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Hardware Hacking Build

Can You Access Your Own Cash Register Data? 178

jeronimo989 writes "A customer of mine has a small shop and asked me to look for an electronic cash register. One of the requirements is to retrieve the sales data from the cash register in some accessible format so he can import it in the software of his choice (which happens to be OpenOffice), either by downloading the data on a Flash card, connecting a laptop via USB, or even via a direct modem connection. As far as the cash register itself is concerned, he doesn't need anything too fancy; any 'entry level' machine for small businesses is probably OK (as long as it keeps an electronic journal, of course). Which options do we have? Are there cash register manufacturers out there that allow accessing the sales data directly in an open format? Does anyone here have experience with setting up a link between a cash register and PC, preferably using free/open source solutions?"
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Can You Access Your Own Cash Register Data?

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  • by mridoni ( 228377 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:31AM (#23060904)
    ... modern cash registers simply output on a serial or USB port all the transaction data entered, and receive informations on goods for PLUs (Price Look-Ups): when a barcode on a product is scanned, the cash register "asks" to a server the corresponding price and description to be printed on your receipt, etc. Most cash registers are actually (at least here in Italy, and in a reasonably sized shop) just a specialized keyboard/screen/cash drawer connected to a PC, which in turn sits on a network: it's all part of a turn-key system, maintenance included. It's not like you go and read the data *from* the cash register: while you can query it for some daily report, you usually just store the data on a server and use some custom app or a DB frontend to read it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by pipatron ( 966506 )
      Yes, thank you, know we know how it works in your big store where you have more than one cash register. Now back up and read what he wanted.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Sure a big store uses a network and for a small company that isn't needed but the point that most POS kit these days are just a PC with some specialised input devices is still a valid one.

        This means the obvious solution is to find some POS hardware and software, bolt it to a standard PC and you'll have no problem exporting the data because it will be on a standard PC system. So the question is now what is the best OS/software/hardware combo for a build your own POS system.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dbIII ( 701233 )
      The problem is some of these things are not really modern cash registers but instead general purpose PCs not paticularly well set up to pretend to be a cash registers. I once had a short term contract with a place that made the things that will remain nameless. I can't mention the company name because that was the admin password on ALL of the deployed units! Changing the password prevented various things like updates from working. Windows CE would be acceptable for this sort of thing, Win2k possible giv
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I once had a short term contract with a place that made the things that will remain nameless.

        I'll bet sales would increase if they named them.

  • by PartPricer ( 975066 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:31AM (#23060906)

    Please tell him to make it accessible via the Internet and to not encrypt his credit card data. It would make life so much easier for my Russian friends.

    Ever heard of PCI-DSS []?

  • A suggestion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 )
    If you are looking for all this, it would be nice to have register where the customer can plug in a USB drive and then have the register load the "receipt" on it. I am always amazed that none of the stores have this. I know that it would be useful to buy food from King Soopers and then take the info home and plug it into various applications including a kitchen app and a budget app.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by EdIII ( 1114411 ) *
      Are you FUCKING NUTS!?

      All it takes is one sociopathic asshole, or even one unwitting accomplice to install a trojan/malware/virus/worm into the cash register.

      I know some people are thinking, "wow. they might be able to steal money by funneling it somewhere". I'm thinking, "If that asshole stops me from being able to buy my Chunky Monkey, I'm going postal up in this *$#*&$#%".
    • by deniable ( 76198 )
      Think about it from the point of view of the guys supporting such a setup. Think about the kinds of problem customers who would get involved and the people you have working the floor. Can you still guarantee security?

      An alternative I could see working is for them to email a copy of the receipt, but it would probably only work if you had one of their loyalty cards or whatever. (I'm just as happy giving a random shop my email as I would be having random USB devices plugged into my financial systems.)
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 )
        fairly trivial to make secure. At the register, Only allow the usb plug to be treated as a drive and more important, do not allow anything to moved from the plug to the register. Then when receipt is written, it is written as simple text file (perhaps XML with no binary data allowed) that receiver should have checked over by a program on their home system. A simple program can check these and then read them in.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Mathinker ( 909784 )
          > fairly trivial to make secure. ... do not allow anything to moved from the plug to the register

          All I can say is, I hope you don't work in the computer security field.

