Extremism is overrated. When it comes to sport, what is so great about looping the loop on a skateboard or surfing skyscraper waves in shark-infested waters? I feel the same way about extreme people: I prefer equivocators who say 'maybe' and 'I could be wrong' to zealots who punctuate their opinions by detonating explosives strapped to their bodies. But when it comes to information technology, extremism in a variety of forms has its attractions. The most respectable practitioners of this brand of computing are the extreme programmers. The high priest of 'XP' code-crunching is Kent 'embrace change' Beck. In his book Extreme Programming Explained, he argues that hiccups in a programming project can usually be traced back to X failing to speak to Y, to the outrage of the remaining letters of the alphabet such as P in the office (a point filed under communication). To prevent disharmony, they should all avoid over-elaboration (simplicity) and be blunt whatever the consequences (feedback and courage). Beck's doctrine is essentially the theory that the most elegant solution is usually the right one, but with an emphasis on pair work. Two code-crunchers trying to make sense of mumbo jumbo are better than one, according to Beck, who maybe simplifies too much and has been accused of 'revival tent evangelism'. Indeed, his two-geek approach sounds like a recipe for disaster - there is nothing a geek hates more than interacting with other humanoids, even if they are tech-obsessed. But his perspective appears highly sophisticated compared with that of those radicals with a thirst for excitement that only high-powered components can slake. 'Maxtor is bumping up the cache on a few high-end drives to a whopping 16MB!' shrieks PCExtreme, a zine that caters to this extreme personality type. PCExtreme teases its readers with descriptions of 'memory with muscle', motherboards with attitude and, of course, blazing CPUs. The typical reader doubtless dreams of owning a supercomputer. Think Thunder - the Intel Itanium2-based cluster system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which shifts at the screamingly fast rate of 19.94 teraflops. For frustrated extremists saddled with mundane personal computers, there is only one thing to do: indulge in the warranty-voiding sport called overclocking. This is the computer equivalent of adding mag wheels, a spoiler and racing stripes to your old Ford Cortina. It means operating a CPU or other digital logic device at a higher rate than the manufacturer intended. Moderate overclockers settle with making their ancient 500 megahertz CPUs rattle along at 550 megahertz, even though they can only tell the difference by running a benchmark program. Hardcore overclockers will keep increasing the speed until the processor blows a gasket, meaning they have to get a new, faster processor, which of course still isn't quite fast enough. If this activity sounds beyond the pale, it is relatively moderate compared with the behaviour of those enthusiasts who really like getting their hands dirty. Manoeuvres popular with these mavericks include welding 'modchips' (devices used to dodge the digital rights management of game consoles) to a motherboard, and cutting a 'blowhole' in a device with a jigsaw to increase the airflow. The latter may be handy if you are running your computer twice as fast it should go. Even so, it sounds as insane as running the logic board under a hot tap, or typing with a hammer. Users who resort to surgical measures themselves need to cool down and exercise extreme caution. But then I speak as a wuss who rarely attempts anything more radical than customising my desktop. And even that makes my pulse race the way it would were I trying to surf the waves. Confused by computer jargon? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.