Build your own external USB hard disk

I got this parcel in the post today 🙂  Actually I got three as I ordered some new cables for our projector at work as well.

This item I got off ebay, its a USB external hard disk enclosure, what this means is its an external hard disk without the real hard disk inside.

I upgraded a friend’s laptop from 80gb to 250Gb recently (bought the new drive in the UK and took on the plane with me)  and now the old 80 Gigabyte unit is surplus and I was wondering what to do with it, although its a bit small its still useful for plenty of things.

Hard disks come in about 4 varieties, 3.5 inch (for desktop PCs) and 2.5 inch (for laptops) and also IDE (has two long rows of pins) and SATA (two small slightly different shaped block connectors)  This one is a 2.5″ SATA, this is good as its small and does not need its own power supply.

The USB enclosure I got is like this one.   As it came from Hong Kong directly from the factory, these things are stupidly cheap, 99p plus 1.50 postage.  There are quite a few sellers on ebay that sell small gadgety things (where postage for size of the item is practical) directly from China or Hong Kong, some of them are obviously junk and some are good.  Some are just the OEM (original equipment manufacturer, factory who make stuff on behalf of bigger companies – I have ordered a genuine power supply for an Acer laptop this week)  who can sell stuff for fraction of what you would get from a western retailer.   I would definitely avoid USB memory sticks as there is a ton of fake ones with brand name of good companies like Sandisk or Kingston and these ones I have seen are unreliable.   I decided to take a chance on this, I guess its like an online version of Poundland, except stuff takes about 2 weeks to get here (UK or Israel) from Asia.

Don’t forget if you are an ebay user from the UK (or shop in 100 odd other retailers) make sure you buy via TopCashback which I blogged on before as you can get a little bit of money back later on for free with no commitment.

Once opening it up, it even comes with a cable and little drawstring bag – and, fans of flat pack furniture will note a tiny screw driver, and some very tiny spectacle sized philips screws.

So I assembled the Toshiba 80gb drive in the little box, and just needed to snap the slim circuit board on which does the job of converting the signal into regular USB connection.

Once assembled, I plugged it in and tried it out, all working fine, just as good as a ready made unit.

This is quite an easy and fun way of reusing a spare hard disk and easy to do with no real technical knowledge, other than needing to make sure the case is the right size and interface your drive has.

recent demonstration of 100,000 Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem

Over a week ago, you may have seen in the news plans for demonstration in the city centre from around 100,000 religious Orthodox Jews who were upset about their children being taught with secular Israelis in schools.  I don’t really know the full details of this, but we were asked by my work to be called into the main reception area to be be told to grab our things and go home for the day as there was a possibility this demonstration could turn violent, we just did a quick prayer that the demonstration would just be done and dusted without any problems.   This was a bit annoying as well I wasn’t be able to go to worship event at my church that evening, as the demonstration would of gone on till midnight and is in the main streets where I cycle through to church.

The Haredi (ultra Orthodox) communities often have demonstrations, since I have been here there have been one concerning a woman accused of abusing a child (the religious thought the police were ganging up on them) and other cases its usually they are complaining that the government are being too secular.   On one of the occasions a police car was torched and people were hurt.  But thankfully that thursday went peacefully.

The rest of Israeli society may get annoyed at the Orthodox people as lot of them do not work (just study Torah and religious books) or join the military, although in recent years there are more in the army.

There are many different facets to the frequently spiritually stormy atmosphere here.   Another reason to quote Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Psalm 122 : 6.

Buying postage online

One way I have provided some funds for my travels here in Israel is to sell some unwanted old computer parts on ebay.  Normally its a lot of effort to package up things, especially as bubblewrap is expensive and finding the right sized boxes for things can be tricky.

