Thursday, 1 October 2015

ProFlex Problems

Our lab is lucky enough to have just purchased a few new bits of kit, among which was an AB ProFlex thermal cycler, which replaces the increasingly erratic G-STORM unit we'd previously been working on.

As the nerdiest of the current lab crew, it fell to me to set it up, which involved surmounting a few small errors that popped up along the way. As it's a relatively new machine, I thought that I would relay my experiences here to help anyone similarly inconvenienced.

The first problem came when I tried to get it online using the Wi-Fi dongle that came with the order: it wouldn't accept that it was plugged in! Instead, I got the following error message:


Please make sure the USB WiFi card is inserted and restart the instrument

No amount of restarting or re-seating the dongle made a difference: instead a bit of searching revealed that I needed to install a firmware update, available from the Thermo website (v 1.1.5). It's pretty simple to install: throw it on a USB stick (that contains no other *.update files), insert it into the PCR machine, go into Settings and update the system.

However, I now got another error message popping up on boot:

The instrument is due for servicing for the following test(s):
Temperature Non-Uniformity Test,
Temperature Verification Test,
Cycle Performance Test,
Heated Cover Test

This was a brand spanking new machine fresh out of the box, so I was pretty sure this couldn't be the case. However this time the googling came up empty, so I had to get help from tech support. It turns out that there was some issue with the default time stamp, so that when the machine got networked (and updated its clock) it thought it was much older than it actually was. They sent me another patch (a file named ProFlex-ServiceDateReset-1.0.0.update) which did the trick (although it's a bit annoying have to apply two patches within a week of opening a brand new cycler!). I can't find this online, but if you are suffering from a similar problem at least you'll know what to ask your rep for.

My final problem is with the app, which lets you interface remotely with the machine, letting you check availability and so on. Sounds like a fun idea, if a little gimmicky, but nice if you have a long protocol with many heat steps, or a busy lab (of which I have both) so I thought worth playing with.

The problem is that the app refuses to accept my Thermo Fisher account log in details, saying that the user name or password are incorrect (which they most certainly were not). Tech help to the rescue again, and it turns out that it's a known bug (potentially just with the Android version), which is due to be fixed in an update at the end of the month.

Apart from these minor inconveniences, I must say that it's actually quite a lovely machine! There's a couple of adjustments that I had to make - like using the plastic inserts to prevent tube-squashing, and turning off constant heated lids to speed up running my RNA-seq protocol which requires about 3 different lid temperatures - but otherwise it's all very intuitive!