Motherboards and CPUs : A painfull buying experience

Fried my CPU and Motherboard last night in a how-quiet-can-you-go attempt. I was messing around under the hood whilst tired and trying to watch telly. Pulled the heatsink and fan off the chip and powered on. The CPU lasted around 1 second before it fried and a burning smell filled the room. Motherboard now makes a feeble squeak when it powers on without CPU (apparently its meant to make the proper beep, but then stop).

So I then spent 3 hours on the web trying to find a processor and motherboard that work together. I can’t believe that the whole issue of motherboards is still so vague. Chips appear to be moderately well documented, it’s fairly clear the types of chips that are available for each manufacturer – Intel Celeron for low-power / value, or Pentium for more professional; AMD Duron/Sempron for cheap, Athlon XP/64 for pro.

But once you’ve decided on a CPU finding a motherboard that will work for it is a nightmare. First you need the form-factor, this didn’t use to be a problem but you now have ATX, uATX, mATX. Then you have the manufacturer, Asus, Gigabyte, Elite, Atex, etc. Then the chipset on the motherboard, nForce, Via, SiS. Then what on-board peripherals you want, LAN, Snd, Modem.

And websites don’t give you filter options that match how you shop for them! They list by manufacturer, which is pointless cos then you have to click-through for each motherboard and see what processors it supports (and what FSB speeds to check it actually supports the CPU optimally). I eventually found a website which listed motherboards by type (Athlon XP, Duron, Celeron, Pentium) so you choose a processor, and then have to navigate all the way back out to get to the CPUs. Why not deep link to them!

And then when you finally find the ones you want, the site must deliver to cardholder address first. So I move to another site. This site has the MB, but not the CPU. Another site, has both, go to buy and I get a database error when creating my account. So I move to another site, this site also has both, but also has a database error.

I then have to change my plan and find another motherboard as I can’t find the one I want anywhere. I choose another motherboard and then go through the process again, but this time I stick with Even though the buying experience doesn’t map to how you want to shop, its acceptable and I know that if I find something and its in stock, their online purchasing is going to work.

After 3 hours of searching I finally chose the AMD Sempron 2400+ as its almost identical to my frazzled Athlon XP 2000+ (same bus speed and L1/L2 cache), and a Gigabyte SoA VIA KT600 with integrated Audio/LAN/RAID.

Surely there’s a niche in the market for a website which gives you a consumer lead breakdown of motherboards to CPUs and makes this whole process easier. It would certainly save me the headache I had late last night trying to fix all of this.

Sharing broadband ADSL at home

The problem – you want to get broadband and you want to share this connection with other machines in the house as easily as possible. (Even if you don’t currently want to share the connection it makes sense to buy the correct kit as its not very much more expensive.)

(ADSL / DSL, its all the same for the sake of this article.)

You need a few bits of hardware to get you connected. These are:

An ADSL modem – dials up to the net
A firewall – stops nasties breaking into your machine(s)
A router – lets you share your connection physically (ie. with wires)
A wireless gateway – lets you share your connection wirelessly

Luckily, most manufacturers make 1 device that does all of the above. I recommend the Netgear DG834G which is on Dabs for just under £70 at the time of writing. This device out-of-the-box works very easily, you just enter your broadband username and password and voila, you’re up and running. I recommend physically locating this device next to a computer (if theres a phone socket nearby), just in case you need to ever kick it. Generally, you’ll want to leave this device switched on 24×7 – i.e. always connected – it doesn’t cost any more.

At this point you have ADSL coming into your house so you now have to connect your computer(s) to it. You can either connect your computer with, or without wires. Your choice will depend on the location of your computer in relation to broadband modem, whether you want wires trailing around your house between any additional computers, and what existing hardware you might have.

With wires – buy a network cable, 1m or 5m, and a network card.
Without wires – buy a wireless network card, for a desktop, or a laptop.

Install the hardware in your machine and connect any necessary wires.

Broadband account
I’ve always used Eclipse Internet and i’ve never had a problem with them. The best value service they offer is the Connect 500 Lite. They don’t require a minimum term and they’re reasonably priced at about £20 a month.

When you sign up to broadband you have to wait for BT to enable broadband on your phone line so its best to get the broadband ordered and then order the hardware. BT will take 2 weeks, Dabs are never that slow.

The only part of the setup you’ll want to configure is the Wireless router. Out-of-the-box it will work fine, but it won’t be secured. This means that anybody in the area with a wireless card will be able to piggyback your broadband connection. This may or may not bother you.

To secure your connection, you’ll need to enable WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). This will normally be done by connecting to your router using a web browser. Choose WEP Security and enter a passphrase. This passphrase is used to automatically generate a security key behind the scenes. Click apply. Detailed overview of the DG834G settings – but IGNORE what it says about WPA.

You now have your wireless router encrypted. If you have any wireless clients then you need to go into the configuration options for those and enter the same WEP passphrase.

That should be it. To summarise you’ll need (approx costs):

ADSL modem/router/firewall/wireless – £70
Network card for each computer – £10 wired, £40 wireless
Broadband account – £20 pcm, plus £50 setup

Speedtouch DSL configuration for PASV FTP

Upgraded the firmware on my DSL router last night. Since then my blogging hasn’t been working. As Blogger uses PASV FTP I assumed that the new firmware didn’t support it. That’d be odd I thought.

Finally tracked down the problem.

My firewall is configured to accept PASV on a specified port range. By this, I mean I have NAPT entries for the range forwarding to my FTP server.

My FTP server is set to respond with an IP address to contact ‘me’ on and a port number randomly allocated from said range.

Seems the new version of the firewall was doing NAT translations in the control channel response from the FTP server to client. So when my machine was sending out a response saying ‘contact me on’ the router wasn’t doing anything clever and let it pass, and then my blogger tried to contact me the router didn’t pass the request through correctly.

When I changed the FTP server to respond with ‘contact me on’ the router was spotting this and NATting it and passing it to, then when the request came back from it let it through.

I’ve made quite a few presumptions in the above statement, it could be that the new firewall firmware was blocking the initial PASV response from my FTP server as it may have appeared to be sourced from the WAN IP address.

What I do know is that I can now blog again AND keep the updated version of the firmware. (Not that the firmware has anything too exciting in it, but theres more buttons, checkboxes and menus so it must be better.)