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There is a consumer-oriented coffee maker of a well-known brand that takes its instructions from barcodes printed on its consumables. I can read the barcodes and I see that they contain somewhat similar information for somewhat similar coffee products.

Now I want to understand:

  • if the barcodes contain actual instructions/parameters (=> usable) or are just IDs that refer to an internal database (=> likely not usable)
  • if usable, how can I come up with my own barcode that I would stick where needed in order to get my hot drink according to my instructions for temperature and amount of water.

Is there a Stack Exchange site for this question?
I considered Electrical Engineering and Reverse Engineering, but they don't seem to quite fit.

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  • Did you take a look at hardware questions on RE? I think your question may work here, if you provide sufficient detail. – asheeshr Mar 20 '14 at 11:22
  • +1 Household Goods SE (just like Android.SE), it's a niche topic now, but in few years, with more 'intelligent' household devices, there would be probably more topics like that. I've always missed the posssibility to program my washing machine - how long should every cycle take, add additional cycle with less water etc. – Danubian Sailor Mar 20 '14 at 11:26
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    @Łukasz웃Lツ Did you mean Home Improvement? I can't see Household Goods in the dropdown. – GSerg Mar 20 '14 at 11:31
  • @AsheeshR Thanks, that looks good, although my question would be a little bit 'below the league'. – GSerg Mar 20 '14 at 11:35
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You seem to have already identified the two most obvious choices:

  • Electrical Engineering is the site to choose for questions about modifying hardware for custom uses. Although questions about household appliances (such as coffee makers) are generally off topic there, there's a specific exemption for questions about hacking them (emphasis mine):

    "[I]f your question generally covers […] a specific electronics design problem […] and it is not about […] consumer electronics such as media players, cell phones or smart phones, except when designing these products or modifying their electronics for other uses […] then you're in the right place to ask your question!"

  • However, rather than modifying your coffee maker itself, you seem to be more interested in just reverse-engineering its barcode data format, so that you could design your own barcodes. This makes your specific question less suitable for electronics.SE, but a natural fit for Reverse Engineering, which explicitly accepts questions about "hardware analysis and testing".

Ps. If you want anyone here to be able to help you, be prepared to offer thorough examples of as many bar codes as you can, with corresponding product information. Also, sooner or later, you're presumably going to have to try feeding some modified bar codes to your coffee maker, so you might want to do a few quick experiments with that first and report the results. For that, assuming that it won't just error out, it'll probably help if you can measure as many objective properties of the brewing process (e.g. time consumed, amount of water used, water temperature, etc.) as you can.

Also, please note that, while it may seem very unlikely in this case, as with any hardware hacking, there's always a risk of breaking your hardware and voiding the warranty. Given that you're dealing with hot water under pressure, I'd even recommend grabbing a pair of safety goggles, just in case. While I'm about 99.9% sure your coffee maker won't explode just because you fed it a bogus bar code, it's still better to be safe than sorry...

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  • Thanks. I've posted it. – GSerg Mar 20 '14 at 16:47

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