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Idea: Open Barcode Project

By eries in Culture
Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 06:38:58 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Just picked up a :CueCat from the local Radio Shack, and instantly downloaded Linux drivers for it. While playing with the windows and linux clients, we had some ideas about creating an Open Barcode Project, similar (and perhaps integrated with) the Open Directory Project. This would not be a project related to the :CueCat in any way (for legal reasons), just a product information database, similar to the old CDDB.

I don't know how widespread the appeal of this would be, but I personally like the idea of being able to scan barcodes and get product info without having to have my privacy seriously violated by a huge corporation. Whenever I scan a UPC that the :CueCat does know about, I get sent straight to the manufacturer's "official" home page. Whenever I scan a new UPC that the :CueCat doesn't know about, it prompts me to give them more information about the product in question. I am sure the company will start to make money by charging other companies for control of what page you are sent to.

I would much prefer to see a site created in an open way, without centralized control, with many links and many entries associated with each product.

So, I figured before I started hacking on my own (I think I could do both a perl-based command-line interface along with a web-based interface), I thought I'd try the new K5 for comments, feedback, etc. Welcome back!


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Idea: Open Barcode Project | 17 comments (17 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Sounds good, but.... (2.66 / 3) (#1)
by GandalfGreyhame on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 05:57:45 PM EST

How would you propose to get barcodes into the thing, without using the cuecat in any way? Most people aren't gonna want to buy a barcode reader, methinks.

- G

Re: Sounds good, but.... (3.75 / 4) (#2)
by eries on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 06:02:18 PM EST

Well, if people want to use the :CueCat, using whatever software or drivers they can download or develop, that's their business. Our software will just read barcodes from /dev/barcode (or windows equivalent) without worrying about their source. Or you can search the database via the web by typing in the barcode number.
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
[ Parent ]
Re: Sounds good, but.... (none / 0) (#7)
by Foogle on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 08:32:12 PM EST

I thought the CueCat has a keyboard-jack interface?


"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."
- They Might Be Giants
[ Parent ]

Re: Sounds good, but.... (3.50 / 2) (#11)
by mike-c on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 11:02:05 PM EST

Yes, it does, so a scanning with a CueCat into a text box in web-based interface would be convenient. The problem with this approach: the CueCat spits out the UPC/ISBN in its lame encrypted format, so it would be up to the website to decyrpt it and then return the information (see slinky.jounce.net/~maarken as posted above). As the story says, one of the goals is not to be related to CueCat in any way.
-- "If things don't go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true." -- President Clinton to Lisa Simpson
[ Parent ]
Re: Sounds good, but.... (1.00 / 1) (#9)
by GandalfGreyhame on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 08:46:27 PM EST

Good answer :)


[ Parent ]

Re: Sounds good, but.... (none / 0) (#14)
by davidduncanscott on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:16:39 AM EST

Well, in a pinch the numbers are there. If you've ever worked a register (and my heart goes out to you if you do), you know that some things just don't scan and you end up punching in the numbers by hand. For six bags of groceries it's not worth the trouble, but for tracking down that bottle of obscure beer you found in your hand when you woke up it might be.

[ Parent ]
Hardware, not software (4.25 / 4) (#3)
by kmself on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 06:29:06 PM EST

Barcode scanning is a commodity hardware niche, it's ubiquitous to the extent that software for the devices isn't a problem. The distinction of the Cue-Cat is that the reader is being introduced into households as the basis for a datamining and behavior-tracking experiment -- people now have access to a free piece of hardware.

If you want your own barcode scanner, check out (not a plug, just the top Google hit) The BarCode Store. The low-cost scanner appears to be the CCD model, at just under $200, with typical prices ranging from $300 to over $1000. This for a not-quite-mass-market item.

