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Re: Request Advice for Work Meeting on Why use GNU+Linux

From: lily
Subject: Re: Request Advice for Work Meeting on Why use GNU+Linux
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2020 08:29:14 +0000

THANK YOU to the Libre Planet community for answering my call
for help!!!

Please continue reading if you would like to know how the
meeting went.

On Tuesday 01/14/2019 afternoon, I joined a meeting by telephone with
my manager (an epidemiologist) another manager and 8 server engineers.
I spoke first to introduce myself and explain why I made this request
several months ago for a computer with GNU+Linux natively installed. I
explained that my goal as a caregiver/biostatistician is to do my best
work to serve the patients, and my best work can be done by using Free
Software that includes working on a GNU+Linux OS.

I was asked questions about the kind of software I use and need and
why that software is necessary for my work. I said my work involves
statistical learning i.e. machine learning for all of my biomedical
research projects, which requires statistical software R, and other
tools like EMACS. I was asked if I use the command line. I said that
when I have access to a GNU+Linux I make use of the suite of GNU tools
through bash etc.

>From the perspective of the managers and the engineers, they were
hoping to find a solution for what they saw as merely a technical
problem. At this point in the discussion, they felt their goal was to
help their new biostatistician get the software/tools she needs. The
engineers tried proposing solutions like accessing Red Hat through a
remote connection, Windows Subsystem for Linux, etc.

Given that the participants in this meeting were focused on the
technical aspect of this request, I reminded them that as a
biostatistician and co-investigator on biomedical research, I not only
have the responsibility to produce good statistical analysis but to
uphold the highest standards of ethics in research. So with this
responsibility, I am obligated to use ethical software, and only Free
Software meets those ethical standards.

I then got an interesting response from the engineers. They understood
that I have this additional ethics responsibility, but I do not think
they understood the meaning of Free Software. I explained that Free
Software offers benefits for a health care system in that it is more
secure and uphold ethics that is good for patients.

These engineers all use what they referred to as Linux and Unix, and
they said to me that they agree that it is better than Windows, but I
am sure they meant this from a utility perspective, not an ethical
perspective. But, they nonetheless really appreciated my request and
were happy to start a conversation, and they said they do not wish to
let this idea end there. They did mention some important facts, and
that is that the new CIO of the hospital system and new hire up
managers are all coming directly from Microsoft, and that they have
been making some big changes and moving many of the pieces of software
that caregivers use to Microsoft products.

At the end of the conversation I thanked everyone who participated, and
let them know that I wanted to stay in touch with those who wish to
work towards setting up systems that would be beneficial for the
health care system (from both a technical and ethical perspective).

Below is a summary of the meeting written by the unknown manager.

- Need GNU+Linux installed on her machine for statistical/research work, 
machine learning, and statistical learning. It is free and
  ethical SW.
- Is there a reason must be on a laptop vs a server?
     - If on a server then have to connect to a server to connect to apps, 
would slow down her work efforts.
     - Using different pieces of scientific SW, could make changes more quickly 
and readily if local
- Have you considered Ubuntu on WSL Win10?
  - v1 or v2 not available on GA yet
  - Running inside of Windows
  - Could not do this ethically if running Ubuntu inside of Windows
- Apps in Linux used: R (stat programming language) from GNU OS, Emix,
  all GNU tools, BASH
- Use command line on a GNU+Linux OS (i.e. BASH)
- GNU+Linux distribution built around GNU toolset
- Just wants GNU+Linux OS
- Have considered Macs?
  - Mac OS non-free pieces of SW would go against the ethical reasoning
  - If only free SW, will be unsupported and will be on her own if anything 
  - Engineer concerns about support, not so much security, as we can lock it 
  - Ethics of allowing a machine with patient data outside enterprise standards 
and support.
- WSL v1 has supported R since 2017
   - Tools required are available in a Win20 environment with WSL enabled.
   - Would be supported
   - Ubuntu inside of Windows
   - Seems like it would be a good technical compromise.
- Long term considerations for GNU_Linux OS in our environment for
  healthcare. Crista would like to be engaged in future discussions on this 
topic. Others have expressed interest in the past as well.
- redHat use for Genome data in upcoming research
  - Crista to reach out to Engineer when ready.
- Engineers are from Unix Server Engineering, not desktop support. Need Desktop 
Support to evaluate how they would support and
  manage this. Engineer will help.
- Does the Linux Environment need to be portable? What is the driver?
Next Steps.

An engineer replied to these notes with the following message:

Minor correction. EMACS (not Emix) is a macro extensible editor. It
was probably the first piece of GNU software, and was written by
Richard M. Stallman back in the distant past when dinosaurs roamed the
land (I was using it in 1989).
Crista, I will put together some basic instructions for turning on and
using WSL (suitable for you or the Desktop people if we need to go
that route), and then we can see if that gets you where you need to
Principal IT Engineer, Cloud & Automation Engineering

I replied to all with this message:

Hello All,
I would like to thank everyone who participated in the meeting
yesterday. I am looking in to the options listed here that would
provide a technical compromise. At this point, possibly the Windows
Subsystem for GNU+Linux may be a good option. I will follow up with
Principal IT Engineer on how to get WSL working.
Thank you manager for taking these notes to remind us in the future
what was discussed.
For those that are interested in long term goals of setting up systems
that are beneficial for health care systems, please stay in touch.
Also, though EMACS may be from when *dinosaurs roamed the land*, when
I use org-mode I feel like captain of the starship enterprise.
Thank you again,

I wish to thank the Libre Planet community again. You gave me the
knowledge and courage to stand by my values in this meeting. I recognize
that I am just one person, but I do have a goal, and that goal is
to embed technology ethics (Free Software) into biomedical research
and health care.

I shared this goal with my manager and a couple colleagues and I was pleased to 
find out that
they support me and my goal. Hopefully, as I learn more and build a
greater community we can reach that goal together.

(Also, I am currently using all the Free Software I can on a Windows 10
computer including (R, EMACS, GIMP, LibreOffice Sumatra and others.)

Let us Free the Future,

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