Cool Tool: J!Dump

I just found another gem.
Remember how I was running around in circles trying to get my Joomla! OS Membership Pro Paystack payment plugin code to work? Well something drove me to ask my best friend Google about debugging, and I hit the jackpot.
Joomla! has documentation on how to debug your code at their JoomlaDocs.
I tried out the Joomla! Debug console, but it was not doing what I needed done: dump out variable values for me to see. Eventually I tried the J!Dump option in the list, and I fell in love.

J!Dump will allow you to dump variable, stack traces, and system information into a popup window at run time. This extension works like the PHP command `var_dump` but formats the output in a much more readable fashion. On the github page, the README says:

This utility makes life easy for developers and template designers. You use it to see what’s inside a variable, an array or an object. Instead of using print_r() or var_dump(), you can now use dump(). This will open a popup window with a nice expandable tree, showing the contents of the variable. It will even show a list of available methods for each object. You have to see it to believe it! You can use dump() in your extensions, in the core, in libraries and even in templates.

It has certainly made my life easier since I installed it.
It works with Joomla! 3.x and PHP 7.x which is what I have set up on my server. I’m yet to test it on Laragon, but I bet it would work.

Thank you to the seven contributors to this free open source project!

Get Certified at JoomlaDay Kenya.

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For the first time we will be hosting a Joomla Certification Exam during our JoomlaDay event which will take place on the 14th of Sept 2018. When I took my exams in Rome Italy, the last thing I was worried a bout was time, having 90 minutes at my disposal was more than enough. Shock on me, in the middle of my exam, I was pressed for time, and I was rushing to finish, That was followed but a not very good outcome.

My Experience.

Yes, the exam is not easy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “I have been working with Joomla! for over 10 years, so passing a Joomla! exam will be a breeze”. Only the top 10-15% taking the exam actually pass it the first time. Out of eleven exam takers, maybe two will pass. The odds are tough, however, if you really want to pass, you can take what you learned, develop a strategy for studying, and take the exam again at the next Joomla Event.

Topics Covered in the Exam.

According to the official Joomla! site, here are the objectives to know for the exam:

  • Joomla! Architecture
  • Preparing and installing Joomla!
  • Website Structure
  • Managing and Editing Articles
  • Managing Users and Access (ACL)
  • Managing Menus
  • Security and Maintenance
  • Upgrading the System
  • Managing Extensions
  • Multilingual Sites

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There are no exam books available yet for exam prep. They are in the works, but not yet developed. Materials are mainly links to articles. I suggest if an article is unclear, check out OSTraining’s videos on the subject. They are the most updated information available. Note also, questions come directly from experience working in the product. Many answers will be clear if you have hands-on experience.

Why Spend money and time?

First, getting certified in any product is generally a good idea. After all, it tests your knowledge in a product, and forces you to remain current – you owe it to your clients and students who benefit from your knowledge to stay current.

Second, certifications are great for your resume, they can be the difference between you and your competitor getting the job.

Third, certifications prove that the product you work in has a solid reputation. Offering a certification in a product reveals it is worthy of certification. Deciding to take the exam shows your support for the product as well.

One last thing.

Study the articles related to the exam articles, read the Joomla documentation, watch OSTraining videos, and practice tasks in a sandbox environment. Take the exam, and if you don’t pass, TAKE IT AGAIN.

Support the volunteers who made it possible for you to prove your skills. Remember, they don’t get paid for their labor of love. Give constructive criticism to the exam prep team so they can make the exam better in the future. And, good luck!

We welcome you to take this exam during our JoomlaDay event, we hope to see you there.

 

Building a Payment Plugin for OSMPro

As I am known to do, I take on small plugin projects from time to time. Having small programming code work to keep my mind churning has always helped to distract me from other things that could drag me under.

This time around, I had just finished one Joomla payment plugin for Virtuemart, for the Nigerian payment gateway, Paga, so writing another should have been easier. I was wrong. I was still yet to test the Paga plugin live, as the client was unresponsive, but I felt I could also rush this one in three weeks and be done.

