Linux scrubs up for medical role

Open-source software gets another boost as an Austrian firm announces a Linux medical device

Linux' reputation for reliability took another step on Wednesday with the introduction of the first medical embedded device using the operating system.

Austrian company BMS Bayer launched EasyDose, a unit that monitors, displays and manages X-ray exposure data automatically through hospital networks. Based on Trasmeta's Midori -- a very compact Linux distribution -- and a Cyrix GXM 233 processor, the unit has a 6.5-inch touch-screen and works to the standard DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) protocols over IP and Ethernet.

Such systems are mandated by EU and Amercian health regulators to ensure quality management of X-ray diagnostics, and to prevent patient overexposure to radiation.

BMS Bayer developed its own user interface library, ParaGUI, on top of the existing SDL graphics code -- more commonly used for multimedia and gaming. Written in C++ and Python, ParaGUI runs on Windows, Linux, BeOS, MacOS and others; it's licensed under open-source LGPL -- meaning others can develop commercial applications with it -- and is of course freely available on the Internet.

The company says it developed ParaGUI after years of frustration using Windows NT to create custom medical applications.

"Developing on Linux has enabled our development team to concentrate on the main project needs without having to carry an enormous unnecessary OS payload," said Norbert Bayer, chief executive and founder of BMS Bayer. "The reliability and stability of Linux accompanied by a carefully designed system architecture has proven Linux to be a ideal companion within the medical environment."

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