When good POS go bad...



  • OK, I've been reading this site for a while, and I don't have as many WTFs to share since I mainly deal with the hardware side of IT as opposed to the software side, but I think I finally found a genuine WTF worthy of this site.

     Before the WTF, some background on its origin.  I was servicing a POS system at a location of a convenience store chain with ~1700 stores that has just upgraded to this "latest and greatest" POS system, unifying at least four different systems that were in use and streamlining reporting and back-office functions.  The software is produced by a company that ONLY makes this software.  Publix supermarkets, Toys-R-Us, and Tesco's use this same software, just different variations of it, so this isn't a student or otherwise project.

    The problem I was called out to fix was a PIN pad not communicating with the host POS.  9 times out of 10, someone has unplugged the USB cable from the POS.  That results in a normal error message like "PIN ENTRY DEVICE NOT PRESENT".  Occasionally, a PIN pad will fail, and the terminal will get pretty creative with error messages like "UNEXPECTED DATA FROM PED", or "PIN ENTRY DEVICE MALFUNCTION".  These are usually accompanied by some nice diagnostic information that helps the technician understand what's wrong.  Today, however, was different.  When customers attempted to enter their pin, it would look like it was processing the card, but the terminal would give this error: http://i196.photobucket.com/albums/aa6/theikitsune/IMG_0052.jpg

    That was the entire error message.  No debugging information, no nothing.  And it didn't even mean what it said on the tin; selecting "CLOSE", and then retrying the transaction worked flawlessly.




  • So the failure was sufficiently catastrophic that it couldn't provide details, but not so much that it couldn't display the error message.

    I was not aware that there were degrees of catastrophic.



  •  Could it be that there was enough information in the error already to troubleshoot?

    Let me take a stab at this one, even though I have NEVER worked on POS. It sounds like the system was looking for a picture that....didn't exist where it was supposed to.

     

    The real WTF is that technicians need everything spelled out to them in step-by-step instructions, and get hired without having neccessary skils, and never get training they need to look past the obvious.

     

    Sorry I think I need to go get my cup of coffee, disregard everything I say.

     



  • @snoofle said:

    I was not aware that there were degrees of catastrophic.

     

    Sure! There's "catastrophic" as defined by me: house burning down, major earthquake or hurricane, out of coffee in the morning.  Then there's "catastrophic" as defined by my boss: hangnail, lack of strong AI in web application, anything his boss defines as catastrophic.



  • TRWTF is that "Catastrophic Failure" is the error message associated with the (more harmless sounding) error code E_UNEXPECTED. I've used E_UNEXPECTED a few times myself, but more in the sense that "something unexpected happened".

    If they would just change the error message to "Unexpected Error", like the code indicates, I think we would see a lot fewer of these.



  •  How is a piece of shit ever good in the first place?



  •  It's not that I needed it spelled out for me, I would have just liked to have known which piece of equipment (terminal vs PIN pad) had the catastrophic failure.

    Also, later on that day, the software ran that same terminal (with 2 GB RAM) out of both physical and virtual memory.



  • @m0ffx said:

    How is a piece of shit ever good in the first place?

    Have you ever looked down the toilet bowl and thought to yourself: [i]"Well, amn't I the man?"[/i]?



  • @dmsnkitsune said:

    9 times out of 10, someone has unplugged the USB cable from the POS. 

    You're lucky there was no PIN sniffer plugged in between...



  • @Spectre said:

    @m0ffx said:
    How is a piece of shit ever good in the first place?

    Have you ever looked down the toilet bowl and thought to yourself: "Well, amn't I the man?"?

     

    I have done that twice already this morning. 



  •  @alegr said:

    @dmsnkitsune said:

    9 times out of 10, someone has unplugged the USB cable from the POS. 

    You're lucky there was no PIN sniffer plugged in between...

    The PIN pad, like most PIN pads I'd want to use, communicates the PIN to the host as a hash of the actual value.  The PIN pad in this case is a Hypercom L4150, which is actually a pretty enterprisey device on its own.

     http://www.hypercom.com/products/l4150.asp



  • @boh said:

    TRWTF is that "Catastrophic Failure" is the error message associated with the (more harmless sounding) error code E_UNEXPECTED.

    Uncatched exceptions that creep up to the "task manager" in one of my programs will send the stacktrace to the log, preceded with a label saying "A CRITICAL Error has ocurred: "+e.getMessage(), and given the kind of exceptions that would get thrown that far away, usually are critical errors. (One of them would be that a module is not deployed, for example.)



  •  @m0ffx said:

     How is a piece of shit ever good in the first place?

    Go a week without one and then you'll know.

     


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