Articles by "barcode"
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The days of the big mechanical cash register are long gone; even platen scanners are no longer considered a necessity for retail services, with big box retail chains like OfficeMax stores eschewing the glass and laser counter for a simple hand scanner. Many retailers already use Ubuntu or Linux operation systems for their point of sale (POS) systems due to the locked down security they offer, but for the most part this has been limited to large chain retailers with money to spend on a dozen POS stations at a time.
However, with the release of Ubuntu Touch 14.04, the winds of change may just be blowing in. As stated by developers—and reiterated in Ars Technica's review—the 14.04 is a "mostly stable" build of the Linux based mobile OS. It's not perfect, but the fact that it offers unrivaled security with the mobility and touch functionality of a tablet means this could be a contender for POS systems in small businesses everywhere.

Easy Checkout

According to the specs offered on the official site, Ubuntu Touch works on displays as small as 6.5 inches and as large as 20 inches, meaning that while buying a brand new tablet for just this purpose sounds like a great idea, most small business owners can probably get away with putting it on that Nexus 7 half the entrepreneurs of the world picked up last year to help manage their business better.

There are a plethora of apps, both free and paid, that can turn an Ubuntu tablet into a POS station, but with a five star rating on SourceForge and an update within the last 90 days, POSper is definitely the winner. This is a simple, easy to use touch-based POS app designed for use on a Linux OS—the touch-based functionality makes it seem that this one was designed specifically for Ubuntu Touch, but that's not even the best feature. POSper was designed specifically for small businesses, supporting an impressive range of hardware and databases to allow everyone who uses it to get the most out of every feature.

In spite of being free, POSper offers a number of features commonly only found in paid POS applications:
  • Ability to use multiple currencies (with programmable exchange rates)
  • Custom payment methods including "free" and "invoice"
  • Warning message when no payment type is selected (often even big retail POS systems simply do nothing in the case of this error, so this is an excellent feature for new users)
  • System warnings in plain English for new users
  • Printer templates with scale and margin features
With these simple must-have features available on a secure, stable and free system, what is it that's keeping Ubuntu Touch from becoming the clear choice for small businesses everywhere? As usual, it's a problem with plastic. At the moment the biggest hurdle to jump toward making a complete POS system for small businesses that works with a Linux operating system is actually the credit card reader. While there are plenty of readers that are compatible with Ubuntu and Linux, considering it's fairly popular with big retailers, they're a little pricey when it comes to individual sales.

However, retailers can rest assured that, as more small businesses get familiar with what a Linux OS can offer them in terms of security and ease of use, there's little doubt that Square and PayPal Here will offer compatibility before long.

A Full Retail Solution?

When it comes to small business retail, there are a lot of moving parts. While the POS terminal itself is extremely important to the daily operation of mom and pop shops everywhere, that's not the end of it. On top of needing a POS system and all related hardware, small businesses also need to make sure the checkout process is easy and inventory can easily be tracked.

Thankfully, those requirements have a single solution, and it's one that Linux can provide with ease: UPCs and other barcodes. Chances are you've already heard about the ZINT Barcode Generator, which offers easy creation of over 150 different barcode symbologies from UPCs to QR codes; this is one program that every small business that works with a barcode scanner could use, and it's designed especially for Linux.

ZINT Barcode Generator can also create USPS codes, making business easier for online retailers as well by offering simple shipping solutions. No more wasting hours in the post office every time a big order comes in! All you need is a Linux compatible barcode printer, like the ones offered by small business support company Shopify, and you're ready to get started.

Trust In the Future

Whether Ubuntu Touch ever catches on in small business POS systems remains to be seen. Considering the unrivaled security and ease of use, as the operating system becomes more streamlined in updates past the 14.04 you can expect to see it used more often in retail business everywhere. It may just change how small retailers do business, both from a cost perspective and when it comes to the go-to equipment.
There are a lot of different barcode printers out there and just about as many different kinds of barcode software, if not more. Macs, PCs, and Linux systems all have unique kinds of software used for barcode printing. Some of these programs can give a regular printer the capability to print barcodes while other programs work to integrate specific barcode printers with the OS being used. The following list contains some of the more commonly used programs for barcode printing off a Linux based system.

Depending on the OS you use, some barcode printers might not work. When you purchase your barcode printer (if you get a printer specifically designed for barcodes, like the one offered by Shopify), you'll have to check to make sure it's compatible with your systems OS and any other hardware and software you use. If you don't perform this check, you just may find yourself with a barcode printer that doesn't work with your system.


TBarCode/X is one of the programs that transforms a regular printer into a barcode printer. It doesn't lose the normal capabilities to print, however, so there's no need to worry about making your printer a one-trick pony. According to Tec-It, the TBarCode/X software can be used to create barcodes in these five areas:
  • Barcode extension for print and spool servers
  • Barcode printer server for SAP, R/3, ORACLE, and any other ERP applications you might use.
  • Barcode engine for document management requirements and logistics software.
  • Barcode printing software for VDA 4902, ODETTE, and AIAG B-10 forms.
  • Barcode generator for web and cellular phone applications.
It's a versatile piece of software that works on Linux, UNIX, and OS X systems. Additionally, TBarCode/X has a very extensive program library called LibTBarCode that can greatly help in barcode generation in Bitmap, PostScript/EPS, and PCL formats. The best part is that this library can be directly integrated into your system so you can use the TBarCode command line to provide commands.

