Linux

Open Source POS (piece of *%$@#)!


Recently, the salon where I worked finally came into the 21st century and purchased a PC. Being the only tech-savvy employee, I was charged with setting up everything - including the client booking system, Web server, e-mail server, and POS (point-of-sale).

I have been investigating the POS issue for a while now and have come up with nothing. Yes, there are Linux solutions such as:

But most of these require either proprietary hardware, are outside of our budget, lack in standard POS features, or simply are a POS (piece of *%@#).

It really was a simple task: find a software that could handle inventory and sales. Nothing difficult. But there was simply nothing there. I was, quite honestly, shocked. I scrambled around and even attempted to twist and bend OpenOffice Calc into doing what I needed it to do. But nothing would work.

And, sadly enough, I am not a developer.

So I called out to the Linux community. "Who would be interested in developing a software system to meet the needs of a salon who wants to use open source software on the Linux platform?" I told said developers that I would be able to serve not only as a test bed but would also be able to write the documentation for the application.

No takers.

Don't get me wrong: I understand there are probably very few Linux developers interested in creating tools for beauty salons. But there IS in fact a demand - or could be a demand if salons found out there was a free, open source solution to a need that generally costs anywhere from 600-3,000 USD to meet those demands. And those dollars generally find a solution that is buggy or hard to use.

I realize open source software, for the most part, is developed out of a need. But I think the model, as a whole, should be re-evaluated. I've attempted to try to entice people on sourceforge.net. I created a project proposal on sourceforge.net only to have it sit and receive no interest.

So what this tells me is that the open source development arena needs something and it needs it bad. What the open source developers need is a place where people like myself can request projects and interact with them even if it's on a non-development level.

The open source community is a strong one. It's made up of very passionate, talented people who simply tend to suffer from a lack of direction. A project think-tank type of portal could possibly be the thing that helps the open source development community get that last push over the edge that it needs.

As the movie says, "If you build it, they will come." And I for one think this is one instance where the saying certainly applies.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

14 comments
DohnJoe
DohnJoe

Wow...you really don't get it, do you? Let's review: 1) "And, sadly enough, I am not a developer." Then you should become one if you wish to solve your "dilemma". No open source project leader is "The Worlds Greatest Coder (TM)" but they know enough to contribute and entice others to participate. 2) "So I called out to the Linux community. ?Who would be interested in developing a software system to meet the needs of a salon who wants to use open source software on the Linux platform?? I told said developers that I would be able to serve not only as a test bed but would also be able to write the documentation for the application. No takers. Don?t get me wrong: I understand there are probably very few Linux developers interested in creating tools for beauty salons. But there IS in fact a demand - or could be a demand if salons found out there was a free, open source solution to a need that generally costs anywhere from 600-3,000 USD to meet those demands. And those dollars generally find a solution that is buggy or hard to use. I realize open source software, for the most part, is developed out of a need. But I think the model, as a whole, should be re-evaluated. I?ve attempted to try to entice people on sourceforge.net. I created a project proposal on sourceforge.net only to have it sit and receive no interest." The software is based on demand, but not "market" demand. Problems developers wish to solve for their own purposes! This is the open-source "market" and the $600-$3000 figure is meaningless since open-source is resold at a most competitive value which is usually comes down to $0 for the software itself and instead charging for implementation and support. So, hair-salon boy, what did YOU OFFER THEM for participating in your project? Cash reward? Interesting/intriguing technical problems to tackle? Status and reputation from their peers? Looks to me like nada - none of the above! You simply asked them to do YOUR WORK FOR YOU! Open-source developers are not a stupid bunch...they know when they're being taken advantage of! Thus the "model" works just fine as-is - it takes care of developers needs and weeds out requests from freeloaders like yourself! 3) "So what this tells me is that the open source development arena needs something and it needs it bad. What the open source developers need is a place where people like myself can request projects and interact with them even if it?s on a non-development level. The open source community is a strong one. It?s made up of very passionate, talented people who simply tend to suffer from a lack of direction. A project think-tank type of portal could possibly be the thing that helps the open source development community get that last push over the edge that it needs." So you're asserting that the open source arena needs to cater to freeloaders...and it needs the badly because...? No, wait...then you suggest that free software developers need point-haired bosses TELLING them WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR FREE TIME AND EFFORT! Sounds like a "push over the edge" to me alright! If you feel this is important maybe setup a portal called freeloaderswantingtobeyourpointyhairedboss.com and see if this allows people like yourself to receive work for free while still "being the boss" and "providing direction"! The open-source world has ideal direction: where the community wishes to go. Just because they don't want to waste their time with *yawn* specialized POS systems (for...ooh...exciting...get this - hair-salons!) doesn't mean there's a problem at all. In fact it means things are working VERY well since you can't even tell the rest of us what exactly it is that makes haircutting services so goddamn special that they need their own system rather than just using any other one. Does it somehow not boil down to: provide service -> collect cash? If you have an itch - first learn to scratch your own and until then leave the rest of us alone!

