Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Working with the Monrovia Central Prison on a Database Software

by Rita Gailor 

Training at our office on Randall Street on 27 January 2016

Hi ! Rita J Gailor is my name and am going to elaborate on a training I have done.

I firstly want to thank the almighty God for the courage to work on this project.  I also want to say thanks to my bosses for the great opportunity and for entrusting such a high level of confidence in me.

Early one morning, as I walked into the office, my Boss called me. He said, “Rita we are having training at the Prison and I want you to be a part of it and do the training.” I accepted but there were a lot of questions going through my mind.

“What is this actually about?”
“What is he expecting from me?”
“Can I really train people for them to understand?”

Lot of them kept coming to my mind until I had the first overview from my boss. He explained in details what exactly it was and what he’s expecting from me.

NATC has an agreement with the Ministry of Justice of Liberia through the prison fellowship to develop software that will take details of each prisoner in the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP). NATC contacted a software company in India and they developed the software. Some of the information that is processed by the software includes: Name, Date of birth, Address, Contact Person, Contact Person’s Telephone Number, Gender, Date of Arrest, Court Date, Crime committed, Court Name, Prisoner’s Finger Print and Picture, Writ of Arrest and lot of other vital information that relate to personal identification.

The first section of the training lasted for 3 days of which on the first day the trainees were taught how to log into the server using a particular IP address that was given by our software developer. After logging into the server there is a user name and password that needs to be used in order to have access to the information within the software.

We explained to them that the reason for developing this software is to get records on all of the prisoners in Monrovia Central Prison. Once we have them we can use this software to search for prisoner information without going through the headache of searching through hundreds of file. Just single information should be a stepping stone to get the rest of the information that have already been saved on the server.

The most amazing thing about getting the software is that you can access it from anywhere. Meaning the Minister and other interested persons don’t have to go at the MCP before getting access to information on prisoners.

We explained to them how the whole process is going to be like and did some examples for them to see how it really works.

Before the training I took a laptop and went through the software, trying to understand the software. Then I noticed that some features were not working the way they should. I informed my boss and he asked me to list them. I listed as much as I could and explained to him what I really meant and how I was expecting it to work. These are few of the points I listed.
  • What happens if there is a double entry?
  • Some important fields must be made compulsory e.g. Name, Picture, Age, Crime, Court, etc.
  • Each user should be given a specific right to access the software.
  • Avoiding duplication using the Prisoner’s ID number as Primary Key, this means that no 2 persons should have the same ID number.
  • How can I view all the records?
After explaining to him, one after the other what I really meant, he then sent an email to developer in India.

Since then we have had a problem of logging on to the server, which is at the MOJ building. The training was postponed because of this. It is either there is no light or there is no internet at the MOJ Building. This is a serious challenge that I have been facing since the start of the training.

We couldn’t do the training the next day because the next session was to train them on how to use the finger print machine. Right after the first training when we decided to try the figure print machine, my Boss and I, then we realised it wasn’t working well, so he had to call the manufacturer to find out what the problem was. It was then he said we need additional software and the driver to make it work properly.

It took my boss about 4 days to 1 week to get the 3d finger print software and Real Scan D driver. After the installation the computers were now ready for use.

I was given 3 laptops to setup and install the programs, which would be used.

I installed Micro Soft 2010, Nitro, 3d Fingerprint, win RAR and Google chrome on all the laptops and I tested all, it was functioning properly.

On Jan 26 and 27 we did the second section of the training.

Training at our office on Randall Street on 27 January 2016

The training included these topics:
  • 1.     How to use the finger print machine
  • 2.     How to save each prisoner’s finger print and picture in a folder
  • 3.     How to convert word document to PDF file
  • 4.     Convert PDF to Picture using Nitro
  • 5.     Save all Microsoft files, PDF files and pictures in a single folder created for each prisoner. 
This training was very interactive and we did so many examples. Each person went through the whole process one after the other.

The next day we did a recap and more examples one after the other.

