Friday, 27 August 2010

Joy! The PABX's dear little green light is on!

This is when the light was RED. And the mood was BAD.

Three heads are better than one.

When the light was finally green! And the mood was crazy happy.

I had been thinking all along that configuring and testing the Meraki Access Point would be the trickiest part of the WAN project. But nope, the guys configured it and we got a signal all the way to New Port Street! They still have not tested those friggin' flat panel antennae yet but I am thinking they've got this.

So which piece of %$^@$&@$%TY@$%T hardware gives us a hard time? The FREAKING PABX. Because guess what? Our US supplier sends it to us unlocked. What? Yes. U-N-L-O-C-K-E-D! The Panasonic guy had asked our man whether he wants the damn thing opened and our man thought he meant the packing. Besides that the entire system didn't come with the basic serial cables either. Neither with the software. Even though we asked for it. We would have paid for it, too. Anyway, my supplier here in Liberia took the rap for it and got it unlocked. After spending an entire day and god knows how much in phone calls.

You know people say, take it easy, take it easy. NOTHING gets done if you take it easy. You have to raise a hue and cry and/or do it yourself.

So you have to make the sacrifice of having a fire-breathing-monster reputation even though it's not your fault. It's the fault of all the incompetent morons of this world that you became so grumpy in the first place!!

But the main thing to remember here is we got it done! I'll give the credit to my US and Liberia suppliers for fixing the problem they created. They were on the phone all day. Apparently, my US supplier had to cancel his dentist appointment to make sure this gets sorted out.

What a joy it was to see that green light on!

They were all working until 1030 PM on a Friday night.

What a good feeling to know it's sorted out and I can move on to the next phase of the project. We are a few days behind but oh well, at least the problem has been resolved and I can move to site and install and fine tune it.

The best part of this is that we now know the ins and outs of buying and configuring a PABX. I still have to go and install it on site but I'm sure it'll be a piece of cake.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Some more important Tech News from NLTC

The weirdest little quirk: I can't seem to access my Gmail account on my laptop. It's just no good. However, I can get and send e-mails from my iPhone.

In fact, I have done all my business on my iPhone today. My fingers are tired.

Technology makes no sense at all.

And I make my bread and butter with it. No, not literally.

PS. As you can see, I do business with a very serious expression on my face.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

'African Signs' are messing with my business plans

So we do not deal with Israeli products. And we try not to get irritated with clients' IT officers who can't tell the difference between a computer mouse and real one because we are afraid of 'African signs.'


Let me tell you the story.

We have built a network for one of my important clients. We also built them a server and firewall. All Linux-based, all open source. Virus free. License free. And, we provide fine tuning and training for a period after the project has been handed over. Naturally. But you would think that the fine tuning and training would have a cut off period. My guys are there all the time.

Every friggin' time I ask where Linga is, I get the answer, he's at the site. I telephone him sometimes when he's gone to client sites and why is he taking so long to get back to the office and guess what, yes, he is at this particular client site.

During a staff meeting I ask my staff, so how come we spend every waking moment of our friggin' lives at this site? Did you guys build a lousy network? What is it? Why are you guys always there and why does it look like what we built does not work?

So it turns out the IT officer cannot manage anything. My staff confirm this. So I ask them, can we just own up to this to our client? We do not want anyone to lose their job or create problems. Blah blah. But still, I am tired of us looking bad.

My guys say, no, we can't. I say, no, I am fed up of doing Call Outs for which we are not getting paid. There is legitimate money to be made here.

The guys are seemingly reluctant to push this further. Besides the whole we-can't-go-around-getting-people-fired. They say, he can harm us. I say, what? How the heck can he harm us? He is not our enemy. They say, he can harm us. I said, what? Get us in trouble? Get us fired? What? After prodding them, they say, 'African signs.'


Black magic. Voodoo. Abracadabra. Witchcraft.

I could not believe it. I was like, what? You guys are kidding, right? But no it turns out all my staff believe in this. They told me weird stories. They even told me about the naked soldier myths that went around in the war here - bullets ricocheting off them. You know, General Butt Naked. Stories of how a body decomposed in one minute.

