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Device for barcode scanning

Posted on 2013-02-01
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Last Modified: 2013-02-01
We are finding that old Symbol PPT8800 devices are very slow when they have a high volume of transactions.  The scanning application uses Internet Explorer; the scanner gets data from a barcode to populate a field; the browser sends the data to the server.

In one test, we used a laptop computer with an external USB scanner, and the application ran fast.  The laptop connected to the WiFi network in the same way used by the PPT8800.  Therefore the PPT8800 appears to be the bottleneck.

The budget is rather small, so purchasing new hand-held scanners to replace the PPT8800's is not a good option.  We are wondering if there is an inexpensive tablet computer would be a good solution.  The tablet would need to run a browser, connect to the server using TCP/IP over an 802.11 access point, have a USB port to which an external scanner can be connected, and be able to provide occasional character input (the user occasionally needs to enter text such as login name, although even that could be barcoded and scanned; onscreen keyboard would be sufficient).

Is there an inexpensive device that would meet these requirements?
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Question by:TCATDI
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12 Comments
 
LVL 48

Expert Comment

by:Mikal613
ID: 38844565
whats the difference between one tablet to do your scanning vs one handheld scanner?
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Author Comment

by:TCATDI
ID: 38844590
The existing scanners run the application transactions quite slowly.  Since the laptop test ran the transcations quickly, it seemed possible that a new tablet might also run quickly.
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Paul MacDonald earned 500 total points
ID: 38844619
While I feel your logic is...inexact...if all you need is a browser, USB port and WiFi, a good used laptop would probably meet your needs.  Not knowing your budget, I can't recommend anything but eBay would probably be a fine.  A tablet might work too, if you can find one in your price range with a USB port.
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Author Comment

by:TCATDI
ID: 38844737
"...inexact..." seems to euphemistically describe my logic.  The laptop test seemed to indicate that a newer device solves the performance problem.  Sorry I didn't mention the budget.  Perhaps a new, reliable, $200-range device might be a solution.  I'll see if I can find a simple tablet that is fast and simple with a USB port.  Thanks.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Paul MacDonald
ID: 38844755
I take it the Symbol PPT8800 has built-in Wi-Fi and communicates with the browser application running somewhere else?

...And the replacement scanner - the one you used with the laptop - only communicates via USB, but communicates with the browser application right on the laptop?

...And this slowdown is something that's only happened or been noticed recently?
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LVL 34

Assisted Solution

by:Paul MacDonald
Paul MacDonald earned 500 total points
ID: 38844794
I see now - the Symbol PPT8800 is a Windows CE PDA with a scanner slapped onto it.  So the browser runs on the PDA itself?  Yeah, I can see how that would be slow for a large number of transactions...

Here's an eBay search for tablets under $250. I think the trick will be to find one with a USB port you can plug a barcode scanner into.  An alternative might be to use barcode scanning software and the tablet's camera rather than a separate reader.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/iPads-Tablets-eBook-Readers-/171485/i.html?_from=R40&Type=Tablet&_mPrRngCbx=1&_udhi=255&_nkw=tablet&LH_PrefLoc=3&_pppn=r1&_dcat=171485&LH_ItemCondition=1000%7C1500%7C2000%7C2500%7C3000&Internet%2520Connectivity=Wi%252DFi%7CWi%252DFi%2520%252B%25203G%7CWi%252DFi%2520%252B%25204G&LH_FS=0
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Author Comment

by:TCATDI
ID: 38845354
Yes, the PPT8800 is a PDA with scanner built-in, and the browser runs on that device, and it communicates wirelessly to an access point and then to the HP-UX server.  

The slow-down has been noticed only after trying to use the application in another department where it will involve many more scans and transactions with the server.

Maybe Paulmacd's idea of used laptops will be the answer.  Or, some new but cheap laptops; a simple machine running linux and a browser might be perfect, although battery life will need to be several hours (preferably 8).  The laptop could be mounted on a cart.

Thanks for the discussion, it was helpful to get the input.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Paul MacDonald
ID: 38845375
Since the slowdown isn't related to a single device, but appears to be related to the number of transactions being sent back to the server, I'd suggest you look there for a solution.

Is the WiFi access point up to the task of the additional traffic?  If not, spend your $200 on a new access point.

Is your backend database getting bogged down by the additional requests?  If so, consider upgrading the server, optimizing the database, or re-writing the queries to improve performance.

This is what I meant when I initially called your logic "inexact".  With the additional information you've provided, I would guess the problem is not in the scanners themselves, but something upstream.  Just my $.02.
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LVL 48

Expert Comment

by:Mikal613
ID: 38845383
I agree, perhaps there is an issue with the backend of your cycle.
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Author Comment

by:TCATDI
ID: 38845408
In my initial post, I tried to describe the fact that when testing with a laptop computer and external scanner, there were no problems.  Same access point, same network, same server, same database.  With one client device (PPT8800), there is severe slowness.  With a different client device (laptop), the system works perfectly.  My inexact logic tells me the problem is with the client device.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Paul MacDonald
ID: 38845414
Fair enough!  If one PPT8800 is enough to slow things down, start there.

Best of luck!
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