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ICU Newsagent reopens

Aug 21 2002 11:41
Mustafa Arif
Only “teething problems” remain with the new EPOS system.
ICU has installed a shiny new EPOS system with funky flat screens.

Students and staff who are around during the summer will have noticed that the walkway newsagent outlet (intriguingly named “Newsagent Plus”) has been closed from much longer than is usual for the Union’s annual “stock take”. The delay was caused due to “unforeseen problems” with the new electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) system being installed by ICU.

The delay was caused by the requirement to run a data network cable from the main ICU shop to the newsagent across the walkway (in order to connect to the new EPOS system). The College Estates division would have none of this – at first. Citing a plethora of information systems, environmental and health and safety regulations it was deemed “impossible” for such a cable to be run across the walkway. That was until the Union pointed out that there is already a cable across the walkway connecting the two outlets for the old system. Eventually, after much turning of the wheels of College bureaucracy, the cable was installed in the early hours of yesterday morning. Ramnath Ramanan, ICU Deputy President (Finance & Services) admitted that waiting for permission to put the cable in had left the Union “behind schedule” with the project.

ICU are installing the new EPOS system at a cost of £50,000 over a 5 year lifetime. The shop and newsagent have an annual turnover of just over £1 million. The lack of an automated trading system was causing unnecessary costs in terms of stock control – as one senior Union source put it “we never really know what’s actually been sold”. Better reporting should also allow the Union’s trading managers to make faster commercial decisions as well as facilitating scrutiny by student committees.

Staff in ICU’s trading outlets are getting used to the new EPOS system (which went live in the shop last week). While staff have complained of “teething problems” the general impression is favourable, with the few niggles expected to be ironed out over the next few days.

The newsagent finally re-opened at 8.30 this morning. The saga has caused much psychological turmoil for Oliver Pell, ICU Retail Committee’s resident manic-depressive, pessimist, and pedant. On news of the newsagent’s reopening, Mr Pell commented, “better late than never”.

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Discussion about “ICU Newsagent reopens”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Aug 21 2002 13:36


the newsagent has installed new EPoS tills, however they don't look like the ones in your picture...

suggest you use this picture instead:

Aug 21 2002 20:41

But that one isn't nearly as pretty...

3. Dan L   
Aug 23 2002 22:51

Is this system being installed right across the union? It make sense to include the bars and catering too, and then it might be worth the money they are spending on it.

Aug 24 2002 08:33

It is not currently being installed across bars and catering although the system is probably sufficiently flexible for this to be done at some point in the future.

5. idris   
Aug 24 2002 19:39

The medical bookshop at Charing X has recently re-opened at "Medical Books Plus". Creepy?

In that case, a change of ownership was the cause (no, Waterstones couldn't make it pay, just like we said, blah blah blah). Is "News Plus" to be the first in a new ICU PFI venture designed to complement Dickie's PFIsation of halls, etc?

Aug 26 2002 16:08


the only reason Waterstone's pulled out of CX is that it was the only Imperial branch making a profit. However, Waterstone's national policy was to bring all branches 'online', and they didn't want to pay the money it would cost to connect CX to a fibre optic network. Hence, they decided to close down CX and Hammersmith and run everything from SK.

Sadly, the original Waterstone's deal with College strictly prohibits any other book sellers from dealing on the SK campus. Happily for med students, that meant that Dianne, who ran the shop at CX could get a bank loan, put a business case to the College and start offering a value for money service to students - God forbid!


Aug 27 2002 11:43

Idris, if so, then bring-on "Catering plus"

8. idris   
Aug 27 2002 14:33


"Sabbaticals Plus"; that'd be a PFI contract worth winning. Transfer a couple of non-English-speaking Phillipinos from the catering and cleaning division and pocket the difference in salaries. No-one would notice the difference, would they?


Is your reading of the situation that Waterstones expect the students who made their CX branch viable to transfer their custom to South Ken?

Aug 28 2002 12:06


Got it in one!

Aug 28 2002 16:09

"Is this system being installed right across the union? It make sense to include the bars and catering too, and then it might be worth the money they are spending on it."

