2 The Background

As a CMOS camera, FEI's Falcon camera runs at speed of 17-18 frames per second(fps). However, FEI software doesn't not give all the raw frames. For Falcon I, we simply got a single shot image which is an integration of multiple raw frames. For Falcon II, the Tecnai or Titan software of newer version can maximumly output 7 chunks of frames. Each chunk can be as small as one raw frame, or as large as a sum of a continuous groups of raw frames. Any way, we can only get 7 final chunks (or frames) in the end for each exposure. This might be well likely due to limited computational power of current Windows XP computer that runs the microscope.

There is an 1GbE network connection between Falcon camera controller and Tecnai/Titan computer. The connection between controller to camera head is a pair of fibril optical cables with LC connectors at both ends. This optical cable has speed of 10GbE. All the signals - starting and ending for each exposure and image data itself all go through this pair of fibril optical cables.

The idea is to intercept the signals going through the fibril optical cables and retrieve the image frame information. This is done by using an optical tap, or called optical splitter. The optical tap is a typical network device to allow monitoring the network activities. The monitoring port from this optical tap goes to a special optical network card installed in a powerful Linux computer. Greg managed to modify the network driver, which allows him to retrieve and restore all the raw frames from an exposure.

As you can see, this hacking project involves both hardware and software.