back to article Very little helps: Tesco serves up 3-for-1 borkage special to self-scanning Tesco shoppers

Windows Mobile may be dead, but Microsoft's earlier attempt at a lightweight operating system lives on - albeit in unexpected form - thanks to the self-scanners so beloved by some of the UK's supermarkets. British grocery behemoth, Tesco, seems to be having a few problems with its wonder gizmos, judging by the deluge of …

  1. Neil McCauley


    ..."I hunkered down for a fiddle," he said...

    1. Coastal cutie

      Re: Actress/bishop

      Oooooooooh Matron!

  2. Ol'Peculier

    Been there...

    We tried using a Windows CE scanner in our warehouse. Incredibly fiddly to set up and use. It's languishing in a corner with various other bits of borked IT stuff...

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Been there...

      Yet Windows CE that still powerful enough to run a full port of an Arcade game on a Dreamcast.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: Been there...

        There was a custom version of Windows CE created for the Dreamcast. Very few games used it, most of them wrote direct to the metal. It wasn't a general purpose OS.


        KISS Psycho Circus did use Windows CE for Dreamcast, the frame rate is appalling, and the game unplayable. I'll grant that Sega Rally 2, Virtual Cop 2, Hidden and Dangerous, and Starlancer had decent reviews though.

        1. Blackjack Silver badge

          Re: Been there...

          From what I have read the only good Windows CE games for Dreamcast were those that also had good Windows ports.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Been there...

      Used one at my local Tesco and ended up with a correctly scanned trolley full of shopping. Got to the self service tills and scanned the finished barcode under the watchful eye of the sales assistant. Shopping failed to load onto the till and I looked at her for help. She took the scanner and tried again but nothing on the till and the scanner says to put it in the stand.

      Manager comes over to see what the problem is. There's now a queue forming because people need their age validating for booze they're buying. Manager once appraised of the situation apologises and whisks me off to the nearest non self service till that's unmanned. Opens it and scans all my shopping through very quickly. Then price corrects the last item (a 6 pack of cola) to 1p as a goodwill gesture. I didn't put the booze last on the belt which was obviously a mistake. He said it's a right pain when they go wrong and this incident would be reported and investigated.

      When I worked near a Waitrose years ago they had the same system but it never went wrong for me. The only reason for using it there was it allowed you to jump the often long queue for the tills. The tills for hand scanners were exclusive to the scanners. This saved vital minutes in your lunch hour.

  3. Sykowasp

    I would have imagined that such a system would have been running a modified Android with the scanning application set as the main launcher, so it boots into it. It's not as if Android hasn't been around a lot longer than these self-scanning solutions have been in stores.

    If this device is similar to other Windows Mobile / PocketPC devices of old (it looks like it) then the touchscreen is likely unresponsive as hell as well. Not that this matters on a scanner like this, I guess.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Android? Out of the frying pan into the fire.

    2. Oh Matron!

      Symbol, from memory, almost exclusively use stock android, making the management of them relatively easy. If these things are running windows CE / Mobile, etc, then they were probably bought years ago, probably because some aspiring director presented a utopia of no check outs (and, therefore, no staff)

      Disappointed I didn't see minesweeper on there....

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Unlikely all their models have had the option of either OS the last time I looked.

      2. Michael B.

        These ones aren't that old. They did have a previous generation of hand scanners with a smaller screen that also ran CE so they've probably ordered more so as to avoid a wholescale rewrite.


        Best Buy gives them to warehouse employees to enter things into the interactive display issue logger (IDIL), do item picks, curbside pickup, SWAT (item counting), and other inventory management. It's mostly a few custom apps and integrated websites accessed from a custom launcher. Last I saw they ran customized KitKat (4.4).

    3. MrBanana Silver badge

      Sainsburys is an Android based system. Sometimes it briefly peeps out from behind the curtain, but any obvious failures I've seen are hardware or network issues.

    4. Martin J Hooper


      Asda have Android Hand Scanners, I can tell by some of the UI...

    5. spireite Silver badge

      Sainsburys Symbols....

      Used one the other day, and it had the response time of a one-legged hippo chasing a jeep....

  4. Jc (the real one)

    My Mondeo has a Microsoft system at the heart of the "no-driving" controls. Does satnav, radio, heating, fan etc.... And every so often, while driving, it will perform something it calls maintenance which involves it rebooting. I seriously have doubts about autonomous driving should systems like this be allowed access to driving controls.

    If I had known how much of the vehicle is controlled by MS I seriously would have looked at a different car


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      “I seriously would have looked at a different car”

      It’s a Mondeo

      That’s a standard response

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mondeos have gone downhill (and not in a useful sense)

      The Mk IV Mondeos were great, solid cars, built in Belgium and with no µsoft crap (VMware, perhaps?). The current Mk V ones are flimsy boxes built in Spain. Stuffed with useless gadgets and use µsoft in the 'infotainment' system. I test drove one when I wanted to replace my Mk IV, the salesman didn't seem surprised when I returned they keys with "no, thanks".

      1. Charlie van Becelaere

        Re: Mondeos have gone downhill (and not in a useful sense)

        Upvote for µsoft - I'll be using that spelling henceforth.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Mondeos have gone downhill (and not in a useful sense)

        Follwoign our freedom from oppresive Belgian overlords - the new Mondeo sovereignty will be built in Britain. It won't have any Microsoft computer stuff, or an engine.

        It will be pulled by a couple of unemployed northeners, self driving is an option if you buy the add-in whip option package.


          Re: Mondeos have gone downhill (and not in a useful sense)

          How is it self driving if you still must drive them with the whip? Maybe attach it to a pool noodle and tape it to the roof?

