Saturday, May 17, 2008

Two Weeks...

For two weeks, now, I haven't been able to get much of anything done in the lab because my camera, the most important (and expensive) piece of equipment I use on a regular basis BROKE! And I can't fix it.

Funny thing is, I've spent much of the past two weeks trying to convince the representative from the manufacturer that the thing actually is broken. He's been to the lab twice. The first was two weeks ago Friday in an heroic instant response to a somewhat frantic phone call from yours truly. I had already turned the thing off after verifying that it was, indeed, not working, and that I was not just doing something dumb like changing one of the software settings, or having some switch or toggle in the wrong position. He re-installed the drivers, installed a nice diagnostic program, and, lo and behold, it worked. Too bad my experiment samples were now past their sell-by dates.

The next week, other people use the camera without event, and we think everything is fine. But we order a new computer to run it, just in case that's the issue. Then, halfway through the week, the computer starts crashing every ten minutes. Damn! And the original mode of camera failure repeats. Shit! But wait, there's a spare that was going to be used for a new set-up which arrived early and is just sitting in the box. Yay! But even if the computer would cooperate, it doesn't have the right kind of slot for the new frame-grabber card. Damn! And the computer we ordered is not going to arrive for two weeks. Fuck! Shit! Damn!

Since it's unacceptable to have the set-up down for two weeks, we go out and buy a computer and so we can get this thing up and running with the spare. But we run smack into another problem, and its name is Vista.

It takes a few days this time to schedule a time for the rep to stop by. Meanwhile, we finally get the new computer up and running and driving the new camera, just in time to have to set up the old camera again, so he can look at it. When he turns everything on, it works just fine. He starts asking me about all sorts of possible ways that some other part of the set-up is making it appear that the camera is not working - things that only a novice would not notice. As he leaves, he says that we should try to take a picture if the camera fails again, so that the repair people can have some information to try and figure out what's wrong. IF it fails again.

Great. So I just have to soldier on and hope that I don't lose another set of samples IF the camera fails again. Okay, so be it. But as I walk in the door on Thursday morning, everyone is in a tizzy - another camera on a different set-up has failed overnight, in an identical manner to my own. And there is saved evidence! We figure out exactly how to replicate the failure. Hooray! Maybe we can finally get this fixed. But the failure is not reproducible on my camera under the same conditions. Boo! We send the data to the rep, and wait for a response.

Friday morning rolls around again. I discover workmen in the room where I do my experiments, doing some plumbing work. We were supposed to be notified when this was scheduled, but they started in the middle of the night without telling anybody. We had been told that, once the work started, it would take two weeks. I'm about to wring somebody's neck, or shoot myself in the head with a pipette tip ejector, but the workmen tell us they will be done by lunch time. Amazingly, they stay on schedule, and even vacuum up all the mess before they go. Wow! Maybe things are finally turning around!

After lunch, I get an email from the rep - turns out there is a hardware issue that is known to the manufacturer, and both cameras must be sent in for repairs. Take a guess how long the turn-around time is.

9 comments:

Amanda said...

You have my sympathies. Frustration thy name is lab equipment.

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

Arrrrgh. I can never figure out why these things don't occur right before, say, one's planned two-week vacation. Rather than right before, say, one's conference abstracts are due.

PhysioProf said...

Too fucking long!!

acmegirl said...

Damn straight, this has taken too long. And, though I'm not pushing to get an abstract done, I am running with a new idea. One that could take my project in a new and interesting direction. If I could just do this one experiment...

drdrA said...

Sounds like someone who doesn't know what they are doing is screwing with the camera when you are not around... is that possible??? I've had this happen with other pieces of equipment and only figured it out after a huge run-around...

Julie R said...

Sounds like my research life lately. I don't have camera problems, but the computers that run both the qPCR machine and the HPLC are giving me fits. Oh the agony of modern research.

Ms.PhD said...

This post made me laugh. I have SO been there.

The only thing I've learned from having this kind of thing happen is how to stand up to company reps.

They will always tell you it's your fault, there's no problem, everything's fine and just go back to work and leave them alone.

But now I know what to do. When there is a problem, and I know there is a problem, I make it THEIR problem.

And then it gets fixed sooner. It's never soon enough, though, so yeah, I feel your pain.

Go see the new Indiana Jones while you're waiting. Equipment failure is sometimes the best justification for skipping out.

Chuck said...

Can you send the cameras in onbe at a time, so that oyu have one (potentially unreliable) one around at all times?

Do you have an optical guru buddy who can whip up a work around using somebody's mobile phone?

acmegirl said...

Chuck-
That's just what we did. My camera kept working just long enough to get the other one back. We sent it off on Wednesday, and hope to get it back next week.
And oh, man, that mobile phone camera idea made me laugh out loud!