Sunday, 16 October 2016

Blog Post on Panasonic KX-TE S824 ADVANCE HYBRID SYSTEM Configuration

Dear Readers,

When started as an IT trainee with New Africa Technology Company (NATC), it was such a difficult long way to reach where I am today. Nothing comes easy in this life and to make it happen, you have to work towards it.

In the years back while serving as a trainee, I used to wonder on when I will reach a point where I would be trusted or depended upon to complete a piece of task. All alone the way then, I have been supervised by other senior staff members. This drew my attention to remain focus and follow every instruction given. Since the suspension of my formal department head, my experience of taking over as a leader of the team have become very challenging and interesting for me. As I said, I never thought I would reach this far.

I will share with you today what I experienced during the past week. Our client asked us to extend their network via wireless connectivity and the telephone system (Panasonic KX-TES 824 ADVANCE HYBRID SYSTEM) desk phone. The wireless router MikroTik Cloud Router Switch was configured successful, tested and working. This was cool.

The Panasonic Console Box has an 8-16 ports card already installed.  In order to extend the lines to their new building, we had to purchase another card that that will run from 17-24 ports to get our extension going. Now all my idea was ‘’ just insert the card, run the new cable and insert them into the new ports and it should assign a number just like a DHCP router." 

I started to test all the lines including the new lines, once I added, but believe me, all numbers were mixed up, meaning, line 100 as assigned would appear as 125 or something. But I discovered that during the time I was inserting the new card, I removed all of the cables and didn’t know where cable came from which port so I did a research and found a solution but only if my computer would have what it requires to have. That is a COM PORT with which I would have to use a cable to log into the console box but my computer does not support it.

I tried switching the cable from one port to another the whole day but to no avail. So I decided to leave it as it is and copy all the numbers it was giving and make a new telephone directory list and print it out. But that was not the deal, the customer was unsatisfied with the new plan. I called a PABX telephone specialist and said: "I will need you to just do me just one test and I will complete the rest." He said, "very well then." I admitted that this was my very first time doing a telephone job and I am eager to learn this but my computer does not have a COM PORT and the expert said I will show you a simple method: 
  • Get the master phone/desk phone
  • Press Program
  • Enter *#1234 and 009 for password and press Store
  • Use the Speaker key to scroll through all the numbers save in the Console.
You are now into your Console Box to start your configuration. For example, if the number that was assigned to Receptionist was 100 and have changed to 150, apply the instructions above and use the Speaker key to find # 150 because # 150 is saved. All you do is find # 150 and just dial 100 and press “Store”. The number is now been changed dial code # 100 and saved. This was how I continue with the configuration for all 13 lines plus the new 6 lines added. This was done to the customer satisfaction. At least I can say I have acquired another knowledge.

Here at NATC, nothing is impossible for us and that’s while we are Master of All.

As a team, we all go for one goal: "Together Everyone Accomplish a Mission’’ and that’s what NATC stands for.

Prepared by: Daniel W. Collins

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Working with Mercy Corps' Prospects Programme to find an Apprentice Bookkeeper

by Farzana Rasheed

Left to right: Agnes, William, Janneh and Farzana
New Africa Technology Company reached out to Mercy Corps' team to help it find a bookkeeper. As you know, we've been having lots of problems finding and retaining a qualified Quickbooks expert. 

Currently, Rita Gailor, who joined NATC through Mercy Corps' Prospects programme, is filling the gap by maintaining our ledger, producing weekly and monthly reports and, maintain our filing. 

William Marshall,  Entrepreneurship & Employment Coordinator at Prospects, has been working with me to find candidates for interview for a bookkeeper since August. We had a first round of interviews on 7 September with 3 young women but failed to find an appropriate candidate. 

We had applicants who had studied accounting for several years at well-known universities but in the interview, they could not answer basic questions about bookkeeping or accounting principles. 

We asked William to post the opportunity again and this time, to only short list candidates who had worked with Quickbooks. The programme did not find any candidates with Quickbooks experience but with the relevant degree and some experience. 

