Software Compatibility is Key

Software Compatibility is Key

By Michael Davis

We all know that an ultrasound machine is a finicky piece of hardware. Systems require the correct version of software as well as compatible replacement parts. If the repair engineer isn’t using the compatible replacement parts or the correct software, interesting issues can occur that will turn a quick fix into hours of troubleshooting.

I recall an unusual case I had. One of our clients was having an issue backing up their patient data. The system had both a magnetic optical drive and a DVD writer. When they would go to write to either drive, the system would say that the drive was unformatted. When they attempted to format the drives, they got an error stating either the drive was write-protected or the media was incorrect. We dispatched a field service engineer to their location. My FSE was armed with a new back-end processor, new hard drive and the software. We verified the software version from within the system itself. First, the engineer backed up the customer’s configuration to a USB drive, removed the customer’s hard drive and then installed a blank drive. On the new drive, they loaded the software. They were still unable to write to either device. Several different CDs and DVDs were used as well as a known good magnetic optical disk. Still no luck. The engineer then installed the new back-end processor and loaded the software. Same issue.

After putting the customer’s original parts back, they brought me the replacement back-end processor for troubleshooting. I installed the processor in an identical system and resolved the MO drive issue. It turned out that the media we were using was the incorrect capacity. We needed a larger capacity disk. To resolve the DVD issue, I tried reloading software – no luck. I tried swapping out the DVD drive – no luck. I tried installing a new version of the base software –no luck. I did, however, get a little lucky when I tried installing a higher version of the application software and was able to verify that at least the hardware was working. I resorted to diving deep into the service manual to check the compatibility of the base software and application software. It turns out that the base software was compatible with a higher level of application software. With this new-found information, I installed a compatible base with the application software. I placed a blank CD into the drive and everything was working perfectly. It turns out that somewhere down the road a software upgrade was done to the machine and this started the entire issue with the drives. Because we used the information that was on the machine, we were always reproducing the same issue.

With the conflict figured out, we were able to perform the necessary steps to resolve the customer’s issue. Moving forward, we implemented a procedure to insure compatibility. Whether the issue is a hardware conflict or the reloading of a customer’s backup, compatibly is always key.

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