Practical Uses for CueCat

Posted 24 Sep 2000 at 21:17 UTC by gagzilla Share This

CueCat is a cool product, but so far everything I've heard about CueCat doesn't impress me much. Most geeks (read tech savvy) who'd install CueCat can at least type a URL off of the magazine ad. So what could be some really useful practical uses for CueCat?

Clearly CueCat's introduction has been far from useful. After you'd work around the stupid serial-id which is a serious privacy problem, here are some of the useful things you could use CueCat for--

  • Indexing/Cataloging So many people I know want to index and catalog their CD, DVD, books collection. What could be easiar than maintaining that catalog on the web with a scan-happy session on the weekend? Hey you could even keep track of who's borrowed your favorite CD/DVD.
  • Recommendations Recommendations from a cross-linked database of products. For example-- if you scan in a bar code for a product, you should be able to go to a web site describing the newer versions and competing products available now.
  • Registration It would be so easy to write a registration app that automated the stupid process. And make it easiar for us to get our refunds :)
I am sure we'd find better uses of CueCat in future, but for now something better than scanning ads and UPC bars off of products is how CueCat might make it. The way it is now definitely sucks, but its a start. I won't be surprised if a few years from now you could get a readerin your cell phone and you are out at the mall, window shopping and you scan in a product you might just be ready to buy. Beam up the scanned UPC and get yourself a better deal by making a right at the next light and travelling 0.3 miles. :-)

Microwave-oven, posted 25 Sep 2000 at 08:38 UTC by iGN » (Journeyer)

I'd like to see microwave-ovens be able to read the bar-code of my hot-pockets boxes, and automatically set the time to two minutes. Read it twice, and it would set it to the amount of time needed to cook two of 'em (three minutes seems to work pretty well for me).

One could organize it the same way CDDB is, with the ability to register foodtypes by having the oven speak directly to the database. This information could be based on how you cook the dish the first time.

Hey, and what about enabling the freezer, by scanning food before you put it in, it'll start beeping a week before stuff goes bad.

Ok, I need a wife, or something.

Cataloging your possessions for insurance purposes..., posted 25 Sep 2000 at 15:50 UTC by Svartalf » (Journeyer)

Try using it to read the UPCs on your Videotape and DVD collection. Try using it to read the ISBN coded UPC on your book collection.

Several have done this with good results.

As for other uses less serious but still practical- a doorstop...

Print your own Barcodes?, posted 25 Sep 2000 at 17:33 UTC by cbbrowne » (Master)

I definitely like the "collect barcodes from Library" idea, whether we're speaking of books, CDs, or DVDs.

The only problem there is that it sort of mandates having a portable computer. If-and-when I catalog my library, it will probably take place via hooking up the CueCat to my PalmPilot so that I can belt all the hardware to my hip rather than having to bring the books over to my computer.

What would also be a Cool Idea would be to print up my own barcode stickers, perhaps generating a whole bunch that I'd attach to computer components. It then requires building a database of codes and associations to the data about those components.

Another Cool Idea would be to attach barcodes to CDs that I might burn.

Unfortunately, this somewhat parallels the notion of "imaging" my financial records; it's a sort of cool idea, but actually using this requires custom-writing a whole bunch of software...

My library, posted 25 Sep 2000 at 17:48 UTC by jwalther » (Journeyer)

I have a rather large library. I've been intending to catalog it for over a year, but the size of the task is daunting, and being a practicing biblioholic, its always getting larger. My CD collection is in a similar state. Personally, it will take me less than an hour to whip up a little database application to store the barcodes and their associated data, for both book and CD's. I'm a C bigot, but this is the perfect application of Perl + DBI.

With the CD collection I plan a further refinement, which is to tie the cataloging into information downloaded from CDDB. Swipe the barcode, and all the information about the CD gets into the database. But then pop the CD into the drive, and all the track info goes into the database too. It'll then be easy to do a search for a song, or see all the songs by an artist, etc.

I'll probably stick the whole schmear on the web for others to see. Should be interesting what kind of web searches turn up hits in the contents of my database. There will be a recommendations section where people could recommend new purchases, or review whats already there. I'll be putting little blurbs about most of my favorite books on there.

Anyhow, small fantasies for small people. Hope y'all can come up with other interesting applications. I know that one of swiping the barcode of a food product and being linked to related recipes that use that product is something my fionse is interested in.

