The Truth about Rapid Fire

This is not anything against Rapid Fire software, it may be old and antiquated but everything I’ve read indicates it’s rock solid and does a wonderful job despite it’s DOS platform. The problem does not lie in the software but rather the hardware that we try to run 15 year old software on.

And now for the whole story…

A friend of mine who runs delivery for a local pizza place asked if I could take a look at there Rapid Fire POS terminal that had failed. They said it powers up, but nothing happens and it smells like it is burning. When I opened the computer it was so filled with a combination of flour and dirt that it had burned up the motherboard.

Before I continue, I will very clearly state, I know nothing about the pizza business, I’m an IT professional and I do not handle POS computers either. Now that, that is out of the way.

This computer was an old Pentium III. So my first thought was well I’ll try another processor out of my junk bin and see if it solves the problem. First I tested the processor in a known computer and it worked I then dropped it in the bad one and still nothing. So again, not knowing anything about the software it was running, as I was just asked to fix the hardware. I gave them a call and asked what operating system does this run on and they told me DOS. Thankfully the person I was interacting with remembered the dawn of the computer age and knows what DOS is.

So a computer that runs DOS, point of sale or otherwise is much less finicky about having the hard drive removed and stuck in another computer. So back to my junk pile and I pull out an old Pentium III with 2 serial ports and drop the hard drive in it. I boot it up no problem. I then pop in the Linux SystemRescueCD (you can google this for a totally free tool) and backup the entire hard drive to another computer and burn a disc off for the owner.

Next comes the point of the discussion. I noticed that the computer had a built-in ethernet port which was unused and a PCI network card. The extra PCI network card was an “NE2000” compatible RealTek card, which has available DOS drivers and works with Rapid Fire (most network cards made today do not have DOS drivers). The built in network port on most if not all standard computers is not NE2000 compatible.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NE2000

Now I’m not familiar with the Rapid Fire software or it’s configuration and upon asking the provider of the original hardware this was claimed to be proprietary information. Despite the fact that the pizza place I’m working with has a support contract. After some discussion they agreed to walk my client through the configuration rather than me (as if he doesn’t have phones to answer).

So now I’m really interested, why does someone need to pay $500-1000 for a computer that runs DOS with a $10 network card in it? Now I’m sure there are those that will claim these cards are special or they cost $100s, not true there is plenty of surplus available. Search eBay for NE2000 and here is a great bit discussing the NE2000 cards:

http://beowulf.es.embnet.org/linux/driv … k-pci.html

This is basically disgusting to me that providers of Rapid Fire hardware, including POSHotline.com would have their customers believe that they are using custom hardware you can’t buy elsewhere. This is not a flame, as that is exactly what I was told when I asked them, shortly before I was laughed at and hung up on, but I digress.

Now the next question…licensing? Who actually owns the rights to Rapid Fire, it seems Radiant bought the rights in 1997 though they no longer support it? When I asked POSHotline if I could buy just the software, I was told that it is not licensed that way? Does anyone out there know how it is licensed now, if at all? Seems to me it is either unavailable because Radiant owns it but doesn’t sell it anymore or perhaps it has fallen into the public domain or otherwise, I do not claim to know who owns it. If someone out there does know who owns it perhaps they can shed some light on the subject.

Finally, it has been claimed by some that any old computer with 2 serial ports and an NE2000 network card in it CANNOT run RapidFire…why not? Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps someone could point out the error in my thinking? More likely though, it seems that people are being sold fairly run of the mill computers at $600-1000 when pretty much anything will work (provided it has the necessary serial ports and ne2000 card).

Here’s the best part, if this is true. You old, old PC that your grandma is now using to get her email or even more likely is being placed into a landfill would satisfy the need. Why would you want an old computer for this purpose? Well, it would most likely be free, it probably has the serial ports built in or there is an internal header pin that they can be easily added to. Old computers were built much, much better than modern computers…this is largely due to planned obsolescence and the use of ever cheaper parts.

I understand that pizza places do not have IT departments and I understand that there is a place for profit when selling a product of course. Though I do not agree with taking something off the shelf, calling it something it isn’t and charging double what it cost you. To be sure you could not buy a replacement at Best Buy, however any local computer builder could most likely build one.

