Public Beta Version of Linux Medical Imaging Software

DigitalMedics announces the first
public beta release of REALTIQ, a medical image
processing software for tissue quantification
of metacarpal bones running exclusively under the Linux operating
system. The software and a set of example image
data for evaluation can be downloaded from their
site. LinuxMedNews originally reported on it in this article.

Wired: Med Sites Need a Dose of Privacy

Wired News reports about online patient privacy in a recent article. ‘…Nearly 41 million adults…currently use the Internet for health care, according to
the recent Cybercitizen Health study conducted by Cyber Dialogue, a New York-based provider of customer-relationship
management software. But while 55 percent of physicians use the Internet daily, only 24 percent of them use it regularly for
professional reasons…”Protecting personal privacy both on- and off-line is the hottest topic in Washington today”…’

Wired: A Wireless Doctor Is in the House

Wired News recently reported on the impact that wireless and handheld computers are having on health care as well as discussing a mish-mash of technologies. Dr. Daniel Sands of CareGroup HealthCare System and Beth
Israel Deaconess Medical Center is quoted as saying: ‘…While e-mail is not the most secure medium…neither is a postcard, fax, cordless
phone or cell phone — all of which doctors use regularly for patient communications.

“The security issues for e-mail that people worry about are the wrong issues,”

It’s not hackers that should keep you up at night, but shared e-mail, incorrect addressing, multiple addresses,
employer-owned accounts, printed messages and unguarded systems with e-mail showing on the monitor — all of
which can be easily corrected with common sense and encryption…’

IBM to Invest $1 Billion into Linux

Zdnet is reporting on IBM‘s announcement that the company will be investing $1 Billion dollars in Linux for 2001. The article quotes IBM CEO Lou Gestner as saying “We’re convinced Linux can do for business applications what the
Internet did for enterprise applications…Sun, Microsoft and EMC are running the last proprietary plays of
this business…An increasing number of customers will buy IT as a utility — like a
service over the Web…”

Review: Netscape 6: Is the Wait Finally Over?

Ed: This is the first in a series of articles of Captain Fantastic’s (aka Jim Intriglia of experience with Netscape 6. The short answer is no and I’ll detail why below in this narrative of my experience downloading and running Netscape 6. I run the Red Hat Linux distribution on three systems in my home office.
One of the features that I appreciate is the Red Hat Package Manager, a
software utility that makes it a snap to manage the installation of software
on my Linux systems. As it usually take a while before somebody in the
user community creates an RPM package for new software releases, I was
not surprised when I did not find an RPM package for Netscape 6. Thus,
off to the Netscape web site to do a download of a Netscape 6 tar ball,
so I could do a manual install.

Without too much difficulty, I was
able to locate information on the Netscape 6 product release via Netscape’s
Home page
. In fact, a pop-up box appears when you access the home page,
offering you a chance
to win $100,000 via the Netscape 6 stakes as well as download or purchase
the Netscape 6 product.

I chose to download Netscape 6 via my 56K
dial-up connection, a worst case scenario to be sure. (My practice is to
purchase a CD-ROM when a software release is proven to be stable.) After
a short period of time, I noticed that the download had completed. In my
download directory, I noticed the file netscape-i686-pc-linux-gnu-installer.tar.gz.
The “i686” tells me that this distribution is for Intel Pentium II machines
– wonder when a distribution will be available for older Pentium I PCs?

After unzipping the tar file via the
command tar -zxvf netscape-i686-pc-linux-gnu-installer.tar.gz, I
printed a copy of the ReadMe file, which then instructed me to run the
Netscape 6 installer (while I have an Internet connection up-and-running
BTW) by entering the command ./netscape-installer.
I noticed
that the web page conflicted with the ReadMe instructions, as the web page
instructions stated that one should enter ./ns-install
rather than ./netscape-installer.

A nice-looking GUI-based dialog was displayed, providing me the usual
options of a standard or custom install. I chose a custom browser install
option, checking off the Instant Messaging, Java 2, UK browser Pack as
desired installation options. After submitting my options, the Netscape
installer began to download the software files needed to complete my desired

The expected then happened – after three software file packages had
been downloaded, my Internet connection monitor indicated that the download
process stalled. After waiting fifteen minutes or so for it to restart,
I decided to abort the process and re-start the process again via the ./netscape-installer
Surely the installer
would detect what had been already downloaded and pickup from where the
process stalled.

Surely not.

restarting the installer and re-selecting my custom install options, the
installer began downloading the very first package
, which
had been previously downloaded in the prior run of the installer. Nuts.
Even AOL software is smart enough to detect where a installation qiit and
go on from there. I chalked-up a demerit for this annoying oversight on
the part of the installer developers.

The second time around, the download/install
process got further along, stalling and forcing me to abort after about
five or so file packages had download. This is nuts – I aborted the process,
restarted the installer, and decided that I would purchase the CD-ROM if
this sucker stalled again.

On the third run of the installer,
it appeared to hang after completing the download of the Java 2 file package.
I am not sure if the process really hung, if the developers decided that
a “install process complete” message was not really necessary. Based on
my experience working with various software installation package, I decided
that the installer crashed this time around. If I wanted to evaluate Netscape
6, it looked like I would have to purchase 
a copy of the software
on CD-ROM. Two steps forward, one step back.

On the outside chance that the install process completed and crashed
at the point of displaying the desired “installation completed successfully!”,
I decided to try the final step, and boot Netscape 6. I typed ./netscape
and kept my fingers crossed.

Much to my delight, I was greeted with a
very slick-looking Netscape 6 web browser! The new look of Netscape 6 is
welcome as compared to the boxy and cryptic-looking Netscape 4.7x release
for Linux. The feature set implied by visible graphic cues promise some
neat features, as well.

Another nice feature of this release is that
if you are a registered NetCenter user (you go through this registration
process the first time you need to update Netscape online), the Activation
process – whereby you are prompted to register – is completed automatically!
Slick and a real timesaver. If you click on the NetCenter User option,
you are prompted for your User ID and Password, and boom – you are registered
and ready to surf the ‘Net. It may be a good idea to become a NetCenter
user before installing Netscape 6, as it will save time during the registration
process and in the future when Netscape releases updates for version 6.

In playing with the browser for a week
or so, it has not yet locked-up or crashed and burned. I have confirmed
the reported bug that it cannot handle SSL, which is the reason you need
to hang-on to the old 4.7x release
until this problem is fixed in
the next release.

This is the first of a series of reviews of the Netscape
6 for Linux. The latest version of this document as well as future articles
on the capabilities of Netscape Communicator/Navigator can be found at

© Copyright 2000 James C. Intriglia

All Rights Reserved.

Live HealthCast: Patient Safety, Health Care Quality

Kaiser Network has a number of web casts regarding patient safety and health quality from the National Summit on Medical Errors and Patient Safety Research, Washington, DC which you can see live today from 8:45 am – 11:45 am EST. ‘…in a profession that consists largely of balancing probabilities, the likelihood of errors is 100%…medical errors are the eighth largest cause of death…They are issues of system failures, not of individual failure…dealing with this will require long-term committment and long term investment…’ They call for funding of research into the problem as if it where an epidemic. Editor: it would seem that open source medical software holds great promise in addressing these system failures.

FreePM Releases 0.5.2b (MedMan)

A new beta of FreePM has been released. It is now on the DEMO site and posted for download at and on SourceForge. Dr. Chason Hayes has done quite alot of code clean up and updated the documentation on the SourceForge site. This release has a new interface for the Medication Manager. It allows you to use FreePM just as a medication management tool without having to deal with the entire application interface. This was
done to promote the use of FreePM for this purpose. The interface looks a lot cleaner than in the past. Any patients created here will still be available when upgrading versions. Try this link or download your own copy and put it to work. By popular demand the online demo login and password have been eliminated.

LinuxToday: Penguins vs the Dismal Science

This should be the last in a series of articles on the economics of free and open source software. In a ‘Where are we going?’ type article, by Lou Grinzo of LinuxToday. Grinzo holds a degree in “the dismal science” of economics which he states is prone to say ‘On the other hand…’. His most salient point is: ‘…Linux distribution companies will never grow very much…The open source
model eviscerates their revenue stream, making the outlook for these companies pretty grim.

On the other hand (hey, you were warned) aren’t we in a wholesale movement away from “bits for bucks”
to a services and subscriptions model, anyway? I believe we are…The big unknown in all this is how much people will be willing to
pay for which subscription services…’
Keep in mind however, that open source medical computing places another level of economic complexity on this since it can be seen as a public good like roads and bridges. The other difference is that the current closed-source model isn’t working very well for medicine.

‘…A key main reason there’s so much uncertainty in the industry right now is simply because we’re in
between equilibrium states. The prior state saw the closed source software/bits for bucks model
dominate, with free support, later moving almost entirely to paid support. In that state we had
software-only companies of all sizes making a profit, from one-person shareware shops to outfits like our
cousins up in Redmond. It was and largely still is an economically viable business model, and it fueled a
lot of companies and some spectacular investment portfolios.

The next equilibrium point will be more oriented toward open source, and I suspect that in the long run
this will all but eliminate the software-only companies. There will be a lot of consolidation as companies
merge and acquire each other, and also evolution, as companies try to stay independent and convert
themselves into service companies. I won’t guess how far this new equilibrium point will be from the old
one, in terms of either time or degree of change from the last point; I don’t think anyone can tell for sure
while we’re in the middle of the transition.

The really interesting thing is that the further we go along this path, the more software will be produced by
either the stereotypical open source project, staffed by people scratching an itch and not getting paid for
their work, or by large companies, like IBM, HP, Compaq, Intel, and others, that have a financial
incentive to spend big money on software they can give away.’

BSD license vs. GPL

Nikolai Bezroukov has an in-depth paper on the relative merits of BSD style open source license versus the GPL ‘free’ license. Particularly with regard to their economic ramifications. This article appears to be comprehensive, reviewing all the various licenses. ‘…one of the most controversial properties of GPL is the viral property of GPL 2. In essence if you the author of some useful addition to the GPL program that
was widely adopted and developed further you are denied any subsequent modification, enhancement of your ideas in…case you [are a] commercial developer. There are
several consequences of viral property of GPL v.2 (and IMHO this needs to be changed in v.3…’
Thanks to Tim Cook for this link.