I repeat, I was wrong.

This plugin is for the Nigerian payment gateway, Paystack, a cool new payment solution that everyone in the Tech community is proud to be associated with. Its also heartwarming that the founders are old friends of mine, but don’t let me digress.

Joomla’s plugin system, called extensions, has a very different naming convention compared to WordPress. In Joomla, there are Components (think big complex plugins), modules (think plugins that can be displayed in different positions at the front end), templates (think themes), and plugins (usually do invisible work at the back end). Components can have modules and plugins working with them. There are also extensions exclusively for the front end, and for the back end.

I was to build a Paystack payment plugin for the OS Membership Pro component. Keep in mind that there is no documentation (I had to rely on the skeletal documentation for one of their other plugins which my client claimed he was told was similar). After three months of battling the code, I had something ready for testing, but could not get access to the file server of the client, so I could work on the files directly. No responses from him so I gave up.

Fast forward three more months, and someone at Paystack buzzed me for help. He noticed I was a Joomla! fan, and had developed payment plugins for other components in the past. He needed help with developing one for the OS Membership Pro component, and was wondering if I was game. When he realized I already had something going, he encouraged me to finish, and offer me help 😀

So here are the notes and lessons I learnt the hard way while battling with it. I know I am bound to build another payment plugin for this component, so I figure, having something I can refer to, tomorrow, to make my work easier, online, would be awesome.

  1. Recurring or not: if the plugin you are developing does not support recurring payments, then don’t test it with plans that have recurring subscription activated. I wasted valuable time testing because I did not do this – sounds easy but when you are not that familiar with the component, it’s not.
  2. Naming: the name of the plugin in the xml document must be the same as the name of the php file. That’s the only way it will show up in the front end as an option to be selected for payment.
  3. Blueprint: The PayPal plugin caters to both recurring and single payment modes, so use it as your blueprint for your plugin.
  4. Redirect or Credit Card: If you want to redirect to the payment gateway, use this skeleton they recently put up on their GitHub page . If you want to build a plugin that uses credit card, use this one. I worked on the Redirect option.
  5. Classes and functions: The main class extends MPFPayment. There are four functions -> __construct, processPayment, verifyPayment, and validate. Because of the different nature of the payment form, I also created my own renderRedirectForm function.

I will keep adding to this list.

Deploying Big Data for Security.

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Many organisations today are revolving and relaying on information technology, to many of those and to myself, I like to say that we are in the United Nations of information Technology.

With that, every minute we face new threats, the banks are hacked, there is fake news and even a presidential election is compromised. In the world of Data, we are reminded Data drives decisions, but decisions now write world history.

Stolen or manipulated Data can be used to assassinate character or disrupt democracy. Thats the real problem, cybersecurity threats is making it difficult to make good decisions. Data is more, its becoming the bedrock of our economies.

And Data plays a big role in  our decision making and we have to make sure that its being protected. If Data is manipulated it can be turned to a weapon and that weapon used against us.

Many businesses already use Big Data for marketing and research, yet may not have the fundamentals right – particularly from a security perspective. As with all new technologies, security seems to be an afterthought at best.

Big Data breaches will be big too, with the potential for even more serious reputational damage and legal repercussions than at present.

A growing number of companies are using the technology to store and analyse petabytes of data including web logs, click stream data and social media content to gain better insights about their customers and their business.

As a result, information classification becomes even more critical; and information ownership must be addressed to facilitate any reasonable classification.

Most organisations already struggle with implementing these concepts, making this a significant challenge. We will need to identify owners for the outputs of Big Data processes, as well as the raw data.

Thus data ownership will be distinct from information ownership – perhaps with IT owning the raw data and business units taking responsibility for the outputs.

In the run-up to Africa Cybersecurity Summit on 27th and 28th of September, I will be doing articles on a wide range of topics that we will cover during the summit. This mainly for drumming up support for the summit. For more information about the summit please visit www.acssummit.org 

Big Data is good, but big Data with an insertion of bad Data is big problem for everyone.

Is Working at Home the Future?