We had a second round of interviews with 2 candidates - again, 2 young ladies - and frankly, I was again quite shocked and disappointed with their poor knowledge in their own field of study. The interview performance was shaky and nervous. We took a simple practical test in Excel and both candidates performed poorly. In the written test, one candidate performed better and, was able to express herself clearly and, with more confidence. 

So what should I do? Let Rita continue to help us with simple bookkeeping and, miss out on technical work on site? Or, should I give a chance to one of these young candidates, take the pains on training them, and hopefully, get a hardworking young professional who can be good for the company in the long term? 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Night time robbery or Daylight robbery??!!??

by Haresh Karamchandani

We had a break-in a few days ago at our home. The detectives from the Burglary Unit of the Liberia National Police were able to apprehend the robber the same day. He was caught red handed with our empty laptop bag and my wallet.

The robber then led the detectives to the person who he had “sold” the laptops to, and they were able to recover the Macbook Pro laptops and my mobile phone. I thought this was really great, but when the cops told me that the robber escaped from their custody while they were interrogating the other suspect, I was very disappointed to say the least.

The detective, a young chap, who I would like to commend here, was a brave and hardworking man. He promised me that he would catch the robber and produce him to me. I promised that I would personally reward him if he was successful. 2 days later my doorbell rang very early in the morning. I went out to the balcony to check who was frantically ringing our doorbell and was pleasantly surprised to see detective Randall with the handcuffed robber! I wearily gave them some transport cash and told Randall that I would come over later on to the police headquarters to give him his reward.

Today morning, I was invited by the police to come over to the station along with the laptops and mobile phone and wallet. They said that they wanted to present the robber to a magistrate and have him committed to prison. I agreed to cooperate and was at the police station at 9:30 AM.

They took away the recovered items from me and told me that after the robber is committed I would have to sign for the items at the court. They wanted the items to be used as evidence.

We all proceeded to the court house, which is walking distance from the police headquarters. The robber was handcuffed and kept pleading to me to forgive him. I told him that the matter was beyond my control and the police and court proceedings will have to be adhered to. I lectured him that once he serves his sentence he should come to me and I would offer him some work. I also gave him some cash so that he could fill up his starving belly. He was not given any food for 2 days.

There was another case being heard and argued when we arrived at the court. We were told that we would have to wait till that was done with. I enjoyed listening to the arguments and counter arguments which looked like a scene from a Bollywood movie. The case was “Government of Liberia” vs “8 Ivorian criminals who were needed to be extradited”. The defense lawyer was amazing. He argued that the extradition treaty was signed way back in 1975 between the two governments, but the treaty should have been confirmed or accepted by the senate, which has not been done till date. He argued that the treaty was not valid and therefore the criminals cannot be extradited. The judge continued to smile and listen patiently. The final straw was when he argued that the Government lawyer does not even have a valid license to practice. He then fished out his own valid license and General Revenue account receipt. The Government lawyer walked out embarrassed and the judge adjourned the case. The criminals were sent back to prison. Apparently they have been there for 5 years already!!??!!

Then it was time for my case. I was asked to follow the bailiff to the Magistrates office. While I was giving my statement, I heard a loud commotion and people shouting “Rogue, rogue!!” My heart skipped a beat. Was it “Smokey” the robber? Yes, it was indeed. This fellow is slippery. We rushed out to see what was happening and my fears were correct. Smokey had escaped, but the court security also ran out behind him to catch him. A few moments later, they came back with Smokey all handcuffed and huffing and puffing! What a relief.

I then went back to the Magistrate to complete the formalities. The writ of arrest was done, registered and they were ready to take him to South Beach prison. They demanded LD500 as “car fees”, I gave it to them. They demanded LD 350 for “registration” fees, I gave it to them. They demanded another LD350 as “typing writ fees”, I gave it to them. In contrast “Smokey” begged me for food money, I gave him LD100 and he was so grateful.

The formalities were completed, or that is what I thought. I asked for my items and the Magistrate said “sorry, that has to be left at the court, it is considered FOC, Fruit of Crime, and will remain in our custody till the case is over, till the criminal is sentenced!” I went livid with rage. How should I respond to this “honorable” gentleman who flaunted a US$1,000.00 watch and other expensive jewelry? I kept my cool and asked him for a private session. He asked all his people to leave the office.

