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Ask Slashdot: An Open Handheld Terminal For Retail Stores? 114

Posted by timothy
from the give-in-to-hegemony dept.
Evil Al writes "From the ubiquitous Verifone card terminals to the fancy Apple Store terminals, point-of-sale devices are everywhere. But does anyone know of an open terminal (with printer + Wi-Fi), preferably running Linux, that we can use to run a custom application for retail, made by a reputable manufacturer?"
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Ask Slashdot: An Open Handheld Terminal For Retail Stores?

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  • you know, some things just don't exist yet. like fusion power, warp drive, and cold fusion.
    • Well, score 1 out of 3. Fusion power and cold fusion both exist, just on scales too small to be practical (so far).

      It would be nice if I could say the same about warp drives... :o)
      • Correction: "... too small and unreliable..."
      • by Annirak (181684)

        Specifically cold fusion. Google Rossi and the e-cat. He says there will be a test installation done in October. It's hard to say for sure, but the guy has over $500,000 of his own money sunk into it and isn't interested in investors, so there's no obvious financial gain to be had from lying to us. His patent application was denied from the Italian patent system because he can't explain how it works.

        • He should try patenting in the US then. Here, you don't have to explain how it works. But in some rare cases, you might be called upon to show a working model.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Monday July 11, 2011 @08:55PM (#36729084)

    But does anyone know of an open terminal (with printer + Wi-Fi), preferably running Linux, that we can use to run a custom application for retail, made by a reputable manufacturer?

    Just curious but why does the operating system underneath it all matter? It seems the application is key and you can open source that regardless of the platform it is running on. Why not an iPod touch + card reading sled + open source app, an app that you distribute internally as an enterprise app so it doesn't need the Apple approval process that a regular app would need?

    • Good evening sir, if you would just swipe your card I'll have you out of here in a jiffy: The mobile POS device being a conglomeration of ipod, linksys router (dd-wrt, for extended range to reach that one corner in the back), card reader, 6 volt lantern batteries, paper clips, assorted wires in various colors, exposed circuit boards and electronics to convert serial to USB or whatever, all of this strapped together on a piece of chip-board with duct tape and thick rubber bands - Although it would look prett

  • PCI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by atfrase (879806) on Monday July 11, 2011 @08:56PM (#36729092)
    If you intend to process credit card payments through your custom application on the point-of-sale device, you'll likely fall under the purview of the Payment Card Industry's Payment Application Data Security Standard (PCI PA-DSS) [pcisecuritystandards.org], which may require a source code audit and limit what you can have the software do. That may be no problem for you depending on your resources and intended use of your software, but it's worth keeping in mind.
    • Re:PCI (Score:5, Informative)

      by hibiki_r (649814) on Monday July 11, 2011 @09:24PM (#36729238)

      For all but the largest operations though, you need no code audits or anything of the sort: Even a chain with a couple dozen stores won't even be asked to do more than fill a questionnaire claiming to follow PCI standards, which as far as software go, aren't all that difficult to follow, especially if you leave most of the credit card handling to a third party, so you aren't stuck having to deal with securing encryption keys.

      • In particular the vx810 Duet is a pin-pad that has it's own printer and ethernet (sadly not wireless), and can talk via an rs-232 in "semi-integrated" mode whereby only the transaction amounts and transaction numbers etc flow to the POS, everything secret (pin, debit card number, etc) is handled by the terminal.
      • by rickb928 (945187)

        Beyond PCI compliance, you'll have to certify with processors. They typically certify a specific combination of hardware and software for terminals, and software for POS solutions. If you do this all in an open-source environment, anyone who commits changes will break certification for those who use it, and there you go.

        Where I work, you can certify in a day if you know what you are doing. We know what we are doing. YMMV with other processors, and some may exhibit a lot less urgency than you would like,

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just because you're PCI compliant, doesn't mean you are until there is a breach and it is shown that you were indeed compliant...i.e., Visa wins. The best bet is to offload that risk to a processor as much as humanly possible.