Is the UPC for a cd not already machine readable?, posted 25 Sep 2000 at 18:23 UTC by cmacd » (Journeyer)

I was under the impresion that the ID info on an audio CD was just the UPC code. Title information is not spelled out, that is why CD player applications typicaly have you input album data.

The good side of this is that you should be able to build a cataloging application that would just require you to insert the CD in the drive, the app would read the UPC and look it up online. It could get track numbers and length, but would have to get the track info somewhere else.

Book catalogues, posted 25 Sep 2000 at 21:05 UTC by bgough » (Journeyer)

Extend the global interlibrary loan system to personal collections, by people cataloging their books and making the databases available for searching (include geographic location in the database). Maybe it would speed up the ILL system if books could be found nearby. Loss/damage to be covered by charging a small fee, for insurance. Alternatively just extend the collections of the local library that you are a member of by this method (so that the library can borrow books from you to lend to others who have "reserved" them through a search). If the book is lost/damaged they pay for it to be replaced.

Shopping List, or too damn lazy to write things down., posted 26 Sep 2000 at 04:53 UTC by davidm » (Master)

I'm adding a CueCat to one of my eyeopeners for my kitchen. I am far to lazy to write down every I use up, but I will scan most boxes and packages. Not perfect but better then whatI currently have.

Shopping, posted 26 Sep 2000 at 18:38 UTC by mstevens » (Journeyer)

This sounds like a good idea. Scan in and out, track what you eat and when.

I want one now :)

The UPC for a cd not the same as the CDDB id, posted 26 Sep 2000 at 23:37 UTC by rillian » (Master)

cmacd, the disc id used by the online databases is calculated by hashing the track table-of-contents and is completely distinct from the UPC code printed on the case. I don't think the original cddb included a field for the UPC code, but most of the newer metadata schemes do (in particular because it makes buying a copy easier!) so doing the lookup will be possible in the future.

Another point is that not all discs have a UPC code, and it's almost never on the disc itself, so the toc-hash is a much more reliable identifier, even if it's not guaranteed unique.

As an aside, my friend who works in a bookstore tells me that while the UPC codes on CDs are unique to the title at least, the ones on the back of paperback novels are not so you can't use them to catalog books. They're intended for supermarket scanners and don't identify much besides publisher and price group.

UPC codes are assigned through a two-level hierarchy: the first part marks the manufacturer, and the second is for that manufacturer to assign. I've noticed a lot of CDs use the catalog number in the last 5 or 6 digits of the UPC. Most books with a UPC do have the ISBN as a barcode on the inside cover, 'bookish' books will have just the ISBN on the back. They can be a little hard to distinguish at first, but the checksums are different.

UPC codes are assigned through a two-level hierarchy: the first part marks the manufacturer, and the second is for that manufacturer to assign. I've noticed a lot of CDs use the catalog number in the last 5 or 6 digits of the UPC.

There is also an International Serial Recording Number analogous to ISBN for recordings, but I've not seen it in common use in North America.

Smart shopping, posted 2 Oct 2000 at 23:57 UTC by njh » (Master)

A particularly good use of Cuecat would be to avoid buying products with which you don't agree with the ethics of the manufacturer. Currently, companies have a big advantage over consumers because they can hide the relationship between consumables and providers.

When I walk into a supermarket, I find a dazzling array of, e.g. baked beans. A while back my brother was eating baked beans at a rate of about a tin a day. I decided to find out what companies were behind the brands available. The three brands with the right sized tins and flavours were Heinz, Watties, and SPC. Closer inspection found that Heinz, and Watties were made by "Heinz-Watties". Clearly there was some trickery designed to get a larger share of the market.

My suggested use of the Cuecat would be to build a database containing the pedigree(for want of a better word) of a particular product. Perhaps have a cuecat plugged into a laptop with an airport card and have the machine beep, or play music or something based on which companies are behind which products.

BarWare, posted 7 Oct 2000 at 19:44 UTC by wallace » (Apprentice)

I created a small application that handles barcodes for indexing financial records. It was not originally intended for use with the :Cue:Cat, but I've recently added :Cue:Cat functionality. BarWare uses PHP and MySQL. If you want to try it out, go to . There are also some other applications that are specifically made for indexing books. Search for "Cue Cat" at freshmeat.

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