Over the past months we have heard about how free and open source software (FOSS) is becoming more and more acceptable in the business community. There has also been a movement to have governments adopt policies that open the door to FOSS. However, it appears that the open source community has overlooked one vital area of the community that would most likely embrace FOSS with open arms, and that is the area of emergency services (Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services).Like any government agency, emergency service agencies need the basic office software, but they also need ‘specialized’ software, such as Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems, 9-1-1 Call Taking systems, incident reporting systems, etc. Today, almost without exception, every agency is forced to use a proprietary, closed source Windows program. Far too often it is purchased from a company that is no longer in business five years after the purchase, resulting in the need to purchase a replacement product from another vendor. Lastly, because the software is proprietary, the agencies that are able to purchase it cannot do everything they want or need the software to do, nor can they modify it to meet their needs.
The current availability of FOSS for emergency services is extremely limited. As part of a very quick, non-scientific study, we did a search on the Sourceforge web site for software that is geared towards emergency services. We chose Sourceforge as they host 78,324 projects (as of 25 March 2004), all of them open source (They also host our recently started open source project, PAD Program Management). We did a search under four terms; “ambulance,” “emergency,” “fire,” and “police.” We only found 20 projects (< 0.03% of total projects). Of these, only five had released any form of software, and only two were believed to be considered stable releases.
As an EMT/Paramedic for over 20 years, I have seen computers make their way into the field, frequently with mixed results. The current proprietary software options are often very limited and very expensive, making it inaccessible to many small and volunteer departments (which serve the majority of the country). This relative high cost has a very real effect on the communities served.
Consider the dilemma faced by a small EMS agency that has five ambulances, of which two are staffed by paramedics. As a medical director, do I purchase a high dollar software program to allow my medics to electronically enter an incident report, or do I purchase a new EKG monitor-defibrillator (a machine that looks at the heart’s rhythm and can deliver an electrical charge to a quivering heart)? You can almost be assured that the defibrillator will be purchased each and every time.
The problem is by not having a low cost software option, billing accuracy will likely suffer resulting in loss of income. I can’t easily look at the response data that will tell me where and how my units are being used, so I can’t go to the local town council to lobby for an additional ambulance or funding for training. I can’t easily tell where my medics are having deficiencies in their ability to provide care. I can’t do a simple query to have all chest pain charts reviewed, instead I have to review every paper report to first see if it is a chest pain incident, then set those on the side to be reviewed later. All of this is a long, tedious, labor intensive effort.
The emergency service community is currently at the mercy of the proprietary software firms. This has an impact far more reaching than the limited scenario outlined above. Another impact area is the inability of emergency service agencies to share data. Let me offer an insight into this problem by sharing my experiences with a program I am working on.
Currently I am assisting another paramedic who is tracking Public Access to Defibrillation (PAD) programs for a large metropolitan area. In a PAD program, an office building, school, work place, or other public area has had Automated Defibrillators (AEDs) installed. AEDs are used by the lay public to help victims of sudden cardiac arrest, prior to the arrival of EMS. Because of their ease of use and rapid accessibility, areas that have installed AEDs and have used them within 5 minutes of collapse of the victim have seen successful resuscitation rates as high as 50% (AHA “Heartsaver AED for the Lay Rescuer and First Responder,” page 1-8). They are a probably the single greatest improvement in emergency health care since the advent of EMS.
AEDs have an onboard computer that is able to analyze the victims EKG, and provide the electrical shock if needed. The computer provides voice prompts to the user on when to start and stop CPR. It also records the EKG, the time an analyzation was performed and what rhythm was recognized by the computer, the times of the voice prompts, etc. Also, it keeps a record of each time the unit performed its own internal diagnostic check, the time the machine was turned on, as well as turned off, and more. All of this information is available to the oversight agency by simply downloading the information from the AED’s internal memory into a software program/database.
