Geertjan's Blog

  • August 30, 2015

NetBeans in Cancer Research in Pakistan

Geertjan Wielenga
Product Manager

My background is not in IT, but in law—I grew up in South Africa and did my law degree there, focusing on subjects such as international law, labor law, and human rights law. I would certainly have become one of those typical human rights lawyers who inspired me to do a law degree in the first place—one of those lawyers from 90% of court room drama movies—pleading the innocence of an unjustly accused innocentshaking a self righteous finger at the heavens against the injustice of it allor standing on the ramparts of some eventually to be vindicated—after many years of hardship and struggle"lost cause".

It is with that kind of background that I am always so very pleased when the aspects of NetBeans that have always appealed to me most—free, open source, solid, stable, simple to get started, helpful community—are combined with the kind of vertical segment of software development that is closest to the kinds of concerns I had before being sidetracked into software—in this case, the software being developed at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Pakistan:

The above is a laboratory automation integration solution being created at the aforementioned hospital in Pakistan on top of the NetBeans Platform and with NetBeans IDE. It integrates 63 pathology lab machines and analyzers into one coherent application, supporting a range of protocols. The system bi-directionally communicates with true random access analyzers, such as General Chemistry (e.g., Hitachi P-800, COBAS 6000) and Special Chemistry (e.g., Advia, Immulute), where analyzers read the tube barcodes and inquire the system for the test orders and receives them, analyzes samples, and reports back the results to the system. Other features include user/roles/rights management, integrated simulation for quick testing and debugging, and an easily accessible user interface for maintaining the analyzers and other machines, together with their support documents and manuals.

Many—even most—of my software colleagues will look at the above screenshot and say: "Oh my god! Why is that not a web app!" or "Wow—that needs to be converted to JavaFX, doesn't it?" And those software colleagues would be completely missing the point. Not going to explain this in detail again, have done that so many times already, but the web is simply not applicable to all imaginable business scenarios, while Java Swing is certainly a lot more stable with a lot more experienced developers available than JavaFX, and the usefulness that JavaFX would add to this particular application is so small that the significant investment that would be required would not be worth it.

When I read about the above software and write e-mails with the related software developers working in that hospital, to advise them on solutions they're working on for their software, yes, at that moment there's a very small and humble part of me that resonates with an earlier part of me, a younger part, sitting in a law lecture or, even, quite recently, listening to former head of the South African Constitutional Court, Albie Sachs, talk about his background and the motivations for the ways in which he has spent his life.

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