Training at our office on Randall Street on 27 January 2016
On Feb 17 2016 we had a follow-on training at the Ministry of Justices in Sinkor, 9th St that was unsuccessful due to some technical problems. We couldn’t log into the software using the username and password that was given. This was quite embarrassing because the server was on and we tried logging into the software several times but still could not login. Quickly my Boss contacted the developer from India and we were told that the password have been changed by some unknown person. Another time we had a challenge of using the projector because we never had the right cable converter so we postponed the training that morning and it was finally done on the 23rd of February 2016.

On February 23rd we had a meeting with some of the MOJ staff where we had an overview of what the software is about and it will be used. About 8 persons were in that section. While going through the software there some notes made on changes that need to be done on the server. After that we did a turnover of all the equipment that will be used in the process.

Training at our office on Randall Street on 27 January 2016
On the 24 of February 2016 I went at the Monrovia Central Prison to start entering prisoners’ records on to the server. Because of the changes that need to be made on the main software that was created, we started using MS Access to save prisoners information till the software is completely done and ready for use. Meanwhile I also checked on the software every morning and did some test to know if it is working. At times it was off.

Some of the challenges we faced while using MS Access are:

§  Making every prisoner understand the reason for this process but some of them sometimes put up resistance and refused to take the picture and figure print. They insist on consulting their lawyer before going through the process. They also think that their pictures will be publicised either on social media or in their community. They also think that it will have an effect on their character and will prevent them from traveling when they get out of the Prison.

§  Another challenge is that, some of the officers don’t have the basis computer knowledge so getting them to understand how the allocation of files is been done in each prisoner’s folder is a little challenging and if care is not taken some prisoner’s information will be placed into the wrong folder. Each prisoner’s folder must be named as the prisoner name and id number for example: “Benedict Joseph 1203-15” and must be saved with in the right path. The prisoner’s records are grouped according to the Gender, Age or Crime for easy reference. Each prisoner folder must contain :
  1.                                                       3 Pictures “one front view and the two sides view”
  2.                               A scanned copy of the writ of arrest
  3.                               The two thumbs’ finger prints.
§  So far we have created folders for the following  section
-  Female – in this folder we have all the females who are in prison.
-  Juvenile - in this folder we have all the males who are below 18 years.
-  Rape – in this folder we have the entire males who came with the charge of rape and other
related charges.

                    §  The issue of light has also been part of the challenges we faced. If there is no light we don’t normally work.
The things we need to get a complete record are:
  1. Create a folder and rename it with the prisoners name and ID, making sure the prisoner’s folder is in the right path
  2. Input the prisoner’s information into access data base.
  3. Take the picture of the prisoner.
  4.  Save each prisoner’s picture into his/her folder that have been created.
  5.  Take the finger print of the prisoner and save it in the folders that have been created.
Group Photo: Training at our office on Randall Street on 27 January 2016
We have not started uploading pictures on the main software because it is not fully completed.

Once the server is done we will start immediately.

It is nice working with the intake officers.

I also learned a lot from them.  They helped me to understand the type of charges and their abbreviations, how things are done in the Monrovia Central Prison and a lot more.

Being part of NATC’s meetings with the client was great and educative.

Monday, 28 March 2016

How to fix a corrupted BIOS in HP Pavilion Laptops

By Haresh Karamchandani

I received a Whatsapp message from an unknown number, saying

“Hi NATC!”

I had the mind to mark it as spam and delete, but my gut feeling told me that I should not ignore this greeting and I replied likewise, asking who this was and how could we help?

Back came the response that the fellows name was Hamza Choudary and he was sending the message from Rabat, Morocco.  Honestly, I felt a bit worried and scared of this stranger.

I, nevertheless, continued to chat. I asked him why he has contacted NATC and how could we help?
He responded that he would like to explain over a telephone conversation as it would be difficult to explain his problem by chatting. I tried to call him, but could not connect to this Moroccan number.
A few moments later he called me on WhatsApp and we began talking.