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In recent days Nairobi has found itself in a wet weather situation, and when it rains, it pours. There is something I have never understood about this city, things almost get to a stand still when it rains. We have seen crazy traffic in the morning and evenings, some commuters getting home in the. Middle of the night.

Last Thursday I called a friend of mine at 10am, she answered the phone in bed. She stretched and from a distance I had the bed crack, (I know she needs a new bed) but that is besides the point. We talked for a few seconds, and suddenly she was confirming what we were talking about on google.

If you are like me you know how cold or how warm a bed can be, it all depends with your investment. Today it poured the whole night and morning. Truth be told, the best time to have people work from their houses, just like my friend.

I have researched on a few organizations who have invested in systems that will make it easy for their employees to work remotely but still operate on a colonial mindset. Even though they have paid top dollar for the system, they imagine that you struggling to wake up in a cold wet morning, driving through a river like road and getting to work three hours later in part of your job description.

Why then would they care to have all this if its not put to work, even the United Nations still want to bus thousands of employees to Gigiri and still have programmes on reducing carbon emission.

I hope in the coming week some of you will visit the European Union office in Nairobi, which encourages people to work remotely. The boss says “don’t come to work if you don’t have shit to do” but still pays your salary at the end of the month.

But I will not end without saying this, if your work is cutting Kidero grass on Uhuru highways….and I say this with a lot of love, you gotta get to that shit. But if you are they guy posting how grass is being cut on Uhuru highway on the Governor’s FB page, that shit you can do it without leaving your bed. If you think people can not work while in bed, ask my friend, stretching in bed at 10am on a Thursday, she picked my call, she checked it on google and we were in business.

Before she hang-up she said she will mpesa 6 grants, am still waiting.

But there are a whole host of other benefits to home working, particularly from a health and wellbeing perspective. Below, we look at the seven reasons why home working is the future.

1. Reduction in commuting time

Not only is commuting often stressful and unpleasant, it also take up time that could otherwise be spent working or doing something else productive.

Employees who can work from home will also spend less money on petrol or train fares, which may give them less of an incentive to ask for a salary boost to cover travel expenses.

2. More productivity

Many people who work from home claim to be more productive because they’re not in a loud environment or distracted by co-workers.

In fact, according to a Canada Life survey, homeworkers rank their productivity as 7.7/10, compared with 6.5/10 for office workers.

A spokesperson for employment agency Reed said: “There are some obvious advantages of working from home that you’ve probably heard before – avoid the nightmare commute, work in your PJs – but the benefits go beyond that.

“Working from home can really help to increase your productivity, as the absence of office distractions makes it easier to keep your head down and actually get your work done.”

3. Fewer sick days

The survey also found, unsurprisingly, that home workers took fewer days off sick than those based in the office.

Employees working in an office took on average 3.1 days of sick leave last year, whilst homeworkers only took 1.8 sick days, Canada Life found.

That’s because employees who have a cold or are mildly sick can still get work done at home, while office workers are more inclined to take the entire day off to avoid leaving the comfort of their home.

In addition, the better work-life balance means workers are less likely to get ill in the first place because their stress levels are typically lower.

While the benefits of working at home are endless, I have only picked a few, am sure out there depending on what you do, you will find it beneficial working at home or if you are an employer, or if you are an employee.

East Africa Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing Summit Held in Nairobi.

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Is East Africa ready to unlock the big data value? This was the big question that engaged the crowd of Tech experts that converged at the Strathmore Business School for this years East Africa Big Data and Cloud Computing Summit.

A couple of years back, the mantra “Content is king” ruled every aspect of innovation. We are now in an era where the trending terms are big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) and the new mantra is “Big data is king”.

Big data describes the massive volumes of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that organisations can mine or analyse to gain insights which they can then use to enhance operational and strategic decision making, (If your Data can fit on a spreadsheet, its not Big Data). The sheer amount of data demands cost-effective and innovative ways to process information and make sense of it. That is where machine learning and AI come into the picture.

By effectively harnessing the power of big data, Kenya, and Africa, could drive massive productivity gains, cost savings and even new business models in sectors such as government, health, insurance and transport.

