Remote Desktop Connections and MLS

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
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carljokl
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Remote Desktop Connections and MLS

Postby carljokl » Tue May 03, 2011 2:00 am

I just thought I would ask to see if anyone knows about if there is any policy regarding the use of Remote Desktop on MLS computers. I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be some policy which prohibits it for security reasons but I don't know what the policy is.

Given that MLS is available on just one computer and there can be some difficulty when people want to get onto the computer I wondered if there might be scope for making it more available by using a remote desktop connection. This might make the MLS available on the LAN when the room in which the computer resides is being used for something else.

I believe though that there is a fundamental limitation for Windows that only one user session can be in use at a given time i.e. local or remote but not both. It was just a thought.

The web version of MLS might alleviate these kinds of problems depending on how much functionality is available and how far of in the future it is.
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russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue May 03, 2011 2:41 am

The appropriate place to look is the Policy and Guidelines for Computers Used by Clerks for Church Record Keeping. There is nothing explicitly in there, but I would point out
No other software should be purchased or installed on Church computers unless it is approved by the stake president, is appropriately licensed, and does not interfere with the operation of or compromise the security of the Church software and data already on the computer.


The prior version of the policy did list a specific software package that was permissible "for remote troubleshooting".

This might make the MLS available on the LAN when the room in which the computer resides is being used for something else.


I'd hope that's not too great a problem. If it is, a discussion with the bishop might be in order. After all, it is called "Clerk's office", not "Counselor Clubhouse". Certain activities that are important to the functioning of the church and carrying out one's calling can only be done in that room. Non-clerk activities can take place in any room that's available.
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carljokl
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Postby carljokl » Tue May 03, 2011 5:22 am

I am aware that Clerks are supposed to have their own room but within our Stake where rooms are at a premium the rooms are frequently used for other things as well.

The Clerk's office in my ward building also doubles as the Library and the Family History Centre as well as having a board in case it needs to be used as a teaching room. It is far from being a dedicated room. Still it is an improvement from when it was also being used for breast feeding presumably due to it being one of the few rooms with a lockable door. I must admit to having found it a bit ridiculous back when I was a Clerk, not being able to get into my room to get on MLS because someone was in there breast feeding. Since then a mothers lounge was created out of some of the toilet room space so there is a room for that now. Having a dedicated room for the Clerk could end up with "Well we have found a place to put the Clerk but where are all these toilet rolls and cleaning supplies going to go?"

The issue of installing extra software does not really apply given that Remote Desktop is a component of Windows which just has to be enabled rather than installed. It is only an issue if there is policy prohibiting it's use or limiting how it can be used.

Remote desktop was just one idea but might not help because it may be more of an issue that someone is already using MLS and so others are not able to get on it than the room is being used for something else. That would be more of an issue at the Stake Centre where the MLS computer is in the Stake President's office because it has a barcode scanner now and is used as part of the Temple Recommend creation process.

Use of Remote Desktop beyond the LAN is almost certainly going to run into some Church policy, also the computer would have to be left on or some solution using something like Wake on LAN would have to be used.

The difficulty on Sunday is frequently the Clerk is using the MLS computer a lot of the time when others want to get onto it. This includes some lesson time as well. After Church the computer gets used for entering the tithing and by the time that is finished usually the building is getting locked up.

It may be that technology or at lest technology which I am in control of won't make any difference here and members may just be forced to use the computer mid week.
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Postby russellhltn » Tue May 03, 2011 9:50 am

carljokl wrote:That would be more of an issue at the Stake Centre where the MLS computer is in the Stake President's office because it has a barcode scanner now and is used as part of the Temple Recommend creation process.


Is that because the stake also is having problems with the clerk's office? Otherwise, I don't understand why it needs to be in the SP's office. In our stake, they simply save the stake copy of the recommend and scan them all at the end of the day.

carljokl wrote:Use of Remote Desktop beyond the LAN is almost certainly going to run into some Church policy


Like the policy settings on the firewall. You're not going to be able to get "from the outside in". Any remote connection would have to be "from the inside out" such as some of the commercial remote software which goes out to a server to establish a connection.

carljokl wrote:It may be that technology or at lest technology which I am in control of won't make any difference here and members may just be forced to use the computer mid week.


Yes, even if there was a room dedicated to the computer, I don't know as you'd be able to accommodate everyone during Sunday. This brings back memories of the computer policy way back when CHQ had authorized one computer per building. The policy had words to the effect of "we know this will create scheduling challenges, but that doesn't justify additional computers."
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Postby carljokl » Tue May 03, 2011 10:10 am

RussellHltn wrote:Yes, even if there was a room dedicated to the computer, I don't know as you'd be able to accommodate everyone during Sunday. This brings back memories of the computer policy way back when CHQ had authorized one computer per building. The policy had words to the effect of "we know this will create scheduling challenges, but that doesn't justify additional computers."


Does this imply that it no longer the case that you are limited to one computer per building for MLS or do you mean that it was one computer including for Family History Centre use?
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Postby russellhltn » Tue May 03, 2011 10:13 am

carljokl wrote:Does this imply that it no longer the case that you are limited to one computer per building for MLS or do you mean that it was one computer including for Family History Centre use?


The policy now closer to one per unit. I was excluding the FHC. They got their own computer.

My point is, as bad as it is now - it used to be worse.
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Postby carljokl » Tue May 03, 2011 10:18 am

As regards another related issue is my hope of providing some remote assistance. I was hoping to try and use Windows Live Messenger which include a feature for the individual to request remote assistance. This facility invokes native Windows remote desktop functionality to make it work. I hoped to create an account per MLS computer in the Stake. This would allow the Clerks around the Stake to communicate with me and request remote assistance if needed.

I thought Microsoft had a more business centric version of the Messenger app but I can't find it. Live Messenger is an extra install but it is in a somewhat grey (or gray if you prefer) area because I believe the Windows Live components are available through the Windows Update service as optional components.

There may well be better tools and Live Messenger tends to need some customisation to the settings to get rid of as much of the unneeded extra fluff that comes with it but it should do the job.
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Postby carljokl » Tue May 03, 2011 10:19 am

We are still limited to one MLS computer per building not per unit.....just so you know.
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Postby davesudweeks » Tue May 03, 2011 11:01 am

We do have a few issues at the ward level with too many wanting to access the computer, but most of them revolve around the HP group Leadership or EQ presidency desiring to use the Clerks Office for their presidency meeting. This is so they can access MLS during the meeting. As the ward clerk, I have told them that they can do that if they will work around the times I need on the system (preparation for ward council, bishopric, etc.). I politely told them that if they were meeting in the Clerk's office and I needed the machine they would have to live with me coming into the office during their meeting or they would have to go elsewhere. If I have to, I'm prepared to post a schedule like we used to do about 20 years ago when I was Membership clerk in Utah and we had 2 Wards and a Stake all sharing one computer.

We don't have any meetings on Sunday other than BYC so we don't have issues there. FYI, each ward in our stake has their own PC (including the Singles Branch).

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Postby aebrown » Tue May 03, 2011 11:52 am

carljokl wrote:Given that MLS is available on just one computer and there can be some difficulty when people want to get onto the computer I wondered if there might be scope for making it more available by using a remote desktop connection. This might make the MLS available on the LAN when the room in which the computer resides is being used for something else.


Aside from the other issues that have been raised, I would note that MLS is not designed to be multi-user. So even if you could get past the policy issues, there is the potential that one person is using MLS on the computer, and another person uses MLS remotely as a different user. After all, when you are working remotely, you can't be sure that no one has decided to use MLS on the computer. That could cause significant problems with the database.
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