Visit back to the UK – Hindhead tunnel opens

Well, after the end of the summer it was time to have a break and fly back home to the UK It It was time for a well needed break to fly home and see family and church.

Seems quite a bit has changed whilst I have been away, quite a few shops have come and gone, and bits of Portsmouth looked little different in two years I have been mostly away.

On the way home from Luton airport, I saw this:

This was quite exciting, the new tunnel in Hindhead was now open!

Later on, I passed this place a week later, as I was getting a bus up to London.   The usual trip of going from Portsmouth to London Victoria the quickest route is normally 2 hours and 15 minutes, now its 1 hour and 45!

I remember this tunnel was rumoured in the early 1990s, now after something like at least 4 years of construction and £370m later its now working!  Heck in 2003, I did a sales job selling products to people in construction, and this was a juicy deal we wanted to get.

However, the old method of driving through Hindhead has a lot of memories.

One of my close friends lives in Hindhead which is only a few minutes drive east of this junction.

The new tunnel is certainly quicker and convenient, having said that, I quite like driving to the Devil’s Punchbowl in Hindhead.  Its a place I have been walking with my grandparents, there’s some interesting antiques shops by the traffic lights and businesses selling ride on lawnmowers and jacuzzis, and you can stop there to get petrol, so it makes a good halfway point when going to London.  Sadly the Little Chef got flattened and replaced with flats around the late 90s,  the Punchbowl has a place for some epic walks which I have done a few times.

This petrol station is the one and only place where I picked up a hitchhiker who told me he was driving a bus to Glastonbury (or another similar music event) as he worked there with the music industry, and the bus broke down getting him stranded so drove him to Havant.  I kicked myself later for not asking if I could cheekily get some free tickets for an event of some kind.

Driving past this point go round the steep bends is a little scary but fun, there has been quite a few accidents, which means sitting in long traffic sometimes, the sharpness of the bends further on meaning you are constantly changing between 2nd and 3rd gear, and makes it demanding and hard work but enjoyable driving especially with some good tunes in the car.

Photos date from 2009.  Silly Google, why didn’t you get your cars to overtake the blue truck which blocks the whole view of the road? 😀

Just like car ownership hasn’t completely eliminated people like riding horses, in post-volunteering life, when I get a car again and need to go this route, I think I will opt to alternate between the new and the old ways of driving. 🙂

Driving through the town of Hindhead and the old main road with its tight bends and hills is truly made of the stuff good road trips are all about I think 🙂   But heck, the new tunnel may become a legend in its own right, apparently the 1.9 mile stretch is used for people in high performance cars to race at night!

IT support in Israel – replacing fans in PCs

Skip this if you don’t want to read IT repair work,  this is just an example of things I do at my work, that saves us money and time and keeps equipment running longer.

We had this PC that was spare I was going to set up for our personal department, I spend hours getting it ready with Windows XP plus 100+ updates, Adobe Writer, database and another 10 or so specialist apps only to find I got some strange errors when booting it mentioning it had a fan problem.

To my surprise there was actually 4 different fan faults!

  1. The fan in the power supply was wearing out, so for the first 30 minutes until it warms up when you use the computer it sounds like an elderly blender!
  2. On top of the main processor (which is an AMD Athlon 64 3000 chip)   the fan appears to be spinning slower than normal, this is was giving the error upon boot up
  3. Also, the chipset fan, which is a little fan that is integrated into the motherboard was completely dead, not spinning at all.  This was probably causing it to freeze in Windows as well.
  4. Lastly, there is meant to be fan on the back chassis of the PC, this was missing.

I bought this from a local computer shop.  Actually this is the bad one, but you can see this fan has a 4 pin drive connector on these.  I don’t like these at all, this makes the voltage supply to the PC’s hard drive unstable and can cause the hard disk to malfunction, its better to use a fan with a 3 pin connector that plugs into the motherboard, on this one there are two connectors on this PC for this purpose.   I had to look in 4 computer shops around Jerusalem to get these fans, as they had none, or only 1 or 2 in stock!

So, the last standard ATX power supply I bought to fix another PC recently cost us 200 Shekels which I thought was a bit expensive, as it was just a fan failing, I opened up the metal casing of the power supply and snipped the wires on the fan, and as this fan was just an 88mm type unit I snipped the wires on this and twist the wires together and sealed it up with tape – no more grinding from back of this computer.

Now normally the heatsink and fan on top of the AMD Athlon 64 754 type processor you buy as a set, but this type of AMD chip is obsolete and not been made in about 5 years so finding this part could be difficult.   Actually it was easy as the fan was also just an 88mm unit, so just needed to take 4 philips screws out to replace this part.

