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Linux Business

Linux At the Point of Sale 264

NegativeK writes "I work at a local comic and games shop, and I've been kicking around what it would take to implement a barcode scanner and more detailed inventory control. Currently, the setup is a low-tech register that tracks general areas of sales: new comics, ccgs, Games Workshop, rpgs, etc. Requirements include FOSS on Linux, the ability to use a cheap scanner, datamining, and output in a useful format (perhaps OpenOffice spreadsheet). The idea hasn't been pitched to the shop owner yet, so ease of use is probably more important than anything — but breaking out the programming books to work on parts isn't out of the question for me. Assuming the actual register stays, what resources are out there for a barcode/inventory implementation?"
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Linux At the Point of Sale

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:07PM (#22538206)
    is that you?
  • Book on this topic (Score:5, Informative)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:08PM (#22538222) Homepage
    John Locke's Open-Source Solutions for Small Business Problems [amazon.com] dedicates space to POS issues.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:20PM (#22538382)
      John Locke? I'm Lost...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:40PM (#22538564)
      Don't forget that PCI requirements will force any credit card support get certified. If you want to "home brew" you will have to forgo the credit card support and still use the cc machine next to the register. (unless you have $25k laying around to get certified)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Good call on that one; we have some silly requirements from PCI at work like "can't broadcast SSID" to deal with. However, I am not sure this person wanted a real answer. His "requirements" started with FOSS on Linux - which is NOT the way you specify requirements. The "question" is almost a troll from that alone. Requirements would be more like, "inexpensive, secure, reliable, supports multi-level department inventory, bar code scanning, etc." It may well be that FOSS and Linux can meet those requirements
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
          I am not sure this person wanted a real answer. His "requirements" started with FOSS on Linux - which is NOT the way you specify requirements.

          It is however likely to get him published on "Ask Slashdot". I long ago stopped believing that any of these "How do I..." questions had any relation to reality. Most are carefully crafted to give the Slashdot crown an opportunity to make posts about their usual obsessions. Almost all are effectively anonymous and have no way to confirm the "facts" , if any, of the

      • by Nikker ( 749551 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:57PM (#22538720)
        You don't need to be certified to process credit card charges. It really depends on the quantity of processing and how the data is handled. You can be investigated to see if all transactions and data are encrypted to standard. An easy way to get around this is to go with a company that allows access via HTTPS where you submit the holders info and they do all the processing. As long as you keep all data pertaining to credit card numbers and other special account numbers owned by banks encrypted and central to your own physical computer then there is a lot you don't have to do.

        As well unless you are processing millions of charges a year it will not take you 25k to have some one certify you. That is if you are big enough to deal directly with lets say visa or a bank directly is when you need that type of audit. Many companies exist (Eigen is one of them) that will take care of the communication to the bank its self while provided they only allow communications via a certified secure protocol (HTTPS/SSH/SFTP) you are good to go. You are required to sanitize the card numbers by removing the middle digits preserving just the first and last number of the card.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by einhverfr ( 238914 )
          Correct, but you still need to be PCI-DSS compliant. Compliance and certification are different issues. If you have a problem and are not compliant, then you have substantial liability to Visa/Mastercard.
      • Most comic shops I've been in have a separate CC terminal anyhoo.

        Even the largest chain in our area Graham Cracker [grahamcrackers.com], with about ten locations, still doesn't do enough business to afford fully integrated system.

    • by Ian.Waring ( 591380 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:06PM (#22538798) Homepage
      Or you could go ask GNU Solutions [gnu-solutions.com] or PCMS [pcmsdatafit.com] about how they fitted out one grocery retailer in the UK with an end to end Linux Point of Sale system.

      Ian W.
    • Interesting book. And I would recomment Freelock consulting too (John's company).

      One of the projects not in the book (because we were developed after the book came out) was LedgerSMB. As of 1.3, we will have OpenOffice, Excel, and CSV export options, scanner inputs, credit card interfaces, and more.

      Hope this helps.

    • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Sunday February 24, 2008 @09:44PM (#22540672)

      My company develops and supports retail point of sale software for a large number of retail chains. In the interest of ensuring my job security I will not identify my employer, but I can offer some insight.

      The first thing to do is check out JPOS [javapos.com], an open source mini-framework for controlling POS peripherals such as MICRs, sigcaps, pole displays, barcode scanners, MSRs, receipt printers, etc. This will only help if you are using Java, but there may be similar libraries for other languages. Regardless, playing around with JPOS may help you understand the hardware and how all the pieces fit together.

