About the workshop

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This workshop is a practical exercise in the use of medical imaging software in general, and free software in particular. It is designed for people whose primary role is imaging as applied to a medical or scientific task, rather than those who specialise in computers and software. However, there is software available to provide an interesting challenge at every level. We will install and use a lot of imaging applications (up to 10, if we have time), and in doing so will encounter and solve many of the technical issues that occur when using this kind of software.

The workshop arose from a desire to help people work more efficiently when dealing with medical images. Too often, we all spend too much time trying to solve an imaging problem using the wrong software, because it's what we are used too, or have at hand. In medical imaging this often means performing repetitive tasks manually that could better be done automatically, which is much faster and frequently less error-prone. There is a free medical imaging application for almost every possible need, and while it might not be the optimal solution, it's usually better to use a program designed for the specific task. An example: tranferring images from A to B. We have all see this take a lot of time and effort, but with a little installed software it can be done with one click. This workshop will help you make use of all the free software that is available to address problems like this.

Practical medical imaging is inherently complex. The problem being addressed by the software is itself rather involved, the data sets are large (both in size and in number of files), uncommon communication protocols are used, unusual file formats are encountered. Added to this, the programs we will be using don't exactly come from Microsoft or Google! They are specialist programs for specialist tasks, and were developed by small groups (quite often by individuals) who share them for the common good. So while some of the programs have full automatic installation procedures, some of them require manual installation and a little know-how.

We will also be learning about the computer/operating system requirements. Most image distribution is done by networking, of which the bulk uses the DICOM protocol. This raises some requirements related to security, particularly if you are running a DICOM server (something we'll tackle on the final day). Many problems in networked imaging result from communications issues: firewalls, ports, IP numbers. A familiarity with these concepts will save you a lot of time in the future.

We won't be learning any particular imaging application, for several reasons. First, we don't have time! Training for the larger applications lasts for many days. Secondly, learning an application is learning a technology, and technology knowledge quickly goes out of date. We will concentrate on software that is useful in its own right, and use it to illustrate the principles and fundamentals behind practical imaging. Most of these principles haven't changed in 20 years and are not likely to change in the next 20. So the time involved in learning them is well spent.

After you have installed and configured a few examples of a particular kind of program (say, a PACS workstation), you will notice that they all have similar requirements in configuration both within the application, and in the operating system. Each time you try a new application of this kind, installation and configuration become easier and quicker to do. Hopefully this will encourage you to make use of the vast array of medical imaging software freely available.