July 24, 2015

About My Lab... Part 1 - The Questionnaire

 

Okay, let's make this one simple...

Click HERE to answer a few brief questions about how your lab approaches instrument support.

All info is confidential  We will publish results in an upcoming post.

Shortest darn blog all year...

 

May 21, 2013

Separation Anxiety?

Most labs have used floor mount or bench top centrifuges for separation based assays for decades.  Whether spinning samples to remove air bubbles, spinning down cellular debris or isolating supernatent, there are numerous manual access centrifuges on the market, but when it comes to automation, the choices are limited.

For a number of years, Agilent (formerly Velocity11) has offered the compact VSpin.  VSpin has a two position rotor with buckets for std microplates.   It can spiV11_prod_big_vspinn up to 300o rpm/ 1000g and has an automated door that allows direct access to plates using an offset robot gripper.   Units can be stacked on top of each other for increased  use of vertical workspace.  The Optional Access2 loader can also grab the plate and present it externally to a liquid handler gripper or top loading plate mover like Twister2 or KiNEDx.

Hettich also provides a larger unit called the Rotanta 460 which can accommodate 4 plates at speeds up to Hettich_Rotanta_46_RSC_Front_Hatch6200prm,  but is a bit more of a challenge to integrate as the robot gripper fingers need to reach into the unit from the top.  I have seen this done with Mitsubishi and Staubli robots and Tecan actually integrates this unit under an EVO liquid handler accessible via an open locator in the deck.Ixion3

Sias’s Ixion is a compact unit, similar in size to the VSpin, however plate access (total of two) is through the top just like the Rotanta and can spin up to 2000rpm.   This unit integrates nicely with Sias’ Xantus liquid handlers.

Finally, BioNex offers the HiG centrifuge which can also spin two plates.  The bright orange color makes this unit hard to ignore…and a closer look shows that this unit may be BioNex HiGthe best of the bunch.   With an automated lid that retracts from the top, the HiG does not need a plate loader like the VSpin as plates can be accessed by just about any robot gripper.   At 5000g, BioNex claims this unit to be the fastest robot accessible centrifuge available.

Maintenance requirements for each of these devices is similar.   All include high-speed motors so proper ventilation is a must.   Bearings must be greased, sensors cleaned and pneumatics (door opening, plate loaders) checked for leaks.   Additionally, rotors and buckets should be checked for cracks or other signs of wear.   As noted in previous blogs, rotational speeds can be verified using a digital tachometer but you may need to remove covers to gain access to the rotor (kids, don’t try this at home…call a professional).   As always, if you ignore that last piece of advice, don’t come crying to me when your friends make fun of you because you have a mircrotitre plate permanently embedded in your cheek…

March 4, 2013

IT's an IT Thing

windows xp the task failed successfully dr heckle funny wtf windows errorsWe’ve been hearing a lot of our customers ask about various lab instruments being compatible with Windows 7 lately.   Seems  IT groups everywhere are struggling with the eventual demise of Windows XP.  Already unavailable for new PC’s since 2010, Microsoft has announced that all support for WinXP will cease in April of 2014.

While most instrument OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) are already making the move to Win7,  a huge number of legacy instruments in labs are running XP.   Manufacturers may not want to provide ‘backward compatibility’  for older equipment for two reasons; First, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  Sounds lame, but most instrument software is developed with the OS of the day in mind.   Trying to get the performance and reliability that users expect by supporting a major OS upgrade could lead to tons of surprises…ones that  they won’t be paid to correct.   Also,  more than a few vendors have used this Microsoft phase out as a reason to obsolete older instruments and encourage users to upgrade to new hardware in order to get Win7 compliance.

If budgets don’t permit the purchase of new equipment desperate users should consider exploring the Windows 7 compatibility tool.    One caveat is that you would be well advised to back up your WinXP first, or better still try installing your legacy applications on a new Win7 PC.    It’s a lot easier to mess around with a new PC if you know you can go back to the original PC if all else fails…

The following is gratuitously ‘borrowed’ from http://www.howtogeek.com
 

Using Program Compatibility Mode in Windows 7

It can be quite annoying when you try to install a driver or other software on Windows 7 just to find out it isn’t compatible with the new OS. Today we look at using the Program Compatibility Assistant, and troubleshooting compatibility issues so programs install successfully.

Program Compatibility Assistant

Program Compatibility is a mode that allows you to run programs that were written for earlier versions of Windows. The Program Compatibility Assistant detects compatibility issues and allows you to reinstall using the recommended settings. For example we got this error trying to install a music interface device driver for home recording.

2comp

After we closed out of the error, the Program Compatibility Assistant came up advising that the program didn’t install correctly. To try to install it again select Reinstall using recommended settings.

The Compatibility Assistant went through and fixed the issue and we were able to install the driver. The problem was the driver was designed for Vista and the the assistant automatically select the correct compatibility mode for us to install it.

Sometimes you might get a screen similar to this example where Virtual PC 2007 isn’t compatible with Windows 7 and you can check for solutions online.

After checking for solutions online, we’re shown that there is an update that might solve the issue.

Which points us to the Microsoft site to download Virtual PC 2007 SP1.

Note: Sometimes a program does install correctly and Program Compatibility Assistant thinks it didn’t. There are also times when you cancel an installation half way through and it pops up. If you’re an Admin and tired of seeing it pop up because you know what you’re doing, check out our article on how to disable program compatibility assistant in Windows 7 and Vista.

Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

There might be times when Program Compatibility Assistant can’t find a solution, or a program installs fine, but doesn’t work the way it should. In that case you’ll need to troubleshoot the issue. Right-click on the program icon from the Start Menu or in many programs the shortcut icon and select Troubleshoot compatibility.

Windows will detect any issues with the program and you can try to run it with the recommended settings, or go through the troubleshooting wizard. For this part of our example we’ll select Try recommended settings.

This option allows us to test run the program to see if the new compatibility settings fix the issue. Click on Start the program to begin testing it out. After testing the program and determining if the settings work or not click on Next.

If the program is running correctly you can save the settings and it will continue to run with those settings. If it didn’t work properly, you can try using different settings or report the problem to Microsoft and check for an online solution.

If you selected No, try again using different settings it will bring up the troubleshooter where you can specify the issues you’re having with the program.

Depending what you check in the screen above, you’ll be presented with other options for what is not working correctly. Where in this example it shows different display problems.

New settings are applied to the program and you can try running it again.

If none of the compatibility settings work for the program, you’re prompted to to send a generated problem report to Microsoft.

Manually Select Compatibility

Of course if you don’t want to deal with the Program Compatibility troubleshooter, you can go in and manually select Compatibility Mode. Right-click the program icon and select Properties.

Then click the Compatibility tab then check the box Run this program in compatibility for and select the version of Windows from the dropdown. Now it will always run the program in Compatibility Mode for the version of Windows you selected.

Conclusion

Hopefully running the program in an earlier version of Windows helps solve the problems you’re experiencing. Each program is different so the troubleshooting steps will vary. Most programs written for Vista should work in Windows 7, but not all of them. If you’re having problems with a program not working correctly on Windows 7 and have gone through the Compatibility Mode troubleshooter, your best bet is do search the developers website for a newer version or in their forums.