25-May-2021 (Tue) Wherein we have a new POS

Here's the worst part about switching to a new point-of-sale system: buying a whole stack of new iPads. And this is less than half of them.

Because of course the perfectly functional iPads we already have are now unsuitable. These things would have been considered supercomputers in the 90s, but I'm to believe that they are so old and obsolete that they are incapable of keeping up with someone clicking the button that says "cheese slice". A task like that obviously requires the absolute bleeding edge. Apple has stopped shipping OS updates for our existing iPads, and vendors don't support old versions of iOS, largely because Apple intentionally makes it nearly impossible for them to do so even if they wanted to.

The second worst part is that nobody offers data portability of any kind. If we want to look at trends (or do our taxes) we have to spend the next year looking at that data using two different, incompatible systems. So that's fun.

Anyway, we're switching from Revel to SmartTab for the restaurant and bar. Wish us luck.

It's a new point of sale that is focused on bars and nightclubs, so we have to do a lot less work to get good reports, and there are some cool features related to how bar tabs work that we're looking forward to trying out. By constrast, Revel was designed for low-volume retail, with restaurants and bars added later as a afterthought, and it still shows. Also SmartTab is cheaper than Revel, and they're based in San Francisco, which helps with support. If you want to try it out for your bar, email alexis@smarttab.com (DNA Lounge's former booker!)

Revel, meanwhile, lost our business for several reasons.

First, they refused to pause our licensing fees during the pandemic while the club was closed. They offered a short reduction but only on the condition that we first sign a new multi-year contract!

Second, their EMV readers are terrible. The banks have finally required everyone to switch from swipe-based card readers to EMV (chip-and-PIN or touchless). The way we had it set up before was that the card reader bolted onto the side of a rugged iPad case which the bartender could carry with them as they moved around behind the bar, and hand to the customer. But the only EMV readers that Revel is compatible with are gigantic, bulky things that basically require the iPad to be bolted down in a fixed location, which might be fine for retail checkout, but doesn't work for us at most of our bars.

Third, in order to use EMV readers at all, Revel is now insisting that you use their in-house payment processor. Of course as a special sign-up offer they say they'll match whatever rate you have with your old payment provider, which is a way of saying "we will reduce this one line item on your invoice and hide our profit in a different line item instead". Interposing themselves on the payment transaction is the same scam that the delivery services use. (Revel business model: "Uber for cash registers".) Rather than charging for the service that they actually provide (be that delivering a box or developing software) they instead want a cut of however much money you make while running your business.

Imagine if it went like this:

    "Hey, how much will you charge me to install a dance floor?"

    "That depends, how many people do you think will walk on it? How about instead of me charging you for my time and materials, you give me a taste of what all of the people who ever step on that floor pay you, in perpetuity?"

    "Sounds great!"

I hope we figure out something useful to do with all of those old iPads, but speaking of ancient hardware, as I often do, check this out. Here's a camcorder that we forgot about that I just pulled out of the ceiling today. It was a part of our old SD / NTSC webcast system that was in place when we first opened.

This camcorder has been quietly and without complaint sitting there displaying video since 2005. It has been powered on that whole time and, despite a layer of dust nearly half an inch thick, it is still working fine!

Now that right there is the opposite of how Apple does things.

25 Responses:

  1. NuclearMonster says:

    Depending on what generation of iPad you had you may be able to repurpose the screen and shell components as external HDMI displays. Could even hook them up to Raspberry Pi’s around the building for fun displays or upcoming show stuff.

    • jwz says:

      I have replaced the screens on iPads and iPhones in the past and I will never, ever try to pop one of those things open again. It is insanely difficult and I prefer my blood to stay on the inside of my body.

      It's probably doable to configure them to just display a web page that runs a slideshow of whatever, but I have my doubts about the power supplies in these things lasting very long if the screens are on 24/7.

      • Doctor Memory says:

        FWIW I've been using an un-updatable ipad mini v3 as a permanently-on weather display and client for the stupid high-tech doorbell system my apartment building installed (thankfully the doorbell software still runs find on ios 12) for about 3 years now and it's survived fine. Admittedly my apartment is probably a less challenging operating environment than a nightclub, but it's at least not a priori insane.

  2. Ryan Finnie says:

    All hail the Eyoyo LCD, with the "I'll just have one of everything" of display inputs, and the input selection process which 1992 would be proud of.

  3. Alex B says:

    I'm 99% sure that if you turn off that camcorder now you will awaken Something.

  4. Chad says:

    Is that camcorder sitting next to a stack of original PlayStations?

  5. phuzz says:

    Whoever named 'Point Of Sale' knew exactly what they were doing with that acronym.
    PoS indeed.

