Author Topic: Offline use with multiple laptops  (Read 17200 times)

SFD CERT

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Offline use with multiple laptops
« on: December 18, 2013, 11:26:43 AM »
Maybe this is addressed somewhere already - if so can someone direct me to the posts?

My question is for an offline mission scenario (no mobile network available).  I know we can create an off-line mission and have multiple laptops 'sync' with that mission before we leave a coverage area (so say we get a page - we can all connect to the internet, get that 'web mission' and then turn off the laptop and walk out knowing we have our latest member lists, etc.).

My question is - once we get to our scene, I can see one laptop being used at check-in, but another at planning and maybe another at logging/comms.

Without these 2-3 laptops being able to hit the web, updates aren't being made across the laptops.

Is there something out there that can:
a) let us link up on the network (maybe a simple wireless router would work for this?)
b) let the laptops all work from the same file while not working from the cloud file - so does Mission Manager/Radishworks have anything in their "skunkworks" section that they would be able to say have the Mission as a file we could host on a local file server or NAS? 

That way we could all fire up our laptops, specify somewhere in the offline Mission Manager that our mission file is in fact at location X, letting the check-in laptop update the file so that the team they make for us (say "Search Team 1") can then be shown on the logs and communication log, etc.?

Radishworks

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2013, 12:54:53 PM »
I think this has been a topic in some form someplace, but I didn't find the posts either.  NP, I'll give a quick response here.

Browsers running off-line are just that "offline" they are pretty limited as to what other data they can access for obvious security reasons.  For these reasons browsers running offline really can't access files on networks or exchange data over local networks.  Basically browsers only work over the Web, or in a very limited sandboxed space when running offline.  So the long answer to your question is "no not at this time".

Really the best solution is to find a way to get Web access in those remote areas you work in.  The areas of the US that are not covered by wireless Internet are shrinking.  Satellite connections are dropping in price and hopefully one of these days there will be Internet everyplace.

SFD CERT

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2013, 01:42:13 PM »
OK, so let me ask you this...could you copy the cache from one laptop to another and have it pick up the changes?

Radishworks

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2013, 03:06:29 PM »
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OK, so let me ask you this...could you copy the cache from one laptop to another and have it pick up the changes?
You could experiment with that but I don't know if it would work, I somewhat doubt it.  You would need to find where your browser stores the data (https://developers.google.com/chrome/whitepapers/storage) and attempt to copy it around.  Danger, Danger Will Robinson, there is a good chance you will corrupt the data in the process. 

TARSAR

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2013, 05:11:39 PM »
A smartly placed Lost in Space reference is always appreciated...since I remember watching that show in awe "back in the day".  I'd be very surprised if copying the cache didn't corrupts things, especially considering it is an HTTPS site and likely the security would detect something amiss.

SFD CERT

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2014, 08:29:17 AM »
Bummer!  If in the future - in the middle of all the other amazing work you guys do for this program every day to make us whiny users happy :) - there could be an option to run the "offline" mode using a file centrally located, I can see that being a huge plus to the system. 

You wouldn't need to rely on internet connection to be able to run more than one computer on the mission (one at staging, one at planning, one at comms, etc.).  As an example, at the Rim fire this year we had very spotty cell coverage so we'd have been left with no way to sync data between computers.

TARSAR

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2014, 09:13:41 AM »
The only logical way I could see something like that working would be to have all computers connected to a main computer or "server" and the data cache being stored there.  Potentially very difficult since you've already given the conditions of spotty coverage and limited connectivity.  I guess you could use a inverter from dc to ac, have a wireless router in place and then all computers connected to it, therefore allowing connectivity to each other.  Then you'd have to download the data to one main machine and that's the only machine that posts updates online once full internet is resumed.  Tough though since browsers maintain their own cache (hence the offline portion of MM).

Radishworks

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2014, 12:18:46 PM »
Good points TARSAR.  Setting up a MM "server" would be exactly what would be required in this situation.  This would be a pain for the team and I'm afraid would cause a lot of support issues for MM.

As I always say, you will get a lot more bang for the buck by trying to make involvements to some sort of Internet connection in the field, and using that to set up a little network.  If you have "spotty" or a weak cellular connection Google "cellular signal booster", there are a lot of pretty low cost options that will greatly improve cell signals in those spotty areas.  Using these boosters in conjunction with tall antennas and even dead areas can often get service.

screesurfer

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2014, 03:52:10 PM »
This is a perfect example of where a thick-client would be of use.  I'm pretty new, but the way I would envision this is to have the laptop sync with the online DB, either through the API or a direct DB sync.