As part of a community PAD program, there is usually legislation that mandates a specific government agency provide oversight to the program. This agency will typically have to track where AEDS are located, how often they are used, and how well they are working. This oversight agency typically cannot dictate to the individual purchaser which vendor they must utilize when buying the AED. In an area such as the one I work in, you may have well over a dozen vendors selling their machines to schools, businesses, public transportation authorities, local and federal government agencies, etc.
Here is where the problem comes in. Each of these vendors has their own proprietary software. None of the software is compatible with any other vendor’s software. Further there are no common standards to export the data. If you are responsible for monitoring a PAD program in your community, you may have six, eight, ten or more software programs in which to download AED information, of which none can exchange information. The result is the inability to tell just how well your PAD program is working. You have plenty of data, but you can’t use it the way the you want.
The FOSS community has been very good at developing open standards for other items of hardware and software. There is no doubt that the same could be done here, if the FOSS community were to get involved.
I firmly believe that the FOSS community is missing a golden opportunity by not getting involved with the emergency service community. Imagine a FOSS distribution geared towards EMS, Fire or Police Departments. In addition to the typical programs such as KDE, Gnome, Open Office, MySQL, and Apache, there would be a Departmental Database that tracked personnel and equipment within the agency, a Fire Incident Reporting System based on the National Fire Service Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) standard, an EMS incident and billing system, a training database, etc. Is this really that much different from many of the business distributions that it cannot be accomplished?
In conclusion, by working with the emergency service community, the FOSS community would provide a service that is truly valuable to their local community. Open standards would allow efficient data collection and sharing, resulting in improved responses to the local community. Money saved from high priced, proprietary software could then be used to purchase protective equipment for those who provide the front line service, and life saving equipment for paramedics to use could be purchased. This would be an area that the FOSS community could publicize as a true, tangible benefit to using Open Source Software in the local community. There is little to nothing the closed source, proprietary software companies could say in rebuttal.
My hope is that soon there will be the start a dialog of the ‘movers and shakers’ in the FOSS community who see the value in working with emergency services community. Will open source come to the rescue of emergency services? Only time will tell.
About the Author
Robert W. Austin is a Nationally Registered Paramedic and has been serving in the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department for 16 years, and has nearly 25 years of fire and EMS experience. He current works as a Paramedic Evaluator in the Continuous Quality Improvement unit, and has been involved in many technology and research projects conducted by the department. He has been involved in developing computer programs since he developed his first program for the Surfside Beach Fire Department on a Commodore 64.
If you would like to see your thoughts or experiences with technology published, please consider writing an article for OSNews.
is that only a very small % of people working at 911 call centers and such know anything about OS much less know how to program. In theory OSS would be ideal, but its a little hard for just some bored programmer to write software for something s/he knows little to nothing about. The best aproach would be some goverment funded OSS group to write the software or possibly a school could step forward and start it as part of an education program ( for both people going into programming and thos going into EMS)
… any diferent from any other public areas where FOSS could thrive? Even in other public sectors there is the need for custom SW. Like the obeve poster quoted, have someone fund the project (@ least to kick it off), then surely the comunity will take care of the rest.
You are missing one point here. The standards you are talking about are only USA standards. Thus, the size of the potential community of developers is restricted quite a lot.
I don’t think any let’s say Polish FOSS developer would like to work on a project usable only by American users.
Just my two cents.
PS. This is not meant to start a EU-vs-USA flame war!!!
FOSS should come to the rescue of the emergency / medical services…
Governments must spend billions on closed software… which they will have to spend billions more replacing with closed software…
Would it not be more practicle for government agencies to spend money on creating their own OSS software..
which once at the standard they require could then be cloned throughout their departments… for next to nothing…
but this does not work u see if they are going to create the software and OSS it.. so others can use improve etc. then any country can use and have a better working police force..
