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AN example of how my thought process works

Some might call it a short attention span.

I've been wanting to catalog my DVD collection for a while. I've been dreading it, because frankly, I have a lot of DVDs, and entering in all of that information is a daunting task, the kind of thing that you hire interns for-- well, that and making coffee, and backroom sexual favors.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, romeoa mentioned an application for the iPhone that would catalog DVDs just by pointing your iPhone at the barcode, and it sounded like a nifty thing.

Of course, I don't have an iPhone. And I don't have a (working up-to-date) Mac. Of course, there has to be something similar for Windows XP.

Turns out, there are a few apps that do this. And you don't need to phone it in, you need a barcode scanner, or your webcam. Or you can enter the UPC codes

Unfortunately, my webcam has a fixed focus, and can't read the barcodes. I could probably fiddle with some optics, but I don't have any on-hand, and I like my webcam where it is.

The obvious solution is to get a barcode scanner. They shouldn't be that expensive, right?

Uh. Crap.

Then I think of the basement full of salvaged parts from laser printers and scanners and the like, and I start thinking of what it would take to build my own barcode scanner.

I have laser scanning modules, visible laser diode modules, and the like. I'd need to design some relatively simple circuitry to demodulate the beam, and some programming skillz to take the modulated data and decode it into barcode data, and another piece to pretend to be a USB keyboard.

Yes, it would be a shitload of work. And it would probably take me longer to design and build the scanner than it would to enter all of the data in manually. And I already have enough projects in my queue to keep me busy for quite some time.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
They're expensive only if you stick to brand names
Jan. 15th, 2009 08:35 am (UTC)
If I rummage around...
I can probably find a CueCat that I'm not using, somewhere in the basement.
Jan. 15th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)
Re: If I rummage around...
A CueCat would be excellent-- there are lots of hacking resources online for them. Let me know.
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Did you completely miss the part where you typed Or you can enter the UPC codes

Have you considered scanning the boxes themselves with a scanner? There's got to be a program out there that works that way considering they have programs that will scan documents and convert them into editable text.

PS: You seem to skim past the fact that the title of that comic is 'Im_an_idiot'.
Jan. 15th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
I have a couple of the programs on trial versions. One of them will take input from a webcam, but none of them will use a scanner. Besides, a scanner isn't fast. And I'd have to have a working scanner.

As for I Am Dumb: there is very little practical value with making my own barcode scanner. I get that. It's highly impractical. The point of the post is to show part of how my brain works, where I see the challenge and devour it.

I spent a chunk of hours researching barcode scanners, the pieces I have, reverse-engineering the scanner motors and laser drivers, and the like. I got so into it that I missed sleep.

That knowledge is useful to me even if I don't build a barcode scanner. It's possible-- and quite likely-- that sometime in the future, I'll need to know how to drive a scanner motor, or how to drive a laser module, or read a barcode, or decode a barcode depending on the type, or create a USB HID device to interface with a computer.

The scanner project is a framework for learning all this stuff, putting it together into a cohesive "product".
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
So what you're saying is this is akin to my grandfather saying he was going to 'fix' the toaster as an excuse to take it apart rather then just buying a new one for $15
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
Not quite, but similar.

Fixing the toaster is I think more of a man-thing, though with your grandfather it may have been coming from the "fix-it-don't-buy-new" mentality that was the prevailing mode of thinking up until the last 20 years or so.

With me, it's more of a Make-geek thing, like the guy that built the bar-droid.

What it boils down to is that I get a great deal more satisfaction out of building something myself (or fixing something myself) rather than buying it new.
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
While my grandfather was cheap, the real reason he took the toaster apart was because he wanted to take the toaster apart like a little kid. :)
Jan. 15th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
Your grandfather used to take apart little kids? And here I thought I was the only one.
Jan. 15th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
It IS just you.
Nah, just toasters. He tried with a kid once.....once.
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Heh. That was amusing to me. We had 2 barcode scanners at my former job. One was a Cue Cat that someone never used at home & brought in.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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