  5. Denarius Silver badge

    other devices

    my ancient navmans run some kind of WinCE. Odd that the Tesco application breaks to OS (being generous) level access. The navmans refuse to allow that. One has to mount the device under Linux and tweak the boot init file to change the CarNav app to something useful, like XCSoar. Actually runs quite well on them. XCSoar has dropped support, understandably, but the last WinCE version had all I needed for pottering around a simple 500 KM triangle or less and not bothered by cold at 15000 feet. As for AC, odd. Fnord were reportedly using QNX, a good choice. I concur about never buying a vehicle with embedded Window$. Modern vehicles are temperamental enough. In Oz they try to kill kids by autolocking when keys are inside. In an Oz summer, that is about 15 minutes before death ensures on a hot day.

    1. Gavin Chester

      WinCE - The memories...

      WinCE despite its flaws, still follows most Windows conventions. I suspect its because the Apps coders knew Microsoft frameworks, and it easier to stick with what you know.

      I suspect that the shopping part is really a web page running in a captive browser, Motorola used to offer something called Pocket Browser (and Symbol, who I think eventually bought that division, may still do) that once the browser started on boot it would not offer the user a way to close the browser (running Full screen/Kiosk mode so no window controls). Couple that with no on screen keyboard and it was semi- secure (borkage excluded) from casual attempts to break it.

      1. druck Silver badge

        Re: WinCE - The memories...

        Back in the early 00's it was easy port full Windows apps to CE, if it used to run on NT4, then only a minor bit of fiddling required to get it up and running. Of course it would be running as a full desktop app, with dialogs far larger than the CE screen, so the real challenge was modifying the UI to sensibly work on 240x320 with pen input.

  6. Dwarf

    How do you do Alt-F4 on a touch screen ?

    1. Sanctimonious Prick


      By making a fist and then slowly extending the middle finger!

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      On the CE devices I have used, they had a button, either hardware or on-screen, which would close the active window, or sometimes it would close the entire application. Never could be sure until you pushed it. If that button didn't eventually close the application which was rare, there was always an exit option in the menu.

      I once had the opportunity to use a Windows CE device with a full keyboard and reasonably-sized screen. It was surprisingly usable and like desktop Windows, even though it had only about 128 MB of memory for the OS and all user files. Then again, I didn't try anything all that complex. Still, I distinctly remember having a command prompt, C compiler, and Python interpreter, all of which ran pretty well such that I could write code on the mobile device if I needed to. I'd like to see a modern mobile OS let me do that. Then again, I doubt many people bothered connecting peripherals to turn a Windows CE device into a desk-bound machine.


        How about any Android device? I run a full Xorg server on mine and can use it as a desktop replacement if I want to; link up a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, use Google Cast or Miracast for display. I also have a terminal interface (ash, zsh), Python interpreter, and C compiler (gcc and clang).

  7. Test Man

    I could send you an example of this in Tesco several times a week, cos nearly every time I go there there's at least one borked handheld.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Ditto for self service tills. Pretty much any branch of any supermarket which has them will almost always have at least one that's borked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've been using them in my local store for years but noticed recently they've become completely unreliable - the system works until you get to the till and scan the barcode to transfer the shopping to the till. Cue the assistant blaming the wifi and taking the handset off for a wander to "catch a signal" that ultimately doesn't work. I think that, as well as the handsets just getting older, the amount of hand sanitiser being used on and near them is probably the issue. I know that at one point I definitely killed one when my own hands were heavily and freshly sanitised - the damn thing just went into meltdown. I've given up and just gone back to the old days now.

  8. ChrisC Silver badge

    "flashing what looks rather like the Windows Explorer of old, replete with the chunky toolbar now replaced by the flatter affairs of today"

    I think you meant to say:

    "replete with a toolbar where each element can be individually quite readily distinguished from its neighbour as well as from the rest of the UI through the simple application of colour variation and obvious delineation elements such as gadget borders, seperator lines etc, leaving you in no doubt as to where you can click to generate a response you'd expect to see given where you'd just clicked, compared with the much less appealing UX offered by flatso-UIs where you're often left randomly clicking away on what look like equally blank parts of the screen trying to find the bit which actually contains an active control and isn't just padding within the UI for the app you're actually trying to use, let alone part of the screen that isn't even part of the UI in the first place."

    Borderless windows and vast swathes of whitespace makes for some truly stupefyingly awful screen layouts at times, where you're genuinely left wondering where one app UI ends and another begins, or even if the app you thought you'd just asked to open has even opened at all, so well camouflaged it is against what's already open...

    Seriously, the sooner the current generation of UI designers get bored of working for OS developers and go off to inflict their minimalism on some other part of human life where it really doesn't matter if you can't figure out what the hell you're looking at in under 5 seconds, and we start to appreciate once more the useability of these older styles of UI, the better. Where humans need to interact reliably with machines, then functionality over form should be the mantra chanted by the UI designers every single time they decide how to design that part of the UI, and if they're still itching to indulge in a spot of art for arts sake then save it for the Tate Modern or similar where such works are more likely to be appreciated.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      You mean instead of pressing the deceptively named "Program Manager" to manage programs you now intuitively shake the device anti-clockwise 3 times, then draw a pentagram on the touch screen then hum

      a Rick Astely song to access the settings page ?

      The nice thing about work from home is that everybody's 8year old kid is available on zoom to explain how to work the latest Windows/Android UI nonsense should I ever have to step away form the command line

    2. tin 2

      Yes!! I do wonder why the current version of windows is still called windows when it doesn't actually have any windows in it anymore, just the edge of the apps running into each other.

  9. macjules

    Teething Issues Trouble Scanned User Purchases

    More like "Tesco Insists Technical Support Updated Properly"

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like