      Please realize that even a small inventory application is a major undertaking. The software I work on has an inventory module, and it is insanely complex to meet the requirements of retail inventory. Hardware abstraction can be a pain too, as you need to code at a high level in your application but deal with low level crap that most devices throw at you. For example, scanning a barcode sounds simple and may be relatively easy for UPCs, but what about SKU or inventory tags that are nonstandard? You can program the scanners to pad zeros, truncate to a specific length, strip or retain check digits, etc. and there are so many pieces of hardware out there that behave slightly differently it will give you a headache.

      If you decide to add credit card processing, my advice: don't. If you have to ask this question to Slashdot, you are not prepared to deal with PCI-DSS [pcisecuritystandards.org] compliance. It costs a lot of time and money to process cards securely and to prove to the payment processors that you can do it securely.

  • by awkScooby ( 741257 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:08PM (#22538230)
    No you may not
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gladish ( 982899 )
      Or "Why?" Why should someone agree to replace an existing, presumably working, system with something that you aren't sure is going to work.
      • by Skim123 ( 3322 ) <mitchell AT 4guysfromrolla DOT com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:07PM (#22538816) Homepage

        Not only that, but if any programming is involved, now the manager is doubly-screwed when this employee finally moves out of his parent's house and quits his comic book shop job. If there's a problem with the system, or some added functionality needed, now he's got to find someone who's both a programmer and willing to work for minimum wage.

        • There can be reasons to change. YOu do need to ensure that they are valid though. They can include better management of data, etc.

          Also if your old software is no longer supported, you cannot connect it with anything which processes credit cards and still fall under safe harbor from the CC companies.

          But the key is that you want to ensure you get support from people who will continue to be there for you. This means working with companies who do have a track record (like Metatron Technology Consulting) to e
        • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @07:38PM (#22539686)
          Actually, quite the opposite. In that situation, the manager now needs to pay the programmer a much larger wage to keep working on it, or to train someone new.

          You guys always think of the client's interests, but you seem to forget that the client's interests fall into five areas -- not spending money, not spending time, not spending effort, not learning anything new, and still getting lots of work out of the vendor. That's business.

          The trick with any lock-in style effort is to balance the client's interests with the vendor's interests in order to achieve a relationship that grows both businesses, ultimately giving each side more money with less effort down the road.

          There's nothing wrong with supplying a solution that requires a compatent and trained individual to maintain it. And there's nothing wrong with the original vendor being in the significantly better position to do so. In can actually be a great thing for the client when you consider the extra work that a vendor can do when the vendor knows it's a long-term commitment.

          In my company, we call it "aligned interests". It's the "you lose, we lose; you win, we win" philosophy that ultimately penalizes everyone should either party quit at any stage, and rewards everyone each time either party continues forward.

          It's also called being proud of and empassioned in your work.

          What you guys keep suggesting, by favouring the client in every stage, is more of a "you lose, we lose; you win, we lose" scenario because when everything pans out perfectly for the client, and the solution works, and their business grows, the original vendor is undoubtedly replaced by someone cheaper -- or no one at all.

          Long-term business just doesn't work that way. The business world isn't the cosumer world where you sell a product, and hope to never pseak with the customer again -- because customer service and technical support are expensive to supply -- and hope the product breaks just after the warranty period -- so the customer comes and buys another.

          The idea of "aligned interests" is that the client and the vendor both want the same thing and both benefit from that thing. The client wants a solution that lasts forever. The vendor needs to want that too. The client wants to get the best quality parts. The vendow needs to want that too. Otherwise you get today's consumer computers -- cheap parts, low-quality components, crap customer service, worse techincal support, and really easy to purchase a new one. The companies tend to start with the letters "D", "G", "A", or "H". And of course that's the case, they spend less money, charge more, and profit more. The only people who get screwed are the customers -- who've come to expect the products to be crap, but don't realize why.

          In the business world, you can't throw out your iPod and get a new one when it breaks. In the business world you can't sell an iPod and replace it when it breaks. In the business world, you have to take the broken iPod and not only replace the device, but also replace the data stored on the device. Your clients are not consumers -- they don't consume your product/service. In the business world, the solution that you provide to your clients needs to be reliable enough for your client to base his business on -- if that solution is integral to their business, obviously.
          • by Skim123 ( 3322 )

            While your comments have merit, I think you are forgetting that we are dealing with (presumably) a single comic book shop. My assumption, perhaps incorrect, is that this is a small, single store with two or three minimum wage employees working as cashiers alongside the manager/owner. I've worked with many small businesses that fit this mold, and almost all are very, very cost-conscious. If it works well enough, that's fine by them. They'd rather have something that works now and is cheap, than something ver

      • Inventory management is a MAJOR part of retail. It makes it easier to know what you are out of, to manage loss control, and to visualize trends, among other things. If the current owner is having problems with it, he/she may welcome new solutions.