IE London impliments 999 OSS call centre and the code is availible for free then paris or mexico city could have a photocopy of london call centre for peanuts 😮
Governments dont work this way so public sector cant work this way…. helping mexicos crime problem dont win votes in london… etc… just look at how the usa ripped off mexico in trying to impliment better police force etc….
took the money and ran…
The “community” are people who create FOSS software because they are eighter interested in the topic or they are paid by a sponsor. You should not expect them to spend much time researching which projects they could make.
There is no horde of salespeople coming to you, offering the software-for-free service. It’s not the “community” who overlooked the chance to make some software, it’s the emergency services who miss the chance to initiate and sponsor the open source projects they need and become members of the “community”.
something that creates rss feeds fom these machines availible through 802.11b and aggregate them on something like planet.gnome.org
I hope that won’t stick. Sounds awful.
I live in Austria. In this country, young men have to do eighter duty in the army (8 months) or in civil services (12 months) at their choice. I bet quite a lot of young programmes would rather choose to work 12 months on open source projects e.g. for the red cross, so they get experience helpful for their carreer, instead of wast^h^h^h^hspending 8 months in the barracks. All the emergency services had to do is to setup such a project and to announce this chance in the relevant schools and universities.
AFAIK the situation is similar in other countries, e.g. Germany.
Because of your article, I had a quick look at http://freshmeat.net/browse/266/ for medical apps and it is quite impressive when you think that this is an area where potential bugs could do *real* harm to people.
And since you seem to have programming knowledge, you should start with the first steps yourself. For example, there are medical billing systems as far as I saw.
If you have a very good documentation of what you’d like to do and some code, you may find experienced programmers for the backend via the mailing lists of similar projects to help you. You may also find public funding more easily (screenshots sell).
And maybe even the software vendors you mentioned might agree to help you because that would make their hardware/software bundle cheeper and more efficient, thus they might sell more units. If I understand you correctly, the first vendor who would agree to switch from proprietary to an open XML standart (or similar) for data transmission, gains a selling advantage.
IMHO, the community have been good at defining an Open Standard but they are in a bad position to enforce them (the only exceptions I’m aware of, are related to the internet).
Besides some code, you need to write additional articles for emergency related journals, talk to the vendors and public authorities to provide an impression of an open standard to emerge. That is the only way to go for a good with network economics.
>the only exceptions I’m aware of, are related to the internet).
I think that’s just because TCP/IP was already open and that the Internet is mostly powered by UNIX or UNIX-like operating systems. I wouldn’t translate that into an ability to control. And I assume that all will change when things as Trusted Computing become reality.
If these people only could invest in a BSD styled system, the software produced could easily be used for other purposes and would benefit all. I think it’s a great initative to see that public service such as fire department or 911 go for BSD and invest some money there will high end service providers can use BSD code and contribute back while building high end systems for multi national helpdesks etc…
However, the problem is that many people get confused by this and would prefer some GPL solution which would definitely be a huge problem to make a solution like this viable. Some companies and public services might demand some high end solution and might wanna go for something enhanced and as seen so many times before, GPL just won’t make it manageable. Look at Red Hats accounts and see how much money they make on doing Linux complex just so that people will buy a LOT of support hours.
I hope we get to see something intelligent out of this…
A bit out of topic:
As in Free? Gee, what is the GNU icon doing there then?
I think GNU sofware is very much free/open source software, but as to the GNU icon, I agree. I think the OSI icon (http://www.opensource.org/) would be better. The OSI definition of open source is broader than the definition that the Free Sofware Foundation aka GNU.org has. Actually, free software alà GNU/GPL is just a subspecies of the broader open source alà OSI. So, Eugenia & co., perhaps you could change the icon that is used with FOSS articles on OS News?
I stopped reading after I read this paragraph:
“Today, almost without exception, every agency is forced to use a proprietary, closed source Windows program.”
I really don’t see what the problem is with that. Must be another one of those “OMG OMG OMG WINDOZE IS TEH BAD?!?!” script kiddies. Ever stop and think they are using it because it works?
