Friday, 16 March 2018

CCTV Cameras Synology Setup

From behind the IT desk of the Population Services International Liberia (PSI), I can piece together some troubleshooting and resolution of their CCTV cameras being disconnect/shutdown.

We got an approval to install 8 D-Link CCTV cameras to strategy areas in the premises of PSI office, connecting through a battery bank for power/electrical backup. After a week of smooth access to the cameras both in and outside the network, the client started to notice a slow connectivity to their network even to the extent they couldn’t access the camera’s server (Synology NAS) remotely.

I got back from Buchanan on an ICT maintenance trip to one of our clients site only to check my mail with lots of email exchanges about the situation with my boss: the Head of Operations.

As I learned the CCTV technicians who set up these cameras didn’t understand the network layout of the client and also didn’t follow instructions from the ISP in my absence. They assigned any IP of their choice to the cameras as they could in other to complete their job. This was very embarrassing getting back to them as there was no answer on their phones. My boss then instructed me to accompany another tech who was recommended by a friend to assist us. We arrived at the client site and explained to him about the situation of the cameras switching OFF and ON.

The tech admitted to me that he had no idea about D-Links cameras and Synology NAS server; on HKVISION and told me that he would be back the next morning to figure out the problem.  We scheduled the time for 10:00 AM prompt. I was on site before the time by the tech didn’t show up. I was left alone to solve this issue. I downloaded the D-Link DS cam and Synology catalogues. I first took out all of the cameras down and reset them to factory default and assigned a static IP addresses that are not in used and all fall behind the DHCP rang to avoid disruption of access as it used to be. The DHCP range of the core router was from that means any number below 30 can be assign to a device. So I assigned to the Synology NAS server and the rest of the eight cameras were from 20-27. 

The port forwarding was configured both on the router and the NAS server for remote viewing with secure password protection enabled and shared with the client. After doing all this, I called the ISP to bypass the hotspot on the network from accessing internet which is one of the aspects in the MikroTik which I love. I really like working on these devices especially when it comes to networking. This was my very first time handling camera issue but because networking access was attached to it, I got a few clues and interested in understanding how it works. To be frank, the installation/setup was quite simple and easy; just the matter of understanding how the IP blocks were arranged before assigning them manually to those devices. At least I can say the cameras are now accessible with a 24hr battery backup system running to keep them on throughout the night. I was glad to be a part of this project and looking forward to more prospect development in the fresh start of 2018.

Prepared by:
Daniel Collins

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

NATC Office Photoshoot 2018

This year I (Farzana Rasheed) decided to do the company photoshoot myself! See some of the photographs of our staff and beautiful office.  

Rest of the photographs can be seen here

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Destruction from yesterday's raging fire. The damage is staggering!

Destruction from yesterday's raging fire. The damage is staggering! 

It's absolutely terrible and nerve racking. These are but a few questions we have:

1) The warehouse was inaccessible. No way to for water trucks to pass from the back. 
2) Are authorities implementing any safety standards/checks for what is stored in these warehouses? 
3) What are the building standards? Can buildings/structures be built so close to each other.
4) Slums/shacks/communities are densely living next to these businesses. 
4) Are there zones for warehousing ?
5) What protocols exist of emergencies?
6) Why was such large crowd of people allowed to virtually choke Randall Street ? Why didn't the Police disperse the crowd? 
7) What building standards exist for construction of warehouses which stock particular, flammable goods? 
8) Who was in charge when this fire was raging?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

What a disastrous and distressing day

Disastrous morning on Randall Street today, 20 February. A fire which started in Power Tech spread to 3 other buildings before being contained. It raged however into the late hours of the night. Building safety, public safety, warehouse zoning, building permits, location of shack communities, emergency responses (and much more) need reforms.

