28-Aug-2013 (Wed) Wherein we have a new Point-of-Sale.

We just de-commissioned the old POS today, and are now running off the new one in the restaurant. It took a long-assed time to get this far. I'm going to jinx it now by posting about it publicly, ensuring that something will break in a spectacular way very soon. But hopefully before the weekend.

The old one was by Ordyx and was MacOS software that ran its front-end on Mac Minis. The new one is by Revel and runs on iPads instead.

We switched because Ordyx was a pain in the ass in a few ways, the most critical of which was their tech support sucked. It was always a 3+ day turnaround before you could get an answer from someone who knew what they were talking about, and the answer was often... not good. Revel seems better so far. Fingers crossed.

Both of them are just front-ends for software running on their vendors' web sites, because that's how it always is now. Everyone does it this way. "Oooh, cloud, cloooouuuud," it's the new hotness. (You know what we used to call "the cloud"? The INTERNET.) Now, I'm just an unfrozen caveman: your modern ways are strange and frightening to me. But I think it's goofy to leave all your financials on media that not only isn't in your possession, but isn't even your property.

"How does an iPad pop open a cash drawer", you may be asking. The receipt printer has a static IP address that the iPad knows, and the drawer is attached to that. The card reader is similarly a network device.

One downside of using iPads instead of real computers with touchscreens is: no ethernet port. You have to use wifi, so you can't rely on physical network security. So a big part of the hassle of setting the new system up was reconfiguring our wireless APs to have a second, private network. iPads also walk off easier, so they're bolted into big metal picture frames.

Neither POS system can talk to a caller-ID box, though both vendors have been saying "coming soon, maybe" for a while. I'm not holding my breath, but I don't get why everyone seems to slack on this: isn't it convenient when you call to place a delivery order and they already know where you live and what you ordered last time? But, about 2/3rds of our delivery orders come through Eat24 instead of direct phone calls, so I guess that's a problem that will eventually correct itself by just going away, like fax machines.


Remember how construction of the parklet was going to happen this week? And then a bureaucrat wanted to have "just one more meeting"? Well she no-showed for that meeting, and when she finally did show up the next week, she gave us the OK again, but said we can't start until next week because... Bay Bridge.

No, I don't know what that has to do with anything, either.

11 Responses:

  1. bob says:

    wow, your POS system doesn't work. if only someone has developed some kind of system to run a pizza bar before.

    • Jason McHuff says:

      That should be "if only Microsoft wasn't a monopoly and didn't attempt to kill jwz's work (among many others), maybe one would have a better chance of finding good software for one's chosen operating system".

  2. pir says:

    What, you didn't write your own POS system and later start accepting bitcoins too, like one of my local pubs?

  3. J. Peterson says:

    Hmm, what happens to your cash register when the "cloud" goes down? As a 24/hr business, I think you'd be more exposed than most to this.

    I was in a Safeways once that couldn't even accept cash because their registers were down. Turns out the episode was coincident with a major worm (Slapper? Slammer? Sla-something) hitting the net.

    There's also a 24/hr Starbucks just off I-80. If you arrive at just the right moment (around midnight, IIRC) your order is free because "the register is updating".

    • jwz says:

      If that happened, people might have to do math with their heads.

      Credit cards and ATMs already fail if there's a major network outage, and there's little we can do about that.

      • Nick Lamb says:

        It seems like the makers claim this iPad POS actually does work offline in at least some limited capacity.

        Credit cards should work offline, depending on how the card was configured by the owner's bank and whether you're authorised. EMV cards can decide for themselves whether they're prepared to authorise a transaction based on the amount charged and how many transactions they've authorised since they were last able to get confirmation from the mothership. But I guess there isn't a lot of EMV in the US yet.

        • Dusk says:

          Yeah, we don't really have that. The vast majority of credit and debit cards in the US are magstripe-based; the ones that do have "smart" components are almost never used in that capacity, because most merchants don't have the hardware (hello, chicken/egg problem!).

    • I worked in a major department store as a teenager. The POS server was a pair of IBM RT boxes that lived in what looked like it used to be a walk-in storage cupboard and it went down regularly, the most fun time being at 7pm on the last day of extended trading before Christmas.

      Everything fails, you just get to pick the most likely modes of failure. And it's probably easier to fix a dead Internet connection at 1am than a dead power supply.

      • I find it entirely likely that fixing a dead power supply would be significantly easier than trying to get an ISP to troubleshoot a dead link at 1am.

  4. phuzz says:

    We have a POS system that was written in-house in PHP, previously running on windows XP, now all running on Ubuntu, with no code changes which was kinda cool.
    It works pretty well, even offline (but the card machines don't, and no one carries cash anymore). However, when it was written a few years ago, cheap monitors came in 1280x1024, so the GUI is about 1000px tall.
    However, now, most monitors are widscreen and only 1440x900, so the bottom of the gui isn't displayed. :(

    Oh, and it relies on really old versions of PHP and PHP-GTK that have to be compiled from source, so updating to Ubuntu 12.04 has been a massive pain.

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