I then asked him what he wanted to permit my items to be taken back with me. I told him I could sign any bond to say that the items would be produced as evidence whenever required. I asked him there should be some way. He knew he had my balls in his hands. He said what can you offer?

I told him US$100.00. He then took his expensive pen and wrote on a sheet of paper… 200. He said I should take some pictures of the items and get them printed and they would put it in the file. Easy as that.

I had the following choices:
  1.      Walk out of his chamber and go and meet the Chief Justice or Chief of Police and hope that they intervene and help.
  2.      Agree to pay this daylight robber and take my belongings and get out of there.
I opted for option 2.

What would you have done? What should I do, now that I have my items? Should I take this up with the higher authorities? Should I write a letter to the Chief Justice? Should I go to the press?

I asked this question to my banker friend. He advised, no. This is Liberia. You may need this honorable person sometime in the future. And anyways nothing will really come out of it. This is Liberia.

I asked this question to my NGO expatriate friend. He agreed with my banker friend and further went on to say that it will be a waste of time. He said we are business people and should not create animosities.

I asked this question to my driver, Morris. He narrated the following to me: A few nights ago a robber tried to enter his window. He was awake and heard the movement. He got up armed with his cutlass and hid near the window for the robber to break-in so that he could chop off his arms or even his head. Unfortunately his wife heard the robber and shouted “Rogue, rogue!” and the robber fled.

This is Liberia!

I will sleep peacefully tonight knowing well that the robber is at South Beach Prison. Or will I really sleep peacefully? Knowing well that there are bigger robbers at large roaming free, extorting money from poor citizens?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Double post at NATC

by Rita Gailor

It has always been so great working with the NATC family.

I came as an IT trainee. It has been great, because there are lot of new things learnt and had some great experiences.

I have been going on site with the senior technicians, helping to solve problems with the supervision of the senior staff, going for maintenance checkups, and other tasks.

It is a great pleasure being part of a solution.

I have also been handling administrative or financial role in the absence of NATC office Manager/Accountant. I feel so confident of myself when I am entrusted with some strange task. I call it strange because they are task that sometimes I have very little or no knowledge about. I fight as much as possible to understand what the task is all about before making a move. All thanks to our Head of operations who have been so patient enough in explaining what the task is about and what outcome he is expecting.

One great experience I had was with Ministry of State about the opening of a bid document.

There was an announcement posted in the newspaper which NATC decided to apply for.

Not knowing much about how it works, I was asked to go and represent NATC during the opening. Earlier that morning I was sent at an insurance company with a check to take a particular document (Bid Security). I was successful in getting the document but interestingly never knew what this document was used for.

Initially the plan was for me to get the documents and take it to my Boss. He was supposed to represent NATC at the opening. I submitted the Bid document at Ministry of State and went for another site visit. On my way back from site I was told to represent NATC at the opening. Once again, I mustered all the courage I needed and went for the opening. At that moment, I knew nothing about how it is done but again my Boss briefed me on what I should do.

We went for the opening. I took down some points. While going through NATC Document during the opening, there was this document called Bid Security that was missing. When he told me I asked if this document could be added later but the guy conducting the meeting said no. 

From my own observation from other bids, there was a check shown to that effect from different banks which was serving as the bid security. I never had thought that this document that I collected from the insurance company could serve the same purpose and that it was even among the documents with me. I saw others with Checks so I was only looking out for a Check. I wrote down all necessary points and when I got back to the office, the first thing my boss looked at was “No Bid security” he said it was there and this was the same document he send me for at the insurance company. I was shocked and did not even know what to say. But I think I have learned my lessons from this experience.

Another great experience was about the payment of taxes, how the calculation is done , and what the process is about.

Thanks for reading this blog post. Have a wonderful day.

Monday, 3 October 2016

2nd Annual NATC - LivArts Technology Art Contest

Flyer designed by Luca Varaschini

They stole our stuff and the police got it back

by Farzana Rasheed

Image from here.
We woke up to a quiet and cool Sunday morning. The LEC had been off since the day before and, the back up generator had been running since last night. We turned it off at 6:00 AM and, I turned it back on at about 1030 AM. I put on the kettle and, sat on the sofa to enjoy Fareed Zakaria's GPS programme on CNN. Haresh was snoozing in the guest room and, he soon joined me. 

