33

Today I hit 33, Jesus died at this age at the peak of his ministry somewhere probably no more than a mile than a live at the moment.   Thats quite a sobering thought.

Lately I get to go round someone’s house, either with one of the Bridges for Peace volunteers, or to some friends who work for one of several other Christian organisations in the city, and have food on friday night (Shabbat) which I did yesterday, its always great fun and everyone tends to much in making something.

Today I have some people coming round my house tonight so I am trying to make a bunch of things, have assembled together a Lasagne in a long aluminium tray, I have never cooked anything this big nor for and organise for 10-12ish people who are coming tonight, I need to make some chilli as well as Lasagne with its meat and diary combination isnt kosher, hopefull this should be ok, no one has told me if they are vegatarian or has any special requirements, I am just a little nervous this is all going to work out ok tonight.

Later tonight a few of us are heading to a comedy club in town, as have been recommended this is a must do experience when doing Jerusalem, not been to one of these before, so should be interesting.

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Apples tablet Mac/Netbook rumour – Jon’s predictions

If you have read any of IT new sites in last few weeks you would of seen talk of the much rumoured Apple netbook thats possibly in the guise of a tablet form factor. Apple’s PR people have often dismissed netbooks as ‘junk’ but the public often have complained Macs are still too expensive and a low end stripped down Mac laptop would be much welcomed.

Apple are always hugely secretive about their future hardware releases, and the press often get whiff a new release of something when patents get applied for or, or noticed as Jap/Korean companies who make LCDs, flash RAM, etc suddenly get asked for a big order of parts to a certain fruity brand in Cupertino.

I thought I would put my opinions on this, you probably heard of Kindle and similar devices that are used for e-books, that have a specialised LCD display that is much easier on the eye for low light conditions unlike traditional TFT displays that need a backlight lamp, but Kindle and similar devices are too expensive and use a lot of proprietary (DRMed) different formats for books to come in.

The ‘iTablet’ could well fill this gap. Where as Apple were completely new to the mobile phone market but the snazzy and slick interface of the iPhone and the ability to customise with extra applications really surprised the world. Apple’s tablet device could shock the world again maybe. The chances are it would have a 7” or so screen and use flash ram and maybe just have an SD card slot for quick changeable storage.

Heres an idea, a company I have worked for had a whole room full of Macs used for graphics and publishing team, everyone knows that Macs are the standard for this sort of work, even though all of Adobe’s graphics software is also available for Windows (as far as I am aware) Now, imagine this, an artist needs to do some simple sketching work, or a engineer needs to do some CAD work let say, have a device they can take out onto a site and do the bulk of the sketching using some more simplified versions of typical Adobe or AutoCAD apps. Your typical owner can take it back home and plug it into a dock and use the stylus and use it as a pointing device coupled to a Mac.

There you have it, a product that can be used but some of Apple’s traditional customers in the graphics/creative niche and something that can be used as an ebook reader and for general other domestic uses (music, videos, word processing, browsing when out and about or whatever) by normal consumers.

Now the chances are Apple are waiting until OLED screens (that I think don’t need backlights) and SSD disks which are both are quite expensive to come down next year, to make such a device possible.

By Jonathan Posted in it

prayer around Knesset

In view of the news about Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu appearing to side with the US about stopping building work in some of some of the disputed land, and I forgot to do my one hour prayer slot at work on tuesday, I decided to go prayer walking around the government buildings. I live not far from there but today I thought about taking a different route and went via a main road past one of the museums, after a mile or so I saw some very attractive gardens with neatly trimmed hedges next to the stone perimeter walls of the Knesset and there is a smell of lavender from the bushes, a glimpse of the days of Solomon in some ways. There was a road turning off here directly to the Knesset buildings themselves and approaching some booths with a barrier across the road, seeing a park on the left hand side I was not familiar with I ventured into there. Although its dark and not easy to see, I suddenly saw a family in a tent there, or to be more exact two or three tents with a large canvas over all of them, and a man and his two sons sitting outside. There were various cardboard signs in Hebrew and some in broken English they had been thrown out of their house by the government. I asked the man if he knew English, he called for his son who got his friend from another tent close by who looked about 15. This boy was telling me they had been living here for 2 months as their house was seized without saying any reason why. They didn’t say much why this was, I think they were living before in Jerusalem and not in any of the parts of the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. I asked if maybe I could get someone to interview them as this might made a good story for our magazine, the man said he would be ok with this. I went away sad for them, a little confused of why this community of people were living in a park. I told them Christians would be praying for them.

I went and finished my praying for Mr Netanyahu and the government and headed off back home.