          How is the driver going to access the USB drive without transferring data from the plug? You do realize that the driver is going to need to read a lot of data about the state of the filesystem, right? System drivers, especially third-party ones, are well known to be weak points in the security of a lot of systems.

          E.g., A Linux kernel vulne []
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by God'sDuck ( 837829 )
          Why does it need to be super secure? Credit card transactions are done using a separate "turnkey" machine. A small-store register receipt is nothing but a list of items with no name attached. If someone p0wned your machine the worst they could do that takes hacking knowledge (breaking the machine can be done with a hammer) is change some item to ring up at the wrong value -- or learn that people who by baby wipes also buy baby diapers. Whoopty do. So a basic firewall on an updated OS should be plenty.
          • Well, the fear is that the cash register Driver is not secured. But the USB-HDD does not have to be complicated and can be written secured for special cases like this. In this particular case, it can be secured, because if one item is out of whack, you simply deny it. Th reason why other drivers are insecure is because of the under lying thought that we have to try every thing. Instead, if we limit what we are willing to take in, it becomes much easier to write this securely). But with that said, I do like
    • by Kijori ( 897770 )

      If you are looking for all this, it would be nice to have register where the customer can plug in a USB drive and then have the register load the "receipt" on it. I am always amazed that none of the stores have this. I know that it would be useful to buy food from King Soopers and then take the info home and plug it into various applications including a kitchen app and a budget app.

      I'm not convinced. Sounds like it'll take longer, create problems when USB devices don't work, create problems when someone's stick uses a different file system, open a new vector for attack, increase maintenance costs and have no real advantage over an easy, secure paper receipt which most people will choose anyway. If you want to put your food into a budget/kitchen app you already can - you have the receipt and, failing that, the food itself.

  • Quickbooks Terminal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Taelron ( 1046946 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:35AM (#23060926)
    For a couple of hundred bucks he can get a Quickbooks terminal running on embeded Xp. Then all he has to do is export the quickbooks data or just access the pc for the info. The terminals are fully functional PC's, Registers, and loaded with Quickbooks.**.node3%7D/product/5380498;jsessionid=yf7-gwJCCQm5GvlczRQ4zQ**.node3?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG []

    For Windows #: 5380498
    QuickBooks Point of Sale Basic is a complete retail management solution that tracks inventory, sales and customer information to help you save time and serve your customers better. Includes easy-to-use software and retail hardware including a bar code scanner, cash drawer, receipt printer and credit card swipe* guaranteed to work together.**
    • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:46AM (#23060970)
      ever used quickbooks? no? that's why you think it's a good idea.
      • I use Quickbooks. We don't have a cash register at our shop. We just use a PC and a spreadsheet. We only record total sales right now as individual sales numbers per item is not interesting enough to justify the expense of tracking. The Salon e-mails me the totals at the end of the day and I put them in Quickbooks.
        When and if it becomes justifiable to me to track individual sales, we already have a plan in place. Put Quickbooks on the PC at the salon, buy a bar code scanner and use Quickbooks as POS softwa
      • Ummm. What do you recommend as a substitute?
      • As a matter of fact Troll, yes I do use Quickbooks for my own small business and my friends brewery uses the Quickbooks POS for their cash register and are more than happy with it... I wouldn't recommend something I don't use myself.
    • by Kalriath ( 849904 ) * on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:07AM (#23061064)
      Since when has $1,300 been a couple of hundred?
    • Our boss wanted something similar to what the poster wanted. I suggested this as I got us into the beta (Version 1 no less) so the software was free. At close to $499 a license, it was worth it for the 4 we got.

      Sadly, it never worked good for us. We were a junk store that had no hope of EVER inventorying anything. The beginning system didn't have buttons for "memory" or "misc" like the cheap registers we had did. Lots of manual typing, but we did get records!

