Here’s a little insider information on Rabbit Valley® Comics and how we use our register system at conventions.

Before Square announced it’s Square Business in a Box system, we had purchased all the pieces.  And, for the most part having a cash drawer and a printer at a con is really neat and cool!  But, not every convention has wireless.  And what if you’re one of the thousands of food trucks or other mobile merchants? There has to be a way to make Square in a Box more portable.

Hardware Needed:

  • 1 – Apple iPhone 4 or later OR iPad 3rd generation WiFi + Cellular
  • 1 or more iPad to run Square Register App
  • 1 – Apple Airport Express ($99) or Airport Extreme ($179)
  • 1 – Square Business in a Box with printer register system
  • 1 – Ethernet Cable
  • 1 – Computer with an Ethernet port for setup of the printer only

Software Needed:

  • Airport Utility from Apple iOS App Store loaded onto the same iPad that will run the Square Register app.

Here’s the basics.  The iPhone will provide the internet connection.  The Airport will join the WiFi hotspot created by the iPhone.  The printer gets physically connected to the LAN port on the Airport via the Ethernet cable.  The iPad running Square Register app joins the WiFi hotspot created by the iPhone.  Then, the iPad running Square Register can see the printer, the cash drawer, and get to the internet to complete Square transactions.

Setup iPhone:

First, set up the personal hotspot feature on your Apple iPhone or iPad WiFi + Cellular.  Instructions are on the Apple website.  Note that AT&T iPhone can get on the internet and take phone calls simultaneously.  The Verizon and Sprint CDMA iPhone will drop the internet connection with an incoming phone call.  Enable Personal Hotspot, and stay on the Personal Hotspot screen so it is “discoverable.”

Setup Airport:

Next, reset the Airport base station to factory settings.  The Airport will then begin to blink its status light showing it needs setup.

On the iPad that will run Square Register, go to Settings App -> WiFi

The iPad will offer you an option to setup the Airport base station.  Follow the instructions to join an existing WiFi network.  The Apple website has provided this support document to set it up.

The Complicated Part:

Now here’s the complicated one.  The Star TSP 143L printer does NOT reliably get an IP address from the Personal Hotspot feature of the iPhone.  But we do know that the iPhone on AT&T and Verizon will reliably spit out an address range of:

  • Router: 172.20.10.1
  • Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.240

Thus, if we set the IP address of the printer to one of the 14 IP addresses available, we’re save to get a connection.  There’s a few ways to do this, and it depends on which printer you have and if you have a Mac or PC.  Therefore, RTFM: Read This Flipping Manual.

Once you’ve used a Mac or PC to connect to the printer and set the IP address manually, it will remember that IP address forever and ever and ever… Until you change it again.  So do this, and test it, before your big trade show, okay?

Attach Printer to Network:

Connect the printer to the Airport Express with the LAN port (that’s the one that doesn’t have the round globe looking icon above the Ethernet port).  Attach the cash drawer. Power up the printer.  Start up the Square Register app and test print.  You should be up and running.

That’s it!

The iPhone creates an internal network and allows other devices to talk on its LAN.  The iPhone provides the gateway to the internet that the Square Register app needs to approve cards.  And, the Square Register app speaks to the printer on the internal LAN.

Improvements for the Future:

We’ve tried this with another brand of hotspot, the Samsung Verizon 4G LTE hotspot; it did not work as its LAN system did not allow devices to speak to each other on the internal LAN.

Square could update its app to eliminate one of the devices needed for this.  If the app could see both network interfaces on the iPad (assuming one had a WiFi + Cellular iPad), the App could speak on the internal IP addresses for the printer and the external IP addresses for the credit card approval.

There needs to be an easier way for the printer to get an IP address.  Oh well.

 

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