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'[OT]: Cue:Cat barcode wand with PIC and Linux'
2000\12\29@135859 by Bob Blick

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Does anyone have any experience using the Cue:Cat barcode wand(free at
Radio Shack and other places) as a standalone device, not connected to a
PC?

I've seen websites talking about hooking it to a serial port, but my
Cue:Cat does not output anything unless it's actually hooked to the
keyboard port of a PC and has a keyboard also attached. The clock and data
lines just stay at +5 volts. Perhaps it will not output unless it figures
the PC BIOS has initialized the keyboard.

Alternately, does anyone know if there's a way to read the keyboard under
linux if nobody has logged in? Keyboard signals are trapped by mingetty,
and I don't know if the kernel patches for the Cue:Cat will even work if
no one is logged in(the patches only work against kernel 2.2.16 and 2.4.0,
neither of which I have, and I do not have a fast connection to get
either).

Thanks,

Bob Blick

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2000\12\29@145959 by Bob Blick

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OK, I feel dumb :-)

The Cue:Cat has two connectors - PS/2 male and PS/2 female.

The clock and data lines each have a diode and resistor blocking signal
from the Cue:Cat from reaching the keyboard.

I was probing the wrong plug with my scope.

oops.

-Bob

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2000\12\29@162940 by Matthew Fries

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I was not too impressed with that cuecat. It's really just a barcode
reader with some fancy software that has a huge database of products and
manufacturers. I caught a little bit of the infomercial promoting it, and
they are making it look like it's a marvel of modern technology. I guess
it's just affordable enough to be given away for free at Radio Shack.

For years, a local public library had been using the same thing for
checking books in/out... It just wasn't shaped like a cat. :-)

Well, you could use it to automate your corner grocery store... I bet the
poor cat would not last long though...



On Fri, 29 Dec 2000, Bob Blick wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2000\12\29@163400 by David VanHorn

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>
>Well, you could use it to automate your corner grocery store... I bet the
>poor cat would not last long though...

Definitely not. (been there, made a living doing that)
It's not a very good barcode reader either.

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2000\12\29@174242 by Bill Westfield

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   > Well, you could use it to automate your corner grocery store...
   > I bet the poor cat would not last long though...

   Definitely not. (been there, made a living doing that)
   It's not a very good barcode reader either.

Yep (and Nope.)  Still, it was free or near-free.  Just the thing for a
first attempt at cataloging the home library, for instance, where you don't
think you want to spend $200+ for a good non-contact laser barcode scanner.

Hmm.  It's getting to be a little surprising that no one has done a barcode
scanner based on a cheap CMOS image sensor...

BillW

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2000\12\29@174911 by David VanHorn

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>
>Hmm.  It's getting to be a little surprising that no one has done a barcode
>scanner based on a cheap CMOS image sensor...

I would have, if I had one.
I've written it for "light pen" wands, using edge ints and a timer, a CCD
would be a lot simpler I think.

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2000\12\29@184317 by Andrew Warren

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William Chops Westfield <spam_OUTbillwTakeThisOuTspamcisco.com> wrote:

> It's getting to be a little surprising that no one has done a
> barcode scanner based on a cheap CMOS image sensor...

   Um, yeah.  Like the cheap CMOS image sensor that's already in
   every optical mouse...

   -Andy


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2000\12\30@070315 by mike

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On Fri, 29 Dec 2000 18:59:51 +0000, you wrote:

>Does anyone have any experience using the Cue:Cat barcode wand(free at
>Radio Shack and other places) as a standalone device, not connected to a
>PC?
>
>I've seen websites talking about hooking it to a serial port, but my
>Cue:Cat does not output anything unless it's actually hooked to the
>keyboard port of a PC and has a keyboard also attached. The clock and data
>lines just stay at +5 volts. Perhaps it will not output unless it figures
>the PC BIOS has initialized the keyboard.
>
>Alternately, does anyone know if there's a way to read the keyboard under
>linux if nobody has logged in? Keyboard signals are trapped by mingetty,
>and I don't know if the kernel patches for the Cue:Cat will even work if
>no one is logged in(the patches only work against kernel 2.2.16 and 2.4.0,
>neither of which I have, and I do not have a fast connection to get
>either).
>
>Thanks,
>
>Bob Blick
The later CC's can be linked to output plain ascii - I would not be at
all surprised if there was also a link to output async data.... might
be worth experimenting

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2000\12\30@120152 by Peter L. Peres

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I've never seen a CueCat from close up, but I've read a lot about it.

You do not say what kernel version you have but a patch for 2.2.16 will
likely go down well with 2.2.5 and up (maybe even 2.2.0). It is possible
that it affects an area that is unchanged since 2.0.28+. Just try to patch
and follow the error messages, and try to fix it.

I do not know whether CueCat will work if no-one is logged in but I
suspect that the CueCat stream is split off the main keyboard read stream
by parsing. This would make it work before anything 'captures' keyboard
events, like [min]getty or login.

So I think it is worth your while to try to patch.

$0.02,

Peter

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2000\12\30@120155 by Peter L. Peres

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>Hmm.  It's getting to be a little surprising that no one has done a
>barcode scanner based on a cheap CMOS image sensor...

