In the tradition of ePocrates the popular free drug database for Palm, the ever popular Tarascon Pharmacopeia is now available via free download through MedScape.com. However, a free registration and a heavy-on-the-fine-print-not-GPL licensing agreement is required to download as well as the usual ‘click here if you don’t want to receive our marketing crud.’ Editor: Great stuff, the biggest missing piece right now in open source medical software is the lack of Palm projects. Any volunteers?
Cnet reviews RedHat 7.0 in this article. Highlights: ‘…those with their hearts set on stable releases of the Linux 2.4 kernel and the
KDE 2.0 desktop should probably sit tight…While it may seem a bit anticlimactic, 7.0 is far from a flop. This iteration of Red Hat’s distribution is in many ways the senior prom of commercial Linux. With this release, Linux
really seems to come of age…’ but it also offers the criticism: ‘Red Hat’s help system needs an overhaul…
ZDnet.com has a lengthy article on Apple’s new Mac OS X which is built atop FreeBSD, an open-source Unix OS. The article reports users are generally happy with the new operating system and that it admirably supports non-technical people and geeks alike. This is a big improvement for the Mac OS which has had difficulties becoming a true-multitasking operating system despite being years ahead of everyone else in so many other categories.
osOpinion.com has an article entitled: ‘MAPI: Why Linux May Never Win the Desktop’ which explains MAPI and gives a compelling example of how difficult Microsoft will be to dislodge Justice department or no. ‘…The acronym for Microsoft’s Messaging Application Programming Interface is where MAPI gets its name. In some ways I find some irony in the fact that
they are a standardized set of the C Programming Language functions. Microsoft placed these C functions into a set of Dynamic Link Libraries (DLLs).
Microsoft designed the functions and unwittingly they received support of many third party vendors. Later those vendors wound up being bought, humbled
or shut down by Microsoft.’ I’m sure that vendors of medical software would like to be in just such a position. This is and would continue to be a disaster for medicine and medical software.
Redhat is announcing their latest release: 7.0
New features are:
– OpenSSL–128-bit encryption for secure communication
– USB support for mice and keyboards
– Graphical firewall configuration tool
– XFree86 4.0 for improved video performance
– 2.4 kernel ready
– Cleaner, faster, more customizable GNOME desktop and Sawfish window manager
– Easily connect to the Internet right from the desktop
RedHat is also announcing a subscription service for software update support. What is notable is what isn’t there: the 2.4 kernel and a stable Netscape.
Mozilla.org has announced its new roadmap for delivery. For those of you who don’t know: Mozilla is a long anticipated, modular, standards-based and open source browser with a tumultuous past. But, it finally appears to be nearing completion. According to the roadmap, milestone 18 is to be delivered in October, with version 0.9 to be available in the first half of the 1st quarter of 2001. Note the nomenclature will change from ‘milestones’ to 0.x style releases in 2001. There will be a ‘branch’ at 0.9 to support Netscape 9.
What is this that you spy to the left of your screen? A fully-interactive events calendar? And what is that to the right under the ‘Welcome’ box? A poll? Yes! In continuing efforts to serve the open source medical community. High-tech, progressive LinuxMedNews has installed these powerful new (open source) tools to keep you informed. If you have an event that you would like to see listed, simply click on the ‘New Event’ link under the calendar and fill out the form. If you have a question that you’d like to see statistics on, e-mail me.
My mother-in-law recently visited her primary-care-provider, after failing to shake a sinus infection. After a brief examination, the Doc offered her some free samples of a nasal spray medication that would help to clear the infection up. Mom thanked the Doc and promptly left with sample in-hand…
When she arrived home, try-as-she-might, she could not figure how to open the nasal spray. After arriving at our home in the evening, she enlisted the aid of my wife, in trying to figure out how to open the nasal spray sample.
Finally, the top popped off, revealing some sort of applicator that had a yellow, felt-like tip. The chisel point gave it away.. the Doc mistakenly gave my mother-in-law a yellow-highlighter promo-piece made to look exactly like the nasal spray product it was promoting.
I can’t help thinking that somewhere, somebody has just sprayed a sentence in an article that they were reading, and are waiting for the text to turn yellow.
Wayne Wilson on the openhealth-list has a profoundly interesting summary (reprinted here with permission) of a lecture given by Lawrence Lessig, Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard. His bio and a collection of his thoughtful articles can be found here. Wilson writes: ‘Lessig is a legal scholar and it is not immediately obvious that legal arguments would be appealing to us, but I think they are.’
Lessig starts by observing that the recent rise of the Internet and Open Source software has created the most innovation any of us have seen in our life times. Whether this is a greater transformation than the industrial revolution is unimportant, because for us, living at the edge of the new millenium, it is the most transforming process within memory. One of the significant principles involved is embedded in the original design of the Internet. That is end to end transparency, i.e. that the network exercises no control over content. One needs to ask no permission to devise and implement a new scheme of software over the Internet. This decision to disable control by other actors or competitors enabled certain features which we now take as somehow embedded within the nature of the Internet: free speech, privacy, free flow of content and freedom from local regulation. The important observation is that these things are a consequence of an architectural decision.
The next set of observations is where the legal machinery gets involved: the role of copyright, patents, intellectual property and regulation in the process of innovation and progress. Lessig outlines that there has always been a compromise between property and commons in English and American law. Copyright and patents are variations of property. Commons are easily understandable, but often forgotten in this era. It is the balance between property and commons that sets the environment for progress and innovation. And here is where the absence of control in the original design of the Internet and open source combine to create the present day flourish of innovation.
Lessig warns that the trend’s today are to re-architect the Internet to enable control, to change the balance of property and commons dramatically in favor of property, and thus to change the environment that has drawn us to the brink of a new era. Change the architecture, change the regulation and you change the outcome.
For Lessig, the importance of open source is not in it’s increased efficiency, it’s increased robustness, but rather in it’s use of commons to foster innovation. This should really be obvious to anyone engaged in producing software. Complete software applications do not emerge cut from whole cloth, rather they build upon a long and complicated foundation of previous software. The more of these building blocks that are available, the easier it is to build new software applications. These building blocks can be painstaking collected and developed as private property, enforcing a control point upon what can and can not be allowed, or they can be part of the commons; unregulated and uncontrolled. If you don’t like the particular direction a software system is taking, you just start your own variation. Someone says that Z is impossible, you just go and try to do it anyway.
Lessig argues that the rapid pace of the world that we have come to expect as a result of the Internet, indeed the very economic prosperity of the US, if not the West, is a result of this innovation. So in this view, open source (the existence of a commons for software and technology) is necessary for our continued economic prosperity as well as a continued information revolution. The old adage, don’t fix it if it isn’t broke, is being ignored by the judicial system and government regulators, not to mention all those newly minted billionaires, in a process that seems to be just as breathtaking in it’s braking effect as the previous advance of innovation was.
Lessig is particularly concerned that those of us directly involved and benefiting from the intellectual commons of information technology, seem completely apathetic while the foundational principles of our success are being regulated and engineered out of the system! Why do we abstain from the political process? Why have we let privacy turn into an issue of juvenile sex offendors only? Why have we let lack of control in end to end appear a design flaw? Why are we allowing the traditional monopolies to gain control of the Internet?
Open source is thus more than a different or better way of software development.