      Also, wifi + credit cards = lame. Really, really lame. Please don't do that...also, ipsec is nice when you can get it. SSL is not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  • Without the printer option, I would guess that there are a number of Linux driven pads around, then use a central networked printer.

  • In the summary I see

    But does anyone know of an open terminal (with printer + Wi-Fi), preferably running Linux, that we can use to run a custom application for retail, made by a reputable manufacturer?

    But no mention of it needing to be handheld. Sure, a handheld POS is nifty and all, but it does make it that much more complicated. Really if someone is just establishing a retail setup a POS in a static location would be more reliable and less expensive, which are both positive traits in the chaos of a start-up.

    • Uh.... in the title?

      Ask Slashdot: An Open Handheld Terminal For Retail Stores?

      Sure, whether or not a handheld solution is necessary is debatable, but the poster did ask for advice on handheld units.

      • Uh.... in the title?

        I saw that, but I'm wondering why it is in the title and not the summary. The text from the submitter is short enough that he easily could have said "handheld" if that is what he wanted, but he never did. Which leaves me wondering why it is in the subject line but not in the text.

        Of course, we all know that slashdot editors are perfect and never make a mistake, ever, anywhere...

    • Submission: An open handheld terminal for retail stores?

      It comes directly from the submitter's title in which they asked the question.

  • if their voting machines are anything to go by, they're open as in Goatse.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rabbit994 (686936) on Monday July 11, 2011 @09:40PM (#36729336)

    I'll ask the easy question.. WHY?

    Seriously, when you business relies on a machine that must work or you are losing money, everyone wants someone to turn to when it doesn't work. That someone isn't a man page or IRC channel or mailing list or whatever support for $foo GPL program here. It's a computer, not a holy war. You press buttons and it does things. When you want a computer you control, you run linux, when you want a computer that grandma can use, you give her a Mac and when you want retail system that checks people out, you run whatever OS that your POS maker asks you to.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Monday July 11, 2011 @09:58PM (#36729452)

      So he can create a credit card skimmer? That was my first thought anyway.

      • Mine, too. My second thought was "good thing I use cash for everything but gasoline".

      • by Evil Al (7496)

        :-) Close but no... this will not be for processing cards at all, but rather for issuing access codes for Wi-Fi. I didn't want to go into too much detail in the summary so as not to bore people; I can see why it sounds like it would be for card processing.

        • by jimicus (737525)

          :-) Close but no... this will not be for processing cards at all, but rather for issuing access codes for Wi-Fi. I didn't want to go into too much detail in the summary so as not to bore people; I can see why it sounds like it would be for card processing.

          Erm... Can we clarify exactly what it is you do want? Do you already have the application? Does your handheld terminal need to process cards? Read barcodes? Print things out with an inbuilt printer?

          As it stands, the most obvious reading of the summary is card processing - which, as others have said, is going to give you so much trouble meeting PCI-DSS requirements that you'd be insane to even try.

    • by jmuzz (1953550)

      I'll ask the easy question.. WHY?

      Well such a POS terminal would be very handy for tax avoidance purposes, a few small changes and recompile so you can skim a percentage of sales off the top keeping them out of the tax records. Places like restaurants and cafes can get away with this sort of thing easily since it is very hard to audit waste vs sales, biggest risk is that the POS logs act as evidence of your false tax reporting.
      New POS terminals log every transaction which goes through them, often with no way for the owner to clear the histo

    • by cshark (673578)

      The majority of retail systems I've seen over the years run some kind of Unix or Linux. Occasionally, you see one that runs windows with a pretty touch screen, but those are few and far between. First place I would look for this kind of thing would be Alibaba. If you can think of it, you can probably find it there. Even though the ads look like shit, most of the Gold Certified wholesalers are pretty good. And you can usually get a deal when ordering multiple units. If you can't find what you want in terms o

    • by sheddd (592499)
      Perhaps to develop for it? If I were to do a POS system, I'd probably go iphone/ipad these days though.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Retail Management has been wanting a handheld register since I can't remember when. Their idea is that they can use this as a "line-buster." Well, most retailers use check lanes now, so they should just open a damned register. Self-checkout is handling a lot of the line busting. Handhelds has a certain "cool" factor that just isn't there today.

