IT work in Jerusalem in August

This week work has been busy.

Fans.  Cooling fans in PCs in hot countries wear out a lot.  I changed one on my manager’s PC, the blades simply get stuck and won’t turn.  It seems the oil in the motor bearings gets gunged up and simply won’t turn any more.   I must of changed 15+ fans on PCs in the last year, on the CPU, power supply, chassis, video cards and one laptop as well.  Most of the time this is a off the shelf part and cheap and easy to replace bit.  In one case a fan on a motherboard chipset was a weird one and the only place I could get one (£7) was off ebay.  Well it seemed a shame to throw away an otherwise working motherboard, this fan came all the way from China and took 2 weeks to get here.  I swapped over the user with another PC straight away, so when this part arrived the PC was sitting on a bench to be fixed and then could be put back into a service for a new member of staff a month later.   Now the fan on my own office PC has packed in, so I will need to get another.  Normally they start making grinding noises, but this one has just stopped altogether.

I am making plans to virtualise a server used for our finance applications, as it seems quite awkward to manage it, and I have a feeling one of the hard disks in the RAID array is failing, so this will be done as an out of hours job, hopefully if everything goes to plan I only need 30 minutes in the office, the rest I can do by remote software from a coffee shop with laptop and wireless, the real pain with this kind of upgrade is waiting,  a trial run of this type of upgrade took 6 hours to copy files using Norton Ghost from the server to an extra hard disk.   Strip out all the hanging around and the job shouldn’t take more than one hour.

I got to go out and hand over one of the older computers I wrote on not long ago to a local family just a mile or so from our headquarters.

The girls seem to be pleased with their new acquisition.  After this, I got to spend the rest of the afternoon helping our Korean colleague Jey with his deliveries to the poor from the food bank.   Driving to various apartments of needy families with food was interesting as this took us over the north part of Jerusalem through a nice forest and places I have not seen before. Jey walks quite fast between the van and the apartments as he has to do a lot of drops and time is quite tight.

At least 3 of the people we visited were elderly holocaust survivors, a few having some full time carers staying with them who usually of Thai or Filipino origin who I see quite a lot in caring and nursing roles here.   One of the older gents who was 82 and originally from Poland invited us in and offered orange juice and cake and told us jokes and told us stories about he used to sing in his synagogue when he was younger.  This was a nice afternoon out of the office.

Rebuilding an Arabic PC

Work today was good, got quite a lots done, a computer came in from a friend of staff member, an Arab family who the computer is used by their son.  A very badly dented case with the drive bay covers partly fallen off and a CD drive that was stuck.  Windows XP would not boot, and safe mode, and last known good configuration, and even a repair install from my XP CD would not get it working.

Tried some new tactics which worked quite well to rescue this reasonable spec Athlon 64 PC to remove it from an impossibly tangled up operating system which rendered it completely useless.

Using one of my favourite tools, Hirens boot CD (currently on version 10.2) is my preferred Swiss army knife of dozens of software tools to do all kinds of fixing work.  Some of these apps boot from DOS or from a live version of Windows which starts without touching any of the files of the hard disk of the computer on the bench being tested.  Here I used a tool which scans the hard disk for licence keys for Windows and Microsoft Office.  Here I could find these and write them down on a bit of paper.  Here in the middle east software and DVD piracy is rampant but its not my place to accuse someone breaching a licence of software.  Here this process lets me find the key of the software off the non-bootable hard disk of the computer and keep it safe for re-installation using my own set of media, using their key.

I took a spare 80gb hard disk off my shelf of spare parts, and disconnected the drive from the computer and rested the spare drive on the sideways-turned tower unit of the PC, and set about a fresh install of Windows.  Here I am using XP with Service Pack 3 merged in, after the usual 45 minutes, XP is running and I get the hardware drivers of the web site of the PC board manufacturer.  Then (with no live connection to the internet yet) I put on IE8, and Adobe Acrobat reader, I put in the network connection and put on the free AVG 9 antivirus.  Then I go about putting on all the Windows updates, theres a lot of them, so I can leave it for an hour and continue closing some helpdesk calls, fixing a loud fan on my Talpiyot office PC, checking the network, and also doing face to face support with the users at this site.

Later on, I set up the original (only 10gb) hard disk as a secondary drive and search it for viruses and spyware.  It came up completely clean. Office 2003 got installed with the previously written down licence key.

Next was to copy each of the files of the three user profiles onto the new install of XP from the old installation, all office files, photos and music, browser favourites, etc.  I have done this quite a bit in my old job and is quite easy.  However the profile names are in Arabic which I don’t speak.  But I can use F2 to rename it, but instead of renaming, I copied the highlighted Arabic script to make some new profile names.   Under the language set up in Windows XP I already have Hebrew and Arabic as well as US English, so its easy to change the keyboard layout to either of these three.

Incidentally a new challenge I found was Windows XP language set up shows multiple variations of Arabic, for various nations such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, etc, as there is no option for Israeli or Palestinian Arabic, I chose Jordanian Arabic I guess would be the closest.

Now all the files salvageable were on the new build of the computer.   There were some games and language translation software but without the media these would need to be reinstalled by the user.  I decided to clone using Norton Ghost the contents of the hard disk that was property of my work to the original drive inside the computer.   The files copied across perfectly but again Windows crashed when starting.   It was here I decided the original 10gb drive was defective, so I put it in the bin, and my manager was happy to give this old drive as a gift to this user, as I had plenty of spares.

As the case on this PC looks battered and damaged, I took the chance to transplant over the whole innards to the now empty chassis of another clone PC which looks a lot nicer, plus there’s a replacement CD drive in it (I tend to throw old CD drives away as all PCs used by volunteers and staff have new DVD writers.  I wrote a letter and taped it to the computer to explain the work I had done and hope they enjoy the completely overhauled machine.

Jonathan is well conversed in doing helpdesk and support across several countries and continents for this current role and my previous regular paid jobs.  He is looking for sources of financial help as I provide the backbone of IT assistance to a busy charity in the holyland, both face to face, using remote software, or even ‘blind’ by talking through users through using icons, menus or commands from memory. If you would like consulting or support of any kind of IT challenge for your home or business PC or laptop in exchange for a small financial gift please do get in touch. :o)