At first glance, a shop is not a place where you would expect to
find KDE in the workplace. Yet the Dutch Free Record Shop is
deploying it on a large scale as the operating system for
their point of sale systems. According to the supplier Novell,
it is one of the application areas where simple and restricted functionality is
required, leading to a breakthrough for GNU/Linux on the PC. An article from
Automatiseringsgids magazine is translated below.
The 'Free Record Shop' is a chain of shops in the Benelux countries
along with a sister organisation Van Leest. The original Dutch company also has shops in Norway and Finland with about 400 shops in total selling CDs, DVDs and computer games. ICT Manager Ton Arrachart describes their core activity as 'distribution of content in the area of home entertainment'. In the past every division of the company had its own ICT department, but now they
have all been merged into the main office in Capelle aan den IJssel. The central ICT department works as a shared services centre for all divisions.
"We didn't focus on cutting ICT costs, on the contrary, the
headcount has grown", according to Arrachart. His department now
has 14 employees in house, and 5 in the field. The strategy is
aimed at doing only the essential ICT business in house and to
outsource the rest.
The Free Record Shop has been using PC cash registers since the
80's, when the founder Hans Breukhoven deployed software for shop
automation from Anoa Automatisering of Tilburg, running SCO UNIX on Intel CPUs. Around 2002/2003 they decided to move to GNU/Linux,
SCO's new licensing policy being one of the reasons cited. At
first they tested Red Hat Linux but found it did not meet their
requirements. Arrachart says "We wanted to provide a supported
service, a managed point-of-sale environment. Red Hat only
provided support from the Open Source community, which wouldn't
have been usable in the context of a service level agreement. Red
Hat acknowledged this issue and suggested using their Linux
Enterprise Edition, but we had some cost concerns about that
Anoa then offered SuSE Linux as alternative, and Cappelle
assigned him to port the UNIX application to Linux. For
financial reasons, the Finnish division had already decided to
migrate from UNIX to Linux. Because of that, the first shops in
Finland were already running Red Hat Linux, but in the future
they would move to Novell too. The whole setup was aimed at
simplicity and effectiveness. "The cash register only has one
task: billing and showing stock", Breukhoven says, "an
efficient environment was wanted. We did not object to a
graphical interface, but it needed to be stripped down as far as
possible and Windows was not an option..". He continues, "..as
then you would be subject to Mr Gate's licensing policies, and it
would have also meant more investment in hardware."
The new cash register PCs run a stripped down version of the
Novell Linux Desktop. According to Arrachart, although all
essential components are present, a great deal of software has
been stripped out of the KDE Desktop GUI. The applications
remaining include a PDF viewer and X Server, with KDE's Kiosk
mode and associated admin tool being used to lock down the
configuration. Access to the central applications is provided
via a web browser. At first, the shop employees
will only get the base packages so email using a separate
application won't be possible, although it can still be done via
a web portal.
Each shop has about 2 or 3 PCs; one is the head console and can
be used by the shop manager to access the central server based
applications. The other PCs are used as cash registers.
At the moment, almost all shops in The Netherlands and Belgium
already use the KDE Desktop. After that phase is complete, the
migration team will go to Norway and Finland to migrate the PCs
used by the Free Record Shop and Bravo chains. "It's a fun
project" says Arrachart, "We can show that you can save costs
with ICT, while at the same time allowing greater possibilities
in the way the shops are organised." All the cash registers in
the Netherlands Free Record Shops are geared towards simplicity
and effectiveness. The Head of ICT concludes "so Windows is not
a viable option."
The original article can be found at automatiseringsgids, membership subscription required.