  6. tfb says:

    I do wonder at what point the exponentially-decreasing performance of software will stop. My theory is that, other things being equal, performance goes inversely with the size of the program (that kind of makes sense if you assume some approximately-fixed proportion of the program is executed), and program size goes roughly like number of programmers (you can only type so fast), and the number of programmers has, I guess, been increasing exponentially. At some point that has to stop, I think.

    On the other hand, some time ago (2018) when I was bored I thought it would be entertaining to look at how fast the Linux kernel was growing. Just trying to work that out is an exercise in stressing the disk of your machine until you realise you can make git just print the thing rather chan checking it all out. But the answer was that the growth (2005-2018) is only approximately linear, not exponential, and it was growing at about 4,000 lines/day of which more than half was drivers. My theory then was that this is because Linus is a bottleneck and is stopping it becoming completely cancerous.

    On the other other hand, the 7th edition kernel was around 21,000 lines, so Linux is growing at more than a 7th-edition kernel every week.

    • Dude says:

      The first paragraph reminds me when G4 was a thing (yeah, I know they're coming back this summer; my expectations are low) and they did an episode of Icons that focussed on... I wanna say Intellivision or Atari? Anyway, one of the old company members was talking about the near-futility of trying to market a new generation of an existing console on the market in the late-'70s/early-'80s. He said control groups would ask why they needed a new game console after a few years when the rest of their home electronics (tv, microwave, etc.) were still working fine after a nearly (or over) a decade.

      Whichever company this was, they eventually got out of the console business all together after the industry crash of the '80s (if it was Atari, I know they tried again with the Jaguar in the '90s), but the following decade would see consumers finally embrace regularly purchasing new tech with no backward-compatability.

      Now, the attitude is no longer "make it built to last", but rather "it'll do 'til the next one comes out," which I'm pretty sure is Apple's corporate credo.

      • Aidan Gauland says:

        Oh, you aren't talking about G4 iMacs... :'(

        • Dude says:

          Other than an old iPod Video in the mid-2000s, I've never owned any Apple products. Having just looked them up in the first-time-in-forever, I have no idea what the fuck's goin' on with the new iMacs.

          I mean, I was one of those people who, although never a Mac-owner, could appreciate the way the iMac shook up the standard design of the PC. Hell, I missed seeing other people with the colourful iMacs and iBooks (like in that scene from the first Legally Blonde) and thought Apple were making a mistake by sticking to the "sterile" design that's become their standard.

          But the way they're trying to split the difference with the "colourful" new iMacs... I just don't see the appeal. That, and - as Violet Blue is constantly detailing - Apple is fuckin' terrible.

  7. Dude says:

    The sight of that adorable Sony takes me back to film school - hell, that may be one of the very units I used! They were durable as hell, pretty easily adaptable (manually or automatically) to lighting changes, and made for easy editing - there was a nice sense of "completion" when you shot to the end of the tape, and Digital Hi8 made you feel like your time wasn't wasted in the days before 24p became standard on consumer video.

    Did the camera have any tape in it still, or was it just running ad nauseum, unaware that it was transmitting a live feed to nowhere?

    • jwz says:

      We never put tapes in them, we used them only as cameras. And yes, they were indestructible, good in low light, and also cheap! Excellent devices. TRV 260 or adjacent, I believe.

  8. Boris says:

    Same as it ever was....

  9. Jamie, if we didn't have planned obsolescence, how can ad-tech make your phones and tablets run all that tracking and surveillance code that grows like a cancer with every release?

  10. John says:

    Sounds like a good reason not to buy Apple products to me. Of course, not that any of the other options is "better", but they are at least differently worse.

    • jwz says:

      If I have to choose between the predatory hardware company and the predatory surveillance company, I think you know which one I'll pick.

  11. Eric says:

    Third, in order to use EMV readers at all, Revel is now insisting that you use their in-house payment processor.

    It's possible to screen scrape the total, pass it to OCR, and pipe the total amount directly to a card reader tied to a payment processor with a better rate.

    Not that I have any experience doing this or anything... whistles nonchalantly.

    • Elektro says:

      Quite a few places will groan when you whip out a credit card... pull out the cc machine, punch the total in from the cash register, and then run the card. Your cockamamie scheme is wholly unnecessary.

      Around here those are always the chinese take out.

      • Eric says:

        To be clear this thing that I totally didn't build was someone else's idea. But they had a good point: it's a waste of time to manually re-enter the total and introduces opportunity for human error. The more customers you have the worse these problems will get.

        In an ideal world there would be great open source POSes and none of this would be necessary, but we definitely don't live in that world.

  12. Binky the Tormented says:

    Always-on vintage electronic devices are the best homing signals for the time-displacement controllers of the 2400s. Put that camcorder back and leave it on - visitors from the future may drop in eventually if they haven't already.

  13. I'd be legitimately interested in that camcorder. Any chance it's in loose hands/still around?