The East Africa Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing Summit was born out of a much-needed opportunity to unite the data and analytics players and potential end-users of their expertise.

The event was scheduled for May 2nd and 3rd, 2018 at the Radisson Blu, Nairobi, Kenya, but we had last minute change of venus as the day approached and the two day event being shrunk to one day. The event featured 10+ industry expert keynote presentations, 12 panel discussions, covering a wide range of topics including Big data analytics, Machine learning techniques, Predictive modeling and analytics, Data security, Data mining, Cloud computing and Cyber security.

Industry players like Safaricom, where at hand to shade more light on how they have managed to create a data centre, their challenges and achievements and how they have continued to keep it working and more importantly secure. Safaricom and Equity group were louded to be the leading organizations in working towards the realization of millenium development goals – something that many Kenyans have forgotten.

Industry were encouraged to come up with mechanism that allows Telcos to disclose statistics that can be used to show trends and the need to close the gaps, while engaging in public participation in policies.

Check Point through their country manager Kendi Nderitu, put emphasis on security to enable the success of Big Data and Cloud Computing. Security involves everyone, whether the Cloud service provider or the user, security should be a priority at all levels. Gone are the days when the subject of security used to come last in a discussion when considering cloud services, now its top on the agenda.

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The internet in Africa has become more affordable and accessible to the masses. Kenya is ranked as having the fastest internet speeds in the continent, according to the ‘State of the Internet Connectivity Report’ by Akamai 2017 quarter one report.

Having the right infrastructure, capacity and security to innovate and explore these technology trends is crucial.

However, in Kenya, in spite of all our success stories already recognised globally, we are just at the beginning of our unique ICT revolution. We are huge contributors to the “Africa Rising” narrative. Let us continue to innovatively explore how we can invest in these exciting future technologies which will take Kenya into its bright destiny.

JoomShaper Sponsoring JoomlaDayKE18

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Once a year, JoomlaDay Kenya brings the local Joomla community & all developers,designers,security analysts, eCommerce, tech students, and organizations to a whole day on learning, networking and interacting. Our past events have seen the total growth in the use of Joomla and the local community at large. As you probably already know, Joomla is 100% volunteer based and so are JoomlaDay’s. 100% of the cost of the event is covered by sponsors, low-priced ticket sales and donations.

This year we would like a announce our Gold sponsor, JoomShaper. JoomShaper is the home of beautifully crafted unique Joomla templates and highly functional extensions along with award winning drag and drop SP Page Builder for you to create your dream website in minutes.

JoomShaper has a long-standing tradition of supporting Joomla events with sponsorships, promotions and in many other ways. They have been doing this from their strong intent on accelerating open source software innovation and grow the Joomla community to improve the entire web experience.

From the bottom of our hearts we would like to thank JoomShaper, for commiting to support this event and we are confident that their support will go a long way in ensuring we have a successful event. To find more about this event, please go to www.http://joomladay.or.ke

Kigali Hosts the Sixth CMS Africa Summit.

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Kigali went live last week as it hosted the sixth edition of CMS Africa summit. CMS Africa is an organisation that champions the use of technology (open source) to change the way we develop economies. The Summit brings together both global and Africa based speakers and delegates. It is a premier event that host tech business owners, tech innovators, and experts in the area of web & mobile design, e-commerce solutions, online business, and online exchange. In terms of delegate attendance, the summit attracts web & mobile designers, bloggers, e-commerce & online stores builders.

The last event was held in Abuja Nigeria, which is west of Africa where the decision to take this event in East Africa was agreed. Kigali, being an upcoming tech hub it was chosen to host the event in 2018. Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda, the city is built in hilly country, sprawling across about four ridges and the valleys in between. The city centre is on one of these ridges, with the main government area on another. The summit was held at the Marriott Hotel located on KN 3 avenue, three blocks from where the president lives.

