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Co-ops making history! World's first open-source POS system at People's Food Co-op.

This past weekend People's Food Co-op in SE Portland made history. During a conference with tech and IT folk from co-ops around the country these über-geeks assembled and successfully rang out items on the world's first entirely free, open-source point-of-sale system. A point-of-sale system (or POS) is the software needed to run a cash register and manage the pricing of all the items in a store.
It all started several years ago when Tak Tang, the Technology Coordinator at The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, MN got frustrated at his stores POS system because of his inability to get the information out of it that would really be useful to the store. Like most proprietary software POS systems have a locked core that prevents anyone from copying the source code and also prevents anyone from getting inside to mine data that the software wasn't designed to spit out. Not being able to get inside of the software means expensive service calls to vendors when something goes wrong. It also means having to wait to purchase the next version for new features and bug fixes.

Well all of this was really cheesing Mr. Tang off so he decided to go ahead and write his own POS system. And he DID! IS4C (Information Systems 4 Co-ops) was born. Tak's software is written in PHP which is a free web language which can run on any computer with a web browser. So he wrote the software and implemented it at The Wedge and they have been running it for a couple years now. At The Wdge however they run the software with several expensive software dependencies such as Windows 2000 and MicrosoftSQL.

People's became interested in IS4C as a result of their own frustrations with their POS system. All three Portland Co-ops are currently running the exact same antiquated Casio POS system which uses proprietary software and hardware and which seems to only be serviceable by ONE local company which charges exorbitant service call fees. Commercial POS systems can cost upwards of $15,000 per cash register lane, and for a medium-sized cooperative trying its hardest to keep its financial head above water, the commercial solution simply wasn't an option. IS4C was appealing because of the open-source factor however, in a co-op run entirely on Macintosh, the Microsoft dependencies were downright repellent. So they set about developing a version of IS4C that could run free of the expensive Microsoft requirements, instead looking to the open-source Linux operating system and MySQL for the answer to their problem.

Long story short. THEY DID IT! This past Saturday morning, a group of co-op geeks gathered at People's Food Co-op and successfully ran IS4C on a Linux box running Ubuntu using MySQL 5 and PHP 5. Stop the presses. History has been made.

With some further development and bug fixes this software could easily replace all of the big expensive unfriendly commercial POS systems and mean effective, accurate ringing and reporting for even the smallest community co-op.

The project is a powerful testament to the spirit of community that suffuses the co-op world and to the possibilities that can be laid bare by many hands working as one.

Some pix of the weekends geekiness 03.Aug.2005 19:16


Thought i'd share some shots from the weekends activities.

Some pix of the weekends geekiness 03.Aug.2005 19:17


Thought i'd share some shots from the weekends activities.
Getting things done...
Getting things done...
The man behind the myth, Tak Tang, in front of People's Food Co-op
The man behind the myth, Tak Tang, in front of People's Food Co-op

tech question 03.Aug.2005 23:25


i'd be interested in more technical info. I know nothing of these "POS" systems, but I'd like to know how it works. Does the cash register send information to a linux computer somewhere, or does the cash register run a linux computer? Do you have to change the hardware/electronics of the cash register?

thanks! sounds great.

Re: tech question 04.Aug.2005 02:42

google searcher


has some pretty rudimentary (and out-dated) info. seems like each lane has its
own computer, and they all speak to a server.

imho that seems a little heavy-handed -- seems like they could get some lightweight
dumb terminals (something like neoware or wyse .. can be found for around $200 each,
usually with lcd).

also, there seems to be a big movement with javaPOS --  http://www.javapos.com/. not
sure if its open source, but you can download the code, plus there seem to be a
bunch of (lightweight) POS terminals for it.

 http://www.linux-pos.org/ also has a bunch of info....

windows, windows... 04.Aug.2005 06:23

The Anarcat anarcat@anarcat.ath.cx

too bad this is running ASP on windows (so there's no way to run this on a "free server"). Also, I'm surprised to hear this is the first "opensource POS" since software already exists for this, most notably SQL-Ledger.

Response to comments 04.Aug.2005 12:53


Each register runs on a linux box which is both standalone and networked. This is for redundancy and data-security. POS systems handle a retail operations most mission-critical data, it's sales info, so Tak designed the system to have the extra fault-tolerance built into it. It's a very smart and safe design, albeit not the most lightweight. People's has custom built a mini-itx box for their testlane, a small-formfactor box that costs about $300 ea. with no additional frills and can easily be stashed anywhere under the register counter.

RE: JPOS: Drivers are currently being developed to handle peripherals which use the JPOS standard as well as other proprietary but open interfaces such as Magellan (who makes the scanner/scales being used).

technologokill 04.Aug.2005 16:47

where's my marmite ?

I'm wondering if this system will be able to make toast or coffee?

i'm wondering... 04.Aug.2005 22:49

tech-no-luddite daddy Fenbar

does anyone remember when we were debating the technological impact of the ATM machine?!

how about our Y2K rapid response?!

Tech conference in Portland????? 05.Aug.2005 12:25


I wish somebody would addvertise this stuff, there's alot of us in the scene that want to help with these issues but don't even know where to meet people. Please post conference info in the future.

Proud 06.Aug.2005 00:08


of People's Food Co-op!

Any updates 23.May.2006 04:26

mike4miyu mikemike@iprimus.com.au

are there any updates to this project?
It's now May 2006
are these pos systems still being used sucessfuly?