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Issue 14.1 ('Barcodes')
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The Magic of Barcodes

Barcodes, Web Apps, and iPhones... Oh My

Issue: 14.1 (January/February 2016)
Author: Mark Strickland
Author Bio: Mark Strickland has been a fan of many dialects of BASIC since it was on the Radio Shack TRS-80 and Digital Equipment PDP-11 mini computers. Over the years, he has spent time in a variety of companies including a manufacturer of credit card imprinters and another that built 6,000 water heaters per day. More recently, he has worked in a University Medical School setting using his MacGyver-like Information Technology and Ethical Hacker skills to solve problems, almost always with Xojo. In his small software company (SimplyBASICsoftware.com), he has been using Xojo to build things like a Web-based home health care package that keeps caregivers on task with text messaging. Usually his MacGyver skills don't make things blow up, but occasionally users might disagree.
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Article Number: 14106
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Excerpt of article text...

My apologies to the Wizard of Oz for paraphrasing, but this was a pretty scary bit of software development where I sometimes felt lost. Not big, not complex, but a little like a walk through the forest on the Yellow Brick Road, and from time to time I felt like the scarecrow... well, you remember the story.

Barcodes are pretty handy and I have used them over the years with many applications. Most of the time it involved a "wedge reader" on a desktop or laptop computer to simulate keyboard input. You could pretty much design the program without regard to the hardware requirements of the barcode reader since it appeared to the program as just keyboard input.

As many things in the world are changing, barcode scanning is becoming even more ubiquitous. Devices like iPhones are everywhere and their built-in cameras make great barcode scanners... with the right software. Xojo has also created a shift, at least for me, in that creating sophisticated Web Apps has become the standard, zero install method of how to distribute applications to the desktop and portable devices.

Unfortunately, Web Apps and native iPhone apps are not always an easy thing to combine.

Recently I had a need to create a simple inventory tracking system to check in and out items loaned from a university student technology support office. Barcodes appeared to be the answer, but it also appeared that the solution needed to be integrated with an iPhone or iPad since they were the technology of choice for the support staff. Wedge readers just did not make sense based on the physical requirements to roam around the office. This problem left me scratching my head at how to get a barcode reader on an iPhone to interface with a custom app for inventory tracking. I briefly looked at writing a custom iPhone app, but it quickly became obvious that I could spend a huge amount of time doing R&D work to get barcode scanning to work. After a little digging in the iPhone App Store, I found a barcode reader app that had a built-in Web Browser. On the surface, it appeared this could combine barcode scanning with a Web App, but I was not 100% sure how.

The iPhone App was Pic2Shop Pro (http://www.pic2shop.com/pro_version.html). It originally started out as a shopping app where you could scan a barcode and get info on the Web about a product. The Pro version (cost $15) has evolved into a general-purpose barcode scanner that has a built-in Web Browser and some integration between both parts. The integration is done with JavaScript and a callback function that will take the content of a scanned barcode and send it to the Web Browser where you can take action. This iPhone App also has an Android version that I assume would work the same way (but I have not tried it).

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