Flex 6400M Backup SD

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  • Question
  • Updated 2 weeks ago
It appears Flex6400 series radios boot from an SD card.  As we all know SD cards can fail.  Has anyone ever backed one of these up?  Does Flex make images available in the event of SD card corruption or failure? 
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Dave

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Posted 11 months ago

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Bill -VA3WTB

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In the early days when the new radio started to come out there were a few were the SD card failed on the customers. After a Help Desk Flex was able to determin the problem. They sent the customers new SD cards and the customers replaced them on site.

I know these SD cards are not the same ones we buy at the stores, these cards are a very heavy duty card that will read and write much longer then the cards we all use in our devices.

As for backup on site, I'm not aware of anything,,yet.
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Ted VE3TRQ

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Now that’s a really good question! The configuration is easily backed up with SSDR on a computer, but what about the software that runs the radio (and the “M” interface)?
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Mack McCormick, Elmer

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Dave,

Please do not back up your SD card. You will likely void your warranty. 

If you have a failure under warranty then Flex will handle all repairs. Out of warranty then the cost of repair is very reasonable if it is a SD card failure.

73,

Mack
W4AX
Alpha Team
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Ted VE3TRQ

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The SD card is probably not easily accessed, but how can backing up an SD card void a warranty??? I use SD cards for Linux and Windows systems all the time, creating copies at will, including touching up partitions as necessary.
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Dave

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Thanks Mack, Was not attempting this, was just inquiring. 
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Dave

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I work in IT and we have cards in commercial equipment fail from time to time. Sometimes things just get corrupted.   I think it would be great (especially for those with radios out of warranty) to be able to have access to or have the ability to make recovery images for their radios.  Just something I was pondering, food for thought.  
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Craig Williams

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I would like to see a response from Flex on this issue.
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Volker Geith

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Hi all,

just thinking the same. Clone the card 1:1 (like a hdd / sdd) should work, why not?+

Volker, DL4RCE
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Volker Geith

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Hi all,

I bought a new micro SDcard with 2GB of storage. I did an image of the internal SDcard and saved it locally (Win32DiskImager, used it on a 64Bit Windows10 machine). After that I wrote the image to the new 2GB storage. Re-installed the new SDcard in the Flex and it booted up exactly the same way and in exactly the same time, abt. 55sec.

So now I do have a backup SDcard and the image locally if something happens. Costs were about 20USD for an 2GB SDcard and an USB micro SDCard reader.

I am satisfied :)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Regards

Volker
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Mark WS7M

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I think Flex will need to weigh in on the warranty voiding...

I would image the card personally because in my experience these things happen Friday night at 4:30pm before Field Day.

Mark
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Dean Davidson

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If it's that easy to backup I dont see the problem but I will wait until warranty is out but you would think if it corrupted flex would send an image for us to image a card instead of having to send the entire radio back in.
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Bobby

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Where can I find the instructions for swapping out the sd card with a new one from flex, I would like to be proactive not reactive. Since my warranty is expired and apparently since the software provided is not covered under any warranty according to the manual I want to be prepared as well as I can be for the inevitable sd card issue, this appears to be the weak link in the system since its a brick without a working sd card.

Thanks!
Bobby
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Bill -VA3WTB

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To make this clear. There have been some cases of SD card failures. How ever in most cases the SD cards will last a life time and longer.
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Ng Rocky

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IMHO, SD card used to last for decade but recent TLC technology is very different thing.

Also, even hardware is durable, and power failure during a write operation can may corrupt a file. Whether a corrupt file will kill the whole radio or not depends if the software is well designed to handle such situation. but there are chance that failure doesn’t only affect one file but whole NAND flash block containing other files.
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Volker Geith

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Hi Bobby, I think there is no "official" guide / how-to available. It is not complicated but takes some steps. Currently I do not have documented it well enough in order to share, additionally I do not want to step on Flexes toes since I guess it is not supported.

73

Volker
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N8AUM

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I still have my OSHA approved steel toed shoes from way back when I worked/played at the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, now that was a fun job, and they paid me for it ! You do WHATEVER IT TAKES  to get the paper out !  I was hired as an  "electronics technician" and the machinist let me play with their toys/tools and all I can say is I sure learned A LOT milling out cannons and custom tools for myself. Ok, got way off topic but INMO since most of us here are HAMS and when the radio takes a dump and all it needs is a spare SD to get radio going.....
(Edited)
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Bobby

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Thanks anyway I will figure it out.
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Volker Geith

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Can you give me your email addy?

