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A couple things in my Schoolworld web sites

One of the systems I support in my job is the schoolworld web sites.  We have about 8 that i support.  They are mainly the different education centers that are part of the WFLBOCES umbrella.  There are many additional districts who use schoolwork and have web sites with them, but I do not support them.

  • Schoolworld web site support means
  • creating accounts for people
  • assigning rights – permission to accounts
  • uploading files – to the file cabinet and to specific pages
  • updating links to pdf files
  • moving menu options to other places
  • updating navigation
  • getting new templates when avail or requested – from schoolworld
  • asking schoolworld questions when i cant figure something out
  • removing accounts when people leave.

A couple of these things I did this week.  The first week without my old colleague Shirley – who was the primary on this system but has retired.

Commend Intercom hardware and software

Frontrunner systems.  They installed a new intercom system staring Commend intercom.  Fine.  these are the highlights of what I learned about them today.

they are a handset that connects to a server via IP port and ethernet connection.

they are dependent on a properly configured network connection to communication

In our case, we have 3 entrance way stations (EWS).  Each ews can see and communicate with the others.  So EW1 can open doors and communicate with EW 2 and 3.  This is a redundency capability.  If the person at EW1 is not there and someone is trying to enter via EW1, the person at EW2 or 3 could also buzz them in or talk with them.  This is a predicable and efficient system.

There is a 20 second delay if the person trying to enter via EW1 is not responded to (person in EW1 clicks a buzzer, requesting entry – if 20 seconds go by without the door opening, EW2 and EW3 received the buzz, request from EW1 – alerting them and not leaving the person in EW1 without service.

There is an icon in the Genetec software that allows the person in each EW to unlock the door.  A little lock icon, specifically designed to allow the person at the EW to open or unlock the door.

Turns out the unlock the door icon is visible to the account – which means it must have permissions in the group RSC Entrances – of which the accounts the EW people and their subs use.

RSC Entrance ways

there are accounts dschaertl, johora and mschribner – these are the primary people who monitor the EWs.  Then there is a “syb” account for each EW – so when the primary is away – the sub can login the system too. subEisenhower, subMaple, subArcadia.

So – the RSC Entrance group has the permissions to see this new option to unclock the doors – not the individual accounts.

unlock doors

Good stuff – as long as the Commend Intercom device is operational – which is how the EW person communicates with the person wanting to enter the building.

Auto notification of cameras being down – staring Genetec

My boss asked me the other day.  Can we ask Genetec – Frontrunner network who actually implement Genetec software, if there is a mechanism that can automatically check cameras in the system to ensure they are on-line.  A fair question, my leage.

Some of the cameras on the system go down from time to time, and we would like not to be notified by a secretary or anyone else for that matter.  We want to be a bit more proactive.

Working with the vendor, Sean – we set up this process for one of the partitions on the system – rather than the entire system.  Test it out on a smaller scale.  Every 15 minutes, the software pings each camera on its network (server) – each camera has its own ip address, so this makes sense.  If a camera does not respond to the ping (I think it pings it for 60 seconds – giving the camera as much time as possible to respond) – an “Alert – camera not responding” message is sent to my email. – actually this is what showed up.

genetec notifications

This way – I can check to see if the camera is actually down and then ask our helpdesk people to contact our internal network guy who will ensure that there is at least power to the camera.  Then, if there is power, we will contact Genetec.  This is a good vetting step since the vendor charges us xx dollars each time they come out to check on something.

I figured out this am, after my initial deluge of false email notifications – which cameras those ip address are.  So, I can at least say to someone “well it the Front Entrance doors that tend to tend to report false positives”, like today.

I found the matching ip address reported in the email by opening the thick client configuration tool and right clicking the camera and choosing ping.

ping genetec camera

Moral of the story? – Trying to be proactive is a good idea.

How users view our web security cameras – groups and permissions

I reminder to my brain how this works.  “dear brain, it has been awhile since i asked you any questions pertaining to the security settings of the cameras that people in the BOCES use, especially those new cameras we had installed not long ago and the accounts that were set up so people could log in and just see those cameras”….

That was kinda the scenario a few weeks back.  The vendor, Genetec, installed some new security cameras to our system in the lobbies of the 3 main buildings.

The general rules are the system has a server.  the server has partitions.  partitions have groups.  groups have users.  groups have permissions.  users should not have permissions.

There were 3 new accounts created, one for each person who monitors the lobby entrance way.  Also a shared ‘sub’ account for people who relieve the main people.  Makes sense.

The other day, I got a message from the boss keith it said “I though we had installed new cameras in the foyers?”.  Translated means “When I am logged on, I do not see the new cameras”.

What needed to happen was keiths account or the user group that contained the account, needed to be added to the new partition.  After verifying that keiths account was in the WFL Leadership group and adding it to the RSC Entrances partition, keiths account could see the new cameras.
genetec_partitions

The WFL Leadership group has Keith as one of its members.  The WFL Leadership group has the permissions to see certain cameras.  The group needs to be added to the new partition.

In order to provide a mechanism to allow the new users (front foyer waters) to see just those cameras – and no others, – a new partition was created and the cameras added to it.   A group was created giving it permissions to see the cameras in each foyer.  Accounts were created and then added to the group.

