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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 vraddict ( 653878 ) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:11PM (#22538266)
    Try searching freshmeat before asking questions about software. http://freshmeat.net/projects/ibookshelf/ [freshmeat.net]
  • 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"
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:Jeff Albertson (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:46PM (#22539204) Journal

    Google it. POS on linux is not at all new, on *nix it is positively ancient.

    Quite. Konzum, the largest Croatian supermarket chain, runs all POSs on Red Hat.
    The owner of the chain saved millions on Windows licences alone.

    I don't like the store, but I was mightily impressed when I first saw the Red Hat login screen on their POS.
    I considered it quite uncommonly sensible business practice, at least for Croatian standards.

  • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {srevart.sirhc}> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @08:20PM (#22540018) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {srevart.sirhc}> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @08:57PM (#22540336) Homepage Journal
    My point is that it is *really* easy to underestimate how much data you have to be able to handle.

    For a tiny business with 2 cash registers, 1M records in a year is a *lot* more than one would likely expect. Generally at that point you may want to start thinking about the possibility of table partitioning, partial indexes, and the like. It also means that when you run complex reports, it might be a good idea to run them off a replica so you don't tie up the main server.

    Otherwise you can introduce performance issues into your point of sale system which is a big no-no.

    You are right-- it is not a lot of data on the enterprise scale, but it is enough to make the design a bit harder for even a small isntallation, and it introduces scalability issues in larger deployments if you aren't careful.

  • by fwarren ( 579763 ) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:05AM (#22542088) Homepage
    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 can of soda. But it cant' do both. Don't even try either one with RMS.
    2. They don't handle lottery tickets. What if you want to turn your winning $5.00 ticket back in for 5 more tickets? Nope in QB and RMS.
    3. They don't handle tracking which products are food for food stamps. I.E. Receipt is for $7.50 and 4.25 is for food (stamps) and 2.75 is non-food. Nope for QB and RMS
    4. If I am shooting for the stars. They rent videos as well. Any way to "rent" items, track customers, see what is late? Nope for QB and RMS.
    Even if you are willing to pay. What off the shelf software is out there to handle a mini-mart/grocery store?

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