Volker
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Jack WA9FVP

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SD cards have a limited number of write cycles. I’m not sure how many times a day the 6400/6600 writes to the SD card, but it is possible to exceed the number of writes. Years ago the number was more than 1,000,000 but with technological advances, the number could have doubled or even tripled.
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Ng Rocky

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Not really.    Old day SLC NAND flash are more durable.

Old SD cards are SLC (Single layer cell) each block can be written >= 100000 times, nowadays cheap SD cards are TLC (Triple layer cell) each block can be written only <= 10000 times.    Although most SD cards has controller using wear levelling algorithm to prolong the life, the number of write cycle is still limited by physical cell life.     Also, block size of newer SD cards is larger, changing one bit inside a block need to rewrite the whole block.  

Flex6400 come with a 256M SD card, AFAIK no consumer grade SD card nowaday is that small.    I guess it is good quality industrial grade SD.        I believe Flex has look into write cycle limitation and they should optimised the software to avoid too frequent writing to SD card.
(Edited)
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Ng Rocky

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There was some issue with paint on the front panel and I opened my Flex6400 for that.    At the same time, I use a hardware write-blocker (computer forensic stuff) and Win32DiskImager to backup the card.   The size of TF card is only 256M.   
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Henning - DL6DH

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Hi.

my card failed during the last software update in a 6500. The rig stopped with a boot failure (three red flashes)
I opened a support ticket and got a replacement card from the EU service center via mail, so I do not need to ship in the TRX. The card is placed inside the RF cage, to open it you habe to break the warranty seal, you should know what you do here.

By the way, Flex support was quick and perfect.

73 Henning
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Nick RN3KK

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Create image from SD easy procedure. Insert card to card reader and connect  his to linux PC.
next need two command in linux console
dd if=/dev/sdc of=/opt/backup.img

backup.img this is full image

and for create new SD
dd if=/opt/backup.img of=/dev/sdc 

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Mitch

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There are many of us us Flex Radio owners that are fully capable of rewriting a simple SD card from an image. I would save Flex thousands of dollars in support costs if they made the 'official' image available for download (and update). The micro SD card is a 256MB Industrial unit and they can be purchased for less than $20 at most industrial supply houses. Using only an SD card reader and Win32DiskImager it is easy to make a backup of the factory SD card and store it somewhere safe should your SD card become corrupted or suffer a failure. Flex should take note of this!
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John - AI4FR

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It might be easier if one is worried about it to have Flex send us the TURF file which is radio specific. Rewrite SD card and if it works then great. If not, install new SD card and try again. There's your back-up. Unless there is more on the SD card then the above file. I've never checked.
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Michael Walker, Employee

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I think I commented on this a while back (and I thought it was this thread).

That being said, the SD Cards are not your run of the mill Class 10 cards.  They are special bread of commercial SD card used in the medical and military world.   The engineering team (Steve, Gerald, etc) spent a lot of time researching cards and the only purchase from 1 vendor.  It is not trivial stuff.

If you have an SD card issue, please open a support ticket.

Mike
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Mitch

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The Actual SD Card is known to be a significantly different product than consumer issue devices. the Industrial/Medical/Military specifications are meant to protect the data from corruption from a number of sources. There is no argument that the component is special. This issue is that most Flex users are fully capable of writing the image to the card to repair a corrupted image. Although in some cases Flex has sent the replacement SD card with instructions on how to replace the SD card, the issue is that this process could potentially save Flex thousands of dollars in support costs and Flex owners days of out-of-service time (reducing frustration) by posting a legitimate image file that could be downloaded and written to a spare SD card (of the correct type) or used to rewrite a corrupted SD card. There has recently been a rash of 6000 series radios experiencing the "Corrupted SD Card" syndrome, so it is obviously not a rare occurrence. Any number of issues in the radio can cause unintended corruption of the data contained on the SD Card, including software issues (un-handled software errors), hardware issues (power supply fluctuations), RAM memory errors, and any as of yet unknown root causes.The SD card is the single component that can and has reduced many functional radios to a non-functional state (failure to boot-up) due to this issue. Like I previously mentioned, for the more capable owners/users, the ability to purchase a spare SD card and load the proper image for use if/when a suspected case of SD card corruption occurs would be of great value and save Flex hundreds of dollars in labor and support costs on each trouble ticket resolved without shipping the unit back to Austin, TX for this rather simple repair. In my case, I have performed this surgery on my 6400M and know of at least two other cases where this would have saved many out-of-service hours and days of fingernail biting and untold stress waiting for a diagnosis at Austin. If FlexRadio wants to become a World Class provider and exhibit World Class Customer Service , this simple process would go a long way towards reducing the service queue, returning failed radios to full service without shipping delays, and reducing owner stress during periods of no communication.
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Dan Quigley N7HQ, 4O7HQ, Service/Support Manager

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The SD card we use differs significantly from those readily available to consumers.