In conclusion, let me know what you think? Is it reasonable to have to pay such high prices to continue running antiquated software? Would you like more information regarding this concept? Do you mind running an old machine if it costs next to nothing? Do you know who owns the licensing to RapidFire? Should I put together a specific list of hardware recommendations? Do you have any hardware recommendations?

When I look for software I want something that will be able to use on MY system not one they want to sell me. This is one reason you will see such a following for Point of Success on this forum.

I would certainly agree, regardless of the software used. Being tied to a specific computer system, in a technological age where a computer has a realistic lifespan of 3 years max. It makes no sense to me that people are forced to buy overpriced, overpowered computers for a task (running DOS) that could be handled with a 486 (some of you probably remember those).

Everyone pushes the concept of ; “don’t fix it, buy another” which in turn fills a landfill, fills their pocket and provides you with nothing better than you had the first time probably worse as computers are built with ever cheaper parts everytime. Modern computers are so fast that really no one needs one, with the exception of gamers, video editors and the like. Granted operating systems have become so bloated a faster computer may be necessary to run the latest version of windows. However, most people would be completely satisfied surfing the web and getting their email on a Pentium III running Windows 98. This is of course, not realistic…as you said though, at the very least their should be a choice.

And people, please remember terms like “Crash Proof” are a lie, there is no such thing. Every computer can crash and every computer can fail. When you buy a computer that supports your business, get spare parts. A spare power supply and spare motherboard, spare memory , spare hard drives, or even a spare computer. Sounds crazy? This is how things have been done for a long time, you all know down time costs money. If they don’t sell spare parts, as is the case with some of these Rapid Fire salesman, perhaps you can go elsewhere. As they don’t want the cat out of the bag, that there is nothing special about their computers or that you can buy the parts they are selling you for dirt cheap compared to what they charge you. Again look on eBay or for surplus dealers.

Computers are an open device, in that much like a car, you can open the hood. If they tell you that you can’t or you will void the warranty. That is code for you need to give me more money and I’ll open the hood for you. There is a reason why all sorts of stores sell computer parts, educate yourself and keep your money out of the hands of sharks.

And if you are in the market for software of any type pizza or otherwise. Check out Open Source software such as Open POS and others. These types of software are publicly supported, free to use and often run on Linux which is certainly as stable if not better than DOS. Never heard of Linux or Open Source? The Android operating system on many smartphones, is Linux based and Open Source and note that is growing faster than the proprietary IPhone, Blackberry and Palm.

Actually… ANY PC with 2 serial ports, and an NE2000 network card will run Rapidfire for DOS.

I supported that system for years.

It will run on anything from a 486, clear to about 1ghz machines without any problem. If you run anything faster, it could cause errors, BUT you can run programs like CPU throttling programs, which will slow down a cpu.

The catch is, most NE2000 adapters are ISA, so one would normally be stuck with using old old motherboards.

However, I don’t know if anyone here would be interested, but I have 55 network adapters, all new, PCI interface, and they are actual NE2000 compatible. I have tested one in rapidfire, it did work fine.

This would enable any rapidfire DOS user to start using newer computers (as long as you have 2 serial ports, OR an SIIG serial port add on card).

I really don’t need the cards anymore, but I cant just give them away… they cost me a lot of money when I got them because they are very rare as PCI.

SO… if anyone is interested, I would be willing to sell all 55 adapters, new in individual original boxes, in one bulk sale (I dont really want to start selling 5 here and there). I will sell them at a rate of $10 per card, for a total of $550 for the whole lot. I will ship them for free. That is less than I paid, but not too bad of a loss.

The brand is Unex, model# NA011

Each unit has a driver disk to configure card settings.

Its not a bad price for this many cards, and the very rare PCI interface… for someone who still wants to support a rapidfire system.

I also have a genuine rapidfire license dongle (that attaches to the parallel port) to make rapidfire run. I also have a working backup copy of rapidfire DOS, I think its at version 7.941e or close to it. It does have multiple area code capability. Its very stable, and I can set it up to clear out old customer/store/sales data… and leave all the current menus in tact. It would only require some customizing. I do not have any installable version, just a fully working backup. If anyone is interested, contact me…

Thats about it…

Rob

Oh and by the way… you can run the Rapidfire DOS with new ELO LCD touchscreens and dump the light pens if you haven’t already.

Rob