Yad Vashem uses Google to document the holocaust

I have always been a big admirer of Google, they always have exciting projects on the go, I like the fact they are the most innovative company on the planet, driven by creativity, leveraging a vast number of talented people to make all kinds of large records accessible to everyone previously not possible.

One of the ugly sides of the internet is hate groups.  Quite a significant amount of this is antisemitism, and quite a significant portion of antisemitism is holocaust denial.

Google are now inviting those who had family lost or survived the holocaust to submit pictures and data to this site as a big collaborative project, to stop history from being forgotten or revised, especially as the number of people survived this ordeal are getting few.   Google use a fair bit of their own OCR software to turn scanned text into searchable data.


Mount Hermon snow trip: Part 3, Sloping off

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

The ski lift was good fun, I don’t think I have been on one of these before.   I have never been skiing in my life, and despite snow, there isn’t enough to justify a proper skiing season at the moment, even if there were, without sounding like a total wuss, my travel insurance doesn’t cover skiing I don’t think.   Only one of the 4 ski lifts was running, its more of case its fun to come up here and see some scenery that’s very different from the rest of the middle east.

These plastic sledges can be rented from a small shed, but they feel extremely cheaply made, they are highly thin, like the plastic used to make ice cream tubs, and some stress lines I saw in the middle, felt it wasn’t going to last very long, still it was fun to propel down the this short hill.   There was an official looking steward to stop people colliding into each other, and make sure they walk around the side back up the top.

Also at the top was border control.  There is a DMZ (demilitarised zone) in between Syria and Lebanon up here, ie: a gap of land between the borders.   Said a quick hello to the soldiers and asked if it was ok to take pictures.

They seem to oblige 🙂  They might of been more comfortable guarding a base in Eilat maybe though 🙂

Dave decided to build a snowman, and felt that he should have hands free access to a phone 🙂

The cafe has an extra redundant piece of the machinery that operates the ski lift in the cafe as decoration.  It was nice and warm in this cafe, and got some great views from the top of Hermon.

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

12.5mm laptop hard disks not fitting a lot of laptops

My room mate asked me to upgrade his Toshiba Satellite laptop.   Its already quite new and very high spec with 6Gb of memory, Win7-64 and a Bluray drive.   It has 320Gb of disk space which is no longer big enough.   I think he bought it at the end of 2009, since then bigger disks have appeared for laptops.

Being a bit behind in physical form factor and capacity that hard drives in laptops and the heavier USB external drives, only in the last year you can now get 750 Gigabyte and 1 Terabyte disks for laptops.  Trouble is, that these drives are in the fatter 12.5mm format as opposed to 9mm disks in most laptops.   Various Dells and Toshibas in recent years have the hard disk underneath rather than a sideways mounted module which is better.

Picture shown: The battery is an extra large capacity, so the ‘foot’ raises it off the ground a bit.   A) Original 9mm high Hitachi 320Gb disk.   B) New Toshiba branded 12.5mm 1Tb disk. C) The trapdoor panel that will not fit.

Here is the problem:  the 12.5mm 1Tb drive simply does not fit in side this Toshiba.   If I fit it in loosely, gingerly turn it the right way up and power up and put the Toshiba in the BIOS mode, the disk is seen by the computer as you can see from the picture.   To be honest, its only the panel that snaps on the bottom that will not fit closed.   Its not mine, so cutting any bits off is totally out, it does look like only a few small discrete tabs on the hard disk door would need to be removed.   Nor is any bits hanging out a desirable option.   It does very very almost fit.

I bought the Toshiba 1TB 2.5″ hard disk from popular IT retailer DABS, they told me they will not accept it back as I bought it around mid December so I am stuck with it.   This is a bit unfair as they didn’t specify its a taller 12.5mm unit on their web site.

Some Google searches shows there is plenty of compatibility issues with some Dells, HPs and Apple Macbooks.   These drives won’t fit in a Playstation 3 either.

Please Toshiba, (and Dell, HP, Acer, Sony, Apple too)  can you provide some simple info in a chart of which models can use these newer cheap large disks?   All I can say is, do some thorough research if you are tempted by a big hard drive upgrades for your laptop.

Its strange that Toshiba make computers, and make parts, (hard disks, LCD panels, DVD drives)  used in other brand laptops, but my own 2006 model Toshiba Equium A100 has a Panasonic made DVD drive and a Western Digital made hard disk!!

Update:   DABS’ customer service manager let me return it with a 10% handling fee.   I have found a 9mm high 750Gb Seagate 2.5″ drive, so I am going to use this.

Mount Hermon snow trip: Part 2, Snow patrol

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

After much driving up and up, we took a bit of a wrong turn, and saw an Arab town and a military checkpoint ahead, then realised it was a border into Lebanon!  