Anyway I wrapped a selection of things I wanted to sell, and took some photos of the items before hand so I could list them later.  What I discovered is ebay now have a feature where you can buy postage online with the UK’s Royal Mail.   It works like this, just put in the weight in kilos (slightly confusingly it asks you in Kilos, so remember to write 200gms as 0.2Kgs)  then a neatly printed label with a bar code showing postage is paid for is done ready to put on the package.   The cost is simply deducted from your Paypal account for exact cost of delivery with no extra fee.   You also have to bear in mind if you item is a ‘large letter’  or ‘small packet’ (<2Kgs) or regular parcel.  This is usually done with the plastic letterbox thing on Post Office counters to ensure you pay the correct tariff for the items physical shape as well as weight.  The software is designed by Pitney Bowes, a company that have made weighing and postage systems for decades now.

I think this service has been around for maybe a couple of years now, but have only starting using it at the beginning of this year, as its often a pain to have to spend your whole lunch break at the post office waiting around.

Take buying car tax.   Buying car tax can now only be done at a main post office, and you have to have your MOT certificate and insurance papers to get an expensive circular ticket that says you can drive on Her Majesty’s highways.  Because your car tax runs out at the end of the month, you go to the main city post office and about one twelfth of the motoring population are there as well having to renew their car tax.   Its a bit like astrology (which I think is wrong as a Christian, but thats another story) that there are 12 different types of people.  Which is why its better to simply buy it online now.

But anyways its really handy being about to send small packages without waiting in the post office.  Print label, stick it on and shove it through the letter box.

Also this service can be made even more easier for me, here in Israel by using a simple PDF creation app.  I like DoPDF, its free and makes a printer driver, so you print from any app to this as if it was a printer and instead it makes a PDF file.   So where as the Royal Mail insists you print the label out there and then, you can simply print to PDF, and I email it as an attachment to family at home to print out and stick on.

Where as I haven’t checked with the Royal Mail’s terms and conditions online to see if this is totally ok with them (the label should be fixed on the package and sent off in about 24-48 hours) – This nice set up surely has the potential for businesses to do ‘drop shipping‘ – buying goods and reselling them to someone else without have the goods on your premises.  Would be interesting to see who is already using this.

Sderot in Israel, Gaza’s nextdoor neighbour

Where as Gaza is getting plenty of attention in the news of late, there isn’t so much sympathy for the people of Sderot, an otherwise seemingly quiet town with neat gardens at the side of the roads but has to put up with regular Katusha rocket fire from terrorists in Gaza.

Meaning Boulevard in Hebrew, Sderot is a place I visited last September during my first season in Israel, not part of my normal job, but when given the chance to go there I thought it would be interesting to see a place closer to conflict than Jerusalem and to see things as they really are without the aid of television or internet.

Getting there we would be met by a local man who is actually in British but has lived in Israel for 30 years and in Sderot for most of that time.   He played this audio track of some wailing on his mobile phone, this was the sound to expect if there was a rocket attack, when this happens the people in this town have 15 seconds only to get to a bomb shelter.   People are allowed to drive their cars without seatbelts in Sderot to give them a chance to get out and run to a shelter (on bus stops) next to a street if necessary.

Outside the police station here in Sderot, most of the rockets are collected and are on display for people to see.   A lot of these are thought to have been manufactured in Iran.  There are some larger more sophisticated ones which have hit a large radius like the neighbouring cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.  Without adequate security around Gaza, much more powerful weapons would get in (and probably do through the tunnels) and threaten the whole country and could hit Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, which is why roadblocks and strict inspection of trucks is a very necessary business.

Here this town is otherwise very pleasant and clean looking place, the regular threats seem to give people a more community spirit I guess.

This a typical bomb shelter, a public one.   Some of these you see attached to peoples houses as a home improvement, not unlike people getting a conservatory built back in the UK.

Because of the regular attacks here, although deaths or serious injuries from rockets do happen but not that often, children cannot sleep in fear, and mental health disorders are common, as well damage to people’s houses and cars.  Unemployment is high here, but no Olympic sized swimming pools or fancy restaurants which Gaza has.

The Katuysha rockets are fairly crude by modern day weapons  in the fact they are not accurate, and so fired indiscriminately not at a specific target like a military installation.  In fact we were told that often the most common time the rockets happen is during children going to or from school.   At least a basketball ground here as a concrete roof on top, just like this school here on the left.

Our aim was to help decorate some peoples houses here and as Christians show love to this neglected community.  The first people we helped was a large static caravan which was on a farm which was in quite poor condition which we painted up.   The next was for a young Orthodox man who was about the same age as me and was disabled, we painted and plastered his house.  I got a chance to learn and practice plastering holes in walls which is quite fun and easy once you get used to it.  Later once we finished painting, we got a chance to watch a movie ‘Don’t mess with the Zohan‘ a comedy filmed in Israel starring Adam Sandler.

Without being hasty and under the expertise of our local friend, he took us out in his car up to the border with Gaza, this was a very interesting visit that no normal tourist would ever get to see.

Here there is a small military base to watch for rockets and other terrorist activity.  A small blimp (Zeppelin type balloon, not pictured) is up high tethered to the ground, this is not manned but has a camera and solider on the ground is alerted if a rocket is fired and the alarm is sounded to warn the people in the town.  On the right is an interesting peace monument (sorry I can’t remember who provided it) in the form of a musical instrument.  The buildings in the background is Gaza.  There is also a water reservoir close by.

Really no community in the world would ever put up with rockets fired on them regularly over the last few years, I think Israel shows a lot more restraint that many other nations would if treated like this.

If you lived or been to my home city of Portsmouth UK, Sderot and the Gaza strip are as close together a Gunwharf Quays and Gosport, this is less than a mile in between.

Before we went home on the last day, the man we stayed with took us out for a meal in a restaurant on the pier on the nearby biblical city of Ashkelon.

This was an interesting weekend and I would like to do it again sometime this year maybe.

As this is a sensitive subject please note hateful or provocative comments will be deleted and reported.

At work, the Talpiyot food bank team, replacing LCD screen on Acer Travelmate laptop

Work has been busy this week, actually I am not often not busy, but had some trouble with a PC that sits in the Talpiyot food bank that is supposed to back up everything off servers, this essential running box was showed as off on my Spiceworks console, and after I went over and replaced the power supply, the next day it did it again.  The PC had to be replaced and took good few hours to get it running the same.

Talking of such, its been very very hot in Jerusalem, temperatures have been up to 37c (thats 100F)  so cycling 4 miles to the office in scorching heat is pretty tiring!

Other things I had to do with to set up new members of staff, get a Russian speaking colleague who is based in Karmiel access to a database, he works with immigrants from Russia and ex-Soviet states who live in the north.

But as well as this I managed to put a new screen in a friend’s (ie: not one my work’s assets) laptop.  This Acer Travelmate laptop had liquid that got in the LCD from an accident with some olive oil, great for your health but not for laptops, the screen works just has some weird blobs in between the layers of thin plastic inside the screen, this would eventually cause the LCD to fail altogether as they are fragile.   When I went back to the UK I ordered a new LCD display and carried it in a box on the plane, so I was a little nervous that this part was all right, it cost me UK£70 ($100) from a specialist laptop spares company in the UK….

Out come the little rubber pads on the screen fascia.  Then take out all four screws.  Gently prise and flex the screen fascia out, the old LCD is freed from taking out 4 tiny screws from the long steel hinges that give the top section rigidity and also double up as antennae for the wireless card, then the screen can put flat down has the ribbon cable disconnected and two little wires from the inverter that supplies voltage to the screen.  The new screen is put in its place and I put the screws in loosely and tighten them up one at a time, as it needs to be jiggled a bit into place….

Hooray it works!!!  The volunteer who asked me to fix this gave me a bit of extra money which paid for my Dead Sea trip before I went away, so it was a blessing I could get this fixed for her, and she could provide me with means to do some exploring I did with friends at a weekend a month ago.

The IT workshop has three desks and half a dozen PCs as this room has our database expert (Gilad) sat here, we also had Shirley our American-Chinese IT specialist who took care of a lot of problems at this site, but she has left now (we miss you, come back soon!!) and there is a bench with lot of stuff in pieces to be rebuilt and put back into service.  At my main desk in headquarters I just have one PC and few spare parts and a server room I look after…

There is another Acer on the pile of PCs in the background, this has a full hard disk and need some software tweaking to fix it. (change data around the two partitions on it)   I am going to order a new power supply for this as the one the volunteer as its a bit unreliable and held together with tape.

The food bank floor team are having a bit of cake and ice cream after lunch (why I look forward to site visits there)  but don’t let this deceive you, this team work very hard hauling food onto pallets, several tons a day that are shipped to some of the most poorest and needy Jewish people in Jerusalem.  People do come and go fairly often, as people come to the end of their commitment is always sad.   Here you can see these pictures shows staff ranges from the US, South Africa, Japan and Finland.   We have had people here from every continent.

Overall this week has been extra busy, but got most things done I needed to do and it has been fun.

Journey to the Red Sea – part seven; day at the camp


Ok, after a very long wait, here is another day in my trip around the Red Sea over to Jordan….

Once at Wadi Rum camp, the scenery was beautiful but perhaps not quite as amazing as Petra.   The places consists of wide open desert plains with rocks hills around the edges, often providing convenient caves as dwellings for people.  Often the rock formations were quite abstract in appearance looking like Swiss cheese.

These ancient writings are pretty cool, but when our tour guides (asked my an enthusiastic Brazilian chap who had a keen interest in geology) were asked about the markings, how old they were etc, they didn’t really know much.

Below the narrow walkways through dried up waterfalls were pretty nice.

At the end of tour, we got the chance to see this quite amazing (and famous if I could remember what it was called) huge rock formation.  I got to stand up here, its quite easy to climb up the side.

Sorry a lot of these pics were done on my phone as my camera was dying a death…

Me and the two Swedish lads sat on top of the pile of rocks and watched the sun go down.   After then mainly just sat around discussing places we had just come from, Jerusalem, Sinai, Cairo, Damascus, etc.

Here at this camp, a handful of tents and simple brick built buildings complimented the caves, which were mainly for storing supplies and tools.

There was a brick built bathroom block, some tents, and pipe and plumbing systems are seen to be channeling from up on top of some rocks where some kind of water cistern is housed.

The construction of the tents is very interesting, they are built as an almost permanent residence.   Here you can see that there is a concrete block base and and a painted rigid steel frame which has the canvas stretched out over the top.  Gives the whole thing quite a robust structure and probably doesn’t need too much maintenance.

By then we were all quite hungry, but didn’t see an obvious sign of a kitchen.  After a while Zadane the boss, standing very tall with his traditional Arab head dress called us outside.   I wasn’t expecting this part.

Two of the other Arab men got out a couple of spades and dampened out the fire by hitting it and scraping over the sand before digging it up until something metal was found.  It looked like a large upside down bucket.  Next they took the metal object out of the ground with a pole and put by the side of the hole.   Then a lid of the thing was opened.  Inside was our dinner, after the lid was taken off there was what looked like a very large old fashioned cake stand, and several whole chickens and some vegetables wrapped in tin foil had been cooking all day underneath the fire.   A totally unique method of cooking I have never seen before.

So we got to eat Bedouin style in another tent with tables a few inches of the ground sitting on some cushions.  We were all well fed after this, then we got to play card games and some of the tour guides played up some music on Arab style guitar.   The two Swedish guys who liked heavy metal did try playing a few chords of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ which was quite amusing.   We also got chatting to a young girl whose nickname was Josiah (but her name was actually Tan) from the US who had Indian background who was working for the Jordanian tour company, cleaning, cooking and admin work.  Have to be hugely amazed how brave she was doing this on her own in a place where roles for men and women seem a world away from western culture, she was fun to chat too and was working in different countries and earning money to get a flight to the next part of her adventure.  Earlier in the day, there was another woman (from the Netherlands) who told me she was working for the same place but had just quit as she didn’t get on with the staff, understandable I guess.

After sleeping in a wonderfully comfortable bed in large tent with about 8 other people, I had to get up early (7 I think)  to get back on the jeeps to the village where the tour company’s office was where we could get a taxi back to the town of Aqaba, close towards the border of Israel.   This time I got to share with two Japanese guys thankfully making my journey much cheaper, and just as I had prayed, I had just enough money to get back to the border.

