Thursday, September 18, 2008

About That New Computer...

After 5 trips to Fry's on Tuesday, the Acer went back. The problem with finding the right POS machine that also acts as a workstation is that you want a small machine with good performance that also supports legacy peripherals. In the computer world you can generally choose two of those.

What I mean by legacy peripherals are the various label printers, barcode scanners, cash drawers, and other supported point-of-sale devices that connect to a computer via serial ports. Most use USB ports now, but my very expensive peripherals are four years old. Modern computers have a limited number of serial ports, with new computers having no ports (Acer) or maybe one (Dell). You need to add a special card for these ports, which is no big deal, unless you buy a computer with a small form factor, however the case is too small for full size cards.

Thus the dilemma of getting both a small computer and a peripheral supported computer. Custom build point-of-sale machines are both small and peripheral supported, but their performance is weak, as they're built with one function in mind, as a glorified cash register. They also use small form factor parts that can't be upgraded, like our current Windows XP POS system that's maxed out with 500MB of RAM. This is a big deal, since we could probably forgoe a new system today if we could simply double the RAM.

The solution? It wasn't going to be anything at Fry's. Computers were too big or too small. I was having a Goldilock's moment. I looked on the Dell website and found several small form factor computers that may support full height cards and also found point-of-sale systems, but with poor performance and a high price tag. Nothing on the website would work, but I called them anyway. They main tech guy brought in the point-of-sale team and we put something custom together using a small form factor Optiplex 755 and and a serial card with adapters that weren't available on their website. Thus we get a computer that works with legacy peripherals, has a small form factor, with high performance, and 50% cheaper than a dedicated POS machine while also being upgradable. It was twice as expensive as the Acer, but it should work .... when it arrives in a couple weeks. Until then, we limp along with no HTTP connectivity on the POS system (HTTPS curiously works).

Don't pat me on the back yet. This is the third Dell I've ordered in my lifetime (other than work) and I've yet to have any of them actually arrive.

Now you understand why I had someone else get me a machine when I first started the store. Getting the right one has been incredibly time consuming and it's not something I wanted to do while juggling a dozen other new business tasks. Plus back then I didn't have any of those peripherals yet so I only had a vague idea of what I needed.

The Dell shipped this morning.

Order Number: 460990611

Item NumberQuantityItem Description

223-68401OptiPlex 755 Small Form FactorPentium Dual Core E2180/2.0GHz1M,800FSB
420-36991NTFS File System,Factory Install
311-744012GB,Non-ECC,667MHz DDR2,2X1GB OptiPlex 740
310-80101Dell USB Keyboard,No Hot Keys English,Black,Optiplex
320-37041No Monitor Selected, OptiPlex
320-56421Integrated Video,GMA3100,Dell OptiPlex 755
341-54731160GB SATA 3.0Gb/s and 8MB Data Burst Cache,Dell OptiPlex755
341-39111No Floppy Drive with Optical Filler Panel,Dell OptiPlex 745and 755 Small Form Factor
467-48801Vista Business,Service Pack 1 with Media,32 Bit,English,DellOptiplex
310-96271Dell USB 2 Button Optical Mouse with Scroll,Black OptiPlex
310-94921ASF Basic Hardware Enabled Systems Management (No Upgrade to vPro/iAMT) Dell OptiPlex
313-609018X DVD-ROM,OptiPlex Small FormFactor
420-88561Cyberlink Power DVD 8.0,with Media,Dell OptiPlex
313-48251No Speaker, OptiPlex
310-87621Resource DVD contains Diagnostics and Drivers for Vista Dell OptiPlex
313-71681Resource CD contains Diagnostics and Drivers for Dell OptiPlex Systems
310-95041Energy Smart,Energy Star,EIST for OptiPlex (if applicable)
310-66191PS2 Serial Port Adapter,with Dongle for Second PS/2 Port Half Height,OptiPlex 330DT/740/745/755DT/SFF
310-93321Shipping Material for System Cypher Small Form Factor,Dell OptiPlex
985-60301Basic Support: Next Business Day Parts and Labor Onsite Response Initial Year
989-15871Dell Hardware Limited Warranty Plus Onsite Service Initial Year
989-15881Dell Hardware Limited Warranty Plus Onsite Service Extended Year(s)
985-05821Basic Support: Next Business Day Parts and Labor Onsite Response 2 Year Extended
991-28781Dell ProSupport Service Offering Declined
900-99871Standard On-Site Installation Declined
310-86421You have chosen a Vista Premium System
466-90451Thank you for buying Intel/Dell
310-89771Info SKU-Software and Peripherals products and solutions catalog included in system boxes
Subtotal: $737.00
Shipping and Handling: $0.00
Sales Tax: $41.55
Total: $778.55


  1. You need an SKU in your POS that is "Thank you for shopping at Black Diamond Games", in case your employees forget to say it at check-out...

    "466-9045 1 Thank you for buying Intel/Dell"

    best -


  2. Is all your software and everything able to work with vista? Looking at the order thats what is being shipped, and you mentioned XP earlier. I'd thought I would mention it as I'm not sure if that is an over site or not.


  3. You can buy USB-> serial adapters at Fry's. I've bought a bunch of them for work and they seem to do just fine for everything I've used them on.


  4. All of the adapter cards are full height, so they won't fit in the mini cases.

    RMS works with both XP and Vista. That's the only core program we need for the POS machine. Most of our other needs are web browsing and basic office use.


    is what I was referring to.

    It's not a card. It's more like a 12" cable that has usb on one end and db9 on the other.

  6. Yes, something like that would work for two out of three of the peripherals, although it doesn't say if it's Windows Vista compatible. It's good to know it's an option. Thanks!