Today I came in to do the final bits of touch up done – little spots of paint, cord cleanup, etc. (I despair of ever getting all the cables neatly bundled – too many odd lengths.) So I thought I’d take a few pictures to wrap the project up.
Now that our DR system is up and running, it was time to train the staff. We blocked out a couple of two hour blocks and brought in a few of our own pets for practice. Everything went smoothly and the staff was quite impressed with how quickly they could take images.
The Idexx software we are using, as usual, is a mixed blessing. On the positive side, the image processing quality is simply amazing – the improvement in detail between the display of the raw image and the processed image is remarkable. This has already enabled our doctors to make diagnoses in far less time than previously – more on that below. The image handling software is also pretty easy to use – not as easy as a typical Windows program, but good enough. On the other hand.. the software is crashing constantly, and it is quite slow at times. The installer warned us about some areas to avoid that will always crash, but we are also getting random error messages in many parts of the program. Unfortunately, we are using the initial release of the software, which we expected to be buggy; they have released four service packs but the fourth was pulled from release last week due to unacceptable speed problems… so we are impatiently awaiting the next version (which they are calling Version 8.2 Service Pack 4 Release 2.)
The improved image quality is already yielding benefits. During training, our doctors noticed some strange things in the vertebrae of one of our employee’s cats. Some consultation with a colleague online indicated that these vertebrae were broken and this could only have come from an injury, probably at a very young age. The owner had no clue that there was a problem, other than that the cat sometimes walked funny.
Today the installer from IDEXX arrived and started working. Very interesting to watch this. He came by last night, actually, and measured our table; then he found a local welder to manufacture a 3’x6′ (approximately) frame of aluminum tubing to raise our tabletop by 2 inches, to make room for the digital x-ray plate.
An aside: There are two primary competing technologies in digital radiography: DR (Direct Radiography) and CR (Computed Radiography.) With DR, the image is captured directly by a plate tied to the computer; CR utilizes a free-standing plate which is fed into a reader after exposure. DR is faster (eight seconds vs 90 seconds), more expensive, and generally regarded as better. However, for us the final factor was space – we could not fit a CR unit into that room. Another factor is that CR machines have lots of moving parts, which can become clogged with pet hair (a constant problem in veterinary practices.)
After the tabletop was pulled and while testing the equipment, the technician discovered that a cheap wall-wart power supply required by one component was dead. He was afraid that this was going to set installation back a day (!) but fortunately Radio Shack, across the street, had a suitable replacement.
While this was going on I took the opportunity to solve a long-standing problem. The actual generator for our x-ray system sits on the floor under the table; it weighs something like 200 lb. Anytime we have needed to move the table, we’ve had essentially slam it on the side with our bodies to shove that thing across the floor. I went to the hardware store next door and bought some materials to make a dolly for the generator. We ran rope through the eyelets on the generator and hoisted that thing up on the dolly; now it will roll along easily when we need to move the table.
The rest of the day was spent running cables, testing things, and configuring the software. I slowed the process down by about 2 hours by asking that the system be configured to store image data on the workstation rather than our server (it had a lot more free space.)
Finally, at about 5 o’clock, we were ready to do some test shots. The first shots were amazing! Here’s one of Louie, our cat.
What a day.
We “finished” painting at noon – I use quotes because there is still a lot of touch-up to do, trim to install, etc. But at least I was able to get the computer hardware installed.
First, I’ll name names. I installed a keyboard/monitor arm and CPU holder from Ergotron. This stuff is nice – well-engineered, high-quality, with highly-detailed instructions. The manuals reminded me of Ikea, because they had lots of illustrations and not much text. I thought the company was European until I visited their website – they’re based in Minnesota!
I then installed the Dell computer provided by our DR vendor, IDEXX. I really like Dell – all our computer hardware at home and at work comes from them, and it has always been highly reliable.
One wrinkle was that, due to the way I set the room up, I needed slightly longer USB and DVI cables than those provided by Dell – so I went across the street to OfficeMax. For the three cables I needed, they wanted to charge $112! So I went online to Monoprice – my favorite source for cables (computer and music – I play synthesizer, so I have an endless need for cords). The same cables, with next day shipping, only cost me $32. I love having an office supply store across the street, so I try to patronize them as much as I can… but those prices are absurd.
One local business that I will never stop patronizing, however, is Eugene Hardware. They are two doors north of us, and I am constantly going in there for things – screws, paint, everything. They are always extremely helpful, and while they don’t have the selection of the big-box stores, they have almost everything we need on a daily basis. This place would have collapsed around our ears years ago if not for them. Thank you!
Anyway – once I had all these things done, and the network wiring completed, it was time to plug it in – and it all worked, first time. It took me a little while to figure out how to disable most of the bells and whistles in Windows 7 – I prefer the classic Windows 2000 look myself – and of course the network setup in Windows 7 is even trickier than in previous versions – but it didn’t take long. I was home by 8 this time.
Today the boxes arrived! They were supposed to be here on Friday but nothing ever goes as planned. Everything accounted for!
We also started painting the walls… almost done now. Bill has been an incredible help here; his father was a house painter and taught him everything he knew.
Finally, significant changes in the rads room. We had the film processor removed by Steve at Northwest X-Ray, who returned it to its rightful owners at Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Springfield. After that, Beacon Electric came in and added the new wiring we need – nothing much, just outlets where we need them.
Alas, after the processor came out, we discovered some minor water damage to the walls behind the processor; so Bill spent half the afternoon on his knees scraping away the damaged wallboard. I spent the afternoon taping and locating studs to mount the hardware on – no point in doing that after the paint goes on, I figure. Finally, I removed the faucet that fed the processor – no more chance of leaks.
This weekend was supposed to be devoted to installing the software upgrade we need to support digital radiography.
Someone once said, “War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” Installing an upgrade to a major software package is similar, though on a less intense scale: hours of waiting, clicking “OK” occasionally, punctuated by groans and calls to tech support.
Not this time though – everything went smoothly with no problems at all. I was happily surprised; my last two installs of this package were headaches, to say the least. So instead of spending all weekend downloading patches and rewriting configuration files, I spent the time painting trim in the x-ray room.
Phase one of our project is preparation of the room. Our radiography “department” is actually a tiny room about the size of a large broom closet. It barely has enough room for the x-ray table and the chemical processor. The room also houses the clinic’s alarm system, power distribution for the x-ray system, and has a drop-ladder to the clinic’s attic. The walls are scarred, stuff is taped up over windows and jammed into cracks to keep light out, and it stinks, because there is no ventilation.
Ideally we would move radiography into another room entirely, but the cost of rerouting the electrical lines alone prevents that. So we are doing the best we can with what we have. Currently we are taping and filling holes in the walls in preparation for repainting. The area around the alarm system is a web of small wires; I’m painting the walls between them using a set of model brushes. I want this room to be something we can be proud of!
This week we are starting on a project that has been in preparation for a long time: installing a digital radiography system. This system has several advantages over our existing film system, specifically:
– Images can be captured and viewed in eight seconds. Previously they had to be developed before viewing, a process taking a couple of minutes.
– All images go straight to the computer for storage and viewing, which allows simple sharing with radiologists and the clients.
– No more chemicals!
I will be writing about the project as it progresses.