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Hotspot #6: the project Dianosis

Item posted by Mathieu Roy <yeupou> on Sun Jul 24 18:38:23 2005.

On a regular basis, Gna! people pick and interview one vivid and mature project hosted here to highlight the software and personalities that drive Libre Software community.

This is the 5th hotspot, dedicated to the Dianosis project.

Interview with Julien Seiler, Guillaume Hiron, Patrick Bruyère, and Sylvain Lelièvre:

| Gna: Hello, Can you give a two line description of your project your
| grandma(s) could understand?

Julien: Dianosis is a free software project designed to help diabetic
people to handle their treatment. It is based on a new therapy which
allows patients to adapt their treatment to their way of life instead of
changing their way of life to suit the treatment.

| G: Who are you? How many developers contribute regularly? How is the
| project leaded? What is the profile of the main developers?

J: I’m leading the project since the beginning. When it started I was
still a computer science engineering student at UTBM (Université de
Technologie de Belfort-Montbéliard) and today I'm about to graduate.
Currently three developers are contributing regularly to the project. For
each version of the software we decide all together what features should
be implemented, then I try to distribute the work between the developers
and give priority to what they like to do. In a way, once the milestones
have been planted, each one is free to contribute as he wants. However I’m
struggling to keep all the work properly documented in order to have a
real technical specification of the project.
Moreover, we try to meet once a week to discuss the last improvements and
to keep everybody informed of the feedback we received from the users.

Sylvain: I have a degree of the IUT (Institut Universitaire de
Technologie) of Strasbourg, in software development. I'm not contributing
directly to the development of dianosis, but I'm in charge of the website
( so I'm more related to PHP, MySQL, XHTML, CSS and
PNG than to Python and GTK. That's why I'm not part of the "three
developers" mentioned above. But since I'm the only guy in the team who's
using a Macintosh, and since we want dianosis to reach a maximum of
people, I will certainly participate in the near future to the port of the
software on Macintosh, as a developer or tester.

Guillaume: I'm also about to graduate in computer science engineering at
UTBM. I have joined the project on march 2005. I heard of dianosis at the
university and I quickly proposed to contribute to dianosis development. I
have more specifically worked on an evolutive and easy-to-use plugin
system as well as on the development of windows installer.

Patrick: I'm graduate in computer science engineering at ISTASE (Institut
Supérieur des Techniques Avancées de Saint Etienne) in 2000. I work in a
software company which develop software relative to "Warehousing Execution
System". I have joined the project at the end of april 2005. I heard about
dianosis project on a bulletin board, when the team search a name for the
software. The concept of the software cause my interest. So i proposed my
contribution to the project.

| G: When and why was the project started?

J: The project was started in September 2004. At this time I had a really
cool semester in front of me (read: quite idle) and I thought it was good
time to start a project that I had in mind for many years. Indeed, the
idea of carrying out such a piece of software was something I was willing
to do for ages. In the same time, I met Patrice Winiszewski who is in
charge of the diabetology service at the hospital of Belfort-Montbéliard
(France). He found the idea really interesting and gave me some hints to
start. I proposed the idea at my university and they accepted to let me
work on dianosis as a student project.

| G: And what audience are you targeting exactly? Geek, Grandma?

J: The software is of course designed for people suffering of diabetes
mellitus type 1, who undergo a complex treatment based on the new
functional insulin therapy. The main goal of this new treatment is to give
back to diabetic people the freedom they lost when their illness appeared.
Even if I wouldn't expect my grandmother to use the software, we do heavy
work on useability since anybody should be able to use it and because the
daily use (even multiple times a day) of such software should not be

| G: What features are you missing/planning?

J: As a young project, Dianosis still misses many features. A new release
is planned for october 2005 and it should include some really important
improvements. For instance, people will be able to share their food
databases and the software will include an artificial intelligence engine
based on a neural network to improve the advice given to the user. The
plugin interface will also be improved and should work nearly the same way
Firefox extensions work. Last, but not least, we will try to port the
software to embedded systems like Pocket PC as soon as possible.

Gu: Currently, only Windows 2000/XP installer is avalaible. A compatible
version with Windows 98 will quickly be released, as well as packages for
some GNU/Linux distribution.
In next versions, management of others diabetes treatements (based on
insulin pump for instance) or communication with medical devices could be

| G: Your project is only available in French. Have you ever considered
| translating it? From what we understand, such software could be useful to
| anyone, not specifically to French people.

J: That's true ! i18n is being introduced in the software. The next
version should be at least avaible in French, English and German.

S: i18n is also planned for the website and the documentation.

P: Indeed, i18n is planned. Technically, we will use the gettext system.

| G: Which license did you choose and why? We noticed that there’s no
| download area for your project at Gna and that dianosis is available as
| tarball only in a private area of your webpage. That's quite unusual for a
| libre software project, legal though. Why did you made that choice? Dont
| you feel it could restrict your audience?