      I worked for a retailer that tried to develop this on their own. It started out simple, ring a transaction. Then we had to figure out how to print a receipt.

      • by Dog-Cow (21281)

        Apple Stores will email your receipt, but I think they will also print it for you if you prefer. All their POS terminals are modified iPod Touches. The printer sits behind the Genius Bar (aka the service desk).

      • by Malc (1751)

        Signature for a credit card transaction? How quaint. How many places are there left that are still behind the times and requiring that?

        • by bhtooefr (649901)

          The entire US, if the transaction is $25 or more? (Unless it's at a gas pump, or is a card-not-present transaction.)

        • any place that charges more then $20....

          • by Malc (1751)

            It seems my sarcasm is lost around here. The US is way behind the times with this credit card signature business. I can't believe it's still common. I haven't been asked to sign for years, except when visiting the US, due to chip and pin being the standard elsewhere. Even more bizarre is that it seems nobody even bothers checking the signature in the US when it is given.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      It's a computer, not a holy war.

      You must be new here...

    • by canesfan (607211)
      Very well put. I used to work in support for a Restaurant POS company back in the mid 90's and the POS systems were sold as a complete package from the touchscreen terminals to the MS Windows workstation that was used to manage the app to change menus, set prices, update sales tax. The credit card black box ran DR-DOS and you connected via modem using PC-Anywhere to clear the credit card batches and sort out the other problems with credit cards. By and large the people who own and run a business for profit
    • I'll ask the easy question.. WHY?

      Easy answer. WinCE and administering devices through the finicky unholy abortion that is ActiveSync.

      WinCE is almost as fragmented as linux is, not as fragmented as linux's arm tree, which is a total mess, but still. Then there's ActiveSync. What I wouldn't do to avoid that. Will it see the handheld today? Will it see any handheld today? Will it remember this handheld? Will it think this handheld is some other handheld and totally confuse their settings? It really is

  • Not sure I'd want my payment system running on WiFi... but I'm not an expert on how secure this would be.

    • by nzac (1822298)

      If done properly its still far more secure than having your credit card in your wallet and typing in your pin in a remotely public environment.

      I don’t know much but I don't think intercepting the packets is hard part for hacking a banking system to get money. Its not impossible to intercept data from copper wires and they have mobile efpos machines.

    • As secure as any other TLS connection with pre-signed certificates from a known signing authority on both ends.
    • I'm guess I'm pretty close to being an expert, on this--like much of Slashdot, I get paid to do this stuff.

      If your payment system runs over WiFi, and if that WiFi link and your payment server/client apps also do not implement any extra security measures, then your security is screwed. Anybody with a laptop and some free software can sniff your traffic, insert extra packets, etc. God help you.

      Luckily, most modern WiFi equipment supports the WPA2 standard for link-layer encryption and authentication. If you j

  • Without thinking about it too much - is there any reason you couldn't get some Android tablets and rig them up to do what you want?

  • AML perhaps? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CyberVenom (697959) on Monday July 11, 2011 @10:14PM (#36729558)

    AML makes Linux-powered portable handheld computers with Wi-Fi and barcode scanning capability, and they'll give you their source disk with your hardware if you ask, so you can modify it as much as you like if their standard suite of applications don't suit you. You would also need to add a printer like the Epson TM-T88 and an RS232 magstripe-reader like the Unitech MS-240. For the actual card clearing, you'd probably either tie this system into your existing POS mainframe (if you have one) or you'd tie it into an Internet-based POS solution like Authorize.net, or if you are feeling ambitious, you can integrate over SSL directly with a clearing network like TSYS (formerly VisaNet / VITAL). Of course, your biggest expenditure is probably going to be paying someone to write the software to tie all this together for you (unless you can pull it all off yourself, in which case hats off to you!)