And I am surprized people ask such things. The image processing is not
trivial at all and it requires hundreds of hours of real life testing to
even out the bugs. And it cannot be done in a PIC. It is done in the host
computer. I think that the recognition rate acceptable in grocery/etc use
is 95%. This is HARD to do using image recognition alone.

Peter

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2000\12\30@122434 by Bob Blick

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>You do not say what kernel version you have but a patch for 2.2.16 will
>likely go down well with 2.2.5 and up (maybe even 2.2.0). It is possible
>that it affects an area that is unchanged since 2.0.28+. Just try to patch
>and follow the error messages, and try to fix it.

Thanks Peter, I'll give it a try. I have RedHat 6.2 which is a 2.2.14 kernel.

>I do not know whether CueCat will work if no-one is logged in but I
>suspect that the CueCat stream is split off the main keyboard read stream
>by parsing. This would make it work before anything 'captures' keyboard
>events, like [min]getty or login.

It does seem likely that it will work, and be the least effort. The CueCat
has a synchronous output, and although I've seen talk of connecting
directly to a serial port, looking at the clock output of the CueCat, it is
not even enough, and although 99% of the time it's 100usec between
clocks(2400 baud) the irregularities make not 100% consistent data when
read from the serial port(using the data line only of course).

I will try the kernel patch.

Cheerful regards,

Bob

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2000\12\30@144900 by David VanHorn

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At 12:15 PM 12/30/00 +0200, Peter L. Peres wrote:
> >Hmm.  It's getting to be a little surprising that no one has done a
> >barcode scanner based on a cheap CMOS image sensor...
>
>And I am surprized people ask such things. The image processing is not
>trivial at all and it requires hundreds of hours of real life testing to
>even out the bugs. And it cannot be done in a PIC. It is done in the host
>computer. I think that the recognition rate acceptable in grocery/etc use
>is 95%. This is HARD to do using image recognition alone.

I'm seriously interested in this.
I've done it several times with "light pen" input, with no problems.
Do you have pointers to information, or details on the sensors?
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2000\12\30@160404 by Bill Westfield

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   >Hmm.  It's getting to be a little surprising that no one has done a
   >barcode scanner based on a cheap CMOS image sensor...

   And I am surprized people ask such things. The image processing is not
   trivial at all and it requires hundreds of hours of real life testing to
   even out the bugs. And it cannot be done in a PIC. It is done in the host
   computer. I think that the recognition rate acceptable in grocery/etc use
   is 95%. This is HARD to do using image recognition alone.

Maybe I simply don't understand how a "good" barcode reader works.  The way
I see it, if you have an image sensor, you can pick a single pixel and get
a data stream similar to what you'd get from the sensor in a cheap reader,
with the additional pixels being useful (or not) for at least user feedback.

Host-based processing (which I was actually assuming) is nothing new.
Consider WIN-modems.  You usually have the host anyway, and it's usually
got lots of spare CPU cycles.

But I suppose I was really thinking of the gadget they have at the local
library for checking out your own books.  It does seem to be camera based
(has a big lense, no obvious lasters, and the spot where you put the library
card and book is about 18 inches away from the lense.)  I was just thinking
that this sort of setup would be better for the CONSUMER barcode market...

BillW

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2000\12\30@162600 by David VanHorn

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>
>Maybe I simply don't understand how a "good" barcode reader works.  The way
>I see it, if you have an image sensor, you can pick a single pixel and get
>a data stream similar to what you'd get from the sensor in a cheap reader,
>with the additional pixels being useful (or not) for at least user feedback.

I've never tried it with a CCD, but I'd like to.

I've achieved nearly 100% (99+) with badly distorted codes using barcode
wands that output only "light-dark" information.  For each symbology,
there's a theoretical limit to  the amount of distortion that you can have,
and I'm right up against that in UPC/EAN. Other codes aren't so well
constructed, and so are not capable of achieving such high read rates.

In my Z8 version, I decode the chars literally as they come in, the AVR
version buffers the scan and post-processes. Neither is a really long
process. It's a bit tricky, but on any reasonable platform it's fast.
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2000\12\31@144457 by Peter L. Peres

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>interested

So am I ;-). The sensor(s) are bog plain bw ccd cameras, any camera will
do if it transfers the image in realtime to a pc. I used one attached to a
video digitizer card.

The image processing is another dish. Here is a good book on it:

Algorythms for Image Processing and Computer Vision, J.R.Parker, Wiley, 1997
ISBN 0-471-14056-2 (paperback, with CDROM)

Attached code is in C. The book has nothing to do with barcodes but it
will introduce some of the techniques used. The math gets very complex
after a while and you will have to leave the trail and experiment...

good luck,

Peter

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2000\12\31@145732 by Peter L. Peres

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'good' barcode readers work on partly obscured, partly dirty, printed on
non-optimal color package, slightly skewed, and strongly reflecting
(specular) packages, like your average packaged food from the grocery for
example, in despite of the barcode designer's CLEAR instructions as to
what barcodes are to be printed on (see http://www.barcodes.com for a good set of
infos - they manufacture wands and other barcode related products). The
idea is that the marketing department of the food manufacturer is always
right <g>. I don't know about there, but here the grocer(ess) must punch
in numbers for every 5th package type passed in front of the laser reader
(mirror scanned type) (bad average). This is 80% recognition and it seems
to be acceptable although I am quite sure that high volume supermarkets
would be happy with a better figure.

