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Open Source Point-of-Sale - What's Out There? 61

Posted by Cliff
from the open-source-tools-for-commercial-endeavors. dept.
aztektum asks: "I have taken on the task of designing a building a networked Point-of-Sale system for a friends new restaurant/club. We have looked at out of the box solutions, but their upfront costs are a bit staggering, so I suggested a DIY approach. We are going to buy hardware outright, probably using Elo touch-screens and basic white boxes. It's the software that we're coming up short on. We are looking for a system that has good back-end management (running reports for end of day, from a central location and other such features), has a flexible/customizable UI, and as a bonus doesn't suffer from too much proprietary lock-in. Since Elo's screens have Linux support, I wanted to see if anyone on Slashdot has worked on similar projects and has experience with open source POS solutions. I have Google'd a bit and found some options, but I cannot spend a lot time testing out multiple setups because of a firm deadline. Quite bluntly, what's the best but least expensive option that you know of?" This is not the first time this particular issue has appeared on Ask Slashdot. The last discussion on this particular issue was way back in 2003. What has changed since then?
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Open Source Point-of-Sale - What's Out There?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:47PM (#15644216) Journal
    Since Elo's screens have Linux support, I wanted to see if anyone on Slashdot has worked on similar projects and has experience with open source POS solutions.
    First, I would like to say that the acronym "POS" means point of sale in the business world but in the computer science world, it tends to mean "piece of shit" (at least in my experience).

    I know of solutions out there. They're all web solutions. You might not be looking to implement web solutions, however, isn't it possible to set it up on a local network? Maybe this is your strategy but I'm a bit confused as to what you're willing or desiring to do.

    I'm also confused if it has to be "open source" or merely "free." On one hand the title says OSS but you seem to be only concerned with price. Just make a note that "free" and "OSS" are two different kinds of software. If you googled, you probably found a smattering of both. The two I suggest you investigate are purely OSS as I prefer that over free. Your last question ("Quite bluntly, what's the best but least expensive option that you know of?") seems to imply that you're willing to spend money if we can verify it's worth it. What conditions are you working under specifically?

    Look into MozPos [sourceforge.net] & freepos [sourceforge.net]. They are web based and maybe you could install a very simple sleek version of Linux with merely Mozilla. The homepage would vary between computer and you could have a pop up keyboard or swipe strips for authentication. You would probably need a swiper that supports Linux but that's another issue.

    If you're truly looking to get out of the box open source solutions, look into using websites instead of networked applications.

    If you're willing to get your hands dirty, I encourage you to look at the engines some of these OSS things are based on and maybe make a GUI network application that is built on top of a layer of abstraction allowing you to use an already designed backend (database & reporting features). This is a lot of work but would be a great addition to the community if you subsequently made it available since Elo screens seem to be the leader in touch screens.

    With a web based OSS application, you can download the source code and change the PHP/JSP/ASP/whatever interface code so that the HTML suites your liking considering the specifications of your Elo screens. That's why I suggest a web application and that's why I think that you'll be most satisfied if you pick one in a language you know and invest two or three solid weekends in tailoring the interface to precisely what you want.

    Most importantly, change the system based on feedback from the workers.

    Just a thought, I encourage you to post your choices and results here on Slashdot when you do make a selection and attempt to do it yourself.
    • Totally agree, with what you say.
      BTW is possible to search in Source Forge [sf.net], where you can filter your search as web, or whateveryouwant. But in the parent post you can see the best choices.

      Most importantly, change the system based on feedback from the workers.

      This is the most important thing you say, because the developers tend to think like "ohh what an amazing app we develop" and then the user doesnt have the little button that does "ping" (As the "machine that does ping") where he wants, and... as a

      • I know of a store who uses quickbooks POS. They had me fix the sound card because the machine didn't make the ding noise or chaching noise when a sale was completed.