The motherboard chipset fan was more tricky.   I had to get this part from ebay as its manufactured directly for Asus, the board manufacturer.

As you can see this fan has the plastic fastening bolts off centre and a small two pin wire that feeds back to the main board.

Lastly, I fitted one more 88mm fan on the back panel of the PC.

This is what I got, which was about US$10/£6.50, this meant I had to completely gut the PC and remove all cards and wiring, flip the whole motherboard assembly upside down and squeeze two plastic lugs to free this little fan and fit this new one.

Lastly, the front USB ports had broken off and come loose inside the PC, this happens a lot on poor quality clone PCs, this case I think was one of the ‘medium’ quality ones I have used though.   I used a glue gun (one of those things you push glue sticks in the back)  to fix this back on the inside of the front plastic fascia.   I don’t know how much structural strength this has now, but seem ok at the moment.

All these little repairs have saved me from having to throw the PC out or buy drastically more expensive parts.

For some reason, doing IT support in a hot desert like country like Israel, means with the high amount of dust around, I am often replacing fans on computers of all kinds.   It seems the oil in the motor bearings solidifies causing friction noise when spinning up, this is especially true when a PC hasn’t been switched on in months when introducing a new staff member.

On a typical day I am normally answering calls to the helpdesk, researching on new IT solutions for the future, managing backups, setting up new staff on the servers, fixing staff’s own laptops as well as repairing or replacing failing hardware.

Logmein – IT pros working around the world in fun places

I entered a competition recently, its from a program I use at work called Logmein to connect to my office PC from home, not sure when a prize of some kind will be announced.

The competition was a photo from whilst on holiday where is a good place to work from remotely.

Here I love my job!  I don’t actually have an income, but doing volunteer IT support in Israel has to be one of the best things ever!   Its also interesting to see other IT admins doing their roles from other unusual parts of the world.    In this picture in the top left corner of the screen, I am climbing up the Negev desert close to the Ramon Crater.   I once worked with a chap doing IT for the hospitals, who looked after servers on a cruise liner, so I am curious of what the most fun and unusual IT job there could be.

Tent protest communities in Jerusalem

Last week I was riding my bike past some people camping in the parks here in Jerusalem, as mentioned in the news.

People are camping in tents to protest to the government about the high cost of living in Israel, and people are doing camp-activism all over the country, last month I went to a restaurant with some friends in Tel Aviv and saw two parks with people in dozens of tents there, and at least 4 of the parks here in Jerusalem has the same, this is one of the smaller ones.

There is graffiti on the metal fences that has some building foundations ironically next some newish high end luxury apartments, although building of new apartments and houses seems to be slow progress sometimes, due to either bureaucracy or facing condemnation from outside Israel on deciding whose land it is.

I notice some interesting aspects of this little community, here seems to be a little public lounge for the people here, behind this tree is a shelf full of books and a comfy chair and some shade from the sun…

This tent is made from some kind of wood pulp, I would like to know how they made this!

At the moment, a lot of people are paying 3/4s of their salaries on rent, and nothing much left for anything else, so I can understand people must be very frustrated, and this seems to be a good non destructive way of getting your point across.

Jericho – 5. The tree

After leaving the mount of temptation, we drove past the cable cars that took passengers up From a kilometer away or so, would of been fun to go on these, but the road signs took us to the foot of the cliff.

Back to the town I saw this mosque and church close together:

I was quite excited to visit this next place…

This tree is meant to be the one that Zacchaeus, the tax collector, climbed to see Jesus, as he couldn’t see him through the crowd.

Luke 19: 1  Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

I think its interesting that Jesus asked him quite bluntly that he needed to stay at his house that night, where as in the culture of the UK, we would probably feel more embarrased about having to ask someone we had only just met if we could stay over at short notice.   Here in the middle east, hospitality is such an important thing.

Theres no guarantee on the authenticity of this place, its interesting that the tree is burnt from being struck by lightening at some point.

The tree is well protected by these railings and there is no way to get right up to it, let alone use it as a place to see someone speaking in a crowded in a public place.   It does seem like a good place to imagine Jesus speaking in a prominant part of city though.

My friend didn’t buy this scarf in the end, the man selling them, taking our picture wanted too much for it, and these Palestinian scarves were made famous by Yasser Arafat, so not really someone in history that should be remembered fondly.

This was the last place in our brief day trip to Jericho is we went back to the hotel and showered and went out to church.

Sadly I didn’t get to see any traces of history of Jericho’s old city walls or inhabitants, seems this was on the other side of town.   Never mind I think I will be back here again.

1. Crossing into the oldest city in the world2. Jericho’s town centre3. Church on the cliff4. View of Jericho’s plain –  5. The tree