Another, "easier" way would be to run the online version, and then at mission time have a server/laptop sync with the online database.  MIssion laptop can then serve the web pages to the other clients in the field.  Once mission laptop returns from field, it does a sync-upload differential to the server.  This would the "easier" because all the magic would be happening at a database sync level.  Running on Linux, a script might be able to do this based on a button click.

SFD CERT

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2014, 11:29:02 AM »
Yea, that's where the functionality comes in handy - the ability to have multiple computers sync among themselves instead of with the main database.

Figure you'd have one laptop at Staging, managing teams, etc. ...another at Comms logging radio traffic...etc.  Comms wouldn't be able to log a transmission as being from Team 3 since it doesn't know Team 3 was created - only the laptop at Staging knows that.

I fully appreciate connecting to the internet at any opportunity - but we've had more than one experience where we literally had no cell coverage - through our own providers or others.  I know folks say "just get some altitude", but I'm not duct-taping my cell phone to the antenna mast to see if that works or not :) 

That leaves us limited to trying to run off of one machine, and that's pretty difficult to do with multiple functions.

We are trying to work around it - picking up some Linksys routers with DDWRT loaded to act as 'receivers' for a single login to a wifi network, but that won't address the primary problem of what to do when you have no connectivity and the need for more than one person working the event.

It's almost like a third mode...similar to 'offline' mode where it simply stores up info, but one where it can share that info it will have in cache with other machines.  Have one machine on a network be the cache site, and have the other browsers from machines on that same network 'sync' to that designated cache...then when you get back to having a signal, that cache machine can sync with the Radishworks server.

TARSAR

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2014, 10:42:15 PM »
You'll still be faced with issues of security and logging in.  None of that data is stored "offline", nor should it.  What would prevent someone from misusing that data and how would one securely authenticate when your offline machine isn't an actual web or DB server.  Not trying to be a buzz kill, but computers are my business and the issues involved with security and encryption are not easily dealt with without having a web server (apache or IIS), a database (MySQL, PostgreSQL, or MS SQL Server), and a "language" such as PHP or .ASP.  It would be nice, but it's not as simple as downloading the mission for offline use and sharing it. 

Radishworks

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2014, 07:47:28 AM »
All very good points TARSAR.  The code for MM offline takes almost as much work to maintain as does the online version, adding a 3rd, local server method would take a lot of work.

I had a thought that "might" work in "theory" - I will toss it out there for any computer wiz who wants to give it a try.  These thoughts are around Chrome, although FireFox might be possible too.  If I search the Chrome App Store, it appears that there are a lot of "apps" for debugging, viewing, deleting, the data that's stored in Chrome's "Local Storage".  (This "Local Storage" is where MM offline stores its offline mission data.)  This leads me to think that an app may be able to access the data from different pages.  If there was a way to install a Chrome app that would exchange this Local Storage data across a local network, you might be able to accomplish a offline MM local network.  This is not as dangerous as trying to copy files around, but does come with caveat of: try this at your own risk  ;D.

cmleaver

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2014, 09:44:40 AM »
Good points TARSAR.  Setting up a MM "server" would be exactly what would be required in this situation.  This would be a pain for the team and I'm afraid would cause a lot of support issues for MM.

As I always say, you will get a lot more bang for the buck by trying to make involvements to some sort of Internet connection in the field, and using that to set up a little network.  If you have "spotty" or a weak cellular connection Google "cellular signal booster", there are a lot of pretty low cost options that will greatly improve cell signals in those spotty areas.  Using these boosters in conjunction with tall antennas and even dead areas can often get service.
Hi all!  First post.  I joined just to comment on this exact topic as it is something that we are trying to figure out as well.  I am a team leader for my county CERT.  Working in IT, I do all of our team's IT work. 

We've tried using a hot spot - it allows us to each synch with the cloud database, but not intercommunicate, say to share a printer.

We've tried using a router where one machine was wired to it so we could share a single connection to a hot spot - no dice, not able to be shared.

Admin - I apologize in advance if this comes across as harsh.  The truth is that your suggestion to "just get cell service" is completely discounting the reality of the product's usage.  Cell networks are the only option that addresses your suggestion.  When are people going to use this?  During emergencies/disasters.  What is the likelihood of their being reliable cell service during said event?  Very low to zero - they are instantly overloaded or down during any sort of emergency.  That's just fact.

Mission Manager is an incredible product.  It solves so many problems we were facing in check in/out, organization, etc.  It's biggest shortcoming, though, is the lack of ability to be used offline.  Unfortunately, this defeats the purpose of using the product when we need it most - in an actual situation.

