Theres a better way.

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Shane, Oct 2, 2007.

  1. Shane

    Shane Guest
    The Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand (Pharmac) has developed
    an open source solution for publishing the Pharmaceutical Schedule online.

    Using TeX, an open source typesetting system, Pharmac’s IT department built
    a solution which enables the schedule to be published in book form,
    directly from the same XML source that is used to process subsidy claims.

    The project actually started using proprietary software, says John Geering,
    Pharmac’s IT manager. After initially being told by local typesetters that
    automatic typesetting was not possible, he managed to find a proprietary
    3B2 typesetting solution from a UK-based company.

    Even though the system turned out to be incredibly complicated, Pharmac
    stuck with it, Geering says. Geering and his team went on a three week 3B2
    training course, but they did not feel confident about maintaining the
    system after the course, he says.

    “[The system] looked pretty ugly under the hood,†he says.

    However, when the project was nearing its end, the UK company was acquired
    by another company, and Pharmac lost contact with the developers in the
    process. It was like the company “pulled the plug on usâ€, says Geering.

    While Pharmac was working on the 3B2 solution, Geering’s son, a programmer
    still in school at the time, said that he could build a better solution
    using TeX.

    Geering decided to give his son’s idea a go. They came up with a
    proof-of-concept, and it worked, says Geering.

    Geering and two IT staff developed the whole open source system in-house,
    reducing the cost of the project to a fraction of what the 3B2 solution
    would have cost, he says.

    The team used Python, libxml/libxslt and TeX, running on Debian GNU/Linux,
    and the open document standards TeX, XML, MathML, XHTML, and Xlink, says

    The Tex schedule project went live in April. The schedule book is printed
    three times a year — April, August and December, but because the project
    has been successful, Pharmac is now considering publishing monthly, says

    In house programming building on top of the OSS solutions already available.
    Note: when the closed source solution had a [fairly typical] change to its
    business structure all of Pharmacs existing investment went south.
    Shane, Oct 2, 2007
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  2. Occupational hazard of closed-source.

    What happened to all the work that was done? Most likely mouldering at the
    bottom of a drawer somewhere. You'd think it would be of no monetary value
    to the acquiring company, they could open-source it, wouldn't you? But no,
    better to be a dog in the manger...
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 2, 2007
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  3. Shane

    thingy Guest

    I have seen this too often bye bye support....there is worse though....

    a) somebody does indeed acquire the code and then you find as the end
    user you have to deal with some a-hole that wants a fortune in monthly
    fees for diddly support when he feels like it and is doing nothing else
    (like drinking beer or recovering from drinking beer).......

    b) Your el cheapo app suddenly requires major upgrades at 10 and usually
    100 times the original purchase price to fix their bugs...except they
    are not usually fixed, or worse ones are released oh and you have to
    either buy monthly support (see a) or buy the next major upgrade some
    distance into the future at 100 to 1000 times the original cost.

    You can get so screwed so fast.

    To avoid first or a) customers actually insist that the code is
    deposited with a 3rd party and in the event of the company going out of
    business they get a copy of the code...these days though I am not so
    sure its still an still does not protect you from b). for
    such an option to be asked for means that this must have been a huge

    Of course going open source is much easier...


    thingy, Oct 2, 2007
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