      I would recommend it, except we stoppe
  • Why won't using a PC directly work?
  • I worked in a rollout project with Circuit City whenthey replaced some of their POS systems. The new boxes were some IBM POS solutions with linux on them - I dont know from the top of my head but they seemd out of the box solutions - They pulled OS and all from BOOTP server, but I suppose you could get them preinstalled and all. Maybe IBM has more suggestions.
  • by kalleh ( 678159 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:44AM (#23060960) []
  • FYI (Score:5, Funny)

    by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:54AM (#23061010) Homepage
    Just so everyone knows:

    POS = Point of Sale
    POS = Piece of Shit

    For the most part, the POS's in this thread are the first choice.
    • Re:FYI (Score:5, Funny)

      by dwater ( 72834 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:23AM (#23061130)

      Just so everyone knows:

      POS = Point of Sale
      POS = Piece of Shit

      For the most part, the POS's in this thread are the first choice.
      The actual posts in this thread, on the other hand....
    • by dattaway ( 3088 )
      I thought it was management that referred to the *employee* operating the unit as a POS.
    • Re:FYI (Score:5, Funny)

      by 87C751 ( 205250 ) <`sdot' `at' `'> on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:55AM (#23061262) Homepage

      POS = Point of Sale
      POS = Piece of Shit

      For the most part, the POS's in this thread are the first choice.
      Not after that second assignment.
    • It works for both (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonHawk ( 21256 )

      For the most part, the POS's in this thread are the first choice.
      Actually, in my experience as an IT consultant and admin, most POS systems are also a POS.

      Like a lot of vertical markets, this one seems to be infested with companies producing poorly engineered products with no mind for security, usability, interoperability, or ease of IT management. They're usually highly proprietary and overpriced, to boot.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's true. Basically it's a niche, and driven more by accounting and marketing than practicality and security. No vendor can afford to meet all the requirements including security, a nice easy user interface, rigorous testing, all the promotions ideas marketing can think of, the interface-du-jour to head office systems etc. So everybody just makes do with (barely) adequate systems.

        I should know, I work on one ;)

        Also, even now there are benefits to using hardware designed for the job rather than PC model #92
    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      POS = Point of Sale
      POS = Piece of Shit

      And remember, when you are supporting the software that runs the former, don't accidentally say the latter instead. And don't agree with your customers when they intentionally say the latter instead of the former!
    • So you're basically saying that FIRST POS! is what most of us go for here?
    • I was told that Microsoft had a monopoly on POS systems. Which definition did they mean?
  • Maybe Stoq? (Score:5, Informative)

    by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:11AM (#23061090)
    I haven't tried it, since I'm not in the retail business, but Stoq [] is an open source Point of Sale system supported by a brazilian company called Async [].

    It is GTK based and uses PostgreSQL for database storage (so extracting data should be a breeze). It also comes with a LiveCD so you can try it out yourself.
  • Sharp (Score:5, Informative)

    by N3Roaster ( 888781 ) <nealw AT acm DOT org> on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:22AM (#23061122) Homepage Journal
    I see a lot of comments already jumping on fancy POS systems, but if a basic cash register is really all that is needed, get to your local office store and take a look at what's there. A basic Sharp cash register (and probably registers from other makers as well) will store this data on a SD card or allow a USB connection to a computer. The software they (Sharp, don't know about others) provide is crap, but the data you get back is CSV which can be imported into any spreadsheet program. It's basic, but if that's all you need it does the trick.
    • Re:Sharp (Score:5, Funny)

      by supersnail ( 106701 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @11:02AM (#23063686)
      Mod parent down!!
      He answered the OPs question.
      He answered it sensibly.
      He did not recommend any Freeware, Payware or Painware.
      He did not even critique the operating system used.

      We cannot condone such postings. What if everybody came to expect Slashdot posting to be relevent, even credible.
    • by aethera ( 248722 )
      Be careful with those low end Sharps (and Casios, and Royals). To my knowledge the only Sharp cash registers that have the usb link or the sd slot are their low end small business registers. They work well, but you tend to get what you pay for in terms of a short lifespan, sticking keys, lack of advanced features, etc. I really recommend stepping up to sharp's commercial series (the er-a410 comes to mind). The starting prices are not much more expensive than the low end stuff. Unfortunately, most of these r
  • DataSym (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shyster ( 245228 ) <> on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:25AM (#23061138) Homepage

    Since nobody else seems to understand the difference between an electronic cash register and a PC based point of sale system - I'll throw in what little I know of ECRs.

    DataSym makes a software product called Comm2000 that communicates with their ECRs. It can poll nightly to retrieve sales information, or you can have the register output the data on each sale. You can also maintain SKU lists, etc.

    We have a few DataSym and older Sharp registers on the network (with a serial-TCP/IP device server), and the sales are captured in real time without going through Comm2000. Formats are a little obtuse, but reverse engineerable without documentation if you needed to.

