New podcast from Custom PC

Custom PC Podcast

I got this e-mail today, which I thought might interest some readers:

The first Custom PC Podcast is launched this week, which is a regular, downloadable audio show featuring the same blend of hardware, strong opinion and humour that the magazine is famous for.

In each episode, the team will take an inside look at the latest stories from the technology world, with advice about the best kit for making a great PC, chat about games and some words of wisdom from the voice of Windows Vista.

In Episode One, James, Alex and Ben from the magazine join Editor, Gareth, for discussion of Nvidia’s new, affordable DirectX 10 graphics card, the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB, Intel’s cut-price Core 2 Duo E4300 and the effects of ReadyBoost in Windows Vista.

There’s also a rundown of the UK games charts and much shaking of heads over Apple’s latest ‘I’m a PC, I’m a Mac’ ads. Finally, there’s a competition to win an exclusive Custom PC t-shirts, which are not available to buy in the shops. All this and at a price that can’t be beaten, because the download is absolutely free.

Give it a download and let us know what you think by emailing


The Custom PC team

There are a number of ways to hear the podcast:

  • subscribe in iTunes
  • Use this feed address if using another podcast application.
  • Download the whole episode in MP3

What are you waiting for?

I’m going to be on the radio today


This morning I was interviewed over the telephone by Michael Cleere of Premier Christian Radio for a slot that will be broadcast today at 15:15.

You can listen online to my ramblings about Random Acts of Kindness, Join Me, life as a Christian within a university setting and my love of metal!

Sadly there is no “listen again” facility so I will miss it, as I’ll be in a meeting from 15:00 – 16:00 about migrating website content. If anyone would like to record it to MP3 and send it to me then that would be great, thanks.


Tim kindly recorded the interview, which you can download in MP3 from this website now:

  • premier-gareth.mp3 (MP3, 2.4 MB)

It was, in my opinion, a very well-edited interview — he cut the full 11 minutes down to a couple of minutes, which flowed well and completely omitted anything that I might have said about my love of heavy music.

However, in his introduction and outro Michael Cleere managed to single-handedly relocate Scotland’s oldest university, from St Andrews to Edinburgh! I have, of course, e-mailed him to ask him to return St Andrews to Fife.


I received the following humble apology from Mr Cleere:

PLEASE accept my apologies in advance. I shall indeed make mention of the mistake today, and take the blame. I shall make sure that nobody is guilty by association.

Apologies accepted.

My toast to the weekend

Two slices of toast.

I enjoyed a quiet and blog-free weekend these last few days, largely because I also experienced a largely internet-free weekend (see previous posts about broadband connection woes for details).

Broadband update

I spent a total of about 3.5 – 4 hours on the phone with various BT support personnel on Friday and Saturday (1.5 hours on Friday, 2 hours on Saturday) to try to get to the bottom of the problems. I won’t go into details but I essentially went round the loop of BT Broadband Support > Line Fault Team > PSTN no fewer than six times over the two days!

On both days I was told by Broadband Support and Line Fault Team that there was a fault on the line, but PSTN (the local exchange) swore blind that the line was okay, so I’d be passed back to Broadband Support and the loop would begin again, again, again.

In the end, on both days I was told that someone would call me back within an hour. Friday evening’s call-back didn’t arrive, Saturday’s “within 1 hour” call-back arrived 25 hours later on Sunday evening, by which the connection problem was still happening but not so frequently, as far as I could tell.

Our broadband connection is set within the router (Voyager 2500V) to be always on, and to reconnect automatically when it drops out. Do you know how often it should healthily drop out and reconnect? In our old property I was never aware that it did, but here it appears to reconnect about 2-3 times a day, at least.


On Saturday around lunchtime I was sick. I’d been feeling tired and as though I was fighting something all week and it culminated with a few minutes staring into a small ceramic pool of water while emitting more than a few primitive, gutteral sounds.

However, on the up-side it did mean that I didn’t have to go through that emotional roller-coaster of high expectation leading to disappointment, anger and despair that I’m used to when watching the rugby. Instead, through the whole 80 minutes of play, I maintained a steady feeling of disappointment, discomfort and sadness. I can thoroughly recommend it as a coping strategy for watching rugby!

Meanwhile Jane was in Edinburgh, working this weekend.


On Sunday we entertained friends from Edinburgh. The lovely Dusty and Joy visited for lunch, and then while Jane and Joy took the dogs for a walk Dusty and I played guitar.