        Of course, if the owner is currently happy with what they have, well... if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
      • I used to work in a similar shop, with almost the exact same setup. While it "gets the job done", it by no means helps improve business. To get a view of whats going on, you need to manually enter all the info into a spreadsheet, then be handy with graphs and what not. Managing inventory is also all done by hand. For every fith item sold, you're basically slashing across four hash marks on a chalkboard. Back when I was still doing it, I was toying with some simple database programs and a cue cat. Never quit
  • Job (Score:5, Funny)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:09PM (#22538236)

    "I work at a local comic and games shop,

    Wow, didn't see that coming from a /. reader ;)

  • by noamsml ( 868075 ) <noamsml@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:11PM (#22538262) Homepage
    Linux's critics will call it a POS operating system.
    • A few days ago I was at Rivers, a clothing store here in .au. The terminal at the checkout proudly and in huge type displayed the name of the presumably custom checkout software: RiversPOS.

      I thought it was a bit odd, given their reputation for quality merchandise.
    • A few years ago I did some work at a certain large electronic store's HQ, and it brought out the 10-year-old-boy in me whenever I passed the "POS lab", filled with all the variations of their POS systems.
  • by vraddict ( 653878 )
    Try searching freshmeat before asking questions about software. http://freshmeat.net/projects/ibookshelf/ [freshmeat.net]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by budgenator ( 254554 )
      Try searching freshmeat before asking questions about software.

      iBookshelf - Default branch
      Added: Sat, Mar 12th 2005 12:39 PDT (2 years, 11 months ago)
      Updated: Fri, Apr 8th 2005 00:58 PDT (2 years, 10 months ago)
      Development Status] 2 - Pre-Alpha

      Try looking at your own links, beside for a comic shop, the software would have to be a chimera of an investment portfolio program, a POS program and a FDA 501K level inventory program in other words it don;t exists. I've been looking for an FDA 501K l

  • Try Sourceforge (Score:5, Informative)

    by drewmoney ( 1133487 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:12PM (#22538274)
    This one comes to mind: Openbravo [openbravo.com] Again, try sourceforge.
  • Lemon POS (Score:5, Informative)

    by martin-sandsmark ( 1148615 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:16PM (#22538336) Homepage
    I think Lemon POS fits the bill quite nicely:
    http://lemonpos.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    It runs on KDE 4 though, so it might not be completely production ready yet.
  • CueCat! (Score:4, Funny)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:20PM (#22538378) Homepage
    I've got a bunch of old CueCats! Want any? They haven't been modified... yet.
    • Hahah I had some of those, they were in a bin outside of my local radio shack for free.
      • I've just been running some searches to find interesting things I can do with a CueCat but haven't been able to turn up anything current. I have noted that USBView shows the device in black which means a device driver has been loaded for the device. "dmesg" reports the following:

        usb 1-3.3: new low speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 6
        usb 1-3.3: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
        input: :Cue:CAT as /class/input/input25
        input: USB HID v1.10 Keyboard [:Cue:CAT] on usb-0000:00:1a.7-3.3

        Now what can

    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      Me too from my Wired [wired.com] Magazine subscription. I haven't figured out what todo with it for scanning barcodes. :P
    • Re:CueCat! (Score:5, Informative)

      by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Monday February 25, 2008 @02:48AM (#22542828) Journal
      In all seriousness, I wrote a custom linux/mysql-based POS system for a client over the course of a year, and had to spend some time with cuecats.

      If you do any sort of volume at all, do yourself a favor and spring for a real scanner. They start at $60, but you'll make the difference back in increased employee efficiency in no time.

