Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The CueCat barcode scanner

I wanted a barcode reader, mainly for paying bills. I found this device, the CueCat. I bought two Cats from librarything. I have been happy with them, even if it took me a while to master the scanning procedure. This is the cheapest scanner I could find, but it comes with an interesting "feature": the barcode data sent to the computer is encrypted and additionally contains the serial number of the Cat. All of this was part of the business model of the company that made the scanner, they tracked the behavior of individual users for advertisement purposes. Now the company is dead, and a huge stock of CueCats remains. Wikipedia describes the history of this device.

The scanner connects to the USB port, and behaves like a keyboard. When a barcode is scanned, the cat just types the letters and numbers of the code.

Fortunately it is easy to get rid of the scrambling and serial number. The USB version can be "declawed" by simply cutting one pin on one of the microchips inside it (pin 5 on the chip marked HMS91C7316). I heated the pin with a soldering iron and lifted it from the board with a needle. Others recommend cutting it with a small pair of scissors. This probably works just as well, I just thougth desoldering would be more reversible. The librarything wiki also contains declawing instructions. Another nice page with instructions (in Finnish).

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