I was flabbergasted. I asked them, so you guys can do wonders with technology. You guys can go and provide flawless IT solutions to world-class companies. You guys can make computers talk to each other. You can build a network. You can build servers. You know what a server actually is. You know it, man, you know it!

Yet you believe in some hocus pocus. Not any ordinary pull-a-bunny-out-of-a-hat type. Like make someone die hocus pocus.

I shall have to impress upon my people that this is pure nonsense. If this were the case, George W. Bush would have died 100 times.

Meantime, yes, my business plans on taking over the world are being sidelined because of fears of 'African signs.'

Monday, 2 August 2010

Tech news from NLTC

For Ethical Reasons We Avoid Use of Israeli Products in Our IT Solutions

I have officially commenced my biggest project to date - building a wireless Wide Area Network (WAN) across a camp site. If we pull this off, this will put NLTC in the next level.

This project has been in the pipe works since about May. That is when I carried out a site survey to be able to come up with a proposal. We offered a combination of a cabled LAN as well as a wireless WAN across a bigger area. There is also a voice component to the project which will serve as an intercom for the time being and can later be converted to a full-fledged PABX and VOIP too.

My chief techie Linga was sure of the Access Point he wanted to use way in the beginning. He had done the research on the Internet. Moreover, we found out that this particular brand is being sold here in the market giving us more confidence in its ability to function in Liberia's climate as we would need to mount this outdoors. A client in the same industry has also used the same Access Point.

I also need antennas to work in conjunction with these babies. I was told I needed omni directional antennas well as third party high gain ones. I am pretty sure I got the hang of it. Thank God for the Internet, Wikipedia and Google.

Below is a good explanation for the average laywoman like me:

"The single most important thing you can do to extend the range of your 802.11 system is to install an external antenna with some good gain and directional or omni-directional qualities. WiFi is simply a radio, which is used for computer. You can think of your antenna as the “speaker system” of your WiFi card. Get a bigger antenna; your WiFi will go a lot further."

The Access Point is a radio and the antenna is needed to amplify the signal. Big. Learning. Curve.

I consulted the sales rep of this company several times in order to finalise my proposal. I went through the plan with my staff. I got them to draw diagrams so I could visualise the whole thing. I worked on the pricing, the quantities. I figured out my sequencing, my duration. I had to come up with a labour fee.

I did not send out the proposal until I was actually in Pakistan. Sent it to the client and got it approved from Islamabad. What a good feeling it was. But honestly until I get the whole thing, I'll be much more relaxed about it.

NLTC was paid in advance for the project making it even sweeter.

When I started to do the purchasing of the stuff - we are ordering most of it directly from the US - I realised the antennas recommended by the company are manufactured by an Israeli company. In fact they even supply the Israeli Army. They have an entire section of their website for military orders.

I started looking for other antennas with the same specs. Man, did I create additional work for myself. I went back to the same company to ask them to recommend another product. The fellow just seemed to lose interest in me as a customer after that. He says, that is the only product he can definitely recommend. I went 'hunting' on the Internet for 5 GHZ high gain antennas and found a few options. So each time I go back to the company, he does not give me definite answers.

A sales rep for some other antennas was quite helpful in helping me to make my decision, offering me technical details and seemingly-good advice.

So after having gone back and forth, forth and back, to and fro, I have finally made up my mind and figured out which antenna I am going to use.

In the end, I am glad I could make this decision. We have felt helpless watching the state of Israel go around acting without any restraint, any sense of good will, any fair play for as long we can remember. So when this project comes along and I realise that I could be buying and using an Israeli product, I went and found a substitute. Of course, the company that I am buying the Access Points has - obviously - a partnership with this Israeli company because the freaking sales rep is recommending it officially. Maybe there's networking stuff I use right NOW is Israeli that I don't know about. Maybe some nut or bolt or wall box or router or cable. Who knows. I need to start investigating and learn more about the industry that I am now part of.

For the time being, it feels good!! Like a "nice pile drive to the face" in the words of Nacho Libre.

Now I just hope my network works!!

Interesting facts to make my day:
Wireless Wide Area Networks are wireless networks that typically cover large outdoor areas.

"An effective antenna solution increases the range and corresponding coverage of a wireless LAN, which decreases costs because of fewer access points."