      CueCats are great if you want to scan a half dozen things for kicks. If you need to scan hundreds of items a day, a point-and-shoot scanner is a necessity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:20PM (#22538380)
    This comment will not be appreciated by Linux die-hards: I recommend you to opt for a relatively affordable and popular off-the shelf product. Why not something that you hack together from a collection of open source libraries? Well, if you will stop working at the shop then at least your boss will have access to support. Yes, I know that there are plenty of forums for support of OS software, but typically these are mainly good if you are already pretty techy.
    In this case, I don't see the need for a religious OS war. Just buy a decent an popular tool, no matter what the OS is.
    • Well, a good point, but not exactly a deal-killer, especially when there are off-the-shelf open source packages out there. There is a fair amount of POS Linux experience out there -- I was reading about it in Linux Journal a decade ago. There should be some way to just turnkey it.
    • by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:29PM (#22539016)
      I used to own a bookstore and had the exact same idea. Since I am a competent programmer I build my own scanning system. It worked fine. But.
      I wasted a lot of time on that system, and should have just bought an off-the shelf product. But.
      In actual point of fact, the data mined by using the scanner was useless. The reason for this is simple: the manager of a small store who spends a good part of their lives inside will already know what needs to be done, whats selling and whats not. There is little insight gained from the data you gather.
      It degrades the customer experience in subtle ways. First off, it makes the transaction just a little bit slower. This irritates customers. Next, it adds a level of distraction to the employees whey they have to pay attention to so fine a level of technical detail; the added 'cognitive load' of using and keeping the system up to date fatigues them and makes them more system oriented and less customer oriented.
      In short: this sort of fine level of tracking is net negative to a small retail business.
      • Build a system which is heavily optimized for work flow, which can be used fast, has no performance problems, gives all the data you want when you want it, etc.

        I mean, all the pieces are easy, but it is hard to get right.
    • There are three counter arguments:

      1. Price: Setting up a high quality FOSS POS terminal takes about $300 in POS hardware + an old computer. Turnkey COTS solutions generally cost about ten times that much.
      2. No vendor lock-in: Any decent Linux-aware consultant can come up to speed on and support any of the major FOSS point-of-sale packages pretty quickly. Once they do, they can provide support up to and including the creation of custom features.
      3. Ease of use: No lock-in means no annoying anti-features that could
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @07:09PM (#22539412)

      I had a similar idea as the poster a year ago with my father's retail shop. Previously they printed prices on products and typed these prices into the register (an old, gloried calculator mind you). Needless to say, with rising prices and 3000+ products, the menu costs [wikipedia.org] were very high!

      Having grown up on FOSS and thinking this would be a "fun" project, at first I seriously considered writing everything from scratch. I then realized how many moving pieces I had to deal with just from the register side: sales, discounts, sales tax, receipts, barcodes, prices, inventorying updating, holding receipts, canceling receipts, etc. Then consider all of the non-register functions: inventory management, ordering, vendor tracking, pricing, customer tracking, labeling, etc. Then consider all of the reports you want! If you're not careful, you'll end up writing your own SQL-like language to allow your boss a user-friendly way to figure out sales over given time periods or whatnot. Oh, don't forget financial integration: you'll want to have your costs and revenues automatically tracked, rolled into income taxes, and then nicely reported each fiscal year. I really could go on.

      Sure, each piece is "simple." It's just the complexity associated with so many moving pieces that have to support transactions, security, and some easy way to backup. When your software makes a mistake, real money is on the line. Oh yeah, you'll have to do this on your free time by yourself.

      It's not something you can do, I hate to say.

      If you're like me, your next step is FOSS. I recall looking at SF last year and was very disappointed by what I saw. No system (not sure which ones) felt stable enough to bet my father's business on. It's ok when firefox crashes (and it does), but it's not ok when my dad can't take credit cards (did you plan that integration?) for even 15 minutes. Maybe things have changed in a year or I overlooked some amazing project. That's one of the great benefits of this community -- it will come out in the comments.

      So, after all was said and done, I decided to just buy QuickBooks POS for dad. We bought Small Business Server for the server machine and run XP Pro on the register computer. The system came pre-configured with the hardware we needed -- the barcode scanner, label printer, receipt printer, and a nifty pole for customers. You can see the features on their website and decide if they fit for you. Dad uses their financial and tax software as well, and he seems to like how things "just work." Did it "cost" more than FOSS? Sure, we outlayed more cash up front. But I saved myself a bunch of time and headache, not to mention dad has an 800 number to call first (there is value to this!).

      My advice, having implemented a POS system for a single-site small business: buy a pre-packaged solution. FOSS is great in some situations, but not yet for mine. It's cheaper than you think if you really need POS.

      I don't work for Intuit, and I'm posting as AC for fear of blaspheming the TCO of FOSS on slashdot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fwarren ( 579763 )
        I had a similar idea as the poster a year ago with my father's retail shop.

        I am in the same boat with an in-law. He owns a small mini-mart. I am trying to find any solution that will work. Neither Quickbooks POS nor Microsoft RMS are anywhere near prime time for a grocery store.

        1. You can't buy beer/soda by the case and sell it by the 1 can, 6 can, or 24 can units AND be able to handle bottle deposits. QB can sell units in sets of 1/6/24. Or can do tie one product to another. Like attaching a deposit to a
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mp3phish ( 747341 )
          You won't find out. I work with POS professionally and you just won't.