Massive fire

Massive fire erupted on Randall Street from 8 AM onwards. It apparently started in Power Tech's warehouse/shop and then spread all the way to the Eagle building. Fire fighters, community members, and brave individuals managed to contain the fire. Needless to say, massive damages and losses were sustained. Don't know much damage and losses the shacks/slums/small houses at the back of Randall Street had. The raging fire was at the back of the main buildings but there was no way fire trucks could pass through those small lanes. It appeared like utter chaos at first. Huge crowds amassed in the street to watch the chaos, some of them started looting a small provisions shop. The police arrived much later. Our office was far from the fire but the apartment where NATC's managers/owners live, was only 3 buildings away. It was extremely close, as we stood in the street, watching the massive smoke billowing in the sky. For a good hour it felt like the fire would continue spreading. It was only at about 1030 AM when we could see the fire has been contained. Shops were closed. Mainly Lebanese owners stood and watched. Some of them opened their shops to bring out fire extinguishers. Some Lebanese young men could be seen on top of neighbouring buildings and even the fire trucks, working in a team, extending the fire hoses to reach the back of the building where the fire was raging from. Would the fire be stopped? Is our building next? We stood and watched in stress, grief, and anxiety. Hundreds and hundreds of people were on the street, screaming, shouting, gesturing. "There is only 1 nozzle." "The fire is coming oh" "They can't stop it." Folks living behind these buildings came out with their few belongings. No one knew exactly what is going on. The police came much later. Our housekeeper said she saw them take pictures. Why weren't the crowds dispersed for safety and to clear the street? Eventually we saw a huge canon shooting water. One of our neighbours, was smiling the whole time and told us that it will not reach our side. So many faces we know and come across because we've been living and working on Randall Street, were out and about, watching with grim, tight faces. What a stressful morning. For sure, we witnessed today how disorganised, unequipped the authorities are. For sure, we witnessed the death traps we are living in with unclear zoning areas (residential and business); no building standards; don't know who is storing what in their warehouses and whether safety precautions are used; no safety standards; no city protocols for such a situation; and, no sense of security. But at least we are safe and thankful.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

End of year blog 2017

Dear reader,

2017 has ended and here at NATC, we're excited about what’s in store for the coming year 2018. Looking back to what I have achieved over the years, I can proudly say the past year brought lots of exciting technical challenges and responsibilities which I have handled and continue to enjoy working in the field of technology. I used to work along with the former Head of IT then who wouldn’t want a team to share knowledge with me (He left NATC in 2015). He would prefer letting me do some common task just so he can accomplish the major work without me getting a glance at what he does in resolving complex issues. 
Though I felt frustrated several times in the beginning but as persistence breaks resistance, I never gave up in asking him questions, taking the lead to undertake and complete any given task and reaching him on the phone for directions and following with keen interest, until whatever feelings he had about me changed. He then found interest in sharing ideas with me and working along with me. Unfortunately, in that short time of our smooth collaboration, he had to leave. I was left with another colleague who was specialized in repairing laptops and desktops, along with the Trainees. We handled in-house jobs and other projects outstation I do. This colleague left, too. I was left along with the trainees. 
In 2016, NATC hired a Pakistani hard ware expert and I've been working with him since then.
Amongst all of the clients we are maintaining, there were three jobs that really impressed me.
1. As an Internet Service Provider for one of our customers based in Monrovia: to be prĂ©cise, DAI-LAVI, a USAID sponsored project. We were given an opportunity to NETWORK the last floor of the Millennium Suites located 18th Street, Sinkor where they had extended their office to. Our Head of Operations arranged all materials and called me over to his desk; he showed me the Purchase Order (PO), the scope of work and timing. And he said "Daniel, this is not really a big project. I believe you can supervise these trainees how to run the network cables, how to use Punch Down tools, mount wall jacks, crimp cables and test, label them and mount the server rack. After all is done, there will be testing and turning over to the client." We immediately started the job the next day after drawing our targets. The job lasted for 8 days exactly as there were four rooms and a big hall carrying a total of 24 wall jacks with two separate cables for wireless access points. The wall rack was mounted with one Cisco Switch 48-ports, Patch panel (48ports) and one Cisco wireless router. I really like the way the trainees cooperated with me in taking an aggressive approach to meet with our timeline. 
2. There came another 4-months contract to manage a USAID project called Liberia Municipal Water Project II (LMWPII) with 35 total of 35 users both in Monrovia and Nimba County. What an amazing task it was for me: making sure all users are connected to the network, accessing the servers from all sites, printing, making sure Satellite phones and GPS system running smoothly and 24-hr backup policy to their project server.
The challenging part of this was handling such a huge system where I had no proper access/password and unaware to the setup already in place only because their IT person had left with no notice. Coming in as a consultant, the customer expects the most professional approach to any action taken on their equipment be it resetting or getting acquaintance with the devices. Within a week I was able to reset the servers' Administrator password to the costumer’s choice, link users via Virtual Private Network connection (VPN) which was already configured in the Dell Sonic Wall/Firewall router from Nimba County to the main project servers in Monrovia and established a wireless network to users for ease of access in uploading/accessing their respective files or folders in the servers.
There, I was also able to see and get an experience on how fiber optic connections are done by calling their local ISP at least twice during an internet outage as the client is getting a Fiber Optic Broadband connection. 
3. Travelling to Zwedru City, Grand Gedeh along with a V-SAT expert to install a V-Sat for a Midwifery training program. My duties were to configure a MikroTik router with firewall for site restrictions and remote login connection. This trip was amazing, too! 
I enjoyed every moment working with all our customers as some are, at times understandable, amazing, interesting and difficult dealing or working with at times. Costumer’s satisfactions are what we valued the most and that’s while we get hold of more business most often by means recommendations from clients and individuals we’ve worked with. Indeed the year was a great start. It brought me lots of exposure working with individuals from different parts of the world. In this same year, I’m well recognized among students of Bluecrest University Collage Liberia being a student and a sub-contractor for their IT services. All thanks and appreciation goes to our hard working Management.
Thanks for following my blogs!
Prepared by:
Daniel Collins
Senior IT Technician