Being part of the organisation of this summit, I must say we always marry the high and the low when organising this event. We started on a good note on this one, we had sponsors coming in really early and this gave us hope for a successful event. On the other hand we overlooked the fact that Kigali is an expensive city, more expensive than the other previous cities. Kigali City is generally regarded as having the highest cost of living, an argument vindicated by food and electricity charges, so the few weeks before the event faced us with a heavy deficit and most of it at the hotel where the event was being held. Just when we were about to give up, a couple of sponsors jumped in the deep end with us and we were airborne.

The event getting the blessings of the Rwanda development board attracted local and international speakers from content management systems organisations. WordPress were sponsoring the event for the sixth year, four years as title sponsors. Joomla on the other hand coming in big for the second year in gold sponsorship, together with smart Africa, Rwanda convention bureau and Joomshaper. Akeeba, WooCommerce and Techjoomla came in to sponsor our two day meals while SnowDog and Compound 55 coming in as media sponsors. SnowDog sponsored our cmsafricaApp for the fifth year. Our supporting partners were I&M Bank-Kigali, Typo3, Webstar – Uganda and Ricta. Our also partnered with government agencies, Rwanda convention bureau and Rwanda ICT Chamber and tech Hubs in Kigali.

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The event kicked off on Thursday, with a pre-event at the KLab, with Joomla, WordPress, Typo3 and KQ all getting time to speak to the members and answer their questions. This was an interactive three hour session with Joomla being represented by Abdulkadir Shehu, Fred Abu and myself. We later went downtown for lunch to experience the local food. The event itself was opened on the 16th March, by Arnold Kwizera the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Kigali Communications Associates, a PR Firm based in Kigali, Rwanda. Arnold has a keen interest in the role and impact of media in today’s society. He was followed by a keynote by Alex Ntare, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda ICT Chamber. Alex work involves bridging the gap between private and public sector players in the ICT industry as well as overseeing and establishing new innovation centres for technology startups among them KLAB, Fablab Rwanda and a new Applied Research Labs.

The big the content management systems Joomla! and WordPress sent four speakers each with Joomla! taking it higher with two french speakers. Rwanda has been a french speaking country until recently when the east African community became active again and they so the need to align themselves with the common language of the region, english and swahili.

A good number of Rwandese still speak French, including Kevin, our driver, who’s service we really enjoyed. We lived 11km from the city in a place called Ribero, which is translated as the summit in english. Yes it was on the top of the hill, here all the team from Joomla was housed. The view was to die for, there was good energy in the house with Kenya, Uganda, UK, France and Belgium living together in harmony. The chef did his best on the meals and on some days we had wine and beer on the table.

The presentations were amazing on all levels. Job Thomas, in his presentation “Mu Kinyarwanda” started with practicing a few words he had learnt in Kinyarwanda which excited the audience. Then he went ahead to take them through how translations for WordPress core, themes and plugins work as a community project and how you can get involved.

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The other key presentation was by Daniel Homorodean is CEO of Arxia, a web development agency from Romania which works with TYPO3. Introducing Typo3 as the enterprise CMS and the community around it, he gave an overview on how best to take advantage of the community while using Typo3 and your CMS of choice. Daniel is organising the “TYPO3 East Europe” International Conference each year since 2013. As a member of the international TYPO3 Association, Daniel is involved in the effort of expanding the TYPO3 community internationally.

On day two, Kuba Zwolinski from Snowdog in his third appearance to the Summit talked about eCommerce in Africa. He presents Africa as a continent really ripe for eCommerce and Magento enterprise as the tool. He guided the audience on Magento, with  a global ecosystem of 150,000 developers and a network of 300+ highly-trained solution partners, Magento boosts your online sales while maximising gross margins.

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That afternoon we had two Joomla! keynotes, Rowan Hoskyns-Abrahall, Joomla! as one – going deep on Joomla! as a CMS of choice and the community that is behind and supports Joomla! He encouraged all the CMSs present on the need to work together in protecting CMS ecosystems. He also emphasised on the need to have more volunteers to the Joomla! project. This was Rowan’s second international trip since she was elected President of Open Source Matters.