        So yes, It is very likley that some users will go nutz if it doesn't act as they think it should. To me, sound on a cash register is anoying but the little clerk running the thing finds it neccesary. I though it might have been to monitor the till opening but they used a key for that so i guess it was just asthetics.
  • by tftp (111690) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:01PM (#15644243) Homepage
    Quite bluntly, what's the best but least expensive option that you know of?

    It depends on how much you value your time, inventing something from scratch, building it out of disjointed components, or supporting it when things start failing.

    Most importantly, think what happens to your friend's enterprise when you disappear from the scene. Will there be manuals and instructions to rebuild and restore everything? Who will do that, and how fast? Will the replacement hardware be available, and how soon? Things like that tend to stop many a DIY project, once you realize what the hidden costs and risks are.

    Given that restaurants and clubs already have some serious price tags, I do not think you should dismiss COTS solutions just because of their absolute price. It may be less than 1% of your friend's other costs. There is such thing as "cost of doing business" and a POS is part of it. I'd tell the owner to pay the man and live happily ever after - unless you want to carry the burden of tech support whenever a PC goes down. Most normal owners just call the manufacturer (IBM etc.) and have the till swapped out within a few hours.

    • My brother runs a pretty nice bar / restaurant and marina and I'm a professional computer nerd, so a couple of years ago we looked at the major Point Of Sale systems. Sure, some were expensive but probably excellent. Some seemed cheesy and cheap. With some you knew the support would be third-rate...I'd be happy to help with the installation but I didn't want to be waken up at 1:00 AM 'cause they had trouble with the beer inventory and would rather have the vendor support the software. Finally we decided t
    • Most restaurant owners aren't IT savvy. Especially if it involves exotic hardware, a non-windows OS, and sparsely documented software. Heck, most restaurant managers have problems using the windows machine in the back. From what I've seen (which admittedly isn't much) most restaurants hire a technician to maintain their POS setup. I hope the owner is paying the article poster. Frankly, he's going to need support no matter what.
    • Most importantly, think what happens to your friend's enterprise when you disappear from the scene...I do not think you should dismiss COTS solutions just because of their absolute price

      What happens to his friend's enterprise when the proprietary COTS vendor disappears from the scene?

      Part of the "absolute price" of a proprietary COTS solution is lock-in. With a decent F/OSS solution, the client is always free to hire a developer for maintenance and improvements.

  • by csoto (220540) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:03PM (#15644251)
    This one [amazon.com] should work for most needs. It's multi-platform, and works with any currency.
  • But I know of osCommerce [oscommerce.com], which is a pretty popular storefront solution... and then if you do a custom solution, I have a PHP/MySQL database manager [dyndns.org] that can be used for the site's backend. Not sure how useful it would be for your site – I originally wrote it for MadTux [madtux.org], a Linux download site, and their needs are admittedly more than a little more specific than most sites would need – but may as well offer it if you have any use.
  • Cause for concern.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:10PM (#15644264)
    Being a "former" employee of a credit card machine/POS company.. you might not have much luck creating this piece of software.

    Mainly in part to a majority of POS software having a protocol that you pretty much have to pay for to use as code in your software. It's a standard created by MCard/Visa.. a basic way to how the transaction as carried out as a user going to a website on the net.

    When you register a POS software, it needs to have hard-coded a TID/MID.. which is how the processor uses to identify a) the merchant of the account, and b) the actual device being used to do your transactions.

    There might be another way around this. I am not too sure. Your best bet would be to contact a major processor/platform (Omaha, Nashville, Nova, etc..) This website ( http://www.authorize.net/solutions/resellersolutio ns/resellerprogram/processorlist/ [authorize.net] ) should help for more info on that..
    Otherwise than that (bullshit licensing, standards) you should be fine..

    Good luck
    • There are solutions similar to web services that can get around this.
    • MOD PARENT UP!

      Having worked for two years for an EPOS provider (HW & SW) I have to say that this is your single biggest challenge. Certainly in the UK the EFT provider will require to come in and test your solution. Even if you buy there code they still require to test the interface from your application.