Around the government building and in the hedges I have seen some spools of cassette tape wrapped around trees, I have seen this a fair bit back in Portsmouth, but there’s quite a bit of it around this city, I have been told its some kind of occultic practice, I don’t know who does it, but I always make a point of praying over it and breaking it.

learning experiences

Learning experiences

If anything, my 6 months in Israel is a big learning experience. In many different ways, I am learning the culture here, that people don’t queue for the shops and if the guy in the car in front of you hasnt notice the lights have gone green its quite acceptable to lean on the horn, but also having to expand my technical skillsets with learning how the computer network runs and troubleshooting a dead server at work, and supporting users on Macs something I havent done before. My own laptop keeps overheating, so have several times replaced the fan and put some new thermal paste on the ships but its still not working quite right.

I still havent figured out a way to learn Hebrew yet, as don’t have money to do proper lessons. Its hard shopping when I need a 5 shekel coin to release a trolley and I have to ask someone for change, or looking at items on the shelves which a lot don’t have English labels so I have absolutely no clue what they are.   Would welcome any suggestions on this.   Probably something I could put on my iPodI could listen as it takes me 35 minutes to get to work.

review of Android phone operating system

Playing with Android

Saw recently that Google’s software developers have released a Beta of the up and coming Android operating system for phones. A small number of devices are already on the market with this new platform. This might seem a difficult market to get into with a plethora of handsets already available such as the supremely hip and clever iPhone and the more business preferred Blackberry and of course Microsoft’s Windows Mobile which has been around for many years now.

I decided to play with it. The download is in the form of an ISO image which can be burnt to CD (or there is a USB stick version too.) You have to join the two pieces of the file together first using a free app or with a DOS command.

I used my favourite virtualisation application Virtualbox which I already running Windows 7 and Linux quite happily. So I made a new virtual machine with 256Mb of memory and set the default options, I had to create a hard disk image even though the current beta only runs from CD and doesn’t have a hard disk install option. I then mounted the ISO file and booted it up. The Android logo came up, being a little slow to get going, then I had the desktop with a few icons and signal bar and clock. I couldn’t see the mouse pointer, as it took a few seconds for it to be visible and it moved a little erratic at first, I could then click on the sliding bar to bring up the menu. There’s a fair few bugs, there is no sound, I get an error about 15% of power left (I am on a laptop on mains) and some menus are greyed out. Google are going the laptop development version of this OS on the ever popular Asus EEE mini laptop, as its ideal for small laptops with 7-10 inch screens.

The browser is simple but very nice. I didn’t need to play with any settings, it all worked first time. I could log into my Gmail account and look at Facebook, both obviously different screen formatting, however the screen size seems big and not cramped.

I am big fan of most things Google does, and as they are the biggest commercial backers of free software I think its quite certain this new OS will be a success, not just for phones but for other devices as well, there’s at least 10 different hardware makers committed to developing devices based on it including Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC and Garmin. Non-subsidised handsets with full email and browser capabilities are also expected to be around costing less than US$100 by 2010. This is great as the iPhone is still hugely expensive or require 2 year contract on a hefty monthly tariff.

iPhones are not officially available where I live in Israel, but some people have managed to get them anyhow.

Microsoft made a memo to their employees a little while back that people were not allow to be seen using iPods at their work place (because of their own developed rival Zune player, as yet not seen in Europe) I am sure they wont be happy as Android is expected to take a huge chunk out of the smartphone market that MS have had for years. HTC, one of the biggest backers of Windows mobile are rumoured to be abandoning it altogether for Android.

Too be honest I don’t really get excited about phones, but as of yesterday playing with the newer (0.3) build just released with quite a bit of improvement, and seeing some of my favourite free software such as VLC player, VNC and MAME is available, I am very tempted. I don’t want 3G data access as I don’t want a confusing and possibly hugely expensive 3G contract and would rather just do occasional web browsing or downloads when near a normal wireless point.

I dont get Twitter, I think its boring, but there are numerous free clients to do tweeting for those who like it.

I can just think of this quote from the alien bar from the original Star Wars movie, when thinking about Microsoft’s view of employees other brand items “we dont want your Droids here, they’ll have to stay outside..”

By Jonathan Posted in it

great vs hard things in Israel

Great things in Israel

Biblical places & seeing scriptures in action

Its easy to see places here in the bible like Mount of Olives, the walls of the old city, the way the Jewish people have come back from the four corners of the earth in accordance with scriptures, you only have to look at olive trees in city streets, and iconic sand stone buildings to know this is a special place.