    Nightly, there's a fairly old version of Comm2000 that sends out SKU lists, register layouts, etc. The processing is held together with shell scripts and some custom C code, but I think Comm2000 is the standard EXE. This is all on a UNIX box, designed circa 1993, so YMMV.

    Fortunately for me, but unfortunate for you, I have very little to do with the ECR side of things. But, I'd imagine most ECRs these days offer something similar, and I see DataSym still has Comm2000 []. Since ECRs don't really seem to be in the /. sweet spot, I'd suggest giving your local distributor a call.

  • IMHO a POS system has a superior flexibility for small shops; especially if the developer is willing to alter the software to fit specific needs.

    Been selling these little buggers for way under 1k$ and most complaints have been met with some coding, which helped me keep the whole matter modularized.

  • A few year ago I had to write an application that linked up sales data to data from beer line flow monitors, all of the registers we had to operate with could provide sales information. Most often it was from a database that the till connected to, but sometimes it was directly from the till itself. To get good data (or any data) we usually had to contact the till manufacturers and ask them for details of how to access the data etc... they usually provided us with documentation we could work to, or sometime
  • by OzTech ( 524154 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:39AM (#23061200)
    If you use any x86 based registers with a custom (or shelf) application which "mimics" a real cash-register, you will immediately be caught in vendor lock-in.

    My suggestion is to look at what is available from real cash-register manufacturers. Most if not all of these vendors will have a serial (or other) interface which will upload/download data using standard ASCII, comma-delimited files.

    This should reduce your task to a simple import/export routine with perhaps a little data massaging to get it into/out-of whatever back end system you want to use/develop.

    I successfully used Sharp cash registers for this over 15 years ago. All of the PLU (Price-Look-Up) codes and pricing (stock levels, re-order etc) was stored on a DEC-VAX, basic reporting data was stored on a PC based SQL and generated using Crystal, Access or whatever. A single PC application spoke to the VAX every night, then contacted every register, downloaded sales data and uploaded new/changed PLU data, then massaged the data from the registers and sent it back to the VAX and also dumped what stuff into the SQL database.

    With ASCII PLU/pricing/sales data coming from the registers it was a snack and allowed the company to move from a mini-computer architecture to a PC/LAN/SQL environment seamlessly. I'd be surprised if the current offerings from register manufacturers was much different today than it was back then as there really is no reason for it to be any different.
  • Open database (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tumbarumba ( 74816 )

    I had the same problem a few months ago. I really wanted an open POS system for the children's shoe shop [] my wife opened last year. We wanted a better system of managing inventory than the manual spreadsheet we were using.

    I wasn't really that happy with any of the open source solutions I looked at (mainly LanePos and BananaPOS), mainly because I don't really have time to maintain these systems myself, and I wasn't convinced the support operations would work for us. We eventually did find a commercial provi

  • by greebowarrior ( 961561 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @07:05AM (#23061306) Homepage
    he could get a cheap mac off ebay, or a mac mini, and use Checkout []
  • Try this one (Score:3, Informative)

    by mopwr ( 512795 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @07:33AM (#23061418) Homepage
    Give this one a try. []

    Its simple and has export options.

    I've used it since it was tinaPOS and it has worked good for me.
  • Worst title ever (Score:2, Insightful)

    by noidentity ( 188756 )
    This is an awful article title. "Can You Access Your Own Cash Register Data?" First I read that as some silly desire to be able to access your own data in all the stores you visit, out of some sense of entitlement. Then I read the summary, and see that's not the case. In that context, it could be read as asking store owners if they can access their cash register data, a yes/no question. But no, that's not what's about either; it's someone seeking a recommendation for a freaking cash register, as if this is
    • by Mex ( 191941 )
      And you also had to take the time to post all that and complain about it... Not your day, is it?
  • by Ollabelle ( 980205 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @07:38AM (#23061436)
    This is not a case of hardware hacking, folks.

    These electronic cash registers are designed to have their collected data extracted from them in some fashion, so the logical place to start is the cash register vendors themselves to find out how it can be retrieved and the software systems that can use it. Something integrated with the accounting system/bank reconciliation would be nice. If it's a hard process, then that's likely the machine to avoid.

    The second question, in fact should probably be the first, is to decide exactly what kind of data is to be collected: bar-code data, department codes, and the number of different sales taxes applicable to the site. These kind of questions will dictate the complexity of the machine to be purchased. All cash registers will do the normal daily control functions, running and daily totals. What you're looking for a machine that will deliver higher-level data to support the management of the business, so you need to start with those management objectives, then see how the extraction process fits into the accounting system, and only then decide on a machine to support those systems.

