I tend to go on and on about the pluses with Linux. Linux can do this. Linux can do that. For every Windows application there is an equal (or better) Linux equivalent. Blah blah blah. But recently I found myself stuck in a situation where there was NOT a quality Linux equivalent. The application? Point Of Sale.
I searched daily for nearly a week trying to find something to suit the needs of the salon where I work. And I found possibilities. Some of these possibilities were last updated four years ago (and no longer had their requirements met by more updated distributions). Some of these possibilities simply wouldn't work (no matter how long I spent trying to get them to do so). Some of these possibilities were simply too big for the job.
To be quite honest, I was shocked. It seems, within the Linux community, if there is a need, there is a software. If there is a niche, there is a software. But for some reason POS is overlooked. I understand how hard it is to design a POS system. There are so many variables and connecting databases to work in such a way to handle the flow of inventory isn't easy (out of desperation I tried to create one.) But come on! POS. It's common, every-day stuff that is used all over the world. Doing a search on freshmeat.net for "Point Of Sale" rendered 21 hits. 21 HITS!
Hello? Linux community? Are you there?
Finally I happened upon Nolapro. It's about as close to a usable Linux-based POS as I could find. It's not perfect, mind you. So far I haven't been able to get cost to work properly - but, for the love of Linus, it installs and works. That's saying something compared to the wealth of nothing I was met by when searching. I tried Tuxshop but, no matter how hard I tried, couldn't get it to connect to the database. I even contacted their support (they do actually sell the product) but to no good conclusion.
Of course there are, within those few possibilities, the two or three that I didn't bother installing because they depended upon postgresql and not mysql. I know, to some degree, mysql. I don't have time to learn the ins and outs of yet another database engine just to try to install something that probably won't work.
Do I sound jaded? I am a bit. This was one of those situations that I was SURE the open source community would come through. But they didn't. That's really what is causing my frustration. I have finally found an area of computing where the Linux community has fallen way, way behind. And that, my friends, makes me sad.
But don't worry, I'll get over it. Maybe Nolapro will work out for me. Or maybe not. Maybe there's an open source developer out there reading who would be interested in collaborating with a project. Granted I am not a developer. But I can write killer documentation and do some pretty nifty graphics.
Regardless - this is a wake up call to the open source community. There is a glaring hole in the Linux landscape that I see. Let's fix it!
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.