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

End of year blog post by Farman Elahi

Dear Reader,

As an IT Technician I started my experience since 1996 with Pentium II and III computers. Today in 2018, smart technology is around us every day. From surveillance cameras to clothing, today’s smart technology is watching us, helping us, and getting smarter. As our processing power, bandwidth, and storage continue to expand exponentially, we will definitely see more and more smart technologies in our life.

End Year 2017: I  am writing a blog post as an IT Technician working in the best IT Company in Liberia, West Africa. I am so happy. That’s amazing and interesting for me. I faced many challenges in technologies such as V-SAT, Server applications, installation and repairs, servers, networking, Internet connectivity, printer repairing, cloud computing, mother board repairs, and much more. 

2017 made me confident that I can achieve my targets. I faced challenging situations. I learned communication is one of my strongest traits. I worked in 2017 for our valuable customers such as PSI, JICA, Social Impact, Water Aid, Tetra Tech, MCC, Ministry of Finance, EPO, Arcelor Mittal, MCC, LAC and many more.

March to June 2017 I experienced my greatest achievement when my company sent me to Ministry of Finance for repairs of hundreds damaged printers.  I really liked and loved that job. I repaired different kinds and parts of printers, such as:
  • Parallel Ports
  • Serial Ports
  • Infrared Ports
  • DC Boards
  • Power Boards
  • Paper Jams
  • Fusers
  • Error Indicators
  • Memory storage parts
  • Print Spooler
  • Image Quality
  • Paper Paths
In April 2017 my company management sent me to installation of V-SAT dishes for NEC Liberia with our V-SAT technician Konah Gray at Bensonville (Monstserrado, upper), Kakata (Margibi) & Tubmanburg (Bomi). I enjoyed that experience. We installed Dish, LNB, BUC finder, co-axiable cable, I-Direct modems. Very interesting jobs.

Thanks to NATC and Konah Gray learned to me about this technology on V-SAT Dishes.

In September 2017, our Clint UNISEF called CCTV cameras system was not working. Razberi MP System was not working. That was my 1st time working on a big CCTV system. After my diagnostics the problem was that the processor socket on mother board was seriously damaged. After trouble shooting, I succeeded for repairs processor socket. After I resolved this hardware issue, I installed OS and CCTV axis cameras software on this system.

I went to my home sweet home in Pakistan on vacations in 20th of November 2017. NATC management arranged my vacations and my travel expenses. Really NATC management is always great and for fully supporting and taking care of their employees. Thanks a lot NATC. I am so happy with NATC team.

Every year, the NATC team exchanges Secret Santa gifts. After my vacations we finally managed to open ours gifts. Our management organised this day. I like too much because all employees are together as a family.

My respected colleague Daniel Collins gives me beautiful Liberian Shirt. I really like it and thanks dear Daniel.   

By Farman Elahi, IT technician