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Hardware Hacking Software Linux

Linux on a Used Cash Register: Reloaded 141

plimsoll writes "Hot on the heels of the original cash register running Linux, dumpster-diver Aaron Benoy has implemented his own GNU/Linux POS project with a twist: Ruins in ASCII, a late IBM 4694 removed from its case and reloaded with Linux to become a self-described 'video sculpture' showcasing 'an infinite loop of 180 distinct 7-second long video clips of various abandoned, ruined or otherwise vacant buildings and infrastructure' on its 9-inch paper white phosphor terminal display. Southern geeks can see it unveiled tonight at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival."
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Linux on a Used Cash Register: Reloaded

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  • Interesting Art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @07:51PM (#10093058) Journal
    I know nerds (I use the term with reverence) don't always think that much of art, but something to remember is that our original conception of 'art' was a purely useful thing.

    There was a time Westerners saw art really as a Machia, something you made and / or engaged in. Science and art were really the same endeavor for people like the Greeks. No division in our mental lives.

    For some reason, just the description of this project makes me happy.

    M
    • Re:Interesting Art (Score:2, Informative)

      by Alien Being ( 18488 )
      It makes me feel happy, sad, nostalgic, fearful, curious and inspired all at once. You might enjoy this [arthurganson.com]

    • We don't think much of art, because ninety years ago or so, art turned its back on everyone except those in its little clique. Try creating "art" yourself, as a Machia, and watch yourself get laughed out into the street by Real Artists.
      • Well, we can forget about those types and just focus on the Heidegger crowd. Philosophy majors will dig it.

        M
      • We don't think much of [insert endeavor here], because ninety years ago or so, [same endeavor] turned its back on everyone except those in its little clique. Try creating "[you got it - anything]" yourself, as a Machia, and watch yourself get laughed out into the street by Real [endeavorists].

        The same could be said about virtually anything - including the geek arts. Actual artists will be the first ones to admit that anything can be art, and anyone can make art - that art doesn't exist outside of the i
        • Nah - if you got the skillz, you'll be accepted in no time. Art, lacking skill, has no such requirement. Merit-based societies [geekdom] are totally different from aristocratic ones [art world].
          • You'll be accepted by the truely skilled, sure. But there's an aristocratic element to geekdom as well. Actually i differentiate the skilled (nerds, nerdom) with the unskilled, aristocrats (geeks, geekdom). Geeks are more willing to discount you simply because you threaten their place in the subculture, nerds will respect your skills. Example: Debian users discount gentoo users as knowledgable simply beacuse they use gentoo. Any reasonable person can conclude that they see Gentoo as a technological th
      • I think that should be "Real Artists (tm)"
    • Forget the Greeks... Galileo Galilei. Thats a better, more modern, example.

      As our understanding of the Universe increased, the worlds of the arts and sciences grew apart by necessity. The gap between the two and philosophy also increased. We now have the tools to increase scientific knowledge scientifically, not just by thinking, writing, and pondering.

      I think the distinction is a useful and valid one, despite it not being such in the times of the heights of Greek civilization, Galileo's time, or oth

  • Not that cool? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KuNgFo0 ( 519426 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @07:54PM (#10093081) Homepage
    From the hardware specs:
    Hardware
    CPU Intel Celeron (Covington) 400.912 MHz
    RAM 96MB PC100
    Hard disk Maxtor 6.4GB ATA/66 5400 RPM
    Motherboard Soyo SY-6BE+ ATX
    Display adapter SiS 6326 4MB AGP
    Pole display Emax Universal 104 Parallel DB-25
    Monitor IBM 9" Monochrome 4694 Video Display
    PSU Generic 235W
    Isn't this a pretty typical computer? Actually, probably a faster computer than many of the geeks on slashdot have? It's plenty better than my 486 personal web server.
    • by blackicye ( 760472 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @08:07PM (#10093152)
      I'd have to agree, there really isn't anything that impressive about this feat, given the specs of the system..IMO if it would be a greater feat if he installed windows XP and got its screensavers running on this thing. Maybe we're getting old and in denial of it? naaah *pats his faithful Celeron 300A box which has been running at an "astounding" 400mhz overclock for almost 6 years*
    • Pretty slow by today's standards (still better than my k6-2 at 350 Mhz), but, yes, there's nothing incredible about making a computer with those specs run Linux. Making different things run Linux is more of an inside joke or geek art. It's amusing, though not amazing.
    • Re:Not that cool? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by javaxman ( 705658 )
      a quick google search reveals that the IBM POS machine in question does indeed include models [ibm.com] with a ( from the above PDF ) "Intel Celeron 566/66". So I don't know if they have their specs a bit off, or if I looked up the wrong model, but the truth is the cash register is not *that* old, the manual is dated 2001.