Our support team is trained to identify when an  SD card replacement is the likely resolution of a reported problem.  It is important to involve support in the diagnosis because there are other possibilities, like an obstructed fan or an upgrade failure, for example, that can appear on the surface to be a failed SD card.

When diagnosed by support, the current policy is to offer customers the option of self-replacement or to send the radio to a service center.  Most customers prefer not to ship their radio.  There are exceptions to this, but the majority are handled in this manner. 

The process, once support approves a replacement, is straightforward; our shipping team sends a new card, usually the same day, and includes an SASE for returning the faulty card to Austin where the failure can be analyzed.  There is currently no charge for this service, no matter the warranty status of the radio. 

73,
Dan, N7HQ 

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John - AI4FR

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Quotes from the above post:

"our shipping team sends a new card, usually the same day, and includes an SASE" ...
"There is currently no charge for this service, no matter the warranty status of the radio."

Now that's the definition of World Class service and quite impressive. WOW!!!


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peter

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Ive just received a replacement card....no protective case on the card, just a piece of paper included with the return address no S.A.S.E
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Good to hear Peter.
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John - K3MA

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I am wondering if others that have made a back-up of the internal SD Card have used a consumer grade SDCard rather than buying the commercial grade 256MB Micro SDCard?  If so what brand, class and size was used.  My Flex 6500 is long out of warranty and I am thinking about making a backup of the SDCard to cover the time from failure to Flex replacement received.  If others have used a consumer grade SDCard then I would use the same since it would be a short duration use if needed.
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Nick RN3KK

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I use Kingston 16 Gb (price 4-5$ in Russia)
For 100% result, need use "dd" util in linux. 
(Edited)
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Volker Geith

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I had a Sandisk 2Gb & a 256MB "noname".

Volker
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Chris DL5NAM

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both work well? You have tested?

73 Chris
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Volker Geith

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Yes
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Nick RN3KK

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No difference between sd. Use any.
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Ng Rocky

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The original 256M SD card is nice stuff from Flex, do not swap it by another SD (you might consider faster, 100X?)   It is very different from consumer grade SD card.

As mentioned by Flexradio officials, original 256M SD cards are in industrial grade, suppose to handle more write cycles than consumer grade cards.

If you search for "Industrial grade 256M SD", most product describe as SLC (Single-layer-cell), the are

There are many articles on the web explaining the difference of SLC NAND flash and TLC NAND flash (most Gigabyte size SD cards are)    such as https://www.delkin.com/technology/flash-endurance/    The endurance difference is 100k cycles for SLC vs 500 cycles for TLC, alarming enough?

Although wear levelling mechanism can mitigate the problem, but NAND flash block size increased in most Gigabyte size consumer SD card, changing a value in a 30 bytes config file may cause a 16k page re-written, also causing the SD card wear-out faster.

Even a 16GB SD is deployed, having 64x in capacity of the original SD, more cells avaliable to rotate for wear levelling, it is not enought offset the 100000:500 cell endurance dirrerence, and page/block size difference.

If you are out of warranty and your only option is to restore from an image to new SD card, larger the SD card better as the SD card has more unused blocks for wear levelling rotation.   However, it is not known if Flexradio support SD cards larger than 16GB, or SDXC format   - from a technical aspect, the official answer say this is a BIG NO NO



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Nick RN3KK

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If you make a dump of the original sd once, you can create a hundred sd and do not think about it. My flex6400 year is working fine. If having does error, replacing sd is not difficult.And no need sending radio to repait it!
(Edited)
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John - K3MA

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@NG Rocky, if you look at my original question you will see I am looking to cover the gap between the Flex SD card failure and the delivery of a new Flex SD card.  This could be as little as a few days and as much as a week or more depending upon the date of failure and number of holidays or shipping transportation delays.

Your points might be technically correct (I do not really know) but to cover use of the my out of warranty radio during that short time period is not a BIG NO NO.

If you are talking about the substitue SD card as a replacement for the life of the radio then I might agree but that was not the situation you replied under.
(Edited)
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Ng Rocky

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R R

Big no no because Flex official won't endorse self replacement of third party SD.   
I hope no one lose warranty.  
(Edited)