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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.

Uploading files and links…

SchoolWorld – blackboard, whoever else.  I had a request the other day to update a file in the cabinet that is linked from in two places.  I could not initially find the file in the cabinet, so i went to one of the two pages where it is referenced and uploaded the file to the page – and changed the URL in the link in the page.  I went to do the same on the other page, but stopped because I could was being dumb.  Find the file in the cabinet and update it.  I new it was there since the link in the page had a path to the filecabinet.

My second attempt to find the file was successful.

schoolworld filecabinet

Once I found the file in the cabinet – I was able to update it.  I also had to read the file description, because it lists the others places in the site where the file is referenced.  I have to actually copy the new reference to it, because the file name changed.

I do not have to change the file name… I can simply rename the file that was given me and leave the reference file alone. The date does not have to be included in the file name – use something like EMERGENCY PLAN BOCES WIDE .pdf

Each time I am given an updated file, I simply rename it to EMERGENCY PLAN BOCES WIDE .pdf – there is even a friendly file name that i could use to say something like EMERGENCY PLAN BOCES WIDE – October 2014 .pdf

This is preferred because I do not have to change the references to it in other places.

What do CMS’s need most?

It is not a trick question and it is my opinion.  Captain obvious.

Let me cut right to the chase.  CMS’s or LMS’s or school web sites or whatever you choose to call them….they need one thing over anything else……

Content.  Or users to champion adding content.

I was looking at a new implementation of a schoolWorld web site for one of our District buildings.

http://myschoolpages.com/schools/wayneeducation/.

I noticed the template, the images, the template provided functionality.  The ColdFusion used to build this model. “.cfm pages”.  I used to develop in CF a while back.  I noticed the *forced functionality that the templates bring or us.  This model feels old.  I noticed the main navigation buttons across the top of the screen, noticed the quick links, the sub page headers changing as you selected different *options in the template, like athletics, calendars, staff list etc.

wayne_schoolworld

It looks ok, but what it really needs is contentPeople to feed it.  If it does not get feed, it becomes irrelevant, obsolete.

It reminds me of little silos of information.  People want to have their own site, their own presence.  Web sites are created and perhaps have a brief season of life, but too often, they end up starving on the vine.  Why?  the people who championed them move on or retire.  New people come in and they want to champion other systems.  Systems that they are more familiar with…but, I digress.

Websites need content, content needs people to champion and be responsible for using.  Made me think of one of our Moodle sites where last week we meet with a person, a key technology person who told us how busy their teachers are.  How many current systems they have to already use.  We made that moodle a little easier to *encourage teachers to use it by integrating with their current authentication system via an LDAP server.

I also note what must be popular in some sites, things like *Latest , Featured or News, something to allow the people who were championed to use a megaphone or a big ole can of paint.  Conceptually speaking, a way to highlight or emphasize information in the most public spot.  The template used above has a News and a Featured *area.  Now it needs someone to take over feeding it.

The BEAST MUST BE FEED…

Fore the newly minted schoolworld site show above, I will spend some time helping a couple people who have been created in the system with privlidges to create content.  I will show them how to do this or that, change something in a page, create a link to do something….then, soon afterward, I will start peaking in to see if people are adding content to the system.  And of course, a Search textbox – as if that actually worked.

To be a little practical before I go, I did ensure I could log into the site, I think my co-worker created my account, otherwise, I have to get an admin signin for the new system, so i can login with permission to create a new account for myself and then probably for the couple of champion content people spoken of.

schoolword_admin_menu

These are the webmasters (only three, with one leaving soon) – and a couple content champions who have site level administration permissions.

wayne_admins

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