          All chain grocery store POS systems are in-house written and typically don't even TOUCH the inventory. They all work on what we call a "dump" Where you scan the barcode and it does a lookup on the SKU, but doesn't subtrace the quantity from inventory, it just changes the price of the general ledger.

          They do manual ordering and receiving which means that the POS doesn't tell them how much quantity they have on hand, but what dollar value th
    • Sure, of you can get a support contract from a company which supports your software.

      Novel concept, that.... My company (Metatron Technology Consulting) supports many of these sorts of solutions.
  • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:20PM (#22538384) Homepage

    The pieces to implement any sort of reasonable retail POS setup using FOSS are all available.

    There are two things that it sounds like you're going to have problems with though:

    1. Budget - Doing this sort of project poorly is worse than not doing it at all - you're going to want to cough up the money for a real barcode scanner and a real POS cash drawer to replace your current register.
    2. Realistic features - This problem has already been solved, and well, but if you make up a bunch of random features beforehand (like OO.o spreadsheet output) you can be sure that none of the existing solutions will have the exact feature set that you're imagining. Unless you're prepared to write an entire system from scratch, see what exists and adapt to it.

    The last time I looked into this specific problem the nicest looking piece of software for my requirements was L'âne [l-ane.net], but you'll want to actually do the research yourself (try searching on Freshmeat [freshmeat.net] and Sourceforge [sourceforge.net] at minimum).

    • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:31PM (#22538478) Journal
      I am so tired of these "look at sourceforge and freshmeat" answers we get everytime someone asks for advice on slashdot. I am sure peope already know those exists. But have you *really* tried looking for a software project in SourceForge lately? I have. And even though the filters are nice, the amount o garbage projects out there is amazing. And there are so many projects that misleadingly have the "stable" or "production ready" labels which are not even on pre-alpha. Or others that say they are focused to "end user" and is a darn API.

      Really, the noise-ratio of SourceForge is amazing, given that everyone and their mother can upload projects. When someone posts in slashdot is to know things that have *worked* and are working currently for other people. Sure, there are thousands of books about dating on amazon, but if you wanted one, you would go ask some people (not in slashdot of course ;-)) which one would they recommend...

      If you are going to recommend to look on SF or FM, then please consider just looking at the next story on slashdot... you really do not add anything useful to the conversation.

      And to the parent, sorry it is nothing personal, but most of the posts I read at the time of my reply are among the same lines. I am also interested in the original question, but as I said before, I am looking for *experiences* from another people using such software rather than only a list of all the "Yet_Another_P0S I_started_for_school_homework.sf.net"
      • But have you *really* tried looking for a software project in SourceForge lately?

        Yea. I have. And you're right, there's a lot of noise. But there's also enough signal to make it worth the time.

        Here's the thing: If you want to make a good decision, you have to actually spend the time researching the topic. There's no way around it. And when the topic is availability of free software, freshmeat and sourceforge are the place to start.

        Advice is great and all, but it should just be another component of your r

      • One of the biggest problems of SF is that you can't easily get rid of projects. If you create a project but then wind up not adding anything you still can't delete it. SF needs at a minimum an "archive" system that allows owners to archive the project and then use a separate search flag/filter to include them.

        It also needs a rating/quality system that considers such items as age of open bugs, last update, etc.. Not to mention time of project still listed as alpha/beta/planning.

        People start projects often fo
    • A few notes (I have experience implementing this sort of system):

      Hardware budget is probably going to be in the $2k - $3k range per register.
      Software, setup, and services budget will likely be in the $2k range.
      That is $4-$5k for one register with good hardware. Could even be more.

      You probably won't save much money by going open source here, indeed you might actually end up paying more. However, you will get something that can be customized down the road to do exactly what you need (for a price, of course)
  • I am sure you could find a bunch of POS software for Linux. But chances are they will either be to powerful and hard to use or easy to use and underpowered. There is a chance that you find what you need but why limit yourself with Linux when you can have many more options if you let yourself free of software religon. Getting the wrong program even though it is free may cost the company more over time. There may be a POS system that is open source or freeware for windows that may fit your need better.
    • There's a very simple reason to limit yourself to FOSS for this sort of application: forwards compatibility. In 10 years or so, you might actually want to use all this data that you've collected - perhaps even migrate it to some new system. With free software and open standards, this will take an expert an hour or two. With proprietary software and random formats designed specifically for vendor lock-in, it's likely to be a god-awful nightmare even for an expert.

