean arse.)