Feature Articles

Open Source Job Opportunities Grow at Humanitarian Crisis Relief Groups

Typically, when a crisis group or organization is faced with a humanitarian emergency, they tend to focus on what has worked in the past because new solutions need to be tested prior to an emergency. We also see that volunteers for these groups/organizations are usually the first to bring an open source tool or project to the table as a potential solution. With a greater influx of open source tools being used in crisis situations, organizations are realizing the power of open source to allow them to adapt technology quickly in a changing environment and to work together across organizations.

Is the Future of mHealth Based on SMS and Inexpensive Mobile Phones?

Earlier this month the Finnish mobile phone maker, Nokia, announced that they will be re-releasing an updated version of their legendary 3310 GSM phone. Since it was first released in the early 2000s, the Nokia 3310 has gained a cult following for its incredible durability, long battery life and compact design featuring an internal antenna. Many Europeans and Americans fondly remember the 3310 as their first mobile phone, a device that made meeting up with friends in a crowd easier and a device that provided endless hours of entertainment with the timeless game Snake...

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7 Ways to Discuss Legal Matters with an Open Community

Having watched a fair number of people attempt to engage both the Open Source Initiative's licensing evaluation community and the Apache Software Foundation's legal affairs committee, I'd like to offer some hints and tips for succeeding when it's your turn to conduct a legal discussion with an open community. First and foremost, make sure the person conducting the conversation is both qualified and empowered. Don't send proxies; they simply frustrate the community, who quickly work out that your representative is always playing the second-hand car salesman and going to the back room to ask for a deal...

Open Project Collaboration from Elementary to University Classrooms

The practice of teaching should be built upon collaboration and remixing content. When a friend asks us to explain something, we don't trademark our answer or deliver a monologue without asking for input. This is a simple example, but it gets to the heart of the dysfunctional design inherent in our existing education system...19th-century state of education is dangerously out of step with our 21st-century world. Worse, it leaches away our students' passion for academic and lifelong learning. We must infuse the vital, human element of collaboration into our vision for education transformation.

Obliterate the Cost of Consumer Products with Open Hardware

If you're looking for free and open source designs to replicate on your desktop 3D printer, you have about two million choices. Because the open source ethic is rooted so deeply in the 3D printing community, many of the consumer products you would normally buy are already among those millions of predesigned products. You can download the designs and save a lot of money. My group has shown in studies in both 2013 (on a self-built 3D printer) and 2017 (on an out-of-the box 3D printer) that peer-to-peer sharing prosumers (producing consumers) gain an incredible return on investment: > 100% at minimum and more likely ~1000% by 3D printing products to offset purchases only once a week...

Health Care in a Post-Privacy World

Someone knows you are reading this. They know what device you are using.  They know if you make it all the way to the end (which I hope you do!).  They may be watching you read it, and listening to you.  They know exactly where you are right now, and where you've been. As FBI Director James Comey recently proclaimed, "there is no thing as absolute privacy in America." Director Comey was speaking about legal snooping, authorized by the courts and carried out by law enforcement agencies, but, in many ways, that may be the least of our privacy concerns...

Open Source in Death and Beyond

Benjamin Franklin was known to say, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." There are open source solutions for completing your taxes, such as Open Tax Solver, but what about the other side of that quote? What does open source have to do with death? It's quite a lively subject, it seems. I know you are just dying to know, so let's dig in. We all experience death and it becomes a long drawn out process of paperwork and burial rituals that we hope doesn't weigh too much on the loved ones we've left behind. The open source community has given this process some thought, not surprisingly. They've lent their mindshare towards rethinking how to deal with that final episode of life. It turns out, not only is open source great in life, but it comes in handy in death, too...

Open Source Project Management Can Be Risky Business

Our digital lives are powered by programming philosophers who choose to develop their code out in the open. All programs begin with lines of instruction. When ready for execution these lines of instruction are converted to a binary format that the computer can execute. Open source programs are programs where the human readable code is accessible to anyone. This philosophy of openness and freedom has allowed these projects to impact the lives of everyone. The Linux kernel is the core of all Android devices, and nearly a third of all Internet traffic rides on just one openly developed project, Netflix...

Could Billion Dollar EHRs Bankrupt the Country?

Earlier this year, Monmouth University conducted a survey to determine which issues were most important as the country transitions to a new presidential administration. Among all the potential concerns Americans now face, the issue that rises to the top is healthcare costs. How acute a concern is this? It’s significant enough that, when asked the open-ended question, “turning to issues closer to home, what is the biggest concern facing your family right now?”, 25 percent of respondents made it their number one issue...

Your Smartphone or Your Life...or, the Dangers of Addictive Technology

Rep. Jason Chaffetz's recent remarks suggesting that some Americans should invest in their health instead of in a new iPhone reminded me of nothing so much of the old Jack Benny bit, where Benny is accosted by a robber who threatens "your money or your life."  When Benny doesn't immediately respond, the robber prompts him, and the supposedly miserly Benny snaps back, "I'm thinking it over." I suspect that, like Mr. Benny, many of us would have a tough choice between our smartphones (and our other devices) and our health.  It may be not so that we're miserly as it is that we're addicted.

3 Projects Successfully Using Mesh Network Technology

If you think about it, isn't the Internet just a giant mesh network? If we deviate slightly from the standard definition that requires that all nodes to assist in data distribution, the answer is a resounding yes. However, traditional network technologies and the vendor-provided hardware required to run them is often far too expensive to deploy without deep pockets. Open source software aims to solve these problems and enable network connectivity to marginalized groups all around the world...

Halamka's Next Steps for the National Healthcare IT agenda

At HIMSS, I listened carefully to payers, providers, patients, developers, and researchers. Below is a distillation of what I heard from thousands of stakeholders. It is not partisan and does not criticize the work of any person in industry, government or academia. It reflects the lessons learned from the past 20 years of healthcare IT implementation and policymaking. Knowing where we are now and where we want to be, here are 10 guiding principles.

Health Care Should Get "Smart" about Protecting Patient Data

Admit it: you're worried about your online privacy. Admit it: your personal health information is one of the things you worry most about getting hacked. Admit it: you don't understand why your health care providers seem to have a hard time sharing key information about you. And admit it, you're not quite sure what health insurers really do, except for always saying no and for getting between you and your health care providers. This is why blockchain is the new hope -- or hype -- for health care. What intrigues me most about it, though, are its "smart contracts." The GAO recently cited health as a key area of cybersecurity weakness, and TrendMicro profiled why cybercrime is a particular threat for health care...

Halamka's Dispatch from HIMSS 2017

As I wrote last week, I expected 2017 HIMSS to be filled with Wearables, Big Data, Social Networking concepts from other industries, Telemedicine, and Artificial Intelligence. I was not disappointed. 42,000 of my closest friends each walked an average of 5 miles per day through the Orlando Convention Center. One journalist told me “It’s overwhelming. You do your best to look professional and wear comfy shoes!” After 50 meetings, and 12 meals in 3 days, here’s my impression of the experience...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Health Care

I hate being a patient. I have to admit that, although I write about health care, I am typically what can be described as a care-avoider. My exposure to the health care system has mostly been through my professional life or through the experiences of friends and family. The last few days, though, I unexpectedly had an up-close-and-personal experience as a hospital inpatient. I want to share some thoughts from that experience. Now, granted, any perceptions I gained are those of one person, in one hospital, in one medium-sized mid-western city. Nonetheless, I offer what I consider the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the experience...