Linux Desktops and EMR

Today I had an interesting interaction on Twitter about the Linux operating system, Ubuntu. I had an extra machine lying around and so I decided to install Ubuntu on it. That’s what nerds do with their free time. Plus, I figured it would be nice to hook it up to my big screen TV to watch Hulu and other online video streams. Turns out that it works really well for that.

However, today my main work computer crapped out. Not sure what, but it seems like the power supply is dead. We’ll see. So, I decided I might as well just use the Ubuntu install that I’d already done. Only problem was when I tried to install another video card so that I could have my regular dual monitor set up. Here’s the tweet I sent out about it:!/techguy/status/80386246928629761
Needless to say I haven’t been able to get the extra video card to work. I did eventually get it to boot from the second video card, but then it couldn’t find the first. That’s just weird to me. I’m sure I need to get in the conf files to configure the display, but that’s just a total PITA. This response to my initial tweet summarized it well:!/HipaaGenius/status/80388785589850112

Yep, it’s going to be a little while before Linux ever takes over Windows as the operating system for most EMR users. I had high hopes for Ubuntu when I did the install. In fact, I was surprised how well the drivers worked for my wireless USB device (which required a special driver download on Windows XP). Too bad this video card stuff is such a pain. This is just one thing, but I’m sure stuff like this is exactly why EMR and EHR vendors aren’t developing their products for the linux desktop environment.

I think I better give up my nerd card and pick up my “I just want it to work” card.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Are you sure this is a linux problem and not a motherboard problem? Many motherboards will not allow the on-board VGA port to be active when you plug an additional video card in.

  • Is definitely possible Rick, but I don’t believe that the first video card is an on board video card. It’s an Nvidia card in what I think is an AGP slot. I’m thinking it’s the old ATI video card that I put in.

  • About a year ago I saw a demo (on TV) where a linux OS was loaded on a 4 core intel machine.

    “inside” the linux OS the user then installed Win 7.

    From linux you could choose how many cpu’s were assigned to each operating system.

    You did have to keep at least one for linux.

    Anyway, that seemed like a great way to have a “virtual machine” running that could the resurrected rather quickly if the user had allowed a virus to be loaded.

    I emailed the host of the show and never heard back about what distro that linux was.

    Anyhow, I think that solution has merit for desktops.

    Also, aVista runs on linux servers, and I”m guessing linux fat clients.

    I still can’t believe that EHR wasn’t pushed on all the docs…wouldn’t be a need for (much) stimulus money in that case.

  • Yeah, there are lots of great ways to run Windows within Linux. A great option for those of us that are very familiar with Windows and certain windows apps.

  • …have you tried installing Win7 and seeing if it would work with that same old video card? If it’s old or odd enough, there’s no promise that Windows will work for it either.

    FWIW, our EHR has a native Linux client and, to be honest, it’s no different from the Mac or Windows client. Autoupdating it is a looot easier than it is in the Windows world (huge bonus for large installations).

    We’ve found that (some of) our clients like the Linux desktop/laptop solution because it’s cleaner, faster, and easier to secure. And you don’t have to buy all those Windows Terminal Server licenses, pay the McAfee tax, etc.

  • Chip,
    I don’t have a Wndows 7 CD I can try. So, I haven’t tried that, but I’d like to. I’m just too cheap to go buy it.

    I did however by a $10 DVI to VGA converter for one of my video cards and got dual monitors working on Ubuntu.

    This is probably the topic for a future post, but what I do is all so web based, it’s becoming less and less about the O/S. As long as I have Google Chrome, I’m good to go. In fact, that’s why I want to get my hands on a Chrome laptop. Seems like a good fit for me.

    I think that’s a good strategy for your EHR to support linux. I think more vendors should do that for the reasons you describe and more.

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