      I'm not sure that makes this less cool, since
      (1) it's a freekin' cash register
      (2) it's definitely isn't your typical slashdot-geek's video subsystem.

      The 'found in a dumpster' bit is pretty cool

      • Re:Not that cool? (Score:5, Informative)

        by javaxman ( 705658 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @08:28PM (#10093272) Journal
        I take that back. It looks like it has a pretty standard/weak video subsystem, and is certified to run Red Hat 7.1 ( kernel 2.4.2 ). Yes, you read that right, Linux is a *supported* OS on this puppy.

        The list of video cards used in the 4694 makes me think that the claim 'incapable of displaying anything but text' sound more than a little fishy, too.

        From the manual, again :

        v 4694-244 and 205/245 - Cirrus GL5446 SVGA PCI video controller (model 244's have 1 MB of RAM installed, which yields up to 1024x768x256, while model 2x5's have 2MB of video RAM, yielding up to 1280x1024x256 or 1024x768x65535)

        v 4694-207/247 and 307/347 models have AGP compatible video function embedded within the main system (VIA PM8601A) chip. Video RAM is part of system RAM and is reserved using the BIOS setup function. Once RAM is reserved as video RAM, it is no longer available for use as system memory. (For instance, a 32M system with 4M of RAM reserved for video will actually only have 28M of RAM available for system use (not counting memory required for BIOS shadowing, etc..)
        v 4694-2x6- ATI Technologies Rage 128 Pro 4XL AGP2X video controller with 8MB of video DRAM, yielding support for resolutions up to 1280x1024x32M colors

        frickin' Rage 128 Pro?!? I *just* retired a machine with that card in it...

    • they're little more than calculators with a cash drawer attached, but in a bigger store that has five or six of them, those calculators alone suck a kilowatt all day long. do these system specs have any other purpose than justifying IBM's price?
      • Um, they do a little more than a simple calculator. This style of register is usually networked to a backend system that handles PLU, credit authorization, etc. It's a general purpose computer that has been customized for a specific purpose. Many retailers have custom apps written that do all sorts of things, such as DB searches for mulit-store inventory, handling special orders for custom items that have tons of options, etc.

        They are also designed like tanks - putting up with day in day out heavy abuse. I
    • My printbitch (print server and MRTG grapher) is running on an old Pentium POS system. Nice and small footprint, don't need any slots. It's been running like a dream for 2 years!
  • geek question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why is the anode cap on the side of the 4694 CRT instead of the top? I suppose it could be anywhere in that plane, but this is the first I've seen this arrangement.
    • Re:geek question (Score:4, Informative)

      by mikewas ( 119762 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <rehcsaw>> on Friday August 27, 2004 @08:48PM (#10093364) Homepage
      It can be oriented in any direction. The major concern is keeping it from arcing. The best way to keep it from arcing is to keep it well away from anything else.

      Color tubes restrict how you can mount them. The guns are either arranged in an equilateral triangle (point up) or in a horizontal row with a pattern of red, blue & green phosphors to match.

      Monochrome tubes give you a lot of options. Only one gun centered in the neck. No pattern of colored phosphors on the screen. It's all white so it's just spread inside the front of the tube. You can rotate the tube anyway you want, giving you infinite possibilities if it's round.

