[Gllug] open source centric ICT in Schools from Sept 2012 ?

John Hearns hearnsj at googlemail.com
Fri Jan 13 18:19:54 UTC 2012

The comments re. the NHS are spot on.

>Take the new National NHS computer system that failed quite
> spectacularly, never going into the production use.
> The main reason it failed is because the project was too big and had
> too many dependencies.
>  If they had approached the system by first defining the interfaces
> between components.

I was working in the NHS at the time that project started up.
Not boasting, I was on the organising committee of one of the founding
conferences of the use of the Internet in Medicine and I helped form a
short-lived organisation called BHIA, which aimed to be the voice of
the users in the new networked NHS.
I also recall meeting Admiral Grainger on one occasion.

Anyway, I said and many people said at the time that definiing open
standards for data interchange was the key, rather than going about
spending untold millions of spiffing hardware and databases.
Indeed, there was (And still is) an indigenous culture of GP surgery
information systems - VAMP comes to mind. All fo these were
pooh-poohed as the work of amateurs, and were to be swept away when
the Big National Standard ssytems were online. Guess what?
If the NHS had defined standards then software companies would have
grown up to satisfy the demand.

I liken it to the start of the Web. At the time there were plenty of
noticeboard and discussion forum software packages out there, being
actively used byt he scientists at CERN. but each was particular to
the platform it ran on - my favourite being VAX Notes.
Tim Berners-Lee worked on the open protocol which allowed access to
data on a Web server - which of course was made available as open
source. He did NOT work on a particular platform and make it perform
well/be compelling to use/yadda yadda.
Yes he did of course produce a reference webserver  implementation on
a Next, but this rapidly spread to DEC Unix boxes and other Unix

On 13/01/2012, Alain Williams <addw at phcomp.co.uk> wrote:
> On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 12:44:58PM +0000, James Courtier-Dutton wrote:
>> On 13 January 2012 11:01, Alain Williams <addw at phcomp.co.uk> wrote:
>> >
>> > I have always believed that open standards are much more important than
>> > open source[**]. If you have open standards (ie documentation good
>> > enough to
>> > allow independent implementation) that is freely available then you have
>> > the potential to stop one company (or cartel) from dominating.
>> >
>> In reality, the documentation of any protocol or file format is rarely
>> good enough to implement a new version of software to work with it.
>> The document will invariably be interpreted by different people in
>> different ways.
>> You then need to go to interoperability workshops and do lots of tests
>> to make it work fully.
> +1
>> The best documentation is a full open source implementation, including
>> all error paths.
> It may be a help, it depends on the quality of the code. I do not think that
> code is a substitute for good file_format/protcol/... documentation.
>> So, I disagree with your view that open standards is enough.
> Not what I said. I said that open standards are more important than open
> source.
> An example of that is the definition of the Unix file system. This is an
> API: open/close/create/readdir/... How it is implemented is, at the
> application
> programming level of zero interest. This means that your application will
> work on very different file systems: sysv, ext2, reiser, ...
> This illustrates that documentation can work at different levels.
> Also: if you have a reference base in code then the temptation is to
> implement
> the same thing rather than something that is different and perhaps better in
> some way.
>> Open standards with an open source reference implementation is really
>> the minimum requirement.
> Minimum requirement for what ?
> However I suspect that I disagree with that statement how ever you answer
> the question.
>> Well defined interfaces is what is really needed.
> Which is what I have been saying.
>> This is why XML is quite good, because it forces people to fully
>> define the interface between two software components.
> Really ?
>> Take the new National NHS computer system that failed quite
>> spectacularly, never going into the production use.
>> The main reason it failed is because the project was too big and had
>> too many dependencies.
> I am not qualified to comment on any of this. Do you have personal
> experience
> of the NHS IT project ?
> --
> Alain Williams
> Linux/GNU Consultant - Mail systems, Web sites, Networking, Programmer, IT
> Lecturer.
> +44 (0) 787 668 0256  http://www.phcomp.co.uk/
> Parliament Hill Computers Ltd. Registration Information:
> http://www.phcomp.co.uk/contact.php
> #include <std_disclaimer.h>
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