    http://www.amltd.com/product.asp?pid=m7220 [amltd.com]
    http://pos.epson.com/products/prodsPMOP.htm [epson.com]
    http://ute.com/products_info.php?pid=211 [ute.com]

    P.S.
    I have worked on the AML portable computers before. I have not specifically worked with the Epson printer or the Unitech magstripe reader, but both should work in conjunction with the AML unit's WiFi and serial capabilities respectively. You would probably need to custom-make a cable for the magstripe reader since the AML unit uses a non-standard RS232 connector (RJ45 if I recall correctly).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The asker is probably looking for the Exadigm XD2000 [exadigm.com]

    It is pretty much exactly the specs requested.

    • by Evil Al (7496)

      It does seem to, thanks. I am awaiting SDK access to see what you can actually do on it.

  • Symbol is now part of Motorola: http://www.motorola.com/Business/US-EN/Business%20Product%20and%20Services/Bar%20Code%20Scanning/Scan-equipped%20Mobile%20Computers [motorola.com]. Fate worse than d

    But, if you want open, SquareUp mentioned elsewhere looks to be the easiest approach- just plug it into the audio jack of any phone/tablet/whatever. Using a camera for barcode recognition is ok for very low volume transactions only though.

  • I don't know who makes it but BCF uses Linux on their POS systems. ARTS (http://www.nrf-arts.org/) maybe of some help.

  • I use to do some consulting work with Retail Navigator (http://www.retailnavigator.com/) back in '00. They had a handheld sytsem running Linux. I don't know if they still do.

  • Back in the day we used to code inventory addons to add Intermec (http://www.intermec.com) hand-held laser barcode scanners to pre-existing mainframe inventory applications. Their kit ran MS DOS 5.0 (This was back in the 90s) and could be configured to run a terminal app to a UNIX box. They also had their own custom programming language that I vaguely remember sucked donkey balls.

    These days my HTC phone costs substantially less than one of those things did, has better battery life, a bar code scanner libr

  • If I were looking, I'd look for something like this. Wifi for weeks per charge and very light. You could customize the hell out of this e-ink tablet.

  • A lot of really good companies make just that. Did you not bother to search?

  • It doesn't matter what they run. I helped develop an ePoS system for a public house running on LAMP, with the ePoS terminals bought on eBay running Damn Small Linux and various brand hand-held devices with wireless networking running WinMob, accessing different addresses for their respective interfaces. One of the only times I've done work in exchange for free beer! :D
  • Integration of payment facilities is what tends to break "my own POS" solutions. As soon as you touch a regular payment system you'll hit the circus surrounding PCI compliance, and that's a headache in itself.

    There is something new on its way, but as first talks have only started this month I don't expect anything exciting to happen for at least another 3 months. It's probably going to be 2012 before this comes out proper..

    Good luck!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't get why you don't just get a Vx680 or Vx820 that are coming out - you can run your own application layer on top of the software on it (making it as open as you need to be). Both PCI:DSS and PA:DSS will need to be adhered to to, of course.

  • Does a card card reader read the same kind of card cards that go in an automated teller machine machine?

  • by viewtouch (1479)

    I have this. If anyone is interested, visit my web site (where you won't see any mention of this specific project yet but where anyone can see who I am and what I do) and find my contact information there. I have provided my POS help and source code to a few people over the years so that they can establish POS businesses in their locations. I would submit many of the details of new things going on to Slashdot but there's no guarantee it would be published so instead I'll make a whitepaper available to anyo

  • Go Android young man... go Android.
    A cool WiFi Samsung pad, local server, ssh
    links all ways (https)... or better a ssh tunnel
    and VPN.

    The key phrase is custom application.
    The entire application environment needs
    to be "designed" and "maintained".

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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