My phone rang and it was one of our clients inquiring why the Internet Service was so slow at his apartment. The client was actually ringing Haresh but he'd been looking for his phone the whole morning and, the call diverted to my phone. While he was chatting to the client, he explained all this and also started telling him that his wallet was missing. While this conversation was going on, I suddenly realised that my laptop bag was missing! I shrieked in grief as if I'd lost a loved one. I couldn't believe it. In fact, an older laptop and my brand new Macbook Pro had been swiped from the dining table. 

I shrieked in pain, shocked, because I had had a burglary in 2009 and, my Macbook Pro had been stolen late at night in Monrovia. It brought back terrible memories of that night when a thief had come in through an open balcony door and, went into my office and, stolen a whole bunch of laptops. In those days, my office was my apartment too and, Haresh had rushed to the balcony, inches behind the oily thief. I never recovered my laptop and was quite devastated. I had no back up and, years of work and personal files were lost. 

So, this Sunday, I felt the same sense of insecurity and loss. In fact, I had just had a phone stolen (and thankfully recovered) hardly a few weeks ago.

We ran around the apartment looking for a sign of breakage until we found a massive gaping hole in the ceiling of the guest room (where Haresh had been snoozing). We stood shell shocked standing in that room and I kept wailing about my laptops. How come we didn't hear anything? How come Haresh hadn't noticed the hole in the ceiling? 

Haresh quickly put on some clothes and shoes and rushed off to the Police Station. 

After 20 minutes, Haresh brought back 2 Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers with him in 'plain clothes.' They  looked around in apartment and then, went to investigate. They climbed up into the roof and founded my discarded handbag. The thief didn't think it was valuable. I didn't even realise it was missing. 

Haresh hadn't noticed the hole in the ceiling. He didn't notice the window of the room slightly ajar and, the side table in a mess. He had thought our daughter Kavita had made the mess. He also didn't think of anything when he couldn't find his phone. 

And, I was shocked that we hadn't heard someone cutting a hole in the ceiling. We could only console ourselves that the generator was on, our own bedroom door was locked and, it was also raining. We couldn't have heard anything.

Would you believe our luck that the police found the thief in the community behind our apartment building after hardly 30 minutes?! Haresh rushed up excitedly to say they found the thief and he'd seen him. My laptop bag and laptop sleeve was found upon him.  He was apparently a young good-looking boy named Smoky. There was a commotion on Randall Street and folks had gathered around to watch the show. Apparently, people around him said he was an unbelievable climber. The community members explained that they themselves were alway prone to robberies and, they had so many known criminals living amongst them. 

The thief Smoky explained to the police where he had deposited the stolen items and, they went off. They didn't have a car so Haresh offered them to use our car. After a couple of hours, they came back and took Smoky with them because they hadn't recovered the stolen property. 

During this time, needless to say, I was very agitated, upset and angry. It's really not a good feeling to know your home has broken into. I thanked the gods for our health, for my books and paintings, and for each other but still, I felt stung and insecure. We asked ourselves, "What are we doing here?" 

I also called up the landlord and, told him that hardly a week ago, we had replaced our Air Conditioner because the rain leakage had messed up the AC. I complained to him that his building had a flimsy roof and now, burglars had just cut out a hole and climbed into our home. The security that he had hired was also clearly useless. I managed to control my ranting and asked him to send someone to temporary repair the roof so that the rains don't flood our home. I even added a "Sir" and "Sorry to disturb" you in my conversation. I've learned that landlords in Monrovia really don't guarantee anything and, it's better to stay on their good side. I also sent the landlord a polite WhatsApp message with pictures of the damage. Sure enough, less than 1 hour later, the landlord's contractor was at our place and, started working on temporarily closing up the hole.

At around 5 or 6 PM, the police came back and, showed us the retrieved laptops and phone and wallet. They said they would keep these items as evidence and could only be collected at the Central next day. Haresh asked whether at least he could have his phone back as we receive so many business calls on Haresh's number. The police gave Haresh's phone back to him and, said they still needed his car to go look for Smoky. They went off.