GNU Barcode

GNU Barcode is a piece of software that can be used to directly convert a text string into a barcode. The type of barcode you wish to use is up to you as GNU can support a wide variety of standard code types. According to GNU, the main features of GNU Barcode are:
  • Available as a library and an executable program depending on your specific needs.
  • It supports UPC, EAN, ISBN, CODE 39 and multiple other common encoding standards.
  • It has the capability to output both Postscript and Encapsulated Postscripts.
  • Has multiple measurement unit inputs including inches, centimeters, and millimeters.
  • Has the ability to create a table of barcodes for easy printing onto sticker sheets and other bulk pages.
An interesting aspect of the GNU Barcode system is that GNU is actually much more than just a program for creating and printing barcodes. GNU's about articles discuss how the GNU operating system is actually, in many cases mistaken as just Linux. That's not to say that all Linux OSes are based on the GNU OS, but a number of them use more of GNU than many people realize. The specifics of the relationship are complicated and it deals with how Linux as a whole is developed and run. Since Linux is an open source piece of software, anyone can access the source code to work on development and creating modifications and changes. Because of the nature of Linux, many people that use Linux don't realize that, while the kernel (defined by webopedia as the small center of an OS that starts first and constantly remains in the main memory) itself is unarguably Linux, the rest of the OS might be something else, like GNU.

Zint Barcode Generator

Zint Barcode Generator is a piece of barcode software that was actually in hibernation for quite some time as the developers left to work on other projects. But, according to Source Forge, the program has been resurrected and is in use again. Zint.github states that the Zint Barcode Generator is an encoding library for barcodes that supports over 50 different symbologies. Some of the supported types include Data Matrix, USPS OneCode, UPC/EAN, ITF, QR Codes, Maxicode, Aztec, LOGMARs, and plenty others. The Zint user manual states that Zint is a project designed to provide a cross-platform barcode generation solution that is completely open source. It is a program you could use without much knowledge of coding or Linux, but you probably want to tread carefully if you decide to use it.

If you're using some iteration of Linux as your OS, you probably have at least some knowledge of programming and coding. That knowledge can be incredibly useful when using these programs as some of them have very intricate systems and abilities that the average user might not be able to understand. Regardless of your experience and knowledge, it's absolutely imperative that when you plan on using some software for barcode creation that you make sure your hardware is compatible. Paying for licensing fees and then realizing your stuff doesn’t work together is a good way to waste money and breed frustration.
Open source software is arguably the most flexible form of programming available. Open source means that the software is used for free by anyone and the source code – the actual lines of code that make up the software – is accessible by anyone for free. This means that it can be modified by anyone who knows how to code, according to Open Source Initiative. Systems like the Linux operating system or the WordPress web development platform are open source, so thousands of developers and programmers have worked with the code to develop and create plugins, add-ons, and other additional features not originally part of the software. In some cases, you’ll have to pay a licensing fee or a first time use payment in order to use open source software, but in many other cases, it’s completely free, allowing you and your business to save money by using it.

Open source software can be used in a number of different applications, but it isn’t capable of dealing with all situations. If you run a business with an online store aspect, you’ll have a wide choice of what sort of eCommerce software you would like to use to run the store. You can pay a licensing fee and use an eCommerce software system like that offered by Shopify or you can search for free plugins (granted that you’re using WordPress or another open source platform that has eCommerce plugins).

Additions and Add-ons Galore

The best feature of open source software is all the additional plugins you can add on for free. The older the base software is, the more choices you will have to pick from. Because of the nature of open source, programmers and developers from around the world will have the opportunity to examine the source code of the software and fiddle with it however they please. Thanks to this aspect of the software, thousands upon thousands of people have had the chance to modify the code according to their own, different ideas. This has led to advances and modifications that the original developers might never have even contemplated. The myriad angles and viewpoints that other programmers view the code with has allowed growth and development in open source projects unlike anything that can be accomplished through a single entity, be it corporation or group of developers.

Using open source technology doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use Linux for your OS or WordPress for your operating system. According to CNet, an open source alternative to Microsoft Office Suite has now claimed to have over 80 million users worldwide. LibreOffice is a suite of applications akin to Microsoft Office with a word processor, PowerPoint-style application, spreadsheet program, and more. But instead of buying the latest version of MS Office for hundreds of dollars, you can get LibreOffice for free. Thanks to open source platforms and programs, it’s possible for you to save yourself and your business money through using alternatives like LibreOffice instead of paying lots of money for the more well-known branded software suites.

Multiple Systems for Multiple Jobs

Chances are that you won’t be able to find an open source alternative for all the systems you use in your business; you will certainly be able to find some, more depending on what base systems you run, but for others you will have to stick to either proprietary software of licensed software. Which software and programs works best where is something you will need to look into and do some research on. There are a lot of open source applications available and even more add-ons to them, so it will require some work on your part to sift through the programs you don’t want or need to find the useful ones. As long as you’re willing to spend the time doing the research, you will definitely be able to save your business some money, as in the case of using LibreOffice instead of MS Office.

An incredibly important tool you should definitely have is a barcode printer and scanner. If you run a purely online eCommerce site then the necessity of a barcode printer isn’t nearly as drastic as it is if you run a physical store. There are barcode and label printing applications available for open source system like Linux. According to LWN, barcode applications like KBarcode are available for free and offer features like optional database support, built-in label definitions, rich text and graphical editors, and more. But a system like that requires you to be running Linux or KDE3 as your business OS and that isn’t always the case. Conversely, you can purchase a mobile barcode printer like the ones offered by Shopify that sync together with a smartphone app. The choice is not cut-and-dried; you can't just list whether one system is better than another system. All the systems available have their strengths and weaknesses and so it’s up to you to figure out which is the best and most efficient for your business.