Our Sunday evening was spent watching an episode of 24, series 2 on DVD before watching David Tennant and Sarah Parish in the BBC drama Recovery. What a wonderfully powerful and poignant story about the impact that brain injury has on a family.

I found myself more than once in tears as scenes reminded me of our family’s fifteen years’ experience of living with brain injury between 1983 and 1998. For those who don’t know, my dad suffered three sub-arachnoid brain haemorrhages on the Ides of March, 1983 which left him with what would become progressively worse brain injury.

The drama was very, very well acted — absolutely full-marks to David Tennant — with some powerful insights and issues raised. What complicated beings we humans are, who perform the most complex of tasks that we categorize as “simple” and “every day”, such as making a piece of toast, which are much, much more than that. (In the drama Tennant’s character Alan sets fire to the kitchen while trying to make a couple of slices of toast.)

An emotional weekend all-in-all, and not quite as relaxing as I might have liked. But there were more than a few elements that made me smile and feel that life was indeed good.

More BT Broadband connection woes

BT Voyager 2500V upside down

I’ve been having more ‘fun and games’ with BT Broadband, hence my online absence (my offline presence) last night. I’d e-mailed them last week when service started to deteriorate and then magically things cleared up shortly after I’d contacted them, but last night things got much, much worse: connection dropping randomly about every 30 – 300 seconds.

BT Public Switch Telephone Network

The e-mail reply I’d got from BT support suggested that I call PSTN (Public Switch Telephone Network). So I did.

I followed the voice prompts, made the appropriate selections and was told to call another number … which turned out to be the number for the original people who’d told me to call PSTN!!

BT Broadband Support

So I called them — which turned out to be a call centre in India — and spoke to a very polite man for about 30 mins, who asked me the same bunch of questions that I’d been asked last month.

But. Nothing. Has. Changed. Here.

So why is it all of a sudden dropping out again? I’ve not done anything other than fit a new, better microfilter and if anything that improved the connection. For a while.

So he said that they needed to run a line test. A few minutes later he returned to say that they had indeed found a fault, could I hold again and he’d speak to the Line Fault Team.

I held and told Jane that they were consulting the Fault Line Team. So now she thinks that not only do we have trouble with broadband there is also going to be an imminent earthquake.

After a few minutes I was passed on to the Line Fault Team, just about the time that I was beginning to feel that I was in need of a Life Fault Team. And the loo!

BT Line Fault Team

“I bet they just ask you exactly the same questions that the last person asked you,” said Jane.

Which is exactly what happened, and I was left with the following advice:

  1. Unplug your router and plug it into the master socket test point.
  2. Move your PC into the hallway and connect it to the router (do they think that everyone’s main PC is a laptop?!).
  3. Monitor the connection for the next two hours and call them back on 0800 731 8578.

“Only, you can’t,” she said, “because we’re only open from 09:00 – 21:00 and we close in 30 minutes.”

Only, thought I, I can’t because I want to go to bed now, I’m exhausted!

I plugged it in to the test socket and left it overnight in the hope that it might magically work by the time I got up in the morning.

It didn’t: I’ve been monitoring it for the last two hours off an on and it has dropped out and reconnected at least 6 times in the last 20 minutes alone.

The trial continues…

So … we still have a dodgy broadband connection, a Voyager 2500V Configuration Manager screen filled with interesting facts that I don’t really understand (noise margin, line attenuation, output power — are high numbers good? are low numbers bad?) and a frustrated user (me) who just wants a stable connection enough to update a few websites and write my blog.

I suspect that the problem may lie with the telephone line from the exchange to the house. I also suspect that the internal phone extension wiring in the house may need checked — but whom do we ask to check that?

Whatever happened to the good old days of British Telecom sending out a human to check these problems?

Need an idea?

Idea a day website

I’ve only just discovered the idea a day website. What a great idea: a website packed with ideas. Whose idea was that? Genius!

My favourite idea is from Day 1169:

Erect meeting posts in city centres. The posts would be arranged in a wide circle and would be called ‘One o’clock’, ‘Two o’clock’, and so on. People could simply arrange to meet Four o’clock and safe in the knowledge that all parties would be aware of the time and location of the rendezvous. To make things even simpler, Twelve o’clock would be due north and Six o’clock due south.

A not-so-clever idea was building the site in Flash, however.

How about someone coming up with an ikea a day website, offering ideas about how to build furniture, mix ‘n match options, and other similar snippets of Swedish DIY handiness?