Thursday, February 14, 2008

Linux-Based PC BIOS - No more "unbootable" Computers?

I just read about what could be one of the greatest advancements in PC technology in ages - having your computer's BIOS be able to still run applications if your main operating system is corrupt, unbootable, not yet installed, or otherwise not usable. This has awesome implications - no more "dead" (well, not completely dead) computers when Windows fails to run or whatever.

One of the most frustrating things currently with a PC that is experiencing software issues rendering it essentially useless is that, often times, the software you may need to fix the problem resides as a patch on a website from which you would like to download it, but you can't get to the website because your computer is currently inoperable. It's that lovely catch-22 - can't fix your computer because your computer is broken! Now, imagine being to able to still run a browser and contact the internet for a patch or such even when your operating system has failed. It's about time!

And, California-based Phoenix Technologies, whose name is rather synonymous with PC BIOS functionality, is the company that plans to finally deliver this feature to us over the coming years. Their new BIOS will run Linux apps when Windows fails. Essentially, they plan to embed a Linux-based bypass system that will allow users to run some productivity applications even when the main OS fails. Basically, the embedded Linux OS will accompany the core system firmware or BIOS, allowing instant-on applications to be run from it whenever you need to do so.

The bottom line: regardless of the what state Microsoft Windows (or whatever operating system you have on your PC) is in, some software will be able to run including the ultra-important Web browser and some tools that can help you read files and documents on your otherwise unreachable hard drive. In a way, it will offer the benefits of a Linux Live CD/DVD (which I have blogged about here on a few occasions) right from the embedded BIOS. Embedded Linux BIOS... has a nice ring to it!

I am VERY excited about this technology, presuming it becomes reality and I eventually benefit from it. The promise of being able to essentially access a "virtual machine" that is running in the background (Phoenix plans to actually implement their new BIOS using their HyperCore virtualization platform) at ANY time (before boot up of your regular OS, during your normal OS's boot up sequence and/or operation, and even after shutdown) which will let you run essential software to fix problems (mainly) is quite wonderful!

In fact, Phoenix goes as far as to suggest using this virtualized system to perhaps even do things like web-browsing while your normal OS is "offline" for maintenance or such. So, instead of waiting 2 hours for the latest round of Microsoft Windows Updates to complete before you can do anything with your computer, both that operation and your concurrent web-surfing (via BIOS-Based Linux OS) could occur. That is surely welcome!

Currently, Phoenix is talking about including functionality for using this BIOS-based OS to perform: e-mail functions, Web browsing, media playing, IP soft phone (wouldn't that be nice if you didn't lose your IP-phone just because your computer was down!), as well as some remote system maintenance and repair functions plus embedded security.

Quite cool!
I really hope this becomes reality soon!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Prescription Drug Advertising Waste

I have an incredible disdain for the rampant waste in America's medical and health-care system, with one of the largest money-flushes being that of over-priced prescription drugs. We pay more for drugs than nearly any other country, even though many of these brand-name drugs are actually manufactured here in the USA.

Aside from the fact that big-pharma lobbyists essentially "own" our government and prevent our own government from negotiating the best possible price on widely used medicines / medications / prescriptions, there is one other insane reason for the high costs: advertising!

Other nations enjoy substantially lower prices
, and in many cases the lowest prices for the same drugs can be as remarkable as 1/3 of the USA price for the same drug. Could the fact that companies here (in the USA) are dumping Billions and Billions in TV and print media advertising, thanks to the pharmaceuticals industry's lobbying efforts to legalize advertising of prescription drugs (took effect under Clinton as I recall), have something to do with the prices we all have to pay?! Gee, I wonder! (mega-sarcasm!).

Turn on the TV any time of day, and you are nearly guaranteed to see a slew of prescription drug ads - most of the time with a series of nearly unrelated background scenes that are meant to appease you and appeal to your senses, showing the great outdoors, or people being active, etc, and rarely even saying what the hell the drug being advertised does - just something like "ask your doctor if XYZ is right for you". This is ridiculous, and just plain wrong! And, you wonder why something as simple as a cholesterol medicine and gastric-reflux medicine can cost hundreds or more dollars per month - at the same time companies spend mega-millions on advertising to you.

The same goes for prescription-drug print advertising insanity! I just went through an issue of a cooking magazine that was laying around here, and ripped out all the full-page ads (oh yes, no expense spared - full page, two side ads!) to make you want to rush to the doctor or pharmacy and get some medications! Obviously people who cook must need tons of drugs! In just one issue of a magazine, here's a sampling of the ads I see (and what the drug chemical is, who makes it, and what they are targeting sales for):
  • Detrol ® LA (i.e., tolterodine tartrate - Pfizer - bladder / urinary related)
  • Zetia ® (i.e., ezetimibe - Merck - cholesterol related)
  • Vyvanse ® (i.e., lisdexamfetamine dimesylate - Shire - ADHD drug - which, I won't even get into how messed up I find ADHD "drugging" of children!)
  • Spiriva ® (i.e., tiotropium bromide inhaler - Pfizer - COPD treatment)
  • Ambien ® CR (i.e., zolpidem tartrate - Sanofi-Aventis - sleep improvements)
  • ZOCOR ® (simvastatin - Merck - cholesterol).
  • Nexium ® (esomeprazole magnesium - AstraZeneca - GERD / gastric-reflux), which it amazingly appears there is an epidemic of from the (sales) numbers! Instead of this "treatment", go for a cure instead: don't eat so much!
  • ...and there were more... stuff for "restless leg syndrome (RLS)", irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and IBS with constipation, etc., etc...
This is insane!
First of all, if people have an real medical condition that requires a pill, tablet, injection, or whatever, they should be in contact with their doctor already about any symptoms they are having, and the doctor should be able to assist them with understanding what options exist - all without these damn costly Billion$$ advertised drug campaigns!

Yes, awareness of treatments is a good thing, so you know what exists and perhaps more importantly, what the treatment efficacy rate is versus placebo, and what the side-effects are vs. placebo! But, you aren't getting that data from the TV regardless (your lucky in many cases just to figure out what the drug is treating). The magazine ads *sometimes* have enough detail to be useful, but still, this can be acquired online or via your doctor should there really be the need.

I'm sick of paying the highest prices in the world (in many, if not nearly all cases) for the same medicines / prescription drugs that people in other countries get at a super discount compared to us. Even if I don't use these drugs, I am forced to pay for them in my higher medical insurance costs (to cover every one else's use of them). I truly believe that aside from just plainly ripping us off and overcharging for drugs here, the manufacturers are also covering the advertising costs, which are extreme. This is so ridiculous of course, because those ads do nothing for our health, but they do wonders for creating entire generations of "patients" (or should I say victims) that "need" the drug of the moment - be it for ADHD or cholesterol or whatever.

How did humanity survive until now without sleeping pills and restless leg syndrome treatment (perhaps Vitamin-B6 for the latter one!?)? This is just so wrong! Demand change! Quit paying for this waste! Time to get Congress to repeal the changes that allow big-pharma to advertise all over the place (oh, I almost forgot: that will not happen, since they own Congress and your vote doesn't count). I am sick of paying super-high medical insurance rates, and I want to enjoy the lowest possible price for medicines and insurance possible - and, that is not going to happen until (for starters) this drug-advertising waste is stopped!