“Far too often it is purchased from a company that is no longer in business five years after the purchase, resulting in the need to purchase a replacement product from another vendor. Lastly, because the software is proprietary, the agencies that are able to purchase it cannot do everything they want or need the software to do, nor can they modify it to meet their needs.”
Ok problems with this section too. Its purchased from a company no longer in business? Go with someone more reliable then, I’m sure Unident makes some great stuff and they have been in business for how long? There are no guarantees that a sourceforge project would be around in 5 years either. Most of the projects on that page die off after a year, so thats 4 less than a proprietary solution. I don’t know of any emergency service that would need the source, they aren’t in the business of programming so what are they going to do with it? They want a solution, not something they will have to upkeep and maintain. Costs of hiring a few programmers would out weigh the cost of the solution.
Opps, I forgot to mention that you should seperate the transmission protocol from the application.
Brand the protocol with a nice label, such as OADP (Open Automated Defibrillators Protocol) or OAD Protocol for example.
This way, you can lobby for the protocol without getting into political discussions about OpenSource usage, and AED vendors can simply advertise by stating “to support OADP”. Also, potential customers will find it easier to vote “by feet” against non-supporting vendors.
And it seems easier to get legislative support for the protocol when the majority of vendors support it in a few years. You can also state that you’re going to submit it to a standards body. (It doesn’t matter if you do – it only matters that people think you will do it).
If you additionally declare your OpenSource Project as an “example implementation”, it doesn’t sound as frighening to vendors as it would otherwise. So, vendors are also more likely to help defining the protocol in the beginning.
The major part of getting a standard to work is to change peoples expectations and actions, not to code an application supporting it.
Organizations want support, and open source software can’t provide that without costing as much or more than Microsoft solutions which are more mature.
You missed the point of the article. The reason he is proposing using FOSS is due to the nature of the field itself.
There is not enough demand in the field to keep a business with that focus in business. At the same time, there is enough demand in the field that a free solution could do great.
The secondary problem is the lack of communication standards. The lack of standards has caused all the current vendors to be incompatible with the other vendors. When your system goes down, you most likely have to buy a completely new system. Maybe a standards committee could be created and setup.
He never said that Windows is bad. Yet, you scrapped it up to zealotry. In reality, he was worried about the costs of the system. He is stating that a cheaper solution, instead of Windows + Emergency Services Software on top of that, would allow for the reallocation of that money to more and better emergency equipment.
If you can save money on software and, in turn, save more lives by applying the money towards the proper equipment, you would be stupid to not do it.
You are ingnorant.
now my company uses software that is ten years old. The sole programer who designed it, died in a plane crash a few years ago. Where do we go for support???? The Server runs 24/7 dos, and Novell Netware 3.1x The windows clients need to be rebooted every other day, and if they crash they shut down the entire network for 5 minutes till netware catches back up. So no windows isn’t the best.
Well then it’s not the best for you. Doesnt mean it’s not the best for someone else. The world will choose what works best in their case. In most people’s case, thats windows and windows software. Deal. Linux may or may not be there eventually. It’s getting more and more mature then it was even 6 months ago. It will fill a larger market, but not the entire. There is now, and always will be things Windows does better. There are also things that linux does better, and will do better. If you want people to freely code software, dont force them to release the code. It’s not neccasary for all software to be open, nor does it make it more secure then proprietary software. Keeping my Fedora box running nice and secure needed just as many patches installed as my roommate needs on his windows box.
You are ignorant.
I find it hard to believe you are having this many problems with your software. Lets see here, if its not working don’t you think you should change solutions so your not wasting time rebooting and the such? As for support, I don’t know, where are you going to go? Its the same deal with open source. Whenever you have a crisis that needs to be fixed immediately are you just going to post on a message board and hope for the best answer? I don’t think so. Also the possibility of an open source project are very great that it will no longer be maintained. Look at all the projects on sourceforge and freshmeat that are no longer maintained.