      Old B&W TVs with round tubes made use of this. Most components were on a chassis at the bottom so it isn't top-heavy. Tuner & other controls somewhere near the top so it's easy to reach. Tube rotated to the side opposite the tuner so it's away from everything -- usually a bit above horizonal because the HV power supply will be at that end of the chassis & it's rather large.

    • The anode cap is on top in every TV that I can recall working on, but if it was on the side in a couple I just might not remember it.

      Outside of the world of TV's, such as CRT-based calculators, radars, medical equipment, etc. there's a lot of variety in where the anode cap shows up. If the accelleration voltage is low enough (older 5" or smaller CRT's), it's just another pin on the base of the tube (but that's really rare).
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @08:11PM (#10093181)
    GNU/Linux POS project

    POS is such a great acronym : when the equipment is new, it means Point-Of-Sale, and when it's old and obsolete, it doesn't need to change acronym.

    Kind of like "PC", come to think of it...
  • Did anyone else find it funny when they read at the top of the IBM page "POS Systems"? Did they really have to use that acronymn?
  • yeah! (Score:2, Funny)

    by nbert ( 785663 )
    all we need know is a bunch of hamsters in wheels keeping this thingie going [slashdot.org] and we are all set.

    Since we're talking about ASCI - does anybody know where I can find this aalib demo just about anybody is talking about?
  • by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @08:27PM (#10093267)
    Are people buying copies of the operating system it runs.

    $0.00
    $0.00
    $0.00

    --Your bonus card has saved you $0.00 this year. Thank you for shopping at Linux Mart--
    • Are people buying copies of the operating system it runs. $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 --Your bonus card has saved you $0.00 this year. Thank you for shopping at Linux Mart--

      Yeah, I know it's a troll, but the money you save with linux (assuming you downloaded a free version and paid nothing) was the money you would have spent on another operating system, not some vapid discount you got for not paying "full price." Unless you believe you save $100.00 when you buy XP at $100 less than the suggested retail pric

    • $699.00
      $699.00
      $699.00

      Subtotal $2097.00
      Tax $178.25
      Total $2275.25

      --Your compliance with intellectual property law has saved you $997,724.75 in lawsuit settlement fees this year. Thank you for shopping at Linux Mart--
  • by cjsnell ( 5825 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @08:31PM (#10093290) Journal
    The sad thing about this article is that we still don't have a decent, non-specific, OSS point-of-sale package for *nix. I've seen cheezy GTK-based "cash register" apps but nothing that can compete (or even compare) to Windows-based products [daceasy.com].

    This is unfortunate. My father's company [bikeworld.com] runs FreeBSD and OpenBSD on all of its servers but I still have to support over 35 Windows 2000 desktops here at our stores because there is no *nix alternative. Retail is the perfect place for Linux and the BSDs. Retail people need simple, easy-to-use interfaces and they do not want to deal with the problems associated with administering Microsoft OSes (worms, spyware, etc). I would love nothing more than to replace every single Windows desktop in this company with a X11-capable thin client.

    Thoughts?
    • I've run into this same problem myself. My father still runs his system on a DOS based POS solution simply because I've been completely unable to find a suitable OSS replacement.

      All I was looking for was a simple, NCurses based interface - a POS does not need X and the added overhead and boot time associated with it. I keep checking every few months, but there never seems to be anything worth the effort of migrating to. I've seriously considered picking up PostgreSQL myself to try to implement something as

      • On second thought, I agree with you on the ncurses interface. The speed should be a lot better and memory usage a lot less. The problem is development tools. Are there any good rapid development tools for ncurses apps? I guess I should look into Java/ncurses and Perl/ncurses interfaces.
      • Might I shamelessly plug my own system? Its a PHP/MySQL system I custom wrote for a gallery in Roswell GA, but have released as OSS. It is generalized enough to work for any strict inventory tracking application (IE: it is not a categorical tracker, meaning it wouldn't work well for say, a grocery store)

        http://kfa.cx/products.php?product=WITS

        Requirements are simply PHP and MySQL, some reports use libgd to generate graphs. Being in PHP, it will run on any system (although I recommend a unix based system,
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Walk into a home depot and look at the app they use.
    • Sure we do - our friends at SCO [sco.com] are quite the player in the retail sector! Surely since we've given them gimp-print, mysql, apache, samba & others [sco.com] they're willing to give back to the linux community ... oh, wait ...