He said he found our website after extensively searching for an IT services company in West Africa. Apparently, our website was impressive enough and according to him the best in West Africa for an IT company! I thanked Hamza for the appreciation and wondered how we could help.

He went on to explain that he had a client in Lomè, Togo who purchased 16 HP Pavilion laptops from him some time ago. Now for some strange reason the laptops are unable to boot in Windows. Unable to even start in safe mode, unable to access the BIOS. All one can see is the HP Logo when powered on.

He further went on to explain that this problem may have been caused when someone who was maintaining the laptops removed the internal battery thereby corrupting the BIOS. This did not make sense to me as I know that the system battery has nothing to do with the BIOS. The system battery removal merely would reset the date and time on the machine.

My friend, Hamza insisted that this was indeed the problem and he wanted us to help resolve with a solution that he would provide. All we needed to do was send a technician to Togo and follow and implement his solution step by step.

Below was his solution:

We did not accept this work offer to travel to Togo, all expenses paid. Instead we suggested to Hamza that he saves the software on a USB and somehow manages to send it to his client in Togo for implementation.

Hamza accepted our advice and sent the USB flash drive to Togo and apparently the problem has been resolved.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Microsoft 2013 Outlook

By Daniel Collins

Have you ever experience Microsoft 2013 Outlook not opening? When you double click, it gives an error message. ‘’ The name cannot be resolved. The connection to Microsoft Exchange is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to the internet to complete this action.’’

I was called by one of our clients, the HR manager of PSI Liberia to resolve this issue.

I first went out like this:
  1. ·     Gathered all necessary settings for the outlook
  2. ·     Uninstalled the outlook
  3. ·     Reinstalled the outlook and reconfigured
After doing all this, the same error message pops up again. This was getting too frustrating and embarrassing. We changed the password of the outlook, applied the above task but to no avail. That whole night I went on figuring out on how to resolve this issue.

The next morning I went back. The lady said to me ‘’Hi Daniel, looks like you’re ready to save my day for sure’’. I replied… ‘’rest assured, it will be done Madam’’.

The steps below will surely help you out if you have such issue:
  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Search for Mail (32-bit) and double click
  3. Click on Show Profiles
  4. Click on Remove
  5. Click on Apply and okay
Now you are set to go!!!!

Go back to your outlook settings and reconfigure the outlook. Once the configuration /settings are correct, it should work immediately.

Interview with Head of Operations

by Farzana Rasheed

1) The first quarter of 2016 is almost over. How did it go?  

The first quarter will be over in a week from today. In terms of volume of business, we have done a total turnover of only US$145,535.00 this quarter. We bagged a few new client contracts. Generally speaking it has been extremely slow.

2) How does it compare to the first quarter of 2015?  

We did a turnover of $1,037,188.21 during the same period in 2015. January – March. This says a lot!

3) What changes do you see in the market this year?   

The market size has reduced drastically. Most mining companies have shut down. Oil companies have also reduced spending. Government too is not spending as much as last year.

4) Are there any new products and services NATC is offering to its clients?  

We have had to market NATC more aggressively this year. We have offered a new client a GPS tracking system, which is new for us.

5) How is the Internet Services side of the business coming along?  

There have been some losses here and also some gains. This is how the trend will continue. Lose some, win some  Competition is very tough. All ISP’s are cutting each other’s price.

6) What are the greatest challenges to doing business in Liberia?  

Small economy, limited scope, Electricity and water issues, expensive rents, very poor skilled manpower.

7) Any interesting projects on the horizon?  

Yes, quite a few. Keeping my cards close to my chest for now.

8) How is the administrative and tech team coming along at NATC?   

The admin department has really suffered. We have again lost our Head of Admin, this year. He just abruptly disappeared and we are on the lookout for a replacement. The tech team is doing well, working hard.

9) How do you relax after a hard day?  

Sip a cup of tea on our exclusive garden deck, counting the 100’s of bats in the sky. Visit the Chess club on Front Street and play some games.