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Submission + - Future-proofing medical systems (arstechnica.com)

jsepeta writes: "I work for a cardiologist. Our nuclear imaging camera (ADAC Genesys Gamma Camera)https://cache.trustedpartner.com/images/library/000264/uploaded/Philips_Genesys_Lg.gif runs through a Solaris server and a Solaris workstation. Recently we've had some downtime because of power supply and hard disk failures. Although we have a service contract to keep this gear up and running, the technician who came to provide service recently spent an entire week attempting to rebuild the Sun workstation, and failing. He tried multiple hard disks, CD-ROM drives, and CD-ROM installation media. One could consider his efforts a comedy of errors, if not for the fact that the system is still down and patients can't come in for medical imaging appointments. I have a tiny bit of Unix experience but not enough to gauge the technician's abilities and knowledge.

I have been told by the technician and by a sales rep at a parts firm that ADAC, who was bought by Philips, installed a "magic number" on their hard disks to prevent people from replacing hard disks for the Sun workstation without going through them first. The software that we use for imaging is called Pegasus, and it relies on a dongle installed on the serial port of the Sun workstation. While I agree that companies who sell medical equipment and software are well within their rights to use whatever copy protection methods they want, this does make the maintenance of these systems more difficult. And in this instance, patient care is being compromised by our inability to get this system running again.

My guess is that our system is 10-12 years old; the Sun workstation runs at 440mhz so it's not particularly fast by today's standards. I've performed perhaps thousands of installations and reinstallations of various computer systems over my 20+ year IT career, so for me, replacing a hard disk is usually a simple procedure. The trick in our case is that the existing dead drive is a 20gb IDE mechanism and we obviously can't buy something new to meet those specs. In the past, our technician had replaced several of these drives before, usually 'stealing' a working drive from an existing system. However, last week, it did not work with 2 such replacement drives.

My immediate questions are thus:
1) what tools would one use to clone a Solaris 7-formatted drive so that we can get our system up and running?
2) if the Genesys / Pegasus systems rely on a dongle, what is actually going on with the "magic number"? If it's just a license code, I'm sure we have one amongst the binders of ADAC/Philips materials. But tying a code to a hard drive makes little sense, if you've already sold a system which is leashed to a security dongle.
3) when Philips took over ADAC, did the licensing agreement stay the same or change? are licenses granted in perpetuity? should we be forced to replace our system because of Philips' inability/lack of desire to support a 10-year old system? I am certain that when new, this system cost a pretty penny. I am assuming that Philips has no moral agenda to force customers into buying new systems.
4) Would it be possible to retrofit something new onto this camera? What kind of effort would it take? I have been told that our service vendor is working on a modernized system that runs off Mac Pros (still UNIX, I guess) but their software isn't ready (or is vaporware). I'm not sure what the likelihood would be of keeping these old systems up and running, but if the camera component still functions mechanically, newer solutions would slice the images much faster than our existing hardware."

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