[clug] barcode scanners

Michael Still mikal at stillhq.com
Wed Mar 17 13:19:07 MDT 2010

steve jenkin wrote:
> Anybody have one or use one they could recommend?
> Or the converse - what not to get?
> I've only ever used one or two in my work, and didn't purchase or test
> them.  In accidental reading, I've seen it said laser scanners (think
> supermarkets) are the benchmark.
> I'd expect very pricey unless second-hand or rent-by-the-week.
> I was thinking of scanning the ISBN/EAN-13 barcodes of my books as the
> first step in cataloguing them... Hopefully quick and easy.
> I google'd for FOSS projects that could use images from a camera and
> found this:
> <http://code.google.com/p/zxing/>
> Finally decided even if Zxing worked well, it'd be a lot more work :-)
> Even some dodgy piece of cheap junk would work better and faster.

There are two types of barcode scanners in the world -- CCD and laser. 
Laser is more accurate, but more expensive. For home work go with a CCD. 
I paid $15 for mine from ebay, and it shouldn't be hard to repeat that.

I do exactly what you want to do (catalog books at home). I started with 
a web cam and image recognition, but it was very unreliable. I have a 
theory that's because web cams have the wrong focal length for good 
close up work, which is what you're doing with book scans. Now I use the 
CCD scanner, which is "just" a USB keyboard. Note that there was some 
fiddling with control barcodes before the scanner worked nicely with 
both EAN style ISBN barcodes, as well as the US UPC barcodes.

I have an ajax book scanner which takes the barcode scanner output and 
parses out the ISBN. This isn't always as simple as you'd think. It them 
scrapes "web sources" to determine author / title / etc. The data is 
stored in a MySQL database.

I used this to inventory my 3,000 books before I moved back from the US, 
and it worked really well. At one point I was scanning hundreds of books 
an hour without pain.

You're welcome to a copy of the code if you're interested. Its in my 
public SVN already, but largely undocumented.


PS: Expect slow replies to email, I am about to board a flight.

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