      Another way to do it is to get your friend to run the stand alone EFT solutions from their bank of choice and just not have the connection between the till and the actual card processing, although this
    • Most stores with older tills have a seperate Interac Machine. The banks don't care if the till is a computer or a cash register if you use that kind.
  • BananaPOS? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jhnphm (892864) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:27PM (#15644299)
  • Have a banana (Score:3, Informative)

    by charlie763 (529636) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:52PM (#15644352) Homepage
    The banana POS (http://www.bananapos.com/pos/home.html [bananapos.com]) software has been around for a while, but does not seem to be developing at a rapid pace. Maybe it's already mature. Check it out.
  • http://sourceforge.net/projects/tinapos [sourceforge.net] looks interesting!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:12PM (#15644388)
    I work in Point of Sale for restaurants and I am an open source / Linux advocate. Unfortunately, restaurant POS is a complicated thing and there are no open source solutions meet my needs. There is just too much money to lose when computers dont work at a restaurant. A restaurant POS doesn't just count the cash transactions. It also handles employee timecards (payroll info), processes credit cards and gift cards, displays output to a customer (pole display or drive thru verification), sends orders to kitchen (on a screen or through a printer), stores recipes for mixed drinks, keeps track of tables and guests, allows waiters to transfer checks, does all calculations for closing out each waiter and bartender, and a lot of other stuff.

    I doubt your friends want to deal with the problems that you will encounter when you experiment with software that is not stable and is not fit to run their restuarant.

    There is a Linux based restaurant POS, but it isn't free. I think it is called ViewTouch.

    The POS that we use at work is called VersiTouch (versitouch.com). It is pretty solid. Compared to the numerous retail POS software packages I have had to support, VersiTouch is great. I prefer the DOS version, which they try not to support anymore (the DOS version is called RCS). The Windows version has hardly any additional features and it requires the constant headache of maintaining numerous windows machines. I use the mars-nwe Netware emulator on a Linux box to share files with DOS clients.

    I think the biggest restuarant POS software is Aloha. Positouch is also kinda popular. Both of these are windows-based.

    I have tried to configure an Elo touch on Linux, but I could never get the pointer calibrated. The documentation is sparse. I haven't tried again since about a year ago, so maybe it has gotten easier.
    • I have tried to configure an Elo touch on Linux, but I could never get the pointer calibrated. The documentation is sparse. I haven't tried again since about a year ago, so maybe it has gotten easier.

      I added the ability to calibrate Elo touchscreens to firecast(commercial linux distro for kiosks) years ago. I used a java app called EloVa. Oh, funky, my google search for it brought up my own post to our LUG 3 years ago. I forgot about the way they changed names of settings like MinX. That might help you

    • Never worked with it, but interested in hear of any expericnes.

      http://freshmeat.net/projects/handyrestaurant/ [freshmeat.net]
  • What a business! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel@hotmail . c om> on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:32PM (#15644430) Homepage Journal
    Recommend a commercial solution. These are integrated into timecard, ordering, inventory, &etc.

    The cost makes you choke... yes, but does it make your friend choke? When I ran/owned a small cafe, I didn't choke at spending $6000 for a display case/cooler, $3000 for an expresso machine, &etc. Its the business... (ps, back in 1984 -- I don't know what prices are now).

    If you want an "open source" solution, try to get someone to customize -- and get someone good. This is where you can most help your friend; weed out the bullshit so that your friend gets quality product.

    And that's good advice for a "closed source" solution as well.

    YMMV
    Ratboy
  • Some Ideas:

    Use Network Booting if all of your POS Terminals have the same or similar hardware. This will keep costs down.

    Someone already mentioned TinyPOS. TinyPOS is a nice POS for Windows systems (and since you're trying to use Linux, maybe that's not the best idea.) I ended up using SQL-Ledger on the Back-End and writing my own application for the client-side which supported cash drawers, magnetic card readers, and a receipt printer.