The WFL Leadership group is a Accepted user of the RSC Entrances partition.

Got it?

Updating events in the calendar module and using the site wide file cabinet

One of my schoolworld using customers contacted me the other day and said something like “the event that I added to the calendar module does not work and is missing a link”.  A little vague.  So, I spend about 10 minutes and made the customer tell me in more detail what he was trying to do and what was happening.

Problem solving 101 – make sure you have a good understanding of the problem.  After talking thought the issue, helping my schoolworld web site using coworker to walk through the problem verbally with me, we think we found the issue.  We sat down at his computer and he confirmed with me what had happened.  His co-worked had actually added the training event to the calendar, not him.  And in doing so, did things differently, which turned out to be incorrect.

I helped my customer to edit the events and update the file link in each, pointing it to the correct link and how to upload the instructional file that should have been part of the event.

event_cal_system

Both events needed to reference a file that is one the system.  I started to upload the file to the page, but then stopped, since I knew I needed to add it to another event and others after that.  I added the *shared document to the website wide file cabinet, using the schoolworld edit module facility.  I am a webmaster on the site.

file_cabinet

I added the document to the site wide file cabinet and referenced it from both the calendar training events.

Our customer and Genetec web security software

genetec2

A busy could days regarding Genetec corportation and their installation of new security cameras in our facility.  Lessons learned and discussed with my colleague Shirley – who kinda acts like the manager of our service to our internal employees.

Lessons

The vendor Genetec is mostly concerned with selling things – not ensuring people are understanding and using their technology

The vendor installs the heavy or thick client, as they call it, when the web client would be sufficient.  I think.

I am reminded why the minimalist approach is a good one.

When we have new cameras installed at various locations, different people who will be monitoring them, need to have account set up in the software.

Our vendor, Frontrunner – who is selling Genetec software – did not even bother to set up our new users with the server necessary.  What?  They installed the thick client on our users computer, they also created a new partition on our server along with creating a new user group for the partition.  Our internal admin. Deb created new accounts for the people who would be monitoring the cameras and made then sign off on a piece of paper stating they would not use any of the images / video for bad reasons.  There was also a user account created for the people who would be backing up the main people who would be monitoring the new cameras.

Our vendor installed the client on the computers but did not bother connecting the client to the server…..Very odd.  Impersonal.  One of the ladies who was given  credentials to log into the thick client said something like

“I dont know how to use it, noone showed me anything”.  Well, ok – I guess we will do that.

This is from my manager type communication laison co-worker Shirley.

As a result of yesterday and today’s installation here’s some things I learned that may help things go more smoothly in the future  –

Before installation occurs, a meeting needs to occur with vendor, MTS staff and at least 1 local Security Desk Administrator (myself or James)
Purpose:  to discuss all that needs to happen for the install –
    – Hardware/equipment installation – what cabling, locations and ports will be required?
    – Security Desk installation –
         – Do new end-users need the “heavy client” or the web client? Do they need Config Tool or just Secuirty Desk?
          – Do end-user’s computers’ meet technical requirements for the “heavy client”?
          – Necessary changes to Config Tool’s architecture (esp. considering Partitions, User Groups) and who will make changes
          – If “heavy client” is required, who will install on end-user’s PC – vendor or a Security Desk Administrator?
          – Who will sit with end-users to show them the system?
    – What action steps can be done before the date of installation and who will do them? For example – identify end-users, setup Config Tool’s architecture.

And lastly, when to schedule the install so everyone necessary will be present at the time they are needed.”

She summed it up much better than I was trying to do – except, that it is very helpful to write things out in your own words – helps to internalize concepts and promote long term retention of subject matter, what?  That was a joke.

New schoolworld – now Blackboard web site

We have a number of schoolWorld (which is now Blackboard).  We have a new site put this week.  We failed to provide a name and register the domain name, so our site ended up with a URL like this

http://www.myschoolpages.com/schools/WayneEducation

We are working now on changing that to match the other sites we have up for our various organizations.  It will look like this, once we pay the name and register the domain name.  http://WayneEducationCenter.org

The other slightly interesting point is the newer templates that schoolWorld (Blackboard) provides.  I can see this while looking at the new site.  My colleague helped the champions by acting as a laison.  She worked with the content champions at Wayne and then translated that to schoolWorld (blackboard).  That again, is customer service.  What value are we adding to our service to our district entities.  How are we helping them to champion their web sites, the content in the web sites.

wayneeducationcenter

A couple champions of the site, cause each site needs these to remain relevant, have been identified, they championed for the site in the first place.  They have an idea to let their students add content to the site.  Great idea, the more people who contribute content to the site, the more people will take ownership and continue to feed the beast.  When the beast stops being fed, it becomes irrelevant and dies – a slow excruciating death.  I know, a little dramatic.

We could support the service (blackboard site) by helping the champions.  Listen to what they want to do and help them.  Help them get going.  This will probably look like creating a couple additional accounts for the students and giving the accounts access to the content that is to be updated/fed by the students.  We may even help with creation of the pages / accounts and assigning of permissions to them.  I could give permissions to one of the champions and simply let them figure things out, but that kind of service, well, sucks.

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