Her keynote was later followed by Abdulkadir Shehu, who is really involved in evangelising Joomla! to his local community in Kaduna Nigeria. His emphasis was as the rate of unemployment has continued to skyrocket, youths and young entrepreneurs need to get themselves empowered with necessary skills to help them become self reliant. Joomla Skills for example, will be a game changer for many youths in Africa as it will open the doors of opportunities especially in the online environment.

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The other speakers were Daniel Dubois from France, Marc Dechevre from Belgium, Joel Mbugua from Kenya, Joseph Wabwire from Uganda, Luminus Alabi from Nigeria Sarah Semack from USA among others. Joomla also had the first certification exam where two people were certified. We would like to congratulate those who were certified and to encourage those who did not manage for their courage and dedication to Joomla! As the event came to a close, we assembled for a cocktail party which came with music, dancing and Fred who was at the counter…….keeping the beers rolling.

The event was a successful, we took a big leap this year and we are grateful for the support we have gotten from sponsors, partners and participants. We thank the speakers who volunteered to submit their topics and covered their cost of travel to be at this event. We thank the major CMS sponsors for taking part in this conference, Joomla! WordPress, Magento and Typo3, thank you for believing and supporting this event.

Open “Thank You” to Our Sponsors.

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Those who have actually received a sponsorship from an organization probably know how difficult it must have been to convince those organizations that the sponsorship was completely worth the cause it was sponsoring. Only after several sponsorship requests, pleas, and meetings, is it usually possible to get someone to sponsor your cause. As such, when the event that was sponsored turns out to be a success, the least you can do is thank the sponsor for making it possible.

Appreciating the value of a sponsorship and the gesture itself is extremely important. It also makes the sponsor feel like she/he has contributed to a worthy cause, and you can be assured that she/he will at least consider another sponsorship in the future, whenever needed by you. We have just had a wonderful weekend in Kigali for #cmsafrica18 summit. The event, with the support of Rwandan government, sponsors, partners and all who attended was a great success.

In this regard, a “thank you” to our sponsors are in order, if not for them, it would have been difficult if not impossible to have this event. Our title sponsors, Automattic, you have been with us for the last five years, you have been consistent in your support to this event. You have always been willing to do more, sending speakers and giveaways that have always brought the much needed swag to the event. We thank you for your commitment to this event, we thank you for your commitment in sponsoring.

Open Source Matters/Joomla! We have enjoyed your support for many events and it’s really humbling that this year you made a really big commitment to be part of this event. You came in big, with Gold sponsorship and the wonderful bags for the participants. You also send speakers from all over the world to speak in this event, you have made us proud and you made the event proud.

Snowdog, for five years you have commited to do our event app, this app has saved us the cost we would have incurred in printing the programmes in all our events. You have been a great partner to our event, bringing the technological value and advice on how well to organize an international event, we really appreciate the support.

Joomshaper, smart africa, akeeba and techjoomla, your sponsorship for meals enabled to really take care of the needs of the attendees. This enabled them to keep their focus on what they were learning at the time. Your support enabled us to serve excellent meals to our attendees. We thank you for your commitment, and your support.

To those who gave us their support, Compound55 – committing to cover our event in real time, posting all the pictures online and making them available to the attendees free of charge. We have benefited from your expertise. Typo3 for supporting us for this event, you send a speaker to make sure that in this event you were represented and we are really greatful. I&M Bank – Kigali, Webstar Ltd – Uganda, ricta for your logistical support, the government agencies, Rwanda ICT chamber, Rwanda convention Bureau and the Rwanda development board, thanks for believing in as and for your partnership.

And to the tech hub, kLab for providing the platform for the pre-event, Journal Rw, Impact hub Rwanda and Thomas Fort, you have continued to champion the use of technology and provided a space to those who are doing the same. Great is your support.

This event would not have been a success without the generous support you have provided us throughout. We deeply appreciate the willingness with which you have and continue to sponsor the summit. We sincerely hope that this association will be maintained and that you will continue to support us in our future endeavors.

Our next event will be in Cape Town, South Africa, and we will be looking forward to seeing all of you on board. We thank you and hope that we have also played a part in your business growth.