Sharing an MLS Database

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Thu Aug 28, 2008 1:05 pm

kh_design wrote:I can understand very clearly what Techgy is stating. MLS is a very powerful tool used to help leaders minister to the members. Many unfortunately do not take advantage of the MLS tool and the information that can be used to help fulfill a calling, and so taking more of there valuable time by not using MLS. However those who do use MLS and see it's information advantage try to use it to it's full capacity.


There is an option to mitigate the problem of overcrowded lines in the clerk's office: Some of the reporting functionality of MLS can be offloaded onto authorized users' own PCs or PDAs via the export files. Especially at the ward level, there are third-party helper apps available. And if one is up to doing some of their own programmiing and querying, much can be accomplished with the raw export data in spreadsheets or database programs. The structure of the export files is imperfect, but they are usable.

My bishop is seldom found behind the keyboard of MLS, for example, but he is very dependent on the Ward Tools app on his PDA.

techgy
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Postby techgy » Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:17 pm

I'll stick by my original comment and not recommend this. The risk of corrupting the database is too great. I also don't believe that we should be producing large amounts of confidential data and placing it onto the PDA's that everyone has.

Information contained in the MLS system is encoded and secured pretty well. Once it's out of that arena anything can happen to it. An individual's personal information could fall into the wrong hands and be used in almost any manner.

I appreciate the ideas and readily admit that some of them may even give pause to consideration, but in my humble opinion, it's risky - let alone most likely being against church policy. Better safe than sorry.

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:48 pm

Techgy wrote:I also don't believe that we should be producing large amounts of confidential data and placing it onto the PDA's that everyone has.


Well, except MLS produces files specifically for importing into PDAs. As long as the Bishop approves who can get the files, I don't see a problem. That's not the most secure answer or the most comfortable of situations, but I'd be hard pressed to honestly come up with any other answer given the facts.
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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:08 pm

RussellHltn wrote:Well, except MLS produces files specifically for importing into PDAs. As long as the Bishop approves who can get the files, I don't see a problem. That's not the most secure answer or the most comfortable of situations, but I'd be hard pressed to honestly come up with any other answer given the facts.


In addition to what RussellHltn said, I would add that there are security requirements for PDAs that contain confidential membership information. The Policy and Guidelines for Computers Used by Clerks for Church Record Keeping says on the last page that the Stake Technology Specialist:

13. Ensures that authorized priesthood leaders who export membership data to PDAs use passwords to protect that data in the event the PDA is lost or stolen. Reminds priesthood leaders to erase the membership data on their PDAs when they are released.

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iamdavid
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Postby iamdavid » Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:40 am

The answer is NO

The unrude answer is twofold: MLS is specifically designed with an encryption/security feature which properly prevents a duplicate installation from working. An update from a second MLS would put the encryption in the second MLS out of step - security Lock-out!

Second - as was suggested to me: Why not network the second PC with the first? (We have to wards using the same ward clerk's office)

Answer: MLS is designed to operate on one database. The WHOLE of MLS data is one file, designed around a Database, Views and Forms (to use the old terminology) The problem in this 'network' proposal is that, if it did work, each person accessing data would save out and undo work done by another person simultaneously IN the MLS database on the second PC. BUT Having been asked, I tested MLS and found, even if a networked PC could access a "running" MLS (pretty much like a 'leet haxor'), once either person actually opened a FORM, eg. the Personal Detail, name etc page of an individual's Membership Record, no OTHER access is allowed, by MLS, to that one, single, contigious database.

It self regulates.

More than one Category can be opened (Home and Visiting Teaching plus Finances plus some Organisational view) but once a datafield is directly accessed, all others in MLS become 'locked'.

So the answer I gave members of the other ward, who suggested Networking the two computers, was NO.

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iamdavid
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Postby iamdavid » Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:52 am

Response to second part of thread - Palm Files

This is an excellent method of giving people the data they need to perform 'off-site' preparations. This is a seven day church and the idea that people can come to church on Sunday and cram into an office, hoping to all access the one computer is wrong and misconceived.

