That’s one hell of a title up there, for a pretty solid and low cost way to get a surveillance system going at your business. The Astak CM-818DVR4V has been kickin around on our site for a few weeks now, and should have a video review once we get footage from the DVR and into our movie editing software.

I got to play with this rig for a couple days, and the toughest part of setup is running cables to the cameras. Everything is plug-and-play, and the DVR can either be plugged into the network or straight into a TV/Monitor. It does require an ActiveX control to properly use the network access control, which is a little rough for those of us without IE, so it’s usually a solid plan to have a standalone monitor for general access.

For those times that you’re not around to check on the system, the video receiver has a 250GB hard drive and can store video data there. There’s also a USB port in case you want to store footage on external devices, or grab the clip of the guy dancing to the store muzak to upload to YouTube.

But for the price, you get a great and easy way to keep an eye on your business, and with the way things currently are, anything that can prevent loss and keep your accounts accurate is well worth the investment.

SQL Kung Fu All Over

February 16, 2009

I’ll admit right now that in terms of SQL Kung Fu, I’m the guy who gets his ass handed to him by Bruce Lee at the beginning of the movie. You know the guy, his name in the credits is like “Henchman #24” or something equally generic. But hey, hacking on queries and trying to shoehorn data into proper formats is fun and doesn’t involve extolling the virtues of EAS devices.

We have our product catalog listed up on Google Base in case people search for barcode scanners and want to buy through their vector instead of clicking ads or researching other price comparison sites. By the way, Google Base is free and gets a fair amount of traffic. Unfortunately, sometime last week they tightened their restrictions on something that caused our full catalog to be disapproved. This is only exacerbated by the fact that they don’t provide a reason, just a list of what can cause a product to be disapproved.

I pour over the rules, and strip out products with prices under a dollar, products that may not have a clickout url, and anything with weird or missing information. Apparently Google doesn’t like those. Nor do they like selling limbs, currency, or means for defrauding people. Good thing we don’t sell anything like that, we’d be out of luck.

But still, after cleaning out old weird stuff, we’re disapproved. Now I feel like the kid who does everything he can to win approval but only receives ambiguous reasons for what may be wrong. Instead of drawing on the wall in crayon, I start hacking on the clickout urls.

Previously we used product urls that had anchors linking to the option on the page. So you’d see:

to get you to the USB Xi3000. I guess Google was done with that, so I had to replace the url with:

so now it links directly to the option as opposed to the product page.

The big problem with this is that weird random characters were up in the part number field, so I was getting leading spaces and asterixes all over the place, blowing up links. A  replace statement removed the asterixes, but not the spaces. I hate spaces, they’re totally lame. But new to me, you can nest replace statements without blowing anything up, and so the URL is mostly scrubbed of crappy data, making my life easier and now Google approves of our feed.

But again, this is weak kung fu. Not even like sweep the leg no mercy stuff. Maybe like painting the fence or waxing the car. But I’m excited and that’s all that matters.

Point of Care Is Go

February 16, 2009

So now that we got a few different health-care oriented barcode scanners & mobile computers on the site, we’ve finally made the push to get a point of care subsection up there too. It’s a double edged sword of awesome up there in that we wanted to focus on healthcare applications for customers, but that means writing up unique content on how the products are best used. Suffice to say, by Friday afternoon my brain was tapped out of words to use.

This new push also ties in with the front page fanciness, featuring the Zebra HC100, Unitech PA600 MCA, and Elo 1928L. We like to have all our effort work in concert to make one big fancy thing, as opposed to 3 medium fancy things. Kind of like Voltron, or the giant decepticon that was made up of construction equipment. I think he was called Devastator.

So this means we’ll be providing more information on how to best integrate our products into hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare environments. This should be a pretty fun learning experience on its own.

Astak IP 500 Camera Review

February 10, 2009

Hey we got a twofer up in here, this is a review AND a new product. Astak’s security cameras are a pretty solid, low-cost method to keep an eye on your business, and the IP cams are even easier to install and setup than the CCTV-style systems. We had a couple in house and spent a good portion of our time messing around with them, and for the price you get a lot of features. Night vision’s standard, you can pan/tilt/zoom easily, and there’s a built-in web server so you don’t need to install software to check it out.

Oh and here’s the review. I think Jaime had a bit more fun with this one than the others.

Our health care and point of care kick continues on today, this time with the Zebra HC100 wristband printer. I guess it’s easy for patients to wander off or switch beds with other patients, so you strap a wristband on them and you know who’s who. Apparently putting a little bell on them wasn’t cutting it.

The printer doesn’t have to just be used in hospitals and clinics, wristbands are becoming more and more prevalent in door access for festival shows as well as bars with VIP rooms & stuff, so hey why not get one for your next foam party and make customers feel fancy?

It’s a 2 inch per second printer, which isn’t super fast, but it’s a pretty specialized system and prints at 300 dpi so we’ll give them a pass. With Zebra’s drivers and some custom printing software, such as bartender or labelmatrix, you could really zazz up the wristbands so maybe your customers will wear them for a couple days. And who doesn’t want to get on the zazz train to zazzville, really?

Viva Las Vegas

February 4, 2009

Last week Unitech held a conference for their 2009 product lineup, as well as a thank you for being so rad. Held in the glorious Palms hotel and casino, the event was a great way to meet the rest of their crew, as well as other resellers from across the country. It also meant I got to spend 3 days in Vegas. Free drinks and penny slots ahoy!

Anyway, they’re making a push into the healthcare market, as are we, so it’s a good match. They make really solid products and their support is great, so mission critical environments like clinics and hospitals would do well to get set up with Unitech equipment. Their main offering so far is the PA600 MCA. MCA stands for Mobile Clinical Assistant, and is not a Beastie Boys reference, unfortunately.

The PA600 MCA has a couple things to stand it apart from the standard PA600, the first being that it’s clinic white. Really, the paint job is part of an antimicrobial housing, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and other gross critters that can wreck a patient’s day. It also sports an IP64 seal, so water and dust can’t really harm the electronics, and also makes it easy to wipe down or sanitize if someone were to sneeze or get sick on it.

For barcode scanning, it has a 2D imager, which actually doubles as a color camera. As such, they use a white light to illuminate the barcode, which could be disconcerting to people at first. On top, or I guess next to, the 2D imager, the PA600 MCA comes with an HF RFID reader built-in. They didn’t opt for UHF RFID because that’d read every RFID tag, bracelet, whatever in a pretty solid radius. It’s tough to check last visit on a patient when you’re getting info on 4 others at the same time.

So this is step one into our foray into the healthcare market, hopefully step three is profit.

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