How to repair a broken RTC on a Zeiss LSM 510

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How to repair a broken RTC on a Zeiss LSM 510

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Hello! I have gotten good help from this mailing list in the past through
Google. Now it's time for me to give something back to the community. Some
months ago we had the dreaded "Failed to connect to realtime controller."
error message at startup on our 2008 LSM 510. None of the easy standard
fixes worked, including:

1) Resetting the RTC (=restarting the RTC PC).
2) Unplugging and re-plugging the RTC.
3) Swapping the battery on the RTC main board for a fresh one.
4) Checking all the fans inside the RTC.
5) Starting the RTC with a keyboard and VGA screen connected to it.

If you are reading this because you have the same problem FIRST try steps
1-6 before doing anything else!

Here is what I have found out while trying to fix this problem:

The RTC is just a bare-bones PC with a minimal OS which boots from a IDE
flash memory module. The job of the RTC is to transform parallel data
streams from the instrument in to a serial data strem which is piped to the
control PC and software through an Ethernet connection.

In our case the fault ended up being down a broken industrial main board
from Fujitsu-Siemens, which on our machine had the model number D2151-S11
GS3. This exact board is no longer available, but Zeiss will gladly fix
your problem for 11000+ €. However, in case you are not swimming in cash,
there is a 70 € solution to this situation. The descendant of the
Fujitsu-Siemens board is readily available from ebay and (currently) has
model number D2151-S21 GS5. It will work perfectly as a replacement. Just
remove all the components (ethernet PCI card, Giga STaR 2.0, RAM, IDE flash
module, CPU + fan, et.c.) from the old board and mount them on the new one
in the corresponding locations. In BIOS setup on the new RTC find the "Halt
on keyboard error"-setting and make sure it is set to false/off.
Alternatively you can just leave a keyboard plugged in to the RTC when you
stow it away. In case this seems daunting and/or scary, just get someone
who has experience with building a PC from components to do it for you,
it's exactly the same. Enjoy, now you can get some more years out of your
trusty old pal.

P.S. I'm currently reverse engineering the CAN29 protocol for controlling
the LSM 510 laser module, because I want to do beam steering in WF mode for
a project that I have dubbed "FrankenScope 2.0". In case anyone has any non
NDA-bound information on this on this it would be much appreciated. The
final product will be open source and hopefully go in to MM. D.S.

[hidden email] <- work email in case you have questions and/or info
on CAN29 commands.

Dr. Jens Eriksson, manager
Nanoscopy Gaustad,
Superresolution Microscopy Core Facility,
Dep. Clinical Biochemistry,
Oslo University Hospital.

Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an
accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a
house.  /Henri Poincaré