As ward clerk, I personally visit the chapel three times a week, including Sunday, as a minimum. It may be that I am uniquely available to do that. On the other hand, a clerk who cannot spare the time cannot afford to be clerk. It's not simply a matter of delegating a number of assistant clerks (I have 2). Even without requiring to attend administrative and other councils, there are things needing to be done by the clerk which enable him to KNOW the answers when audits and the like (or curious stake Presidents) come around.

Providing Palm versions of data to trusted servants of the priesthood (including Sisters with specific callings and asignments for RS or the like) enables them to massage and print data etc., that they can bring to church on Sunday (or Wednesday, whatever). Insofar as providing such data to sisters is concerned, on the one occasion I have done so, I deleted what I considered unnecessary and/or confidential data fields before emailing the file to her. Once again, this speaks to the need to do things off-site in order to expedite the work of the Lord.

The clerk's office is the LAST place to want to visit for the purposes of 'doing something'. heh

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marianomarini
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Postby marianomarini » Mon Sep 08, 2008 3:30 am

Reading this topic a question raise into my mind.
We have one Pc for two units. The problem is that one branch is italian speaking and the second english speaking.
In the beginning the english use italian Windows with english MLS. Database was, and still is, in the same directory. Of course each unit has his own.
When american clerk ask for a english Windows I made two partitions: C with italian Windows and MLS and D for the english.
Then I installed MLS into D, make a backup from C and restore into D.
All seem work.
Now the question is: the security lie into PC or disk partition or whatever?
If this work, why it doesn't work for sepaate Pc? Remeber that english unit still have two database because we want be sure that all is really work.
I can be more precise later.
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iamdavid
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Postby iamdavid » Mon Sep 08, 2008 5:10 am

Each Branch has its own database, operating from one machine. Each time the machine is used to update HQ files (Send Receive) a new crypto variable is generated FOR THAT MACHINE.

Using a second machine creates a disparity between the crypto variables in each of the two machines. One would be out of synchronism with headquarters as soon as the other did a Send Recieve.

Then there is that other business I mentioned - two installations working on the one file (database) just means the one saving changes to Membership data would wipe out any Home Teaching changes IF it had been possible to both get IN in the first place.

So I see the answer still as NO

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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:17 am

WenU wrote:The answer is NO

The unrude answer is twofold: MLS is specifically designed with an encryption/security feature which properly prevents a duplicate installation from working. An update from a second MLS would put the encryption in the second MLS out of step - security Lock-out!

This is not exactly true. As I mentioned in my previous post, from a strictly technical standpoint, a duplicate copy of the LDS Church folder on a 2nd machine would allow someone to run MLS, with the restriction that they could not do a send/receive. (Assuming they had the proper login credentials.)

WenU wrote:Second - as was suggested to me: Why not network the second PC with the first? (We have to wards using the same ward clerk's office)

Answer: MLS is designed to operate on one database. The WHOLE of MLS data is one file, designed around a Database, Views and Forms (to use the old terminology) The problem in this 'network' proposal is that, if it did work, each person accessing data would save out and undo work done by another person simultaneously IN the MLS database on the second PC. BUT Having been asked, I tested MLS and found, even if a networked PC could access a "running" MLS (pretty much like a 'leet haxor'), once either person actually opened a FORM, eg. the Personal Detail, name etc page of an individual's Membership Record, no OTHER access is allowed, by MLS, to that one, single, contigious database.

It self regulates.

More than one Category can be opened (Home and Visiting Teaching plus Finances plus some Organisational view) but once a datafield is directly accessed, all others in MLS become 'locked'.

So the answer I gave members of the other ward, who suggested Networking the two computers, was NO.

The original poster did not want to edit the same database using two machines, this will obviously fail. He was asking if there was a way a 2nd PC could access the MLS information in a read-only fashion. In my previous post I suggested a working solution, but I really don't want to elaborate as this method would be clearly outside of the existing Church guidelines.
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iamdavid
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Postby iamdavid » Thu Sep 11, 2008 5:51 am

Agreed, Mikerowaved, but I saw (sensed) the picture created of numbers of people cramming into the ward clerk's office and wanting to simultaneously access the one ward's records in MLS.

My answer was NO.

In practice, almost anything is technically possible but experience shows our uncontrolled ingenuity ends up causing probalems and/or security breaches - not to say conflicts with Church Policy.

I'll stick with NO, rude as it always seems.

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