Another fellow came to Haresh and gave him some cards and IDs that were in his wallet. I don't know how he got them but said he would be an informer for Haresh and in case he saw any hanky panky.

I felt so much better but slightly anxious that my laptops were not back with me. Haresh put me on the phone with the head of the burglary department boss. The boss explained that my laptops would be safe and, we could collect them the next day.

I felt more at ease but still shaken up. We had a visit from friends who came to "sympathise." We had tea and pakoras and, chatted about life in Liberia.

It was unbelievable that we had our things back but suffered through a day of stress and anxiety and a sense of insecurity.

I then told myself that most of the public in Monrovia lives with even more acute insecurity and uncertainty. How many times have staff told us their phones were swiped from their pockets during the ride home, in tightly cramped taxis? How many times had staff told us about how their home had been victim to armed robbery?

The police is also poorly paid and badly equipped. The CID who recovered our things did not have a vehicle and did their work with a 'small encouragement' of $ 70.00 which they used to pay informers.

The security companies employed by apartment buildings, shops and offices do not train their security guards either. I doubt they pay them well. They are not equipped with any arms or even a stick. During heavy rain, they huddle under the doors of the buildings they are meant to protect. They don't have a chance against any rogue.

Our landlord told us he would deduct any money we spent with the police and damages from the fees of the security company. Most likely, the salary of the feeble security guards would also be affected. Fair?

Haresh and I talked about putting some new rules in the house and, thought about putting more barbed wire on the roof and, even electrifying the roof.

All these questions aside, sure enough Haresh got our stuff back from the Police today. I came to the office and, my laptop was on my desk. It was not formatted (luckily,  do have a backup), damaged or even slightly scratched. It's as if yesterday's events were just a terrible nightmare.

Thank you, Liberia Police, by the way. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The 2nd NATC - Liv Arts Technology Arts Contest

I'm really happy to announce that this year's organising committee for the 2nd NATC - Liv Arts Technology Arts Contest includes Luca Varaschini, Leslie Lumeh and Manfred Zbrzezny. We had a brainstorming meeting today to decide the theme, how to make the contest more inclusive and which mediums to include. 

Leslie Lumeh is a well known Liberian artist, both locally and internationally. In fact, he was featured recently on CNN. His work is beautiful and, masterfully captures Liberian landscapes, society and every day scenes. Leslie collaborated with us last year for our first contest and, we are so happy to have him with us again. The art contest's title bears his organisation's name, too: Liv Arts. 

Luca Varaschini has collaborated with NATC on its season greeting cards. Luca designed our 2014 card. He also helped us with last year's Art Contest. He designed the flyer and, helped to design the card with the winning painting by Duke Appleton. Besides that, Luca has always lent us a helping hand with any design project. He has also kindly designed some flyers for Mama Susu's famous buffets. Not only is Luca a most talented and intuitive graphic artist and illustrator but the most inspiring thing about him is how much he loves Liberia and, has made an effort to come back to the land he was born in.

Manfred Zbrzezny is a German blacksmith who resides in Liberia and, has made a name for himself by converting arms into art work. His studio is called FYRKUNA Metalworks. He work can be seen in some select spots in Monrovia and, he also sells individual pieces: sculptures, book ends, bottle openers and mobiles. Manfred's work is striking and imaginative, transforming tools of death and war into immortal art. 

Today's meeting was very interesting and energetic. We decided on a theme: Technology - hurting or helping. The title is quirky and, hopefully, will inspire some interesting and exciting interpretations. The artistic personalities on this organising committee have suggested opening the contest to all mediums: sculpture, photography and painting. It was decided the judging and exhibition of the pieces will be done separately, unlike last year. Finally, we will open it to the public by placing an ad in the newspapers and, anyone above the age of 18 can participate. If all goes well, we 'll have the exhibition by the beginning of November. 

But the most interesting idea of this year's competition is that we will have 12 winners who will be featured in a calendar. We will also have a popular prize. 

We hope to have a great event this year and, by doing so, promote Liberian artists and artistic expression and interpretation of technology's impact on life and society.