I'll confess that I've done almost zero research on this topic as of right
now aside from pricing readers and blank cards.

So we're opening a new super-club here in Seattle. One of the ideas we'd
like to pursue is that people are assigned a card. This can be a magstripe
card or something with a barcode. Not really sure at the moment which way
to go.

The idea being that when they enter, we "swipe/scan" their card and we can
log stats (# of visits, # guests, favorite drink so the bar has it ready,
enter into contest, etc.) I was thinking we setup a simple netbook with a
USB reader at the front door when they pay. Then we have another back at
the bar. Connect via WiFi. Have a notebook somewhere behind the scenes that
runs LAMP (or a VM thereof). No internet needed.  The backend database and
even web/GUI stuff is of course trivial with any LAMP stack.

What I don't know is how do I interface _to_ PHP from say a magstripe
reader. They're dirt cheap ($50), but I assume come with zero software.
http://www.kanecal.net/mag-stripe-reader-scanner.html . And there are
hundreds of these gadgets out there all the same basically.

I guess what I'm hoping for is some pointers, from someone who's done this
sort of thing.

My gut thought is something so simple, where there is some XP software (or
Linux I suppose) that reads the card (and generally they only have a number
encoded on them) and this is sent via a URL we define, such as or etc. (ignore the security issues
and all that. It's trivial to encode the parameters, plus it's a closed
system with WEP/WPA/WTF). But does anyone know of such a key piece of code?

Like I said, I'm not locked into magcards. It could be a barcode reader
just as easily. Or fingerprint scanner, or facial recognition. In the end
it's just a unique "thing" that maps to a unique number. I just need the
"FM" (F*ckin' Magic -- it's a programmer term -- look it up!) that goes in
between PHP and the hardware.


"Some people, when confronted with a problem, think 'I know, I'll use
Now they have two problems. 

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