I'm not saying that the solution is simple.  (Although I disagree with TARSAR that it needs to be that complex.)  I am saying that it needs to be seriously investigated and remedied in order for MM to live up to its real potential.

Radishworks

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2014, 01:59:05 PM »
Welcome cmleaver.

Quote
We've tried using a hot spot - it allows us to each synch with the cloud database, but not intercommunicate, say to share a printer.
We've tried using a router where one machine was wired to it so we could share a single connection to a hot spot - no dice, not able to be shared.
You will need explore hardware that is specifically designed to share a single hotspot as well as print server of some sort.  If you do your team's IT you should be able to set up the needed hardware.  Here is a post that gives some ideas:
http://www.radishworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=14.msg32#msg32
http://www.radishworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=132.msg482#msg482

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Admin - I apologize in advance if this comes across as harsh.  The truth is that your suggestion to "just get cell service" ...
As you are new, you may not have had time to browse this message forum, "just get cell service" is not the only suggestions.  Here are some other posts you might want to look into:
http://www.radishworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=129.msg818;topicseen#msg818
http://www.radishworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=498.msg2138;topicseen#msg2138
http://www.radishworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=4.msg5#msg5

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... is completely discounting the reality of the product's usage.
I would also beg to differ with your assessment of how MM is used.  While the name "Mission" Manager implies that "missions" are what MM is mostly used for.  As a First Responder, you know that 98% of what happens is not related to extreme "emergencies/disasters".  The team related functionality of MM gets far more use than the "mission" part.   When it comes to "missions" the vast majority are NOT ones that bring down the cellular networks.  This is not to say that MM isn't used for those extreme "emergencies/disasters", it is - there are very few major events in the US that MM isn't usually involved in some way. 

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I am saying that it needs to be seriously investigated and remedied in order for MM to live up to its real potential.
This has been investigated very seriously.  MM is a big, very complex application.  The current "offline" code is a totally different code stream that duplicates what happens online.  Adding a 3rd version of code that duplicates offline custom server, is no small project. 

Mission Manager is provided as a public service to all the teams that use it, as has been said many times donations do not even cover server costs much less development expenses.  Given this, we need to pick feature development that gives the most bang for the (lack of) buck.  This is not to say there will never be more support for a local network, but its not the highest priority right now.  We are not ignoring that some teams want a local network, the reality of a free service is we can't support every request.

Quote
What is the likelihood of their being reliable cell service during said event?  Very low to zero - they are instantly overloaded or down during any sort of emergency.  That's just fact.
Again, I would disagree that during "any sort of emergency" cell service goes down.  You would be surprised how quickly cell networks were operating in the extreme event of the Haiti Earthquake.   There has been many emergency's where MM was used and the cell networks worked just fine.  There is always that satellite internet option, if all satellite connections fail, we all have a much bigger problem on our hands. 


We welcome your team to use MM, and we hope that you find it a useful tool for most of what your team does.  Remember, even if you have your own independent network, it could fail too with something as simple as getting stuck in traffic on the way to the "emergencies/disasters".


TARSAR

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Re: Offline use with multiple laptops
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2014, 09:58:21 PM »
I'm not saying that the solution is simple.  (Although I disagree with TARSAR that it needs to be that complex.)  I am saying that it needs to be seriously investigated and remedied in order for MM to live up to its real potential.
While you may disagree, the fundamental is and has been the database not so much the client code. Yes I'm simplifying it, but that's the toughest part.  How to you take a cloud based database, likely residing in MySQL, PostrgreSQL, MS Sql Server, etc, and make it "portable"?  That's the key.  Setting computers up to share resources like printers, simple.  Sharing a database residing on a computer, pretty simple depending on the platform, but ultimately relies on the database engine residing on the "host" machine.  When I implied that it was complex, it is especially when one considers that EVERYTHING currently being done on MM is being developed, hosted, and maintained at the expense of the person(s) that created it.  While I'm no programmer, and certainly don't claim to know all things computer, I've been building, repairing, and networking computers for a minimum of 20 years professionally.  I don't think I'm overstating the complexity involved in downloading database content to a local machine, sharing that data, and then syncing it back to the host database.  Can it be done?  Absolutely!  Is it a reasonable expectation now?  Not really.  Should there be a sudden influx of capital and technological resources, no doubt it could be done.  We should be thankful that our gracious host puts his time, talents, and money out there for us to use at no cost.

Please don't infer a harsh tone to my voice, there isn't one.  I'm simply pointing out a few things to keep in mind.