J: Currently, the software is distributed under the version 2 of the GNU
General Public License. Why ? Well, Dianosis is designed to free diabetic
people from the burden of their treatment. It would really look paradoxal
to close our sources ! However, we are thinking about changing it for the
CeCILL which seems to be more accurate for French software.
It is true that the software is not available for public download. Indeed,
since Dianosis' job is to process medical data and because it still is
under heavy development, we want to avoid any accident the software could
cause by giving erroneous advice. Asking people to contact us prior to any
download is a way for us to keep track of who is using the software and
alert them quickly about any major issue ! Once the software will be ready
and wholly tested, it will certainly be available for public download.
By the way, since version 1.0, an installer is provided for Windows users.
We are currently testing the Debian package so it should be released
really soon too !

| G: Do you have any industrial or institutional support? If any, how so?

J: The only support we got was from a french diabetics association. They
provided us with financial support and helped us to get in contact with
the most important specialists in diabetes in France. We are currently
studying a possible partnership with a company working in the medical
field which could help us to promote our work and make contact with some
big pharmaceutical groups.

| G: Are you looking for contributions? If so, what kind of contributions
| could be of use to the project?

J: Of course, we are always looking for all sorts of contributions. We are
mainly looking for Python developers and embedded systems specialists. The
"coming soon" plugin interface will able anyone interrested in adding some
features to the software, to do it very quickly.We need the support of
some web designers too, to help us make our website evolve faster. But
anyone which is interested in testing the software and giving us feedback
is welcome to join us.

S: And of course, we will welcome any help to translate the software, the
documentation and the website.

Gu: We also need some linux users to create and maintain packages of
dianosis on different distributions.

| G: What tools do you use when working on the project? Why?

J: Well, nothing really original for me. I keep using my old Vim for ages
! That’s almost all you need to write Python. Since a few weeks we have
introduce epylog syntax in our docstrings so we may have a real API
documentation soon. We are also thinking about using Glade to draw our
user interfaces... even if I find it quite relaxing to code some simple
dialog boxes just by the hand I'm also using Dia heavily for all diagrams
purposes (UML, data bases models and other unexpected drawings).

S: For developing the website, I'm using jEdit on Mac OS X. Made with
Java, it’s a bit slow on my PowerMac G4 733MHz, but it’s fitted with a lot
of really cool features that I miss in other open source editors available
on Mac OS X. For FTP transfers, Cyberduck is my choice. It’s a little free
and open source FTP program designed specially for Mac OS X.
Concerning the website itself, it runs on a traditionnal LAMP platform.
Within the next weeks, the whole website will be entirely based on an MVC
framework, Copix, which will give us the ability to easily scale the
website according to our needs.
Eventually, we have chosen Apinc to host the website. It’s a cheap
associative (or non-commercial) hosting service, managed by people who
promote open source projects and open source philosophy.

Gu: I mainly use Eric, an open source IDE for Python developments. The
windows installer is generated with NSIS.

P: For coding, I use Eclipse 3 with the pydev plugin. The editor is
powerfull and the debugger is as good as the editor. For the i18n, i am
using the gettext tools.

| G: Why did you choose Gna! as host? What Gna! tools do you use? Which
| features do you like most? Which features miss you most?

J: Gna! is offering all the services we need to manage the project and it
was already hosting some projects I was following for a long time like "le
livret du libre". The choice was then quite obvious for us. As expected,
Gna! helped us to organise our work better. We try to use as much as we
can the task and bug tracking tools, not only to inform everyone of what
is being done but also to keep a log of the way each problem has been
handle. I think in a near futur, the subversion service will be the one I
will the most enjoy ;) I think a wiki service could be a great improvment
for Gna!, mainly to store projects documentations.

S: Yes, a wiki service would be great. Or, even better, the support of PHP
and MySQL for the webpage service. This would allow everyone to install
the web applications (wiki, forums, etc.) he wants. Moreover, it would be
great if I could track my bugs and tasks with RSS feeds...

| G: What is the question we didn't asked you would like to answer? (and the
| answer is...)

S: A question you could ask is "How have you chosen your project name ?"
Actually, the original project's name was "glycemia". It was chosen by
Julien when he has started coding. As you can see, it's not very original.
But at that time Julien was hard-working for his degree, and finding the
right name was not the priority.
But as the project was growing with new contributors and new development
perspectives, we decided to find another name, which will allow to easily
identify the project. We wanted a name that would associate the idea of
diabetes with the concept of help. After all, that's why the software is
designed for : to help diabetic people to manage their diabetes.
So the team started brainstorming, and after rejecting several ideas, we
stuck on "dianosis". Why ? Because it starts with "dia" as in "diabetes",
and it sounds like "diagnosis" which brings the idea of checking if
everything is going well, and if not, what's wrong with your diabetes and
how to look after it. We removed the "g" of "diagnosis" to avoid a common
name, and to give it a pleasant sonority. That's how the name "dianosis"
was born. How do you find it ? :)

| G: Thanks for taking time to share your experience with us.

J: Many thanks to YOU for your interrest in Dianosis !



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