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A customer of mine has a around 100 members in his club and new ones join and members leave every week. So he has no way of knowing everybody personally.

He asked me to make him some magnetic swipe card system where the people swipe their card at the entrance and the computer says: "Membership valid" or "invalid".

Since the magnetic cards are so expensive, I thought about simple barcodes.

Idea 1: Barcodes

My first question is: How can I get barcodes in a Java Application or a Web Browser? Deployment platform would probably a cheap netbook with Windows 7 Starter or XP.

Then each member gets a barcode with an ID number on it. They scan it, the Java application looks it up in a database (which is maintained on a webserver with PHP/MySQL) and displays the appropriate information.

How can I get barcodes into the computer? Do I need a special Java Framework or do the scanners just act as a virtual keyboard?

Idea 2: QR-Codes

Another idea someone gave me was to use QR codes which contain a URL like http://example.com/customer/5463/ which can be opened with virtually every computer or smartphone. The website then shows the membership information.


Do you think either one would work well if some 30 members show up for an event and all need to check in?

Are there any better way to organize this maybe?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The barcode scanners that I know about work at a lower level than Java.

You put the driver and when a barcode is scanned it just sends the info to the computer exactly the same way as if it was a keyboard and someone had keyed the values of the barcode.

So, it is not relevant what do you use to develop your application because it is just keyboard entry.

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Of course, either barcodes or QR means that fraud (duplicating cards) is trivial. –  SJuan76 Nov 25 '11 at 8:06
    
This would not be that easy with magnetic cards. I guess if the computer shows the name (and a picture?) of the person, fraud should be hard enough. –  queueoverflow Nov 25 '11 at 8:29
    
Thanks for explaining how the scanner works. So I do not have to worry about the barcode scanner part too much. –  queueoverflow Nov 25 '11 at 8:31
    
Sure - but figure out how critical it is before over engineering the solution. Risk probability and impact. Is the service the club offers something that people would have a high probability of trying to get for free? What is the business impact if someone clones an ID and uses it? –  Paul Nov 25 '11 at 8:33
    
Yeah, planning before construction definitely saves a lot of time :-) –  queueoverflow Nov 25 '11 at 12:15

QR code is cool thing but you need camera to scan it. If it is not needed for club members to scan them themselves then I suggest to print normal bar codes and connect a cheap USB bar code scanner to your platform.

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I was told that the webcam in a netbook could scan QR codes. And if a netbook is bought, then this should be doable I guess. –  queueoverflow Nov 25 '11 at 8:11
    
Probably needs more programming effort but otherwise doable. I do not know however what existing libraries are available that can be used. If there is no library that fits for you then it is easier to read bar code scanner as these usually behave like keyboards inputting code. –  Cougar Nov 25 '11 at 13:07
    
I think I will settle with the low level bar code scanner as it is established technology and does not need any programming on my side. –  queueoverflow Nov 25 '11 at 21:34

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