DHBs' open source desktop pilot expected in June

Eclair system requires an upgrade to work with Firefox

Testing of the open source desktop suite being considered by a number of DHBs has been delayed by the need to adapt a clinical data repository system at the Good Health Wanganui DHB.

Wanganui is running the pilot, announced last month by Health Board CIOs.

Wanganui CIO Steve Rayner says Wanganui’s current version of the Eclair system, used for storage and web-based distribution of laboratory results and the like, is certified only for operation with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The planned open source platform is designed to use the Firefox browser. This means using to upgrading to a newer version of Eclair which is already available but not yet deployed at the DHB, Rayner says.

The pilot is now likely to start in early June. “It’ll only be a small trial to judge feasibility,” Rayner says.

An important motivator for developing the open source platform, from Wanganui’s point of view, is the possibility of reusing about 100 “ancient PCs” — four or five years old — which the DHB has in storage as inadequate to handle a full Microsoft-based desktop suite. “They’re worthless [in the current environment] but would cost about $200,000 to replace,” Rayner says.

Suse Linux has been chosen as the operating system because Good Health Wanganui is “a Novell shop” and can get support for the distribution from Novell. “Also I’m used to using Suse, though I think all [Linux distributions] are very similar.”

The pilot will probably use Ximian’s Gnome desktop environment, which is also supported by Novell. The Wine emulator, allowing some Windows applications to run over Linux, is being considered as a possible feature of the platform, but has not been fully examined yet, Rayner says.

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