Open Standards don’t solve the problem of the cost of medical equipment. There’s a burgeoning standard for medical imaging called DICOM, Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine, http://www.nema.org/index_nema.cfm/694 that many companies adhere to, such as GE. However, that doesn’t change the fact that a GE CT scanner costs somewhere between .5 and 1 million dollars (not including yearly service contracts, tack on 10% per year). Similar companies have similarly expensive products. Its because of the relatively small market for highly specialized devices that have to pass muster at ISO, the FDA, and/or whatever governmental health org your country/region looks to.
I think you are underestimating the OSS community when you comment on the rarity of emergency software.
Software is only created when requirements are understood. Few people understand the requirements of emergency response software, so there is short supply of such.
The best action to ensure the development of Emergency Response Software is to assist in the creation and dissemination of operational standards by which we can create and evaluate Emergency Response Software.
We have open minds and are willing to learn a new paradigm of operation — we only need instruction.
As one post suggested, your best bet is to get local schools and universitys to take up the challenge as a project and when the quarter is over put it up on Source Forge.
Additionally, standards are best when they come from an industry’s own people so if you need standards in forms and data xfer your best bet is journels and societys that directly interact with the equipment.
Good Luck! I know I’d rather my tax dollars go for better training and equipment than for proprietary software!
Surely there is an online place that you Emergency type hang out. Query your user base for help to start. Is there a large base of people that are willing to lobby their bosses and city councils for some money to fund an open software project? Figure out if you can find a programmer in your area that is willing or able to help. How much he needs to start or if it is interesting to him. Maybe you could contact a programmer in another part of the country that has more free time, is less expensive (in the midwest instead of the coastal states). Can you get matching funds from a Fed. Gov’t. agency. How about lobbying the Fed. agency that maintains your NFIRS standard for project funding. Or FEMA.
Looks like one of the main things you need is an incident tracking database. Or a good frontend interface to a MySQL or PostgreSQL database. Make a mock-up of what you want to see on screen (all the info you normally fill out for an incident). Include items that are used for larger Metro areas, but not necessarily in the Rural areas and vice versa. Those could be setup options that an installer prog asks or that can be turned on later by the admin interface. You might be able to get a programmer to alter an open source help ticket system to do EMS incident tracking.
Take your group of fellow EMS people and your Federal backers and lobby the Defibrillator mfgs. to export data in a standard way. Someone mentioned XML, even comma delimited data would be better than what you have now. you want some format that can go into a cross-platform database. You may be able to have a hardware guru figure out the data stream from the various devices and create a database plugin or translator to reformat the data to go into your database of defibrillators. It may not be so hard to figure these stream out, you just have to do so for each of the mfg. If you reverse engineer this datastream in a clean room setup you should be able to publish it or your plugin due to fair use and reverse eng. clauses in the law. Also check your contract w/ the defibrillator co. to see if this is forbidden.
I use to work for a city government and the software that was used for Fire CAD was always breaking. The guys that were to maintain the database and servers really didn’t know enough about the product to effectively support it. So, I understand your problem somewhat.
Visit your local Linux User Group to possibly find some programmers to help.
Just some food for thought. Hope you read this.
“an EMS incident and billing system”
Nevermind the FDA, would the Open Source community want to deal with HIPAA?
“As for support, I don’t know, where are you going to go?”
If you bought the product from Red Hat, then you go to Red Hat. If you bought it from SUSE then you go to SUSE, so and so forth.
“Its the same deal with open source. Whenever you have a crisis that needs to be fixed immediately are you just going to post on a message board and hope for the best answer?”
Again, you’ll go to the distributor whom you bought it from, if you need support. And if you’re winging it, the Net has page after page after page after page of info on Linux, Open Source, etc.
“Also the possibility of an open source project are very great that it will no longer be maintained. Look at all the projects on sourceforge and freshmeat that are no longer maintained.”
