Enabling users who can't get to MLS

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
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Enabling users who can't get to MLS

Postby unixguy » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:06 pm

I have a user who is unable to get to the computer to enter visiting teaching results. She's technically literate, and has created a small access database to keep track of the data as she's collected it. (It seems to be limited to names, phone numbers, VTeachers, and method of contact (visit, letter, call), so I don't think we'd run the same privacy problems as the Google maps application had to deal with.)

I'd like to provide a way for her to get that same data (problem 1) so that as the RS membership changes she at least has a fairly recent complete list to work from, and then it would be even better if I could somehow read her data back into MLS so that I (or someone in the RS Presidency) doesn't have to re-enter all that data. (xml format?)

If the VT assignments are correct in MLS, then it will be easy to solve problem 1by printing to a pdf and sending that to her.

Problem 2 seems much more difficult, but how do geographically disperse units handle the difficulty of gettng to the MLS computer?

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Postby russellhltn » Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:22 pm

One of the interesting things I read in the policy for administrative computers is that remote software seems to be allowed. I forget the name of the package named. Not sure what it would be like to run it over a phone line, but it's something to consider.

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Postby unixguy » Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:00 pm

Hmm, dial in to the XP machine and use remote desktop? I'll ask our stake tech guy about that. (Of course it's a bit complicated because we've got 3 wards using the same phone line.)

Thanks for the suggestion!

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:29 am

Well, on re-reading the policy, it spells out use PC Anywhere for "diagnostic purposes". So what you want to do may not be approved after all.

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Remote Administration

Postby LakeyTW » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:29 pm

Remote administration for troubleshooting and maintenance is allowed. Extending the desktop to remote users is not.


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Using "Scripting" to solve the issue

Postby atticusewig » Wed Mar 07, 2007 5:08 pm

One way to solve the problem is to use one of
the "scripting" programs out there that allow you
to control the mouse and keyboard to follow the
instructions in a script file. I like a program called
AutoIt that came on a CD I got with a computer
magazine, but there are plenty of these types
of programs to go around.

The difficult step is creating the script file out
of the data. I would use sed for this.

Basically, here's how everything would work:

1) Person who can't get to the MLS computer,
enters info and passes a copy via email to
someone who can, such as the Ward Clerk .

2) That Data is converted into a a script
of instructions on how to enter it into MLS.
Sed or a custom program would do the converting.

3) Ward Clerk takes the script to the Ward Computer and
runs the script.The Mouse and Keyboard will "come to life"
and enter everything into MLS for you.

I've scripted for MLS before with custom member
fields that needed a default value for all members,
so I know it can be done. It definitely can be used
to reduce the tedium of entering a lot of data.
I imagine it can also be used to allow the
entering of data from people who can't get to
the MLS computer.

Just remember a few things:
- Clear it with the Stake before you install Scripting Software
- Make sure the script file generated doesn't include any MLS passwords
- Examine the data to be changed prior to running the script to
make sure someone else hasn't modified it in a way that
will "break" the script.
- Bring something else to work on. Once the script starts,
you won't be able to use the computer until it finishes.

- Atticus Ewig

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Postby unixguy » Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:04 pm

Thanks Atticus, autoit may come in handy for some other projects, but what concerns me is error handling with that type of approach. (eg. "Smith, JoAnne" moved out just before the end of the month but "Smith, Joan" still lives in the ward-- I'd think this would lead to incorrect results in the record keeping if the source from the RS happened to have both sisters still included.)

And trying to develop the script to do the error handling could mean that I have to rewrite it when/if window titles change for MLS updates.

I guess what I'm hoping for is that there is an API for MLS and someone will venture by and let us know where to find it. :)

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