    The only issue that you may have is running the credit card transacti
  • It isn't open source but it is the best - http://www.wordstock.com/ [wordstock.com]

    Cheers,

    MatrixManiac
  • I've heard very good things about Novell Linux Point of Service [novell.com], based on SUSE LINUX. Now, mind you, it's not free, but it's not as expensive as many proprietary OS-based solutions. It's also pretty damn high quality - as evidenced by IBM private labeling it and selling it as their Linux-based POS solution. Additionally, it does have options for support that a free (no cost) product does not.

    So, if it's just a Linux-based flexible solution you're looking for, this might fit the bill. Otherwise, if it
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Novell NLPOS doesn't provide the software but the basic infrastructure for the POS image building. Same with IRES (IBM's solution), which is built on top of NLPOS. Both NLPOS and IRES are designed for large-scale POS deployments where managing the tills is the biggest headache. IRES also provides drivers for the IBM kit with auto detection, NLPOS is somewhat lacking in that area but can be used on non-IBM hardware. I have built systems with NLPOS and IRES, both are solid architecture which are easy to admin
  • by petard (117521) * on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:14AM (#15644783) Homepage
    (which *was* around 2003 or so) jPOS [jpos.org] looked to be the best avaiable OSS solution. We were looking at a big custom development job anyway, though, and that appeared to be the best (open or closed) platform for custom development. If you're looking for something a bit more "out of the box", we never found anything open that went that direction. This looks promising, though [linuxcanada.com].
  • OFBiz (Score:3, Informative)

    by DavidNWelton (142216) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @04:01AM (#15645002) Homepage
    OFBiz, at http://www.ofbiz.org/ [ofbiz.org] has a POS component, although the whole application might be a bit heavyweight/require some customization/slimming down for your needs. It's worth a look, though.
  • You can find a list of POS oss here: http://www.opensource-it.com/Point_of_Sale_Softwar e_open_source_44.html [opensource-it.com] To me bhPOS is the most features rich/mature, but give a try to all solutions. Marc.
  • by yamla (136560)
    Disclaimer: I work for Linux Canada Inc.

    You may want to look at the Quasar accounting and point-of-sale suite at http://www.linuxcanada.com/ [linuxcanada.com] The accounting suite itself is available under the GPL. The point-of-sale part is under a commercial license but includes the source code. Version 1.4.7 is currently available but 1.5 should be released shortly and contains many significant changes.
  • Suse Linux POS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:01AM (#15655920)
    My family owns a large chain of retail stores in the Northeast, about 75 stores. We just started a pilot using Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop's Point of Sale implementation and so far I can say we are loving it. We had a Novell partner come in and do the implementation (still with all beta software, mind you) and are piloting the product in three stores...one small, two large. The implementation was simple and the integration with our current system went without a hitch. Hopefully by the end of the year with the final product out we'll have the entire set of stores moved over. This was not what I expected out of the Novell I studied in college (15 years ago) and I am pleasantly surprised.

    Good luck.
  • The serial Elo touchscreen controller I had the opportunity to use worked fine (although calibration require the use of a DOS software ... pfewww !).

    However, the USB version have driver issue. Elo provide binary drivers for the USB controllers for a few outdated distro (RedHat 9, anybody ?). They do provide source for the USB driver, but it does not have any copyright info (thus, I have no idea if I can distribute it to my client), it contain object code, it is poorly documented (.doc ? WTF ?) and I could
  • Played with it some years back. It was useable back then. BTW, you may wish to look at sourceforge.
  • Here is a big list of all software certified with TSYS Acquiring (formerly Vital, and before that were referred to as visanet) Big List of Software sorted by Company Name [vitalvip.com] Warning its a huge document 600+ pages and around 1300 different software's I believe it lists what OS each software is for but not wether its Open source or Free. However, the contact information for each individual software provider should be in there. Thanx Rayston

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