Then you don’t use those apps, or better yet, pick up the ball and work on the code yourself. That’s the beauty of Open Source. Anybody can use it and anybody can contribute. The most important packages/apps are well maintained…Gnome, Open Office, Mozilla, KDE, XMMS, MPlayer, Xine, etc.
You actually mentioned one of the real problems. The fact that you might have to interface with a dozen different protocols and could surely bet that the vendors would not cooperate. They see the lock-in as vital to maintaining their share of a fairly limited market. And repeatedly OSS solutions have been offered in various markets, only to be rebuffed by MS brainwashed users who deeply resent learning anything new.
I work in industrial automation and OSS is a very hard sell and the vendors each have their own protocols and networks and do everything possible to prevent standardization.
The most successful approach might be to get your EMT association revved up in favor of solving the problem and having them educate their local purchasers that randomness is breaking the system and everyone pressure the vendors to standardize. Then an OSS project might have a chance to make an impact and become pervasive. Effort flows to fill needs and paving the way will bring traffic quickly. No matter how badly someone wants to do this project, they can’t _make_ users want it too. Only the checkbook will speak loudly enough to the vendors to change their ways.
These are practical lessons learned by a veteran in the
proprietary wars. You’re in luck! most of your peers might actually agree on this.
A rock-stable solution is necessary. That includes not only software development, it means the software must not contain critical bugs. Moreover, it needs to be _rock-stable_, and some kind of redundancy is most welcome as well.
I happen to know only information about a huge police department here (as well as the obvious stories about the NSA and FBI in the USA) and they’re using clusters of Alpha machines running OpenVMS and Tru64 with some database (it would surprise me if it were MySQL or PostgreSQL). I don’t know what the clients run, but clients aren’t as much important in that situation so they may run Windows NT version or some DE + Linux.
We all know how stable Alpha hardware is. We all know how stable OpenVMS is. (I can’t comment on Tru64.)
As for support, i think that is far less important than stability. Stability, and thus software testing, is extremely important in cases like described above (“data storage”) or like in this example emergency services. Plus, you can always hire the developer who (partly) coded the software. That person knows how the thing works and can fix the software in-house.
I very much agree with the people it “starts at home”. If one feels a need for such program, and wants to develop it in an open (“FLOSS”) manner, it’ll happen. But what if there are people who do develop FLOSS software but have no interest in this project? You either pay them, you pray they start existing, or you’re out of luck.
With niche markets, like this one, the latter is sometimes a problem. Slowly, less-niche markets (3D rendering, CAD, Graphics design, Audio editting, Tracking) will grow up, but some won’t… for now.
Finally, and this is very IMO, IMO software which the government runs should be open. Just like information. We have the right to learn and understand how the government functions and works. Because of that, i very much applaud FLOSS projects like these. Another important example is voting machine (Google for Diebold).
If you bought the product from Red Hat, then you go to Red Hat. If you bought it from SUSE then you go to SUSE, so and so forth.
Wow, that’s cheap *LOL*… why not go for Sun from the beginning and you’ll save a lot of money?
I work as a volunteer for a charity organisation. On my first day, I was asked to retype the output from an Access program into over 100 separate but identical format Word documents. The person in charge was only cognisant of Microsoft products. I saw this a mailmerge problem. The question was: how to get the Access data into a form suitable for mailmerge.
Answer: Export the Access data and use a FLOSS program, i.e Perl, to convert the data. Of course the person in charge had never heard of Perl. (I chose Perl because it is very suitable for that kind of task, I was familiar with it, a Windows version is available and it is cost-free. There may well be other suitable languages.) I wrote the script, with a DOS batch file as a package. It works perfectly, saving 26 man-hours work per run. The script covers less than two pages of A4, including all the error traps, comments and blank lines used to separate all the various stages of the program.
If one looks carefully, most programs will export as text. Once in text, the data can be reshaped as required to a standard format. What is needed is a series of scripts that perform the appropriate transformations. If fancy graphical displays are avoided, and in most cases they can, the programming is relatively easy.