    • Get a x-server with a descent browser (mozilla should do fine) and get a copy of O'Reilly's PHP & SQL books... How hard can it be?... (lend some code i f needed...)

      • Nope, not an option. I'm a very experienced Perl programmer but that's irrelevant. A Web-based application cannot open cash register draws, draw to an LCD, or print receipts...at least, not without a really kludgy server-to-client piece.
        • Nope, not an option. I'm a very experienced Perl programmer but that's irrelevant. A Web-based application cannot open cash register draws, draw to an LCD, or print receipts...at least, not without a really kludgy server-to-client piece.

          I was planning on writing an extension to firefox to control a draw. And there are plenty of programs on the net linking a LCD with a webpage with input. As for printing, css can handle that. The program could even have predefined label sets that work. As an added bon
        • Web-based application cannot open cash register draws, draw to an LCD, or print receipts...

          Well, actually I just saw a web-based cash register app.

          It comprises of Slackware 9.1, Mozilla Firebird (using a very tiny bit of XUL), GT.M (for local data caching and server comms).

          What's more it runs on very modest hardware (think 233Mhz) and there's nothing kludgy in the whole architecture (except maybe the XUL bit).

          80N

        • It can if the server is running on the same machine.

          In any case, web browsers don't make a good interface. POS applications need a lot more interaction between various peripherals and the display.
    • The sad thing about this article is that we still don't have a decent, non-specific, OSS point-of-sale package for *nix

      I was the one that had the extra time on my hands to take apart one of my mom's surplus registers. I oringally got it to see what was inside, so we could figure out what could run, whether we could put wireless on it, etc. (My mom's store in in PHX, I'm in San Diego, so I was sort of exploring on my own.)

      I suspected that it was a normal PC all along, but my mom didn't get manuals or

    • Retail people need simple, easy-to-use interfaces and they do not want to deal with the problems associated with administering Microsoft OSes (worms, spyware, etc).

      Our store would also run a Linux based POS system if there was a decent one available, although not because of any so called "problems associated with administering MS OSes)". A cash register is generally a single purpose machine running one or two apps, tops. Our W2K POS machines only rebott/get turned off when the power goes out. They're
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "The sad thing about this article is that we still don't have a decent, non-specific, OSS point-of-sale package for *nix.""

      Are you serious?

      http://www.linux-pos.org/ etc. Have you ever even looked up "Linux pos" on google. There are many stores which are currently using Linux in POS devices. Shit, call up NCR, IBM etc. Or Did you mean OSS as in open and Free with source, Professionally done sitting there on the Net just waiting for you? Because if that's the case I suggest you forget that and call up any
      • Or Did you mean OSS as in open and Free with source, Professionally done sitting there on the Net just waiting for you?

        That's what I was looking for. I can get Linux for free, a browser, email client, etc. Why not a POS system? As is all of the free, OSS ones are incomplete or just flat out suck.

      • I've been to linux-pos.org already. The problem with most of the available Linux POSes is that they are custom-tailored to specific applications. I've found POS software for gas stations, for restaurants, video stores, but nothing that is generic enough for our retail environment (bicycle stores). I need something that can handle cash register stuff and also work for phone order entry. This means that it must have a customer database (complete with address, phone, email, etc) and a speedy way of enterin
        • Really should not be all that hard to write. You could do it in Perl/Python/PHP a PostgresSQL or MySql backend and as they say Bobs your uncle.

          The whole point of OSS is that people that need a solution write it and share it with others.
    • I actually started to write a POS system bassed on PHP and MySQL. I used to work at a motorcycle shop that really needed one. The shop ended up closing before I could finish it.

      I would not mind at all picking this project back up, and I still have notes and partial code. If anyone is remotely interested drop me an email.