      There may be some areas where the FOSS solut

      • Right. One of the major goals of the LedgerSMB project (which includes a POS module) is to provide a system which stores al your information in a good, normalized format in an open database (PostgreSQL, since it has one of the best track records of open source database regarding data integrity).
  • Librepos (Score:3, Informative)

    by UUDIBUUDI ( 1241572 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:28PM (#22538440)
    Librepos [sourceforge.net] may be of interest. At my company we just started to implement this, so I can't tell alot about it, but from what I've seen and from my coworkers' responses, it does seem up for the job (replace old cash registers, inventory for merchandise). The software was incorporated in OpenBravo not too long ago, it's probably quite decent. They call it OpenBravo POS now.
  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:32PM (#22538482) Homepage Journal
    Except for this part

    more detailed inventory control

    That is where the works... integrating with the rest of the business software.

    I have written an html/cgi Point-Of-Sale for my wife's hot sauce retail shop [sammcgees.com]. Works excellent and is integrated with a custom and much larger web store builder, order manager, and inventory control. This is the hard part and consists of several thousands of lines of perl code.

    As far as bar code reading you just use a wedge or y cable and it acts just like keyboard input. A little javascript to ensure which form field is the active/default field and you are away. Input can come from a bar code scan or keyboard input for those items which are not bar coded.

    Same mechanisms on vendor order receive for inventory maintenance.

  • It also better work with CBG token ring network as well and after speed king let him down he may go nuts and fire you if this does not work out.
  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:40PM (#22538560) Homepage
    First, are you even sure you're doing the business to necessitate a POS system? Is there a problem with theft, being out of stock, or are you trying to sell things online? You may have a solution in search of a problem.

    I highly recommend getting a turnkey system. $2500 may seem like a lot of money, but that's all it costs to get a complete solution from Dell or another provider for Quickbooks POS. It will work 99% of the time; it's compatible with QuickBooks, and it includes everything you need. Plus, with ODBC, you can easily tie in your inventory levels with an e-commerce solution.

    Think about this: if the system only lasts for two years, you have spent a little more than $100 a month or $3.40 a day on probably the biggest expense (besides COGS, rent, utilities) in a retail environment. How much time and effort would it take to get a Linux solution to be usable, and how much are you paid per hour? Hopefully more than $3.40.
    • Here are some basic observations:

      Buying the hardware froms scratch will cost you $2k to $2.5k so $2500 is not a lot of money for such a solution.


      My experience is that *all* small business POS software sucks at the moment. This incudes all open source POS software. Braindead application design, poor approaches to maintenance and support, and a lack of attention to data integrity concerns are big issues in these solutions. I haven't found one program I like yet. I *hope* LedgerSMB will be such
  • STOP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceroklis ( 1083863 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:47PM (#22538628)
    <paternalist advice>

    Don't do it.

    For you it is "kicking around", a fun project, a proof of concept. For your boss it is a tool, essential for his business, that has to work flawlessly.

    Now ask yourself a few questions:

    • How much work does it take to go from a prototype to a fully documented and tested implementation ?
    • Are you going to be paid for this ?
    • When are you going to do it ? On the week-end ?
    • Will your boss expect you to offer 24/24 support, since it was your idea ?

    Besides, realize that POS software is the least exciting thing you could work on. If it is not your job, forget it. If you want to tinker with linux and learn things, do something fun.

    Remember: you are not the first [jwz.org].

    </paternalist advice>

    • by syousef ( 465911 )
      Will your boss expect you to offer 24/24 support, since it was your idea

      If your boss expects you to pack 24 days into a week, I'd just plain quit.
    • GO (Score:2, Insightful)

      This kind of thinking is bad - that the status quo is good enough and it's not worth trying to improve something essential to a business out of fear of messing it up.

      How do you know the boss isn't open to this? An opportunity for an easier to use, more efficient system that provides more accurate metrics? How do you know the current system is some commercial product with "24/24" [sic] support and not some other home-grown process developed by an employee who is no longer there?

      I wish I had more empl
    • Not only is a one-off do-it-yourself system a headache, what you're proposing slows things down at checkout.

      You're proposing an inventory system that doesn't talk to the cash register. That's where things were in low-end retail systems about 10-15 years ago, and it was awful. You'd see a cash register, an inventory terminal, and a credit card terminal at the checkout, not talking to each other. Way too much duplicate data entry. Today, it's expected that a POS system will talk to the credit card system

  • At the last Linux conference I went to, there was a talk by a guy using Puppet to automate provisioning of POS and backend systems across a national equipment hire firm (here in Australia). Works much better than the old system (fewer staff, more sites), they are large enough (400+ stores) to warrant maintaining their own system. However I'd guess that unless you have a deployment that makes maintaining your own system worthwhile, something off-the-shelf (FOSS or otherwise) would be a better bet maintenance
  • Why Open Source? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidD_CA ( 750156 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:50PM (#22538666) Homepage
    I realize this is Slashdot, but for your owner's business why does this have to be an open source solution?