Note at the time of writing this, the Lebanese government has collapsed, meaning Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation could be filling this gap as they seek to become a satellite post of Iran, threatening Israel even more.   This really needs prayer as this huge worry for Israel, and awful for the Lebanese people as well, this country has one of the largest Arab Christian communities.

We were not in any danger at all, as this checkpoint is well protected, I took this picture of some run down farm buildings out of the window which was close by.

Just a short drive later, we reached Mount Hermon!

Mount Hermon is considered a possible place of the Transfiguration, where Jesus took Peter, James and John up for prayer, and reportedly turned bright white, where he spoke with Moses and Elijah who appeared.  The scriptures reveal it was known as two other names – ‘Sirion’ by the Sidonians; the Amorites call it ‘Senir’.  Deuteronomy 3 : 9

The Bible’s own romantic style book of Song of Solomon mentions it too in versus 4 : 8 and Psalms 89 talks about Mount Hermon giving praises to the Lord too.

Only last friday I had a Shabbat dinner with a couple from my work and they had a bottle of wine the came from this exact part of the country.   After my trip to the Dead Sea which was the lowest place on earth (ie: below sea level)    Hermon is 2,814 metres high.

Once parked and we went through the visitor entrance and a initial bit of childish exploitation of the first glimpse of snow meant a snowball fight, there was some good places to get photos done:-

Woohoo!  all manner of types of military and rescue vehicles for snow use, something most people would think you would never have in Israel…

We were hoping the girls would want a photo of themselves next to some interesting piece of winter military gear here as well, but they chose a giant plastic snowman.  Tsk.

Then off onto the chairlift, yay!!!

This requires the man operating the lift to get you positioned exactly right so quickly sit down and he raises the safety bar down.   Top: someone (probably the boss I guess) has a nice collection of different snow vehicles.   Both pictures: note the strategically placed net, in case you get scooped by the chair lift by accident, or, fall out!

check out www.skihermon.co.il

Next up the slope….

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

As we forgive

Last Thursday, instead of a usual worship and social get together we normally have at my church we watched a movie called ‘As we forgive’.

We saw this film that talks about a large number of murderers where released early from jail in Rwanada where two tribes of people were at war and many people were slaughtered.  The government released these people from prison which caused initial anger and fear from the survivors and families of those lost.

Where as its hard to grasp anyone forgiving someone that was lost in war or terrorism, especially as today I walked past a coffee shop in Hillel Street, and a bakery shop in Jaffa Street that used to be a Sbarro pizza joint – both of these scenes of two tragic suicide bombings that happened in the early 2000s here in Jerusalem.

The film showed rows and rows of skulls and bones on shelves, and talked to murderers all confessed their actions against the families of those who had lost loved ones to killing.   Some of these families amazingly accepted a confession from the killers that were out of prison quite quickly, and some it took several meetings over the space of a few months.

Where as for most people, to forgive someone for the responsibility of a death of a loved one seem enormously hard to comprehend, the point of the movie is about forgiveness can be done with any kind of wrong doing.   This film was really good and I hope it is shown in more churches.


Mount Hermon snow trip: Part 1, go forth north!

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

On Sunday I got up very early to meet with friends to get to the snow capped Mount Hermon.

This place is not so well known by non-Israelis, as its at the very extreme north east corner of country, where the borders are for Lebanon and Syria.

After a not so pleasant start of my phone waking me up at 4am, necessary given the time to get up there, after teetering around my flat to get things together and have breakfast without waking up other room mates, strangely probably because of the weather is quite cold also at this time, I decided to do a fast sprint for no real reason on my bike out of East Tapliyot all the way through central Jerusalem all the way up Jaffa Street to the main Jerusalem Bus Station only took just over 30 minutes, quite amazing consider how slow I normally pedal.

Once off the bus close to Rachel’s house, the sun was just coming up.   This trip came at a good time seeing I was disappointing in not seeing my dad up here and was also concerned about a lot of choices I have to make this year, so this excursion was a welcome change, one of a lot of blessings this week actually, getting over a stupid week-long cold another one, and also once at the bus station finding a coffee shop that was open there was another one.  I was just about to text my friend Dave to see if he was close and he was suddenly in the shop in front of me.

The drive up there is different from previous drives up north I have done.  It involved going back on ourselves to head down towards a bit of the Dead Sea, then up from the West Bank, on a main road that passes through some Palestinian towns, at times running parallel with the Jordanian border as this above picture shows.

As we overtake this Nissan Micra on the motorway, if you look really really carefully on the horizon you can see a faintly see Hermon.  Once you get as far as Tiberias, the white peaks on it start to become prominent.

This drive through a small but friendly Arab village up in the Galilee, we got some directions as we kept going higher and higher.  This town had a couple of interesting bronze statues that looked more like something from native American history I have seen in Arizona that from a Galilee Arab community.

This felt very different from any part of Israel I had been before…

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

Where is home

This week I have been thinking about living in two different places, and how there is a big change in emotions from exiting one and going to another.

Going back to Portsmouth felt very strange, I wasn’t used to colder temperatures, seeing snow, other odd things like seeing much newer cars (Israel has plenty of cars from 1990s and sometimes older)  a few people have left my church and a fair number of new people there.  It was nice to see various different friends, but I didn’t get to see everyone I hoped to see.  It was great to go to a Christmas Eve mass service in Portsmouth Cathedral, also nice to hang out at the legendary Chinese buffet ‘The Water Margin’ at Gunwharf keys with a few other single chaps from church including several gents who are in the navy and are back on shore, from being away in foreign lands.

Back in Israel, in the organisation I work for there are staff from all five continents, I also see Jewish people with almost every skin colour.

Where as in recent times we may have immigrants come in from Asia and East Europe in the southern UK where I am from, this had led to perceptions of British people often anxious about culture changing to suit foreigners at the expense of people born there.

One of my cousins was born in Iran and one in Cameroon, due to overseas work my uncle did, and now today three of my cousins live in Texas, New York and New Zealand.

I think you look back in history very few people live in the same place in their whole life, for instance:-

Charles Dickins: Born Portsmouth, died  Higham, Kent

Albert Einstein: Born in Württemberg, Germany, lived in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany again, died in: New Jersey, USA

Arthur Conan Doyle: Born in Edinburgh, lived in Plymouth, Portsmouth and London, died in Crowborough, East Sussex

Jesus Christ:  Born Bethlehem, grew up Nazareth, died: Jerusalem

Jesus himself said he didn’t have an actual defined home: Matthew 8 : 20Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Sometimes its hard to define where home is.  People often move because of seeking work, getting married, getting education, finding affordable housing or for other reasons.

I am in Israel currently until May when my visa runs out, where as I like volunteering here in Jerusalem, it isn’t home, but on the other hand I may not stay in Portsmouth after that.   Its really hard to figure out what happens when you donate your time to a charity organisation and what to do when your planned commitment comes to an end.   Its only by trusting in the Lord I can get peace of where I will be next.

important anniversaries in 2011

This year marks some interesting anniversaries

10 years since the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington.  Still a terrifying attack which seems so meticulously planned.  No conspiracies just radical Islam who masterminded it.

10th anniversary of Wikipedia the online encyclopedia

marks 10th years of Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system was released.  Still popular and its now Microsoft’s enemy to try and convert everyone to switch to Win7.   Many owners of Vista and 7 based PCs complain they wish they had the speed and simplicity of XP.  It took a while for XP to mature though, it was until several service packs later there was proper firewall, wireless support or use hard disks over 120Gb.  Still the most popular Windows ever, and the longest lived operating system ever I think.  Mac OS X came out a bit before but its changed quite a bit since when going from 10.1 to 10.2 then 10.3 etc, and now Macs have totally different CPU architecture now.

20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is quite a monument where I am, as this meant large numbers of Jews from Russia and ex-Soviet nations could move here. Currently around 15% of Israelis speak Russian.

20 years also since Ethiopian Jews were flown with El-Al airlines from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv, giving them a new home in Israel, following poverty and hardship for the African Jewish community.

Jon’s IT predictions for 2011

In the old days you turned on the Telly and watched Tomorrow’s World for exciting new developments in technology. New gadgets, exciting products that would bring jobs and boost the economy, and revolutionary medicines and treatments for people in hospital.  Sadly a lot of things on TW never got anywhere, and it was a shame the BBC pulled the plug on this show in the 1990s. Pioneering British inventors like Sir Clive Sinclair, and Trevor Bayliss were often featured.

Heres my predictions for changes in the technology world this year:

Buying things online from a mobile device will start to take off, with extra versions of ecommerce sites available made for phones. I can see that you could go to a night club or live music events and buy songs from your mobile device and the venue could promote and take a percentage from buying songs.   Lots of people would be happy to spend on small impulse type purchased inspired by things they see on a billboard or whatever.

Location based mobile applications start to get much bigger.   Clocking in and out of work would be good by GPS.   How about a real life version of the ‘Tron’ lightcycle game (you may know this game as Snake on mobile phones from the 90s) where you can walk or drive around a location against a friend, hitting that invisible line made by your friend means you are dead. I think location based services have a lot of value for businesses to use a clock in type set up for seeing if employers have got in on time, and compliance with fire services. Because of this there are greater security problems with people being careless with keeping their day to day events online, just like there have been burglaries done after victim said they are away on Facebook.