Your example from the library probably does OCR besides reading barcodes
and applies some sort of fuzzy logic to find out if that's a card, a book,
both, or neither you are trying to fool it with. This is more than reading
barcodes. I am also quite sure, without having seen it, that it fails
sometimes.

Each task shown in pgr. 1 is very easy to solve by itself. The problems
begin when you need to solve them all together, like in real life, because
the requirements are conflicting. You also have a time-frame and need to
be able to sell it for something that allows you to make money from it.
This is why the theoretical path must be abandoned at some point and then
you must go to war, by trial and error, until it seems to work right. Then
you go to the target area and it stops working and you start over ;-).
Just think of the effect of high efficiency lighting on a detector without
an own light source, like a small ccd camera, for a starter.

Peter

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2000\12\31@145951 by David VanHorn

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At 08:23 PM 12/31/00 +0200, Peter L. Peres wrote:
> >interested
>
>So am I ;-). The sensor(s) are bog plain bw ccd cameras, any camera will
>do if it transfers the image in realtime to a pc. I used one attached to a
>video digitizer card.

Hmm.. Hadn't considered using NTSC video.
I was thinking in terms of linear CCD devices, which I've seen used.

NTSC puts some constraints on you as far as how fast you need to be, to
pick up the bars, I suppose you might rotate the camera 90 degrees, and use
the Hsync to count the width of the bars..

If you're meaning to pick up a barcode that's a small scene within the
larger picture, possibly at some wierd angle, that would be an interesting
challenge.
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2000\12\31@150151 by Peter L. Peres

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>using one pixel

Unforunately it is much more complex. You need to read the book on
algorythms I recommended earlier to understand some of the problems. For a
start just think about what rasterization does to straight lines that are
shot at an oblique angle. You will tell me that the fix is simple, just
average by a certain edge filter. Yes, but there is shading in the
picture, and blemishes, and ... read the book ;-)

Peter

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2000\12\31@150814 by David VanHorn

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At 09:54 PM 12/31/00 +0200, Peter L. Peres wrote:
>'good' barcode readers work on partly obscured, partly dirty, printed on
>non-optimal color package, slightly skewed, and strongly reflecting
>(specular) packages, like your average packaged food from the grocery for
>example, in despite of the barcode designer's CLEAR instructions as to
>what barcodes are to be printed on

Many large retailers (wal-mart etc) have HUGE fines to their suppliers for
non-scannable barcodes, for whatever reason.

The laser scanner readers are often impaired by "gunk" on the optics,
because they aren't properly maintained. This adds to whatever challenges
are imposed by bad printing, plastic over-wrapping, condensation, frost, etc.



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'[OT]: Cue:Cat barcode wand with PIC and Linux'
2001\01\01@175013 by Peter L. Peres
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>If you're meaning to pick up a barcode that's a small scene within the
>larger picture, possibly at some wierd angle, that would be an interesting
>challenge.

That is just exactly what I was talking about all the time. And it has
been realized many many times over. Think OCR.

Peter

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2001\01\02@022638 by Bill Westfield
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   >If you're meaning to pick up a barcode that's a small scene within the
   >larger picture, possibly at some wierd angle, that would be an interesting
   >challenge.

   That is just exactly what I was talking about all the time. And it has
   been realized many many times over. Think OCR.

However, this is NOT what I was originally asking about.  I want a barcode
reader that operates at a moderately constant distance (modulo the thickness
of a book or so) and moderately constant orientation.  I want a hands-free
scanner that I can put one book after another under (aligned agains a
straight edge) and have it read the bar codes while I do nothing but move
the "products" themselves.  Think of something like a grocery-store scanner,
but slower...

BillW

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2001\01\02@103312 by David VanHorn

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>
>However, this is NOT what I was originally asking about.  I want a barcode
>reader that operates at a moderately constant distance (modulo the thickness
>of a book or so) and moderately constant orientation.  I want a hands-free
>scanner that I can put one book after another under (aligned agains a
>straight edge) and have it read the bar codes while I do nothing but move
>the "products" themselves.  Think of something like a grocery-store scanner,
>but slower...

I think this could be done with a video camera, rotated 90 degrees.
It wouldn't need to be necessarily dead straight either.
Using the hsync as the clock, you could then count the width of the bars
and spaces in terms of scan lines.

This would put a limit on the length of the code that could be displayed.

Otherwise, a linear CCD would be a good choice.


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2001\01\04@172010 by Peter L. Peres

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William,

sorry for answering late, I think that you are looking for a very simple
phototransistor reader focused at 25mm or so (or at infinity, with a
narrow beam), fixed-mounted to an inclined table (inclined in 2
dimensions). You put the book on, it slides to the guide edge, down across
the phototransistor following it, and stops on the other side. Very
economical ;-)

Peter

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