    There are plenty of businesses who are quite satisfied with solutions from Intuit or Microsoft that are very affordable, easy to use, and much more "out of the box" than any open product.

    And if your owner is already using QuickBooks or Small Business Accounting, then a POS solution can tie directly into it.

    Remember that your employer is going to pay either way. Either by paying you to piece together a solution for him or by paying for off-the-shelf software. You would be doing a disservice to your employer to only recommend one side of the fence.
    • and much more "out of the box" than any open product.

      Have you actually compared the software solutions available, or are you simply assuming that "open source" means "box of parts"? As a simple example, OpenOffice.org is open source - and it's as "out of the box" as software can be.

      • I based my comment on what the OP said and the comments made thus far. While I've never gone looking for any "out of the box" POS hardware/software solutions, I sure haven't seen any. And based on the OP's comments, it sounds like he's ready to go tinkering.
        • While I've never gone looking for any "out of the box" POS hardware/software solutions, I sure haven't seen any.

          Those are available from a number of companies, although since the hardware is all standard off the shelf stuff there's no real reason for someone who's even vaguely technical to buy it as a bundle. Simply buying the hardware and plugging it into a computer with any of the decent FOSS packages installed is a straightforward solution to the problem.

          it sounds like he's ready to go tinkering.

          Yes i

          • Fair enough, but what happens when he decides to leave the company or gets hit by a car?

            Then the business owner needs to find someone else to support the application which is mission-critical to the business. Craigslist?

            "Extremely expensive windows-only commercial off-the-shelf solutions" aren't all that expensive, especially compared to potential downtime or the lost productivity of this employee tinkering rather than doing what he was likely hired for.

            And for all we know, the owner might already be using
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pbhj ( 607776 )
      >>> "much more "out of the box" than any open product"

      You know "any" is a pretty all-encompassing aspersion against the whole open source POS industry.

      Check out the ones I know of (from a short review about 4 years ago):

      Lane POS - http://l-ane.net/ [l-ane.net]
      Banana POS - http://www.bananahead.com/pos/home.html [bananahead.com]
      easypos http://easypos.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

      Can't remember any others. The point is these are all tried and tested with details of hardware on which they're implemented. I think Lane is in Canada(?) and sells
  • by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:08PM (#22538818)
    If you're going to 'break out the programming books' to work on something as vital to a retail business as a POS system, my only answer for you is to walk away slowly and forget such grandiose dreams. You aren't yet equipped for it.
  • There is nothing very good in OSS for POS. I should know i had to implement a POS on freebsd and the solution ended up being me having to write it all.

    no good for a single shop situation.

    • There is nothing very good in OSS for POS.


      That's like saying there's nothing very good on Windows for First Person Shooter games. Or that there's nothing good on Mac for page layout. If you couldn't find any FOSS solutions for a POS setup it's because you didn't look. At all.

  • There's a program called AbanQ [abanq.org], formerly known as FacturaLUX, which works quite well in a POS. However, it is oriented mainly to the Spanish market and has little U.S. support, I'm afraid :-(
  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:34PM (#22539076) Homepage
    To a PC, a barcode scanner is nothing strange: it looks and behaves exactly like a keyboard. The first barcode scanners I played around with even came with splitters so that you could attach them to the PS/2 port along with the keyboard. Those scanners also came with some templates (barcodes) so that you could set the barcode scanner to read the barcode type that you were using for your inventory. The rest is up to your Point-of-Sale software that only needs to support the principle. The cursor needs to start in a field where the barcode is filled in, it uses the barcode to look up the matching product in its database, it fills in the description and price and then jumps to the next product. In other words, if the scanner were to break down you could just as easily type in the human-readable codes on the barcode stickers and the software would work the same (except that it would take longer). I was relieved to see that there was nothing OS dependent about these devices: no drivers necessary. I'm not entirely sure anymore, but I believe the USB version of the same barcode scanner didn't come with a separate power supply as the PS/2 version did and simply looked like a second keyboard to the PC.
  • by dominux ( 731134 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:35PM (#22539084) Homepage
    a simple LCD scanner purchased on ebay for £10 including shipping from Hong Kong to the UK works just fine on Linux. It is just a USB human input device. In other words it is a keyboard. Point it at a bar code and it will type the code into the current cursor position. If you get a more expensive laser scanner then you can scan barcodes from a longer distance rather than touching the barcode as my one needs. If you get an even more expensive one then you can have it wireless so you will forget where you put it. Printing bar codes is similarly easy, google the free3of9 font and put a * at either end of the data you want in the bar code, e.g. *134567823* and print that in free3of9. For some reason Firefox doesn't like that font. Can't remember the detailed reasons but they seemed rather academic and pedantic about the correct unicode glyph positions for things that are not quite fonts. In terms of software, you don't seem to have a clue. Find someone who has. OpenBravo has a new companion called OpenPOS which might be of interest (probably too big for your needs though) GNUcash might be of some interest too.
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:36PM (#22539098)
    ... but you have to follow some rules.

