Thursday, May 07, 2009

What's On Your Workstation?
. . .And Visitors From Waterloo


The gang from Waterloo recently came down to come visit me, an average radiologist, at my average hospital in our average town in the South. No, the two gentlemen in the photo above are not our visitors from Canada, but serve to illustrate a different point which you will encounter below. Unlike the last visit, no one had any trepidation about visiting this adorable little fuzzball. In fact, someone actually whipped out a camera to document the event. A tiny liberty was taken, as you will note (click the image for a larger version):

Of course, two can play that game (definately click the image to see what mischief I've wrought):

The Team theoretically came to observe several of us actually use the latest update, the installation of which truly went really well. We did get to chat a bit, and they also were able to videotape my partner, Dr. Killer, use their system as only he can. Hopefully, they had a high-speed camcorder for the purpose. As it turned out, the day they were at the same facility I was at, they had the joy of watching they entire system come to a screeching halt. Literally. Agfa believes in automatically updating its client software, with a little sniffer program living on the client machine constantly on the watch for a new edition. All well and good. Now our update was on the weekend, and many offices are closed then. So, come Monday morning, 1,000 computers (give or take 100) went online and wanted their updates, bringing the system to its knees. This has apparently been solved by placing the software update on a new server separate from our three load-balanced production servers. My solution is to turn off the sniffer on my computer.

The gang did discover a glitch in the update: studies on the worklist will seemingly randomly select themselves, a minor annoyance. This has been fixed with a minor service release. It's nice to have the experts onsite at times like these!

My understanding is that our latest and greatest ( has fixes for stuff that is still broken in 6.4.x, which is still in testing itself. We might just wait for the first service release for 6.4 before taking that plunge.

When my Canadian friends first walked in the door, I had our Amicas client running on an Agfa workstation. I sheepishly closed it, but they just laughed and shrugged. Which brings us to the next topic, "What's On Your Workstation?"

Later that day, I attempted to load an updated Amicas client (our Amicas hospital finally upgraded to version 5.x) onto a different Agfa workstation, which required a new Java Runtime Enviroment (JRE). This was one of the few Agfa stations that had a partial lock-down: some software, including Java, could not be changed without permission from On High. When I sought such permission, I was told that Agfa would not allow this, because it would "affect the warranty on the workstation." Well. I guess I've been told, eh? But the story is somewhat deeper.

I don't have a copy of our site's service contract, or warranty, for that matter. A search of the Agfa site yielded this fairly generic warranty document. Here are the pertinent clauses as near as I can extract from the legalese:
2.6 The Service Provider shall be under no obligation to provide the Services to the extent that such Services are required for:

2.6.1 problems arising as a result of the Buyer's negligence or default or because of accident, neglect, misuse (including without limitation unusual physical or electrical stress) or the failure of power supplies, external electrics, air conditioning, anti-virus software, use of incorrect consumables, and any other causes (other than ordinary use) not due to the negligence or default of the Service Provider;

2.6.2 Equipment which has been maintained, modified, altered, adapted, developed, repaired or howsoever changed (including, without limitation, attempts to maintain, modify, alter, adapt, develop, repair or otherwise change the Equipment) by or on behalf of the Buyer by parties other than those that are authorised to carry out such changes;

2.6.3 problems arising from any changes unauthorised by the Service Provider that have been made to any software supporting the Equipment (including, without limitation, adding additional third party peripherals, adding RAM, modifying applicator software or upgrading third party software to non-supported versions); and

2.6.4 problems arising from the removal of or reinstallation of the Equipment at the Buyer's premises by parties other than those authorised to carry out such removal/installation.

I'm no lawyer (thank Gawd!) but my read of this legalese suggests that the warranty is intact if one leaves the primary software (and supporting sofware) alone. Since Impax uses .NET, and Amicas uses Java, you would expect no particular conflicts, and all should be well. In fact, we have been loading Amicas clients side-by-side with Agfa on our home machines for years with no associated problems. (And I think some of my colleagues have loaded Amicas onto some Agfa workstations at the hospital here and there, although I certainly have no further knowledge of such things....) If you were to walk into our reading rooms, you would find all sorts of amusing software on Agfa, Amicas, and even GE workstations. I'm sure this is the case everywhere else as well.

Like running your iPod on a plane before you reach 10,000 feet, I think this is sort of a non-issue. However, IF it is truly affecting the "real" software, beyond stealing some RAM here and there, the proper answer is to completely lock down each and every vendor-managed workstation, in every installation, everywhere. Otherwise, let's just carry on as we have been for years.

What's on YOUR workstation?

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Actually, Impax 6.x is still Java-based. The Impax client was ported to Microsoft J#, which is still a flavor of Java. It doesn't require the The Java Runtime (just the dot NET CLR).

Conflicts might come from Administration (formerly Service) Tools; which is still Java-based and still requires the Java Runtime. For the longest time Service Tools was very dependent on what versions of the Java Runtime was installed on the machine. If Java 1.6 or above was installed then weird things would happen. I don't believe this is still a problem on Impax 6.3 and above.