We help IT Professionals succeed at work.

Weak Memory ? or Weak Mind ?

dockboy549
dockboy549 asked
on
So I'm using a DOS software program for a Point of Sale cash register and the thing sometimes miscalculates totals.  Talking to the software writer he says my PC has "weak memory" and needs to be replaced.  I've never heard of the problem before.  I have heard that CPU's and RAM may misbehave if not kept cool enough.  What do you think ?
Comment
Watch Question

Commented:
I'll vote for the "weak mind" on the part of the software vendor.  My guess is that they don't want to support you anymore on this old version and so rather than point to their business decision to force you to upgrade, they blame your PC hardware.
One of the experts here had a run in with some writers of POS software, I think  we concluded that  the writers were definitely weak minded.....

Such things are just about possible, however for the amount of times it will just alter a figure here and there it will also crash half a dozen times too, if that's really the problem. If your BIOS has adjustable refresh settings you should set them to the fastest period possible just to be sure. i.e. SDRAM is safest set to 15ms refresh not 256ms as is possible in some setup programs.

I would more likely put money on the writer relying heavily on Microsoft math libraries that have serious and known bugs. For instance, fire up qbasic and type in Print 3.11-3.10 and see what you get. Inspiring huh?

regards,

Road Warrior

Commented:
What type of system is this? 386 or 486?  Perhaps system has seen its useful life cycle.  I tend to focus on having people upgrade to newer systems myself.  I can support older systems but prefer not to.  Even Comptia has realized this in their approach to do away with DOS and Windows 95 questions on the A+ exams in favor of placing more emphasis on Windows 98 and 2000.  I am sorry, but if the software once worked on this system properly and it no longer is working properly, I doubt it is a software issue.  Something has to give.  I am assuming your hardware IS to blame in this failure.  

Commented:
I tend to agree with pb,
I do recall math co-processor issues with the 486,
essencially, intel had a monsterouse batch of bad processors, they would not do math, so, they came out with a co-processor as a workaround for this issue.
perhaps the system in question has gone bad as alot of these chips obvioulsy are inclined to.
It's time to consider an upgrade.

Commented:
Time to upgrade both your software and your hardware...T
Commented:
Don't get me started on homemade POS programs...

This is not the hardware.  While there are very obscure mathematical functions that can yeild incorrect results on certain microprocessors, I *absolutely* assure you that all the chips are perfectly capable of doing the math involved in POS functions.  Any POS program that is giving wierd results are due to sloppy programming.  Probably sloppy memory management within the program.

Everything the computer does boils down to a mathematical function.  From accepting input from keyboard to displaying on the screen, the CPU is adding, subtracting, and rearranging numbers.  If something was so wrong with your hardware that it couldn't add up a receipt, it wouldn't be able to boot in the first place.

Is a bad total accompanied by or followed within seconds by a total system lockup needing the reset button?  (ie: Pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del doesn't work)  This would be the only case where maybe something does need more cooling and/or replacement.

regards,
magarity

Commented:
Explain how a program would run fine for years and all of a sudden no longer function?  That seems to be the issue here.  I am sure if the problem has existed all along, it would have been patched at the time.  Why now?  What has changed that could cause a normally operating system to no longer function as designed.  I would have to say that the software appears to be the static part of this equation whereas hardware starts to degrade the moment it is turned on.

Commented:
Could you describe for us a little about the history of the problem?  When did it start occuring?  How long ago was this initially installed?  Has it always happened?  How often does the problem occur?  Is there anything in common among the times that it does occur?  Any changes made to the machine since the install of this software?  Some information like this will help us tremendously.  

Commented:
I've never seen 50 points get so much attention.....lol

Author

Commented:
The software in question has been used about five years.  The problems were ongoing from almost day one.  We were all new to the POS concept at the time and trying to comprehend the whole deal was difficult.  Some of the things that have happened over the years are:
  -At the end of the day a printout is done to include totals for each department and then a grand total.  Sometimes the sales by department would not add up to the grand total.  But the amount of money in the drawer did match the grand total.  We were confused but satisfied.
  -From time to time items would just disappear from the inventory records on the PC.  Like a candy bar that we have sold hundreds of, all of a sudden the POS had no record on file that was represented by the bar code.
  -Just the other day the cost of product disappeared from a dozen or so items.

The equipment in question has been around the block a few times.  We're using refurbed Pentium 100's  16mb Ram  1Gig HDD.  Certainly along way from state of the art but enough computing power I would think to do addition and subtraction.

The problem finally got nailed the other day when I sold 5 sweatshirts and applied a 20% discount to the whole ticket for a small clearance sale.  We don't discount much just this time of the year as we are seasonal.  The POS came up with a figure that gave the customer an extra $30.40 off.  The customer, truly an honest man, came in the next day and said we didn't charge him enough as he did the math himself at home.  He was right.  When I added the figures for the sales by department they were $30.40 off from the grand total for the day ! ? ! ? !

The system does not lock up or freeze up.  It's all pretty stable.  Which by the way we are running 4 workstations with a server running Novell network software.

One last comment for now.  The software has become a conglomeration of patches, fix's, & add-ons.  Everytime when the software wouldn't do something it probably should have the software writer would send us a fix on a floppy and away we would go.  For example, originally it would only allow us to refund for 1 item at a time.  So the guy above with 5 sweatshirts I could sell him 5 at once, but if he wanted to return them I would have to refund each sweatshirt one at a time. Ridiculus. !

Anyway maybe this wordy explanation will help to clarify what is happening.

Commented:
Definetly sounds like the software is badly written or the users aren't understanding how to use the product. I doubt it has anything to do with the computers in question misbehaving.


The Crazy One
Just wondering, such software shouldn't really need to be using the FPU, but there's a faint possibility that you could have some of the first made P100s that have the fdiv bug. I think there are a few progs around still on shareware sites etc to test for this if you want to.

regards,

Road Warrior

Author

Commented:
Thanks to all.  Tough choice as to who would get the points.  I guess "magarity" seems to reflect my attitude about the problem.  After working with this software for several years I just have the "gut" feeling it is seriously flawed.  It certainly is not my expertise in the field.  Wish there were a way to split points.

Explore More ContentExplore courses, solutions, and other research materials related to this topic.