Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Server attacked... and repaired.

Early last week our biggest server was attacked and an intruder go into it [not physically, but basically took over control of it] and then started using it to attack other computers and servers in London and around the world. The people we connect to in London received complaints about this and disconnected it from the Internet.

When someone has got in that deeply the only thing you can do really is to wipe the hard drive and re-install everything. Fortuneately we had a backup that was only 8 hours old [we do daily backups]... but re-installing is definitely non-trivial. What made it worse was the following morning one of my colleagues went to Dubai and another was teaching in another country, leaving me to sort everything out. Although before he did leave we talked through the re-build and decided to do the security upgrade we were planning to do soon.

That security upgrade was pretty complex. I won't bore you with the details, but basically it took me about 18-20 hours per day for about 5 days to get things back to where they were. However, I must admit that the pain was worth it and now with my colleague back we can see the fruits of that labour.

What did surprise us was just how many people were using our facilities. We have about 250 users and over 400 email accounts on the server. Of course, that means that was the number of people disturbed by that one hacker.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Administrator needed...

Wednesday is the day when David, who does the book-keeping for us, comes in. He gives us one day per week, which we thought might be enough, but we are realising that it is not enough. As we are expanding so the administration is expanding.

By that I mean all the accounting for partners - everything we do is in partnership with another group and its important to get all the calculations right and to chase up when they pay us or when they don't. It may sound simple but we work in many different currencies, expenses can be in US dollars, British Sterling Pounds, Cyprus Pounds, Egyptian Pounds... and so on. Working out what percentage of our costs like electricity and communications charges should be attributed to each project is important too.

We are realising that a lot of that has not been done and a lot of the chasing up has not been done. We have focussed on getting the projects done rather than the administration to support them. I have many unanswered emails... before Peter came I was doing a lot of technical stuff, which was necessary even if somewhat boring. Now it looks like our need is for administration so I shall have to spend a lot of my time doing that.

We did have a good breakthrough at the end of the week technically though - the connection to collect files from Malta at last has got working. This has been troubling us for some months.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Two David's

First two days of this week involved two meetings with two David's - one American, one New Zealander. We had been talking about the need for more people here -- recruitment. Since we don't salary people 'recruiting' means something different to commercial companies.

One suggestion that came up from one of these meetings was to have a training centre here, where people from the Middle East could come for a few months to a year to learn more about media. It might also be that we have some westerners also in their 'gap year' coming out to work alongside these young people from the Middle East so as to learn about and share in the rich culture of the region.

In between meetings I have spent a lot of time getting some problems solved with the scheduling system for the radio stations. Boring but necessary.

Friday, November 11, 2005

New project started

We have started a new project which will last for a year in total. It's a total re-write of a website that is very interactive with our primary audience. Some Christians tend to take a confrontational approach to those outside the faith - basically telling them where they are wrong. Jesus tended more towards dialogue and attracting people to himself, the old people he had really bad words for were the Pharisees. Of course, even for people caught in the very act of sin, he didn't say 'OK, carry on it's quite alright' but 'Go, and don't do it again'.

So, this website publishes articles and allows interaction. Sadly its got in a bit of a muddle and so the first stage in untangling the site and then re-creating what the authors actually want. We have a programmer over from another country for a month to do the first stage of this, then he's back in the new year again... we hope to 'go live' with the new site early in February and then finish all the rest of what is needed over the next 12 months.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A week later

A week since I wrote... not sure if that is a good sign or a bad one.

It's been a week of ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like its all overwhelming and I cannot continue and sometimes I feel like things are moving forward.

Overwhelmed? There are many more things to do than we can do and all of us at times this week have felt we are just cranking the wheel and getting nowhere. We had never intended doing lots of maintainance type stuff essential to keep things going, yet we find ourselves doing a lot of that. These are things like keeping email and websites and audio streams going.

When you visit a website it feels like the author just wrote the stuff and that's it. For him that is it, but we are maintaining the computers and systems that keep his material there. And that is a lot more like the maintainance needed to keep an aeroplane flying than the maintainance needed on a house. The engineer looks at the aeroplane after every flight, two or three times a day often, yet our houses need action infrequently.

Today we had a team meeting and we drew all the relationships and all the locations on the white board - we realised how many people we are serving and how many depend on us. We are doing a lot of things for a lot of people. We realised how international we are when one of our partners paid us this week and that one financial transaction involved 6 countries!

So in amonst the feeling of getting nowhere there is the odd nugget. We were talking about training and I get tired of training because it often seems people should be able to find some of the stuff out for themselves. So I have as a value teaching people how to learn rather than just how to do something. When the subject of training came up I groaned inwardly. However one of my colleagues from another country said that at some recent training he had done he had been using my approach of not just teaching people how to do the task but of how to learn for themselves... and he said it was working. This is a big change for the Middle East, where that whole approach is counter-cultural, but necessary for today's world. Maybe I am making a small change after all...

It's been a time of change this week too - we moved three of the rooms in the office round. We are having more people come to stay and work with us for a month at a time and they stay in the guest room at the office. We moved the guest room to one that we didn't need to go through on a regular basis and was more out of the way. It won't be long before we really need a guest apartment for visiting staff, but we don't have money to pay for that yet.

This also gave more space for workstations, which we will need with both the extra people coming and going and because we had an extra full time person start this week. This means that reguarly there will be between 5 and 7 people in the office for the next few months. We are having to learn to communicate better and work more as a team than just a couple of individuals.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Meetings foreground... voip background...

This week looks like being full of meetings after last week being full of conference meetings. Helping advise another partner organization in Malta today. Tomorrow discussion about how to set up an online community of believers [or church by any other name].

In the background to all these meetings colleagues have been setting up a VOIP system. So what is VOIP you ask? VOIP stands for Voice Over IP, which in plain language means using the Internet to connect telephone calls. This would enable people responding to radio or tv programmes to connect to people who can help them with any questions they might have. Up to now if people want help its been through old fashioned letter, email and more recently SMS messages from mobile phones... but people in the Middle East are 'oral culture' which means they prefer to talk than to read or write, so if we can get this working it would be a big step forward.