Barcode scanning software is not the problem here, folks, it's the hardware cost.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
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deBarcode.com (4.57 / 7) (#4)
by GoRK on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 06:34:21 PM EST

Isn't this basically what deBarcode.com is all about? They have a barcode resolver client tarball and everything. (I think it's perl) You can add URL's and comments on product codes. They could definately do to add more barcode type support (UPA, UPE is all they really do at this point) but all in all, I've found the information very reliable.

It's a bit tough figuring out how commercial the site really is. There are no ads, but there are links to email sales@debarcode.com and the like.

Running an open directory site *without* centralized control (whether by an individual, a board of operators, or a company) would be difficult, IMHO - the integrity of the data would be difficult to maintain for such a large dataset.

Does anyone know anything more about the operations of deBarcode? Who runs them? Is it actually an open project?!?


half done (4.50 / 6) (#5)
by maarken on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 07:03:23 PM EST

Just wanted to point out that at slinky.jounce.net/~maarken there is a functioning web interface, that done in perl. It was changed from a commandline interface, so it's all ready to go. If you drop by #kuro5hin, either myself or Whaf(ro) can help out with it, since we helped write it. (it's Whaf's server that it's on right now.) --Maarken
Flip the symbols in my email.
UPC database (3.80 / 5) (#6)
by Kev Vance on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 07:27:32 PM EST

Back before the cuecat had legal troubles, I wrote an addition to decode.c to query this UPC database as well as amazon.com, depending on what kind of barcode it was. I guess these changes never got in because of the lawyers, but that site is still pretty useful. It's only UPC though, not the other kinds of barcodes. Perhaps we could integrate this database into the open one. I had a copy on my website, before it got taken down a couple weeks ago (for css-auth, I presume, but I was never contacted). Here's a copy if anyone else wants to try it.

This is being discussed elsewhere also (3.28 / 7) (#8)
by randyrat on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 08:41:39 PM EST

Check out the uscan project over on Source Forge. There is quite a bit of traffic in the message area. Also, doing a search on freshmeat and Source Forge show quite a few projects popping up for the CC scanner (as well as other scanners).

Scanning books (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by damien on Mon Sep 18, 2000 at 08:47:22 PM EST

People interested in scanning in the their book collection's titles might be interested in Zarf's Book-Scanning Project, which includes advice and code.

Are barcodes unique? (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by Scriven on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 12:27:53 AM EST

That's the only problem that I'd see, duplicate barcodes. I don't think that they're unique for everything, I think that the same numbers are re-used for different products, so you'd have to somehow pick the Main category of the item that you're scanning, and then scan in the barcode.

Interesting idea, tho, if you could get around that!

I wish the Radio Shacks up here in Canada had the CueCat deal, a bar code reader would be a neat toy to add to the mix.

This is my .sig. It isn't very big. (an oldie, but a goodie)
Re: Are barcodes unique? (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by davidduncanscott on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:11:26 AM EST

UPC's are supposed to be, yes, and so are ISBN's.

[ Parent ]
Re: Are barcodes unique? (none / 0) (#17)
by Erf on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:44:20 PM EST

If each bar code brings up multiple links (so, say, scanning a book ISBN brings up several stores to buy it from, and several reviews about it, etc), this is easily solved -- just have a set of links for each physical object that bar code could possibly represent.

...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

:cuecat outside the US (none / 0) (#15)
by axolotl on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:56:46 AM EST

Are cuecats available outside the US? I'm in the UK and have a use for a barcode scanner (mainly to play with :)) but I'm not about to pay $200 for a commercial one.
Every silver lining has a cloud.
UPC database (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by ertman on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 10:40:13 AM EST

There is a UPC database (albeit with a lot of bad data in it) up at http://grover.mta.ca/upc/ that has been around for a while. Might be a good place to start if you want to compile 'barcode' information for a lot of products.

No need for a barcode scanner either, since a UPC code has a barcode and a number.

Actually, a Google search for "UPC database" pulls up a lot of matches for databases already out there.

-- "The impossible is easy, itís the unfeasible that poses the problem." - Gordon Moore
Idea: Open Barcode Project | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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