    I've done a few small to medium business ERP setups based entirely on OSS. Point is: OSS or not isn't really the question, since you want openness, accessible Data and zero-fuss flexibility.

    Small business systems actually are quite flaky - unless you're shop is using a well-designed vertical market system tailored for your shops needs. If that is the case I'd be carefull about attempting to 'improve' anything. Look at where the work is - like data migration and merging of data sources. That's enough work to start with and can have your boss notice that custom ERP can speed up the business. Measured by that regular closed-source bases small-business solutions can be exceptionally crappy beyond imagination. I've seen 15+ employee shops running on software so crappy you wouldn't even believe it.

    For a portable barcode terminal running on OSS/Linux, AML [amltd.com] should have you very much covered. That said, I'd personally recommend building the entire base system client-plattform independant, read: As an internal Web Solution with some small linux server tucked away somewhere and just using the PDA terminal for gathering. .... Unless of course it's super-easy to get Python (or any other favourite PL of yours) and MySQL running on it. Which wouldn't suprise me given the advancements in IT and raw processing power. Even then you want a hot spare backup at any case.

    If you plan well, the biggest trouble you'll have will be data-migration, syndication and integration, which actually is the fun part of ERP programming. Make sure that any client tools your boss is accustomed to use have zero-fuss in and outbound connectability, data-wise (CSV tables will do).

    You want to plan your little project in such a way that it doesn't interfere with running business and that you and the people involved have time to test it. And you *do* want to test it thouroughly. If your boss discovers that your system has been omitting VAT and clipping it from the revenue at the end of a quarter, he'll have your ass and balls for breakfast. And for good reasons too.

    Look into regular expressions and the powerfull data objects of the PL of your choice (Dictionaries in Python, Arrays in PHP and Hashes in Perl), they do wonders for this sort of job. I like to use OpenOffice for printing the bills - you can automate OOO within the CLI. I don't like the existing OSS ERP setups, because AFAICT they're more trouble than they are worth - I usually roll my own. You might want to do that too - maybe using some generic webkit or something (Zope, CakePHP, Django, Typo3, whatever ...) .

    You also want to know your way about object modelling and entity relationship modelling. Don't even try this sort of thing without understanding the basics of ERM(!!). If you and the people involved aren't aware of, let's say, the difference between a product and the booking of a purchase of a product then you'll be in deep shit half way into the project the latest.

    And do see to it that you understand *ALL* relevant business processes involved before you run your mouth with your boss. Could be that he very much likes to do things by hand at night just to slip the one or other sale past the IRS or something like that. If you don't know the details and can't say for sure that automating this or that would really improve business without any downsides be carefull. You can even run the shop into the ground if you boss doesn't think either and believes your freshly bred ERP pipe-dreams.

    Good luck.

    50 Cents from a professional web-centric business process automator and consultant. :-)
  • I made a quick POS to do book sales with Python, PyGTK, Adodb, and MySQL. It was quite the learning experience, didn't take very long. I actually upgraded it just this past week to ensure that it worked on Windows (it did, so it's cross platform) I just cleaned up the UI a bit. If I had to do it again I would have coded it differently, but it works, and pretty well.

    I recently came across Lemon POS, it looks good but haven't tried it yet, http://www.kde-apps.org/content/show.php/Lemon+POS?content=69945 [kde-apps.org]


  • by mdshaw89 ( 657957 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:59PM (#22539330)
    If you are interested, IBM does have a Linux POS software solution called IRES, based on Novell Linux. Check out http://www-03.ibm.com/products/retail/products/software/ires/ [ibm.com] for more information. Good luck!
  • Infoshopkeeper (Score:2, Informative)

    You might take a look at Infoshopkeeper [codecoop.org] "a free software solution for tying together an databased backed inventory to point of sale terminals, with an emphasis on dealing with books." It was developed by an anarchist bookstore in Baltimore [redemmas.org].

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian