A very small review of Ubuntu 8.04

After switching back to Windows XP for a .NET  project, I did not boot my Ubuntu partition much. It has been almost 8 months or so, since I did not take a look at Ubuntu front.

Why go back then? Well, the Apache Axis problem I’ve written about, just made me crazy. I could not accept the fact that I can not “compile” a piece of software, that should not take more than 10 instructions to do. The problem appeared to be with the unit tests, which blew when a temp server was started. So I thought this might be another java on Windows problem, and decided to give Linux a try. I also wanted to take a look at latest Ubuntu release, which has been doing a wonderful work for me in the server side (that’s another story)

So I’ve installed 8.04, and bingo, Axis compiled without problems (well at least 1.4 did so, 1.3 is still a no go). I took a look at the overall feeling of 8.04, and it appears that Canonical is working hard to make each release better than the one before. One thing that I immediately noticed: this is fast!! What made me gasp is that Eclipse is really, really faster than the previous releases in this one! That’s a huge plus. The performance of swing designer in MyEclipse  (a port of Matisse to Eclipse actually) is noticebly better.

Canonical has integrated many of the small things to do into default installation, so you do not have to deal with setting up drivers to mount NTFS drivers, or downloading NVidia drivers for compix and messing with xorg server setup files.  Combined with Firefox 3.0 beta 5, this release is almost complete for a Java developer. Considering that my primary tools are Java, Python and R these days, I guess I’ll be staying with 8.04 for a while. I have not tried the wireless setup yet, which has been a trouble allways, but I have high hopes for it.

Oh, to be fair, I have to add that the classical trouble with Linux distros is still here: changing versions of shared object libraries. Some project updates their shared object library name, or changes something, and another one blows because of the dependency problems. A distro is made up of thousands of different projects, and the  level of dependency problems  is acceptable, but it is still there. However, these are the problems I’ve encountered while setting up some develoment tools, so it would not be fair to say that the avarage user is subject to them.

Good work Canonical, really well done with this one..

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Ok, I’m an idiot, better get used to it

The requirement is simple: download Apache Axis sources, and compile them. According to web page that gives you the link to source files, all you have to do is to setup Maven, and use it to compile Axis from sources.

In case you want to open the source with Eclipse, you need to use Maven again, and that’s also a single line comment in a web page. Looking at this, you first feel happy about it: this should be quite easy, right? Not if you are an idiot, which is what I am appearently!

I do “exactly” what the web pages and readme.txt says, and I fail. The project can not compile due to tests failing, and when I open the project in Eclipse, I get a lot of errors, related to directory structure.  I’ve spent countless hours because of missing little details, but this time I guess I have the right to demand a little bit better documentation. I’ll admit that I’m an idiot, so providing an idiot proof documentation for compiling Axis would be good at least for me.

Ok, I’m an idiot, better get used to it

The requirement is simple: download Apache Axis sources, and compile them. According to web page that gives you the link to source files, all you have to do is to setup Maven, and use it to compile Axis from sources.

In case you want to open the source with Eclipse, you need to use Maven again, and that’s also a single line comment in a web page. Looking at this, you first feel happy about it: this should be quite easy, right? Not if you are an idiot, which is what I am appearently!

I do “exactly” what the web pages and readme.txt says, and I fail. The project can not compile due to tests failing, and when I open the project in Eclipse, I get a lot of errors, related to directory structure.  I’ve spent countless hours because of missing little details, but this time I guess I have the right to demand a little bit better documentation. I’ll admit that I’m an idiot, so providing an idiot proof documentation for compiling Axis would be good at least for me.

I want an IRex Iliad

Yes I do. I am about to go crazy because of all the books and documents I have to carry around, and I can not read from the screen. I have to read from paper, otherwise I feel very uncomfortable with what I’m trying to read. I have to carry around a couple of books, a large number of papers etc, for I can not know when I’ll have that spare time to work on something. As I work on my main PhD subject, the amount of books and papers I keep getting back to, increases exponentially. The laptop is not a solution because of the battery life, screen display and more important than that, the ergonomics.

Iliad is the ultimate device that I’ve been drooling over for quite some time now, and Its features are far beyond kindle in my humble opinion. The problem is, the price tag is around 600-700 dollars, and that’s simply too high for me know.  I’ve probably contributed to destruction of Amazon forests more than anyone else around, since my best friend is an HP Laserjet printer these days.

In case you feel the urge to buy a very nice present to some guy you do not know,  just let me know.

Behold: Google Health is here

Ok,

I’ve written before about Google getting into PHR domain,  and now the service is publicly avalilable. Needless to say, I’ve taken a quick look at it, and it looks promising. There are a gazillion things being discussed all over the web, and almost everyone seems to be concerned about privacy and security. A large proportion of users in USA are discussing about the fact that HIPAA does not cover Google Health, and Microsoft HealthVault.

The first announcement that I saw was in OpenHealth mail list, and others followed during the day. A quick look showed that the overall consistency of Google apps is preserved in this one too. It is built for a purpose, and it makes you focus on that purpose. You get in, you use it to put your healht info online, you get out. The thing that I’d like to take a deeper look into is the importing mechanisms. Other than the obvious do it yourself style data entry, Google supports at least some standards for data import. So far I’ve seen CCR (Continuity of Care Record) mentioned. This is another proof of an argument I’ve been discussing with a MD friend of mine: simple things work. Why? Because they cover a verly large percentage of real life situations, and the other part that is not covered is usually sacrificed. Of course oversimplifying things leads to systems which become a pile of crap in the long run, but the point is, something like CCR import will probably let Google store a very large amount of data.

Needless to say, this is a little bit too USA oriented. In other parts of the world, HL7 (CDA in this context) and OpenEHR, along with 13-606 rule the domain. Now comes the tricky part: in case Google or other PHR vendors chooses to adopt one of these earlier than the others, this may change the balance of power.

To explain more: PHR is very important, because it is immune to legal issues that is giving a hard time to large scale systems. Once a user clicks on that magic “I Agree” checkbox, storing health info, transferring it etc becomes legally trouble free (well, more or less) . In the journey to holy goal: storing and transferring health data electronically, PHR may become a very significant implementation. When such a significant implementation uses a particular standard instead of others, or supports one better than the others, that can create a difference.

I have to say that I heard less about Google Health before the public launch than I heard about HealthVault by Microsoft, but the public release looked quite good to me. Now I have to take a look at the api part of things to see how I can connect my existing work into this. This is a field that is going to see a lot of action in the near future.

What is the definition of “user friendly” for a doctor?

Ok, this is really an interesting one. In medical informatics, one challenge that never seems to be conquered is providing a user interface that will not make a doctor grumble.
No matter how hard you try, you almost always here the comment: “this is not so easy to use…”. Medical professionals seem to be very picky when it comes to user interfaces and interaction with information systems. This link here mentions the same thing again. I’ve previously written about Microsoft CUI, and for all of our sakes, it would better be successful. This is a field that is sucking up a huge amount of effort and it is a large setback to adoption of many systems. Being terrible about user interfaces, I am not the one to take things further in this domain, but this is one field which should benefit enourmously from some form of standardization.

What is the definition of “user friendly” for a doctor?

Ok, this is really an interesting one. In medical informatics, one challenge that never seems to be conquered is providing a user interface that will not make a doctor grumble.
No matter how hard you try, you almost always here the comment: “this is not so easy to use…”. Medical professionals seem to be very picky when it comes to user interfaces and interaction with information systems. This link here mentions the same thing again. I’ve previously written about Microsoft CUI, and for all of our sakes, it would better be successful. This is a field that is sucking up a huge amount of effort and it is a large setback to adoption of many systems. Being terrible about user interfaces, I am not the one to take things further in this domain, but this is one field which should benefit enourmously from some form of standardization.