It makes no sense to install it everywhere. Try working in the bar and the shop for a while and you might appreciate the difference. Also i'd like to see you getting college to allow the union to lay the underground cables to connect the whole system together (Bearing in mind we have Seven tills in main campus Bars, up to three at CX Bars, up to three in catering, one in reception, one in the Student activities centre!

Aug 30 2002 12:48


I think you fail to appreciate the beauty of the new system:

It runs on Cat5 cabling, just like a computer network. There is already a big fat glass fibre running from Beit Towers to Sir Richard's palace across the road.

Hence you can connect the tills via that network ;o)

Aug 30 2002 13:14

Mr Gunman, you forget to mention that your choice of EPOS system sends credit-card details *unencrypted* across said Cat 5 cabling. (So, for security you have to lay extra 'private' cabling from Beit Towers across the Sir Richard's Place, not to mention extra switiching hardware to keep traffic off ICT's campus network.)

Aug 30 2002 17:09


1) Not my choice, chosen by the Retail Committee of Imperial College Union, from the three best tenders recieved.

2) Why do we need to install new cabling? The traffic can be tunneled through from the assumedly private Beit Towers retail network, to the definitely private Shop network. That could be set up easily using an ssh tunnel from one server to another.

3) The switching hardware is needed whether the traffic is encrypted or not. The system in the shop for example requires an additional 10 RJ45 ports. These were not available in the shop previously as it has coax networking direct from Aero - no switching hardware at all.

4) In the case of the Beit Towers, by starbuck's count there are 12 tills. that's 12 additional network connections, plus 3 or 4 backoffice connections. More switches needed here as well. Not to mention the nightmare of Beit that is the central Lobby - you can't route cables through it because of Fire regulations, so dB's would have to be networked seperately from the rest of the Union.

Obviously Beit is a bigger proposition than the shops, hopefully someone more professional will be involved in it ;o)

However i could quote you from one source inside the company that installed those tills in the shop: "No EPoS system will ever be as fast as trained, competant staff adding things up in their heads" You have to ask yourself the question 'Do i want fast service, or funky tills' I have to confess that from a consumer point of view, i want fast service, and i don't give a monkey's what the till system is, as long as i get my drinks on time.

Aug 30 2002 17:21

Imperial College [,] London:



Aug 30 2002 17:31

Gunman, while you think IP tunelling is secure, NatWest Streamline do not. That's why the newsagent was closed until Estates laid a cable (otherwise it could easily have been routed over ICT's network).

16. Gunman   
Sep 02 2002 16:46


nothing to do with Streamline, it was closed because there is no networking connection at all in the ICU newsagent. Cables had to be run either from somewhere in Sherfield, or from the shop. They could have gone WiFi but then any idiot with a scanner could have seen your credit card details ;o)

Sep 02 2002 16:49

And how do you propose to connect up the tills at Charing X????? (See above)

18. gunman   
Sep 02 2002 17:33

same way you connect Beit to Sherfield.

19. Slayer   
Sep 03 2002 11:00

Gunman, Streamline would not permit cables being run from the Sherfield building. They wanted a private network. That caused a delay.

Sep 04 2002 10:51

"I see" said the blind man.........

21. gunman   
Sep 04 2002 16:24


with all due respect Slayer, you have no idea what you are talking about.

Streamline have never been consulted about the upgrade, simply because their testing won't begin until we have an ISDN connection to them.

Now i know there is no ISDN to Streamline... how do i know this? because there is only one ISDN router in the shop, and it is connected to the supplier company for remote admin.

Streamline haven't seen the system, so there is no way they could have objected to a proposed cable run.

The only people who had a sat in the cable runs are: ICT, Medoc, and the project manager. The last two wanted the current system, one because of cost, the other because of data security.

I hate to show your information is fallible, but it is... so there ;oP

22. slayer   
Sep 04 2002 18:00

In that case one of your senior colleagues is very confused since I said to him "why not just tunnel through ICT" and he went on a rant about Streamline.

Closed This discussion is closed.

Please contact the Live! Editor if you would like this discussion topic re-opened.


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