sda
sda

I think the best way to approach it would be to create a LAMP-based web-app. So long as you have a touch-screen that's properly calibrated, you can do all the coding using the browser/Apache/PHP/MySQL, circumventing the need for heavier coding talent. I couldn't afford to do the WORK for free, but I think a lot of devs wouldn't mind making the work an open-source project upon completion. I am currently looking into ways of writing grants to help pay for the development open-source projects, though it's geared more towards non-profits, as otherwise, the chances of getting a grant for development is slim. I think, in addition to sourceforge, IBM has a place to put folks with solutions needs together with devs. LinkedIn is another.

jlwallen
jlwallen

shortly after this blog went up, someone approached me because of my sourceforge listing to tackle the project!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Whoever is hacking BT is wrecking everything.

iantrent
iantrent

So let me get this right - You you want someone to develop a new product for free and your peaved noone with the right experience & know-how has stepped forward to do the work... *SHOCK* By the way, QuickBooks and most accounting software can do what your looking for for like $50.

dawgit
dawgit

Over here, it's common, it works, and it works great. (in Germany) I understand there are some good Canadian firms with good quality Software also. It' out there, just widen your horizon a bit. -d

qhartman
qhartman

I agree with most everything you have to say in your post, but one thing that I don't think you realize is the implication of OSS being written to "fill a need". Not only does it happen when it fills a need, but when that need happens to be interesting to a developer, the person or people doing the work to get the need filled. Generally, industry-specific vertical applications like the one you are looking for will be the _last_ ones to be developed as OSS, if they ever are. They are filling a need, but a very specific, narrowly useful need. A need that if filled, will likely do little for the person who did the filling. Other applications that fall into the "vertical" category are rarely available as open source, even if the need for them is huge. Take student management systems for example. The need is huge, there are tons of schools out there who pay way too much money for crappy SMS software. However, only just recently have there been enough people who are interested in and able to solve that problem that semi-viable OSS SMS software is available. And this is within a segment of the population (educators) who are likely to have a disproportionately large number of programmers among them. It's going to be harder in other verticals like salons, or auto shops, or bike shops, or whatever, where the likelihood of finding people who are both interested in the problem and able to solve it is small. What is more likely is that a proprietary product will be created which leverages OSS tools to do that vertical work. That way, the developers have an incentive for writing it ($$) but they are still able to leverage the value of the existing OSS stack to their benefit, and to the benefit of their customers. Want to change that? Learn to program, or be willing to pay an OSS programmer to develop it. Then you can become the OSS Salon hero. But until then, don't be surprised when you propose what looks like a really boring project, and it gets no response. OSS developers may be humanitarians, but we aren't masochists.

JoseJavaho
JoseJavaho

Hey that was fast. Look how many posts in this thread before you got help.. I'm active in the CMS , Drupal, e107, Joomla! and PHP community. Not so much with sourceforge. I was about to post this thread to the Joomla group just to see if anyone had tackled a similar issue when I read your last post. Jack,I'm in a very similar situation so keep me posted. I'm opening a new Coffee Roasting/retail shop and will be looking for OS POS software. I don't mind paying or helping with a project. Especially if the software can be molded to other retail/small shop needs. I know of many more individuals who have had it up to you know what with the costs of most POS and would be willing to fork over money to get this POS ball moving away from the existing models.

DanLM
DanLM

I have no bloody idea where the heck your coming from. Dan

jlwallen
jlwallen

i'm not peaved about it. i'm really just shocked at the realization how the open source community - one that should be clamoring at new ideas - hasn't a means to develop new ideas. maybe this is something that i should look into developing. i don't know.

jnhager
jnhager

I was asked to help put together a POS for a friend just opening up a gas station and was looking for an open source solution; however, I was unsatisfied with all the ones on sourceforge. I did come across this little DOS freeware gem called Free Cash Register at http://pages.prodigy.net/daleharris/pos.htm I tested it and despite being DOS and closed this program was great. It did everything I needed it to do, but the owner just decided to get a cheap dedicated cash register instead.

DanLM
DanLM

I need a shell/web hosting billing system. I don't know of any. Guess who will end up developing it. Dan looks around and decides that most likely he will do something for himself and probably won't release it because it will be specific to his own needs. Dan

Editor's Picks