  • It's Here []
  • by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Monday April 14, 2008 @08:18AM (#23061654) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer - I do not work for this company, but I have used this software package(s) extensively.

    Softline Pastel.

    It is an accounting software, so he will be able to do accounting of everything that has gone through the books, includes a payroll package, tax package and among even more other things: support for P.O.S (Point Of Sale)

    What Pastel allows you to do wit P.O.S is:

    Every Transaction gets recorded real time.
    Operates P.O.S drawer.
    Your Accountant can access what sales are in your P.O.S remotely (via lan, or with an add on via web - IIRC on that last one)
    Supports "cash up" end of day to a removable drive.

    It runs on Windows unfortunately - if you are inclined to run other OS's. Has a server module and can run the server/client on the same machine - ideal for small business.

    Apologies for the spammy post everybody - like I said I am not employed by them, but it is a good piece of software with support for international currencies/tax etc.
  • Yes I can, thanks for asking!

    What, you want more than that? Nevermind then, I use an abacus and carve my sales figures into stone tablets at the end of the day.

  • There are a squillion register-like accessories on the market, from USB-controlled cash drawers and receipt printers to price scanners that operate like keyboard devices and even little scrolling LED signs to show off the purchase. It is the work of less than a man-month to put together a simple register application that dumps its output to a file.

  • I used to work for a company some 10 years ago that made POSes (POS: Point Of Sale), or rather the software for them. The basic system is simply a PC with some specialized externals: electric cash drawer, bar code scanner etc, and the SW takes care of all the usual things, like reading input from the scanner, looking up items in the database, calculating discounts, handling electronic payments, communicating with the backend system etc.

    Try to search for 'linux point of sale' - I immediately found http://www []
  • For about $250 you can get this: []

    Serial connection to connect the register to your PC or bar code scanner. Software includes a filter that downloads your end of day report totals directly to your QuickBooks Pro or Peachtree accounting programs.

  • Electronic Cash Registers are very inexpensive ranging from about 149.00 USD and up. Most have data ports and include software for fetching the journal.

    Have a look here [] and you will find an inexpensive solution.

  • If you're just planning on putting the info into a spreadsheet, try GnuCash, it has features that help you verify that all of your numbers match with reality, and some banks let you export your transaction data into formats that it can import, which gives you easy access to all of that data as well.
  • It should be possible to modify a flat bed scanner (perhaps by modifying one with a sheet feeder option) to be able to continuously scan the register's receipt tape for that day. The data would not be immediately available in such system, but it would also be rather more secure.
  • I used to work for an electronic POS company called Datasym []. All of their cash registers can be polled via serial connection, and via a proprietary solution developed by them called PCIRC. Their newest editions (XR-650 and higher) also have ethernet support, and can have a USB stick added for data storage.

    The polled data can be used in reporting packages sold by them, *OR* you can do your own software, as their file formats are text readable, and fully documented.

    If your american, and you go to a Biglots st
  • if you want control over something, it's just easier to build it. You're talking about something incredibly simple. The cheapest machine you can find, running some old version of XP will do. A serial/usb cash drawer. A ps2/usb keypad. A cheap LCD. You can probably do it for $500, plus a thermal printer of your choice. And then it just IS a computer, and you can do anything you want with it. Any POS software is fine, or write your own little web-app in a few hours, assuming you're doing the basic cas
  • Most modern (even the low end) registers allow for saving the transactions to a memory card, or can be polled (or can act as a 'stupid termina' when wired up -- but that requires a lot more software). The low end units typically store the output as ascii; very akin to the format you find on the paper tape; i.e. as would be written to the printer (at the end of the day, or as a carbon copy). Some, e.g. Sharp, have a more readily parsed format, basically CSV, which is easier to handle - or can even do html!
  • not Piece of Stuff, but Point of Sale

    These systems are pretty easy to design your self, there are tons of roll your own POS software templates, and several companies that make them. A common tool is VB, as you can make a really quick front end and database, customize it to your particular needs, export the data in the way you want, create a system to log individual transactions, daily sales, discounts given, etc... If you can do the math, and are willing to work w/ a local community college, you can build

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