      Really what I would appreciate is someone to use the software in a retail enviroment and work out the bugs once it gets polished up a bit. This would require inventorying the entire
    • Not quite sure which portions are supported on Linux, but Synchronics Counterpoint [synchronics.com] lists Linux/Unix/Netware in the System Requirements. Might only be server-side though.
    • http://www.viewtouch.com/
    • I have to agree that there's a dearth of OpenSource projects aimed at commercial usage. I'm currently writing a warehousing system to run on Linux+PHP+MySQL+Apache for a large haulage/storage company. When finished, it'll be up at source-forge. I don't want to put it there until it's working to spec though, as there's too many projects up there now that seem to have been abandoned half way through.

      It's taking me a little extra time, since I'm making the system much more flexible than the client requires so
    • Check out Compiere [compiere.org]. It is a *very* full featured ERP / CRM with a POS module.
  • Linux booths... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xeoron ( 639412 )
    This reminds me when I went to Showcase Cinemas Lowell with some friends. After the movie we went to see we decided to use the photo-booth in the lobby. It was unplugged, so we decide to plug it back in. To our surprise we discovered the booth booting Red Hat Linux. We never got any pictures taken, because the machine would hang while it was loading the camera or the printer driver (can't remember which).
    • Well, a game actually, but at the ESPN restraunt in downtown disney they had one their arcade machines crashed on me and stole my money. Stinkin' windows NT.
  • simple ascii graphics always seem to convey a sense of isolation when presented in situations like this, not necessarily aloneness but the feeling of a tenuous mediated glimpse into something far away and mysterious, or at least it does to me, maybe because of my associations with mainframe terminals and command lines. So I think this piece really "works", with combination of salvaged computer, ascii graphics, and abandoned places. another somewhat similar piece that I also enjoyed is ben rubin's Listen [earstudio.com]
  • Incomplete (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:17PM (#10093494)
    ... abandoned, ruined or otherwise vacant

    In that case, they should have somehow involved the vi editor.

  • I work with these!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <k4_pacific@@@yahoo...com> on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:22PM (#10093511) Homepage Journal
    From the article:
    "hardware so old it is incapable of displaying anything but text"

    Speaking as someone who writes software for these boat anchors, I would like to point out that they have VGA monitors and can display 640x480 graphics in black and white with the standard 9" monitor or, with the optional 9" color monitor, 16 colors. My company, which does custom retail software, has several customers running these units. Most still on DOS, but a few on Windows NT.
    • Speaking as someone who does tech support for this stuff, they can do a hell of a lot better than that. Some of the new ones are really powerful (more powerful than my aging Duron 700, by a long shot). One model even has an NVidia 3D chipset... WTF?
  • uhh. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Our cash registers at work run linux and have for some time. Congrats on the innovation, though.

  • "Ruins in ASCII"

  • by ImaLamer ( 260199 ) <john...lamar@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:47PM (#10094181) Homepage Journal
    Typically when I go to the store and see a Windows P.O.S. (point of sale) device I hear this "Freudian Slip"


    Excuse me sir, will that be crash or charge?


    • Typically when I go to the store and see a Windows P.O.S. (point of sale) device...

      Yes, in this context, the acronym does indeed need to be spelled out...

      • Of course, I wanted to spell it out that way people knew I was making a joke and not out-and-out Microsoft bashing.

        (we all know bashing is best in a *nix environment)

  • by cammoblammo ( 774120 ) <cammoblammo&gmail,com> on Saturday August 28, 2004 @01:31AM (#10094593)
    Southern geeks can see it unveiled tonight at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival.

    All of those in the southern hemisphere repeat after me...

    You Insensitive Clod!

  • I don't think you know, but the IBM 4694 has a P!!! 600 (or 700, I don't remind exactly) on his highest configuration available (at the time I've stopped to repair it for IBM). So this little Celeron ... ^^ In the other hand, the price is INDEED not the same ^^ it's a shame to know how expensive can be a complete cash register, with peripherals (TI4 thermal printer, 4694 standard keyboard, scanner, cashdrawer, and all the IBM wires to lonk all that) ... I think it's between 6000 and 10000$, at least. ^^

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