Israel volunteering – planning….

For those of you who know me you may know I am heading back to Israel to do some volunteer work for a charity in Jerusalem.

I am pleased to announce that I have a date I am flying, I am flying out on thursday July 16th.

This last week has been hectic as I am due to move out of the house I rent this weekend.

I have a lot of things to arrange, hand over bills to someone else, find somewhere to store car, but first renew tax, get address on paperwork changed, and then box up all my things and go.

These last few weeks hasn’t been without some worries. My job was due to finish last week, but due to a lot of praying and things getting busy and people on holiday or ill, I have been given an extension on my contract until the day I fly, which I am really thankful for.

On Monday of this week I went to get my visa. This was paid by my employer in Jerusalem but I had to pick it up and get it glued into my passport. I got myself a coach to London, forgetting to bring my Oyster card with me (I tend to go to London about 4 times a year to see friends or go shopping or trade exhibitions) so decided to walk to Kensington where the embassy was, half way through walking there, I put my hand in the back pocket of my trousers and realised I had my Oyster card from the last trip a couple of weeks previously.

On the way there I spotted the embassies for Iran, Ethiopia and for various other countries I didn’t recognise from the flags which are probably in Africa or the Middle East. Once I got to the small junction on the map I printed out I found, there was a small not that significant office next to a fire station with two policeman outside one of the holding a quite impressive gun, upon getting there I was asked to wait on the other side of the road and wait for of the staff to meet me. Got a chance to briefly chat to a few other people there. Eventually a man came out with me thinking he was another customer waiting to me seen, once it was my turn to be brought in I had to show my passport about three times, then was turn away as I didn’t have any passport photos with me, so quick 200 yard dash to Boots down the road and £4 later I got some, once back I went through a typical airport style doorway metal detector and remove everything from my pockets was turned out, I was asked to turn on my phone and iPod and that had it removed from its pouch as well to be checked. Once through the office I filled in a form which had some boxes in Hebrew I didn’t understand, give the forms through to the clerk at the counter and waited about 15 minutes and read some magazine in Hebrew (well read the pictures) after then I have passport all stamped and ready to go. Spent the rest of day in Oxford Street as pleased I got some bargain priced clothes from a shop with 70% off so I got two pairs of jeans and three shirts for a total for £21.

Later that day I got my plane tickets, I decided to opt for BMI rather than British Airways who have roughly the same price, as BA are in trouble and asking their staff to work for free. BMI offer a print your own tickets and wack on a hefty £4 charge for credit cards, which include their own Amex card which I ordered in January just get a free flight out of it (I will get the flight another day though)

All in all a good day with some sunny weather and its nice to have a slightly shorter week too.

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DIY laptop repair – part 1.

DIY Laptop repair

The tricky part of laptops is that they are made of a collection of mainly non standard parts, and the impossibly thin enclosure its made in and that they are seem difficult to service and repair yourself.  I am going to try and dispell some of the myths of laptop repair and maintenance and offer some insight on how to do repairs yourself.  “I took my laptop to be repaired and they said its going to cost £XYZ for the part and £ABC per hour someone to repair it!! – its cheaper to buy a new one!!” You probably heard these words from someone at some point.

However you may be able to do some troubleshooting and maybe replace parts yourself. If you have been told its not worth fixing it yourself and its out of warranty and it might otherwise get chucked in the bin you might as well have a go yourself, the worse you can do is make it even more broken… Lets try and work out what the cause of the problem of a typical laptop without an accidental damage that will not boot or perhaps crashes randomly.

1. Does your operating system (in this case Windows) boot to the desktop?

If it doesn’t, try tapping F8 key repeatedly and select safe mode or last good known configuration. If you can get in this way, you might be able to reboot afterwards and start it up in the normal way. If not, you might want to do a reinstall of your operating system and see if you can rule out a software problem, of course all data on the C: drive will be lost.

2. Check the event log.

In Windows XP go to start, control panel, administrator tools and check the event logs.

Red crosses indicates an error or crash that happened recently. The error message might not be something useful, but you can always put it through google and it might tell you a bit about the issue in better detail. This technique worked successfully on a Sony Vaio laptop I had at the NHS, which had a physical problem causing it to crash randomly, this turned out to be a faulty wireless card which was revealed after googling that error code.  Keeping the wireless turned off didn’t help this. As the wireless feature was not needed by the owner for her work, I ended up removing a discarding the card and put insulation tape of the aerial cables, result the laptop worked fine afterwards, I had a similar experience with two of my Compaq Evo N800 laptops as the cards on these are prone to failure also, I have both of them working with different cards now. The Sony laptop would have been otherwise scrapped and wasted public money to get a new one and labour to get a replacement prepared for the owner.

3. Check memory

My preferred way to do this is to use a similar diagnostic utility called Memtest86 I learned from my Novatech days. Goto http://www.memtest.org and download the program in .ISO format as this is a complete CD image that you can boot from and should do a thorough test of your machine, this should be obvious within a few minutes as it will show some red messages.

4. Hard disk test.

Hard disks fail more often on laptops, as they can damaged by shock or being bumped. All hard disk manufacturers provide diagnostic software free of charge as a boot CD, this should be downloadable in ISO format from the makers site, ie: Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi etc. If the disk has failed, this is usually mounted in a small slide out module which can easily be replaced yourself.

5. Remove other items to get a better diagnosis

– Remove the battery (I have seen some batteries cause a short which cause the laptop not to boot)
– As well, try on battery power and not power supply, I have seen people use the wrong power supply which doesnt feed enough watts to the unit.
– Remove any attached peripherals (my desktop PC wont boot if a camera SD card or my iPod is attached)
– If the CD drive is a swappable unit, remove it, there maybe a simple lever to remove it.
– Remove one of the sticks of memory, this might be in a trapdoor underneath, or under the keyboard or palm rest.

Give this a try folks, if you want some extra help please feel free to comment if you like.  I will do follow up article soon, on how to get that impossibly thin case open and do some tinkering…

Heading off to Israel…

A little while back I mentioned about some plans to do some work overseas,

I am pleased to announce my plans. I am going to be volunteering for Bridges for Peace a Christian charity working with Jews in Israel. Their headquarters is in Jerusalem and I am going to be there providing IT support to the staff there. This is role is unsalaried, to many people this seems like a crazy idea but I am taking a step of faith to be provided with the means to live out there.

I will flying out there as soon as I get my visa, this should realistically be around the end of July as I wish to finish in the current contract I have at the moment and I going to a party of a close friend of mine in Oxford the week before.

Please keep this blog in your browser favourites and I will be mentioning more about what I am doing and life in the modern land of Israel.

A web site with the details of this project is nearly done and I will post a link soon.