I was quite glad to be back in Eretz Israel now, going back through the Yitzak Rabin crossing is a bit odd.  I had to pay for my stamp to go back through and in true Israeli security fashion, they put my bag through the xray machine three times, asked me who I met and where I went.  One these bits were done there were some very dated pictures in the building of Yitzak Rabin (assassinated in 1995) with Bill Clinton and Yassa Arafat all smiling in some large photos on the wall on the way out.   How things change a lot in 15 years in the middle east…

It was back to the Shelter youth hostel overlooking the beautiful Red Sea, I was in for a whole lot of more surprises later….


Potato batteries

You have probably heard of lemons being used to run simple digital watches back in 1980s, fun but probably no real life use for citrus fruits as means to run gadgets.

But today in seems vegetables have uses instead, this time for lighting (LED technologies have massively get better in last couple of years)

Perfect for developing nations where batteries are scarce and expensive, not to mention poisonous at the end of the lifespan, and yes its those darned clever Israelis again that came up with the idea of using the humble spud.

The article doesn’t say when your potatoes need to be changed, or if when they grow shoots if that affects their performance though.  Imagine this conversation one day:  “Hello, yeah, er I can I call you back in a couple of hours, phone battery is dying and I need to get a kilo of King Edwards from the market, speak at 9pm mate, bye”

Updated donations page

Just added a new link on the right hand side called Donate / costs.

From there you can make a donation to me or look at my living costs and what I need to live on to be able volunteer in Jerusalem.

On there check out the bottom tabs marked ‘Main / Figures’

I live on about £500 a month, everything else is out of my pocket, I am urgently needing to get sponsorship or donations of any kind, as I am struggling way below the amounts I was hoping to get.

All donations will be listed on there, and I will give an email of thanks.  I will list each one anonymously unless you want to tell me your name.  Of course I am very happy mention your business or organisation if you like.  Or maybe I could wear a Tshirt with some kind of advert of your business (something not political) when I am out and about perhaps.

thank you / תודה רבה (toder b’vukasha)

Google Documents and cloud computing

Warning geek stuff, skip this if email and web apps are not your thing 🙂

The big trend these days is cloud computing, a buzzword talked about a lot by IT managers and vendors of IT services alike.  Looking after servers isnt a nice task, as the average IT administrator worries about possible threats (electricity fails, overheating, unauthorised persons get into the room, hackers, making sure backups are done, hardware failure, fires or floods) that could take those servers offline.

Cloud computing, is just a term for putting all your data on a server managed elsewhere, by a dedicated hosting company, they keep all the servers in a nice safe purposed designed building that should be looked after by specialists, has power protection and back ups of all the data in case of a physical hardware failure causing files to be lost.  It makes more sense to do it this way and takes a huge burden off the IT team.

Google is the biggest supplier of cloud services in the world, as well as a lot of their services are free.   Instead of buying the server hardware, pay for the server operating system (ie: Windows Server 2008) and mail management system (Exchange 2010)  the organisation I work for just have Google do all of the work of hosting the mail for us.

I started using a normal version of Gmail for my own personal use about 7 years ago and have not looked back.   Now Google do a business version of this which is more or less the same, you get to assign a domain name and the IT person in the company has a admin console which they can add, change, suspend or delete accounts, just a few minutes work to add a new member of staff.

For the free package you have 500 mail accounts and 7Gb of email per person.  The most one of our staff has used in 55%.  Support is not included, get an issue and you are on your own searching to find out what is wrong, alternatively the paid accounts have 24 hour telephone support.   Obviously Google use their hugely successful adverts to get revenue from the free accounts.

Last week I moved over four of our users off an old POP3 (term for mail account provided from a specific mail account, (in UK: Orange/Wannado/Freeserve, Talktalk, Tiscali, AOL, Virgin, BTconnect, in Israel: Walla, Netvision, Bezeq etc)  to one hosted by Gmail.   This has a great many benefits, the mail is stored on Google’s servers and not onto your own computers, so a hard disk fails on your computer, you will not lose everything.  I could copy everything of the POP3 mail account to Gmail using some free dedicated tools that did all the hard work provided by Google.  Calenders and address books are all copied over too.   Now the staff can work anywhere (if they are ill or on holiday they can work from home)  or on a mobile device.