Food

Food is good here, really like Falafels or Shwarama sandwiches.  Don’t think I can go back to normal sandwiches at home now.   I do like getting fresh stuff, fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, cake, etc from the Shuk (open air market)   I also really like meeting up with friends for Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday afternoon) for dinner as everything in the city stops then.

Family life

One of things I like most about Jewish people is they love their families.   Seeing kids with their dads out shopping and out in the park here is something that should be more common place in the UK, instead at home people look at relationships as throw away things that get replaced by something new when they hit a problem.   Here it seems marriage and family life are taken seriously, and there is a strong amount of respect here.  Even yesterday on a Monday evening in the park near my house, I see hundreds of people, families having barbeques and picnics out in the grass.

Low crime

There are house and car break ins sometimes, but assaults or robberies are pretty rare here, except for the occasional pick pockets.  This is a much safer place to live than most cities in the world.  Plus the fact there are soldiers and police, on and off duty making you feel safer.

City life

I like the fact there seems to be lots of live music, comedy clubs, entertainers in the street, also ice cream bars (why don’t we have these in the UK?)   as well as bars and coffee shops, theres always fun places to visit friends.   This is even more so in the more secular city of Tel Aviv.

Scenery

I like the views from the city as Jerusalem in mountainous and you can see from a long way across Mount of Olives or Mount Scopus.

Shopping

Taking a wander round the markets is fun, if you feel brave, you can always barter with the very pushy Arab traders who are hawking T shirts, biblical souvenirs, jewellery and middle east related gifts.

Diversity

Contrary to what you see on the news, (‘apartheid’ and other nonsense attempts to discredit this nation) there is a mutual respect for different ethnic backgrounds and beliefs.  Jewish people comprise of all shades of the skin spectrum, as people have come back from the US, the ex-Soviet states, France, Morocco, Iran, Argentina and many more places, you also have different approaches to Judaism from secular to ultra Orthodox.   Moslem people are treated well as many work for Jewish employers and receive better pay and working conditions than if they work for Palestinian owners.  All road signs, public information, government web sites, etc all have Arabic translations and Russian as well.    I haven’t been to East Jerusalem or any of the Palestinian territories as these are not safe for visitors.

Hard things in Israel

Things are expensive.

Mainly costly probably like the capital of any other country, but food (in normal supermarket) is expensive here.   Bread is normally around 12/13 shekels (#2) here.  Fruit and vegatables are cheap in the market, more so if you get them when they are nearly at the end of the shelf life.

Hebrew language

Its really difficult, I need to investigate some means of getting to grips with learning this.   In a lot of cases people do speak English to some degree.

Political instability

Theres always the worry and threat of terrorism and war, at the same time, protests are quite common with religious groups against homosexual pride events, a recent riot that the police where picking on a woman from the Orthodox community who was accused of child neglect, as well as the frequent heated discussion on land for peace deals and pressure from the EU, UN and the US over land.  Generally you don’t easily wander into things like this they seem to be on the outskirts of town and you are advised to stay away from disturbances.

Smell

This is probably more to do with the extreme heat and scarcity of water, the drains often smell bad, as do rubbish bins out in the streets stink as well as the dozens of stray cats I see in my street.

Traffic

Driving is quite bad here, the fatality rate is about twice what it is in the UK and US.   A lot of cars look heavily dented and scruffy looking.  People often don’t wear seat belt and speak on the phone whilst driving.  If you see someone parking, they nearly always kerb their wheels or mount the pavement.  This seems a thing consistent with all of southern Europe and Mediterranean countries.

cats in the holyland

Cats in the holyland

For some reason, there seems to be lots of stray cats here, saw plenty of them on previous trips here, in the city walls of old Jerusalem, around one of the Roman amphitheatres on the Mediterranean and in a museum near Masada.

Stray cats can serve purposes, to get rid of rats and mice, but often they don’t bother as there are ready stocked dustbins or generous human neighbours around, There’s at least 15 cats in a hundred metre radius of my house, most of them sit in a garden two houses away which seems to have loads of rubbish (and really stinks, as do our drains and rubbish bins with the heat we have) and appears empty. Some of the kittens appear ridiculously cute, the little tiny black one that’s often asleep by my front door appears to have a nasty eye infection. Most of them look a mixture of ginger, tiger stripes and black. I don’t think anyone bothers to get their animals neutered or spayed.

Try and pet one of the adult moggies and you will get a nasty scowl and a paw swiped at you. I dont know if this country has a rabies or other nasty diseases but I think large numbers of feral animals can be a problem and really numbers probably need to controlled a bit, just as national parks in the UK, have to cull excess numbers of horses and deer.

Now, as domestic cats are widely thought to originate from Egypt, I wonder if Moses brought some over to here at some point….

will get back to some more articles soon….