Microsoft will gradually get businesses taking up Windows 7, but for most IT managers its a case of wait and see how someone else gets on, plus there are too many legacy apps that may not work correctly with XP emulation.

Tablet computers will quietly disappear again as they are just novelty devices for web browsing and little else, people will go back to using laptops, the means to use finger gestures to do actions is clever, but with no keyboard, and in the case of iPads with no USB or SD card slots for cheap flash storage, you can only ‘consume’ information and not create it.   Can you imagine people doing serious work that involve typing more than a few sentences?  Tablets would need to be set on a stand to angle them at comfotable angle.   Its really only half a laptop with no means to pivot the screen into a usable way that doesnt bring on neck or back ache.  I think interest in iPads from Apple fans but will start to wane as well.

Google and other search providers will promote statistics. I think people will want to more figures of what’s being searched for and current market trends. Go on Amazon and try and buy a book that out of print or a CD thats been deleted and you have options to buy a second hand one from a third party seller.   Information could be used to tell book publishers and record labels there is demand for certain things no longer available, and thus could justify a new print run.  In 2010 Google (I think) bought about 20-30 start up companies, they will continue to grow massively, they are already looking out for a bigger office for their Israel operations.

Google’s Chromium laptops get canned. There are not cheap enough, and there is too much competition, people are content with their current laptops, and not enough people are using cloud applications yet.   Its a good ideas but the public aren’t ready to give up using localised apps at the moment.  Dumb laptops for cloud only apps could make it in a few years though.

Mozilla, please market Firefox to grown ups like IT managers and persuade them to drop legacy browsers (Internet Explorer)  the current way Firefox is promoted is like a bunch of hippies in a VW bus selling organic soup or something.

Internet service providers should cut off people with severe malware or virus attacks, so should public hotspots, a feature to alert botnet activity or other activity I would expect could be built into enterprise grade wireless routers.

Digital watches with colour screens. Don’t know if they exist yet, but why not? Plug it into the PC and change the numbers fonts style, change the background, put a personal picture as a background screen, just like those LCD picture frames.  I think kids would love them.

Button MP3 players. Heard this on the radio the other day but also seen them online. A button type badge with a self contained MP3 player you pin on your jacket which you attach your headphones. You have a badge with the name of the band you can make a statement about and listen to the album of songs which are fixed on this simple music player. If these could be offered cheaply, they could be a nice way to buy and listen to music and lend them to friends without any legal problems, I think they would also become collectable as small run volumes of certain albums are produced.  Easy to lend them to friends also with no legal issues.  I think its a fab idea, something that would of been great in 1960s if mp3s where around then.

Back in the holy land for 2011

After a 3 week break to see family for Christmas and New Year and see my home church and friends, I am back in my flat in East Talpiyot, south part of Jerusalem, having flown back on tuesday.

The flight was a bit more eventful than I would of liked, once aboard the Easyjet flight in its usual orange livery in Luton, we were advised by the captain that the plane could not take off due to a warning light the advised of a part on the plane that needed to be replaced, at first it was thought that a part could be brought over from Heathrow, after a while we were told this was not possible and that a replacement plane would be here shortly.  However the other plane was smaller and not able to take all of us, so it was back to the lounge and told to wait for the screens to show an announcement.   A refreshment voucher was offered to the value of £3 ($5 or 18 Shekels)  which makes me think that the voucher scheme for delayed passengers appears to be a bit out of touch with inflation, this got me one coffee as another 20p was needed for a packet of salt and vinegar crisps.

It was not until 4 hours later another flight was ready for us taking off at 3.30.   On the flight its quite interesting listening to British Jews speak in Hebrew with an English accent, I forgot my earplugs as I always seem to be sat near screaming children on flights but I did bring an inflatable neck cushion for a bit of a doze on the flight.   It left me some time to pray, as I also forgot where my iPod cable was and there was no chance of any tunes or TV shows as the battery was flat.  When exiting the airport I handed over my passport for examination which after being asked my purpose (volunteering) a couple of times there was a awkward long 2 minutes as the woman checked my details on her computer.

Once on the Sherut (a bright yellow Mercedes 12 seater minibus) it was just an hour or so to get to my flat, which I arrived at about 1.30am IL time.  I wasn’t feeling that tired by the time I got there.

Its freezing here, a different type of chill than the UK, but I am not used to it, I have not experienced Israel in early winter months.  It was cooler in December for sure and until mid-november I was wearing just one shirt.  The downside is my flat like most I see in Jerusalem is made of concrete (with the familiar white stone facade) with no curtains to insulate the windows, only roller blinds.

Yesterday we got some rain, it may of only been for 10 minutes or so before I went to bed yesterday but the metal rails of the balcony of my flat were still wet when I was up the next morning so this is a good thing this country is so desperately in need of.

More articles will be listed soon.