But as well as a huge and free mail systems, Google are heading for a showdown with Microsoft to not only steal people away from Outlook for email, but from Word and Excel as well.

I rarely use Word and Excel now, and like the idea of writing documents, drafts for my blog, to do lists, documentation for work with Google Documents and get at it from any computer anywhere on the internet.

Its still needs a bit of time to mature I think as a substitute for Microsoft’s Word and Excel, but Google Apps is indeed a jolly good package of web based apps you can use anywhere.

Being able to collaborate on a single document amongst a team of people, gives you some big advantages if say, a technical manual, Bob can edit the first few pages and Gary and put in an index at the end.  This can speed up working on large more complex documents, rather than have email attachments to and fro and worry about who has the most recent copy of a document, when instead its stored in one central place and everyone can get at it.

Possible limitations and issues.

Gmail does not support sending or receiving read receipts.  Outlook has a feature when sending a mail which is important to force the user to send an acknowledgment they got it.

Clicking on an email link on a web site does not have a way of opening a new tab in your browser to send a mail to that link.  Instead you are likely to get crummy old Outlook Express or Outlook (even if not configured to persuade you send mail that way.   I think this could be fixable with an extension for Firefox or Chrome.

The British spell checker extension for Firefox only intermittently works.  (Although seems to want to force me to use American spelling!)

The word processor app has the text cursor disappear sometimes, not sure why.  Means I can still type ok.

Google Spreadsheets doesn’t allow text put in cells (especially when writing titles at the top of a sheet) to flow over to the next cell like Excel does.  There is got to be a simple way around this I am sure, I just need to read up on this some point.

Software update roll outs

In the world of traditional locally installed software, no IT administrator worth his salt rolls out an update for a software package in a live commercial environment without testing if first.  Small discrete changes in a new app can break functionality in a business’s own set up, and can be hugely difficult to track down.

Therefore with software offered as a service, a current version and new version should be running in tandem in order for people to test and make sure it all works correctly as well as letting users familiarising themselves with it.  Users get upset if things get changed around unexpectedly.

So when improvements are announced, I am hoping Google can let us try the new versions a little at a time to make sure there are no compatibility problems.

We had some headaches with our users trying to add attachments to emails once, this issue was the same on PCs and Macs, IE, Firefox or Chrome.   Searched the web for a solution.  Nothing.  Possibly bug that Google hasn’t owned up to, or issue with Israel hosted Gmail accounts maybe.

Security and accountability

When I left Israel before, my administrator rights over my Google Apps got revoked suddenly.  The rest of my team did not disable my account.

It turns out this is a security feature as (it would seem) when I was trying to access my account back on a UK IP address (instead of a Israel IP) flagged this as suspicious activity.   I guess this is a good idea, but it would of been nice for my colleagues to get some warning of this to work out why.

One of email accounts on our systems disappeared suddenly.  I had been deleting some redundant accounts the week before.  I thought I had double checked everything very carefully, but it might of been my fault.

Therefore, a status windows of recent activity I think is really in order.   I am going to imagine that a fictional company called Freds Tropical Fish has three IT administrators called Bob, Gary and Sheila.  This week Sheila is newly hired so her colleagues create her on the system.

1.45 17/6/10 Bob has created user –
4.24 16/6/10 Sheila has deleted –               [undo]
9.28 14/6/10 Gary has given user –   – admin rights
9.14 14/6/10 Gary has created user –

Really just a box with recent activity is needed, then I know if its my fault I deserve to getting a kicking for deleting something by accident 🙂

Google being the largest player of Cloud services in the world ought to have another impartial organisation just arbitrate over privacy and security, following a scare over Google’s camera cars that took the streemap pictures were also listening in on people’s wireless networks, Google said they apologised and they weren’t supposed to be recording this particular information.

With its world leading infastructure and rumours that the NHS could store patient records there, this could be physically possible, but some kind of trusted third party authority to make sure data is held securely there would give people peace of mind.


