Understanding bar codes, and customizing your scanner

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Bar codes graphically encode the numbers that you see printed under the bar code.  The specific arrangements and thickness of the bars and spaces determine the code “symbology” being used.  Bar code symbologies can be thought of as being different types of "fonts."  For example, codes on delivery labels are usually printed using symbology Code-39 or Code-128.

EAN-13 is the symbology used for ISBN book bar codes, UPC-A is the symbology used by all other merchandise, including CDs, DVDs, etc. Examples of these bar codes as well as important scanning instructions are at: http://www.scoutpal.com/db/howtoscan/

When you press a scan button, the scan engine (the device inside the scanner) turns on its beam which causes the engine to examine the bars and spaces of the bar code to figure out the bar code's symbology and then to decode the numbers represented by those bars and spaces. The scanner then sends all of the decoded numbers to its scanner driver software running on the host device. The driver then sends those numbers directly into whatever program is currently running on the device. This all happens exactly as if you had typed the numbers in from a keypad or keyboard, followed an Enter (carriage-return) key, but at a super-human speed. For this reason, the receiving program needs to be ready to receive the numbers before you scan -- meaning that its cursor will need to be blinking inside an entry field, ready to accept ISBNs/UPCs digits that may be typed in, or scanned in.

There are two primary types of scan engines used inside Socket scanners (and actually all other non-contact scanners).  Exactly how bar code symbologies get enabled or disabled will depend on the type of engine.  Before taking further action with the procedures on this page, you will need to know what type of scan engine is inside your scanner.

Look at the pictures at http://scoutpal.com/db/aximpics/#scanengines.  You'll see a Class-2 laser scan engine on the left and an Imaging scan engine on the right.

If you have a Class-2 laser scan engine: When you first get a scanner, or if the scanner somehow gets misconfigured and stops working or is unreliable, you should restore its factory defaults. Sometimes a previous user may have customized the scanner in a way that would interfere with scouting usage. The factory defaults procedure will also enable the proper symbologies for both books (EAN-13) and non-print merchandise (UPC-A.)  Just follow the instructions on this page: http://scoutpal.com/db/symbolclass2reset/  (* also refer to the printing note below)

If you have an Imaging scan engine: Symbologies accepted by this scanner are changed by tapping on the scanner's driver icon. Push your scan button to start the Socket Scan program first. Then, on the PDA’s Today screen (the main screen that displays date & time, owner info, etc.) you will see the driver icon on the bottom right. It will appear as a red slashed circle over a bar code when the scanner is not connected, the icon should change to a primitive picture of the scanner when the scanner is connected. With the scanner connected:  tap the scanner icon and a menu will pop up. Choose Symbology Selector from the driver menu, then tap the Disable All button; this will stop the imaging engine from wasting time and effort trying to find irrelevant symbologies. Then be sure to checkmark EAN-13 (disregard the other EAN-types) and UPC-A (disregard the other UPC-types.)  When finished selecting symbologies, tap OK on the upper right of the screen, and the scan engine will be optimally programmed for scouting.

Symbol scan engines (as found inside SocketMobile scanners) can be customized.  For example, you can tell the scanner to not beep, you can have a Class-2 scan engine disregard symbologies that you don’t need, and (in some Class-2 models) you can enable a continuous scan beam.

  1. Disable or enable the scanner’s beep:  Tap on the scan driver icon on the Today (home) screen (or tap  Start > System > Scanner Settings > Sound tab.)  If you have a Socket 7 Bluetooth scanner, you will instead tap the CS HW tab, then change the “Good Read Indicator” to OFF, or to a sound of your choice. DO NOT disable scanner sounds until you are totally practiced and familiar with scanning because when the beep is off there you will no longer get any tactile feedback when a scan fails; after you are practiced and familiar with scan behaviors, you will develop a "feel" for failed scans.  (For example: damaged/blurred bar codes.)
  2. If your SocketMobile scanner has somehow gotten into a state where it routinely includes EAN supplemental digits in the scan, and a reset to factory defaults does not resolve the issue, you may need to install and use SocketMobile ScanParams utility program on your PDA in order to stop the behavior.  The program is available from SocketMobile.com, installed using ActiveSync.  You may find it more convenient to install from a CAB by following the steps below, carefully and EXACTLY:
    1. Download a zip of the CAB setup files by clicking here, then extract (unzip) your download.
    2. Put a copy of the CAB that matches your PDA's OS on your SD card.
    3. With the card in the PDA, use the PDA's file explorer to navigate to, and then tap on the appropriate CAB file and install the ScanParams program to the device.

     -- After the ScanParams program has been installed on the device:

    1. Soft-reset the PDA to ensure that the scanner driver is NOT running. (No scanner icon on the Today screen.)
    2. Run the ScanParams program.
    3. Enter "10" (ten) in the Parameter field.  Enter "00" (double zeroes, NOT the letter "Oh") in the Data field.
    4. Checkmark the Persistent option.
    5. Tap the Set Data button.
    6. Soft-reset the PDA.
    7. When the soft-reset is complete, tap "owner info" and scan a book into the address field.
    8. You should no longer see supplemental digits come in after EAN-13 digits.
  3. Symbol Class-2 Laser scan engines (for example, as found inside Socket true laser scanners like the 5m, 3p, 7m and so on) may be configured with various bar code symbologies enabled or disabled. Class-2 lasers are by nature fast and efficient, but disabling obscure symbologies may marginally improve overall scanning performance.  But ... be sure to keep EAN-13 (books) and UPC-A (all other merchandise) enabled! There are special command bar codes that you print (* see the  printing note below) and scan to disable/enable symbologies and features: http://www.scannerpal.com/share/demo/chapter8_symbologies.pdf  (Factory default options and symbology settings are noted with an asterisk.)
  4. If you have a Socket Mobile Bluetooth scanner: you can optionally program it to continuously scan using a solid or blinking beam as well as return it back to normal scanning only when you press the button:  http://www.scannerpal.com/share/demo/chapter8_trigger_modes.pdf

* Printing Note: Some inkjet or most low quality printers may not have enough resolution to have the bar codes printed sharply enough for the scanner to recognize them at their default print size.  You may need to use a Print Preview function to enlarge each command bar code printout page by 200% or more.  Some browsers don't have this function, but all Windows Computers have the Internet Explorer browser, which does have a print preview function with an enlargement option.