A and E departments should initiate an open source project for their particular needs to be taken into account. It wouldn’t be free in cost but would ensure that the solution keeps evolving according to the needs of the sponsors.
They need to start something themselves on an open source basis that would address their needs, so that they could benefit from improvements commissioned by other A & E departments. They’d still have to get these guys interested in paying a few to do their changes.
According to the article, this is a fairly small A&E service, so there is not much room for them to embark on it. The opensource projects he is the bigger services who do have IT resources.
Some Anonymous folks here keep comparing abandonment of open source projects with the failure and closure of proprietary software companies. There is no comparison. When an open source project dies, the code is still available. A company that is still dependent upon it can contract a competent developer–not even necessarily one who has prior experience with the project–to work with the code.
Look up stories on Koha
On Linux Journal Feb. 2003:
Koha: a Gift to Libraries from New Zealand by Pat Eyler
Here’s how some libraries are serving customers with free software.
A consortium of libraries got together to start an open source project for library management software. Now they can spend more money on books and better equipment. Don’t all libraries essentially do the same things? Catalog books, allow patrons to look up, reserve and check out materials, accept payment for items like movie rentals and fine payments. Most of this depends on a database. Big surprise!
I work for a medium size public safety software consulting firm, and I have the glorious luck to be positioned as part of the outsourced IT department of the county sheriff’s office here in central florida. The developers in my company work with open source projects “on the side” because we have always been a Microsoft Solutions Provider. We come in, sell the agency Microsoft on Dell servers and workstations running our software systems. Computer Aided Dispatch, Jail Management, Records Management, Mobile Data Terminals (Laptops in Police cars connected via wireless CDPD vpn to HQ). As a network engineer / applications support specialist (gotta love that acronym) I see a different vendors system running each departments needs, and none of them getting along well. I have been thinking for a long time that we as a consulting firm could use open source where the agency can’t afford the closed source systems they may be more comfortable with. At least that’s how it could start. The consultants developers could handle the custom programming for the smaller agencies, and the fees would be support based. The agency could pay the consultant to make the software do what they wanted.
I would really like to see Linux and open source software used more in law enforcement and the like, but there is so much fear of it that Linux might as well be a curse word. It took me everything to get them to agree to CheckPoint firewall on a Nokia Linux box. I have been able to talk to the IT departments at several other agencies, and we have been able to swap some VB applications for pawn entry and recording and such, but there is a HUGE need for more cooperation. The basic needs of Fire, Police, and EMS are the same the world over. A fundamental framework with local specific plug in modules might be a the way to go. It is a subject that deserves much more attention and money than it is getting.
I have been reading the many comments to the article that I wrote. I first want to thank each of you who responded. I would also like to clear up one thing before I go on.
I stopped reading after I read this paragraph:
“Today, almost without exception, every agency is forced to use a proprietary, closed source Windows program.”
I really don’t see what the problem is with that. Must be another one of those “OMG OMG OMG WINDOZE IS THE BAD?!?!” script kiddies. Ever stop and think they are using it because it works?
This was not a “I hate Windows” line, nor was it intended to be. It was a simple observation. The last person to respond (comment 34) confirms this through his experience as well.
I never intended to imply that Windows programs can’t be open source. In fact, the Open Source project I am working on that was referenced in the article is for the Windows platform and written in Visual Basic.
Now on to better topics of discussion.
I must admit, that the comments took this further than I expected. It appears that the interest is there (which I am very glad to see). However, it would appear that a first step might be a ‘clearing house’ of sorts, between Open Source developers and the Emergency Service providers. A way to exchange needs and desires with those who can provide the software expertise to deliver the goods.
As I continue with the PAD Program Management project, I will be doing more discussions with those in the emergency service community, and getting their thoughts on Open Source software. I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a new era for both. From where I sit, it looks promising.
Thanks again for all your thoughts and ideas. Please stay in touch through the web site or by e-mail.
Lastly, stay safe!