I would like to see some actual site Google can show how their system fails-over in the event of a outage at one it data centres.  I am assuming there is plenty of co-location (ie: my files are hosted in two different physical locations)  in case of something severe, lets say a fire broke out affecting a server.

Hey Google, you could even use Google Maps with pins to show where your data centres with pins showing, with live stats of any possible issues and what the procedure is for fail-over if one of those has an outage.

This is particularly worth thinking about in Israel where there is always the threat of war.

3G mobile support

If a user is on a laptop out in the field away from a regular network connection, they maybe on a 3G cellular modem.  These things can be expensive offering pay per megabyte metered usage.  Here network connection should be done in such a way to only use a small measured amount of bandwidth as and when necessary and caching the work locally on the PC’s hard disk.

I have a friend who does support in South Africa where domestic broadband availability is a rarity and expensive, this would be useful for him.


Google admitted there was a security vulnerability. If they are honest about it and takes steps to fix it swiftly then this is fine, all software has security holes which need to have updates put on regularly.

Training and online help

This is probably the most tricky aspect of the whole thing is getting users familiar with using it.

Here is some ideas.

Microsoft put a nice thoughtful bit of assistance for their users moving up from a rival product.

Look at Microsoft’s Word and you can see help for those used to using Word Perfect which was a popular word processor in the 1990s.

With the older versions of Excel, (sorry don’t have a picture) you can see what to learn for users that were on Lotus 123.

Mozilla does this with Firefox too. 🙂

So, Google could offer some help that shows a list of shortcuts of what user may need to get used to when changing from Microsoft Office.

Overall I am very happy with the way Google documents/apps works, ease of merging in old mail accounts from another provider and look forward to when new features and improvements are released, there is growing better integration with things like maps and language translation as well which are enormously useful too.  I like the fact if your wireless drops on your laptop, its not an issue as a document is saved every one minute or so, so it should be safe in the event of loss of network connection, or the PC crashes or loses power.

Bridgend > Heathrow > Budapest > Tel Aviv > Jerusalem = one heck of a long day….

Due to some major problems with my flight, I was now going back to Israel via Budapest.  Sometimes this can take some thinking, lots of Eastern European capitals start with B for some reason.  Budapest, Bucharest, Bratislava, Belgrade, etc.  But I have not been to Hungary, I did IT support some software engineers who worked for Ericsson in Hungary last year though.  Unusually enough some friends from Finland tell me there language (which is nothing like Danish, Norwegian or Swedish) is closer to Hungarian than anything else.  I also have an Aunt who is a Hungarian Jew who is a holocaust survivor.

The flight was with Malev, Hungary’s national airline, although the first part of the journey was from Heathrow to Budapest with British Airways, its nice not to being flying with a budget airline and get the perks like a decent sandwich and drinks on this fairly short flight.

If you are hungry in Hungary, I got this unusual pancake (ham, egg and lots mustard) from the cafe in the airport which with a coffee cost me 7 Euros, a lot but I didn’t get any Hungarian (no I can’t remember what their currency was without looking on the web 🙂 ) money out, as this was a last minute trip.  This stop over was about 6 hours, I did get a chance to leave the airport, and just saw a car park and a half finished building site, as I didn’t know how far away the city centre was, I decided just to stay put and sleep.   At least unlike the cruel designers of UK airports who make the seats so you can’t lie down on them, here in Budapest there are no rests on the seats so sleeping is quite comfortable.   There were of course people crowded round a TV watching the world cup also.  Outside it seems that gone are the days of old eastern bloc vehicles I saw when I went to Poland years ago, the Hungarians drive modern Skodas, Renaults, Opels and Mercedes.

Lastly, I maybe did get one glimpse of a nice part of Budapest, from the window of the plane.  I am pretty sure that this is the river Danube. 🙂

The last part of the trip back was fairly uneventful, but touching down in Tel Aviv was nearly 4am, and once on a Sherut I headed back in my flat in Jerusalem at 6am, meant I had been travelling about for close to 24 hours.